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September  2017, Issue 190

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

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How to Implement an Open Data Policy

Tax Policy Reforms 2017 – Trends in OECD and Selected Partner Economies

Countries Are Using Tax Policy to Drive Growth, Reduce Inequalities and Promote Behavioural Change

Global Food Security Strategy Guidance on Digital

Powerful Global Coalition to Boost Equal Pay for Women at Work - New Initiative Will Support Innovative and Effective Equal Pay Policies and Practices Around the Globe

OECD Sees Synchronised Momentum for Global Economy, but Urges Further Policy Action to Ensure Sustainable and Inclusive Medium-Term Growth

CAREC Countries Advance Regional Road Safety Strategy

 

 

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CHINA: National Anthem Law Adopted

China Amends Judges Law

China Adopts Nuclear Safety Law

China Revises Law to Better Support SMEs

Chinese Premier Stresses Implementation of Major Policies

New Move to Protect Chinese Citizens' Rights to File Administrative Lawsuits

China to Air Documentary on Social, Economic Achievements

JAPAN: Zen-Noh Must Change Mind-Set to Promote Reform Based on New Law

Protect Japan’s Sovereignty Via JCG’s Proper Enforcement of Relevant Laws

Govt Panel OK’s Outline of Work Style Reform Legislation

Abe Plans to Use Tax Hike for Free Education

SOUTH KOREA: Seeking to Regulate Digital Currencies

Korea Keeps Electricity Reserve Rate at 22 Pct in 2031

 

 

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INDONESIA: Unveiling Policy to Speed Up Expansion of Mangroves

SINGAPORE: Cybersecurity Bill Delayed to 2018

THAILAND: Digital Economy Master Plan Among Tech Projects Approved

Pension Fund Revisits Its Investment Plan

Officials Come Up With 20-Year Plan for Bt2.7 Trillion Worth of Railway Projects

VIETNAM: Ministry Outlines Three Growth Scenarios for 2018

NA Standing Committee Gave Directions on the Draft Law on Special Economic Zone

Gov’t Plans to Use IT to Connect Trade Promotion Groups

Ministry to Regulate E-Trading

Progress on Special Zones Law to Ease Investment

 

 

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INDIA: Haryana to Introduce E-post Sanctioning System

Karnataka Cabinet Approves E-vehicle Policy

e-Indian Postal Order Announced for All

e-Wallet Scheme Launched by IRCTC

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Economy Ministry Develops Draft Code on Competition

CBA to Draft Cashless Payments Program

IRAN: Plan to Decrease Dependence on Google, Android

UZBEKISTAN: Plan to Enter International Tourism Markets

Uzbekistan Set to Improve Legislation on Secured Transactions

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Postal Survey Protection Laws Pass Parliament

Turnbull Facing Clean Energy Target Revolt

Senate Passes Media Reforms Bill

Australia Boycotts Nuclear Ban Treaty

NEW ZEALAND: Green Party Promises to Raise Student Allowances

NZ First Won't Support Water Tax Policies – Peters

Wellington Council Passes Affordable Housing Plan

 

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Is Citizen Participation Actually Good for Democracy?

From E-Government to Open Government

ADB President Expresses Confidence in Future of CAREC Institute

 

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CHINA: Vice President Stresses Mass Organization Reform

Xi Calls for Stronger South-South Cooperation

China Further Cuts Red Tape to Improve Business Environment

China to Improve Voluntary Services

China Sets Targets for Supply-side Structural Reform in Agriculture

Better Social Governance Ensures Building of Prosperous Society

China's VAT Reform Restructures Economy, Encourages Entrepreneurship

Xi Stresses Integrated Military, Civilian Development

CPC Success Based on Faith, Discipline, Democracy

SOUTH KOREA: Moon Urges Efforts to Root Out Corruption in Both Public, Private Sectors

JAPAN: Enhance Global Presence with Strategic ODA Contributions

A System to Certify Counselors Should Help Those Needing Psychological Care

 

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SINGAPORE: PM Nominates House Speaker

Singapore Selects First Female President

THAILAND: King Endorses Civil Service Appointments

VIETNAM: Gov’t Watchdog Hails Corruption Fight

PM Gives Nod to City Decentralisation

Vietnamese Capital to Have 2 Concentrated Administrative Areas

Deputy PM Đam Appointed Chairman of Children National Committee

The Cabinet, Not Committees, Will Choose Reforms: Deputy PM

Complaints Down, Issues Remain: NASC

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India: Use Technology to Simplify Governance Processes

CSCs to Play Major Role in E-governance

Govt Officials to Get Secure Email Service Through Centralised Architecture

Central Public Works Department Goes Digital

Karnataka Transport Department Goes ‘Smart’

Making Information and Services Easily Accessible Across Government Departments

Govt Wants to Create Digital Inclusion

Ushering in the Next Era of Technology-driven Transformation of India’s Governance

NIC Launches Version 2.0 of Open Government Data Platform India

SRI LANKA: Hirdaramani IT Arm Launches RES.Q | QMS for Apparel Data Analytics

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Create Center for Preventing Illegal Employment

Tehran Appoints New Co-Chairman of Intergovernmental Commission with Baku

Deputy Minister of Kazakh National Economy Appointed

TURKMENISTAN: Interim Deputy PM for Economy Named

UN, Turkmenistan Improving State Administration System

New Turkmen Ambassador to UAE Appointed

UZBEKISTAN: Ministry of Economy Collects Proposals for Development of Economy and Social Sphere

Uzbekistan Set to Modernize Power System

 

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AUSTRALIA: Privacy Commissioner to Probe Government Agencies on Compliance

University Reforms Lacking Crossbench Support

Abbott Won't Put Labor in Power: Joyce

NEW ZEALAND: Four New Charter Schools Announced by Govt

Labour + Greens Have the Numbers

Nearly Half a Million NZers Have Cast Their Vote

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Empowered Patients + Automated Medical Processes + Intelligence = Smart City Medical Systems

How Garbage Trucks Could Become the Eyes and Ears of Cities

IoT Technology for Smart City

World Bank Statement on the Indus Waters Treaty Meetings

Changes in Technology and Trade Disrupting Manufacturing-Led Development

New Septage Treatment Plant Improves Port Vila's Environment, Sanitation

APEC Builds Natural Disaster-Resilient Food Supplies

APEC Startup Push Promotes New Silicon Valleys

 

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CHINA: Xi's Diplomacy Provides Solutions to Global Challenges

Chinese Premier Underlines Innovation in Economic Upgrading

Fund Set Up to Improve Study of Seismology

China Aviation Expo Highlights Homegrown High-end Products, Technology

China to Improve Quality Certification

China Steps Up Building Science and Tech Power

China Develops Smart Pesticide

China to Focus on Improving Product, Service Quality

Chinese Premier Underscores Support for Free Trade, Globalization

Reform Brings China Closer to Strong Army Goal

China to Further Supply-side Structural Reform, Cut Overcapacity, Corporate Cost to Boost Innovation

China Steps Up Efforts to Support Innovation

China's Vice Premier Demands More Efforts to Increase Innovation, Entrepreneurship

China Concentrates on Sci-tech Innovation

CPC Introduces New Management Methods

Xi Stresses Prevention, Control of Major Risks

China to Better Protect Cultural Relics

Modern Technology Changing Lives of Xinjiang Farmers

JAPAN: Find Way to Secure Power Supply While Considering Environment

Govt to Tackle Regional Issues with ‘Sharing Economy’

SOUTH KOREA: Scientists Develop Electricity-Harvesting Yarn

IMF Chief Calls for Boosting Proportion of Women in Workforce

 

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Regional Ministers Agree on Better Food Safety

SINGAPORE: To Have New Academy to Train Cybersecurity Professionals

THAILAND: Monthly Mobile Cabinet Meetings Will Now Be the Norm

Digital Technology Can Reduce Income Gap: Minister

VIETNAM: Long An Promotes Hi-Tech Agricultural Farming

Việt Nam, S. Korea Co-Operate on Tech

City District Steps Up Connection with Citizens

Gov’t Project Trains Domestic Workers on Skills, Rights

Ministry Seeks to Promote Linkages Between Farm Production, Consumption

Traditional Taxi Firms Turn to Technology

 

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INDIA: eGovt to Use Latest Technology for Sports Promotion

Government to Provide Information Services Through Multilingual Portal, Mobile Apps

Concurrent Monitoring Through ICT

 

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Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan Look to Resolve Water, Energy Issues

IRAN: ICT Minister Warns Against Instagram Hack

UZBEKISTAN: To Allocate Additional Funds for Purchase of Medicine

 

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AUSTRALIA: Government Warned of Power Price Hike

Australian Government Signs Technology and Science Agreement with Brazil

Australian Privacy Foundation Wants 'Privacy Tort' to Protect Health Data

Shorten Urges Turnbull 'Pull the Gas Trigger'

Exporting Local Innovation to the World Through IBM's Australian Research Lab

Australian Government Promises National Space Agency

NEW ZEALAND: National Pledges to Slash Benefits for Drug Use

Thousands Seeking Help over Employment Breaches

Protest over Prison Voting Ban

Greens Confirm They Will Charge Polluters

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The Importance of Data in Smart Cities

Pune City CEO Is Spot on When She Says Citizens Are Key to Smart City Success

Freedom Online Coalition Publishes Program of Action for 2017

Composite Leading Indicators Continue to Point to Stable Growth Momentum in the OECD Area

Smart Governance for Smart Cities

Smart Cities or Resilient Cities. Does It Make Any Difference?

Benefits of University Education Remain High but Vary Widely Across Fields of Study

The City as Platform

3 Critical Smart City Components

Better Trade Facilitation Could Reduce Trade Costs in Asia by Up to 9% Annually

 

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CHINA: Stable Employment Is a Big Achievement of the Chinese Economy

Vice Premier Stresses More Efforts to Boost Employment

Boom in E-commerce Calls for Online Mediation Services

China to Further Cross-border E-commerce to Boost Foreign Trade

Smartphone App Opens the World for the Visually Impaired

New Energy, Intelligence Trend of Automotive Industry

Beijing Issues Construction Guideline for Joint Ownership Housing

Parallel Imports Boost Chinese Auto Market

SOUTH KOREA: 4th Industrial Revolution Committee to Launch by Mid-September - ICT Minister

Korea to Further Expand Free Wifi Zones

Korea Tops ICT Development in 2016: Report

Koreans' Awareness of Mobile Payment High: Poll

E-Commerce Seeks Better Profits with Mobile Shopping

Korea Advised to Limit Smoking at Public Places, Cigarette Ads: WTO

Korea's ICT Reliance Twice OECD Average: Report

Revolution, Ecosystem, Ocean: 5G Is Just the Beginning

Korea's Export Growth Fastest Among Top 10 Exporters

Korea’s ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ Development Lags Behind US, EU, Japan: Report

When Connectivity Is Not Enough: The Key to Meaningful Digital Inclusion

ITU Telecom World 2017: Exploring Smart Digital Transformation

 

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Singapore, Indonesia Likely to Strengthen Cooperation in Digital Economy, Tourism

INDONESIA: Expects Higher Growth of Digital Industry in 2019

Indonesia Expands Use of Eco-Friendly Energy

Indonesia Eyes Integrated Economy Zone in Cross-Border Areas

SINGAPORE: Electronic MCs Should Only Be Issued After Proper Clinical Assessment

E-Payment Operators Race to Be the Sole Unifying Platform in Singapore

2,000 PMET Jobs to Be Created in Electronics Industry by 2020

THAILAND: SCB Promotes Cashless Society with QR Code Payment System

10 Million Low-Income People to Receive Welfare Cards

Welfare Cards Let Poor Ride for Free on Bangkok Buses

VIETNAM: Ha Noi Taxis to Use Common Operating Software

Gov’t to Fine Bad Weather Forecasters

More People Search for Real Estate Online

Minimum Wage in Việt Nam Rises, Productivity Stagnates

 

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INDIA: Think On-line, Think Cloud

Decoding the Cyber Security of Maharashtra

eGovernments Foundation: Building Digital Infrastructure for Urban India

Karnataka: Free Healthcare for All from November 1

Udaipur – A Tourist City to Smart City

Maccaferri India a Green Perspective for Smart Cities

Karnal a Rural Town Enroute to Becoming Smart

Deep Learning – The Next Big Thing for the Indian Government

Effective Cyber Hygiene Critical to Fight Worm-like Attacks

Fortinet Offers 5 Strategies to Fight Automated Cyber-attacks

Leveraging the Power of the Cloud for Strategic e-Governance

Mobile App to Avail Services of Pensioners’ Portal Launched

De-Nibandhan Digitization of Land Records

Bringing IT Revolution in Bihar

e-Governance for Urban Development

Young Startups Promoting Heritage Should Get Incentives from State Govts

NEPAL: India Developing IT Infrastrucuture in Nepal

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Azercell 4G Speed Now in Ganja!

IRAN: No Gender Pay Gap

Over 45% of Iranians Use Internet via Mobile Phone

How Developers Can Make Money in Iran’s App Market?

Investment Growth Rate in Iran Reaches 7.1 Percent

KAZAKHSTAN: Economy Grows by 4.3%

TURKEY: Expanding Fiber-Optic Internet Network

TURKMENISTAN: Implementing E-Payment System in Public Transport

UZBEKISTAN: IT Ministry and Beeline Sign MOU on Education

IDC Increases Forecast For Uzbek ICT Market Growth

IT Ministry and Microsoft Sign Memorandum of Cooperation

 

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AUSTRALIA: Empowered Customers to Get Better Power Deals

Govt Should Help Liddell Plant

Deal Could Ease Online Poker Restrictions

Doctors Push for 19 Per cent Pay Rise

Keep Energy Target and Prices Separate: ACCC

NEW ZEALAND: Online Is the Most Complained About Sales Channel

Immigration Remains High, Despite Decrease in Student Migrants

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MDBs Increase 2016 Financing to Tackle Climate Challenge

Global Financing Facility in Support of Every Woman Every Child Launches Replenishment to Save Lives of Up to 38 Million Women, Children and Adolescents by 2030

Heads of UN and World Bank Announce Initiative to Ramp Up Finance for Climate Action

Report Calls on Creation of National Green Financing Mechanisms to Accelerate Green Growth in Asia

$1.5 Trillion Trade Finance Gap Persists Despite Fintech Breakthroughs

ADB Sells Record $4 Billion 5-Year Global Benchmark Bond

ADB Invests Further $60 Million in OrbiMed Asia Healthcare Fund

 

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CHINA: Should Open Up Financial Sector

JAPAN: Labor Shortages Show Promise of Reviving Inflation

Y280 Bil Sought for Labor Reform in FY2018 Budget Request

Govt Must Allocate Budgets Wisely for Human Resources Development

Japan Must Proceed with Unpopular Sales Tax Hike

Information Disclosure on Investments Vital to Restore Public-Private Funds

Japanese Regional Bank Consolidation 'Inevitable,' Says Adviser to Regulator

Japan Education Spend Worst in OECD

Public Confidence in Pension System Shaken Anew by Latest Payment Failure

SOUTH KOREA: Government Sets Aside Record W427tr Budget for 2018

 

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INDONESIA: ADB Launches $1.1b Funding Support for Energy Programme

SINGAPORE: To Set Aside 1.1 Mln USD to Promote ASEAN Capacity in Cybersecurity

VIETNAM: Five Banks to Pilot 24/7 Tax Payment Scheme Shortly

 

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ARMENIA: Government Deceives Population About Foreign Investment

AZERBAIJAN: Ministry of Taxes on Top of Digital Transformation

IMF Sees Azerbaijan's GDP Up 2 Pct in 2018

IFC Launches Digital Financial Services Project in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s Insurance Market Resumes Growth

KAZAKHSTAN: Launch Date of Stock Exchange Announced

UZBEKISTAN: To Introduce Free Currency Conversion

 

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AUSTRALIA: Trade War Talk Risks Global Recession - Govt

Australian Government Invests AU$13m in Medical Technologies

Government Told to Let Power Market Work

Majority of Facebook's Australian-Derived Revenue Is Booked Overseas

PM Slaps Down Renewed Calls for Sugar Tax

Australian Government Pledges AU$50m for Cybersecurity Research Centre

NEW ZEALAND: Tax Brakes - Labour Eases Up on Working Group Changes

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Ministers Issue Statement on Enhancing SME Competitiveness and Innovation

 

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CHINA: Apps Dominate Most-used Android App Rankings - Research

Chinese Bike-sharing Company Ofo to Enter 4 More Countries

SOUTH KOREA: To Create 200,000 Jobs in Health Sector over 5 Yrs

SME Leaders Call for Govt. Support Ahead of High Costs, Low Productivity

Corporate Promotion System Favors Seniority over Ability: Survey

Tech Firms Accelerating Automotive Electronics Business

SMEs Lose to Large Firms in Most Patent Suits: Lawmaker

KT to Build Fine Dust Monitoring System Leveraging Telecom Infrastructure

Korean Telcos Speeding Up 5G Network to Prepare for New Era

 

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Korean Telcos Speeding Up 5G Network to Prepare for New Era

THAILAND: SME GDP Up 4.9% in Q2

VIETNAM: 21,700 Vehicle-Related Firms Stop Operation in 8 Months

Number of New Firms Increases by 16%

Trà Vinh Will Support Private Economic Development

Digital Economy Vital for MSME Growth

Firms Wary of 2018 E-Invoicing

Prime Minister Phuc to SME Ministers: Address Digital Divides

Gov’t Urged to Improve Business Climate

 

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INDIA: Schneider Electric — Game Changer for Smart Cities

Most Indian Firms Aim to Move to Cloud Infrastructure: Oracle

Promoting IT Industry for Inclusive Development

 

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AZERBAIJAN: IBA May Be Declared Open for Privatization in Early 2018

 

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AUSTRALIA: Service Now Receives Unclassified DLM Status from Government

Kordia Takes RedShield Security Service to Australia

Australian Government Extends Crowdfunding Regime to Proprietary Companies

NEW ZEALAND: Sounds of Silence - What's Coming to Google Chrome in 2018

Imagination Wants to Add Intelligence to Smartphone Chips

Kiwibank to Accelerate 12 More Fintech Startups

Spark Appoints Its First ‘Future Director’

 

 

 

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How to Implement an Open Data Policy

 

Opening data is the start of many smart city journeys. That open data, of course, should consist of information that the city has collected for years, which may be siloed offline — but it also needs to include data collected from new cameras and other sensors that are a part of other smart cities projects. By one count, there are 105 U.S. open data policies or directives across 85 jurisdictions. That means, of course, that there are plenty of cities left in the U.S. that could begin to work on data policies. For cities looking to get into the open data game, there are organizations like What Works Cities and the Sunlight Foundation that offer guidance and provide best practices. The Sunlight Foundation provides 31 guidelines that are broken down into three main areas with examples for each: what data should be public, how to make data public and how to implement policy.

 

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What data should be public

The first step is figuring out which data should be included — and that includes making sure sensitive information isn't shared and that the public will have a way to access information that is made public. "A lot of people that don’t understand open data are worried that everything is just going to go online," said Alyssa Doom, the open cities project manager at the Sunlight Foundation. "That’s not really the way it works in cities." Maintaining a public list of what information a city holds is critical to having a strong open data policy. If a city doesn't know what data it has collected and stored away, there's no true way for city officials to determine what data to share. Making the list of collected data public adds a layer of accountability — residents can have some oversight, seeing what data are being shared and what data are being excluded. Perhaps most importantly, though, is safeguarding sensitive information. Cities will inevitably collect data about individuals or households, and releasing all that data at an individual level brings with it privacy and safety concerns. However, that data can be anonymized or released in aggregate. That way, the data are still shared and accessible, but privacy concerns are met.

 

How to make data public

How to make data public, what format documents and data should be in, and where they should be hosted are all important factors to consider when making sure the public has maximum and easy access to data. "Believe it or not, cities are getting a lot of feedback when they put [data] out there," said Simone Brody, the executive director of What Works Cities. "You want people to use the data ... You don’t want to put it out there to just put it out there." An important step to consider while making data public is providing data in more than one format. An example provided by the Sunlight Foundation is a government report that includes datasets within it. The report itself may be most legible and digestible as a PDF, but it is difficult to manipulate or process data that are in a PDF format. To get around this problem, the foundation says, a structured dataset should be released along with the PDF report. It's also important, according to the Sunlight Foundation's guidelines, to remove restrictions and licensing fees from datasets. Users should not have to register for anything to access data, nor should they have to pay to download files or be limited in how much data they can access.

 

How to implement policy

There's no use in creating a policy if it can't be implemented. To ensure implementation, the foundation recommends securing sufficient funding, setting "appropriately ambitious" timelines and creating or appointing some sort of oversight authority. The last step in beginning an open data policy is setting up and mandating future reviews of the policy. Reviews to determine if people are using the data and how to make the data more accessible are both critical to the whole mission of open data. Some of the earliest versions of open data policies are getting a refresher, as cities learn what goes into an ongoing project. "I think a lot of folks didn't think through how they'd sustain their policies," Doom said.

 

Open data in action

One jurisdiction that has updated its open data policies and practices is Kansas City, MO. The city launched its Open Data portal in January 2013 and did a refresh in 2015, implementing 16 more of Sunlight Foundation’s best practices. Eric Roche, Kansas City’s chief data officer, said that there are 5,000 or so data sets online, but that many of them are PDFs, which they are working to clear from the website. "It’s not what we mean by 'open data' anymore," Roche said. There is a new focus in Kansas City on data that can be updated daily — like 311 call data, which is added twice a day, and data regarding code violations, which is updated every day. Roche said he doesn't want there to be any question of whether data is up to date. The portal should be a place that users trust to be as fresh as possible, he said.

 

Another initiative that has grown with the open data policy is KCStat. Launched in 2011, KCStat was a data collection effort for street maintenance, water line maintenance, water billing and customer service, code enforcement and animal control. While it didn't start as a traditional open data project, KCStat has grown along with the city’s use of data. In 2013, KCStat added an online dashboard that used data to monitor progress toward the city council’s strategic priorities. Every month, Kansas City officials have a public meeting to share their progress, with KCStat to back up (or call out) the work. "We’re really proud of it, it's two layers of transparency," Roche said. This year, Kansas City also launched a platform called KCMO Smart City Access, which has a live view for traffic, where parking spots are available and speed through intersections. All these projects are working toward empowering residents to know their city better with the data they help create. "We are really trying to drive neighborhoods and add data layers when we can," Roche said.

From http://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ 08/27/2017

 

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Tax Policy Reforms 2017 – Trends in OECD and Selected Partner Economies

 

Countries worldwide are increasingly using tax policy reforms  as part of wider strategies to boost growth, address inequalities and drive  behavioural change. A new report, Tax Policy Reforms 2017 – OECD and Selected Partner Economies, provides comparative information on the tax reforms that were implemented, legislated or announced in 2016 in the 35 OECD countries, as well as in Argentina and South Africa. The report tracks reforms to personal income tax, social security contributions, corporate income tax, value-added/general sales tax, excise duties, environmental taxes and property taxes across countries and trackskey  tax policy trends in these areas over time. Pascal Saint-Amans, Director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, will present the report’s key findings at 3 p.m. on Wednesday 13 September during a press conference at the OECD. The presentation will be webcast live for journalists unable to attend at: http://video.oecd.org/. To register, to request advance copies of the report or to propose questions for the webcast, journalists are invited to email Lawrence Speer in the OECD Media Office (+33 1 4524 7970).

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/07/2017

 

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Countries Are Using Tax Policy to Drive Growth, Reduce Inequalities and Promote Behavioural Change

 

Countries have continued the trend towards implementing tax policy reforms as part of wider strategies to boost growth, with a growing focus on reducing inequalities and driving behavioural change, according to a new report from the OECD. Tax Policy Reforms: OECD and Selected Partner Economies describes the major tax reforms that were implemented, legislated or announced in 2016 across the 35 OECD members as well as in Argentina and South Africa. The report identifies major tax policy trends and highlights that tax is increasingly being used as a key policy lever in the inclusive economic growth strategies of many countries.

Growth-stimulus through the tax system is being driven by cuts in corporate income tax rates, with 12 countries taking steps toward lower standard corporate tax rates during 2016, often as part of a gradual multi-year corporate tax reform. This continues a trend toward increased international tax competition identified in last year’s publication. At the same time, international cooperation to tackle base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) is increasing, with countries implementing internationally agreed measures to protect their corporate tax bases against international tax avoidance.

 

“Governments are rightly placing growth and inclusiveness at the heart of their tax reform efforts,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Monitoring changes in the global tax policy landscape provides high-quality information on the trends shaping tax policy, which can help policy makers with the design and assessment of future reforms for the benefit of their citizens.” Personal income tax cuts were enacted in many countries in 2016, generally increasing the progressivity of tax systems. This included cuts in personal income tax rates on low or middle income earners in 15 countries. Nonetheless, taxes on labour remain high overall and, with a few exceptions, there were only limited reductions in social security contributions in 2016. “With taxes on labour remaining high in many countries, further action will be required to enhance incentives for employment and the creation of jobs so that tax systems become more conducive to inclusive growth,” said Mr Gurría.

 

The tax mix continues to shift towards labour and consumption taxes, although standard VAT-rates appear to have stabilised in 2016, with only one country (Greece) introducing an increase to its standard VAT rate. We are also seeing widespread implementation of the International VAT/GST Guidelines. Excise duties, particularly on tobacco, as well as taxes targeting transport fuels generally increased in 2016, as did incentives for the purchase and use of electric and hybrid vehicles. However, fuels used outside of the transport sector, which also cause considerable harm to the environment, continue to be taxed at relatively low rates. Changes to property-related taxes increased in 2016, when compared to 2015, with a number of governments increasing recurrent taxes on immovable property, as well as introducing transaction taxes on both movable and immovable property.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/13/2017

 

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Global Food Security Strategy Guidance on Digital

 

Feed the Future is moving into a new phase, guided by the U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy. Developed by 11 U.S. Government agencies and departments, this strategy presents an integrated approach to combating the root causes of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. The strategy reflects lessons learned from Feed the Future’s first phase and charts a course for the U.S. Government and its partners to achieve a more food-secure future across the globe. The technical guidance provides a shared understanding of key concepts and best practices for designing and implementing Feed the Future programs under the Global Food Security Strategy. Aid effectiveness principles are core to implementation across the technical areas. Check out the technical guidance on digital (174.41 kb, pdf) to learn more about how to best design and implement related approaches under the GFSS.

From https://feedthefuture.gov/ 09/16/2017

 

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Powerful Global Coalition to Boost Equal Pay for Women at Work - New Initiative Will Support Innovative and Effective Equal Pay Policies and Practices Around the Globe

 

One of the most persistent barriers to women’s success at work and to economic growth, unequal pay, will be actively challenged by a new global partnership, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). Convened by the ILO, UN Women and the OECD, a diverse set of actors are being brought together at the global, regional and national levels to support governments, employers and workers and their organizations, and other stakeholders, to make equal pay between women and men for work of equal value a reality. With the launch of EPIC at the UN headquarters in New York, work will begin to support innovative and effective equal pay policies and practices. Peer-to-peer policy exchanges, knowledge sharing, peer-reviewed research and robust data and statistics will be priority areas as the Coalition moves forward initially. Employers and trade unions, as well as other key stakeholders, will have a central role in the application and rolling out of equal pay policies. A Platform of Champions, launched earlier this year by UN Women at the Commission on the Status of Women, will also contribute to strengthening advocacy on equal pay, as part of EPIC. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría noted that “gender inequality has many roots, including flawed policies, discriminatory laws and regulations, misplaced economic incentives, workplace practices, and social norms and institutions.” He asserted that “it is in our power to make an immediate improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of women and their families if we succeed in delivering equal pay for men and women.”

 

“One of the most visible, tangible and pervasive manifestations of discrimination is that women across the globe are still being paid less than men for work of equal value. That is why this equal pay initiative was developed and why it is a focus area of the ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative. The principle of equal pay for work of equal value is enshrined in the ILO Constitution of 1919. One hundred years is too long to wait, and we must all work together to make equal pay for work of equal value a reality. ” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). EPIC is a direct move to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular Target 8.5 which calls for equal pay for work of equal value by 2030. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, says that “equal pay is one of the most tragically unfulfilled promises to working women. Equal pay for women is inextricably linked to women’s economic empowerment and dignity. It translates into better career prospects and to higher investments in their children’s education and health and has therefore the potential to increase women’s contribution to national economies and to society more broadly.”

 

A recent ILO-Gallup report, based on a representative survey of 142 countries, shows that women and men alike want women to be in paid jobs, but there remain a range of challenges for women at work, including unequal pay, balancing work and family responsibilities, lack of access to affordable care, and unfair treatment. The issue of equal pay remains high on the UN’s agenda. This year, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment, released a report that focused on transformative actions needed to advance women’s economic empowerment, highlighting the importance of equal pay for work of equal value. The innovative work of the newly created EPIC will contribute significantly to challenging some of the main assumptions reinforcing unequal pay, which were also highlighted by the High-Level Panel and the ILO-Gallup report.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/18/2017

 

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OECD Sees Synchronised Momentum for Global Economy, but Urges Further Policy Action to Ensure Sustainable and Inclusive Medium-Term Growth

 

The world economy has picked up momentum, as expanding investment, employment and trade support synchronised growth across most countries, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook. The pace of expansion is projected to be faster this year than in 2016, with a further uptick expected in 2018, but strong, sustainable, and inclusive medium-term growth is not yet secured. The Outlook points out that the recovery of business investment and trade remain too low to sustain healthy productivity growth, while wage growth has been disappointing on average, and not equitable across workers. Emerging markets are key for overall global growth - strong future growth depends on deeper reforms. “The short-term outlook is more broad-based and the upturn is promising, but there is no room for complacency,” said OECD Chief Economist Catherine L. Mann. “Monetary policy should remain accommodative in some economies but with an eye on financial stability so as to remain supportive of further rebalancing towards fiscal and structural initiatives. Structural efforts need to be intensified to bolster the nascent investment recovery, to address slow productivity growth and to ensure the recovery yields benefits for all.”

 

“As fiscal policy has eased in many economies, it is crucial that the fiscal room be used to deliver on growth-enhancing and equity-friendly fiscal measures.” The OECD projects that the global economy will grow by 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2018, with industrial production and trade picking up and further acceleration in the rebound of technology spending. The projections reflect modest improvements in the global economy since the previous Economic Outlook in June 2017. Growth among the major advanced economies remains on pace. In the United States, growth is estimated at 2.1 percent in 2017 and 2.4 percent in 2018, supported by stronger consumer spending and business investment. Job creation has remained strong, but the extent to which fiscal easing and regulatory reform may provide an additional boost in 2018 remains uncertain. The euro area is projected to grow at a 2.1 percent rate in 2017 and a 1.9 percent pace in 2018 – upward revisions from previous projections driven by stronger growth in key European countries.

 

Germany is forecast to grow by 2.2 percent in 2017 and 2.1 percent in 2018, France by 1.7 percent in 2017 and 1.6 percent 2018, while Italy will see a 1.4 percent growth rate this year and a 1.2 percent rate in 2018. The revised projections reflect stronger-than-expected performance in the first half of 2017, in the context of rising employment rates, accommodative monetary policy and reduced political uncertainty. The upswing is also driven by stronger consumption growth and investment, as well as healthy export growth. In the United Kingdom, the previously identified growth slowdown is expected to continue through 2018, while uncertainty remains over the outcome of negotiations around the decision to leave the European Union. The unemployment rate has fallen to below 4.5%, but weak productivity and real wage growth persist. The depreciation of the sterling has modestly improved export prospects but also pushed up inflation. In this environment, the UK is projected to grow by 1.6 percent in 2017 and 1 percent in 2018.

 

Growth in Japan increased in the first half of year, supported by an upturn in public investment and stronger growth in Asian markets, and is projected at 1.6 percent for 2017, slightly above the June 2017 Economic Outlook. Rising corporate profits should help strengthen business investment through 2018, but low wage growth and fiscal consolidation are likely to weigh on activity in 2018, when growth is expected at 1.2 percent. Canadian growth is projected at 3.2 percent this year and 2.3 percent in 2018. Growth in the major emerging market economies has improved overall, helped by a rebound in some commodity producers and public infrastructure investment in China, although growth remains subdued in a number of oil-exporting economies. Growth in China is revised upward, to 6.8 percent in 2017 and a more moderate 6.6 percent in 2018, as stimulus measures ease and efforts continue to stabilise corporate debt and rebalance the economy.

 

In India, the transitory effects of demonetisation and of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have led to a downward revision in growth projections, to 6.7 percent in 2017 and 7.2 percent in 2018. In the longer run, the GST is expected to boost investment, productivity and growth. Russia is rebounding from a recession with higher oil prices and lower interest rates providing a near-term boost to growth, which is projected at around 2 percent in 2017 and 2018. In Brazil, monetary easing is helping the gradual recovery and the strong decline in inflation is supporting consumer confidence. Growth is projected at 0.6 percent in 2017 and 1.6 percent in 2018, but medium-term growth prospects hinge on delivering reforms - including pension reforms - to ensure fiscal sustainability and enhance productivity growth. The Interim Economic Outlook renews calls on policymakers to enact a rebalancing from monetary to fiscal and structural support for growth and wages. It calls for better use of tax and spending policies to achieve more inclusive growth and says increased structural reform efforts will be needed across all countries to boost productivity, wages and skills.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/20/2017

 

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CAREC Countries Advance Regional Road Safety Strategy

 

Lead engineers and senior transport officials from member countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program committed to accelerate the implementation of road safety initiatives at a meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on 30-31 August. Participants at the workshop, chaired by Tajikistan and organized by the CAREC Institute and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), identified and prioritized actions to improve road safety engineering principles and practices, as well as opportunities for regional collaboration in designing safer roads. Representatives from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Health Organization, and the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport joined the workshop. Road accidents are the sixth leading cause of death in Central Asia, with a road traffic death rate of 10 to 25 per 100,000 people. Road insecurity also affects the economy, reducing gross domestic product by up to 3% in CAREC countries. CAREC member countries made a commitment to prioritize road safety through their support for the CAREC Road Safety Strategy 2017-2030, endorsed by the 15th CAREC Ministerial Conference in October 2016. The strategy aims to halve the number of road crash fatalities on the CAREC road corridors by 2030, compared to 2010, saving 23,000 lives and preventing 250,000 serious injuries annually.

 

Tajikistan, the current CAREC chair, will host the 16th CAREC Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe on 27 October 2017. CAREC — comprised of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and six multilateral institutions — promotes and facilitates regional cooperation to accelerate economic growth and poverty reduction. ADB serves as the CAREC Secretariat. The CAREC Institute, based in Urumqi, provides knowledge and relevant training to all CAREC partners in support of effective regional cooperation and coordination, and promotes access to and application of international best practices in all CAREC initiatives. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

From https://www.adb.org/ 08/31/2017

 

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CHINA: National Anthem Law Adopted

                        

China's top legislature on Friday passed a national anthem law to ensure appropriate use of the song. It was adopted after a second reading at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which started Monday. The national anthem "March of the Volunteers," has lyrics by poet Tian Han and music by Nie Er. The song will only be allowed at formal political gatherings, including the opening and closing of NPC sessions, constitutional oath ceremonies, flag raising ceremonies, major celebrations, award ceremonies, commemorations, national memorial day events, important diplomatic occasions, major sport events and other suitable occasions. It will be illegal to use the national anthem during funerals, "inappropriate" private occasions, commercials or as background music in public places. The law says that violators, including those who maliciously modify the lyrics or play/sing the national anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way, can be detained for up to 15 days or held criminally liable. The song must be included in textbooks for primary and secondary school students, and people are encouraged to sing the national anthem on appropriate occasions to express patriotism. China has already adopted laws covering its national flag in 1990 and national emblem in 1991. "The national anthem is different from other songs, it is the symbol of our country," said well-known music composer Jin Fuzai. "The law ensures people will be more serious when playing or singing the song."

The law will enter effect on Oct. 1, 2017.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/01/2017

 

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China Amends Judges Law

                        

China's top legislature Friday passed draft amendments to eight laws, including the Judges Law, meaning more legal professionals will be required to sit a new national exam. The amendments were approved at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which ended Friday. They will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. More legal professionals, including administrative review and administrative adjudication workers, legal advisors at government agencies, will be required to sit the new exam, in addition to judges, prosecutors, lawyers and notaries. Those who already hold aforementioned posts will not need to take the exam, said Jia Liqun, director of the Ministry of Justice national judicial exam division. Current certificates will remain valid. The amendment also states that applicants whose qualifications have previously been revoked cannot take the new exam, nor can they act as agents of litigants, unless they are guardians or close relatives of said litigants.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/01/2017

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China Adopts Nuclear Safety Law

                        

China's legislature on Friday passed a Nuclear Safety Law. The legislation was adopted after a third reading at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which ended Friday. The new law reflects China's rational, coordinated and balanced nuclear safety outlook, as well as its commitment to fulfilling obligations under international treaties. The government will carry out international exchanges and cooperation to prevent and deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism, says the law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018. An inter-agency coordination mechanism for nuclear safety and a national committee in charge of emergency response to nuclear accidents will be established. The law also details protocols for nuclear facility operators, who should provide adequate occupational protection and regular medical examinations for employees. Operators must establish funds to cover treatment of spent fuel, radioactive waste and decommissioning. Radioactive waste should be minimized and treated properly. Operators are also required to buy liability insurance, participate in a mutual support mechanism and make proper financial arrangements to guarantee the timely and effective fulfillment of compensation in the case of accidents.

 

An entire chapter is dedicated to the transparency of the industry, requiring the government to disclose results of supervision, the general safety situation, the radioactive environment quality and details of nuclear accidents. On issues related to public interest, both local governments and facility operators are required to solicit public opinion. Public understanding and support are important to the healthy and sustainable development of nuclear energy, said Guo Chengzhan, deputy director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration. China currently has 36 operational nuclear reactors and is building 20 more. Based on the development plan and the energy strategy, the nuclear energy industry will grow even faster in the coming years, said Guo at a press conference after the conclusion of the bimonthly session. By the end of 2020, China aims to have 58 million kilowatts of nuclear power capacity in operation and more than 30 million kilowatts under construction.          

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/01/2017

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China Revises Law to Better Support SMEs

                        

China's top legislature on Friday revised a legislation to better protect the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The revised law was adopted after a third reading at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which runs from Monday to Friday. The revision has strengthened protection on the property rights and other rights of SMEs and increased support in areas such as financing, taxation and employment. Under the amendment, "to maintain the legal rights and interests of SMEs" was inserted into the first section of the law, which clarifies the law's aims. Meanwhile, "the country protects the property rights and other legal rights and interests of SMEs and their investors" was added to the section that details rights protection. Financial institutions should serve SMEs efficiently and fairly, and the country encourages financial institutions to provide SMEs with tailored products and services, according to the revised law. It added that tax benefits and reduction of administrative charges will be offered to SMEs.

 

To support SMEs in attracting professional talent, the country encourages research institutions and colleges to cooperate with SMEs on the transformation of scientific and technological achievements. Although SMEs generate some 60 percent of China's GDP and 80 percent of jobs, they have long been confronted with difficulties in retaining employees and getting bank loans. "Work has been done to ensure both fair market competition and protection of SMEs in the legislation," Guo Linmao, an official with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, told a press conference Friday afternoon. The revision aims to create an easy environment and some sense of gain for SMEs, according to Guo. The amendment has also strengthened inspection on government authorities' facilitation of SME development, and clarified legal responsibilities for those who violated the rights of SMEs, he said. The revised law will enter into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/01/2017

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Chinese Premier Stresses Implementation of Major Policies

                        

The State Council, China's cabinet, said Wednesday that it will continue to strengthen implementation of major central policies and decisions to better promote growth and improve people's livelihoods. Both progress and problems were found after the State Council recently launched a new round of field inspections and a third-party evaluation of local government implementation of central policies and major tasks, according to a statement following an executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. Initial results have been obtained on local governments fulfilling the tasks set at the Central Economic Work Conference in December and in a government work report early this year, according to the statement. However, problems still lie in fields including capacity cuts, unreasonable fees and commercialization of research findings, the statement said. The cutting of surplus production capacity will be continued unswervingly, with special focus on the weeding out of substandard steel production, it said. The government will further reduce costs by applying standards and supervision to fees levied on enterprises by sectoral associations, chambers of commerce and various societies, in a major push to put an end to unregulated excessive charging practices.

 

The government will further promote innovation-driven development, with an evaluation system to monitor the environment for innovation and entrepreneurship set to be established. The incentive mechanism for the commercialization of scientific and technological progress will be improved. The development of a business environment with global edge will be prioritized to further promote private and foreign investment. The government will develop an evaluation mechanism for business environments, and conduct timely nationwide evaluation of the environment. The government will also work on the real estate transaction registration mechanism to further reduce red tape, according to the statement. Local authorities will be encouraged to ensure real-time data sharing between different information platforms. The State Council launched its first round of nationwide inspections in 2014, followed by two inspections in 2015 and 2016, to keep implementation of economic and social work on schedule. The latest inspection is the fourth round of its kind.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/13/2017

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New Move to Protect Chinese Citizens' Rights to File Administrative Lawsuits

                        

China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) Thursday announced new measures to better protect citizens' rights to institute litigation against the government. Courts were banned from using excuses, such as the cases being too complicated or a need for balancing interests among different government departments to reject administrative cases filed by citizens, according to a circular issued by the top court. Courts shall not illegally list the plaintiff's base for filing the litigation being sufficient, the facts clear or the evidence irrefutable as conditions to accept a case, it read. The response on whether a court accepts a case must be given within seven days. China practices case-filing registration and has extended the time limit for the prosecution of such cases to six months. If a filed case risks exceeding the time limit, courts should conduct an urgent examination, according to the circular.x For plaintiffs who fail to observe the time limit due to unforeseeable circumstances or other reasons not attributable to themselves, the courts should not reject their cases on account of the time limit expiring, it added.

 

Meanwhile, the SPC ordered strict scrutiny of the abuse of litigation rights, saying such behaviors should be restrained. China has intensified efforts to ensure public rights and interests in administrative litigation in recent years. A revised Administrative Procedure Law took effect on May 1, 2015. The legislation, first promulgated in 1990, guarantees citizens' rights to pursue the government through the courts. The revision compels defendants -- representatives of the administrations concerned -- to personally appear at court. Those who refuse to appear without legitimate reasons or who leave court during the trial without approval may face additional punishment. According to the SPC's annual report, Chinese courts at all levels concluded 225,000 administrative cases of first instance in 2016, up 13.2 percent year on year. The SPC has also set up six circuit courts to deal with cross-region administrative and other cases. In certain regions, courts are designated to deal administrative cases to improve efficiency.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/14/2017

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China to Air Documentary on Social, Economic Achievements

                        

A documentary featuring China's social and economic achievements since 2012 will be aired on the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), according to an official statement Saturday. The six-episode documentary, "Amazing China," summarizes social and economic achievements since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, it said. The documentary highlights China's five development concepts of innovation, coordination, greening, opening up and inclusiveness. The film crew spent three months shooting around 3,000 hours of footages and interviewing 108 people across the country. With the 19th CPC National Congress scheduled for October, the documentary is expected to inspire the Chinese people, it said. It was co-produced by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and CCTV.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/16/2017

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JAPAN: Zen-Noh Must Change Mind-Set to Promote Reform Based on New Law

 

Self-reformation by agricultural cooperatives, based on a recently enforced law, holds the key to the revitalization of farming. The law to support the enhancement of agricultural competitiveness, which incorporates deregulation measures for agricultural materials and reform of their distribution structure, was enforced this month. It is designed to encourage the lowering of domestic prices of materials including fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, which are higher than overseas, to help reduce the burden on farmers. About 3,000 makers have domestically produced as many as nearly 20,000 fertilizer brands. This was inevitable because fertilizers were manufactured based on detailed standards set by prefectural governments according to the variety of crop and soil. Production thus became inefficient and easily pushed up prices. This also has led to the establishment of too many small manufacturers. The support law calls on the central government to encourage prefectural governments to simplify the standards for fertilizers and consolidate makers’ brands. Regarding agricultural chemicals, use of lower-priced generic brands is expected to spread. The central government will expand a special website where farming households can comparison shop for fertilizers and agricultural chemicals.

 

The harmfulness of expensive fertilizers and agricultural chemicals has long been pointed out. To help farmers actually feel the benefit of cost cuts, reform must be pushed ahead steadily. As for distribution, a reexamination of the trading practices of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) will emerge as a focal point. As things now stand, the main trading practice involves Zen-Noh receiving crops from farmers and selling them to wholesalers and others under a consignment formula. Zen-Noh is less motivated to sell products at “as high a price as possible.” The support law calls on Zen-Noh to shift to a trading practice in which it buys crops and sells them directly to restaurants and retailers. This will help increase the net proceeds for farmers because commissions do not need to be paid. Nevertheless, the law’s provisions on both material costs and distribution structure set no more than an obligation to make an effort. It is imperative for Zen-Noh, which widely plays the role of a trading house for agricultural cooperatives, to take the lead in bolstering the business foundations of farming families. To prevent reform from backsliding, the government must also strive to understand the current reality.

 

The nation’s farming population has halved to 1.8 million compared with 20 years ago. With the introduction of the latest measures, there is expected to be a further shakeout of fertilizer makers and wholesalers.The newly enforced law incorporates a measure in which government-affiliated financial institutions and other entities offer financial assistance when relevant companies are realigned. In providing loans, meticulous care must be taken of small and medium-size companies and other parties, through the smooth provision of funds and prudent screening of merger plans. Expectations are being placed on efforts to strengthen the profit-making power of relevant industries by strengthening management vitality through industry reorganization. This endeavor could lead to the enhancement of agricultural competitiveness. Farmers must enhance their management awareness of how to sell, in addition of how to produce. The improvement of the business environment should be utilized to produce high-quality crops and pioneer new markets.

From http://the-japan-news.com 08/28/2017

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Protect Japan’s Sovereignty Via JCG’s Proper Enforcement of Relevant Laws

 

To ensure the protection of Japanese territories and interests while avoiding clashes with neighboring countries trying to disrupt the maritime order, it is imperative to bolster the security system of the Japan Coast Guard in a planned manner. The JCG called for a record ¥230.3 billion, or an increase of 9 percent over the previous year, in its budgetary request for fiscal 2018. The JCG will have a 6,500-ton patrol boat built — the largest it has ever had — to establish a five-boat patrol system. It is also contemplating purchasing a jet for maritime surveillance. These are the pillars of the plan. The government compiled a medium-term policy on strengthening maritime security for the first time at the end of last year. The JCG is required to play expanded roles, including territorial patrols and measures against terrorism, in addition to rescue operations in times of sea disasters and the maintenance of maritime safety. Based on the compiled policy, the equipment and personnel of the JCG must steadily be expanded.

 

Monday is the fifth anniversary of the Senkaku Islands being nationalized. At that time in 2012, the JCG possessed 51 large patrol boats, each over 1,000 tons, against just 40 held by China. China has rapidly built up its equipment since then and will likely possess 145 of the large patrol boats in 2019, thus overwhelming the JCG in quantitative terms. It has also commissioned a patrol boat of around 10,000 tons. The JCG plans to hold 69 large patrol boats in fiscal 2021. The JCG has expanded the fixed number of its personnel to 13,744, up from the 12,689 recorded at the time when the Senkakus were nationalized. However, a further increase in personnel and more effective operations of patrol boats are called for. China has repeatedly intruded upon Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus, at an average pace of three times a month. Three government vessels per intrusion had been par for the course until last autumn, when the number was increased to four.

 

To prevent the occurrence of a contingency, the JCG must secure numerical superiority over intruding Chinese vessels and escort them out of the territorial waters by issuing appropriate warnings. Chinese government vessels are not the only targets that should be watched out for. Illegal fishing operations and unlicensed marine surveys by neighboring foreign countries have been conducted repeatedly in Japanese territorial waters. Especially in fishing grounds within the exclusive economic zone 300 kilometers off the Noto Peninsula, illegal fishing by boats believed to be registered with North Korea and China has been rapidly increasing. At one time, about 300 such boats converged in the EEZ. The JCG has cracked down on them since early July, chasing about 820 vessels out of the EEZ by using water cannons and other means.

 

To prevent illegal acts from becoming any more common, the JCG is required to deal with them quickly in cooperation with municipalities and the Fisheries Agency, among other organizations. In 2014, coral poaching boats converged around the Ogasawara Islands. The JCG is required to be ready to conduct “two-front operations” in waters around the Senkakus and other seas. The government will host a meeting of director-general-level officials of maritime security entities from various countries in Tokyo on Thursday. Officials from 38 countries, territories and international organizations will be invited. Representatives from China and Russia are also scheduled to attend. It is essential to share with other countries Japanese know-how on staving off tensions not by military means, but by the JCG’s proper legal enforcement.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/11/2017

 

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Govt Panel OK’s Outline of Work Style Reform Legislation

 

A government panel on Friday approved an outline of a package of bills for work style reforms, including the introduction of overtime caps and measures to promote equal pay for equal work. The legislation is “generally reasonable,” the Labor Policy Council said in a report to Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato. The government plans to submit the set of bills to revise eight related laws, including the labor standards law and the part-time employment law, to an extraordinary Diet session seen starting later this month, after gaining approval from the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition. The package includes a bill to introduce a system to exclude highly skilled and paid professionals from work hour regulations, a step criticized as a “zero overtime pay” system by opposition parties and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo. Rengo has rejected the so-called white-collar exemption system although the government has agreed to accept all Rengo-requested revisions to the bill, including one to oblige employers to secure 104 or more holidays a year for workers covered by the system. A bill to amend the labor standards law, featuring the introduction of a similar system, was submitted in 2015. But the Diet was unable to start deliberations on it, due to resistance from the opposition camp. The legislation package, meanwhile, calls for setting an annual overtime ceiling of 720 hours with a monthly limit of below 100 hours. Offending companies will be penalized. The package also includes a ban on “unreasonable” pay differences between regular staff and others such as part timers and dispatched workers.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/16/2017

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Abe Plans to Use Tax Hike for Free Education

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now plans to use increased government revenue from the planned consumption tax increase in October 2019 for realizing free education, informed sources said Tuesday. Abe aims to change the agreed usage of the increased revenue to attract votes in an imminent election of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, the sources said. According to the 2012 agreement among the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan (now the Democratic Party), the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, only 20 percent, or some ¥3 trillion, of the increased portion of consumption tax revenue will be used for improving social security services, while the rest will be for government debt repayment and contribution to the state pension program. But Abe, who is poised to break up the lower house next week for a snap general election on Oct. 22, aims to utilize the planned tax increase to realize free education, one of the pillars of his latest “human resource development revolution” policy, sources the LDP said. Estimates show that about ¥730 billion will be needed each year to make preschool education programs covering children aged 3-5 free of charge. Furthermore, the government will have to spend ¥3.7 trillion a year for realizing free higher education. Abe plans to allocate a larger portion of the increased consumption tax income to social security programs and include free education in the programs. If the government reduces the allocation for debt repayments, however, it will certainly slow its fiscal consolidation efforts and push back the goal of achieving a primary budget surplus in fiscal 2020, critics said.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/20/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Seeking to Regulate Digital Currencies

 

South Korea's top financial regulator said Sunday it will step up monitoring and carry out probes into money laundering, unauthorized financing and other illicit transactions of digital currencies. Joining Japan, China and other Asian nations in trying to regulate crypto-currencies, the Financial Services Commission  warned that the recent transaction volume and volatility of digital currencies are "excessive." The move by the FSC comes as the price of a bitcoin, the best-known digital currency, surged above $4,000 last month. South Korea is home to one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges, with about 1 million people estimated to have the digital currency. "There is a need for the government to cope with the virtual currencies to prevent them from being used as tools for crimes and simple speculative investment," the state regulator said in a statement.

Despite a boom in transactions of digital currencies, the exchanges of such are largely unregulated as they are not recognized as financial products. Also there are no rules protecting people who invest in digital money. As part of regulations against illicit transactions of digital currencies, banks will be required to strictly check the personal information of people who work at digital currency exchanges, the FSC said. If there are suspicious transactions in such bank accounts, lenders will be required to report the transactions to authorities, it said. If a small money-transfer operator wants to send money overseas using digital currency, the operator will report their daily transfer records to the Bank of Korea, the FSC said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 09/03/2017

 

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Korea Keeps Electricity Reserve Rate at 22 Pct in 2031

 

South Korea will keep the electricity reserve rate at 22 percent in 2031, the same estimated two years ago, as the government's push for renewable energy needs back up facilities for a stable power supply, a panel said Friday. A government working group to outline the power supply plan for 2017-2030 said that it tentatively determined the reasonable electricity reserve rate at 22 percent in 2031. The detailed figure comes after the expert panel last month determined the reasonable electricity reserve rate to be 20-22 percent in the cited year. A 1 percentage-point drop in the reserve rate can allow the government not to build a power plant with a capacity of 1 gigawatt. The panel said the reserve rate was calculated taking into consideration the government's plan to increase the use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2030. 

Currently, 24 nuclear reactors generate about 30 percent of the nation's electricity and coal power plants and liquefied natural gas supplies the rest. "If renewable energy produces 20 percent of the total power production by 2030, its supply will have to be complemented intermittently," the panel said in a report. "The government should secure backup facilities as soon as possible, including pumped storage power plants that can control power and liquefied natural gas plants that can solely operate gas turbines." The energy plan, which is closely related to the number of new power plants, has been closely watched as the Moon Jae-in administration has pledged to stop building new nuclear plants and phase out aged reactors. Last month, the government temporarily halted construction of two nuclear reactors on the southeast coast for public opinion gathering. What will be done with the unfinished reactors will be announced in late October.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 09/13/2017

 

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INDONESIA: Unveiling Policy to Speed Up Expansion of Mangroves

 

The government of Indonesia has issued a regulation to preserve and accelerate expansion of mangrove forest in the archipelagic nation, a senior government official said here on Thursday. The rules provide guidance to provincial administrations and other stakeholders in managing mangrove forest based on the characteristic of their territory, said Montty Girianna, deputy for energy, natural resources and environment management at the chief economic ministry. The rule would also be expected to prevent and restore damages in mangrove forest in the country, according to the official. According to ministry of environment and forestry it has been recorded 1.67 million hectares of damages in Indonesia's mangroves forest and only a total of 1.82 million hectares remains in a good condition. "So that, our target of a 3.49 million hectares of mangroves forest coverage can be achieved in 2045," said Girianna. Under the rules, it was also included public participation in preserving mangroves forest and planting coastline with plants. Indonesia, home to over 17,500 islands, has about 95,000 kilometers coastline and harbors nearly a quarter of the world's mangroves.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/07/2017

 

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SINGAPORE: Cybersecurity Bill Delayed to 2018

 

SINGAPORE: The Cybersecurity Bill, which was expected to have been tabled this year, will instead be introduced in Parliament in 2018, according to Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday (Sep 18). In his speech at the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity, Dr Yaacob said in developing the Bill, the Government has consulted various stakeholders, including sector leads, potential critical information infrastructure (CII) owners, and the wider industry and public. It even extended the public consultation period in response to the interest in the legislation. He added that the suggestions and feedback provided, many of which were “constructive and useful”, are currently being studied. Dr Yaacob said during Budget 2016 that the Cybersecurity Act would ensure CII owners secure their infrastructure and report incidents, and also empower the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) to manage cyber incidents and raise the standards of cybersecurity vendors here. The minister, who is also the country’s Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security, also pointed out that Singapore is working to develop a sustainable pool of skilled practitioners to improve security against the backdrop of a global shortage of such professionals. To that end, he said CSA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, which will facilitate a collaboration on cybersecurity capability and workforce development. Additionally, he said CSA and the Info-communications Media Development Authority have established partnerships with PwC Singapore and PCS Security as part of the Cyber Security Associates and Technologists programme to train and equip professionals with ICT or engineering backgrounds to take on cybersecurity jobs through company-led training.

 

REGIONAL EFFORTS

Beyond Singapore, Dr Yaacob pointed to efforts from its ASEAN counterparts to step up efforts to reorganise and better position themselves to strengthen the resiliency of the CIIs. For instance, Indonesia recently established its national cyber agency - the National Cyber and Cipher Agency (or Badan Siber dan Sandi Negara). The new agency combines the capabilities of the Indonesia Security Incident Response Team on Internet Infrastructure and the State Cipher Agency under omen roof to better coordinate the country’s efforts in cybersecurity, the minister said. Malaysia, too, has taken steps to enhance its cybersecurity talent pool, said Dr Yaacob. He said the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation signed an agreement in December 2016 with the UK’s Protection Group International to set up a cybersecurity academy - the UK-APAC Centre of Security Excellence - in the country, and the academy will introduce UK GCHQ-accredited cybersecurity courses that will help professionals there operate at a high international standard. Dr Yaacob also reiterated that Singapore is committed to foster close relationships with other ASEAN nations to build up regional cyber capacity, and it will deepen its support in this regard.

 

He announced that for the next three years, Singapore will set aside S$1.5 million of the S$10 million ASEAN Cyber Capacity Building programme announced in 2016 to build technical capability among incident responders and operators in the region. The Government will also partner the industry to run an ASEAN Cybersecurity Industrial Attachment Programme, which will offer training opportunities here for up to 18 candidates from ASEAN member states. “The training will focus on security operations centre operations and management, and other relevant technical areas of cybersecurity,” Dr Yaacob elaborated. “Through this programme, participants will be able to advance their technical capabilities in effectively monitoring and responding to cyber threats.” He also said Singapore is supportive of having basic rules for behaviour in cyberspace and believes that ASEAN can work together to reach consensus on basic voluntary cyber norms for the region, and he called on members of the regional bloc for greater coordination on cyber policy and capacity building. “Just as ASEAN came together in the face of a security threat 50 years ago and created the pre-conditions for all of us to do well, so too can we work closer together on cybersecurity to take full advantage of the fruits of digitalisation,” Dr Yaacob said.

 

MORE COORDINATION ON CYBERSECURITY

During the closed-door conference, ministers and senior officials from the 10 ASEAN member states, including the regional bloc’s secretary-general Le Luong Minh, agreed on the importance of enhancing coordination. This is to ensure that the region’s cybersecurity efforts across its various platforms in countering increasingly sophisticated cyber threats are “focused, effective and in synergy with one another”, according to a press release following the conference. It also noted that this year’s conference included a special session which saw the participation of ministers and senior officials from five ASEAN dialogue partners - Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. “Taking into account the increasingly inter-connected global economy and the transboundary nature of cyber threats, the special session highlighted the critical importance of international dialogue on cyber, as well as regular and robust inter-regional dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners,” the press release said.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 09/18/2017

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THAILAND: Digital Economy Master Plan Among Tech Projects Approved

 

THE DIGITAL Economy and Society Committee has approved the National Digital Economy Master Plan, the National e-Commerce Master Plan and a plan to develop seven smart cities around the country. Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said both master plans cover the five years from 2017-21. The plans aim to usher the country into the Thailand 4.0 era and break the country free from the middle-income trap.  With the e-Commerce Plan, the ministry will order Thailand Post to provide e-payment and e-logistics services so that grassroots people and small and medium-sized enterprises in communities nationwide can distribute their products via an e-marketplace and expand their customer base.  The committee also assigned the ministry to set up and supervise seven smart cities in the country to support the digital economy.  The government and the private sector are already developing smart cities in four provinces – Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.  The three new provinces to host smart cities are in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development zone – Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao.

 

The government will invite international companies from technology leaders such as Japan, the US, Europe and China to invest in innovation and new technologies, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and data centres, in the EEC.  That would help spawn smart manufacturers in the EEC and underpin the Thailand 4.0 scheme.  Next week some 500 Japanese firms will come to Thailand and visit the EEC.  They will explore opportunities to invest in Thailand. The EEC’s smart city projects will apply the same technology that was successful in Phuket.  For example, the smart tourism Phuket model would be the basis for the new smart city Pattaya project in Chon Buri. The committee approved the increase in mobile phone and fixed-line numbers from 9 digits to 10 digits.  The ministry will inform the new numbering scheme to the International Telecommunication Union in a couple months so that it will be up and running within three years. 

 

The country now has 250 million telephone numbers in use and about 50 |million numbers remaining for new registration.  It will have 500 million telephone numbers with the 10-digit numbering plan. The existing 13-digit personal ID number will double as the Smart Health ID number for access to healthcare services.  Telemedicine will be implemented to serve people and patients in rural and remote areas.  The ministry will set up 10 pilot telemedicine projects this year in rural areas like Tak province.  The government has joined with Advanced Information Service (AIS) to provide an online application, known as AorSorMor, for public health. The move is in accordance with the Thailand 4.0 policy that leverages information technology to benefit society in many ways and improve people’s lives, which is in line with the government’s digital development objective to contribute positively to Thailand’s economy and society.  The corporation will create a pool of 200,000-staff for AorSorMor-linked primary healthcare centres nationwide.  AIS expects that no matter where villagers live, they can reach out to doctors for medical assistance anytime.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 09/07/2017

 

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Pension Fund Revisits Its Investment Plan

 

THE GOVERNMENT Pension Fund is reviewing its five-year investment plan to better cope with the global economic situation, while expecting no impacts on its performance from global political developments. “We see the global economy taking a gradual recovery path. Meanwhile, short-term political conflicts have not yet affected investment,” said, Srikanya Yathip, acting secretary-general of GPF. The review would look at the trend for the fund’s growth, as its |investment strategy focuses on long-term investment with consistent returns. GPF will invest more in alternative assets including those related to infrastructure, which will give its members long-term gains, she said.  Its portfolio is presently weights at least 60 per cent in fixed-income instruments. Based on its records for 20 years, the fund’s return averaged 6-7 per cent per year. In the first eight months of this year, the fund yielded 3.58 per cent, down from last year’s 5.10 per cent. Its net asset value increase to Bt826.09 billion from last year’s Bt769.76 billion. The fund is proposing to the Finance Ministry to amend the law to shift its new members to the age-balance plan to be in line with their age ranges and to find a more satisfactory return.  Now, GPF members can change their investment plan more easily to find their appropriate investment styles via GPF’s call centre and application. This can be done twice a year. GPF counts 1.02 million members. In July this year, GPF registered an increase of 33,621 new savers, more than last year’s rise of 29,731 new savers. 

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 09/08/2017

 

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Officials Come Up With 20-Year Plan for Bt2.7 Trillion Worth of Railway Projects

 

THE OFFICE of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) has formulated a 20-year framework for 38 rail transport projects worth Bt2.7 trillion to boost the country’s transport efficiency. The massive investment would result in an estimated economic return of Bt400 billion annually with big savings in transport costs, time and less pollution, the OTP said. Chayatham Phomsorn, the deputy OTP director, told a seminar yesterday that multiple rail projects are designed to support special economic zones, tourism and other national development plans between now and 2036 with a focus on linking passenger and cargo transport lines. The programme covers 16 double-tracked rail routes with a total length of 2,777 kilometres. The projects will increase transport efficiency by removing bottlenecks at the existing Chaserngsao-Khaeng Khoi, Jira-Khon Kaen, Hua Hin-Prachuab Kiri Khan sections, among others. The programme includes 14 new routes of one-metre-gauge railways with a total length of 2,352km. Among these projects are the Den Chai-Chiang Khong and Ban Phai-Nakhon Phanom routes.

 

High-speed projects

There are also eight standard-gauge railway projects with a total length of 2,457km, including high-speed train routes from Bangkok to Rayong, Bangkok to Nakorn Ratchasima, Bangkok to Hua Hin, and Bangkok to Phitsanulok. The programme includes construction of container yards at select locations such as Wa Kor and Nong Pla Duk to support distribution of goods and other logistic operations. It also aims to implement electrification of existing railway systems. To fund these projects, the government would be responsible for a combined investment of Bt1.97 trillion out of the overall Bt2.7-trillion investment, while the private sector is expected to invest a combined Bt729 billion. Annually, the government’s share of total investment is projected to be Bt98 billion while the private sector’s share is Bt36 billion. The economic return on investment is estimated to be Bt408 billion per year, including a combined savings of Bt158 billion in transportation costs and a time savings equivalent to Bt94 billion.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 09/23/2017

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VIETNAM: Ministry Outlines Three Growth Scenarios for 2018

 

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has outlined three scenarios for economic growth next year as part of its preparation for developing a socio-economic plan. These three scenarios were based on the projection that this year’s growth target of 6.7 per cent is achievable, given the Government’s hastened effort. Accordingly, gross domestic growth (GDP) was expected to be 6.81 per cent in the best scenario, 6.5 per cent in the medium scenario and 6.4 per cent in the worst scenario. Trần Quốc Phương, Director of National Economic Issues Department under the ministry, said the scenarios were developed with regard to anticipated results of 2017 and forecasts on global and domestic economic development in 2018 to ensure compliance with the goals of the socio-economic development 2016-20 plan as well as the Prime Minister’s directive for GDP growth at 6.4-6.8 per cent. The ministry forecast that the mining industry would continue to decline in 2018, which would affect the country’s growth if the economic growth model could not transform from extensive to intensive in a short period of time. Among the three growth scenarios, the medium one was the most appropriate, the ministry said. The medium scenario also largely met the favour of the Government.

 

The focus of socio-economic development in 2018 would remain on ensuring a stable macro-economy, curbing inflation and creating stable ground for economic development, the ministry said. However, achieving 6.7 growth target this year was a challenge. At the Government’s August meeting, the Prime Minister asked all ministries and sectors to put in their entire effort and determination towards fulfilling the target. The ministry said internal weaknesses of the economy were also problems, such as labour-intensive growth model, low technology capacity and low competitiveness and efficiency of local firms, while natural resources were gradually getting exhausted. In addition, remaining room for fiscal and monetary policies to fuel growth was modest. According to Nguyễn Đình Cung, director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, economic growth largely relied on the development of the businesses. However, the private sector continued to struggle and faced a number of difficulties. Cung cited statistics according to which just one third of private firms were profitable. If wages and fees were increased next year, the business efficiency of the private sector would be heavily affected, which would affect overall economic growth, Cung said. Cung said proposals by the Ministry of Finance to increase several kinds of taxes should be given careful consideration and their impact on consumption and production thoroughly studied. In addition, economic efficiency of giant State-owned enterprises must be improved.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/06/2017

 

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NA Standing Committee Gave Directions on the Draft Law on Special Economic Zone

 

The National Assembly Standing Committee opened their 14th session yesterday, with discussion centred on the draft Law on Special Administrative-Economic Units, which will be submitted to the National Assembly (NA) in October. NA Vice Chairman Uông Chu Lưu stressed that the law will cover all three of the country’s special administrative-economic zones– Vân Đồn (Quảng Ninh Province), Bắc Vân Phong (Khánh Hoà Province) and Phú Quốc (Kiên Giang Province). The Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyễn Chí Dũng said the goal of the draft is to create a legal framework for the establishment, development and management of the zones. The governments of these three zones, according to the draft, will be established differently than other local governments, consisting of people’s committees and people’s councils. The head of the economic zone will have the authority to govern all economic and administrative activities within their jurisdiction. The heads will be appointed by the Prime Minister, and still will carry out duties tasked by the Government, ministries, and ministry-level agencies. The move comes as the Government wants to showcases the “difference and uniqueness” of special economic zones. However, a second proposal suggested that the chief of the special zone should be a “representative of the provincial government in the special economic-administrative zone.”

 

NA Vice Chairman Lưu suggested that both of these two approaches (out of three options) should be debated by the NA in the near future. Lưu also asked for further research to craft separate policies for each special economic zone to suit their conditions. On the application of foreign laws in contracts with foreign parties, most NA Standing Committee members approved of an article in the draft which allows investors to decide with the organisation or individual headquartered or residing in the special zone on whether another country’s law would be followed. The committee called for more clarity on the roles of other State agencies – including army, police, tax, customs, and insurance agencies – with the draft law not their sole reference point, as other existing national laws will also be followed.  “It is important to assess the impact on the local population as they are at risk of losing their land and at risk of being caught up with social evils when we choose to legalise casinos,” Nguyễn Thuý Anh, Chairman of the NA Social Affairs Committee, said. Võ Trọng Việt, Chairman of the NA National Defence and Security Committee, opined that the organisation of administrative agencies in the special zones must be “tight in terms of national defence and security, but open in terms of trade.” The NA Standing Committee urged the necessity of the Law on Special Economic-Administrative Zone to institutionalise the Party’s plans for the country’s development.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/12/2017

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Gov’t Plans to Use IT to Connect Trade Promotion Groups

 

The application of information technology (IT) is a crucial tool to enhance trade promotion activities nationwide by strengthening information exchange between trade organizations, officials said during a seminar held in Hà Nội on Wednesday. The seminar gathered comments on a draft plan by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) to apply IT to connect the national trade promotion information network. Phạm Việt Đức, Director of Viettrade’s Centre for Information Technology Application For Trade Promotion, said under the  scheme, a portal will be set up to link all the websites of trade promotion agencies nationwide, gathering all of their databases and connecting all users through a consistent system. The current information network of trade promotion groups and businesses is “scattered, overlapping and inconsistent,” said Doãn Thị Thu Thủy, Deputy Director of the Việt Nam Trade Promotion Agency (Viettrade), under the MoIT. The move, according to Thủy, will unify information dissemination between trade promotion agencies and the business community, helping them manage, update and exploit the latest information on trade promotion, quickly seize business opportunities and develop their markets.

 

Beneficiaries of the system would include trade promotion agencies at the central and local levels, Vietnamese trade offices in foreign countries, business associations, organisations and individuals who wish to connect to the system, Đức said. “This helps transmit a large volume of information at a higher speed but a lower cost, and in a comprehensive and synchronous manner,” he added. Đức said if the scheme is approved by the government, it is expected that by 2020, 100 per cent of domestic enterprises, organisations and individuals and foreign traders can be connected to the system and directly exchange information and seek co-operation opportunities and partners. They can also access and exploit sources of accurate and official information on Việt Nam’s trade promotion activities. In addition to the advantages brought about by the portal, there were also some limitations, Đức said. “As the portal will have to gather a lot of databases and link a number of websites with different Internet addresses to serve various users, its operation system will sometimes face situations like overloaded access or interrupted transmission,” Đức said. Staffs that are in charge of the portal’s operation will have to be well-trained as they must be responsible for conducting multiple tasks, including managing the content of information and controlling users’ activities and interactions on the portal, he added.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/21/2017

 

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Ministry to Regulate E-Trading

 

The Ministry of Finance has developed a draft circular that provides a general legal framework on the electronic trading activities at the stock market. The draft circular has been sent to the market members to collect their ideas and opinions. It is expected to ensure that the electronic trading activities at the stock market will be transparent, fair, secure and correspond to the Law of Electronic Trading, the Law of Cyber Security and other regulations. Under the draft circular, the electronic trading software programmes that are currently being used by the market members must be inspected and scanned for security loopholes, and they must also be examined once a year. Brokerage companies must also develop solutions that allow investors and traders to use their digital ID numbers and signatures if needed. Securities firms that are licenced to provide electronic trading services must submit reports on a number of issues such as the electronic trading orders – which occur during the year – system upgrades and changes in the trading system.

 

The reports must be submitted within seven working days before the brokerage firms make their system changes and upgrades. The e-data files are also required and must be prepared within five days after the quarter-end day (for quarterly reports) and 30 days since the year-end day (for annual reports). If approved, the draft circular would replace Circular 87/2013/TT-BTC issued by the finance ministry on June 28, 2013, regulating the electronic trading at the stock market. According to the State Securities Commission, 88 securities firms have been licenced to provide electronic trading services for investors. The total number of registered e-trading accounts has reached more than 1.1 million. In 2016, more than 480 billion e-trading transactions, worth VNĐ1.4 trillion (US$62.2 million), were made. The highest-level market regulator said that there were some issues with the implementation of Circular 87, mainly regarding cyber security. According to SSC, there have been no requirements for brokerage firms, stock exchanges and the Vietnam Securities Depository to provide trading data, which would help market regulators to supervise and prevent investors from manipulating share prices and earning illegitimate profits.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/22/2017

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Progress on Special Zones Law to Ease Investment

 

The Department for Economic Zones Management (DEZM) of the Ministry of Planning and Investment is in the process of completing the draft Law on Special Administrative-Economic Units, with adjustments being made in terms of local operations, organization, administration and foreign investment incentives and policies. Trần Huy Đông, Director General of the DEZM, said the draft law is an important legal framework for the establishment, development, management and operation of three special administrative units: Vân Đồn in Quảng Ninh Province, Northern Vân Phong in Khánh Hòa Province and Phú Quốc in Kiên Giang Province. Its policies will focus on building a particularly favourable business environment by greater opening of the market in the special zones and regulating investment conditions in attractive industries, especially for foreign investors. The draft law also proposes regulations to renovate and simplify investment at a provincial level in accordance with policies set by the Prime Minister, particularly when granting investment registration certificates for public-private partnership and offshore investment projects. Access to land for domestic and foreign investors is also improved in the proposed draft. Accordingly, investment projects with significant innovation, mostly in the fields of research and development, health care, education, and projects of strategic importance would be granted a 99-year land lease. In addition, the State budget will focus on targeted objectives for these special units in the next 10 years, allowing for local budget deficits in favour of important technical, social and environmental infrastructures, and implementing specific policies prescribed in the draft law.

 

Tax exemption

The Draft Law gives priority to incentive policies on tax exemption, with the highest level of incentives applied to creative start-ups, research and development, healthcare, education and investment projects. The law also regulates tourism and services development policies, such as raising the level of duty free sales value for Vietnamese tourists and foreigners in non-tariff areas, implementing a simplified and expanded visa policy, and applying lower special consumption tax rates for casino businesses to compete with Singapore and Malaysia. More specifically, there are differences in the level of competitiveness for each new administrative zone, which would affect their development pathways, said Đông. According to Đông, Vân Đồn, which is only a three to four hours flight away from China, should plan to gradually construct and improve its airport for better access to this market in terms of tourism and logistics. Phú Quốc, with its 3,000 hectares of natural beauty, and the advantage of being easily accessible from other ASEAN countries, should attract investors in the tourism and services areas. The Vân Phong Special Zone, which can potentially house a number of deep sea ports, as it is just next to a junction of important international maritime routes in the East Sea, should focus on strategic development for maritime transportation through the Kra Canal. Preferential investment incentives are only applied to industries with development priorities in each special zone. For example, in Vân Đồn, only tourism and high technological production projects will be given preferential treatment, and the same applies for mechanical engineering, telecommunication or electronics production projects in Vân Phong.

 

Personal accountability

The draft law includes changes in the administrative structure of these special administrative zones, placing personal rather than collective responsibility on local leadership for implementation of government policies. Heads of special economic administrative units will perform the function of State management, deciding and organizing the implementation of all administrative and socio-economic activities in their respective units, while judicial administration will be managed by a district level special court with the competency and responsibility of a provincial level court. Đông also mentioned other adjustments in these special economic units, such as the possibility applying foreign laws for any foreign business investing in Việt Nam, which should help solve business-related issues that might arise in foreign courts. Nevertheless, the DEZM considers the biggest obstacle in completing the draft law is whether it can meet investors’ needs. As such, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) believes it should follow the Politburo’s direction and the Prime Minister’s orientation to put emphasis on experimenting and adjusting policies in a continuous and flexible manner through each economic development period. Hoàng Ngọc Giao, director of the Institute for Policy, Law and Development Studies and Trần Đình Thiên, director of Việt Nam Institute of Economic and Policy Research, said that domestic investment must be treated the same as foreign one to enable a competitive edge to Việt Nam’s domestic economy. The draft law is expected to be submitted by MPI to the 14th National Assembly for comments during its fourth session in October, with hopes of getting it approved by the fifth session in October 2018.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/25/2017

 

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INDIA: Haryana to Introduce E-post Sanctioning System

 

ShareThe Haryana Government is introducing an ‘e-post sanctioning system’ to further streamline the process of sanctioning of new posts as well as surrender of existing posts in different state departments.This system is a part of an Integrated Financial and Human Resource Management System (IFHRMS) of the state government, under which various modules like online budget allocation, monitoring and analysis system, e-salary, e-pension and e-gras etc are already being run through Drawing and Disbursing Officers (DDOs), Budget Controlling Officers (BCOs), Budget Controlling Authorities (BCAs) as well as citizens. The new system will enable the departments to view the details of all existing sanctioned posts and their working strength in various offices under their control. This will thus enable the department to take an informed decision while making any demand for creation, abolition or transfer of any post. The system will also help the department in estimating the monthly or annual financial implications of the proposal. Whenever a department wants to create a new post, its requisite demand will be sent through the proper route or directly by the BCA to the Finance department after obtaining necessary administrative approval through the administrative department. At present, the e-post sanctioning system is being run on a pilot basis in the Department of Treasuries and Accounts.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/03/2017

 

 

 

 

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Karnataka Cabinet Approves E-vehicle Policy

 

Ke-vehiclearnataka became first state in the country to have e-vehicle policy in place after the State Cabinet approved the Karnataka Electric Vehicle and Energy Storage Policy recently. The new policy aims to promote research and development in electric mobility and grow the sector and offers incentives and concessions in line with the Karnataka Industrial Policy 2014-19 to EV manufacture sector, battery manufacturing and charging equipment enterprises throughout the state. The policy looks at maintaining the lead share of Karnataka as a preferred destination for atracting investments in manufacture of electric vehicles. According to RV Deshpande, Minister for Industries, Government of Karnataka, The policy aims to create conducive environment for transition to electric vehicle environment from internal combustion engines. The government will also creat a special purpose vehicle involving local agencies such as Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL), Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) and other agencies to create more changing infarastrucutre in Bengaluru and Karnataka.

 

Suitably, the government will make needful amendments to building bylaws for providing mandatory charging infrastructure in all high rise buildings like IT Parks, Special Economic Zones, Commercial Malls, and apartments. The state government through the new policy is expected to target Rs 31,000 crore in investment and create employment for 55,000 people. TB Janachandra, Minister for Law, Government of Karnataka, told media that the government is also looking at making the vehicles cheaper by introducing a slew of attractive incentives and concessions in line with the state’s industrial policy of 2014-19. According to sources, the department of commerce and industries was seeking a 100% relaxation on stamp duty for manufacturers to set up shop in the state. However, the departemnt of finance has vetoed the proposal and agreed to provide a 50% relaxation in stamp duties after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s intervention.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 09/14/2017

 

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e-Indian Postal Order Announced for All

 

India Post (Dept. of Posts) has launched electronic Indian Postal Order (e-IPO) for Indian Citizens living in India. Last year the Department had launched the e-IPO for Indian Citizens living abroad across the globe to facilitate them for paying online fee for seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005. e-IPO is a facility to purchase an Indian Postal Order electronically for paying RTI fee on-line through e-Post Office Portal. Under this service, the applicant needs to register at e-Post Office portal of India Post or through India Post web site (where a link for e-Post Office has been provided) to create his/ her profile for the first time. Both debit and credit cards of any Bank powered by Visa/ Master can be used for this purpose. After paying the fee on-line one just need to annex the print-out of the receipt to the RTI application. Two other services are also launched on the occasion: Locality-based Pin Code Search Directory. This will facilitate the public to locate Pin Code up to locality level for usage of correct Pin Code on their mail articles thereby helping in expediting mail processing. This facility can be accessed through India Post web-site. Value addition to e-Post services. Many to One: This facilitates sending of same ePost message from many senders to one recipient on recipient’s email box; and One to many: This facilitates sending of same ePost message from a sender to multiple recipients on recipient’s email inbox. e-Post’ facilitates the customer to send their messages to any address in India with a combination of electronic transmission and physical delivery through a network of almost 1,55,000 Post Offices. In addition, corporate customers can also avail e-Post facility at special rates and other value additions.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/24/2017

 

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e-Wallet Scheme Launched by IRCTC

 

e-wallet scheme has been launched by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a public sector undertaking of the Ministry of railways, to make the payment process fast and to reduce transaction failures due to bank payment related problems. Under this scheme, user can deposit money in advance with IRCTC which can be used as a payment option along with other payment options available on IRCTC website for paying money at the time of booking tickets. There is no difference between e-tickets booked through e-wallet scheme or those booked through other payment options available on IRCTC website. Names of all the passengers booked on a fully waitlisted e-ticket are dropped at the time of preparation of reservation charts and fare is refunded automatically. This scheme is available for PAN verified user only.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/24/2017

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Economy Ministry Develops Draft Code on Competition

 

Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry has prepared draft code on competition, according to the report on the evaluation of the results of the measures reflected in the “Strategic Roadmap on production of consumer goods in Azerbaijan at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises” during the first half of 2017. The work on the preparation of the code is implemented jointly with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Justice, Trend reports.  Creation of the code on competition is envisaged among the measures reflected in the “Strategic Roadmap on production of consumer goods in Azerbaijan at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises.” International experience, including of the U.S., Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries was used during the preparation of the code. A working group that will operate within the Commission on Enhancing Business Environment Favorability and Improving Azerbaijan’s Positions in International Ratings has also been set up, according to the report.  President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree in late 2016 endorsing “Strategic Road Maps for the National Economy and Main Economic Sectors”, which outlined the short-, medium- and long-term goals for the development of the economy and eleven key sectors. The document comprises consolidated measures aimed at minimization of negative impacts of the global economic slowdown. It will allow to create a new development model basing on short-term (until 2020), medium-term (until 2025) and long-term measures (post 2025) to be implemented in different spheres of economy. The strategic road maps up to 2025 and beyond cover almost all sectors of the economy, including, development of the oil and gas industry, the manufacture and processing of agricultural products, the manufacture of small and medium entrepreneurship-level consumer goods, development of heavy industry and machinery, tourism, logistics and trade, vocational education and training, financial services, communication and information technologies and utilities.

From https://www.azernews.az 09/11/2017 

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CBA to Draft Cashless Payments Program

 

The Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) will develop a three-year program of activities for boosting cashless payments and electronic payments by the end of 2017.  A relevant working group, which includes official of various ministries, has already been established.  The American multinational financial services company Mastercard has also been attracted to this process,reads a report on evaluation of the results of implementing measures included in the Strategic Road Map for the development of communication and information technologies in Azerbaijan in the first half of 2017.  Currently, Mastercard and the CBA conduct a joint analysis and diagnosis of the market of cashless payments in the country. They surveyed 560 organizations and 700 customers in Baku and nine regions of the country to determine the factors giving an impetus to cash payments.  “The main reasons for cash payments were classified into three groups, and compared with the results of surveys and interviews. In addition, the volume of cash payments and shadow economy was determined together with leading experts,” according to the report.  The law on Non-Cash Payments, which is still the most discussed in business circles, has come into force since January 1, 2017. 

 

The law was adopted given the need to strengthen accounting in the financial system, through the development of non-cash payments.  The CBA and MasterCard have launched Cashless Azerbaijan project, which includes 3 stages, in February 2017.  The first stage is measuring the country's cash economy, the second-to define a strategy for non-cash payments, and the third stage-to prepare a detailed plan of actions.  The first stage of the project was presented on July 20, the goal of which is to diagnose the factors that cause a high level of cash in the economy, measure the volume of the cash economy, reduce the volume of cash payments and develop cashless payments.  The number of ATMs installed in the country amounted to 2,454 in 2016, the number of POS-terminals 71,164. The figure was 2,694 and 80,301 in 2015, respectively.  Non-cash payments made via POS terminals in Azerbaijan amounted to some 527 million manats ($303.7 million) last year, recording an increase of 131 million manats ($75.49) or 33.1 percent higher than the same indicator of previous year, according to the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA).  Similar transactions via ATMs amounted to some 329 million manats ($189.6 million), featuring a drop of 9 million manats ($5.18 million) or 2.7 percent as compared to the indices of the last year. In tote, the volume of non-cash payments in 2016 stood at 856 million manats ($493.3 million), recording an increase of 122 million manats ($70.30) or 16.6 percent.

From https://www.azernews.az 09/12/2017 

 

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IRAN: Plan to Decrease Dependence on Google, Android

 

Iran plans to decrease its dependence to Google company products including Android mobile operating system, the Islamic Republic’s ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.  “South Korea has reduced its dependence on Google and Android; this is also on our agenda,” Azari Jahromi ‎told to an Iranian state TV channel.  Azari Jahromi's comments came following a decision by Google to cut some of its services to Iranian users.  Last week Google Play followed Apple’s lead in removing Iranian apps from its store, citing US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.  Companies such as Google and Apple were hosting Iranian apps reportedly under a license issued by former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014.  Google has also cut access for some Iranian users to its Google Analytics service.  Azari Jahromi further said that Samsung company has a plan to decrease its dependence on Google services, expressing interest to talk with the South Korean company in this regard.  Iran also can hold talks with Japan regarding the issue, Azari Jahromi said, without unveiling further details.  Azari Jahromi earlier confirmed that negotiations are underway with Twitter aimed at unblocking the service, which has been banned for years despite being used by senior Iranian officials, even the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

From https://en.trend.az 09/11/2017

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Plan to Enter International Tourism Markets

 

Uzbekistan and United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) had discussed the perspective plans for cooperation in the field of tourism, with a view to promoting Uzbekistan in the international tourism market. Samarkand hosted the meeting of the Chairman of the State Tourism Committee Aziz Abdukhakimov and Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai, according to the information published on the official website of Uzbek Foreign Ministry. The visit of the high-ranking guest, timed to the international festival "Shark Taronalari," has become a convenient platform for mutual exchange of opinions and experiences on the development of tourism in Uzbekistan. During the meeting, long-term plans for cooperation with UNWTO, on promoting Uzbekistan in the international market as a recognizable tourism destination, were discussed. The issues of developing the country tourist brand and plans for marketing the country’s entrance to the highly liquid tourism markets (in particular China, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) have been considered. An agreement, to facilitate the training of personnel in tourism sphere, in particular the hotel business, the provision of services in various related industries (transport, public catering, etc.) by organizing an internship for specialists in the UNWTO secretariat on an ongoing basis, was also reached.

From https://en.trend.az 08/30/2017 

 

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Uzbekistan Set to Improve Legislation on Secured Transactions

 

The Central Bank and relevant ministries and departments of the Republic in cooperation with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) developed proposals for further improvement of legislation to facilitate the provision of the chattel mortgage, leasing and other types of support. Improvements are set to further increase the access to finance for businesses, "unfreeze" the capital that is bound in movable assets and strengthen the financial infrastructure of the country. The Republic is taking effective measures to improve the business environment. In particular, financial support of business entities is strengthening, their opportunities for effective use of credit resources and new mechanisms of collateral are expanding. Representatives of ministries and departments, as well as financial institutions of the country attended a seminar, which discussed the best international practices of regulating secured transactions, as well as issues of improving the legislative framework of collateral registry and the potential effect of the proposed changes on the business environment and the availability of financing in the country. The event also considered the influence of reforms in the area of secured transactions to the rating of Uzbekistan in the annual report of the World Bank's Doing Business. Favourable legal and institutional environment for the implementation of secured financing of movable property enables businesses, especially small businesses, to use their own assets as a source for investment and growth. One of the most important tasks of Uzbekistan is to further increase the public access to credit, while secured transactions are considered as one of the ways for solving the problem.

From https://uzreport.news 09/11/2017 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Postal Survey Protection Laws Pass Parliament

 

The government's anti-vilification laws, which are designed to put up safe guards during the postal survey on same sex marriage, have passed the parliament. The legislation, introduced to parliament yesterday, would see people face fines of up to $12,600 if they are found to vilify, intimidate or threaten harm 'on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or religion.' The laws passed without any amendments with the support of both major parties. Advocates of both sides of the argument say they have faced abusive comments for holding their views and expect more to come. Advertisements will need to be authorised and broadcasters must ensure opposing views go to air. "We want this process to be fair and for Australians to get the opportunity to have their say in an appropriate environment,' cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said.

 

Liberal Party vice president Karina Okotel said she had witnessed a 'phenomenal' level of vitriolic abuse for opposing same-sex marriage, which she said was a 'fundamental shift' in a long-held tradition. 'A culture has developed whereby it's acceptable to vilify, mock, abuse and shame anyone who stands in the way or even raises questions about whether we should legalise same-sex marriage,' she told the National Press Club. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told parliament legalising same-sex marriage could result in a ban on children calling their parents 'mum and dad'. Senator Hanson said she would ignore a majority 'yes' result of a postal survey. 'I feel it's a sham, it's farcical and it's a waste of money,' she said of the $122 million exercise. Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek agreed the survey was unnecessary but the protections were needed to put some rules around what was already an 'awful debate'.

 

Greens senator Janet Rice - who married her transgender wife Penny 30 years ago when she was Peter - said she wanted to be able to hold her partner's hand in public, the way they used to, without fear of abuse. 'We used to hold hands, we used to kiss in public but over the last 13 years we self-censor,' she told parliament. Labor leader Bill Shorten has written to the prime minister calling for more funding for counselling services during the survey. The NSW Gay and Lesbian Lobby told a Senate inquiry such funding was vital following a flood of offensive messages. 'Such material has significant impaction the mental health of so many LGBT IQ Australians,' it said in a written submission. 'Young LGBTIQ people are at a six times greater risk of suicide and this material which perpetuates hateful and offensive comments is not likely to improve this situation.' The Australian Bureau of Statistics is aiming to get the survey forms out to 16 million voters by September 25, with the first in mailboxes this week.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/13/2017

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Turnbull Facing Clean Energy Target Revolt

 

Malcolm Turnbull is facing a revolt from backbench MPs over the clean energy target. Sky News has spoken to several MPs who say the prime minister must dump the clean energy target in its current form or face a mutiny A Liberal MP said in relation to claims five MPs are prepared to cross the floor 'try putting a zero in front of that'. Sky News understands Mr Turnbull is aware of the threat and has met with some MPs about their concerns in recent days One Liberal MP said 'people are prepared to put the war paint on an climb out of the trenches', claiming the CET could increase electricity prices. Mr Turnbull is now being urged to put any announcement on a CET on ice until after Christmas. Tony Abbbot will deliver a speech in London next month on climate change titled 'dare to doubt'. Last weekend the National Party voted to end incentives for renewable energy and Liberals say that suggests a solid bloc of opposition to a CET.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/13/2017

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Senate Passes Media Reforms Bill

 

The Turnbull government's long-awaited media ownership reform package has passed the Senate after a deal was struck with the Nick Xenophon Team. The government secured an agreement with Senator Xenophon on Wednesday night, clinching his crucial bloc of three votes. The package's centrepiece will allow a proprietor to control more than two out of three platforms - TV, radio or newspaper - in one licensed market. It will also repeal the reach rule, which prevents a proprietor exercising control of commercial television broadcasting licences where the combined licence area exceeds 75 per cent of Australia's population. In exchange for Senator Xenophon's support, the government has agreed to establish a $60.4 million fund for regional and small publishers and increased training for journalists. Under the arrangement, there will be 30 scholarships a year to study journalism as well as 50 cadetships at regional and small media organisations with up to $40,000 of wages subsidised by the government. Between 40 and 45 cadets will have to be employed at regional publications.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/14/2017

 

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Australia Boycotts Nuclear Ban Treaty

 

Dozens of countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons amid tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests. The US, Britain, France and others, including Australia, boycotted the event at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders. The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it. Only a few states were due to deposit their ratification on Wednesday. 'There remain some fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in existence. We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children's future,' UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened the treaty for signing. Earlier this month North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear weapons test. American President Donald Trump told the 193-member UN General Assembly on Tuesday that if threatened, the US would 'totally destroy' the country of 26 million people and mocked its leader, Kim Jong Un, as a 'rocket man'. The treaty was adopted in July by two-thirds of the 193 UN member states after months of talks, which the US, Britain, France and others skipped. They instead pledged commitment to a decades-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. The US, Britain and France are among nine countries believed to have nuclear weapons.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/21/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Green Party Promises to Raise Student Allowances

 

The Green Party has pledged to raise student allowances by 20 percent and make it available to everyone who studies. Leader James Shaw said the rise in the cost of living and higher rents were making life increasingly hard for students. "Raising all allowances means that all eligible students under 24-years-old, not living with their parents, will receive $39.50 more every week than they do now, and students over 24 not living with their parents will receive an extra $47.40 a week," he said. It's estimated single parents who are studying would get an extra $130. "Students learning crucial skills like medicine and dentistry should be supported to complete their degrees so we will abolish the seven year cap on student loans," said Mr Shaw. The party also confirmed its plan to give tertiary students and apprentices free public transport during off-peak hours. It said students were the only group in society expected to borrow to get by, and study should be a way out of poverty, not a way into it. As part of its students policy package, the Greens would also give more support to students with disabilities. It also said it supported Labour's plan for three free years of tertiary education.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/13/2017

 

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NZ First Won't Support Water Tax Policies – Peters

 

New Zealand First will not support National or Labour's policies to impose new taxes on farmers or include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, its leader Winston Peters says. Labour is proposing to introduce a charge for irrigated water and to include agricultural emissions in the ETS. In front of an audience of more than 100 people today in Ashburton at an event organised by Irrigation New Zealand, Mr Peters said the average irrigated farm in that area would be charged up to $29,000 under Labour's plan. "What's wrong about asking farmers to do it alone is it is absurdly unfair," he said. The biggest pollution is coming from our cities - everyone knows that, so why don't we all - city and town and country - do it all together, all pay the costs, all fix the problem up - just like Norway does, just like the UK does."

 

"It's a management matter - I haven't said we won't charge you a fair price for the management of it - just like the reticulation of water to you or whatever, farmers understand that," Mr Peters said. "But we're not going to put a tax on it to fix up the environment in the way these people from an urban-centric view are arguing - that's what I'm saying. I understand how critical it is for farmers in this country and producers of all sorts of product to have water." Asked if that meant New Zealand First wouldn't support a Labour-led government at this weeks election, Mr Peters said National is proposing to do the same. "New Zealand First is opposed to these sort of unfair water charges whether the come from the National Party, which is behind closed doors right now being negotiated, or whether they come from the Labour Party - we are not going to support either party to do that."

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/20/2017

 

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Wellington Council Passes Affordable Housing Plan

 

Wellington City Council has voted unanimously to give the green light to a revamp of the city's housing policy. The council's city strategy committee voted this morning to adopt the recommendations of the Mayor's Taskforce on Housing. The committee said the policy would allow 40,000 new homes to be built over the next 26 years. The recommendations included increasing building height limits, simplifying consents and incentivising affordable housing developments. The housing plan would: Release council land for development Refurbish central city buildings into affordable apartments Review the council's procurement policy to promote home building Simplify consenting by introducing a one-stop shop approach Develop pre-approved designs to speed up consenting Create a new partnership with central government to boost social housing numbers Notify District Plan changes to encourage greater housing density and raise height limits

 

Deliver Te Whare Oki Oki - a supported living facility for homeless Wellingtonians Create more tenancy support to get rough sleepers into long-term accommodation Deliver direct investment in new social and affordable homes Work with Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency to increase the number of skilled construction workers available to meet demand Create a development pipeline of greenfield land for new homes Develop a Wellington-specific Housing Standard for rental properties Help homeowners to bring houses up to the standard through a new grant Mayor Justin Lester said the council was not going to sit on the sideline and leave it to the market. "We're going to be more involved by directly building new homes, setting better standards and looking at changes to rating, procurement and development policies to incentivise more development.

 

"We've spent months working with experts from the construction industry, NGOs, academics and social housing providers on [the] comprehensive plan. "This plan leaves no stone unturned." He said both central and local government had a role to play. Deputy mayor Paul Eagle, who headed the taskforce, said Wellington was not in an Auckland-style housing crisis yet but it was staring down the barrel of one if the council did nothing. He said the next step was to incorporate the plan into the first draft of the Long Term Plan.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/21/2017

 

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Is Citizen Participation Actually Good for Democracy?

 

The more people who participate in a democracy, the more democratic it becomes – or so de Tocqueville believed. But sceptics have challenged that assumption on the basis that not everyone has the skills to make informed political decisions. In his new book, Russell J Dalton argues that the problem lies with the participation gap: the better-off are more engaged in policy, while the poorest vote less and lack the resources to lobby for change. It seems an odd question, but researchers are increasingly asking whether citizen participation is good for democracy. Robert Putnam’s concern about apparently diminished participation in the US reflects a Tocquevillian belief that more citizen participation benefits society and the polity. Many political observers lament the decline in voting turnout across the established democracies and view this trend as detrimental to the democratic process. In contrast, a different chorus of experts claim that democracy suffers because too many active citizens lack the abilities and resources to make meaningful decisions. Some sceptics state that democracy is based on “fairy tales” and “folk theory” because of the limitations of the citizenry. Other voices seemingly yearn for an epistocracy where the knowledgeable decide. Thus, the experts agree: contemporary democracies are suffering; the reason is either too little or too much citizen participation. My forthcoming book, The Participation Gap, argues that both critiques are flawed. Contemporary democracies face a dilemma, but it involves balancing the actual expansion of citizen participation against its unintended effect on widening the social status participation gap. Besides the strong normative argument for political equality, I show that the absolute level of participation and the inequality in participation are both linked to the quality of democratic governance.

 

The expansion of citizen participation

I primarily examine evidence from the International Social Survey Program that measured citizen participation in established democracies in 2004 and 2014. The decline in voting turnout is obvious and a very troubling trend. However, the good news is that democratic institutional reforms and citizen innovation have increased the number and variety of access points that people can use to influence political outcomes. The expansion in citizen skills and resources also enables more people to engage in these more demanding forms of participation. Direct contact with political leaders has increased. More people are joining public interest groups, civic associations, Bürgerinitiativen, and other collective forms of action. People have developed new methods of political action, such as political consumerism, new forms of contentious action and creative activism. The internet enables new methods of peer-to-peer involvement among citizens who share political views and want to be active. The ISSP surveys thus describe an interested and involved citizenry, more engaged than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation. Many of these activities also offer greater policy content and policy focus than the simple act of voting.

 

Rising political inequality

It is not all good news, however. While participation opportunities have broadly expanded, the skills and resources to utilise these new entryways are unevenly spread throughout the public. I describe a sizeable socio-economic status (SES) participation gap across all types of political action. A person’s education and other social status traits are very strong predictors of who participates. The expanding repertoire of political action widens this participation gap. Participation research often focuses on voting turnout, but this is where the social status gap is generally smallest. Labour unions, citizen groups, and political parties can mobilise lower status voters on election day. However, as citizens become more active in non-electoral forms of participation, skills and resources are even more important in facilitating these activities. To write a letter, work with a community group, post a political blog or boycott environmentally damaging products requires more than just showing up on election day to mark a ballot and leave. So the expanding repertoire of political activity widens the SES participation gap.

 

The participation gap is also widening over time. Evidence from several nations shows that the decline in voting turnout is concentrated among lower-status citizens, while the better off continue to vote at roughly the same levels as the past. Given the centrality of elections in selecting the officials who govern, this widening participation gap in turnout implies unequal representation with all the implications that this signifies. For non-electoral participation, the increase in activity has come disproportionately from better-educated and higher income citizens who possess politically valuable skills and resources. Protest activities often display the widest social status participation gap. And while there is a one-person/one-vote limit on voting that moderates inequality, no such ceiling exists for writing emails, working with public interest groups, protesting, and other non-voting forms of action. The sum result is a widening in the SES participation gap in overall terms. Thus, democracy’s dilemma is that the expansion of participation in old and new forms comes at the cost of a widening gap between the politically rich and the politically poor. This runs counter to democratic ideals, and it runs counter to democracy’s goal of effectively reaching the best policy outcomes for society by involving all of the public in the process.

 

Participation, inequality and governance

The two views of citizen participation summarised at the start of this post offer contrasting assessments of whether an active citizenry improves or harms the functioning of democratic governance. I directly consider the basic Tocquevillian logic that democracy will benefit when more citizens participate. There are many potential ways to test this thesis, and I turn to the simple example of the quality of governance. Does government function better if the public is more involved? The Economist Intelligence Unit’s measures the quality of governance with a 14-item index of the functioning of the government, including items such as quality of administration, government control of its territory, regularised government and the rule of law. (There is no explicit item on participation in the index.). The 2004 ISSP provides overall participation levels for about a dozen and a half nations, plus Belgium and Iceland from the 2014 survey. I test whether an active citizenry correlates with good governance.

 

Nations with higher overall political participation also have better performing government (Figure 1). This is a substantial relationship based on these 20 democracies (r=.55, p=.01). Nations that score highly on the EUI index, such as Norway, New Zealand, Canada and Denmark, also have fairly high levels of overall citizen participation. Conversely, the four lowest levels of participation occur in nations that are below average in the functioning of government. This supports the general logic that an attentive and involved public press the government to be more responsive and effective. Simply put, good citizens make for good democratic governance.

Figure 1: Citizen participation and the functioning of government

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/files/2017/08/participationgapfigure.png

Source: Overall political participation is from the 2004 ISSP, 2014 for Belgium and Iceland; functioning of government is from the Economist Intelligence Unit. We can go one step further: does inequality in participation detract from democratic governance? Voices are unheard, needs are unmet, and government acts without full information when inequality is substantial.

 

Figure 2 displays the independent effects of overall participation level and the inequality of participation on good governance. (Inequality is the total strength (Multiple R) of four social status traits in predicting participation levels.) In addition to the EIU index, I include the World Bank’s measure of government effectiveness, which measures traits such as the quality of public services, performance of the civil service, and the quality of policy formulation and implementation. The contrasting – and independent – effects of both aspects of participation are quite clear. The overall level of citizen participation is positively related to both measures of good governance. Even with a small number of countries, these are significant relationships.

Figure 2: Participation, inequality and the functioning of government

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/files/2017/08/participationgapfigure2.png

Note: Figure entries are standardised regression coefficients from OLS regression. Source: Overall political participation and the inequality of participation are from the 2004 ISSP, 2014 for Belgium and Iceland; functioning of government is from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Bank. Equally important, when there is large SES inequality in overall participation, good governance is lower. In sum, the best democratic governance generally occurs with citizens are more active and the participation gap is smaller.

 

In conclusion

Arend Lijphart used his 1996 presidential address to the American Political Science Association to make both the political and normative arguments that inequalities in voting turnout are detrimental to the democratic process: “unequal participation spells unequal influence—a major dilemma for representative democracy.” Now Lijphart looks like the optimist, because time and the expansion of political repertoires has only worsened this dilemma. I recognise that a more active citizenry makes governing more complex. Few civil servants sit at their desks hoping to hear from dissatisfied citizens. Public hearings and transparent government can slow the decision-making and administrative processes. It is easy to understand why there are concerns about the complications of governance if more citizens participate in more ways. The NIMBY syndrome, veto groups and other challenges to technocratic decision-making often appear. But democracy’s goal is not to maximise efficiency, but rather to balance social interests and eventually make good (or at least better) decisions than epistocratic or autocratic alternatives.

 

Democratic theory also holds that societies benefit in the long run from the participation of all its citizens; Larry Bartels demonstrates that policy outputs are often biased to the affluent, while the needs and preferences of the most needy can be overlooked if they are uninvolved. The human, social and economic costs of deindustrialization are greater in the long term if they are ignored, rather than addressing the needs of displaced workers. The lost productivity, life quality, and diminished societal contributions that may follow from the participation gap are substantial. And with a deficit of political representation, some citizens may turn to populist or extreme options that offer them voice. An active and relatively equal public go together with good governance. This is painting on a large canvas with broad, imprecise brush strokes. Even multi-indicator measures of the functioning of government are imprecise. More sophisticated modelling is needed to assert causality. Do good citizens make good governments, or do good government make good citizens? To some extent, both are true; these things go together regardless of the direction of causality. Yet, while others theorise and write op-eds on the perils of citizen participation in the democratic process, the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. These exploratory data reaffirm the argument from Thomas Jefferson to Alexis de Tocqueville to Sidney Verba: Expanding the public’s voice is essential to have a democratic polity and broadly improves the quality of governance. The dilemma for democracy is to embrace a more active public, while ensuring the equality of political voice at the same time.

From http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/ 09/04/2017

 

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From E-Government to Open Government

 

For a technology that started out as the basis of cryptocurrency, blockchain has evolved to be so much more. Today, blockchain is poised to disrupt the way dozens of industries are operating, and set to revolutionise the public sector. Indeed, nine in ten government organisations globally plan to invest in blockchain for use in financial transaction management, asset management, contract management and regulatory compliance by 2018, and here in Australia, the trajectory looks similar. Last year, Data61 and Australian government agencies announced that they are undertaking a detailed study to determine what blockchain could all mean for both government and industry. The review will look to provide practical use cases where blockchain technology could be piloted in government services and the private sector, such as sharable registry information, verifiable supply chains and assessment of aggregate risk exposure in the financial services sector.

 

Blockchain is a distributed database that can be used by individuals who want to complete transactions involving multiple parties. Large organisations can use it to collaborate across multiple organisational silos. Large, cross-industry ecosystems may want to use blockchain to handle complex transactions across multiple jurisdictions, and governments may want to use blockchain to help their citizens or in the delivery of new government applications. Trust has never been more important for governments in Australia and around the world. Globalisation means that governments need to find ways to expand the economy, and new ways to improve citizen engagement and accountability. The integration of blockchain technology into government activities will help local, state and federal governments move past a lack of trust, providing transparency for transactions. Ledgers have been used for centuries by governments and businesses to keep account of assets and liabilities, property, records and relevant transactions. But traditionally, ledgers were private and guarded, seen only by an internal few, or auditors. Blockchain takes this old and simple concept and takes it to a new level. Simply put, blockchain acts as a distributed open ledger that can be used to register and record property transactions, healthcare initiatives to track medical records, citizen services and much more. Day-to-day, blockchain can also help government processes and purchases more efficient, reducing the chances of fraud and error.

 

In Australia, private sector organisations are already looking to blockchains as a potential new disruptor. For example, Agricultural technology business AgriDigital, executed the world’s first live settlement of the sale of an agricultural commodity on a blockchain with the sale of 23.46 tonnes of grain in central NSW. Australia Post, announced last year that it was looking at a blockchain technology project for the storing of digital identities, while AGL Energy will test how using blockchain technology could allow households to trade surplus energy from their rooftop solar panels. This initiative will also involve IBM and distributed energy advisers Marchment Hill Consulting and it is hoped it will highlight the regulatory and system changes needed to make the market work effectively, the value in peer-to-peer energy markets, as well as how blockchain technology can be leveraged to make it more effective. Because participants in a transaction on a blockchain have access to the same records, there is no need for third-party intermediaries to validate transactions or verify identities or ownership. Business licenses, property titles, vehicle registrations and other records could all be shifted to blockchains, freeing citizens from the need for lawyers, notaries and trips to government offices to certify that transactions are legal. Additionally, with blockchain consumers, business partners and government groups alike could know with certainty how things are made, stored, transported and sold – whether those assurances relate to child labor, materials or the environment.

 

In a recent global study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) and the Economist Intelligence Unit, it was found that government organisations around the world are prioritising blockchain to help reduce innovation roadblocks and inaccurate or incomplete information across their organisations. The results of the study show:

Seven in ten government executives predict blockchain will significantly disrupt the area of contract management, which is often the intersection of the public and private sectors

14% of ‘trailblazer’ government institutions expect to have blockchain in production at scale by 2017, and are utilising blockchain to help reduce time, cost and risk in regulatory compliance, contract engagement, identity management and citizen services.

Six in ten governments recognise regulatory constraints as the greatest barrier to the adoption of blockchains, followed closely by what they perceive as immature technology and lack of executive buy-in

 

The study also found that Asia Pacific is setting the pace of adoption along with Western Europe, with North America trailing. But unlike Western Europe (which ranked ‘financial transaction management’ as the top area for new business models) and North America, (which focused on the potential of ‘borderless services’), Asia Pacific governments expected ‘citizen services’ to be the area that delivered the greatest innovation through blockchain. Countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, are set to be among the first to really grasp blockchain technology, with the government agencies taking on the technology. This could potentially see these governments begin to make transactions that in the past, they wouldn’t have – this comes down to blockchain addressing the lack of trust issue.

 

Disruption, especially in bureaucratic institutions is rare. Decades later, even the Internet hasn’t drastically changed how governments operate and rarely do they compete in personalized citizen services. That could change as blockchains evolve to bring closer collaboration among citizens and government institutions. Open data (e.g. data that helps pinpoint the optimal location for a new retailer or record soil conditions for farmers) is arguably among a government’s greatest assets. As the societal value from that data grows, government organisations will need to ensure that their data is easily accessible, free to use and available in a consumable format. Likewise, institutions will need to take greater safeguards to protect that data from cyber-attacks. Open data on blockchains meets these imperatives, and can help governments become open governments. Through blockchain technology, government will be better able perform its dual role of facilitating the business innovation of citizens and, at the same time, co-creating better services for citizens, founded on openness and trust. Michael Aaron is the Blockchain leader at IBM.

From https://governmentnews.com.au/ 09/05/2017

 

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ADB President Expresses Confidence in Future of CAREC Institute

 

Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao today participated in the inaugural ceremony of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Institute, together with more than 100 participants from CAREC member countries and development partner organizations. In his speech, Mr. Nakao expressed confidence in the important role the new intergovernmental organization would play in the development of the CAREC program, as regional cooperation efforts among member countries enter a new phase. “I would like to extend my congratulations to the CAREC Institute for its successful transition to an intergovernmental organization,” said Mr. Nakao. “ADB is pleased to continue supporting the Institute in becoming a center of research, knowledge, and capacity building in the CAREC region.”

 

The CAREC Institute was originally developed as a “virtual entity” in 2006 to support regional cooperation in infrastructure development, trade and economic corridors, and agricultural and natural resource management. Following the decision of the 13th CAREC Ministerial Conference in 2014, the Institute’s physical base was established in Urumqi in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since, the CAREC member countries have been working on an agreement to give the Institute a legal framework. Today’s ceremony marks the Institute’s official transition to an intergovernmental research organization following the signing and ratification of the agreement by more than three countries, including the host country. So far the PRC, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan have completed the signing and ratification. Initiated by a technical assistance project in 1996, CAREC today is a partnership of 11 countries and six multilateral development partners.[1] As of the end of 2016, almost $30 billion in CAREC-related investments have been made in the four priority areas of transport, energy, trade facilitation, and trade policy. ADB has provided $10.4 billion, with the remaining coming from governments and development partners.

 

During his 3-day visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Mr. Nakao met with the PRC Finance Minister Xiao Jie and discussed the PRC’s macroeconomic conditions, economic policies, and ways to deepen collaboration between the PRC and ADB. Mr. Nakao also met with Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary, Chen Quanguo, and discussed the progress of projects in urban development, water supply and transport, as well as opportunities for future assistance. In addition, he will witness the signing of a cooperation agreement between the CAREC Institute and ADB. Mr. Nakao also had bilateral meetings with Kyrgyz Republic’s Chairman of State Customs Service Azamat Sulaimanov, Tajikistan’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Nematullo Hikmatullozoda, and Uzbekistan’s Finance Minister Batir Khodjaev, and will meet with Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, and Pakistan’s Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Mohammad Ishaq Dar.

 

As part of his program, Mr. Nakao visited Turpan to see one part of the recently completed Xinjiang Urban Transport and Environmental Improvement Project in the city and met with the beneficiaries of the grant-financed Turpan Women’s Ethnic Minority Cultural Tourism Development Project, which was implemented in conjunction with the Xinjiang Urban Transport and Environment Improvement Project. In 2009, ADB provided assistance of about $100 million for the project. It constructed and upgraded roads, built bridges, improved sanitation by building toilets, and improved solid waste management stations and equipment. ADB’s Gender and Development Cooperation Fund provided a $150,000 grant to improve and strengthen ethnic minority women’s economic empowerment.

 

ADB, headquartered in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing. [1] The 11 members of CAREC are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the PRC, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The six multilateral institutions are ADB, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and International Monetary Fund.

From https://www.adb.org/ 09/07/2017

 

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CHINA: Vice President Stresses Mass Organization Reform

                        

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao has stressed the need for advances in mass organization reform and contributions toward the building of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. Li, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection visit to north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region from Sunday to Monday. Li underscored firm adherence to the CPC's leadership and the right direction in the reform of mass organizations, urging officials of mass organizations to increase the frequency of their contact with the people and provide better services. Efforts should also be made to showcase the activities of mass organizations on their websites and support the building of grass-roots organizations, he said. Li visited social service centers, companies and communities during his visit to Inner Mongolia. Mass organizations represent people from different lines of work or age groups, such as trade unions, women's groups and youth leagues.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/05/2017

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Xi Calls for Stronger South-South Cooperation

                        

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called on developing countries to step up South-South cooperation and build extensive partnerships. Addressing the Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries which came on the heels of the ninth BRICS summit in the southeastern city of Xiamen, Xi said emerging market and developing countries face similar development tasks. "By deepening practical cooperation and tapping into our complementary advantages, we can multiply the impact," he told leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, as well as Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan and Thailand. Xi said emerging market and developing countries need to make good use of BRICS, the Group of 77 (G77) and other mechanisms, broaden South-South cooperation on a larger scale and join hands to tackle global challenges. They also need to forge chains of interconnected development and seek strength in unity, the Chinese president continued. "The purpose of inviting some representative developing countries from different regions to this dialogue is to foster a broad network for developing partnerships and build a community of common development and a shared future," Xi said.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/05/2017

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China Further Cuts Red Tape to Improve Business Environment

                        

China will keep streamlining administrative approvals and cutting red tape to improve business environment, a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday decided. The government will expand a pilot reform already in trial in the Shanghai Pudong New Area on separating operation permits with business licenses and clearing 116 approval items, to 10 free trade zones across the country, including those in Tianjin, Chongqing, Liaoning and Zhejiang. Provincial governments are authorized to extend the measures to eligible national-level new areas, innovation demonstration zones, high-tech industry zones and economic and technology development zones. A priority of the reform is to standardize various administrative approvals. Many of them will be canceled, while some others will be switched to simpler approaches.

 

The government will improve transparency and predictability of policies and provide standardized services, and make sure enterprises conduct the filings and fulfill their promises in accord with industry standards. "Streamlining approvals, delegating power to lower levels and improving regulation and services are major measures to transform government functions and advance supply-side structural reform. This term of government has prioritized the reform of the approval system and institutional reform in the business sector, which in essence aim to develop a fair and just market environment. Facts showed that our efforts are paying off," Li said. The meeting on Wednesday also decided to step up regular oversight during the pilot reform process, with more efforts going to spot checks, self-inspection inside industrial associations and credit rating practices to enhance compliance oversight.

 

The sharing of basic information of residents, enterprises and social organizations among government departments will be boosted to avoid unnecessary submissions, inspections and certifications. "Government departments must be open-minded. Due approval procedures are necessary, but they are not a panacea, especially in terms of compliance oversight. We should continue to follow and improve the principle that the responsibility of oversight goes to those who give the approval and who take charge," Li said. To further spur market vitality and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, the meeting decided that the government will cancel 52 administrative approvals by central government departments. The approvals are mostly related to employment and entrepreneurship, investment and doing business. Some of them are no longer necessary because of maturing market conditions.

 

Canceling approvals enables the government departments to transform their functions to developing industry standards and performing oversight. The meeting also decided to cancel 22 administrative approvals delegated by central government departments to lower-level governments, most of which are related to enterprise operation, innovation and entrepreneurship. "We need to take concrete measures to ensure the full implementation of reform measures, create a fair and just environment, and bring convenience to people's lives and entrepreneurship endeavors, as well as the operations of businesses," Li said. Taking into account the latest measures, this term of government has cut administrative approvals by 697 items. Statistics show that the country had 2.91 million new businesses registered in the first half of 2017, up by 11.1 percent year on year.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/06/2017

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China to Improve Voluntary Services

                        

The State Council, China's cabinet, Wednesday moved to improve voluntary services with socialist core values. Voluntary services have played an important role in China's development, according to a guideline signed by Premier Li Keqiang. Volunteering must be "free, honest and legal" and authorities should clarify their responsibilities. Volunteers should be well informed about their activities and risks involved. Government policy should be in line with social and economic conditions and with an appropriate budget for voluntary services. The guideline will go into effect on Dec. 1.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/06/2017

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China Sets Targets for Supply-side Structural Reform in Agriculture

                        

China's State Council Friday released a guideline on accelerating supply-side structural reform in agriculture, specifying major tasks and targets for the sector's development in the coming years. By 2020, China plans to foster a modern system for the grain industry and raise the ratio of high-quality grain by around 10 percentage points, according to the guideline. China is also eyeing an annual average expansion of around 7 percent in the added value of the industry, with the increase of the grain processing rate to 88 percent. By 2020, the number of grain companies with yearly business revenue of more than 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) should exceed 50, the guideline said. Major tasks for the development of the industry include invigorating leading enterprises, innovating new growth models and speeding up restructuring and upgrading to boost the supply of green and high-quality products.

 

The State Council stressed that more fiscal, tax and financing support should be extended to the industry, and favorable policies in land and power use should be put in place to facilitate industry development. It asked local authorities to formulate detailed plans suitable to their regions for better industrial development. After years of bumper harvests, China no longer struggles with food shortages, but structural problems remain: some agricultural products are over-supplied and some still rely heavily on imports, while homegrown produce struggles to compete with foreign rivals. China's central rural work conference has stressed the need for better quality and efficiency in agriculture, with a focus on improving farmers' incomes and produce quality in 2017. Earlier official data showed China's grain output dipped in 2016 as its planting area shrank and per unit yield edged down. National grain output stood at about 616 million tonnes last year, down 0.8 percent, compared with a year earlier.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/08/2017

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Better Social Governance Ensures Building of Prosperous Society

 

As China has embarked on a decisive stage of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, a safe and stable social environment is needed to ensure the goal is completed on schedule. However, this is not an easy path as the country's reform has entered a phase that touches on difficult issues and results in more complex conflicts and looming risks. The situation requires greater efforts in public security, as well as better social governance. When meeting representatives from the comprehensive management of public security sector on Tuesday, President Xi Jinping asked for increased efforts to improve social governance featuring socialism with Chinese characteristics to ensure that people lead prosperous lives, society remains orderly and the country enjoys long-term peace and stability. Xi stressed that development and stability are the absolute principles, and should both be dealt with by strong hands.

 

Xi also noted the importance of preventing and controlling major risks through the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Better social governance will resolve various social problems, according to the president. Over the last five years, various documents and policies have been issued regarding public security and social governance. The responsibilities of leading officials in overseeing related work have been clearly defined and better use has been made of modern technologies. Members of the public have been mobilized in the cause, in coordination with authorities, markedly extending the reach and improving the efficiency of social governance. The efforts have paid off. Since its launch in 2016, a system called "Tuanyuan," or reunion, a platform which has shared information about 1,317 missing children, has helped Chinese police find 1,274 missing children.

 

A project to build a police information network by sharing public security videos has greatly raised the rate of discovered criminal cases. Surveys showed that the public sense of security has improved in the past few years, with the public satisfaction index rising from 87.55 percent in 2012 to 91.99 percent in 2016. During Tuesday's event, Xi told the representatives to make social governance more systematic, rational, intelligent and in accordance with rule of law. What is of fundamental importance is maintaining the authority and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, as social governance matters not only the people's livelihoods but also the long-lasting prosperity and stability of the country. Only by adhering to the CPC leadership could this work be done in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. By this means, the leadership of the Party and the advantages of socialist system will be converted into advantages of social governance to serve the overall development of the country and society.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/20/2017

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China's VAT Reform Restructures Economy, Encourages Entrepreneurship

 

China's value-added tax (VAT) reform, a key part of supply-side economic reform, has given impetus to economic growth and boosted entrepreneurship. The VAT reform, which replaced all business taxes with value-added tax, was first piloted in Shanghai in 2012. It was expanded nationwide from May 1, 2016, with construction, real estate, financial and consumer services sectors included in the VAT regime. Tangible goods have been subject to VAT for some time, but the levy on services was imposed on the value of a firm's sales. Such a crude system resulted in a tax on tax. VAT avoids this, as it is applied to the value added at each link in the production chain. China's VAT rate structure was further cut from four to three tiers (6 percent, 11 percent and 17 percent) starting from July 2017, with tax rates for farm produce, tap water and books reduced from 13 to 11 percent.

 

Statistics from the Ministry of Finance showed that the reform has so far saved more than 1.6 trillion yuan (244 billion U.S. dollars) in taxes for businesses since 2012. From May 2016 to June 2017, taxes were reduced by over 850 billion yuan. However, a lighter tax burden is not the central government's only aim, or it could have just cut business tax rates. An across-the-board replacement with VAT has far more significance on China's economic development. Expanding VAT reform across all industries will encourage the development of the service sector, support an industry upgrade, stimulate consumption and support supply-side structural reform. "The reform has streamlined the tax system, reduced double taxation and broken taxation barriers between manufacturing and service sectors to increase the weight of the service sector in China's economy," said Hu Genrong, a senior tax consultant with the PricewaterhouseCoopers.

 

China is counting on services, particularly high value-added services in finance and technology, to lessen the economy's traditional reliance on heavy industry and investment. The service sector, which contributed 59.1 percent to economic growth in the first half of the year, has maintained strong growth. The service sector production index rose 8.3 percent in July, up from 7.8 percent for the same month of 2016, official data showed. The government is also looking to the VAT reform to stimulate mass innovation and create an amicable climate for private enterprises through reducing corporate burdens. "The reform has given rise to innovation, entrepreneurship and the development of new business models," said economist Zhang Lianqi, who is also a national political advisor. Private firms, mostly small and medium-sized businesses, generate about 60 percent of China's GDP and around 80 percent of the country's jobs.

 

The government has moved to lower corporate burdens as part of the country's supply-side structural reform in past few years. A government work report released in March promised around 350 billion yuan in corporate tax cuts and around 200 billion yuan in reductions to business fees in 2017. According to a report released by the World Bank, China's ranking in terms of the ease of doing business has moved up eight spots every year from 2013 to 2016, while the country's ranking for the ease of starting businesses climbed 31 places during that period. To set up a sound, pro-business environment, the central government aims to further streamline taxation procedures and introduce information technology to make them easier and more efficient, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting last month. It will also improve the situation in sectors including manufacturing, finance and construction, optimize the tax structure and set a reasonable tax rate. Laws will be revised as soon as possible to reflect the new system, it said.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/20/2017

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Xi Stresses Integrated Military, Civilian Development

                        

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday called for stronger reform, innovation and resource integration to improve integrated military and civilian development. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks while presiding over the second plenary session of the Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development, which he also heads. The session adopted a plan for the development of defense science, technology and industry during the 13th five-year-plan period (2016-2020), and guidelines on advancing integrated military and civilian development in defense science, technology and industry. Also adopted were guidelines on advancing highly integrated military and civilian development in military logistics during the 13th five-year-plan period, and a draft regulation on management of economic projects that are closely related to national defense. Defense science, technology and industry are key areas for integrated military and civilian development, and play a vital role in boosting the country's innovation-driven development and supply-side structural reform, according to a statement released after the meeting. It stressed independent innovation to ensure China can independently produce core products and own key defense technologies.

 

The meeting called for reform in defense science, technology and industry to break institutional barriers and create a fair environment for competition. The statement underscored that the military must give up the traditional mindset of building a closed logistics system. It said that new technologies such as cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things should be applied to make logistics more efficient. The military must also use its advantage in storage, medical service and emergency rescue to serve the people, it said. According to the statement, ensuring that major infrastructure projects shall meet defense requirement must be a priority in pursuing integrated military and civilian development. It called for intensive research to draw up a reform plan for integrated military and civilian development. Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, who are all members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and deputy heads of the commission, attended the meeting.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/22/2017

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CPC Success Based on Faith, Discipline, Democracy

                        

Aside from ruling the world's most populous nation, having the largest political party membership on the globe and being the architect of one of the fastest growing economies over the past three decades, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is so much more. Turning 96 this year, the Party has ruled China for nearly seven decades. It receives overwhelming support from the public, and the country's impressive development has left the rest of the world amazed The Party is tasked with leading China to rejuvenation, but it also has its own mission: to be the strongest party in the world The key to both successes rests on its unchanging faith to serve the people, as well as its staunch commitment to self-discipline and democracy.

 

UNCHANGING FAITH

When the CPC was first established in 1921, it only had about 50 members. Its strength grew as it led China to rise from a poor nation scarred by brutal foreign aggression and tragic civil wars to become one of the very largest economies in the world. The Party has 89 million members, more than the population of Germany. Nonetheless, its commitment to serving the people and making them masters of their own fate and future remains unchanged. With the Party set to mark its 100th anniversary in 2021, it has set 2020 as the year for China to finally become a moderately prosperous society (Xiaokang) in an all-round way. One aim is to make sure that those still in poverty take their rightful place as citizens of a well-off society. Much has already been done. In the past 30 years, 700 million people were lifted out of poverty. Poverty has been taken even more seriously with Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at the helm since 2012.

 

"Not a single family living in poverty is to be left behind on our path to combating poverty," Xi told villagers of Shenshan village in a trip to eastern China's Jiangxi Province in February last year. That line has since become the motto of China's war against poverty. But with tens of millions of Chinese still struggling on less than one dollar a day, the 2020 task is, without doubt, daunting. To fulfill its goal, China is sending its finest cadres to the frontline to fight and eradicate poverty. By the end of 2016, over 770,000 Party officials had been sent to rural areas to design bespoke poverty relief programs for local communities. More than 120 Party members have sacrificed their lives in the process. He Guoquan was one such member. As the "first secretary" in charge of poverty relief in the village of Shiping in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, He helped build 20 kilometers of road for the village this year, linking the secluded countryside to the outside world.

 

He also developed a promising livestock industry for the village, effectively lifting all the villagers out of poverty. Sadly, a traffic accident in June took his life and those of three of his colleagues. The sacrifices of members such as He were not for nothing. From 2013 to 2016, nearly 56 million rural people were lifted out of poverty in China. CPC members have a spirit, belief and dedication that have played a key role in China's fight against poverty. "For over 90 years, every victory claimed by China in the course of its revolution, its nation building and its reform drive is the crystallization of the CPC's communist faith," said Professor Dai Yanjun with the CPC Central Committee Party School. "That faith is the spiritual pillar behind the CPC's wider public support."

 

STRICT DISCIPLINE

As the Party's success stories in improving living conditions for the people continue to be heard, it is also making itself even stronger. Just before the CPC celebrated its 96th birthday this year, it issued a revised regulation to improve supervision and governance of its members. Shifting its focus from fighting corruption and Party rule violations in the initial rounds of inspections, the amendment raised political inspection to a more prominent place on its agenda. The revised rules clearly say that "political inspection should be deepened, and inspections should mainly focus on upholding the Party leadership, improving Party building, and advancing comprehensive and strict rule of the Party." "Inspections should staunchly safeguard the authority and the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, and ensure the CPC is always the firm and core leadership of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics," it said.

 

For Professor Wang Yukai, with the Chinese Academy of Governance, the revised rules summarize and institutionalize innovations and practices in inspection work, serving to "further sharpen the sword of intra-Party supervision." So far, there have been 12 rounds of Party inspections, covering provincial-level CPC organizations, central CPC and government departments, major state-owned enterprises, central financial institutions and centrally-administered universities. The 18th CPC Central Committee was the first in Party history to successfully inspect all these entities in a five-year term. These inspections were but a fraction of CPC efforts to intensify intra-Party supervision and step up Party governance -- a key feature of the "Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy" raised by Xi in 2014. Since the CPC 18th National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee under Xi Jinping's leadership has insisted on addressing "four forms of decadence" -- formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance.

 

The crackdown on corruption and other misconduct also shows the general public the Party's ambitions to eliminate injustice. Over 200 centrally administered officials have been investigated so far, and more than 1.1 millon people have received punishment for breaching Party regulations and discipline. Among them were senior officials, including Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou, Ling Jihua and Su Rong. In addition, about 3,000 fugitives have been returned from 90 countries and regions. "The battle against corruption has gained crushing momentum," according to a 2016 report by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. "Strict Party governance is a core part of China's socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics," said Zheng Changzhong, an expert on Party building at Shanghai-based Fudan University. "It is a key means for the CPC to retain self-purification, self-improvement, and self-reform, as well as to consolidate its foundation of the governance of China."

 

EVER-INCREASING DEMOCRACY

Jiang Shengxia, Party secretary of the village of Panlong in eastern China's Anhui Province, did not believe she stood a chance when her village Party committee recommended her as a candidate to attend the 19th CPC National Congress slated for October. The CPC national congress takes place every five years. The delegates are not full-time, and come from all walks of life. Having worked in the impoverished countryside for more than 30 years, Jiang had turned Panlong into a prosperous and well-known village in Anhui. Her election as a delegate to the national congress -- through elections by Party members at county, municipal and provincial level -- showcases the ever-increasing democracy within the CPC. Nationwide, 2,300 delegates will represent China's 89 million CPC members at the 19th National Congress, which will discuss and set the future direction for the Party and state, and elect a new central leadership.

 

The upcoming session will see a higher percentage of grassroots delegates working on the frontline compared with five years ago. For the CPC, intra-Party democracy has long been viewed as precious. On the basis of democratic centralism, all CPC members can discuss Party policies, offer advice and carry out intra-Party supervision. "Democracy is in the genes of CPC members," said Mei Liming, deputy head of the China Executive Leadership Academy of Jinggangshan. Mei also pointed to the CPC's revolutionary history in the Jinggangshan era when ranks of overseas Chinese were drawn back to China by the Party's democratic practices. His words were echoed by Professor Liu Dongchao, with the Chinese Academy of Governance, "Only by promoting intra-Party democracy and by motivating all Party members can the CPC continue to correct its own mistakes, consolidate its unity and inject more life into the democratic political system with Chinese characteristics."         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/23/2017

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Moon Urges Efforts to Root Out Corruption in Both Public, Private Sectors

 

President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged government officials to fight corruption both in the public and private sectors, noting efforts to build a fairer and more just nation began with efforts to protect people from all walks of life. "In the past, the issue of corruption had mostly been addressed in the public sector, but I believe we must set up national anti-corruption measures in the private sector as well in the future," Moon said while meeting with officials from the Justice Ministry and the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in Seoul. "I ask you to stage strong measures to eradicate corruption in both the public and private sectors to an extent where the people can actually feel the change," he added, according to pool reports. The meeting marked the fifth of its kind that were designed to brief the new president on key policy objectives of government offices. They, however, have focused more on discussing the best ways to implement the policy goals of government officials. The discussions session were scheduled to last until Thursday, involving a different set of government ministries and agencies each day. Monday's meeting also involved officials from the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

Moon urged the interior and safety ministry to step up its efforts to physically protect the people from any harm. "The most urgent issue, I believe, is to fundamentally reform the country's crisis management system," he said. "Protecting the lives of people and their safety is the No. 1 responsibility of the state and the very reason the nation exists." Moon also asked officials to push forward a dramatic decentralization of the government, calling it a task that cannot be delayed anymore. Interior and Safety Minister Kim Boo-kyum said at the meeting that the central government will transfer administration of key public functions -- which can be carried out better by provincial governments than the central government -- to provincial governments. Speaking to officials from the Justice Ministry, the president urged efforts to protect the human rights of people. "There are many people who do not realize that one of the most important tasks of the Justice Ministry is to protect the human rights of our people. I ask for the ministry's active interest and support for the protection of people's human rights," he said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 08/29/2017

 

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JAPAN: Enhance Global Presence with Strategic ODA Contributions

 

Making contributions to the peace and prosperity of the international community will enhance Japan’s voice. From the viewpoint of pursuing its national interests, Japan should make strategic use of its official development assistance (ODA). In its budgetary request for fiscal 2018, the Foreign Ministry has earmarked ¥489.7 billion for ODA, up 13 percent from the initial budget for fiscal 2017. Japan’s ODA budget has increased for two consecutive years. Yet it remains about half of what it was when it peaked in fiscal 1997. As China has continued to provide a sizable amount of foreign aid and investment in various parts of the world, Japan’s presence in the global community, without any efforts, may weaken further. The foreign ministry considers the realization of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to be the central pillar of its budgetary request. This strategy aims to reinforce cooperation between Asia, which is growing, and Africa, with its high potential, thus stabilizing and developing both regions. In order to maintain maritime order, which holds the key to materializing this strategy, Japan will assist in reinforcing maritime safety organizations in Southeast Asia and support the improvement of ports and harbors in Africa. The provision of patrol vessels and development of human resources will help secure the safety of sea lanes in these regions.

 

China, under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, powerfully promotes infrastructure investment. Apparent in such investment is its hegemonic intention of prioritizing its own national interests.

It is important for Japan to attempt to differentiate its assistance from that of China by supporting the self-reliant growth of developing countries through the improvement of “high quality infrastructure,” by working together with the private sector. Encouraging Japanese companies and nonprofit organizations to participate in such infrastructure development and creating “visible cooperation” is also called for. Last year, Japan briefly suspended its contributions to UNESCO, which totaled about ¥3.85 billion. This was because doubt arose regarding the U.N. body’s neutrality and fairness. For instance, following a request from China, “Documents of Nanjing Massacre” were added to the Memory of the World Register. It is vital for Japan to not only make a financial contribution but to also proactively get involved in the operations of the international organization, so as to appropriately transmit to the world correct historical facts and Japan’s efforts in this respect.

 

Although Foreign Minister Taro Kono said before he assumed his current post that there was a lot of wasteful ODA spending and asserted that “ODA should be cut in half,” he has, for now, put a lid on his long-held opinion. Yet it is undeniable that the current state of affairs is beset with such problems as Japan ending up forgiving debts from ODA loans, and facilities built with Japanese aid not being effectively utilized. It is desirable for Japan to expand its ODA while overcoming these problems. When Kono was minister in charge of administrative reform, he called for reducing the number of personnel working at Japan’s diplomatic and consular establishments overseas. Consequently, one such establishment was set up with only four personnel. After he assumed his current post, he admitted, “That was my mistake.” This time he called for a marked increase in the number of personnel and an increase in expenses for business trips and so forth. Japan already has fewer diplomatic establishments overseas than other major countries. Kono having retracted his biased remarks can be understood.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/07/2017

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A System to Certify Counselors Should Help Those Needing Psychological Care

 

It is hoped that a new qualification system will play an important role in addressing psychological problems that people face today. The law on certified public psychologists, which stipulates the state qualifications for those engaged in providing counseling and other psychological assistance, went into effect on Friday. The law was established as legislation drafted by a suprapartisan group of Diet members in 2015. The inaugural national examination will be conducted under the law in the autumn of next year, thereby producing certified psychological counselors for the first time. These counselors will observe the psychological state of people who need assistance for mental health issues and provide appropriate advice and guidance. It is assumed that they will play active roles in places including medical practices, schools, companies and private counseling offices. In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, attention was paid to the need to provide psychological care for people affected by the disaster.

 

Action also needs to be taken against bullying, as there seems to be no end to the number of such cases. In dealing with such situations, the role of psychological counselors has been regarded as more and more important. According to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey, there are about 40,000 psychological counselors in Japan. There are also some qualifications widely acknowledged in society today, such as certification as a clinical psychologist. It has been about 30 years since the certification system for clinical psychologists was established. However, existing qualification systems have been created as private-sector schemes, and therefore, they vary in terms of certification requirements and examination methods. Discrepancies in the capability of individuals certified under these systems have been continually pointed out. For ordinary people seeking assistance from such personnel, the systems have been difficult to understand in some respects, such as the difference between clinical psychologists and clinical developmental psychologists.

 

Eligibility for taking the psychological counselor certification test will be granted to such people as those who have studied designated subjects at university and postgraduate school. As an interim measure, people working as psychological counselors at present will be eligible to take a certification exam within the next five years, if they meet certain requirements. Establishing a reliable state qualification system will provide people with opportunities to seek advice without anxiety. There is a possibility that, in the long run, certified psychological counselors may be added to personnel tasked with carrying out various government policy measures. This would seem to provide a great advantage for people who have acquired such qualifications, too. The certified public psychological counselor law states that if people subject to support from such counselors have a regular doctor, the counselor must act under the doctor’s instruction.

 

This is because of concerns about possible situations in which doctors might be prevented from properly treating their patients with medications, a situation that could exacerbate their conditions. Instructions from doctors will not necessarily be required for counseling in educational and other fields where medicine is not required. The health ministry will lay down guidelines on this point before the state qualification test begins. The ministry’s move will be necessary to prevent unnecessary confusion. Next spring, curriculums targeting people wanting to become certified psychological counselors will be introduced at universities. Seven years later, the front line will be those who finish the course as certified psychological counselors. It is hoped that efforts will be made by the health ministry; the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry; universities and others to work out the details of the design of the system and improve the quality of educational content to provide a clear path for those who apply to be certified.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/17/2017

 

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SINGAPORE: PM Nominates House Speaker

 

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced here Tuesday the nomination of Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin as the new speaker of parliament. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, Desmond Lee will become the new head of the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Tan is poised to become Singapore's 10th parliament speaker next Monday when the house convenes, as the prime minister's People's Action Party holds the majority of seats in the parliament. Tan will replace former speaker Halimah Yacob, who resigned on Aug. 7 to take part in the presidential election this month. Tan wrote on Facebook: "I'm glad to accept PM's nomination and hope for my parliamentary colleagues' support." Tan resigned from the armed forces of Singapore as a brigadier general in March 2011 to enter politics. He was elected member of parliament for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency in May 2011 and appointed minister of state for manpower and national development a month later.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/05/2017

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Singapore Selects First Female President

 

Singaporean former Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob was announced here Wednesday as the country's eighth president and the first female president. As the only qualified candidate in the election who is reserved for the country's Malay community, she was declared by the presidential electoral board as the new president shortly after she handed in her nomination forms and would be officially sworn in at the presidential palace Istana Thursday evening. "Although this is a reserved election, I am not a reserved president," she told supporters after her victory, adding that she will work with and represent everyone. The 63-year-old president-elect made the remarks at the People's Association Headquarters where the nomination for the head of the country took place. Halimah Yacob became the country's first female Parliament Speaker in January 2013, a post she quitted last month in order to run for the president. Singaporean former President Tony Tan Keng Yam ended his six-year term in office at the end of August, and starting from September, Council of Presidential Advisers chairman J. Y. Pillay has served as acting president until the new president is elected.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/13/2017

 

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THAILAND: King Endorses Civil Service Appointments

 

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn has endorsed the appointments of three ministry permanent secretaries, five directors-general, three inspectors-general and three department directors. The Prime Minister’s Office announcement of the appointments was published in the Royal Gazette on September 6. Charin Chakkapak, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s Local Administration Department, has been named permanent secretary of the Labour Ministry.  Pol Colonel Narat Sawettanan, chief of the Justice Ministry’s Probation Department, becomes director-general of the Corrections Department.  Witthawan Sunthornkhajit, adviser to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, was appointed Justice Ministry inspector-general. At the Commerce Ministry, Department of Business Development chief Bunjongjit Angsusing becomes deputy permanent secretary for commerce, succeeded in his post by inspector-general Kulanee Isadisai.  Department of Trade Negotiations chief Boonyarit Kalayanamit was appointed director-general of the Department of Internal Trade, and inspector-general Janthira Yimraewat Wiwatrat director-general of the Department of International Trade Promotion. His Majesty also endorsed the promotion of two deputy permanent secretaries as permanent secretaries – Thammayos Srichuay at the Energy Ministry and Lertwiroj Kowattana at the Agriculture Ministry. At the Finance Ministry, Fiscal Policy Office director Krisada Chinavicharana becomes Excise Department director-general, succeeded by Public Debt Management Office director Suwit Rojanavanich.  Deputy permanent secretary Prapas Kong-ied was appointed director of the Public Debt Management Office and inspector-general Narin Kalayanamit deputy permanent secretary for Finance.  Fiscal Policy Office adviser Banthornchome Kaewsa-ard and State Enterprise Policy Office adviser Poomsak Aranyakasemsuk were appointed Finance Ministry inspectors-general.  Ministry of Digital Economy and Society permanent secretary Wilailak Chuleewattanakul was named a PM’s Office special inspector-general. Bureau of the Budget deputy director Dechapiwat Na Songkhla was appointed the bureau’s director. Kamol Rodkhlai, Secretary-General at the Office of the Education Council, became a special adviser in the PM’s Office on August 27.  All the other appointments take effect on October 1.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 09/07/2017

 

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VIETNAM: Gov’t Watchdog Hails Corruption Fight

 

A leading Government watchdog yesterday praised concerted efforts to fight corruption but conceded that no breakthrough had been achieved in surmounting the scourge. The report by the Deputy Inspector General of the Government Inspectorate,  Đặng Công Huẩn, was presented yesterday to the National Assembly’s Judicial Committee that convened for its seventh session. Administrative reform has been thoroughly implemented in the fields of land, taxation, customs and social insurance, intensifying the accountability of State agencies in the performance of their assigned tasks, ensuring transparency in the operation of authorities and Government organisations and strengthening the supervisory role of elected bodies, the Việt Nam Fatherland Front, press agencies and the people in corruption prevention and control, Huẩn said. In addition, according to the inspector, functional agencies have taken the initiative in coordinating with each other in the process of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating corruption cases.

 

Many serious and complicated corruption cases have been strictly adjudicated in accordance with the law, resulting in deterrence and prevention. According to the Government report on corruption prevention and control, corruption in 2018 is forecast to continue showing signs of decline. "Drastic authorisation of the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption, along with efforts of functional agencies in the fight against corruption, especially resolutely investigating and strictly handling serious corruption, will help strengthen people’s trust and at the same time have a clear deterrent effect, " said Huẩn. However, the report acknowledged that despite the positive results, it was still not a substantive breakthrough. Corruption is still occurring in a more serious, complex and sophisticated manner, especially in the financial and banking sectors, management and use of land, management of mining, mineral and investment. Corruption prevention in localities is still weak and uneven, according to the report. National Assembly Vice Chairman Uông Chu Lưu, who chaired the session, suggested that the report on corruption prevention in 2017 should clarify both the objective and subjective causes of complex corruption. He said the implementation of the law, as well as implementation of discipline, should be strengthened to effect real change in 2018.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/06/2017

 

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PM Gives Nod to City Decentralisation

 

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc agreed in principle to HCM City’s proposal on administrative decentralisation to the maximum possible extent during a working session in Hà Nội yesterday with the Standing Board of the municipal Party Committee. The meeting was to review the five-year implementation of Politburo’s Resolution No 16-NQ/TW dated August 10, 2012 and propose special policies and mechanisms for the city’s rapid and sustainable development. The PM said the Government’s Party Civil Affairs Committee, supported administrative decentralisation in the direction of allowing the city to undertake certain tasks of the government, ministries and central agencies relating to the approval of some kinds of projects and adjustment of several types of planning. At the same time, he asked ministries and municipal authorities to regularly inspect the process. Phúc also approved in principle a proposal that allows the city to raise capital in the form of public-private partnership (PPP) or loans to implement projects fully or partially funded by the State budget which have yet to receive capital allocation. He assigned the Ministry of Planning and Investment to work with the Finance Ministry, HCM City and agencies concerned to consider how to realise the proposal and report the results to him.

 

The leader allowed the city to decide on salary payments for public servants and those working for State-run agencies.  From 2011-15, HCM City’s economy grew 9.6 per cent on average per year, 1.63 times the national rate. Per capita income reached US$5,122. The city collected VNĐ1.2 quadrillion ($54.8 billion) for the State coffers, contributing 27.8 per cent to the State budget. However, Secretary of the municipal Party Committee, Nguyễn Thiện Nhân, said the city’s growth has slowed in the past decade. While policies and mechanisms applied to the city are the same as those for other localities, the city managed to record high growth thanks to its specific advantages and unique conditions. At the same time, those conditions also pose challenges for the city, Nhân said, citing as an example that a large population and rapidly growing economy require greater investment in transport and other social services such as water supply, waste water treatment, education and health care. Deputy Prime Minister Trịnh Đình Dũng said the rising population was exerting pressure on the city’s infrastructure and housing while backward technologies used in industry, services and transport were also having a detrimental impact on the environment. He suggested developing schemes to attract multinational corporations to invest in the city, develop emerging business sectors and consider developing the city following the model of a free economic zone.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/07/2017

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Vietnamese Capital to Have 2 Concentrated Administrative Areas

 

Vietnam's Hanoi capital will relocate many of its departments' offices to two concentrated areas in the coming months, its Finance Department said on Monday. The Planning Institute and seven departments in charge of finance, investment, architecture, environment, science, construction and transport will be relocated to two buildings on an area of 4,000 square meters in Tay Ho district in late 2017 or early 2018. Other departments will be relocated to an area of over 10,000 square meters in Hai Ba Trung district. The existing offices of the entities slated for relocation will be auctioned to fund construction of new buildings in the two concentrated administrative areas, and development of public works. Auction of "golden" land, venues of the institute and the seven departments, is expected to generate nearly 2,000 billion Vietnamese dong (some 88 million U.S. dollars).

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/11/2017

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Deputy PM Đam Appointed Chairman of Children National Committee

 

Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam was appointed as the chairman of the National Committee for Children on Wednesday. The appointment was made under a decision recently approved by Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. The committee, which has 18 members, was set up to consult with the government to resolve issues related to children as well as to assist with enforcing the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child that Việt Nam ratified in 1990. Following the decision, the committee appointed two vice chairmen, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Ngọc Dung and Minister of Education and Training Phùng Xuân Nhạ, and one vice chairwoman, Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến. Phúc tasked the committee with co-operating with the National Assembly’s agencies, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy to handle issues related to children.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/14/2017

 

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The Cabinet, Not Committees, Will Choose Reforms: Deputy PM

 

While citizens will be consulted during various government-driven reform processes, it is the Cabinet that will make final choices in the reforms to be implemented, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Thursday. Last month, the government set up 11 reform committees as stipulated in the national reform bill. The committees are charged with making recommendations for reforms to be included in the 20-year national strategy. A draft of the national strategy is expected to soon emerge from the national strategy committee. That process is running in parallel to other government guided reform efforts, including a reform committee chaired by the premier under the super committee, which oversees national administration, reforms, strategy and reconciliation building. Though multiple bodies are developing lists of reform proposals, Wissanu said that their work would not be redundant, because the Cabinet will eventually work through the recommendations and make final decisions about which reforms to implement and how that would be done. The Cabinet would also finalize police reforms. Still being debated is how authority should be distributed among police bureaus, he added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 09/14/2017

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Complaints Down, Issues Remain: NASC

 

The number of complaints and denunciations since the end of 2016 has declined, but there have been more complicated cases involving larger numbers of people, according to a Government report on the settlement of complaints and denunciations in 2017.  The report, which was presented to the National Assembly (NA)’s Standing Committee yesterday, shows that the number of complaints and denunciations by citizens has decreased compared to previous years on most criteria, such as the number of citizens’ visits to State administration agencies for complaints and the number of written complaint applications. The sense of responsibility of heads of State management agencies in directing, administering, considering and settling complaints and denunciations, especially complicated cases, has reportedly increased. Citizen reception has gradually been associated with the settlement of complaints and denunciations and many cases have been resolved right at the source, the report said. However, according to the Government, the ratio of successful settlement of cases is higher than at the same period last year, but is still below target. Many localities still demonstrate poor performance in this regard. The number of cases involving many people has increased, up 13.5 per cent compared to the previous year, the majority of which were related to land issues.

 

At the local level, there have been many cases of late settlement. The NA Standing Committee also listened to reports by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy.  Speaking on its assessment of the Government’s report, the NA Law Committee remarked that the Government’s report has yet to make deep analysis of the results and quality of the reception of citizens on the handling of petitions and denunciations, particularly the causes behind the cases. The report also fails to give full data on the handling by the heads of agencies on violations when receiving citizens and dealing with complaints. Solutions to existing problems given in the report are too general, the committee said. The committee’s chairman, Nguyễn Khắc Định, requested that in the future, the Government should improve the efficiency of citizen reception work and complaint settlement, as well as the popularisation and education of law among the community. “The report fails to specify the objective and subjective causes of problems, which were stated in reports many years ago, as well as what new factors have arisen in the past year,” Định said, requesting that the Government’s report undertake a more thorough analysis of the causes of complaints and denouncements that resulted in a sharp increase in the number of cases involving many people.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/16/2017

 

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India: Use Technology to Simplify Governance Processes

 

ShareInteracting with a group of over 80 Additional Secretaries and Joint Secretaries serving in the Government of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged them to use technology interventions to simplify governance processes. With emphasis on e-governance, the government has been taking up various initiatives under the ambitious Digital India mission.“The officials shared their experiences on performance-based administration, innovation in governance, education and skill development, etc,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)  said in an official statement. PM @narendramodi interacting with the Additional Secretaries and Joint Secretaries, in New Delhi. pic.twitter.com/JgJWLJwYlg— PIB India (@PIB_India) August 25, 2017. Responding to the points highlighted in the meeting, Modi emphasised that the government officers must not restrict themselves to files, but go to the field for  effective and informed decision-making. “Officers should not look on their work as just a duty, but an opportunity to make a positive transformation for governance in the country,” he said adding that they should focus on development of the 100 most backward districts of India.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/01/2017

 

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CSCs to Play Major Role in E-governance

 

Hailing the outstanding efforts of the government’s Common Service Centres (CSCs) in delivering digital services in rural areas, Union Minister for IT and law Ravi Shankar Prasad said these centres will play a major role in making of ‘New India’. “CSCs will now sell Patanjali FMCG and IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited) products. It will also offer cash deposit facilities through Digi Pay, an Aadhaar-linked biometric-based payment system,” The Ministry of Electronics & IT said in an official statement. “With Patanjali and IFFCO agreeing to provide its products through CSCs, scope and viability of these outlets will get a big boost,” said the minister while inaugurating the ‘National Conference on Emerging Opportunities through CSC. Around 40,000 CSCs have registered with Patanjali for medical tele-consultations through 800 ayurvedic practitioners. On the occasion, following new services will be launched: Launch of Bharat Bill Pay service through CSCs: Bharat Bill Pay Service (BBPS) is a unified bill payment system under the umbrella of National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). With CSC SPV becoming a Bharat Bill Pay Operating Unit, CSCs can provide BBPS services and further enable the villagers to pay their Electricity, Water, Gas, DTH and Mobile bills.

 

Exchange of MOU for Tally GST Service:

CSC SPV is partnering with Tally Education, a subsidiary of Tally Solutions, to increase adoption of computerized accounting and GST compliance across the rural and sub-urban parts of country. Under the partnership, VLEs enabling GST compliance for small businesses and traders, will receive complimentary license for the most recent version of the GST billing and compliance software from Tally. Hon’ Minister @rsprasad addressing VLEs at National Conference on Emerging Opportunities through #CSC in New Delhi. pic.twitter.com/2XvFWDfkiX. Administered the New India Pledge to more than 2000 @CSCegov_ operators. #SankalpSeSiddhi pic.twitter.com/F3z7Jbm4dO. Urged the @CSCegov_ digital entrepreneurs to become a part of the mission of @PMOIndia @narendramodi to create a #NewIndia pic.twitter.com/fhTgwEAefn

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/05/2017

 

 

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Govt Officials to Get Secure Email Service Through Centralised Architecture

 

As a part of the mandate under the Digital India program, the government will start using its own secure email service soon. In an official statement, the Ministry of Electronics & IT said ,”The government will provide a secure eMail service to all its officials for secure communication.” As of now the service will be offered to 5 million users. “In accordance with the eMail policy of the government, an email id will be assigned to all government officials at the centre and state through National Informatics Centre,” the Ministry added. The objective of the policy is to secure government data which resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the Government of India. 

 

Key Features

1.Rich user experience with a streamlined browser interface that  provides natural conversation; enables rich compose, drag and drop; sophisticated and easy-to customize filters, management and search of large inboxes of email and voicemail messages, multiple calendars, contacts and task lists.

2.Enhanced security authentication mechanisms for users with geo-fencing and device mapping.

3.Centralised email architecture across the government would make the process of ensuring a robust security mechanism for government data.

4.Primary domain as “@gov.in” and a Roadmap to include local languages and सरकार.भारत domain. A pilot of the service has already been deployed and running for a select user base which includes senior officials.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/09/2017

 

 

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Central Public Works Department Goes Digital

 

To bring efficiency and transparency in works, Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has undergone a major digital transformation enabling payments worth Rs 20,000 crore per year electronically. In an official statement the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs said, “This has been done by networking all the 400 field offices of CPWD across the country through a special integrated portal ensuring digital payments from August.”“With this, CPWD has become the first organisation of a civil ministry to become digital at the field level,” the ministry added. The government’s construction major executes over 25,000 project works worth Rs 20,000 crore across the country every year by its 400 field offices. The new digital payment mode covers over six lakh transactions. The Office of Chief Controller of Accounts (CCA) of the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has evolved this special public financial management (PFMS) portal for CPWD. In yet another initiative, electronic measurement book (e-MB) has also been developed for CPWD that enables reporting of progress of works online as per the schedule of agreement with contractors based on which payments will be made.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/09/2017

 

 

 

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Karnataka Transport Department Goes ‘Smart’

 

The Transport Department is trying to make governance citizen-friendly and cost-effective by increasingly relying on online services to bring accountability and transparency into the system. The basic idea of Smart Cities is to smartly utilise the available resources to sustain every function of urban livelihood, says B Dayananda, Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety, Department of Transport, Government of Karnataka, in conversation with Ritika Srivastava of Elets News Network (ENN). “The selected services of the Department are being rendered through a mobile app, integrated with KarnatakaMobile one project of the e-Governance Department.” What is the mandate of Karnataka’s Transport Department Karnataka? The Transport Department is trying to make governance citizen-friendly and cost-effective. We are increasingly relying on online services to bring accountability and transparency into the system. Mobile apps for transport services are getting popular day-by-day. We have also formed e-groups through which we get feedback from citizens. We are also monitoring developmental programmes and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites. We aim to make the mobility smarter as well as safer. Hence, we are increasing the use of technology based monitoring, enforcement and inspection of vehicles to ensure safer and cleaner vehicles, creating safe licensed drivers using technologybased transparent and effective training and evaluation of driving license applicants.

 

We are developing digital database and online facilities for regulating and issuing permits to commercial vehicles under the ambit of Transport Department. How is Karnataka adopting ICT for transforming transport sector? The Transport Department, as a first step towards implementation of ICT, took up computerisation of records of all the vehicles and driving licenses in 2009. A Smart Card project under the caption ‘Computerised Service Delivery System’ which has been at transport offices in Karnataka’ was started in February, 2009. The project was implemented under the Public Private Partnership model. The project has so far covered all 61 Regional Transport Offices (RTOs), 15 checkposts and nine supervisory offices. Till June, 2017, about 1.05 crore smart card Driving Licences (DLs) and 1.40 crore smart card Registration Certificates (RC) were issued across the State. Karnataka State Wide Area Network (KSWAN): KSWAN has been provided by the e-Governance Department to all the RTOs of the State. Using KSWAN, data transfer to State Register and National Register of DL and RC and other agencies has been undertaken. Online Application Services: The department has introduced online application services to issue learners license, driving license and register vehicles at all the RTOs in the State from October, 2013.

 

e-Payment System: e-Payment system has been implemented and integrated with Khajane-2 system of the State’s Treasury Department of the State. As on 10th August, 2017, a sum of Rs127.12 crores has been collected from 4,89,522 vehicles’ registration. Online collection of driving license fee has also been introduced through Sarathi-4 application. Services thorough Citizen Service Centres: Two services, namely, issuance of Vehicle RC extract and issue of driving licence extract are being rendered through the citizen service centres of Bangalore-one (B-1) and Karnataka-one (K-1) centres since December, 2012. A citizen can visit the nearest B1 or K1 centre and obtain the DL/RC extract by paying the prescribed fee of Rs 18 for each of the documents. Services thorough Mobile App: The selected services of the Department are being rendered through a mobile app, integrated with Karnataka-Mobile one project of the e-Governance Department. They can easily obtain RC or DL extract in the form of PDF by making online payment through the app. As on 31st March, 2017, a total of 1,08,114 RC extracts and 8,943 DL extracts have been issued through the app. The Mobile app can be downloaded by giving a missed call to 1800 425 425 425.

 

In the era of Smart Cities, how sustainable and effective ‘Transport Mobility’ can play an important role to change the urban landscape? The basic idea of Smart Cities is to smartly utilise available resources to sustain every function of urban livelihood while ensuring least externalities and maintaining resources for future generations as well. In that sense, sustainability becomes the core requirement for a city to become smart. Achieving this can have permanent impact on increased liveability of Smart Cities. Better land use and transport integration will help contain urban sprawl and reduce travel distances. What are the challenges of building an effective and tech-driven urban transport mechanism? One of the major challenges is the fragmented governance structure of the urban transport system where multiple agencies work with overlapping roles. Also, there is more top down decision making in the urban transport systemk as opposed to bottom up. We often see lack of customisation and research based development of technical solutions for urban transport in India, where traffic and driving behaviour are fundamentally different than those observed in rich economies. What initiatives are being planned by the Karnataka Transport Department? Implementation of Vahan-4: It is a centralised and web-based application developed by the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, and is related to vehicle registration services. Customisation of Department’s requirements is in final stages. Pilot-run in one RTO and one senior RTO is also under progress.

 

e-Challan System: The Department has initiated implementation of e-Challan, a web-based application/mobile based app developed by NIC, Delhi. This app helps in carrying out effective enforcement activities. E-Permits for Autorickshaws: It is being proposed to issue e-permits for autorickshaws in Bengaluru. The e-permit will be issued in a secured paper along with a QR code, Aadhaar authentication and other security features. GPS: The Department has proposed for GPS fitment to all the stage carriages, school buses and taxis in the State. The GPS devises will also be enabled with GPRS connectivity via which all these vehicles’ categories can be tracked in real time, ensuring safety and achieving better enforcement of various type of violations. Fitment of Speed Governor to Transport Vehicles: Being implemented since 2015, integration of details of fitment of speed governor with Vahan Software is taken up. The pilot implementation has been commenced at RTO, Yelahanka, (KA-50).

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 09/13/2017

 

 

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Making Information and Services Easily Accessible Across Government Departments

 

Virender JeetToday’s citizens want close and personal governance. They choose the way they want to interact with officials. Services become increasingly virtual and less personal; face-to-face interaction with public administrators is increasingly being replaced with digital technologies, writes Virender Jeet,  Senior Vice President- Technology , Newgen Software for Elets News Network (ENN). The expectation of time-starved new-age millennials is to get instant resolutions from departments and jurisdictions. It creates constant pressure on government departments to ‘do more with less’ and make services transparent and easily accessible. Good governance demands no duplication of work, reduced communication costs, increased transparency in the functioning of various departments, and responsive citizen services. Thus, efforts are aligned towards streamlining processes and digitising relevant information. The siloed operations, legacy systems, and erroneous manual work is replaced with centralised repository and efficient workflows. A galore of citizen-centric initiatives are rolled out to reach out to every nook and corner. Active steps are taken to reform government-to-government operations, followed by government-to-citizen interactions, and government-to-business transactions. In changing digital landscape, it certainly is a must for departments to embrace lucrative routes towards being a digitally empowered society, thereby boosting revenue, optimising workforce collaboration, accelerating growth, and enhancing citizen engagements in the long run.

 

With myriad of initiatives rolled out for citizens, Government departments are undergoing a digital transformation journey to ensure efficient service delivery, transparency and better accountability to their respective citizens. To turn insights into actionable actions and maintain pace with ever increasing demand for real-time customer service, officials enhance customer satisfaction by taking services to the customer’s doorstep. Here’s a quick rundown of enablers that make it convenient for officials to be available for its citizens anywhere, anytime and respond to them with agility, versatility, and flexibility. Citizens are willing to interact digitally with government. With digitalised processes, citizens avail round-the-clock services. It thus becomes important for governments to retain strategic control over the critical documents and complies with legislation and policies related to authorisation, protection, and archival of documents. A few such other processes are e-filing, certificate issuance, company registration, tax administration and others. As digital drives us forward, government agencies across the globe are realising the dire need to adopt paperless office environment and automate processes. Here’s when e-Gov comes to rescue. It enables the departments to avail series of advantages such as the elimination of paper-based workflows, reduced manual hand-offs, minimised process delays, and automated day-to-day operational functions.

 

With electronic document and record management system in place, content lifecycle can be seamlessly managed, right from its creation to disposition and constituent requests can be effectively streamlined. It becomes convenient for officials to foster strong information governance- capture, process and view content, ranging from physical documents, email to social content. The immediate resultants are enhanced departmental collaboration, improved accessibility to vast information, increased information security and much more. Mobility enables for the transformation of processes that long called for revamping. When officials can work from anywhere, anytime, they are bound to perform better. To enhance government-to-citizen interactions, be insight driven for making informed decisions and increase productivity of inspectors/ officials, mobile governance enables government to connect with citizens in the remotest of areas and allows citizens to access various Government services, information and programs from their mobile devices. Via mobile governance, citizens can make payments of taxes, register for services, track status of their applications, and submit information on-the-go.

 

Social media, being one of the dominating arenas for global communications, it provides a concrete platform to governments to initiate dialogues, exchange information and promote collaboration. It also enables government to reach out to citizens residing in the remotest of the regions and send/receive their feedback or suggestions for the development of nation on a macro scale. With technological advancements taking place in leaps and bounds, these enablers facilitate governments to establish dynamic collaboration across the stakeholders. It allows governments to be ahead of citizens’ expectations and win them over by facilitating round-the-clock services. When critical data rests on the palm of hands, officials are more focused on doing core activities over trivial tasks. They can take actions in sync with incoming information, adhere to instructions and maintain smooth communication between various departments with increased efficiency and greater accuracy.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 09/14/2017

 

 

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Govt Wants to Create Digital Inclusion

 

Reiterating the importance technology, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government wants to create a digital ecosystem, which leads to digital inclusion. Speaking at a conclave on ‘Financial Inclusion’ organised by the United Nations, the Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology and law & Justice said, “This is the age of technology, and technology is power; and this technology must empower India. We want to create a digital ecosystem, which leads to digital inclusion.” The minister said that the government is undertaking a lot of technology-based initiatives like Digital India, Make in India, Start-up India, Smart Cities, Skill India. “Digital inclusion must be the common thread in these transformative initiatives.” Highlighting digital inclusion as the foundation of financial inclusion, Prasad said the government has certain fundamental approach for making Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Digital India mission a reality.  “We want to become the leaders in the field of digital revolution. We want to create transformative technology, which will empower India and Indians,” he said. He also talked about three important attributes of digital inclusion. “First, technology must be affordable; second, technology must lead to inclusion, and, third, technology must be developmental.” the Minister said.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 09/15/2017

 

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Ushering in the Next Era of Technology-driven Transformation of India’s Governance

 

Across the world four “mega” technology trends are changing how people work today.  Consumerisation of IT, cloud computing, big data and the social enterprise bring both opportunities and challenges to governments, writes Sanjeev Gupta, Country General Manager – Public Sector, Microsoft India, for Elets News Network (ENN). there is an increasing need for government departments to adopt innovative technology solutions that address citizen engagement and deliver citizen services efficiently. We believe technology can be a powerful enabler to solve many of the challenges facing public sector bodies today as they focus on the future of the nation and its people. Whether inspired by political events around the world or by a pothole on their street, citizens are demanding greater access to and interaction with the government. These rising expectations are an opportunity to provide rich, personalised experiences, ultimately enabling a better-served and more engaged citizenry. Secondly, governments around the world must respond as citizens demand more visibility, transparency, and engagement. Additionally, the landscape of the government workplace is changing rapidly, fueled by these new tech trends as well as other challenges such as a multi-generational workforce, an increasing number of mobile workers, and an ever-increasing volume of information. Thus, three of the most pressing needs today are Service Delivery and Engagement; Insight and Accountability and Workplace Modernisation. While the ever-evolving needs of citizens and workers are common to all, every government also has unique priorities and processes – just as every society has distinct demands and aspirations.

 

At Microsoft, we are dedicated to helping governments transform digitally to meet these unique needs, expand social and economic opportunities, empower workers and have a real and positive impact on the citizens they serve. Our scalable, cloud-enabled technology solutions and a global partner ecosystem while helping to ensure that government organizations have the trust, security, and compliance they need for sensitive data. In India, we have set up three cloud data centers in Pune, Chennai, and Mumbai two years ago. The availability of local cloud services – Microsoft Azure, Dynamics, and Office 365 – is accelerating cloud innovation and opening new possibilities in e-governance and inclusive growth. Microsoft has been working closely with several state governments in India to support their digital infrastructure, enhance their citizen services and drive efficiencies in their administrative and governance operations. Let’s look at a few areas where we’ve seen technology utilised as a powerful lever to make a difference:

 

Safe Cities, City Surveillance And Law Enforcement

Given our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, we are committed to helping citizens and governments the world over make cities inclusive and safe. Digital transformation can unlock extensive new capabilities for citizen engagement, incident response and management, investigation, and operational support.  These new capabilities also enable improved collaboration across the public safety and policing authorities’ ecosystem. Consider these examples: The Uttar Pradesh Police needed to centralise, modernise, and expand its emergency management system to better protect 220 million citizens spread across 75 police districts. To address this, the organization created UP 100, an emergency management system built from the ground up in line with its mission to provide prompt integrated emergency services for public safety and security to all persons, including those with special needs, anytime, anywhere in the State. A new statewide contact center was built with an end-to-end portfolio of Microsoft solutions to support it. Police are now able to respond to almost five times more events in just minutes; crime is down; people are objectively safer; and the public has renewed respect for a revitalised emergency force. Lighting up the streets on Jaipur: The Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) operates and maintains over 100,000 public street lights within the city. However, one in three of these lamps usually did not work and/or functioned poorly, leading to several areas of the city being in the dark.

 

Traffic snarls and security issues have become a major problem because of the less-than-optimal public lighting. The JMC was spending a significant amount on electricity bills every year for this inefficient system. It was keen to procure an energy-efficient system, but lacked the necessary knowledge and management capabilities. In partnership with SamudraLED, SMC Infrastructure and Microsoft ISV partner Precimetrix, the city is now deploying a Microsoft IoT-platform-based solution to monitor, control and manage over 2 lakh smart LED public street lights in Jaipur. With 26,626 street lights already replaced, on completion the project is expected to benefit 1.65 million people through improved street lighting. It will also result in fiscal savings amounting to $1 million per year through a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 36,750 metric tonnes (77%)/year. Cybersecurity, national, State, or local – is crucial for all government agencies. The cyber-threat landscape of today requires an ongoing and relentless focus on security in today’s hyperconnected world. The government’s focus is evident in the creation of a National Cyber Security Policy and a National Cyber Coordination Centre. The government’s initiative to set up a Cyber Swachhta Kendra in CERT-India, which will focus on fighting malware in the country, is indeed commendable. With emphasis on projects such as Digital India and Smart Cities, which rely on digital infrastructure to store, retrieve and manage data, securing the country from cyber threats is more crucial than ever before.  Microsoft’s Cyber Security Engagement Center supports the digital and cyber security needs of all our customers and partners, that include governments, public and private organizations.

 

Digital transformation can help government front-line employees to deliver improved health, social care and other in-person services that citizens require. It can empower overall organizational efficiency, increase team collaboration and productivity and help employees work out how to deliver services more effectively and with fewer resources. Enabling collaboration and communication using social tools can help governments be more effective. An apt example is Kaizala, a free, chat-based productivity app designed specifically for people living in remote areas of India with intermittent internet connection. By offering seamless convergence of an instant messenger and a productivity enhancer, Kaizala helps organizations and businesses to be more efficient. Recognising its potential for real-time, citizen-driven participatory governance, the Andhra Pradesh government is using the Kaizala app for its Citizen Connect programme, which aims to strengthen collaboration between the government and citizens. The Uttar Pradesh government also deploys Kaizala during the last state elections for enhanced, real time collaboration among election officers. Kaizala’s data is hosted on local data centres based in India, which ensures data sovereignty and security. A quality education is critical to creating tomorrow’s doctors, engineers, teachers and leaders. And it lays the groundwork for solving the world’s greatest challenges. A critical part of that education for just about every job and sector today is understanding how to harness the power of technology to transform education and inspire learning to unlock potential everywhere. I would like to cite two examples here.

 

SWAYAM is an online learning platform developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). It is India’s largest, free and on-demand content based education portal, aimed at offering lifelong learning for students from all walks of life across India, in their local language. This self-study web resource for students is expected to bridge the gap in access to quality education among students, including the most disadvantaged. What also makes it unique is the fact that students will be able to access content created by expert educators from practically any connected device whether it is a smartphone, a PC or a tablet  – anytime, anywhere and learn at their own pace. Powered by Microsoft technologies, we believe SWAYAM is a truly transformational project that will democratise education. Machine Learning and Data Analytics to Prevent School Dropouts: Analyzing existing data where school drop-out rates are high, the state is predicting possible drop outs and take preventive action.  This solution has produced over 30,00,000 predictions so far. The results of the analysis can be viewed on a simple web portal, which comes with a database on student dropout predictions that can be accessed by the education officer in each ‘mandal’ in the State. It is now being expanded to cover lower grades in more than 60,000 schools to touch 5.2 million students this year. The government is using this intelligence to plan strategic interventions under the ‘Badi Pilusthundi’ campaign. In my opinion, the next decade of technology led transformation of governance will focus on acceleration of the government’s digital transformation journey. Microsoft is a longstanding partner to India’s growth. We believe that innovation in technology is critical to achieving sustainable economic growth and social development and are committed to the progress of country through the power of cloud technology.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 09/18/2017

 

 

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NIC Launches Version 2.0 of Open Government Data Platform India

 

National Informatics Centre (NIC) has launched ‘Open Government Data Platform India v.2.0‘. This version of OGD Platform provides better experience to both data providers and platform users with unified interface. Some of the key highlights of the new platform are responsive web layout design, better discoverability of resources, enhanced visualization platform, option to enable SMS and email alerts, etc. The winners of the #OpenDataApps Challenge were also felicitated on Tuesday by NIC, Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY). Cash prizes worth Rs. 1 lakh have ben given each to three of the winners and Rs. 50,000 to each of the runners up of the challenge. The #OpenDataApps Challenge was launched on August 8, 2013, by Communications & Information Technology Minister, Kapil Sibal. It was one of the initiatives of NIC to create awareness on the potential of Open Data and drive the data-fuelled innovation. The challenge, which was organised in association with NASSCOM, aimed at bringing together various stakeholders i.e. senior leaders and data controllers from various ministries and departments, entrepreneurs and innovators from start-up and developers community, IT Industry and private sector, academia and civil society to build an ecosystem around Open Government Data. The entrepreneurs, developers from industry and community were invited to create unique and useful apps across platforms and devices ranging from Mobile/Tablet, text-based SMS to voice-based applications using Open Government Data. A total of 99 applications pertaining to various sectors i.e. Agriculture, Postal, Governance, Health, etc were submitted from across the country for the challenge.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/24/2017

 

 

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SRI LANKA: Hirdaramani IT Arm Launches RES.Q | QMS for Apparel Data Analytics

 

One of Sri Lanka’s enterprise solution providers H One launched RES.Q | QMS, a quality management solution tailor made to minimise defects in apparel manufacturing. H One’s solution draws on the rich heritage of expertise provided by its parent company – Hirdaramani Group, a 120-year old apparel powerhouse in Sri Lanka. RES.Q | QMS is a cloud-based IT solution that provides decision-makers with a 360° view of factory floor production quality. It uses data analytics to improve production quality, eliminates reporting time lags, enables faster and more accurate decision-making, and reduces wastage. It can be used by anyone with minimal training, and easily adapted by apparel manufacturing businesses of any size – small, medium or large. RES.Q | QMS doesn’t require costly servers and can be set up in under a week. The platform is also exceptionally affordable; a single device facilitating quality inspectors on the production floor will cost as little as LKR 175 per day. RES.Q | QMS is also 100% paperless; and functions via a device positioned with a supervisor at the end of each factory line. The solution builds on a concept known as Industry 4.0, which advocates the idea of a ‘smart factory’. In a smart factory, digital and physical systems monitor the physical processes on the factory floor to bring greater visibility and speed to the decision-making process. Apparel has struggled to move towards Industry 4.0, as it is constrained by the inability of systems to fully address or resolve issues unique to the manufacturing process. RES.Q | QMS fills a critical technology gap, helping decision-makers tackle hidden and often, recurring quality issues which often eat away at profitability, head-on.

 

RES.Q | QMS, in effect improves the overall cut-to-ship ratio faced by apparel manufacturers. The cut-to-ship ratio is a key performance indicator in any garment factory, and represents the losses incurred from the point a factory cuts pieces of a garment to fulfil an order, to when it is shipped out to the customer. In Sri Lanka, where apparel is a USD 4 billion turnover industry, the average cut to ship ratio is 98% – for most manufacturers the loss is incurred in millions. RES.Q | QMS estimates that with its analytical insight, manufacturers can cut back on this 2% loss; for example, by reducing internal sewing line defects by 50% and cutting the traditional 10% end of line defect rate by half, thus saving up to USD 40-80 million per year on internal defects. This is a conservative estimate, given that actual defect rates are usually much higher than those published. RES.Q | QMS can achieve this by streamlining the quality inspection process and focusing on addressing the hidden costs of production, in most cases, known as the ‘re-work rate’. RES.Q | QMS captures and analyses production quality to deliver specific, actionable data that can identify the top defects of a particular garment type. Smarter with use, RES.Q | QMS helps decision-makers leverage a knowledge-base of issue remedies and best practices, drastically reducing the time spent resolving quality problems, and serving as the backbone of production-related decision making.

 

“We developed RES.Q | QMS because we know the challenges faced by apparel manufacturers intimately. We field-tested our solution for over a year within Hirdaramani factories. We were deliberate and methodical because it was really important to us to get this right. Now, the end product can be used by any apparel manufacturer to make highly informed decisions quickly and efficiently to significantly reduce the huge losses the apparel industry is making due to quality issues,” shared H One Chief Executive Officer, Samath Fernando at the launch. He also added, “H One has made a reputation for offering our clients innovative technology solutions that get to the root cause of their problems in order to address them. RES.Q | QMS is an especially remarkable achievement for us; our parent company is one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized names in the apparel industry, so it really is a solution that was developed by apparel, for apparel.” This software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution comes to decision-makers in three user-friendly interfaces. The quality inspector interface allows for easy, efficient and accurate data capture from the factory floor; the quality planner portal is for quality administrative users to ensure 100% control over quality inspections with a knowledge hub and a solution centre to help track and remedy defects in real-time; and the dashboard for top management users allows a user to visualize all quality data via charts, graphs and more. The data is available in real-time, enabling decision makers to make production-crucial and time-sensitive decisions instantly with the right information.

 

Commenting on its effectiveness Denver Jayasundara, Group General Manager of Jo Lanka Group – H One’s first RES.Q | QMS customer outside of the Hirdaramani Group said, “After using RES.Q | QMS in our factories over a period of two months, we noticed a significant decline in the end-line defect rate by nearly 10%, and this result gave us confidence about what we could achieve with RES.Q | QMS in the future.” The first RES.Q solution, the Quality Management System (QMS) was launched on Thursday, 31 August to an audience of industry stakeholders. A Machine Inventory tool to track and manage apparel manufacturing assets and a Skill Profiling tool to track employee performance, both under the RES.Q portfolio, will follow. H One plans to serve markets beyond the region with this platform in notably thriving apparel markets in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. To learn more about RES.Q | QMS solution, contact RES.Q Business Development on +94 778 177 023 or info@apparelresq.com.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/ 09/15/2017

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Create Center for Preventing Illegal Employment

 

A center for preventing illegal employment will be established in Azerbaijan, said Ali Ahmadov, the country’s deputy prime minister and chairman of the Commission for Regulation and Coordination of Labor Relations. He made the remarks at a conference titled “Formal Employment as a Condition to Implementation of Social Rights” in Baku on Sept. 7. Ahmadov noted that the center will operate under the Commission for Regulation and Coordination of Labor Relations. In this regard, international experience will be studied, added the deputy prime minister. The Commission for Regulation and Coordination of Labor Relations was established by a decree of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in March. The commission is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov. The commission also includes Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Population Salim Muslumov, Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov, Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev, Chairman of State Statistics Committee Tahir Budagov, Chairman of Azerbaijan Trade Unions Confederation Sattar Mehbaliyev, and Chairman of National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers) Organizations of Azerbaijan Mammad Musayev.

From https://en.trend.az 09/07/2017 

 

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Tehran Appoints New Co-Chairman of Intergovernmental Commission with Baku

 

The Iranian Presidential Administration has decreed to appoint Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Masoud Karbasian as new co-chairman of the Azerbaijan-Iran Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation.  The decision followed the appointment of the former co-chairman of the commission, Mahmoud Vaezi, as the chief of staff of president’s office, Mohammadreza Najafi, the press officer of Iran’s Embassy to Azerbaijan, told Trend.   Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in August named Masoud Karbasian as the minister of economic affairs and finance of Iran.  Vaezi, the former minister of communications and information technologies, was the co-chairman of the intergovernmental commission from the Iranian side.  From the Azerbaijani side, the intergovernmental commission is headed by the Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev.  The two countries are eager to develop their non-oil economy, integrate regional transport networks and boost mutually advantageous business projects.  Such spheres as agriculture, banking sector, pharmaceutics, as well as cooperation within the international North-South transport corridor are the main areas that the two states are focused on.  Iranian companies have so far invested some $1.2 billion, while some $145 million fell to a share of non-oil sector. Some 538 companies with Iranian capital are operating in Azerbaijan.   Azerbaijan’s trade turnover with Iran in January-July 2017 amounted to $148.9 million, of which $139.1 million accounted for import of Iranian products, according to the Azerbaijani State Customs Committee.

From https://www.azernews.az 09/07/2017 

 

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Deputy Minister of Kazakh National Economy Appointed

 

Baurzhan Bekeshev has been appointed deputy minister of the Kazakh national economy in accordance with the decree of the country’s government, said the website of Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev. Since 2014, Bekeshev worked as the director of the Department for Entrepreneurial Development of the Eurasian Economic Commission in Moscow.

From https://en.trend.az 09/25/2017 

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Interim Deputy PM for Economy Named

 

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has decreed to appoint Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Orazmyrat Gurbannazarov as interim deputy prime minister for economic affairs, the Turkmen government said Aug. 31. Byashimmyrat Hojamammedov, who previously held this position, was dismissed for health reasons.

From https://en.trend.az 08/31/2017 

 

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UN, Turkmenistan Improving State Administration System

 

Turkmenistan and the UNDP (the United Nations Development Program) are implementing a project to improve the state administration system, Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper said.  The Academy of Public Administration under the President of Turkmenistan, within the framework of the joint project, hosted a working meeting with the participation of UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan Elena Panova.  The sides discussed prospects for partnership on improving the system of public administration, training of public servants..  During the meeting, the sides discussed the forthcoming activities of the project, including holding of a cycle of lecture classes in such areas as legal and organizational bases of public service at the international and national level, international legislation and tools for fighting corruption.  Organization of a number of “round table” meetings and seminars with elements of interactive forms of study with the participation of international experts on e-document turnover, strategic management and planning, as well as assessment of the needs of the population for social services, will serve to improve the efficiency of training of the Academy’s students.

From https://en.trend.az 09/06/2017 

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New Turkmen Ambassador to UAE Appointed

 

Serdarmammet Garadjayev has been appointed Turkmenistan's Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi city), the Turkmen presidential decree said.  Earlier, Garadjayev served as Consul General of Turkmenistan in Iran (Mashhad city).  Diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and the UAE were established in October 1995.  The UAE companies are prominently represented in the local energy market. Dragon Oil has been operating in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea since 1999 as part of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA). This company is one of the biggest foreign investors in Turkmenistan.  Petrofac company took part in the implementation of a big service project for the development of the Galkynysh gas field in the Mary province of Turkmenistan, the second biggest field in the world.

From https://en.trend.az 09/17/2017 

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UZBEKISTAN: Ministry of Economy Collects Proposals for Development of Economy and Social Sphere

 

The Ministry of economy is working on the preparation of proposals within the Action Strategy, which are set to be implemented in 2018. In order to develop effective measures for further development of economy and social sphere, the Ministry of economy requests citizens to submit their proposals. All proposals will be reviewed by a special working group formed by the Ministry of economy, taking into account a deep analysis of the actual state of affairs in sectors of the economy and specific regions.

From https://uzreport.news 09/13/2017

 

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Uzbekistan Set to Modernize Power System

 

Uzbekistan, a Central Asian state with diverse energy recourses, in keen on improves its power sector by modernizing existing facilities.  The nation of over 30 million population will spend over $292 million for the modernization and reconstruction of substations of backbone networks until 2022.  The Uzbek president has already approved the feasibility study for the project, Sputnik reported.  Uzbekistan is the most energy hungry country in Europe and Central Asia. Nearly 40 percent of available electricity generation capacity is outdated or will reach the end of its lifespan by 2017.  In total, it is planned to reconstruct 22 major substations in Tashkent and another 10 in the regions within the program. This will significantly reduce technical losses and operating and maintenance costs.  In addition, it is planned to purchase mobile substations of 110 kV medium voltage and emergency recovery systems, which are necessary for the prompt elimination of disconnections on the main power transmission lines. 

 

This new technology will increase the sustainability of the national energy system. The project will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an amount equal to the annual energy consumption of over 6 million families in Uzbekistan.  The works will be financed through $75.3 million of Uzbekenergo's own funds, a $92 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a$ 58 million loan from the International Development Association. Another $66.8 million are invested by the government of the republic in the form of tax and customs privileges.  Of them, about $128 million will be directed for the purchase of various equipment, $56 million - for construction and installation work and the remaining part - for other costs.  Uzbekistan is the largest electricity producer in Central Asia. Total installed capacity of Uzbekistan’s power plants exceeds 12.4 GW. Twelve thermal power plants, with a combined capacity of over 10.7 GW, and 31 hydro power plants, with a combined capacity of 1.7 GW, belonging to the Uzbekenergo, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Mining and Metallurgical Company Almalyk and the Uzkhimprom Association, constitute the backbone of the electricity sector. 

 

The country enjoys vast potential in renewable energy, and 97 percent is solar energy, 320 sunny days per year. The World Bank estimates that Uzbekistan solar total potential is more than about 51 billion tons of oil energy, which can not only save a lot of oil resources, but also improve the atmospheric environment.  During the latest decade, hydropower energy production has been steadily increasing in the country.  It is expected to grow mainly by virtue of the development of mini-hydropower plants with a capacity of 420–440 MW and the modernization of existing HPPs.  Uzbekistan is also a net exporter of electricity as it provides its energy networks for the transit of Turkmen electricity to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.  In Uzbekistan, the electricity is transmitted and distributed through power transmission lines whose voltage ranges between 0.4 and 500 kV and whose total length currently exceeds 243,000 km.  Previously, Central Asia had a unified energy system. It included 83 power plants with total capacity of 25,000 megawatts in the territory of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and southern Kazakhstan. 

 

In winter, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan accumulated water in reservoirs and received electricity and energy resources (coal and natural gas) from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In summer, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan sent water to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for irrigation farming.  As much as 50 percent of the power generating capacity in the united power grid of Central Asia and Southern Kazakhstan was concentrated in Uzbekistan. However, after Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan left the unified energy system of Central Asia in 2003 and 2009, respectively, the system ceased to function.

From https://www.azernews.az 09/22/2017

 

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AUSTRALIA: Privacy Commissioner to Probe Government Agencies on Compliance

 

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will be conducting assessments of government agencies over the coming year to confirm their compliance under privacy obligations. Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has said his office will be conducting assessments of Australian government agencies over the next 12 months in accordance with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's (OAIC) commitments under the Privacy Act 1988. Under the nearly 30-year-old Act, the OAIC has the power to conduct an assessment of any business or Australian government agency to help them understand their privacy obligations. As mentioned in the OAIC's Corporate Plan 2017-18, the probe will require the commissioner to encourage agencies and businesses to "respect and protect" the personal information of citizens that they handle.

 

The plan [PDF] details the OAIC's intention to also conduct commissioner-initiated inquiries, which will see Pilgrim investigate an incident that may be an interference with privacy without first receiving a complaint from an individual. Over the next 12 months, the OAIC also plans to develop and implement an Australian Public Service (APS) Privacy Governance Code, as well as a "maturity model" and a toolkit to allow government agencies to benchmark against and self-assess their privacy compliance performance. Pilgrim's office will also work with agencies, particularly the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to ensure that the Australian government's Public Data Policy Statement is implemented in a way that upholds the highest standards of privacy for individuals, the Corporate Plan published on Thursday explains.

 

In an effort to legislate around informing Australians of when their privacy has been breached, the federal government finally passed data breach notification laws at its third attempt in February, which will see people be alerted of their data being inappropriately accessed come February 2018 under the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act. The legislation is restricted to incidents involving personal information, credit card information, credit eligibility, and tax file number information that would put individuals at "real risk of serious harm". Notification laws apply only to companies covered by the Privacy Act, and sees intelligence agencies, small businesses with turnover of less than AU$3 million annually, and political parties exempt from disclosing breaches.

 

In preparation of the legislation, the OAIC said it will be developing guidance and support tools for businesses and government agencies to help them fully comply, and it will also be educating the community about the commencement and operation of the data breach scheme. The commissioner's office will measure its public awareness through increased media and social media mentions about privacy rights, the plan explains. Under another internal performance measurement, the OAIC has given itself a target of finalising 80 percent of data breach notifications within 60 days. Also flagged in the Corporate Plan was the OAIC's desire to continue the administration of the My Health Records data breach notification scheme, as well as new initiatives to review the privacy guidelines of the Medicare Benefits and Pharmaceutical Benefits Programs under s135AA of the National Health Act 1953 and the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 over the next year.

From http://www.zdnet.com 09/01/2017

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University Reforms Lacking Crossbench Support

 

Crossbench senators have dashed the government's hopes of passing its university funding overhaul without serious compromises. Nick Xenophon says his team cannot support the measures as they stand while independent Derryn Hinch predicts they won't pass without changes. Nevertheless, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is hopeful of reaching a deal soon. The package includes cutting university funding in 2018 and 2019, increasing student fees, lowering the repayment threshold for HECS-HELP student loans and tying a portion of funding to performance measures. The higher education sector opposes the package, which it says will cut $2.8 billion over the next four years and leave students paying more for less. Labor and the Greens have followed suit, leaving the government to rely on crossbench votes in the Senate where it next heads.

 

The bill cleared the lower house on Wednesday night after the government gagged debate. Senator Xenophon believes the legislation needs to grapple with the differences in demand and supply of skills and not continue the siloing of university and vocational education. NXT education spokeswoman Rebekha Sharkie said there were some 'small, good measures' but also a 'blunt and deep cut' that will mean job losses in the sector and higher costs to students. She said she cannot support increasing student contributions, noting that Australia already has the fifth highest tuition fees in the OECD. 'The government is asking Australian students to shoulder even more of the burden,' Ms Sharkie told parliament during debate on Wednesday. 'Nearly 80 per cent of students enrolled in a bachelor's degree are young people and we are asking them pay more to get less.'

 

Senator Hinch has 'some major worries' about aspects of the package, including the proposal to make graduates start repaying loans when their income hits $42,000 - down from nearly $56,000 at the moment. He's hoping for a compromise level of $50,000. Senator Birmingham wasn't put off by the tough task. 'The Senate's always a balancing act,' he told reporters. 'But we've pragmatically dealt with them successfully as a government since last year's election and I am confident we will be able to continue to do so and hopefully will get a result in relation to higher education.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/13/2017

 

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Abbott Won't Put Labor in Power: Joyce

 

Barnaby Joyce has played down the prospect of Tony Abbott crossing the floor to vote against the government on a clean energy target. The former prime minister told Sky News he will vote against any attempt by the government to legislate a clean energy target, potentially threatening the Coalition's one seat majority. 'It would be unconscionable, I underline that word unconscionable, for a government that was originally elected promising to abolish the carbon tax and to end Labor's climate change obsessions to go further down this renewable path.' he said. Mr Joyce said backbenchers were at liberty to do what they like but there was a fundamental responsibility to ensure stable government. 'I don't think a former prime minister is going to move to put a Labor government into power,' the deputy prime minister told Sky News on Wednesday.

 

'No matter what statements have been made, they know full well the best sort of government you have is one where people who actually understand business are operating the show.' He said all Coalition MPs should wait to see the government's final position on a long-term energy policy. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters he will 'not run a commentary' on Mr Abbott's remarks. We have a Renewable Energy Target, as you know, which runs out in 2020,' he said. It was amended and legislated in 2015, while Tony was prime minister.' What we are considering at the moment is the arrangements we put in place after 2020 to ensure affordable and reliable energy, and, of course, to meet our emissions reduction obligations, under the Paris Agreement.' Labor frontbencher Amanda Rishworth said Mr Abbott's aim was to cause as much 'chaos and trouble' as possible.

 

'The test is really for Malcolm Turnbull ... will he stand up to these conservatives on his backbench and deliver what (Chief Scientist) Alan Finkel said is critical to the long-term reliability and affordability of energy and that is a clean energy target, or is he going to capitulate to a noisy few on the backbench?' Ms Rishworth said. Mr Abbott, who lost the Liberal leadership to Mr Turnbull in September 2015, is also facing pressure from grassroots members of the party. A Victorian branch of the party passed a resolution in August expressing concerns about his destabilisation and called on the federal party to explore options to disendorse him as the candidate at the next election. Former Northern Territory chief minister Paul Everingham was quoted earlier this year as saying he would be happy to endorse a motion to expel Mr Abbott or at least have him disendorsed for 'disloyalty'.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 09/20/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Four New Charter Schools Announced by Govt

 

The National government has announced four new charter schools, including the first in the South Island and Gisborne. Under-secretary of education David Seymour said they would open in 2019. They include a Christchurch outpost of Auckland's Vanguard Military School, and an iwi-run junior high school for children in years nine to 11 in Gisborne, Tūranga Tangata Rite. The latter would be run by Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa, which represents the interests of Rongowhakata, Ngai Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Māhaki. There will also be a Māori bilingual secondary school to go with the primary school run by the Manukau Urban Māori Authority in South Auckland, and City Senior School, an inner-city Auckland school with a focus on science, technology, engineering, maths and arts. There are currently 10 charter or partnership schools, with two more scheduled to open next year.

 

Mr Seymour said the announcement could not be delayed until after the election because the schools needed time to set up. "The number of applications that we have and the number of partnership schools that are now over-subscribed shows there is a need for this and why shouldn't we get some more opened," he said. Asked if the schools were being set up in areas that needed more schools, Mr Seymour said that would be proven by parental demand. "These schools get paid for the number of students that choose to attend them and whether or not there's a need for them is up to those students and parents." He was confident the schools would survive any change of government that might follow this month's general elections, noting strong Labour Party connections to two of the schools and general support for the schools among Māori.

 

"I think they would be mad to do anything to these schools because fundamentally, they are succeeding academically," he said. Teacher unions were critical of the announcement. Post Primary Teachers Association president Jack Boyle said Ministry of Education figures showed only 59.7 percent of charter school leavers from charter schools left with NCEA level 2 or above last year, compared to a system-wide figure of 80.3 percent. "Opening charter schools is not going to raise the achievement of our children. It's not going to close any gaps. It's not going to level any playing fields. The only thing charter schools do successfully is reward mediocrity by using scarce education money to prop up private owners," he said. Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said the money spent on charter schools should be spent on support for children with special needs.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/07/2017

 

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Labour + Greens Have the Numbers

 

The latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll has Labour and the Greens able to form a government. The poll, conducted from Saturday to today, had Labour on 44 percent, up one point, with National on 40 percent, also up a point. The Greens reversed their decline, rising from 5 to 7 percent, while New Zealand First has continued its slide, down from 9 to 6 percent. The Māori Party is polling at 1 percent and The Opportunities Party is sitting at 2 percent, up one percentage point. RNZ's latest mini-update of its Poll of Polls on Tuesday evening had Labour and National neck and neck. It had National ahead on 41.3 percent with Labour on 40.5 percent. New Zealand First was on 7.5 percent, the Greens had 5.5 percent, the Māori Party 1.4 percent, The Opportunities Party 1.9 percent and ACT 0.6 percent.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/14/2017

 

 

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Nearly Half a Million NZers Have Cast Their Vote

 

The latest advance voting numbers are out - bringing the total to nearly half a million people. Yesterday, 45,822 people voted at the advance booths, of which about a quarter were open. Booths were in shopping malls, libraries and supermarkets. It's the first year advance voting booths have been available on a Sunday. The total number of people who have voted so far is just over 445,000. In 2014, 717,579 people voted early while in the election before that 334,558 people voted early. However, the Labour Party is concerned voters who aren't enrolled are being turned away from advance voting booths. Those eligible should be able to enrol and vote in one go at the advance booths. The Labour Party's general secretary Andrew Kirton was concerned the mistakes would affect Labour disproportionately.

 

"We know that we've got quite a few young people, who need to get on the roll, who like our policies and it would be a real shame if some of them were turned away. "I've heard of multiple reports and I'm sure that's only a fraction of what's happening around the country, so we really hope this is cleared up as quickly as possible." Mr Kirton said Labour had raised the matter with the Electoral Commission. In a statement, the Electoral Commission said it was important that all voters were able to have their say in this election. "We want everyone to have a good experience at the voting place, and if that doesn't happen, we would like to hear about it from voters," said the statement. The commission is encouraging anyone who has concerns to get in touch so it can investigate. It said if voters were concerned about their experience at a voting place, they should send an email including as much detail as possible, including when and where they voted, to enquiries@elections.govt.nz. About 80,000 people placed their ballots on Friday, with nearly twice the number of votes cast so far compared to the same time in 2014.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 09/18/2017

 

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Empowered Patients + Automated Medical Processes + Intelligence = Smart City Medical Systems

 

Complex clinical trials, controlling medical systems downtime, cumbersome regulatory documentation and skillset scarcity are the key pain points that hinder achieving a Smart City with connected healthcare and medical systems. Though the life sciences and healthcare industry is evolving, a huge chunk of the industry is still, largely not digitized. Leading Smart City standard organizations like ISO (37120) or the ITUs of the world, have defined healthcare as a key yardstick to measure the city’s overall Smart City score. In order to strengthen their bid to be acknowledged as a Smart City, governments including US (city – Hawaii, Mississippi and so on), Saudi Arabia and Chile among others are focusing on associated KPIs which ties closely to the city’s medical infrastructure.

 

With a clear rationale, the next step is to pin point the challenges in this journey. The current medical landscape encounters three major challenges in achieving Smart City healthcare targets

Continuous year on year increase in medical cost

Widening gap between required and available medical workforce

Lack of platforms to share centrally available clinical data in real time

The Internet of Things (IoT) powered by the Digital Five forces (Mobility, Big Data, Cloud, Social and Robotics & Artificial Intelligence (AI)), is transforming these challenges into opportunities. The figure illustrates Smart City KPIs, key inhibitors and how the IoT could help achieve these targets.

Smart City Healthcare & Medical systems (KPIs – Inhibitors – IoT play)

 

Medical costs can be controlled through remote patient and equipment monitoring (precise medication, remote ICUs, predictive maintenance) with real time risk event prediction. Widening skillset gap can be bridged through on-the-go stakeholder collaboration and improving utilization rates (of caregivers and medical equipment). The saved bandwidth can be used among larger patient group, with higher service level. Similarly, connected interoperable systems, enable automatic and secure exchange of medical data in real time.  Further, IoT led innovations will drive a shift towards highly matured value-based care with evolved indicators for Smart City health, improving operational efficiency, collaboration and better quality of life.

 

Let me illustrate these inputs with some use cases:

Remotely monitoring patient health, in their natural habitat will significantly cut hospital stays and readmissions for health monitoring. This will result in vacant beds that can be used for treatment-related patient care. Continuous monitoring enables physicians to make informed decisions as well as offer treatment that is evidence-based. This advocates precise medication, reducing adverse impact on patient health and unnecessary loads on payers. Another use case is in the clinical trials space, with the integration between Electronic Patient Reported Outcome (ePRO) and cloud-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems. This enables automatic and secure import of clinical data from the ePRO directly into the electronic data capture system, eliminating the use of paper from the current standard electronic data capture model thus making the process user friendly and highly automated. The IoT has tremendous potential to automate processes, empower stakeholders with real-time actionable information exchanges and not only raw data. The shift to a highly matured state such as digital transformation by automating associated business processes will mark the onset of truly smart medical systems. Further, IoT-led innovations will drive a shift towards highly mature, value-based care indicators for Smart City healthcare, improving operational efficiency, collaboration and thus better quality of life.

From http://sites.tcs.com/ 08/30/2017

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How Garbage Trucks Could Become the Eyes and Ears of Cities

 

Government leaders today face high volumes of workflow and citizen demand with increasingly tight budgets. Not surprisingly, this often causes a risk-averse environment. Yet cities that build room for creativity, innovation — and yes, risk — open up the opportunity to do more with less. The smart cities movement is all about enhancing processes and improving efficiencies. Even so, there’s a notion that becoming a smart city takes a big upfront investment. There are smart city pretenders that try to convince local governments to replace working equipment with expensive and unnecessary “smart” machinery. Cities should instead seek out technology that enhances their existing infrastructure.

 

Optimize existing assets

Take an asset-heavy department like public works, for example. Most cities own a fleet of garbage trucks, each worth $250,000 or more. By integrating this existing fleet with data, departments of public works can achieve greater operational efficiency. With something as simple to implement as a smartphone app, municipalities can gather more intelligence to provide better service to the community. Public works can deliver more precise pick-up times, optimize driver routes and reduce contamination rates thanks to analytics and insights. More efficient routes also limit wear and tear, lengthening the shelf life of city streets and reducing the need for road and truck repairs. All this is achievable with add-on technology. No new trucks, no new machinery, no new infrastructure.

 

Enable interconnectivity

The best solutions not only integrate and fit within a department-specific framework, but also help a city achieve interconnectivity. Efforts to improve sustainability, for example, have historically taken place in different parts of city government, often in siloes away from day-to-day city operations. This means that offices of sustainability and departments of public works have never really functioned in lock step. Smart technology — and the data that it provides — helps to bring these departments together and ensure that everyone shares a common goal. For example, equipped with real-time landfill diversion and recycling rates, city officials can better understand how to target recycling education efforts, a policy that cuts across both public works and sustainability. By pinpointing specific neighborhoods that have lagging recycling rates, a city can focus its efforts in the most efficient and effective way. These sorts of data points can also help to positively impact the city’s standing in various sustainability and resiliency indices, as well as open up new state and federal grant opportunities.

 

Anticipate community needs

Now, take it one step further. Beyond just waste management and sustainability initiatives, imagine if those same old garbage trucks could become the eyes and ears of a city. Equipment that’s existed for generations, that sits in an often-overlooked department, has the potential to become a fleet of roving data centers. This is a radical shift and could drive meaningful change in city management. Think back for a moment to the invention of the 311 phone number. Before this civilian hotline existed, citizens often had to track down and call a city councilman or local politician to report any issues like potholes or vacant homes. There were longer turnaround times and people were less likely to engage, leaving the onus on the government. While the 311 number was a turning point for civic engagement, it is still reactive. What if governments could take control with a more proactive approach?

 

Garbage trucks drive up and down every city street at least once a week. Unlike stationary cameras, these trucks can offer a view of the entire city. Trucks outfitted with sensors have the ability to collect valuable data across the entire city ecosystem, from the department of transportation, to parks and recreation, to housing. This gets back to the importance of interconnectivity. As garbage trucks travel throughout a city, they can collect information about neighborhood effects and can feed it back to a centralized portal. This centralized system – the brain, if you will – can then inform multiple departments about where service is needed.  The possibilities are nearly limitless – from identifying potholes, to reporting vacant homes, to testing for air quality or excessive noise pollution. The list goes on and on, and the technology already exists.

 

Pave the way for future tech

Today’s smart cities should also look ahead to future innovations to stay ahead of the curve. While autonomous vehicles are a hot topic today for personal transportation, this technology is probably more likely to first emerge in the commercial and government sectors. And what better way to test a self-driving vehicle than to use one that moves 5 to 10 miles per hour in 20-foot increments? Autonomous vehicles may become reality when governments ultimately find a need to upgrade their trucks. But for now, existing garbage trucks can pave the way for this forthcoming technology by collecting the necessary data for future routes. Phrased differently, those cities that collect the right urban data points are paving the digital roads on which self-driving government vehicles will move. All levels of government are moving toward smarter infrastructures based on data and analytics, transparency, application of technology and greater connectivity. To be truly smart, cities must optimize existing infrastructures and use technology to deliver better, faster and cheaper services – together.

From http://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ 08/30/2017

 

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IoT Technology for Smart City

 

#1. Forthcoming Smart City

The sun rises in the morning and the windows open when there is clean air outside. If air pollution rises, it informs citizens about the air risk. If something goes wrong with a citizen’s health, each hospital recommends treatment or stands by with an ambulance. In case of the need for an ambulance or fire truck emergency dispatch, the message is sent directly to the vehicles in close proximity to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Fire, citizens’ health, and natural pollution degree are checked real-time to transmit information. It measures power consumption and informs the public, and also controls plant operation time. This is what the is forthcoming Smart City looks like. In this post, I will introduce technologies that can be used in these cities.

 

#2. Cloud Monitoring

The most important part of a functioning Smart City is probably the monitoring. However, if you want to create and control a server for every device, even creating a server will require resources. This is where cloud services can help. Several cloud services such as Ubidots, Thing +, and Thing Plug can display input values to users and can help easily control each device. If these services are used in conjunction with various sensors, monitoring of the entire city could be possible.

 

#3. Smart Streetlight

If the streetlight is on while it’s still bright out, power is being wasted. Yet, if you set up the streetlight to turn on at a specific time, you still run the risk of wasting power because the length of day and night changes and the weather is unpredictable. However, a smart streetlight can solve this problem because it can detect the amount of light through an illumination sensor and turns itself on when necessary.

 

#4. Motor Control

Motors are used for fans, cars, even robots. Using these motors, you can create smart switches, smart pots, etc., that can be applied in real life. Furthermore, what if you adjust the angle of the solar panel along with the lights? Or what if you were to create smart barriers at the entrance of the road to control traffic smoothly?

 

#5. Measurement of power

The electricity bill can be high or low depending on the month. But what if you can see in real-time? We’d probably try to make more reasonable power consumption choices. Rational individual power consumption will eventually affect the electricity generator and over time adjust the generator drive time for efficient power generation.

 

#6. Measurement of Air pollution

For a clean smart city, a real-time grasp on air pollution is necessary. If we can show the state of air pollution at any particular time, it will help citizens’ health and smooth city operation.

From http://wiznetmuseum.com/ 08/30/2017

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World Bank Statement on the Indus Waters Treaty Meetings

 

Another round of the Secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan on the technical issues of the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty took place on September 14-15 in Washington, D.C. Both countries and the World Bank appreciated the discussions and reconfirmed their commitment to the preservation of the Treaty. While an agreement has not been reached at the conclusion of the meetings, the World Bank will continue to work with both countries to resolve the issues in an amicable manner and in line with the Treaty provisions. The World Bank remains committed to act in good faith and with complete impartiality and transparency in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Treaty, while continuing to assist the countries.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/15/2017

 

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Changes in Technology and Trade Disrupting Manufacturing-Led Development

 

Advances in technology and changing trade patterns are affecting opportunities for export-led manufacturing. Smart automation, advanced robotics and 3-D printing are new factors influencing which locations are attractive for production. While these shifts threaten significant disruptions in future employment, particularly for low-skilled workers, they also offer opportunities, according to a new report released today by the World Bank Group. The report, Trouble in the Making? The Future of Manufacturing-Led Development, underscores the resulting changes in the manufacturing sector’s ability to create jobs and lift people out of poverty in developing countries. It encourages policymakers to adjust their approach to spurring job creation in manufacturing and readying workers for the jobs of the future. “Technology and globalization are changing how manufacturing contributes to development. We will need to embrace this change rather than fear it. In the past, the manufacturing sector created jobs for unskilled workers and increased productivity. In the future, developing countries will need to update their policies along with their infrastructure, firm capabilities and job creation strategies to meet the demands of a more technologically advanced world,” said Anabel Gonzalez, the World Bank Group’s Senior Director for Trade & Competitiveness.

 

Changing technologies and shifting globalization patterns are destined to reshape manufacturing-led development strategies, according to the report. Trade is slowing. Global value chains remain concentrated among a relatively small number of countries. Smart automation, advanced robotics, 3-D printing and other advances being incorporated by global manufacturers of cars, electronics, apparel, consumer and other goods are shifting how countries and firms compete for production. While these trends raise fears that manufacturing will no longer offer an accessible pathway to growth for low- and middle-income countries, the report seeks to identify policy priorities that can help these economies face the challenges and embrace the opportunities they bring. “Countries can seize promising new opportunities for productivity growth and job creation if policymakers pursue approaches that adapt to changing technologies and changing patterns of globalization,” said Mary Hallward-Driemeier, a Senior Economic Advisor in the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice and the report’s co-author. “Those countries that don’t are likely to face not just economic costs, but also social costs associated with increased inequality and more limited access to opportunities.”

 

The report offers “3Cs” for countries seeking to bolster their manufacturing sectors: competitiveness, capabilities and connectedness. Ensuring competitiveness will increase the importance of reforms that reduce unit-labor costs. But it will also require each economy to be better able to consider new business models; to seek new contracting relationships that embrace new technologies; and to devise new ways for manufactured goods to also deliver services. Building capabilities will involve giving workers new sets of skills, strengthening firms’ abilities to absorb new technologies, and providing new infrastructure and new rules to support the use of new technologies. Promoting connectedness will continue to emphasize openness to trade in goods, including raw materials and components. But it also increases the importance of grasping the synergies with services that are increasingly embodied and embedded within manufactured goods. “New processes and new technologies will change how traditional goods are made,” said Gaurav Nayyar, an Economist in the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice and the report’s co-author. “To make the most of each economy’s potential, policymakers and private-sector decision-makers will need to seize new opportunities by re-thinking their manufacturing-led development strategies.”

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/20/2017

 

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New Septage Treatment Plant Improves Port Vila's Environment, Sanitation

 

A new and pioneering septage treatment facility was officially opened today by the Minister of Infrastructure Jotham Napat, Australian High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin, Port Vila Lord Mayor Ulrich Sumptoh, and Asian Development Bank (ADB) Director Emma Veve. Funded by the Governments of Vanuatu and Australia, along with a $5 million loan from ADB through the Port Vila Urban Development Project (PVUDP), the facility will improve Port Vila’s waterways and the health of residents and surrounding communities. Located in Bouffa, the capital’s new septage treatment facility will improve the treatment and disposal of septage waste. Two septage ponds were constructed over a 12-month period, employing 8 local workers. The septage treatment facility is designed to be simple and cheap to operate. “PVUDP is transforming Port Vila, improving the daily lives of hundreds of people, making traffic safer and now, with this facility, we are looking after the health of Port Vila’s residents by improving the environment and waterways,” said Ms. Da Rin. “The government is also very much mindful of the fact that with growth comes the need to ensure that proper waste disposal and management systems are in place for us to maintain our natural beauty and great image as a clean and healthy city,” said Mr. Napat. “This is no small task. This first ever septage treatment plant, thanks to partners such as yourselves, is a step in the right direction.”

 

“The septage treatment facility will provide a safe and secure method of treating and disposing of septic tank waste. The septage treatment facility complements other health and sanitation works delivered by PVUDP such as community sanitation facilities and septage management policies and regulations that will improve the well-being of people living in the greater Port Vila area,” said Ms. Veve, a Director in ADB’s Pacific Department. The septage treatment facility is a component of the Port Vila Urban Development Project, one of Vanuatu’s biggest infrastructure projects. The facility will begin operations on 1 September this year. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

From https://www.adb.org/ 08/29/2017

 

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APEC Builds Natural Disaster-Resilient Food Supplies

 

Against the backdrop of the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey along the Gulf of Mexico, APEC member economies are taking steps to build their agricultural safeguards against the escalating threat of natural disasters due to climate change. Agriculture and disaster management officials from the region, which experiences 70 per cent of the world’s natural disasters and is also the largest producer and consumer of food globally, began implementing new resilience measures during policy meetings in Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta. The measures aim to secure food production and supply chains that employ tens of millions of people and feed 3 billion people across the Asia-Pacific. They include help for small-scale producers and agricultural communities highly vulnerable to the increasing frequency and intensity of natural hazards linked to climate change—from hurricanes and typhoons to drought. “Adverse impacts induced by natural disasters are additional challenges to food security that require cross-cutting expertise to offer feasible solutions,” explained Tran Quang Hoai, Director General of Viet Nam’s Directorate of Natural Disaster Prevention and Control. He pointed to public-private coordination in APEC to boost technological resilience within the sector.

 

Officials are working to help agricultural producers in high-risk areas to withstand an emergency by enabling the introduction of disaster-proof crops and farming methods—with guidance from industry and civil society groups. They are also deploying community-based preparedness training, based on analysis of need levels in the region, to expedite operational recovery after a disaster. “APEC is extending grassroots support to those whose livelihoods depend on the agricultural sector and are exposed to disaster shocks at an economic and social level,” noted Kyoko Kondo, Co-Chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group, which is overseeing the initiative. “Aging populations add to recovery challenges in rural areas including farms.” “We are disseminating planning tools and expertise to help local agricultural producers in the region mitigate disaster risk,” added Dr Li Wei-Sen, Executive Director of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Capacity Building Center. “A farmer that knows what the dangers are and prepares for them appropriately stands a much better chance of weathering a catastrophe.”

 

Lessons from disaster-stricken agricultural areas are shaping APEC’s efforts to equip people within the sector for all contingencies. This includes attention to land and crop management, sanitation and broader health considerations. “What farmers grow, how they grow it and when is only part of the disaster resilience equation,” concluded Stuart Brown of the World Vegetable Center, which is partnering with APEC on implementation. “Without proper awareness of health and nutrition concerns, and support systems, threats to agricultural areas, workers and the people that rely on them become magnified. APEC is securing food supply chains where they are most vulnerable and vital.” Senior Disaster Management Officials from APEC economies will meet in Vinh, Viet Nam on 21-22 September to take this work forward and initiate parallel measures for enhancing emergency preparedness in the region.

From https://www.apec.org/ 09/04/2017

 

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APEC Startup Push Promotes New Silicon Valleys

 

Small business officials from the 21 APEC member economies are optimizing conditions for Asia-Pacific startup growth as digital advances open up new business and trade opportunities within the technology sector. Officials convened in Ho Chi Minh City, a rising startup hub that is driving the development of Viet Nam’s own Silicon Valley, to implement measures to make it easier for entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific to bring the next Uber, WhatsApp or Airbnb to market. Their focus is on easing administrative and investment bottlenecks, and improving support services delivery to a new generation of startups. It sets the stage for a key meeting of Small and Medium Enterprise Ministers here on Friday to create a more nurturing policy environment. “The push for a stronger startup fire and spirit is a priority as economies in the region integrate,” said Dang Huy Dong, Viet Nam’s Vice Minister of Planning and Investment. “APEC hopes to build a constructive and valuable ecosystem for startups to innovate and trade.” There are signs of progress: the elimination of bureaucratic red tape in APEC has reduced the average time it takes to start a business in the region from one month to two weeks in just five years. It is opening to door to entrepreneurship fueled by opportunities in the digital space. “We are seeing a big wave of startup development,” said Do Son Duong, Founder and CEO of Toong coworking space chain, which caters to more than 1,000 startups in Viet Nam. “Many people are studying information systems abroad and returning to start their own business.”

 

“We are living in a demand economy. People are always looking for something better,” added Do. “For tech startups, if they don’t have a solution to shorten product development or collaborate to launch their product efficiently then they will lose the opportunity.” (VIDEO: Do Son Duong on the State of Startups) Officials are working to expedite the process by deploying public-private startup exchanges, mentoring and training in areas such as ICT use, management, branding and intellectual property to boost entrepreneurship and talent pipelines. “Changes in technology in terms of cloud, connectivity, artificial intelligence and big data are creating huge opportunity for every startup, in every sector,” said Tran Huu Duc, Head of FPT Ventures, a corporate venture capital fund, and CEO of seed fund Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator, or VIISA. (VIDEO: Tran Huu Duc on Nurturing Startups) To harness this potential, officials are introducing matchmaking events and online channels to pair startups in APEC economies with investors and corporate partners to support their growth and integration into burgeoning cross-border production and supply chains. “Healthy economies and employment are supported by IT savvy startups that can survive and realize new market opportunities,” said Akira Shimbo of Japan’s Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation. “Knowing how to do it and who to collaborate with is key.” (VIDEO: Akira Shimbo on Startups Going Global) "In the grand scheme of things, connections between people, perspectives and places in APEC are driving business innovation in the digital era more than the technology itself,” concluded Prof Lou Pelton of the University of North Texas College of Business Marketing and Logistics. (VIDEO: Prof Lou Pelton on Startups and Digital Advances)

From https://www.apec.org/ 09/15/2017

 

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CHINA: Xi's Diplomacy Provides Solutions to Global Challenges

                        

China's diplomacy embodying President Xi Jinping's diplomatic thoughts has offered Chinese solutions to global challenges and garnered plaudits worldwide over the past five years. "Major-Country Diplomacy," a six-episode feature documentary launched recently, has multi-dimensionally displayed China's brilliant diplomatic achievements under Xi's leadership since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. The five years have seen Chinese diplomatic efforts bear fruits, boosted by such innovative notions from Xi as building a community of shared future for mankind and the Belt and Road Initiative intended for the expansion of infrastructure and trade networks around the world. Furthermore, there have been Chinese proposals for global governance reforms and Chinese wisdom presented in the country's new development and security concepts. Xi's diplomatic efforts over the years, in line with China's increasingly significant role in global affairs, manifest the willingness, capability and unique characteristics of a responsible major country. The world's second largest economy is moving closer day after day to the center stage of the global arena, taking an active role in various kinds of international affairs.

 

More importantly, China's role in and solutions to regional hotspots and global issues have been greeted with widespread welcome amid a sluggish global economy and challenges to world peace. As shown in the documentary, China always stands for peace, stability and justice, remaining committed to peace, contributing to global development and maintaining international order. A win-win cooperation approach, as highlighted in each of the documentary's six episodes, supports China's diplomatic efforts regardless of the size and strength of its partners. An expanding partnership in different forms involving some 100 countries and international organizations enables China to boast a diversified and multi-dimensioned diplomacy. Xi's diplomacy has never deviated from the need to ensure common development and prosperity. China, while continuing its opening-up policy for its own growth, is never hesitant about sharing opportunities for development with other countries. Hence China's different diplomatic approach promotes peace, development and prosperity en route to creating a community of shared future for mankind.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/02/2017

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Chinese Premier Underlines Innovation in Economic Upgrading

                        

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has stressed the role of innovation in economic transformation and upgrading. During an inspection tour to north China's Shanxi Province on Monday and Tuesday, Li visited a base for entrepreneurship and innovation and applauded its services to small and micro-sized enterprises and its model that integrates research and development with production. The base offers a platform for innovation of small companies, and can also help create considerable economic and social returns, Li said. "Integrating creativity with the market will form strong new impetus and make a huge contribution to economic transformation and upgrading," the premier said. While visiting a coal mine owned by Lu'an Group, Li said that reducing production capacity will make way for quality and advanced capacity. "Human resources are the most valuable treasure,"

 

Li said, encouraging Lu'an Group to create more jobs by developing non-coal industries and helping former workers start their own businesses. Former workers laid-off due to reduced capacity might have been a burden for previous employers, but they will become required talent in new companies, the premier said. Companies of all sizes can stimulate the enthusiasm and creativity of employees through encouraging mass entrepreneurship and innovation, an approach that will raise their core competitiveness, according to Li. He added that craftsmen should pass on their skills to apprentices to make Chinese-made products competitive in terms of both price and quality. Li also went to a village in Shanxi to visit rural residents living in poverty and learn about medical services there.        

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/05/2017

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Fund Set Up to Improve Study of Seismology

                        

A fund has been set up to improve the study of seismology and attract talent to the field, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC) said Tuesday. The fund will run from 2018 to 2022 and will receive 150 million yuan (about 22.9 million U.S. dollars) in funding from the NNSFC and China Earthquake Administration. The fund will encourage research on the causes of earthquake as well as the theories, technologies and methods concerning the monitoring and prediction of earthquakes to allow the development of early warning abilities, said Yang Wei, NNSFC director.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/05/2017

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China Aviation Expo Highlights Homegrown High-end Products, Technology

                        

The domestically-developed jumbo jet C919, aircraft engines and other high-end aviation products will be highlighted at Aviation Expo China 2017 in Beijing from Sept. 19 to 22, the event organizer said Wednesday. The expo will be held at China National Convention Center and is being jointly organized by Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC) and China Promotion Ltd. COMAC will display the Chinese-developed large passenger jet C919, new regional jet ARJ21, and a wide-body passenger jet, which will be jointly built by China and Russia. The C919 achieved a successful maiden flight on May 5 this year, and has moved to the next phase of further testing and test flight missions, according to COMAC. The wide-body passenger jet program is currently in the preparation phase of the proposal, after the joint venture China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Co., Ltd (CRAIC) was set up on May 22 this year. The newly-established AECC will display its achievements in aircraft engines, gas turbines, and graphene material and high precision aluminum alloy technologies, it said. The AECC was set up in Beijing on Aug. 28, 2016 to accelerate independent research, development and manufacturing of aircraft engines and gas turbines. Founded in 1984, China Aviation Expo was China's first professional aviation expo. This year it has attracted more than 300 exhibitors from 14 countries and regions, with eight national pavilions, including Russia, Ukraine, Italy and Australia.