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April 2017, Issue 185

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

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More Action Needed to Meet Energy Goals by 2030, New Report Finds

World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2017: Development Committee Communiqué

 

 

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CHINA: To Upgrade Robot Industry in Next Few Years

China Demands Tighter Regulations for Insurance

China Plans Planting Areas to Upgrade Agricultural Pattern

China Sets Ambitious Goal in Cloud Computing

China Unveils 10-year Plan for Youth Development

China to Promote Medical Partnership Trials in 2017

China Releases New Employment Policies

JAPAN: Lawmaker-Sponsored Bill on Gambling Addiction Mulled

Diet Starts Debate on Bill to Punish Terrorism Planning

Govt to Draw Up Hydrogen Society Strategy

Government Must Accelerate Various Measures to Overcome Low Birthrate

After Panel’s Final Report, Focus on Special Law for Smooth Abdication

SOUTH KOREA: Sharing Health Care Policies with Central, South America

BOK Vows to Keep Monetary Easing Policy

We Plan to Develop New Industries, Services for the Future

 

 

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INDONESIA: Revising Upward Target of Renewable Energy Usage

MYANMAR: President Wishes for Positive Results in the Peace Process and a Thriving Economy During 2017

THAILAND: NACC Will Get Power to Launch Graft Probes Independently

Thailand to Promulgate Draft Constitution

New Law on Village Chiefs ‘A Long Way Off’

NLA Debates 20-Year National Strategy and Reforms Bills

VIETNAM: PM Applauds Bình Thuận Development Plans

Online Parliamentary Network Introduced in HÀ Nội

 

 

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INDIA: Supporting Better International Cooperation in Cyber Security

Three Digital Legal Services Launched for Rural Masses

Government of India to Launch Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana

Nagpur Smart City Project Launched

Prime Minister Inaugurates Various Government Projects at Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Three Digital Legal Services Launched for Rural Masses

e-Pragati: An Initiative of Orissa (India) Government to Connect Anganwadis in the Cyberworld

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: ICT, Construction, Tourism, Healthcare – Priorities for Azerbaijan-Portugal Co-op

UZBEKISTAN: Launching Licence System

Uzbekistan to Launch Compulsory Medical Insurance

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Indigenous Justice Target 'Vital'

Government Split on Super for Housing Plan

Australia's Bold Plan for Cybersecurity Growth

NEW ZEALAND: Easter Trading Laws a 'Shambles'

Second Thoughts on Pay Equity Legislation

 

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The Ranking Digital Rights 2017 Corporate Accountability Index Is Now Online!

Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption and Integrity Delivers Recommendations for OECD

Internet of People Blockchain Project Fermat Adopts Distributed Governance

ADB New Procurement Framework to Cut Processing Times, Boost Quality, and Enhance Delivery Systems

 

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CHINA: Pledging Continued Reform to Boost Development, Employment

Unleash Productivity Through Thorough Reforms

Xiongan New Area to Highlight Eco-protection, Coordinated Development: Expert

Premier Li Vows Clean Governance, Crackdown on Financial Corruption

Senior CPC Leader Calls for Better Publicity Work for National Congress

China to Develop Medical Partnerships to Offer Better Service

China SOE Watchdog Sets Up Xiongan Working Group

Xi Urges Strengthened Party Education Campaign

China Gets Tougher with Officials' Personal Information Declaration

China's Top Court Launches Campaign to Root Out Corruption Among Law Enforcers

JAPAN: Government Panel Promotes Limited Regular Worker Model

 

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INDONESIA: Capital Governor in Gubernatorial Runoff Elected

Jakarta's Divisive Election: The Key Takeaway

MYANMAR: Ruling Party Wins Half in By-Elections

SINGAPORE: Manpower Ministry Looking into Enabling Women to Play Bigger Role in Society

New Office to Help Get Singapore Ready for Digital Society

THAILAND: PM Defends Government's Role in Energy Sector Reform

PM Transfers Six Provincial Governors

Thai Premier's Absolute Executive Power Can Still Be Enforced: Army Chief

Supreme Committee to Continue Working Until Next Govt Takes Office

VIETNAM: HÀ Nội Stops Five Bus Routes for Civil Servants

Eight Anti-Corruption Task Forces to Be Formed

Workers to Get Better Services: PM

 

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INDIA: Modi Advocates Use of IT for Speedy Delivery of Justice

E-governance Through e-Nagarpalika in Madhya Pradesh

11th Civil Services Day: PM Urges Civil Servants to Act as Enablers of Reform

SRI LANKA: Exploring Digital Identity Council for Citizen Data

 

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AZERBAIJAN: New Appointment in Bank Respublika

New Appointment in Azerbaijan’s Kapital Bank

Customs Committee Fully Electronizes Its Services in Azerbaijan

KAZAKHSTAN: New Head Appointed to Capital Bank Kazakhstan

New First Vice-Minister of National Economy Appointed in Kazakhstan

TURKMENISTAN: Deputy PM for Agro-industry Appointed

UZBEKISTAN: Setting Up Investment Committee

Uzbek President Names First Deputy State Advisor

Uzbekistan Reforming Internal Affairs

Sherzod Hadjizadaev Appointed Deputy Chairman of Central Bank

Competition Committee Restructured

 

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AUSTRALIA: Digital Transformation Agency Appoints Former NAB Exec as New CEO

PM Flags Citizenship Changes

Economics Committee Denies Banks Data Sharing Responsibility

NEW ZEALAND: Ministry of Social Development Doesn't Need All That Data - Privacy Commissioner

 

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Global Wildlife Program Partners with Gabon to Promote Human-Wildlife Coexistence

5 Lessons for Cities on the Cusp of a Smart Revolution

World Bank Group Launches New Open Data and Analytics Energy Platform

Tech Tools That Can Help You Land the Perfect Job

This Fundamental Global Problem Touches Everything from Farming to Technology

Investment Environment Reforms Target Tide of Trash

Technology and Humans Can Be Complementary, Not Competitive, Says SATS CEO

 

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CHINA: Announcing New Area to Coordinate Development Around Beijing

New Plastic-eating Fungus May Solve Garbage Problem

China Develops Hot Water Drill to Facilitate Antarctic Expedition

China Strengthens Control of Housing, Land Use

China's Shenzhen Regulates Bike Sharing Service

China Looks to Wide Application of Artificial Intelligence

Baidu Uses AI Technology to Help Abducted Child Find Family

Chinese VP Calls for More Innovation by Science, Technology Staff

Foreigners in Shanghai FTZ Have Easier Access to China "Green Cards"

Shanghai Auto Show Highlights Intelligent Driving

JAPAN: Archives Essential for Reviewing Policies, Should Be Preserved Properly

Japan Eyes Cap on Overtime Hours, Equal Pay Under Labor Reform Plan

Improve Working Conditions Through Joint Efforts of Labor, Management

Cabinet OKs Schools to Use Banned Imperial Order as Teaching Materials

SOUTH KOREA: Ranking 3rd for Design Registration

Korea Cooperates on Science, Technology with UK, Ukraine

Korea Calls for Strengthened Technology Cooperation with Israel

Korea Slow to Embrace New Web Tech

Korea to Nurture 'Software-Oriented' Universities

 

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CAMBODIA: Cracking Down on 92 Human Trafficking Cases Last Year

SINGAPORE: To Train 10,000 Public Servants with Data Science in Next Five Years

Review of Public Transport Fare Formula Under Way

Corruption Complaints and Cases Investigated by CPIB at Record Low

Singapore to Open Smart Technology Health Campus

THAILAND: PPP Committee Wants 6 More Transport Projects Fast-Tracked

VIETNAM: Gov’t Launches Website to Receive Administrative Feedback

Speed Up Electronic Toll Collection: Transport Minister

 

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INDIA: Gujarat Transport Department Goes Hi-tech with a New Mobile App

WhatsApp Eyes Digital Payments Space; India Could Be Test Bed

New-Age Technology for Securing Borders

Nagpur Hosts Two-day ‘Elets Smart and Sustainable Cities Summit’

7th SecureIT Summit: Ishtiyaq Shah, Consultant – Security Analytics, RSA

Distrust in the Internet Placing Digital Future at Risk

SRI LANKA: Microimage Opens R&D Centre in Jaffna, Plans to Draw New Talent

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Free Check-ups from Azercell

Azerbaijan Controls Quality of Agricultural Products for Export

TURKMENISTAN: Building Mining and Processing Plant

UZBEKISTAN: Small Industrial Zone to Be Created in Yangiyer

Information Technology Ministry Announces Journalist Contest

 

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AUSTRALIA: Government Prefers 'Scalpel' on Housing

Commonwealth Cybersecurity Compliance to Be Probed by Parliamentary Committee

Troubled 2016 Census Gets First Airing

Turnbull Strengthens India Ties

90 Percent of Australian Organisations Admit Security Compromise to ACSC

Govt Still 'Concerned' over Gas Crisis

Govt Pushes for Rural Move for Agencies

ATO Fails to Rule Out Website Blocking to Enforce Online GST Collection

Launched: First Australian Satellites in 15 Years

NEW ZEALAND: Students Call for Action over Rising Rents

Ministers Shun Jetstar Despite Cheaper Pricing

We'll Cut Tens of Thousands of Immigrants – Little

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How Smart Cities Are Building the Future

Stable Growth Momentum in the OECD Area

Development Aid Rises Again in 2016 but Flows to Poorest Countries Dip

Internet Privacy Around the World

Online Trust Alliance Merges with Internet Society

Most Teenagers Happy with Their Lives but Schoolwork Anxiety and Bullying an Issue

Governing Body Declares: No IP Addresses for Governments That Shut Down Internet Access

Smart Cities Look to the Future

Get Ready for Net Neutrality's Ugly Return

Expanding Economies in Asia Deliver 60% of Global Growth — ADB

Pacific Growth to Pick Up in 2017 — ADB Report

Raising Productivity Growth Is Critical for Middle-income Asia — ADB Study

Emerging Asia Risks Growing Old Before Becoming Rich

 

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CHINA: Overseas Experts Expect New Economic Zone to Deepen All-round Opening Up

Sales Momentum of Digging Machines Reflect Economic Strength

Xiongan New Area: Land of Opportunities

China Remains as World's Largest Goods Exporter: WTO

China Draws Digital 3D Topographic Map of Antarctic Seabed

China Vows to Deepen Economic System Reform to Boost Growth

Beijing Sees Robust Patent Application Growth

JAPAN: Govt Considering Development of Hack-Proof Satellite System

Disaster Panel Calls for Better Use of ICT

SOUTH KOREA: Banks Step Up Downsizing Amid Growing Mobile, Internet Banking

3billion Aims to Offer Affordable DNA Screening Service for Rare Disease Patients

Korea’s 5G Tech Spotlighted at G20 Meeting

Moon Vows to Lower Mobile Rates, Improve Free Internet Service

Gov't to Support Biotech, Medicine for Economic Growth

 

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MALAYSIA: Teachers Under Extreme Stress Need Counselling - Malaysia Deputy Minister

SINGAPORE: National Video Consultation Platform to Allow Patients to 'See' Doctors from Home

New S$21m Mail Sorting Facility Boosts Singapore's E-Commerce Scene

THAILAND: New Education Plan Focuses on Inspiring Students

Govt’s Handling of Economy Most Worrying Issue for Public

VIETNAM: Seeking ICT Links with Japan

Cyber Security in Fourth Industrial Revolution Urged

Vietnam to Follow ‘Digital India’, Seeks Cooperation on E-governance

Environmental Tax Hike Remains a Concern

Vietnam Sees Surge in Labor Demand in Q1

Social Media Dominates Online Ad Market

Vietnam on World's Top Cyber Insecurity List

VN Wants Its Own Social Networks

Elderly Without Pension Eligible for Social Benefits

 

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INDIA: Two Day Smart India Hackathon 2017 from April One

Promoting IT Industry for Inclusive Development

Maharashtra, Lenovo to Digitally Transform 1,000 Villages

Smart India Hackathon Finale to Be Held at 26 Different Nodal Centres

Decoding the Cyber Security of Maharashtra

Government Partners with Google to Raise Awareness About Internet Safety

Railways Supply-chain Goes Digital

e-Payment of Road Tax in Haryana

Free-Wifi at Secunderabad and Hyderabad Railway Stations

New Motor Vehicle Bill Promises e-Governance in Transport Sector

Delhi Is the Most ‘Internet Ready’ State of India

Online Registration System – Patient’s Portal for e-Hospital

Smart Cities Should Contribute to Common Man’s Growth

Soon e-Auction for Tea, Cardamom in India

Data Stored on Cloud Must Remain Within the Country

Puducherry Moves Towards e-Governance

The Growing Market for e-Learning

 

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AZERBAIJAN: PwC - Economic Situation to Improve

Development of "Made in Azerbaijan" to Help Grow Agriculture

Azerbaijan Looks to Expand ICT Use in Business

KAZAKHSTAN: GDP Growth Hits 3%

UZBEKISTAN: Smart Classroom Launched in TUIT

UMS Gifts Week of Reduced Rates for Internet, Voice and SMS

 

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AUSTRALIA: Teachers Pay for School Supplies - Survey

We Can't Turn Our Back on Coal: Canavan

New Service to ‘LINK’ Foundation Spatial Data

MP Says Cashless Welfare Card 'Will Work'

More to Do on Cyber Security

Web Developers, IT Support, Cable Joiners Removed from New 457 Visa Job List

Australia to Work with China on Cybersecurity

FIJI: Commencing Minimum Wage Review

The New Age of Electricity

NEW ZEALAND: School Decile System to Be Scrapped for Targeted Funding

NZ Market Flat on French Vote

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OECD to Release Taxing Wages 2017 on Tuesday 11 April

Rising Energy Prices Continue to Push OECD Annual Inflation Upwards

OECD Tax Rates on Labour Income Continued Decreasing Slowly in 2016

Addressing Refugee Crises in Middle-Income Countries - Lessons from the Global Concessional Financing Facility

IMF Raises Global Growth Forecasts but Warns Against Protectionism, Relaxing Banking Rules

World Bank Group Welcomes the GSMA to Universal Financial Access Initiative

Going Cashless to Fight Rising Financial Crime

IFC, Amundi to Create World’s Largest Green-Bond Fund Dedicated to Emerging Markets

World Bank and AIIB Sign Cooperation Framework

ADB Launches Climate Financing Database

 

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CHINA: Banking Sector to Enhance Financial Risk Control

China's Central Bank Highlights Prevention of Financial Contagion

China Tightens Financial Conditions More Visibly to Stem Asset Bubbles: CICC

China's Home Prices Continue to Stabilize Following Restrictions

China Announces Further Tax Reduction in Favor of Businesses

China to Take More Tax Cut Measures

JAPAN: Diet Enacts FY17 Budget

Stakes High as Abe Eyes Labor Reform to Boost Economy

Promote Debate on Setting Up Revenue Source for Child-Rearing Aid

SOUTH KOREA: To Set Up W113.5b Fund to Help Bio Startups

Korea to Invest 260 Bln Won in System Semiconductor Sector

Korea to Spend W41b Won on 3D Printing Technology

Moon Vows to Expand Fiscal Spending for New Jobs, Welfare

Reducing Exemptions Holds Key to Tax Reform

Korea's Tax Burden Remains One of the Lowest in OECD: Data

Gov’t to Spend 10-Trillion Won to Help Startups

 

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CAMBODIA: Borrowing 8.3 Billion U.S. Dollars in 23 Years - Report

MYANMAR: Striving to Boost Foreign Investment in New Fiscal Year

PHILIPPINES: Unveiling "Dutertenomics" Featuring Infrastructure Projects

THAILAND: Cabinet Approves Investment in New Bang Pakong Power Plant

VIETNAM: HCM City to Tax Social Media Commerce

Vietnam to Spend 6.2 Bln Dollars on 1st Phase of North-South Expressway

WB Helps VN Improve Energy Efficiency in Industry

Deputies Call for Tighter Control over Public Assets

 

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INDIA: RBI Panel Goes for e-Transactions

Indian Govt Allocates INR 25-30 Millon to Set Up Telemedicine Zones in WB, Tripura

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Direct Investments Abroad Exceed $2.5B

Taxes Ministry Drafts New Way of Tax Accounting

Azerbaijan, Russia to Create Joint Fund to Finance IT Projects

WB Expects Inflation in Azerbaijan to Abate in 2017

UZBEKISTAN: Uzbektelecom Reduces Internet Provider Tariffs to $75.80

IMF Forecasts Uzbekistan 6% Growth for 2017

 

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AUSTRALIA: Privacy Foundation Calls for Human Intervention in Centrelink Debt Collection

Higher Education Sector May Face Funding Cut

Abbott Wants Capital Gains Changes Ruled Out

Shares Set to Open Solidly Up

FIJI: End of Trade Talks

NEW ZEALAND: Paula Bennett Rejects Calls for Tourist Tax

$500m Pay Rise for Care Workers

Homeless Crisis Costing Govt $100,000 a Day for Motels

Financial Mistakes We All Make

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Six Carriers Join Nokia and OTT Companies to Defend Digital Freedom

IFC and HM Partner to Boost the Use of Renewable Energy in the Garment Sector

Small Business Sees Uncertainty Spike as Trump Bump Levels Off

Lending Volumes and Credit Conditions Are Improving for SMEs, but Many Firms Continue to Struggle to Obtain Financing That Meets Their Needs

Multilateral Banks to Deepen Collaboration with Private Sector to Boost Inclusive, Sustainable Infrastructure

 

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Chinese Internet Giants Eye Artificial Intelligence

CHINA: Huawei Hosts ICT Forum in Bangkok, Focusing on Southeast Asia Talent Development

China's Express Delivery Sector Sees Steady Growth

Baidu to Share Autonomous Driving Platform

JAPAN: Govt Pushes Reform in Building Industry

SOUTH KOREA: Mobile Carriers Partner with Builders to Introduce AI, IoT Home

Artificial Intelligence Gains Momentum Among IT Companies

Korea’s First Online-Only Bank Starts Business

Korea Introduces Easier, Simpler Investment for Startups

Korea Inc. Gropes for New Business-Politics Ties

Korea to Create W8tr Fund for Restructuring SMEs

Amid Shrinking Publishing Industry, e-Book Sales Are Rising

 

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INDONESIA: Carrying Out Connectivity Infrastructure Projects to Address Tourism Sector

CAMBODIA: State-Owned Telecoms Firm Bounces Back into Profit for 2016

Cambodian PM Inaugurates 61-Mln-Dollar Water Treatment Plant in Capital

MYANMAR: E-Commerce Leader Pushes for Expansion

SINGAPORE: More Companies Tapping on Support of SME Centres

VIETNAM: Card Payment Compulsory Soon for E-Commerce Businesses

Solutions Discussed to Have 500,000 Enterprises by 2020

Smart Phone Makers Ready to Ride 4G Wave

 

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INDIA: Ericsson, IIT - Delhi Launch '5G for India' Programme

Hitachi to Implement ICT-based Green Project at AIIMS

BARC to Roll Out Digital Measurement Service EKAM

Nokia Partners with Airtel, BSNL to Develop 5G Network

Ericsson, Bharti Infratel Bag Bhopal Smart City Project Worth Rs 690 Crore

Huawei Keen on India's Smart City Project: Official

SRI LANKA: PC Ownership Dips, Usage of Smartphones and Tabs Up

 

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AZERBAIJAN: 14 More State Properties Privatized

Azercell Telecom Starts New Project

Azerbaijan Attracts Investment Banks to Privatization

TURKEY: Creating E-Platform for Trade with Azerbaijani, Georgian SMEs

UZBEKISTAN: UMS Sets Up More Than 150 Base Stations Since the Beginning of the Year

Uzpromstroybank Sums Up Results of Contest "Best Business-Project"

Information Communications Ministry Recommends Buying TVs with DVB-T2 Tuner

Uzbekistan Creates Committee to Assist Privatized Enterprises

UZMOBILE to Put into Operation 1500 New Base Stations This Year

 

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AUSTRALIA: Telstra Eyes Future in Cloud as Connectivity Provider

Telcos Partner with Victoria on AU$18m Train Line Mobile Networks

Voice Biometrics Could Curb Fraud Under New Payments Platform

NEW ZEALAND: Doesn't Want 'Marijuana Industry' – English

ANZ to Use Voice Biometrics for Securing Mobile Money Transfers

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Camera Deep Dive

NZ Tech Could Reveal Planet's Largest Waves

Small Business: Helping to Make NZ Pest-Free by 2050 – Goodnature

 

 

 

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More Action Needed to Meet Energy Goals by 2030, New Report Finds

 

The current pace of progress on three global energy goals – access to electricity, renewable energy and efficiency – is not moving fast enough to meet 2030 targets, according to the latest Global Tracking Framework (GTF) report released today by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency as part of the Sustainable Energy for All Knowledge Hub. The report shows that the increase of people getting access to electricity is slowing down, and if this trend is not reversed, projections are that the world will only reach 92% electrification by 2030, still short of universal access. Only energy efficiency made progress towards meeting these objectives; with energy savings during the 2012-2014 GTF reporting period enough to supply Brazil and Pakistan combined.

 

While the research found that most countries are not doing enough, some are showing encouraging progress, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Rwanda. These countries underscore that accelerating progress towards universal access is possible with the right policies, robust investments (both public and private) and innovative technology. Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, said: “If we’re to make access to clean, affordable and reliable energy a reality, action must be driven through political leadership. This new data is a warning for world leaders to take more focused, urgent action on access to energy and clean cooking, improving efficiency and use of renewables to meet our goals. While we are making some progress - with many of the technologies we need available and policy roadmaps increasingly clear - it's not enough. We all made the commitment to act, and every day we delay it becomes more painful and expensive.”

 

To meet Sustainable Energy for All objectives, it is estimated that renewable energy investment would need to increase by a factor of 2-3, while energy efficiency investment would need to increase by a factor of 3-6. Estimates suggest that a five-fold increase would be needed to reach universal access by 2030. “This year’s Global Tracking Framework is a wake-up call for greater effort on a number of fronts. There needs to be increased financing, bolder policy commitments, and a willingness to embrace new technologies on a wider scale. The World Bank is committed, alongside our international development partners, to support countries to reach these goals,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director and Head of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank. “The Global Tracking Framework demonstrates the urgency to speed up action on achieving Sustainable Energy for All. We at the IEA are proud to contribute once again to this key publication, which highlights the necessity of a global transition to clean, modern energy and ensure a prosperous and productive future for everyone,” said Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director.

 

The GTF will be launched today at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum. Report highlights include; On access to electricity, as of 2014, 1.06 billion people still do not have electricity – only a slight improvement since 2012. Of particular concern are populous, low electricity access countries like Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where electrification rates are declining. Some low-access countries made rapid progress, increasing electrification by two to three percentage points annually, including Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and especially Rwanda. Others, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, are progressing rapidly by making greater use of off-grid solar energy, underscoring how new technologies can drive progress. Countries that are closing the access gap quickly will see improvements in education, health, jobs and economic growth.

 

On access to clean cooking, the number of people who use traditional, solid fuels to cook rose slightly to 3.04 billion (57.4 percent – barely up from 2012), indicating that efforts are lagging population growth. In Afghanistan and Nigeria, for example, access to clean cooking has been falling by about one percentage point annually. At the other end of the spectrum, Indonesia made the most progress, raising access to clean cooking by more than eight percentage points annually. Vietnam and Sudan also fared well. On renewable energy, overall progress is modest. While new power generation technologies such as wind and solar are growing rapidly – representing a third of the expansion in renewable energy consumption in 2013–2014 – they are growing from a very small base, only 4% of renewable energy consumption in 2012. The challenge is to increase reliance on renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors, which account for the bulk of global energy consumption. Energy efficiency Of the 20 largest energy consuming countries, Australia, China, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United Kingdom cut energy intensity by more than 2% annually – with the industrial sector making the greatest reductions. Going forward, the residential sector – which is becoming more energy intensive rather than less so – must be the focus of efficiency efforts.

 

Now into its third edition, the report measures progress from 2012 to 2014 on three global sustainability goals: universal access to electricity and clean cooking, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. The report draws from official national level data and provides harmonized analysis at the regional and global levels. The 2013 edition measured progress between 1990 and 2010, while the 2015 report focused on progress from 2010–2012. The Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework is produced jointly by the World Bank’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), and the International Energy Agency, and is supported by 20 other partner organizations and agencies. Starting in 2018, the GTF will move to an annual rather than biennial cycle.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 04/05/2017

 

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World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2017: Development Committee Communiqué

 

1. The Development Committee met today, April 22, in Washington, D.C.

2. The global economy is gaining momentum, but risks remain tilted to the downside. Further improvements in the global outlook will require policies that foster inclusive and sustainable growth, address financial vulnerabilities, and create jobs and economic opportunities for all. Actions to tackle the adverse impact of the decline in correspondent banking relations are an important priority for many countries. World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice and support are important to advance such policies, deliver the 2030 agenda, and protect the most vulnerable.

3. Reducing inequality is necessary to ensure long-term and sustainable growth. Technological change, trade, financial flows, and economic integration have helped boost incomes and have narrowed the economic gaps between countries. But these gains have not always been shared evenly within countries. We urge the WBG and IMF to redouble efforts to eradicate poverty and ensure that the benefits of international economic integration are shared widely.

 

4. We welcome the implementation update on the WBG Forward Look. In October, we endorsed a vision for a better, stronger, and more agile WBG and identified areas for improvement. We recognize the progress so far in becoming a better WBG. We encourage continuing efforts, in coordination with development partners, to implement and report on the Forward Look commitments and associated policies to (i) prioritize private sector solutions when deploying scarce public resources, including for infrastructure; (ii) strengthen domestic resource mobilization; (iii) support global public goods; (iv) assist all WBG client segments; (v) be more agile, responsive, and results-focused in working across the public and private sectors; and (vi) pay special attention to stabilizing the economy and supporting growth in situations of fragility, conflict, and violence, as well as to the development needs of small states.

5. We support the WBG’s scaled-up activities in the area of crisis preparedness, prevention, and response, through investments to address the root causes and drivers of fragility by helping countries build institutional and social resilience. We encourage further efforts to mobilize and rapidly disburse support for countries, communities, and refugees that are affected by famine or forced displacement, in close coordination with the UN and other partners. We acknowledge the various initiatives by the WBG to strengthen the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus.

 

6. We are encouraged by the WBG’s efforts to become more efficient through reforms of its operational and administrative policies and its People Strategy. We welcome the budget discipline introduced by the Expenditure Review, acknowledge WBG efforts to ensure transparency and accountability in tracking and reporting how it uses its scarce resources, and urge continued commitment on these fronts.

7. We also welcome progress and discussions to strengthen the WBG’s financial capacity. We are greatly encouraged by the successful IDA replenishment negotiations. IDA18 delivered a record $75 billion thanks to the generosity of partners and the plans to leverage IDA’s equity. Innovative measures introduced, such as the Private Sector Window, will help catalyze additional resources for IDA countries. We look forward to successful implementation that maximizes development impact.

 

8. We take note of the ongoing discussions to enhance the WBG’s financial capacity and enable it to deliver on the ambition of the Forward Look. We ask the Board and Management to develop a set of options by the Annual Meetings in October 2017.

9. We welcome the progress made in the Shareholding Review and recall our commitment to the principles we endorsed in Lima toward a WBG that reflects the evolution of the global economy and contributions to the WBG’s mission. We are encouraged by progress on diversity and inclusion in WBG staff and management, and we support similar progress on gender diversity in the Executive Board.

10. The next meeting of the Development Committee is scheduled for October 14, 2017.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 04/22/2017

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CHINA: To Upgrade Robot Industry in Next Few Years

 

China is poised to elevate the domestic robotics industry, according to a senior official. More than 800 enterprises that provide products and services spanning electronics, machinery, chemicals and medical services have already laid sound foundations for the upgrade, said Xin Guobin, deputy head with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. China produced 72,400 industrial robots in 2016, up 34.3 percent year on year. Sales are expected to exceed 50 billion yuan (about 7.26 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, according to industry insiders. Xin said the ministry will further integrate new technology, support the recruitment of talent, increase the quality and credibility of key machine components, and support the use of robots in emerging industries. The ministry will expedite related regulations and industry organizations will offer guidance to local authorities, all in accordance with the "Made in China 2025" plan. The ministry will also set the criteria for market entry and consummate the evaluation system for robotics, to boost industrial development, according to the vice minister. The "Made in China 2025" blueprint was announced in May 2015 as a way to move manufacturing up in the value chain, promoting development in 10 key sectors including robotics.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/06/2017

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China Demands Tighter Regulations for Insurance

 

China's top insurance regulator said Monday it will tighten regulations for the industry to avoid systemic crisis. The industry should focus on its insurance business and regulators should strictly enforce regulations, said the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) in a statement. The insurance sector should guard against financial risks, support supply-side structural reform and help promote the development of the real economy, said the statement. The statement came after China's top anti-graft authority announced that Xiang Junbo, chairman of the CIRC, was being investigated for a suspected serious violation of the code of conduct of the Communist Party of China. Xiang is also Party chief of the CIRC.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/10/2017

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China Plans Planting Areas to Upgrade Agricultural Pattern

 

China is planning to define the country's agricultural production areas in two functions in three years, to assure the effective supply of agricultural products, Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu said Tuesday. A total of 900 million mu (60 million hectares) of arable land will be allocated to main grain products including rice, wheat and corn, and 238 million mu will be assigned to five key agricultural products including soybean, cotton, rape seed, sugarcane and natural rubber, according to a State Council statement. The move is in line with a national strategy on food supply, with future supply-demand relations taken into consideration, said Han. It is aimed at optimizing agricultural production pattern and better orienting supportive policies, according to Han. He urged more investment in agriculture infrastructure construction in these areas, such as water conservation and water-saving projects. More innovative financial support, including loans and insurance for farmers, will be encouraged, Han said. Han also pledged more supervision and inspection in these areas to prevent occupying the farmland for other purposes.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/11/2017

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China Sets Ambitious Goal in Cloud Computing

 

China is aiming to increase the scale of its cloud computing industry by more than 2.5 times by 2019, from 2015 levels, according to a new government plan. The scale of the cloud computing industry will be expanded to 430 billion yuan (about 62.29 billion U.S. dollars) by 2019, up from 150 billion yuan in 2015, according to an action plan for 2017-2019 issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Other targets include making breakthroughs in core technologies, increasing cloud computing in manufacturing and government affairs, and strengthening the global influence of Chinese cloud computing companies. The ministry expects that two to three Chinese cloud computing companies will lead the global market within three years. Cloud computing should be a strong support for China's manufacturing and Internet industries and help make other social and economic sectors informationized, the ministry said.

 

The ministry pledged to enhance cloud computing network security and improve security regulation and relevant laws, as many users from key industries are still hesitating due to safety concerns, reliability and movability. In the next three years, the government will help boost cloud computing technologies and encourage local governments to work with leading cloud computing companies to build public service platforms. Support will go to cloud computing-related innovation and entrepreneurship to provide services for small and medium-sized enterprises, the ministry said. The plan promised better financial services and personnel training, as well as efforts in the branding of current enterprises and products. Leading cloud computing enterprises should also seek overseas expansion and boost international cooperation in alignment with the Belt and Road Initiative, it said.                      

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/11/2017

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China Unveils 10-year Plan for Youth Development

 

Chinese central authorities released a detailed 10-year youth development plan Thursday, vowing better education, employment and healthcare for the nation's youth. "Youth" in the context of the plan released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council refers to those aged from 14 to 35. The Middle- and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-2025) sets a general goal of establishing a "youth development policy system and work mechanism" by 2020 and improving the system by 2025. Specifically, the plan sets educational goals of an average 13.5 years of education for the newly added labor force and a gross higher education enrollment rate of over 50 percent within 10 years. It aims for 90 percent of the groups to meet physical standards and give them more accesses to mental and physical care. "Youth is the country's future and the nation's hope," reads the plan. Authorities will strengthen educational campaigns targeting different ages within the group to champion patriotism and socialism with Chinese characteristics, making the "Chinese dream" a common goal for them, according to the plan. The government will also narrow the educational gap across the country and pump more capital and resources into the less developed western areas, it says.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/13/2017

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China to Promote Medical Partnership Trials in 2017

 

China will launch various trials on partnerships between top-tier hospitals and grassroots medical institutions in order to provide better health care services, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said Friday. An institutional framework for such partnerships will be formed and various types of trials will be rolled out this year, Wang Hesheng, vice minister of the commission, said at a regular press briefing. The move is meant to ensure more balanced allocation of medical resources across medical centers at different levels and make quality medical care more accessible to the wider public, especially in less-developed areas. Currently, high-quality medical resources are mostly located in big cities. By 2016, medical institutions partnerships had been established in 205 cities across the country. Wang said the commission will encourage personnel exchange, salary distribution and information sharing in partnerships. Efforts will also be made to develop a collaboration network on distance health care for remote and poor regions, as well as to introduce demand-oriented and contract-based family doctors, Wang said.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/14/2017

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China Releases New Employment Policies

 

China will move to increase job creation and encourage entrepreneurship as employment pressure rises, according to a government document released on Wednesday. The document, approved by the State Council, China's cabinet, underlined the importance of job creation, urging policy makers to work out more pro-job policies. Support should be extended to micro and emerging businesses, the engines of job creation. A more flexible social security system should be applied to those sectors to protect rights of the employees. The document also urged local authorities to cut red tape to encourage entrepreneurship and extend more subsidies to the start-ups set up by college graduates and overseas returnees. The government should reach out to zero-employment and low-income families and ensure at least one family member has a job. China's job market faces grim reality as the economy slows while college graduates increase every year.                    

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/19/2017

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JAPAN: Lawmaker-Sponsored Bill on Gambling Addiction Mulled

 

The ruling parties are planning to create a basic law that would oblige the government to take necessary measures to deal with gambling addictions. The move comes in response to criticism that addiction measures in pachinko parlors and state-controlled gambling including horse racing are insufficient. The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito will submit a lawmaker-sponsored bill as early as during the current session of Diet. The bill will likely make clear that the government has responsibility to cope with gambling addiction and will stipulate standards and procedures to strengthen related measures. The bill will also obligate the central and local governments to compile a basic plan to promote addiction measures. The law to lift the ban on casinos and promote integrated resort facilities was enacted in the previous extraordinary Diet session. During deliberations, however, some lawmakers were critical about how the government was coping with gambling addiction in horse racing and at pachinko parlors. Komeito is scheduled to compile their points of discussion on Tuesday. The compilation will include an item which says: “A law that would set a schedule in dealing with gambling addictions should be enacted to demonstrate that the government is making its utmost efforts.”

 

The LDP will also compile its points of discussion by the end of this month. Concrete measures, based on the basic law, will be listed in basic plans to be compiled by the central and local governments, or in separate laws. As examples of concrete measures, Komeito, in its points of discussion, has listed restricting admission to gambling facilities and putting a cap on money that could be spent; strengthening advertisement regulations; and restricting the use of pachinko machines and horse race betting tickets deemed to be too highly speculative. However, some may oppose the idea to restrict admission as it may have adverse effects on business. On this and other matters, the ruling parties intend to proceed carefully. The government on Friday set up its headquarters — headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — to promote the development of integrated resort facilities based on the law to lift the ban on casinos. The headquarters will lay the groundwork for the legislation of a law to implement the plan to develop casinos. Toshiya Morishige, who took charge of preparing for the establishment of the headquarters, was appointed head of the secretariat on Friday.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/25/2017

 

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Diet Starts Debate on Bill to Punish Terrorism Planning

 

Deliberations on a bill aimed at stopping terrorism and organized crime in the planning and preparation stages began at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Thursday.  The bill would revise the Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds. To enact it during the ongoing Diet session, the government and ruling parties intend to pass the bill in the lower house in late April, before the Golden Week holidays.  However, fierce debate is expected, as the Democratic Party and three other opposition parties are seeking to scrap the bill. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Thursday: “Terrorism-related incidents have occurred in various countries, and many people have been killed. It’s necessary to take full-scale measures to prevent organized crimes, including terrorist acts.” The Democratic Party’s Diet affairs chief Kazunori Yamanoi said at a press conference: “[The government] might create a society in which 100 million citizens are monitored in the name of antiterrorism measures. This bill is very dangerous.”

 

The main pillar of the bill involves establishing penalties for making preparations for terrorist acts and other offenses. The new bill stipulates that if a major crime involving organized crime groups is planned by two or more people and at least one of them is involved in the preparation of it, all operatives who take part in the planning stage can be punished. Among crimes punishable by the death penalty or by four or more years of imprisonment with or without labor, the government has narrowed down the crimes in which organized criminal groups can be presumed to be involved to 277. The bill made more stringent the requirements for the “penalty for conspiracy,” which had been scrapped three times in the past. The government says enactment of the bill is necessary to enable Japan to become party to the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which Japan signed in 2000. A total of 187 countries and territories have become party to the pact. At Thursday’s plenary session, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda explained the purpose of the bill, and asked for support from lower house members. The opposition parties are expected to convey to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and others their concern that ordinary civil groups might be identified as organized criminal groups.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/06/2017

 

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Govt to Draw Up Hydrogen Society Strategy

 

The government decided Tuesday to draw up by the end of this year a basic strategy aimed at realizing a “hydrogen society” that will widely utilize hydrogen as a clean energy source. At a meeting of concerned ministers, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government aims to create a hydrogen society as a world pioneer, seeking closer cooperation among relevant ministries. The government plans to increase the number of fuel cell vehicles in Japan to about 40,000 units in 2020, aiming to have some 160 hydrogen-refueling stations across the country. To encourage businesses to install more hydrogen supply stations, the government plans to include deregulation measures in the strategy.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/12/2017

 

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Government Must Accelerate Various Measures to Overcome Low Birthrate

 

A slight improvement has been observed, but the situation is still severe. All possible measures must be taken to stop the rapid population decline and super-aging of society. The country’s total population will drop from 127.09 million in 2015 to 88.08 million in 2065, according to a new estimate released by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The population will dip below 100 million in 2053, five years later than in the previous estimate released five years ago. The pace of the decline slowed because the hypothetical birthrate — the main pillar of population estimates — was increased. The latest estimate reflected the fact that the birthrate among women in their 30s and 40s has been rising in recent years. Of course, this is not a level that one can be optimistic about. The birthrate of 1.44 this time falls far short of 2.07, the level necessary to maintain the population. There is also a great gap with 1.8 — the immediate target set by the government. There is a continuing tendency for women to marry or have children later in life. The percentage of women who never marry is also expected to rise. As a result, the population of the working generation in 2065 will see a decline of as much as 40 percent from what it is now. The population of elderly people will rise to be as high as 38.4 percent of the total.

 

The low birthrate and aging population will diminish social and economic vitality and endanger the maintenance of the social security system. The country is now mired in a vicious cycle in which such anxiety and pessimism for the future clog up its economy and in turn cause a further drop in the birthrate. The population estimate is only a mere prediction. Changing the future is possible. It is essential to accelerate measures to overcome the low birthrate with this resolve. First of all, an environment must be created in which women can balance work and child-rearing. This is indispensable also from the viewpoint of the promotion of women’s active participation in society. The government has been securing childcare facilities with the aim of reducing the number of children on waiting lists to enroll in day care centers to zero by the end of fiscal 2017. However, this is difficult to achieve because such efforts cannot catch up with the demand increase. The government should present measures, based on the current situation, to expand the number of such facilities in a new plan it will compile in June to make sure there are no children on waiting lists for admission to day care centers.

 

Work style reform that centers on rectifying long working hours is also important. If both men and women work efficiently in a shorter time, they will be able to enrich their lives outside work. With household chores and child-rearing left only to women, there is no way to expect a rise in the birthrate. Stabilizing young people’s economic base is an urgent task. With non-regular workers accounting for 40 percent of all workers, a conspicuous number of young people are giving up on getting married or raising a child for economic reasons. It is necessary to further promote better treatment for non-regular employees and offer support to help change their status to regular employees. There is no time to waste in carrying out social security reform. As the population ages, medical and nursing care expenses will balloon. A key question is how to enhance efficiency and provide high-quality services. It will also be necessary to thoroughly ensure that people, including the elderly, will share burdens commensurate with their economic strength.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/17/2017

 

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After Panel’s Final Report, Focus on Special Law for Smooth Abdication

 

A government advisory panel tasked with discussing measures to ease the Emperor’s burden of official duties has submitted a final report to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In the government, work is getting under way to consider a bill to establish a special measures law that will enable the Emperor to abdicate. It can be said that the abdication issue has entered its final stage. The panel’s final report centers on proposals for the abdication from an institutional perspective. The report suggests the Emperor and Empress be referred to by the titles of “joko” and “jokogo,” respectively. The report says the joko will not be entitled to serve as a regent or be enthroned again. All of his official duties conducted as a symbol of the state, including visits to disaster-affected areas, will be basically taken over by the new emperor. From the viewpoint of preventing negative impacts from the dual Imperial authority between the new and former emperors, these proposals appear to be reasonable.

 

Regarding Prince Akishino, who will become first in line to the throne after the Emperor abdicates, the panel has presented a plan to call him by titles such as “koshi denka.” It has also proposed his annual allowance increase about threefold from the current amount, while calling for creating a new “koshi” post in the Imperial Household Agency. As he will play the role tantamout to that of crown prince, such steps are essential considerations for him. The government plans to include these proposals in the special measures bill. After reaching a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties, it intends to submit the bill to the Diet in late May. The draft outline of the bill respects a view compiled by leaders and deputy heads of both chambers of the Diet as a Diet consensus, but it also has differences. The view of the Diet leaders suggests the name of the special measures law be “Imperial House special measures law concerning the Emperor’s abdication and related issues,” but the draft outline refers to it as “tenno heika,” which means “Your Majesty, the Emperor.” This is apparently intended to stress that the law is a one-off measure to be applied only to the current Emperor.

 

Given that a permanent abdication system could allow an emperor to abdicate in an arbitrary manner, this also makes sense. The draft outline also does not reflect the Diet view that the Emperor’s message, which hinted at his desire to abdicate, should be included. If the bill mentions the message, that could go against Article 4 of the Constitution, which states that the Emperor “shall not have powers related to government.” It is appropriate to make the bill more in line with the Constitution. The draft outline cites the public’s understanding and sympathy over the Emperor’s concerns as a reason to justify the abdication. It is desired that lawmakers will seek common ground through Diet deliberations with this point in mind. The view compiled by the Diet leaders also calls for swift consideration of ways to ensure stable Imperial succession, such as by creating female Imperial branches. The panel’s final report does not mention female Imperial branches, but seeks deeper discussions on ways to counter the decline in the number of Imperial family members. Aside from the abdication issue, the government is urged to take a positive approach to this issue.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/22/2017

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Sharing Health Care Policies with Central, South America

 

Korea is continuing to share its knowledge and experience about health care policies with Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Mexico. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety invited 10 government officials from the six countries to the fifth K-Pharma Academy, held from March 27 to 31. The event is co-hosted by the three ministries. The K-Pharma Academy began in 2013 to provide comprehensive information about Korea’s health care policies and relevant industry to Central and South American governments. Up until last year, a total of 66 officials from 11 countries have attended the yearly get together. Attendees are provided with lectures related to Korean health care, including updates about the current state of clinical tests and the permit system for drugs and medical devices. They will visit health and medical institutes in six cities, including Seoul, Sejong and Osong, and will have one-on-one meetings with Korean medical companies. In particular, this year’s representatives from Argentina, Brazil and Chile will have separate meetings with their Korean counterparts. “The K-Pharma Academy connects Korea and Central and South America and promotes cooperation on health and welfare issues,” said Kim Ganglip, the deputy minister for healthcare policy. “We hope that the Korean government’s policy and Korean companies’ medical technology will be able to contribute to improving health care policies across Central and South America.”

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/29/2017

 

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BOK Vows to Keep Monetary Easing Policy

 

South Korea's central bank vowed Thursday to maintain the current monetary easing policy to support growth. The Bank of Korea has left its key rate unchanged at an all-time low of 1.25 percent since June when it made a surprise rate cut to bolster Asia's fourth-biggest economy. The BOK will "maintain its stance of monetary policy accommodation as the inflationary pressures are not expected to be high given the moderate pace of domestic economic growth," the BOK said in a report submitted to the National Assembly earlier in the day. The central bank also said it will take into account South Korea's macroeconomic conditions and financial stability in conducting a monetary policy, though it said a US rate hike is one of the key considerations. Earlier this month, the US Federal Reserve raised its key rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a target range of 0.75 to 1 percent. It also signaled that additional hikes would be made in a gradual manner later this year. BOK Governor Lee Ju-yeol has said that the US rate increase does not necessarily mean the BOK will immediately raise its interest rates. The bank also said in the report that South Korea will take measures to stabilize markets in case of any drastic volatility due to foreign capital outflows.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 03/30/2017

 

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We Plan to Develop New Industries, Services for the Future

 

"Using autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT) as our engines of economic growth, we plan to develop new industries and services for the future," said Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn during the 2017 Science Day ceremony at Seoul's Dongdaemun Design Plaza on April 21. "Projects that focus on state-of-the-art technology, including AI, are currently in the works. By developing innovative R&D systems, we will create a research environment that gives rise to scientists who have the capability to pursue challenging and creative projects," said the acting president. "The waves of the fourth industrial revolution are rising higher and higher, day by day. Last year, the Korean government adopted a comprehensive plan outlining some medium- to long-term measures to respond effectively in this age of advanced AI," he said. "The new industry investment committee, launched last year, is helping to lead a number of reforms related to regulations governing new industries. We have also begun addressing issues linked to the fourth industrial revolution, such as unemployment and industrial polarization, in preparation for the dawn of a new era," he said.

From http://www.korea.net 04/24/2017

 

 

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INDONESIA: Revising Upward Target of Renewable Energy Usage

 

The Indonesian government has set a higher target of renewable energy usage in a bid to expand the use of clean and sustainable energy. Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said Wednesday that the government expected a 22-percent usage of renewable energy by 2025, higher than the initial expectation of 19.6 percent. "So the primary sources of the renewable energy are water, geothermal and others which will be 22 percent by 2025," he said. Indonesia has been at the forefront in fighting against global warming along with other countries which have large rain forests. The move was in line with the government's efforts to ease the country's reliance on fossil fuel energy whose reserve has been dwindling in recent decades. Indonesia has a huge amount of resources for renewable energy, including hydro, geothermal, crude palm oil, wind among others. Indonesia has 129 active volcanoes which primarily contribute to the production of geothermal energy.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 03/29/2017

 

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MYANMAR: President Wishes for Positive Results in the Peace Process and a Thriving Economy During 2017

 

President Htin Kyaw hoped that the people would witness 'delightful results' in the peace process and the State’s economy would flourish in the present economic climate. The president made his remarks on Myanmar’s New Year which falls on April 17. The government has received thousands of donations from the people, which will be spent on implementing the peace process. The people’s generous donations spotlights their hunger for peace, and indicates that they believe in the peace solution being sought by Aung San Suu Kyi together with different organizations. For that reason the people will see good delightful results in the peace process during this year, President Htin Kyaw said. International governments and organisations are transparently increasing loans and technical assistance in an attempt to raise living standards. Foreign investors have made more investments as economic policies and new investment law are modified, the president added. “I would like to express words of thanks to everybody who tolerantly understands the government. All in all, our government can only work if it has the support of the people. Therefore we will continue trying to attend to the needs of the people,” the president said.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com 04/18/2017

 

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THAILAND: NACC Will Get Power to Launch Graft Probes Independently

 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will be given the power to independently kick start investigations into graft cases, under the new organic law written by the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC). Currently, the NACC has to wait for others to file complaints before starting an investigation. Chief constitution writer Meechai Ruchupan said the agency would be authorised to handle corruption allegations and complaints directly without having to rely on the police or other investigation agencies. The anti-graft agency will also have the power to order related agencies or agents to probe a graft case on its behalf, Meechai said. The new organic law will boost the agency’s transparency and efficacy, he said, adding that any suggestions on the law was still welcome. Meanwhile, Pramon Sutivong, the chairman of Anti-Corruption Thailand, has said that the organic law should ensure diversity in the commission and make the recruitment as transparent as possible.

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

 

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Thailand to Promulgate Draft Constitution

 

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside over a ceremony for the promulgation of the current draft constitution on April 6, also the day to commemorate the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty, the Bureau of the Royal Household said on Monday. The bureau said in an announcement that the ceremony will be held at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall from 3 p.m. on Thursday, during which the draft constitution will be presented to the king for signing and then be passed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The Bureau of Royal Scribes and Royal Decorations under the cabinet secretariat will then read out the royal announcement on the promulgation of the new constitution. The current draft constitution was passed in a referendum in August last year, which was a part of the ruling junta's road map to a general election that was promised to be held later. Prime Minister Prayut will announce the event formally on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting, Thai deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said to reporters. After the draft constitution is promulgated and then becomes the 20th constitution of Thailand, the country's Constitution Drafting Committee will complete the draft of so called organic laws, which will finally make way for a general election.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/03/2017

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New Law on Village Chiefs ‘A Long Way Off’

 

It is yet to go to the cabinet or parliament, NLA’s Pornpetch says. THE proposal to slash the terms of tambon chiefs, or kamnans, and village heads to just five years still has a long way to go, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai said yesterday. If the Cabinet approved the draft, proposed by the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), it would have to be submitted to the NLA for another three rounds of readings before it could become law, he said. The Cabinet did not approve all of the proposal made by the NRSA, Pornpetch said, adding “if headmen disagree with the bill, they could voice their opinions”. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, while urging headmen of tambons and villages not to stage protests, said he remained undecided on the NRSA proposal and would have a working group study the matter.  “Don’t worry, we have a check and balance system in the decision-making. If the majority agreed, we would continue. If fewer people agreed, we would have further study,” he said. The NRSA on Monday passed a proposal to amend the 1914 Local Administrative Law to enable direct elections and limit terms for tambon and village heads to five years. At present they can stay in office until they turn 60.

 

The proposal was opposed by kamnans and village heads in many major provinces. Seri Suwanpanon, chairman of the NRSA’s political reform panel, said yesterday that the committee responsible would revise the draft following the NRSA’s advice and forward it to Cabinet next week. Seri said there was no specific timeframe for the Cabinet to deal with the matter, but opinion hearings could be expected as required by the new Constitution. He said the legislation would benefit the public as a whole. Former prime minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva backed the proposal, saying elections and limited tenures would improve the headmen’s sense of responsibility to their people. ‘Don’t like it, but won’t protest’  Meanwhile, Association of Headmen president Yongyos Kaewkhiew said yesterday that his members would not stage a protest, even though they would be |negatively affected by the new draft law. Tambon and village chiefs would not cause trouble or threaten |security, he said, despite strongly disagreeing with some of the bill’s provisions, which had been written arbitrarily. Yongyos said any legislation should not be retroactive, especially when it affects the association or its members. But since the NRSA had already passed the draft law, the headmen had to accept the decision, he said.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 04/12/2017

 

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NLA Debates 20-Year National Strategy and Reforms Bills

 

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) sets to deliberate two important bills concerning the country’s national strategy and reforms Thursday. The two bills are required by the new charter, which says they must be enacted and promulgated within four months after the charter has been promulgated. The charter received the royal endorsement on April 6, prompting it to be in effect since. Below are the essences of the national strategy bill, which would last 20 years.

 

Key Points in the Creation of a National Strategy Act

The Act has been written as dictated by the Article 65 of the 2017 Constitution.

ž   The National Strategy Committee must develop and put in place a national strategy, which is a common goal for future governments and government agencies to pursue for at least 20 years.

ž   The national strategy must consist of at least three components, which are the vision for national development, the specific long-term goal and the success indicators, and strategies.

ž   The national strategy must be reviewed every five years by the National Strategy Committee, and should be revised corresponding to the changing circumstances.

ž   All agencies must have annual budgets allocated specially for pursuit of the national strategy and the model schemes it entails.

ž   The national strategy is a royal command. It binds all government agencies and officials legally.

ž   Agencies or individuals when fail to serve the national strategy will be held accountable by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. An ultimate penalty is dismissal off the office.

ž   During the five-year transitional period, the junta-appointed Senate will be responsible in ensuring the government, which is obliged to report the progress to the Senate every quarter, follows the strategy. If the government fails to comply, the Senate must take the case to the Constitutional Court. If the government is ruled as illegally failing to serve its duty, the Senate could report it to the NACC, which must conclude the case in 60 days.

 

Composition of the National Strategy Committee

The committee is to be composed of 17 permanent members, including the chair people, as following.

Chairperson: Prime Minister

1st Vice Chair: President of the House of Representatives

2nd Vice Chair: President of the Senate

3rd Vice Chair: Deputy Prime Minister or Designated Minister

 

Ex officio members:

ž   Permanent Secretary of Defence Ministry

ž   Supreme Commander

ž   Army Chief

ž   Navy Chief

ž   Air Force Chief

ž   Police Chief

ž   Secretary General of the National Security Council

ž   President of the National Economic and Social Development Board

ž   President of the National Farmers Council

ž   President of the Thai Chamber

ž   President of the Federation of Thai Industries

ž   President of the Tourism Council

ž   President of the Thai Bankers Association

The Cabinet reserves the authority to appoint the maximum of 14 extra members who are specialists from various areas to help develop the strategy. The 14 additional members serve the term of five years.

 

Provisional Timetable

ž   The Cabinet must appoint the additional non-permanent members of upto 14 people within 30 days after the Act comes into effect.

ž   The National Strategy Committee must set up all the necessary committees to work on strategies of different areas within 30 days.

ž   All the committees must complete national strategies in all areas within 120 days after taking office.

ž   The strategy must be submitted to the Cabinet after opinion gathering process.

ž   The Cabinet must forward it to the National Legislative Assembly in 30 days.

ž   The NLA must pass it within 30 days before resubmits it to the PM for seeking further royal endorsement.

The national reforms bill, meanwhile, would involve also the set-up of the national reform committee to implement national reform plans, which largely follow the national strategy.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 04/20/2017

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VIETNAM: PM Applauds Bình Thuận Development Plans

 

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc lauded plans to develop the southern coastal province of Bình Thuận into a green, clean and sustainable economy during a local investment promotion conference yesterday.  In his speech to more than 240 local and foreign businesses and investors, he said the province’s progress in infrastructure, export-import, vocational training and investment climate have attracted more businesses and investors to the locality.  On the locality’s development strategy, the PM suggested improving the quality of planning, considering it crucial for sustainable development. Sectoral, regional and key product planning should not be contradictory to each other, with a focus on strengthening co-ordination with the southern economic zone and adjacent provinces, he added. Affirming the Party and State’s policy of continuing to mobilise social resources for development, the leader asked the province to come up with measures to execute the policy, mostly with the public-private partnership model.

 

He revealed that the government will embark on several large-scale infrastructure projects in Bình Thuận, such as highways, coastal roads, and Phan Thiết airport. Commenting on local investment promotion, he proposed focusing on fields of strength such as wind and solar energy, tourism, organic and high-tech agriculture, and processing industry. The PM also asked Bình Thuận to improve workforce training and become one of the top 20 localities nationwide in terms of the administrative reform index. Talking with investors, he urged them to devise long-term and sustainable strategies for doing business in the province and to heed environmental protection. At the event, investment licences were presented to 14 projects worth a total of VNĐ43 trillion (US$1.86 billion) and a memorandum of understanding on investment in 20 projects worth more than VNĐ83 trillion ($3.6 billion) was signed. Endowed with a sunny and windy climate, Bình Thuận is well-positioned to develop agro-forestry-fisheries, renewable energy, green tourism and mining. A farming area of 27,000ha of dragon fruit with annual output of more than 600,000 tonnes made the province one of the top localities nationwide in terms of dragon fruit cultivation. Thanks to its 192km coastline, Bình Thuận is also one of the four largest fishing grounds in the country with yearly seafood production of more than 200,000 tonnes.

 

Inspection of missile brigade

Also yesterday, the PM inspected training activities and the combat readiness of Naval Region 2’s Coastal Missile Brigade in the province. Writing in the brigade’s book of traditions, he expressed hope that officers and soldiers of the Coastal Missile Brigade will maintain strict discipline and high combat readiness so as to firmly safeguard Việt Nam’s marine sovereignty.  Established in 2006, the Coastal Missile Brigade of Naval Region 2 is tasked with protecting sea and island sovereignty and the southern continental shelf of Việt Nam. The brigade’s officers reported to PM Phúc that it has taken measures to develop into a professional and modern brigade. Co-operation with other military units and local authorities has also been enhanced to be prepared in any circumstance. The brigade has made efforts to improve the leadership and combat capacity of its Party organisation. Additionally, it has engaged in natural disaster prevention, search and rescue activities, and assisted local residents in coping with disaster consequences.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/20/2017

 

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Online Parliamentary Network Introduced in HÀ Nội

 

An ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) online internal network (AIPA Connect) was introduced to member parliaments at a meeting in Hà Nội on Thursday.  Vice Chairman of the National Assembly Office, Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, said at the meeting that the network would help AIPA members share knowledge and information, improving their information management, policy studies and consultation processes. Conferences on AIPA Connect have been held for specialists from member nations to exchange ideas and learn from each other’s experience in information technology, he said. Bernardo Agawin Jr., regional advisor to the German Agency for International Development Co-operation (GIZ) and AIPA technical support coordinator, said the meeting aimed to foster AIPA connections by encouraging the use of the new internal network. The meeting also looked into integrating the network into each member parliament, setting priorities for users, collecting feedback on difficulties facing users and providing solutions to technical obstacles, he said. Director of the National Assembly Office’s IT Centre, Lê Hoàng Hải, briefed the meeting on IT applications in the office with regard to organisation, human resources, legal framework and technical infrastructure. He also introduced orientations to using the network as well as its major features. The NA Office had last June held the third conference on AIPA Connect in HCM City. It had sent IT specialists to the conferences as well as IPA Connect-related training courses jointly organised by the AIPA Secretariat and the GIZ.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/21/2017

 

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INDIA: Supporting Better International Cooperation in Cyber Security

 

NEW DELHI: India supports better international cooperation in cyber security to fight against growing cyber crime and cyber terrorism, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Attending bilateral meetings in Germany during G20 Digital Ministers meeting on Digital Economy, he said India is also of the view that multi stakeholders model is the best option for the spread of digitalisation and that a border should not be an impediment in the way of mobility of professionals and information, according to an official statement here. Bilateral engagements were held with representatives of Russia, Indonesia, Germany, Britian, Argentina, Singapore, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and International Telecommunication Union. The G20 Ministers expressed their warm appreciation for the accomplishments of the Digital India programme. They noted how Digital India is provisioning a unique digital identity - cheaply, securely, and with privacy - to 1.1 billion citizens through Aadhaar, said a statement by the Electronics and IT Ministry.

 

About the Indian government's drive towards Digital India, Prasad said: "Digital technologies and the internet, which represents some of the finest creations of the human mind are today a 'global common good'; which we can harness for bridging the digital divide, empowering and improving the quality of life for our citizens." Emphasising how India is advancing in the knowledge economy by catalysing innovation, he said: "We believe that innovation is key to our success as a digital economy. India today has one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems with over 4,000 startups every year working in emerging technology areas including IoT, data analytics, Block Chains and machine learning. "Many of these startups are also in the forefront of developing solutions to many of our grand challenges in areas such as health and education."

 From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/12/2017

 

 

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Three Digital Legal Services Launched for Rural Masses

 

To provide legal services in rural areas, the Department of Justice (part of the Ministry of Law and Justice) has launched three empowerment initiatives. These are pro bono legal services, a tele law service and ‘Nyaya Mitra’ scheme. “These initiatives will serve as a tool to give the poor, rural, marginalised communities a voice and ensure that everybody has equal access to justice.” said Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, in conversation with The Business Standars. The Pro-bono Legal Services initiative plans to enroll advocates who are interested in providing legal aid to poor. For this,  an online application has been put on the Department of Justice website. This information can then be accessed by needy citizens through an interface provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and creates the first digital structure for legal aid in the country. It was also proposed that lawyers providing pro-bono legal assistance should be considered for the appointment of judges to the high courts. The Tele Law programme has been launched in partnership with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). Under this scheme expert panels of lawyers stationed at State Legal Service Authorities will provide legal aid through digitally equipped Common Service Centres (CSCs).

 

Through these CSCs, community participation and capacity building in rural regions and will be launched as a pilot project in 1,800 gram panchayats across the nation. Out of the 1,800 gram panchayats to be covered – 500 are in Uttar Pradesh. 500 in Bihar and the rest are in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. The Nyaya Mitra scheme will facilitate justice mechanism introduced to reduce case pendency at the district level. Addressing the issue of more than 2.4 crore cases in the lower judiciary, the scheme will place a special focus on cases that are pending for over 10 years, which will be identified through the National Judicial Data Grid. The programme will create a ‘Nyaya Mitra’ in each selected district – who will be retired judicial (or executive) officer – to provide legal assistance and connect litigants to CSCs, government agencies and civil society organisations. The ‘Nyaya Mitra’ will also responsible for referring marginalised applicants to Lok Adalats and assist in prison reforms within the region. The initiative will be launched in 227 districts selected by the Department of Justice.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/15/2017

 

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Government of India to Launch Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana

 

The Government of India seeks to promote digital payment methods to encourage consumers and merchants to increasingly shift to these payment modes. To take this imitative forward, Lucky Grahak Yojana for Consumers and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana for Merchants, will be launched on 25th December 2016 at Vigyan Bhavan. The schemes will be launched with the first draw by Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley. The schemes are aimed at encouraging people to move towards significantly higher usage of digital transactions through the offer of incentives. Winners will be selected on a daily and weekly basis under the Lucky Grahak Yojana and weekly basis under the Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana respectively, leading up to 14th April 2017, when the schemes will culminate with a mega draw. The draws for these events will be taken out in 100 different cities around the country, in a ceremony accompanied by a digital payments adoption fair called DigiDhan Mela. As part of the mela, to encourage adoption of digital payments by local residents, booths and help centers will be set up by banks and other stakeholders, where citizens can get apps downloaded and learn how to do digital transactions. The schemes will be implemented by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). Only those transactions that take place through RuPay Cards, USSD, UPI and AEPS are eligible for these schemes. According to NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant, “On April 14, there would be mega awards worth Rs 1 crore, Rs 50 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, respectively for consumers and Rs 50 Lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 5 lakh for merchants.”

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/18/2017

 

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Nagpur Smart City Project Launched

 

Maharashtra government recently launched the Nagpur Smart City Project with an ambition to project Nagpur as the model city of smart cities in the nation. It was launched by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari on the advent of New Year. The state government is keen to set a benchmark with its ambitious plan to install 1,200 km of optic fibre, 4000 CCTV cameras across the Nagpur city,136 Wi-Fi hotspots and over 100 digital kiosks and smart streets. Tech-advancement in Nagpur enabled the citizens to get glimpses and bits of the launch programme, live. “With an integrated infrastructure, IT backbone, most advanced cameras, we are committed to make Nagpur safe and smart city by March 2017,” said Fadnavis on the occasion. In Mumbai, two lakh e-challans have already been issued to offenders for traffic violations. “We are creating systems with minimum human intervention to avoid delays and for a transparent process and administration.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/20/2017

 

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Prime Minister Inaugurates Various Government Projects at Dadra and Nagar Haveli

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dedicated various government projects at Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (D&NH) to the nation. These include government buildings, solar Photo Voltaic systems, Jan Aushadhi Kendras and a Passport Seva Kendra. Till now, D&NH residents  had to go out of the Union territory if they wanted to apply for a passport.This new Passport Seva Kendra will benefit 21,000 people of D&NH. Prime Minister also  distributed aids and assistive Devices to Divyangjans, and other benefits under existing government schemes.“When we assumed office, I sought details on impact of development schemes in Dadra & Nagar Haveli & we worked on areas needing attention,” said the Prime Minister in an official statement. During his address, Narendra Modi informed that the number of beneficiaries under the Ujjwala scheme for LPG has crossed 2 crore. The Prime Minister emphasised that the Union Government will never allow the poor and the middle class to be looted. He urged the assembled people to download the BHIM App for cashless transactions. This is the first visit for the Prime Minister in Silvassa.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/20/2017

 

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Three Digital Legal Services Launched for Rural Masses

 

To provide legal services in rural areas, the Department of Justice (part of the Ministry of Law and Justice) has launched three empowerment initiatives. These are pro bono legal services, a tele law service and ‘Nyaya Mitra’ scheme. “These initiatives will serve as a tool to give the poor, rural, marginalised communities a voice and ensure that everybody has equal access to justice.” said Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, in conversation with The Business Standars. The Pro-bono Legal Services initiative plans to enroll advocates who are interested in providing legal aid to poor. For this,  an online application has been put on the Department of Justice website. This information can then be accessed by needy citizens through an interface provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and creates the first digital structure for legal aid in the country. It was also proposed that lawyers providing pro-bono legal assistance should be considered for the appointment of judges to the high courts. The Tele Law programme has been launched in partnership with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). Under this scheme expert panels of lawyers stationed at State Legal Service Authorities will provide legal aid through digitally equipped Common Service Centres (CSCs). Through these CSCs, community participation and capacity building in rural regions and will be launched as a pilot project in 1,800 gram panchayats across the nation. Out of the 1,800 gram panchayats to be covered – 500 are in Uttar Pradesh. 500 in Bihar and the rest are in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

The Nyaya Mitra scheme will facilitate justice mechanism introduced to reduce case pendency at the district level. Addressing the issue of more than 2.4 crore cases in the lower judiciary, the scheme will place a special focus on cases that are pending for over 10 years, which will be identified through the National Judicial Data Grid. The programme will create a ‘Nyaya Mitra’ in each selected district – who will be retired judicial (or executive) officer – to provide legal assistance and connect litigants to CSCs, government agencies and civil society organisations. The ‘Nyaya Mitra’ will also responsible for referring marginalised applicants to Lok Adalats and assist in prison reforms within the region. The initiative will be launched in 227 districts selected by the Department of Justice.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/21/2017

 

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e-Pragati: An Initiative of Orissa (India) Government to Connect Anganwadis in the Cyberworld

 

Soon Anganwadis of Orissa (India) would find space in the cyberworld. Anganwadis provides all facilities for children below the age of five. Now, people can access the details of an anganwadi worker and the children under her care through a click of the mouse. The project, e-Pragati, will connect all state's anganwadis on the net and supplement the e-Shishu venture which connects around 103-lakh children in 80,000 schools in 30 districts of the state The e-Shishu project provides all information about children within the age group of 9-14 years. e-Pragati will also contain details of children, who are in care under anganwadi workers. It will also allows registration of pregnant women by the health department and would give information on birth of children. State's IT SMEs sector has generated the e-Pragati project. In first phase of the project, it will focus on collection of data on Anganwadi workers and helpers, codify Anganwadi centres and generate an anganwadi management iInformation system (AMIS) Code. While in the second phase of the project, an e-Pragati website would be created, where data on children in the age group of 0-5 years will be uploaded.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/24/2017

 

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AZERBAIJAN: ICT, Construction, Tourism, Healthcare – Priorities for Azerbaijan-Portugal Co-op

 

ICT, construction, tourism, healthcare sectors will be the most interesting and promising areas for expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Portugal, said Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of Portugal to Azerbaijan Maria Joao Lopes Cardoso.  She made the remarks during her meeting with a delegation led by President of Caspian Energy International Media Group Natalya Aliyeva.  Speaking about bilateral trade between Portugal and Azerbaijan, Maria Joao Lopes Cardoso mentioned that bilateral trade flows amounted to roughly 457 million euros (Portugal’s export totaled 1.8 million euros and import from Azerbaijan amounted to 455 million euros) in 2016. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan ranked the 20th among Portugal’s suppliers.  “It is worth noting the growing interest of Portuguese companies in exporting to Azerbaijan,” she noted adding that the number of Por­tuguese companies carrying out exports to Azerbaijan increased from 39 in 2011 to 83 in 2015.  Touching upon the issue of energy cooperation, Cardoso noted that Europe, including Portugal, is interested in the diversification of energy suppliers.  “In that respect, the Southern Gas Corridor [SGC] is a strategic project for energy security that brings diversification of natural gas sources to Eu­rope”, she said.  The chargé d’affaires went on to say that Portugal is aspiring to develop its gas and energy transit system.  “North South interconnector in Western Europe (“NSI West Gas”) is one of the projects which we are implementing”, she noted.  Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula have all the con­ditions to become a major entry point for natural gas and LNG in Europe, thus increasing both import capacity and supplier diversification, added Cordoso.  “In this regard, the Southern Gas Corridor and our initiatives are complementary because what we all want is the energy security for Europe and for the region,” she said.  It is exactly what these projects aim at - one from the West and the other one from the East – contributing to diversify sources and improve stability against any kind of energy crisis, added the chargé d’affaires.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/06/2017

 

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Launching Licence System

 

Tashkent held a press conference following the launch of ‘Licence’, an interactive licencing tool, developed as part of the five-area Action Strategy 2017-2021.  Licence is an information system helping state bodies grant licences to businesses. It will ensure transparency of licencing activities and open access to licence rosters.  The Licence system will give citizens general information about licencing.  The system will allow businesses to send an online application and get e-licences from 1 January 2018.  Launched in December 2016, the electronic licencing portal is now in beta. Public officials have already filed around 600 licence applications.  Half of them have already been reviewed and put on the roster, containing over 41,000 licences.  The portal offers a guide on how licence applications in over 40 areas are to be submitted.  The areas include transport, customs, banking, architecture, construction, culture, publication, advertisement, trade, medicine, and others.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 04/06/2017

 

 

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Uzbekistan to Launch Compulsory Medical Insurance

 

The Draft Law ‘On Medical Insurance’ is planned for tabling at the Cabinet of Ministers in October 2017, following the Presidential Resolution ‘On Further Private Sector Development in Healthcare’. The law will: regulate medical insurance, ensuring universal coverage and equal rights; set out the legal backbone for voluntary and compulsory medical insurance, regulate prices and tariffs, and control medical insurance funds, including the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund; and define income sources for the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund and develop a preference system. The law will be enforced by the Finance, Healthcare, Economy, Justice, and Labour Ministries, the State Competition Committee, the Insurance Market Professional Member Association, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and the Private Doctor Association.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 04/10/2017

 

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AUSTRALIA: Indigenous Justice Target 'Vital'

 

Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon has urged the prime minister to set an indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap target after a UN official said the number of Aboriginal people behind bars was a 'major human rights concern'. UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Monday struck out at the 'disturbing' number of indigenous children in youth detention. Mr Snowdon , the member for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari, said the Turnbull government's 'block-headed opposition' to a justice target was based on no rational thought process. 'Clearly the federal government isn't interested. It's either ideological or just stupidity,' he said. Aboriginal Australians constitute about a quarter of the prison population despite making up only three per cent of the total population. The Territory has the nation's highest rate of young people in detention, and about 94 per cent of those kids are Aboriginal.

 

With National Youth Week underway, Ms Tauli-Corpuz backed mounting calls for Malcolm Turnbull to allow indigenous incarceration to join seven existing Closing the Gap goals. More than 100 organisations signed an open letter last week demanding the addition as the NT juvenile justice royal commission delivered its interim report. The decade-old targets are under review following another bleak report this year showing only one of seven is on track to be met. Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has resisted pressure to introduce the target for years and last week stressed it was part of the state and territories' responsibility. Ms Tauli-Corpuz also advocated a rethink of laws and policies which have a disproportionate impact on indigenous people, such as paperless arrest laws in the NT. And she slammed the 'appalling' living conditions and overcrowded housing in Darwin's town camps.

 

Mr Snowdon said he was extremely embarrassed by it. 'We've got people living on the fringes of our major cities and towns living in third world conditions,' he said. 'As a result they suffer third world health outcomes. They don't have access to employment opportunities or decent and safe housing.' The NT government has promised to invest $1.1 billion in remote indigenous housing over 10 years. Senator Scullion said the vast majority of Aboriginal people had jobs, attended school and were not involved in the criminal justice system. 'The coalition government, however, acknowledges there are First Australians who need additional support -- and is committed to providing it,' he said in a statement.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 04/04/2017

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Government Split on Super for Housing Plan

 

Coalition MPs are split on whether the Turnbull government should allow young Australians to use superannuation savings for a house deposit. Sky News understands the government's powerful expenditure review committee will consider whether to allow a proportion of compulsory super payments to be diverted to help home buyers afford a deposit. Treasury has put together an options paper examining the implications of allowing workers to 25,000 dollars a year into special savings account. However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has seemingly thrown his support behind the current superannuation regime, telling Sky News the 'purpose' of super is to provide 'dignity in retirement.' 'Well the purpose of superannuation is to provide for retirement,' he said. 'That's why the whole system was set up in the first place.' 'It is a very important part to ensure Australians have the resources to have a dignified retirement.'

 

However, senior ministers, including Senator Matt Canavan, have asked the government to at least consider the proposal. 'This is, I think, a legitimate idea -- it's had support from people like Paul Keating in the past, it's used in other countries, it's something we should certainly consider as a government,' Senator Canavan told ABC. 'I agree you shouldn't be able to touch it for going overseas on a European holiday, but it seems strange that you're allowed to invest in other people's assets, in equities, in bonds, but you're not allowed to invest in your most important asset in your life which is your own home.' Former prime minister Tony Abbott agrees, telling Macquarie Radio the idea has merit. 'Why not say to people if you want to use your money to buy your first home?' 'Why not give people a go?' However, Nationals MP Andrew Broad doesn't share his coalition colleagues' view.

 

'Using superannuation to address housing affordability for first home buyers is a lazy response to the problem,' he tweeted. Former frontbencher Sussan Ley agreed, tweeting that 'young people need their super for retirement.' Labor and some crossbenchers have already labelled the idea 'crazy'. Prominent economist Chris Richardson told the National Press Club on Wednesday the idea would just pump extra money into an already overheated market. 'I've long been to record that superannuation should be about retirement incomes,' he said. 'So when you try to make it about retirement incomes and something else, anything else, then you start to run into problems.' 'And, particular, in housing, if you just make more money available to go into housing without making more housing....but in isolation, that would be adding extra money into a market that's already pretty heated.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 04/12/2017

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Australia's Bold Plan for Cybersecurity Growth

 

Australian Cyber Security Growth Network has set its goals, fleshed out its board, and announced a detailed plan for success. The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN) aims to triple the size of the nation's cybersecurity industry sector, from just over AU$2 billion in revenues today, to AU$6 billion. The goal was announced in Sydney on Thursday at the launch of the ACSGN's Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan (SCP), their roadmap for reaching that goal. The SCP is intended to "identify the challenges Australian organisations face when competing in local and international cyber security markets". "The SCP provides a roadmap to strengthen Australia's cyber security industry and pave the way for a vibrant and innovative ecosystem. It articulates the steps and actions required to help Australia become a global leader in cyber security solutions, with the aim of generating increased investment and jobs for the Australian economy," it says.

 

The SCP was launched by Senator Arthur Sinodinos, Minister for Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. "The aspiration, and it's set out here in this plan so clearly, is to be a global leader in this space," Sinodinos said. "It's fantastic, the talent we have in Australia, the skills that we have in Australia, the systems we have in Australia, to be a world leader in so many aspects of cybersecurity... Now I know that can be a big call, but we have the capability to do it." Australia's attempt to build the cybersecurity sector will have three country-specific challenges, according to the ACSGN: Firstly, while Australia demonstrates excellent and world-leading cyber security research capability, there are signs the current system of research and commercialisation is inefficient. Scattered public funding for cyber security research and development weakens the country's ability to lead on innovation. Limited collaboration between the research community and the private sector further undermines the commercialisation of basic research ideas into marketable solutions.

 

Secondly, insights gained from expert interviews undertaken to develop this Plan and public tender data signal that the current market environment constrains the growth prospects of smaller Australian cyber security businesses and startups. While these companies may have the capability to develop innovative and novel product and service offerings, they often lack the business acumen, established credibility and scale to win key contracts with large industry or government customers in Australia and abroad. Barriers to export are particularly noticeable for providers of cyber security services. Thirdly, a serious skills shortage is limiting the growth of the Australian cyber security industry. Several industry surveys confirm the drought in job-ready cyber security professionals is among the worst in the world. While universities have recently begun to introduce several new study courses, they will unlikely produce enough graduates to meet industry demand in the near future. It is also questionable whether the industry will be able to draw workers with related skills from areas outside of cyber, as pathways for professional and transitional training are not currently sufficient. It is estimated that the domestic cyber security industry will need to employ at least 11,000 additional workers over the next decade.

 

The CSP runs for 98 pages, with the front cover as the only non-content graphics. It's intended to provide a thorough economic narrative to back up the strategy. The ACSGN also announced two members to its board, bringing total to five, and the creation of a second cyber security innovation node in Canberra, joining the first node established in Melbourne. The new names on the board are Heather Ridout AO, a former long-term chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, and chair of numerous business and community organisations; and Mike Burgess, most recently chief information securing officer of Telstra, and previously holding senior roles with the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). They join co-chairs Adrian Turner, chief executive officer of Data61; Doug Elix, who retired from IBM in July 2008 as senior vice president and group executive for IBM's worldwide sales and distribution operations; and ACSGN's chief executive officer Craig Davies.

 

Davies continues to be bullish about the potential for Australia's cybersecurity sector, but once again he emphasised the need for speed. "This is the time we need to do this," he said. "Deloitte are forecasting 60,000 jobs over the next 13 years [if Australia takes a 'cyber smart' growth strategy]. Is that all? Surely we can do better than that." Davies' team took 20 Australian cybersecurity startups to the RSA information security conference in February this year. His goal is to take 50 companies in 2018. Davies said he's been told that the ACSGN is looking for the next Atlassian, referring to the company most often cited as an Australian startup success, and also to his previous role as Atlassian's head of security. "No," Davies said. "We're looking for the next 50 Atlassians." Also announced were two cybersecurity hardware products, both developed in Australia. From Penten comes the AltoCrypt Stik, a "highly portable, easy to use, secure mobility solution which provides a government user wireless access to sensitive networks both inside and outside the office," according to the promotional material.

 

The Stik bundles routers, security appliances, and cryptographic tools confirming to the UK PRIME standard for High Grade, into a single USB stick. It has the potential to replace the suitcase-sized devices currently in use. The other device is the Cog Systems D4 secure smartphone, which aims to produce a secure Android device at consumer price points, rather than the usual hardened phone price that can often exceed $10,000. Cog's reference design is based on an HTC One A9 smartphone, with a heavily modified version of Android. Its features include a virtualised key store, which means the key store doesn't touch the operating system; nested VPNs, enabling two separate and distinct VPN clients on the device; and a D4 Secure layer running on a separation kernel to provide added OS protection from common exploits and malware." The ACSGN was established at the beginning of 2017 as part of Australia's National Innovation and Science Agenda in December 2015, and is a key part of the Australian Cyber Security Strategy released in April 2016.

From http://www.zdnet.com 04/20/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Easter Trading Laws a 'Shambles'

 

Our new Easter trading laws have been labelled "a bit of a shambles" by Business New Zealand. Twenty-five of the country's 67 councils voted to allow businesses to open on Easter Sunday. "It's a bit Mickey Mouse, it looks a little bit unprofessional I guess if you're trying to present a premium experience for tourists, which is frankly what we are trying to do," Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope told The AM Show on Tuesday. The business advocacy group says a blanket law is needed across the country. But Prime Minister Bill English says he doesn't think Parliament will go back on its decision. "Parliament's happy with what it's done, which is to make that decision essentially a local one," he told The AM Show. "It'll take a year or two I think for councils to sort out just what they and their communities want to do, and I'd imagine over the next year or two it'll become a bit less confusing and bit more predictable. "I suppose it is [confusing] if you're getting around the country trying to find shops that are open and some places they are, but the law has only been in place for a short time. "Councils need the opportunity to think it through with their community, some have already taken action, some haven't but over time I think that'll fix itself."

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 04/18/2017

 

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Second Thoughts on Pay Equity Legislation

 

Just days after hailing the Government's $2 billion pay settlement for care workers, unions are voicing serious concerns about its new Pay Equity Bill. Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse released a draft of the Bill on Thursday and asked for public feedback - he didn't have to wait long to find out what the unions think. Govt signs off $2 billion pay equity settlement. The Bill sets up a framework for resolving future pay equity claims, which depend on comparing wage rates in similar workplaces. The Council of Trade Unions said it needed to be "fundamentally reviewed" because it limited the way comparisons could be made. "This Bill, as it stands, will trap many low-paid women on discriminatory pay rates," said CTU president Richard Wagstaff. The Public Service Association said it had serious concerns. "It is very disappointing that just two days after the jubilant celebrations by care and support workers, the Government has released proposals to slam the door on future claimants," said PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk. "If Kristine Bartlett were to lodge her equal pay claim against Terranova using this framework, she would not have achieved the great result they were celebrating." Mrs Bartlett filed the claim that led to the pay settlement. Ms Polaczuk said if she had filed it under the Pay Equity Bill, she would have been restricted to comparisons within the aged care sector which was poorly paid across the board.

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 04/21/2017

 

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The Ranking Digital Rights 2017 Corporate Accountability Index Is Now Online!

 

The 2017 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index finds the world’s most powerful internet, mobile and telecommunications companies leave users in the dark, failing to disclose key information about policies affecting users’ rights. Tune in here at 9:30am ET (13:30 GMT) to watch the 2017 Index launch event at New America in Washington, DC. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @rankingrights and by using the hashtag #rankingrights.

 

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According to the 2017 Corporate Accountability Index, top companies fail to disclose key corporate policies and practices affecting freedom of expression and privacy. While some companies have improved since they were first evaluated in 2015, most of the world’s internet users do not receive adequate information about how companies’ policies affect what users can or cannot say online or who is tracking them. Ranking Digital Rights analyzed a representative group of 22 companies whose products and services collectively are used by over half of the world’s 3.7 billion internet users. It builds on the 2015 Corporate Accountability Index, which found widespread failure by companies evaluated to disclose key information about their policies and practices affecting freedom of expression and privacy. Companies were assessed on 35 indicators in three categories: Governance, Freedom of Expression, and Privacy. This methodology was revised since the 2015 Index, following an extensive review and consultation process. It also includes new indicators, focusing on company disclosures related to issues such as network shutdowns and data breaches.

 

Selected findings include:

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Top scores: Overall, Google ranked highest among 12 internet and mobile companies, followed closely by Microsoft. They were the only two companies to score over 60 percent. The U.K.-based Vodafone and U.S.-based AT&T tied for first place among 10 telecommunications companies, despite significant gaps resulting in scores of less than 50 percent. Mobile ecosystems: Six new companies were added to the 2017 Index, including Apple and Samsung, which control the world’s largest mobile ecosystems. Apple ranked seventh among the 12 internet and mobile companies evaluated, with an overall score of only 35 percent, despite the company’s strong public stand for users’ privacy rights in the face of recent U.S. government demands.

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A major reason for Apple’s relatively low score was lack of disclosure about commitments and policies affecting freedom of expression. Also, next to its U.S. peers, Apple disclosed little about how or whether it has institutionalized commitments to protect users’ rights. Samsung ranked ninth out of 12 companies in the same category, scoring only 26 percent. Given that most of the world’s new internet users are coming online through smartphones it is especially troubling that companies controlling the world’s mobile ecosystems do not clearly disclose policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. We hope the Index will lead to greater corporate transparency across the industry, thereby empowering users to make more informed decisions about how they use technology.

 

Other highlights of the 2017 Index:

Freedom of expression is getting short-changed. How do the company’s actions affect our ability to publish, transmit, or access content? With a couple of notable exceptions, most companies disclosed the least amount of information about policies that affect users’ freedom of expression. Handling of user information is opaque. How and for what purpose is our information collected, shared, retained, and used?  If somebody were to build a profile on us using this information what would it look like? Companies don’t disclose enough for us to understand our risks and make informed choices. Security commitments lack sufficient evidence. Is a company making maximum efforts to keep our information secure? While we don’t expect companies to reveal security information that will help attackers, they need to provide clearer evidence that their security policies and practices are robust enough for us to trust them with sensitive information. The Index also includes practical recommendations for steps that internet and telecommunications companies–as well as other companies throughout the sector–can take to improve. These include:

 

Provide concrete evidence that the company has institutionalized its commitments. While it is important for company leaders to demonstrate strong personal commitments to users’ rights, it is even more important that such commitments be clearly institutionalized. Otherwise, how do users know whether policies and practices will change or stay the same after key individuals leave the company? Explain to users why speech, access to information, or access to service may be blocked or constrained. Who has the ability to ask the company to remove or block content or otherwise restrict speech? How does the company handle these requests? Are there effective grievance and remedy mechanisms? Companies must be transparent and accountable about the circumstances under which access to a service may be denied, or content is restricted or blocked. Demonstrate a credible commitment to security. Companies should maintain industry standards of encryption and security, conduct security audits, monitor employee access to information, and educate users about threats. These policies and practices should be disclosed to users. To view and download the complete report—including in-depth analysis and “report cards” for each company—as well as raw data files and other materials, visit rankingdigitalrights.org/index2017. The 2017 Index website and data visualization were developed in partnership with the SHARE Foundation, a digital rights NGO.

From https://rankingdigitalrights.org/ 03/28/2017

 

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Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption and Integrity Delivers Recommendations for OECD

 

An independent group of leading anti-corruption and integrity experts recommends doing more to enforce and develop anti-corruption standards and enhancing collaboration with other international organisations in a report on ways the OECD can strengthen its vital work in combating bribery and promoting integrity. In the report, the High-Level Advisory Group to the Secretary-General applauds the OECD’s leadership in key aspects of the global fight against corruption, notably through the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (Anti-Bribery Convention) as well as its work promoting public sector integrity, including in public procurement. Focussing on the areas where the OECD’s expertise and credibility offers a comparative advantage, the Advisory Group made a wide range of recommendations for:

 

Promoting the implementation and enforcement of existing OECD standards, in particular the Anti-Bribery Convention;

Updating or developing new OECD standards or guidance in key areas, concerning most notably corruption risks connected with public governance, local governance, state-owned enterprises, political financing, public procurement, as well as foreign bribery;

Fostering greater co-ordination within the OECD; and

Enhancing the OECD’s collaboration and partnerships with other international organisations and initiatives addressing anti-corruption and integrity issues.

The Secretary-General formally received the Advisory Group’s report and recommendations during the 2017 Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum in March. He has transmitted them to the Member countries as an opening step to foster dialogue on the OECD’s future anti-corruption efforts and looks forward to having the entire OECD community engaged in this important conversation in the coming months.

 

The Secretary-General convened the Advisory Group in March 2015 with a mandate to think broadly and critically on how the OECD can increase the relevance and impact of its anti-corruption and integrity programme as part of the global effort to promote good governance and sound markets. The report, available here, contains the Advisory Group’s recommendations along with a narrative explaining the rationale for each of them. The bios of the Advisory Group’s members are contained in an annex to the report. For further information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD Media Office (+33 1 45 24 97 00). For more information on the OECD’s work to fight corruption and promote integrity, please visit www.oecd.org/corruption and www.oecd.org/corruption/ethics. For more information on the High Level Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption and Integrity, please visit www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/oecd-hlag-anti-corruption-and-integrity.htm.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 04/07/2017

 

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Internet of People Blockchain Project Fermat Adopts Distributed Governance

 

Fermat, a decentralized and blockchain-enabled open source project developing the Internet of People (IoP), has announced a new release of its distributed governance system featuring an embedded voting system inspired by that of privacy-focused cryptocurrency Dash, but featuring community-cancelable contracts. “Fermat’s graphchain technology enables both a global mapping of everybody with verified proof of how they are related, and also people to people and company to people interactions without going through intermediaries. In order to achieve this as a decentralized open source project we need a sound distributed governance system, one which includes Contribution Contracts,” said Luis Molina, Founder of Fermat. Fermat’s contribution contracts enable any individual or entity interested in offering their services, whether that is software development, marketing or business development support, to submit a proposal to the community of token holders. Each token holder is then able to vote yes or no on each contractor submission, ultimately accepting or declining proposals. Contracts that pay out over time can also be terminated by the network after being accepted. The developers say this feature incentives proposal owners to effectively communicate and continuously prove value publicly. “At the beginning, only token holders may vote. In the future, it is our aim that the system will evolve to include reputation of the participants and will consider their voting history and project outcomes,” added Molina.

From https://www.financemagnates.com/ 04/19/2017

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ADB New Procurement Framework to Cut Processing Times, Boost Quality, and Enhance Delivery Systems

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a new procurement framework that will cut down on procurement processing times and improve quality. “The new framework, coming after extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders, sees ADB transition from a ‘one size fits all’ to a ‘fit for purpose’ approach to procurement in ADB-financed projects,” said Deborah Stokes, ADB Vice-President for Administration and Corporate Management. “With focus on quality and value for money, growth aspirations of developing member countries such as use of high level technology solutions will be supported more effectively.” ADB saw the value of contracts awarded in its projects rise by almost 40% from $6.8 billion in 2013 to $9.5 billion in 2016.

 

Besides reducing the overall procurement time and improving the quality of procurement in ADB-financed projects, the new framework will address the need to bring advanced and cleaner technologies to ADB clients. Among other measures, it will allow deeper focus on project design and planning. The new approach permits more flexibility and dynamism in the bidding process allowing multiple stage bidding for complex procurement. Its provisions will enable ADB to help countries in fragile and conflict-affected situations better. The use of agency procurement systems will also help pave way for greater use of country systems.

 

Procurement procedures will be based on more in-depth market assessments, with ADB deepening the focus on high value, complex transactions using a risk-based approach. A new complaints handling mechanism will foster greater accountability. ADB will also place more procurement specialists in its field offices. ADB’s new procurement framework will be rolled out in phases for new projects starting in July 2017. 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/ 04/17/2017

 

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CHINA: Pledging Continued Reform to Boost Development, Employment

 

China's State Council on Wednesday mapped out key tasks for economic system reform this year, stressing continued reform efforts to boost development and prepare for the tough job of ensuring employment. The country should continue to boost reform in key sectors with supply-side structural reform as the main theme, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting, which was chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. All departments should lose no time in detailing key reform plans in accordance with the tasks put forward at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and make concrete steps in reform tasks such as capacity reduction, it said. Work should be done to improve government services, strengthen mechanisms to facilitate innovation-driven development and promote reforms in areas such as opening-up, environmental protection, education and health-care.

 

The employment situation for China this year is "grim," and the government should make employment a priority and implement more proactive policies, the statement said. When formulating major economic policies, authorities should comprehensively evaluate their potential influence on employment, it said, calling for more efforts to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. The State Council urged support for those with difficulties in finding work, especially college graduates and workers who lost jobs in production capacity cuts, encouraging local governments to offer them subsidies and assistance. Authorities should also enhance vocational training and employment services and support entrepreneurship and innovation by graduates who have returned from abroad, it added. The government has set a higher employment target of 11 million new urban jobs this year, one million more than last year's target.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/05/2017

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Unleash Productivity Through Thorough Reforms

 

China is prioritizing reforms to bring better economic vitality and higher living standards for its people. The State Council's executive meeting on Wednesday came with an outline for specific plans for this year's economic reform, short-listing areas that require focused reform. The meeting was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. "Chinese economy is fundamentally motivated by the country's reform efforts," Li said. "To deliver results we have projected for the year, it is still down to how well we carry on with reforms." He pointed out that reforms will inevitably touch the cheese of vested interest, and joint efforts are called from all government departments. Efforts in deepening economic reform will be carried out in several aspects in 2017. Improvements were urged in areas such as cutting overcapacity, destocking, deleveraging, reducing corporate costs and shoring up weak links through using force of the market and law-based measures, aiming for a more effective economic growth with high quality. Efforts in transforming government functions and streamlining administration will continue with stricter and more comprehensive regulation, creating a more inviting business environment for the real economy. Innovation and entrepreneurship will be further encouraged with an incentive mechanism.

 

The government will also come out with wider and more effective regulation on private property protection. Fiscal and tax reform as well as reform in state owned enterprises (SOEs) were also urged. The country will also enhance reform measures on furthering opening up, environmental protection as well as the agricultural supply-side structural reform. The new guideline also suggested inviting private capital participation in social welfare, including medical care, education reform, and social organizations. "The government needs to focus on key reform steps that catches greater traction. This is similar to clenching our fist firmly when holding something vital," Li pointed out. "The key to reform is to unleash the hitherto pent-up productivity," Li added. "Our job is to make big businesses stronger, small businesses more vibrant, through means firmly adhered to market principles and the rule of law. Given greater latitude for their own initiatives, all businesses, big or small, will work together to invigorate the Chinese economy."                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/06/2017

 

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Xiongan New Area to Highlight Eco-protection, Coordinated Development: Expert

 

Ecological protection, clustered urban layout and coordinated development shall be priorities throughout the establishment of Xiongan New Area, a new economic zone near Beijing, an expert told Xinhua on Friday. A circular issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council described Xiongan New Area as a "major historic and strategic choice" that would be "crucial for the millennium to come." About 100 km southwest of downtown Beijing, Xiongan will sit in the center of a triangle formed by Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, and its significance has been compared to Shenzhen Economic Zone and Pudong New Area, the testing beds for the country's reform and opening up. The proposed area currently spans three counties of Xiongxian, Anxin, Rongcheng, and is known for Baiyangdian, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in north China, which has more than 140 lakes. "Ecological protection and green development must be put first," said Li Xiaojiang, member of the expert committee advising the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region (Jing-Jin-Ji) and former head of China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.

 

Urban planning must be of the highest standards, and the architecture should fully reflect Chinese culture. Regional collaboration and rural-urban integration will be some of the core concepts that will guide the planning and design of the new area, Li said. "Xiongan New Area will advance integration with Beijing, Tianjin and other cities in Jing-Jin-Ji region," Li said. "It will also strengthen the coordinated development of urban layout, transport, infrastructure and other public services, in the three counties and surrounding countryside." Li pointed out that the planning of the new area shall take the economy, society, land and ecology into consideration, while talent from home and abroad will be encouraged to help make the area a leader of innovation, science and technology. "The new area will usher in a brand new state-level economic zone and urban development model in China," he said.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/07/2017

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Premier Li Vows Clean Governance, Crackdown on Financial Corruption

 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has vowed more efforts in promoting clean governance, stressing reinforced supervision over the use of state assets and harsh crackdown on financial corruption. Li said China has achieved new and important progress in clean governance and corruption fight in 2016, but there are still problems requiring stronger measures, according to a full text of Li's speech on clean governance delivered on March 21, which was released on Sunday. State assets are properties owned by all the people and matter the national economy, Li said, urging authorities to take "powerful" measures to avoid loss of state assets and prevent corruption in the financial sector. Currently the financial sector is vulnerable to risks such as bad assets, shadow banking and illegal Internet financing, and illicit acts of staff have been frequently reported, according to Li.

 

Authorities must promote reforms to improve the financial supervision system and "keep high pressure on" internal supervision, Li said. They must crack down on bank violations in credit giving, insider trading in security market and fraud of insurance companies, and relentlessly punish internal supervisors and company managers who collude with big players in the market and steal and sell secret information, Li said. On Sunday, China's top anti-graft authority announced that Xiang Junbo, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, is being investigated for suspected serious violation of code of conduct of the Communist Party of China. "The violating supervisors must be punished to serve as a warning to others and safeguard the normal order in the financial sector," Li said in his speech.

 

Li also called for further efforts in delegating power, streamlining administration and using the Internet to improve government services. He asked governments at all levels to promote thrift and continue to cut taxes and fees, calling for better supervision and management of major outbound investment projects. He stressed the importance of compliance with regulations in public bidding and government purchases, and vowed tough punishment of graft in poverty alleviation, social security, affordable housing and medical insurance. In 2016, the Party's discipline authorities across the country punished 415,000 people for violating code of conduct or other regulations, and took back more than 1,000 outlaws that fled abroad, according to Li.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/09/2017

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Senior CPC Leader Calls for Better Publicity Work for National Congress

 

A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leader on Monday called for better publicity work ahead of the 19th CPC National Congress, slated for the second half of the year. The work should feature the promotion of mainstream values and the pooling of "positive energy," according to Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, who was speaking at a symposium attended by publicity chiefs nationwide. We must heed the expectations, thoughts and minds of the people to ensure the success of the 19th CPC National Congress, Liu said. He asked publicity officials to better interpret the Party's new concepts and strategies of governance, and publicize the Party's achievements since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. Liu also urged them to "better tell China and the CPC's stories."

 

"CPC committees at all levels must adhere to the principle that the Party governs publicity and ideology," he said. Liu called for efforts to ensure publicity and cultural sectors "stick to the right political direction and the correct orientation of public opinion and value, better promote the Party's views and reflect people's aspirations." Publicity officials were also told to cultivate a healthy and upbeat cyberspace culture, enhance guidance of online opinion and administer cyberspace in accordance with the law so as to ensure a clean online environment. The symposium was chaired by Liu Qibao, head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, and was attended by Vice Premier Liu Yandong.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/10/2017

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China to Develop Medical Partnerships to Offer Better Service

 

China will arrange closer partnerships between top-tier hospitals and grassroots medical services to provide health management and health care services for urban and rural residents alike in a more inclusive and coherent manner. A set of new measures were approved during the State Council's executive meeting on Wednesday, presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. "The goal for medical partnerships is to make quality medical care more accessible to the wider public, especially in less-developed areas," Li said. "We've managed to achieve nation-wide medical insurance coverage and improved medical competence in grassroots medical institutions. The coverage is among the highest in the world. What we mostly need now are medical professionals," Li pointed out. While people are demanding more and better health care with higher personal incomes, the country's current allocation in medical resources faces a tough balancing act.

 

The idea of building partnerships across medical institutions covering different levels aims to bridge the gap of resources. Figures from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed that by 2016, medical institutions partnerships have been established in 205 cities across the country. "Currently, high quality medical resources are mostly in big cities. These should further trickle down to lower tiers so that wider demand will be met," Li said, adding that the governments must encourage joint partnerships of city-level public hospitals and grassroots institutions while imposing expenses reimbursement. The Wednesday meeting also came up with some new measures based on current progress. First, administrative fragmentation between administrative regions, fiscal expenses, insurance payouts and human resources will be healed, while more diversified forms of medical partnerships will be encouraged, with city or country-level hospitals playing leading roles.

 

The new guideline called for an Internet-based medical information platform to enable better diagnose and treatment for remote regions. Meanwhile, further steps will be taken in allocating high quality medical resources to wider regions by dispatching teams of medical professional to less developed areas with enhanced sharing and inter-operating of health and medical services. China will also accelerate building cascaded medical system and introduce demand-oriented and contract-based family doctors. The government plans to cover all impoverished population with such service within this year, while inviting private health care institutions to join in the effort. The guideline also stresses on better coordination mechanisms and policies within newly established medical partnerships to ensure more balanced allocation of medical resources across medical centers of different levels.

 

The government encourages diverse ways of payments, and professional performances at grassroots levels will be included in the evaluation for medical practitioners, who can, in most cases, work at any organization within the partnership. "The government needs to have well-designed, concrete guideline in building medical partnerships, taking local conditions in different regions into consideration, and local governments are encouraged to innovate in exploring systematic innovation," Li said. He went on to stress that the reform fundamentally provides long-term benefit for the people as the country has great demand for health care, and the establishment of medical partnerships will also drive economic and social development.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/12/2017

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China SOE Watchdog Sets Up Xiongan Working Group

 

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council, China's top state-owned enterprises (SOEs) regulator, has announced to establish a special working group to support the construction of Xiongan New Area. China's centrally administered SOEs are encouraged to make the most of their strengths to map out future development strategies for the area, the SASAC said in a statement released Friday after a meeting gathering its leaders earlier this week. The economic zone, about 100 kilometers south of Beijing, will cover 2,000 square kilometers in the long term with a population of 2 to 2.5 million. "The centrally administered SOEs are encouraged to lend strong support to construction of the zone in areas like energy security, infrastructure, electricity, telecommunications, rail transport, ecological protection, information-based network and smart city," noted the statement. Great support will be given to these central SOEs in locating their newly-registered high-tech, new technology and high-end service businesses into Xiongan New Area, and better coordination between the central SOEs and local authorities will be promoted, it added. China currently has 102 central SOEs. The plan to set up the new area is a major strategic decision which will open a new era of development.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/14/2017

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Xi Urges Strengthened Party Education Campaign

 

President Xi Jinping has called for further implementation of a year-long education campaign within the Communist Party of China (CPC) to strengthen Party discipline. Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in an instruction on the campaign, which focuses on the study of the Party Constitution and rules, as well as the speeches made by Xi, and calls for being qualified Party members. In the instruction read at a meeting held on Sunday, Xi noted that the campaign launched last year had achieved remarkable results. The campaign has helped with the strict management of the CPC and must be carried on, said Xi. The campaign should prioritize political training, Party members' words and deeds, the latest theoretical developments and it should guide all to become qualified Party members, Xi noted. In addition, the campaign must focus on "a key few" leading officials and grassroots party branches. It should also promote a solution-based approach and make full use of role models, according to Xi. Xi urged CPC committees at various levels to support the campaign and make sure the achievements provide organizational guarantees that will promote balanced economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress and coordinated implementation of the Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy.

 

The Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy refers to making comprehensive moves to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, deepen reform, advance the law-based governance of China, and strengthen Party self-governance. Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said at the meeting that through the campaign, CPC members should stay highly consistent in their thoughts, politics and actions, with CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. More effective rules and systems should be put forward to address the behavior of "a key few" leading officials, so that they can set an example with their loyalty, integrity and responsibility, said Liu. Liu also called for combination of the campaign and the central tasks to inspire CPC members to contribute to the overall reform and development. Zhao Leji, head of the CPC Central Committee's organization department, read Xi's instruction at the meeting. Senior leader Liu Qibao, Zhang Chunxian and Zhao Hongzhu attended the meeting.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/16/2017

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China Gets Tougher with Officials' Personal Information Declaration

 

China has published stricter regulations on officials' personal information declarations, requiring them to report to the Communist Party of China (CPC) their personal and family assets and investments, marital status and overseas travel, among others. The rules, jointly issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council, are a further attempt to curb corruption. According to the revised regulation on leading cadres' personal information declarations, officials at deputy county level or above are required to report information, including their marital status, overseas travel, criminal records, wages and other earnings, family properties, stocks, funds, insurance and other investment. The revised rule has specified verification of such reports, including the methods and the sampling rate for random checks. The rate for random verification has been increased to one in 10. Punishments have been stipulated for false declarations and deliberate concealment of personal information.

 

The report of personal information is an important assessment of loyalty to the Party and commitment to the CPC code of conduct. It should be linked to promotion by Party committees and departments, the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC said in a statement. More than 9,100 officials have been overlooked for promotion after they were found to have concealed personal information, while 124,800 have been punished for making false declarations. Stipulating the consequences of false declarations and concealment is a clear warning to officials and is crucial for the mechanism, according to the statement. It called on CPC committees at various levels to implement the rules strictly and treat it as an important political mission of strengthening Party self-governance. In addition, it also urged leading officials to be loyal and honest, and put themselves under organizational supervision in accordance with the rules.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/19/2017

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China's Top Court Launches Campaign to Root Out Corruption Among Law Enforcers

 

China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Wednesday announced a campaign to expose corruption and other irregularities among law enforcers. The campaign, scheduled to last until November, will target passive, selective, wayward and corrupt law enforcement, which hampers public trust in the judicial system, said Wu Shaojun, deputy director with the SPC's law enforcement bureau. Wu said the move aimed to tackle major problems by rectifying and standardizing law enforcement and the exemplary punishments for a batch of violators. The SPC also plans to establish a long-term mechanism to deal with passive and wayward law enforcement.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/19/2017

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JAPAN: Government Panel Promotes Limited Regular Worker Model

 

A Japanese government panel on regulatory reform will accelerate discussions to encourage more companies to adopt limited regular employment, or the status of regular employees with limits on work location or hours. The Regulatory Reform Promotion Council intends to call on the government to establish rules on adopting limited regular workers, such as banning treatment that causes disadvantages to such workers, as part of proposals it plans to submit in June, according to informed sources. Limited regular employment refers to the status of workers with limits on duties, work locations or work hours while the contracts are without fixed time limits. The government has been urging companies to introduce limited regular employment as it believes that this work style will make it easier for people currently working on limited terms for family reasons, such as part-time workers, to switch to regular employment. The government also hopes limited regular workers will help solve labor shortages. The circumstances surrounding such workers, however, are still unstable. The panel pointed out that work conditions such as work locations are not specifically set out in labor contracts in many cases.

 

To deal with the challenge, the panel, headed by Hiroko Ota, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, plans to ask the government to establish rules, including banning disadvantageous treatment, making clear work conditions and smoothly enabling limited regular workers to switch to unlimited regular worker status and vice versa. Creating such rules, however, may not be easy, with both management and labor cautious about establishing rules. At Thursday’s public debate of the panel, representatives of the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, argued that each company should have its own rules based on its own reality, brushing aside calls for uniform government-led rules. The labor ministry also sounded supportive of management and labor. It is important for each company to decide rules through management-labor consultations although it is desirable to clarify employment conditions, a ministry official said at the public debate. The panel plans to hear more opinions mainly from companies that already hire limited regular workers.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/18/2017

 

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INDONESIA: Capital Governor in Gubernatorial Runoff Elected

 

Millions of residents in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta went to the polls on Wednesday to pick up a governor in a second round of election. Two gubernatorial candidates - incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and former education minister Anies Baswedan - are competing in the runoff. Over 13,000 polling stations opened for about 7.1 million eligible voters in Jakarta, according to the city's electoral commission. Over 61,000 policemen, soldiers and personnel from the community protection agency were deployed to secure the election, National Police chief General Tito Karnavian said. Jakarta is the country's financial center which accounts for nearly a fifth of the nation's GDP. Purnama, 50, promised to accelerate the rollout of major infrastructure projects, including the Jakarta ting road. He also insisted on stepping up efforts to improve administration, constructing more government-funded low-cost housing and raising subsidies for basic necessities. The 47-year-old Baswedan supported President Joko Widodo's agenda, accelerating economic growth with higher assistance for small and medium business. He also pledged to boost role of private sector in building infrastructure, fighting corruption and facilitating business.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/19/2017

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Jakarta's Divisive Election: The Key Takeaway

 

Structural reforms in Indonesia's capital city, one of the world's most populous, could slow following the results of a religiously-charged gubernatorial election. Unofficial results on Wednesday showed former education minister Anies Baswedan of the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, eclipsing incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, to be Jakarta's next governor in a tight race that has sparked concerns about religious pluralism in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. A more pressing concern for foreign investors, however, is the potential hit to measures introduced under Ahok's term that have helped underline Indonesia's status as an emerging market darling.

 

Infrastructure

One key fear is Ahok's defeat may slow upgrades to Jakarta's public works — a key element of President Joko Widodo's policy agenda and an issue close to residents' hearts. Choked roads, electricity shortages and a lack of piped water are among the many public qualms facing Indonesians. And if Southeast Asia's largest economy wishes to maintain economic growth, eradicate poverty and respond to climate change, it needs to invest as much as $1.2 trillion in infrastructure by 2030, a recent Asian Development Bank report warned. During his term, Ahok championed the president's views and won acclaim by focusing on ways to combat urban congestion, such as the construction of subway lines and the restriction of motorcycles in certain areas. But Baswedan, whose campaign largely focused on poverty reduction, private sector involvement and job creation, has placed less emphasis on infrastructure development, explained Eurasia analysts in a Thursday note. "Many of the city's major infrastructure projects could be affected if the new governor provides less competent political oversight and remains less eager to help Jokowi on his key economic priority." The support of Jakarta's governor is seen as essential for Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi, to pass landmark projects in the capital. Baswedan isn't expected to halt or reverse existing programs, but the pipeline of future activities could slow, Eurasia added.

 

Bureaucracy

Ahok, known for his straight-talking style that often didn't sit well with political elites, was also active in shaking up Jakarta's bureaucracy — a move welcomed by businesses. "The approach that Ahok used in his government style, which led to many breakthroughs and got action done, won't continue," warned Kevin Evans, Indonesia director at the Australia-Indonesia Center. Extraordinary energy is required to push past the various special interests and blockages in Indonesia's political system, and the city won't continue to see that kind of energy under the new leader, said Evans, who called Baswedan "a man of consensus." Ahok's gubernatorial loss was widely attributed to blasphemy charges that overshadowed other policy issues on the campaign trail. Backed by Jokowi's ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Chinese-Christian politician is due to appear in court Wednesday and could face a prison sentence for allegedly insulting the Koran. "Baswedan will be less aggressive than Ahok in tackling corruption and which made the latter popular with residents," Eurasia warned. "That will weaken the positive example the capital city has been setting for the rest of the country in recent years."

 

'Stay calm'

Some analysts warned not to read too much into Wednesday's results. Goldman Sachs, for one, doesn't believe Ahok's defeat will weaken Indonesia's reform momentum. Close to 50 percent of the seats in the national parliament are currently occupied by Jokowi's coalition, so the president still has enough support to pass sensitive reforms, the investment bank explained in a note. Others said it was simply too early to jump to conclusions. Baswedan is only due to take over in October, so if it's still business as usual by then, investors will continue to like Indonesia for its strong consumer story, according to Song Seng Wun, economist at CIMB Private Banking. The campaign trail was rocked by aggressive anti-Ahok protests organized by hard-line Muslim groups, but no more street demonstrations are expected going forward. "With the election behind, I feel these emotions will ebb. I'd be surprised if this was driven to a point of endless controversy," observed Cameron Hume, former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 04/20/2017

 

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MYANMAR: Ruling Party Wins Half in By-Elections

 

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) of Myanmar, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has won nearly half number of parliamentary seats in Saturday's by-elections, according to the final results released by the Union Election Commission Sunday afternoon. Of the 19 parliamentary seats contested in the election, the NLD won a total of nine seats -- five with the House of Representatives (Lower House), three with the House of Nationalities (Upper House) and one with the Shan state parliament. The NLD's winning seats of the House of Representatives include four in Yangon region's constituencies and one in the constituency of Sagaing region's Monywa. The party's winning seats with the House of Nationalities include one in Yangon region constituency, one in Bago region's and one in Chin state's. The by-election results were highlighted by some victory of the ethnic Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD),led by Khun Htun Oo, which won two seats with the House of Representatives in Shan state's constituencies and four seats with the Shan state parliament.

 

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by U Than Htay, won a total of two seats -- one with the House of Representatives in Mon state's Chaungsone constituency and one with the state parliament in Shan state's Kengtung's. The All Nationalities Democracy Party (Kayah state) won one seat with the State parliament in Kayah state, while the Arakan National Party (ANP) won one seat with the House of Representatives. The multi-party parliamentary by-election was held across Myanmar on Saturday in which a total of 2 million eligible voters cast their ballots. A total of 94 candidates competed for 19 parliamentary seats left vacant in 22 townships in eight regions and states. Of the open seats, nine are with the House of Representatives, three with the House of Nationalities and seven with the state parliaments. Of the 94 candidates, 87 are from 24 political parties with 18 each shared by the NLD and the USDP, while the seven others are individuals. It was the first by-election taking place in the tenure of the new government, led by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), one year after its assumption of office.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 04/02/2017

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SINGAPORE: Manpower Ministry Looking into Enabling Women to Play Bigger Role in Society

 

SINGAPORE: Encouraging flexible work arrangements and helping women with skills training so they stay employable are among the areas the Manpower Ministry will look into to enable women to play a bigger role in society. Over the past two days, 18 Members of Parliament (MPs) and five ministries spoke in Parliament on the challenges women face in balancing work and home. Even as they acknowledged that women have made significant strides in the past few decades, many members of Parliament agreed that more has to be done for them. To ensure women who stop work to take care of families can have enough funds for retirement, some MPs suggested that spouses can do more. "Encourage husbands to top up their wife's CPF account so that they have retirement adequacy, even if they are just stopping work for a short period,” said MP Alex Yam on Tuesday (Apr 4). “To encourage this, I urge the Ministry of Manpower to consider raising the interest rate return for voluntary top-ups and increase the CPF cash top-up relief for spouse or from child-to-parent."

 

Responding to suggestions to make the transfer of CPF savings between spouses mandatory, the Manpower Minister said such transfers should be left to the couple to decide. "It would be intrusive for the Government to mandate such transfers,” said Minister Lim Swee Say. “However, we do share members' concern about the spouses and whether they have adequate savings in their CPF and retirement. “What we have done is to relax the rules for spousal transfers, and the response has been positive. Last year, we saw 70 per cent more cases of spousal transfers totalling S$110 million. In fact, the amount doubled that of the year before," he said. However, Mr Lim added that more has to be done to enhance human resource practices such as appraising employees fairly based on work outcomes and not take into account their work arrangements. “Employers should set targets, conduct regular performance assessments and appraise employees fairly based on work outcome, regardless whether these employees are on flexi-time or based work arrangement,” he said. “This is advocated in the Tripartite Advisory on Work Arrangements, and is further reinforced in tripartite guidelines on fair employment practices. “We are aware there are employers who do not observe these guidelines so for employees who feel discriminated against, TAFEP will look into their comments and refer the Manpower Ministry to cases when warranted,” Mr Lim stated.

 

SUPPORTING WOMEN IN SINGAPORE

During the debate, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin shared that the Government is reviewing the issue of marital immunity for rape and will give an update once that's completed. The ministry will also look into representation of women on charity boards. "Women leaders in the non-profit sector have shown that a combination of ‘heart and mind’ can go a long way in building up our social capital, and help us to become a caring society,” said Mr Tan. “While women sitting on the boards of these charities make up about 31 per cent, 13 per cent of the charities still have no female representation." In closing, MP Tin Pei Ling - who was one of five MPs who moved the motion for debate - said that gender equality will help Singapore progress. "Our support for women (and men) to balance their multiple roles should help them reach greater heights, in our economy, in various professions, and in many diverse frontiers,” she said. “Again, my colleagues and I have moved this motion with the aim of building on the strengths of women, to recognise and close the gaps. And most importantly, we desire to make Singapore the best home for everyone." This was the first time Parliament debated a proposal to express support for women in Singapore.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/05/2017

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New Office to Help Get Singapore Ready for Digital Society

 

SINGAPORE: A new digital readiness programme office will be set up under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), to enable Singaporeans to have access to technology, be confident to use it and include it in various aspects of their lives. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced this on Thursday (Apr 13) during his ministry's workplan seminar for the year, and said the new office will help drive a whole-of-nation strategy to build a digital society. "We envision this team to function as the centre of an extensive network of organisations, and will study how digital readiness is developed internationally, identify existing gaps in our current efforts, and recommend a long-term strategy and manifesto to build a digital society," he said in his speech, adding that more details would be shared when plans are ready. Dr Yaacob noted that many countries in the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia have already developed national strategies to ensure their people are ready to reap the full benefits of the available digital infrastructure.

 

HELPING THOSE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Besides the new programme office, the minister also laid out several initiatives to push Singapore towards being a digitally ready society. In terms of helping those with special needs adopt technology to support their daily living, education and employment needs, MCI will enhance the Enable IT Programme by doubling the grant support to voluntary welfare organisations to S$$100,000 per project. This will help another 3,000 beneficiaries over four years, double the number currently, Dr Yaacob said. The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will set up a library to loan these infocomm and assistive technology devices to those with special needs, so they can try them out before buying. They can also bring the device for job interviews to help potential employers better understand their needs, he added. IMDA is also collaborating with tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft to train a pool of people with special needs to be Assistive Technology Ambassadors, to spread the use of built-in assistive technology on their devices and platforms, the minister shared.

 

BUILDING DIGITAL LITERACY

Dr Yaacob also noted that it was not enough for people to have access to tech, but to understand and use them. Besides the different outreach and education programmes currently being run by different parts of MCI, he said the ministry will reach out to more segments of the population such as lower skilled and lower wage workers - those who are "most at risk of being left behind in the digital journey".  He also said they are looking at how to equip parents of today, so that they are not only able to keep up with their children’s technological knowledge, but also guide them and have meaningful conversations with them. The Media Literacy Council will aid in these efforts by calling for proposals to empower youths to initiate ground-up projects to promote digital literacy. The council, together with partners Google, Garena, MyRepublic, Facebook and Mediacorp, will provide funding, training and incubation facilities for young Singaporeans who want to develop social innovation solutions. "Through this, we want to encourage young Singaporeans to step forward to start their own platform, movement or enterprise, to develop solutions that tackle issues such as cyber-bullying and fake news," he said.

 

INTRODUCING DIGITAL MAKING TO SCHOOLS

The minister also noted that to truly reap the benefits of technology, there is a need to harness it to solve problems creatively, as well as for Singaporeans to have a curious mind and passion to tinker and create. To that end, he announced the launch of the Digital Maker Programme to nurture a new generation of digital natives to be creators and makers, and seed an enterprising maker culture in Singaporeans. "We want to nurture Singapore’s own generation of Steve Jobs," Dr Yaacob said. As such, IMDA will work with the Ministry of Education to introduce digital making to schools over the next two years by providing micro:bits - a pocket-sized, codeable computer with motion detection and Bluetooth technology - to primary and secondary schools. Citing the example of some students in Xinmin Secondary School, who used the micro:bit as a locator tool to help them find their belongings, he said students in participating schools will be encouraged to design contraptions to solve real-world problems.  Additionally, seed funding will be provided to local companies that are developing maker-centric products and with the potential to commercialise, the minister said, noting there are some promising "made-in-Singapore" products in the pipeline. Examples of these include Tinkertanker and Home-Fix, he added.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/13/2017

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THAILAND: PM Defends Government's Role in Energy Sector Reform

 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a statement defending the government’s integrity in reforming the energy sector, especially with regards to the proposed establishment of a national oil company. The statement was issued before Thursday’s vote on the contentious amendment to the Petroleum Act. Prayut refused to answer reporters’ questions on Thursday morning but provided the written statement. He said his administration would not allow the military to play a leading role in managing the energy reform effort as feared by critics of the new petroleum bill. He threatened to take legal action against protestors who oppose the petroleum bill.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/30/2017

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PM Transfers Six Provincial Governors

 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has issued a special order transferring with immediate effect six provincial governors to the Office of the Prime Minister. As junta chief, General Prayut exercised his absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter. The order was announced in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday night. The six who have been transferred are: Phuket Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan, Kanchanaburi Governor Sak Somboonto, Kalasin Governor Natthapat Suwanprateep, Chiang Rai Governor Boonsong Techamaneesathit, Ratchaburi Governor Surapol Sawaengsak, and Sing Buri Governor Pasin Komolwit. They have been designated special inspector-general attached to the PM’s Office. The order did not state any specific reason for their transfer but said it was aimed at dealing with the problem of state officials who are under investigation and to set up a temporary framework for human resources.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com 04/05/2017

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Thai Premier's Absolute Executive Power Can Still Be Enforced: Army Chief

 

Thai army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart said on Wednesday the absolute executive power of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha might still be enforced at any time until later this year. The comments came followed persistent calls from the political sector that the premier stop using his absolute executive power now as the constitution has already been promulgated and a general election is bound to occur. Speaking at the army headquarters, the army chief said possibilities of political and subversive unrests cannot be ruled out though the situation has largely remained under control of the government. The premier might continue to use the absolute executive power under Article 44 of the constitution to cope with any situation, especially related to political affairs which might possibly arise at any time, the army chief said. Importantly, he said, the premier's absolute power could be immediately enforced to assure public peace and order during two historic events of the country to be held later this year. The two events are the cremation ceremony for the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej scheduled for October and the coronation ceremony for His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn which is yet to follow at a later date. Prayut earlier confirmed that the government would follow the roadmap of the National Council for Peace.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/12/2017

 

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Supreme Committee to Continue Working Until Next Govt Takes Office

 

The government’s supreme committee on reform, reconciliation, and national strategy would continue working until the next government is in office, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday. The supreme body, set up a few months ago to integrate critical work concerning reform and reconciliation as well as national strategy, convened for the first time on Friday to hear about the progress of its four committees, including the critical reconciliation preparation committee. The committee reported about proposals made by invited political parties on deep-rooted problems such as inequality, a prime cause of the country’s conflict and division. The proposals would be made into a so-called social contract that every party was expected to agree on, Wissanu said. The national strategy preparation committee said the first milestone of the national strategy preparation, the national strategy bill, had already been crossed with the first reading by the National Legislative Assembly. In August, the bill would become a law, paving the way for the national strategy that would last 20 years at least, Wissanu said. This, he pointed, would somehow affect national development plans and budgets in the future. The reform preparation committee also updated the committee about the progress of 27 reform agendas. It was also briefed on four new agendas, including establishment of the environment court. The committee on national strategic administration, or the so-called mini cabinet, informed the committee about some mega-projects it has proposed to the government, including the Thai-Chinese railway project. Wissanu said the committee did not raise the issue of the upcoming election in the meeting, only acknowledging the progress of some organic laws essential to the election that are now being deliberated on by the NLA, including the political party bill, and the Election Commission bill.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 04/22/2017

 

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VIETNAM: HÀ Nội Stops Five Bus Routes for Civil Servants

 

Hà Nội will stop operating five bus routes that serve cadres and civil servants travelling from Hà Đông to the centre of the capital from early next month. Nguyễn Hoàng Hải, director of the Hà Nội Centre for Urban Traffic Management and Operation, said that these bus routes started operating in August 2008 and were meant for cadres and civil servants working for the city’s various departments and sectors. The five bus routes were to serve around 190 people during working days and operated from 6.15am to 7.15am and 5.25pm to 5.35pm at VNĐ200,000 (US$9.3) per month. However, the routes have proven to be ineffective as many employees don’t leave for work at a fixed time and buses often run empty, Hải said. As the buses ply only during early mornings and evenings, they are not used by many others people, according to the official. These routes also have some effect on the centre’s bus operations in the city. Taking all this into account, the city has decided to stop these bus routes. Now, cadres and civil servants can buy monthly tickets like other passengers for between VNĐ70,000 and VNĐ140,000 ($3.2-6.5), Hải said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/29/2017

 

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Eight Anti-Corruption Task Forces to Be Formed

 

Eight task forces will be established to investigate corruption cases that have received public attention in 20 provinces and cities. The decision was adopted today by the Anti-Corruption Central Steering Committee, chaired by Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng. The Party General Secretary also issued an order to provide resources for expanding the investigation of corruption at the Việt Nam Petroleum Construction Corporation (PVC), with a focus on the arrest and extradition of Trịnh Xuân Thanh, former head of the State-owned enterprise. Trọng commended the efforts of various law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of 11 defendants involved in embezzlement and in "deliberately acting against State regulations in economic mismanagement, causing serious consequences" at PVC. He urged continued perseverance in the next phase of the cases against Hà Văn Thắm, former chairman of Oceanbank, whose malfeasant practices caused a loss of VNĐ2 trillion (US$88.1 million), and Phạm Công Danh, former chairman of Việt Nam Construction Bank, a central figure of a VNĐ9 trillion ($396 million) loss. The Party chief also approved the plan for concluding the investigation and trial of 12 other related cases in 2017, including those involving Sacombank, TPBank, BIDV and the State Bank of Việt Nam.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/17/2017

 

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Workers to Get Better Services: PM

 

The Government has created the best conditions to help labourers enjoy favourable housing, health care, insurance, legal assistance and living standards in industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones (EPZs). Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc made the statement during a dialogue with labourers in the central region at Đà Nẵng’s Tiên Sơn Sports Centre on Saturday. The dialogue, organised by the Việt Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), was attended by more than 2,000 labourers working at IZs and EPZs in Đà Nẵng, Quảng Nam, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Quảng Trị and Quảng Ngãi. Phúc said it was the second time he has directly talked with labourers on how to improve production and living conditions for workers at IZs and EPZs in the central region. “I was extremely impressed with talks from thousands of workers in the southern region last year. I want to hear them talking about living and working conditions at working places as well as problems and difficulties that they faced,” Phúc said. “The Government has reserved VNĐ197 billion (US$8.7 million) for developing houses and apartment projects for workers at IZs and EPZs nationwide,” he said.

 

Phúc said that various measures have been built by the Government to support workers including libraries, kindergartens for workers’ children, entertainment centres, nutritional meals and special conditions for female workers during pregnancy and nursing. The PM also asked local governments and trade unions to strengthen inspections on food safety, insurance, health care and training among businesses. He said the revised Law of Labour includes fines of VNĐ3 billion (US$133,000) or seven years imprisonment to on employers who don’t buy insurance for employees. During a two-hour talk, workers asked the government to help improve income, sustainable development, skill development and housing. Phan Thị Tuyết Sương, a worker of the Đà Nẵng Foster Electric comnpany, told the PM that she has yet to have her own house despite having worked hard for the last 20 years. "I am staying with my two daughters in a shed on some vacant land in the commune. I hope the Prime Minister can help me to earn more money to buy a house and take care of my family better," she said. On Saturday, the VGCL inked agreements with eight businesses in providing commodities and service with preferential prices for labourers in the region. Also to celebrate the upcoming International Labour Day (May 1), the VGCL began construction of a housing project with total investment of VNĐ377 billion ($16.7 million) in the Điện Nam-Điện Ngọc Industrial Zone in the central Quảng Nam Province. According to the confederation, 1.2 million workers out of a total 2.7 million at IZs and EPZs need housing services nationwide.

 

Sóc Trăng agricultural advices

The Mekong Delta province of Sóc Trăng should expand cultivation of high-yield rice varieties and fruit trees which grow well there, said PM Phúc during his visit to the province on Saturday.  For example, he said, each hectare of green-skin grapefruit and King orange in Sóc Trăng can generate an economic value 10 times higher than one hectare of rice.  Large-scale cattle farming is also a strength of Sóc Trăng, with global demand beef huge, he said, naming another measure to reduce the poverty that is still high among ethnic minorities.  He asked the province to strive to become a shrimp production hub of the Mekong Delta while paying more attention to industrial development to create more jobs. PM Phúc said as it is one of the three most disadvantaged provinces in the Mekong Delta, Sóc Trăng should pay more heed to encouraging start-ups and improving human resources. The province only has one business for every 565 people, compared to the national average of one for every 140, while infrastructure hasn’t developed well enough, with the province ranking 40th among the 63 provinces and cities in terms of administrative procedures. Phúc promised that more autonomy will be granted to the local administration so they can design their province’s development plans to fully tap local potential.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/24/2017

 

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INDIA: Modi Advocates Use of IT for Speedy Delivery of Justice


ALLAHABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today stressed the need for use of technology for speedy delivery of justice and asked startups to come up with innovations to aid the judicial system. He also assured Chief Justice of India J S Khehar the government will make all efforts to back his resolve to reduce burden on the judiciary and bring down pendency of cases. "The government wants that the judicial system of our country makes full use of information and communication technology. This should be given priority," he said, adding, "This can help save a lot of time and money." Addressing a function to mark 150 years of the Allahabad High Court, Modi said, "I assure the chief justice that government will back his 'sankalp' (resolve) to bring down the burden on the judiciary and reduce pendency of cases." He also said video conferencing should be used for deposition made in courts by undertrials, witnesses and officials to prevent wastage of time and money. "So many precious hours of officials, which should have been spent doing administrative tasks, gets used up in travelling to far-off places to appear in courts. This can be obviated through video-conferencing," he said. The Prime Minister noted that security concerns associated with physical production of undertrials in courts could be addressed by use of video conferencing. Many unfortunate incidents have taken place in Uttar Pradesh during transportation of undertrials to courts but with Yogi Adityanath as chief minister, there may be a drop in such incidents, Modi remarked, evoking peals of laughter. 

The PM recalled that during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls campaign he had said that he would abolish archaic laws if elected and the government has now done away with 1,200 redundant laws. "It is in the interest of justice that the people of the country are liberated from this huge, complicated tangle of laws," he said. Quoting the address of the then president S Radhakrishnan at the centenary celebrations of the high court five decades back, Modi said every law must ensure justice and welfare of all, not just the rich and this principle remains relevant. Mahatma Gandhi always emphasised the need of judging every action on the touchstone of how it would affect the poorest of the poor and this should be the intention behind every law made, the PM said. During his address, he appealed to the judiciary, government officials and the people to make 2022, the 75th year of Independence, a target year to take the country to greater heights. At the function, he paid tributes to the contributions of people with legal background including the Mahatma and Jawaharlal Nehru who had put the need for Independence in the mind and hearts of the people. 

 From www.siliconindia.com 04/05/2017

 

 

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E-governance Through e-Nagarpalika in Madhya Pradesh

 

The state government of Madhya Pradesh has launched a new portal ‘e-nagarpalika’ to provide e-governance to its citizens. Through this digital platform, all municipalities and corporations across MP have been connected online providing easy access of government services to people. UST Global, a US-based leading digital technology services company has partnered with the MP government to usher in a new era of good governance, accelerated economic growth, and inclusive social development. Around 378 urban local bodies including 16 Municipal Corporations, 98 Municipal Councils and 264 Nagar Panchayats have been connected through e-Nagarpalika. People can avail services like birth, death and marriage registration, request for litter and debris collection, evidence certificate for insurance claims and requests for fire extinguishing services, septic tank cleaning, sewerage cleaning, tree cutting, water tanker, ambulance, mobile toilet, funeral van and grievance registration and tracking on the portal. e-Nagarpalika can be accessed through a mobile app, internet, call centre, SMS and a citizen facilitation center. From governance perspective, e-Nagarpalika will include financial accounting management, budget, property tax process, water charges, project systems, asset management, procurement and material management, HR and payroll, real estate management, employee self service. e-Nagarpalika will serve as a single platform for linking seven smart cities, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) planned by the MP government.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/06/2017

 

 

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11th Civil Services Day: PM Urges Civil Servants to Act as Enablers of Reform

 

On the eve of 11th Civil Services Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented awards and addressed civil servants in New Delhi. Recalling that the year 2022 would mark 75 years of independence, he urged civil servants to play the role of catalytic agents in fulfilling the dreams of freedom fighters. “Our experience should not become a burden. Hierarchy remains an issue, a legacy from the British which we did not leave behind,” said the Prime Minister. He said conditions prevailing today are quite different from about two decades ago, and would evolve much further over the next few years. Elaborating on this, the Prime Minister said that earlier, government was almost the sole provider of goods and services which left a lot of scope for ignoring one’s shortcomings. However, now, very often, people perceive that the private sector offers better services than government. “With quantum jump in work must also come a qualitative change. With changing times, a need may arise that we may have to change our working style,” he said. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of competition, which brings qualitative change. He said that the sooner the attitude of government can change from regulator to enabler, the faster this challenge of competition will become an opportunity.

 

“A spirit of ownership is essential. Let us believe that through this set up we can bring a positive change in people’s lives.” he said. Criticising the role of hierarchy in civil services,  PM Modi said that ‘we inherited hierarchical traditions from our colonial rulers but we have not left them behind,” he added. Noting the quantum jump in the applications for Civil Service Day awards, from less than 100 last year to over 500 this year, the Prime Minister said that the focus should now be on improving quality, and making excellence a habit. The Prime Minister urged senior officers to ensure that experience does not become a burden that stifles innovation of younger officers. “E-governance, M-governance, social media- these are good means to reach out to the people and for their benefits,” said Modi.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 04/24/2017

 

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SRI LANKA: Exploring Digital Identity Council for Citizen Data

 

Sri Lanka seeks to establish a Digital Identity Council to implement the national policy on collection, storage, sharing and use of citizens’ personal data under the proposed centralized Household Transfer Management project. In 2015, the cabinet authorized ICTA to facilitate implementation of the centralized Household Transfer Management project. The project aims to establish a National Digital Identifier and National Digital Transaction platform where data including biometric information of citizens would be stored and shared with government organizations through a National Authentication Platform. Since this platform should be managed with the highest level of trust, proper governance and policy framework, it has been proposed to set up a Digital Identity Council. Cabinet approval has granted to draft the amendments required for the existing ICT Act in order to facilitate setting up and operation of a Digital Identity Council. Once the draft amendment is approved by the cabinet, the bill will be presented to Parliament for approval. The legal framework for the ICT policies to be adopted by the Cabinet is established through the Information and Communication Technology Act, No.27 of 2003 amended by the Amendment Act, No.33 of 2008.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 04/10/2017

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: New Appointment in Bank Respublika

 

Azerbaijan’s Bank Respublika has announced about new appointment. Shakir Rahimov was appointed chairman of the bank’s supervisory board upon the decision of a recent general meeting of the bank shareholders, said Bank Respublika’s message. Earlier, Rahimov worked as deputy chairman of AccessBank’s board. Bank Respublika has been operating in Azerbaijan since 1992.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 03/29/2017

 

 

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New Appointment in Azerbaijan’s Kapital Bank

 

Azerbaijan’s Kapital Bank has announced new appointment.  Farid Mammadov, director of the Business Group and deputy executive director of PASHA Holding, joined Kapital Bank’s supervisory board, the bank said Apr. 4.  The decision was made at a meeting of the bank's shareholders Apr. 4.  Founded in 1874 as Azerbaijan Savings Bank, today Kapital Bank is one of Azerbaijan’s largest banks serving more than three million customers. Kapital Bank provides services to people in 90 branches and two offices throughout the country and has the most extensive service network.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/04/2017

 

 

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Customs Committee Fully Electronizes Its Services in Azerbaijan

 

Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee completely has shifted to the electronic system of rendering services, Aydin Aliyev, Head of the State Customs Committee (SCC), said during his speech at the Caspian Energy Forum – 2017 held in Baku on April 12.  Global economic crisis, oil prices’ fall and the devaluation of manat facilitated reforms aimed at developing non-oil sector and diversifying the country’s economy under the leadership of the President of Azerbaijan, he added.    "The reforms concerned the customs sphere as well. Currently, the sphere of customs services is electronized for 100 percent in Azerbaijan. We are creating conditions for the operation of green corridors. Ten organizations from the main importing countries may already use green corridors on our initiative. The improvement of the legal framework is continuing, the program for the development of domestic production has been launched," he said.  Aliyev also recalled the introduction of the Tax-Free system at border points and airports.  "At the time, foreign tourists leaving the country can freely get VAT on purchases in Azerbaijan back, which has a positive effect on the development of the tourism sector," he added.  Moreover, the customs payments to the state budget of Azerbaijan have increased, according to the head of Customs Committee.  "In the first quarter of the year, 571 million manats was transferred to the state budget, which is 154 million manats more than the figure for the three months of last year. Thus, the forecasts for deductions are fulfilled in excess of those expected," Aliyev concluded.  The forecast on transfers on customs duties and taxes has been set at 2.2 billion manats ($ 1.35 billion) for 2017, which is 21.5 percent more than the forecast for 2016.

 From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/12/2017

 

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: New Head Appointed to Capital Bank Kazakhstan

 

The Board of Directors of Capital Bank Kazakhstan appointed Bakhtiyar Ilyasov to the post of the bank’s chairman of the board. He will replace Ghani Uzbekov on this post. Ilyasov earlier served as deputy chairman of the board of Kazakhstan-based Tengri bank. Besides heading the bank, Ilyasov will be responsible for organizing the process of merger of two banks.  Tengri Bank and Capital Bank Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of intent to merge in mid-March.  The bank’s consolidated capital will be 43.2 billion tenge (311.4 tenge = $1) and the bank will rise to the 17th place among second tier banks in Kazakhstan. Currently, both Tengri Bank and Capital Bank Kazakhstan provide full range of investment and banking services for corporate financing and retail banking.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/12/2017

 

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New First Vice-Minister of National Economy Appointed in Kazakhstan

 

Kazakh Government appointed Ruslan Dalenov to the post of the first vice - minister of the national economy, the ministry said in a message. He replaced Marat Kussainov who was appointed as the Minister for Competition and Antimonopoly Regulation of the Eurasian Economic Commission (regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union) last week. Dalenov served as vice-minister of finance since 2008.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/21/2017

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Deputy PM for Agro-industry Appointed

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers appointed Esenmyrat Orazgeldiev as deputy prime minister supervising the agro-industry, the Turkmen government said in a message.Orazgeldiev has previously served as head of Turkmenistan’s Ahal Region.Meanwhile, Tangryguly Atahallyev was appointed new head of Ahal Region.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/06/2017

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Setting Up Investment Committee

 

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the Decree setting up the State Investment Committee with offices in Karakalpakstan, the regions and Tashkent.  The document aims to promote and support investment initiatives, both at home and from abroad.  Under the decree, the investment committee will shape domestic investment policy and attract foreign investment.  The committee’s objectives are as follows:  forming an investment policy, drawing foreign investment, supporting enterprises funded by foreign investors; proposing laws concerning foreign and domestic investment; overseeing Uzbekistan’s annual Investment Programmes and regional investment programmes, launching a unified investment proposals to foreign investors; advising on Uzbekistan’s international investment cooperation; guiding authorities and businesses in investment activities; assisting authorities in signing international treaties; attracting foreign investment (director foreign investment, credits, and financial support) to fund investment projects in social, economic, industrial, and infrastructural areas; overseeing investment projects and supervising foreign-funded businesses, removing investment obstacles; optimising realisation of foreign and budgetary investment; organising international conferences, seminars and forums, both at home and abroad, to raise awareness of Uzbekistan’s investment opportunities; regulating auction sales for equipment bought for investment projects, analysing bids, advising against bids where necessary, and terminating import agreements after bids are approved; analysing import contracts (price, technology, etc); and coordinating all involved and working on investment documents.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 04/01/2017

 

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Uzbek President Names First Deputy State Advisor

 

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has decreed to appoint Deputy Prime Minister Adham Ikramov as the first deputy state advisor to the president for organizational and personnel matters and as the rector of the Academy of Public Administration under the President. Ikramov replaced Mannon Aliyev as the rector of the Academy of Public Administration. Adham Ikramov has served as deputy PM since 2012. He also served as health minister in 2009-2012 and from December 2016 to February 2017.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/11/2017

 

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Uzbekistan Reforming Internal Affairs

 

An integrated action program was approved in Uzbekistan to reform the country’s internal affairs agencies under the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s decree "On measures to radically increase the efficiency of the internal affairs bodies’ activity, strengthening their responsibility for ensuring public order, protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens.” The decree states that the work of internal affairs agencies should be aimed at rendering timely and qualitative assistance to the population. Under the decree, tasks and functions of subdivisions of internal affairs bodies should be clearly defined and organizational structure should be optimized. Another priority will be to improve the legal culture of all segments of the population, instill respect for the law and intolerance to any manifestations of violations of the law. The system of training, retraining and professional advancement of employees of internal affairs bodies will also be revised and improved.

 From http://en.trend.az/ 04/11/2017

 

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Sherzod Hadjizadaev Appointed Deputy Chairman of Central Bank

 

Sherzod Hadjizadaev appointed to the post of Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The corresponding decree was signed by the President Shavkat Mirziyoev. Sherzod Hadjizadaev graduated from Tashkent State Economic University in 1996, in 2001 the Banking and Finance Academy in the direction of bankingHe started his career in the banking system in 1996 as a specialist at the National Bank of foreign economic activity and has grown to the head of Department. Since 2010 to the present time he had been the Chairman of the Board of private joint-stock Bank "Trustbank".

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 04/18/2017

 

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Competition Committee Restructured

 

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree on 18 April to restructure the State Committee for Privatisation, Demonopolization and Competition Development into the State Committee for Privatised Enterprises and Competition Development Support. The document aimed for a shift in the state policy for privatised businesses and better use of state property. The committee will fully support the production output of privatised enterprises, create new jobs, and coordinate policy makers and financial authorities. The committee has been given the following priorities:  to form and update rosters for privatised businesses and state assets; to monitor the privatised businesses to identify lossmakers and vacant premises; to understand why privatised businesses operate at a loss or why low outputs are so; to devise road maps for privatised businesses, so as to create new jobs, increase production capacities, and modernise production; to join forces with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to train entrepreneurs who run investment projects at privatised businesses (business foundations, business laws, governance, financial management, etc); to carry out state insolvency policy and to develop financial revival programmes; to control state assets, analyse state-owned enterprises, introduce new corporate governance practices, ensure open sale of state assets to private businesses, and monitor investors; to carry out antitrust policy, develop competition, protect consumers, licence financial activities, and regulate the advertising market; and to train and retrain workers. The committee, together with the information technology ministry, Karakalpakstan’s Council of Ministers, and regional khokimiyates, have been given the 1 January 2018 deadline to create and update: a database of privatised assets; territorial rosters of inefficient and vacant privatised businesses; and territorial rosters of vacant state property. The committee, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the education ministry’s centre for specialised secondary education have received orders from the NBU, Karakalpakstan’s Council of Ministers and regional khokimiyats:  to organise training courses for privatised businesses’ managers from 1 June; and to make proposals to the Cabinet of Ministers on business incubators for starting entrepreneurs, within three months. The decree also transformed the Privatised State Property Fund into the Privatised Enterprises Support Fund, but preserved its sources. The Fund’s sources have been bolstered with: dividends from state shares in economic unions; rents from state property leasing across the republic; and other sources.

 From http://news.uzreport.uz/ 04/19/2017

 

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AUSTRALIA: Digital Transformation Agency Appoints Former NAB Exec as New CEO

 

The Australian government has announced appointing former NAB executive Gavin Slater as CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency, with the DTA also launching its spatial datasets platform Link. Former National Australia Bank (NAB) executive Gavin Slater has been appointed as the new CEO of the Australian government's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor announced on Wednesday. Slater held numerous roles in his decade-long tenure at NAB, including CFO, COO, and group executive across a range of business areas. He was a primary driver of the bank's Oracle-based core banking system transformation. Taylor said Slater's experience in progressing the bank's digital transformation agenda, as well as his understanding of the challenges faced by government agencies seeking to transform their services, will be "invaluable".

 

Slater will start his new role at the DTA on May 1, taking over from interim CEO Nerida O'Loughlin, who was on loan from her role as deputy secretary at the Department of Communications and the Arts. A spokesperson at the DTA told ZDNet that O'Laughlin will remain at the DTA for an unspecified period to help with the leadership transition. The news of the appointment comes more than four months after Paul Shetler resigned from the position of chief digital officer. Shetler was the inaugural CEO of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), from which the DTA spun off in November last year. Also announced by the DTA on Wednesday was the launch of Link, a nation-wide location information knowledge platform which makes spatial datasets more accessible and easier to discover. Where previously extensive searches across Australia's nine jurisdictions needed to be carried out, the Link platform allows users to access location information and learn more about the governance and history of the data in a centralised location.

 

"Government entities hold a significant amount of location information, which is a strategic national resource," Taylor said. "Accurate location information is a key influencer of productivity, and will pave the way for new and innovative applications that increase efficiencies." Taylor said sectors such insurance, emergency response, transport, and agriculture require access to location data for effective and safe business operations. For example, Insurance Australia Group has used the openly available Geo-coded National Address File (G-NAF), in conjunction with its Flood Risk Dataset, to inform home owners of flood risk and choices for insurance. "Having access to consistent and accurate position and road network data enables cooperative intelligent transport systems such as vehicle charging, and freight, logistics and container management." Taylor said. "This allows for faster and more efficient supply of goods to market which is critical for the future of our smart cities and regional networks."

 

Link is being delivered under the Foundation Spatial Data Framework, a national program aimed at improving the delivery of location data to the broader economy. Coinciding with the launch of Link was the launch of PSMA Australia's location intelligence tool Geoscape, which combines satellite imagery, crowdsourcing, and machine learning to capture attributes of the built environment and link each building to a geocoded address. The government-owned provider of location datasets opened its Adelaide, South Australia, and Canberra, Australian Capital Territory datasets late last year, but decided to hold onto its official launch to coincide with the release of its Sydney dataset on Wednesday morning.

From http://www.zdnet.com 04/05/2017

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PM Flags Citizenship Changes

 

The prime minister has flagged changes to the citizenship process after yesterday announcing the abolition of the 457 visa program for foreign workers. Sky News understands the government will tighten the citizenship test rules, stipulating applicants can only sit the exam three times. Under the current system, an applicant can sit the test as many times they need until the applicant correct answers 15 out of the 20 questions. The test itself is also expected to be changed. Speaking at an event in Canberra, Malcolm Turnbull said the government was making changes to ensure those coming to Australia embraced its values. 'This is important for temporary visas, vital for permanent residency and citizenship. 'Citizenship must be valued and we're making changes so that the practices and principles of those obtaining citizenship are consistent with our cultural values,' Mr Turnbull said.

 

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier told Sky News measures should be taken to ensure people would abide by Australian laws and integrate into society before being granted citizenship. Mr Dutton said the 457 visa program has served its purpose and needed to be overhauled, rejecting criticism that the decision was made in reaction to the policies of Pauline Hanson or US President Donald Trump. 'We have been looking at this space for a long period of time...I have pointed out the deficiencies within Labor's management of the 457 program and we have acted,' he said. The government's move to axe 457 visas looks set to be part of a broader policy package intended to tighten Australia's immigration laws. While there are a number of industries affected by the changes, anyone who is already working in Australia on the 457 visa won't be affected. Mr Dutton said he wanted to ensure companies were still able to fill 'genuine' gaps in the labour market with foreign workers.

 

'I don't want the default position to become bringing somebody in from overseas into an Australian job,' he said. Bill Shorten has labelled as the Turnbull government's decision to scrap the 457 visa program a 'con job' The Labor leader hit out at the 'cosmetic' announcement, questioning what impact the changes will have. 'I'm skeptical that Mr Turnbull's crackdown is actually a con job and it will make no real difference,' he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast. Mr Shorten said he backs reforms to 457 visas, but not just a category name- change. 'That's just shifting deck chairs on the proverbial sinking ship.' Employers have given the thumbs up to the decision but trade unions have dismissed the new arrangements as 'tinkering at the edges'. The annual intake of temporary workers is at a four-year low of 96,000, well down from the 126,300 high when Labor was in power. Greens Immigration spokesperson Nick Mckim has told Sky News the government is more concerned with 'jingoistic chest bashing' then sensible policy. 'The issue here is there is a large number of other visa categories where people have the right to work The danger here is that unscrupulous employers will still have a range of other visa classes to exploit.' And in fact this announcement about 'jingoistic chest bashing than achievement a sensible outcome.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 04/19/2017

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Economics Committee Denies Banks Data Sharing Responsibility

 

A final report from the Standing Committee on Economics has said the big four should not lead the open data reform that will potentially change the heavily regulated banking industry in Australia. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics has recommended an independent regulator lead the process that will eventually see banks in Australia open up customer data to external parties. Concerned with the conflict involved in opening up data from a bank's perspective, the committee has denied Australia's big four responsibility for implementing the process. "The process of introducing data sharing cannot be left to the banks to lead," the Review of the Four Major Banks (Second Report) says. "The banks are conflicted in this process and must not be allowed to lead it."

 

The committee's Second Report [PDF] follows the November publication of the First Report, which recommended banks be forced to provide open access to customer and small business data by July 2018 to be accessed by competing banks, startups, and other financial institutions. The data would be wrapped in security and privacy protections and would include information on a customer's transaction history, account balances, credit card usage, and mortgage repayments, as some examples. The committee suggested that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) be charged with developing a binding framework to facilitate this sharing of data, making use of application programming interfaces (APIs), and ensuring that appropriate privacy safeguards are in place to allow such a practice.

 

The committee probed the chief executives from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), the National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac in March to gauge their level of support for the initiative that essentially makes it easier for customers to switch financial institutions. During the three-day probe last month, the big four banks focused on the security concerns around sharing data and avoided giving committee chair, Federal Member for Banks David Coleman, a succinct answer on who they think should lead the change. CBA's CEO Ian Narev did say, however, that he wants the banking industry to be responsible for determining the security and privacy guidelines around opening up APIs to external parties. "We want to take that accountability," Narev told the committee. "If somebody else is going to take it and be accountable for that so we know where to address concerns if there are problems with this, then we are open to that solution."

 

By 2018, banks in the United Kingdom will be required to effectively open up APIs to enable consumer data to be accessed by competing banks, startups, and other financial institutions -- providing the consumer consents -- and the committee wants to see Australian banks do the same by July 2018. The UK model has handed the responsibility over to an independent regulatory authority, which Coleman also wants to see mirrored in Australia. "The banks are conflicted on this issue, as the process of opening up data means that an asset which is currently proprietary to the banks will be non-proprietary in the future," Coleman said in the latest report. "For this reason, it is critical that the banks are not allowed to control the process or set the rules by which consumer data is opened up. An independent body must lead the change and be responsible for implementation."

 

The committee wants the government to amend the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 and, if required, the Privacy Act 1998 to empower ASIC in developing a data-sharing framework and to introduce penalties for non-compliance. Australia's four major banks have significant pricing power and higher than average returns on equity and large market shares; they also hold a 95 percent share of the entire Australian finance industry. "We are in a market which is, frankly, an oligopoly," ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft told the committee during the hearing. Pointing to findings from the McKinsey Global Institute in 2013, the committee said that increasing access to data in consumer finance could add between AU$210 billion to AU$280 billion a year to global GDP, and noted that up to 50 percent of the total would flow through to consumers through enhanced price transparency, tailored product offerings, and the consumers' ability to actively shape the products that they consume.

 

"At present banks, not consumers, hold the data. This gives banks a significant degree of power," the report explains. To maximise the data's usefulness, the committee believes that each data-sharing participant should also release the terms and conditions for each of their banking products in a standardised and machine-readable format, as it believes it necessary to overcome the information asymmetry in the market. As data sharing arrangements and open datasets can take a number of forms, the committee said it is the government's role to set rules, templates, and access requirements around the new initiative. According to the committee, in order to reap the potential benefits, any data sharing framework must be available to all licensed users, be able to be machine readable, and the data should be accessible at no cost on an ongoing basis.

 

While the committee said it is clear that APIs present the largest number of benefits in terms of data security, data credibility, and accessibility, it is concerned with the upfront investment required, as the UK Competition and Markets Authority estimated that introducing full account portability in the UK would cost at least £2-3 billion. As a result, the committee recommends that the government, following the introduction of the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) New Payments Platform (NPP) later this year, consider whether additional account switching tools are required to improve competition in the banking sector, as the NPP will remove the need for a BSB and account number. "It is not clear that this expense is justified prior to the introduction and reviews of the NPP's effectiveness in 2017," the committee said. Having previously made 10 recommendations, the committee has left these unchanged.

 

One recommendation is that the Australian government amend or introduce legislation, if required, to establish a Banking and Financial Sector Tribunal by July 1, 2017. This Tribunal would replace the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. The committee also wants to see CEOs take responsibility for failures in their divisions, and wants this governed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or the proposed Australian Council for Competition Policy.

From http://www.zdnet.com 04/24/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Ministry of Social Development Doesn't Need All That Data - Privacy Commissioner

 

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says the Ministry of Social Development's (MSD) policy that requires social service providers to disclose client information goes too far. Under the policy, providers will have to give the client information to the ministry when they apply for funding. Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday, Mr Edwards said it would put people off seeking necessary help. "The experience you or I might have of an organisation like MSD - which is that everyone's there trying to do their best for people, trying to help people in their tough times - that's not the experience of a lot of people," he told host Duncan Garner. "Just seeing that on the form - if you access these crisis services, that'll go to MSD - that's gonna put some people off and maybe even stop them getting the help they need."

 

In addition to that, it'll worsen MSD's data, with people dropping off the grid and becoming "invisible" to Government and policy-makers. Mr Edwards said MSD had not clearly explained why it wanted the client data. "I don't think they need it from everyone for every service they access… They need to say what it is going to be used for and what it isn't going to be used for." Labour and the Greens have opposed the policy from the start, and they're backing Mr Edwards. "The report confirms Labour's belief that those who are most in need of social services, such as Women's Refuge, Rape Crisis and Mental Health Services, may be deterred from seeking support," said Labour's Carmel Sepuloni. The Greens' Jan Logie says the Government must drop the policy. Mr Edwards has suggested anonymising the data would be a good step. He also praised MSD's moves to exclude collecting information from people seeking sexual violence services. "There was quite a backlash from NGOs, and I think the minister has heard that."

From http://www.newshub.co.nz 04/06/2017

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Global Wildlife Program Partners with Gabon to Promote Human-Wildlife Coexistence

 

The Government of Gabon and the World Bank-led Global Wildlife Program (GWP) are convening over 60 participants in La Lopé National Park in central Gabon from April 3-7, 2017, to explore strategies and innovations to reduce human-wildlife conflict (HWC), a complex issue that poses a serious threat to the survival of many endangered species and the security and sustainability of community livelihoods across countries in Africa and Asia. The conference will provide an overview of the root causes and drivers that have led to an increase in HWC, and explore potential approaches and techniques that incentivize communities to promote coexistence so that both people and wildlife can thrive. Participants at the conference include among others, top experts in the field of conservation, government officials from over 15 countries, and senior representatives from GWP partner organizations and international NGOs. The conference will include a field visit to see mitigation approaches that have been adopted in La Lopé to reduce HWC and will end with a closing ceremony in Libreville chaired by Prof. Lee White, the director of Gabon’s National Agency of Natural Parks (ANPN).

 

The GWP is a $131 million global partnership on wildlife conservation, crime prevention and sustainable development funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It consists of 19 national projects across Africa and Asia that aim to reduce poaching, trafficking and demand of wildlife. Gabon’s $9.05 million Wildlife and Human-Elephant Conflict Management project will be launched at the conference. It includes Implementing strategies and solutions that support integrated landscape management, and mitigating HWC in southern Gabon. This is crucial to secure the future of forest elephants in Central Africa and boost Gabon’s rural economy. “The choice of Gabon for this important conference could not have been better as Gabonese forests cover 88% of the country and are one of the last strongholds for the forest elephant, which is declining at the alarming rate of about 9% per year due to poaching. Under constant threat from poachers, elephants are migrating south and run into conflict with village communities,” said Claudia Sobrevila, the GWP’s Program Manger. “We hope this conference will give stakeholders in Gabon and in our other partner countries new tools and best practices to apply right away to their programs.” As the competition for natural resources grows, changes to forested landscapes result in habitat loss and fragmentation putting endangered wildlife such as elephants, lions, and primates at a great risk. The GWP and the Government of Gabon recognize the importance of integrating wildlife as an asset and a competitive land use option. The conference will help develop solutions that will support governments to take a proactive approach to human wildlife coexistence.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 04/03/2017

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5 Lessons for Cities on the Cusp of a Smart Revolution

 

When it comes to creating an urban space infused with technology, there are many cities in both developed and developing country contexts that are seeing success. Barcelona, Spain, is just one city gaining a reputation as a leader in smart innovation. In 2014, the Catalan capital was awarded the first European Capital of Innovation Award by the European Commission, “for introducing the use of new technologies to bring the city closer to citizens,” and in 2011 was chosen to host the Mobile World Congress for seven years. Each smart innovation the city has integrated collectively contributes to improving urban mobility, promoting an inclusive community and transforming public spaces, while impacting citizens’ quality of life, the environment and local economy. In that respect, smart technology is proving to be an effective tool as cities strive to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

Munish Khetrapal, managing director of Smart Cities and Internet of Things at multinational technology company Cisco, explained that Barcelona’s energy efficient LED street lighting system alone had lowered costs by 20-40 percent, while a waste management sensor system had improved efficiency by up to 15 percent. In an internal study of 250 cities over three and a half years, Cisco found that if cities start to digitize themselves, “over $3 trillion of incremental value can be created,” said Khetrapal. So is this progress reserved only for those cities ahead of the technology curve, or can any city learn from Barcelona’s achievements? “With the whole IoT boom and the technology of digitization, the barrier between developed and developing city doesn’t exist. It’s all about innovation now,” said Khetrapal, adding that it’s important someone working in this space can build and design technology in a global context, and implement it in a local context. This need for local knowledge and understanding could mean a boost in job opportunities for local residents when smart technology comes rolling into their city. For those working to implement such systems in cities on the cusp of a smart revolution, here are five lessons that can be learned from Barcelona’s transformation.

 

1.     Identify gaps and priorities

Pilar Conesa, founder of the innovation consultancy Anteverti, as well as the annual Smart City Expo in Barcelona, said that it is important cities first “identify what their gaps and priorities are.” Upon its creation in 2011, the Urban Habitat Department in Barcelona did just that. It identified 12 significant areas for improvement, including architecture, water and urban planning, and then devised 24 programs, such as the smart water project and the zero emissions mobility project, to tackle these. Conesa explained that when addressing a city’s needs the focus should not be concentrated on improving a single area, but balancing and evolving different areas. “There are some cities who have already improved a lot in sustainability or mobility, but Barcelona has a balance between sustainability, energy and developing technology platforms in order to connect all the information around the city,” she said. This means that funding should be made available for projects covering a variety of areas, such as health care, mobility and economic development.

 

2. Think for the future

A big part of achieving this balance is planning ahead. Barcelona has been forecasting for the possible effects of global warming by introducing smart infrastructure such as the hybrid bus network. Khetrapal said cities in India are beginning to replicate this same forward thinking. “It’s not only about the next step and where the next wave of cities are going, [and] it’s not about finding out what the city needs to do today — that’s a journey they have already started,” he said. “It’s what they need to be doing for tomorrow [that’s important].” While for Barcelona that could mean looking to combat pollution and excess waste, Khetrapal said that many cities in India are concerned with traffic accidents, and are using new data derived from smart systems to predict climate and congestion patterns. From there, they can look to prevent accidents and traffic build-up by setting up alternative routes, which could not only potentially save lives, but also protect the environment by reducing fuel emissions. This innovation is happening in India because of their ability to build on the learnings cities across the world have already implemented, said Khetrapal.

 

3. Involve citizens in the process

Josep Roig, secretary general of United Cities and Local Governments, a global knowledge-sharing network for city leaders based in Barcelona, highlighted that when going through the urban development process, people should be considered just as much as the environment. “Local governments have to look at people and place at the same time,” said Roig. “This is our main aim — how we develop or urbanize to make sure this is for the well-being of the people living there.” That means keeping residents informed of changes, explaining new processes and asking them for input. While this may be standard procedure for organizations implementing development projects, such a collaborative approach could be new to many city leaders. In Barcelona, one way this is being done is through neighborhood FabLabs. These are spaces equipped with digital technology that help empower citizens to create smart innovations to improve their local area, while tapping into the knowledge of a global community. “The change in cities has to come from an understanding of your own context, which is why we talk more about inspiration than replication.”

— Sara Hoeflich, UCLG’s director of learning and cooperation

There are currently 1,033 such spaces worldwide. In the town of Bohol, Philippines, this kind of space has been used by local innovators to repurpose plastic and reduce the amount of waste.

 

4. Consider context

Understanding the local area is another point Cisco’s Khetrapal said is important for city managers and project implementers to remember. “In a smart city it’s not just about technology, it's about understanding what culture is there — what works well in one city doesn’t necessarily translate to another,” he said. “Barcelona has the ability to transform visionary leadership, but also understands that you have to maintain local culture as you intersect it with technology.” Citing Cisco’s parking sensor project in Barcelona, Khetrapal explained the same system couldn’t automatically be implemented elsewhere, because the sensors won’t work if there is snow, for example. While that isn’t a problem for Barcelona, or Bangalore, India — where the system is currently being replicated — it could be an obstacle elsewhere. Sara Hoeflich, United Cities and Local Governments’ director of learning and cooperation, agrees that considering context before replication is key. “Bilbao or Barcelona are [examples of] very inspiring cities and great things are being done, but replication is rarely possible because we never have the same context,” she said. “The change in cities has to come from an understanding of your own context, which is why we talk more about inspiration than replication.”

 

5. Work with local partners

That’s where working with local partners comes in. Multinational companies are working with local companies to implement smart systems, because “innovation is happening on the ground,” Khetrapal said. Cisco partnered with Worldsensing, a Barcelona-based technology company, to implement the city’s parking sensor system, and worked with Israel’s Takadu to manage and collect information on wastewater management. As an increasing number of cities begin to navigate their way through smart city transformation, there are others that have already begun the process and their experiences can be accessed and adapted. Barcelona is one among many other cities, such as Medellin, Colombia, and Seoul, South Korea, that are already on that journey, and their lessons can be tapped into via sharing platforms, city partnerships and high-profile events. While the journey a city goes through is its own, and should be crafted considering its local context, it is important to remember that whatever the challenges encountered — what’s important is how the course correction is made, and how project leaders and city managers are applying lessons learned along the way.

From https://www.devex.com/ 04/05/2017

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World Bank Group Launches New Open Data and Analytics Energy Platform

 

Key energy sector data will now be easily accessible in one place and at no cost on the new and growing ENERGYDATA.INFO, an open data and analytics platform the World Bank Group and partner organizations launched today at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum. Governments, companies, development organizations, and others can both find and contribute energy-related data on ENERGYDATA.INFO. So far it features more than 150 datasets and applications from 10 partner organizations, including: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, World Resources Institute, Columbia University Earth Institute, GIZ, the United Nations, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Innovation Energie Développement (IED), and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The collaborative initiative is a public good, aimed at harnessing the data revolution to speed up progress on the seventh United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7). In developed economies, access to data and complex analytics is fueling the transformation of the energy sectors, while a data gap persists for developing economies where investment is greatly needed.

 

“To meet the targets for SDG 7, we must invest in and prioritize open data. ENERGYDATA.INFO will be of enormous value to the private sector and to policymakers, providing data they can use to de-risk investments and make more informed decisions, leading to faster impact on the ground. We encourage others to join our effort to make this kind of energy data widely available,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director and Head of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank. ENERGYDATA.INFO users can access electricity network maps to better plan renewable plant locations and off-grid solutions deployments, technical and commercial performances of African utilities to better assess investment risks, time-series maps of renewable measurement sites to facilitate large-scale renewable feasibility studies, and high-resolution population and settlement geospatial datasets to plan energy projects for greater impact.

 

Beyond datasets, it features tools to dig deeper, with apps that allow users to:

Assess the potential market for off-grid energy solutions

Determine solar power potential and solar plant prospective electricity outputs for any given location

Monitor rural electrification progress from nightlight satellite imagery data

Generate universal electrification scenarios, and more.

To meet Sustainable Energy for All objectives, it is estimated that renewable energy investment would need to increase by a factor of 2-3, while energy efficiency investment would need to increase by a factor of 3-6, according to the new Global Tracking Framework report released this week. Estimates suggest that a five-fold increase would be needed to reach universal access by 2030.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 04/05/2017

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Tech Tools That Can Help You Land the Perfect Job

 

With low, 4.5 percent unemployment and exploding demand for all sorts of workers, new high-tech tools are emerging to help companies find the best candidates and bring down the cost of that job search. Better hiring is a win-win for companies and employees, as reducing employee turnover is valuable to the bottom line. The average cost per hire is $4,129, and it takes an average of 42 days to fill a given position, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's new Human Capital Benchmarking Report. And for many employers, the cost is much higher, not to mention the cost and time it takes to train new workers.

 

Workpop

Workpop is focused on the 76 million hourly workers in the United States: service-sector jobs at restaurants and retailers that have, until now, largely been filled by work-intensive paper applications. Its tools are designed for both workers and employers to access on mobile devices — responding to the fact that more than 60 percent of potential employees who visit a job site are using a mobile device. Workpop combines video applications, social references and artificial intelligence algorithms to find the best candidates and reduce turnover. It's already drawn millions of candidates and more than 10,000 employers, helping them hire hundreds of thousands of employees. And though it's designed to work for small businesses, it's partnering with national restaurant chains, such as Hillstone Restaurant Group.

 

"A lot of times it can identify trends or characteristics of candidates that a person wouldn't find," says Reed Shaffner, Workpop's co-founder and co-CEO. "It can also look through a much broader set of people to identify who might be the right fit for the role." For candidates, Workpop offers a range of options, from automatically extracting information from a résumé to apply for a job, to video responses to job applications. And rather than acting as a rival to work sites such as Monster.com and Ziprecruiter, it's a partner, helping those sites find candidates. For employers, Workpop will post their jobs across the web. "You really don't want to have to think about 'Hey, where should I post my job?' And frankly, we're going to find candidates you can't find on job boards," says Shaffner. The company's fee structure varies for small businesses looking to make a single hire and larger companies paying an annual fee.

 

Comparably

Comparably is focused on the tech sector, collecting data from tens of thousands of employees on compensation and corporate culture from companies including Netflix, Uber, eBay, PayPal and SpaceX. "Think about it like eHarmony for work," says Comparably CEO Jason Nazar. "We take all these different data points about what you're looking for in your work experience, what kind of culture you want, what you want to get paid, what job titles you want to have — not only today but a couple of years from today — and we match you to companies that are going to be the best fit for you." Like a dating service, Nazar says he has tools for both employees and companies, providing competitive analytics to both sides so you can "see what women vs. men rate their CEO at a certain company or what specific departments think of their company." He adds, "And for employees, we have a really unique algorithm that shows them which companies they best match with. We have access to one of the largest databases now of tech candidates."

 

HackerRank

While Comparably aims to fix gender and racial inequity in pay at companies by revealing how much women and men are making, HackerRank aims to make hiring for tech jobs color and gender blind by allowing people to code and compete anonymously for jobs. HackerRank positions itself as a destination for programmers to learn about how to code and compete with fellow coders online, and for companies to find, screen and interview a more diverse range of engineers.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 04/10/2017

 

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This Fundamental Global Problem Touches Everything from Farming to Technology

 

Bone-thin, malnourished kids in the developing world staring blankly into the camera have become the poster children of nearly every campaign to end world hunger. Yet despite evidence suggesting enough food is produced to feed every mouth on the planet, that global struggle persists. More than 20 million people in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen risk death by starvation by July, the United Nations warned in February. South Sudan has already declared a state of famine in a crisis largely due to a violent civil war. But fighting global hunger is just one of the many complex challenges under food security. From diseases affecting plants and animals to climate change to protectionist trade policies, the threats are diverse and plenty. Meanwhile, the demand for food continues to swell with global population projected to grow by another 2 billion by 2020. Against this dreary backdrop, governments, multinational corporations and start-ups are looking to innovation and investments for solutions.

 

Public sector support

Singapore was ranked the third most food-secure country after the U.S. and Ireland on the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2016 Global Food Security Index, which measures the affordability, availability, quality and safety of food across 113 countries. It was a remarkable feat for the island-nation, smaller than New York City, to be ranked higher on the index than food-producing neighbors like Malaysia and Thailand. Instead of looking to become food self-sufficient, the land-scarce country embarked on a comprehensive food security road map in 2013, which included a commitment to food innovation and to diversify food import sources. The EIU index also revealed that Singapore's agricultural tariff rates at 1.1 percent were the lowest in the world, underpinning the affordability of food in a country heavily dependent on food imports.

 

Singapore's government agency, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), also supports its local farmers through productivity funding schemes and has agrotechnology parks, which support local farms with the infrastructure for advanced technologies and techniques. Over in China, Beijing has rolled out drastic agriculture reforms to protect food security, such as the introduction of tax on fertilizers and pesticides and incentives for domestic farmers to grow crops in a sustainable manner. Recent Chinese acquisitions also reflect the country's food security priorities, from the controversial purchase of Australia's largest dairy farm, Tasmania's Van Diemen's Land Company, to a 50 percent stake in Silver Fern Farms, which is New Zealand's largest meat processor. The Agricultural Development Bank of China, which is one of the country's main policy lenders, also agreed last year to invest up to 3 trillion yuan ($450 billion) by 2020 to modernize China's agriculture industry.

 

Meeting nutritional and dietary needs

In a bid to combat malnutrition and "hidden hunger" — which occurs when the quality of food people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements — one Singapore-based start-up hoped that a simple yet innovative solution might be found in a staple food. Two years ago, news reports uncovered the poor quality and nutrition of catered meals for foreign construction workers in Singapore, which gave Jack Sim the idea for a social enterprise to provide fortified rice. Sim, founder of non-profit group Base of Pyramid Hub, partnered with Dutch nutritional products manufacturer Royal DSM to blend nutritionally-fortified rice kernels with ordinary milled rice, and then sell it to caterers in Singapore. The start-up, called 45Rice, provided over 200,000 meals for foreign workers last year and launched a mobile app platform to connect caterers using fortified rice with construction firms.

 

45Rice General Manager Kevin Moon told CNBC the company is hoping to get its products on the shelves of local supermarkets by the third-quarter of 2017, and it has plans to eventually expand into developing markets. "Infusing our everyday foods with nutritional fortification will become especially important in the near future, especially as climate change begins to make a deeper impact on the availability and production of staple foods," Pieter Nuboer, vice president of human nutrition and health at DSM, said in an e-mail to CNBC. Nuboer also stressed the importance of innovation to help meet the demand of a growing global population and changing dietary choices. Royal DSM has a project named "Proteins of the Future," which extracts plant protein from the inedible by-products of rapeseed and canola oil extraction, he said. The plant proteins can then be added to sports nutrition or elderly nutrition products.

 

Supporting small-scale farmers with Agritech

While government programs and fortified products can help food security, farms are ultimately the backbone of the industry. But as supply chains consolidate, there has been a growing global warning that small-scale farmers need to be supported. About 90 percent of the world's farms are owned and operated by families, most of them are small and found in rural areas of the developing world, FAO data showed. Many of these smallholder family farmers are poor and food insecure, with limited access to markets and services. Companies like Cargill need to support these smaller farmers, not by asking them to merge into a big firm, but by helping them increase productivity through service support and education of best practices, said Peter van Deursen, the Asia Pacific chief executive officer of Cargill. "If you get production of smallholders up, you can raise their income and allow them to reinvest in the farm…these smallholders can be part of a solution (to food security) in some parts of the world," he said. Agritech — the buzzword for technology used to enhance farming systems and agricultural production — can also support small farms. Anything from farm management software to precision agriculture and predictive analytics can be agritech, and some see it as a good investment. "Agriculture is a risky business, as it is regulated by governments in most countries, and venture capital firms lack the domain expertise so very few invest in this sector," said Arun Kant, chief executive and chief investment officer at Singapore-based investing firm Leonie Hill Capital.

 

But Kant told CNBC that as technology plays a bigger role in agriculture and as governments start to relax private investment regulations investors could see better returns from their investments. One of the firm's latest investments, according to Kant, is in a start-up that supports small-scale dairy farmers in India by providing smart milk collection and other services. Sanjay Nath, who told CNBC he was the founder of the company, said he saw an opportunity in the dairy industry because there was a need to reform the current unhygienic practices of milk collection, improve the safety and quality of the product and help farmers receive fairer incomes. Euromonitor analyst Dilip Radhakrishna told CNBC the Indian dairy industry "is unorganized and cold storage facilities have not been well-developed." Indian dairy farmers are also disadvantaged by the "low procurement prices offered by the government and private bodies" and the "dominance of middle men at milk collection centers," the analyst said.

 

The scope of the problem

"Food security, free trade and sustainability are a triangle of factors that are correlated with each other — one can't be excluded from the other," Cargill's Van Deursen told CNBC. The world's current food production is actually sufficient to feed its 7 billion people, Van Deursen said, but protectionism is a major problem affecting the availability and affordability of food. The barriers to open trade prevent goods from moving freely from one place of surplus to another facing shortage. The commodity giant chief cited Russia's grain export ban in 2010 as an example of how one country's protectionism leads to a major disruption to international food supply.

 

Grain prices rose as a result of the ban. Egypt, Russia's biggest wheat customer, had to scramble to find alternative sources, and the government committed to subsidize grain and bread prices so as to avoid any public unrest. Pakistan, which was another big importer of Russian wheat, saw wheat prices surge just as the government was reducing food price protections and its poverty rate rose by 1.6 percent over a short period, according to a 2011 Oxfam report. Sustainability is also another concern, as mounting pressure on natural resources and climate change impact agriculture and food production. The negative effects of climate change also mean there needs to be a transformation of food and agriculture systems to protect the ecosystem upon which agriculture depends, according to a United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2016 report. The FAO report warned that climate change will hurt the productivity of crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry across all regions after 2030. Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify the reference to Australia's Van Diemen's Land Company

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 04/12/2017

 

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Investment Environment Reforms Target Tide of Trash

 

A massive increase in garbage flowing into oceans and waterways as development and consumption surge in the Asia-Pacific is sounding environmental and economic alarm bells. It is also giving impetus to a potential new wave of investment and job creation that could turn the tide on the region’s trash troubles. The threat unmanaged garbage poses to marine ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of people that depend on them has prompted central and municipal government officials from APEC member economies to team up with the private sector to build their waste management capacity. Focus is on narrowing a multibillion dollar financing gap to cope with trash forecast to accumulate to 1.4 billion metric tons in the Asia-Pacific annually by 2030. Officials evaluated the risk landscape and detailed recommendations to improve conditions for joint investment in waste management infrastructure during consultations in Jakarta with experts from construction, investment and development banks, and environmental groups. The recommendations will better position governments to commission new and viable projects.

 

“Pressure on marine environments due to the buildup of human-made debris threatens to hit a breaking point that could inflict massive costs to biodiversity, communities and economies,” warned Tuti Hendarawati Mintarsih, Director General for Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Substances Management at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The archipelago of 17,000 islands is particularly vulnerable but by no means alone, she noted. “Greater resources are required to meet changing waste management needs in the region,” added Hiroko Yokota, a senior official in the Waste Management and Recycling Department of Japan’s Environment Ministry. “Supporting local governments with capital allocation and governance expertise is key to getting more critical infrastructure projects successfully deployed,” said Yokota. She referred to cases in Japan and new cooperation between Japan and Indonesia to develop projects in the latter that generate energy from waste treatment.

 

Over 80 per cent of all marine litter originates as land-based refuse, most commonly cigarette butts and lighters, food wrappers, bottles, cups, bags and toys. More than half of it, or the equivalent of a large dump truck emptying its contents into oceans and waterways every few minutes, is estimated to come from the from the Asia-Pacific where investment in waste management has not kept pace with economic development. The recommendations offer guidance on addressing economy-specific barriers to public-private investment in waste collection, transport and disposal as well as advanced treatment, recycling and reprocessing. Examples include improving interagency coordination and municipal support, re-prioritizing budgets, appropriately assigning risk and introducing benchmark projects. They build on principles established in APEC to encourage investment in waste management through political, economic and legal and regulatory reform.

 

“Action to control risk and assure investors is essential to enabling jointly financed waste management infrastructure that enhances lives,” explained Mark Johnson, Chair of the Asia-Pacific Infrastructure Partnership, which supports public-private project development. “Optimizing waste collection and treatment in just one large city in the region can create thousands of jobs and raise living standards for millions more people.” It is estimated that doing so in cities in Indonesia with over 2 million inhabitants would double employment in waste management, generating 24,000 additional jobs over 10 years. “The impact of marine debris on water and food supplies, public health and industries such as fishing, shipping and tourism is a shared problem that requires shared solutions,” concluded Susan Ruffo, Managing Director of the Ocean Conservancy. “There is still a long way to go to clean up our oceans but cooperation between the public and private sectors in the APEC region is moving waste management in the right direction and laying a path for progress globally.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 04/06/2017

 

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Technology and Humans Can Be Complementary, Not Competitive, Says SATS CEO

 

Advancements in the field of robotics have driven fears across the globe that many jobs could soon be displaced by machines. But that does not always have to be the case, according to Alex Hungate, president and CEO of airport ground-handler and catering solutions provider SATS. The company, which operates in 50 locations across 14 countries, has made large inroads in technological investments under Hungate's leadership. The investments seem to have paid off, with SATS reporting an increase in overall productivity across its business units while keeping labor costs in check. Speaking with CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Tuesday, Hungate said that robotics and automation technology implementations in companies often stumble due to a failure to allay employees' fears: "At SATS, we're technology-driven but we're people-led, so we try to encourage people to come up with the ideas about how we use technology and we remove the threat that you referred to by stating very clearly that we don't intend to reduce their jobs." "We intend to keep the same number of people over the long term and benefit from these growth trends," he added, emphasizing the importance of people-driven innovation at SATS.

 

The company is also betting big on e-commerce in Southeast Asia, opening the SATS e-commerce Airhub in Singapore's Changi Airport recently in a bid to rapidly increase capacity to meet rising demand in the region. "E-commerce is one of the big stories of our age, you know, Southeast Asia is actually the fastest growing internet region in the world. E-commerce volumes (are) growing at about 30 percent per annum and (are) estimated to be $88 billion in value by 2025," Hungate said. To stay ahead of the curve, the adoption of technology has become a necessity for the company. "What we don't want is the top line increase to drop down, you know, to require hiring a lot more people so it doesn't drop to the bottom line," Hungate said. "By deploying capital in technology, in a high-tech facility like this, we're going from 500 mailbags per hour to 1,800 mail bags per hour today and then we have the ability to double that without hiring any people." Looking ahead, Hungate said technology is likely to continue playing an important role for the company.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 04/19/2017

 

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CHINA: Announcing New Area to Coordinate Development Around Beijing

 

China announced Saturday it would establish the Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. This is another new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area, according to a circular issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council. The move is a "major historic and strategic choice made by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core," said the circular, which described the decision as "a strategy crucial for a millennium to come." The new area, about 100 km southwest of downtown Beijing, will span three counties that sit at the center of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei's provincial capital Shijiazhuang.

 

The move will help phase out some non-capital functions from Beijing, explore a new model of optimized development in densely-populated areas, and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, according to the circular. The new area will cover around 100 square km initially and will be expanded to 200 square km in the mid-term and about 2,000 square km in the long term. President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has said priority should be given to developing an area to pool non-capital functions that will be shifted from Beijing. He has ordered a modern urban district to be built at a suitable location in Hebei, guided by new development concepts. During an inspection tour to Hebei on Feb. 23, Xi called for "world vision, international standards, Chinese characteristics and high goals" in the planning and construction of the area.

 

He urged efforts to build Xiongan into "a demonstration area for innovative development." The area should prioritize ecological protection, improve people's well-being as well as protect and carry forward Chinese traditional culture, he said. The Xiongan New Area covers the counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin, and is home to Baiyangdian, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in north China. The area features geological advantages, convenient transportation, an excellent environment, ample resources and lots of room for development, according to the circular. Specifying key tasks for the development of Xiongan, Xi said it should be built into a green, modern and smart area with a beautiful environment, high-end industries and efficient transportation. High-quality public services and facilities should be provided to create a new model for urban management, while reforms must be advanced to let the market play a decisive role in resource allocation, he said.

 

The area should also be open to the outside world and become a new platform for further opening up and international cooperation, according to Xi. Meanwhile, the circular cautioned that local authorities should avoid excessive urban expansion in the development of Xiongan, calling for a reasonable development pace with patience and respect for the laws of city construction. Saturday's announcement was the latest step in China's efforts to cure severe "urban ills," such as traffic congestion and air pollution, in Beijing by curbing the capital's population growth and moving certain non-essential facilities, including manufacturing and logistics, to nearby regions. A number of wholesale markets in the city's central areas have been shut down or relocated, and some of Beijing's city administration will be moved out of the city center to the eastern suburbs in Tongzhou.

 

The removal of non-capital functions from Beijing is part of a greater strategy to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei for a better economic structure, cleaner environment and improved public services. With that strategy, authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole as China's economy slows. The decision to set up Xiongan New Area is a key stroke in solving urban woes and creating new growth, said a commentary carried by the website of the People's Daily, flagship newspaper of the CPC. Xiongan and Tongzhou will form "two wings" for Beijing and create new room of development for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the commentary said.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/01/2017

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New Plastic-eating Fungus May Solve Garbage Problem

 

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have identified a novel fungus capable of degrading polyurethane (PU) plastics. The fungus named Aspergillus tubingensis was isolated by a research team led by Xu Jianchu, a researcher with the Kunming Institute of Botany under CAS. "The fungus can grow on the surface of PU and break the chemical bonds between plastic molecules or polymers through activity of its enzymes," Xu told Xinhua. "Meanwhile, the fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia to help break apart polymers." PU is a type of synthetic polymer widely used in the manufacture of plastic-related materials. PU can be applied in various industries, including medical treatment, construction and automobiles. Plastic waste is difficult to decompose, pollutes soil and water, and poses risks to human health. "Fungus biodegradation is an important way to treat pollution caused by synthetic plastics," said Xu, adding that the efficiency of degradation was affected by various factors, including PH, temperature and the types of the medium used. He said researchers would gradually figure out the ideal conditions for the rapid growth of the fungus, laying the foundations to solving the garbage problem. The research was published March 15 on the website of the international journal Environmental Pollution.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/01/2017

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China Develops Hot Water Drill to Facilitate Antarctic Expedition

 

China on Wednesday announced it had completed controlled tests on its first hot-water drill, which is capable of drilling through 1,500 meters of ice and will be used for Antarctic research. This is the fourth test on the drill, it was conducted at Jilin University in northeast China's Jilin Province. The drill, which uses pressurized hot water to melt and bore into the ice, is capable of drilling 1,500 meters into the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica, the assessment panel announced after an on-site review. "The drill will be invaluable to China's Antarctic scientific exploration," said Zhao Yue, head of the review panel and a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. The panel agreed to further testing and said the equipment should be used during China's upcoming 34th Antarctic expedition in November, he said. Once it passes the Antarctic test, China will be the third country to have mastered hot water drilling deeper than 1,000 meters after the United States and Australia.

 

Our drill can go deeper than the Australian one, and has more functions than the American one, said Li Yuansheng, head of the research team and a researcher with Polar Research Institute of China. Li said that drilling helps with the detection of ice shelves. Ice shelves are floating ice platforms between glaciers and the ocean surface. According to Li, the freeze-thaw underneath ice shelves has an important effect on the continental ice sheets, and water masses and ocean currents. Scientists worldwide know little about how ice shelves affect the ocean, especially given global warming, Li said. Hot water drilling may help. The aim is to install detectors in the drilled holes, and link them to a central monitoring system. It will help Chinese arcticologists capture more data on not only ice shelves but also global warming, said the expert.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/06/2017

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China Strengthens Control of Housing, Land Use

 

A government statement released Thursday outlined the steps taken to prevent housing and land price hikes. The circular, jointly issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and Ministry of Land and Resources, said that local governments should stop land deal if current inventories will take more than 36 months to be shifted. Local governments should disqualify any bid backed by capital from questionable sources, said the circular. The circular demanded that local authorities make bidding flexible, and outline punishments for inadequate or fabricated work by local authorities. It said that cities and counties that have more than one million inhabitants should make three-year (2017-2019) and a five-year (2017-2021) plans for housing land supply, and make the plans public by the end of June.

 

Sales of land for residential projects almost doubled in China's first-tier cities during January-March, according to China Index Academy, a property research organization. Land sales in major cities, like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, totaled 5.08 million square meters in the first quarter, an increase of 98 percent from a year ago, the highest for the past two years. The government is trying to cool runaway housing prices in major cities where huge demand and limited supply have pushed prices to record high. Major Chinese cities are taking fresh measures including increased deposits for second-home buyers, adding to the slew of steps taken since October in dozens of cities to prevent home prices from rising out of control.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/06/2017

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China's Shenzhen Regulates Bike Sharing Service

 

Shenzhen has issued a document outlining advice and regulations to help the city's booming, yet chaotic, bike-sharing market. There are seven bike-sharing companies operating in Shenzhen, which manage around 520,000 bikes that had been used by over 9 million users by the end of March. Up to 2.5 million trips are taken every day on average. According to the regulations, bike-sharing companies should have designated bank accounts to hold deposits. They should ensure their users' data is safe and secure. Should a company want to cease operation, it must make the decision public at least 20 days before it intends to close, and refund all deposits and account balance to its users, the document added. The document suggested that the city government should support the healthy development of the market and provide infrastructure support. Furthermore, the number of share bikes should not exceed the city's occupancy and load capacity. Companies must also share information with local traffic management and police departments on the number of registered users, the number of bikes on the road and their distribution and how frequently they are used.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/07/2017

 

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China Looks to Wide Application of Artificial Intelligence

 

China has great potential in applications of artificial intelligence (AI), a senior official said Sunday. "Chinese researchers and entrepreneurs are among the best in the world, with technological innovations and good earnings in the sector," said Liu Lihua, vice minister of industry and information technology. Researchers with Chinese companies such as iFlytek, Alibaba and Baidu participated in the study of the world's leading AI technologies, said Liu, referring to technologies of reinforcement learning, paying with your face and self-driving trucks. A couple of weeks ago, the "MIT Technology Review" listed the above three and another seven technologies as its 10 breakthrough technologies in 2017. AI research started more than 60 years ago and there have been some major ups and downs. The current wave is backed by unprecedented quantities of data and computing power. "While we are just getting started, we have made prominent progress in applying artificial intelligence in smart city and intelligent customer service on automobiles," said Liu.

 

More sectors will see AI applications in the future, he added. Chinese Internet giants are focusing on the development of artificial intelligence and believe the next decades will be a golden age for the industry. "If we define 2016 as the first year of China's artificial intelligence, this year will be the beginning of applications of artificial intelligence in the country," said Liu Qingfeng, board chairman of tech firm iFlytek Co. Ltd. Internet giant Baidu set up a national deep learning technology lab in Beijing in March. The lab gathered AI experts from Baidu, Tsinghua University, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. "The Internet is just an appetizer. The main course will be AI. In the future, machines will develop to a point where they can understand humans and their intentions," said Li Yanhong, chair of Baidu, at the China IT Summit in Shenzhen last Sunday.

 

Baidu has invested heavily in machine-aided study, image recognition, voice recognition and driverless vehicles. Another tech giant Xiaomi set up an "Explorer's Lab" last year to research artificial intelligence and will release an "exciting AI product" in the coming six months, according to Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi. "Companies in emerging markets need to offer their consumers a compelling vision so that they not only resolve problems today, but even address problems on the horizon," Lei said. 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, according to the government work report issued last month. "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.

 

In May last year, the government made a three-year action plan to develop AI. The industry's market size was 23.9 billion yuan (about 3.5 billion U.S. dollars) last year, and will reach 38 billion yuan (about 5.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. "As the AI era approaches, we should focus on technological innovation, establish industry standards and specifications, forge an industrial ecosystem, and speed up legislation in the sector," said iFlytek's Liu.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/09/2017

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Baidu Uses AI Technology to Help Abducted Child Find Family

 

Baidu succeeded in using artificial intelligence to reconnect a man with his family 27 years after he was abducted, the company announced Wednesday. Working with baobeihuijia.com, a charity group dedicated to connecting missing children and their families, Baidu used its cross-age facial recognition program to analyze pictures of abducted children uploaded by the victims and their birth families and identified potential matches through the comparison of selected facial features. Fu Gui, 33, who was born in Chongqing Municipality, western China, was abducted in 1990 and later transferred to Fujian Province, southeastern China. He registered with baobeihuijia.com in 2009, and his natural family did the same in early 2017. Baidu's facial recognition program was able to draw up a short list of potential identities for the man from pictures uploaded to the site, and a DNA test later verified the correct match. Baidu has about 200 million sample pictures that it uses to improve the sensitivity and accuracy of its facial recognition program, which can be over 99 percent accurate. Baidu's founder and CEO Robin Li, who is also a national political advisor, proposed during the annual parliamentary sessions in March that AI systems, like facial recognition, could be used to help find missing children and suggested that there should be a central database with missing children's information.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/12/2017

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Chinese VP Calls for More Innovation by Science, Technology Staff

 

Vice President Li Yuanchao on Thursday urged China's scientific association to unite all science and technology (S&T) workers behind innovation-driven development. Li made the remarks while attending a meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) in Ningbo City, east China's Zhejiang Province. Li called on the association to continue to push forward its innovation promotion project, which was initiated in 2014. The project, which unites S&T staff to better support economic transformation and upgrading, has introduced over 10,000 science and technology experts with local governments and businesses. The CAST should work with its branches to unite and encourage S&T workers to help with technological problems in industrial transformation and upgrading and explore more ways to drive economic growth, Li said. Li also asked the association and its branches to help S&T workers turn their ideas into industrial products, and to offer better support for their innovation and business startups.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/13/2017

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Foreigners in Shanghai FTZ Have Easier Access to China "Green Cards"

 

The latest benefit of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ) is to its non-Chinese residents, who can apply for permanent residence in China simply with a letter of recommendation from the FTZ authorities. According to the social security bureau of Shanghai Pudong New Area, the new policy will take effect in mid-April, and apply to both the applicants and their spouses and minor children. The move was made following 10 rules related to China's entry and exit policy announced by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), which authorize Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone and Shanghai FTZ to recommend high-level foreign staff for permanent residence permits, Chinese "green cards". Those with permanent residence will enjoy the same rights as Chinese citizens in areas such as investment, housing purchases and schooling. The reform is to support Shanghai's ambition of becoming a world sci-tech innovation hub.

 

Those who qualify for the fast track application include well-known award winners or high-level talent scheme finalists, such as Nobel laureates, the Chinese government "Friendship Award" and other world-class, national and municipal awards; people in charge of Shanghai FTZ-based national laboratories, engineering laboratories, foreign investment R&D institutions, and top-level talent from innovation and start-up enterprises. A Chinese green card is one of the hardest to obtain with no more than 7,000 issued since 2004, when the policy was introduced. That compares with about 600,000 foreigners currently living in China, and the application procedure is rather complicated. In 2016, 1,576 foreigners became permanent Chinese residents, an increase of 163 percent on the previous year, according the MPS. China has made huge progress in easing its residence and entry policies for foreigners since September 2015, which has helped attract more talent from overseas as well as boosting international exchanges and the economy, according to a ministry statement. Shanghai saw six times more permanent residence applications from foreigners and their families in 2016 from 2015. The number of such applications in Beijing last year increased 426 percent.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/13/2017

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Shanghai Auto Show Highlights Intelligent Driving

 

Car models supporting autonomous driving and Internet-based services are bright spots at the 2017 Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, which opened to media Wednesday. A total of 113 models of car made their global debut at the auto show, which has attracted more than 1,000 exhibitors from 18 countries and regions. The 1,400 complete vehicles exhibited include 159 new energy vehicles and 56 concept cars. The theme of this year's auto show is "Committed to Better Life," and the event will be open to the public from April 21 to 28. The Shanghai-based electric vehicle startup Nio made its much-awaited domestic debut at the show, bringing a model of its concept driverless car EVE, whose interior space is designed as a living room. Li Bin, founder of Nio, said that when humans are freed from driving in the future, the car would be transformed into a space for relaxation and entertainment.

 

Domestic auto maker Roewe unveiled its new model i6 16T, featuring a smart operation system that has access to mobile payment tool Alipay. When the driver gets on the car, the system tells them to bring an umbrella if it is going to rain. It can select routes based on real-time road conditions and the driver's habits, and can even help order and pay for a take-away coffee. Sales of the RX5, another Roewe model that carries a similar system, have exceeded 140,000 since it was released eight months ago. German manufacturer BMW also brought new models featuring intelligent driving to the show. "The concept of 'Auto plus Internet' is not only about surfing the Internet in the car," said Chen Zhixin, president of Shanghai-based SAIC Motor. "A car should be seen as a smart end-product embedded with various functions supported by cloud services."

 

New energy vehicles (NEV) are also making waves at the show, including Nio's two-door EP9, a contender for the title of the world's fastest electric car. A total of 159 NEVs are on display at the event. In 2016, more than 500,000 NEVs were sold in China, accounting for over40 percent of global sales. The growth was up 50 percent year on year. China has had the world's largest car market for eight consecutive years. About 28 million cars were sold in China in 2016, up 13.7 percent year on year thanks to preferential purchase policies and other government measures, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Growth in auto sales in 2017 were estimated to slow to an annual 2 to 6 percent, according to the ministry.                     

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/19/2017

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JAPAN: Archives Essential for Reviewing Policies, Should Be Preserved Properly

 

Official documents created by administrative organizations are intellectual resources jointly owned by the people. Awareness of the importance of managing and preserving them must be heightened. A panel of experts established by the Cabinet Office has compiled a development plan for a new National Archives of Japan. Under the plan, a facility with a total floor space of up to 50,000 square meters will be built in the Nagatacho area of Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. The present National Archives of Japan will see its storage space reach full capacity as early as within fiscal 2019. The new facility will have archive storerooms that are 3.5 times larger than the present ones, capable of preserving about 50 years’ worth of official documents. The government will start drawing up a basic plan. Steady progress must be made. The public records and archives management law, which came into force in 2011, stipulates that the central government and independent administrative agencies should preserve their official documents, in principle, setting preservation periods ranging from one year to 30 years. It also stipulates that these institutions should transfer documents, upon the expiration of their preservation period, to the National Archives of Japan or to the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Archives for the public to freely peruse.

 

The problem is there are so many official documents that have not been made public even when the term of preservation expired. Conspicuous cases include ministries hanging on to their documents by extending the term of preservation or disposing of them. In fiscal 2015, only about 9,600 documents out of about 2.9 million, or only 0.3 percent of the total, were transferred to the National Archives of Japan or elsewhere. Each ministry and agency has established its own rules regarding terms of preservation, in line with the government’s management guidelines. They are supposed to obtain the prime minister’s consent when disposing of documents instead of transferring them to archives. As things stand now, however, ministries and agencies scrap at their own discretion documents that they deem unnecessary to preserve. Regarding the selling of a state-owned land plot to Moritomo Gakuen, the Finance Ministry has discarded the documents recording its negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen, because the ministry did not treat them as documents worth preserving. Also striking are the cases in which important public records have been treated in a slovenly way. At least nearly 1,000 documents were found to have been either lost or mistakenly scrapped in the five years from the enforcement of the law.

 

There were also cases in which documents that should have been archived as historical data were scrapped, including National Police Agency files related to the derailment on the JR Fukuchiyama Line. In reviewing the decision-making processes on important policies and their appropriateness, checking records is essential. The Cabinet Office will revise the management guidelines in fiscal 2017. By stipulating in more detail the types of documents that should be preserved and the term of preservation, it will encourage ministries and agencies to improve their preservation of documents. It will also consider posting to each ministry and agency officials who specialize in judging whether documents should be preserved, classifying them and putting them in order. One way of fostering experts specializing in the anagement of archives, of whom there are far too few in Japan compared with the United States and European countries, may be to establish a national qualification system. To make the new National Archives of Japan a useful facility for the public, it will be important to improve the system for managing and preserving the increasing number of documents, in addition to promoting changes in the awareness at ministries and agencies.

From http://the-japan-news.com 03/28/2017

 

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Japan Eyes Cap on Overtime Hours, Equal Pay Under Labor Reform Plan

 

A government panel unveiled an action plan Tuesday to reduce long working hours and ensure equal treatment for regular and nonregular employees as Japan seeks to promote broad labor reform. The panel headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for a cap on overtime work hours and penalties on violators in the action plan compiled based on an agreement between Japan’s most powerful business lobby Keidanren and the labor union Rengo. The maximum overtime work hours a month should not exceed 100 hours, even during busy seasons, according to the plan. If a busy period lasts for more than a month, average monthly overtime hours must not exceed 80 hours, a level said to cause serious health consequences. Abe is spearheading the overhaul of the country’s deep-rooted culture of overwork, brought under the spotlight after the suicide of an overworked young female employee of advertising giant Dentsu Inc. “The government has a critical role to play,” Abe told a meeting of the panel on work-style reform. The action plan will be meaningless unless it is put into legislation and enacted, the prime minister said, calling the year 2017 as a “starting point” for the country’s labor reform.

 

Under his Abenomics policy mix, Abe has been seeking to strengthen the deflation-hit economy. Labor reform is placed as one of his top priorities as Japan needs to boost productivity in the face of a shrinking population. The government plans to prepare bills that will reflect the action plan and submit them to the Diet by the end of the year, officials said. The plan states that overtime hours should be limited, in principle, to 45 hours a month, and not exceed 360 hours annually. Monthly overtime hours can exceed the limit six times a year, but must be below 100 hours. The annual cap of 360 hours can be raised to 720 hours if an agreement is reached between management and a labor union. Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, had argued for a 100-hour ceiling but Rengo, or the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, had demanded that it should be less. Abe urged them to settle for “less than” 100 hours. The action plan called the cap a “historic reform,” as setting a clear limit on overtime hours has long been debated but never been realized. Still, truck drivers and construction workers, for instance, will be exempt from the cap for five years. For doctors, the action plan states that further discussions on how to rein in overtime will be needed.

 

Another key feature of the plan by the panel, which also involves private-sector members, is to achieve “equal pay for equal work.” The plan says one of the proposed legislative changes includes making available an administrative process of resolving a dispute for free to workers demanding correction of unfair treatment. The panel is seeking to fill the gap between full-time and temporary workers and ensure equal treatment not only in pay but also in welfare benefits and training opportunities. Workers in Japan tend to work longer hours than in the United States and Europe, with death from overwork, or “karoshi” in Japanese, being a long unresolved issue. Government data showed nearly 44%, or 4,416 of the 10,059 workplaces inspected by labor authorities between April and September last year, were found to have allowed illegally long work hours. Other envisaged changes to Japan’s work system include promoting teleworking and making it easier for women with children as well as people fighting diseases to work. The plan also states that Japan needs to accept more highly skilled foreign workers.

From https://www.japantoday.com 03/29/2017

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Improve Working Conditions Through Joint Efforts of Labor, Management

 

Efforts need to be made to facilitate an environment in which diverse human resources will be able to work actively, thereby making it possible to attain sustainable growth in a depopulating society. It is essential to quickly and steadily carry out a plan for the purpose. The government has devised an action plan for work style reforms, with a view to realizing a society in which “the dynamic engagement of all citizens” is promoted. The plan spelled out key measures to be implemented over the next 10 years. The government will submit related bills to the Diet as early as this autumn, aiming to carry out them from fiscal 2019. The main pillar of the plan is to promote equal pay for equal work — a standard that forbids pay differentials based on employment status — and correct the practice of working long hours through caps on overtime work. The plan is designed to press for a change in Japanese-style employment practices. It is significant that the government took preliminary steps toward resolving the problem, given that little progress has been made in tackling that challenge because labor and management were solely left to solve the issue.

 

Regarding efforts to devise specific measures, the plan leaves the task largely to labor-management consultations at individual corporations. Headway needs to be made in carrying out effective steps that will fit workplace realities at each company. The policy of equal pay for equal work is aimed at improving the working conditions of non-regular employees. In draft guidelines unveiled at the end of last year, the government used concrete examples to illustrate acceptable or unacceptable differences in working conditions between regular and non-regular employees. The guidelines said that the workers’ base salaries must be equally paid if there are no differences in their abilities and achievements, adding that bonuses must also be paid to non-regular workers, as a rule. Based on this, the action plan clearly stated that corporations will be obligated to explain disparities, if they exist, in the working conditions of their employees. It will also make it easier for workers to go to court and take other actions if they cannot accept disparate working conditions. These measures would help guarantee the effectiveness of the equal-pay policy.

 

The plan has set new upper limits aimed at correcting the practice of working long hours, such as “up to 720 hours annually” for overtime work, while also imposing penalties for violations.

The upper limits set in the plan are quite close to what has been considered a workload that could result in karoshi — death from overwork. Needless to say, corporations will be required to curtail their employees’ overtime as much as possible. The habitual practice of working long hours has prevented women and elderly people from being employed, and has contributed to the low birthrate. If a workplace precludes a balance between work and family life, there is little hope that diverse and talented human resources will be secured. In small and medium-sized companies and elsewhere, employees tend to work overtime for a long time, accommodating the demands of customers. Swift efforts must be made to reconsider the terms of transactions and the business practices involved. Any efforts to improve working conditions and reduce overtime work that are not accompanied by increased productivity will put a strain on business operations. Consequently, such endeavors will not last long.

 

Necessary steps include improving business efficiency through the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and other measures, as well as improving and expanding education and training programs to enable workers to engage in more greatly value-added work. It will also be necessary to create a mechanism for encouraging the shift of talented personnel to growth industries. This task needs to be tackled through joint efforts by the government, labor and management. It will be inescapable to reconsider the tax and social insurance systems, which are cited as hindrances to women wanting to take up work, including spousal tax deductions and a system for so-called Category III subscribers to the pension plan. It is also necessary to further widen the scope of non-regular workers to whom the corporate employees’ pension insurance system will be applied.

From http://the-japan-news.com 04/03/2017

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Cabinet OKs Schools to Use Banned Imperial Order as Teaching Materials

 

Opposition politicians on Tuesday criticized a decision by Japan’s cabinet to allow schools to study a 19th century imperial order on education that was banned after World War II for promoting militarism and emperor worship, saying it’s a sign that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is becoming more nationalistic. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the Imperial Rescript on Education should be allowed as teaching material if it is used in line with the constitution and the education law. The cabinet adopted the policy Friday. He added, however, that schools should primarily follow the government-approved curriculum. Opposition politicians on Tuesday called the move unconstitutional and unacceptable. “The decision clearly underscores an attempt by the Abe government to reinstate prewar (philosophy),” opposition Democratic Party policy research chief Hiroshi Ogushi told reporters.

 

The rescript, which all students were required to memorize, called on Japanese to sacrifice themselves for the emperor and his empire. It was issued in the name of Emperor Meiji in 1890 at the beginning of Japan’s half century of expansionism and militarism. The rescript was recited at schools as students and teachers bowed before photos of the emperor and empress, and was included in moral discipline textbooks until it was banned by parliament in 1948. The rescript recently captured national attention because of a political scandal involving a school whose ultra-nationalistic owner, Yasunori Kagoike, taught students to recite it daily. Kagoike, former head of the Moritomo Gakuen group, testified in parliament that Abe donated 1 million yen ($9,000) through his wife in 2015 to the school, which became embroiled in a scandal over its purchase of state property in 2016 at one-seventh the appraised price. Abe, who has praised Kagoike, has denied making a donation, which is not illegal, or influencing the property sale. Kagoike is among many Japanese conservatives who have tried to reinstate the imperial rescript.

 

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told a recent parliamentary session that the rescript contains universal values such as respect for parents that can help create a moral nation. “Its core spirit should be reclaimed,” she said. “I don’t think we should say the rescript is entirely wrong.” Historian Masanori Tsujita, an expert on wartime history, disagrees, saying the family ties, friendship and other virtues advocated by the rescript were for the benefit of the imperial system, and suppressed civil rights. “Should it be reinstated for public use? The answer is clearly no,” Tsujita wrote recently in a Gendai Business magazine article. The cabinet said it would be “inappropriate” to use the rescript as the sole basis of national education, and officials deny that the Abe government supports militarism. Abe has pushed educational reforms that promote traditional gender roles, respect for Japanese heritage, traditional martial arts, and a downgrading of Japan’s wartime atrocities, some experts say. Recently, the education ministry instructed the publisher of a moral education textbook to replace a reference to a bakery with a Japanese sweet shop to encourage patriotism.

From https://www.japantoday.com 04/05/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Ranking 3rd for Design Registration

 

Korea ranked third in the number of international industrial design applications filed in 2016 through the World Intellectual Property Organization's Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. Korea secured the number three spot on the rankings with 1,882 industrial designs, according to WIPO's data for 2016. This was a 46.8 percent jump compared to the 1,282 designs filed by Korea in 2015. Germany was first on the list in 2016 with 3,917 designs, followed by Switzerland in second place with 2,555 designs. The Hague System is an international system for managing industrial designs that allows countries to register up to 100 designs in over 66 territories by filing one single international application. Designs may include anything from furnishings, communication equipment, means of transport, to clocks and watches. In 2016, a total of 18,716 designs were registered by some 84 countries around the world.

Of the 1,882 designs filed by Korea, 862 were registered by Samsung Electronics and 728 by LG Electronics. These companies ranked second and third, respectively, on the Top 10 list for number of designs submitted by individual firms. The Dutch furniture company Fonkel rose to the top of this list, with a total of 953 designs registered. "It's meaningful that Korea has reached the number three spot on the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs, just three years after adopting the system," said Director General of the Trademark and Design Examination Bureau Choi Gyu-wan, part of the Korean Intellectual Property Office. "We will make sure to further promote the system so that medium-sized enterprises, as well as conglomerates, can take advantage of the international system for managing industrial designs."

From http://www.korea.net 03/30/2017

 

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Korea Cooperates on Science, Technology with UK, Ukraine

 

Korea will strengthen cooperation on science and technology with the U.K. and Ukraine. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the U.K.'s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have pledged to continue working on the Korea-U.K. Focal Point Project, aimed at expanding exchanges among researchers in such fields as 5G, the Internet of Things and energy. The agreement was made at the Korea-U.K. Joint Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation, held in London on March 23. At the meeting, it was also decided that the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) and the Royal Society of London would host an international conference in Korea in November. Elsewhere in Europe, the ministry also held the fifth Korea-Ukraine Joint Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science. The two sides talked about ways to further increase joint research and enhance cooperation on aerospace between the two countries.

The two sides discussed ways to increase joint efforts designed to boost cooperation between the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and the State Space Agency of Ukraine, and to focus on launch vehicle systems developed in Korea. Two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed, as well. Yonsei University and the Usikov Institute for Radiophysics and Electronics signed an agreement to jointly establish an electric wave detection center. The National Institute for Lifelong Education, too, penned an MOU with two local universities, including the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, to help them run the Korea Massive Open On-line Course, or K-MOOC, as part of their curricula. “It’s significant that our nation works with the U.K., one of the world’s powerhouses in terms of the research revolution, on core technologies that will lead to the fourth industrial revolution,” said Director General Choi Won-ho of the International Relations Department in the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. He said, “It’s also meaningful to resume our cooperation with Ukraine on science and technology involving materials and space, which had been cut since 2012.”

From http://www.korea.net 03/31/2017

 

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Korea Calls for Strengthened Technology Cooperation with Israel

 

South Korea's vice trade minister called for strengthened cooperation in technology with Israel Sunday to cope with the technology-driven fourth industrial revolution, the ministry said. Speaking to a forum in Tel Aviv, Jeong Marn-ki said South Korea and Israel can create synergy by combining Israel's technological prowess and startup spirit and South Korea's manufacturing skills and information and communication technology infrastructure. "I hope that technology cooperation would lead to an expansion of bilateral trade and investment," Jeong said at the conference designed to encourage bilateral technology cooperation, according to the trade ministry. Israel is home to 3.5 percent of the world's venture capital and is known for running a variety of support programs for technology startups. Trade volume between the two countries reached slightly over $2 billion in 2015, according to South Korean government data.

South Korea's main export items include autos, wireless communication equipment and synthetic resins, while it imports mainly chipmaking equipment, and applied electronics products and parts. Jeong is set to visit Britain to attend a session on bilateral technology cooperation on Tuesday, according to the trade ministry. On Wednesday, Jeong plans to meet with John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for talks on technology cooperation between the two countries. During his visit to London, he is expected to make a pitch for British investment in South Korea. New foreign direct investment pledged for South Korea came to $21.3 billion last year, up from the previous record of $20.9 billion set in 2015, according to the government data.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 04/09/2017

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Korea Slow to Embrace New Web Tech

 

South Korea remains behind in embracing the new web framework HTML5, despite its rapid adoption overseas, the Korea Internet Security Agency said. HTML5 is the latest standard of web programming language developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. By analyzing browsers used by internet users on whether these properly support services made from HTML5, the level of preparedness reached 54.1 percent. KISA said the older versions of Internet Explorer widely used by Koreans tend not to follow HTML5 standards. Among desktop users, 96.99 percent used Microsoft Windows for their operating system, while 85.86 percent used Internet Explorer for their browser.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 04/12/2017

 

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Korea to Nurture 'Software-Oriented' Universities

 

South Korea will help more local universities provide quality education in the software sector as part of its drive to develop the industry and nurture more talent, the science minister said Monday. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning picked eight schools in 2015, six in 2016 and six in 2017 as "software-oriented universities" and invested nearly 2 billion won ($1.75 million) in them annually. "The ministry will select five more software-oriented universities annually to bring the number to a total of 30 by 2019," ICT Minister Choi Yang-hee said during a meeting with the university presidents. The ministry has been fostering closer ties between universities and companies so as to allow the country's software education sector to become more globally competitive. This is critical since the size of the industry will likely expand to 100 trillion won this year from 31.2 trillion won in 2012. "The government hopes that software-oriented universities will play pivotal roles in dealing with the shortage of experts in the software sector," the policymaker said, emphasizing the importance of software education as being central to leading the ICT industry. Under the plan, schools and companies will exchange information and engage in software projects, as well as conduct joint research. Experts have pointed out that local companies trail overseas leaders in training software experts, mainly due to relatively poor infrastructure at schools. "The ministry will also work with the Ministry of Education to offer an innovative software curriculum," said Choi. 

From http://www.koreaherald.com 04/17/2017

 

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CAMBODIA: Cracking Down on 92 Human Trafficking Cases Last Year

 

Cambodia cracked down on 92 human trafficking-related cases in 2016, arresting 113 suspects including eight foreigners, the national police website said Wednesday. "Some 298 victims had been rescued," the website said, adding that 91 of them were under the age of 18. Among the 92 cases, 53 involved with human trafficking and prostitution, and 39 related to child sex purchases, it said. Lieutenant General Yuk Sokha, deputy supreme commissioner of the national police, attributed the active crackdown on human trafficking cases last year to close cooperation between police and partner organizations as well as relevant institutions.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 04/05/2017

 

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SINGAPORE: To Train 10,000 Public Servants with Data Science in Next Five Years

 

The National University of Singapore (NUS) will provide data science training to public servants under a five-year Memorandum of Intent signed with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) on Wednesday. The two parties plan to train 2,000 public officers annually for five years. GovTech chief executive Jacqueline Poh said increased adoption of data science in the public sector will transform the way the government delivers services to the public. "We are glad to partner NUS, which will help us put this tool into the hands of 10,000 public officers over the next five years, and educate them to use it effectively," Poh added. NUS and GovTech will also cooperate to work in the areas of technological innovation, specifically manpower and capability development, for the benefit of public sector agencies, GovTech said in its press release. Other areas of collaboration include knowledge sharing to co-create solutions in the aspects of cyber security and artificial intelligence. GovTech and NUS will also form a GovTech-NUS Exchange Program and provide opportunity for staff to work in each other's organization, the press release said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/29/2017

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Review of Public Transport Fare Formula Under Way

 

SINGAPORE: The Public Transport Council (PTC) has started its review of the public transport fare adjustment formula and mechanism, it said on Wednesday (Apr 5). The council, an independent body which regulates public transport fares, targets to complete the review by the first quarter of next year, and apply it starting from the 2018 annual fare review exercise. PTC said it will review the effectiveness of the current fare adjustment formula and mechanism, and propose improvements while keeping in mind the changes to the public transport industry. “The review shall focus on maintaining a good balance in keeping public transport fares affordable while ensuring the financial viability of the public transport system,” it said. The council also said it will “consult widely” on the review, and engage commuters, public transport operators and transport experts. The current fare adjustment formula was introduced in 2013, and is valid for five years until after the fare review exercise in 2017.

 

SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS COME AT A COST: PTC CHAIRMAN

PTC chairman Richard Magnus said in a blogpost that the council will ensure fares remain affordable for commuters, while considering the financial viability of Singapore’s public transport system. Since the current fare formula was introduced, the public transport system has seen significant changes, Mr Magnus said. He noted that new buses and trains have been added to ease crowding, and the rail infrastructure has been upgraded. The Government has taken over the ownership of bus and rail assets, and imposed stricter service standards on transport operators. “These changes have resulted in service improvements. Ridership has also grown. Bus services have become less crowded. The trains have also become more reliable,” he wrote. During the Committee of Supply debate, the Government said it expects to spend close to S$4 billion over the next five years to subsidise public bus services and another S$4 billion on replacing rail assets – on top of S$20 billion to build new public transport infrastructure. “Service improvements come at a cost. There will need to be equitable cost sharing among commuters, taxpayers and public transport operators,” Mr Magnus said.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/05/2017

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Corruption Complaints and Cases Investigated by CPIB at Record Low

 

SINGAPORE: The number of corruption complaints and cases investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) hit a new low in 2016, according to statistics released by the bureau on Wednesday (Apr 12). In 2016, CPIB received 808 complaints, an 8 per cent decrease compared to the number received in 2015. A total of 118 cases were subsequently pursuable, down from 132 cases in 2015. The majority of non-pursuable cases were because of insufficient, vague or unsubstantiated information.

 

CORRUPTION OFFENCES IN PRIVATE SECTOR

In 2016, there were 104 individuals prosecuted for corruption offences and 96 per cent of them were private sector employees. Custodial sentences were meted out to a majority of them as in some instances, the offences had consequences that would have negatively impacted the security of the nation, and stronger deterrence was necessary. Based on the cases of private sector employees prosecuted in Court, CPIB noted areas of concern in maintenance work, relating to removal of copper cables, cleaning and water-proofing services and wholesale and retail businesses relating to purchase and supply of fire safety, electrical and mechanical equipment. "Corruption will always be a work in progress because of the innate human nature of greed and temptation, and the CPIB remains vigilant to keep Singapore corruption-free," said Wong Hong Kuan, director of CPIB.

 

NEW ANTI-BRIBERY STANDARD

A new Singapore Standard – the SS ISO 37001 - to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes was also launched by CPIB and SPRING Singapore on Wednesday. Companies that are venturing overseas can adopt the standard to benchmark the integrity of their governance processes against international standards and practices. “By adopting SS ISO 37001, our companies will gain an additional stamp of confidence in their systems and processes to help them grow beyond Singapore’s shores. To encourage local enterprises to adopt the standard, SPRING will be working with public and private stakeholders to provide assistance in terms of training, consultancy, certification and funding,” said Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive of Quality and Excellence at SPRING Singapore. Spring and the Singapore Accreditation Council will be working with stakeholders to develop an accreditation scheme for certification bodies by the end of this year.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 04/12/2017

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Singapore to Open Smart Technology Health Campus

 

Singapore will introduce a health campus where smart technology will be adopted for a better and more sustainable healthcare system, said Ministry of Health on Tuesday. The health campus which spans an area over 7.66 hectares in the Singapore's north region Woodlands will add 1,800 hospital beds and is set to open progressively from 2022. Woodlands Health Campus (WHC) comprises a general hospital, a community hospital, a nursing home as well as daycare facilities for senior citizens. According to the ministry, WHC will be the first healthcare campus in the country to fully integrate an acute hospital, community hospital and long term care facilities in a single development. Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said this would enable WHC to better integrate care, break organizational boundaries and enable patients to seamlessly move from one facility to another according to their care needs. WHC will also employ new technology to reduce manual work as well as using data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve patient care. Robots will be deployed to cope with back-end logistics such as food services, housekeeping and the central sterile supplies unit. The adoption of smart technology allows healthcare professionals such as nurses to focus more on their clinical and direct patient care roles, the minister said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 04/18/2017

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THAILAND: PPP Committee Wants 6 More Transport Projects Fast-Tracked

 

THE PUBLIC Private Partnership (PPP) Policy Committee yesterday resolved to place six more transportation projects worth Bt600 billion on the fast track for implementation. The Industry Ministry will also set up a working panel as soon as possible to promote investment support and tax incentives among leading electric-vehicle (EV) makers and key parts makers in the United States, Europe, China and Japan to woo their investment to Thailand. The six new priority projects include Bangkok’s mass-transit Purple Line extension from Tao Poon to Kanchanaphisek Ring Road worth Bt131.17 billion, the east-west mass-transit Orange Line worth Bt195.64 billion, and mass-transit railway from Phuket International Airport to the five-way intersection at Chalong worth Bt39.41 billion. The other three are the Nakhon Pathom-Cha-am highway worth Bt80.06 billion, the Bangkok-Rayong high-speed railway worth Bt152.49 billion, and a mass-transit railway project for Chiang Mai. The PPP panel chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak also acknowledged the progress of the development of the first five fast-tracked PPP projects, including the extensions of the MRT Blue Line from Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae and Bang Sue to Tha Phra, the Pink Line from Khae Rai to Min Buri and the Yellow Line from Lat Phrao to Samrong.

 

Ekniti Nitithanprapas, director-general of the State Enterprise Policy Office, said the PPP panel also acknowledged recommendations from state agencies for the plan to revise the PPP Act of 2013 to enable faster joint investment between the public and private sectors. Somkid separately met with Jetro (Japan External Trade Organisation) Bangkok president Hiroki Mitsumata to discuss economic cooperation between Thailand and Japan. Somkid said later that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was keen to join with Thailand’s Commerce and Foreign ministries in drawing up the master plan for investment in the CLMVT (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand) region. For the government’s EV goals, it has launched tax breaks to court investment, including privileges for EV production, he said. Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said some carmakers had recently expressed interest in investing in the EV industry here, including hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery-only EVs. The working panel on promoting the EV industry will consist of representatives from the Industry Ministry, the Board of Investment, the EEC policy steering committee, and the panel for the promotion of EV incentives. Hirunya Suchinai, secretary-general of the Board of Investment, expects that the BOI’s tax incentives for EVs would lead to the value of applications for BOI support in this segment passing Bt10 billion this year. The Cabinet approved the BOI’s tax incentives for EVs this week.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/30/2017

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VIETNAM: Gov’t Launches Website to Receive Administrative Feedback

 

Citizens can now voice opinions on mechanisms, policies and administrative procedures to the Government on website nguoidan.chinhphu.vn, Minister and head of the Government Office Mai Tiến Dũng said on Monday. It is a new interactive information channel between the Government and the citizens, directed by Minister Dũng himself with an aim to actualise the Government and the Prime Minister’s determination to develop an innovative Government to serve citizens, he said at a meeting with the press. The website is accessible on computers and mobile devices with internet connection, he said, adding that citizens can send, track their opinions and receive responses from the Government on unrealistic and asynchronous mechanisms, policies, administrative procedures and unethical behaviour of government officials in completing administrative procedures. The Government’s concerned agencies and responsible authorities will receive and respond to feedback based on their fields and take into consideration proposals and initiatives that aim to improve and develop the national administrative system, he said.  “Notably, citizens and enterprises can evaluate and rate authorities’ responses to their feedback,” he said. The Government will listen to every single feedback and opinion from citizens, he said, adding that the Government Office will take the responsibility of instructing, supervising and reminding ministries, sectors and local authorities to process and respond to citizens’ feedback.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 04/04/2017

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Speed Up Electronic Toll Collection: Transport Minister

 

Transport Minister Trương Quang Nghĩa has ordered haste on the installation of electronic toll collection (ETC) equipment in toll stations on major highways. All project proposals to install ETC equipment must be submitted to his ministry before April 15, and relevant documents and contracts between the ETC installers and BOT (Build Operate Transfer) investors of the highways should be signed before April 30, he said. Nghĩa said this applies in particular to the 28 toll stations that are to implement the technology in the first phase of the national project that will cover all stations by the end of 2020. The latest order comes after tardy progress made thus far on upgrading the toll stations despite the project having been initiated by the ministry in 2015. In the first phase, the ETC equipment will be installed at 28 toll stations on National Highway No 1 and the section that runs through the Central Highlands region of the Hồ Chí Minh Highway. The ETC projects, which will collect toll by scanning cards installed in vehicles passing through toll gates, saving a lot of time, will be implemented on a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis.

 

Vũ Quang Lâm, general manager of the Việt Nam Electronic Toll Collection (VETC) Company – an investor and operator of ETC systems under the management of infrastructure developer Tasco, said that his company had installed the system in October 2016 at the Tư Nghĩa toll station in Quảng Ngãi Province. However, the BOT investor has not allowed them to collect their fees, saying the system should be piloted for the first 6 months, he said. In fact, VETC has installed ETC equipment in three stations, and the system works well with vehicles passing through toll gates at 30km per hour. However, the BOT investors have not allowed them to operate the systems, Lâm said. He said the company plans to operate the technology in two to three toll stations per month and complete the 28 toll stations by the end of this year, he added. In Decision No 07 issued last month, the Prime Minister has ordered that by the last day of December 2018, the ETC technology should be carried by all toll stations on National Highway No 1 as well as the section of Hồ Chí Minh Highway that runs through the Central Highlands region.

 

Contractors that build toll stations after January 1, 2019, must complete necessary procedures to hand them over to the BOT investors as soon as their quality inspections are completed, the Decision says. It also mandates that the ETC equipment should be installed at these toll stations by December 31, 2019 at the latest. “All investors must comply with the procedures that have been regulated to ensure synchronised implementation of ETC nationwide,” Nghĩa said. It must also be ensured that the toll fees charged by ETC companies will not exceed that fixed by BOT investors, he added. No limitations should be placed on the selection of technology providers, he said. The ETC technology will be implemented on 1-2 lanes of the highways from 2016-2019 and on all lanes after 2019.  The transport ministry wants ETC systems installed at all toll stations nationwide by 2020, said Deputy Minister Nguyễn Hồng Trường.