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November 2017, Issue 192

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

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Horizon 2020 Open Government Projects Showcase Their Initiatives to Support Sustainability

Healthier Lifestyles and Better Health Policies Drive Life Expectancy Gains

Uber Probed by Global Regulators Over Huge Data Breach and Cover Up

AT&T-Time Warner Case a Detour More Than a Major Shift in US Antitrust Policy, Lawyers Say

 

 

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CHINA: Acts to Evaluate Burden Reduction Measures for Enterprises

JAPAN: Policies Needed That Can Achieve High Target for Wage Increases

China to Maintain Macroeconomic Policy in 2018

More Practical Measures Unveiled to Deepen Reform

China to Step Up Property Rights Protection

Abe Aims to Boost Own Govt by Improving Ties with China

Abe Calls for ASEAN's Cooperation to Foster Free and Open Order

2018 Agreement Eyed on RCEP Pact

Ministry Unveils Draft Rules Against Use of Pilfered Data

SOUTH KOREA: Moon Calls for Referendum on Constitutional Revision

Prime Minister Vows Active Gov't Role in Bringing About Sustainable Growth

S. Korea to Expand Trade and Diplomatic Ties with ASEAN

Korea Forms New Regulatory Guidelines for AI, Big Data-Based Medical Devices

 

 

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INDONESIA: To Drop NZ Import Restrictions

NA Passes Planning Law, HCMC Resolution

MYANMAR: Govt Raises Concern Over Delays in Repatriation Plan

Govt to Inform Parliament of Start of Yangon New Town Plan

MALAYSIA: To Enforce Cryptocurrency Regulation in 2018

THAILAND: Law Amendments Being Prepared to Pave Way for Local Elections

Plan to Cede Police Powers to Agencies

VIETNAM: Govn’t Decree Regulates VNA Functions and Structure

HÀ Nội to Promote Development of Support Industry in 2017-20

New Regulations on Use of Credit Cards

Ministry Proposes Tax Law Changes

NA Okays Forestry Law

Gov’t to Target ‘Reasonable’ Wealth Distribution

NA Pass Public Debt Management Law

 

 

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INDIA: Madhya Pradesh to Announce New Policy for MSME Units

Building New India with Digital Power

National Power Portal Launched

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Set to Expand Programme Targeting Youth Entrepreneurship

TURKMENISTAN: Approving Draft Laws to Protect Inventions, Industrial Designs

UZBEKISTAN: Uzbektelecom Set to Consolidate Entire IT Industry into Single Structure

 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Global Support for Frydenberg's Energy Policy

Hanson to Scrap 'Nanny State' Alcohol Laws

Minister Rules Out Lifting Newstart Rates

Energy Experts Talk Clean National Power Plan

NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Remove 'Barriers' in Pay Equity Legislation

PM Rejects Criticism of Student Allowance Policy

 

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An Open Mind on Open Government Data

Smart Cities: Ordinary Citizens Were the Missing Link All Along

Freedom of the Net 2017 Manipulating Social Media to Undermine Democracy

ADB Launches First Annual Report Monitoring Progress of PPP Environment in Member Countries

Dai-ichi Life Invests in First Ever ADB 'Gender Bond' to Support Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

 

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CHINA: Supply-side Structural Reform: Next Chapter in "New Era"

Chinese SOEs Speed Up Mixed-ownership Drive

China's New Detention System Helps Solve Tricky Legal Issues

Xi Hosts Trump with Iconic Chinese Culture

Public Security Organs Urged to Play Bigger Role in Building a Safe China

China Starts Extending Supervisory System Reform to Nationwide

China Expands Smart Court System

China Tightens Scrutiny on Executive Power for Law-based Governance

JAPAN: Govt Moots Inclusive Paralympic Host Towns

Abe Re-Elected Prime Minister

Japan Eyes Nationwide System for Reporting Food Recalls, Sharing Data

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Raise Portion of Female Senior Officials to 10% in 5 Yrs

 

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INDONESIA: Parliament Seeks Replacement of Speaker After His Detention

MYANMAR: Maungdaw Civil Servants’ Salaries Doubled

IMF Backs Second Wave of Reforms in Myanmar

Newly-Appointed Union Level Officials Sworn into Office

THAILAND: New Cabinet Line-Up ‘Sent for Royal Endorsement’

Anti-Corruption Reform Panel Completes Public Hearing Process

New Water Management Chiefs Get Thumbs Up

Ten New Faces In Reshuffled Cabinet, Nine Out

VIETNAM: Provinces Set Special Economic Units

New National Citizen Management System Will Not Be Available Until 2020

Việt Nam Prepares Personal Info Database

Ministry Launches Online Public Services Portal

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INDIA: Committed to Uphold High Standards of Governance

Now Fix Appointments with Officers Online in Karnal

Goa’s Landscape Transforming with Digital Governance

GEL-Making E-Governance Possible in Goa

MyGov Turns Three, Participative Governance Takes Successful Stride 

Government Appoints 20 Joint Secretaries

 

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AZERBAIJAN: UNDP Supports Development of E-Government and E-Participation Opportunities

New Appointments at Azerbaijani Energy Ministry

Azerbaijan to Switch to New System of Customs Duties in 2018

TURKMENISTAN: New Deputy Finance Minister Named

Turkmenistan Elected as Vice President of UNESCO General Conference

UZBEKISTAN: Management System of Leading Sectors to Be Revised

 

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AUSTRALIA: Turnbull and Shorten to Meet on Citizenship

No Banking Royal Commission: Turnbull

Govt Change: Charter Schools Optimistic

Working Group Formed for 'Hobbit Law' Replacement

Workers' Share of National Income Shrinks

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How a Smart Grid Can Empower a Smart City

First OECD PISA Report on Collaborative Problem-Solving Launches Tuesday 21 November 2017

Data Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation

Resilient Transport Vital to Curb Disaster Losses in Small Island Developing States

GM Shares Upgraded Because of Automaker's 'Advanced' Autonomous Technology

How Digitally Empowered Banking Consumers Are Fueling the Need for Robust Data Centers

APEC Leaders Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future

Conditions Favorable for Worker-Friendly Trade Reforms

 

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CHINA: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence Aid Judicial Reforms

North China City Gets Tougher on Smog Control

Chinese Vice Premier Calls for Sense of Mission in Poverty Reduction

Vice Premier Stresses Reform, Innovation to Revive NE Industrial Base

China Raises Retail Fuel Prices

China Orders Local Governments to Ensure Coal Mine Safety

JAPAN: Will Electric Vehicles Open Up Bright Future for Industry, Society?

Effectiveness of Measures to Cope with Low Birthrate Crucial -Results of ‘Putting Economy 1st’ to Be Tested

Medical-Nursing Cooperation Key to Fee Review

Japan Placed 10th in Global Ranking for Information and Communication Technology, Up One Spot from 2016

SOUTH KOREA: 10 Public Organizations Credited for Increasing Regular Workers

World Bank: Korea Is the World's Fourth Best Country for Doing Business

ASEAN+3 Leaders Explore Ways to Secure Job Amid 4th Industrial Revolution

Korea's Agricultural Technology Goes Global

 

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INDONESIA: 30,000 E-ID Forms Provided for Jambi

Indonesia Plants Bamboo to Fight Climate Change

PHILIPPINES: President Duterte Orders Gov't Agency to Ease, Lift Restrictions on Foreign Investors

THAILAND: NACC Gives Itself Top Marks in Integrity Report

VIETNAM: Customs Clearance Payments to Go Online

Law Enforcement Officers Learn How to Investigate Transnational Cybercrimes

Mekong Agriculture Technology Challenge Programme Starts

State Has to Manage Internet Growth: Deputy PM

More Training Needed in High-Tech Agriculture

 

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INDIA: Transforming Tumakuru and Davanagere as Smart Cities

UP Gears Up for Hi-Tech Transport System

NHM Gujarat Tackling Health Challenges Through Innovation

Journey of Baroda to Smart City Vadodara

Concurrent Monitoring Through ICT

Integration of IT with Agriculture Technology Need of the Hour: Vice-President

ePrivacy and Digital Innovation Must Be in Balance

Utomation Simplifies the Complexities of GST: William Rau, Avalara

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Simplifying Online Order of Certificate for E-Signature

AzerSky Satellite to Help Monitor Agricultural Crops in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s Food Security Agency to Improve Control over Quality of Products

Azerbaijan Achieved Great Success in Creating Space Industry, Russian Scientist Says

TURKMENISTAN: To Issue Patents for Architectural Projects

UZBEKISTAN: Intends to Save Energy Resources

Uzbekistan Hosts Meeting on Preventing Crimes Among Young People

Tariffs for Gas and Electricity to Be Raised in Uzbekistan

 

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AUSTRALIA: RBA Wants Banks Involved in Australian Government Digital Identity Solution

Australia Heads to UN Climate Conference

Australian Government Sets Up Email Address for Confidential IT Complaints

Australia Questioned over Coal Support

Digital Health Agency Says Tech Is Transforming Disease Management

Australian Government Seeks Advice on Management of .au Domain

Christian Porter to Spruik Welfare Changes

NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Block New Mining on Conservation Land

LoT Needs to Be Secured by the Network

Emergency Mobile Phone Alert Test Deemed a Success

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Smart Cities: Utopian Vision, Dystopian Reality

The Global State of Information Security® Survey 2018

The Internet of Things From Hype to Reality

The Illusion of Freedom in the Digital Age

New OECD Data Expose Deep Well-Being Divisions

Advocating for Openness: Nine Ways Civil Society Groups Have Mobilized to Defend Internet Freedom

Study Reveals Which Cities Are on the Forefront of Smart Urban Growth

What Data Protections and National Borders Mean for Global Tech Economy

When It Comes to Investing in the Future, Go with Renewable Energy over Bitcoin

Digitalisation Key to Sustaining Growth in Emerging Asia, Says New Report

Stocks May Have Soared This Year, but It's Not Too Late to Join Asia's 'Party,' Blackrock Says

 

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CHINA: Cities, Companies Jump on Bid to Spur Rental Housing

First China Int'l Import Expo to Promote Open World Economy

China Develops Self-driving Electric City Buses

China, CEE Countries to Enhance Cooperation in Energy: Officials

China Exclusive: Shared Bikes Hit Country Roads

China's Economy on Steady Track Despite Softened Momentum

Xinjiang Offers 15 Years of Free Education

Biofuel Finds Big Market Potential in Aviation

Digital Economy "A Core Engine" in China: Tencent's Ma

Why China's Massive Steel Lay-Offs Will Not Hurt Economy

Teachers Prosper in Online Education

Chinese Consumers More Confident and Savvy Than Ever: Report

JAPAN: Broaden Options for Choosing Ages to Start Receiving Pension Benefits

SOUTH KOREA: More Than Half of ‘Mobile Only’ Group in 50s, 60s

Regulator Voices Concerns About Data Privacy over Fintech

 

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Without Regional Collaboration, Southeast Asia Will Struggle in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

MYANMAR: People-to-People Partnership Needed to Address Challenges

MALAYSIA: Only 19% of Consumers Confident That Businesses Do Enough to Protect Against Cyber-Attacks

SINGAPORE: Labour Market Improving

National Electronic Patient Database Soon to Be Mandatory for Healthcare Providers

Travel Agents in Singapore to Get Help to Thrive in Digital Age

THAILAND: ‘Smart Farmers’ Face Learning Curve

Helping the Low-Income

Task Force for Digital ID Recommended

Mobile Payments, IoT Loom as Top Tech Trends for 2018

VIETNAM: Vaccination Appointment Booking Service Launched in ĐÀ Nẵng

Mobile Payment Helps Develop Non-Cash Economy

Việt Nam Can Exploit Industry 4.0: Deputy PM

Transport Sector Speeds Up for 4.0

 

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INDIA: Smart Tourism in the Era of Smart Cities - The Punjab Story of ‘Incredible India’

Green and Sustainable Transport for Smart Gujarat

Gujarat Transport Gearing Up to Go Eco-Friendly

Vadodara Expanding the Development Horizon

Goa Goes Smart and Digital

Growing IT Ecosystem in Goa

Digitising Land Records to Empower Rural Masses

DoIT Building World Class IT Infrastructure in Goa

Goa-The Next IT Destination of India

Lucknow Metro: The New Lifeline of the City

12 Months on – Is Cash a Fading Memory?

Has Demonetisation Helped in Creating a Positive Impression of New India Economy?- Paynear Solutions

Chhattisgarh Heralds New Era of Smart Transportation

Online OPD Appointments in Delhi Government Hospitals

Cyber Security Is No Longer Just an IT Department Discussion: Fortinet Survey

Smart Tourism Practices Delved Upon at National Tourism Conclave in Chandigarh

Vodafone Launches Super IoT – An Industry-First End-to-End IoT Solution

Portal to Track Household Electrification Launched

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Eyes to Transit Bulky Goods Purchased Online

Azerbaijan Completes Implementation of E-Agriculture System

Kaspersky Lab Reveals Number of Corporate Users Subjected to Cyber Attacks in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Invites Turkic Council Members to Sign Deal on E-Signature Recognition

Azerbaijan’s Mobile Operator Launches 4G LTE Service in Ganja

Azerbaijan Ranks 65th in ICT Development Index

Turkey, Azerbaijan to Expand E-Commerce

Azerbaijan Expanding Coverage of Compulsory Medical Insurance

UZBEKISTAN: Most Dynamically Developing Country Over ICT

Issuing Digital Signatures in One Hour May Become Possible in Uzbekistan

 

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AUSTRALIA: ACCC's Cautious 5G Welcome Sees Competition Issues Flagged

Australian 4G Coverage in Global Top 10: OpenSignal

Labor Promises to Revamp Infrastructure

Australia Not Behind Powering Past Coal

Australians Happier with Overall Digital Grocery Experience Than with Banking

NEW ZEALAND: Trade Deal 'Top of Mind' at APEC

Kids Barely Venturing from Home – Study

Livestock to Blame for 19% of Global Warming – Study

Unisys Scores 10 Year Ministry of Education APaaS Deal

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Be Smart: Smart City Finance for Your Citizens

World Bank Raises USD 2 Billion with 10-Year Global Benchmark Bond

The Global Forum on Tax Transparency Intensifies the Pressure on Tax Evaders Worldwide

Better Fiscal Management Can Boost Economic Growth: Joint Government—World Bank Report

Social Security Contributions and Consumption Taxes Give Way to Personal Income Taxes, as Corporate Income Taxes Fail to Recover

Tax Reform Is the Biggest Business Story of 2017 for CFOs

A Gold Fund Is Investing in Bitcoin

ADB, AFI Partner to Increase Financial Inclusion in Asia with New MOU

One of Asia's Largest Banks Says Bitcoin Is 'A Ponzi Scheme'

Synchronized Global Upswing Underpins Higher Asian Bond Yields

 

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CHINA: Establishing Financial Stability and Development Committee

China Eases Tax Compliance Burden: Report

Mobile Payment Users Exceed 520 Million in China: Ant Financial

China Continues Net Cash Injection into Market

JAPAN: Consumption Tax Revenue Distribution May Change

National Debt Hits Record ¥1.08 Quad.

Closed-Door Decisions Cannot Win Public Understanding of ‘Departure Tax’

¥2 Tril. Package Outlined for Education, Child Care

Govt Eyes Stopping Corporate Tax Breaks - Wage Hikes, Investment to Be Gauged

Govt Eyes ¥2 Tril. FY17 Extra Budget

SOUTH KOREA: BOK - Digital Currencies Pose Big Transaction Risks

Korea to Inject W30tr to Foster Innovative Startups

Government Vows Incentives to ‘Social Finance’ Players

 

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MALAYSIA: Election-Minded Najib Delivers 'Happy News' Budget

Budget 2018 Aims to Enhance Wellbeing and Fortify Digital Malaysia

Malaysian PM Defends New Tax to Maintain Country's Competitive Edge

SINGAPORE: Banks to Use NETS QR Code for Cashless Payments

E-Commerce Could Be an Area for Singapore to Diversify Tax Base

THAILAND: Stimulates Domestic Consumption with Tax Rebate

Bt150 Bn of Local Govt Funds Could Be Used to Support Rural Communities

VIETNAM: NA Passes 2018 Budget Estimates

NA Approves $5.27b for North-South Road

NA Approves $1b for Airport Land Clearance

 

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INDIA: ASSAM$200 Million Aid from World Bank to Transform Assam’s Agri-Business

Goa Cooperative Banks Empowering State in Digital Transactions

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Now Accepting Proposals on Investment Projects

High Discount Rate Not to Have Big Impact on Azerbaijani Banks

Exchange Transactions Up by Almost 3.5 Times in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani Gov’t Reveals Investments Volume Forecast for 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Continues Efforts to Ensure Financial Stability

Kazakhstan Ensures Stability in Foreign Exchange Market

UZBEKISTAN: Low-income Families May Get Microcredits at 4% Per Annum

 

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AUSTRALIA: MPs Chalk Up $16m Travel Bill in Three Months

Indigenous Baby Health Research Recieves $12m

Government Remains Confident TPP Will Succeed

SA Budget Will Keep Tax Cuts

Australian Government Funding 52 Smart Cities Projects with AU$28.5m

Ministers Deny Bank Inquiry Link to Delay

Surplus and Tax Relief Can Go Together: PM

NEW ZEALAND: Govt Funding Inadequate, Principals Say

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Competition with Tech and Other Sectors Is a Prime Concern for Banks, Deutsche Bank CEO Says

ADB, Deutsche Bank Enter Supply Chain Finance Deal Supporting SMEs in Developing Asia

 

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CHINA: Premier Li Demands More Help on Small Business Financing

China to Open Up Payment Industry

Alibaba, Auchan Retail, Ruentex Form Strategic Alliance

Chinese Companies Abroad Hire More Local Employees

JAPAN: Extended Business Recovery a Vital Opportunity to Exit from Deflation

SOUTH KOREA: Solar, Wind Initiatives to Drive Growth in Renewable Sector

SKT Announces Tech to Speed Up 5G Data Traffic by 10 Times

Gov't to Help Small Bizs Pay Minimum Wage

GEW Korea 2017 Encourages Creative, Social Entrepreneurship for Inclusive Growth

5G Industry Leaders Gather in Seoul

 

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Online Payment: Malaysia Firm to Co-Operate with VN

CAMBODIA: Sustains Strong Growth, Moves Up Manufacturing Value Chains

MYANMAR: To Set Minimum Wage After Discussion with Employers, Employees

SINGAPORE: To Create 4,000 New Financial Sector Jobs

VIETNAM: New Board to Boost Private Sector

 

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INDIA: Impact of Demonetisation on the Real Estate Sector

Petroleum Minister Calls Growth in Petro-Chem Sector as Industrial Revolution 4.0

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Predicting Huge Growth of Own Pharma Industry over Next 5 Years

KAZAKHSTAN: Health Ministry Sends Letter of Gratitude to Azerbaijan’s Leading IT Company

Kazakhstan Eyes to Attract Large-Scale Investments for Renewable Energy Projects

 

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AUSTRALIA: Alipay Partners with Australian Tourism Export Council

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Confirms S3 Data Leak

Govt to Force Companies to Give Users Data

NEW ZEALAND: Television History Archive Under Threat

Mining Industry Caught Off Guard by Ban

 

 

 

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Horizon 2020 Open Government Projects Showcase Their Initiatives to Support Sustainability

 

On the 24th October 2017, representatives of 27 Horizon 2020 open government projects gathered at REA for the Digital Transformation of Public Administrations Event together with European Commission policy makers, investors and government officials. The event aimed to showcase ongoing open government projects and support the uptake of their results on policy making and market level. The event, organised jointly by the Research Executive Agency (REA) and DG CNECT, was introduced by a welcome speech of REA's Head of Department Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges Marc Bellens. In his address, Mr. Bellens highlighted that a digitised public sector is necessary to establish a transparent, open and participatory governance that is better equipped to serve the societal needs of the 21st century. "We are seeing Horizon2020 projects as important instruments to support these policy goals," he stressed. Mr. Bellens' speech was followed by a pitching competition between the five coordinators of the 2014 ICT-enabled Open Government call who had benefited from a dedicated training from the Common Exploitation Booster the previous day. Daniel Tanis from Digiwhist, Anna Alberts from Openbudgets.eu, Vittorio Scarano from Route-to-PA, Pauli Misikangas from WeLive and Anna Trintafillou from YourDataStories presented their projects to the audience, describing their strategies for approaching the market and how they intend to exploit the results. The winning project YourDataStories has developed an online tool whereby governments are encouraged to share meaningful data and citizens and journalists can engage, mix and compare this data in an interactive manner. "We all agreed on the winner, because it was the most complete presentation that covered all aspects," announced Leonard Soenen from the venture capital fund Volta Ventures before awarding the prize to Anna Triantafillou. The next part of the day was dedicated to roundtable sessions, where participants discussed, among other topics, innovation in public procurement, sustainability and business models and the incentives for public administrations to engage in innovative e-government initiatives.

 

The day ended with several presentations on ongoing European Commission policies and initiatives relevant for the field of e-government. Andrea Halmos from DG CNECT presented the Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment signed this month, in which ministers of EU and EFTA countries declared their commitment for digital transformation of public administrations. Her presentation was followed by a short overview of the Commission's initiatives supporting innovation, exploitation and sustainability. In particular this included the Innovation Radar initiative, which focuses on identification of high potential Horizon 2020 projects.  Ramona Ocak from DG ECFIN presented the European Investment Project Portal, an online match-making portal connecting EU project promoters with investors. Finally, the Common Dissemination Booster was presented as a service to support an efficient dissemination strategy for project clusters. Attention was also brought to the recently published brochure on 'eGovernment in local and regional administrations: guidance, tools and funding for implementation'. This guide will help local and regional administrations implement and find EU funding for eGovernment in line with the principles and priorities set out in the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020. The event contributed to the sustainability of the projects and provided ideas for future policy for REA and DG CNECT.

From https://ec.europa.eu/ 11/06/2017

 

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Healthier Lifestyles and Better Health Policies Drive Life Expectancy Gains

 

Healthier lifestyles, higher incomes and better education have all contributed to boost life expectancy in recent decades. Better health care has also helped, according to a new OECD report. Health at a Glance 2017 says that all OECD countries have seen life expectancy at birth increase by over 10 years since 1970 to reach an average of 80.6 years. Life expectancy at birth is highest in Japan (83.9 years), and Spain and Switzerland (83 years each), and lowest in Latvia (74.6) and Mexico (75). New analysis in the report reveals that if smoking rates and alcohol consumption were halved, life expectancies would rise by 13 months. A 10% increase in health spending per capita in real terms would, on average, boost life expectancy by 3.5 months. However it is not just spending per se, but also how resources are used, that makes the difference in life expectancy. There is a large variation in the link between changes in health spending and in life expectancy: in the United States, for example, health spending has increased much more than in other countries since 1995, yet life expectancy gains have been smaller. Health spending per capita has grown at around 1.4% annually since 2009, compared to 3.6% in the six years up to 2009. Average spending per capita has now reached about USD 4 000 per year. Spending is highest in the US, at USD 9 892 per person, and 17.2% of GDP. Health spending was also 11% or more of GDP in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and France.

 

Reducing wasteful spending is key to maximise the impact of public resources on health outcomes, and Health at a Glance illustrates areas where spending could be more effective. For example:

Rising obesity, alcohol consumption, length of hospital stays: get the #stats in #Health at a Glance, out today https://t.co/VVkLUqi2w2 pic.twitter.com/7BnLJkBQeA— OECD (@OECD) November 10, 2017 Increased use of generics in most OECD countries has generated cost-savings, accounting for more than 75% of the volume of pharmaceuticals sold in the US, Chile, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but less than 25% in Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland and Greece. Antibiotics should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary, yet antibiotic prescriptions varied more than three-fold across countries, with Greece and France reporting volumes much higher than the OECD average. The share of minor surgeries provided on a same-day (rather than inpatient) basis is now common in most OECD countries. For example, day surgery now accounts for 90% or more of all cataract surgeries in 20 of the 28 OECD countries with comparable data. However less than 60% of cataract surgeries are performed on a same-day basis in Poland, Turkey, Hungary and the Slovak Republic.

 

The report also shows that health care quality is improving:

Over 80% of patients report positive experiences in terms of their time spent with a doctor, easy-to-understand explanations and involvement in treatment decisions.

Avoidable hospital admissions for chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma have fallen in most OECD countries, indicating an improving quality of primary care.

Fewer people are dying following heart attack or stroke. Improvements are particularly striking among heart attack patients in Finland, and stroke patients in Australia.

Across OECD countries, five-year survival rates for breast cancer were 85% and just over 60% for colon and rectal cancers, with survival rates improving in most countries over time.

 

While smoking rates continue to decline, there has been little success in tackling obesity and harmful alcohol use, and air pollution is often neglected:

Smoking rates have decreased in most OECD countries, but around one in five adults still smoke daily. Rates are highest in Turkey, Greece and Hungary and lowest in Mexico. Across the OECD, alcohol consumption has declined since 2000. However, consumption has increased in 13 countries over the same period, most notably in Belgium, Iceland, Latvia and Poland. Moreover, one in five adults regularly binge drink across the OECD. 54% of adults in OECD countries today are overweight, including 19% who are obese. Obesity rates are higher than 30% in Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico and the United States. The report, together with country notes and more information, is available at http://www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/health-at-a-glance-19991312.htm. Country notes are available for Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. For any questions about the report, journalists should contact Francesca Colombo (tel. + 33 1 45 24 93 60) or Chris James (tel. + 33 1 45 24 89 69) of the OECD’s Health Division. Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 11/10/2017

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Uber Probed by Global Regulators Over Huge Data Breach and Cover Up

 

Regulators around the world are probing a massive data breach at ride-hailing service Uber and its apparent role in covering it up. On Tuesday, Uber disclosed that hackers stole data from 57 million riders and drivers in an attack that happened in 2016. The company paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber fired Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan for his role and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was not with the company at the time of the hack, said "none of this should have happened." But the U.S. technology firm is now in the cross-hairs of regulators around the world. Australia's data protection watchdog said it has "commenced inquiries with Uber." "Incidents such as this are a timely reminder to Australians of the value of the personal information we provide in order to receive products and services," the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner's office, said in a statement on Wednesday.

 

Singapore's Personal Data Protection Commission told CNBC in an emailed statement on Thursday that it is "aware of the breach and is in touch with Uber for more details." The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told CNBC on Wednesday that Uber could face an investigation and even potential fines up to £500,000 ($661,900). "We will be investigating but as regards what actions we eventually take, that depends on what we find, and obviously it's very early days at this stage," an ICO spokesperson told CNBC by phone on Wednesday. An Uber spokesperson told CNBC on Thursday that it's in the process of notifying various regulatory and government authorities and expects to have "ongoing discussions" with them. "Until we complete that process we aren't in a position to get into any more details." At home in the U.S., five states said they would investigate the data breach, according to a Recode report on Wednesday.

 

Many jurisdictions have penalties if a company is found to be in breach of data protection laws. Australia for example could charge up to 420,000 Australian dollars ($320,000) if it deems a company to have been involved in a case that is a "serious or repeated interference with privacy." Singapore's authorities could tell a company to destroy personal data collected that contravenes its data privacy laws. It could also ask the company to provide access to or correct personal data of customers. And Singapore could also fine the company up to 1 million Singapore dollars or $742,390. It's important to note that many of the discussions with Uber are in their early stages and there is no indication yet about what actions regulators will take. The regulatory scrutiny across the world could add to Uber's other troubles in certain markets. For example in the U.K., Uber is currently in a legal battle about whether its drivers should be classed as employees or self-employed. And in the British capital of London, Uber is appealing a ban.

From https://www.cnbc.com/ 11/23/2017

 

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AT&T-Time Warner Case a Detour More Than a Major Shift in US Antitrust Policy, Lawyers Say

 

The Justice Department's lawsuit to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner seems more like a detour than a permanent shift in the federal government's antitrust strategy. The lawsuit, filed Monday in a D.C. federal court, had many lawyers and antitrust scholars wondering about the government's case. It hasn't successfully blocked a vertical deal like this in several decades, lawyers noted. And this time it appears to be partly politically motivated. President Donald Trump has made no secret of his disdain for CNN, Time Warner's cable news channel that he has frequently called "fake news." And last year on the campaign trail he promised he would not approve the AT&T-Time Warner deal under his administration. Reports earlier this month said the Justice Department was seeking a sale of Turner Broadcasting, the parent of CNN, or Time Warner's DirectTV division to win approval of the merger. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Monday the issue of CNN was the "elephant in the room" with regard to the DOJ lawsuit but he promised to fight the government in court. In the meantime, he said, the action "throws a great deal of uncertainty on anyone contemplating M&A." Lawyers said Tuesday that regulators typically don't scrutinize vertical deals, which put different types of businesses that don't compete with each other under one roof. In this case, AT&T is the distribution network while Time Warner creates television shows and movies that get distributed on networks. A vertical deal earlier this year between the e-commerce giant Amazon.com and the organic grocery chain Whole Foods Market closed relatively quickly after approval by the Federal Trade Commission. In contrast, the AT&T review has lasted longer than one year.

 

"Subjecting the AT&T-Time Warner merger to much more rigorous review (which has resulted in litigation) than the Amazon-Whole Foods deal makes little sense," said Michael Santorelli, director of New York Law School's Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute. "And it bolsters the perception that antitrust officials are out of touch with the realities of the modern market." The Whole Foods deal was approved before Makan Delrahim was confirmed as chief of the antitrust division at the DOJ, a position he only recently assumed. Delrahim is a former antitrust lawyer in the administration of George W. Bush and a former lobbyist. Last year, he said of the AT&T deal, "I don't see this as a major antitrust problem." Most of the AT&T review was conducted by Justice Department staffers before Delrahim's arrival in office and it wasn't until he got there that he could examine the evidence, a government official told CNBC on Tuesday. In a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren earlier this month, about a month after Delrahim's Senate confirmation, a Justice Department assistant attorney general said that all investigations in the antitrust division are initiated and conducted in a "fair, professional and impartial manner."

 

Until now, a pro-business administration had been viewed as favorable to the M&A scene, especially compared with an aggressive antitrust effort at the end of the Obama administration that resulted in the unwinding of several deals, including proposed tie-ups of Cigna-Anthem and Aetna-Humana, both shot down by a court earlier this year. "A fair amount of mergers will go through," said George Hay, an antitrust expert who teaches at Cornell Law School. "I don't think we're seeing a rejuvenated antitrust effort. This is a merger that would have been looked at seriously by any administration." Whether it puts a temporary chill on the deal market remains to be seen. Globally, $3.1 trillion worth of deals have been announced in 2017, with $1.2 trillion in the U.S., according to Dealogic. That is the lowest in dollar amount since 2013, though the number of deals has been relatively consistent. Deals in the U.S. media sector in particular total $32 billion so far this year, the lowest in dollar terms since 2011.

 

There are 99 deals pending at the moment, according to Dealogic. Four of the 10 largest, including AT&T-Time Warner, were announced in 2016. Four other deals out of the top 10 have been announced since September, including Broadcom's massive $105 billion deal for Qualcomm. And there are other deals that have been discussed but not formally announced, including a possible tie-up of pharmacy giant CVS Health with insurance giant Aetna and a sale of 21st Century Fox's movie and television production divisions to either Comcast or Disney. [Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.] The Justice Department argues that the AT&T-Time Warner combination would kill competition, raise prices for consumers and stifle innovation. But it has a tough fight ahead, lawyers said, and it faces an opponent in AT&T with deep pockets to litigate the case. Robert McDowell, a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, said on CNBC Tuesday that AT&T had the law on its side. "It's a weak case," he said. "Get the popcorn."

From https://www.cnbc.com/ 11/22/2017

 

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CHINA: Acts to Evaluate Burden Reduction Measures for Enterprises

 

The State Council, China's cabinet, has started a nationwide overhaul of measures to ease the corporate burden. The items to be reviewed include cost reduction, arbitrary administrative charges and service mechanisms. Much emphasis is put on addressing problems that impede enterprises, according to the State Council. The inspection was divided into three phases -- self-inspection, field supervision and rectification -- at a joint inter-ministerial meeting of the State Council committee for reducing enterprise costs. The country is on the way reducing corporate costs by 1 trillion yuan (about 147 billion U.S. dollars) this year. A government report this year said multiple measures would cut costs for companies, the structural tax cut should pay off as much as possible and a straightforward, transparent and fairer tax regime was in the pipeline.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/01/2017

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JAPAN: Policies Needed That Can Achieve High Target for Wage Increases

 

Pay raises that contribute to a virtuous cycle of production and consumption are important to sustain economic growth. Unless the government implements a carefully planned improvement of the business environment, companies will not be able to proceed with wage increases, even though there is an understanding that raises are necessary. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “I expect a 3 percent pay raise to be realized,” in reference to next year’s shunto spring labor-management negotiations. Kansei shunto, in which the government directly encourages the management to raise wages, is in its fifth consecutive year. However, the prime minister had not mentioned specific pay raise figures before. The average pay raise rate, including pay-scale increases and regular salary increases, fell below 2 percent for the first time in four years, averaging 1.98 percent at this year’s spring labor-management negotiations. Modest wage increases continue under the Abenomics economic policy package, but the momentum is clearly lacking compared with corporate performances, which have been at their highest levels.

 

The last time, when pay raises averaged above 3 percent, was in the early 1990s, when the impact of the bubble economy still remained. This high hurdle will need more than the government’s slogan to be achieved. If the government earnestly wants to achieve such a high goal, a comprehensive policy package based on analysis of the current situation of sluggish wage increases is required. Labor shortages are seriously affecting industries as the economy is recovering. An increase in nonregular employees such as part-time workers has made up for those shortages. Promoting the employment of workers on regular contracts will certainly have the positive effect of stimulating consumption from two aspects — increased wages and stable working conditions. The government is considering extending tax incentives, such as corporate tax cuts, for companies that raise wages by 3 percent or more. The business environment varies greatly depending on the company and industry. A system should be carefully mapped out not to foster a sense of inequality. Primarily, many small and medium-sized companies do not pay corporate tax as they end the financial year in the red. It is difficult to expect much from such tax incentives.

 

The government needs to develop a business environment in which companies can engage in business aggressively. The government will vigorously promote investment in such fields as artificial intelligence in its “productivity revolution” initiative. It is necessary to steadily carry out regulatory reforms to create new markets as well as growth strategies to encourage promising industries. It is also vital to establish a sustainable social security system to eliminate future anxieties of consumers and others. Cash and savings held by companies have reached ¥210 trillion, an increase of 25 percent since the start of Abenomics. The Financial Services Agency will compile guidelines for corporate managers around next spring to urge companies to effectively utilize internal funds. The government will encourage corporate managers to hold talks with institutional investors and shareholders, and expects its guidelines to be utilized to plan for the use of funds. The new guidelines should become an opportunity for companies to engage in business aggressively.

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/06/2017

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China to Maintain Macroeconomic Policy in 2018

 

Premier Li Keqiang said Tuesday that China would maintain the stability of its macroeconomic policy, and continue reform and opening up in 2018. Li made the remarks at a symposium attended by economists, entrepreneurs and senior government officials. The government will also further cut taxes and fees for companies to reduce "institutional transaction costs," Li said. The premier said China's economy this year had performed "better than expected," a strong response to the "hard landing" scenario, which had been predicted by some. He also cautioned that unstable and uncertain factors remained outside China, deep-rooted structural problems were still prominent in the Chinese economy, and that many risks could not be ignored. China's economy continued its firm growth with gross domestic product expanding 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters, above the government target of 6.5 percent for the year, according to official data.

 

Li said that for 2018 China would also work to let the market play a decisive role in allocation resources, and better play the role of government. He said the government would encourage more social entities to start companies and innovate, and make Chinese economy more deeply integrated into the world economy. The premier said China should prioritize quality and efficiency when developing its economy, and deepen supply-side structural reform. He also called for the accelerating cultivation of new growth engines and the transformation of traditional growth drivers with China's "Internet Plus" and "Made in China 2025" strategies.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/08/2017

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More Practical Measures Unveiled to Deepen Reform

 

"Lake chiefs" will be appointed in China to continue tackling water pollution, drawing on the successful experience of "river chiefs" introduced last year. The first meeting of the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th CPC Central Committee, held on Monday, approved the measure and other practical measures to deepen reform. Lake chiefs have similar responsibilities to river chiefs, who are tasked with resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration. Likewise, their performance will be assessed and they will be held accountable for environmental damage in bodies of water under their supervision. The introduction of "lake chiefs" aims to address waters not covered by the "river chiefs." Early this year, central China's Hubei Province and east China's Zhejiang Province rolled out pilot programs.

 

Observers said the measure underscores the top leadership's determination to clean up the environment after decades of breakneck growth left much of China's waters seriously contaminated by factory waste and agricultural fertilizer. China has appointed about 200,000 "river chiefs" at provincial, city, county and township levels to combat pollution, Zu Leiming, head of the construction and management department of the Ministry of Water Resources, said at a press conference in August. The effect is becoming clear. Zhejiang Province has basically eliminated black and odorous waters and it has vowed to deal with any water "below Grade V," the lowest level of China's water quality grading system. According to the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), some 73.4 percent of inland waters met national standards in 2016, up from 70.8 percent in 2015 and 67.5 percent in 2014, fulfilling the yearly target.

 

But the ministry said the task is still challenging in some regions. Complaints still arise from worsening water quality in some areas, destruction of aquatic ecosystems, and substandard drinking water. More than 70 percent of the water in seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should reach Grade III or higher by 2020, according to a 2015 action plan. At the meeting, a guideline on the selection and management of officials working in poverty-stricken regions was passed to help select officials able to promote poverty relief, deal with slack management and tackle undesirable work practices. This is an important move in the implementation of targeted poverty relief measures, following the Party's pledge to overcome poverty at its 19th national congress. Poverty relief is always high on China's agenda. The country has vowed to eliminate poverty by 2020.

 

Since the start of the reform and opening up, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty. More than 60 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the past five years in China, with the poverty rate dropping from 10.2 percent to less than 4 percent. "Selecting capable and suitable officials to guide poverty relief at different levels is necessary to effectively deepen poverty relief and realize common prosperity," said Prof. Zuo Ting with China Agricultural University. Strict evaluations and inspections must carried out to ensure poverty alleviation goals are achieved, Zuo added, noting the importance of building people's confidence in their ability to lift themselves out of poverty. As China heads towards a poverty-free future, its targeted poverty relief measures offer answers to world development problems, said Du Xiaoshan, researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "China's poverty-relief campaign benefits not only its own citizens, but also people of other developing countries," said Du.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/21/2017

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China to Step Up Property Rights Protection

 

China will step up protection of property rights to provide sustained impetus for economic development, according to a statement following a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday. Businesses will enjoy better protection of their operational and property rights, and private businesses will enjoy equal protection for their property rights as companies in the public sector. Cases of economic crimes will be handled in compliance with relevant procedures. The protection for residents' property rights will also be enhanced, the statement said. A key report delivered to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said that economic reforms must focus on improving the property rights system and ensuring the market-oriented allocation of factors of production. This year's government work report said that protecting property rights meant protecting labor, invention and innovation, and protecting and developing productive forces.

 

China's Property Rights Law was promulgated in 2007, widely seen as a landmark for better protection of property rights in the country. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued a guideline on improving property rights protection in November 2016, which is an overall plan for the development of the property rights protection system in China. Regulations and documents that are contradictory to the law and go against the protection of property rights protection will be cleared, revised or abolished to ensure that private businesses will enjoy equal protection as their counterparts in the public sector, the statement said. The government will ensure that administration will be in line with the rule of law, and wayward and arbitrary law enforcement will be strictly prevented, it said. Government oversight over environmental protection and workplace safety must be conducted through lawful means, and no arbitrary measures, not to mention illegal methods should be employed to restrict business production and operation.

 

"Enhancing the protection of intellectual property rights is a matter of overall strategic significance, and it is vital for the development of the socialist market economy," Li said. China's efforts of property rights protection, mass entrepreneurship and innovation and the reform to streamline administration and provide better services have worked to unleash the vitality of enterprises and spurred economic development, Li said. To protect intellectual property rights, the government plans to explore the establishment of a punitive fine mechanism for property rights infringements. The government will also step up law enforcement and judicial protection to increase the cost of infringements and reduce the cost of right protection, the statement said. IPR law enforcement in key areas, including the internet, exports and imports will be reinforced, as well as in rural and urban areas where counterfeiting is rampant.

 

The bad faith of governments will be put on record, and a redress and punishment mechanism for bad faith of governments will be improved. The country will also establish complaint filing and compensation mechanisms for businesses that suffer losses in property rights due to governmental bad faith. "There are still quite a few problems with the current property rights protection system. Deficiency in this area is a main cause for the slide in private investment," Li said. Entrepreneurs should be given a confidence boost through the speedy conclusions of a number of key pending infringement cases, he said. "The wider opening up of the country calls for enhancing IPR protection. All related laws and measures must be fully implemented, the problem of violators getting away with IPR infringements must be tackled to dispel the public concern," Li added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/22/2017

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Abe Aims to Boost Own Govt by Improving Ties with China

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again expressed his desire to improve the relationship between Japan and China during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday in Manila, following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday. “I want to strongly push forward the development of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests,” Abe said at Monday’s meeting. Given that there is no sign of major diplomatic progress with Russia concerning the northern territories and other issues, Abe hopes to boost his administration through diplomacy with China in economic and other fields. According to a Japanese government source, the meeting between Abe and Li was held at the request of the Chinese government. The Japanese side thinks that the premier’s first visit to Japan for a trilateral summit meeting among Japan, China and South Korea would be a step toward realizing reciprocal visits by the two countries’ leaders, Abe and Xi, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.

 

The Japanese government is therefore accelerating efforts to arrange the schedule with China and South Korea, in order to hold the trilateral summit as early as possible. The meeting between Abe and Xi that was held in Vietnam on Saturday prior to the talks between Abe and Li was carried out in “the best mood so far,” according to an official who attended the Abe-Xi meeting. When discussing the issue of North Korea, the two leaders were able to exchange honest views without looking at response guidelines prepared in advance. They also confirmed that they would hold telephone conferences more frequently in the future. Abe is accelerating efforts to improve the relationship with China because he hopes to cooperate with China on strengthening bilateral economic cooperation and dealing with North Korea. Since Xi established his position as a single, powerful leader at the Communist Party of China’s National Congress in October, there are expectations among Japanese government officials that he can now more easily make a decision to improve ties with Japan.

 

However, given the situation in the East China Sea, including the regular incursions by Chinese government vessels into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and China’s unilateral development of gas fields, many believe it will not be easy to resolve the confrontation between the two countries, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official. Another reason behind Abe’s inclination toward diplomacy with China appears to be the fact that it will take time to produce results in talks with Russia. Abe aims to conclude a peace treaty that will include the resolution of the northern territories issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has held many summit meetings with him for this purpose. However, Putin said at a press conference on Saturday that it is not important, for the purpose of concluding a peace treaty, whether the leaders are Abe, Putin or other people, revealing a difference of opinion with Abe.

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/15/2017

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Abe Calls for ASEAN's Cooperation to Foster Free and Open Order

 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held the annual Japan-ASEAN summit on Monday in Manila, at which Abe said Japan and ASEAN should lead the development of a "free and open" international order. "With ASEAN having become a main actor in the world, in which democracy, the rule of law and market economies have taken root, it is important to extend ASEAN's success to the entire Indo-Pacific region to bring out this region's potential," Abe said at the outset of the talks, open to the press. "In the 50 years ahead, we want to lead together with ASEAN, which faces both the Indian and Pacific oceans, the development of a free and open international order based on the rule of law, building on (ASEAN's) development so far," Abe said. While Tokyo has taken pains to stress that the "free and open" message is not specifically aimed at China, the importance placed on coordination with each of the 10 members of ASEAN reflects Abe's desire to assert a place for Japan in the face of Beijing's rising regional influence. At the same time, Abe welcomed the agreement between ASEAN and China to start negotiations toward a code of conduct for their actions in the South China Sea, where some members of the bloc have overlapping territorial claims with Beijing.

 

"If diplomatic efforts like this can ease tensions, it's natural for there to be progress in the demilitarization (of the South China Sea," a Japanese government spokesman quoted Abe as telling the ASEAN leaders. The spokesman confirmed that Abe made the demilitarization remark with China's land reclamation in the disputed areas in mind, although he did not mention any country by name. At the outset of the talks, Abe said Japan will provide around 55 billion yen ($484 million) over the next three years to strengthen maritime law enforcement capabilities in ASEAN. Japan does not face the South China Sea, but the Abe administration has devoted much energy to the issue in light of both Japan's reliance on shipping lanes in the area and Beijing's separate claim to the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. In a joint statement to be compiled by the Philippines, Abe and the ASEAN leaders are expected to unite in condemning North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests. "We need to use every means, including the complete implementation of the (U.N.) Security Council resolutions, to raise pressure on North Korea to the maximum possible extent and make it change its policies," Abe said at the outset of the talks.

 

According to the Japanese spokesman, Abe told ASEAN members he hopes they will go further to curb Pyongyang's activities in the region, warning that North Korea "has been using ASEAN for some of its trade routes and financial networks to try to evade sanctions." Some of the ASEAN members said in response that North Korea presents a serious threat to the region, the spokesman said without going into further detail. Later Monday, Abe and the leaders of the Mekong nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam met to discuss Japan's ongoing contributions to the development of the region. According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the Mekong leaders voiced support for initiatives to improve connectivity in the region as part of Japan's "free and open Indo-Pacific" strategy. Both Japan and China have poured money and attention in recent years into the strategically important Mekong region, which includes less economically developed members of ASEAN. Abe and the Mekong leaders also confirmed their cooperation in improving conditions in Myanmar's Rakhine State, where violence has sparked an exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees.

From https://japantoday.com 11/14/2017

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2018 Agreement Eyed on RCEP Pact

 

Leaders of Japan, China, South Korea and 13 other nations agreed on Tuesday to make efforts to reach an accord on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade pact next year. At their first summit, held in Manila the same day, the 16 countries officially decided to give up effectively concluding the RCEP negotiations within this year, although the Association of Southeast Asian Nations aimed to wrap up the talks by the end of December. In a joint statement issued after the summit, the leaders said, “We hereby instruct our ministers and negotiators to intensify efforts in 2018 to bring the RCEP negotiations to conclusion, and resolve to ensure they have the necessary support to achieve this outcome.” The 13 other participating countries are Australia, New Zealand, India and the 10 ASEAN members—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The meeting was chaired by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. “Japan aims to play a leading role for an early conclusion of a high-standard RCEP,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, while citing a broad accord on the new Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal that Japan and 10 other countries reached last week, after the United States withdrew from the original 12-nation TPP early this year.

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/15/2017

 

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Ministry Unveils Draft Rules Against Use of Pilfered Data

 

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry on Tuesday unveiled an interim report of an expert panel on new rules for the online use of data and other issues. The new rules will be centered on making it possible to file an injunction with a court against the use of data if the data is found to have been illegally obtained with malicious intent. The ministry hopes to revise the Unfair Competition Prevention Law at the next ordinary Diet session, to be convened next year, based on the panel’s final report, to be compiled as early as before the end of this year. More and more companies are now trying to use “big data” — an enormous amount of electronic information, such as the history of online purchases via smartphones and traffic information obtained from in-vehicle sensors — as they work to develop new services. On the other hand, there is growing concern over information being compromised via unauthorized computer access and fraud.

 

In the interim report, illegally collecting and using data through fraud or other means with malicious intent and providing the data to third parties are defined as acts of unfair competition that prevent healthy competition among companies. The report said it is possible to seek an injunction against third parties to keep them from using the data. For example, if the data of Company A, which offers weather data and map data for self-driving vehicles for a fee, is taken via unauthorized accesses and other means, the company can ask for an injunction to prevent its use by third parties who obtained the data knowing it had been taken illegally. Should a client company of Company A develop a new software program by using Company A’s data without permission, Company A can ask for an injunction against the client company to keep it from developing the new software.

 

However, if a third party obtains, uses or provides data without knowing the data was illegally taken, the third party’s act does not fall under the category of an act of unfair competition and does not provide grounds for seeking an injunction, according to the interim report. Checking the legalities of data used by even a single company is difficult, and putting too-strict conditions on data transactions could have a withering effect on corporate activities. The interim report apparently takes into account these concerns. U.S. companies such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have been utilizing the results of analyses of big data for effective product lineups and the development of new services. In Japan, it is said many companies have been hesitant to utilize big data because they believe it is not worth spending a large amount of money to collect data that may not prove useful. The economy ministry believes the envisaged new rules will enable the protection of data owned by individuals and companies and help facilitate smooth data transactions. It is also expected that the possibility of new services and products being developed based on big data analysis will increase. In the future, the ministry is also considering introducing criminal punishment for companies and organizations that illegally use data.

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/22/2017

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Moon Calls for Referendum on Constitutional Revision

 

President Moon Jae-in addressed the nation at the parliament Wednesday where he outlined initiatives and policy guidelines of his administration. In particular, he urged the parliament to begin discussions on a Constitutional amendment, noting the move needs to be put to a national vote in the local elections in June to make it possible. He stressed that should South Korea miss that opportunity, it will not be easy to win public support for a Constitutional revision. The planned revision, he said, must seek to expand the people's basic rights while reinforcing the autonomy of local governments. He also made it clear that South Korea will neither develop nor possess nuclear arms. This remarks come amid conservative opposition parties' call to redeploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. Moon also renewed his call on North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. The national address comes as the government is set to submit its budget bill to the parliament, requesting a seven-point-one percent spike in its spending to 429 trillion won, or nearly 384 billion dollars in 2018. Regarding the economy, the president said his government was working to put the economy back on the right track.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/01/2017

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Prime Minister Vows Active Gov't Role in Bringing About Sustainable Growth

 

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon says the government will play an active role in sustainable growth. Lee made the pledge on Monday at a question and answer session of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts that will review the government’s budget plan for next year. The prime minister said the government must take on more active and preemptive efforts for such growth. He explained that the government’s spending plan for next year stands at 429 trillion won, or up seven-point-one percent from this year’s budget. Lee said the government’s active role is needed in the face of not very optimistic indices. Lee said though the nation’s economy is seeing signs of short-term recovery due to growth in exports and execution of the supplementary budget, many key indices continue to be rather bleak. He cited that even though the nation’s economic growth is set to exceed three percent, potential economic growth is likely to stand at below three percent and see a further drop. Lee also noted that though the employment rate has been on a steady rise since 2009, the unemployment rate is not improving. The prime minister said North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations are sparking security fears, adding that the government plans to expand defense costs by the sharpest margin since 2009 in a bid to strengthen deterrence capability.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/06/2017

 

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S. Korea to Expand Trade and Diplomatic Ties with ASEAN

 

South Korea's trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) will hit 200 billion dollars by 2021, according to the president's special economic adviser Kim Hyun-chul. On Thursday, as he accompanied President Moon Jae-in on his state visit to Indonesia, Kim outlined the country's '3P' strategy to increase trade with the regional network of economies. He said by focusing on ‘people’ the government will aim to increase exchanges and interactions of human resources across various levels, from state officials to students and cultural workers. The 'prosperity' aspect would aim to combine Korea's technology and resources with the ASEAN's abundant labor force, to produce a win-win synergy effect for both sides. Lastly, seeking 'peace' would mean that South Korea, as a middle-power nation, would come together with Southeast Asian countries to help them stand firm amid geopolitical conflicts and rivalry between world powers in the region.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/09/2017

 

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Korea Forms New Regulatory Guidelines for AI, Big Data-Based Medical Devices

 

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Thursday it has established formal approval criteria for the new generation of medical devices leveraging artificial intelligence and big data. By clarifying for the first time what type of products can be considered AI or big data-based medical devices, rather than conventional software, the guidelines are expected to help companies build their products more efficiently and in compliance with local regulations, the ministry said. According to the ministry, software developed for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of individual patients’ illnesses can conventionally be categorized under medical devices. For instance, devices that make use of biological signals measured via electroencephalograms or electrocardiograms, to offer supportive information for disease diagnostics and treatment would constitute a medical device.

This includes software that analyzes lung scans to determine the onset or status of cancer, products that look at electrocardiogram results to diagnose or predict arrhythmia and software trained to predict skin cancer by analyzing skin lesion images, the ministry said. Products used for health maintenance or for automatically searching through archives of medical information and treatment options are not considered medical devices, the Korean health regulator said. Such would include products that aid health insurance processing, health maintenance gadgets used for exercise and daily life, devices built for research purposes by academic institutions as well as products that help doctors shift through medical records and supportive materials. The ministry will also remain flexible to account for the novelty of the artificial intelligence and big data-based medical device sector.

 

Even for products that are not categorized as medical devices according to the aforementioned criteria, the ministry can make exceptions by considering global industry trends and approval cases, it said. Korea’s efforts to devise more concrete approval standards come as a growing number of companies have set out to develop next-generation medical products that leverage machine learning, an artificially intelligent mechanism to train computers, and medical big data. So far, Korea has not approved any AI or big data-based software designed for use by the medical community as a formal medical device, according to the ministry. “With this new set of guidelines, patients will be able to receive wider and more accurate diagnostic and treatment options, while product developers will be able to cut down on the costs and times needed for developing and commercializing their devices,” it said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 11/23/2017

 

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INDONESIA: To Drop NZ Import Restrictions

 

Indonesia has lost an appeal ruling at the World Trade Organisation in a dispute with New Zealand and the United States over its restrictions on imports of food and animal products including beef and poultry. The WTO has again told Indonesia to its drop the import barriers, estimated to have cost New Zealand's beef sector up to a billion dollars in lost trade. Indonesia had argued that its rules were based on health concerns and halal food standards, or aimed to deal with temporary surpluses on the domestic market. In December 2016, a panel of adjudicators faulted Indonesia, which appealed. Before the trade dispute, Indonesia was New Zealand's second largest beef market, taking nearly 50-thousand tonnes worth of meat and offal, but that dropped by 82 per cent due to trade barriers. Trade Minister David Parker said the appeal ruling illustrated the value that New Zealand, as a small country, gained from international trade rules. The Meat Industry Alliance said if trade barriers to Indonesia were lifted New Zealand exports would not bounce back to the highs of 2010, but it would create a more level playing field. Its chief executive, Tim Ritchie, said Indonesia has slowly been relaxing restrictions over the past year, and trade has been picking up - particularly for beef offal. "Indonesia knows that they need to import beef and they know that we are a reliable supplier." Minister for Agriculture Damien O'Connor said having a variety of markets was key.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 2017/11/10

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NA Passes Planning Law, HCMC Resolution

 

The National Assembly yesterday approved several important, long-awaited documents before wrapping its latest month-long session. The first of these was the Law on Planning, for which 88.19 per cent of deputies voted in favour. The law, some aspects of which raised a lot of controversy, had been discussed in previous sessions of the 14th NA and sparked heated debates. It establishes a new system of national master plans and fundamental principles for planning work. It also defines tasks and powers of State authorities in planning activities and specifies the process from formulating to implementing and supervising implementation of the plans. Planning, as defined in the law, is the arrangement and allocation of space for economic, cultural, defence, security and environmental activities in an identified area aiming to effectively utilise resources to reach sustainable development goals set by the State in a given period of time.  

 

The system comprises of national planning, regional planning, provincial planning, special administrative - economic zone planning, and urban and rural area planning. National plans serve as the basis for formulating plans at lower levels. The law stipulates that an agency empowered to decide and approve a certain plan has the right to adjust it without waiting for the nod from higher-level planners as long as planning at the higher levels are not affected. This stipulation addresses concerns expressed by deputies and voters that uncontrolled adjustments at lower planning levels would affect higher-level consistency and effectiveness. Another noteworthy point is that airspace and underground planning are not included in the national planning system as was suggested by some NA deputies. Explaining this before the NA voted on the law, Chairman of the NAs Economic Committee, Vũ Hồng Thanh, said the planning of airspace and underground space was already incorporated in other kinds of planning in the system and did not require separate mention. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2019.

 

HCM City autonomy

Another major document adopted was a resolution on piloting several mechanisms and policies for the development of HCM City. The resolution won 93.7 per cent of the deputies vote. The resolution grants greater autonomy to city authorities on specific policies for land management, investment, finance and State budget management, as well as incomes of public officials under the citys management. For example, the city Peoples Council is allowed to impose certain fees not in the list of those regulated by the Government, or raise fees that have been decided upon by competent authorities. The council can ask the Government to submit for approval from the National Assembly Standing Committee proposals on raising taxes or tax rates for some products over what is regulated by the Government. The city can use 100 per cent of the additional budget revenues earned from these policy adjustments and 50 per cent of earnings from selling State property and land-attached property based on law to invest in socio-economic infrastructure. HCM City is also allowed to enjoy revenues from privatising State-owned enterprises under the management of the city Peoples Committee and divestment of State equity from economic entities in which the Peoples Committee serves as the representative of State ownership. The resolution takes effect on January 15, 2018 and will be valid for five years.

 

National Defence Law

Also on Friday, the NA deputies spent time to discuss a revised law on national defence with many emphasising the importance of combining national defence activities with economic and cultural activities. Deputy Nguyễn Anh Trí of Hà Nội expressed support for the military to engage in economic activities, saying it was in conformity with the Partys policies and the countrys Constitution. National defence and the economy have intertwined relations, so doing business would help strengthen the military and be beneficial to the society as well, he said. Major General Nguyễn Văn Khánh, a deputy of Bình Dương Province, said the military would not only do business in its “pure sense”, but focus on national defence economy business and developing science and technology for strengthening national defence capabilities. Defence Minister General Ngô Xuân Lịch said that engagement in economic activities had always been an important function of the military and should be regulated in the revised law this time. He said that over the past 70 years since the country gained independence, military business entities had done business in many regions that civil ones dont invest in due to low profit. Under the plan to restructure military businesses, the ministry would only maintain 100 per cent stake in 17 out of the current 88 businesses, he said. The rest would be subjected to divestment, privatisation and mergers and acquisitions, he said. Deputies also discussed other issues including national emergencies, policies on national defence education, and curfew declarations.

 

NA Chair remarks

The fourth plenary session of the 14th NA concluded yesterday after 26 working days. In her closing remarks, NA Chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân stressed that the NA deputies spent much time discussing socio-economic development and the State budget in 2017, the socio-economic development plan and State budget estimates and allocation for 2018, and the national three-year financial plan and State budget from 2018-20. During the session, the NA pointed out shortcomings of some sectors, assessed both achievements and failures, analysed and forecasted risks and challenges the country will face, and urged the Government, ministries, agencies, sectors and localities to have breakthrough solutions and resolute management to meet targets. The NA also approved resolutions on socio-economic development plan for 2018 and State budget estimate and allocation for 2018. The NA also approved six laws that will influence national development in different fields, including planning, public debt management, restructuring of credit institutions for bad debt handling, forestry and fisheries development and foreign relations, Ngân said.

 

The NA discussed nine other draft laws to complete the legal system and ensure national defence and security. They also featured contents to ensure social order and safety, human rights, citizens’ rights and obligations and to prevent law violations, corruption and wastefulness, she said. These draft laws will continue to be studied to improve their quality before submission to the next NA session. The NA Chairwoman urged ministries, agencies and localities to implement measures to enforce newly-approved laws and resolutions, continue assessing and drawing lessons from achievements and limitations, and renewing management tasks and improving operation efficiency. Earlier the same day, the NA passed a resolution to continue reforming State administrative apparatus to make it streamlined and operate effectively with 94.5 per cent of legislators voting yes and a resolution on question-and-answer activities at the fourth session of the 14th NA with 93.89 per cent of deputies voting yes.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/25/2017

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MYANMAR: Govt Raises Concern Over Delays in Repatriation Plan

 

Refugees who Myanmar designates “Bengalis” wait for distribution of food at a camp in Bangladesh on October 30. A spokesperson for the Presidents’ Office, Zaw Htay, has expressed concern over delays caused by the Bangladeshi side in bringing back the fleeing people that Myanmar refers to as “Bengalis”. He added that he was also concerned that the international community would think that Myanmar was unwilling to re-accept these people. Zaw Htay made the comment to the media after a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee held in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday. “We are negotiating with Bangladesh. We are ready to carry out a repatriation programme. The State Counsellor herself has talked to the international community about that. We will re-accept them any time. But I am concerned about delays. “Union Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe went to Bangladesh. The State Counsellor has directed to do the process in line with the 1993 agreement. The Bangladeshi home affairs minister came to Myanmar. We held a ministerial meeting. However, we have not reached an agreement for the repatriation programme. “We are ready to accept them. There are delays. In the past, similar repatriation programmes were carried out two times and we met with success. The last time was in 1993. The agreement was bilaterally made.

 

“Based on this agreement, we approached the Bangladeshi side. But this time, we haven’t reached an agreement yet,” said Zaw Htay. “The reason there is a delay is that Bangladesh has announced the construction of a world largest refugee camp. A conference on those refugees was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Hundreds of millions of dollars were donated. They received over US$300 million or 400 million. So we are concerned about slow progress in the repatriation plan. International aid will come if those refugees stay in camps. The money is to feed them for a limited time. I wonder if they have some other plans. “We are concerned. But we will continue to coordinate with them.” He said that the Myanmar police chief had asked his Bangladeshi counterpart to provide the list of fleeing people and that he promised to reply by email. “This is important. We have also a list. Media say the number of fleeing people has reached nearly a million. Practically, it is impossible. So we have asked them for the list. If we get this, it is easier to carry out a verification process. “We will check if they lived in our country or not with the documents from the immigration department. First, we are concerned about delays. Second, we have asked for the list of those people, which is the most important point,” said Zaw Htay. On October 27, Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population Thein Swe told reporters that re-accepting those fleeing to Bangladesh through the verification process does not mean granting them Myanmar citizenship.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/ 11/01/2017

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Govt to Inform Parliament of Start of Yangon New Town Plan

 

Yangon is creating a southwest development plan for Dala, Seikkyi Kanaungto and Hlaingthaya townships, while the Construction Ministry has agreed to negotiate a starting date with the Yangon regional government and inform parliament of the outcome, deputy minister Kyaw Tin told parliament on November 1. The Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development drew up a town plan for Dala Township and began granting land plots using Form La/Na (39) starting in 1990-1991. Nine wards were zoned for residential development and management of the land was transferred Yangon City Development Committee in 1996, 1999 and 2003, he said. Although the department cannot develop a new town plan in 11/14 ward, West Arnt Kyi ward and No. 6 ward, the ministry will draw up a master plan based on the future urban development plan implemented by Yangon City Development Committee as approved by the Yangon region government, Kyaw Tin said. MP Dr Sein Mya Aye asked him the starting date for a new town plan. “We drew up a new town plan for over 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of land in Dala, Seikkyi Kanaungto and Hlaingthaya townships, including Aye Ywar located across Kyimyindine townships. We will make public the starting date of the project after concluding negotiations with the Yangon region government,” Kyaw Tin replied.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/ 11/02/2017

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MALAYSIA: To Enforce Cryptocurrency Regulation in 2018

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), will designate persons converting cryptocurrencies into fiat money as reporting institutions under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 from 2018. BNM governor Muhammad Ibrahim said the move was aimed at preventing the abuse of the system for criminal and unlawful activities and ensuring the stability and integrity of financial system. “We need to prepare ourselves, as according to many pundits, digital currencies will become the new norm," he said in his welcoming remarks at the Third Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit 2017 in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (Nov 22). "The advent of digital currencies as some have forecast, will mark the beginning of a new era in the financial sector. As authorities, we cannot be oblivious to these developments." Muhammad said the adoption of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data technology were tools that would likely be imperative, as suspicious transaction become more complex and harder to detect.

 

"As we learned from the Innovation Forum at this Summit, the use of artificial intelligence and big data will have the potential to increase efficiency and accuracy of assessments that is essential in a dynamic environment," said Muhammad. "The banking sector needs to adopt the latest and most advanced technologies to improve its risk management framework." Muhammad said that greater access to intelligence information for financial institutions and rising threat from the Islamic State had resulted in the upward trend of reporting of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs). Between January and June this year, he said the Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU) received 346 terrorism financing-related STRs, which have led to 34 disclosures to law enforcement agencies, compared with 93 terrorism financing-related STRs with 14 disclosures in 2015. The BNM governor said that the central bank is also in the midst of finalising the details of a new requirement for the Banking and Money Services Business sector to report in high-risk areas.

 

"The high-risk areas will be determined based on the law enforcement agency's intelligence on areas that they view may pose higher risks for funding of terrorism activities," he said. This, he said, was consistent with the Terrorism Financing Regional Risk Assessment findings at the second CTF Summit in Bali in 2016, where one of the priority actions identified was for FIUs to improve the visibility and insight into the nature of terrorism financing in the region. Muhammad said the idea was intended to help FIUs gain better insights into the role of financial and transit hubs in regional and international terrorism financing network. "There is no doubt that rapid technological developments have offered immense potential for economic growth," he said. "Unfortunately, they have also spawned new ways for terrorist organisations to acquire, move and manage their funds. The increase in the number of small terrorist cells, and lone wolf actors radicalised remotely over the internet also makes detecting and halting terrorism financing even more challenging, the governor said. "In light of this development, the role of financial sector as a bulwark against terrorist financing become even more critical. The financial system must always be in a state of readiness to identify and effectively prevent any emerging risk of terrorism financing." Earlier, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed that over RM1 million (US$242,600) in terrorism-related funds have been frozen so far.  "If you kill one terrorist, another terrorist will be born, but if you cut off the funds, other economic resources, you can put an end to (the) entire operation," he said.

 

20 ARRESTED FOR TERROR FINANCING

On the sidelines of the summit, Malaysia's head of counter terrorism said that 20 Malaysians have been arrested since last year for their involvement in terrorist financing. Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said most have been charged in court under terror offences. "The amount collected from each donor was usually small, ranging from US$20 to US$200, but the volume was huge," he said. Mr Ayob also revealed the emergence of a "wolf pack" approach where a group of five to six people operate in isolation without any links to other terror cells. This is so that their activities would be hard to detect without good intelligence, he explained. A 19-year-old boy, who was a member of a wolf pack, was arrested in October for planning an attack on a beer festival in Kuala Lumpur. "He's a smart boy. From the Internet, he could learn how make bombs; his drawings were detailed and meticulous," Mr Ayob said. The student was allowed to sit for his pre-university exams last week pending trial, he added. The summit, jointly organised by Australian and Indonesian financial intelligence units, is the third to be held in Asia since 2015. About 350 participants from 35 countries are taking part in the four-day forum.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 11/22/2017

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THAILAND: Law Amendments Being Prepared to Pave Way for Local Elections

 

The Interior Ministry is preparing the amendment of laws related to local elections in order to pave the way for holding the polls, Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said on Monday. Any policy matters would be up to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to decide, he said, apparently alluding to the lifting of the ban on political gatherings. Anupong did not confirm whether the legal amendments would touch upon changes to the qualifications of candidates for the tambon and municipal elections. Local elections are seen by political observers as a test of the water by the NCPO before a national election is held. Calls for the junta’s ban on political gatherings to be lifted are growing, with the measure still in place nationwide.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/13/2017

 

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Plan to Cede Police Powers to Agencies

 

THE POLICE force will transfer many of its current key missions to other agencies if the reform plan approved by the National Reform Committee on Judicial Affairs sails ahead. The regulation of traffic flow and enforcement of traffic laws, for example, will be handed over to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Pattaya City Administration and some 30 other city municipalities within three years of the laws related to police reforms taking effect.  Following the reform, the Customs Department and the Excise Department will investigate alleged economic crimes under customs and excise laws themselves. These departments will also be able to seek arrest and search warrants from the courts on their own. The Royal Forest Department, the Department of National Parks, Plant and Wildlife Conservation, and the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, meanwhile, will take over the investigation of environmental crimes. The Office of the Consumer Protection Board, the Public Health Ministry and the Industry Ministry will have the power to investigate alleged violations of consumer rights and food and drug regulations, and make related arrests in the near future in line with the reform plan. “The National Reform Committee on Judicial Affairs has already approved the plan,” the committee’s spokesman, Somkid Lertpaitoon, said yesterday. “We plan to get feedback from the agencies that will take over the missions by February 1.”

 

He added that the committee would have to review any feedback before submitting its final proposal on police reform to the government in March. “The next step is then about the legislation of laws to allow the transfer of missions,” he said.  Somkid revealed that the plan would also seek to transfer responsibility for preventing and suppressing highway, transportation and vehicle-related offences to the Transport Ministry. “The suppression and prevention of marine crimes will also become the duty of the Transport Ministry’s Marine Department, not the Marine Police,” he said.  Somkid said his committee also believed the suppression and prevention of violations against intellectual rights should go to the Intellectual Property Department. “The duty to prevent tourism crimes should also change hands from the Tourist Police Division to the Sports and Tourism Ministry,” he said. However, Somkid said his committee believed that police would still have to work with other agencies in various missions, such as boosting train-passenger safety and suppressing technology crimes. “Regarding immigration, we need further discussions with the Office the Public Sector Development Commission,” he added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/23/2017

 

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VIETNAM: Govn’t Decree Regulates VNA Functions and Structure

 

The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) is a Governmental agency which is responsible for providing official information and documents of the Party and State, according to a recently released Government Decree. Decree No 118/2017/NĐ-CP also regulates that the VNA provides information in service of the Party leadership and State management; and collect and provide news through various forms of press and multimedia for mass media agencies, the public and readers of all kinds at home and abroad. The VNA is managed by the Ministry of Information and Communications in terms of press, broadcasting and television. The VNA is also responsible for collecting and compiling information for public consumption and reference via various forms of media and multimedia in service of the Party leadership and State management; announcing official viewpoints of the State on “hot” issues; adjusting direction regarding information that is not in line with national interests; correcting wrongful information; and issuing announcements to reject distorted information when necessary. Performing its function as a key national external news agency, the VNA collects, compiles and provides information about Việt Nam in different languages for domestic agencies and organisations and foreign media outlets as well as for foreigners and Vietnamese people abroad. The VNA is also tasked with providing information and publishing news materials for ethnic minority people in their languages. It is in charge of archiving information, building an information and data bank and managing national photo materials; and providing information and co-ordinating with relevant agencies to provide information in services of national security and defence.

 

VNA structure

According to the decree, the VNA has a system of news units including the Domestic News Department, the World News Department and the Press Photography Department. It also has several newspapers, both print and online, including the Viet Nam News, Le Courrier du Vietnam and Vietnam  Plus. The VNA has representative offices for the South and the Central and Central Highlands regions, in cities and provinces nationwide as well as major cities worldwide. It also has news support units including the VNA Technical Centre, the VNA Training Centre, the VNA Media Development Centre, the VNA Informatics Centre and the VNA International Co-operation Centre, and five consultancy and functional units to assist the VNA General Director. The VNA has a General Director and a maximum of four Deputy General Directors. The VNA General Director and Deputy General Directors are appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister in line with laws.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/01/2017

 

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HÀ Nội to Promote Development of Support Industry in 2017-20

 

The capital city of Hà Nội has launched a development plan for support industries during the period 2017-20 with a vision to 2025 to promote development of enterprises within the industry. According to the Hà Nội Department of Industry and Trade, the plan will focus on developing three key areas, including production of parts, auxiliaries for hi-tech products, along with the garment, textile and footwear industries. The city will develop support programmes that match the ability of enterprises, requirements of multinational corporations, and that meet international standards in the field of support industries. It will also develop enterprises in the support industry, reaching international standards in production management and product quality. The plan will establish production systems with connections among suppliers and multinational corporations, foreign enterprises, producers in Hà Nội, and other places nationwide. Hà Nội will promote supplies in the key northern economic region, especially among industries having high demand for auxiliary products. These include automobile and motorbike production in Hà Nội, Vĩnh Phúc, Bắc Giang and Hải Phòng; mechanical products in Hà Nội, Vĩnh Phúc, Thái Nguyên and Hải Phòng; and mobile phones in Bắc Ninh, Thái Nguyên and Vĩnh Phúc. To assure the plan is successful, the city will continue to offer more efficient support for enterprises and link Vietnamese enterprises with foreign businesses. The city will also seek investments for the parts supply industry, supporting enterprises in human resources development and technology transfers, reforming administrative procedures, and improving the investment environment. Currently, Việt Nam is home to about 0.3 per cent of the approximately 500,000 enterprises operating in the parts supply industry, including 200 enterprises in Hà Nội. According to experts, the parts supply industry has not developed as expected due to poor awareness about the industry, lack of capital and technology, and low investment. Also, implementation of policies on encouraging development of the support industry have not been as efficient as expected.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/13/2017

 

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New Regulations on Use of Credit Cards

 

Credit cardholders will not be allowed to withdraw cash worth more than VNĐ5 million for domestic transactions and no more than VNĐ30 million for foreign currency. The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) recently released a draft circular amending and supplementing Circular No 19/2016/TT-NHNN on bank card operation. Accordingly, for the withdrawal of cash by cards abroad, to limit the use of cash as foreign currency spent for improper purposes that are not permitted by the law, the draft stipulates that cash withdrawal transactions will be subject to a daily cap limit. For a withdrawal of foreign currency in a foreign country, a card holder can withdraw a maximum amount of cash in foreign currency equivalent to VNĐ30 million (US$1,300) per day. For cash withdrawal at domestic card accepting units, each card holder can withdraw maximum VNĐ5 million in one day. The draft also stipulates that in case of issuance of credit card with security assets, the credit limit granted to the cardholder shall not exceed 80 per cent of the value of the security assets, which is valued at a maximum of VNĐ1 billion. In case of credit card issuance without security assets, the credit limit granted to a cardholder is VNĐ500 million. These stipulations have no precedent, therefore credit institutions should review them carefully. The draft also supplements regulations on the issuance of cards to foreigners to prevent the case where foreigners enter the country for a short period and then exit the country to carry out criminal activities by using the credit cards issued by institutions in Việt Nam.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/13/2017

 

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Ministry Proposes Tax Law Changes

 

The Ministry of Finance has proposed amendments to the Law on Tax Management, aiming to enhance efficiency of tax collection from multinational companies, cross-border transactions and online businesses. In a recently announced statement about a proposal for compiling an amended draft on the Law on Tax Management, the ministry offered to increase the time for tax inspection. Currently, the maximum time for a tax inspection is 45 working days and 70 working days for complicated cases. However, conducting tax inspections at large-scale or multinational companies with a complicated structure and related-party transactions are time-consuming. The ministry said that it normally took more than one year for tax inspection at foreign-invested companies such as Metro and BigC and the tax watchdogs must collect information from mother companies or foreign tax agencies. The ministry cited statistics of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that time for implementing an inspection of transfer pricing averaged 573 working days in the world. The current regulations are no longer suitable for implementing tax inspections at all companies, the ministry said. The ministry proposed that the time for tax inspection at companies with related-party and cross-border transactions be increased to 360 working days.

 

Taxing online transactions

According to the finance ministry, the law needed to be amended to efficiently calculate and collect taxes from global technology companies such as Google and Facebook. The ministry said most global technology companies did not register their business or have official representative offices in Việt Nam while their transactions were cross-border, making it hard to calculate and collect taxes. For example, Google and Facebook provided online advertising services in Việt Nam in two ways. The first was through agencies in Việt Nam and the second was conducted through online payment via credit cards or e-wallets. The ministry said that it was difficult to clarify the real values of transactions conducted in the second way. In addition, it was also not easy to verify advertising revenues from click counts of foreign Internet companies as doing this would require checks of payment transactions at banks of both buyers and services providers but banks of foreign Internet companies were mostly abroad.

 

“The tax management of online businesses faces difficulties in clarifying taxpayers, revenues, business scale and transaction history,” the ministry said, adding that co-ordination between relevant ministries and agencies must be enhanced to better manage tax collection from e-commerce businesses. Accordingly, the finance ministry proposed the State Bank of Việt Nam to study the regulation of requiring cross-border payment transactions to be conducted through local payment gateway (the National Payment Corporation of Việt Nam). Only by this, could tax watchdogs manage values of cross-border transactions to impose tax, the ministry said, adding that many countries in the world such as European countries, India and South Korea, had such a regulation. The finance ministry also proposed the Ministry of Information and Communications require foreign technologies companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple to declare and pay foreign contractor tax on the services provided to Vietnamese organisations or individuals.

 

The ministry also called for enhanced co-operation with foreign tax agencies and Internet services providers like VDC, FPT, Mobifone, Vinaphone and Viettel to better manage values of e-commerce transactions and banking payments. For individuals selling things online, the finance ministry proposed to impose value added tax and individual income tax on products with prices above VNĐ1 million (US$44) and when transacted two times per day or more. The ministry said that business through social network pages was booming in Việt Nam but tax management was still lagging behind. The Ministry of Finance also proposed investigation function to be empowered to tax watchdogs, adding that some 80 countries in the world currently had tax investigation bodies.

 

Check business operation

The ministry has sent a document to the Ministry of Planning and Investment to request checks on business operation, after finding that thousands of import-export companies halted operation or removed their office addresses without reporting. This triggered worries that those firms took advantage of open business registry procedures to start a business then halt operations to avoid and evade taxes. The ministry’s statistics showed that in 2015 and 2016, more than 1,000 firms abandoned their addresses and had no operations in at least six months. More than 15,400 others had no import-export activities in at least six months without reporting to the management agencies while their information on the business registration portal was still “operating”. Twenty-four firms were found with tax violations but they abandoned their addresses without completing bankruptcy and dissolving procedures following established regulations to avoid paying tax arrears and fines. Especially, eight of them had tax arrears worth VNĐ12 billion. With the aim of tackling this issue, the finance ministry proposed the Ministry of Planning and Investment to complete the mechanism for co-operating in managing business operations.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/15/2017

 

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NA Okays Forestry Law

 

The 14th National Assembly (NA) ratified a draft law on forestry on Wednesday as part of its fourth session in Hà Nội. Approved by 87.78 per cent of deputies, the forestry law consists of 12 chapters with 108 articles stipulating management, protection, development and use of forests, along with processing and trade of forest products. The law states that the State is in charge of issuing policies to invest in and mobilise social resources for forestry activities.  It has to organise and support the management, protection and development of commercial forests, while supporting forest recovery, afforestation, along with research and application of science and advanced technology in the field of forestry. The State also has the job of training human resources for this sector, providing forest environmental services, managing forests sustainably, processing and trading forest products, and implementing forestry co-operation with foreign partners. The State has to ensure ethnic people and people whose livelihoods depend on forests are allowed to use forests and associated land for agro-forestry, fish production and practise forest-linked cultures in line with Government regulations.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/15/2017

 

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Gov’t to Target ‘Reasonable’ Wealth Distribution

 

The Government will accord priority to a ‘reasonable’ distribution of wealth as it tackles the various socio-economic disparities in the country, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc said on Saturday. Equality, growth quality and the handling of high-profile corruption cases were leading concerns as he fielded questions in parliament on Saturday afternoon. He was the last Government leader to take the floor at the National Assembly’s three-day hearings of cabinet members. The 2.5 hour long Q&A session was the second time PM Phúc took questions. For the most part, his performance on major national issues was positively reviewed and received by deputies and voters, the Vietnam News Agency reported. Opening the session, PM Phúc reported on socio-economic achievements of 2017, especially stressing the fulfillment of 13 targets set by the NA last year.

 

Phúc asserted that the country’s growth quality has improved visibly, with industry contributing more than agriculture. He said that this year’s export turnover could reach US$210 billion, up 21 per cent compared to last year (and threefold the set target of 7 per cent). The country has jumped five positions on the global competitiveness index and made progress on other human development indexes including life expectancy, which reached 73.7 years, the PM noted. On administrative reforms, Phúc said the government has introduced a total of 14 resolutions and implemented several measures. Citing examples, he said the process of abolishing household registration books and issuing individual identification numbers has begun, and online portals set up to receive feedback from people and businesses. “From 2015, the number of civil servants on government payroll has been reduced by 30,000,” he said, adding that from now towards 2021, the aim is to shrink the number of government workers by 2.5 per cent each year.

 

Disparities exist

Responding to questions over the wealth disparity, including social stratification between rural and urban areas, and mountainous areas and flatlands, Phúc admitted that despite the government’s efforts and recent achievements, there remained big development gaps between these areas, with rural income just half of that in urban areas, and even lower in mountainous areas. “A reasonable distribution of wealth is an ongoing priority,” and will be promoted in the coming time via economic restructuring, improving labour productivity and product quality, creating more jobs for people in remote areas, redistribution of income by taxation, and better social security, he said. On promoting the private sector’s role in the economy, PM Phúc said that the country can expect to have more than 115,000 new private companies this year and 93 per cent operating well. He also reiterated the government’s commitment to improving the trade/business environment, increasing transparency and equality in accessing resources, streamlining procedures, and preventing overlapping inspections.

 

Phúc asked private sector companies to “say no to bribes and unofficial fees”. Responding to concerns over the management of foreign direct investment (FDI) businesses, PM Phúc said they are “a part of Việt Nam’s economy” that contributes 60 per cent of the country’s export value and employs 3 million people. But there were issues with this sector, including the level of technology used, pricing, tax evasion and violations of environmental regulations violations. These will be dealt with strictly, the PM said, adding the Government will be choosy about attracting investment. Investment will be directed to areas where there was real need, “not in just any area, and by whatever means,” he added. He said FDI and domestic firms should co-operate better for a win-win development.

 

Anti-corruption fight

The Prime Minister strongly affirmed that “the Party and the State will not allow outrageous high-profile corruption cases to fall flat,” and that the judiciary and legislative branches will collaborate to deliver rightful results to the public. Some deputies expressed their appreciation for the government’s recent strong anti-corruption push, but also voiced concerns over “new and more sophisticated and deep-lying forms of corruption” that can undermine the political system. PM said the government is collecting and integrating NA feedback on its amended Law on Anti-Corruption, in the spirit of “there must not and should not be corruption.” He also asked the NA to consider raising wages for civil servants as a way to ensure their livelihood and reduce petty corruption. “The application of information technology solutions can be helpful in preventing corruption,” he said, asking local governments to promote this process in the coming time, together with implementation of e-government.

 

‘Worst fears’

When asked, the government leader admitted he was not entirely satisfied with the achievements in governing the country. He also said his “worst fears” are backwardness, corruption, peaceful evolution, and moral failings. Phúc also responded to other issues raised at the hearing, including functions of a facilitating government, policies for ethnic minority people, equitisation of State-owned enterprises, measures to better protect forests, and civil servants’ bureaucratic attitude.

From http://vietnamnews.vn 11/20/2017

 

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NA Pass Public Debt Management Law

 

The National Assembly voted in a favour of the amended Law on Public Debt Management on November 23 during its morning session. With 85.74 per cent of NA deputies in support of the new bill, the law will come into effect on July 1, 2018. Numerous control mechanisms and legal frameworks were added to improve the country’s financial sustainability and marco-economic stability. One of the highlights of the law was lawmakers’ insistence on reigning in the level of public debt. For instance, the Government will not allow its regular expenditures to be financed with loans and the transparency and accountability of public debt management agencies will be improved. Regarding NA deputies’ concerns over the relationship between the public debt level and debts incurred by State-owned Enterprises (SOEs), the NA’s Standing Committee confirmed that SOEs are responsible for repayment of their own debts and their debts will not be classified as public debts. In the event that SOEs are unable to meet their financial obligations, they can proceed to declare bankruptcy just like any other business.

 

Cyber Security

NA deputies continued with a discussion on a draft version of the law on cyber security. Lawmakers stressed the importance of the law on cyber security, saying the law will help protect national security, social order and civil rights in the face of the increasing number of online threats. The NA’s Committee on National Defence and Security said the law will also provide the country with a legal basis to collaborate with the international community to combat cyberterrorist acts and attacks aimed at disrupting global security and order. Việt Nam’s cyber security is vulnerable and the country ranked 10 in a list of most attacked countries according to a report by Symantec published in May. Notably, in July 2017 the country’s flag carrier Vietnam Airlines suffered an attack on its website by hackers for more than an hour, leading to the leak of information of 400,000 customers. Minister of Public Security Tô Lâm said the introduction of the cyber security law will provide law enforcement with the necessary legal framework to fight cyber crimes, especially in an increasingly integrated and unpredictable cyber world.

 

Deputy Triệu Tuấn Hải said the law will also help the judicial sector overcome shortcomings and limitations of the existing Law on Cyber Information Security and better protect national security and social order. Deputy Nguyễn Hữu Cầu said Government agencies must step up efforts in managing online service providers to prevent potential tax losses and protect citizens’ rights in the cyber world. He cited a clause in the new bill which dictates that service providers must maintain offices and main servers within Việt Nam’s territory. “Internet service providers are for-profit economic enterprises. They must be treated fairly and equally just like other businesses. We are only asking for data servers for Vietnamese users to be maintained within the country. This is a practice already implemented in 14 countries around the world. Why can’t Việt Nam do it?” Cầu asked. He noted that the measure is not to set up trade barriers or hinder investment opportunities but a necessity to protect Vietnamese citizens and the country’s national interests.

 

Revised law on denunciation

Later the same day, NA deputies discuss the revised Law on Denunciation, asking compiling agencies to continue studying to complete the law, focusing on main issues such as the concept and forms of denunciations and anonymous denunciations. They also proposed adding regulations on denouncing retired officials and cadres. Deputy Nguyễn Hữu Cầu from the central province of Nghệ An said there were many officials who were going to retire soon but still committed wrongdoings. Deputy Phạm Văn Hòa from the Mekong Delta province of Đồng Tháp shared the same view, stressing that the law should include such regulations to prevent “retirement meaning safety or lack of punishment” among many officials. Some deputies suggested adding more forms of denunciation, such as by fax, email or phone to make it easier for people to make denunciations and help cases get addressed in a timely fashion. They also agreed to not accept anonymous denunciations, raising the responsibility of those who make denunciations, as well as preventing people from abusing the regulation to harm others.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/24/2017

 

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INDIA: Madhya Pradesh to Announce New Policy for MSME Units

 

Sanjay-Satyendra Pathak, Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Independent Charge), Government of Madhya Pradesh has  announced that a new policy for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises will be unveiled at the second convention to be held on November 17 and 18 in Bhopal. A skill development programme will be inaugurated in the convention. Moreover, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between Industries Association-Betul and District Trade and Industries Center-Betul for maintenance of Industrial Area district Betul besides an MoU between the State Government and GEM to begin activities of Government E-Market (GEM).Total 1,000 MSMEs, 1,500 young entrepreneurs and self-employed entrepreneurs besides representatives of Industries Association will also take part in the convention. Pathak was taking stock of the preparations of the convention. He further informed that a booklet of new project profile for MSMEs units and a booklet prepared on the youth entrepreneurs of the state will also be released in the convention. MSME Minister further informed that three sessions of MSME competitiveness and industry 4.0. vendor development and GEM besides policy for schemes for MSME will be held on the first day of the convention. Similarly, on the second day, two sessions of new business for MSMEs besides Entrepreneurship and Incubation for MSME will be held. The subject experts of the concerned field will give special information on communication of the specific field to the entrepreneurs and youth of the state in the technical sessions. Moreover, Pathak informed that the micro, small and medium enterprises of the state will display their products in the exhibition. Large industries and Undertakings of Public Sector will also put their stalls in the exhibition. He mentioned that the exhibition will serve as a platform for communication between large industries and MSMEs. This will enhance the scope of trade between the both types of units. Principal Secretary V L Kantarao stated that the convention has been given a comprehensive form by organizing a state level self-employment convention in the MSME convention. He further added that the selected MSMEs and self-employment units will be awarded for their excellent works for the year 2016-17 in the convention.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/02/2017

 

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Building New India with Digital Power

 

Digital India Initiative has been launched with enthusiastic opportunity-projection. The market, across the globe, has shown positive sentiments ; noting a new sense of intent & stability in governance in India, enormity of the size and  depth of demand at sight, ease of doing business in a democracy, and the quality of available ICT skill-set at any project-site, says Dr Amitabh Rajan, former home secretary, Maharashtra, in conversation with Gopi Krishna Arora of Elets News Network (ENN).

 

How do you assess the strength of the vision of the Digital India Initiative?

There is a marked comprehensiveness in the vision statement of the initiative. It aims at providing

(i) digital infrastructure as utility to citizens

(ii) services and software on demand, and

(iii) digital empowerment of citizens.

The vision commits a duty-based ethic of transparency, and has an intent to use digital technology for probity in life. It also has a sense of history : it sees digital revolution as a unique opportunity for national empowerment.

 

This Vision Statement has seventeen components–

(i) availability of high speed internet as a core unity for delivery of services to citizens

(ii) generation of authentic  & online unique identity for citizens

(iii) participation of citizens through mobile phone bank-accounts

(iv) universal access to Common Service Centres

(v) shareable private space on a public cloud

(vi) safe & secure cyber-space

(vii) seamlessly integrated services across departments & jurisdictions

(viii) availability of services in real time from online & mobile platforms

(ix) all citizen entitlements to be portable & available on the cloud

(x) digitally transformed services for improving ease of doing business

(xi) making financial transactions electronic & cashless

(xii) leveraging Geospatial Information Systems for decision support systems and development

(xiii) universal digital literacy

(xiv) universally accessible digital resources

(xv) availability of digital resources/services in Indian languages

(xvi) collaborative digital platforms for participative governance, and

(xvii) creating facilities so that citizens are not required to physically submit documents/certificates.

 

Through Digital India Government has endeavoured to think big and approach problems with a moral mindset : in this sense it is an unprecedented ethical stand. It looks at the world ahead, and understands India’s strengths and advantages in the ICT sectors.

Your comments on the techno-financial architecture the initiative ?

 

Vision in e-governance gets realised through its techno-financial policy-base. Digital India has a document on this [e-Governance Project Lifecycle (2013)]. Mission Mode is the approach of implementation, and there are Steering Committees for monitoring & review. Government funds overarching infrastructure public finance and the rest is achieved through public-private partnerships of which there are several models. Project Management teams identify project-phases, work-out requirement definitions, go into the appropriateness of design, undertake change management and process re-engineering exercises and vet contracts from the angles of risk and value for money. Investment approach on India’s e-governance is still guided by the principles of New Public Management, a one-time (pre-2008) dominant neoliberal approach to e-governance financial management across the globe. There is a need now to fully deconstruct these postulates from the public-interest accountability standpoint. Markets do need regulation, and there should be no mistake about it. Global Financial Crisis 2008 must be taken as a learning lesson in fiscal management, and regulators, auditors & the central bank should be taken seriously in ICT -sector as well. The whole world is working on consumer concerns, prudential investment-norms, procurement transparency ,risk-proofing in public-private partnership contracts, and policy stability in governance. ICT is a fast-moving innovative sector and cannot be haltingly captured.

 

To what extent are markets prepared for this initiative ?

Digital India Initiative has been launched with enthusiastic opportunity-projection. The market, across the globe, has shown positive sentiments ; noting a new sense of intent & stability in governance in India, enormity of the size and  depth of demand at sight, ease of doing business in a democracy, and the quality of available ICT skill-set at any project-site. The ICT-market has not minimised omissions and commissions in India’s past performance, but seems to have resolved to move forward for business-partnership with hope & trust.

Crux of the matter, under these circumstances, for India as investment-destination are two —

(i) reasonability of the rates of return and

(ii) fairness in project-implementation discourse.

ICT- projects are successful only when terms of contracts are drafted with a tranquil-prudent state of mind, and executed in framework of integrated work-discipline. Numerous impact-evaluations have shown this. Dispute-resolution mechanisms have to gear up, and regulatory decisions have to be handled by the government departments with a sense of urgency.

 

Are reforms needed to improve the procurement-process in ICT-projects ?

India needs a credible public-procurement law. There are sporadic executive instructions on aspects of process-reforms on procurement, but they cannot match the strength of discursive & resolute piece of legislation.There is another issue: India has ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption 2003, Article 9 of which requires establishing systems based on transparency, competition and objective criteria in public procurement. It will also be a fitting reply to those who doubt the moral intent of the holders of powers in such matters.There is an excellent document from Global Compact Network India on this with seven propositions [Business Recommendations for Public Procurement Legislation in India (2017)].

 

On procurement of ICT specifically, India can draw inspiration from the reformed institutional arrangements in Australia and the United Kingdom. There is an Approach Paper from the Government of United Kingdom [Commonwealth ICT Procurement in the Digital Economy (2017)] which highlights

(i) the need to improve the visibility of suppliers

(ii) digital contracting methods

(iii) contracting with an eye on modular development

(iv) mutual benefits of transparency & implementation-discipline, and

(v) accelerating SME-participation.

 

How adequate is the change-management strategy for implementing Digital India?

For initiative of the magnitude of Digital India, a mature change-management strategy shall be needed– of mindsets & processes.

Mindsets have to be aligned for co-creation, in which

(i) bidders shall have to understand public-interest

(ii) governments competition

(iii) regulators innovation, (iv) managers value for money, and

(v) officials a sense of history.

Knowledge Management in Digital India Transformation shall be important, but change of mindsets shall be a tougher challenge. Because of the Digital Divide, approach to change shall be evidence-based. Processes ,too, shall have to change with the introduction of the new technology, and quite fast. This can only be done through interdisciplinary discourse-ethic and mutual institutional learning. Since 1990s process re-engineering has been recommended to bring in better alignments with the objectives, but we shall have to shun the influence of the New Public Management to use it as a tool for cost -cutting.

 

How can the monitoring of outcomes under the e-governance projects of India improve?

There are international benchmarks and indices to rate the state of e-governance : UN e-Government Development Index is one such bi-annual exercise. It is a comparative ranking of 193 UN Member-States according to three primary indicators–

(i) Online Service Index

(ii) Telecommunication Infrastructure Index, and

(iii) Human Capital Index.

It’s methodology is sound. Nations will do well to accept its computations and not unnecessarIly dispute them. For concurrent-monitoring, there can be mission-specific indicators and composite scores as-well. India is working on it. A mission-wise Outcome Reporting System should also be prepared and put in the public domain along with the milestone gap-analysis. Institutional mechanism for e-governance monitoring in UK has undergone change in the recent years. They deserve attention ; also the work done by the LSE Public Policy Group on improving Digital Era Public Management. Where do you see India in terms of digital knowledge economy, in the next five years? India’s e-governance journey today has the combined strength of technology, strategy, enterprise and global market-support. The glory of the next five years will depend on the ethical dimension of governance — i.e. on the equilibrium of tolerance within its hierarchies and persistent sovereign vigilance  on human misconduct.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/11/2017

 

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National Power Portal Launched

 

To disseminate power sector information and facilitate data capture from generation, transmission and distribution utilities in the country, a National Power Portal(NPP) has been launched. This is a centralised platform launched by R K Singh, Minister of State (IC) for Power and New & Renewable Energy. The portal will also provide various analysed reports, graphs, statistics for generation, transmission and distribution at all India, region, state level for central, state and private sector.  The portal will also act as an interface for all power sector apps launched previously by the Ministry, like TARANG, UJALA, VIDYUT PRAVAH, GARV, URJA, MERIT. The stakeholders of NPP are Ministry of Power (MoP), CEA, PFC for Integrated Power Development Scheme(IPDS), REC for Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), other power sector utilities in government as well as private sector, Apex Bodies, other government organizations and public users. The Nodal Agency for implementation of NPP and its operational control is CEA. The systemhas been conceptualized, designed and developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC).

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/16/2017

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Set to Expand Programme Targeting Youth Entrepreneurship

 

The new labour market programme targeting rural youth entrepreneurship in Azerbaijan is going to be extended to support 10,000 households in 2018-2019.  Olga Koulaeva, Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia announced about this in an interview with Trend.  Koulaeva reminded that the program has been introduced with the ILO support and aims at supporting economic diversification and rural development.  "The program is covering all regions of the country and targeting about 1,500 households. The programme is going to be extended to support 10 000 households in 2018-19," she said.  To implement the program, the Azerbaijani government previously allocated six million manats.  Koulaeva did not specify whether additional funds will be allocated for the expansion of the program.  Participants of the program receive grants to start their business. The program is being realized within the ILO project " Partnerships for Youth Employment in the CIS", implemented with the support of Lukoil.

From https://www.azernews.az 10/28/2017 

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Approving Draft Laws to Protect Inventions, Industrial Designs

 

Draft laws on legal protection of inventions and on legal protection of industrial designs were approved and adopted at the 24th session of the Turkmen parliament, said the Turkmen government in a message. A set of measures are planned for the formation of national intellectual property system and bringing it to the international level, providing legal protection for advanced engineering and technological developments, scientific discoveries and innovations, and their wide implementation in various sectors of the economy. All this determined the relevance of the abovementioned laws, regulating relations emerging in connection with the legal protection and use of inventions, as well as industrial designs – in other words, design and design solutions that determine the appearance of an industrial product.

From https://en.trend.az 11/06/2017 

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UZBEKISTAN: Uzbektelecom Set to Consolidate Entire IT Industry into Single Structure

 

Telecom operators in the world are working on changing the paradigm of service provision following widespread penetration of digital technology in all spheres of activity of the society. JSC Uzbektelecom has recently opened its new specialized branch in Tashkent, “Information systems”. In order to familiarize the public with activities and projects of the branch, the company organized a briefing for representatives of mass media of Uzbekistan. The main mission of the branch is to consolidate the entire IT sector into a single structure. A common strategy comprised of creation, implementation and improving information services to meet the challenges of effective organization of the information process was developed for these purposes. The new branch is set to carry out the development of a monitoring system of data network and servers, cloud services, storage and processing of data, modification of the IPTV service, providing interactive TV and more. JSC Uzbektelecom has 24 branches to date, including 14 regional, 8 specialized and 3 subsidiaries.

From https://uzreport.news 10/28/2017 

 

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AUSTRALIA: Global Support for Frydenberg's Energy Policy

 

American coal miners might be keen on Australia's new energy policy but so too are wind farms, small business, and big power users, the Turnbull government says. At the UN climate conference in Bonn this week, Peabody Energy's head of coal power and emissions technology Holly Krutka applauded Australia for having changed the conversation over coal. Coal power with new technology plants had 'fallen off the table as an option' but the national energy guarantee had put it back on, she said. But Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg points out US coal is not the only endorser of his policy. 'There's been widespread support from a diverse range of sectors including the energy companies themselves as they recognise the national energy guarantee can help break the impasse that has existed in climate and energy policy in Australia for over a decade,' he told AAP in Bonn. 'Unfortunately that political contest has overshadowed some of the excellent work that is being done in a host of other sectors of the economy to reduce emissions.' The government's new policy requires electricity retailers to buy a portion of power from reliable sources and another portion from generators below an emissions threshold, but the plan needs agreement from the states to make it happen. While at the UN climate talks, Mr Frydenberg has met US President Donald Trump's environment adviser David Banks for what he described as very constructive talks. He's also met ministers and representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, China, Japan, and New Zealand, plus his UK counterpart earlier in the week before arriving in Bonn.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 2017/11/16

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Hanson to Scrap 'Nanny State' Alcohol Laws

 

Pauline Hanson has used a visit to a rum distillery to say One Nation will scrap Labor's 'nanny state' law on the sale of pre-mixed drinks at Queensland's pubs and clubs. Labor last year outlawed the sale of 'rapid intoxication drinks' at pubs and clubs after midnight, including shots, drinks with more than 45ml of spirits, and pre-mixed drinks with more than 5 per cent alcohol. But Senator Hanson said there were enough checks and balances in clubs and pubs and Labor's law simply prevented adults from making adult decisions. 'Clubs and pub staff all have their RSA's (Responsible Service of Alcohol) which helps identify problem drinkers,' she said. 'I'm tired of people being prevented from making their own choices in Queensland.' She said Labor's approach was death by a thousand cuts for distillers and a whole range of other businesses. 'This nanny state law hurts Queensland distillers like Bundaberg Rum, who's (sic) pre-mix overproof rum and cola cans cannot be sold after midnight, even though their alcohol content is less than a pint of beer,' she said in a Facebook post.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 11/22/2017

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Minister Rules Out Lifting Newstart Rates

 

Jobless Australians shouldn't hold their breath for a welfare payments boost as the Turnbull government focuses on finding money for income tax relief. Unemployed Australians receive about $540 a fortnight in Newstart allowance. Mr Turnbull was out and about on Wednesday pledging that the coalition's next tax priority was to lower middle-income tax rates while bringing the budget back into balance. The pronouncement drew an immediate response from some community groups arguing the government's focus should be on raising the basic rate of Newstart. But Social Services Minister Christian Porter has rejected the idea. 'At the moment I don't see there is a strong case for that,' Mr Porter told the National Press Club on Wednesday. The minister acknowledged Newstart was a modest payment and hard to live off alone. 'But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people on Newstart receive multiple payments,' Mr Porter said.

 

'We think that when you actually drill down into the detail of the system the multiplicity of payments that people get means it is a workable system.' Australia's peak welfare body has warned against raiding the government revenue 'piggy bank' to pay for personal tax cuts. ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said government revenues needed to be strengthened to pay for essential services like the National Disability Insurance Scheme and health care. 'Now is not the time to raid the public revenue piggy bank for another round of unfunded tax cuts,' Dr Goldie said in a statement. 'As surely as night follows day, an unfunded tax cut now will be followed by cuts to spending on health, education and social security.' Quizzed on whether he had been approached by the prime minister to find extra savings, Mr Porter said he was always looking at ways to make the welfare system sustainable. He said the government had been able to slow the rate of spending growth projected under Labor to the tune of $83 billion. 'The answer to the question of how would you pay for middle income earning tax cuts in Australia is to say that it would have been utterly impossible to ever do anything like that if you'd had to spend an extra $83 billion on welfare,' Mr Porter said.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 11/22/2017

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Energy Experts Talk Clean National Power Plan

 

Climate change and energy experts are meeting in Adelaide to push for what South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says is a national policy which rejects coal and delivers clean, affordable and reliable power. Thursday's meeting comes ahead of the gathering of federal, state and territory energy ministers in Hobart on Friday and includes economist Ross Garnaut, Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie and Solar Council boss John Grimes. Mr Weatherill says the federal government's current proposal of a National Energy Guarantee aims to stall the development of renewable energy and extend the life of coal-fired power plants which will only increase emissions and delay price cuts for consumers.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 11/24/2017

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NEW ZEALAND: Govt to Remove 'Barriers' in Pay Equity Legislation

 

The government is throwing out pay equity legislation introduced by National, saying it makes it harder for people to make a claim for fair wages. Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said the legislation was deliberately designed to put barriers in the way of women who wanted to make a pay equity claim, and would be replaced. The Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill was introduced to Parliament in July, following a multi-billion-dollar settlement with aged care workers, and aimed to ensure equality in pay rates for female-dominated jobs. But Ms Genter said Kristine Bartlett would not have been able to bring her landmark care and support workers' case if the bill had been enacted. "It was setting up barriers for that type of case to be taken in the future." She said the legislation's retrospective application would also have been unfair to up to eight groups of women now making pay equity claims, including mental health workers and part-time teachers. The government will start work on new legislation to adhere to principles agreed by the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity - a group made up of business, union and government representatives. Ms Genter is confident improving the legislation will be straightforward. "We already have the agreed principles from the joint working group and I don't think it will be too difficult to go back, to take those barriers out of the bill, replace them with something that truly reflects those agreed principles, and is going to make it easier for women to have a process and a pathway to equal pay." She said some of the most vulnerable workers, particularly Māori and Pacific women, had been systematically discriminated against and there should be an easier route for them to claim equal pay. Ms Genter said she would be working on getting the Green Party policy on pay transparency - requiring employers to collect data on what they pay men and women - "across the line" but would have to get consensus with government partners.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 11/01/2017

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PM Rejects Criticism of Student Allowance Policy

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there won't be a problem with the government's policy to increase student allowance payments by $50 a week. The opposition seized on the initiative, arguing it will give incentive to people on benefits to move into tertiary education without a genuine intention to study. National Minister Paul Goldsmith told Morning Report that if beneficiaries moved into tertiary education and training, "everybody will celebrate." However, he is concerned that some who shift from benefits to tertiary education might not be "genuine students". Mr Goldsmith said the student allowance and the jobseekers allowance had previously been aligned so there would not be an incentive for people on the benefit to become students or vice versa. The Prime Minister has rejected the idea the initiative could be exploited. She told Morning Report there are already protections in place to make sure people going on the allowance are genuine students, such as pass rates. Ms Ardern said a range of education options would be available to beneficiaries and it would be a good outcome if people on jobseekers sought extra training.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 11/27/2017

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An Open Mind on Open Government Data

 

Yes, it’s another international survey involving Singapore. But this one is openly different. For starters, it’s conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). (Editor: The EIU is part of the Economist Group, and it provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.) The ‘Open Government Data: Assessing demand around the world’ report is based on an EIU survey of users of open government data (OGD) from around the world. What is OGD, you might ask? One local example of OGD is of course, data.gov.sg – the portal where you can make use of the open datasets provided by Government agencies (such as the Land Transport Authority, or LTA) for research and even app development. The datasets have given rise to useful apps like Beeline, a demand-driven shared transit platform developed by GovTech and LTA, and the SchoolPicker.sg tool that helps parents and students to shortlist the right schools based on desired criteria. Even citizens have jumped on board: in 2016, an undergraduate created a taxi heat map for real-time updates on actual taxi availability. In fact, according to the survey results, the vast majority of Singapore respondents use OGD at least once a year. Singapore is not alone in unleashing the power of OGD.

 

In the UK, the Greater London Authority has its London DataStore platform. From around the globe, the Greater London Authority has its London DataStore platform, cities in the USA like Chicago and New York have released open data, and South Korea started its open data ecosystem with a legal act back in 2013. Aside from Singapore, the survey also covers Australia, Finland, France, India, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, the US and the UK — making for a total of 10 countries. Naturally, the respondents were all familiar with OGD and were able to express strong opinions. In particular, the survey sought to understand how these citizens are using OGD, and the expected benefits for society. Singapore respondents, for example, believe in the economic benefits that OGD brings — such as jobs creation and a better quality of life — and up to a quarter even tap on these datasets to start-up businesses. So how does Singapore compare with the other nine countries?

 

Here are a few data points to open your mind:

1.  Singapore does well in some areas of OGD

Singapore’s support of OGD and its use, is rated in the top three in some categories in the report. The EIU survey respondents in Singapore, in particular, think that OGD will create new business opportunities and jobs, and help citizens to be more self-reliant and become happier in general.

 

2. People in Singapore love to use OGD

One out of ten in Singapore use open government data daily — the highest in the survey — followed by those in France and South Koreans (9%). In comparison, respondents from the UK, Finland and Mexico use OGD the least on a daily basis. An astounding 86% of the respondents in Singapore use OGD at least once a year. More importantly from an economic perspective, a quarter of respondents in Singapore are using OGD to create new businesses, keeping pace with both South Korea and India (30%).

 

3. Trust and transparency

Respondents in Singapore believe that open government data is used to create jobs, and also build trust between the Government and citizens. In a nutshell, respondents generally believe that OGD helps to promote transparency between governments and citizens. Respondents in Singapore generally trust their government to keep their data safe and anonymous, as compared to those surveyed in countries like Mexico and Australia who trust their governments the least.

 

4. Road to better quality of life

An example of open government data contributing to smart mobility solutions in Singapore: Beeline. The key benefits of using OGD in Singapore, according to the local respondents, is ‘easier access to government information’ (43%) and ‘better quality of life’ (42%). One obvious benefit of OGD is ‘Shorter commutes, more smart mobility options’, which can be seen in the success of GovTech’s Beeline smart mobility crowdsourcing platform — which is now open-source — and the traffic information services available on LTA’s One Motoring Portal including the traffic.smart interactive map that updates motorists in real-time.

 

5. The importance of mastering data skills

Respondents here also signalled that they believe in the value of open data, but they might need some help to develop the necessary skillsets. Half of them think that ‘lack of awareness about OGD and its use is a big barrier to greater use’. One of the finalist teams presenting at the National Data Viz Video Challenge organised by GovTech and partners. One in three think that in general, they ‘lack technical skills to use OGD’, which is higher than the average (25%) in other countries surveyed by the EIU. But we are definitely making progress. GovTech recently organised the National Data Viz Video Challenge in conjunction with several partners. The competition saw some 82 teams from tertiary institutions create interesting data visualisations based on open government datasets, which is a hopeful sign that many of us are getting the hang of working with datasets. If you are interested in learning more about how Singapore and other countries manage OGD, do download the ‘Open Government Data: Assessing demand around the world’ report.

From https://www.tech.gov.sg/ 11/06/2017

 

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Smart Cities: Ordinary Citizens Were the Missing Link All Along

 

It’s easy to feel alienated from the smart city conversation when all you hear about are hi-tech concepts like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. But so far, the lessons learned from actually building a smart city have taught us that we have to start with the people first. Mistakes were made when cities bought into expensive technologies before working out what they were going to be used for. In Amsterdam, the citizens are providing not just the ideas, but the funding, talent and expertise to create the smart city solutions that are really needed.

 

Step 1: The Right People - Citizens, Government and Talent

In 2012 a single tweet from a student in Seoul reduced annual car trips by 2.3 million, saved residents a collective $400,000 per year and made the city safer at night. The tweet was a suggestion to the mayor that call and text data from mobile phone companies could be used to map late night journeys in the urban areas. This data could then be used to introduce better routes for buses between midnight and 5am when the Seoul Metro ceased to operate. When the mayor reposted the idea to his Facebook page, more than 30,000 residents immediately endorsed the plan. Korea Telecom provided over 3 billion anonymous call and text records for free, which they analysed alongside the Seoul Metropolitan Government. So, if a person had used their mobile phone to make a call from a city centre location and then, one hour later, texted from the outer city area, this would be plotted as a journey. Very quickly they determined the busiest routes and provided ‘Night Owl’ buses to cover them. The pilot was an immediate success and, in addition to the improvements already mentioned, also reduced the number of illegal taxis, decreased pollution, and revitalised the late night economy.

 

Engaging with citizens is crucial

For a Smart City to work, the first thing you need is people. It's the public who are using the transport, breathing the air and creating the waste. The data they produce is the feedback that is essential to both diagnose the problems and find the solutions. In the past, cities have simply cracked down on unlicensed taxis or relied on manual, time-consuming questionnaires to determine the area's transport is needed the most. The Seoul solution used pre-existing, passive data already digitised for efficient analysis. And let’s not forget it was also a single citizen who suggested the solution in the first place - eschewing the usual process of lengthy and expensive problem-solving meetings in town halls. Crowdsourcing ideas from thousands, if not millions, of citizens who vary in experience and expertise, is better than asking a small panel of government officials.

 

The right person isn’t always the most obvious choice

However, you do still need the right people governing to coordinate your Smart City. In the Seoul Night Bus case, had the mayor not been engaged with his citizens on social media and actively chosen to share the tweet, the project wouldn’t exist. After running Amsterdam Smart City for six years, Ger Baron suggested to the municipality that they needed a Chief Technology Officer to mediate its Smart City transition. This was both to prevent the needs of private companies overtaking those of the public, but also to ensure that the city was willing to be flexible with regulations to keep up with the pace of innovation. The city rejected the candidates Baron put forward, preferring instead to offer him the post, as he had the exact experience needed for such a new program.

 

When the municipality of the Dutch capital decided they also needed a ‘Night Mayor’ to combat problems with noise, litter and violence in the city’s party districts, they held a vote. A panel of five experts, music festival attendees and the public, chose to hire an experienced club promoter rather than another civil servant. Mirik Milan already had relationships with bar owners and users, knew the regulations and, most importantly, had a genuine understanding and passion for nightlife. In an interview with The Guardian, he said he wanted to do things differently, as the instinct of city authorities when people complain is to “bring in a curfew, tighten regulations, shut places down, ban stuff. It’s understandable: how can you make good laws if you’re in City Hall with no real clue of what’s happening out there in the night-time?”. What he didn’t have was the bureaucratic expertise or power, which is why the connection to the daytime mayoral office was so important. Milan told Citiscope that one of his proudest achievements was being able to award 24-hour licenses to venues. He made certain they were out of residential areas and could prove they would curate their agenda, to make sure they were adding cultural value to the city, rather than merely boosting the night-life and tourism economy. Plus, when clubbers were all ejected from venues at 5am, you suddenly had a lot of disruption on the streets. 24-hour licenses allow the night to end more naturally and means when people leave, they are doing so in a manageable stream and going straight home to bed, not to continue the party. Better for both the clubs and residents.

 

Solutions should benefit everyone

24-hour licenses were only made possible by the reduction of the anti-social behaviour and crime associated with Amsterdam nightlife. Again, the solution came from choosing the right people. The city’s police were too busy to respond to every call and by the time complaints to the municipality were seen, it was far too late to deal with the persons causing the problems days or weeks earlier. So ‘Square Hosts’ were installed. They are trained social workers that could act as a non-intimidating meeting point between the police, residents, clubs and revellers. While their primary purpose is to keep partygoers in order, they could also offer friendly advice to those looking for directions, which club to choose or the nearest toilet. The next stage includes plans to create an app so that residents can relay any issues immediately to a community officer, who will inform the Square Hosts on the ground.

 

The last group of people you need are the talent, those with the technical expertise to facilitate innovations. In Seoul, evidence had to be collected and analysed by data scientists with an algorithm or AI. The real-time app the Night Mayor wants for citizen complaints will likely need front-end and back-end developers, UX and UI designers. Therefore a wannabe Smart City has to attract talent, inspire ideas and provide support for innovators to flourish. With incentives like City-Data, the Amsterdam Smart City Challenge and Circular Challenge, Amsterdam is actively nurturing change and connecting groups via a single, shared goal - to improve urban areas. Nationally, the Netherlands has ensured it has competitive infrastructures, favourable taxes and a robust international travel framework, which is why several large tech companies like Netflix and Uber have located their EU headquarters in Amsterdam. For startups, Amsterdam is home to several incubators, accelerators and government-backed schemes like StartupDelta and Startup Amsterdam. Slightly further afield, Delft University is continuing to produce young talent, who work closely with AMS Institute Amsterdam and MIT in the US. And Eindhoven is still considered one of the most inventive cities in the world for hardware. In 2013 it was producing an average of 23 patents per 100,000 residents according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development - compared to it’s closest rival, San Diego, who produced only 9.

 

Step 2: Infrastructure - Connectivity, privacy and security

As we just mentioned, your Smart City will need infrastructure like high-speed broadband, sensors and IoT connectivity before many projects can become a reality. However, it’s second on our list because, in the past, city planners have been known to jump the gun and invest heavily in infrastructure before even knowing what use it will have. That’s why you have to rely on people first to establish the problems and suggest the solutions, so you know what needs building. But these Smart City plans can rarely work without the network of sensors, nodes and applications needed to collect and analyse city data. Luckily for Amsterdam, the Netherlands government had already invested in high-speed broadband. However, for a vast network like the Internet of Things to work, the metropolis needed a low battery usage, long range and low bandwidth network - and LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide-Area Network) is just that. It allows things to ‘talk’ to the internet without 3G or WiFi.

 

Connecting objects, devices and people

Founded in Amsterdam, The Things Network is a “global, crowdsourced, open, free and decentralised Internet of Things network”. Their device costs around 20% of most current LoRaWAN gateways, provides up to a 10km radius of coverage and serves up to 10,000 nodes. A gateway is a router between all the things and the internet and a node is a device attached to each ‘thing’ to make it connective. For example, a node can be placed in a canal boat to detect water. If the sensor in the node detects a leak, it will then send an alert wirelessly via the LoRaWAN network to the gateway, which connects to the internet and can send a message to your mobile. Currently, there are 1380 active gateways, in 82 cities, across 23 countries, on every continent. 24777 developers have signed up and between them have deployed 11444 applications. Not bad when you consider each gateway only costs 200 and coverage for the entire city of Amsterdam was done in just four weeks with just 10 of these. The company have now also introduced LoRaWAN enabled Arduino units for developers and a more straightforward device (node) that already contains temperature, motion and light sensors for those who want to get involved but are less tech-savvy. In the spirit of the project, they will also make all of their code and designs open-source.

 

Balancing public and private interests

The Things Network is an example of using crowdfunding to avoid bureaucratic delays. When it comes to Smart Cities, the usual government methods for creating policy and legislation can be inefficient. With data being gathered in real time and developments in innovation increasing in pace, it can be challenging to predict or adapt regulations to new trends and changes. Until recently, Amsterdam was still using traffic management models based on statistics that were five years old and no longer relevant since car usage had dropped by a quarter and scooter use had doubled since 2011. However, a singular vision to help guide urban growth is necessary to avoid the mistakes made by poorly planned growth in the past. The example often cited is the destructive impact of the Interstate Highway System in the USA, which did well to improve transportation between states, but, by tearing directly through city centres, the project also devastated neighbourhoods and caused mass suburban displacement of both people and businesses. And often, the more impoverished citizens are the ones who lose out the most.

 

Just as Ger Baron, the first CTO of Amsterdam must do his best to balance public and private interests, the same rule must apply nationally and across the world. This is what the United Nations is trying to encourage with their National Urban Policy directive. The policy focuses on the development of a global infrastructure for the long-term future of cities that is inclusive. Which means serving all members of society, regardless of gender, race, wealth, class or if they prefer to sleep or party in the early hours of the morning. It tries to cover broader issues like producing sustainable energy and recycling dwindling stocks of raw materials, but also advise on the smaller problems that are specific to each city like loud music on the canal boats in Amsterdam or finding a parking space in Barcelona. At Eli5, we created a platform for Mobypark, an app which allows you to rent parking spaces in some of the world's busiest cities, including our hometown of Amsterdam. This saves drivers up to 70% compared to some on-street parking charges, an average of 20 minutes finding a place to park and also means that the rented spaces are used to their full potential. Plus, parking space owners can earn a small income from the rental.

 

Rebuilding trust when it comes to data-sharing

The first word that comes to mind for many when they think about data is ‘privacy’. The public has to feel confident that not only will their information be anonymised and secure within the City Database, but that they can trust the government to use their data responsibly. This means using public data to benefit the city and not being abused to make profits by corporates. DECODE - or the Decentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem - is a three year, EU-funded project to improve the experience of data-sharing. One of their pilots is due to launch in Amsterdam and Barcelona at the end of 2017, and 1000 testers will be able to select exactly what information they would like to upload about themselves. Significantly, they can also decide how it is used and by who. So they can choose to contribute to a specific scheme about managing waste on their street and at the same time withhold that information from private companies. DECODE will also utilise blockchain technology to ensure information is secure and protect against hacking. Tom Symons from Nesta, a UK innovation charity that is working on DECODE, told New Scientist, that “people don’t really have control over their data”. DECODE has openly criticised online companies for not sharing data they collect from the public, to benefit society, just as Korea Telecom did with the Night Owl venture.

 

Step 3: Collaboration: International, national and individual

So now you have the right people in place, the technology, the legal infrastructure, data from your city and citizens and you have your groundbreaking Smart City idea. Now you need to develop, validate and realise your project. For this, you’ll have to find money and ideally some expert guidance. You can source finances through donations, crowdfunding, incentives, competitions, awards, public sector backing or private sector investment on a local, national or international level. As The Things Network has proved, crowdfunding can be an immediate solution to financing a project. Another proposal in Rotterdam sought to create a temporary wooden bridge to link parts of the city obstructed by roads and railways after an office block development fell through. Over 8000 donors gave 25 each - incentivised by having their name inscribed on one of the wooden building blocks - and the council approved the scheme. The Luchtsingel Bridge is now 390 meters long and has 18 interventions, to connect the North to the Center of Rotterdam. The Dutch online platform Voor Je Buurt now processes hundreds of thousands of euros in civic crowdfunding donations every year to fund projects that matter to its communities.

 

Speak to people in their language

With busy and hectic lives of their own, it can be hard to get communities excited about big issues like sustainability. But you can’t just make assumptions about what citizens want. Otherwise, your venture will fall flat. The Carbon Literacy Project think they have the answer. Last year they ran a scheme to get people in and around Manchester interested in Climate Change, eventually recruiting an impressive 4000 people. Their method involves merely focusing not on what you think is important but what matters to the community you are trying to engage with. The example cited in this Amsterdam Smart City article is reducing the number of football fans driving to games, not by telling them it is better for the environment, but by mentioning things they care about like saving money, not worrying about parking, travelling with your friends and being able to share a beer at the game. Or by collaborating with the team itself to get the message out and promote pride in a joint effort to reduce emissions as a collective. We have now come full circle, back to the people. By collaborating you get more people involved. And more people equals more data. More data means more projects, more experts. And they are going to need the infrastructure and assistance to get their programs off the ground. And all of this makes a Smart City.

From https://www.eli5.io/ 11/06/2017

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Freedom of the Net 2017 Manipulating Social Media to Undermine Democracy

 

Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States. Disinformation tactics contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, as did a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media. An record number of governments have restricted mobile internet service for political or security reasons, often in areas populated by ethnic or religious minorities. For the third consecutive year, China was the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom, followed by Syria and Ethiopia.

From https://freedomhouse.org/ 11/14/2017

 

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ADB Launches First Annual Report Monitoring Progress of PPP Environment in Member Countries

 

Countries in Asia and the Pacific with developed financial markets, strong local financial institutions, and diverse financing resources are more likely to secure public-private partnership (PPP) projects, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. The Public-Private Partnership Monitor tracks the development of the PPP business environment across ADB member countries and provides insights for governments on structuring a sound environment for PPPs. This is the first edition of the report, which surveyed 9 countries in the region: Bangladesh, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. It will be expanded to include additional countries in subsequent annual editions. The report aims to benefit both policymakers and investors by providing in-depth information and data on the business environment for PPPs over time, enabling infrastructure developers to assess opportunities across countries and sectors. Annual updates to the report will flag important reforms that could attract or deter investors, allowing policy makers to monitor progress in the PPP environment. “PPPs are crucial contributors to the development of countries in the Asia and Pacific region, but an enabling environment is required for these projects to succeed,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. “This report will help both policymakers and investors make informed decisions, better manage risk, and ensure a more stable environment for PPPs.” The report reveals that India, the Philippines, and Thailand have the most developed financial markets, which can provide longer-tenor loans (above 10 years) in local currency to support infrastructure. These markets also have a wide array of financing options including project bond financing. The report finds that the PRC has the most PPP projects that reach financial close. But there is scope to scale up PPPs in the country by drawing on more private sector companies. Among the key trends identified in this year’s report is that energy generation is one of the most successful sectors in developing PPP frameworks. Thermal and renewable power generation are the dominant sectors for the majority of the countries surveyed in the PPP Monitor. The water sector is also a major area for PPP investment, with over 40% of PPP projects in the PRC in this sector. With private sector participation in social infrastructure sectors still relatively new, progress on social sector PPPs, particularly in health and education, has remained slow across the region. India is the most successful and has implemented several PPPs in healthcare, although other countries have also started developing future PPP projects in the social sector. Challenges remain for further PPP development, including enhanced development of financial facilities, further diversification of the investor base, managing the risk of fluctuating traffic in transport projects, developing a credible pipeline of PPP projects, and expanding toward sectors beyond energy. “There are many ways countries can overcome challenges to PPP development,” said Alexander N. Jett, PPP Specialist in the Office of Public-Private Partnership. “Among the solutions are greater use of credit enhancements to attract better financing terms, reducing restrictions on foreign ownership in PPP contracts, and introducing annuity payment systems that are based on performance instead of traffic volume to mitigate traffic risk. “Strengthening the institutional capacity to screen and prioritize projects can also help countries develop a credible pipeline of PPPs, while the development of sector specific regulation for non-energy sectors would address concerns about key bankability issues, such as foreign exchange risk.” ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

From http://www.adb.org/ 11/24/2017

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Dai-ichi Life Invests in First Ever ADB 'Gender Bond' to Support Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has issued its first “gender bond” to finance a pool of eligible projects that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Asia and the Pacific. The NZ$130 million bond (equivalent ¥10 billion) was purchased in its entirety by Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Limited of Japan. The proceeds raised through the gender bond will be used by ADB to finance projects that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, such as ADB’s support for financial inclusion for women. One example is the Second Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Project in Bangladesh, which in addition to access to credit provides women with tools to increase financial literacy and training. “Gender equality and women’s empowerment are valuable in their own right, but they are also an integral part of fostering more inclusive development outcomes in Asia,” said ADB Treasurer Pierre Van Peteghem. “Through the issuance of this bond, ADB is demonstrating that we can integrate gender considerations into our funding operations. Incorporating gender equality into ADB’s work is essential in our mission to promote sustainable and inclusive growth in Asia and the Pacific.”

 

Since the adoption of its Policy on Gender and Development in 1998, ADB has recognized that to reduce poverty, helping women and girls must be a priority in its work. ADB reaffirmed its commitment to integrating gender equality into its mission with the adoption in 2008 of its long-term framework of Strategy 2020, which identified gender equality as one of the five “drivers of change” that is stressed in all ADB operations. ADB’s approach to gender equality will continue to be emphasized as an important component of its upcoming corporate plan, Strategy 2030. Dai-ichi Life continues to improve its investment returns through enhancement and diversification of its investment methods, while proactively expanding ESG investment[1] in an effort to contribute to creating a sustainable society as a responsible institutional investor.  While they secure stable returns through investment in this bond, they support projects for gender equality and women's empowerment in Asia and the Pacific through financing and by regularly following up on the progress of these projects. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing. [1] ESG stands for Environment, Society and Governance. Dai-ichi Life follows ESG investment principles that combine safety and profitability with social and public interest (environmental protection, social contributions, promotion of diversity and corporate governance).

From https://www.adb.org/ 11/24/2017

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CHINA: Supply-side Structural Reform: Next Chapter in "New Era"

 

As China steps into a "new era" of development, the next chapter is beginning for the country's supply-side structural reform with a stronger focus on supply quality and economic rebalancing. The reform, initiated two years ago, was set as the main task for economic growth at the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as the consensus was reached that China's economy has been transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development, and more attention must be paid to quality and efficiency than speed. The past two years have been fruitful. Progress has being made on major tasks including cutting excess capacity, destocking, deleveraging, reducing costs and shoring up weak areas, laying the base for future reforms. The advancing of supply-side structural reform has improved the supply-demand structure, and companies have enjoyed better profitability and lower production costs, said He Ping, statistician with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

 

In the first three quarters on this year, industrial companies with annual revenue of more than 20 million yuan (about 3 million U.S. dollars) reported a 22.8 percent of profit growth, faster than the 21.6 percent recorded from January-August, NBS data showed. Efforts in supply-side structural reform have also lowered financial risks. At the end of September, the debt-asset ratio of large industrial companies had dropped 0.6 percentage points from a year ago to 55.7 percent. However, more needs to be done in a changing economic landscape. Given the solid progress, more focus will now be put onto improving the supply system quality, which will be a key direction for building a modernized economy for the following stage, according to economists. After a long period of breakneck growth, the Chinese market for major products has become oversupplied, and the demand steering the Chinese economy has shifted from product quantity to quality, according to Zhang Liqun with the State Council's Development Research Center.

 

"It is the most important and necessary change for a new development stage," said Zhang. In the "new era," instead of high GDP growth, China will pursue fairness and common prosperity, support underdeveloped regions and speed up technological innovation and industrial upgrading, according to Jiang Chao, chief economist at Haitong Securities. China has previously set targets to double its economic size in the first two decades of this century, but no such targets were mentioned during the 19th CPC National Congress, which outlined a two-step approach to making China into a great modern socialist country. "For the economy, the most prominent problem now is growth quality, and we need to address unbalanced and inadequate development through changes in quality, efficiency and growth drivers," said Yang Weimin, deputy head of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs.

 

China will accelerate the real economy, build itself into a manufacturer of quality products, while moving its industries toward the medium-high end of the global value chain and fostering a number of world-class advanced manufacturing clusters. To bring forward the supply-side structural reform, strides are expected in both the upgrading of traditional industries and the development of emerging and high-tech industries, said Lian Ping, an economist at the Bank of Communications. Industries like the internet, big data, and artificial intelligence will be further integrated with the real economy, with new growth areas and growth drivers to be fostered in medium-high end consumption, innovation-driven development, the green and low-carbon economy, the sharing economy and modern supply chains, Lian said.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/01/2017

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Chinese SOEs Speed Up Mixed-ownership Drive

 

Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are picking up pace in mixed-ownership reforms, as the country expects private investment to improve competitiveness in the state sector. More than 40 listed SOEs have announced trading suspensions due to major asset reorganizations on the A-share market, according to information service provider Wind. "It came after governments stepped up support, and market forces began to play an ever greater role in the process," said Zhao Linghuan, chairman of Hony Capital. The investment fund is backed by Legend Holdings and has participated in the restructuring of 33 SOEs, and remains optimistic about future prospects. Telecom giant China Unicom Thursday unveiled plans to sell more shares to investors by private placement after it kicked off a mixed-ownership adjustment in August. The deal worth around 61.5 billion yuan (nearly 10 billion U.S. dollars) will grant more shares to companies including Alibaba and Tencent, with China Unicom Group still the controlling shareholder.

 

Li Jin, deputy head with China Enterprise Reform and Development Society, said more local firms would follow suit. "More local SOEs will likely be included in the third group of companies to pilot the reform, especially those in monopolized sectors," Li said. Wind data showed that the majority of trading-suspended listed SOEs were administered by local authorities. China's first two batches of SOEs to implement ownership reforms were mainly administered by central government, such as China Eastern Air Holding Company and China Southern Power Grid. Some local governments have rolled out plans to accelerate SOE reforms, and many more are in the pipeline. Shenzhen plans to start ownership diversification in SOEs in competitive sectors in the next year and ensure basic completion in 2019. Analysts suggested policy makers adopt differentiated approaches as every SOE has its own characteristics, saying the reforms would be a long process, and not accomplished at one stroke. The Ministry of Finance showed combined SOE profits rose 24.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters, quickening from the 21.7 percent expansion seen in the first eight months.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/02/2017

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China's New Detention System Helps Solve Tricky Legal Issues

 

China's decision to scrap the system of "shuanggui" and replace it with detention is part of a national pilot to reform the national "supervision system" and it will serves as a test for solving some of the country's long-lasting legal issues. "Shuanggui" is an intra-party disciplinary practice that requires a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) being investigated to cooperate with questioning at a set time and a set place. The practice is exercised by the Party's disciplinary officials, but largely informal to cause tricky legal issues. The new detention system formally safeguards the rights of those under investigation with several measures. Family members of detainees must receive a timely written notice of the detention, and the date and length of the interrogation is specified to ensure the safety of detainees.

 

In the first eight months of the year, a total of 183 people were detained by supervision commissions in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang, the three provincial-level regions piloting the new system. The supervision commissions exercise investigation rights, and archive all material and evidence relevant to the process. They follow detailed procedures during investigations. According to the report delivered to the 19th CPC National Congress in October, the Party will work for the adoption of national anti-corruption legislation. "A national supervision law will be formulated. Supervisory commissions will be given responsibilities, powers, and means of investigation in accordance with law. The practice of shuanggui will be replaced by detention," it read. According to Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law, the national supervision law will specify under what circumstances a person should be detained, the reasons for detention and specific methods of detention.

 

"The supervisory commissions will have full investigation rights in a new supervision system, and are therefore entitled to measures for performing their function. Detention is one of the major investigation measures," Ma said. The pilot project to reform the national supervision system has had strong results. The reform ensures that supervision covers everyone in the public sector with power. Since the reform, the number of people under supervision rose from 210,000 to 997,000 in Beijing, from 785,000 to 1.315 million in Shanxi, and from 383,000 to 701,000 in Zhejiang. The country will expand the pilot project nationwide, setting up supervisory commissions at the national, provincial, city and county levels, which will share offices and work with the Party's disciplinary inspection commissions.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/06/2017

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Xi Hosts Trump with Iconic Chinese Culture

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan invited U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump to the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, after the U.S. president started his state visit to China Wednesday afternoon. Xi and Peng welcomed the guests with afternoon tea at the Hall of Embodied Treasures in the southwestern corner of the Forbidden City. Xi gave a warm welcome to Trump and expressed his gratitude for the hospitality of the Trump family at the Mar-a-Lago estate when he visited the United States in April. "I believe the visit will achieve positive and important results with concerted efforts of both sides," Xi said, adding the visit is extensively watched in China and the United States, and other countries around the world. Xi briefed Trump on China's current economic and social development as well as the important achievements of the landmark 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

 

Trump thanked the Chinese side for the considerate arrangements on his visit and offered his congratulations on the successful conclusion of the Party congress and Xi's re-election as the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Over tea, Trump showed Xi and Peng a video of his granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing in Mandarin and reciting ancient Chinese poems. Xi spoke highly of the child's Chinese skills and said her performance deserved an "A+." He said Arabella was already a child star in China and hoped she would visit China one day. Built in 1915, the Hall of Embodied Treasures features Western style in the former imperial compound. It was once used to store antiques, but now serves as an exhibition hall for the museum's history. After leaving the hall, the couples walked along the museum's central axis, which is also the axial line of Beijing, and visited Taihedian, Zhonghedian and Baohedian, the three main halls of the Forbidden City.

 

In front of Taihedian (the Hall of Supreme Harmony), Xi and Peng took photos with their guests after walking through the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Taihedian is one of the largest wooden structures in China and the largest hall in the Forbidden City. Emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties held enthronements and wedding ceremonies in the hall. During the tour, Xi briefed the visiting couple on the history, architecture and culture of the museum, noting its importance to Chinese history and culture. The couples also attended an antiques exhibition and watched some being repaired at the museum conservation workshop, known as "the antiques hospital." The workshop is the largest cultural heritage conservation center in China. It uses traditional techniques but is equipped with advanced technology.

 

After leaving the workshop, the guests were led to watch a Peking Opera performance at the Belvedere of Pleasant Sounds, the largest opera theater in the Forbidden City, initially built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) in the Qing Dynasty to entertain the imperial family. Peking Opera is one of China's main traditional drama forms and on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. It combines instrumental music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. The presidents and their wives took in pieces from three classic operas: "Spring Seedlings in the Pear Garden," "Monkey King" and "The Drunken Beauty." They took pictures with the performers after the performance, which drew applause and cheers from the audience. The Forbidden City, the former residence of China's imperial families during the Ming and Qing dynasties, is a national landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It covers an area of about 72 hectares.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/08/2017

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Public Security Organs Urged to Play Bigger Role in Building a Safe China

 

A senior official has called on the country's public security staff to study, understand and implement the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress. Guo Shengkun, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks Wednesday at a meeting of public security officials studying the meaning of the congress in Beijing. Guo said the country's public security workers should take Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as the guide for work, to open up a new situation and write down a new chapter in the public security work. He said public security officers needed to combine theory with practice to contribute more to building a safe China with rule of law. Guo also stressed that public security staff must adhere to the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core. The 19th CPC National Congress was concluded on Oct. 24.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/08/2017

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China Starts Extending Supervisory System Reform to Nationwide

 

New supervision commissions will be subject to the centralized and unified leadership of the Party and supervise all exercising public power, said Zhao Leji, China's anti-graft chief, on Saturday. Zhao, head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks at a meeting in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, preparing for extending a pilot reform of the supervision system to nationwide. Party committees and discipline agencies of all levels should be fully aware of the significance of this reform, as an effective measure to exercise strict governance of the Party and obtain a crushing victory against corruption, Zhao said. They were urged to fully implement the instructions from the central leadership.

 

The pilot reform has been tried in Beijing, and Shanxi and Zhejiang provinces since January.

New supervision commissions will incorporate existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within the governments and procuratorates, according to a decision adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Nov. 4. Local Party organizations should make sure a smooth transition and new commissions should effectively exercise their duties, cooperate with law enforcement agencies and discipline their own staff, Zhao said. Supervised by a central leading group, local Party chiefs should take charge of the reform and discipline agencies should well implement them, he added.

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

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China Expands Smart Court System

 

China's court system intranet has been extended to 3,523 local courts and 9,277 tribunals across China, enabling all judicial officers to receive the same information when doing legal work, according to an official from China's supreme court. "Based on advanced technology, the smart court system enables us to manage all of our work online, make judicial process information open to the public in accordance with the law, and provide comprehensive intelligent services," said Xu Jianfeng, director of the Supreme People's Court Information Center, on Friday. China's national database of legal documents, the biggest in the world, now includes information on 122 million legal cases, more than 6 million trial records and 240,000 items of judicial personnel data. Xu noted that judges now can use the database to share information with the Ministry of Public Security, National Administration for Code Allocation to Organizations, Ministry of Agriculture, and banks. "We will also cultivate legal technology professionals to help build the smart court, modernize the judicial system and boost judicial capacity in the future," said Xu. China included the building of a smart court in the State Informatization Development Strategy issued in 2016, elevating it to the level of national strategy.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/19/2017

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China Tightens Scrutiny on Executive Power for Law-based Governance

 

A new item will be added to the list of tasks the State Council, China's Cabinet, should report to the national legislature, part of the latest efforts to place executive power under more scrutiny. On Monday, the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee adopted a reform project that pushes the State Council to report management of state-owned assets to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. In addition to introducing more transparent management of state assets, the reform measure is an example of enhanced supervision by the legislature. In August 2015, the leading group also adopted a policy that asked the State Council to report to the NPC Standing Committee on how it corrects problems exposed by auditing. The mechanism, which enables the NPC and its standing committee to regularly hear and examine the central government's work, has been effective in realizing the legislature's constitutional power to supervise the government.

 

The list of what the Cabinet should report has been expanding over the years, as the country works to advance law-based governance. The best-known practice is the annual government work report delivered by the premier to the NPC at its annual session, which is discussed and examined by deputies to the session before being approved. A budget report and a national economic and social development plan are also delivered to the session for examination before being approved. The legislature also reviews the reports on final accounts, mostly in the latter half of the year. Since 1996, after the Audit Law took effect, lawmakers have reviewed the National Audit Office's audit report on the implementation of the central budget annually. In addition, the national legislature hears reports from the central government on specific topics, mostly about important and urgent matters concerning the public. These topics vary every year, from environmental protection to poverty alleviation.

 

At the last bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee in late October and early this month, lawmakers were briefed by Agricultural Minister Han Changfu about progress and problems in the protection of grasslands. Another efficient tool of the NPC Standing Committee to check the government is investigating the enforcement of laws. Also at the last bi-monthly session, the NPC Standing Committee produced a report on the enforcement of the Solid Waste Control Law after several months of investigation nationwide. Based on this report and headed by Chairman Zhang Dejiang, the NPC Standing Committee held an inquiry with officials of the State Council, which should later hand in a report on how to improve and remedy its work. In the past five years, such interaction between the legislature and government has become regular practice, touching on a number of urgent issues such as air and water pollution, vocational education and quality of commodities.

 

The key report at the 19th CPC National Congress regards the system of people's congresses as "a political system fundamental to the Party's leadership, the people's running of the country, and law-based governance." In the report, the Chinese leadership pledged to improve the organizational and working systems of people's congresses to support and ensure they exercise their statutory powers to enact laws, conduct oversight, make decisions, and appoint and remove officials. A healthy relationship between the legislature and government will be essential to China's drive toward law-based governance as well as modernizing its system and capacity for governance.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/21/2017

 

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JAPAN: Govt Moots Inclusive Paralympic Host Towns

 

The government plans to create an “inclusive society host town” system ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, under which designated local governments will promote barrier-free measures for disabled people and the elderly, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. According to sources, the government plans to designate by 2020 about 10 local governments as host towns that will accept Paralympic athletes and organize exchange activities. With thorough assistance from relevant ministries and agencies, designated local governments will aim to become model cities for an inclusive society. The government is currently promoting a “host town” system to carry out exchange programs between local residents and athletes from countries and territories participating in the 2020 Games, as well as a “reconstruction host town” system to promote exchange activities between Olympic athletes and residents from municipalities affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

 

Under the existing two systems, designated local governments will be able to carry out sports and cultural exchange projects with partner countries through the end of the Games, with half of their costs covered by special tax grants from the government. The inclusive society host town system aims to especially support the 2020 Paralympics. The government plans to hold an open call for candidate local governments as soon as early next month. Under the envisaged framework, various barrier-free measures will be implemented, including installing restrooms for wheelchair users, constructing barrier-free roads, promoting tourist information especially for disabled people, and providing Braille maps at commercial facilities. Discussions are also currently under way to introduce a system to guide the elderly with artificial intelligence technology and Braille menus at restaurants, in coorperation with companies, nonprofit organizations and other entities.

 

The inclusive society host town system will also put priority on promoting exchanges between disabled people and elementary, junior high, high school and university students, as well as conducting relevant education. The system is also intended to promote volunteering.In addition to the existing government grant system for ordinary host town projects, grants from relevant ministries and agencies will be preferentially allocated to cover costs related to the projects and necessary renovation under the inclusive society host town system. Inclusive society host towns, according to a high-ranking government official, will be based on a concept of community building that “will not make [disabled people and the elderly] feel any inconvenience.” Expectations are high that the system will help attract visits by Paralympic athletes to designated cities and pre-Games training camps. It is also expected to draw more foreign tourists to those cities. One prospective candidates for an inclusive society host town is the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is currently making arrangements to provide pre-Games training camp facilities for the Brazilian Paralympic team.

From http://the-japan-news.com 10/29/2017

 

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Abe Re-Elected Prime Minister

 

Shinzo Abe was re-elected prime minister on Wednesday after his ruling bloc's big election win last month and days ahead of a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump that is expected to be dominated by concerns over a volatile North Korea. Abe, 63, took office in December 2012, promising to reboot the stale economy and bolster defence. His Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition retained its two-thirds "super majority" in parliament's lower house in the Oct. 22 election, reenergising his push to revise the post-war, pacifist constitution. Abe is expected to reappoint current cabinet ministers and tell them to compile an extra budget for the year to March 31, 2018 focusing on child care and boosting productivity. In a telephone conversation on Monday, Abe and Trump agreed to work together on steps to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development. Trump told Abe "he is looking forward to his visit to Japan, that Japan and America are 100 percent together and there is no room to doubt the Japan-U.S. alliance," Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. The two leaders have developed a close personal relationship since Trump was elected, and plan to play golf together during Trump's Nov 5-7 visit to Japan.

From https://japantoday.com 11/01/2017

 

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Japan Eyes Nationwide System for Reporting Food Recalls, Sharing Data

 

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is planning a nationwide system under which companies will be required to report all food recalls to local governments, with information about such cases to be collated and shared online, ministry sources said Monday. Currently, there is no system giving the central government a nationwide picture of food recalls, as reporting such incidents is not obligatory across Japan. The government is expected to submit a bill to revise the food sanitation law in next year's ordinary Diet session while considering imposing penalties on businesses that fail to report food recalls. The ministry is also eying the development of a system through which companies can report recall cases online and create a website to notify consumers. It has already included such expenses in its budget request for the next fiscal year starting April. Cases involving contamination, tampering, insufficient thermal sterilization and inadequate labeling of allergic ingredients are subject to recalls. By unifying such data, the government plans to better warn manufacturers and consumers, while ensuring the sharing of information on products that pose risks among local authorities.

 

In a survey covering 140 local governments, 108 said they obliged companies to report food recalls, according to the ministry. The rest did not require manufacturers to do so. Among data collected by local authorities that imposed obligations on businesses to report food recalls, a total of 967 recalls have been detected in the year through March 2017, but the actual figure is assumed to be higher. Although most food recall cases do not pose a danger to consumers, some serious health problems have been reported in Japan. Last year, a number of people were infected with the O-157 strain of E. coli after eating frozen meat cutlets sold by a food company in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo. The United States and the European Union have already established systems through which manufacturers report food recalls, according to the ministry. "Just like automobiles and drugs, we need a new system regarding food (recalls) to protect consumers in Japan as well," a ministry official said.

From https://japantoday.com 11/07/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Raise Portion of Female Senior Officials to 10% in 5 Yrs

 

The government is aiming to increase the portion of women in senior government positions to at least ten percent by 2022. The plan is part of a five-year road map that various government agencies have jointly drafted to break the glass ceiling in the public sector. The central and regional governments as well as public institutions, like schools, the military and the police will set a target they can achieve in five years, and draw up practical measures to realize that goal. The central government aims to raise the portion of third-grade or higher female officials from the current six-point-one percent to ten percent by 2022. Public companies also plan to introduce a quota for female executives and gradually raise it to 20 percent, putting it on par with the OECD average of 20-point-five percent. 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/21/2017

 

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INDONESIA: Parliament Seeks Replacement of Speaker After His Detention

 

The Indonesian parliament planned to hold an assembly to respond to the recent detention of speaker Setya Novanto over corruption charges, seeking his replacement, a council member said here Monday. "In the upcoming assembly, the recommendation to replace the speaker would be discussed," a parliament member, Maman Imanulhaq, said in the parliament premises. Novanto was arrested and brought to the detention facility of Indonesia's anti-corruption commission of KPK on Sunday night. The arrest came following the commission's efforts to bring him to justice related to corruption scandal on digital ID card project that cost the state some 2.3 trillion rupiah (about 170 million U.S. dollars). The commission has detained five suspects in the case that comprised of officials of the interior ministry, a businessman, a parliament member and the parliament speaker.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 11/20/2017

 

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MYANMAR: Maungdaw Civil Servants’ Salaries Doubled

 

The central government has decided to double the civil servants in Maungdaw Township for the last three months of this year, according to an October-19 notification. Kyaw Aye Thein, Rakhine minister for planning and finance, said: “The government used to support civil servants in remote areas. The government releases a notification [allowing doubled salaries] every three months.” Khin Aung, chief of staff at the Maungdaw education department, said: “The salaries have been increased in three-month slots since October 2016.” Maungdaw civil servants have enjoyed doubled salaries and daily wagers’ pay has been increased to Ks6,500 since Bengali terrorists attacked border police posts in October 2016.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/ 11/01/2017

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IMF Backs Second Wave of Reforms in Myanmar

 

DESPITE GREATER downside risks including religious strife in Rakhine State and a hike in commodity prices, it is a perfect time for Myanmar to start its second wave of reforms, according to the International Monetary Fund. Shanaka Jay Peiris, IMF’s Myanmar mission chief, said at a recent press conference that the country should open up the economy to more sectors in order to attract additional foreign investment. He recommended further liberalisation in restricted sectors including insurance and aviation.  “It is time to initiate the second wave of reforms to sustain the momentum,” he said. “It is important to have cohesive plans and effective strategies in place to anchor policy making.” Peiris’s list of needed reforms include agriculture, the banking system and gradual interest rate liberalisation, infrastructure, trade, natural resource management and the legal framework, including further opening up the economy to foreign ventures. “A well-sequenced second wave of reforms and greater public investment efficiency would help the economy further integrate with global value chains and foster inclusion,” he said. He recommended encouraging public-private partnerships, as there is a very strong potential for PPP in Myanmar.

 

He said stakeholders must push for investing more in infrastructure. Higher infrastructure investment and implementation of more strategic reforms could brighten the outlook, he added. Peiris stressed the importance of synergy among government ministries. He urged developing sectoral plans, medium-term growth strategies and stronger fiscal policies to support the wider national plan. He encouraged doing structural reforms through better regulations to address fiscal risks. Myanmar’s banking sector needs to adjust to new prudential regulations after a period of rapid credit growth, he suggested. The mission chief urged restructuring state economic enterprises and state-owned banks, which have become an increasing burden on the government expenditure. “From the efficiency perspective, financial management is vital. We do not want electricity losses and subsidies,” he said, adding that electricity tariffs must be rationalised to reduce the government subsidies.  He also stressed the need to strengthen tax reforms, as both commercial and income taxes are very low in Myanmar. “Now they [the government] focus on tax administration. We think it is time for income tax reforms to ensure you have progressive taxation,” he said.

 

He said revenue mobilisation should build on the good progress achieved in tax administration, followed by the next phase of modernising tax laws. IMF has been providing technical assistance in this regard, he said.Favourable outlook Peiris said the economy is recovering because macroeconomic imbalances are stabilising. He expects Myanmar’s growth to rebound to 6.7 per cent this year, and 7 per cent next year.  “Our baseline focus for the medium term is very strong. The second half of this year will be stronger than the first half,” he said. Peiris said the government saw a challenging year with lower-than-expected growth of 5.9 per cent in 2016-17 fiscal year, due to weak agriculture production and exports as well as temporary suspension of some construction projects in Yangon. He said the economic slowdown last year was a bit structural, and expectations seem to be very high. He believes higher potential for exports and recovery in the agriculture sector would drive Myanmar’s growth in the medium term.  Myanmar’s growth also depends on public investment in infrastructure and higher spending in crucial areas. The nation tried to focus on “stabilisation” last year, and should emphasise “growth” this year, he said. He said ongoing religious conflicts in Northern Rakhine State could affect development finance and investor sentiment, although the direct economic impact appears to have been largely localised. Yet, he lauded the government’s plan to invest more in the region for reconstruction and resettlement of affected communities.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/20/2017

 

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Newly-Appointed Union Level Officials Sworn into Office

 

Reporters watch as newly appointed Union officials are sworn into office in the presence of the Speaker of the Upper House of Parliament. Thaung Tun, Kyaw Tin and Aung Kyi, newly appointed Union level officials, were sworn into office in the presence of the Speaker of Parliament’s Upper House, Mahn Win Khaing Than, in Nay Pyi Taw on November 25. Two new ministries – The Ministry of Union Government Office and the Ministry of International Cooperation – have been formed. Thaung Tun, National Security Adviser, was appointed as the Minister for the Ministry of Union Government Office and Kyaw Tin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as the Minister for International Cooperation, reported the President Office. Aung Kyi, former Information Minister was appointed as the Chairman of the newly formed Anti-Corruption Commission, while advocate and legal consultant San Win was nominated as the Secretary of the commission. The Anti-Corruption Commission has 12 members.

 

The Union Parliament had previously approved the nomination of National Security Advisor Thaung Tun as the Minister for the Ministry of Union Government Office, and Kyaw Tin, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, as the Minister for International Cooperation on November 23. The President sent a message to parliament that said: “The Union Government is carrying out a wide range of measures which are matters relating to administration of the Union, planning and finance, economy, bill submission and others. In this place, it is supposed that effective measures can be taken if a new minister who is accountable for the President is appointed and duties are assigned to him.” In explaining the need for the new Ministry of International Cooperation, a government announcement said that “a ministry is needed to carry out international relations in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry must be accountable to the President. It is to make a thorough review of international affairs.” The government noted that the State Counsellor is also doing duty as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, including attending some international meetings. The newly appointed minister would take on some of that work. The Ministry of International Cooperation will share the buildings of the Ministry of Foreign Affiars and the two ministry’s would cooperate in their work, said the government announcement.

From http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/ 11/25/2017

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THAILAND: New Cabinet Line-Up ‘Sent for Royal Endorsement’

 

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has submitted a list of changes in his Cabinet line-up for royal endorsement yesterday, a Government House source said on Thursday. This would be the fourth Cabinet reshuffle for the Prayut government in three years. Prayut and his Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan on Wednesday abruptly cancelled their schedules at Government House amid reports that the premier was busy with the reshuffle. After returning from the Asean Summit in Manila at 2am on Wednesday, Prayut went to work at Government House later that morning and called a meeting on education reform but cancelled his weekly Wednesday workout. Prayut did not speak to the media. The premier also cancelled his schedule today [Thursday] to chair a seminar being held by Thai media on Asean 50 and has asked Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to represent him at the event.

 

A Government House source said Prayut was busy with the list as he wanted to finish it on Wednesday. Prawit was not seen at Government House amid wide speculation that he might be removed as deputy PM. Prawit was scheduled to chair a meeting to prepare for a Cabinet retreat in Pattani and Songkhla provinces later this month but asked his deputy minister General Udomdej Sitabutr to chair the meeting. Prawit's close aide said the deputy PM had gone abroad on personal work. In the proposed Cabinet reshuffle, according to sources, Agriculture Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya would be shifted to the Labour Ministry to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of General Sirichai Distakul early this month. Chatchai’s current post would be filled by former permanent secretary and former agriculture minister Yukol Limlamthong. Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin is among those who might be replaced. Reports said Ramkhamhaeng University rector Wuttisak Lapcharoensap would be appointed Education Minister. Wuttisak said yesterday that he was not aware of such a development.

 

Asked if he had been invited to join the Cabinet by the PM, he said, “The premier is abroad. I would comment when things are clear.” It is likely that Police Chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda would be named Social and Human Development Minister. Reports suggested that Chakthip, who is in the United States to attend a meeting with the FBI from November 13-19, had reportedly written his resignation from his police post, but not yet submitted it to Prayut as he wished to remain in the police post. It has also been reported that Social and Human Development Minister Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew would be reshuffled to the post of deputy PM. The reports also said that Energy Minister General Anantaporn Kanjanarat would be replaced by National Legislative Assembly member General Yodyuth Boonyathikarn, who has just resigned from his post as president of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand. Early this month, Prayut had said he was considering a reshuffle and was thinking of reducing the number of military officers in the Cabinet to be replaced with civilians.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/16/2017

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Anti-Corruption Reform Panel Completes Public Hearing Process

 

The anti-corruption reform committee held its last public hearing on Tuesday before further developing the reform plan for submission to the government in December. The committee is among the 13 panels appointed under the national reform law, which requires them to come up with plans to pave the way for major reform of the country. Panthep Klanarongran, who chairs the anti-corruption reform committee, said most participants in the final public hearing had agreed on wider public participation in suppressing and preventing corruption. New networks should be encouraged to help state officials fulfil corruption prevention and suppression work, they said. Participants also called for more transparency and access to information concerning corruption cases or assets scrutiny.  Moreover, they agreed that concerned agencies should integrate their work, while more accountable work procedures were developed and put in place to reduce the current emphasis on the judgment of individual officials, Panthep added.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/21/2017

 

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New Water Management Chiefs Get Thumbs Up

 

WATER EXPERTS have welcomed the appointment of Somkiat Prajamwong, director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), as the new director of the National Water Resources Management. NCPO order No 52/2560 published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette on Wednesday announced the personnel changes. The NCPO exercised its special powers under Article 44 of the interim charter to move Somkiat from the RID to head the newly founded National Water Resources Management Office. RID deputy director-general Thongplew Kongchan takes over as new RID director-general. Hannarong Yaowalers, chairman of Thai Water Partnership, said yesterday that Somkiat was a good choice to head the new office judging from his experience and vision on water management. Hannarong said the position of National Water Resources Management Office director is a very influential one, as this agency will play an important role in planning water resources management of the country as a whole. It also has to plan beforehand to prevent drought and flood disasters. “Somkiat is an experienced person, who has been working on water management at the RID for a long time. Moreover, he also showed his wide vision during his period as the RID director-general in dealing with floods and droughts, focusing not only on constructing more irrigation projects like many people in the RID did,” he said. “Therefore, I think he is very suitable to handle the important tasks in his new position.” Hannarong, however, stressed that Somkiat will have to face many challenges, as he has to not only plan water management strategies for the country, but he will also have to hire personnel from the Water Resources Department for the new agency.

 

Sitang Pilailar, a lecturer at the Water Resources Engineering Department at Kasetsart University, also applauded the government order to assign both Somkiat and Thongplew to their new positions. “This is a very important position to plan the water management strategies of the country and right now the most perfect person for this task is Somkiat. This position change is also a promotion in his career, as his new position has a higher rank than his previous position,” Sitang said. “Meanwhile, Thongplew, also an experienced person on water management at RID, is the finest person to be new RID director-general.”  The National Water Resources Management Office is a newly created water management agency, directly under the command of the prime minister. The agency was founded by NCPO Order No 46/2560 on October 26 and its main task is to oversee an integrated water management plan.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/24/2017

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Ten New Faces In Reshuffled Cabinet, Nine Out

 

His Majesty the King on Friday endorsed the new Cabinet after a reshuffle that saw 10 new faces, nine removed and eight members given new assignments. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha removed General Tanasak Patimapragorn and Admiral Narong Pipatnasai as his deputies, as well Minister attached to Prime Minister’s Office Omsin Chivapruek, Deputy Defence Minister General Udomdej Sitabutr, Tourism And Sport Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, Industry Minister Atchaka Sribunruang, Deputy Transport Minister Pichit Akarathit and Deputy Education Minister ML Panadda Diskul. Ministers switching portfolios are:Adul Saengsingkaew, from social development and human security minister to labour minister;General Chatchai Sarikalya, from agriculture and cooperative minister to deputy premier;Suvit Maesincee, from minister attached to the PM’s Office’s to science minister;

 

General Anantaporn Kanjanarat, from energy minister to social development minister;Chutima Bunyapraphasara, from deputy agriculture minister to deputy commerce minister; andSuwaphan Tanyuvardhana, from justice minister to minister attached to the PM’s Office.Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Juntong is handed an additional assignment as justice minister and Sontirat Sontijirawong is upgraded from deputy to full commerce minister. New faces in the Cabinet are:Former deputy government spokesman Kobsak Pootrakool, who becomes a PM’s Office Minister;General Chaichan Changmongkol, from Permanent Secretary of Defence to Deputy Defence Minister;Weerasak Kowsurat as Tourism and Sport Minister,Former Interior Permanent Secretary Krissada Boonraj, who becomes Agriculture Minister,Former Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives manager Lak Wajananawatch, who is now Deputy Agriculture Minister;Scholar Wiwat Salyakamthorn, who becomes Deputy Agriculture Minister;Former CEO of PTT Pairin Chuchot-taworn, who takes over as Deputy Transport Minister. Siri Jirapongphan, former executive director of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand, is Energy Minister;Former Mahidol University president Udom Kachintorn is Deputy Education Minister; andFormer Industry permanent secretary Somchai Hanhiran takes over as Deputy Industry Minister.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 11/24/2017

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VIETNAM: Provinces Set Special Economic Units

 

Quảng Ninh, Kiên Giang and Khánh Hòa are gearing to develop special administrative-economic zones with expectations that preferential policies will be increased as the National Assembly is discussing the Law on Special Administrative-Economic Units. The southern province of Kiên Giang People’s Council, at a meeting on Thursday, approved the Phú Quốc Special Administrative-Economic Unit project. Under this project, Phú Quốc will have an area of more than 57,530ha and population of 117,460, with nine administrative zones which were founded from two existing towns and seven communes (excluding Thổ Châu Commune as the province is planning to turn it into a district). The province expected that the establishment of the Phú Quốc Special Administrative-Economic Unit would bring into play the island’s potential to attract investment and high technologies to boost development. By 2030, Phú Quốc is expected to become a modern tourism and resort hub, as well as a hub for trade, exhibition and meeting, with international competitiveness towards global reach.

 

Investments in Phú Quốc have been robust in recent times, especially in tourism development, with the island having rich potential. Phú Quốc has, so far, attracted more than 250 projects with total registered capital of some US$16.7 billion. Quảng Ninh also hastened preparations for Vân Đồn. The northern province recently said it would not seek funds from the central budget to develop Vân Đồn into a special administrative-economic unit. Vũ Văn Hợp, chief of the provincial People’s Committee, said entire expenditure for developing the Vân Đồn Special Administrative-Economic Unit project and implementing the infrastructure system would be done through the local budget and investments of businesses. The province would only, therefore, require preferential mechanisms for Vân Đồn. Vũ Hồng Thanh, chairman of the National Assembly Economic Committee, said special administrative-economic units would need preferential mechanisms, rather than investment from the budget, adding that appropriate mechanisms would create resources and impetus for development.

 

The Vân Đồn Special Administrative-Economic Unit project, which got approval of the provincial People’s Council late last week, proposed to the Government 12 groups of preferential policies for Vân Đồn, according to Hoàng Trung Kiên, deputy head of Quảng Ninh’s Economic Zone Management Board. These included policies in taxes, land-real estate, finance-banking and monetary, as well as investment-business, human resources, immigration and import-export, along with strategic investors, hi-tech development and tourism development. Kiên said proposed preferential policies for the project were developed on the basis of international experiences and trends and in compliance with established laws. The project was under development since 2012 with the aim of creating outstanding institutions to boost growth and develop an innovative administrative management system. The project also received approval from residents, with more than 98.78 per cent of voters in the district saying they agreed with the project. The northern province is now gearing up its efforts to develop social, technical and transport infrastructure systems to attract investors to Vân Đồn.

 

The province is also hastening the construction of important infrastructure projects, including Vân Đồn International Airport, a tourism-casino complex, and Hạ Long-Hải Phòng and Vân Đồn-Móng Cái expressways, which are considered the driving force for the development of Vân Đồn into a special administrative-economic unit. Statistic showed that Quảng Ninh has, so far, attracted investment worth some VNĐ55.1 trillion ($2.5 billion) in Vân Đồn. In 2018, a series of large-scale tourism complex projects worth a total of some VNĐ61 trillion will begin construction in Vân Đồn, such as the VNĐ4.95 trillion Sonesea Dragon Bay’s phase 1, the five-star Furama Hạ Long Việt Nam Resort & Vilas (worth VNĐ1.12 trillion), the Vân Đồn Heritage Road estimated at VNĐ5 trillion and the Ngọc Vừng Complex. Nguyễn Văn Thành, deputy chairman of Quảng Ninh People’s Committee, said he expected the Law on Special Administrative-Economic Units would be passed soon to create a legal framework for development of Vân Đồn, as well as two other selected special zones -- Phú Quốc and Bắc Vân Phong. Meanwhile, central Khánh Hòa Province is also implementing a project to turn Bắc Vân Phong into a special administrative-economic unit. Bắc Vân Phong has significant potential for developing ports, logistic services, trade and international financial services, as well as tourism and high technologies.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/04/2017

 

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New National Citizen Management System Will Not Be Available Until 2020

 

The transition from Việt Nam’s decades-old household residency book system to a new online national database will not take place until 2020, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Lieutenant General Trần Văn Vệ, Acting Director of the General Police Department under the MPS, made the clarification yesterday morning in a press conference held to provide details regarding the transition in the country’s residents management system. According to a resolution on the simplification of administrative procedures signed by Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc earlier this month, the Government is seeking to retire Việt Nam’s household residence books, or hộ khẩu, and national identification cards, or chứng minh nhân dân. Instead, locals will each be given a unique 12-digit personal identification number (mã số định danh cá nhân) containing personal information such as gender, full name, date and place of birth, current address and other facts. The government and citizens will be able to access such information through an online database that can be reached and updated nationwide easily instead of through physical documents, as under the status quo. “Abandoning the actual, physical residence book doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon citizen management. No countries in the world abandon such things. It only means that we’re switching the old, backwards and outdated method to a more modern and hi-tech method by digitalising all information,” Vệ said.

 

He added that a national citizen database was launched in 2012. The public security ministry this November will organize training for police officers at the grassroots level to implement the switch, while forms will be delivered to each household for the collection of personal information. The information again will be checked and verified by local police before being updated and added to the online database system. The system will then be completed in two to three years, Vệ said. When completed, the system will help streamline many administrative procedures for citizens, such as procedures to change persons listed in a residency book, obtain a new book when moving houses or void permanent residency. Established in the 1960s, the hộ khẩu system was used to control citizen’s migration and access to social welfare. The system was applied to aid the government in rationing resources such as food and utilities back when Việt Nam still had a state-controlled planned economy. After Đổi Mới (Renewal) began in the 1980s, the country opened up its market; however, the hộ khẩu remains a required document in a wide array of civic activities such as school admissions, job applications, marriage registration and death certification. The system has been blamed for causing inequality among people from different regions. Regarding the identity documents, Vệ said that when a person receives a unique 12-digit personal identification number by 2020, his or her old national identification card will still be valid for use, if it has not expired. “Identity cards expire after 15 years, so in case by 2020 some citizen’s card has not expired, he or she can still use it for necessary procedures,” he said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/08/2017

 

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Việt Nam Prepares Personal Info Database

 

The Ministry of Public Security is working on a national database that will store and supply “basic” and accurate information about citizens via their personal ID numbers. It says the work aims to reduce inconvenience caused to citizens dealing with administrative procedures, prevent waste of time and other resources, and simplify admin procedures. According to statistics compiled by the Justice Ministry, of 5,400 administrative procedures in different ministries and agencies, nearly 1,600 require residents to show their personal papers. With a population of more than 90 million, the demand to certify citizens’ papers can reach about 600,000 turns per day, the justice ministry estimates. The Ministry of Public Security assesses that the work imposes a financial burden of thousands of billions of đồng (VNĐ1 billion equals US$44,400) per year for individuals and enterprises completing administrative procedures.   At present, the country does not have a system to manage citizens’ information. Several provinces and cities like s Hải Phòng, Bắc Ninh, Hà Nội, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu and HCM City have set up their own systems, but these have not been completed at the national level. Lieutenant General Trần Văn Vệ, standing director of the General Department of Police, said that after the national database is complete and ready for public use, citizens will be able to complete all admin procedures with just their ID card, instead of having to produce number of personal papers. The Ministry of Public Security will try to complete the task in the next three years, he said.

 

Pilot programme

To have the experience and background to perform the task at a national level, the ministry has run a pilot project in the northern port city of Hải Phòng over the last three years. The local database thus set up has helped city police resolve permanent resident registration issues for more than 70,000 people and temporary resident registration issues for thousands of others. It has also shortened time taken to complete procedures, since residents don’t have to present their personal information several times, and imparted clarity to documents, Vệ said. Colonel Nguyễn Trọng Phượng, deputy director of the municipal police department, said that the city attracted a great number of workers from different places, so resident management was complicated. The new database was an excellent change in administrative reform, he said. The information was accurate and updated regularly.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/13/2017

 

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Ministry Launches Online Public Services Portal

 

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) on Thursday launched its portal at dvc.molisa.gov.vn, offering better public access to online administrative procedures. The public service portal is expected to enable people and businesses to access all online public services and evaluate each service provided by the ministry. It will also help the ministry manage and deal with administrative procedures transparently and publicly. At present, the ministry is providing more than 300 administrative procedures for people and businesses, including 140 procedures at the central level. The portal is connected with nine online public services, covering three main areas -- overseas worker management, labour safety and employment. The trial implementation of online services has showed positive results. In the field of overseas worker management, for example, over 30,000 applications were handled online since early this year, accounting for over 90 per cent of total applications sent to the ministry. The ministry has also received and handled over 5,000 applications of foreign workers working in Việt Nam. In the time to come, the ministry’s portal will gradually expand online services to other areas, including labour relations and vocational training in 2018 and to all areas managed by the ministry by 2019. Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam acknowledged efforts made by the MoLISA in the implementation of online public services. He also urged the ministry to set goals which will exceed the current plan, effectively provide online services for the public and acquire users’ feedback and opinions to perfect these services. According to an e-government survey conducted in 2016 by the United Nations, Việt Nam ranked 89th of 193 countries and territories on the e-government development index, up 10 places from 2014. Việt Nam ranked sixth in ASEAN and fourth in Southeast Asia.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 11/24/2017

 

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INDIA: Committed to Uphold High Standards of Governance

  

The State of Gujarat is emerging as a growth engine of India keeping the idea of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”. Gujarat is the investment destination for numerous businesses because of thriving economy, business-friendly policies, industrial infrastructure, and natural resources, says Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an exclusive interview with Gopi Krishna Arora of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts: In the year gone by, my Government has followed Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call of “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas” and has sincerely taken forward the growth story of Gujarat. I take pride in stating Gujarat under Shri Narendrabhai’s leadership helped India redefine Good Governance and Development Model. Our objective is to continuously work for public welfare. I am extremely grateful to the people of Gujarat for the faith they have shown in me and the support they have given me in the past year till now. Today, Gujarat Government is committed to uphold these high standards of governance and committed to serve the people better. In future, we hope for many more synergies that lead Gujarat to the top. Largely viewed as a growth story, Gujarat has been a leader specific State, don’t you feel the pressure to perform? The State of Gujarat is emerging as a growth engine of India keeping the idea of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” (at the centre of its actions). Going back to the history of development in the State of Gujarat, the biggest ever event ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit’ was started in 2003, under the visionary leadership of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Narendra Modi, it took Gujarat to the top-most level when it comes to global investments. Gujarat is the investment destination for numerous businesses because of thriving economy, business friendly policies, industrial infrastructure, and natural resources. The State has always been one of the fastest growing States in India, from the development of basic agriculture to industry revolution, from textiles to tourism, from dynamic culture to information technology. Today, Gujarat is home to global industrialists and young entrepreneurs alike. When it comes to performance, key purpose of our government is earning the faith of people and we have managed to do so by emerging as transparent, decisive, sensitive and progressive.

 

“Substantial investment by Suzuki, Ford, Tata, SAIC Motors, Hero Moto Corp and many more have been instrumental to this growth.” In today’s age of science, technology and innovation, effective use of ICT is imperative to meet the ever-growing expectations of citizens and businesses. E-Governance is continuously evolving to provide access, equity and empowerment to masses. Tell us about the major e-governance projects initiated in Gujarat in recent times. Gujarat, in fact, has emerged as a pioneer in the field of e-governance initiatives. We have several initiatives operating on the ground, aligned with Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) under National E-Governance Plan as well as various State-sponsored initiatives. For instance, some of the major projects run by the State government include Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS), eCity, eCourt, eDhara/eJamin, Garvi /CSIS, e-District, eGram Vishwagram etc. Our focus is on innovative technology and innovative use of technology. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have overtaken Gujarat in Ease of Doing (EoD) Business and recently you said Gujarat will bounce back to No. 1 position nationally. What measures are there in the government pipeline? Gujarat has always been among the most preferred destinations for doing business. The Government of Gujarat has recently introduced “The Gujarat Single Window Clearances Act 2017”. The act provides for a robust application review mechanism at district and State level, with the pendency being reviewed at the highest-level. A dedicated single window agency namely ‘Investor Facilitation Agency’ has been set up through this act.

 

We have devised a common incentives form in order to simplify the application procedure for industries to avail incentives. We also initiated filing of ‘Consolidated Annual Returns’ under 11 labour laws. All half-yearly and yearly returns are required to be submitted under one consolidated annual return. In the last one year, three commercial courts also became functional having jurisdiction over 27 judicial districts in Gujarat. Besides, we have brought several landmark reforms like Comprehensive General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) for entire State, AutoCAD based building plan approvals, provision for selfcertification/ third party certifications for labour and environment laws, which will go a long way in improving the business friendliness in the State. The Government of Gujarat realises the potential of the industry and the growth opportunities it brings to the State. How are we planning to make the State best investment destination? While Gujarat has been successful in attracting big ticket investments in manufacturing and industrial sector, the Government has also focused on creating a support ecosystem by encouraging development of MSME. This ecosystem enables forward/ backward linkage and cost competitiveness. It is this ecosystem that makes any investment sustainable and competitive, both in domestic and export markets. With over 20 lakh Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the State providing employment to over 1.5 crore people, the State continues to focus on providing all handholding measures. As a Chief Minister of the most promising State, you have established four pillars of good governance – Transparent Government, Sensitive Government, Decisive Government and Progressive Government, what are the major decisions being taken in this regard? The Gujarat Government has taken 475 principal decisions in the welfare of the people in the past 365 days, based on the four pillars of good governance – Transparent Government, Sensitive Government, Decisive Government and Progressive Government. Our government has carried forward Shri Narendra Modi’s tradition of giving priority to agriculture, industry and service sector as well as simplification of laws and strengthening civic infrastructural facilities. Looking at the areas of health, education and employment, Gujarat Government has taken various sensitive decisions including opening of more than 150 Jan Aushadhi stores, established new independent (green filed) self-finance colleges, providing monthly assistance of Rs 500 for patients in tribal areas, increased the pension given to widows, implementation of 7th pay commission as well as new amendment to law against cow slaughter.

 

But just erecting the pillars is not good enough. The Gujarat government has proved it is also committed to respect and follow the principles they depict. We have maintained transparent decisionmaking processes, even while tackling sensitive issues like strengthening laws related to prohibition, ULC regulation act, waiving toll-tax on State Highways, and implementation of PESA Act for tribal empowerment. Other programmes which reaffirm our decisive and progressive approach are implementation of the Shramik Annapurna Yojna, smart tablet distribution to students, creation of Digital classrooms, various schemes for farmers, SAUNI Yojna, Sujalam Sufalam Yojna, Shravan Tirth Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Rooftop Solar Scheme, Seema Darshan programme, Subsidy on onion and potato, securing Heritage city status for Ahmedabad city, completion of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam project, initiating Seva Setu, Mukhyamantri Sadak Yojana and many more. How is Gujarat leading in urban transformation towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Smart Cities Mission? What are your future plans for the same? Gujarat has made substantial progress in creating future ready, smart and livable cities. Already six cities of Gujarat are chosen to be developed as Smart Cities. These cities are Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Dahod and Gandhinagar. The State Government has chalked out a plan on better urban mobility, metered 24 X 7 water supply, green spaces, cycle tracks, development of futuristic commercial complexes, etc, as a part of the smart cities initiative.

 

What are the major policies through which State Government is promoting Startups and Micro, Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (MSMEs) of Gujarat? We have been encouraging entrepreneurs and innovators by providing support to startups through funding, mentoring and incubation under various policies and schemes. The State has introduced various schemes and policies including Gujarat Startup / Innovation Scheme under the Industrial Policy 2015, Gujarat Electronics & IT/ ITeS Startup Policy 2016, Student Startup & Innovation Policy 2017 etc. Additionally, the Government of Gujarat has also created the ‘GVFL Startup Fund’ of Rs 250 crore towards promoting startup ecosystem along with GVFL Ltd. We have also set up the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology or ‘iCreate’ on PPP model as a Centre of Excellence for providing an ecosystem for next-gen entrepreneurs. iCreate offers support of 6 to 24 months to individuals seeking grooming, preparation and incubation support.

Our efforts and initiatives have been recognised by Government of India and Gujarat was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration in 2017 for successful implementation of startup India programme. We are also making extensive policy interventions to strengthen the MSME sector by providing support in funding, infrastructure, technology, market access and skill development. We have provisions for special assistance for MSMEs under our Industrial Policy 2015, Gujarat Aerospace and Defense Policy and Textile Policy as well.

 

“Gujarat Government is committed to uphold high standards of governance and is committed to serving the people better”. Any suggestions for the companies seeking to enter Gujarat market for expansion? The Government of Gujarat has always believed in employing a policy-driven approach towards development, and it is a matter of pride that today we have over 20 State government policies for supporting business needs across sectors and domains. This policydriven approach has yielded results. Gujarat is a national leader in over 15 sectors of manufacturing industry such as chemicals and petrochemicals, textiles, automobile and auto components, engineering, pharmaceuticals and so on. The State also has a leadership position in areas such as ports and maritime, renewable energy, tourism and agriculture. Gujarat is one of India’s most industrialised and urbanised economies, and is a national leader across various sectors of socioeconomic development. Today, with roughly 6% of India’s geographical area and 5% of the country’s population, Gujarat accounts for almost 8% of India’s Gross Domestic Product, 18% of India’s Industrial Output and over 20% of exports. The State is home to major domestic as well as multinational corporations, and has managed to garner a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of $10.5 billion between 2011 and 2017. In fact, in year 2016-17, we have bagged third rank in attracting FDI among Indian States.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 10/16/2017

 

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Now Fix Appointments with Officers Online in Karnal


In Haryana, after the success of e-Disha system, the District Administration, Karnal, has taken one step forward by initiating new service e-appointment. While giving this information, an official spokesman said that so far, over 70,000 owners of vehicles have been given e-appointment and necessary documents related to their vehicles have been prepared. Through this, a common man would be able to get an appointment from the officer for resolving his problem and the concerned officer would allot the applicant a fixed time. He said that initially, this facility has been begun in the office of Deputy Commissioner, Additional Deputy Commissioner, all Sub Divisional Magistrates, District Revenue Officer and District Development and Panchayats Officer. After this, the service would be extended to all other offices. Karnal has become the first district in the state to have taken this initiative.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/02/2017

 

 

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Goa’s Landscape Transforming with Digital Governance

 

Goa, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world is all set to become smarter and digital. Be it the first cashless State of India or one of the finest tourism spots in the world, the land with beautiful picturesque settings with rich legacy of historical and cultural heritage is striving for best for the digital and urban transformation. And what better place Elets could think of than organising its landmark ‘8th Knowledge Exchange’— India’s premier Summit on digital transformation than Goa. We are proud to organise its 8th edition here. And, to document the IT & e-governance success story in Goa and across India, we have come up with a special edition of egov, India’s First and Asia & Middle East’s premier magazine on e-governance. Our cover story “Goa Goes Smart and Digital” explores how an endeavour is being made to develop Goa as a world class livable city. The issue carries a Special Message for the magazine from Goa Governor Mridula Sinha. With a focus on Goa as the next IT destination for India, Rohan Ashok Khaunte, Minister of Information Technology, Government of Goa, has shared his views on how this ‘Pearl of the Orient’ is digitally transforming itself. Among various distinguished officials featuring in this issue are Ashok Kumar, Secretary to the Chief Minister of Goa, Director, Municipal Administration, Chairman, Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA), Ameya Abhyankar, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of Goa, Padma Jaiswal, Secretary, Department of Cooperation, NRI Affairs, Official language, Labour and Employment, and Public Grievance, Government of Goa, Revathi Majumdar, CEO, Goa ELectronics Limited, and Ravi Jha, Director, Department of Information Technology, Goa.

 

Among other important officials featuring in egov magazine’s latest issue are NK Xaxa, Secretary, Department of Revenue, Government of Chhattisgarh, O P Pal, Additional Commissioner, Department of Transport, Government of Chhattisgarh, Mukesh Bansal, Chief Operating Officer, Naya Raipur Development Authority (NRDA) and Kumar Keshav, Managing Director, Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation, Kumar Keshav, Managing Director, Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation, and Nitin Bhadauria, Vice Chairman, Haridwar Roorkee Development Authority (HRDA) and Commissioner, Haridwar Municipal Corporation. We are carrying the Elets’ Nagpur’s Smart and Sustainable Cities Summit report, Nagpur, which throws light on various initiatives, challenges, and advantages related to Smart Cities. It was participated by Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, and Shipping Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. It is hoped our bouquet of special interviews and stories will evoke an invaluable readers’ feedback.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/05/2017

 

 

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GEL-Making E-Governance Possible in Goa

 

Goa Electronics Limited (GEL) is responsible for the development of software projects in the State. It also ensures that all the guidelines of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) are met, especially for mission mode projects like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, says Revathi Majumdar, Chief Executive Officer, GEL, in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of Elets News Network (ENN). “We are taking every facility to the citizen, making business easy which will make Goa the next big destination for industries.” Give us an overview of GEL. The IT department is the governing body for all IT-related governance in the State. GEL is an IT Corporation of the State which assists the IT department and the State in its various eGovernance initiates. With a strong team of over 100 engineers and robust CMMI standards, we are currently managing eGovernance projects of over 30 government departments in the State and neighbouring States of Maharashtra and Karnataka. We have two decades of experience in e-governance initiatives. We have a major role to play in consultancy, advising the best practices of the country to the State. All the Mission Mode Projects are excecuted in line with the guidance of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Government of India. We are the e-governance arm of the State. Goa Electronics LimitedWhat are the key components of GEL? The key distinguishing factor of the company remains its over 2 decades of experience in e-governance and its ability to in-house develop and implement softwares which not only meet all DIETY standards but more importantly, are useful for efficient governance. Though our forte has been software development for the government over the last decade, we have successfully diversified in areas of consultancy, system integration and programme and project management.

 

We ensure that all the guidelines of DeitY are met, especiallly for mission mode projects like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. We act as a system integrator for all the key stakeholders like National Informatics Centre, DeitY, putting everything together. In additiion to this, we also provide services related to data entry, help in setting up of data centres etc. We are going to set up Common Service Centre in the State whereby services will be provided to the grassroot level. How are startups doing in the State of Goa? The Hon’ble Minister for IT has been driving hard on Startup Goa which is in line with the startup INDIA initiative to give the required boost to the startups in the state. The startup policy which is formulated through extensive interaction and participation from the startups and the industry at large, will definitely be a game-changer for the startup ecosystem in the State. The plan to setup incubation centres will give the required shot in the arm to the growing ideas of the startups as well. Startup GoaHow far we have come to implement IT policy in the State? We are one of the States which has done well in the IT parameters. We have the advantage of being a small State. We have the broadband connectivity to the village level till 1GB. The taluka level has broadband connectivity of 10 GB. All our applications are online. We have a centralised system due to the availability of proper infrastructure in the State. What is the status of Wi-Fi in the State? We are in the process of coming out with a solution whereby Wi-Fi will be available not only at prime locations like airports, railway stations, but tourist spots as well. We are in talks with various stakeholders to provide free Wi-Fi across the State.

 

We are coming up with the IT park and manufacturing cluster in Goa. These have been established to attract big and good industry players so that they can set up their plant there.The company wanting to expand their base in Goa should have the capaciy to hire manpower in the State. How is Goa contributing to Digital India campaign of the Government of India? IT departments in all the States are breathing Digital India. Everyone wants to be a part of Digital India. Our ground work for Digital India is strong. IT literacy is something we have started working on. We have been organising IT camps in the State. We also have the concept of Gramin Mitras. We have strong internet connectivity in the State. Now we have started the journey of taking services to the common man through Common Service Centres. Who is taking care of skill development in Goa and what measures have been taken to develop it? We want students to prepare for the industry. Unless the kids are industry- ready, there is no point of providing them education. We are working towards the skill development of students in a big way. Where do you see Goa in the next five years? We have arrived already and are in line with the vision of the Government of India. In the next five years, it will emerge as the model State in India. Implemenaing any project is easier here than in any other State in the country. We are taking every facility to the citizen, making business easy for the business fratenity which will make Goa the next big destination for industries.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/07/2017

 

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MyGov Turns Three, Participative Governance Takes Successful Stride 

 

MyGov, the dynamic initiative of the Indian government has successfully completed its three years today. The idea of participative governance has made a great stride by creating an efficient and potent interface for healthy exchange of ideas and views for both policy makers as well as citizens of the country. By facilitating a dialogue between citizens and government over online platform, MyGov has crossed more than 1.78 Million users base who actively participate and contribute their ideas, suggestions via online discussions. Moreover,  this disruptive online platform gets more than 10,000 posts per week on various emerging issues by the citizens of the country. This strategic initiative is reflective of the fact that the Indian system has reached the level of radical transformation by integrating and adopting technology to take the country forward on the path of durable progress, stability and transparency.  In one of the recent interviews with eGov magazine, Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO of MyGov stated, “Social media has ushered in the era of citizen generated sentiment and content, and has emerged as a cost-effective channel for government departments to extend their outreach.” Further adding he said, “ A number of government departments have led the way, most notable being the police in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, and municipal corporations of the country’s many Tier-I cities that are extending their functions on social media. In view of the social media and citizen engagement frameworks issued by the government, and with MyGov now leading the way, use of social media for governance is here to stay.”

 

In its short span of existence till date, MyGov has rolled out various kinds of activities and successfully engaged the citizens on important issues such as Clean Ganga,  Girl Child Education, Skill Development and Healthy India, and many more. The platform has shortened the distance gap by involving countrymen as active partners in nation-building. The citizens in good number participate in online & onground tasks, groups-centric & national themes, discussions, polls, blogs, opinions and much more. With MyGov platform, government has ensured to achieve development and provision of basic needs to the people easily overcome challenges, succeed in stabilizing democracy and reinforce the relationship between an individual and the government. Enumerating to three year’s achievements, we see a steady progress on the policy and development front through consistent and realistic participation of both citizens and the government.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 11/19/2017

 

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Government Appoints 20 Joint Secretaries

 

Joint SecretariesThe Central Government has appointed 20 Joint Secretaries across various departments. Rajeev Singh Thakur, 1995-batch IAS officer, Rajasthan, has been appointed as Joint Secretary in Department of Defence for five years. He has replaced  Jiwesh  Nandan who is 1987-batch IAS officer, Uttar Pradesh cadre. Ravi Kant, 1986-batch, Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS) officer, who is currently the Joint Secretary at the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare has been given the charge of Joint Secretary, Department of Defence, on lateral shift basis for five years. Hari Prasad Pudi, 1994-batch, Indian Railway Accounts Service officer, has taken his place as Joint Secretary, Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare. Kumar Vinay Pratap 1992-batch, Indian Economic Service (IES) officer has now been posted as Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs for five years. Kamran Rizvi, 1991-batch IAS officer, Uttar Pradesh cadre, is now the Joint Secretary at the Department of Rural Development, for five years. Sachin Sinha, 1995-batch, Madhya Pradesh cadre, is now the Joint Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy for five years, replacing Ajay Tirkey, 1987-batch IAS officer, Madhya Pradesh cadre. V Shashank Sekhar, 1996-batch IAS officer has been posted in Department of School Education and Literacy as Joint Secretary. He was posted in Ministry of Home Affairs as Joint Secretary. Pankaj Rag, 1990-batch IAS officer, Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been shifted to Ministry of Sports as Joint Secretary from Ministry of Culture.

 

Sushil Kumar Singla, 1994-batch IFOS officer,  Himachal Pradesh cadre is now the Joint Secretariat the Department of Land Resources. Anuj Sharma, 1991-batch Indian Defense Estates Service (IDES) officer has been made Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs for a tenure of overall five years. Dharma Reddy Alla, 1991-batch IDES officer has been appointed as the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs for five  years. Sanjay Kumar Sinha, 1993-batch IFOS officer, Jammu and Kashmir cadre has been made the Joint Secretary, Department of Higher Education. Anant Swarup, 1992-batch IRPS officer has been appointed as Joint Secretary at the Department of Commerce for five years. Jatindra Nath Swain, 1988-batch IAS officer, Tamil Nadu cadre has been given the charge of  Managing Director at Solar Energy Corporation of India (JS level) under the Ministry of New and  Renewable Energy. Sanjay Rastogi, 1991-batch IAS officer, Odisha cadre has been given the charge of Development Commissioner (Handlooms) (JS level), Ministry of Textiles for five years. Sundeep Kumar Nayak, 1988-batch IAS officer, has been appointed as Managing Director, NCDCI (JS level) under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, for five years.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com/ 11/21/2017

 

 

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AZERBAIJAN: UNDP Supports Development of E-Government and E-Participation Opportunities

 

Participants were informed about global trends in e-Government and e-Participation concepts and infrastructure, and Internet security. E-Government and e-Participation for sustainable development in Azerbaijan’s districts was the main topic of a training course organised in the city of Ganja by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan and Regional Development Public Union, according to AzVision. The course brought together over 70 participants from the government agencies, businesses and civil society from Ganja and surrounding districts, as well as international and local experts. They discussed the access of citizens to public services, employment opportunities, best practices in strengthening ICT capacity of civil servants in the regions, e-signature and e-document. Participants were also informed about global trends in e-Government and e-Participation concepts and infrastructure, Internet security, as well as e-Government portal and its services. "ELECTRON AZERBAIJAN" handbook was presented during the training course. The handbook describes the infrastructure of the e-Government and its key components, as well as e-Gov.az e-Government Portal, the service teams available on the portal, the e-Signature and its application areas. At the end of the training, the participants received certificates from the UNDP Azerbaijan. The training course was organised as part of the project on modernization of sustainability and efficiency of ICT infrastructure and ICT services in Azerbaijan.

From https://news.az/ 11/12/2017

 

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New Appointments at Azerbaijani Energy Ministry

 

New appointments have been made at the Azerbaijani Energy Ministry.  Head of the Department for Energy Policy, Fuel and Energy Resources Elkhan Hashimov has been appointed acting head of the State Gas Supervision Administration for a period of one month, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Energy told Trend.  Moreover, Head of the Electric Power Department Amil Mursaliyev has been appointed acting head of the Energy Supervision Administration for a period of one month.  Esmira Jafarova has been appointed head of the international affairs department. Previously, she served as third secretary of the Security Affairs Administration of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.

From https://en.trend.az 11/15/2017 

 

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Azerbaijan to Switch to New System of Customs Duties in 2018

 

Azerbaijan will switch to a new system of customs duties in 2018, according to the “Commodity Nomenclature of Foreign Economic Activity, Rates of Import and Export Customs Duties” approved by the decision of the country’s Cabinet of Ministers.  The decision was made to improve effectiveness of foreign economic activity by modernizing the mechanism of setting customs tariffs, strengthening state support for domestic production and non-oil exports, protecting the domestic market, as well as switching to a system with fewer customs duties.  The decision will also allow bringing the codes of the commodity nomenclature in line with the international Harmonized System.  In connection with the approval of the new document, two documents – “Rates of Customs Duties on Goods Imported to Azerbaijan” and “List of Goods Subject to Export Customs Duties and Rates of Export Customs Duties” – lose their force.  Earlier, Aydin Aliyev, head of Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee, told Trend that the committee submitted proposals to the Cabinet of Ministers regarding transition to a three-level customs tariff system, which envisages changing customs duties on raw materials and goods imported to the country.  Proposals for the transition from a multi-level to a three-level differentiated tariff system provide for the preservation of customs duty rates at 0, 5 and 15 percent in Azerbaijan.  Today, the customs rates of 0, 0.5, 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 percent are applied in the country.  It is proposed to exempt the majority of the goods (raw materials and equipment) from customs duties.  “It is proposed to raise the custom duties for the import of finished products to Azerbaijan to 15 percent,” Aydin Aliyev noted. “On the one hand, this will stimulate and support domestic production, and on the other hand, it will prevent the outflow of foreign currency.”

From https://en.trend.az 11/22/2017 

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TURKMENISTAN: New Deputy Finance Minister Named

 

Dovranberdi Annaberdiev has been appointed Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan.  The relevant decree on his appointment was signed by the country’s president.  Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Finance and Economy was established recently. The new ministry united the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economy and Development.  This step was taken under a presidential decree in order to transform the financial, economic and banking complex of Turkmenistan, and improve its activities.

From https://en.trend.az 11/04/2017

 

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Turkmenistan Elected as Vice President of UNESCO General Conference

 

The 39th session of the General Conference of the UN Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) kicked off in the General Staff of the organization in Paris, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry said in a message.  Turkmenistan was elected UNESCO deputy chairman at the 202nd session of the Executive Council of the organization, the message said.  The Great Silk Road passed through Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has a rich culture, various natural landscapes and unique archaeological monuments included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

From https://en.trend.az 11/05/2017

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UZBEKISTAN: Management System of Leading Sectors to Be Revised

 

The system of management and control of electricity, oil, gas supply and chemical industry will be revised in Uzbekistan, Turkiston-Press news agency reported Nov. 9. To this end, a working group is established by the order of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev dated Nov. 6, 2017. The task of the group is to study the activities of Uzbekenergo, Uzbekhydroenergo, Uzbekneftegaz, Uztransgaz, Uzbekkumir, Uzkimyosanoat joint-stock companies and their facilities. Particular attention will be paid to the effectiveness of the management and control system, the current methodological basis (standards, regulations and instructions used in the industry), the level of technical equipment, profitability and efficiency of the full production cycle. The working group should prepare drafts of legal acts until February 20, 2018. In particular, it is necessary to revise the organizational and legal framework of activities of the Uzbek state inspectorate for supervision in the electric power industry, the Uzbek state inspectorate for the control of the use of oil products and gas under the Cabinet of Ministers, the above-mentioned joint-stock companies and the National Energy Saving Company.

From https://en.trend.az 11/09/2017 

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AUSTRALIA: Turnbull and Shorten to Meet on Citizenship

 

Labor leader Bill Shorten is being urged to put politics aside and work with the prime minister on a new process to check the citizenship credentials of federal MPs. Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News a meeting between the two leaders in Melbourne on Wednesday incredibly important, as questions re-emerge about the eligibility of two Labor MPs - Tasmania's Justine Keay and Queensland's Susan Lamb. Ms Keay says her renunciation of British citizenship was not effective until after the 2016 election, while Ms Lamb has said she took all necessary steps to renounce her British citizenship in May 2016, but has not said if this was confirmed before the deadline. The recent High Court ruling stated Section 44 'does not disqualify only those who have not made reasonable efforts to conform to its requirements'. Malcolm Turnbull needs Labor's support for a plan to force all members and senators to declare, on the register of interests, they are not a citizen of another country and set out the birth records of themselves and their parents.

 

If they have previously held citizenship of another country they must provide evidence of their renunciation or how it came to an end. Under Mr Turnbull's plan, the register would not be published until after Christmas. Mr Shorten will argue it needs to be done sooner in order to provide the public with confidence that all MPs are eligible to sit. Mr Tehan pleaded with the Labor leader to 'put politics aside'. 'This is an issue which is too important, we've got to make sure we get this right,' he told Sky News. 'What we need from Bill Shorten - especially given now there is a cloud over two Labor party MPs - is for him to work with the prime minister so that we get a process in place that means that we can once and for all have a procedure to sort this out.' Shadow Defence Minister Richard Marles told Sky News his party was confident Ms Keay and Ms Lamb had taken the reasonable steps required to resolve their citizenship status before they were nominated.

 

'That is a very different situation to what we see on the other side which is people basically sitting on their hands and checking a year after election as to whether they have got an issue,' he said. Liberal MP John Alexander is seeking advice from UK authorities on whether he holds citizenship by descent through his British-born father - a case virtually identical to that of disqualified senator Fiona Nash and resigned senator Stephen Parry. He believes he is solely an Australian citizen but has promised to make a full statement once the advice is received. Labor wants him referred to the High Court, but Mr Turnbulll says all MPs should be allowed to make their declarations under the new process and then cases can be referred to the court. If Mr Alexander is disqualified from parliament, the government - which holds a one-seat majority and is already fighting a by-election in New England - would be forced to a by-election in Bennelong, which the MP holds with a 7.8 per cent margin.

 

Liberal senator Eric Abetz said he hoped there would only be a limited number of by-elections, but a general election could not be ruled out. Former Liberal senator turned independent Cory Bernardi suggested the best solution would be to prorogue the parliament. Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey admitted the problem had become a 'frustration' but was hopeful the government can put the 'sideshow' behind it. 'The people in the pub and down the golf club, they just think the whole world's gone mad and why can't Canberra get it right,' he told ABC radio.

From http://www.skynews.com.au 11/08/2017

 

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No Banking Royal Commission: Turnbull

 

Malcolm Turnbull insists his government won't agree to a royal commission into the big banks, despite reports the issue has been raised in cabinet. The prime minister again argued such an inquiry would be expensive and probably make recommendations the coalition is already implementing. 'There is not going to be a banking royal commission,' he told the Nine Network on Wednesday. Treasurer Scott Morrison refused to confirm the cabinet deliberations, but noted it wouldn't be surprising to hear senior ministers consider such issues from time to time. 'The government's position remains the government's position,' he told ABC radio, dismissing Labor's proposal as a lawyers picnic. Labor MP Jason Clare says the recent leak of information from within cabinet was yet another sign of division. 'I think the real story today is that cabinet met to discuss caving in on this issue and it appears on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today, that tells you just how divided this government is,' he told Sky News. 'You've got members of cabinet leaking on the prime minister straight out of cabinet it's not that he can't trust members of parliament he can't even trust his own cabinet.'

From http://www.skynews.com.au 11/22/2017

 

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Govt Change: Charter Schools Optimistic

 

Charter school owners are confident their schools will survive the change of government even if the charter school system is abolished. The Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties opposed the publicly-funded, private schools and prior to the election Labour said the schools' futures would be subject to case-by-case negotiations if it formed the next government. He Puna Marama Trust chief executive Raewyn Tipene said she was relaxed about the future of the trust's two Whangarei schools, Te Kāpehu Whetū and Terenga Paraoa. "My gut feeling is there certainly will be a name change, there will be some changes to the policy itself," she said. "I think there's some room in there for us to put forward our own ideas." Ms Tipene said there would be some advantages for the schools if they became full state schools but were similar to some existing character schools.

 

Alwyn Poole runs two Auckland charter schools and said a switch to special or designated character status was a likely scenario for charter schools. He hoped any negotiations with the government would do more than simply ensuring the schools survived. "There needs to be some improvements. For instance, we're not allowed in communities of learning, that clearly has an impact on us and it has an impact on our children and our families. "We're not allowed any funding to expand and so at South Auckland Middle School we've got 100 kids on a wait list who would like to be within our school and can't be. "So there are issues like that that we'd like addressed positively, rather than just survival." The communities of learning scheme pays some teachers and principals more to lead changes in groups of schools. Nick Hyde set up Vanguard Military Academy in the first round of charter schools in 2014 and recently signed a contract for a new school in Christchurch.

 

He said he was not yet sure if the schools' model of military drill combined with NCEA would work under a different arrangment and there were advantages to the contracts used for charter schools. "Being bulk-funded, which is not how other schools are funded, allows the management and the governance of the school to pick and choose what areas the money should be sent to. "And being very student-focused and having a contract with the government to try and get acheivements allows us to focus on that solely." Mr Hyde said the schools were doing well and should be allowed to continue. Auckland teacher Claire Amos said she was relieved the former National-led government signed the contract for her new charter school shortly before the election. However, she said the change of government created some uncertainty.

 

"We're in a position where we need to start establishing locations, we're hoping to appoint staff - it is really challening and really difficult to move those things forward without a degree of certainty as to what the fate of the school might be." Ms Amos said the school, planned for downtown Auckland, was similiar in nature to existing designated character schools with an emphasis on self-directed learning. There are 10 charter schools, which the previous government called partnership schools or kura hourua, with two more scheduled to open next year and four more in 2019. The schools are funded at the same rate as state schools but with funding in lieu of state-provided grounds and buildings, and unlike state schools their funding is delivered in bulk so they can decide how to split the money between property, staff and other costs.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 11/01/2017

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Working Group Formed for 'Hobbit Law' Replacement

 

The government has formed a working group with industry representatives to replace the so-called "Hobbit law". The law, which was introduced in 2010, prevented film workers from collective bargaining. Labour has said it will scrap the law after a bitter industrial dispute between some unions and the movie giant Warner Bros, as well as Sir Peter Jackson. Today, workplace relations minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced he was working with a number of industry groups, including the Screen Industry Guild, to consider options for replacing the legislation. He said the film industry brought millions of dollars to New Zealand and a collaborative approach was being taken to ensure the laws affecting them were fair. Mr Lees-Galloway said it was more important that the law was right than it was rushed, but that there was a commitment from all involved to see things move quickly. In October 2010, the John Key-led government did a deal with Warner Bros to ensure the Hobbit films stayed in New Zealand. It offered the studio giant bigger subsidies to make films in New Zealand, costing it another $33.5 million, and agreed to the labour law changes, which were passed under urgency. At the time, the government claimed the law changes were the result of uncertainty caused by several unions boycotting the Hobbit films. But it was later revealed that an agreement had already been signed ending the dispute, and the government knew that when it passed the legislation.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 11/09/2017

 

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Workers' Share of National Income Shrinks

 

Workers are getting the smallest slice of the economic pie in this country in decades, the Council of Trade Unions says. Statistics New Zealand data shows in the year to March, the country's two million salary and wage earners received just under 49 percent of the nation's income, compared to 59 percent in 1981. The council said if workers were receiving the same return for their labour that was considered fair a generation ago, then, on average, they would be about $11,500 better off today. Council secretary Sam Huggard said one of the main causes was the dismantling of collective wage bargaining. The new government has signalled that it is willing to address the issue, he said. Labour has said it wants to introduce fair pay agreements in selective industries, that would create industry-wide minimum standards.

From http://www.radionz.co.nz 11/26/2017

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How a Smart Grid Can Empower a Smart City

 

As smart cities continue to depart the realm of fiction and instead become a staple of life in the 21st century, eager entrepreneurs and aspirational scientist alike are increasingly turning to smart grids to power these cities of the future. Designing the infrastructure which enables smart cities is anything but easy, however, and many people today seem entirely unfamiliar with even the basic concept of a smart grid. So, what exactly is a smart grid, and how are they increasingly shaping how America’s smart cities are taking form? Anyone who hopes to understand the cities of tomorrow should keep these facts in mind as they picture tomorrow’s cityscapes in their minds.

 

A new way to run cities

It’s not hard to figure out that smart cities necessitate modern infrastructure that can handle increased amounts of data traffic and digital connections. Not everyone seems to understand how smart grids are fundamentally reshaping how our utilities and infrastructure systems are shaped, however. Today’s smart grids are bigger and better than ever before, with innovative companies continuously churning out new and better grids more capable of servicing citizen’s needs. Alfen recently launched a new smart grid so advanced it’s capable of operating autonomously and healing itself when damaged, for instance. As smart cities continue to become the norm, smart grids capable of running without human oversight will become more common, and technologies that allow them to repair themselves when damaged like Alfen’s will quickly growly invaluable. Not only are these grids reshaping our cities, then, but they’re continuously aspiring companies to invest more money into renewables and algorithms which can spur these grids’ growth.

 

The sensors that help make up today’s smart grids are truly impressive, and fit right into today’s Internet of Things-driven economy. Smart grids are capable of transmitting electricity more efficiently, for instance, but are also constantly gathering data about utility usages around the cities they help operate. This means that the wise application of smart grid’s data can result in better management that ultimately lowers cost for consumers. Smart grids are helping combat today’s increasingly frequent natural disasters, too. Using the data accumulated from the grid over time, governments and utility providers can ultimately have public infrastructure services up and running more quickly after power disturbances. Building a nation of smart cities is thus clearly in America’s interest, but just how quickly are these new grids becoming the norm?

 

Modernizing America’s infrastructure

The U.S. electric grid is no simple engineering feat; more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines crisscross the nation, with over 1 million megawatts of generating capacity keeping the lights on year-round. Updating such a system to help spur the growth of smart grids won’t be easy, nor quick, but will ultimately prove to be a boon to society and the economy for decades to come. Common smart city initiatives, then, such as supplying better internet access through router reviews to all citizens or streamlining city services, can all benefit from the widespread adoption of smart grids. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of smart cities is how their positive results trickle down to everyone in society; rich and poor alike benefit from the cleaner energy fostered by smart grids, and the entire city will reap the financial benefits of adopting one for generations.

 

Smart cites are powered by smart consumers who have access to cutting edge tech. Smart grids aim to hasten the services delivered to these consumers, as well as significantly cut back on their cost, and will go a long way in turning tomorrow’s citizens into tech-savvy urban denizens ready to operate in an increasingly complex 21st century economy. Proponents of smart grids shouldn’t hold their breath waiting; the widespread adoption of these marvelous grids will only be possible with popular support, meaning citizens who want healthier, smarter cities should make their voices heard with their votes and their wallets alike. Tomorrow’s smart cities will be dominated by electric vehicles and data services, all of which smart grids go a long way towards enabling; it would be a shame to shun such a necessary part of a modern economy. As smart cities continue to grow, more people will come to recognize the value of the smart grids that empower them. A new world is rapidly approaching, and producing a modernized grid capable of making the smart cities of the future a reality is the first step towards achieving success in it.

From http://www.i-policy.org/ 11/06/2017

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First OECD PISA Report on Collaborative Problem-Solving Launches Tuesday 21 November 2017

 

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, people are often required to collaborate in order to achieve their goals. But students still typically learn individually. Schools will need to become better at preparing students to live and work in a world in which most people will need to trust and collaborate with other people. This first ever assessment of collaborative problem solving skills aims to help countries and economies see where their students stand in relation to their peers in other education systems. Students in 52 education systems completed this test in addition to the main OECD PISA 2015 Survey on science, mathematics and reading. The report, “Collaborative Problem-Solving: PISA Results 2015 (volume 5)”, is under embargo until 08.00 a.m. Paris time/CET (07.00 a.m. GMT) on Tuesday 21 November 2017. Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, will present the report’s findings at a conference in Singapore the same day. German media are also invited to take part in a webinar (under embargo) on Monday 20 November at 11.00 a.m. with Andreas Schleicher. To register, contact Matthias Rumpf (tel. + 49 30 2888 3541). On 21 November, a public webinar will be held with Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, at 3.00 p.m. GMT/4.00 p.m. CET. To register: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2441454961005510914 Country notes will be available for France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Requests to receive the report and country notes under embargo by e-mail ahead of release time should be sent to embargo@oecd.org. Journalists requesting an electronic version in advance of the release time agree to respect OECD embargo conditions. Copies will be sent on Monday 20 November.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 11/14/2017

 

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Data Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation

 

The need for cities to fully harness the potential of data constantly flowing through them has never been more urgent. Data Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation, highlights examples from around the world of how cities are doing exactly this: using new technology, data collection and analysis to improve services and liveability for their citizens. The report is part of a wider initiative by the World Economic Forum to empower city leadership in employing 4IR technology to improve the urban experience and using data to define and measure their preparedness for the transformation of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

From https://www.weforum.org/ 11/15/2017

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Resilient Transport Vital to Curb Disaster Losses in Small Island Developing States

 

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean, Pacific, Africa and Indian Ocean are among the world’s most vulnerable countries to natural disasters, and climate change is expected to greatly increase their exposure to hurricanes, storm surges, extreme winds, and flooding. A report launched today by the World Bank says the transport sector can play a central role in reducing the vulnerability of SIDS. The report, entitled Climate and Disaster-Resilient Transport in Small Island Developing States: A Call for Action, finds that damage to roads and bridges constitutes a major share of disaster losses in SIDS, resulting in huge fiscal strains for their small economies. Transport often represents a large share of public assets in small islands, for example in Dominica transport assets are valued at 82% of GDP. In Fiji, one third of the total government budget is spent on the transport sector. “Transport is critical to the economy and for the provision of services to remote communities,” said the Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Minister for Economy of Fiji. “Our transport infrastructure is already affected by climate change. There is an urgent need to develop tailored and climate smart solutions to improve the resilience of this sector. This report makes a valuable contribution by highlighting innovative solutions focused on small island developing states.”

 

According to the report, disaster vulnerability and costs in SIDS can be significantly reduced by investments in transport asset management that factor in climate change and disaster risks. This includes placement of transport infrastructure away from high risk locations, physical protection against hazards, application of innovative materials and construction designs, infrastructure maintenance, and deployment of early warning systems, among others. “The effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Caribbean are a stark reminder of how natural disasters can set vulnerable small countries back by decades,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Director for Transport and Digital Development. “As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, small island developing states face the urgent need to adapt. Resilient transport systems should be a priority in that effort, due to the large recovery costs and the critical role they play in all aspects of their economies.”

 

In addition to the direct costs of physical damage, limited economic diversification and low capacity to cope, aggravated by impaired transport systems, result in critical losses to income and population well-being. This includes interruptions of access to services such as schools and hospitals, and lost revenues in vital sectors such as tourism, fishing, and agriculture, worsening long-term economic losses and making recovery even more difficult. Despite these risks, the adoption of a transport resilience package could reduce losses significantly. For Tonga, for example, this could reduce well-being losses by as much as 25%. Against less frequent and unpredictable high-impact events, SIDS will also need better access to financial instruments, the report notes. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), managed by the World Bank, provides risk finance and transfer facilities, but these efforts need to be strengthened and complemented by additional financial resources to enhance the resilience of transport systems.

From https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/ 11/1/52017

 

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GM Shares Upgraded Because of Automaker's 'Advanced' Autonomous Technology

 

General Motors will surprise Wall Street with its "advanced" autonomous technology announcement later this month and affirm its goal to be a key competitor in ride-sharing, according to one Wall Street firm Monday. Guggenheim upgraded shares of General Motors to buy from neutral on Monday, citing the company's "vision for an autonomous future" as well as a "comfortable" 2018 outlook. "GM has expressed notable optimism about the status of its AVs, and seems confident it can launch a ride-hailing fleet of robo-taxis well before 2020 for geo-fenced urban areas," wrote analyst Emmanuel Rosner in a note to clients. "CEO Mary Barra has famously said and repeated that GM's AVs are quarters away, not years." Investors will be able to see for themselves just how close the carmaker is to putting fully autonomous cars on the road during its hotly anticipated Nov. 30 event. Shares of GM closed 2.3 percent higher, adding to their 26 percent gain this year. The company's autonomous Bolt is being built on a dedicated platform which can scale production upward of 100,000 units, according to Rosner, which could give it a significant cost advantage over competitors.

 

This leadership in autonomous technology could mean a "sizable" earnings opportunity in the years ahead, especially in the budding U.S. ride-sharing and -hailing industries. Guggenheim analysis shows that current ride-sharing is costing Uber and Lyft $2.75 per mile, while driverless solutions could bring that number down to $1.50 per mile by 2020, a big upside opportunity for the carmaker. Further, the analyst expects 10 percent of all urban/suburban vehicle miles will be some form of autonomous by 2025. While these goals may be a few years away, Rosner also sees meaningful earnings potential in 2018. Barra relieved many investors last week at an investor conference in assuring the audience that full-sized truck production would only fall 70,000 units in 2018 versus estimates of 110,000. The analyst continues to see 2018 earnings per share of $6.05, well ahead of consensus of $5.80. "We believe the market is only pricing in a relatively conservative view of the value of GM's Mobility business, especially after the recent pull-back in the stock," added Rosner. "Looking simply at the market cap gains, GM stock is up 23 percent over the past 3 months or roughly $10 billion. If we attribute half of this gain to an overall re-rating for U.S. auto stocks, this leaves just a $5 billion boost attributable to growing investor optimism." Rosner increased his price target to $52 from $48, representing 19 percent upside from Friday's close.

From https://www.cnbc.com/ 11/20/2017

 

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How Digitally Empowered Banking Consumers Are Fueling the Need for Robust Data Centers

 

As technology continues to shape the financial industry, banks are embracing digital innovation and are evolving to meet digital disruption head on. Customer demand for a secure, uninterrupted service is growing thanks to the convenience of integrated apps with single authentication – these disruptive technologies are putting financial organizations under huge pressure. Cloud-based systems, edge computing, the internet of things and a high performance data center are critical to financial institutions with a digital strategy. Banks are therefore forging partnerships. Innovative new platforms, like Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure, help deliver a reliable digital experience and at the same time improve efficiency and sustainability while reducing operating costs. Financial consumers are putting more pressure on banks and industry organizations than ever before. Consumers want to enjoy a 100 percent secure, uninterrupted experience with their trusted financial provider. But with the growth of digitization, mobile banking, fintech (financial technology) competitors, cyber risks and political uncertainty, how can banks and financial organizations guarantee this seamless experience? And when it seems that you are "only as strong as your weakest link," how can banks detect chinks in the digital armor?

 

Embracing the future of modern banking

According to fintech expert Timur Vorona, "the bank of the future will either cease to exist or it will become an IT company." That is indeed a bold idea. In order to deliver the digital customer experience customers are demanding, both the front customer-facing operations and the back office processes need to embrace IT as a core enabler of future banking. It is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs is rebranding itself as a tech company and is now the biggest "non-tech" Fortune 500 investor in technology start-ups. So if the answer lies in embracing more tech — no surprises so far — what kind of advanced tech are we talking about and how should it be applied? Edge computing, the internet of things and, last but not least, a high performance data center could be the key. If consumers have bigger expectations, the pressure is on a firm's data center to adapt rapidly — while also maintaining sustainability and growth. While once slow to adopt cloud-based technology, financial institutions see the agility of the cloud as an opportunity to differentiate themselves with new apps and services. However, with limitations on bandwidth, latency and regulations, more institutions are supplementing the cloud with edge computing, storing and transmitting data closer in proximity to their consumers.

 

Data centers at the heart of a digital strategy

Ajman Bank is an award-winning bank in the United Arab Emirates with a focus on corporate social responsibility. It is a leader in seeking out the market's best products, people and technology in order to deliver what customers want, how they want it delivering real value and creating that human touch that is often lost in modern banking. Renowned for employing cutting-edge technology and outstanding global customer experience delivery, Ajman Bank began an audit of its data centers in Northern Emirates. Maryam Al Shorafa, VP, head of corporate communication and marketing, says: "Our bank has been at the forefront of harnessing technologies to improve our clients' experiences. We wanted to enhance the bank's infrastructure, efficiency and customer services." With a review of data centers at the heart of its strategy, Ajman started working with Schneider Electric to find ways of harnessing the latest IT to improve its end-to-end financial offering.

 

Innovative new platforms improve performance

Schneider Electric's VP of IT Business, Ziad Youseff explains: "Our main objective was to provide an integrated, end-to-end solution via EcoStruxure, a new platform that offers customized design and cutting-edge technology. The new platform enables energy savings; sustainability; digital transformation and helps manage operational risks. For Ajman Bank, EcoStruxure provided a high-security co-location data center system with over 220 racks; improved proximity to consumer data and offered a single point of control for all the data center hardware. We implemented the region's only and biggest co-location system in record time." Abdul Rahman Jaroudi,VP, head of information technology, is unequivocal on the partnership: "Not only did Schneider Electric bring in global expertise, the company embedded tech into the heart of our business. We wanted an advanced, high-efficiency end-to-end solution and Schneider Electric was our top choice. We are still the only bank in UAE to offer this technology and enhanced consumer experience."

 

Banks strategize to provide a seamless customer experience

Busan Bank, another beneficiary of Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure platform, agrees. In 2014, disparate data storage jeopardized the customer experience and put the bank's mission — to become the number one local bank in Korea — at risk. It immediately partnered with Schneider Electric to review its data center. By deploying Ecostruxure platform, hybrid cloud tech and implementing microgrids for consistent power, Busan Bank and Schneider Electric reduced internal data duplication and eradicated errors. The result? Thanks to its fully-operational data center managed by Schneider Electric, Busan Bank saved $587,000 and shortened the go-to market lead time required to support digital initiatives such as the region's first mobile banking service. With centralized data centers, tech and power efficiencies and sustainability on a global scale, coupled with edge computing micro data center strategies at a local level, it is actually possible to create a seamless financial customer experience — which should be the true heart of any bank strategy. "Now that the financial crisis is behind them, banks are investing in their digital infrastructure," commented Sydney Hogg, Schneider Electric's president for the banking and finance segment. "Financial service companies who want to be around for the long term understand that a robust, scalable data center and network edge infrastructure are critical to providing the highly available, always-on customer experience end users have grown to expect."

From https://www.cnbc.com/ 11/20/2017

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APEC Leaders Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future

 

The Leaders of the 21 APEC member economies have opened their 25th annual meeting in Da Nang determined to take bolder and sustained collective actions to inject new dynamism into APEC cooperation. Leaders are seeking to formulate a shared vision for advancing APEC’s role as a driver of economic integration and growth, an incubator of ideas for economic cooperation, a coordinating mechanism of trade agreements, and a global leader in addressing pressing problems. Their aim is to better position people and businesses across the Asia-Pacific to navigate complex and fundamental shifts in the regional and global landscapes, building on the half century of progress achieved through voluntary, non-binding, consensus-based cooperation between APEC economies that is well-suited for today’s new realities. “APEC has shown its dynamism, adaptability and flexibility towards changes,” explained Viet Nam President Tran Dai Quang, Chair of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. “The Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment, and the support for the multilateral trading system as well as the growth of connectivity strategies and programs have provided the long-term orientations for APEC’s activities and afforded hundreds of concrete cooperation areas, including next generation trade and investment issues.” “These have also responded to the new demands of the digital era,” President Quang continued. “Yet regional economic integration has been impeded by global uncertainties facing free and open trade.” President Quang pointed to unfolding world security and economic and social transition challenges that threaten the momentum of trade and growth recovery. “Within a year since our last meeting in Peru, we have witnessed changes more rapid and complex that we expected,” President Quang acknowledged. “This requires APEC to uphold its leadership in finding new drivers for growth, trade, investment, connectivity and in finding ways to ensure that the benefits of globalization and economic integration are equally distributed.” Leaders are exchanging their views on how APEC can promote balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and employability; create new drivers for regional economic integration; strengthen the capacity and innovation of micro, small and medium enterprises; and enhance food security and sustainable agriculture in response to climate change. “Only by so doing, can we contribute to a peaceful, stable, dynamic, interconnected and prosperous Asia-Pacific,” President Quang concluded.

From https://www.apec.org/ 11/11/2017

 

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Conditions Favorable for Worker-Friendly Trade Reforms

 

Solid growth projections across APEC member economies will create space to advance trade and labor policy reforms needed to address potentially disruptive transition challenges for workers, according to a new report from the APEC Policy Support Unit. The APEC region, which accounts for over half of global trade and about 60 per cent of global GDP, will outpace the rest of the world at 3.9 per cent growth for 2017 and maintain a steady pace at 3.8 per cent growth in 2018, the latest APEC Regional Trends Analysis forecasts. It calls these prime conditions for the introduction of improved trade adjustment and social protection schemes to help work forces cope with economic and technological growing pains and structurally ensure the momentum of the region’s economy. “The economic outlook in APEC is encouraging but there is much work to do to fight rising inequality that contributes to anti-globalization sentiments in some areas. More people need to feel the benefits of trade-driven growth to sustain economies over the long haul,” explained Dr Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit. “With economies finding their footing, there is a real opportunity for policymakers to confront the effects of market competition and technological change in ways that could make a lasting difference for employment and income prospects in the region.” The report underscores the importance of deepening cooperation in APEC to narrow education and skills mismatches between labor and employers, open new economic opportunities and raise productivity in the digital era. It also points to the value regional partnership can bring in supporting workers marginalized by globalization, including those hurt by shuttered industries and job losses—a realm that has been largely limited to domestic policy development in the past. “The impact of automation and cost competitiveness on jobs and wages has been more pronounced in the developed world and will increasingly be felt in developing areas too as their income and innovation levels continue to rise,” said Emmanuel San Andres, an Analyst with the APEC Policy Support Unit Analyst and the report’s lead researcher. “Ultimately economies in the APEC region are facing many of the same labor market pressures and the threat they pose to an inclusive recovery. This is a chance for APEC member economies to learn from one another how to optimize trade and growth outcomes at home in this age of disruption,” San Andres continued. The report recommends greater focus in APEC on the design and implementation of measures such as worker training and re-training, apprenticeship programs, job counselling and social safety nets. It also advocates increased information-sharing on labor trends to help APEC economies refine their policy solutions. APEC Senior Officials will meet in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 5-6 December to decide how to take this process forward as they flesh out the region’s priorities for policy collaboration in 2018.

From https://www.apec.org/ 11/21/2017

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CHINA: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence Aid Judicial Reforms

 

Chinese judges and prosecutors are using the latest information technology -- from big data and cloud computing to artificial intelligence -- to improve efficiency and accuracy. Big data services have helped judges search precedents, correct legal documents and analyze cases, said a report submitted by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Wednesday at the bi-monthly legislative session. China launched a national database of legal documents and academic papers in March 2016, consisting of more than 20 million documents. Computing has also assisted prosecutors to screen evidence, refer to similar cases, research relevant laws, and draft legal documents, said another report submitted by the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) at the same session. Speech recognition technologies have significantly saved trial time by turning recordings into formal transcripts.

 

In courts that piloted the technology, trial time has been shortened by 20 to 30 percent, according to the SPC report. Prosecutors have also applied speech recognition during interrogation to develop transcripts in real time, according to the SPP report. In Xinjiang and Tibet, smart translation software has been tested in prosecuting cases involving ethnic minority people, the report added. The courts have connected their database with those of police, industry and commerce administration, banking and security supervisory agencies to screen the personal property of parties involved in lawsuits, increasing the efficiency of implementing verdicts. Information technology plays a big part in improving transparency of judicial work. In the year since an official trial broadcast website was launched in September last year, about 342,000 trials have been broadcast live with 2.74 billion hits, according to the SPC report.

 

More than 34 million court documents have been published online since a website was formally launched in January 2014. A majority of judicial auctions have been conducted online, exposing them to the scrutiny of the public and effectively preventing backdoor transactions. In the past seven months, about 112,000 items worth of 96.6 billion yuan (14.6 billion U.S. dollars) were auctioned by courts online, according to the SPC report. In addition to a unified website for prosecuting agencies to publish case information, a WeChat service was launched to inform parties and lawyers about the latest developments in their cases, the SPP report said. Most case files have been digitized and made available to lawyers, while prosecutors have interviewed citizens and lawyers through online video calls. Courts and prosecuting agencies have become more accessible to the public through social media accounts, according to the reports.         

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/01/2017

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North China City Gets Tougher on Smog Control

 

The city of Langfang, Hebei Province, which neighbors Beijing, has vowed to strengthen its efforts to curb air pollution by rolling out a set of tough measures. The city has instigated an initiative to replace coal with gas and electricity, and further cut the number of coal-fired boilers, with the aim of lowering its PM2.5 density by over 18 percent between October 2017 to March 2018. All the construction sites which fail to meet pollution control standards will be closed for improvements to be made. Trucks carrying construction materials will be equipped with positioning systems and fully enclosed containers. Petrol stations selling gasoline or diesel that does not reach green standards will face severe fines and be closed for an indefinite period. Stricter bans will be introduced to discourage the burning of straw and garbage. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region has long been a victim of severe smog. Various measures have been taken both at local and national levels to clean the air in the region. In August, an action plan on air pollution was put in place in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and neighboring regions with the aim of lowering the average PM2.5 density in the area by over 15 percent from October 2017 to March 2018.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/09/2017

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Chinese Vice Premier Calls for Sense of Mission in Poverty Reduction

 

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang Monday underlined the importance of applying a sense of mission in poverty reduction to meet the target. Presiding over a meeting of the State Council leading group on poverty relief, Wang, also head of the group, urged authorities to implement the central leadership's instructions through enhancing a sense of mission and crisis awareness, and targeting problems to fulfill the Party's promise to the Chinese people and the international community. Training of local authorities in charge of poverty reduction should be stepped up, Wang said, stressing the importance of carrying out research and investigation, and averting formalism. China has set 2020 as the target to complete the building of a "moderately prosperous society," which requires the eradication of poverty. To achieve that target, China needs to lift more than 10 million people out of poverty every year, meaning nearly one million people per month or 20 people per minute.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/13/2017

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Vice Premier Stresses Reform, Innovation to Revive NE Industrial Base

 

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said Wednesday the country's northeastern areas should channel more energy into reform and innovation to stimulate the economy. "The regions should strengthen reform and innovation, changing the old mindset and improving the business environment," Zhang said during a visit to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Zhang said more effort would be needed to boost the vitality of SOEs and support the private sector. Plagued by red tape and torpid SOEs, the northeastern rust belt suffered in China's economic slowdown during the past years. Calls for reform in the areas are on the rise. The central government has rolled out measures pushing for efficient administration and industrial shifts aimed at helping the industrial heartland regain its glory. Zhang also asked local governments to accelerate the modernization of agriculture to shore up rural areas, improve the re-employment of laid-off workers, step up poverty relief, and better protect wetlands and grasslands.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/15/2017

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China Raises Retail Fuel Prices

 

China will raise the retail prices of gasoline and diesel starting Friday, the 10th increase and by far the largest this year, the country's top economic planner announced Thursday. As international oil prices have increased, the retail prices of gasoline and diesel will rise by 265 yuan (about 40 U.S. dollars) and 250 yuan per tonne respectively, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Under the current pricing mechanism, if international crude oil prices change by more than 50 yuan per tonne and remain at that level for 10 working days, the prices of refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel in China are adjusted accordingly. The NDRC has asked major Chinese oil companies, including China National Petroleum, China Petrochemical and China National Offshore Oil, to ensure stable market pricing. Global crude prices have increased more than 35 percent since the middle of June. The NDRC said in a report that expectations of extended production of shale gas in the United States and rising tensions in the Middle East have combined to push up prices. The economic planner said it would closely monitor the effects of the current pricing mechanism and make changes in response to global fluctuations.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/16/2017

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China Orders Local Governments to Ensure Coal Mine Safety

 

China has ordered local authorities to to prevent coal mine accidents and ensure safe production, following a fatal accident this month in northeast China that killed at least four. Authorities should follow work safety management regulations and supervise coal mines to eliminate safety hazards found in previous inspections, according to a statement from the Work Safety Committee of the State Council. Four miners were killed and another six are still missing in an accident on Nov. 11 in a coal mine owned by Shenyang Coking Coal Co. in Liaoning Province. Coal mining companies should check for hidden dangers in their mines and focus on potential gas explosions, water and fire disasters and rock falls, according to the committee. Local authorities should crack down on illegal mining activities with measures including penalties, suspending production or even shutting down the mines, it added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 11/24/2017

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JAPAN: Will Electric Vehicles Open Up Bright Future for Industry, Society?

 

How should the Japanese car industry take on what is being called a once-in-a-century revolutionary change in cars? It is hoped that efforts will be expedited to develop next-generation cars, utilizing the technological strength Japan has cultivated. The biennial Tokyo Motor Show (TMS) has kicked off. This year’s TMS involves about 150 domestic and foreign car-related companies. The event serves as a festival to unveil the latest models and cars of the future incorporating cutting-edge technology. A noticeable feature of the ongoing motor show is a display of electric vehicles (EVs), which do not discharge exhaust gases and have a lower burden on the environment. This reflects a global trend in which such countries as China, Britain and France are making hasty efforts to promote the spread of EVs, as these countries are suffering from air pollution. Participating carmakers have said one after another that they will seek to put even higher-performance next-generation cars into practical use, with EVs likely to become the leading eco-friendly models. This has been demonstrated by the fact that Toyota Motor Corp. — a carmaker committed to developing a fuel cell-powered vehicle that uses hydrogen to generate electricity internally — has clarified its readiness to place importance on rechargeable EVs.

 

Toyota has pledged to achieve a dramatic improvement in the performance of battery cells — the core component in EVs — in the first half of the 2020s. Current EV models are somewhat weak in their user-friendliness, as shown, for example, by the fact that it takes time to charge them and that their mileage is lower than that of gasoline-powered cars. If progress is made in battery cell development, it will be clear how to go about overcoming the disadvantage of EVs. Nissan Motor Co. — a company that has taken the lead in the development of EVs with its mass-produced Leaf — is exhibiting a prototype model with greater mileage. Foreign carmakers in this field include Volkswagen of Germany, which has unveiled its target of adding about 50 EV models to the market by the end of 2025. There is a high possibility that the result of adopting a strategy for electric-powered cars, mainly EVs, could remap the distribution of power in the global car market. Japanese car producers have led the eco-friendly car market on the strength of their hybrid cars, vehicles that use both gasoline-powered engines and electric motors. There is no guarantee that Japanese carmakers will be able to win in the EV market, as shown by the fact that Tesla Inc., a U.S. company that specializes in producing electric cars, is making its presence strongly felt.

 

It will be essential for each Japanese carmaker to innovate its EV development system in a manner that will transcend industrial boundaries by forming ties with electronics and other manufacturers outside its own corporate group. Another remarkable feature of the exhibition is self-driving vehicles. Car manufacturers are competing to put into practical use vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence and sensors to prevent collisions. Putting self-driving cars into practical use is significant in Japan, where society is rapidly aging and the population is decreasing. Self-driving vehicles will help prevent traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers. They can also be expected to benefit areas where it is difficult to maintain public transportation facilities due to a population decrease. Needless to say, public confidence in the quality of state-of-the-art technology is a fundamental assumption if such technology is to be accepted by society. There seems to be no end to the cases of misconduct, such as the one in which uncertified workers were found to have conducted quality checks at Nissan. Constant efforts must not be forgotten to improve the quality of manufacturing.

From http://the-japan-news.com 10/29/2017

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Effectiveness of Measures to Cope with Low Birthrate Crucial -Results of ‘Putting Economy 1st’ to Be Tested

 

Make effective use of the power base bolstered by the landslide victory in the House of Representatives election, thereby achieving proper results regarding the diverse policy challenges in the areas of domestic politics and diplomacy. This is the mission given to the new Cabinet. The fourth Cabinet led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been inaugurated. Abe reappointed all 19 of the ministers in his previous Cabinet, which he called a “Cabinet of figures with political expertise,” that was launched in August. This was apparently meant to emphasize the continuity of his policies. All the major executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party also remained in office. In the wake of the breakup of the Democratic Party followed by the formation of a new party, opposition parties were split into seven parliamentary groups within the lower house, with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party, securing only 55 seats. The structure in which the LDP is the predominant force has been reinforced, but Abe should work to run his administration in a humble and careful manner, without becoming conceited.

 

Speaking at a press conference, Abe emphasized, “Having won the strong trust of the public, I will put forward stronger economic policies.” Nearly five years have passed since his second Cabinet was launched in 2012. Now is the time when he is required to achieve results in policy areas. Abe has continually advocated “putting the economy first.” Although business performance and the employment situation have improved and a moderate economic recovery is continuing, the departure from deflation is still in progress, with most of the public feeling no solid sense of an economic boom. The Abe administration will have to beef up its growth strategy comprehensively, so as to realize domestic demand-driven growth through wage hikes and other measures. The government will compile a supplementary budget for fiscal 2017 — designed to shore up such measures as those dealing with the chronically low birthrate — and try to have it passed at the ordinary Diet session next year.

 

A plan to make education free of charge, which the administration will pursue in the name of a “revolution in human resources development,” must not result in lavish government handouts. It is necessary to properly design a relevant system, including adopting income restrictions, so as to enhance the effectiveness of the plan. A plan to make higher education free of charge, in particular, should aim at realizing “equality of opportunities,” instead of “equality of results.” By discerning students’ aptitude for and their eagerness to study, free education should be made available only to students who truly need it. It is also important to implement reform that will maintain a certain level of academic quality at the universities that accept these students. Cooperation will be put to the test among ministers in charge of “the revolution in human resources development,” including Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi; Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato; and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. That Prime Minister Abe has built up his connections with leaders of other major countries over the last nearly five years is a valuable card for Japan’s diplomacy.

 

At a time when the threat presented by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development is growing, U.S. President Donald Trump will arrive in Japan on Sunday. Abe and Trump should reaffirm a plan to stick firmly to an approach that strengthens pressure on North Korea, including through the enforcement of sanctions resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council, and continues multilayered diplomatic efforts involving China and Russia. In the first half of November, summit talks related to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be held. Abe should boost cooperation with the countries concerned to ensure stability in the North Korea situation, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The deterrent provided by a robust Japan-U.S. alliance will be essential for preventing North Korea from lashing out. Defense cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military — and the nations’ abilities to handle any situation, including missile defense systems — must be steadily improved and expanded.

 

The skills of Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will be put to the test on these issues. Constitutional revision is also an important topic to be addressed. A bright spot on this issue is that not only the LDP, Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai but also Kibo no To (Party of Hope) are positive about changing the top law. Each party emphasized their respective positions during the lower house election campaign, which has set the stage for constructive discussions. As a first step, the LDP should hold talks with each party after consolidating its thinking on four proposed revisions, including adding wording to clearly define the existence of the SDF. It will be crucial to seek a broad consensus and adopt a flexible approach that includes also listening to the opinions of other parties. The government and ruling parties initially planned to have the special Diet session, which convened Wednesday, run for eight days. This plan was changed to a 39-day session lasting until Dec. 9. This is a natural step to allow for the prime minister to deliver a policy speech, questions by leaders of each party and interpellations at the lower house Budget Committee.

 

Abe did not deliver a policy speech in the Diet after reshuffling the Cabinet in August. His continued delay in doing this, even after the launch of his new Cabinet, belittles the importance of the Diet and is unreasonable. The ruling and opposition parties are at loggerheads over how much time each side is allocated to ask questions at the Budget Committee. In recent years, about 20 percent of the time was set aside for the ruling parties, and 80 percent for the opposition. The ruling parties called for this proportion to be reviewed in light of the number of seats they hold, but the opposition camp bristled at this, arguing it “would limit questions” its lawmakers could ask. During the administration of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan several years ago, opposition parties were allocated their current proportion of about 80 percent of question time.

 

If the opposition parties demand their time for asking questions be retained, they must engage in more constructive debates and rethink their approach of pointless questions heavily tilted toward hounding the government on scandals involving school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution. The opposition parties also need to quickly bring under control the turmoil rumbling within many of them. Kibo has yet to select a party coleader, and it is unclear whether Kibo can retain its position as a conservative opposition party. The Democratic Party selected House of Councillors lawmaker Kohei Otsuka as the successor to Seiji Maehara, who stepped down as leader after the election, but the party’s future remains fluid. The easy merging and splitting of political parties has heightened public distrust in them. Each party should properly solidify its position and then engage in Diet discussions.

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/02/2017

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Medical-Nursing Cooperation Key to Fee Review

 

The government and ruling parties have begun full-fledged discussions on the revision of medical and nursing care fees that are paid to medical institutions, for fiscal 2018. How to promote cooperation between medical and nursing care services to reduce total medical expenses ahead of 2025, when the baby boom generation will reach 75 or older, is likely to be a focal point of the discussions. The biennial revision of medical service fees and triennial revision of nursing care service fees overlap in fiscal 2018 for the first time in six years. On Oct. 25, the Finance Ministry submitted to a subcommittee of the Fiscal System Council — an advisory panel to the finance minister — a document stating that “it is necessary to call for a reduction of medical service fees by 2.5 percent or more in each revision.” This indicates that the ministry intends to propose decreasing medical service fees in the 2018 revision as a measure to rein in social security expenses. The proposal is aimed at putting the brakes on mounting medical care expenses due to the aging of society. The domestic medical care industry is calling for an increase in medical service fees, but a senior official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said that they have to accept a certain level of reduction.

 

Medical service fees are the fees paid to medical institutions and drug stores for medical examinations, operations and prescriptions, among others. The fees are expressed in points, with the unit price for one point being ¥10. For example, the fee for a first visit to a medical institution corresponds to 282 points. The fees are revised every two years. The natural growth in social security spending is expected to increase to about ¥630 billion in fiscal 2018. The government intends to rein in spending to about ¥500 billion. Among the medical service fees, drug prices are likely to be lowered. If the bulk of the other fees, including doctors’ technical fees, show only a small increase, the revision could result in an actual reduction of total medical service fees, as was seen in the fiscal 2016 revision. The upcoming revision is likely to be finalized before the compilation of the fiscal 2018 budget in December. Revisions of medical care service fees and nursing care service fees, which are revised every three years, last coincided in fiscal 2012. A senior official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry likened the revisions in fiscal 2018 to the alignment of planets in the solar system.

 

The era in which the baby-boomer generation will all be 75 or older is approaching. People of that age are likely to comprise a fifth of Japan’s population by 2025. The ministry official said the dual revisions are an “opportunity for large-scale reforms” before the 2025 milestone is reached. The government is considering ways to extend healthy life expectancy and reduce medical expenses by improving cooperation between medical and nursing care services. It plans to promote a change from “beds for acute patients,” which includes operations and emergency treatment, to “regional comprehensive care wards,” covering rehabilitation treatment, among others. The medical service fees for the “beds for acute patients” are decided based on the ratio of nurses to patients. The highest fees involve “one nurse per seven patients.” There are 350,000 beds for acute patients in the country that have one nurse per seven patients — a state of excess supply. The government intends to improve the situation, but not many private hospitals, which attach importance to independent management, meet the government’s goals.

 

The government plans to tighten the requirements for the medical service fees under the “one nurse per seven patients” system, and urge medical institutions to increase “regional comprehensive care wards.” Regional comprehensive care wards are expected to act as a bridge between medical and nursing care services. In August 2014, the 236-bed Horikawa Hospital in Kyoto used some of its “beds for acute patients” under the “one nurse per seven patients” system to open a regional comprehensive care ward with 104 beds. According to the hospital, the rate of patients who return home after leaving the hospital is in the 90 percent range. The return of inpatients to their homes would not occur without the cooperation between medical and nursing care services. About 60 percent of people would prefer to receive treatment at home in the terminal phase of their lives. But in reality, over 70 percent die in hospitals. In the revision debates, how to help those who hope to die in the presence of their relatives at home from the perspectives of medical and nursing care services will also be discussed

From http://the-japan-news.com 11/04/2017

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Japan Placed 10th in Global Ranking for Information and Communication Technology, Up One Spot from 2016

 

Japan was placed 10th in a global ranking that assesses nations on their level of development in information and communication technology, moving up one spot from last year, according to an annual United Nations report. The survey, published Wednesday by the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union, placed Iceland at the top of a list of 176 countries and regions, followed by South Korea, Switzerland, Denmark and Britain. South Korea had held the top spot in 2016, but ceded its lead because the percentage of households with computers and the nation’s “international internet bandwidth per internet user,” a measure of average international data usage, was lower than that of Iceland, the survey said. Japan’s government planning, investment in research and development, and sophisticated consumers have contributed to its rapid adaptation of the latest ICT, the survey said. It also noted Japan’s high level of mobile communications access, with 96 percent of households owning a mobile phone in 2015. “Japan is an ICT leader, not only in terms of developing, piloting and adopting the latest technologies but also as an active participant in international standards-setting bodies,” the survey said.

 

Japan beat Iceland for cellphone subscriptions and mobile broadband usage, but scored lower on the percentage of households with computers and fixed broadband subscriptions. The ranking included France in 15th place, the United States in 16th place and Singapore in 18th position. China ranked at No. 80 despite rapid growth in its ICT sector, but the survey said the country “is in a good position” to take advantage of the recent rise of “internet of things” technologies — a concept under which various everyday items are connected to the internet. Seven of the top 10 countries are within the EU, including the Netherlands (No. 7), Norway (No. 8) and Luxembourg (No. 9). Japan ranked third in the Asia Pacific region, behind South Korea and Hong Kong and followed by New Zealand and Australia. Despite the region’s growing potential to stand as the leader of the digital economy, there are significant gaps between leading ICT countries and those lagging behind, the survey said. The survey also showed that a gender gap in internet usage is particularly serious in the least-developed countries, as only 1 in 7 women were using the internet compared with 1 in 5 men. The gap was relatively small in developed economies, where more than 80 percent of the population is estimated to be online.

 

Africa remains the only region where the gender gap is still widening, although internet access rates in the region have grown. This suggests the increase was predominantly driven by men, the survey said. The survey said next-generation ICTs, such as the internet of things, big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence will enable people to find new opportunities in business, government and society, claiming that “countries will need to create conditions supportive to the deployment of next-generation network and service infrastructures” to benefit current advances. The survey, launched in 2009, measures and compares levels of development in ICT based on three indices — access, usage and skills — and 11 indicators, including fixed and mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, the percentage of individuals using the internet via computers or mobile devices, and the enrollment ratio for secondary and tertiary education.

From https://www.japantimes.co.jp 11/16/2017

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SOUTH KOREA: 10 Public Organizations Credited for Increasing Regular Workers

 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has announced a list of ten public organizations that successfully complied with its initiative to reduce the number of contract jobs in the public sector. The ministry made the list, along with the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and the Korea Racing Authority. According to the government, as of the end of October, some eleven-thousand public workers who were hired on a short-term basis at 114 companies have been turned into regular employees. Around two-thousand public workers hired by subcontractors also benefited from similar measures. The ministry said a total of 74-thousand nonregular workers in the public sector will be offered regular jobs this year. 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/01/2017

 

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World Bank: Korea Is the World's Fourth Best Country for Doing Business

 

South Korea is the fourth most business-friendly country in the world, according to the World Bank's annual 'Doing Business' ranking released Tuesday. Citing the country's high scores in legal settlements and electricity supply, South Korea moved up a notch from last year, coming after New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark. It has been the fourth-straight year that Korea has stayed within the top five countries. This year, the World Bank reviewed 190 countries, through ten categories, to determine how conducive they are to starting and facilitating business.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 11/01/2017

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ASEAN+3 Leaders Explore Ways to Secure Job Amid 4th Industrial Revolution

 

Leaders from governments, businesses and academia from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as South Korea, China and Japan gathered in Seoul Tuesday to examine ways to better secure jobs amid technological advances dubbed the fourth industrial revolution. The regional conference, the third of its kind, was organized by the World Bank and the Ministry of Employment and Labor under the theme "Enhancing Job Creation and Skills to Prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution." Participants of the panel agreed that the revolution is radically shifting the economic landscape and changing the nature of jobs that require policymakers to face challenge in human resources development and job creation in the future.  "There needs to be more discussion between the public and private sectors to prepare for change in terms of jobs that the fourth industrial revolution would newly bring and alter," said Park Woon-hwan, head of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea.

Forum participants also discussed ways the private and public sectors can best work together to meet evolving challenges in terms of jobs and skills. "It is vital that the results of these discussions directly lead to policy initiatives, and eventually create quality jobs and expertise that will act as new growth engine for the economy," said Kim Dae-hwan, a ministry official. Kim further noted the importance of how the public and private sectors can best respond and coordinate to reduce the skills gap and increase accessibility to cutting-edge technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are forecast to generate business opportunities. Park Sunny J, the head of the legal department at Microsoft Korea, emphasized the importance of how corporations think the business environment will change in accordance with the change of the employment landscape. "In order for companies to transform, they need people with the right skill sets to lead this change. Many of the routine and predictable work may be replaced by technology, or artificial intelligence," Park said.

From http://www.koreaherald.com 11/07/2017

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