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March 2017, Issue 184

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

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Growth-Oriented Policy Agenda Needed to Ensure Stronger Economic Recovery with Benefits for All Workers and Households

Vulnerable Countries from Asia-Pacific Meet to Invest on Climate Action

 

 

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CHINA: More Proactive Fiscal Policy, Further Tax Reduction in 2017 Eyed

China to Meet Uncertainty with Stability

China to Pursue Prudent, Neutral Monetary Policy in 2017

Pilot Supervisory Reform Paves Way for National Legislation

Beijing to Strengthen Regulation of Online Catering

China Adopts General Provisions of the Civil Law

China Approves Plan for Nuclear Power Safety

China Eyes NZ for Global Infrastructure Project

JAPAN: Inclusive Society Plan Mooted for 2020 Games

Parties Still Divided over Whether or Not to Institutionalize Abdication

Bill on Tougher Regulations for Private Lodging Drafted

New Imperial Era Name Likely to Be Decided Without Public Consultation

Economy Ministry Keeps Offices Locked Under New Info Security Policy

Govt Adopts Bill to Allow ‘Minpaku’

Diet Chiefs Propose Special Abdication Law

Cabinet Adopts Bill on Terror Planning

SOUTH KOREA: To Revise Law on Personal Pension Scheme

Govt. Unveils R&D Road Map for 2018

 

 

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MYANMAR: Income Tax Exempted Zones for Investment Announced

Myanmar to Boost Revenue Under New Tax Law

PHILIPPINES: House Passes Bill to Restore Death Penalty

SINGAPORE: New Cybersecurity Professional Scheme to Groom Public Sector Experts

President Tony Tan Gives Assent for Supply Bill 2017

New Standards to Address Digital Design, Infrastructure for Seniors

THAILAND: New Law Raises Minimum Age of Smokers to 20 In Bid to Discourage Youths

National Strategy Plans Are the Right Path

New Regulations To Ensure Free Emergency Treatment

Cabinet Approves Asset Management Amendment Bill

Govt Announces Five-Year Digital Integration Strategy

Thai Government Pushes Forward National Reform and Strategy Bills

Plan Unveiled to Create 500,000 Digital Startups

Finance Ministry Plans Reforms in Five Areas

VIETNAM: SOE Equitisation - Govt Must Work on Legal Framework

Understanding the VN Law on Cross-Border Web Sharing

Ministry Introduces Nutrition Guidelines for Pregnant Women, Nursing Mothers

 

 

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INDIA: e-Indian Postal Order Announced for All

e-Wallet Scheme Launched by IRCTC

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Minister Talks Priority of Tax System for 2017

BAHRAIN: To Adopt Korean Healthcare System

KAZAKHSTAN: Amendments to Constitution Adopted

TURKMENISTAN: Berdimuhamedov Favors Diversity of Energy Flows

UZBEKISTAN: Time to Submit Total Annual Income Declarations

960 Localization Projects Planned to Be Implemented in 2017

 

 

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Pacific 'Leads' in Law Reforms, Registries

AUSTRALIA: New Gun Amnesty Announced

PM Announces Snowy Hydro Expansion Plan

Report Calls for Decriminalisation of Drugs

Australia Not to Follow US Electronics Ban

Company Tax Plan Passed by Lower House

FIJI: Cyber Problems Highlighted

Sustainable Strategy

NEW ZEALAND: Paula Bennett's Job to Fix Gender Pay Gap 

John Key's Legacy: A Confident New Zealand

PM Rules Out Slashing Herd Numbers to Meet Emissions Targets

Anti-Laundering Bill Passes First Reading

 

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The World Bank and Partners Recognize Results-Driven Leadership in Development

The Next Chapter in Internet Governance

G-20 Meeting Was 'Disappointing' and 'Disturbing'

One of Asia's Most Powerful Women: Create a Reputation Early

 

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CHINA: Leaders Review Gov't Work Report with Lawmakers

China's Political Advisory Body to Strengthen Supervision Work

Political Advisors Raise Suggestions for Social, Cultural Development

Chinese Judiciary Vows to Ensure Security, Enhance Justice

Chinese Premier Stresses Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations

China Eliminates More Administrative Fees

China Orders Greater Gov't Transparency to Support Reform

Chinese Premier Stresses Agricultural Supply-side Structural Reform

JAPAN: System Eyed for Sharing Public, Private Disaster Info

SOUTH KOREA: Sharing with the World, Part 7 - Automated Electoral Systems

Seoul Focuses on E-Gov’t Exports, Creating ‘Smart' Administration

Sharing with the World, Part 8: Online Criminal Procedures Systems

 

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CAMBODIA: Deputy PM Ben Chhin Named as Acting Cabinet Minister After Sok An's Death

PHILIPPINES: Duterte Names New Foreign Minister

SINGAPORE: Parliament to Begin Debating Budget 2017 on Tuesday

Singapore to Set Up New Defence Cyber Organisation

Singapore Environment Council Appoints New Executive Director

THAILAND: Supachai Urges Support for Govts Long-Term Strategy

Administrative Courts Have Dealt with 13,000 Cases in 16 Years

VIETNAM: Ministries, Localities Told Not to Buy Cars

Public Offices to Work Saturdays

National Womens Congress Chance for Women to Raise Voice

 

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INDIA: Transforming Governance - India, Portugal Tie Up for Joint IT Development

People Coming Together for Creation of New India

Government to Provide Information Services Through Multilingual Portal, Mobile Apps

NIC Launches Version 2.0 of Open Government Data Platform India

e-Governance to Empower Citizens

 

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AFGHANISTAN: Models Korean E-Gov't

AZERBAIJAN: Department Head in DemirBank Resigns

New Appointment in Azerbaijani Ministry of Taxes

Azerbaijan Creates Association of Packaging Industry

KAZAKHSTAN: Nazarbayev Appoints New Heads to Several Kazakh Regions

TURKMENISTAN: New Appointments in Fuel and Energy Complex

 

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AUSTRALIA: Red Tape Stops Superyacht Industry Growth

FIJI: Mission to Improve Veterinary Services

NEW ZEALAND: Govt Superannuation Age to Rise to 67 in 2040

 

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OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum 30-31 March 2017, OECD Conference Centre

World Bank Group President Calls for Urgent Action on Hunger Crisis

Globalization Is Facing a 'Re-Calibration,' Says Dow Chemical Chief

Apple Just Bought the App It Once Crowned 'Most Innovative' and Made It Free for Everyone

Universal Basic Income Debate Sharpens as Observers Grasp for Solutions to Inequality

ADB Business Reform Initiative Marks Decade of Support to Pacific

APEC Breaks Down Barriers to Women Exporters

 

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CHINA: Pledges to Transform, Upgrade Real Economy Through Innovation

President Xi Calls for Lasting Effects of Poverty Relief

Chinese Search Engine Operators Fined for False Internet Ads

China Leads Potential for Tech Breakthroughs: KPMG

China to Step Up IPR Trials to Stimulate Innovation

Xi Underlines Innovation in Military Upgrading

China to Inspect Use of Poverty Relief Funds

Beijing 2022 Open First Worldwide Staff Recruitment

Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Solid Efforts in Poverty Relief

China Orders Nationwide Inspection of Foster Care Services

China Regulates Art Market

China Renews Efforts Against Fake News, Harmful Content

Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Safety of Rivers, Reservoirs

JAPAN: Labor-Management Consensus Key for Effective Rules on Overtime Limit

SCJ Should Recognize All Technology Has Both Military, Civilian Applications

Labor, Management Should Jointly Promote Work Style Reform, Wage Hikes

Govt Advises Local Authorities on Using Social Media in Disasters

SOUTH KOREA: Ranked Near Bottom in Women's Economic Empowerment

Report Urges Hike in State Pension Age

Korea Tops Global IP Index 3 Years in a Row

KT Pledges to Be World’s First 5G Provider by 2019

Korea Shares Weather Tech with Developing Countries

 

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CAMBODIA: Launching 1st Undersea Communications Cable

SINGAPORE: To Invest S$45m a Year in New Defence Tech Labs for Robotics, AI

THAILAND: Court Judgements Soon Accessible Online

Government Officials to Be Trained in Digital Technology

VIETNAM: Capital Pilots Software to Manage Public Car Parks

HCM Citys New Online Centre Monitors Bus Activity

Vietnam's HCM City to Publicise Pollution Data

City Sci-Tech Market to Boost Innovation

 

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INDIA: 3-Day International Conference on e-Governance Begins Tomorrow

NIELIT to Train Small Traders in e-Payments

EMC All Geared Up for Giving Technology Push to Smart Cities

Emphasis on Innovation for Protection of Data Privacy

Nagpur to Host Elets Smart and Sustainable Cities Summit Views

India Ranks Second in IoT Adoption

Concurrent Monitoring Through ICT

Infosys, Tech Mahindra, TCS Bag Top Awards by Hyderabad IT Body

 

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AZERBAIJAN: President Visits Projects Houses

TURKMENISTAN: To Host Int’l Gas Congress in May 2017

UZBEKISTAN: Information Communications Ministry Holds Meeting with a Senior Adviser of Telia

Head of Center for Management of State Assets Launches Virtual Reception

Uzbekistan Places Temporary Ban on Commercial Fishing

Resolution on Improving TUIT's Activities Discussed

Uzbekistan to Hold Job Fairs for ICT Professionals

 

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AUSTRALIA: Turnbull to Expand 'City Deals'

Labor Seeks to Block Penalty Rate Decision

PM Reportedly to Fast Track 18C Changes

PM Pressures Senate over Childcare Changes

Innovation and Science Australia Calls on Government to Be 'Innovation Exemplar'

NT Government Slams NBN's 'Technically Inferior' Satellite Service

Turnbull Sets ACCC on Electricity Providers

NEW ZEALAND: Peters Supports Govt's Immigrant Pension Changes

Government Won't Ban Unvaccinated Kids from Pre-School

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10 Reasons to Hide Your IP Address

Modest Pick-Up in Global Growth but Risks and Vulnerabilities Could Derail Recovery

5G Data Is Coming, and It Will Supercharge Your Internet Connection

World Day Against Cyber-Censorship

Release of OECD’s Going for Growth 2017: News Briefing on 17 March in Baden Baden, Germany

CFOs Worldwide Are Concerned Populism Is Hurting the World's Economy

Oracle CEO Says Cloud Won't Cause Mass IT Layoffs

Gopro Cutting 270 Jobs, Stock Soars

Tech Is Leading the Market — And This Stock Could Be the Pick of the Litter

These Are the World's Most Expensive, and Cheapest, Cities to Live in According to the EIU

Digital Rights Report Hits Apple for Its Secrecy

T-Mobile Is Making It Harder for Scammers to Call You

APEC Officials Widening Asia-Pacific Trade Benefits

 

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CHINA: Speeding 5G Roll-out with World's Largest Test Field

China Promises Further Cuts to Steel, Coal Capacity

Chinese Automaker FAW Sees Robust Sales Growth

China Eyes Tourism Infrastructure Upgrades to Spur Economy

China's New GDP Target Necessary, Attainable: Senior Official

China Leads Asia in Digital Transformation: Report

Chinese Vice Premier Confident in China's Economy

Vice Premier: China to Firmly Promote Economic Globalization

Chinese Tourism to NZ to Get a Boost with New Deals

JAPAN: Sompo Offers Nation’s First Online 'Flaming Insurance'

SOUTH KOREA: Digital Information Level Low Among Underprivileged

Mobile Data Traffic Doubles over Impeachment Ruling

Korea's IT Industry Relies Heavily on Hardware

Regulator Warns of New-Type Cyber Threats to Financial Networks

South Korea Has World’s Fastest Internet

Korea Expands Global Cooperation on Infrastructure

Public Demand for Security-Related Software Surges in 2017

Electronic Payments Hit Record High in 2016

 

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INDONESIA: Stronger Global Growth and Commodity Prices Contribute to Faster Economic Growth in 2017

SINGAPORE: Government to Partner Two Leading Employment Agencies to Help Unemployed Professionals

Singapore to Shut Down 2G Mobile Service from April 1

THAILAND: Foreign Ministry Offers Reassurance on E-Passports as Article 44 Order Considered

Universities Must Spearhead the Shift to Thailand 4.0 

1,000 Thai Hospitals Play Clip to Promote HIV Zero Discrimation

VIETNAM: Binh Dương Needs 22,700 Labourers in Early 2017

HCM City and HÀ Nội Lead E-Business Index

President Quang Urges Health Sector for Better People Health Care and Protection

60% Use Internet in VN

Health Insurance Card a Huge Success: Minister

Govt Looks to Boost E-Commerce

Cashless Economy Target Too High: Experts

HÀ Nội Offers Incentive for Home-Based Parking Services

Đắk Nông Increases Aid to Coffee Farmers

Vietnam's E-Commerce Grows 22 Percent Annually

Vietnam Targets Supporting 2,500 Women's Start-Ups Annually

Vietnam IT Industry Index Introduced

Central Province Launches Key Traffic Projects

HN Urban Railway Told to Start Operation in 2018

 

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INDIA: T-Hub, Anthill Launch SWAN

Indian CIOs to Ride High on Cloud

Internet Penetration in India: Making Sense of the Numbers

India, Portugal to Collaborate in Electronic Manufacturing, Cyber Security

Paying Taxes Through Mobile App to Become a Reality Soon Views

Digital Transactions Recede, Threaten 'Digital India'

32% People Find Jobs Through Social Networking Sites

Promoting IT Industry for Inclusive Development

Bihar Is on Cusp of IT Revolution

e-Governance for Urban Development

e-Governance to Ensure Food Security

Aadhaar Now Must for Filing IT Returns

e-Nibandhan Digitization of Land Records

Maharashtra Farmers Sell Products Online

e-Payment for Scholarships Soon

Haryana Goes the Digital Way

Supreme Court to Turn Digital in the Coming Months

Digital India: Wi-fi Kiosks at 500 Remote Railway Stations

Internet May Soon Carry Traffic at Speed of Light

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Azercell Keeps Support to Education

How to Protect Children from Social Network Dangers

Azerbaijan, IMF to Mull Prospects of Economic Development

Ilham Aliyev Azerbaijan to Continue Its Economic Development

China’s Huawei to Build ‘Smart City’ in Baku

TURKMENISTAN: Eyes to Create More Free Economic Zones

UZBEKISTAN: TUIT and KOICA to Cooperate in ICT

 

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AUSTRALIA: Agriculture Gets the Last Laugh

Farmers and Miners Will Face Drastic Changes

Unemployment Rises to 5.9 Per Cent

FIJI: Northern Development Should Target Economic Parity

NEW ZEALAND: No Smoke and Mirrors - Govt Open to E-Cigarette Subsidies

Women's Refuge: Govt's Data-for-Funding Proposal 'Puts Lives at Risk'

OECD Environmental Report: NZ Reaching Ecological Limits

Kiwis Concerned About Housing and Immigration

Russia May Be Key in NZ Free Trade Goal

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The World's Biggest Stock Index Turns 60 on Saturday

Borrowers Rush to Beat Rising Rates, Pushing Mortgage Volume 3.3% Higher

This Could Cause 'Hell' To Break Loose in the Global Bond Market

G20 Financial Leaders Acquiesce to US, Drop Free Trade Pledge

World Bank Allocates $15 Million Grant to Togo to Help Increase Employment Opportunities for the Poor and Vulnerable Youth

World Bank Allocates $29 Million Grant to Togo to Help Increase Poor Communities’ Access to Basic Infrastructure and Social Safety Nets

Emerging East Asian Bond Yields Fall as Region Withstands Global Uncertainty

Asian Millennials Face Substantial Cash Risk: Survey

ADB, CAA Sign 30 Million Agreement to Improve Financial Inclusion in Asia

 

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CHINA: Investment to Belt and Road Countries Exceeds 50 Bln USD

China Enhances Crackdown on Capital Market Fraud

China Stands Firm on Monetary Policy After Fed Rate Hike

China, Britain to Boost Financial Cooperation

SOUTH KOREA: Finance Minister Vows Structural Reform in Face of 4th Industrial Revolution

BOK Chief Calls for Risk Management in Digital Financial Innovation

S. Korea to Inject W514b into Nano Technology

 

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MYANMAR: Stepping Up Fight Against Money Laundering

THAILAND: State Enterprises to Invest Bt359 Bn This Year, Sepo Says

VIETNAM: Overseas Online Booking Companies Required to Pay Added Tax

Tax Mismanagement Cost the State Budget

State Units Earn VNĐ14 Trillion from Divestment

WB Pledges $1.8 Billion in 2017 Assistance

PM Okays $4.4 Billion Package for High-Tech Agriculture

 

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INDIA: e-Payment of Road Tax in Haryana

 

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IMF Azerbaijan Needs to Speed Up Banking Sector Restructuring

Azerbaijani Tax Ministry Exceeds Tax Revenue Forecast

Tourists Obtain over 1M manats in Azerbaijan via Tax Free System

KAZAKHSTAN: Banking Sector Faces Another Tough Year, S&P Says

UZBEKISTAN: Beeline Invests 533 Billion Soums in Networks Development in 2016

Uzbekistan Puts 10,000 Soum Banknotes to Circulation

Uzbekistan to Establish Poytaht Bank

CB Cuts Rent Price for Payment Terminals by 50%

 

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AUSTRALIA: No Involvement in Robo-Debt System, Says ATO

Australian CIOs Increasing Big Data Budgets in 2017: Telsyte

Australian Government to Spend AU$4m on Children's STEM 'Spaces'

Family Tax Benefit Freeze Passes Senate

Market Set to Rise After $30 Billion Wipe-out

Australian Market Set to Open Flat

FIJI: FRCA-Nepalese Officials Discuss Tax Reforms

Financial Literacy Vital

NEW ZEALAND: Prime Minister Hints at Cutting Tax for Low to Middle Income Earners

NZ Post Prices Hiked Again

Early Childhood Funding Is $260m Short Report

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Microsoft Is Working on Technology to Help the Visually Impaired Learn to Code

Immigration Raids Having Chilling Effect as Fear Keeps Customers Away from Small Stores

Paychex CEO Says Small Business Growth Is Improving as Optimism Translates to Jobs

This Is What's Behind the Severe Housing Drought

'Hundreds' of Alibaba and Huawei-Sized Companies Could Soon Be Taking on the World, Top VC Says

Uber Rival Grab Plans to Hire 800 Engineers for Its Six R&D Facilities in Asia, US

A 'Cocktail Evolution' Hits Asian Cities

Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls for More Global Trade with China

Meet the Man Beating Uber at Its Own Game in Asia

 

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CHINA: Xiaomi Launches First Chip

China's Science and Technology Sector on the Rise: Expert

New Industry Law Means Promising Future for Chinese Film

China Private Equity Deal Values Cratered in 2016, but That's Not the Whole Story

JAPAN: Docomo to Release AI-Based Taxi System

SOUTH KOREA: Microsoft to Strengthen Cloud Computing Service

Private Sector Created Least Jobs in 7 Yrs in 2016 Amid Slumping Economy

KT, LG Uplus Join Hands on Home IoT, AI Services

AI, Robots to Lead Future Medical Industry

SME Corporation Sets Up Cooperation Channels with Vietnam, Cambodia, India

Korea's Smart Health Care Industry at Standstill: Report

ICT Ministry to Offer Data Platform for Small Businesses

 

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MYANMAR: To Speed Up Privatization of State-Owned Enterprises

SINGAPORE: Small- And Medium-Sized Law Firms Get Help to Go Digital with S$2.8m Programme

Salary Threshold Raised for Local Workers Under Rules for Hiring Foreigners

VIETNAM: PM Calls for Reform on Rice Sector

Development Fund Offers Financial Aid to SMEs

 

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INDIA: Google India Inks MoU with Telangana Government

Microsoft’s Azure Hybrid Cloud Now Available in India

D-Mart's Market Debut Propels Damani into India's Richest-20

Google, MeitY Launch Initiatives to Proliferate Digital Awareness

PAKISTAN: APAG Signs Accord to Acquire eLogistics, Supply Chain Software

SBI, IT Dept to Facilitate US Investor in Establishing Fablab

Pakistan, China to Evolve Strategic IT Sector Collaboration via E-Corridor

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Put Up Cinema, Dental Clinics for Privatization

KAZAKHSTAN: Mobile Phone Operators Increase Services Volume

More Self-Employed Entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan in 2016

UZBEKISTAN: Competition Committee and WB Jointly Boosting Small Business

Uzbekistan to Simplify Micro-Lending to Entrepreneurs

 

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AUSTRALIA: PC Shipments in Q4 2016 Beat Expectations to Total 1.12m

NEW ZEALAND: Government to Investigate Putting a Price on Exported Water

Winston Peters Calls for 'Ban' on Apple

 

 

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Growth-Oriented Policy Agenda Needed to Ensure Stronger Economic Recovery with Benefits for All Workers and Households

 

Governments must deploy policy packages that take advantage of the synergies between labour, product and financial market reforms to escape the low-growth trap and ensure that benefits are broadly shared by the vast majority of citizens, according to the OECD’s annual Going for Growth report.
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 offers a comprehensive assessment of policy reforms that can be packaged together to boost long-term growth, improve competitiveness and productivity, create jobs and ensure a more inclusive economy. This year’s edition of Going for Growth reveals an uptick in policy-maker attention to reforms to lift employment, particularly measures aimed at helping women, young people and low-skilled workers enter and thrive in the labour market, and these have delivered results.  However, a worrisome slowdown in reforms that influence labour productivity - such as those in education and innovation policy- is of particular concern in light of the persistent and widespread decline in productivity growth, which is the key to boost wages and living standards. “Reversing the prolonged period of stagnating living standards that is affecting a large share of people worldwide will require coherent structural reform strategies and the political will to deploy them,”OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said. “The vast array of growth and inclusiveness challenges facing advanced and emerging economies call out for a quicker pace and more comprehensive set of reforms.   While efforts to promote employment and bring down inequalities are beginning to pay off, governments cannot afford to let up.” (Read full speech)

 

Going for Growth 2017 suggests governments should concentrate reform efforts around packages of policy measures designed to simultaneously target economic and social objectives. The framework for selecting policy priorities laid out in this year’s report considers for the first time inclusiveness as a prime objective, alongside productivity and employment, which are the principal drivers of average income growth.  “Governments in most countries need reforms to escape the low-growth trap and prepare for coming technological changes, but they must pay better attention to addressing the concerns of those who bear the costs of the reform agenda,” Mr Gurría said. “Putting inclusiveness at the heart of the policy equation is the only appropriate response to the growing political headwinds that have slowed reform.” Presenting Going for Growth with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble ahead of the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors taking place in Baden Baden, Mr Gurría said that implementing the report’s reform recommendations would help to achieve the G-20 objectives for stronger and more inclusive growth.

 

The Going for Growth analysis forms the basis of the OECD’s wider contribution to the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth. The OECD works with G20 countries to quantify their efforts to boost GDP and to achieve national growth strategy objectives. The recipe for reform varies by country, but the ingredients include measures to promote business dynamism and the diffusion of innovation, to help workers to cope with the rapid turnover of firms and jobs, and to better prepare youth for the labour market of the future. These will require improving outcomes and equity in basic education and adult training programmes, exposing businesses to stronger product market competition, including through greater openness to cross-border trade and investment, and beefing-up job search assistance and other active labour market policies to facilitate the return to work in quality jobs of laid-off workers. Going for Growth 2017 notes that the pace of reforms continues to vary across both countries and policy areas. It points out that governments have tended to concentrate reform efforts in specific policy areas, running the risk of missing potential gains from policy synergies and reform complementarities. Improved packaging of reforms would make them easier to implement, maximise the impact on growth and job creation and help reduce income inequality.

 

Among the highlights in this year’s report: 

·         The pace of reform has slowed in countries which have been particularly active in the previous two-year period, such as Mexico, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Poland and Spain, as well as in a number of countries where reform activity was not so intense, including Australia, Indonesia and Slovenia. 

·         Reform intensity has increased noticeably in some countries which had not been among the most active reformers, such as Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Italy and Sweden, as well as in Austria, Brazil and France. 

·         The slowdown in the pace of reform is principally driven by a decline in reforms tin productivity-related areas. Given the importance of productivity gains for long-term living standards, this year’s report puts more emphasis on reform priorities in the areas of education, product market competition and public investment. 

·         Many countries have heeded OECD recommendations to boost job creation by lowering labour tax wedges on low-wage workers. Individualised job search support and wage subsidies have been stepped up to facilitate the return to work of the long-term unemployed.  Similarly, the number of reforms aimed at reducing barriers to women working, including increased access to child care and early childhood education, are increasing.  These are both areas where pro-growth reforms also promote greater inclusiveness.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 03/17/2017

 

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Vulnerable Countries from Asia-Pacific Meet to Invest on Climate Action

 

Finance ministers and senior officials from 15 developing economies across Asia and the Pacific met today at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters in Manila to discuss enhanced economic and financial responses to climate change. The 3-day regional consultation of the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance (V20) aims to mobilize international, regional, and national investment for climate action, as well as discuss financial instruments for disaster risk reduction, public financial management, and carbon pricing. It is supported by ADB, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank Group, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. "Climate-vulnerable countries such as the Philippines fought to enshrine a 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming limit in the Paris Agreement not only to survive but also to thrive. We have to transition to clean energy-powered economies not just because it will save the climate but also because it will produce more jobs and pump prime the economy," said Philippine Senator Loren Legarda, who opened the consultation.

 

Led by the Philippines when it was established in 2015, the V20 has expanded to 43 developing economies from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The 15 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific consultation include Ethiopia (the current V20 Chair), Bangladesh, Barbados, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Kiribati, Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Palau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam. "Eighteen of the 43 V20 countries are developing member countries of ADB, representing 40% of ADB’s total developing country membership. We are delighted to host this important regional consultation to implement the V20’s 5-year Action Plan," said Preety Bhandari, ADB’s Director for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management. "ADB looks forward to supporting the V20 in moving forward on its agreed actions in Asia and the Pacific, maintaining a continuing and open dialogue to strengthen climate resilience, and ensuring that ADB assistance is tailored to support the achievement of V20 priorities, both nationally and regionally."

 

The event will support the roll out of the V20 Action Plan — adopted in 2015 to address V20 climate finance needs — and provide an opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience between the countries in support of enhanced climate finance and technical capabilities. It will also focus on disaster risk financing to strengthen the countries’ financial resilience against disaster risk at national and international levels. “If not managed well, disasters can roll back years of development gains and plunge millions of people into poverty,” said Olivier Mahul, Program Manager for Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program, the World Bank Group. “Today, on International Women’s Day, let us not forget that women are among the vulnerable after a disaster, as the economic devastation exacerbates gender equality.” Finance ministers from Kiribati, Palau, and Sri Lanka, and government officials from the Philippines are also attending the opening day event apart from representatives of international and regional development banks, international organizations, civil society, business community, media, and the academe. For official photographs from the opening session, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecvf/

From https://www.adb.org/ 03/08/2017

 

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CHINA: More Proactive Fiscal Policy, Further Tax Reduction in 2017 Eyed

 

China will pursue a more proactive and effective fiscal policy with government fiscal deficit projected to be 3 percent of its GDP, according to a government work report available to the media on Sunday. While the deficit-to-GDP ratio stays unchanged from last year, the government fiscal deficit volume is set at 2.38 trillion yuan (about 345 billion U.S. dollars), a year-on-year increase of 200 billion yuan, said the report to be delivered to the national legislature annual session. In a breakdown, the projected deficit of the central government is 1.55 trillion yuan, and that of local governments is 830 billion yuan. Keeping the deficit-to-GDP ratio unchanged at 3 percent aims to "allow for further reductions in taxes and fees," the report says. Tax burden on businesses is expected to be further eased by around 350 billion yuan, and business related fees will be further cut by around 200 billion yuan to benefit market entities. "We will keep government spending low and enrich our people," says the report, promising that the government will squeeze out more funds to cover cuts in taxes and fees.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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China to Meet Uncertainty with Stability

 

China on Sunday highlighted economic and social stability in 2017 as vital to maintaining growth, ensuring employment, and counteracting risks from both home and abroad. "Stability is of overriding importance... we must not allow the red line to be crossed concerning financial security, people's wellbeing, or environmental protection," said Premier Li Keqiang as he delivered a government work report to the opening meeting of the annual session of the top legislature. Under the prerequisite of stability, China should forge ahead with reforms to seek progress in key areas, Li pledged, cautioning risks related to non-performing assets, bond defaults, shadow banking, and Internet finance. The rising tide of protectionism and de-globalization threatening the world economic framework, means the theme of "seeking progress while maintaining stability" must remain the guiding light for China's economic work.

 

The premier noted that uncertainties about the direction of some major economies' policies and their spillover effects are gathering, which put China at a crucial and challenging stage. The 2017 growth target of around 6.5 percent -- "or higher if possible" -- sets China's economy in a proper range with enough room for reform. Last year's target of 6.5-7 percent saw the economy expand by 6.7 percent, the job market remain steady, and reforms progress at an appropriate pace. "Without stability, China could never achieve such a target," said Jia Kang, a national political advisor and chief economist with the China Academy of New Supply-side Economics. The significance of stability cannot be overemphasized in 2017. Apart from the challenges from both home and abroad, this year will see the opening of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress, when a new CPC central committee will be elected, making stability of crucial importance.

 

With due attention to stability, Li's report made no bones about the need to tackle "really tough" issues this year, promising that there would be no shying away from the five tasks of supply-side structural reform: cutting industrial capacity, reducing housing inventories, deleveraging, cutting corporate costs and strengthening weak economic links. Coal production capacity will be slashed by at least 150 million tonnes and steel by around 50 million tonnes this year. "Zombie enterprises" -- economically unviable businesses usually in industries with severe overcapacity and kept alive only with aid from the government and banks -- will be dealt with through more use of market- and law-based methods. The screws will also be turned on corporate leverage, especially in state-owned enterprises.

 

While tackling structural imbalance at home, China is committed to a wider opening-up and greater engagement with near neighbors and distant partners: a responsible player in strengthening global growth and governance, during difficult times. Sunday's report not only re-emphasized the role of the Belt and Road Initiative, but promised more efforts to facilitate trade and investment, both inbound and outbound. Foreign companies will be welcomed into national science and technology projects. They will be able to go public in China and to issue bonds. "China's door will keep opening wider, and China will keep working to be the most attractive destination for foreign investment," said the report. Political advisor Zhang Yunling said China will defend openness and the development of a truly global economy. China's pursuit of "stability with progress" will breed a new mechanism for international cooperation and the shared development of all countries.                

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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China to Pursue Prudent, Neutral Monetary Policy in 2017

 

China will pursue a prudent and neutral monetary policy in 2017, with the M2 money supply to grow by around 12 percent, according to a government work report to be delivered at the annual parliamentary session Sunday. The M2 growth target was one percentage point lower from the 13 percent set for last year. In 2016, the M2 money supply increased by 11.3 percent, according to the report. The government will apply a full range of monetary policy instruments, maintain basic stability in liquidity, see that market interest rates remain at an appropriate level, and improve the transmission mechanism of monetary policy. Efforts will be made to encourage a greater flow of financial resources into the real economy, particularly in support of agriculture, rural areas and farmers, and small and micro businesses, it said.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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Pilot Supervisory Reform Paves Way for National Legislation

 

China's pilot reform of supervisory system in three provincial-level regions will pave the way for national legislation, Minister of Supervision Yang Xiaodu said Sunday. Beijing Municipality and Shanxi and Zhejiang provinces are the first three to pilot this major reform of anti-corruption system. On this basis, China aims to establish a national supervisory commission and create a law on national supervision. "The pilot work is running smoothly and we will continue to study specific issues and accumulate material for national legislation," Yang told reporters during the annual session of the national legislative. The pilot work will see the establishment of local supervisory commissions at three levels -- province, city and county -- in order to form an integrated system that is "unified, authoritative and efficient." The commissions will integrate the functions of discipline inspection, supervision, prosecution and auditing in Communist Party of China (CPC), government and judicial agencies.

 

As part of major political reforms, supervisory system reform will help strengthen the CPC Central Committee's overall leadership over anti-corruption work, Yang said. "The legislation on supervision is in essence national anti-corruption legislation, which aims for supervising all civil servants," the minister said. "To forge iron, one must be strong," Yang said, calling for efforts to build a loyal and clean supervision task force that is also bold in assuming responsibilities. In the meantime, Yang dismissed speculation that the fight against corruption is fading in China, saying it is groundless and China will unswervingly maintain high pressure against corruption.                   

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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Beijing to Strengthen Regulation of Online Catering

 

Beijing pledges to strengthen regulation of online catering platforms to ensure food safety, the municipal food and drug administration said. Supervision over the platforms will include checking business licenses and health certificates and, more importantly, the quality of ingredients and health conditions of cooks of the restaurants on the platforms, the administration announced on Wednesday, World Consumer Rights Day, also known as "3.15" in China. Thirty-four restaurants have recently been ordered to withdraw from waimai.meituan.com, one of the most popular such platforms in China, for selling cold dishes without a license, said Li Jiang, head of the food market regulation office of the administration. The administration will launch spot checks on food safety of the restaurants and order them to post pictures of their kitchens and cooking process on the platforms, according to Li.

 

A restaurant rating system will be introduced on the platforms, so that customers can choose higher rated ones, Li added. According to statistics, Beijing has five online food ordering and delivery services, including waimai.meituan and waimai.baidu, with altogether 67,000 restaurants on them. China has adopted strict food safety regulations in recent years, but the proliferation of kitchens and restaurants riding the e-commerce boom has made supervision more difficult. The food safety watchdog in Ningbo City in east China's Zhejiang Province said it will introduce a supervision system for the online catering sector using big data techniques that can collect information on more than 10,000 restaurants in an hour.                        

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/15/2017

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China Adopts General Provisions of the Civil Law

 

China's national legislature on Wednesday passed the General Provisions of the Civil Law, the opening chapter of a civil code planned to be enacted in 2020. The General Provisions were adopted at the closing meeting of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), with 2,782 of the 2,838 deputies present voting in favor. It takes effect on Oct. 1 this year. Compiling a civil code, a decision made by the central leadership in 2014, has been deemed as a "must-do" to promote the country's rule of law and modernize state governance, and as a crucial move in building China into a moderately prosperous society by 2020. A two-step approach has been designed for developing the code.

 

The adoption of the General Provisions, which lays down basic principles for regulating civil activities, marks the crucial first step. The second step, the compiling of five individual books that deal with property, contract, tort liability, marriage and inheritance, started late last year. Work on the books will be stepped up. "With the General Provisions, 1.3 billion Chinese will feel more secure and enjoy more equal opportunities and dignity," said Sun Xianzhong, a national lawmaker and deputy head of the China Civil Law Society. "The birth of the General Provisions is not the finishing line. There is a long way ahead for such a huge project as compiling a civil code," said Sun, who has spent years pushing for the civil code.

 

PROTECTION NETWORK

The General Provisions are based on a 1986 version, also called the General Principles of Civil Law. Though historically significant, the 1986 General Principles included some outdated provisions. Furthermore, with the promulgation of many separate civil laws over past decades, judges might hand down different verdicts in the same case as they turn to different laws when making judgments. To better handle new conditions arising in China's socio-economic development, lawmakers have revised a number of clauses in the 1986 version and added new ones to better protect individuals and organizations. The General Provisions add an article for the protection of the interests of fetuses. Fetuses that require protection in the succession of estates and receipt of donations shall be deemed as having the capacity for civil rights.

 

Yao Jianlong, a law professor with Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, hailed the new provision as "great progress." "If the law fails to properly recognize, respect and protect the rights of fetuses, problems could arise for protecting their rights after they are born," said Yao. The General Provisions lower the statutory age limit for minors with limited capacity for civil conduct from 10 to eight years. The move is primarily designed to raise minors' awareness of their rights and obligations, said Zhang Rongshun, vice chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee. The General Provisions stipulate that an adult with no or limited capacity for civil conduct shall be eligible for a guardian, meaning seniors unable to care for themselves will be placed under guardianship.

 

The 1986 General Principles prescribe guardians only for minors and mentally ill people with no or limited capacity for civil conduct. In addition, the General Provisions grant the status of "special legal persons" to rural economic collectives and villagers' committees, among other organizations, which will facilitate their civil activities, such as entering into contracts, and better protect their members' rights and interests. Zhang described the new legal document as "keeping with the times and also forward-looking," evident by the protection for personal information, online virtual assets and intellectual property rights. The provisions also stipulate that civil subjects must be aware of the need to save resources and protect the environment in their civil activities.

 

The "green" principle reflects China's need to strike a balance between its population of 1.3 billion and the environment for a long time to come. Many opinions and revisions have been taken on board during the process of making the general provisions. Last year, the draft went through three readings at the bi-monthly sessions of the NPC Standing Committee. Public opinions were solicited multiple times and symposia held to gather suggestions. More than 70,000 opinions were collected. Upon suggestions by lawmakers, a new provision was added during the just-concluded annual session to hold people accountable for damaging the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs. People who harm the name, portrait, reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs, thus hurting the public interest, shall bear civil liability, the provision states.

 

DREAM COMING TRUE

It has long been a dream of China to develop a civil code of its own. Drafting of the General Provisions started in March 2015, following a decision by the Communist Party of China to compile a civil code at a key meeting in October 2014. In 1954, 1962, 1979 and 2001 respectively, China made separate attempts to draft a civil law, all halted due to various reasons including political turmoil. This time China is readier than ever to see the task through to completion. Since 1979, a series of separate laws have been introduced, including the Property Law, Inheritance Law and Tort Liability Law, laying a good foundation for compilation of the civil code. Lawmakers will make necessary revisions to the existing laws to integrate them into the code, said Zhang Rongshun with the NPC Standing Committee. According to the legislative schedule, the civil code's individual books are expected to be submitted as a whole for a first reading at a bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee in 2018. The NPC Standing Committee will then organize separate reviews of the books. "We need a complete civil law system to adapt to the well-off society we are building," he said.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/15/2017

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China Approves Plan for Nuclear Power Safety

 

China's cabinet, the State Council, has approved a plan for nuclear power safety and radioactive pollution control. 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. China currently operates 36 nuclear reactors, and is building 20 new ones, world's largest number of reactors under construction, according to an official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The safety of the country's nuclear facilities should be markedly enhanced by 2020, with lower occurrence rate of radiation accidents and better capabilities in emergency response and safety supervision, according to the plan. By 2025, China should have modernized its supervision system and capacity on nuclear safety and radioactive pollution control, the plan said. The plan also pledged to improve China's radioactive waste disposal capacity to match the development of its nuclear industry.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/24/2017

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China Eyes NZ for Global Infrastructure Project

 

China is looking to bankroll road and rail infrastructure projects in New Zealand as part of a global investment strategy. Dubbed One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or the Belt and Road Initiative, it aims to create numerous major land and maritime transport corridors around the world. The US$4 trillion initiative is likely to be on the agenda on Monday when Prime Minister Bill English meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived in Wellington on Sunday night. Premier Li has been one of the driving forces behind OBOR, and has signed deals across Asia and Africa for infrastructure projects upgrading or building new railways, roads, airports, and seaports. Newshub understands China wants New Zealand to be part of the programme, with state-owned China Rail recently signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Northland Regional Council. The MOU makes plain China Rail's desire to build road, rail, and digital infrastructure linking Whangarei to NorthPort and Marsden Point. It could include an extension of the main trunk rail line, and there's talk of a 22km, four-lane expressway from Whangarei to the Port that would be tolled. Trade Minister Todd McClay didn't know anything about the China Rail deal, but does want to discuss the OBAR initiative with Premier Li. "It's fairly early days in exactly what China may be thinking in as far as its Belt and Road Initiative," says Mr McClay. "We're very keen to hear from the Chinese about what they have in mind, and if there's something there that looks like it would be beneficial to the New Zealand economy and to New Zealanders, then certainly the Government is willing to consider it."

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/26/2017

 

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JAPAN: Inclusive Society Plan Mooted for 2020 Games

 

The government on Monday drew up an action plan to realize an inclusive society in which everyone can live comfortably, including those with disabilities, going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Under the action plan, the government will work with organizations for disabled people, aiming to utilize such people’s perspectives as much as possible. “I want to realize an inclusive society using the Tokyo Paralympics as a good opportunity, making it one of the best legacies” of the quadrennial sporting event, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a ministerial meeting in Tokyo. The action plan has two pillars — the cultivation of barrier-free mental attitudes and urban development based on universal design. A panel of experts including representatives from organizations for the disabled will review the progress of measures from the action plan, based on reports from government agencies. The outcome of such reviews will be reflected in following year’s measures.

 

As part of efforts to change people’s mindsets, manuals on treatment of the disabled will be drawn up respectively for the transportation, tourism, retail and restaurant industries within fiscal 2017, which starts in April. A uniform symbol to indicate that the wearer is ready to assist disabled people will be created as early as fiscal 2018. The government plans to distribute the mark to those who complete a program for supporting disabled people, aiming to spread it across the nation. On urban development, the government plans to review guidelines for public transportation and design standards for buildings such as hotels, looking to revise the country’s barrier-free transportation law. The government also plans to step up its efforts to improve access not just at Tokyo Olympic competition venues but also at public facilities, including train stations, airports and restrooms.

From http://the-japan-news.com 02/21/2017

 

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Parties Still Divided over Whether or Not to Institutionalize Abdication

 

We hope each political party will advance serious discussions on pertinent issues so a definite scheme can be worked out that will be acceptable to many people. The chiefs and vice chiefs of both chambers in the Diet have heard the opinions of each political party and parliamentary bloc regarding issues related to the idea of enabling the Emperor to abdicate the throne, followed by the start of discussions on the matter. All political parties showed understanding about that idea. What divided their views were the pros and cons of revising the Imperial House Law to establish a permanent abdication system that will also apply to future emperors. The Liberal Democratic Party insisted it would be extremely difficult to establish requirements for institutionalization in this respect. The LDP also advanced the opinion that “it is desirable to limit abdication-related measures to a single emperor’s reign.” This was based on the idea of establishing a special law for that purpose. Supposing the intention of an emperor is treated as a requirement for abdication, it could infringe on Article 4 of the Constitution, which states: “The Emperor ... shall not have powers related to government.” The LDP’s negative stan

 

Komeito stated that the current system, which involves an emperor’s lifetime reign, should be maintained, but at the same time, it supported the idea of dealing with the matter under special legislation. The Democratic Party demanded the Imperial House Law incorporate a provision that would enable an emperor to step down from the throne, based on his intention and through deliberation at a meeting of the Imperial Household Council. The DP also expressed the opinion that a special law limited to a single emperor’s reign could be suspected of being unconstitutional, as seen in light of Article 2 of the Constitution, which states that the throne must be “succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial House Law.” The Japanese Communist Party has insisted on amending the Imperial House Law, too. The Liberal Party accepted the idea of revising that law while also emphasizing their view that it would be desirable to set up a regency. The four parliamentary officials — the speaker and vice speaker of the House of Representatives and the president and vice president of the House of Councillors — are scheduled to submit an opinion formed in the Diet to the government by mid-March. After studying such elements as a proposal to be advanced by a panel of experts tasked with discussing abdication-related matters, the government intends to submit relevant legislation to the current Diet session.

 

The Constitution states that an emperor derives his position from “the will of the people.” It is advisable to formulate a proposal regarding the abdication issue, based on a consensus among many parties. The chiefs and vice chiefs of the lower and upper houses have a role to assume in paving the way for facilitating mutual concessions among political parties. The LDP has also mentioned that there is a need to clarify relations among the Constitution, the Imperial House Law and legislative measures. This can be viewed as hinting at the idea of newly writing a legal basis for the envisaged special law into supplementary provisions of the Imperial House Law. The idea seems to have been presented in consideration of the constitutional questions raised by the DP. We believe the LDP’s idea is worthy of examination. There is a rigid opinion within the DP that no compromise should be made. It is important to listen to each other’s opinions so discussions can be moved forward. In the latest hearings of opinions, there were calls for discussions on the issue of stable succession to the Imperial throne. Besides the abdication issue, some other matters should be considered in the future, such as the idea of establishing female branches of the Imperial family.

From http://the-japan-news.com 02/21/2017

 

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Bill on Tougher Regulations for Private Lodging Drafted

 

The government has drawn up a draft bill stipulating tougher regulations on “minpaku” private lodging businesses. Fearing an increase in noise complaints and other problems with neighboring residents on the back of the increasing number of foreign travelers in Japan using such services, the bill obliges “minpaku” service providers to adhere to strict new regulations. Operators who breach the new regulations will be urged to suspend or discontinue their business, and they could face a punishment of a fine up to 1 million yen or imprisonment of up to six months, should they keep ignoring the rules. The government plans to submit the bill to the Diet in March. “Minpaku” has become a buzzword as Japan needs to address the shortage of hotels and inns ahead of 2020 when the government aims to attract 40 million tourists from abroad, up sharply from the already record high 24 million in 2016.

 

But opponents cite concerns over a possible increase in tensions between lodgers and neighboring residents, particularly in relation to noise and garbage. Under the bill, “minpaku” service providers will be required to clean their facilities regularly and keep a record of their lodgers including names, addresses and occupations. Rooms in private houses and condominiums can be rented to travelers for up to 180 days a year but municipalities will be allowed to cut the number if it is feared they have an adverse effect on local residents. According to the bill, “minpaku” services must be registered with local or prefectural governments, in order for the government to keep a closer watch on operators. Airbnb Inc, a popular U.S. online marketplace and homestay network, said the same day it will stop displaying on its website “minpaku” service providers who rent out rooms for more than 180 days a year in preparation to adhere to the envisioned rule change.

From https://www.japantoday.com 02/22/2017

 

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New Imperial Era Name Likely to Be Decided Without Public Consultation

 

The government is not planning to solicit public opinion about the next Imperial era name should Emperor Akihito relinquish the throne, a government source said Sunday. An era name, or gengo, remains in use for the length of an emperor’s reign, with the current period under Emperor Akihito known as Heisei. The era changed from Showa to Heisei on Jan. 8, 1989, a day after his father Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, died. The process of selecting an era name, regarded as a matter of urgency, was expedited to circumvent the normally required process of incorporating public submissions when passing an ordinance. But the succession from Emperor Akihito to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, could take place at a predetermined date because the government plans to announce the new era name at least several months before the Emperor’s envisioned abdication. He is 83. The government source acknowledged that seeking public comment improves transparency, but also expressed concern that it might not be able to come up with a “satisfactory” name in time if the opinions presented diverge too widely. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is reportedly seeking to pass special legislation in the Diet that would allow the Emperor to pass on the Chrysanthemum Throne without dying, a move that will bring the Heisei Era to an end.

 

An idea to change the era name on the first day of 2019 has been floated. Changes in era names affect the public’s lives in various ways, because calendars and official documents often designate years by era name with or without reference to the Gregorian date. Systems engineers and businesses such as calendar makers will be required to reflect the change. Currently, death is the only path to succession because the Imperial House Law lacks a provision for abdication. The government began addressing the possibility of abdication for Emperor Akihito after he hinted at his desire to do so in a rare video message last summer. Any abdication would be Japan’s first since Emperor Kokaku did so some 200 years ago. In selecting the Heisei name, the government sought ideas behind closed doors from specialists in oriental studies and Chinese literature. But after wartime Emperor Hirohito died, the name Heisei was selected in one day. The government officially solicited ideas for a next era name from intellectuals and presented three ideas to a panel of experts. The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting the same day. The government is not legally obliged to abide by the outcome of public consultation but is required to give thorough consideration to suggestions and present its opinions on the proposals.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp 02/27/2017

 

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Economy Ministry Keeps Offices Locked Under New Info Security Policy

 

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry introduced a new information security step Monday by locking all offices to prevent unauthorized entry, in a move that could limit media access to its officials. The ministry has begun locking its doors electronically during working hours in a rare move, requiring news organizations to make a call to an official to ask to open the door. The move comes as weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun recently reported that the ministry leaked information about the summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month. Among ministries, some offices dealing with confidential information at the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism are usually locked. The ministry said the new measure is part of its review on information security policy and “has nothing to do with any specific case.” An interview with a media organization has to be held in a designated room and details of the interview need to be reported to those in charge of public relations under the new policy. News organizations Monday decided to ask the ministry for explanation and withdrawal of the new policy. The ministry claims the disclosure of information “will stay the same.” But some officials think the cumbersome new process can be used as an excuse to deny interview requests.

From https://www.japantoday.com 02/28/2017

 

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Govt Adopts Bill to Allow ‘Minpaku’

 

The government adopted at a cabinet meeting Friday a bill to set rules on the emerging “minpaku” business, which makes vacant rooms in private homes available as accommodation for tourists, particularly from abroad. The bill, if enacted, will officially lift a ban on such business across the country. “We hope to offer a variety of accommodation services to improve foreign visitors’ convenience and comfort,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference. According to the bill, owners of houses and rooms for the minpaku private lodging service will be obliged to make business registrations with prefectural governments, take adequate hygiene control measures and properly respond to complaints. Offering of the minpaku service will be limited to 180 nights per year and the ceiling will be lowered under local government ordinances in areas where residents are concerned about possible worsening of their living environment. Meanwhile, minpaku service agents, such as Airbnb Inc. of the United States, will be required to register with the state. The government aims to put the new law into force in January 2018 at the earliest. Currently, the minpaku service is available in state-designated special deregulation zones, such as Tokyo’s Ota Ward and Osaka Prefecture.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/10/2017

 

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Diet Chiefs Propose Special Abdication Law

 

The heads of both chambers of the Diet jointly put forward a draft proposal to create a special law to allow the Emperor to step down, at a meeting with representatives from political parties on the abdication issue on Wednesday. The proposal backs a one-off abdication law that would apply to the 83-year-old Emperor only, while calling for the temporary law to be based on a new Imperial House Law supplementary clause that would stipulate the unity of both laws. The top Diet officials plan to submit the Diet’s recommendation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, after obtaining the consent of all parties. Based on the proposal, the government will draw up a related bill for submission to the Diet after the Golden Week holiday period from late April to early May, hoping to see it enacted during the ongoing Diet session, which is currently scheduled to end on June 18.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/15/2017

 

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Cabinet Adopts Bill on Terror Planning

 

The government adopted Tuesday a contentious bill that would criminalize conspiracy and preparations to commit terrorism and other serious offenses through a revision of the law penalizing organized crimes. The bill, adopted at a Cabinet meeting, seeks to cover a total of 277 crimes after the government narrowed down the list of acts to be criminalized, by setting stricter criteria for crimes punishable under the bill. Similar legislation was scrapped three times in the past due to concerns that creating a crime of conspiracy may lead to punishing citizens’ groups and labor unions. The government aims to win enactment of the new legislation during the ongoing Diet session, currently scheduled to end on June 18. In the coming debate over the bill, it is expected to face tough questioning by opposition parties, which are worried about abuse of power by law-enforcement authorities. The anti-conspiracy legislation is part of the government’s efforts to develop legal systems that would allow Japan to become a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which won Diet approval in 2003.

 

“To prepare for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics only three years away, we need to take every possible measure to prevent terrorism and other organized crimes,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on Tuesday. “We will aim to have the [anti-conspiracy] bill enacted as soon as possible.” Speaking in a separate press conference, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda stressed that the list of crimes targeted by the bill has been narrowed down. “The content is something that dispels anxieties and concerns that have been expressed so far,” Kaneda said. Past government proposals to penalize people for plotting crimes were criticized as attempts to infringe on freedom of thought. To avoid such criticism, the latest bill calls for punishing preparations for executing crimes, including arrangements to procure funds and goods and preparatory inspections of related sites. The U.N. treaty requires signatories to develop legal systems to criminalize the planning of serious crimes punishable by imprisonment of at least four years. In drawing up the bill, the government initially planned to cover all 676 acts of conspiracy that fall under this category. After Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, claimed that the coverage would be too extensive, however, the government decided to limit the bill’s application to acts closely linked to organized crimes.

 

The text change forced the government to put off the bill’s adoption, which was initially planned for March 10. The Justice Ministry has presented a view that ordinary groups may be recognized as organized crime groups if their characteristics change drastically. As an example of such groups, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pointed to the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which committed a series of deadly crimes, including the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system, which killed 13 people and left more than 6,000 injured. But no specific criteria have been indicated for judging when an ordinary group has transformed itself into a crime group. Opposition parties stand against the government view, claiming that ordinary citizens could be penalized at the discretion of investigative authorities. They also dispute the validity of the government’s explanation that the legislation is part of its antiterrorism measures, as the U.N. convention is mainly intended to prevent economic crimes.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/21/2017

 

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SOUTH KOREA: To Revise Law on Personal Pension Scheme

 

South Korea's financial authorities said Friday they are preparing to revise legislation on a personal pension system as part of efforts to address the post-retirement poverty problem. "The government will do its best to submit a revision bill to the National Assembly by May," Yoo Kwang-yeol, standing commissioner of the Securities and Futures Commission, said at a public hearing on the issue. The SFC, an organ of the Financial Services Commission, is responsible for the oversight of the securities and futures markets. In 2026, he pointed out, South Korea will become a "super-aged society," where 20 percent or more of the population is 65 or older. Concern has grown that the current state and private pension plans are not sufficient to cover the life of a growing number of retirees and elderly people. "While South Korea has the world's fastest speed in becoming a super-aged society from an aging one, the poverty rate of elderly people reaches 48.5 percent, quadruple the OECD average of 11.6 percent," Yoo said. Furthermore, around 70 percent of the people's assets are based on real estate, deepening liquidity woes after retirement, he added. The government plans to allow local financial firms to expand personal pension products including the trust-type pension system. Personal pension accounts will be introduced as well.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 02/24/2017

 

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Govt. Unveils R&D Road Map for 2018

 

The government unveiled its research and development plan for next year on Tuesday to secure a new growth strategy to cope with the fast-paced industrial transformation going forward. Under the road map crafted by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the government will increase R&D productivity by securing critical intelligence information technologies that characterize the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The plan was finalized after getting input from relevant government agencies as well as experts from academia, officials said. The fourth revolution is characterized by many technologies in such areas as the digital, biological and artificial intelligence fields all being merged together to create economic and social systems that are different from what people are used to at present. The ministry said the plan calls for continued support for the basic science sector by injecting 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in 2018, up from 1.26 trillion won allocated for this year, as the sector will eventually lead to the development of cutting-edge technologies. The ministry said technologies such as the Internet of Things and AI are forecast to generate business opportunities and profits worth 560 trillion won by 2030.

Noticeably, the ministry said it will make all-out efforts to find growth momentum in the AI sector, saying that it will raise the country's competitiveness amid growing calls for South Korea to revamp its R&D strategy to catch up with other global powerhouses in the field. Also, the ministry will strengthen investment in products and services by integrating various information and communication technologies to find new sources of profits. The government, in addition, will continue to support new industries that show huge growth potential to secure the core technologies of rivals. Noticeably, Seoul will strengthen support for promising venture firms and startups in biotechnology sectors such as genomes and brain science. Under the plan, South Korea aims to become a global biotech and medical industry hub by investing more in developing key expertise in areas such as new medicine, medical instruments and future-oriented treatment drugs, which are widely viewed as the nation's next growth engines after IT. The ministry then said it will infuse the ICT and software sectors to make public service "smarter" and eventually to improve the quality of people's livelihoods, officials said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 03/14/2017

 

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MYANMAR: Income Tax Exempted Zones for Investment Announced

 

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) announced on Thursday three zones where income tax for investment will be exempted or relaxed in accordance with their development status. According to the commission, less-developed regions are designated as Zone-1, while relatively developed regions as Zone-2 and developed regions as Zone-3. Investment in the less developed region will enjoy more income tax exemption. Under the new investment policy, the investors will enjoy income tax exemption for a consecutive 7 years starting from the year of commercial operation for investment in Zone-1, while those will do so for a consecutive 5 years by investing in Zone-2 and 3 years for investment in Zone-3. Most of the investment are in the developed regions such as Yangon and Mandalay, while the less developed ones are Shan state and Sagaing region. However, the investors are urged to invest in the government's promoted sectors to enjoy the tax privileges, U Than Aung Kyaw, Deputy Director General of Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), told Xinhua. The regulations of the new investment law will be finalized in this month and the law will take effect from April this year along with the tax privileges prescribed.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/02/2017

 

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Myanmar to Boost Revenue Under New Tax Law

 

Myanmar's new government has laid down plan to collect more revenue in the next fiscal year 2017-18 under a new tax law passed by the parliament, according to official media Tuesday. According to the new law, the country plans to collect 6,481.0088 billion kyats (about 4.77 billion U.S. dollar) in the next fiscal year and this expected amount is 261.25 billion kyats more than the current fiscal year. Under the plan, the government is to increase the commercial tax rate on alcohol, beer, wine and cigarettes. Reforming financial sector, especially the taxation system, is one of the highlighted sectors of the government 12-point economic policy which was introduced in the first four months after taking office. Proper taxation remains one of the best remedies for the country's huge budget deficit, said local economists. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, in her address at the opening ceremony of Women's Week Forum in Nay Phi Taw Monday, called on entrepreneurs to dutifully pay taxes as a contribution to the country, warning those who evade tax will be taken action in accordance with the law.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 03/07/2017

 

 

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PHILIPPINES: House Passes Bill to Restore Death Penalty

 

The Philippine House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a controversial bill that restores the death penalty in the Philippines. The House approved House Bill No. 4727, which seeks to reimpose capital punishment on drug-related crimes on third and final reading with 217 affirmative votes. Fifty-four lawmakers voted against the measure while one abstained. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who assumed the presidency in June last year, has vigorously pushed for the reimposition of the capital punishment law, saying it's an effective deterrent against heinous crimes. The bill, coded as House Bill 4727, seeks to punish the perpetrators of eight drug offenses with either life imprisonment or death. The original draft of the House Bill 4727 included 21 heinous crimes, including plunder, rape and treason. However, the number of crimes were lowered after a House caucus agreed to remove plunder, rape and treason from the list, and then limited only to drug-related crimes when it was passed by the House on second reading last week.

 

The bill will be transmitted to the Senate for deliberations by the senators. The bill becomes into law when Duterte finally signs it. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty in 2006. Under Arroyo's watch, the Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires state parties to abolish capital punishment. The Death Penalty was abolished under the 1987 Constitution after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in Feb. 1987. The Philippines then became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. All death sentences were reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. In 1993, the then administration of President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty to address the rising criminality and incidence of heinous crimes. In 1999, then President Joseph Estrada issued a de facto moratorium on executions in the face of church-led campaigns to abolish the death penalty.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/07/2017

 

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SINGAPORE: New Cybersecurity Professional Scheme to Groom Public Sector Experts

 

SINGAPORE: A new Cybersecurity Professional Scheme for the public sector was revealed by the Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday (Mar 6). Speaking during his ministry’s Committee of Supply (COS) debates in Parliament, Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security, said the scheme is aimed to attract, develop and retain cybersecurity practitioners (CSPs) in the public sector. There are currently about 300 officers doing cybersecurity work in the public sector, and the Government hopes to double this over the next few years, he said. Centrally managed by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), the scheme will develop a core of cybersecurity specialists to be deployed across agencies to support Singapore’s cyber defences, Dr Yaacob said. Besides gaining practical experiences through postings to the 11 critical sectors and different public agencies, CSPs can choose to build deeper technical competencies across the Government in areas such as security-by-design consultancy and cyber forensics.

 

The scheme will be operational from July this year, MCI said.  “As part of the on-going efforts to professionalise the wider cyber workforce, the scheme will also provide a framework to catalyse growth and uplift the overall industry,” Dr Yaacob said. The scheme is in addition to other manpower development efforts previously announced or during the current COS such as the Cyber Security Associates and Technologists (CSAT) programme and the Ministry of Defence announcing its new NS cyber vocation, and will help complement these, he added.  The minister also noted efforts by the private sector to grow the industry, pointing to Singtel, for instance, and its interactive online portal called the Cyber Security Experience. The portal, which will be launched soon, will reach out to students to interest them in the topic and hopefully get them to join the field in the future, he said. The increased focus on cybersecurity, particularly in the public sector, comes amid the revelation that MINDEF’s Internet-facing I-net system was breached and personal data of 850 national servicemen and staff were stolen.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/06/2017

 

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President Tony Tan Gives Assent for Supply Bill 2017

 

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan has given his assent to the Supply Bill, which authorises the Government expenditures proposed in Budget 2017.  In a Facebook post on Thursday (Mar 16), Dr Tan said that after due consideration, he and the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) concur that the year's Budget, with an expected surplus of S$1.9 billion, is unlikely to draw on Singapore's past reserves. He noted that the elected president's discretionary power in the supply process is a constitutional safeguard to ensure that any expenditure drawing on the country's past reserves need the concurrence of the president.  "In exercising this discretionary power, I have the benefit of receiving the independent advice of the CPA," Dr Tan said, adding that this institution means Singapore will always look to a prudent approach of "fiscal sustainability and financial discipline" when it comes to planning the nation's budget. In the post, Dr Tan said Budget 2017 "is about preparing Singapore for the future".

 

"Our future is unpredictable and bound to be more challenging. Countries across the world are adopting a more insular approach. If translated to protectionist actions, this approach will impact the global economy, slowing trade and investments. As a nation, we must prepare ourselves for this future of change," he wrote. Calling it a "future-oriented Budget", Dr Tan said the year's expenditure plan "reinforces the need for us to continue building capabilities and strengthening the partnerships among public, private and people sectors". He added that while current needs are important, it is also vital to "build a home for ourselves and future generations of Singaporeans". "Budget 2017 is also about ploughing resources back to other important areas, so that our children and children’s children can continue to live in a quality environment and a caring, cohesive society," Dr Tan said. "I am confident that with this right spirit, we can progress as a nation and move forward together as a people."  Singapore's next Presidential Election is due to be held by 2017. President Tan will not seek a second term in office as the upcoming election will be reserved for eligible Malay candidates.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/16/2017

 

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New Standards to Address Digital Design, Infrastructure for Seniors

 

SINGAPORE: A new standards framework launched on Thursday (Mar 23) will provide designers of digital devices and online services guidance on designing senior-friendly user interfaces. The Singapore Standard 618 includes points such as reducing information clutter on the website interface as well as automatically resizing pages when changing to different device sizes and types. A working group under SPRING Singapore's standardisation programme, which developed the framework, will be focusing on the development of guidelines specific to the user interface design for mobile platforms moving forward, SPRING said. The framework was one of two initiatives launched by SPRING and the Singapore Standards Council on Thursday to support active ageing in Singapore. The other was the Silver Industry Standards Roadmap, which seeks to address the challenges of an ageing population by ensuring that infrastructure and services meet quality and safety requirements. Developed by SPRING and the Silver Industry Standards Committee, the roadmap charts the direction of standards development and implementation over the next three to five years to support the needs of the elderly at the individual, community and national levels. It will look into areas such as enhancing accessibility through suitable infrastructural design within the community and home as well as enabling the pervasive use of digital solutions among the elderly, the agencies said.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/23/2017

 

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THAILAND: New Law Raises Minimum Age of Smokers to 20 In Bid to Discourage Youths

 

IN A MOVE to discourage youths from smoking, the National Legislative Assembly yesterday raised the minimum age for young people to buy cigarettes to 20 years old from the current 18 years old. Under the new Tobacco Control bill, anyone who sells cigarettes to under-age teenagers could be jailed for three months or fined up to Bt30,000 or both. The new law also stipulates that people who sell cigarettes must be at least 18 years old and each cigarette pack must contain 20 cigarettes, prohibiting the sale of individual cigarettes. The regulations, which are intended to discourage new smokers, particularly teenagers, also bans online sales of cigarettes, which can now only be sold in a specified location licensed by authorities.

 

Ban on marketing, promotional |activities

As well, vendors are not permitted to organise marketing or promotional activities, and all types of advertising are prohibited. The penalty for those who advertise could be a month in prison or a fine of Bt500,000, while producers, importers or advertisers who launch cigarette advertising campaigns could face |jail terms up to a year and a fine of Bt1.5 |million. Sellers cannot reduce prices or offer rewards to promote cigarette sales and they are also not permitted to display cigarettes. The new law also includes any products that contain nicotine substances, including baraku and electronic cigarettes. A committee will be set up, chaired by the minister of public health, which will supervise cigarette |production. It will look into the implementation of the legislation and monitor the impact of cigarette consumption on the health of people. There are an estimated 11 million smokers in Thailand and 50,000 deaths are attributed to smoking each year.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/04/2017

 

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National Strategy Plans Are the Right Path

 

SUPACHAI Panitchpakdi, former chief of the World Trade Organisation, yesterday expressed high hopes in the government’s national strategy, saying the country was “on the right path” with its long-term plans. He said the government’s long-term national strategy was necessary for the country. That was the reason he accepted his appointment as an adviser to the government’s super-committee on reform, national strategy and reconciliation building, whose Thai abbreviation is Por Yor Por, he added. Supachai also called for cooperation from all sectors to ensure success. “As the prime minister said, we need to merge the national strategy with the national development plan,” he told reporters at Government House after meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. When asked if he was confident the government’s approach would succeed, Supachai replied: “Yes, I am. This effort must be done. We can’t go without it.” Supachai served as director-general of the WTO between 2002 and 2005, and later as secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development from 2005 to 2013. In the 1990s, he served as deputy prime minister in charge of trade and economics and also commerce minister in Democrat-led governments.

 

A total of 39 experts met with the PM for the first time yesterday as advisers to the Por Yor Por. At the meeting, many advisers suggested that the focus should be on education and improvement of the human resource, according to Ekkachai Srivilas, one of the advisers. The advisers also suggested to the PM that opinions should be collected from the public and that public participation should be encouraged, Ekkachai said.  He said that two new laws would be issued – on the national strategy and reform – to facilitate the super-committee’s work. Regarding reconciliation, Tongthong Chandrangsu, another adviser, said they suggested that proposals from past panels on how to achieve reconciliation should be taken into consideration. Some subcommittees under the super-committee will be dissolved to avoid redundancy, its secretary Suvit Maesincee said yesterday. Suvit was responding to concerns that a large number of subcommittees would cause confusion. After the super-committee was settled, the irrelevant bodies will be dissolved to avoid complication, he said.

 

The PM wants to gather opinions from the experts appointed to the super-committee regarding plans to drive the national strategy, reform and reconciliation building, according to Suvit. Suvit said the PM wanted to gather opinions from the experts on the future of the country and the drive for a national strategy, reform and reconciliation. Suvit said the PM discussed the aims of the super-committee. Three tasks will be worked on this year and handed over to the new |government next year, he added. In the next two weeks, he said, |the secretaries of the four subcommittees would convene to report their progress. The super-committee will meet on April 20, he added. Prayut, creator of the new reform and reconciliation scheme, thanked the 39 experts for their sacrifice to help drive the country forward and said he hoped the country would be strong, prosperous and sustainable in line with his vision. This year was the year of reform, he said, although the process started in 2014 when he came to power.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/06/2017

 

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New Regulations ‘To Ensure’ Free Emergency Treatment

 

The Public Health Ministry has again pledged to ensure that people will receive free emergency medical services whenever they need them.  But nobody is sure this promise will really apply to all cases across the country. The public, after all, has heard too often over the past five years how so many families struggle with massive medical bills after their beloved were rushed to hospitals. This is in spite of the fact the Public Health Ministry first unveiled the policy to give people the right to free emergency medical services in 2012. Last month, a woman paid more than Bt100,000 for emergency treatment given to her 84-year-old mother during the first three days of her treatment after the mother fell down and broke her bones. “At first, I called a state hospital for an ambulance but no one answered,” the woman’s daughter, Wimontip Charoenchuen-suwan, said. “So, I called a nearby private hospital that dispatched an ambulance to our home within 10 minutes. “My mum got into the ICU and underwent an operation. As a daughter, I tried to save my mother and did everything the hospital told me to, including paying more than Bt100,000 during the first three days.” It was not till her mother started to get better she was advised that her mother should have been treated for free in the first 72 hours.

 

“Later on, the National Health Security Office [NHSO] confirmed that my mum has that right and told the hospital to return the money to me. But till now, I have not got paid back,” Wimontip said. She urged relevant authorities to help protect her mother’s rights and get her reimbursed.  “Please help us and all the patients facing the same fate,” she said. In 2015, the Foundation for Consumers received 19 complaints about patients having to pay for emergency medical services. Dr Visit Tangnapakorn, head of the Health Service Support Department, said the free medical service policy had not worked in all cases because it still relied on cooperation with private medical facilities. “But things are going to change soon with the introduction of clear regulations,” he said. Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn assigned Dr Sopon Mekthon, permanent secretary for Public Health, to fully implement the policy from next month. “We will issue three ministerial regulations to enforce the policy,” Sopon said. His ministry plans to implement the regulations under the Medical Facilities Act (Version 4), which came into effect on December 21.

 

The regulations will go into detail about the definition of emergency cases, prescribe punishments against medical facilities that refuse to provide free emergency medical services in line with prescribed procedures, and specify the standard price for emergency medical services. “We will let private hospitals get reimbursements based on the actual but reasonable cost. We won’t require them to take the flat rate,” National Institute of Emergency Medicine deputy secretary general Dr Phumin Silaphan said. He hoped the new reimbursement method would shore up the willingness of privately-run medical facilities in the delivery of free emergency medical services to patients. The current reimbursement method lists a flat rate based on treatment categories. When the actual cost reimbursement takes effect, health authorities are expected to shoulder a financial burden of at least Bt600 million more each year. There are three major healthcare schemes, with the universal coverage programme having the most – about 48 million people.

 

Medical facilities are expected to provide medical help in emergency cases for free, without asking questions about the patients’ ability to pay first. They should be able to get reimbursement from managers of those healthcare schemes via the NHSO. But because some private medical service providers believe the reimbursements are not high enough for their standards, many have chosen to demand money directly from the families of emergency-medicine patients. Phumin said when the ministry passes the three new regulations offending hospitals would face legal punishment for any lack of compliance.  “Offenders will face a fine of up to Bt40,000 and/or two-year imprisonment.” And aside from legal penalties, private hospitals should also think about their reputation, he said.  Preeyanan Lorsermvattan, of the Thai Medical Error Network, said she hoped relevant authorities would also pay attention to the need to improve relevant hotline services. “I call the hotline centre that is supposed to co-ordinate between patients and hospitals when a problem occurs or to help facilitate hospital transfers. But more often than not, no official picks up the call. It is mostly an automatic voice response,” she said.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/06/2017

 

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Cabinet Approves Asset Management Amendment Bill

 

The Cabinet Tuesday approved a bill for amendment of the BE 2551 (2008) Royal Decree defining Asset Management Corporation, to provide more authority to purchase and restructuring debts of state agencies and non-bank financial institutions. Nattaporn Jatusripitak, an adviser at the Office of the Prime Minister, said the amendment aimed to have Asset Management Corp, whose earlier authority was employed from 1998 after the Asian financial crisis, to have more authority to cope with the current situation. After the amendment, Asset Management Corp will be able to purchase, accept transfers of or be hired to manage impaired assets of state agencies and non-bank financial institutions including credit cards, personal loans, nano-finance, pico-finance, hire-purchase and leasing. According to the Finance Ministry, Asset Management Corporation was earlier authorised only to purchase and accept transfers of impaired assets of financial institutions or assets of defunct or licence-revoked financial institutions, or be hired to manage impaired assets of financial institutions or assets of financial institutions.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/07/2017

 

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Govt Announces Five-Year Digital Integration Strategy

 

The government has announced a programme aimed at integrating digital services through a “citizen-centric strategy” within five years. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government remained firm on relying on advanced digital technology to drive economic and social progress for Thailand. The development of digital competency will be required by all sectors, including agriculture, tourism, education, the medical profession, investment, disaster prevention, and public administration. To cope efficiently with the changing world, it is highly important to apply the use of digital technology in a well-prepared manner to ensure further development of quality public services leading to the achievement of public administration in a new dimension. “Within the next five years, the government will be transformed into a ‘digital government’ backed by the integration of operations and management among various government agencies. Smart technology and services will be fostered by a citizen-centric strategy aiming to accelerate Thailand in all aspects, both substantially and practically,” he said.

 

The programme will be implemented based on the integration of an information network developed cooperatively by various government agencies, with a clear focus on four key development models: government integration, smart operations, citizen-centric services, and driven transformation. Pichet Durongkaveroj, minister of digital economy and society, said the Electronic Government Agency (EGA) had developed the Digital Government Development Plan to determine key strategies and policies in managing the government’s centralised information database. All government agencies have been encouraged to focus on similar strategic visions under the same standards. Hence the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, in collaboration with the EGA, has announced the three-year Digital Government Development Plan (2016-2018), approved by the Cabinet on April 5 last year. The development plan has progressed to cover 18 major domains of the total of 26 domains. Subsequently, as the EGA has reviewed the plan, it is essential to add another eight domains, consisting of education, public health, public utilities, transport, procurement, asset management, human-resource management, and salary payment. In the meantime, two new domains, digital-government infrastructure and government personnel qualification, have been added. The development plan has been advanced to the five-year Digital Government Development Plan (2017-2021).

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/08/2017

 

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Thai Government Pushes Forward National Reform and Strategy Bills

 

The Thai government has pushed forward bills on national reform and a 20-year national strategy which will likely be endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly and turned into laws. The cabinet headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha approved on Tuesday the national reform and strategy bills for which varied committees will be set up to handle the detailed implementation of the bills toward Thailand's economic and social development schemes after they become laws. Korbsak Pootrakool, a vice minister attached to the prime minister's office, said the national reform committee which is yet to be set up will consist of representatives of the private sector, government officials and academics while the national strategy committee will be chaired by the premier and consist of heads of parliament. Included in those committees will be the heads of the National Security Council and the National Economics and Social Development Board, among others, he said. The members of those panels will have a five-year term each, he said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 03/15/2017

 

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Plan Unveiled to Create 500,000 Digital Startups

 

Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, has revealed a plan to create 500,000 digital startups in the country to support the government’s Thailand 4.0 economic policy and drive sustainable growth. The agency also aims to utilise digital technology to support and develop 24,700 communities in the country’s 77 provinces, about three million small and medium-sized enterprises and about five million households to improve quality of life and support Thailand 4.0 in the digital ear over the next 20 years. Nuttapon said the agency will also promote and support the digital industry and utilise digital technology to support cultural and societal development along with boosting security and the economy in the digital era. Under the initiative, laws will be revised to support social and community growth in the digital era, he added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/16/2017

 

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Finance Ministry Plans Reforms in Five Areas

 

THE FINANCE Ministry is going ahead with economic reforms in five areas, while standing ready to invest in infrastructure in the hope of making Thailand a transport hub for the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) subregion. Speaking at an event called “SET in the City 2017” yesterday, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the economic reforms would target national infrastructure, the manufacturing sector, taxation, wealth inequality, and fiscal stability. The infrastructure reform is an important issue, particularly regarding transportation, which will be a key driver to enhance Thailand’s competitiveness, he said. At present, the Thai transportation system lags behind other countries’. Apisak said he hoped Thailand would become the transportation centre for CLMV. Apart from a plan to make Thai trains capable of speeds of 100-120km/h to lower transportation costs, he said Thailand would be developed as an aviation hub after being ranked the world’s second to third place in terms of the number of airlines passed.  “Today, Europe and the United States are confronting a lot of uncertainties. We have to depend on ourselves, and public investment must occur. Now, we’re trying to develop infrastructure in several areas that could boost economic growth. We insist that public investment is not for free, there will be a return in the future,” Apisak said.

 

The most important thing is the reform on fiscal discipline and stability, he said, adding that if money was spent continuously, fiscal stability would face a problem. Therefore, the ministry has proposed laws involving fiscal and monetary discipline, the budgets for which are under review by the Council of State. “What we hope for is that once the economic reform is complete, the foundations will be established. We believe for better in the future and this will grow Thailand in the next 10-20 years,” he said. In regard to the fiscal and monetary sector, if any countries do not adjust, they will not be able to apply new technologies and they will be left behind, he said. Kesara Manchusri, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said more than 100,000 participants were expected to attend the “SET in the City” investment expo, which started yesterday and will run until Sunday at Royal Paragon Hall, Siam Paragon. Commenting on the deadly attacks this week near the British Parliament, she said she believed that there would be no impacts on global stock markets, including the Thai bourse.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/24/2017

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VIETNAM: SOE Equitisation - Gov’t Must Work on Legal Framework

 

The equitisation of State-owned enterprises has been an attractive target for foreign investors, however, there are still challenges that discourage them from participating in those deals. According to a decision issued by the Prime Minister in late 2016 to classify State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and State-invested enterprises and provide a list of SOEs to be equitised in 2016-20, the State will divest from 137 SOEs, such as Việt Nam Rubber Group and telecommunication group MobiFone. In recent years, the Vietnamese government has always targeted investors from the United States and Japan for the initial public offerings (IPOs) of SOEs as those investors have strong financial status, professional qualifications and have expressed interest in Việt Nam’s market. In addition to making direct investment in Việt Nam, investors from the United States have expressed their interest in purchasing stakes in SOEs through their IPOs, especially leading key industries, Marc Mealy, vice president-policy at the US-ASEAN Business Council, told Đầu tư Chứng khoán (Securities Investment) newspaper.

 

Japanese investors have also paid more attention to Việt Nam’s securities market. A representative of Capital Partners Vietnam Consultancy Co Ltd (CPVN) – member of the Japan’s Capital Partners Group – said demand of Japanese investors for Vietnamese equity assets is rising strongly as they are seeking opportunities in the local market, especially after the benchmark VN Index reached the level of 700 points. SOE equitisation is one of the top priority matters for the Vietnamese government as successful IPO deals will have a positive impact on the country’s economic growth and assist those firms boost their performances. However, foreign investors are hesitant to disburse their budget and participate in the Vietnamese securities market for certain reasons. The CPVN representative said the company often sends market reports and analysis to Japanese investors. However, in those reports, it is evident the government has not improved on some issues. For example, the issue of the limit for foreign ownership in local companies has not been resolved completely, the quality of information disclosure remains low and foreign investors still have trouble getting access to local companies.

 

These are the main reasons due to which most Japanese investors are unwilling to make investment in Việt Nam’s securities market and IPO deals, the representative said. US investors worry about Việt Nam’s tax policies, which remain unclear, unpredictable and easy to change, and the taxes which could be imposed on their asset portfolios, Marc Mealy said. In addition, Việt Nam has not met international standards on accounting and auditing activities, therefore, information disclosed by to-be-equitised firms is unreliable, unclear and not transparent, he added. Responding to investors’ worries, Vũ Bằng, chairman of the State Securities Commission (SSC), said his agency is working with the finance ministry to review and amend tax policies so the securities market can develop further and attract more foreign investors. The government has committed to bring international accounting and auditing standards into practice to increase the quality of information disclosure among local companies, he said. This would help improve corporate governance, financial management and make the local market more attractive. For instance, SSC is instructing brokerage companies to declare their 2017 monthly and yearly financial reports on the market value method. However, this method will be first tested among brokerage firms as it could reduce the earnings companies receive and make them suffer unreasonably, Bằng said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/21/2017

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Understanding the VN Law on Cross-Border Web Sharing

 

One of the government policies on the management, provision and use of internet services and online information, under Decree No 72/2013/NĐ-CP dated July 15, 2013, states that only information in accordance with Vietnamese laws may be transmitted to internet users within Việt Nam, even if it is cross-border transmission. To implement this policy, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) issued Circular No. 38/2016/TT-BTTTT on December 26, 201, detailing the cross-border distribution of public information. The circular came into effect on February 15, 2017. As defined in Circular 38, cross-border provision of public information refers to any act by offshore organisations/individuals using websites, social networks, online applications, search services and other online methods to provide public information that users, be it  organisations or individuals, in Việt Nam may access or use, wherein public information is,  as defined in Decree 72, online information of an organisation or individual that is made public to all entities without the need to identify the specific name or address of such entities.

 

Circular 38 requires that foreign entities providing public information to users in Việt Nam (information providers) shall observe the regulations and laws of Việt Nam and shall cooperate with the MIC in addressing violations, if any. In cases where an information provider provides illegal public information to Việt Nam, or refuses to cooperate with the MIC in addressing violations, Việt Nam’s authorised management agencies may take necessary technical measures to block their access from Việt Nam. Regarding steps taken in case of violations, Circular 38 states that upon detecting illegal public information being provided from outside its borders into Việt Nam, the MIC will notify the information provider of the violation and make specific requests so that the issue is addressed, removing the information or blocking access from Việt Nam (first notification). The information provider will have 24 hours from receipt of the MIC’s notification to verify and process the issue. If the information provider does not meet the MIC’s request within the prescribed time limit, the MIC will issue a second notification, and the service provider will have another 24 hours to comply with the MIC’s request or give feedback to the MIC. For implementing this cooperation mechanism, Circular 38 requires that an information provider who rents space in Việt Nam for storing its public information for the purpose of providing service, or has one million or more visitors from Việt Nam per month, shall notify the MIC of its contact details, which includes, for organisations, the registered company name and address, trade name, location of the main server for providing service, and contact persons in the registered country and in Việt Nam. The notification can be sent directly to the MIC, via post or via email to report38@mic.gov.vn. — Indochine Counsel

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/22/2017

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Ministry Introduces Nutrition Guidelines for Pregnant Women, Nursing Mothers

 

The health ministry on Wednesday released “The National Guideline on Nutrition for Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers” to improve women’s health and thus the physical stature of Vietnamese people. The guideline aims to provide information and nutritional knowledge to doctors, midwives and nurses so that they can give appropriate advice and care to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The information will also be useful to scientists and teachers in the fields of obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics, nutrition as well as to research students. “The guideline, issued and implemented with support from Abbott Vietnam, is one of the practical steps the health ministry has taken for effective implementation of the National Strategy on Nutrition for the 2011-20 period and vision till 2030. It has been approved by the Prime Minister,” said Nguyễn Đức Vinh, director of health ministry’s maternal and child health department. The health ministry will also provide training to health professors to help improve the nutritional health of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

 

“The guideline will be helpful and will play an important role for doctors and healthcare practitioners in daily consultations and in providing care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and infants. It marks a milestone in improving the nutritional health of Vietnamese children in the long term,” said Douglas Kuo, general manager of Abbott Vietnam. The guideline hopes to address the problem of lack of proper awareness and knowledge about nutrition for pregnant women and lactating mothers, which leads to unsuitable habits. In recent years, the country’s nutritional levels have improved, on the whole. Việt Nam has been recognised internationally as one of the countries that achieved the Millennium Development Goals, which include targets relating to maternal and child health. Particularly, the country has recorded a continuous, sustainable drop in the cases of acute and chronic malnutrition among children under five years of age. However, Việt Nam still faces many challenges: the number of chronic diseases relating to nutrition, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, metabolic disorder, has the tendency to increase; and many pregnant women and lactating mothers are still not getting sufficient nutritional information.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/23/2017

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INDIA: 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 03/24/2017

 

 

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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 03/24/2017

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Minister Talks Priority of Tax System for 2017

 

The improvement of human resources will be a priority of the Azerbaijani tax system in 2017, Azerbaijani Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov said in the article published on the website of the Intra-European Organization of Tax Administrations (IOTA). “Currently, introduction of a knowledge management in various areas of tax administration by using the latest achievements of information and communication technologies is essential in terms of effectiveness of the tax system in any country” the minister said. “Knowledge management generates new opportunities for assessing and managing the risks threatening the taxpayers and tax authorities.” “As a result of introduction of innovations and IT based knowledge management, intellectual and technological capital of agency goes up,” he added. “Therefore, compliance with tax obligations becomes more affordable.” Mammadov added that with the goal of HR capital investment and further capacity building, Twining project on "Support to Ministry of Taxes of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the field of investing in HR capital” in the framework of Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union has been successfully fulfilled.

 

“With our Spanish and French colleagues, we have organized forward-looking manager groups who play an important role in realization of the new tax policy,” he added. He added that certification programs further improve qualification of tax officers, with programs consisting of training sessions and tests for obtaining certificates that serve as an incentive for continuous improvement of tax officials’ skills and knowledge. “Additionally, I would like to touch upon our relations with IOTA,” the minister added. “At the moment, we learn the best practices of member countries’ tax administrations and their application for training purposes, as well as e-learning processes.” “Ministry of Taxes of Azerbaijan that has set a goal of studying the practice of developed countries and using the latest innovations in the field of e-learning, places enormous emphasis on existing productive and constructive cooperation with IOTA,” he said.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 02/28/2017

 

 

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BAHRAIN: To Adopt Korean Healthcare System

 

Korea’s Health Insurance Review & Assessment system (HIRA) will soon be rolled out in Bahrain. This is the first time for the HIRA system to be exported in its four-decade history. On March 6, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service (HIRAS), the government body that handles the HIRA system, signed a deal with Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Health to work on a joint project to reform the Middle East country’s national health insurance system. With the signing, from April this year through to November 2019, the HIRAS will share its Drug Utilization Review system, which traces and manages the distribution of medicines, and its National Health Insurance Information System, a database that processes insurance claims and examinations. The body will also share its Smart Utilization of National Electronic Medical Records system, which analyzes medical data and offers advice on how to use the records. “We will put Korea’s effective HIRA system in place in our country and then will continue to spread its effectiveness to our neighboring Middle East countries,” said Sheikh Mohammaed Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahraini Supreme Council for Health. “The deal that both sides have made today will hopefully help to further enhance our bilateral cooperation on health and medical services,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Chung Chin-youb.

From http://www.korea.net 03/08/2017

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Amendments to Constitution Adopted

 

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed the law “On Amendments and Additions to the Constitution”, the presidential press service reported March 10. The constitutional reform envisages transferring some of powers from president to parliament and government. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev put forward the initiative to redistribute powers in December 2016. Kazakhstan’s Parliament passed the “Law on Amendments and Additions to the Constitution” on March 6. On March 9, the country’s Constitutional Council ruled that the law on constitutional amendments is in line with the Constitution itself.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/10/2017

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Berdimuhamedov Favors Diversity of Energy Flows

 

Turkmenistan’s energy strategy is based on the principles of diversity of energy flows and expansion of their geography, said Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The head of state made the remarks during the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Islamabad March 1. Berdimuhamedov said that gas pipelines running from Turkmenistan to China and from Turkmenistan to Iran have been constructed in recent years and construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline has stated, the Turkmen Dovlet Habarlary state news service reported. Ashgabat initiated creation of an international legal framework for reliable energy supply, which resulted in the unanimous adoption of a resolution on "Reliable and stable transit of energy and its role in ensuring sustainable development and international cooperation" by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 19, 2008. “Adoption of such an important document is one of the first steps towards creation of an international legal framework in global energy supply, or more precisely, its energy security,” according to the state news service.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/01/2017

 

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Time to Submit Total Annual Income Declarations

 

Uzbek citizens must submit total annual income declarations to local tax offices before 1 April, the State Tax Committee informs. The declarations can be submitted by the applicant in person, via a trustee, or via mail with attachments. Declarations can also be submitted on my.soliq.uz, at Interactive Services, using an electronic signature. Taxable incomes include:  rent income; royalties; extra-employment incomes; income from abroad; income from non-taxable sources; income from property sales.Under Art 174, Administrative Code, people who do not submit their declarations or submit them lately will have to pay a fine of 1-3 minimum wages.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 03/13/2017

 

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960 Localization Projects Planned to Be Implemented in 2017

 

Increasing the level of localization of finished products plays an important role in further dynamic and sustainable development of the economy, reducing its dependence on external factors, accelerating the introduction of new efficient technologies in production processes. That is why localization is one of the main directions of industrial development in Uzbekistan, which ensures wide use of local raw materials and production resources, an increase in production of modern competitive goods on this basis. In addition, a regulatory and legal framework has been created and operating effectively in the country which is aimed at increasing the level of localization of production of finished products, components and materials. On the initiative of UzLiDeP faction of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis, a round table organized by the Committee for Industry, Construction and Trade was devoted to current state of localization of production of finished products, components and materials. Participants of the roundtable, which involved representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers, relevant ministries, departments, committees and organizations, as well as experts and scientists noted that due to the measures taken in the country to deepen the localization of production of finished products, components and materials and to expand inter industry cooperation in 2010-2016, enterprises implemented 1948 localization projects, as a result import-substituting products worth $ 7.6 billion were produced.

 

Over the past period, the volume of domestic production of localized goods increased by 3 times, and it has solved not only economic, but also social issues, as over 13 thousand new jobs were created within the Program. "Due to expansion of localization over the last three years, imports of more than one hundred commodity groups have been excluded; import of more than 350 types of products has decreased by half. This year more than 960 similar projects are planned. As a result, imports are expected to fall by 23 percent”, said Fazliddin Ruziev, the head of the department of the Ministry of Economy of Uzbekistan. The participants emphasized that approaches to implementation of localization programs ensure transparency, efficiency, simplification of procedures and ultimately serve to increase the effectiveness of measures aimed at further deepening the localization of production in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

 

At the same time, participants stressed the need to use some unused reserves and opportunities to ensure further accelerated development of this sphere. In particular, deputies spoke about the importance to inform broadly business entities about the specifics of the localization program, the tax and customs benefits and preferences provided within the program, mechanisms for including in the program. They also talked about the importance of eliminating unnecessary barriers in the organization of production and sales of products, more prompt resolution of issues that entrepreneurs may have during the production of localized products. As a result of the round table, the participants developed recommendations on further development of this sphere and improvement of its regulatory and legal framework.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 03/23/2017

 

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Pacific 'Leads' in Law Reforms, Registries

 

AN expert from the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) says Pacific Island countries are leading the world in the reforms of business laws and registries. "Obviously the economies are very different but I would say with regards to business law reforms and registries, and really the Pacific in some aspects is leading the world," ADB expert Anthony Frazier said during the Pacific Business Registries workshop in Sydney last week. "The online registry we (ADB) put in the Pacific are more sophisticated than in most of the 50 states in the US. "You can conduct all your business online in the registries in the Pacific whereas in the US, often times, you are limited in what you transact online because they have older technologies." A PACNEWS report stated that for the past 10 years PSDI had hosted successful business law and registry reforms in Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and right across the board. "PSDI through ADB has been very successful. We think there's been a significant impact on Ministry of Commerce and various agencies that run these registries and the law reform has made it much easier for people to start their business. "That's the whole point for people to be able to make their own livelihood. "They were trying to create a framework to be able to do so," Mr Frazier said.

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

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AUSTRALIA: New Gun Amnesty Announced

 

A three-month gun amnesty is set to begin in July, the first since the national amnesty in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre more than twenty years ago. The Government hopes the move will take around 260,000 illegal firearms off the streets. Border Force officers are currently seizing more than 30 guns, or gun parts, a week.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/05/2017

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PM Announces Snowy Hydro Expansion Plan

 

The iconic Snowy Hydro scheme will get a $2 billion expansion in what has been labelled a game changer for east coast power supply. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has told Sky News Business that the Commonwealth stands ready to finance the project. 'The Prime Minister has made very clear that he wants this to happen and the Commonwealth stands ready to help finance such a project,' he said. 'But the Snowy Hyrdo themesleves have also made clear as well that they're a profitable organisation and that they have been working on ideas such as these for some time. 'Mr Frydenberg said the project, which won't affect irrigators or require any new dams, will be a complex tunnel system, designed to increase the dam's power generation by 50 per cent. 'Effectively, we're looking at building three new sets of tunnels and systems, some 27km long that can move water up and down a steep area and then pump down when you actually need it to create the electricity,' he said.

 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited the area on Thursday to unveil the plan, the first major expansion since the scheme was completed in 1974. He said the project will increase power output by 50 per cent, enough to power 500,000 homes. 'Our forebears, our parents and grandparents planned for the future when they built Snowy Hydro and what we are doing now is completing that vision,' Mr Turnbull told reporters. The prime minister said the development had been a long time coming. 'The capacity was there, all that was missing was leadership and money, and my government has both. 'Mr Frydenberg confirmed the price tag will be in the billions of dollars. 'The amount of new power we're talking about here will be bigger than the Hazelwood power plant which is scheduled to close at the end of this month, ' he said. 'So this is a game changing announcement, something that is iconic in Australia and I think it should be welcomed by all Australians.'

 

A feasibility study will get underway as soon as possible, he said. But Mr Turnbull said the costs wouldn't be as high as the original project. 'It is a lot cheaper to build 27km tunnels now than it was 30 years ago. They didn't have big tunnel boring machines like we do today,' he said. The Clean Energy Council has welcomed the plan as a 'really smart move', noting Australia's long history with hydro power. 'Anything we can do to take advantage of that power, to produce more power from it and to have it available for us at peak moments of time I think is a really smart move,' its CEO Kane Thornton told Sky News. Snowy Hydro managing director Paul Broad said the announcement was a big leap forward in keeping the lights on along the eastern part of the country. 'If fulfils a dream of our forefathers,' he told ABC radio. Mr Broad said when demand was high on February 10, it was effectively Snowy keeping the lights on in NSW.

 

Already four sites have been identified for the expansion, but each will have to be examined for their geological and economic impacts. He hopes the public will embrace the new plan, which will create more jobs in the area especially during the construction phase. Greens leader Richard Di Natale says this plan will not solve the 'urgent' energy cricis 'This plan for pumped hydro might work on the margins but this is not a solution to a problem that needs urgent solutions.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/16/2017

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Report Calls for Decriminalisation of Drugs

 

Australia's prohibition-based drugs strategy is futile, counterproductive and unfair, according to a report that calls for the progressive decriminalisation of illicit substances. The document, compiled by think tank Australia21 after a 2015 round-table meeting of former police commissioners, prosecutors, judges and advocates, also recommends a testing regime so users can be confident what they consume is safe. The report 'Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?' questions why 190 countries continue with prohibition-based models, with one unnamed participant arguing it's only because of their political appeal. Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who launched the report in Sydney, criticised politicians for lacking the courage to try something new. 'The issue of deaths and wasted lives should always be a top priority for any we elect to govern our affairs,' Mr Kennett said on Monday. 'Yet in this area of drugs, I don't think it gets that priority.'

 

Mr Kennett said there had been no 'seminal advance' in 40 to 50 years with the exception of Sydney's safe injecting facility, which the report suggested should be replicated elsewhere in Australia. According to the Australian Crime Commission, there are 80,000 arrests for drug consumption annually. Participants said the legacy of 50 years of prohibition was growth in the size and danger of the drug market, a drop in the price of drugs by more than 80 per cent, improved availability and a rise in drug-related crime. They agreed drug use should be treated primarily as a social and health problem. Retired Supreme Court Justice Hal Sperling said 'attempting enforced prohibition of mood-altering substances in these circumstances is futile and counterproductive'. Dr Alex Wodak, a former St Vincent's Hospital physician, said the 'comprehensive' failure of prohibition was increasingly acknowledged.

 

'Drug prohibition is also unfair and unjust, was not based on good evidence, is now flagrantly contradicted by good evidence and was developed with poor processes,' Dr Wodak said. The report floated possible regulation and tax models, looking to overseas experiences, and said psychoactive drugs should be moved from the black market to the white market, starting with the least harmful substances. It said any move towards decriminalisation must be accompanied by an effective marketing strategy to promote the success of the changes in Australia and overseas. The document warned its recommendations should be adopted only after a careful evaluation of local evidence.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/20/2017

 

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Australia Not to Follow US Electronics Ban

 

Transport Minister Darren Chester says Australia has no plans to follow the US and introduce a ban on electronic devices on some international flights. Mr Chester said in a statement while the government does not plan to changes its security measures, it will change stance if required. 'The Australian Government is in contact with industry and our international partners, and will continue to monitor security developments and adjust our security settings if needed,' he said. 'Australia has a comprehensive and strong transport security system in place to prevent acts of terrorism which we continuously review to ensure it addresses contemporary threats.' Earlier this week, new security measures were enforced that restrict some electronic devices on US-bound flights stems from intelligence that Islamic State associates want to smuggle explosive-laden electronics on planes.

 

US media reports the government has deemed the information on the threat as 'substantiated' and 'credible' The United States and Britain have banned travellers from carrying electronic devices bigger than a mobile phone on board flights from several Middle East and North African countries. Passengers will need to check any larger electronic devices into their hold luggage. Britain followed the US in introducing similar restrictions on carry-on electronic goods on direct inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The new rule applies to mobile phones, laptops or tablets over 16 cm in length, 9.3 cm in width and with a depth of over 1.5 cm. The United States restrictions apply to planes coming from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The Trump administration imposed the restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming to the United States from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified terrorism threats.

 

The Department of Homeland Security said passengers travelling from those airports could not bring devices larger than a mobile phone, such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras, into the main cabin. The new restrictions were prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets. The airports are in Cairo; Istanbul; Kuwait City; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. Officials said the decision had nothing to do with President Donald Trump's efforts to impose a travel ban on six majority-Muslim nations. On March 6, Mr Trump signed a revised executive order barring citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from travelling to the United States for 90 days. Two federal judges have halted parts of the ban, saying it discriminates against Muslims and Mr Trump has vowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

 

The airports affected by the electronics rules are served by nine airlines that fly directly from those cities to the United States about 50 times a day, senior government officials said. The carriers - Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways , Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways - have until Friday to comply with the new policy, which took effect early on Tuesday and will be in place indefinitely. Officials did not explain why the restrictions only apply to travellers arriving in the United States and not for those same flights when they leave the United States.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/22/2017

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Company Tax Plan Passed by Lower House

 

The Turnbull government's $50 billion worth of tax cuts for Australian businesses has cleared parliament's lower house. The centrepiece of last year's budget, which Labor voted against, will reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent for all companies over the next decade. Treasurer Scott Morrison has told MPs the measure works to deliver job security, stronger wages, increased investment and the growth that Australians depend on. The company tax rate presently sits at 30 per cent, apart from businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million which pay 28.5 per cent. A new opinion poll shows support for the company tax change, particularly from coalition voters. According to the Fairfax/Ipsos poll published on Monday, 44 per cent of voters back a cut to the tax rate to 25 per cent, while 39 per cent oppose the idea. Former chairman of the National Commission of Audit Tony Shepherd has told Sky News the company tax rate is needed to boost the Australian economy. 'I don't know what's going to inspire investment and growth if we don't do something like that,' he said. '

 

Business is what drives our economy their sitting on their cheque books at the moment and their not investing, private investment is down.' Mr Shepherd warned that if these tax cuts aren't passed there will be no way to drive investment and in turn boost jobs. 'Until they open their cheque books and start investing we're not going to lift our productivity, we're not going to lift jobs, and we're not going to be able to get real wage increases so there is very little else the federal government can do to inspire the growth of the business sector.' Two independent MPs also want greater scrutiny of the banks, a hot topic coming after last week's independent mortgage rate changes. Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott says 'we are living in a false paradise in this country.' 'We've got to actually think about the national interest as we fall further behind the rest of the world,' she told Sky News. 'Everybody in the world is lowering their tax rate - Britain, the US saying they're going to put theirs to 15. 'For us to just even stay in the game we got to get to 25, so doing 10 and then, you know, that's job done, it is not job done, it's so far away from job done it's not even funny.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/27/2017

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FIJI: Cyber Problems Highlighted

 

There are technical adjustments that can be made to close up some of the worst excesses of the internet, says Chief Justice Anthony Gates. Justice Gates made the comments at the A-G's Conference Room at Suvavou House in Suva yesterday while delivering the keynote address during the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day 2017. The day's celebration was based on the theme, 'Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust'. Mr Gates said: "At the moment the internet can be said to be a wilder place than the seas plied by the Pirates of the Carribean." He said the theme of 'Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust' seemed like a tall order. The Chief Justice then went to lengths in describing the kinds of problems being faced on the internet today."All we hear about is fraud on the internet, hacking into military computers by teenagers," he said. He concluded his keynote address by saying: "Normal life is normal life, and the internet cannot be allowed to be an unruly no-go unpoliced area. We need the internet but it must be a place of civilisation, principle and decency." Meanwhile, CCF's officer in charge Bindula Devi said Consumer International had focused on this theme to urge stakeholders to protect and empower consumers in building trust when using digital technology.

From http://www.fijitimes.com 03/16/2017

 

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Sustainable Strategy

 

Today in the last of the series the focus is on business responsibility for the environment. These days leaders of small businesses have their hands full just trying to survive. So why would they add a sustainability strategy to their already overloaded priorities? Because sustainability strategies are all about business survival. Like it or not, sustainability offers threats and opportunities for small businesses. And the potential impact on companies' long-term success is too great to ignore. There are many reasons small businesses should care about sustainability, but here are the top six: * Sooner or later every business will have to pay attention to sustainability in order to stay in business — this will be led by customer demand; * Your company can obtain more business through commitments to sustainability; * You can save on your bottom line; * You can add to your top line through innovation; * You will attract, retain and engage talent; and

 

* Creating sustainable practices now will help you mitigate risks in the future. For example, we cannot stop cyclones, but we can take a sustainable approach to how we prepare before the event so that we are more likely to get up and running quicker after the event. Business sustainability is not just a buzz word currently in vogue — it is a vital part of doing business now and in the future. If we do not think about the environment around us, then we may not have a business in the future — it may well be too late. Equally if we wait for governments or for others to act first it may well be too late. When we think about the environment our business is in, we must start inside the business - how green are we on the inside — before we start to think about what is happening outside. So, what can we, people who are running small and medium sized businesses, do? Here are a few ideas which are not new or surprising but are often overlooked:

 

* Recycle and reuse everything we can; * Save energy whenever we can; * Plan before we act so we are more efficient in the way we use our time, our energy and our resources like vehicles; * Run electric vehicles if possible; * Use recycled paper and printer ink if possible; * Make sure we dispose of waste in a responsible and sustainable manner; * Train all our staff in sustainable business practices and ask them for their ideas; * Market our commitment to sustainability to customers and suppliers ; * Use suppliers who share our commitment to sustainability; * Use cleaning materials that are organic or that do less damage to the environment; * Reduce the amount of packaging that you use; * Try to reduce the number of plastic bottles used for water — most of them do not biodegrade and are causing major problems for small Pacific countries; * Be creative — run competitions for the best use of waste that it is hard to get rid of. For example, we can build walls with old car tyres! Give prizes to staff with the best ideas; and

 

* Make sure that sustainability is an essential part of our values and that when we recruit new staff ask them about their interest in and commitment to sustainability. Sustainable businesses are good businesses, but sustainability needs to be worked at. It requires inspirational leadership, exceptional planning, great vision, engaged people, effective teamwork and superb communications. It is a way to run a smart business that cares about the future. It is one way that businesses can contribute to community/ society transformation. This is the last part of our "Going for Gold — being the best you can be" series where I have looked at the transformational power of business. During this series, we have looked at: * Inspirational leadership and vision; * Transformational planning; * Organising our businesses with customers in mind; * Healthy staff, happy staff, productive businesses; * Socially responsible businesses;

 

* Businesses as a magnet for change - positive role models; * Attracting and growing the next generation of leaders; and * Being environmentally responsible. Chris Elphick is director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomons and other Pacific countries. He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with small and medium enterprises. Learnfast Pacific works in close association with business support organisations throughout the Pacific.

From http://www.fijitimes.com 03/27/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Paula Bennett's Job to Fix Gender Pay Gap 

 

Winston Peters has challenged the Government to ensure the Public Service leads the way in equal pay for women. The NZ First leader says it's up to the Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, to see it happens. "The ball is in her court - as part of a Government that employs 47,500 people in the Public Service she can change the system and attitudes," he said. "The minister must stride into Cabinet and say no job is 'women's work' - it's time for a change." Are you a feminist? MPs respond on International Women's Day Mr Peters says the Crown Law office has a 39 percent gender pay gap, the Social Services Commission 27 percent and the Ministry of Education 26 percent. Across the Public Service the gap is 14 percent, he says. The official gender pay gap is 12 percent. "Families rely on women working, and there is a huge requirement for women to work yet they do not get fair wages," Mr Peters said. The gender pay gap has become a hot political issue since Auckland University of Technology on Tuesday released research which showed "unconscious bias" was to blame for 80 percent of the reasons women are paid less than men. The Green Party has put up a bill it believes would close the gap but Ms Bennett says legislation isn't the way forward at this stage. "I think that publishing the data, for the first time in 14 years, gets the right information out there... because I think a lot of people think that there isn't a pay gap and this research proves that there is," she said.

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/09/2017

 

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John Key's Legacy: A Confident New Zealand

 

Former Prime Minister John Key says he's in "an incredibly good space" as he approaches his final day in Parliament on Wednesday. Mr Key sees his legacy as a more confident New Zealand. "You've got to be careful about claiming credit for everything, but I think there's no question we're a more confident nation now, and New Zealanders really do have quite a spring in their step. "I think they do feel as though as a country we're punching above our weight on the world stage," he said in an interview with Newshub political editor Patrick Gower. "That suits my personality, by definition I'm an optimistic person, I'm a bit of a pragmatist, I want to get things done. You know, I'm more interested in results and how you actually got there." Mr Key regrets that his vision for a new New Zealand flag was never realised, and it never gained the support of Labour and the Greens. "I liked this concept of New Zealanders having a flag that was quintessentially Kiwi, and not some other country's flag. In the end it didn't happen."

 

He doesn't think the flag referendum result was due to a failure of design. "There were over 10,000 designs, every designer in New Zealand and indeed around the world had an opportunity to submit." Mr Key is also disappointed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement fell through. Donald Trump stopped the TPPA dead in its tracks as soon as he became US President, a blow to what could have been a major part of Mr Key's legacy. "From New Zealand's point of view I always back New Zealand companies to do well, and I think if you give them a level playing field they'll succeed. I always thought those opponents to the TPP were massively exaggerating the negatives, and the benefits well and truly, as history has proven in other free trade agreements, outstrip those."

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/21/2017

 

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PM Rules Out Slashing Herd Numbers to Meet Emissions Targets

 

Prime Minister Bill English says "we're not setting out to slash agriculture" as a report released on Tuesday outlines reducing animal numbers by 35 percent as one option to cut emissions. A cross party group of MPs commissioned London firm Vivid Economics to look at options to get New Zealand on track to the global commitment to reduce emissions to net zero under the Paris Agreement. The "net zero" goal means neutralising human emissions through measures like planting trees or technological solutions that draw carbon from the air. The report has outlined four bold scenarios for the Government to consider in policy decisions. Under one scenario, New Zealand would reduce emissions of its economic activity through technological advances, including a vaccine to reduce methane from agriculture. This would be accompanied by a "structural shift away from pastoral agriculture", slashing stock numbers by 20-35 per cent and supporting more diverse land use through horticulture, crops and planting another 1 million hectares of trees.

 

But Mr Bill English said on Tuesday that "wouldn't be good for New Zealand". "We're not setting out to slash agriculture and destroy those communities," he said. "It's easy for people to say that. "It'd be bad for our economy. We are working alongside these communities and the farmers around ensuring they are investing in dealing with the impact." Mr English says the economy is "already diversifying quite significantly". "I think we learnt that when the dairy prices were down that the economy is not totally dependent on it at all." In a second scenario, New Zealand would grow its renewable power by 75 percent, electrify 85 percent of its light duty passenger vehicle fleet and speed up targeted breeding, new feeding regimes and nitrogen and methane inhibitors. However, livestock numbers would remain the same and forestry would expand by 0.5 million hectares. The report says this scenario "is not sufficiently ambitious" to get New Zealand on track to net zero emissions.

 

Under a third scenario, global technological development doesn't progress rapidly enough so forests are required to expand by 1.6 million hectares. The report says this changed land use might mean a difficult transition for rural communities, as well as a lost opportunity to reintroduce native habitat. The report authors conclude reducing New Zealand's emissions will mean substantial change to energy supply and use, including moving towards a 100 percent renewables grid and electrifying the passenger vehicle fleet. "It is possible for New Zealand to move onto a pathway consistent with domestic net zero emissions in the second half of the century, but only if it alters its land-use patterns." The Green party is calling the report a "political breakthrough". "For the first time there is a shared understanding across all parties in Parliament about the nature of the challenge in front of us," co-leader James Shaw says. "This report has shown it's entirely possible for New Zealand to have a prosperous future that doesn't come at the cost of our environment."Sustainable Business Council Executive Director Abbie Reynolds says the fact that the report is cross-party is an important precedent that gives business confidence of collective action toward meeting New Zealand's Paris commitments. "Our members have identified climate change as a priority and are ready to work with government on the transition to a low carbon economy," Ms Reynolds says.

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/21/2017

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Anti-Laundering Bill Passes First Reading

 

Legislation extending the reach of anti-money laundering laws has passed its first reading in Parliament. Current legislation imposes legal obligations on banks, casinos, and a range of financial service providers who have to report large transactions. The Bill extends the regime to lawyers, conveyancers, accountants, estate agents, racing and sports betting agencies and businesses that handle high-value goods. "Money laundering is the lifeblood of many parts of crime," Justice Minister Amy Adams said when she launched the first reading debate on Thursday. "By exploiting unsuspecting businesses and channelling money through different layers of the financial system, money laundering allows criminals to fund their lifestyles and fuels their criminal ventures. "People who finance terrorism use similar measures to channel money to violent causes." Ms Adams said existing laws covered high risk organisations, but criminals changed their techniques. "Establishing controls in one sector often increases risks in others where there are fewer checks and balances," she said. Ms Adams said compliance costs were initially estimated at $1.6 billion over 10 years but that had been lowered to between $800 million and $1.1b. Businesses would be given time and provided with information to help them understand and prepare to meet their new obligations. The Bill passed its first reading unanimously and has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/24/2017

 

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The World Bank and Partners Recognize Results-Driven Leadership in Development

 

Today, at the 2017 Global Leadership Forum, hosted by the World Bank Group, the first ever Jose Edgardo Campos Collaborative Leadership awards will be presented to five exceptional leaders from around the world. These leaders, from government, private sector and civil society in Bangladesh, Colombia, the Philippines, Tonga and Tunisia have helped their countries make significant progress in the fight to end poverty and boost shared prosperity. Their work includes the empowerment of women, the Colombia peace process, tackling infant mortality, pushing for access to primary education, and improving how public servants serve citizens. The Jose Edgardo Campos Collaborative Leadership Awards are presented for distinctive leadership that has mobilized ideas, people and resources. The Awards were instituted in the memory of Jose Edgardo (Ed) Campos, a World Bank staff member who advanced the importance of collaborative leadership, worked on successful reform programs including in his home country of the Philippines, and was a pioneer working on these issues at the World Bank. Ed served as Practice Manager for Leadership and Governance passed away in the spring of 2014.

 

“Ed Campos inspired colleagues across the World Bank Group through his strong commitment to delivering results for the people we serve,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “We are proud to honor his legacy through this new awards program. It is my pleasure to congratulate the 2016 recipients, who have helped their countries make significant progress in the fight to end extreme poverty.” One lifetime award is being given to recognize contributions and results over the whole of a career, rather than or in addition to single contributions. The regional awards are given to recognize leaders in regions around the world for their work in collaborative leadership. The recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award is Mayor Nacianceno Mejos Pacalioga, Dumingag Municipality, Zamboanga del Sur, from The Philippines, for his work as a pioneering public servant whose collaborative leadership style is characterized by dialogue, inclusive partnerships, results-based programs, and responsive governance mechanisms.

 

The regional award recipients are:

Sir Fazle Abed, Founder and Chairman of BRAC, Bangladesh is the recipient of a 2016 Regional Award for South Asia, for his work on his leadership role in Bangladesh’s development, and specifically in reducing infant mortality and accomplishing universal access to primary education. Paula Gaviria Betancur, Presidential High Counsellor for Human Rights, Colombia, is the recipient of a 2016 Regional Award for Latin America and the Caribbean, for her leadership in the development of the Victim’s Unit, and contributions to the peace accord between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Emeline Siale Ilolahia, Civil Society Forum of Tonga, is the recipient of a 2016 Regional Award for East Asia and the Pacific for her efforts in building and supporting coalitions for change in Tonga with a particular focus on empowerment of women. Sofiane Ben Mohammed Sahraoui, Founder, Middle East & North Africa Public Administration Research, Tunisia, is the recipient of a 2016 Regional Award for Middle-East and North Africa, for his work on the establishment of a groundbreaking research network – the Middle East & North Africa Public Administration Research with a focus on improving public administration.

 

The 2017 Global Leadership Forum organized by the Global Partnership for Collaborative Leadership in Development (GPCL4D) will bring about 200 partners, leaders and practitioners from government, academia, civil society, and other international development organizations working in areas of collaborative leadership. This diverse, global and cross-sectoral group of thinkers, work to apply and integrate leadership practices to solve key development challenges. GPCL4D puts leadership and coalitions at the center of international development practices. Through interactions and sharing of experiences, the Forum seeks to surface leadership approaches to bring together diverse stakeholders to achieve results in divided societies.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 03/06/2017

 

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The Next Chapter in Internet Governance

 

The inclusion of “civil society”—an umbrella group of activists, advocates, not-for-profit organizations, and even the academia—in Internet governance ranks among the most significant achievements of this decade in international relations. For a while, it appeared the “global, multistakeholder community” that drove normative processes like the 2014 NetMundial conference in Brazil, would stitch together rules for managing the global commons of cyberspace. That assumption today stands on shaky ground. If multistakeholder models of Internet governance were itself a product of globalization, its future appears uncertain in this current climate of “de-globalization” and localism. So, if states and strongmen have reclaimed political authority over national governance, why would they allow digital economies to function outside their remit? What’s more, these popular political leaders have discredited the private sector, which was expected to underwrite the global expansion of digital networks.

 

Today, companies have neither the appetite nor the legitimacy to incubate such governing platforms. Instruments of globalization like the Trans-Pacific Partnership were supported by big technology corporations, but as the TPP’s demise shows, the mood across much of the world appears to favour protectionism over expanded trade. If the private sector recedes, multistakeholderism loses its most powerful advocate. The inclusion of “non-state” actors in global governance itself emerged from a political context, which no longer exists. A world bruised by the global financial crisis mistrusted governments, and created a network of institutions that would not be managed by states alone. The formation of the G20 (and its sister groupings for businesses and civil society like B20 and C20), short-lived government-bank partnerships, and the renewed focus on cross-border trade all but ensured that the private sector and non-governmental organizations were seated at the high table of international politics.

 

Digital spaces benefited immensely from this geoeconomic moment. Whether to widen their consumer base, sustain their fledgling online presence, or ensure connectivity, businesses and governments realized they needed the Internet. Digital networks, therefore, became the conduit for globalization. Ironically, digital spaces also sowed the seeds of the current anti-globalization mood. By shrinking geographies, social media platforms brought divergent, often conflicting voices in proximity to each other. Such online polarization spilled over into the real world, pitting communities in a zero-sum game. Majoritarian movements unleashed across the world threw up political strongmen, who in turn renewed the mandate of a strong nation-state. Governments today are more powerful than ever, enforcing protectionist policies, limiting migrants, micromanaging currency supplies, and engaging in widespread surveillance.

 

This moment in international politics should offer pause to the multistakeholder community, which finds itself in danger of being sidelined by governments—perhaps for good reason. “Multistakeholderism 1.0” reflects a sharp bias towards transnational corporations, and powerful, omnipresent civil society actors, while constituents from the global South have had their voices hijacked. As the plethora of cyber policy conversations at the 2017 Munich Security Conference demonstrated, matters of the Internet are essentially a dialogue between white males shouting across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the biggest technology giants have woefully underinvested in local talent, resources and needs. This model is synonymous with the absence of government from governance, and relied mostly on the benevolence of markets. This is unsustainable, and will prompt state agencies to step into the governance vacuum created by continuing market failures.

 

What is the solution to this crisis of conscience and confidence for the multistakeholder community? First, the role of the state should be reviewed in multistakeholder processes. State-led institutions still hold political appeal, especially in democracies, and Internet governance must work with this real and popular mandate of governments. The state in developing countries continues to guarantee the security of digital infrastructure and networks as a public good, a role that must be acknowledged in multistakeholder platforms. Second, domestic multistakeholder conversations on Internet governance need to be strengthened to ensure marginalized communities that do not have the wherewithal to participate in global dialogue are uniquely represented. Finally, the thrust of multistakeholder Internet governance itself requires reformation. So far, such processes have sought to promote the openness and freedom of digital spaces and conversations, a laudable goal in which civil society plays an important role. But little energy has been spent on ensuring affordable digital access, and in conceptualizing how the next billion will engage with digital platforms.

 

Will first-generation Internet users in the Asia-Pacific and Africa rely entirely on mobile devices, triggering new conversations on platform security? Are digital policies equipped to handle the proliferation of local language content across devices? Are emerging Internet of Things ecosystems interoperable? Will new Internet users be discouraged from digital spaces by subversive activity online? Will insurance hurdles and cyber-risk ratings retard the growth of digital economies in some regions? These are complex questions that should be confronted by “Multistakeholderism 2.0”. Multistakeholderism 2.0 requires a democratization of the process of Internet governance and pluralism in uncovering the universality of the so-called “core values” that influence policy conversations. Recent political developments in the US and Europe suggest the sanguine belief of the existence of a “global civil society”—rallying around common values or ethics—will be tested in the days to come. Therefore, the success of Multistakeholderism 2.0 will be contingent on bringing local communities, businesses and leadership to the forefront of Net politics. As commentators like Latha Reddy argue, countries like India will not only have the obligation to speak for the second largest constituency of Internet users but also the largest population of unconnected citizens. To serve them, multistakeholderism, cradled by global ideals, must now be nurtured by local realities. Samir Saran is vice-president at the Observer Research Foundation.

From http://www.livemint.com/ 03/08/2017

 

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G-20 Meeting Was 'Disappointing' and 'Disturbing'

 

Former Morgan Stanley Asia Chairman Stephen Roach said Monday that the G-20 financial leaders' dropping their traditionally strong support of free trade was "disturbing" and reflected rising protectionism in the U.S. "It's pretty disappointing when you get finance ministers from leading countries in the world who, out of the blue, are unable to validate the commitment to anti-protectionism which is the underpinning globalization," Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, told CNBC from the China Development Forum in Beijing. "That's an obvious reflection of the shifts in the political winds in the United States and indicative of a U.S. economy that is backing away from multilateralism," Roach said. "It was a disturbing meeting." Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world's 20 biggest economies were unable to follow through with their commitment to endorse free trade in the G-20 communique, as the new Trump administration seeks to put "America first."

 

Instead of "globalization as a force that is bringing us together, (Trump) feels it is a force that is punishing American middle-class workers," Roach explained. The economist explained that point with the example of an Apple iPhone having parts from over 50 countries in a "world that is linked through global supply chains." "To unwind these types of supply chain…would really turn back the clock on companies like Apple and others that straddle so many countries to bring goods and services to consumer around the world for incredibly low prices," he said. Roach reckoned that, for the Trump administration, "it's going to be bilateral deals, get tough on China, Mexico, Germany and others that are in the cross-hairs of enlightened individuals like Peter Navarro."

 

Peter Navarro, director of the White House's National Trade Council and advisor to President Trump, has repeatedly argued that China practices a perverse form of capitalism that undermines the U.S. economy by working with U.S. businesses against America's long-term interests. Navarro, a former economics professor, has said that a trade priority would be the unwinding and repatriating of international supply chains which many U.S. firms rely on."I don't agree with anything Peter Navarro has said or written in his entire career," Roach told CNBC. And is China set to assume the mantle of leadership for globalization? Roach said this is unlikely because China has a lot to cope with on the domestic front. "History tells us that countries that are not attentive to doing reforms, rebalancing and restructuring and boosting productivity at home, if they spread their wings globally, ultimately they're overextended and will get into trouble."

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 03/20/2017

 

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One of Asia's Most Powerful Women: Create a Reputation Early

 

Women aspiring to become corporate leaders might feel as though they're driving down a path with poor visibility and the risk of failure, but the key is to stay the course and push forward, according to Arundhati Bhattacharya — often cited as the most powerful woman in India. "One thing I would tell women is that they must take up the challenge. Very often, we anticipate a lot of problems and therefore, we don't take the lead. And I think that we are shortchanging ourselves if we don't do that," Bhattacharya, chairwoman of the State Bank of India (SBI), said. Bhattacharya is the first woman to head India's largest bank and the first chairperson in the bank's 211 year-old history to have their term extended past retirement age. Forbes named the banker the 25th most powerful woman in the world, and the top-ranking Indian woman, in its annual round-up last year. Speaking with CNBC, Bhattacharya likened the rise to the top to a nighttime highway drive. "It's like a car on a dark night travelling on the highway, and you can see only up to a certain point … so you feel that you'll fall off a cliff. But as you go ahead, the road opens up and I have found that happening time and again. So I think, you know, for women, it's very important to stay on the course," she said.

 

As for facing down sexism in the workplace, Bhattacharya advised on the importance of creating a reputation for delivering results early on in one's career as a preemptive mechanism. "When there are good postings available, the people who choose who is to come to that particular position, they will always have, at the back of their minds, a fear that if I take a woman, she might prioritize her family over the job and therefore, not be available at times when her presence is required. So I think, early on, you need to create the reputation (for yourself)," Bhattacharya said. Finally, the SBI chairwoman cited teamwork as something that allowed her to make it to the top of the corporate ladder. "I do believe in teamwork and I think it's very important, especially for a woman, because if you don't have a good team, then you cannot step out if you need to," Bhattacharya said. "I also try to surround myself with people who are more intelligent than I am and that really helps in giving me better solutions," she added.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 03/13/2017

 

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CHINA: Leaders Review Gov't Work Report with Lawmakers

 

Senior Chinese leaders on Sunday joined national legislators in deliberating the government work report, stressing the main theme of "seeking progress while maintaining stability." The report was delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the opening of the annual session of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC). Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Wang Qishan,all members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, joined national lawmakers in deliberating the report. Zhang, also chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, joined lawmakers from east China's Zhejiang Province.

 

Zhang stressed concrete actions to implement the decisions and policies of the CPC Central Committee, promote the steady and healthy development of the economy and the harmony of the society to create a favorable environment for the 19th National Congress of the Party, slated for later this year. Yu Zhengsheng, also chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, joined a delegation of lawmakers from central China's Hubei Province during another panel discussion. Yu urged Hubei Province to apply the new concepts of development and advance supply-side structural reform. He called for further efforts to conserve energy and protect the environment to provide the people with clean water, fresh air, safe food and beautiful environment. Liu Yunshan joined NPC deputies from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in their panel discussion.

 

Liu called for proper understanding of the relations between maintaining stability and seeking progress, stressing efforts to guide social expectations and dissolve risks, while making breakthroughs in reforms.P Major tasks in supply-side structural reform should be accomplished to improve growth quality and efficiency, he added. Wang Qishan, also secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, joined NPC deputies from Beijing. Wang stressed the need to explore effective CPC self-supervision for long-term governance, deepen reform of the national supervisory system and establish an anti-graft mechanism under the unified leadership of the Party. The CPC should enhance supervision over itself and state organs to realize full-coverage oversight of all public servants, he added.               

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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China's Political Advisory Body to Strengthen Supervision Work

 

China's political advisory body will strengthen supervision work while upholding the Party's leadership, asking political advisors to freely express their opinions and supervise the implementation of rules and policies. The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has issued a guideline on strengthening and improving the democratic supervision work of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). It was the first special document issued by the CPC Central Committee on strengthening and improving the democratic supervision work of the CPPCC, according to an official from the General Office of CPPCC National Committee. "The democratic supervision of the political advisory body is a unique and important political arrangement of China's socialist democratic politics, which plays an indispensable role in China's political establishment," the official said. According to the official, the supervision covers the implementation of the Constitution, laws and regulations, major policies of the Party and state, and the economic and social development plan and budget. It also covers the handling of practical issues of social concern and the integrity of state agencies and their staffers. Supervision will be conducted in various ways, including making inspections and submitting proposals.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/06/2017

 

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Political Advisors Raise Suggestions for Social, Cultural Development

 

Chinese political advisors gathered Friday to raise suggestions for the nation's social and cultural development, among other topics. Fourteen members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee addressed a plenary meeting at the Great Hall of the People. Political advisor Liu Changming said education quality evaluation system should be more diversified and more practices should be carried out in schools according to realities. Li Wei called for reforming the evaluation system of science and technology and establishing classified evaluation systems to boost independent innovation, suggesting that professional third-party agencies should be employed in the evaluation process. Cao Hongming stressed the importance of chronic disease prevention, calling for improved systems with a better role of traditional Chinese medicine in the prevention. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, attended the plenary meeting.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/10/2017

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Chinese Judiciary Vows to Ensure Security, Enhance Justice

 

China's top court and procuratorate on Sunday pledged to help maintain social stability and boost economic growth, ahead of a key Communist Party of China (CPC) congress to be convened in the second half of this year. "[We will] resolutely protect the nation's political security, in particular the security of the state power and the political system," Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said. Presenting a work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) at a plenary meeting of the National People's Congress annual session, Zhou said Chinese courts will help create a "safe and stable" social environment as well as a fair and just legal environment. CPC and state leaders Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli attended the plenary meeting. Zhou promised to keep a firm hand on crimes undermining national security and on violent and terrorist crimes in accordance with the law. Courts will strike hard on severe criminal offenses such as murder and robbery, and hand out due sentences for those involved in telecom and Internet fraud, in order to maintain social stability, the chief justice said.

 

Procurator-General Cao Jianming, meanwhile, pledged to severely punish infiltrating, subversive and sabotage activities by hostile forces, violent and terrorist crimes, ethnic separatist activities and religious extremist activities, to "safeguard security, protect stability and promote harmony." Crimes involving Mafia-like gangs, guns, explosives, drug making and trafficking, women and children trafficking, as well as crimes undermining national defense and military interests will also face harsh penalties, Cao said in a report on the work of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Last year, Chinese courts convicted a number of people on charges of subverting state power, including Zhou Shifeng, a lawyer who formerly managed the Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing, and Hu Shigen, an illegal church leader. Zhou was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Hu seven years and a half, by a court in Tianjin Municipality.

 

NO WEAKENING IN GRAFT FIGHT

Both Zhou Qiang and Cao Jianming promised that the current anti-corruption momentum will not lose steam, and vowed to step up efforts in the administration of justice in major duty crime cases. China is in the middle of a sweeping campaign against corruption which targets both high-ranking "tigers" and lowly "flies." Last year, the central authorities announced that the campaign had "gained crushing momentum." According to Zhou, China's court system concluded 45,000 graft cases in 2016, implicating 63,000 people. The defendants included 35 former officials at the provincial and ministerial level or above, and 240 at the prefectural level, he said. In the meantime, procurators investigated 47,650 people for their suspected involvement in duty-related crimes, according to Cao. Prosecution proceedings were launched against 48 former officials at the provincial and ministerial level or above, including Ling Jihua and Su Rong, both former vice chairmen of the country's top political advisory body, and Bai Enpei, a former senior lawmaker with the NPC, Cao said.

 

Procurators also investigated 17,410 lower level officials suspected of corruption in land expropriation and demolition, social security, management of agriculture-related funds and other issues concerning the people's well-being, he said. He went on to highlight the progress in capturing fugitives abroad and recovering their ill-gotten assets. Since China launched a campaign to hunt down fugitives implicated in duty-related crimes in October 2014, 164 suspects, including 27 listed in an Interpol red notice, have been repatriated or persuaded to return to China from 37 countries and regions, he said.

 

BOOSTING ECONOMIC GROWTH

The chief justice and procurator-general noted the importance China's judiciary puts in promoting social and economic development. This year, the SPC will perfect the country's bankruptcy trial system to help cut overcapacity and facilitate the supply-side structural reform, one of the top priorities of economic reform. In 2017, China's courts will step up trials of foreign-related business and maritime cases to serve the Belt and Road Initiative and the strategy of building China into a major maritime power. China has extended its maritime jurisdiction to cover all seas under its jurisdiction in an effort to safeguard the country's maritime rights and interests. Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) will also be strengthened as part of the efforts to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

For his part, Cao said Chinese prosecutors will strike hard on crimes that involve disturbing market order, infringement of IPR and encroachment of special government funds. They will focus on crimes undermining food and drug safety and environmental protection, he added. Both judicial organs will target cases related to poverty alleviation, a fundamental task in building a moderately prosperous society by 2020 as set by the Chinese government. "In the face of new situation and new tasks, we will follow the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and work harder ... to embrace the Party's 19th National Congress," Zhou said. The CPC will hold its 19th National Congress to elect a new leadership for the next five years.

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/12/2017

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Chinese Premier Stresses Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations

 

Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday the Chinese mainland's stance of opposing "Taiwan independence" and promoting peaceful development of cross-Strait relations is consistent and clear-cut. Li made the remarks while addressing a press conference after the conclusion of the annual session of China's national legislature. "No matter how the situation on the island may evolve, the fraternal bond between the mainland and Taiwan will not be severed, the history and the reality that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China will not be changed, and our resolve and sincerity in safeguarding the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations will not waver," Li said.

 

He said the Chinese mainland will continue to uphold the 1992 Consensus, which acknowledges that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan belong to one China, as the political foundation for the cross-Strait relations. While vowing resolute opposition against "Taiwan independence," Li said the well-being of the people across the Strait will be promoted. More policies will be introduced to help Taiwan people find jobs, create businesses, work and live on the mainland, he said. "We will continue to provide favorable policies so that Taiwan businesses and Taiwan compatriots can share opportunities of development with the mainland," he said. "Anyway, we are one family."                    

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/15/2017

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China Eliminates More Administrative Fees

 

Chinese authorities announced on Thursday that another 41 administrative charges will be canceled or halted across the country, starting from next month. The charges include service fees for environmental monitoring and certification fees for drug regulation, according to a notice released by the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission. In China, administrative approvals to conduct businesses and access public services usually involve drawn-out and redundant procedures. To simplify the procedures and reduce burdens on businesses and individuals, the government is committed to redistributing authority or eliminating the requirements. Central government departments controlled 1,526 approval items in 2013. More than a third have since been canceled or delegated to lower agencies. Last year, China canceled the requirement on a further 165 items for review by State Council departments.                         

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/23/2017

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China Orders Greater Gov't Transparency to Support Reform

 

China's central government has issued a guideline on this year's government transparency work to support reform efforts. The State Council guideline said officials should be ready to clearly explain fiscal, monetary and employment policies. Implementation of tax cuts and lowering costs should be open to the public, to stabilize the momentum of the economy. The guideline also called for transparency in simplifying administration and delegating powers to subordinate agencies, as well as disseminating information about reform of rural property rights, support for migrant workers to start businesses back home, among others. During the policy-making for new industries and new models, agencies should solicit public opinion and hold seminars to encourage relevant market players to join the process and support the restructuring of the economy. Transparency in cutting industrial capacity, IPR, false advertising and pricing should also be strengthened. Regular press conference on environmental protection will be held and water quality of cities will be ranked. Policies interpretation and public opinion guiding should be held in higher regard in making financial policies, especially on financial markets, to prevent risks.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/23/2017

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Chinese Premier Stresses Agricultural Supply-side Structural Reform

 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for agricultural supply-side structural reform and improvements to the agricultural development system. In an instruction made public Wednesday to a meeting on agricultural production, Li urged local authorities to intensify work in the agricultural sector, strengthen development in rural areas and increase rural people's incomes. Spring is the key season for agricultural production, the premier said. Local governments should ensure the supply of production materials, improve irrigation projects, be prepared for drought and flood, and enhance weather forecasting, Li said.

 

The country should also ensure the quality and safety of agricultural products and raise their market competitiveness, Li said. Vice Premier Wang Yang said at the meeting held in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province that China should provide better technical instruction and information to farmers. Local governments should accelerate the construction of functional zones for grain production, protected areas for major agricultural products and areas for growing endemic agricultural products, Wang said. The country should also explore new ways to let farmers share in the growth and earnings of the industrial and service sectors, Wang said.                       

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/23/2017

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JAPAN: System Eyed for Sharing Public, Private Disaster Info

 

To help deal with large-scale disasters, the Cabinet Office plans to create a new system through which the public and private sectors will be able to share information on a real-time basis. The envisaged system will utilize such information as locations obtained by the GPS of smartphones and car navigation devices of private companies. The aim is to ascertain the situation of people hit by a disaster and utilize that information so that administrative authorities can make a smooth initial response. The Cabinet Office will begin to discuss the new system this month, and is seeking to start operations in fiscal 2018. Called a disaster information hub, the new system will fully utilize information communication technologies. It will likely comprise the central government, local governments and private companies in such business sectors as telecommunications and cargo distribution.

 

GPS location information from smartphones will be critical for ascertaining the conditions in a disaster-hit area. If information can be obtained on the movements of people who have been struck by a disaster, it can be utilized for emergency medical care, life-saving efforts and the distribution of aid goods. Authorities will draw on the lessons of the Kumamoto Earthquake last year. At that time, many residents continued to sleep in cars instead of at shelters, causing confusion and preventing the distribution of sufficient aid. GPS information from car navigation devices is expected to be effective in confirming road conditions, such as traffic jams, when goods are being transported. The Cabinet Office will hold its first meeting of a promotion team for the disaster information hub system in the middle of this month at the earliest. It will be attended by officials from the central government, local governments and the private sector. The promotion team will be chaired by Yohei Matsumoto, state minister of the Cabinet Office, and will spend about a year designing the new system and discussing details such as privacy issues.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/10/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Sharing with the World, Part 7 - Automated Electoral Systems

 

“Clean and fair elections have come true in my country. My wish has come true!” So said President Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan on Oct. 5, 2015, a day after the parliamentary election. President Atambayev has been enthusiastically carrying out the introduction of an automated electoral system with the goal of achieving political stability and democracy. The Kyrgyzstani leader said, “As citizens trust the election results, we didn't have any protest as we did before. So this is one of the happiest days of my life.” “This election realized one of my biggest dreams,” he said. The introduction of an automated electoral system was part of the National Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2017, a form of overseas development assistance (ODA) between Korea and Kyrgyzstan. This project was jointly conducted by Korea’s National Election Commission, the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency since April 2014. It was originally initiated in October 2013 after the head of the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan (CEC), Tuigunaaly Abdraimov, saw Korea’s automated election system first-hand during an opening ceremony for the A-WEB. The head of the CEC returned home and asked the president to support the establishment of such a system in their home country. A month later, in November 2013, the Korean and Kyrgyzstani leaders held talks and this was one of the issues on the summit table. After a series of high-level meetings between the two countries, it became a concrete project.

After achieving independence from the USSR in 1991, Kyrgyzstan adopted democracy and held several rounds of elections. The country, however, was unable to cut the chain of corruption, such as fraudulent elections and suppression of the press. Kyrgyzstanis did not trust their political system. They even brought about revolutions twice, in 2005 and 2010. Due to the political instability, they were unable to stop corruption during elections, such as voting twice or manipulating the results, which kept credibility very low. In some places, there were more ballots than voters, or vice versa. Some people even voted on behalf of other people. All the results were counted manually, too, which took two or three days, or even up to seven days. To establish an automated electoral system in Kyrgyzstan, Korea conducted a thorough analysis and consulted the target government in advance. It supported and shared its know-how in establishing a data center, backed by Korea’s information and communications technology (ICT). Korea also developed an election information system, provided the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) devices, managed an educational and training program and sent experts to Kyrgyzstan for some hands-on guidance.

The automated electoral system was test-operated in local elections in May 2015 with 100 PCOS machines. It proved to be accurate in test operations that took place at 49 voting locations in five provinces, despite some difficulties, including a month-long preparation, an unstable network both on- and offline, and bad weather. Five months later, PCOS devices were used at 2,338 voting locations in a parliamentary election in Kyrgyzstan. After the polls closed, the preliminary results were released within two hours after the start of counting, thanks to a system that enabled the counting of 95 percent of the ballots, earning faith and trust in its results. The PCOS machines use a light to automatically decode the ballots. This is the key technology used in automated election systems. Unlike existing, manual systems, where a human divides ballots one by one that had been cast into a ballot box, this new system can automatically recognize the ink on the ballot when it is cast using a PCOS device. This helps to prevent various forms of corruption and can ensure the accuracy of the election results. After the final counting, the election results were directly sent to the CEC via the internet.

International media outlets have highly praised Kyrgyzstan’s newly-introduced automated electoral system. The U.K.-based Financial Times said on Oct. 10, 2015, that, “It will set a good example in Central Asia.” Earlier, on Oct. 5, Eurasianet, a U.S.-based publication that focuses mainly on Europe and Asia, said, “Competitive and technological, the Oct. 4 vote set a bold example that has been hailed by organizers as a historic turning point for the nation." The system has also been used in the recent referendum in Kyrgyzstan in December 2016. It will also be used in the upcoming presidential election there in November this year. A total of 613 observers from 69 countries witnessed Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election, backed by the introduction of the new system. After witnessing the success in Kyrgyzstan, about 11 countries have taken an interest in the automated electoral system. These countries include its neighbors in Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as other countries, including Ecuador and Ghana. Korea will work further with El Salvador, Congo, Fiji, Uzbekistan, and Ecuador in order to support the automation of electoral systems within the year.

From http://www.korea.net 02/23/2017

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Seoul Focuses on E-Gov’t Exports, Creating ‘Smart' Administration

 

The government has opened an online portal that shows all the information about its online government services, or e-government, and related bidding information. The Ministry of the Interior opened the website, its “E-government export support system” (www.egovexport.go.kr), on Mar. 8 in order to meet the demands of e-government exports and the needs and trends of industry. The newly opened website, currently operating on a test-run basis, will be open to e-government exporters. In the past, firms or government bodies had to consult with individual organizations, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KOTRA and KOICA, in order to know more about business information. Some may have experienced difficulties in local conditions, or in gaining business information or bidding information. The new website, however, does not only provide information. As an online platform, it enables its users, including government bodies and public organizations, local entities and Korean firms, to share, provide and use the information. In the “Current Statues by Countries” menu, users can get more information about overseas countries and regions. They can also learn more about related data about the selected country of their choice, which includes present conditions, related news, bidding information and business opportunities, all at one place.

 

The website also offers information in its menu dubbed “Excellent E-government Systems,” which enables users to promote Korea’s well-recognized e-government systems overseas. Meanwhile, the ministry held its first “E-government Promotion Committee” at the Government-Complex-Seoul to map out the future direction of Korea’s online government services. In the meeting, the ministry announced it would build an “intelligent government” and a “smart nation,” both future goals of its e-government development. An "intelligent government" means a government backed by artificial intelligence (AI) and data, which can provide a detailed service, both on- and offline, like a personal assistant or "secretary for the people and for public officers." With this in mind, the ministry selected four goals: build a government that looks after people’s hearts, solve issues in advance, share values and protect people and enhance safety. It has also listed 14 tasks to achieve these goals.

Another future plan concerning e-government is to build a “smart nation.” Under this plan, the ministry aims to build AI-based infrastructure and to provide online government services to local residents across the country so that everyone can have access to them. The plans include four strategies: provide AI-based services in urban and suburban areas, form a nation-wide network based on the Internet of Things (IoT), spread local-based services in the public and private sector, and set up a system of “local-based governance.” The ministry aims to provide 11 detailed e-government services in this category, including setting up sensors for the movement and gas leaks at homes of the elderly who live by themselves. This system would automatically send information to the National 119 Rescue Control Office. Such services would also include providing life support for those in need. Other services include providing AI-based high-tech services, such as in the medical and educational sectors, in regions where the population is on the decline, in order to help balanced development across the nation.

From http://www.korea.net 03/13/2017

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Sharing with the World, Part 8: Online Criminal Procedures Systems

 

“The Korea Information System of Criminal Justice Services (KICS) is one of the exemplary cases of "Government 3.0." This is because it has boosted convenience for the people by removing walls among organizations, and has worked hard and communicated closely together.” So said Prosecutor Jeong Bo-Young of the Office of Criminal Justice Information Systems. It is one of Korea’s leading e-government systems that has captured the attention of overseas neighbors like Uzbekistan, Austria, Peru and Mongolia. The system is an automated system backed by IT and covers all aspects of the criminal justice system. It allows other organizations, as well as criminal justice agencies, to share information, as it's connected via mobile communication companies to the immigration office, the Ministry of the Interior and other departments. Unlike other e-government systems that went with their own online systems, the KICS is the outcome of communication and collaboration between four organizations: the National Police Agency, the Prosecutor’s Office, the courts and the Ministry of Justice.

Despite the differences in opinion due to their vested interests, these organizations worked together and engaged in close communication and negotiation in order to establish a joint information system online. The four criminal justice agencies manage a special server for the KICS. The Office of Criminal Justice Information Systems, under the justice ministry, is in charge of the overall management of the KICS server and inter-agency collaboration affairs. Korea.net met with Prosecutor Jeong Bo-Young of the Office of Criminal Justice Information Systems to learn more about the KICS and its future goals, and overseas cooperation. - The KICS may sound strange to many readers. Please explain to us about the "informationization" of the criminal justice system so that our readers can better understand. The KICS is a comprehensive IT system that helps criminal justice agencies transfer information and the result of criminal cases in a swift, accurate manner, and brings feedback to the citizens in a transparent manner. The KICS was established to boost the "informationization" of the criminal justice system and to enhance promptness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, which contribute to protecting citizen’s rights.

- The KICS was first introduced in 2010. What led you to develop such a system? We needed a central system that could serve as a pivot for sharing and using information. Without the KICS, in the past, we had to make documents for every single criminal case and store all the paper work separately. After the 1980s, each of these organizations used an automated, internal system for case management and administration processing procedures, but these systems were run separately, which caused inconveniences and a waste of time when repeating the same paper work. For example, when a criminal case was passed to the prosecution office from the police agency, prosecutors had to manually write all the information about the case, which was already done on paper by the police in the earlier steps. The police weren't able to get the results of the case or receive feedback from the prosecutors. The lack of sharing and using information between agencies caused a waste of workforce. It also led to recording incorrect information during the repeated filing of paper work. It also brought inconveniences for both suspects and accusers, as they had to visit these agencies in person to make enquiries or to complain about the case. For this reason, the four criminal justice agencies began to work together in 2004. Backed by IT, they cooperated on establishing an inter-agency administration system, the KICS. Thanks to their effort, the KICS was launched in July 2010 as a website.

- What is the biggest benefit that the KICS can bring to the people? Tell us the most significant changes since its introduction. I would firstly say that the KICS got rid of unnecessary paper works. Once a criminal case is registered in the KICS server, the same documentation work is automatically applied to protocol containing the interrogation of a suspect and criminal facts subject to judgment. In the case of simple criminal cases, such as drunk driving, all criminal justice procedures are digitalized. Now it only takes 10 days to handle such a case, which used to be around 120 days in the past. The KICS also helps us share all the related information, such as the investigation, legal decisions and execution of the law. Thanks to the KICS, suspects, the accused and other involved parties can check how the case is progressing, through their smartphones or anywhere online, which can boost convenience, transparency and trust.  - The protection of personal information is crucial for the KICS. Can you please tell us how the KICS handles cyber security issues? As we need the highest level of security, we use divided networks for inter-agency affairs and for portal management. The four criminal justice agencies use a special intranet for the public sector, instead of a normal internet connection. Such division is designed to prevent any form of hacking from taking place.

- You've been working with governments in Peru and Uzbekistan regarding the automation of their criminal justice systems. Other countries, like Indonesia and Mongolia, have been using the KICS as a benchmark. What do you think made them take an interest in the KICS? Korea is the very first country to establish such an online criminal justice integration system. The U.K., for example, began a similar system for all its criminal justice procedures in April last year. Other countries, like Germany, have begun to build similar systems. The KICS wins international attention as it can enhance speed, fairness and transparency of the whole criminal process, ranging from the registration of a criminal case through to the execution of a legal decision. - What benefit can these countries receive through the introduction of similar systems? If they adopt a system similar to the KICS, it will firstly save time and money, as it's an automated, digitalized system of all the criminal justice procedures. The citizens will soon realize the convenience of it, which will boost transparency and fairness of the country’s criminal justice system, which, furthermore, will lead to winning the trust of the citizens. - Every country has different legal systems and different criminal codes. How can the KICS be applied to these countries? Even though countries have different legal systems, their criminal justice systems have many things in common, in fact. We can share our knowledge, experience and the technology we obtained during the establishment of the KICS.

- Was there any difficulty when it came to overseas cooperation? What did you do to solve any such difficulties? We should bear in mind that every country has different priorities and faces slightly different circumstances. Government delegations from more than 10 countries visited us last year alone. Some countries put more priority on establishing an internet network and constructing power supply equipment rather than building an online criminal justice system. As such, we recommend they consider any new project as a form of overseas development assistance (ODA), which involves working with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Korea Exim Bank. - Tell us about the future direction of overseas cooperation, and any future goals of the KICS. We have been upgrading our overall KICS system so that it can apply advanced IT, such as big data, artificial intelligence and voice recognition, to criminal justice affairs. When it's completed, we'll be able to greatly boost the ease of use for criminal justice professionals, and serve the citizens better. Our ultimate goal is to realize a perfect, paperless automation of the criminal justice process. We've already digitalized the case management information sector. Now, we're working on extending the digitalization of evidence-related information, gradually working toward the goal of perfect, paperless automation.

From http://www.korea.net 03/20/2017

 

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CAMBODIA: Deputy PM Ben Chhin Named as Acting Cabinet Minister After Sok An's Death

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Thursday appointed one of his deputies, Ben Chhin, as the acting minister in charge of the Council of Ministers after the incumbent Sok An passed away. "Deputy Prime Ministers, Senior Ministers, Ministers at all ministries, heads of all institutions, and His Excellency Ben Chhin must comply with this decision from the day of signature," the prime minister wrote in the appointment letter. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, died on Wednesday evening at the age of 66 due to illness, the Cambodian government said in a statement. Sok An, one of the country's most powerful politicians, was a standing committee member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party. In the government, he had served as the minister in charge of the Council of Ministers since 1998; and he was promoted to the rank of a deputy prime minister in 2004. Sok An's body was flown to Phnom Penh early Thursday morning. According to the schedule, his body will be cremated on March 19 at the Wat Botum park, just south of the Royal Palace.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/16/2017

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PHILIPPINES: Duterte Names New Foreign Minister

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte named on Thursday a new acting foreign minister, barely a day after the Commission on Appointment (CA) rejected the appointment of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay over his citizenship issue. Duterte named Foreign Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, an experienced career diplomat, according to a text message by Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella. Abella said Manalo will hold the position until Duterte names a new foreign secretary. "Manalo is an excellent transition man, and has been on top of many crucial issues together with (Yasay)," Abella said. In a memorandum sent to Manalo, acting Executive Secretary Menardo Guevara said: "Upon the instruction of the President and for the purpose of ensuring the continuous and effective delivery of public service, you are hereby designated as Acting Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs until a permanent replacement is appointed or until otherwise directed by the Office." Manalo is one of the most experienced diplomats of the Philippine foreign service. He served as deputy foreign secretary for policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs from 2007 to 2010.

 

Yasay failed to get the nod of the powerful commission whose members questioned the top diplomat's eligibility following reports he was a U.S. citizen in possession of a U.S. passport. Yasay has denied legally applying for a U.S. citizenship in past hearings. But during Wednesday's final committee hearing, Yasay apologized for "having inadvertently misled the commission" on the citizenship issue. "It has never been my intention to deceive this commission about this citizenship status. Simply put, I did not lose my status as a Filipino," Yasay told the commission. CA Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Panfilo Lacson said the commission's "unanimous" decision on Yasay is final, and that the top diplomat needs to immediately vacate his post. Manalo will remain acting foreign minister until May or June. Duterte is expected to appoint his former running mate in the last presidential election, Sen. Peter Cayetano, as permanent foreign secretary. Duterte has promised Cayetano the post even before he appointed Yasay to the post shortly after assuming office in June last year.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/09/2017

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SINGAPORE: Parliament to Begin Debating Budget 2017 on Tuesday

 

SINGAPORE: Parliament will on Tuesday (Feb 28) begin to debate the Government’s financial policy for the coming fiscal year in its first sitting since Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the Budget statement last Monday. Among the issues that could be raised: Plans to raise water prices by 30 per cent over two years, as well as new taxes on carbon and diesel.  Topics ranging from animal culling to the massive Tembusu tree that fell and killed a woman at the Botanic Gardens will also be on the agenda. On the latter, Member of Parliament Zainal Sapari will ask questions about the National Parks Board's tree inspections as well as the extent of its public liability insurance coverage. Louis Ng will ask how much the Government spends on culling dogs, cats and monkeys, and if the practice is effective in population control. Meanwhile, Lee Bee Wah will bring up the issue of doctors in private practice who overcharge their patients. Desmond Choo will ask about measures to handle arson attacks on MRT trains, after a man in Hong Kong set himself on fire in an MTR train at Tsim Sha Tsui earlier this month.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 02/27/2017

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Singapore to Set Up New Defence Cyber Organisation

 

SINGAPORE: A new Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) will be set up to monitor and defend the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) networks around-the-clock from cyberthreats, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced in Parliament on Friday (Mar 3). Earlier this week, a breach in an Internet access system at MINDEF resulted in the personal data of 850 national servicemen and employees being stolen. The growing risk of such threats in recent times has seen the SAF doubling the number of cyberdefence personnel and investing in emerging technologies through the Cyber Security Operations Centre 2.0 initiative in April last year. A Cyber Defence Operations Hub was also built in 2013. “The next-generation SAF needs to prepare for this environment where state-orchestrated cyber and information campaigns against another state are not only considered legitimate, but can be ongoing all the time,” said Dr Ng. “The impact of that threat can have real and damaging physical consequences.”

 

Citing cases of cyberattacks and fake news in Ukraine, Estonia, the US presidential elections and Indonesia, Dr Ng warned that more incidents such as the MINDEF breach can be expected in future. In recognition that the cyberdomain is the battlefield today, the new DCO will lead and develop cybersecurity strategies and policies across SAF’s military networks, corporate IT systems, the Defence Science and Technology Agency, DSO National Laboratories and more. “The SAF must keep up with the tactics and operations of aggressors in the cyber realm ... because this is a never-ending game, as we do in conventional warfare,” said Dr Ng. The DCO will be about 2,600-strong and made up of four formations - the operational response arm that is the Cyber Security Division, the Policy and Plans Directorate tasked with capability development, the Cyber Security Inspectorate to assess vulnerability and the Cyber Defence Group. The Cyber Defence Group consists of a security monitoring unit, an incident response and audit unit as well as the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC). Opened in 2015, CyTEC facilitates network security testing and conducts training, among others.

 

WANTED: CYBERDEFENDERS

The SAF has also created a new cyberdefence vocation for both full-time and operationally ready national servicemen. Those who have demonstrated their abilities at cyber competitions, as well as those currently working in the cybersecurity industry, may also be selected and identified to be “cyberdefenders”. "Our cyberdefenders will need to possess a high level of skill given the increasing frequency and complexity of cyberattacks," said Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung. "They will be entering a very selective and demanding vocation, comparable to the commandos or naval divers." In their vocation, which will be implemented from August, they are expected to perform roles such as monitoring networks and systems, responding to incidents and forensic analysis. As a pilot project, they may also be deployed to support the Cyber Security Agency to defend critical information infrastructure supporting Singapore’s key networks. MINDEF also announced that the Headquarters Signals and Command Systems, which includes the SAF training institute for cyberdefence, will sign a memorandum of understanding with Singapore Technologies Electronics (Info-Security) and Nanyang Polytechnic this month.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/03/2017

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Singapore Environment Council Appoints New Executive Director

 

SINGAPORE: Ms Jen Teo Pui Heng will be the Singapore Environment Council's (SEC) new executive director with effect from next Monday (Mar 27), the non-governmental organisation said in a media release on Wednesday. Ms Teo's predecessor Edwin Seah was suspended from his position in October last year before he was terminated from the SEC a month later. "The reason SEC gave for my termination was that they found me a wrong fit for the organisation," Mr Seah told Channel NewsAsia. Assistant executive director Gerard Christopher and director of communications Shirley Chua were also terminated from their positions a week after. Ms Teo was formerly the senior vice-president of Great Eastern Insurance, where she headed a team focused on business transformation and improvement. She has previously worked for American Express with responsibilities across the Asia-Pacific region, SEC said. Commenting on the appointment, chairman Isabella Loh said: “As the executive director of SEC, Jen will lead our drive to encourage green consumerism as well as our efforts to promote sustainability to communities, governments and industries." Ms Teo said: “It is an exciting time to be leading SEC. Environmental issues are now at the centre of Singapore’s public policy debate, with moves to conserve water, reduce vehicle emissions and fight climate change through a carbon price. “The need for SEC to be a strong advocate for the environment has never been more important," she added. 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/22/2017

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THAILAND: Supachai Urges Support for Govt’s Long-Term Strategy

 

Former secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Supachai Panitchpakdi said on Monday the government has been doing the right thing in laying out the country’s long-term national strategy and integrating it into social and economic development and regional plans. Supachai was invited to sit on the government initiated committee on reform, reconciliation, and national strategy or Por Yor Por along with other 38 noted experts in all fields. Supachai believes that the country must have such a strategy as it is significant to Thailand’s growth and development. He urged all parties to lend support to the government, whether they agree with it or not. Asked if the government would be successful in pushing ahead with this strategy, he said it could as nothing is impossible.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/06/2017

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Administrative Courts Have Dealt with 13,000 Cases in 16 Years

 

The Administrative and Supreme Administrative Courts have received nearly 13,000 complaints against government officials during the past 16 years since they were first opened, Supreme Administrative Court President Piya Patangta said on Wednesday on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the courts’ opening. The two courts have managed to hear and rule on nearly 9,000 cases, leaving 4,000 still to be disposed of, said Piya. The courts intend to conclude all the cases by this year, while new cases will be ruled on within two years of accepting the petition. The courts have also embraced digital technology to speed up their work. People can check their court appointments via mobile applications. Some court documents are also kept as e-records. The courts aim to become E-Court and Smart Court, in line with the government-initiated Thailand 4.0 economic model under which social and economic development will be digital and innovation-based.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com 03/08/2017

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VIETNAM: Ministries, Localities Told Not to Buy Cars

 

Ministries and localities have been told not to buy cars this year unless otherwise dictated by a comprehensive review of the  number of State-owned cars. Deputy Minister of Finance Nguyễn Hữu Chí, who issued the order, said it was aimed to tighten public spending and improve the effectiveness of using public property. Instead of buying additional cars, ministries and localities should pay a travel allowance to officials who were previously eligible to use State-owned cars or to rent cars, he said. Chí also ordered the ministries and localities not to use money from Official Development Assistance and preferential and commercial loans to buy State-owned cars. Management boards of foreign-aid projects that want to buy cars are required to submit a detailed plan to the finance ministry for approval, he said.

 

Hà Nội pilots travel allowance

As of March 1, Hà Nội is the first locality in the country with a pilot programme of travel allowances to officials of the departments of transport, finance, planning and investment, labour, invalid and social affairs, as well as State-agencies in the districts of Hà Đông, Long Biên, Thanh Trì and Gia Lâm. The maximal travel allowance is VNĐ9.3 million (US$407) a month. Mai Xuân Vinh, head of the Finance Department’s Public Property Management Office, said redundant State-owned cars at the agencies would be handed over to the city administration, which would allocate them to other State-agencies lacking State-owned cars. Schools and hospitals were among those on the priority list. Data from the city’s Finance Department showed the city has about 400 State-owned cars, with the cost to run a car about VNĐ223 million ($9,750) each year. The programme is expected to save the capital budget VNĐ50 billion ($2.2 million) a year. The city plans to introduce the programme at all State-agencies by October.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/06/2017

 

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Public Offices to Work Saturdays

 

Starting March 10, a number of public administration offices in the capital city will work on Saturday mornings. The decision, recently announced by Hà Nội Mayor Nguyễn Đức Chung, will apply to the municipal departments of Planning and Investment; Natural Resources and Environment; Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; Construction; Justice; Transport; Agriculture and Rural Development; Planning and Architecture; the management boards of industrial and export-processing zones; and Peoples Committees of all levels, from district-level to town-level. The public servants who work on Saturday mornings may be entitled to compensatory time off or overtime pay, depending on the arrangements with their workplaces. The mayor also tasked the municipal department of Home Affairs to issue regulations ensuring a transparent scheme on leave and compensation for those working extra time. Administrative offices typically work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, meaning that people have to take time off work in order to conduct procedures at these offices. However, many expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of the extended working hours, pointing to the aggravating bureaucratic nightmares that haunt State administrative agencies.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/06/2017

 

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National Women’s Congress – Chance for Women to Raise Voice

 

The National Women’s Congress for the 2017-22 tenure, taking place from today in Hà Nội, is a chance for delegates who represent women from all walks of life, ethnic groups, religions, ages and professions to share experiences and idea on bettering women’s lives in Việt Nam. Y Giang, head of the Women’s Union of Rờ Khơi Village in Sa Thầy District, Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, said that the union’s efficiency at local levels is poor, as officials have little experience, knowledge or presentation skills. She said she hopes the three-day congress will seek support policies for women in the new tenure, while diversifying operations to expand coverage and attract more members. She proposed that the congress find measures to effectively implement the Law on Gender Equality. The union should also pay more attention to vocational training and creating jobs for women, as well as the training of skills for local officials in remote and mountainous areas, she said.

 

Meanwhile, President of the Women’s Union of Nha Trang City, south central Khánh Hòa Province, Nguyễn Thị Khánh Hòa suggested that the congress work out measures to help women in business through providing capital and suitable production models. According to Hòa, it is crucial to eradicate illiteracy among women and improve their knowledge, while helping them access science and technology. She stressed the need to promote the role of the union in helping women join political activities at all levels. Trần Thị Phương Hoa, President of the Hà Nội Women’s Union, said that the training and appointment of women to important positions should be improved. Particularly, the union should enhance its role in representing and protecting the rights and interests of women. According to Hoa, representatives of the Women’s Union at all levels should be members of advisory councils on policy and law making to raise their voice during the drafting process. Sharing Hoa’s opinions, President of the Đắk Lắk Women’s Union Nguyễn Thi Thu Nguyệt said that supervision activities of the union will help women promote their rights through the timely adjustments of laws and policies.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/07/2017

 

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INDIA: Transforming Governance - India, Portugal Tie Up for Joint IT Development

 

India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Portugal to collaborate in areas of electronic manufacturing, Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS), start-ups, cyber security and e-governance. A bilateral meeting was held between IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Maria Manuel Leitao Marques,Minister of Presidency and Administrative Modernisation, Portugal. “We had a very good discussion and have agreed to collaborate in the areas of electronic manufacturing, ITeS, cyber security, e-governance and capacity building. We will support the Portugal team in scaling up their initiatives — Simplex and Portuguese Citizen Shops, which are like our MyGov and Common Service Centre initiatives,” IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “We also have discussed several collaborative initiatives in the domain of capacity building and cyber security to ensure safe and secure cyber space,” Prasad said. “We have also informed the Portuguese Minister that India is going to host the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in November 2017, which will see participation of over 100 countries with 2,000 delegates,” added Prasad. The meeting was organised ahead of the ICEGOV 2017 event which is happening for the first time in India. Portuguese delegation along with representatives from other countries including key representatives from the industry, policymakers, government officials, elected representatives, researchers, innovators and educators are also participating in the event.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 03/10/2017

 

 

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People Coming Together for Creation of New India

 

MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the country's people are coming together to create a "new India" and stressed that people's power is more important than government power. "New India is not about 'upkaar' but about 'avsar'. It is about opportunity for all." A fast pace of development cannot be attained unless all 125 crore Indians come together, he said at the IndiaToday Conclave here. The Prime Minister said the Goods and Services Tax regime, set to be rolled out from July 1, is an example of "deliberative democracy". Modi did not mention the February-March assembly polls on a day when a Bharatiya Janata Party Chief Minister took oath in Uttarakhand and the party announced its Chief Minister for Uttar Pradesh. However, he talked of the "mood of people" post November 8 demonetisation. "After Diwali, we took a step against black money and corruption... you have seen the mood of the people after that," Modi said. "It feels as if people have come together during war, or a natural calamity; today, we can see people are uniting on these issues," he said, referring to government steps like the 'Swachh Bharat' Mission and giving up cooking gas subsidy. "There are many people who have failed in understanding this, or even touching it. People are coming together. For what? To end evil and shortcomings within themselves. The dreams of a new India are imbibed in this," he said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 03/21/2017

 

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Government to Provide Information Services Through Multilingual Portal, Mobile Apps

 

The Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communications & IT has launched a portal http://localization.gov.in alongwith a multilingual portal –www.vikaspedia.gov.in / www.vikaspedia.in. The multilingual portal will serve as a collaborative content creation, sharing and utilization platform for a rainbow of stakeholders – NGOs, government, community based organizations, knowledge networks, CSRs, spread across the country. Vikaspedia is presently available in five languages – Hindi, Assamese, Marathi, Telugu and English. It is to be made available in 22 Indian official languages in phases in the near future. Information services related to key livelihood sectors (initially the six sectors of Agriculture, Education, Health, Social welfare, Energy and e-Governance) are currently available in the portal. To ensure dissemination of information to the underserved communities across the country, a multiple information delivery model that includes mobile based services, apps, offline products, publications, etc is being followed. The portal will be an effective mechanism to strengthen the first level service providers to discharge services more effectively and educate the actual end user on various issues related to livelihoods. The multi-lingual mobile apps such as – KVK Khoj (Krishi Vigyan Kendra locator), CSC Finder (Helps provide information on Common Service Centres), SHELTOR (Locates nearby Government Hostels for students), Ask-An-Expert (mobile based expert services delivery application) and MOTHER (Mobile based maternal health alerts for pregnant women) have relevant information packaged so as maximize the benefits of ongoing schemes to the citizens.

 

The Localization Portal has been developed for dissemination of information and providing basic localization tools and services. The National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) of the Government of India strives to make all government services available to the citizens through the use of ICT applications. It comprises of 31 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs), which are further classified as state, central or integrated projects. Each MMP has several web based applications that are meant to directly or indirectly deliver information and/or services to the citizens. Hence, there is a need to make these applications and services available in the official language of the state apart from English. To meet this goal, the Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY) has entrusted Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) with the responsibility of assisting various ministries and departments in localization of various applications envisaged under their respective MMP. C-DAC is implementing this project through the use of Localization Projects Management Framework (LPMF) being designed and developed over a Cloud platform. Currently, the LPMF supports 6 Indian languages (Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam and Punjabi). Gradually, other languages will be included in a phased manner to facilitate support for all the 22 official languages in the country. The portal is expected to serve all MMPs as an online facilitation centre for access to information on language technology standards, essentials of the localization processes and training being conducted by C-DAC on these topics. It will also serve as a resource centre for essential technical documents, localization tools and web services to help developers in localization of various applications planned under their respective Mission Mode Project.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 03/24/2017

 

 

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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 03/24/2017

 

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e-Governance to Empower Citizens

 

“The State of Jharkhand will soon have a new IT policy to encourage IT industry in the state,” believes N N Sinha. In conversation with Kartik Sharma & Souvik Goswami. Please tell us about your view on the IT Policy of Jharkhand and also about the basic objectives of the IT policy? The IT policy of the Jharkhand Government aims to promote use of IT in the governance of the state. It also aims to promote IT literacy among the Jharkhand population and it also aims to encourage the IT industry in the state. What will be the vision of the new IT policy? Will it be focusing more on e-governance or focus will be more on promoting IT industry? I think both have to come together. Because the e-governance cannot succeed in a vacuum as it needs people from IT industry. Industry by its very nature has to be very competitive. Therefore, they are aware of the latest trends and technologies and when these are applied to the e-governance field, then better services and products can be offered to the general population. So, we see e-governance and IT industry not as separate streams. We see them as two streams complementing each otheregovernance’s needs drive IT industry and IT industry, technologies and competencies drive the e-governance. Please tell us about your plan to create IT Technology Park. We have a small STPI unit in Ranchi. We have also requested the STPI to increase the capacity in Ranchi as we are aware that there is a great demand, however there is not enough pace in the present establishment. We are also trying to bring other STPI units in the cities of Adityapur near Jamshedpur and Sindhri near Dhanbad, in Bokaro and Deoghar. So, our goal is to also promote other cities of the state for IT industry.

 

Have you taken any feedback from the IT industry about what kind of requirements they want to set up IT industry in the state? We have the IT industry which is at a nascent stage. So, possibly not much feedback has come. We have a software technology park, 2 to 3 BPO industries. Essentially not much feedback has been taken. But we are also in the process of revising the IT policy in line with whatever has been done by other states. Our IT policy was formulated in 2004 and now we are in 2014. State’s new Industrial Policy was announced in 2013. This policy includes the revise set of incentives for setting up industries. But we are also aware that lot has happened in the last 10 years in terms of technology, in terms of competitive incentives given by other states. Therefore, we need to have a relook at the IT policy of the state and we are in the process of doing so. We will soon be coming out with the new IT policy may be in 3 to 6 months time. IT Park is all set to come up in Ranchi. Please elaborate on this. We are working with the agency promoting the Ranchi Core Capital area to develop an IT Park and it will be built up in 200 acres of land. The land is already available with the government. JHARKHAND INDUSTRIAL POLICY (2012) SECTION: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY State Government will encourage mega investors in IT / ITES for setting up IT industries, IT parks, IT SEZ in private sector or under PPP mode.

The objective of IT policy is to

(a) provide congenial and industry-friendly atmosphere for the establishment and growth of IT companies for providing IT-services (hardware / software based) and IT-enabled services (call centering, medical transcription, BPO etc),

(b) Generate employment opportunities for the educated youth of the State,

(c) Exploit export potential of this sector for augmenting GSDP of the State,

(d) Bringing IT to masses and accelerating its uses for socio-economic development.

It has potential to generate large-scale employment by using less land mass. The employment generation on per 100 lakh investment is among the highest in industry besides it causes almost zero environmental pollution.(a) IT industries will be accorded priority in allotment of land by IADA. (b) In case of land allotment by IADA, mega IT units will be allowed deferred payment of land value i.e. payment of land value by such units will be allowed in five equal installments spread over five years.Motor Vehicles Act will be amended to enable the IT Companies to make use of hired privately owned omnibuses etc to transport their employees between their residence and work place. Alternate Source of Power Generation 53 IT-ITES units with 5 KVA power requirements can be set up anywhere in the state.

 

FAR RELAXATION: 50% more FAR over and above to permissible FAR of the place will be allowed by the concerned Authority / Urban Local Bodies for IT-ITES units in earmarked areas IT Parks / STPs in consonance with other provisions of the prevailing Building Bye-laws. Necessary amendment, if required, will be done by concerned Authority / Urban Local Bodies with requisite permission of the Department of Urban Development. Following special incentives will be allowed for the IT industry:

(i) Exemption from No Objection Certificate (NOC clearance) of JSPCB.

(ii) Exemption from zoning regulations for purposes of location. (iii) Self-certification for purposes of compliance of the following Acts:

(a) Factories Act.

(b) Employment Exchange (Notification of vacancies) Act.

(c) Payment of Wages Act. (d) Minimum Wages Act.

(e) Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 55.

(f) Workmen Compensation Act.

(g) Shops and Establishments Act.

 

What kind of policy are you pursuing to provide incentives to private companies who can come here and set up their bases?  Our Industrial Policy lists the incentives that could be provided to the IT industry and then our IT Policy also lists some. So, by taking these two together, we will provide you complete list of incentives. As we are on the verge of revising our IT Policy, we will also look at what is being offered by the nearby states and in other parts of the country. We have to look at what is being offered elsewhere and then have to balance the attractions of other places with what we are offering. Let me also point out that this place has some unique advantages. Climate is really good. Generally it is peaceful. Then comes education and level of school education is really good here as there are lot of English medium schools. Apart from these, many technical education institutions are coming up and we also have a plan of setting up IIIT in the state. Therefore we feel that we can offer large numbers of incentives to the industry people to set up their business here. I would also like to mention that large number of students from the state goes to other parts of the country for studying information technology and related areas. If industry offers them placement with competitive salaries, I think many people will again come back to the state. Any plan of distribution of laptops or devices to the students? Initially government was thinking in this line a year ago. But with the change of regime this thing could not be taken up. Now the new government of the state is thinking that it will make its workforce more productive by providing computing equipments. It is already on cards. By this we would like to make all offices provide services through online manner to the maximum possible extent as well as to acquire data from the field.

 

What kind of IT industry would you think would be most suitable in the initial stage?

On the other hand, India is not doing that good in electronics manufacturing and DeitY is also planning to push this more. So, do you also plan to do something in this sector?

I would tend to feel that a very radical departure from the pattern of industrialization will be difficult to visualize. Therefore, by and large, the pattern of IT industry being set up in other emerging states would also be happening here. But there are some areas where there would be some initial push, like we have almost universal AADHAR coverage and industries who want to take benefit of this could come up. BPOs could also be interested as there are good quality English medium schools. IT industry which focuses on harnessing the power of natural resources, they can also come up. Mining is a major area where companies can come. We already have organizations like MECON, CMPDI and R & D units of SAIL. State Government proposes to provide incentives necessary to foster rapid growth of the industry. Incentives to the IT industry will be provided to ensure conditions conducive to its establishment and sustained growth in the State. Simplification of procedures for compliance with various regulatory Acts and Rules will be undertaken. For creating an investor friendly environment in the State, the Government will ensure the following: LOGISTICS & INFRASTRUCTURE RELATED INCENTIVES

• Preferential allotment of land for IT industry by development authorities.

• Continuous and uninterrupted power supply for IT industries by providing a dedicated feeder for IT parks/ Locations. Captive power generation in IT locations.

• Special efforts will be made to develop high quality social infrastructure like schools, housing, health and entertainment/leisure facilities in IT locations.

• To create a pool of highly qualified professional for use of IT industry, State help will be provided to software companies to set up shop in Jharkhand.

• Internal arrangement will be made for obtaining easy clearance and approvals from various government departments.

 

HAVING REGARD TO THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSIBILITY ENVISAGED IN THE ACTS AND REGULATIONS MENTIONED BELOW, THE GOVERNMENT PERMITS SELF-CERTIFICATION TO IT COMPANIES FOR THE FOLLOWING:

• Payment of Wages Act

• Minimum Wages Act

• Contract Labour Act

• Workmen’s Compensation Act

• Employees State Insurance Act

• Shops and Commercial Establishments Act

• Payment of Gratuity Act

• Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act

• Maternity Benefits Act

• Water and Air Pollution Act

• There will be one Common Application form for setting up of IT unit in the state. The Single Window System setup for private investment proposals shall be applicable on IT proposals.

• Data protection: The state intends to define a data protection act (this will lay out the nature of information protected under the law, set up a regulatory authority to ensure enforcement, declare penalties for violation, etc.) to help both IT and ITeS companies provide additional comfort to their customers.

• IT security: The state government is committed to initiating legal proceedings against people compromising the security of government databases (i.e., hacking into government databases) and supporting aggrieved companies in initiating proceedings in similar offences against company databases.

• Anti-piracy measures: The government will set up an anti-piracy cell to review serious piracy cases and initiate appropriate action. The mandate of the e-governance committee will be extended to include steps to increase awareness of anti-piracy measures in various departments and initiate the move towards setting up of compliance infrastructure.

 

INVESTMENT & FISCAL INCENTIVES:

• Creation of Venture Capital Fund with State Government/ Private Enterprises/SIDBI and others for I.T. Industry. Special financing packages will be developed by the State Financial Agencies to fulfill the unique needs of the IT sector.

• All software industries including Services and Training Institutions in IT will be entitled to “Industry” status. Such units shall be eligible for all concessions and incentives applicable to Industries. For the purpose of this clause, accredited Training Institutions will also be eligible to claim industry status, subject to certain norms which will enable them to obtain Term Loans and Bank Finance at industry rates.

• Special financing packages will be developed by the State Financial Agencies to fulfill the unique needs of the IT sector. The FIs will provide term loans and equity on priority.

• The rate of sales tax on computer software shall not be fixed above the Uniform Floor Rate announced by the state Government.

• The rate of sales tax on computer hardware including all additional taxes shall not be fixed above the Uniform Floor Rate announced by the state Government.

• No sales tax on raw material used for exports.

• The rate of tax on Software leases/work contract or licenses to use in any form will not be fixed above the Uniform Floor Rate announced by the state Government.

• IT products produced in the State will be provided quantity and price preference.

• IT units in Information Technology Parks and STPs will be charged the same power tariff as the SSI.

• Special package of incentives will be formulated for IT industries involving an investment of `50 crores or more.

• Complete exemption to software industry from the provisions of Pollution Control Act both for air and water pollution.

 

IT projects needs human resources more than anything else. Realizing this you are already planning to have IIIT in the state. Please shed some light on this. The IIIT has been approved by the steering committee of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. It will come up in Ranchi. It will be set up on a 50 acre plot and likely to cost Rs 128 crores. Focus will be on the under graduate in the area of Electrical and Communication Technology as well as in the area of Information Technology. But as it goes, it will be offering Phd and MTech and Research programs. It would like to focus on certain specific areas like bioinformatics, computer science engineering. So, focus will be on latest areas of the development of IT and Computer Science. This will help us on development of manpower necessary not only for this state, but also for nationwide and we would also expect them to provide consultancies to the state government and industries. Please tell us about your plans for skill development in the state? We are focusing on skill development and for that purpose we are encouraging institutions like NIELIT and CDAC to provide skill-development programs. Recently, I met the Director of NIELIT Kolkata center and we discussed skill development of around 10,000 people in the state and the state government assured them of all kind of possible help. Let me also mention that state government is also thinking of opening IT academy and we have proposed this to the 14th Finance Commission. If that does not materialize, then we will think of alternative. Please give us details of the new e-governance initiatives in the recent past in the state of Jharkhand.

 

We have now enabled citizen search for their land registration-related past data online. We have also integrated AADHAR with the registration process, therefore the authenticity is ensured. Policy for extensive use of AADHAR for delivery of services has been made. We have now developed software for implementation of the Right to Guarantee of Service Act. There are sets of application, which includes both desktop application and mobile application. That takes care of the contingencies of the offices which don’t have the desktops or network connectivity. Apart from these, we have now made it mandatory for secretariat and attached employees to file their attendance through AADHAR based system from 1st January, 2014. MGNAREGA payments are also done through AADHARbased system. The PDS has been brought under the AADHAR delivery platform. We are also working on digitizing the record of rights and the Chief Secretary has given stiff targets to all the Deputy Commissioners of the districts for digitizing the entire set of land records. I would also like to mention that recently we held a significant event state innovation workshop. It was a two-day program, and one day was entirely devoted to the IT programs. There, we discussed, innovations based on the AADHAR platforms, mobile platforms, GIS platforms and general e-governance programmes. We also tried to ignite enthusiasm for IT activities by announcing a competition for suggesting IT ideas to the state and out of this, three were selected. Did you find any interesting idea come out of this innovation workshop?

 

Oh yes, lot many. One idea that came out was that we should ask each of the department to come up with their own IT innovation roadmap. We also saw a great deal of interest of the people for participating in the IT activities of the state, which was evident from the large numbers of participations in the competitions that we had announced. People are interested in implementing projects in many areas, and I think it is also the responsibility of the IT department of the state government to provide them as much lead and support as possible. We also discussed matter on having incubation centers. Please share with us your vision for the IT industry in the state of Jharkhand. I think we all should recognize that IT industry would need great deal of encouragement in the initial phase, and therefore, I call upon all the branches of the government to cooperate with us in this endeavor so that we could facilitate setting up of as many IT industries. We should also promote local IT start up units. There is a need for a dialogue with the IT units of the state so that we can know their competency and could facilitate their moving up the competency curve.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 03/25/2017

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AFGHANISTAN: Models Korean E-Gov't

 

A group of Afghan government officials has visited Korea to learn about how online government services work in the country. The 13-member delegation talked with representatives from the Ministry of the Interior on Feb. 28 to seek ways to put in place an e-government system in Afghanistan that is similar to the existing one in Korea. At the talks, the Afghan delegation called on the Korean government to share more e-government related skills and to provide more training programs for Afghan officials. The two sides vowed to work together to establish a stable e-government system in the South Asian country by making government websites more modern and by boosting the capabilities of government officials. During their time in Korea, the delegation will attend educational programs and talk about a possible set of platforms that could deal with government and public affairs online, including Korea's National Computing and Information Service, an integrated management system that handles information resources at each government body, and its On-Nara BPS System, a system that has computerized all the processes of government and public affairs, such as policies and civil petitions. The Afghan officials will visit several facilities that run such e-government systems, like the Korea Public Finance Information Service, which manages the government’s financial activities, the Incheon Airport Immigration Office, and the Future Healthcare Exhibition, where visitors can get hands-on experiences with digital healthcare services based on advanced IT. “We will spare no effort to share with our Afghan friends our know-how on running an e-government, so that the country will be able to innovate the way in which it runs its own government. We also hope that both countries will further increase exchanges in this sector,” said an official from the Ministry of the Interior.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/02/2017

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Department Head in DemirBank Resigns

 

Director of Information Technologies Department of Azerbaijan’s DemirBank JSC Ramiz Sadikhov has left his position, according to a report posted on the bank’s website. Currently, Sadikhov’s position is vacant. DemirBank has 18 departments, according to the report, and currently, positions of heads of four departments – Risk Management Department, Strategic Development Department, Credit Collection Department, and Information Technologies Department – are vacant. DemirBank was created as one of the first commercial banks in Azerbaijan on October 6, 1989.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/03/2017

 

 

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New Appointment in Azerbaijani Ministry of Taxes

 

Ilgar Ahmadov was appointed as director general of the newly created Coordination and Management Department of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Taxes, reads a message on the ministry’s website. At the same time, Ahmadov will continue to act as an advisor to Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov. The main function of the department is effective coordination of activities with other departments and local authorities of the Taxes Ministry in the context of making amendments to legislation and administration.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/11/2017

 

 

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Azerbaijan Creates Association of Packaging Industry

 

The Association of Packaging Industry has been created in Azerbaijan with the support of the country’s Economy Ministry and National Confederation of Entrepreneurs. The Association will coordinate the activity of entrepreneurs engaged in manufacturing and exports, develop manufacturing of packaging products, and eliminate problems faced by producing businesses. A round table meeting with participation of nearly 30 entrepreneurs was held on March 17 in connection with the Association’s creation. During the meeting, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Economy Minister Sahib Mammadov said that the Economy Ministry discussed with local entrepreneurs the packaging industry’s development in the country, particularly, the organization of an exhibition. “Holding such an exhibition is very significant for the development of packaging goods’ production in Azerbaijan, as today there are voids in the local packaging market,” said Mammadov. “Azerbaijan has a great potential for the development of packaging industry and activities in this direction should be improved.”

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/17/2017

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Nazarbayev Appoints New Heads to Several Kazakh Regions

 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed new heads (akims) to four regions of Kazakhstan, the presidential press service reported March 14. Malik Murzalin, who earlier served as first deputy manager of affairs of the president, was appointed as the head of the Akmola Region. Murzalin replaced Sergei Kulagin on this position. Former Head of the Prime Minister's Office Erlan Koshanov became the head of the Karaganda Region. He replaced Nurmukhambet Abdibekov. Deputy Chairman and Head of the Secretariat of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan Eraly Tugzhanov was appointed as the head of the Mangistau Region. He replaced Alik Aidarbayev. Kumar Aksakalov, who earlier served as deputy head of the Presidential Administration, became the head of the North-Kazakhstan Region. Earlier the North-Kazakhstan Region was headed by Erik Sultanov.

  From http://en.trend.az/ 03/14/2017

 

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TURKMENISTAN: New Appointments in Fuel and Energy Complex

 

Dovletdurdy Hajiyev was appointed chairman of the Turkmenoil (Turkmennebit) state oil concern of Turkmenistan upon decree of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the country’s government said in a message March 3. In addition, Shahym Abdrahmanov was appointed chairman of the Turkmengeology State Corporation upon the presidential decree. The Turkmen president also appointed Dovletmyrat Byashimov as the director of the Turkmenbashi Complex of Oil Refineries.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/03/2017

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Red Tape Stops Superyacht Industry Growth

 

Federal government red tape is preventing the growth of a multi-million-dollar industry - superyachts. Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt wanted to put the issue on the formal agenda for Friday's treasurers' conference in Canberra, but was rejected by his federal counterpart Scott Morrison. However, an unperturbed Mr Pitt is expected to raise the issue in general business. Industry body Superyacht Australia says foreign flagged vessels cannot easily charter in Australia. To do so the vessel must be fully imported and the owner must pay GST on the value of the vessel. Superyachts brought into Australia for private use or charter are subject to 10 per cent GST on import. However, charter operators with an ABN who are registered for GST may be eligible for input tax credits, similar to the treatment of inputs for most businesses. There is also the opportunity to defer GST but this is not seen as simple and owners shy away from it.

 

Superyacht Australia says Australia is losing revenue as these vessels go where they feel welcome and where the process is simpler. There have also been delays in improving access to anchorage areas of the Great Barrier Reef, confusion over how Australian Border Force legislation and quarantine regulations apply and problems with obtaining visas for crew. 'I see this as a no-brainer - this is a boom industry for Queensland but federal government restrictions are holding us back and that needs to change,' Mr Pitt told AAP. 'Evidence shows that just one foreign superyacht can spend $2.5 million in a 12-month period, which would have considerable flow-on benefits for local tourism, hospitality and manufacturing sectors for areas right along the Queensland coast.' Mr Pitt said the problems could be resolved in one piece of legislation.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 03/24/2017

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FIJI: Mission to Improve Veterinary Services

 

TWO international consultants are in Fiji to conduct 'performance veterinary services' (PVS) gap analysis on behalf of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The consultants aim to define a strategy in accordance with Fiji's overall vision for the role of veterinary services in the country. BAF chief executive officer Xavier Khan said the OIE PVS Gap Analysis mission would help identify current shortfalls and areas of improvement that would assist BAF and the country as a whole to appropriately comply with OIE requirements that Fiji presently lacked in. He said the OIE consultants had worked across many regions of the world and in countries with similar needs as Fiji and this was an added advantage of hosting them here. "Acting on the recommendations of this evaluation will enable BAF to better facilitate the requirements for animal and animal product exports, improve services rendered to imported and in-transit animals, enhance the quality of domestic veterinary services, improve food safety, quarantine and mitigate animal health issues," Mr Khan said. He said Animal Disease Surveillance was one of the four integral functions performed by BAF and proactive measures were already being taken to better BAF services in this area. "Expert analysis and recommendations will also assist BAF engage local as well as international  funding agencies for many of our investment and development plans." The PVS gap mission analysis began on March 21 at BAF headquarters and will conclude on March 29.

From http://www.fijitimes.com 03/27/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt Superannuation Age to Rise to 67 in 2040

 

Superannuation eligibility will be raised from 65 to 67 in 2040, the Government has announced. The changes will be phased in from July 1 2037, and will not affect anyone born on or before June 30 1972. Everyone born on or after January 1 1974 will be eligible for NZ Super from age 67. The residency requirement for eligibility for NZ Super will also be changed, from 10 years to 20 years. The change will apply to people arriving in New Zealand after the legislation is passed. Prime Minister Bill English made the announcement on Monday afternoon, and it will be legislated for in 2018. "New Zealanders are healthier and living longer so adjusting the long-term settings of NZ Super while there is time for people to adapt is the right thing to do," Mr English says. Funding superannuation currently costs about 5 percent of GDP, compared to an average of 9 percent across OECD countries.

 

This cost is expected to rise to 8.4 percent of GDP by 2060 at the current eligibility age. Economist Shamubeel Eaqub told Newshub the policy is "not so super", and it's a cynical move by Mr English to cater to baby boomer voters. While he's glad to see changes being made to the superannuation system, he thinks the policy is set too far in the future. "The changes are going to start in 2037, 2040, by that time the big bulge of baby boomers, which is going to be the big part of costing us lots in super, will be largely through the system". "The boomers, who are strong supporters of the Government, are going to be dead before this is changed". Mr Eaqub says the Government should instead be progressively raising the superannuation age from now, as life expectancy continues to rise. He would also like to see means-testing introduced so wealthy people are not accessing the scheme, and index the payments to cost of living and not to wages.

 

"Those two things will make big differences to the cost of super, and none of those changes are on the table". The Maori party, Act and United Future have all said they do not support the move. Mr English said he won't rule out keeping the eligibility age at 65, if it is a bottom line of another party in post-Election coalition negotiations. Former Prime Minister John Key refused to touch the issue during his eight year term, and promised to resign from Parliament before he'd raise the retirement age. Superannuation currently costs the country $30 million a day, according to Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell, and that'll blow out to $288 million a day by 2050. Speaking to The AM show on Monday morning, Ms Maxwell hoped that the Government's announcement would include:

 

gradually raising the age of eligibility to 67, preferably by 2035 requiring immigrants to live here for 25 years before they're eligible, not 10 investing the savings in helping people in their 50s retrain and upskill On Three's The Nation at the weekend, Mr English said there was room for change in the superannuation scheme, then backpeddled, saying "you'll have to wait and see". NZ First leader Winston Peters says the party would refuse to form a Government with National if it increased the retirement age. Mr Peters wants the age to remain at 65, it's one of his bottom lines going into any post-election deals. Superannuation: the current cost: 2017: $11 billion a year $30 million a day 2027: $20 billion a year $55 million a week 2037: $36 billion a year $99 million a week Source: Retirement Commissioner With Māori life expectancy rate lower than that of the general population, the Māori Party wants Māori and Pasifika to be exempt from any increase. Labour advocated for raising the age to 67 at the 2014 election, but dropped the policy after Andrew Little took over as leader. United Future advocates a flexible policy, which guarantees superannuation at 65 but allows people to take a lower rate from 60 or a higher rate from 70. Their policy would also make KiwiSaver compulsory.

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 03/06/2017

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OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum 30-31 March 2017, OECD Conference Centre

 

08/03/2017 - Corruption and abuse of public office are a blight on democracies and a drain on public finances. With trust in government flagging in many countries and voter disillusionment on the rise, raising standards of integrity is more important than ever. Government ministers, business leaders and civil society representatives will discuss issues including the cost to society of corruption, the use of political donations to buy influence, developments in corporate liability for graft, and the role of export controls to counter bribery at the OECD’s 5th annual forum on integrity on 30-31 March at the OECD Conference Centre (2 rue André-Pascal, 75016 Paris). All sessions are open to the media.

 

Confirmed speakers include:

Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD

Robert Fico, Prime Minister, Slovakia

Adrian Lovett, Chief Executive Officer, ONE

Drago Kos, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery

Arely Gómez González, Minister of Public Administration, Mexico

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister of National Development Planning, Indonesia

Laura Alonso, Secretary of Public Ethics, Transparency and the Fight against Corruption, Anti-Corruption Office, Argentina

Klaus Moosmayer, Chair of Business and Industry Advisory Committee Anti-Corruption Task Force and Chief Compliance Officer at Siemens

Fredrik Galtung, President and Co-founder, Integrity Action

Alison Taylor, Director, BSR (Business for Social Responsibility). 

Further information, including a full agenda, is available on the conference website.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 03/08/2017

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World Bank Group President Calls for Urgent Action on Hunger Crisis

 

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today issued the following statement on the devastating levels of food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen: “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience. Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively. We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine. We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water. We are working toward a financial package of more than $1.6 billion to build social protection systems, strengthen community resilience, and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable. This includes existing operations of over $870 million that will help communities threatened by famine. I am also working with our Board of Directors to secure the approval of new operations amounting to $770 million, funded substantially through IDA’s Crisis Response Window.

 

The World Bank Group will help respond to the immediate needs of the current famine, but we must recognize that famine will have lasting impacts on people’s health, ability to learn, and earn a living. So we will also continue to work with communities to reclaim their livelihoods and build resilience to future shocks. We are coordinating closely with the UN and other partners in all areas of our response. We know that resolution to this acute crisis will not be possible without all humanitarian and development actors working together. We call on the international community to respond robustly and quickly to the UN global appeal for resources for the famine. To prevent crises in the future, we must invest in addressing the root causes and drivers of fragility today and help countries build institutional and societal resilience.”

 

Background

A famine means that a significant part of the population has no access to basic food, suffers from severe malnutrition, and death from hunger reaches unprecedented levels. Children under five are disproportionately affected. A famine can affect the well-being of a whole generation. Famine was officially declared on February 20 in South Sudan, impacting approximately 100,000 people, and there is a credible risk of other famines in Yemen, Northeast Nigeria, and other countries. Ongoing conflicts and civil insecurity are further intensifying the food insecurity of millions of people across the region, and there is already widespread displacement and other cross-border spillovers. For instance, food insecurity in Somalia and famine in South Sudan are accelerating the flow of refugees into Ethiopia and Uganda. The UN estimates that about 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are on the “tipping point” of famine. Drought conditions also extend to Uganda and parts of Tanzania. The last famine was declared in 2011 in Somalia during which 260,000 people died.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 03/08/2017

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Globalization Is Facing a 'Re-Calibration,' Says Dow Chemical Chief

 

The process of globalization is under adjustment as President Donald Trump implements his policies to bring manufacturing back to America, a top business executive said over the weekend. Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the China Development Forum in Beijing, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris said the U.S. has to readjust after allowing unfettered access into its economy for both importers and investors. "Think about it this way: America pretty, much since World War 2, has been a consumption economy. In essence, you can import pretty much anything to America and sell it in America in any retail environment or in the channel you want. To invest in America, there hasn't been any incentive to invest other than the market," he said. "Every other economy is an investment economy — even Europe has protections around investment. So I would say to you there is a re-calibration going on globalization," he added.

 

Liveris was speaking with CNBC on the back of of a G-20 meeting when finance ministers and central bankers made only a token reference to trade in their communique for the first time in a decade. "Behind every statement there's a body of work that has to happen. I would say very important to the U.S. government is job creation in the manufacturing base of America. And if you look at the raw data, America has lost that battle the last three decades. It wants to regain footing." New investment has to pour into the U.S. to prepare the country for a new era that will have it on a level-playing field with other countries, he added. "So what the issue is isn't really China-centric. The issue really is U.S.-centric. How do I rekindle manufacturing in the United States? Not by taking it away from somewhere, but rekindling it in the United States," he said.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 03/20/2017

 

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Apple Just Bought the App It Once Crowned 'Most Innovative' and Made It Free for Everyone

 

If you can't beat it, buy it. That's what Apple did on Wednesday when it acquired an app called Workflow, an automation app that it had labeled "most innovative" in 2015. Apple confirmed the acquisition to Business Insider on Wednesday but did not disclose the price or any other terms of the deal. Workflow takes a complicated series of tasks, that would normally require opening multiple apps, and lets users press one button to get the job done. For example, if you want to let someone know you're running late, you can use the "running late" workflow to automatically find your next calendar event, get the travel time, create a text and fire off a message. It's so powerful that at the time, Business Insider's Alex Heath called it the "Swiss Army knife for completing tasks" and said it could potentially replace entire apps on your home screen. Workflow first caught the eye of Apple first in 2015, and now the company confirmed it acquired it on Wednesday. In a rare move, the company is keeping the app alive in the App Store and setting its price to free. It previously cost $2.99. As part of the deal, Workflow's creators — developers Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, and Nick Frey — will be joining Apple, according to TechCrunch, which first reported the deal. "We are thrilled to be joining Apple," said Weinstein in a statement to TechCrunch. "We’ve worked closely with Apple from the very beginning, from kickstarting our company as students attending WWDC to developing and launching Workflow and seeing its amazing success on the App Store. We can’t wait to take our work to the next level at Apple and contribute to products that touch people across the world."

From https://www.yahoo.com/ 03/23/2017

 

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Universal Basic Income Debate Sharpens as Observers Grasp for Solutions to Inequality

 

Is a guaranteed paycheck from the government, with no strings attached, the answer to the relentless rise of automation? The concept might sound far-fetched, but a so-called universal basic income (UBI), is currently one of the most hotly debated policy topics being floated as a means to address income inequality and the disruption that technology poses to the workforce. UBI is being tested in Finland and other international markets, but has received decidedly mixed reactions. Meanwhile, developments in robotics and artificial intelligence have grave implications for the labor force. A report issued this week from consulting firm PwC found that more than a third of U.S. jobs were at risk from automation, upping the ante for policy makers to cushion the blow to workers. Advocates for UBI argue that a guaranteed paycheck could serve as a way to fight poverty and uncertainty in an evolving U.S. economy, and encourage workers to take more risks in the job market if they had some extra money as a cushion. The idea has gained prominent backers such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently told CNBC he supported UBI — joining a growing list of tech execs who've voiced support for the concept as a solution to unemployment that will be caused by future automation — the rise of the robots. Silicon Valley's Y Combinator President Sam Altman and eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar have also expressed support for a universal income.

 

Skeptics, however, insist that a guaranteed paycheck would actually reduce the incentive to work. In their view, a UBI would accomplish little other than wasting money on those who don't need it, and may even crowd out programs like Social Security and Medicare. The increasingly polarizing concept was on full display this week, as UBI backers and antagonists sparred at a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared U.S. in New York City. The debate made for strange bedfellows, as a well-known labor organizer teamed up with an economic libertarian to argue in favor of UBI, while two aides to former president Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden pushed back on the idea. "Despite job growth, the November election is a shocking warning that the economy is off to a bad start, and many people are stuck in minimum wage jobs," said Andrew Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest and most organized labor unions in the country.

 

With a turbulent economy giving rise to populism, Stern said the economic environment was creating a "U.S. of anxiety" over money. A universal income would be "humane, flexible, it promotes choice and freedom, and offers security to individuals," Stern added. Well-known libertarian Charles Murray agreed, saying that by the government eliminating spending on some programs, thereby generating revenue to spend elsewhere, "we can afford to do this in America." However, Jason Furman, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, rejected the suggestion, saying it would do more harm than good. "If you give someone a dollar, [that dollar] has to come from somewhere," said Furman, arguing that a universal income would actually take America in the wrong direction and worsen economic conditions.

 

UBI boosters "argue that [government] money sent to the elderly today doesn't work … that the welfare state today doesn't work, but these claims are false," Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Biden, told the debate's participants. Myriad welfare programs currently employed by the government "lift more than 40 percent of Americans out of poverty, and instituting a universal income in our country would undermine that progress," he said. A guaranteed paycheck would be an expensive proposition. In the U.S. alone, it could cost more than $3 trillion to distribute just a $10,000 annual income to all citizens, science and technology website Futurism said in a report recently. Stern and Murray suggested that cutting spending on defense and curbing tax credits could pay for UBI. Yet both Furman and Bernstein warned about the cost to the federal government, with the latter calling UBI little more than "bad math."

 

Switzerland recently considered introducing a basic income for its citizens last year, but the plan was eventually scrapped. Meanwhile, Scotland is planning to test a UBI in cities Fife and Glasgow later this year. Other countries including France, Kenya, India and the Netherlands have also begun discussing the feasibility of a UBI. The discussion has taken on added urgency as economists nervously eye the wave of disruption posed by automation. Studies show so-called robot-to-worker ratios are increasing at a steady pace worldwide, and that has broad implications for a workforce lacking in technology-related skills. "To ignore the possibility and not plan [for automation] would be a huge mistake" Stern said this week, invoking the warnings presented by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking. "Studies all say there will be a massive disruption in jobs."

 

A 2016 analysis from the World Bank estimated that roughly two-thirds of all jobs in developing nations around the globe are susceptible to replacement by automation. In the U.S. alone, a 2013 study by Oxford University's Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimated that 47 percent of American jobs could potentially be displaced by robots and automated technology over the next 20 years. Yet not everyone is sold on the idea of robots taking control of the American workforce—including billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who's pushed back aggressively against the idea of a guaranteed paycheck. Rather than give people a basic income, governments should focus resources on finding out how people can thrive in an era of robots, mainly through skills training, some argue. "Education is the closest thing to a 'magic bullet'," Furman said at the Intelligence Squared debate this week. "While the world is a messy place, it makes sense to give more to people who need support more."

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 03/26/2017

 

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ADB Business Reform Initiative Marks Decade of Support to Pacific

 

A long-running program to improve the business environment in the Pacific has succeeded in removing numerous barriers to private sector investment and entrepreneurship, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released today. Since 2006, ADB’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) has worked to alleviate poverty by promoting inclusive economic growth through reforms that encourage private sector investment and entrepreneurship. PSDI’s latest annual report, A Decade of Reform, summarizes many successful reforms Pacific countries have enacted with its support. “PSDI’s achievements over the past decade demonstrate that strong analytical work, sustained advocacy, and open and cooperative engagement with Pacific island governments, institutions, and the private sector are requirements for reform success,” said Liliana Warid, Private Sector Development Specialist with ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office. “Across the Pacific, PSDI has made it easier for formal businesses to start up and grow, thereby increasing economic activity and spurring job creation.”

 

The report showcases 10 of PSDI’s most significant reform initiatives, including:

The development of secured transaction frameworks in eight Pacific countries that have made it possible for lenders to easily accept movable assets such as vehicles, machinery, or accounts receivable as collateral for loans. PSDI support in Solomon Islands and Tonga has seen financing provided to cocoa exporters and vanilla farmers using their crops and stock as collateral. The creation of online business registries in Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu that have reduced the average time it takes to register a new business from around one month to approximately one day. The restructuring and/or privatization of 67 state-owned enterprises (SOE), leading to improved financial and operational performance. The average return on equity of the SOE portfolios in eight Pacific countries improved from -5.6% in 2008 to 0.6% in 2014.

 

Strengthening the capacity of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) competition regulator, which helped the country improve competition and reduce costs in the telecommunications sector, and assistance to Samoa to pass its Competition and Consumer Protection Act, which provides greater protection to both consumers and business owners. Innovative approaches to engaging women in the private sector through business-creating pilot projects in PNG, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. An extended chapter in the report on the economic empowerment of women examines ways to improve women’s role in the formal economy. It highlights the importance of creating women-friendly business environments, such as online business registration processes that are affordable and easy to access, and women-friendly business entities, such as community companies and cooperatives. PSDI is cofinanced by the Government of Australia, the Government of New Zealand, and ADB. 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.

From https://www.adb.org/ 03/13/2017

 

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APEC Breaks Down Barriers to Women Exporters

 

Small business promotion authorities from APEC member economies are taking next steps to ease bottlenecks hindering women-led exporters and their growth and job creating potential in the Asia-Pacific. Officials detailed plans for the expansion of efforts to tackle gender bias in trade during a week of small business development policy meetings in Sydney. They include greater cross-border training and technical exchange to enable reform in APEC economies that levels the playing field for women-owned and managed firms, and improves their access to international markets. The move could increase trade-driven growth and job creation across a range of businesses—from a successful hand-loomed fabric producer run and operated by women in Philippine villages, to an emerging technology company started by a Peruvian woman that helps disabled people to communicate via instant messaging, to women-managed suppliers of materials and parts in Viet Nam that support manufacturers in Australia, Japan and the United States.

 

“APEC economies are deepening cooperation to break down barriers to the development and competitiveness of women-led businesses,” explained Nguyen Hoa Cuong, Chair of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group, which administers regional collaboration within the sector. “Our work to address inequalities facing women entrepreneurs and managers stands to boost trade and growth, particularly among small businesses that account for the majority of employment across the region,” noted Nguyen, who is also Deputy Director General of Viet Nam’s Enterprises Development Agency. Focus in APEC is on lowering institutional and policy barriers to participation in trade by women-led businesses. Examples include outdated labor laws that fail to sufficiently protect women, a lack of childcare services, limited availability of credit and inadequate or out of reach higher education and skills development opportunities, among others.

 

To mitigate challenges like these, APEC is increasing public sector capacity to introduce gender-responsive trade promotion policies and programs, in coordination with the business community and civil society. Training and information-sharing sessions for trade promotion officials next month in Ha Noi will take this multi-year, region-wide initiative forward. “Women-led small and medium enterprises can better tap into international business and global supply chains when they are supported by government policy and practices that tackle gender specific constraints faced by female entrepreneurs,” explained Cynthia Balogh, Director of Women Going Global, the Chief Trainer leading the team overseeing the project. “The incentives for job creation and growth in the region are potentially huge.” This work is complemented by measures taking shape in APEC to widen access and use of e-commerce by women-led micro, small and medium enterprises, helping them reach customers and business partners abroad. Opening up financing avenues as well as branding, intellectual property protection and management support are further areas of emphasis.

 

“Women in the Asia-Pacific are major drivers of small businesses with great exporting potential but may be constrained by unsupportive economic and social policies,” said Hoang Thi Thu Huyen, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy. “Reform is key to realizing more gender balanced trade that benefits everyone. It is also critical to transforming attitudes that remain the bigger obstacle to women’s economic empowerment,” she added. Hoang, who is also Deputy Director General of Gender Equality at Viet Nam’s Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, concluded that APEC’s policy efforts in the small business space will enrich the theme and priorities of the 2017 APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Hue, Viet Nam in September. APEC Trade Ministers will convene in Ha Noi in May, followed by a meeting of the region’s Small and Medium Enterprise Ministers in Ho Chi Minh City in September, to evaluate progress and take additional actions to advance inclusive trade.

From http://www.apec.org/ 03/22/2017

 

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CHINA: Pledges to Transform, Upgrade Real Economy Through Innovation

 

China will make greater efforts this year to implement innovation-driven development strategy, upgrade the structure of the real economy, and improve its performance and competitiveness, a government work report said Sunday. "The real economy has always been the foundation of China's development; the task we now face is to speed up its transformation and upgrading," said the report to be delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the opening meeting of the top legislature's annual session. To this end, the report noted, China will strengthen its capability for making technological innovations, by improving mechanisms for providing continued long-term support for fundamental research and original research, building major national infrastructure projects for science and technology and setting up technological innovation hubs, and establishing platforms for sharing R&D resources, among other measures.

 

China will also accelerate the development of emerging industries. "We will accelerate R&D on and commercialization of new materials, artificial intelligence, integrated circuits, bio-pharmacy, 5G mobile communications, and other technologies, and develop industrial clusters in these fields," the report read. The government will continue to support and guide the development of the sharing economy, the report said, adding regulatory rules will be formulated for emerging industries with the principle of "encouraging innovation and conducting regulation in a tolerant and prudent way." In addition, a raft of measures will be introduced to ensure faster and more cost-effective information networks, including canceling mobile rates for domestic roaming and long-distance calls, according to the report.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/05/2017

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President Xi Calls for Lasting Effects of Poverty Relief

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that the country should form a poverty relief mechanism with long-lasting effects and contain formalism in poverty reduction. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks during a panel discussion with national lawmakers from southwestern China's Sichuan Province at the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC). It is the Party's solemn pledge to help all impoverished rural population out of poverty under the current standard and delist all poor counties by 2020, Xi said. The nearer toward the deadline, the more difficult the campaign to eradicate poverty will be. That requires the country to clarify the responsibilities, take precise measures and make meticulous efforts, Xi said. China brought 12.4 million people in rural areas above the poverty line in 2016, and there were still 43.35 million people living in poverty at the end of last year.

 

Xi also said China should improve the management, operation and policy systems for integrated military and civilian development, and build industrial clusters and high-tech industrial bases for this purpose. Xi stressed the importance of creating a clean political ecology, calling it "unending work" for the Party. Party members and cadres should consciously conform to the CPC Central Committee in thoughts and deeds, and resolutely uphold the authority of the CPC Central Committee and its centralized and unified leadership, Xi added. Other senior leaders also joined panel discussions with NPC deputies Wednesday. In a panel discussion with lawmakers from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Premier Li Keqiang urged efforts to deliver the promise of improving the lives of all ethnic groups through reform and development, with special focus on poverty eradication.

 

The government should resolutely let go of powers that it should not possess, concentrate on fulfilling its duties and serve enterprises more actively, Li said. Li also called for the region to actively participate in international cooperation and competition by opening wider to foster new strengths. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, joined lawmakers from China's northeastern Heilongjiang Province, stressing the need to promote economic reform and development and to further deepen the supply-side structural reform. Zhang urged the province to take concrete measures to improve people's livelihood and properly solve their difficulties. In a panel discussion with deputies from south China's Hainan Province, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, underlined the basic tone of "seeking progress while maintaining stability" as an important principle in state governance and economic development.

 

While maintaining steady growth, the province should grasp the opportunity of the supply-side structural reform and focus efforts on improving economic structure and the quality of supply, said Yu. Joining a panel discussion with NPC deputies from Shanxi Province, Liu Yunshan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, called for good performance in advancing comprehensive and strict governance of the Party, with a focus on improving intra-Party political culture. Officials should set an example for others by firmly upholding political ideals, morality and values, and pursuing self-improvement, Liu said. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli joined lawmakers from Hebei, urging the province to be fully engaged in the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. He urged the province to give priority to the cut of excess steel capacity in supply-side structural reform and implement the strategy of innovation-driven development.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/08/2017

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Chinese Search Engine Operators Fined for False Internet Ads

 

China's two leading search engine operators, Baidu and Sogou, were fined on Thursday for their negligence in publishing unchecked advertising for unlicensed medical services and private companies. The fines were issued by the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Bureau on charges of publishing false and illegal advertisements. Baidu was fined 28,000 yuan (about 4,000 U.S. dollars) as it linked commercial ads of private hospital groups with certain key word searches, which pointed to medical services that the hospitals are not qualified for. The hospitals were also given fines of up to 46,000 yuan. Sogou was fined 10,300 yuan for carrying an advertisement containing false messages and for a company whose business license had been revoked. The regulator said the fines were issued in line with a provisional regulation on Internet advertisements that took effect on September 1, 2016.

 

The regulation holds search engines responsible for censoring online ads they publish. Ying Jun, advertisement supervision official with the bureau, said the administrative fines can negatively affect the credit of the advertisers. The bureau will tighten supervision of Internet ads, including those on personal social media accounts. The search engine operators have long faced accusations over their online ad business. A 21-year-old student died in May 2016 after spending a fortune on an ineffective treatment for his illness, which he learned about from a Baidu-promoted link to an unqualified hospital. Advertisers often spend billions of yuan to have their ads placed on top of search results via the search engines.                        

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/09/2017

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China Leads Potential for Tech Breakthroughs: KPMG

 

China and the United States have the greatest potential to lead advances in disruptive technology, according to a recent report by international accounting firm KPMG. The annual report, "The Changing Landscape of Disruptive Technologies," is based on a survey of over 800 global technology leaders including start-up entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives. This year's poll reflected a slight uptick for China, with 25 percent of respondents saying they believe China could be a leader in disruptive technology, compared with 23 percent last year. Those endorsing the United States declined slightly from 29 percent a year ago to 26 percent. China continues to make rapid gains as the country moves from a reliance on manufacturing to an innovation powerhouse, the report read. "China's economic transformation is spurring the creation of new drivers of growth, new industries, new institutions, and new opportunities in the technology and innovation space," Egidio Zarrella, clients and innovation partner at KPMG China, was quoted as saying. Through the use of disruptive technology, such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things, Chinese companies are jumping on the resultant new business opportunities. Visionary entrepreneurial leaders such as Jack Ma of Alibaba are now known and respected globally, said the report. Shanghai was identified as the top leading technology innovation hub in addition to Silicon Valley over the next four years, followed by New York, Tokyo and Beijing. The city's ranking was based on its strong regional position in financial markets and numerous hi-tech parks in Pudong New Area, the report said.                          

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/12/2017

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China to Step Up IPR Trials to Stimulate Innovation

 

China will step up the trials of intellectual property rights (IPR) cases this year to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship of diverse entities, a work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) said Sunday. In 2016, China improved IPR protection rules by making judiciary interpretations on the trials of certain kinds of cases, including patent right cases, according to the report to be delivered by Chief Justice Zhou Qiang to the National People's Congress. Last year, China tried a series of trademark cases lodged by U.S. basketball icon Michael Jordan, demonstrating the country's stance and determination to reinforce judicial protection for intellectual property rights, the report said. Michael Jordan sued Qiaodan Sports, a Chinese sportswear and shoe maker, for unauthorized uses of his name and identity in 2012. The SPC in December 2016 ruled in favor of Jordan, saying that the company's use of Chinese characters translated from "Jordan" as a trademark violated Michael Jordan's right to his name and broke the Trademark Law. The court also ruled that Jordan has no exclusive rights to the use of the word "Qiaodan," which is the pinyin (phonetic spelling) of the Chinese characters for Jordan, and rejected his claims in this regard.

 

Three IPR courts in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou explored the application of punitive damages to solve problems including low infringement costs and high costs for safeguarding rights, the report said. Four IPR tribunals, in charge of cross-regional IPR cases, opened in the cities of Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu last year, it said. Chinese courts at different levels concluded some 147,000 IPR cases in 2016, boosting mass entrepreneurship and innovation, according to the work report. China prosecuted 21,505 people for crimes, including IPR infringements in 2016, according to a work report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) to be delivered by Procurator-General Cao Jianming. Last year, 29 provincial-level regions set up information sharing platforms for law enforcement and criminal justice to crack down on IPR infringement and fake products. This year, the SPP will prioritize the punishment on IPR-related criminal cases, among others, the report said.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/12/2017

 

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Xi Underlines Innovation in Military Upgrading

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday called for deepening military-civilian integration, while highlighting sci-tech innovation as the key to military upgrading. Speaking to national lawmakers from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) at the ongoing annual parliamentary session, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said efforts should be made to provide greater science and technology support for the PLA. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, historic breakthrough in national defense and military reform has been made, significant progress in combat readiness has been achieved, and crushing momentum in fighting corruption has been realized, he said. Pointing to the profound changes brought by sci-tech advancement to people's lifestyles and the world's military development, Xi said, "We must have a greater sense of urgency to push for sci-tech innovation and advancement with greater determination and efforts." He called for enhanced top-level design and strategic planning in promoting military-civilian integration in national defense technology and military equipment, and strengthening military and civilian cooperation in training high-quality military personnel.

 

He urged the PLA to speed up the transition featuring better quality and performance with the intensive application of advanced technologies in army building. Civil technologies should better serve military purposes, and defense technologies should be adapted and applied well for civil use, the president said. Efforts to improve the training system of military personnel should also be strengthened to foster a large number of high-quality military talent, Xi said, adding that enhancing scientific and technological attainment of officers and men should be a basic requirement for the PLA. He noted that the CPC Central Committee's decision to establish a central commission for integrated military and civilian development aims to reinforce centralized and unified leadership. Efforts should be made to remove institutional barriers and work out perfect policies for military and civilian integration.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/12/2017

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China to Inspect Use of Poverty Relief Funds

 

Chinese authorities Thursday started a targeted inspection on the use and management of poverty relief funds in 28 provinces and regions. The check, headed by the Ministry of Finance and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, aims to uncover any irregularities in this high-government invested initiative. For the past four years, China has allocated 196.1 billion yuan (about 28.5 billion U.S. dollars), representing annualized growth of 19.22 percent, according to Mo Jiancheng, an inspector under the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

 

The inspection, mainly targeting money allocated in 2015 and 2016, will last until the end of June. China brought 12.4 million people in rural areas above the poverty line in 2016, and there were still 43.35 million people living in poverty at the end of last year. According to a government work report delivered at the annual parliamentary session earlier this month, China aims to reduce the number of rural residents living in poverty by over 10 million in 2017, including 3.4 million to be relocated from inhospitable areas. To this end, central government funding for poverty alleviation will be increased by over 30 percent, according to the report.                       

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/16/2017

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Beijing 2022 Open First Worldwide Staff Recruitment

 

The organizing committee for the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games opened its first worldwide staff recruitment here on Monday. A total of 22 staff members will be recruited for 21 positions, including 11 staff members to be recruited worldwide for 10 positions. Positions in this recruitment involve majors in planning and construction, venue management, marketing, media, finance, law and foreign languages. The Beijing organizing committee is responsible for organizing and coordinating the preparations and staging of Beijing 2022. Currently the committee has nine internal departments, two operational centers and some 170 staff members. In order to build a team of professional and internationalized personnel, Beijing 2022 will continue the worldwide recruitment in the future.

 

The recruitment procedures include online application and first qualification review (March 20-31), examination and evaluation (mid April - late May). The persons to be employed are determined according to their combined examination results, working experiences, position matching degree and the results of background record review. The applicants may log on the recruitment page of Beijing 2022 website for information. Beijing 2022 will also establish a talent pool. Those who have the intention to participate in the work of Beijing 2022, but do not meet the qualifications for the positions recruited this time may log on the recruitment page to apply for their inclusion in the talent pool.                            

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/20/2017

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Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Solid Efforts in Poverty Relief

 

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang on Monday stressed solid efforts be made to lift over 10 million people out of poverty in rural areas this year. The basic tone for delivering the target would be "seeking progress while maintaining stability," he said at a meeting of the State Council leading group on poverty relief which deliberated on the annual relief plan. Wang, who heads the group, said more efforts should be made in key tasks including developing industries in poor areas, relocation of impoverished people, and support in health care and education. He warned against rashness in delivering the target and highlighted precision in the battle against poverty. He also stressed imposing stringent supervision on poverty alleviation work and strict investigation into fake progress. China beat its annual target by lifting 12.4 million people out of poverty in 2016.

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/21/2017

 

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China Orders Nationwide Inspection of Foster Care Services

 

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has issued an urgent circular ordering nationwide inspections of government foster care services, including those outsourced to the private sector. Civil affairs authorities at all levels should check the qualifications, facilities, services and safety management of all foster care services entrusted by the government, the document said. It called for the immediate termination of services that do not pass inspection, and proper arrangements for those receiving care in such services. Those violating laws and regulations will be held accountable and subject to strict punishment.                           

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/22/2017

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China Regulates Art Market

 

Eight enterprises have been punished for violating regulations in the art industry, said the Ministry of Culture Wednesday. The misconduct included trade of forged art, forbidden content and using animals, plants, minerals, metals and fossils banned by law, the ministry said. Companies that sold unapproved imported art were also punished, said the ministry, adding that information and sales records of art should be filed and clearly labeled. The ministry urged all local culture administrative departments and law enforcement organs to tighten supervision of the art market.                         

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/22/2017

 

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China Renews Efforts Against Fake News, Harmful Content

 

China has launched a new round of efforts cracking down on fake journalists and news, as well as illegal information and publications. The nationwide campaign lasts from March to November and targets those falsely claiming to be journalists and using false news stories to blackmail others, according to a statement by the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications. It aims to uncover people impersonating reporters for blackmail purposes or fraud, foreign journalists engaging in illegal news reporting, as well as illegal news websites and academic journals, according to the statement.

 

Another campaign for the same period will clean up publications using content that is harmful to minors, such as obscenity, violence, school bullying and suicide, and shut down websites and apps that disseminate harmful literature, games, and cartoons. Chinese law enforcers will also crack down on the creation, sale and dissemination of pornographic information in live-streaming videos, instant chat services and pop-up ads, the statement said, adding that live-streaming video platforms and websites should improve systems that review content. In the first two months of 2017, more than 1.3 million illegal publications were confiscated nationwide and over 1 million pornographic items removed.                           

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/22/2017

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Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Safety of Rivers, Reservoirs

 

Vice Premier Wang Yang said Thursday the country must ensure the security of major rivers and reservoirs and the effectiveness of flood control measures in major cities. Wang, also head of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, made the remarks at this year's first plenary meeting of the headquarters. China should ensure people's safety, provide safe water for its residents, and meet the water need for production and environmental purposes, Wang said. The country faces an arduous task in flood control and drought relief this year, Wang said, citing forecast of relatively poor weather. Local authorities should step up construction of emergency flood control projects, improve monitoring and early warning, and make good use of water projects around the country, he added.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 03/23/2017

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JAPAN: Labor-Management Consensus Key for Effective Rules on Overtime Limit

 

Efforts should be made to rectify the current situation in which overtime work is permitted without restriction, thereby curbing the practice of working long hours. To achieve this, it is important to create a system that will be accepted by both labor and management. Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), and Rikio Kozu, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), have held talks regarding restrictions on the upper limit on overtime hours. They are scheduled to continue discussions aimed at reaching a consensus, in anticipation of an implementation plan to be worked out by the government for work style reforms by the end of March. The government has advanced a proposal to set the upper limit for overtime at 720 hours annually, which if divided on a monthly average amounts to 60 hours. The proposal would also set a monthly upper limit so overtime work will not be too prolonged during busy periods. There is no gap between the opinions of labor and management regarding the yearly upper limit. The focus of attention is how to cap monthly overtime hours.

 

The government is considering the idea of setting the upper limits at “100 hours monthly” and “an average of 80 hours during a two-month period,” based on standards for acknowledging work-related accident compensation due to brain and heart ailments. These yardsticks are equivalent to so-called “death-from-overwork lines.” By and large, Keidanren intends to accept that idea. However, Rengo has strongly opposed it, saying the idea would increase the risk of dying from overwork. Restrictions on overtime could be thwarted unless labor and management reach an agreement. We hope they will hurriedly find common ground they can share. Although the Labor Standards Law sets the hours of labor at up to eight hours daily and at up to 40 hours weekly, it is possible to permit overtime if a labor-management agreement is formed. In that case, the standard overtime hours are set at 45 hours or shorter monthly and at 360 hours or shorter annually. However, these yardsticks are not legally binding. Moreover, it is possible to exceed these standards on an unlimited basis if an exception is made under a relevant accord.

 

Such agreements include some cases in which overtime work exceeding 100 hours monthly can be permitted. There is no end to cases of death from overwork. The public has become even more keenly aware of the problems involved in prolonged work due to the suicide of a Dentsu Inc. employee from overwork. The government’s plan would write 45 hours of overtime into law as a permissible monthly standard while also setting the upper limit on overtime work conducted as an exception. It would also introduce penalties for violations. Given that the current regulations have been reduced, in effect, to toothless rules, it is safe to say that these measures signify a step forward in this respect. Abruptly setting an extremely strict upper limit would not produce effective results. What seems to be realistic is to create a system by which each corporation would set an upper limit that fits the actual situation facing its workplace within the legally set upper limit, based on negotiations between its labor and management.

 

Another problem is how to deal with job areas that are excluded from the framework of overtime regulations, such as research and development, and construction and transportation. It is necessary to contrive good ways and means to decide how overwork in these areas should be properly regulated, considering the specific characteristics of such jobs. Efforts must also be made to encourage the spread of what is called “interval regulations,” a scheme designed to secure a certain length of time between the end of work and its resumption. The main purpose of laying down regulations on the upper limit for overtime is first and foremost to prevent cases of death from overwork. These rules do not mean that such goals as making it possible for people to balance work with family life, as well as enabling women to play an active role in society, are to be immediately achieved. It is critical to take even more fundamental measures to correct the practice of working long hours.

From http://the-japan-news.com 02/28/2017

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SCJ Should Recognize All Technology Has Both Military, Civilian Applications

 

It is feared a draft statement on military research, compiled recently by a committee of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), will lead to universities curbing the progress of science and technology. Concerning any research deemed to have possible “military purposes,” the SCJ panel calls on universities and other organizations to “establish a system to examine its appropriateness from technological and ethical viewpoints.” Depending on the content, research projects will be halted or modified in the process of such examinations. The SCJ’s opinion has no binding power, but its call to examine the content of research will itself have a chilling effect on researchers. Universities and other research organizations should deal with the draft statement prudently. The SCJ represents the Japanese scientific community. Reflecting on scientists’ roles in World War II, it issued statements in 1950 and 1967 to the effect that “no research is allowed for military purposes.” The council plans to carry on this spirit. The question is whether the purposes of science and technology research can be divided into “military” and “civilian.”

 

The global positioning system (GPS), a U.S. military technology, is indispensable to car navigation systems. Products permeating daily life, including food wrap and microwaves, also derive from military technology. Technology is inherently dual-use — meaning it can be used for both military and civilian purposes. If dual-use technologies are strictly divided into the two categories, even beneficial research with a wide range of applications will be eliminated under the pretext that it will be used for military purposes. The SCJ’s target of criticism is the Defense Ministry’s system for promoting security technology research. Under the system, the ministry provides funds for basic research deemed to be useful for defense and disaster prevention. The ministry then has the right to utilize research results. The draft statement points out that the ministry’s research support system is intended for the development of equipment for the Self-Defense Forces. Based on that recognition, the draft criticizes the ministry’s supervision of research progress, saying that “government intervention in research is conspicuous.” But this represents an opinion that does not match reality.

 

Research topics adopted in the past include “development of palm-sized robots” and “development of sheets that absorb harmful gas.” If these technologies are put to practical use, they can be used at disaster and firefighting sites. When research results are utilized to develop SDF equipment, the Defense Ministry will be directly involved in the development of applied technologies. In the documents inviting applications for its research promotion system, the ministry clearly states that it can freely publish and commercialize research results. It will not “intervene” in the results. But as long as such research involves spending public money, it is natural for the Defense Ministry to check on its progress, as other government ministries and agencies do. The draft statement will be referred to a general meeting of the SCJ in April. Sophisticated science and technology serves as a deterrent in terms of security. Discussions on the matter must be deepened from the viewpoint of national interests.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/10/2017

 

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Labor, Management Should Jointly Promote Work Style Reform, Wage Hikes

 

Efforts must be made in pursuit of increased productivity through work style reforms to sustain the current momentum for wage hikes in the future as well. All major corporations have made offers in response to demands by their employees in annual spring wage hike negotiations between labor and management, known as shunto, for 2017. Many decided to implement pay-scale increases, or an increase in their basic wage levels. The size of wage hikes demanded by labor at such companies as automobile and electrical firms was ¥3,000 monthly, equal to last year’s level. In response, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. offered to raise their basic monthly wages by ¥1,300 and ¥1,500, respectively. Some other companies, including Hitachi, Ltd., offered an increase of ¥1,000. Kansei shunto — the government’s practice of taking the initiative in demanding high-level wage increases — has entered its fourth year. Although this served to maintain a continued increase in wage levels every year, the amount of pay hikes for this year falls below last year’s level.

 

Meanwhile, this year’s shunto is marked by the spread of efforts to promote work style reforms through labor-management cooperation. As a benefit in addition to its basic wage hikes, Toyota said it would pay family allowances covering employees who are currently raising their children. This is aimed at reducing the burden imposed on their family finances by child-rearing costs, while also securing a number of women ready to work for the car maker. NEC Corp. has said it will improve and expand its “interval system” designed to secure a certain length of time between the time workers leave the office and the next time they come to work. The government has set out to rectify the practice of working long hours, and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) have agreed to set an upper limit on the number of overtime hours. There was effectively no ceiling on overtime work in the past.

 

It is significant that, in response to the trend of work style reforms, labor and management will not only work to raise wages but reconsider their employment practices. If efforts are made to facilitate a pleasant working environment in which people’s appetite for work and their capabilities are bolstered, improved productivity can be expected. That will heighten the earning power of corporations and generate funds for further pay increases. We hope business administrators will shed their inward-looking deflationary mind-set, and adopt an even more positive business strategy. Supported by such favorable winds as the depreciation of the yen that started last autumn, corporations are expected to secure a solid settlement of accounts ending in March 2017. Despite feeling an improvement in their business performance accompanied by a mild economic recovery, many business administrators remain cautious about raising wages over their anxiety about such factors as the economic policies of the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump.

 

To secure corporate growth, it is indispensable to cultivate new businesses as a driving force for that purpose. Besides continued efforts to increase wages, it is necessary to invest in people, for example, in the form of higher-quality training to develop employees’ capabilities. Efforts also need to be made to ensure that the basic trend toward continued pay hikes, established among major corporations, spreads to small and medium-sized companies and nonregular workers. A succession of machinery and metal-related small and medium-sized parts companies have offered basic wage raises of about ¥1,300, a figure comparable to those of major corporations. Some companies, including Nitori Holdings Co. and Ajinomoto Co., have decided to raise the hourly wages of their part-time workers. Continued efforts to increase wages are an indispensable requirement for improving the environment surrounding family incomes, regardless of the type and size of business.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/20/2017

 

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Govt Advises Local Authorities on Using Social Media in Disasters

 

The government has compiled a guidebook for local governments to effectively use social networking services for information gathering at the time of natural disasters. With an aim to prevent the spread of false information, the guidebook encourages local governments to establish a “civic support system” whereby residents register in advance to prove their identity before disseminating information. Because of the chaos in the early phase of a large-scale disaster, prefectural governments and municipalities often struggle to obtain information. The guidebook therefore deems social networking services a “valuable information source.”  At the time of the Kumamoto Earthquake in April last year, false information that “a lion escaped from a zoo” spread via Twitter. The selection of trustworthy information has been identified as a challenge in information gathering. In January 2016, the Konan city government in Shiga Prefecture introduced the civic support system. About 20 residents, including heads of neighborhood community associations and experts, registered with it, then a drill was conducted to disseminate information. This and other precedents are introduced as examples in the guidebook.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/22/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Ranked Near Bottom in Women's Economic Empowerment

 

South Korea ranks among the lowest in terms of women's economic empowerment, with its pay gap between men and women estimated to need more than 100 years to close if the current pace continues, an annual report said Tuesday. The Women In Work Index 2017 released by the PricewaterhouseCoopers put South Korea 32nd among 33 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with an index of 37.3 compared with the OECD average of 58.7. Mexico was the only lower-ranked country with 34.8. Iceland topped the list with 77.6, followed by Sweden's 74.6. The report from the accounting consulting firm creates the index by looking at a number of factors, such as pay equality between genders, job stability and the percentage of women in permanent jobs.

South Korea was also among the lowest in pay equality. The report said the pay gap between women and men in the country was 36 percent, more than twice the average of 16 percent among surveyed countries. At the current pace, the gap won't close until 2118, the report projected. Spain and Germany were the two other countries who would need more than a century to end the difference -- Spain in the year 2230 and Germany in 2297. "There is much more that businesses and governments can do to help close the gender pay gap and to fully harness female talent," the report said. Potential policies to support women returning to work and reduce the amount of time women spend out of work include improving access to affordable and quality child care, as well as introducing stronger incentives to encourage the take-up of shared parental leave, said the report. "Promoting flexible working options is also an opportunity for businesses to fully leverage the talent of its female employees and access a wider talent pool," it said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 02/21/2017

 

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Report Urges Hike in State Pension Age

 

South Korea needs to hike the state pension age to keep its rapid population aging from worsening the financial health of the government-run pension fund down the road, a report showed Thursday. Currently, South Korean subscribers to the state pension fund are entitled to receive payments starting at the age of 61, but the state pension age will be raised to 65 in 2033 under a reform plan. In the policy report, Lee Yong-ha, a senior researcher at the National Pension Research Institute, said that the government should consider increasing the stage pension age by two years to 67. "Most advanced nations have gradually raised the state pension age to 67 from 65 due to the deteriorating finances of their state pension schemes amid fast population aging," Lee said. "South Korea needs to take a leaf from their book." Britain, where the state pension age for men is 65 and 60 for women, has decided to hike it to 66 for both men and women by 2020 and to 67 between 2026-28. France will also increase the age to 67 from 65 starting in 2023, according to Lee. The proposal comes as the country's rapid population aging has sparked concerns over the state pension system's sustainability.

South Korea became an "aging society" in 2000, when the ratio of people aged 65 and older to its population topped 7 percent. The nation is projected to become an aged society in 2017 with the ratio hitting 14 percent and emerging as a super-aged society with the figure hovering above 20 percent in 2026. South Korea adopted the state pension program in 1988 to guarantee income for the elderly after retirement and to provide coverage for disabilities and surviving family members. There have long been forecasts of an early depletion of the national pension fund, unsettling prospective pensioners who worry about the loss of an important financial buffer that is supposed to protect them after retirement. According to the National Pension Service, the state pension operator, the country had 21.56 million state pension program holders as of February in 2016. The NPS is the world's third-largest pension operator with assets of 545 trillion won ($476 billion) under its management, which are projected to reach 1,000 trillion won in about five years.

From http://www.koreaherald.com/ 02/23/2017

 

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Korea Tops Global IP Index 3 Years in a Row

 

Korea has now come in first place for the third year in a row in a specific category of the U.S. Chamber International IP Index rankings. Korea topped 45 other countries in the category of "Trademarks, Related Rights and Limitations," part of the International IP Index announced on Feb. 13 by the Global Intellectual Property Center, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and announced in Korea by the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). Korea was the single winner in that category this year, unlike in past years where Korea tied at the top of the list with the U.S. or the U.K., as in 2014, or with the U.S. in 2015. Of the seven indicators in that category, Korea received a total of 6.55 points out of 7, becoming the top country among the 45 countries reviewed. Korea received full marks in five sections, including "Terms of protection," "Limitations on use of brands," "Protection of well-known marks," "Frameworks against online sale of counterfeit goods" and "Exclusive rights, industrial design rights." In its report, the Global Intellectual Property Center also mentioned areas where Korea needs to make improvements. The center pointed out that Korea should have in place laws and procedures that provide necessary causes of action to address violations of a trademark owner’s rights, and have in place exclusive rights rules that cover infringement of registered trademarks, unfair competition, false designation of origin or false advertising.

The International IP Index indicates a country’s capability in handling intellectual property rights and legal execution thereof. It provides information about the overall protection level and environment of intellectual property rights, and improvements being made. The assessment was conducted based on each target country’s 2016 legislation, guidelines and policies, research reports, precedents in legal circles and academic data. According to the KIPO, one of the keys to Korea’s high marks three years in a row is the general revision in its Trademark Law that took effect in September last year. Another factor that has helped Korea, it said, was Korea’s willingness to join the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, which took effect last year. This treaty is designed to simplify trademark-related procedures and to boost convenience for trademark registration applicants by conducting a regular monitoring of trademark brokers, managing a damage report center, and having in place a strict screening process against a bad-faith applicant’s trademark application. Director General Choi Gyuwan of the KIPO's Trademark and Design Examination Bureau said, “Winning first place for three consecutive years means that Korea has the world’s top level trademark protection.” “The KIPO will create an environment friendly for global intellectual property by setting up trademark protection policies and working to improve the system,” Choi said.

From http://www.korea.net 02/27/2017

 

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KT Pledges to Be World’s First 5G Provider by 2019

 

Hwang Chang-gyu, CEO of mobile carrier KT, pledged to make his company the world’s first to commercialize the next generation wireless network by 2019 in an address to global telecom providers on Monday. At an opening ceremony of the Mobile World Congress that kicked off in Barcelona, Spain, Hwang delivered a keynote speech aimed at expressing KT’s ambition to be a leader in establishing the fifth generation telecommunication network. It is the second time that Hwang addressed at the MWC after his first one in 2015. In his speech titled, “New World Beyond 5G,” Hwang highlighted that the 5G network will bring a new world beyond evolution of the network technology and explained how 5G can change the world. “Unlike the previous networks, 5G requires not only speed, but also connectivity, capacity and intelligence,” he said. Hwang explained how 5G solutions can be intelligent. When added to GPS, the 5G network reduces the error range to less than 1 meter, helping to find missing children in large public places, he said. The 5G network is also more secure than its predecessor, describing KT’s Wiz Stick is a 5G-based security solution that prevents phishing, hacking and pharming attacks by blocking them using data through an intelligent router, Hwang added.

Orchestration capability is another element of intelligence of the 5G network, Hwang suggested. Remote controlling of drones and connected cars that are moving autonomously in the 5G era will be essential to minimizing accidents. According to a recent report by IHS Markit, the 5G network is forecast to generate about $12.3 trillion worth economic effects globally by 2035, and create about 22 million new jobs. Telecom businesses are also actively looking for collaboration through the 5G intelligent network that requires convergence with various industrial solutions. “In the era of 5G, a network will evolve into an intelligent network combined with 5G, IoE, big data and artificial intelligence,” Hwang said. “The intelligent network will completely transform the current industries and markets into a whole new world.” KT has conducted a total of seven tests on 5G services under development. The mobile carrier also has won about 90 patents related to 5G technologies.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 02/27/2017

 

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Korea Shares Weather Tech with Developing Countries

 

Korea has shared its weather forecast technology with a range of countries from around the world. The Meteorological Administration hosted an international training course on weather forecasting for operational meteorologists from Feb. 6 to 24. The program was designed to help developing countries enhance their capability to respond to new or adverse weather patterns. The course was composed of an introduction section and then a section focusing on the analysis of weather forecast statistics. Participants were able to learn how to use satellite data and to interpret weather data, and how to implement practical training of weather forecasters. Meteorologists from ten countries attended the program, including Mongolia and Bhutan, as well as 15 postgraduate students from 12 countries in Asia and Africa, including Iraq, Nepal and Kenya, who are studying at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

The KMA’s Meteorological Human Resources Development Institute is planning to host four educational training programs for overseas meteorologists. These programs focus on how to manage meteorological radar technology courses and how to improve IT-backed meteorological work. The organization has been conducting such courses for international meteorologists since 1998. As of this February, a total of 796 meteorologists have studied at the institute. KMA Administrator Ko Yunhwa said, “We need to upgrade capability to respond to international meteorological disaster so that we can also effectively cope with climate change, which happens often in Korea these days.” “As we're one of the regional training centers for the World Meteorological Organization, the KMA will expand our international training programs in order to contribute to boosting meteorological capability in the international community,” he said.

From http://www.korea.net 03/03/2017

 

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CAMBODIA: Launching 1st Undersea Communications Cable

 

Cambodia's first undersea communications cable was launched on Wednesday after almost two-year construction, company representatives and officials said. The Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand (MCT) submarine cable was jointly invested by EZECOM Telcotech of Cambodia, Symphony Communication of Thailand and Telekom Malaysia Berhad, Paul Blanche-Horgan, chief executive officer of EZECOM Telcotech, said during the launching ceremony. He said Cambodia's first submarine cable had been built by China's Huawei Marine Networks, a global submarine network provider. The 1,300-km long MCT fiber optic cable system has a capacity of at least 30 Terabits per second with an investment of 100 million U.S. dollars, he said, adding that the MCT cable system landed in Sihanoukville of Cambodia, Rayong of Thailand, and Kuantan (Cherating) of Malaysia. "It gives us direct route from Cambodia to Malaysia, Thailand and beyond to Singapore, China's Hong Kong, and the rest of the world," he said.

 

Paul said that currently, Cambodia relies on terrestrial fiber systems via neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. "With the MCT fiber optic cable system, Cambodia will experience faster and more reliable internet speed," he said. Speaking at the event, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng said that it was a new achievement in the Information and Communications Technology in Cambodia. "With the undersea communications cable, I believe that internet and Facebook users will enjoy faster and more reliable internet speed with cheaper prices," he said. Cambodian Telecoms Minister Tram Iv Tek said that currently, approximately 50 percent of the kingdom's nearly 15 million people have access to internet. "I'm confident that the submarine cable system will narrow the digital gap between urban and rural areas and the number of internet users will be further increased," he said. Mike Constable, chief executive officer of Huawei Marine Networks, said that Huawei was proud to build the mega-project, which would provide enormous advantages to the Cambodian economy and people. "We designed the MCT fiber optic cable system for a 25-year lifetime," he said, adding that the system was built with the cutting-edge technology.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/15/2017

 

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SINGAPORE: To Invest S$45m a Year in New Defence Tech Labs for Robotics, AI

 

SINGAPORE: A starting seed grant of S$45 million a year will be given to two new laboratories in the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO National Laboratories organisations, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parli