September 2013, Issue 142

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G20 Countries Step Up Action to Help Consumers Make Informed Financial Decisions

Leaders Endorse New G20/OECD Principles on Long-Term Investment Financing

OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013 to Launch 18 September in Brussels

Asia Pacific Transport Ministers Endorse Core Principles for Business Aviation

 

 

 

 

CHINA: New Rules to Regulate Local Government Spending

China Considers Changes to Consumer Rights Law

New Railway Security Management Regulation Launched

China to Improve Standards for Elderly Care

Premier Calls for New Urbanization Strategies

China Toughens School Bus Rules

China Reiterates Infant Formula Rules

New Rules to Improve Gov't Transparency

JAPAN: Civil Code Review Eyed for Consumers

Govt Info Protection Legislation Must Not Hamper Media Freedom

Abe Orders Economic Stimulus Measures

Govt to Create Comprehensive EEZ Law

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Enact Bill on Ordinary Wages Within This Year - Labor Minister

President Park Proposes ‘Creative Economy’ for Job Creation

NORTH KOREA: Kim Puts Top Priority on Economic Development

 

 

 

 

INDONESIA: To Step Up Cyber Security Policy

Indonesia Takes Concrete Action to Address Sustainable Consumption, Production Drive

MYANMAR: Urging Public to Cooperate in 2014 Census

Myanmar Govt to Resolve Land Confiscation Issues Soon

Myanmar Approves UNESCO's Peace Education Project

MALAYSIA: State to Launch Digital Maps of Rural Roads by 2014

PHILIPPINES: President Inks Anti-Bullying Law

THAILAND: Police and E-Transaction Agency Sign Cybersecurity MoU

VIETNAM: Says Achieving UN Millennium Development Goals

Viet Nam Unveils Plans to Overhaul Education System

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Cabinet Okays Draft of Food Safety Bill 2013

Legislature to Decide Whether JS to Be Dissolved CEC

INDIA: DoT Plans to Seek 10-year Tax Relief for Telecom Infrastructure Sector

Telecom Commission Approves Plan to Give Free Tablets and Mobiles

Government Plans to Fund Electronics Startups to Encourage Local Manufacturing

SRI LANKA: Seeking Pragmatic Approach in Addressing Issues of Transitional Justice

Govt Is Committed to Develop North and South Equally – President

PAKISTAN: Govt Launches Seven New Schemes for Poverty Alleviation

Mpas Rise Above Political Affiliations to Support Women Friendly Laws

 

 

 

 

ARMENIA: Minimum Wages to Be Set at 50,000 Drams as from January 2014

Armenian FM Expresses Country’s Readiness to Continue Close Cooperation with EU

AZERBAIJAN: To Prepare Proposals on Tourism Development with CIS Countries

Mortgage Improvement Strategy in Azerbaijan Submitted to Government

Azerbaijan to Enact 14 New ICT Standards

KYRGYZSTAN: To Build 63 Social Objects in 2013

KAZAKHSTAN: To Start Investing Its National Oil Fund Assets into Its Own Economy Starting from 2014

TURKMENISTAN: Considering New Laws

Turkmenistan Adopts Regulations in Organ Transplantation Field

 

 

 

 

Pacific Plan to Become a Regional Framework on Regional Integration

ADB Welcomes Review of Pacific Plan

Pacific Regional Environment Programme Increases Support to Pacific Members

AUSTRALIA: Queensland Launches Revitalised ICT Strategy

Australian Opposition Unveils New ICT Action Plan

Australia’s Focus Will Be Asia - Abbot

Australian Prudential Regulator Releases Guidance on Managing Data Risk

South Australia Launches Open Data Initiative

NEW ZEALAND: Law Stomps on Foreign 'Patent Trolls' with Software Exemption

New Zealand to Push for Economic Integration at APEC Ministers Meeting

TUVALU: New Govt to Release Road Map for First 100 Days in Power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Vice Premier Stresses Role of Customs Tariff

Xi Demands Greater Initiative in Publicity Work

Chinese Gov't Resolute in Cutting Red Tape

Party Discipline Agency Vows Timely Exposure of Corruption

Society President Discusses Human Rights in Key Speech

Li: Innovation Should Drive Reform

JAPAN: Government Should Pull the Plug on Laggards in Feed-in Tariff System

MPD to Increase Cybercrime Cops

SOUTH KOREA: Tax Service Announces Reform Measures

Gov't to Create Flex-Time Civil Service Positions

 

 

INDONESIA: City Enhances Citizen Engagement

Indonesian ICT Ministry and Police Sign Cybersecurity Mou

MALAYSIA: ICT Agencies Reorganised to Streamline Functions

PHILIPPINES: Women in Politics

Philippine National Defense to Improve Transparency with Corporate Credit Card System

Philippine Police Chief Engages Netizens on Twitter

SINGAPORE: Announcing Changes to Cabinet, Other Appointments

VIETNAM: Province Streamlines Online Engagement

 

 

BANGLADESH: Govt Out to Create Constitutional Anarchy BNP

SRI LANKA: Govt. Totally Committed to Protect All Religious and Ethnic Groups – President

NEPAL: Govt Renews Call to Poll-Opposing Parties to Join Election Process

 

 

ARMENIA: Consideration Given to Fully Parliamentary System

Armenia Moves to Reform Its Constitution: Change of Form of Government May Be on Agenda of Expert Body

AZERBAIJAN: Quality of Municipal Governance Improves

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Government Establishes Audit Commission to Deliver Savings

GOVCFO Forum Australia Spotlights Governance Reforms

Australia's New Policies to Shrink Public Service Offices Arouses Concern

FIJI: Advertises for Supervisor of 2014 Parliamentary Elections

NEW ZEALAND: Preparing to Trial Online Voting in 2016

National Telehealth System for New Zealand in 2014

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Set to Establish Anti-Corruption Body

TONGA: Good Time to Bring in Quota for Women Parliamentarians - Scholar

 

 

 

G20 Leaders Will Need Great Political Courage to Win Fight Against Tax Dodging

TPPA Goes into Overdrive and Underground – Kelsey

Water: Governments Must Deal with Rising Risks

OECD Countries Address the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials

APEC Targets Reduced Disaster Risk

ADB, Gates Foundation Partner to Tackle Asia's Huge Sanitation Needs

Countries in East Asia and Pacific Region Show Mixed Progress in Combatting Health Challenges

APEC Ministers Focus on Removing Barriers to Women

 

 

CHINA: Safety Situation Remains Serious

Food Safety Tops Public's Concerns

Chinese VP Urges Nurturing Teenagers' Creativity

Experts Urge Better Training for China’s Migrants

PLA Tightens Troupe Management

China Pledges Safe Rural Drinking Water by 2015

Local Gov'ts Pressed to Reveal Birth Control Fines

China Learns from the World in Urbanization

China Improves Transparency for Graduates Recruitment

Li Vows to Provide More Jobs

JAPAN: Govt to Develop Accurate Pollution Forecast Model

Japan Aims to Develop Ultrafast Wireless Technology by 2020

Successful Epsilon Launch Opens Door to New Leap into Space for Japan

Govt, Labor, Firms Hold 3-Way Talks

SOUTH KOREA: Anti-Corruption Forum Opens in Seoul

Plenum for World's First Eco-Mobility Festival Begins in S. Korea

S. Korea to Develop Satellite Based Navigation System

Digital Map Allows Clearer View of Korea

S. Korea Develops Way to Use Advanced GPS in Navigation System

Discover Mongolia-2013 Mining Investors Forum to Take Place

 

 

ASEAN Leaders Meet on Welfare

INDONESIA: Concludes Environmental Audit Training Program for Timor Leste Officials

MALAYSIA: Launching Emergency Services App for the Physically Impaired

PHILIPPINES: Province to Use GIS for Forest Management

The Philippines Conducts Geo-Tagging Workshop to Improve Project Monitoring

The Philippines to Launch Online Tax Payment for Self-Employed Individuals by 2014

More Filipinos Have Access to Potable Water, Better Sanitation: Study

SINGAPORE: Best in Asia for Intellectual Property Protection

Singapore Library Uses Analytics and Big Data Technology to Ease Users’ Search

Polytechnic in Singapore Rolls Out Records Management System

THAILAND: To Install Database to Track Rice Subsidy Scheme

VIETNAM: Sci-Technology Vital for Agriculture

Vietnam Partners with South Korea to Build Land Management Database

Viet Nam Steps Closer to Green Production

 

 

INDIA: Committed to Tobacco Free Society

SRI LANKA: Govt to Increase Fertilizer Quantity

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Plans Changes in Social Insurance Deductions

Azerbaijan to Map Out Its Solar and Wind Capacity

KYRGYZSTAN: Alternative Medicine Tries to Fill Healthcare Gap

Kyrgyzstan Lifts Bubonic Plague Quarantines

KAZAKHSTAN: First Central Asia CIO Summit Kicks Off

New Technologies Fund to Be Created in Kazakhstan

TAJIKISTAN: Applies Lessons Learnt to Improve National Pandemic Preparedness

 

 

Foreign Direct Investment Very Important to Pacific Island Countries

AUSTRALIA: Fighting Crime with “World-First” Facial Recognition Technology

New Australian Government “Open for Business”

NEW ZEALAND: Improving Health Care Delivery with New Patient Identification System

New Zealand Building Shared Online Engagement Service

 

 

 

Electricity Information 2013 - with 2012 Data: Developments and Trends

Advanced Economies Growing Again but Some Emerging Economies Slowing, Says OECD

Global 2013 Smartphone Sales to Hit 1 Billion: Survey

Global Value Chains Offer Major Opportunity for Growth and Progress in Advanced and Developing Economies, According to OECD-WTO-UNCTAD Report to G20

Connecting to Work: How ICTs Are Expanding Job Opportunities Worldwide

ICTs Are Creating New Jobs and Making Labor Markets More Innovative, Inclusive, and Global – World Bank Study

Applicable Research Key to Development

GAFSP Set to Reach More Than 10 Million Farmers Across 25 Countries

UN: Global Child Deaths Down by Almost Half Since 1990

New Partnership Seeks to Bring Benefits of Open Data to Developing Countries

Support to Agriculture Rising After Hitting Historic Lows, OECD Says

Future Development Goals Target an End to Poverty by 2030 – Study

Manufacturing Key to Escaping Middle-Income Trap — ADB Report

Five Asian States 30% More Energy Efficient — ADB

 

 

CHINA: To Combat Illegal Online Drug Sales

Online Shopping Clicking Up

China Achieves 99% Rural Healthcare Coverage

China to Strengthen Calligraphy Education

China's Online Shopping Transactions Boom

China-made Smartphones Take 60% Market Share

China Builds Largest Network for Infectious Disease Reporting

China to Expand Employment for the Disabled

Li Calls for Education Equality

Real Name Registration Starts for Mobile Phone Network

Thousands Seized in Crackdown on Online Crimes

4G Issues Still to Be Ironed Out

China Closes Over 270 Illegal Websites

10 Most Ludicrous Online Rumors Published

Financial Pilot Zone Seeking Web Firms

Network to Take Care of Mentally Ill

China Able to Achieve Sustainable Growth: Premier Li

Premier: China Able to Reach Growth Target

UN: China Has Big Role to Play in Fighting Hunger

Internet Regulations Can Protect Human Rights

Online Whistleblowers to Be Protected from Attacks

China Marks Out Ecologically Vulnerable Zones

JAPAN: Rising to 9th in Competitive Ranking

‘K’ Supercomputer Reads World’s Clouds

SOUTH KOREA: Future of Cyberspace to Be Discussed at Seoul Cyberspace Conference

Gov't to Announce Expected Job Creation Figures This Month

Financial Firms Ramp Up Measures Against Cyber Fraud

S. Korea's IT Exports Jump 11.4 Pct in Aug.

Online Banking Scams Cause 2.3 Bln Won in Damage in H1: Data

President Emphasizes Shared Growth, Cooperation

President Discusses Creative Economy, Cultural Enrichment with Futurists

Hacking Attempts Against Foreign Ministry Triple from 2009

 

 

Indonesia and India to Cooperate on ICT in Education and Health

MALAYSIA: Enabling Rural Residents to Access Online Services

PHILIPPINES: To Implement E-Court System in Major Cities

The Philippines Launches Call Centre for Farmers

Philippines to Be Geospatially Empowered by 2020

Designing a Liveable Singapore with GIS

Singapore Developer Uses Analytics to Screen Procurement

Singapore to Get National Social Service Database

THAILAND: CCTV System to Monitor Government Projects

Thailand Pushes Implementation of E-Court

Thailand Set to Become Investment Hub of ASEAN: PM

Thailand Promotes E-Learning with Educational Tablets

Thai Education Ministry Improves Network to Support Students

New Apps to Promote Reading and Learning Among Thai Students

VIETNAM: Has 131.6 Mln Mobile Phone Subscribers in 2012 - White Book

 

 

BANGLADESH: Govt Inks Protocol of Cooperation with Aga Khan Development Network

Grameenphone 3G to Reach Ctg in Weeks

INDIA: Government Decides to Launch DBTL in 235 More Districts

All India Radio Launches Free News SMS Service

India Witnesses Biggest Demographic Change, Contributed by Declining Fertility Rates

IRCTC Launches New APP for Booking e-Ticket

New Website to Track Delhi’s Missing Children

Railway Switches to e-Auction for Scrap Disposal

Narendra Modi Launches Gujarat Police’s Ambitious Project eGujCop

SRI LANKA: A New Online Application System to Start a Project

Sri Lanka Telecom Broadband Customers Top 350,000

A Regular & Efficient Public Service Is Ensured to Civilians in North – WDJ

PAKISTAN: Govt Trying to Overcome Country’s Economic Problems

More Than 300 ATMs Installed, Dozens of Bank Branches Added to Online Branch Network

 

 

ARMENIA: Conditions of Mental Hospitals Being Improved

AZERBAIJAN: ICT Sector Grows More Than Six Times – Minister

Science Development Fund Under President of Azerbaijan to Finance ICT Projects

Azerbaijan Sees 6.7 Pct GDP Growth in 2014 - Economy Minister

Azerbaijan Enhances Relations with U.S. in Communications and ICT Fields

Passage of UN Resolution Shows Azerbaijan’s Far-sighted Approach to ICT Growth Is Backed in World: Official

Deputy Minister: Telecommunications Satellite Starts Bringing Revenues to Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's Economy Shows Three-fold Rise

Azerbaijani Mobile E-signature to Be Presented at World Congress

Azerbaijan Is Center of Internet in the Region – Official

ICT Grant Competitions to Start This Year

Azerbaijan Takes Leading Position in CIS for Protection of Intellectual Property

Socioeconomic Development of Azerbaijan's Shamkir to Be Accelerated

Ministry of Communications: Azerbaijani IT-Companies to Receive Tax and Customs Preferences

Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan Discuss E-contracting Co-operation

TAJIKISTAN: Striving to Improve Undergraduate Education

TURKMENISTAN: GDP Increased by Almost 110 Per Cent Since Early 2013

 

 

Improving Phone, Internet Access in North Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Secure Borders with Big Data Tools

Australia's Economic Growth Momentum to Pick Up: Survey

New Australian Government's Stimulus Package to Boost Economy

South Australia’s Procurement Reforms to Support Local Vendors

FIJI: Underscore Educational Value in Addressing Global Challenges at UN Meet

NEW ZEALAND: Reviewing Use of Online Citizen Services

New Zealand Introduces New Common Web Platform

Global Growth Index Places NZ Fourth

 

 

 

Open for Public Comments: Finalists’ Proposals for Grants on Social Accountability Initiatives

World Bank Group to Invest $700 Million by 2015 to Improve Women and Children’s Health in Poor Countries

ADB Prices $2.0 Billion, 5-Year Global Bond

Asean Urged to Use Financial Literacy Strategies

APEC Finance Ministers Issue Joint Statement

APEC Ministers Consider Multilateral Swaps

Finance Ministers: APEC Economies on the Right Track

 

 

CHINA: Mulling Pension Reform to Ease Financial Burden

China Expands Financial Aid to College Students

China Facilitates Overseas Securities Investment

Local Government Debts Seen Controllable

China Increases Subsidies for Rural Medical Insurance

JAPAN: Debt-Funding Costs to Hit Y25.3 Trillion Next Year

BOJ May Hold Off on Declaring Japan Economic Recovery

Total JGB Issuance Set to Hit Record High

IMF Urges Japan to Press Reforms

Gov't Plans to Offer More Than Y1.4 Tril in Corporate Tax Cuts

Ministry Must Make ¥5 Tril. Cut in Medical Costs Real to Save Social Security

SOUTH KOREA: Outward FDI Ranks 13th in the World

 

 

PHILIPPINES: Financial Management Automation to Cost US$ 91M

SINGAPORE: R&D Investments Have Encouraging Outcomes

VIETNAM: President Sang Calls for Investment in Children

State Bank Given Go-Ahead to Buy into Struggling Credit Institutions

PM Prescribes Funding to Cure HCMC Hospital Overload Crisis

 

 

INDIA: Finance Minister Launches IRDA’s Insurance Repository System

NEPAL: Govt Decides to Provide Rs 2b to NOC to Ease Fuel Supply

PAKISTAN: Rs44.8mn Marriage Grants Approved

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Gold Reserves of Government Reach 791 KG

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Customs Spends Au$ 56 Million on Network Upgrade

Has Australian 2-Billion-Dollar Digital Education Revolution Succeeded?

Australia Delivers Financial Leadership with New Cabinet

SOLOMON ISLANDS: World Bank Approves New Funding for Gov’t

 

 

New Partnership Takes Fresh Approach to Creating Jobs and Strengthening Private Sector Growth Potential

APEC Ministers Issue First Joint SME and Women Statement

 

 

CHINA: Internet Firms Urged to Establish Content Review System

China's Industrial Profit Growth Quickens

China to Boost Health Service Sector

Manufacturing Sees Quick Expansion

Gov't to Further Push Private Investment

JAPAN: Corporate Capital Investment Holds Steady

Crackdown on ‘Black’ Companies

Japanese Firms Resist Abe's Calls to Raise Wages

SOUTH KOREA: Biz Associations Urge Gov't to Improve Ordinary Wage Laws

President Vows to Foster Broadcasting Industry

Conglomerates Expand Cashable Assets Amid Economic Slump

 

 

VIETNAM: Highway Project Targets PPP

VN Urged to Court Investors with Local Content Ratio Boost

 

 

BANGLADESH: New Reforms for Garment Industry

INDIA: Railway to Develop Common Rail Electronic Direct Fuel Injection System

SRI LANKA: Govt Pays Special Attention to Education of Estate Sector Children – President

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Raising Matter of Sale of Communications Ministry Companies’ Shares

Onshore Private Banking Announced to Be the Strategic Goal of the Leading Azerbaijan Bank

Leading Private Leasing Company of Azerbaijan Has Raised Capital by 1.8 Times

Movable Property Register May Become a Private Organization in Azerbaijan

 

 

NEW ZEALAND: Kiwi SMEs More Upbeat Than Oz - Report

 

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G20 Countries Step Up Action to Help Consumers Make Informed Financial Decisions

 

The financial crisis has shown that many people need to have a better understanding of the financial issues in order to make informed decisions on matters such as savings, investments, pensions and credit, according to a report to be presented to G20 leaders in Saint Petersburg this week. The study, by the OECD and Russia’s G20 presidency, monitors progress by the governments of the world’s major economies in implementing national strategies for improving financial education. The report, “Advancing National Strategies for Financial Education”, shows that financial literacy is in general low among consumers. A recent survey in France revealed 8 out of every 10 people questioned feel lost in relation to financial investments. In the Netherlands, 72% of respondents knew nothing about pension schemes. The report argues that a generally poor understanding of financial issues can not only impact an individual’s well-being but also affect the long-term stability of the economy. Concern about the problem has risen in the wake of the financial crisis also because of the growing sophistication of financial products, improved access to banking products in emerging-market economies and the shrinking of welfare benefits in developed countries.

 

Of the 21 countries* covered in the report, nine are implementing a national strategy for financial education along the lines of the principles developed by the OECD and its International Network on Financial Education. The principles were endorsed by G20 leaders in 2012. A further seven countries are well advanced in the design of a strategy. Almost all national strategies include a programme of financial education in schools as well as the creation of interactive websites for the public. The strategies are generally supported by a mix of public and private resources. Russia, for instance, has earmarked more than 100 million US$ to a 5-year financial literacy project. Presenting the report with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov in Saint Petersburg, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “It’s all about people. Our Citizens should be at the centre of financial reform. The progress made by an increasing number of countries towards a national strategy for financial education is encouraging. But we need to step up our efforts to ensure that people have the necessary understanding of financial matters to make informed decisions.” Read Mr. Gurría's speech. Mr Siluanov said: "We believe this publication is an important step forward which can help us to achieve better financial stability, inclusive development and individual and households' wellbeing. We commend the OECD for this work and think that the G20 should continue to play an important role to further enhance financial education globally." The report adds that the strategies must be adapted to the specific needs of countries. The action in India, Indonesian and Mexico, for instance, focuses strongly on supporting financial inclusion.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/05/2013

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Leaders Endorse New G20/OECD Principles on Long-Term Investment Financing

 

G20 Leaders today endorsed an OECD-launched initiative to encourage the flow of institutional investment towards longer-term assets, such as infrastructure and renewable energy projects, in order to strengthen the global economy. Currently, pension funds, insurers, mutual funds and sovereign wealth funds hold more than USD 80 trillion in assets. Pension funds alone managed over USD 20 trillion in assets as of the end of 2012, with a net annual inflow of savings of over $1 trillion. But only 1% of those assets were invested in infrastructure projects, with an even smaller fraction in clean energy projects. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “The fall-out from financial crisis has exposed the limitations of relying on traditional sources of long-term investment finance such as banks. Governments are looking for other sources of funds to support the long-term projects that are essential to sustaining a dynamic economy. There is huge potential among institutional investors to support development in a range of areas such as infrastructure, new technology and small businesses.” 

 

The High-Level Principles of Long-Term Investment Financing by Institutional Investors, prepared by an OECD Taskforce working together with G20 members, establish a framework for encouraging institutional investment in long-term assets. They set out the preconditions to long-term investment, such as the need for stable macroeconomic conditions, a clear and transparent government plan for projects, as well as opportunities for private sector involvement via public procurement and public-private partnerships investment. The principles also address specific policies, including:

•improving incentives to mobilise higher levels of long-term savings

•strengthening the governance of institutional investors to provide the right incentives for the adoption of a long-term perspectives and the management of often illiquid assets

•ensuring the tax and regulatory framework reflects the particular risk characteristics of the investments , promotes long-term strategies and lowers barriers

•informing and educating consumers about the virtues of long-term saving.

As part of its work for the G20, the OECD will also be intensifying monitoring of institutional investors and carrying out in-depth analysis of a variety of policy and market-based incentives to facilitate long-term investment, including in clean energy.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/06/2013

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OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013 to Launch 18 September in Brussels

 

The OECD will present its latest estimates of public support to agriculture during a media briefing at the Press Club Brussels Europe on Wednesday 18 September. OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013 includes new data and assessment of domestic farm policy for the 34 OECD member countries, as well as similar coverage of key emerging economies including Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. It also discusses how the 47 countries covered can better target agriculture policies and improve cost effectiveness. The report will be available on the OECD’s password-protected website from 11:00 a.m. (Paris Time) on 18 September for immediate release.

 

OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013 will be presented in Brussels during a press conference beginning at 11:00 a.m., featuring:

•Frank van Tongeren, head of the policy division in the OECD’s Trade and Agriculture directorate;

•Vaclav Vojtech, OECD agricultural policy analyst; and

•Morvarid Bagherzadeh, OECD agricultural policy analyst.

 

The briefing will take place at the Press Club Brussels Europe, Rue Froissart 95 - 1040 Brussels. To register for the press conference, journalists should contact Lawrence.Speer@oecd.org, (+33 1 4524 7970) or the OECD Media Division (+33 1 4524 9700). Requests to receive OECD Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2013 under embargo by e-mail ahead of release time, or to obtain a password to access the website, should be sent to embargo@oecd.org. Journalists requesting an electronic version in advance of the release time agree to respect OECD embargo conditions.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/11/2013

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Asia Pacific Transport Ministers Endorse Core Principles for Business Aviation

 

At the conclusion of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Tokyo Wednesday, Transport Ministers of the group's 21 member economies endorsed a set of core principles to facilitate business aviation operations. "In accordance with these principles, business aviation can connect major Asia-Pacific centers of trade in an unprecedented, time-saving manner. These principles serve to open the door to global commerce for smaller communities and rural populations across the region that require access to major cities and manufacturing centers," the Ministers said in a statement at the conclusion of the meeting. For the purpose of the statement, the term ‘business aviation’ refers to the non-commercial use of aviation to facilitate and conduct business.

 

The APEC Economies reached consensus on the following core principles:

•“Business aviation operations should be treated, from an economic regulatory standpoint, as non-commercial, not-for-hire aviation.  As such, they may have the freedom to fly within and between any points in all Economies, in accordance with an Economy’s applicable requirements.”

•“Any operating permissions for business aviation operations should be considered and acted upon in a timeframe suitable to their operational needs.”

•“Consistent with ICAO standards and recommended practices, all governmental entities, e.g. customs, immigration, security, safety, etc., with jurisdiction over business aviation operations ought to recognize and treat these operations as part of non-commercial aviation.”

The ministers stressed in their statement that the principles are non-binding.

 

Hailing the APEC Ministers' statement, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce stated, "Transport Ministers In the Asia Pacific region, the region with the world's strongest economic growth, have given the go-ahead for their governments to develop regulations and policies to establish a regulatory environment that will allow business aviation to fully take advantage of its flexibility and diversity and contribute to the achievement of APEC's key objectives of enhancing trade and investment among its member economies." GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.

 

"With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators. GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.

 

"With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators. GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.

 

"With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators. GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.

 

"With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators. GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.

 

"With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators. GAMA said in a news release that it has been a strong supporter of this APEC initiative when it was launched in September 2011 and has provided, together with global operators’ associations, technical advice to the APEC working group that developed the core principles over the past two years. "The Asia Pacific region has more than doubled its market share of annual business aircraft deliveries between 2007 and 2012,” noted Bunce (pictured). "This strong growth is proof that economies in this region recognize that business aviation is not only a productivity tool for business but also helps countries achieve their economic and regional development objectives.”With these core principles now endorsed at the highest level, the work must begin to implement them across the region." Recognizing the paramount importance of operational flexibility, the principles recognize business aviation operators’ freedom to fly within the region, urge economies to facilitate the process of obtaining necessary permits in a timely manner and encourage authorities to treat non-commercial business aviation operators appropriately, i.e., as private operators.

From http://www.aero-news.net/ 09/07/2013

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CHINA: New Rules to Regulate Local Government Spending

 

The Chinese Finance Ministry Wednesday ordered all government bodies at or above county level to make public their budgets and final accounts reports by 2015.They should also release their budgets and expenditures on the use of public funds for receptions, vehicles and overseas trips, also known as "the three public consumptions," the ministry said.The move comes as China vowed to cut administrative costs for governments as well as curb extravagance and corruption.Public institutions, social organizations and companies using fiscal funds allocated by authorities at or above county level should also unveil their spending on the three items, said the ministry.China's State Council has required provincial-level governments to disclose information on "the three public consumptions" by 2013.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/21/2013

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China Considers Changes to Consumer Rights Law

 

China's lawmakers are deliberating changes to the consumer rights law dealing with unconditional returns and false advertising.The draft amendment to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, which took effect 20 years ago, was tabled for a second reading at the ongoing bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which runs from Monday to Friday.Lawmakers will specify items that call for a seven-day period allowing shoppers to unconditionally return merchandise for refunds. The previous draft ensures e-shoppers' rights to unilaterally terminate contracts.Some legislators said such regulations should be improved to prevent customers from abusing their rights and mitigate the impact on sellers.The new draft will clarify certain products not suitable for unconditional return.

 

These products include custom-tailored items, fresh and perishable goods, software and audio-visual products with the sealing removed by customers. Newspapers and magazines are also excluded from the regulation on unconditional returns.Consumers shall return products within seven days after raising the issue to sellers. Sellers do not have to pay transportation fees, according to the latest draft.The draft also calls for supporting consumer associations in protecting consumers' rights and stipulates that government at all levels shall provide assistance, including funds, to the associations.Some lawmakers also voiced concerns about commercial fraud, including deceptive advertising and production of fake goods.Those designing, making and publicizing false advertising of products or services that affect consumers' health and have caused harm should bear joint liability, the draft said.The products include but are not limited to food and drugs.Advertising spokespersons should also bear responsibility if they participate in false advertising and cause harm to customers, it added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/27/2013

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New Railway Security Management Regulation Launched

 

A new railway security management regulation will be effective from Jan. 1, a statement released by the State Council, the cabinet, said Friday.Comprised of eight chapters and 108 provisions, the regulation made adjustments to railway security management processes, and raised requirements on quality and security concerning railway construction, high-speed rails and railway transportation.The regulation was released under an administrative decree signed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/06/2013

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China to Improve Standards for Elderly Care

 

China will issue seven new state standards for elderly care to further protect the rights of old people, according to the Standardization Administration on Friday.The standards will mainly focus on management and facilities in elderly homes, but the administration did not reveal when they will be issued.China already has two state standards, on buildings and service quality, as well as 30 local standards for elderly care.The number of people aged 60 or above is expected to hit 202 million by the end of 2013, or 14.8 percent of the total population, while the country's working population is shrinking, according to a report by China Research Center on Aging issued in February.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/07/2013

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Premier Calls for New Urbanization Strategies

 

China should manage the pace and quality of its inevitable urbanization, Premier Li Keqiang said at a recent conference with the nation's top scholars.New challenges will certainly arise in urbanizing and modernizing, given the country's population of 1.3 billion, he said. And urbanization is a long process that cannot be completed overnight, he added."But we should be guided by ordinary people's hopes, and be active and orderly in pushing the process forward," he said.Li invited more than a dozen experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering to Zhongnanhai, the central government complex. It was an apparent sign of his concern about advancing urbanization, which has emerged among his top policy priorities since he took office.A medium- to long-term urbanization outline is expected to be announced after the 18th CPC Central Committee's third plenary session in November.Chinese Academy of Engineering experts presented Li the results of interviews and questionnaires with young migrant workers.

 

The overwhelming majority of these people, born in the 1980s or '90s, are unwilling to return to their hometowns to farm. They want to remain in cities and become "real urbanites".But most have not yet enjoyed equal access to social security, education and housing compared with people with urban hukou (household registration).Although 52.6 percent of the country's population spent at least half their time living in cities in 2012, only 35 percent had urban hukou.Upon hearing the presentation, Li said urbanization's new style should be "humanity-centered"."Quality" is the key and "reform" should be the impetus, he said.Chinese Academy of Engineering academician Zhu Gaofeng said urbanization should focus on employment. Urbanization without full employment could produce "ghost towns" and slums.Chinese Academy of Sciences scholar Lu Dadao said that, as China's industrial structure upgrades, its technology advances and its labor costs rise, enterprises will reduce their workplace labor intensity.

 

Consequently, China must advance economic growth to retain the employment rate by creating new jobs. This also suggests it is better to avoid an overly aggressive urbanization rate target.Li responded by saying enhancing industry improves cities, and only industry can create sufficient jobs.Foremost concerns include boosting service sectors, and integrating industrialization, informatization and agricultural modernization, Li said.Chinese Academy of Engineering academicians Qian Yi and Tang Xiaoyan also suggested urbanization must heed environmental and ecological capacities.Li said energy efficiency and resource conservation should be new urbanization's leading principles.More than 10 experts spoke during the three-hour conference.Li summarized by saying that urbanization is "complex" and "systematic", and demands scientific reasoning and careful planning.He explained the country should identify areas of consensus, such as shantytown redevelopment, as breakthroughs from which other steps can begin.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/08/2013

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China Toughens School Bus Rules

 

The national school bus safety management assembly has demanded guarantees about school bus safety after two recent accidents, according to a statement on the website of the Ministry of Education on Saturday.The assembly, composed of the ministry and 19 other departments responsible for school bus safety, said that those with duties of care should be severely punished for leaving children to die on school buses in Henan and Guangdong provinces in late August and mid September.As of July, 2013, the rates of death and injuries caused by school bus accidents dropped by 13 percent and 21.2 percent perspectively. However, some local governments have not yet come out with local school bus regulations, with farm trucks and overloaded vehicles still being used to pick up children.The assembly urged detailed provisions in terms of school bus permissions, school bus drivers' qualifications and legal responsibilities, and the imposition of tighter supervision and punishment for those who break the regulations.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/14/2013

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China Reiterates Infant Formula Rules

 

The Chinese health authority on Tuesday told hospitals to strictly abide by the law governing breast milk substitutes, warning against promoting such products.The National Health and Family Planning Commission made the remarks after local media reports alleged secret deals between hospitals in Tianjin City and infant formula brands over newborns' feeding options.The commission stressed in a circular that medical institutions may not accept donations, kickbacks or benefits in other forms from manufacturers or marketers of breast milk substitutes.Violators shall be investigated and penalized strictly in accordance with the law. Those whose acts constitute commercial bribery shall be subject to criminal charges, the commission said.Promotion and publicity of breast milk substitutes in any form is prohibited at hospitals and clinics, the circular said, adding that hospitals or their staff must not promote or supply such products to pregnant women or newborns' families.Instead, hospitals and their staff are urged to actively promote breast feeding and facilitate newborns' access to colostrum, according the circular.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/18/2013

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New Rules to Improve Gov't Transparency

 

The State Council, China's Cabinet, on Wednesday announced that the procedures by which government information is disclosed will be improved.Government departments at all levels will be required to improve the quality of the spokesperson system, and to hold more media briefings to respond to public concerns, according to an executive meeting of the State Council, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing.To help the public better understand new polices and reform measures, government departments should make greater efforts to explain important policies and regulations, said a statement issued after the meeting.Government departments should make better use of official websites and hotlines to communicate with the public, said the statement, which also stressed that the disclosure of government information should be implemented as a vital part of the principle of administration.

 

The government will improve its public relations mechanism, making its economic and social policies more transparent and ensuring that the public can "see, hear and supervise" the government's actions, the statement said.Chu Songyan, a professor of politics from the Chinese Academy of Governance, believed the meeting "sent out very positive signals"."It shows the government's determination to strengthen its efforts to promote transparency of information," she said, adding that the moves will also help the government to build an image of openness and win public trust.She urged the acceleration of legislation to expand the scale of information disclosure."In China, a lot of organizations, including the Red Cross, State-owned enterprises and public institutions use tax payers' money. The public is increasingly calling for these organizations to become more transparent about their spending and operations," she said.

 

Chu suggested the government should make a list of frequently asked questions and answers, to allow its limited number of staff members to solve urgent complaints and problems highlighted by the public.Yang Zhanqing, who has worked for a nongovernmental organization in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, for the past four years, said he has witnessed progress in information disclosure but he still feels frustrated by buck-passing by some government departments."Many government departments I've contacted can provide replies on time, but you can't get key information concerning money. They always find an excuse to avoid responsibility," said the 36-year-old, whose work focuses on discrimination issues and rights for the disabled.During the meeting, the State Council also passed regulations on urban drainage and sewage treatment.The new regulations state that newly built districts with inadequate drainage and sewage treatment systems will not be put into use and facilities that do not meet the standards will be rebuilt.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/19/2013

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JAPAN: Civil Code Review Eyed for Consumers

 

A Justice Ministry panel is set to start a major review of the Civil Code this month, the first since the law was established in 1896, with a view to enhancing consumer protection. Rules on the terms of contracts between companies and consumers are among the possible revisions that the Civil Code division of the Legislative Council is expected to consider adding. The changes aim to prevent cases in which consumers find themselves in trouble after concluding insurance contracts, subscribing to mobile phone services or buying products online without fully understanding terms and conditions. The forthcoming review is expected to cover about 260 points. An interim draft created by the panel in February called for requiring that parties to a contract agree to usage terms and allow opportunities for consumers to become aware of terms before signing contracts. While a court verdict has nullified contracts that are deemed to run counter to public order and morals, the Civil Code contains no clause on acts of gaining excessive profit by exploiting weaknesses of contract parties. The panel may thus consider a new rule that voids legal acts of gaining excessive profit by exploiting poverty or lack of knowledge and experience. It is hoped that such a rule will cause terms of contracts to be made understandable to ordinary people. The panel aims to finalize its proposals by January 2015. The ministry plans to submit a bill to revise the Civil Code during an ordinary parliamentary session in that year. The government, however, could face opposition from business circles. The Japan Association of Corporate Executives (KeizaiDoyukai) has expressed concern over possible new rules, saying that there are few cases of contract-related issues between businesses and consumers.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/03/2013

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Govt Info Protection Legislation Must Not Hamper Media Freedom

 

If the nation’s management of highly confidential national security information is sloppy, the country will lose the confidence of its allies and face difficulty sharing information with them. It is important to forge a new legal framework for information protection. The government has announced the outline of a bill legislating the protection of government “special secrets” that is scheduled to be submitted to an extraordinary Diet session this autumn. The planned bill, if passed, will designate national security-related secrets requiring an especially high level of confidentiality as special secrets. The proposed bill stipulates harsh punishment, including imprisonment of up to 10 years, for officials found to have leaked such secrets. The officials subject to the law will include certain government officials and politicians in the three highest ministerial ranks—minister, senior vice minister and parliamentary secretary. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considers the legislation indispensable to establish an institution similar to the U.S. National Security Council.

 

The planned Japanese version of the NSC is supposed to act as a control tower in running the nation’s diplomatic and security policies. It will be in charge of managing key information from relevant ministries and agencies in an integrated manner, while receiving confidential information related to terrorism and military affairs from such countries as the United States. Military threats from North Korea, which has been pushing ahead with nuclear weapons development programs, and China’s rapid arms buildup have become increasingly alarming. To ensure Japan’s peace and security under such circumstances, it is of vital significance to beef up the nation’s information protection, while boosting exchanges of information with such allies as the United States. According to the bill’s outline, the concept of “special secrets” will comprise information relevant to four fields: national defense, diplomacy, prevention of spying activities and prevention of terrorist activities. Relevant members of the Cabinet will designate special secrets.

 

A special secret designation will remain for a maximum of five years. Designation renewal will be possible, but will be lifted when deemed unnecessary, according to the outline. The proposed information protection can be considered reasonable to guarantee strict and adequate control of sensitive information. Under the planned law, central government officials, officers of prefectural police headquarters and employees of private-sector businesses under contract with government ministries and agencies will be subject to background checks if and when handling special secrets. These checks will cover such things as overseas travel history and drinking habits. Such “aptitude evaluation” of people handling special secrets will be necessary to alleviate the risk of information leaks. The punishment of up to 10 years in prison for leaking of special secrets is considerably tougher than the maximum one-year sentence for central government officials and the maximum five-year sentence for members of the Self-Defense Forces who leak classified data.

 

What is feared in connection with the government-proposed legislation is whether the heavy penalties against divulging secrets might lead to restrictions on the freedom of the media. There could be such adverse impacts as making government officials, out of fear of possible punishment, hesitant to extend cooperation to news coverage. In addition, anybody who attempts to get government employees to leak information to obtain special secrets will also penalized under the planned legislation. The government has explained that there would be “no problems concerning the reasonable freedom of the media.” Depending on how the planned law will actually be put into practice, however, there can be no denying that there could arise the possibility of even ordinary news gathering efforts leading to punishment for legitimate and earnest attempts to gather information from government officials. Should the freedom of the media fail to be secured, the public’s right to information could not be protected. The government says a stipulation will be incorporated into the bill to the effect that the people’s fundamental rights “shall not be infringed upon unreasonably.” We wonder, however, if such a stipulation is sufficient. Further, in-depth studies should be made in the process of making preparations for the legislation.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/07/2013

 

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Abe Orders Economic Stimulus Measures

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his government on Tuesday to craft measures to bolster the economy to cushion the impact of an increase in the national sales tax. Buoyed by data showing the world’s third-biggest economy recovering briskly and a successful trip to secure the rights to host the 2020 Olympic Games, Abe wasted no time in preparing the groundwork for the April tax increase. He told cabinet ministers to “compile strong measures as a package, including growth strategies, by the end of this month,” Economy Minister Akira Amari told reporters. The timing means the measures will be decided by Oct 1, when the premier is to formally rule on the tax increase, Tokyo’s first meaningful step to contain its ballooning public debt - considered key to maintaining investor confidence. Abe is proceeding cautiously as many politicians blame the last tax hike, in 1997, for plunging the country into recession. The economy has improved smartly since Abe came to office in December on a platform of fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and growth-promotion measures, but the rebound remains fragile. Still, the spending package, likely to exceed 2 trillion yen, and measures including corporate tax relief show that Abe is moving toward the tax hike - the first stage in a planned doubling of the levy to 10% over two years.

 

Strong economic data have weakened the position of Abe’s outside advisers who argue Japan should more decisively escape from deflation before the government raises the sales tax. “Apart from whatever the prime minister is thinking, the mood is certainly forming that the tax increase is unavoidable,” said a person close to a senior ruling party official. Abe did not specify the size of the stimulus but said it would need to be enough to counter the economic drag of the tax increase, Amari said. That means the package must be 2 trillion yen or more, Amari has said previously. Abe is trying to balance his top priority of ending 15 years of deflation and tepid growth against the need to get a grip on Japan’s public finances. At more than double annual GDP, Japan’s public debt is the biggest in the industrial world. The bond market has long given Tokyo the benefit of the doubt, but policymakers fear that any concerns over Japan’s commitment to fiscal reform would crush bond prices and send interest rates spiking. The government on Monday sharply raised its estimate for second-quarter economic growth to an annualized 3.8% from the previous three months. The numbers included a sharp improvement in corporate investment in equipment and software, considered vital for a durable recovery.

 

Finance Minister Taro Aso, a major proponent of the tax hike, said Japan’s improving indicators showed there would be no problem in raising the sales tax as scheduled. A law passed last year calls for the government to raise the sales tax, similar to a goods-and-services tax in other countries, to 8% in April and to 10% in October 2015. But the law requires the government to confirm that the economy is strong enough to weather the blow. “The law clearly says the tax will rise by 3 percentage points and then by 2 percentage points, so government ministries will be operating under this assumption when they start thinking about steps to offset the damage from the tax hike,” Aso said. The package also is expected to include payments to lower-income people to promote housing purchases and long-discussed tax breaks for companies that increase capital spending, said a government source involved in the process.

 

The timing for a tax cut will hardly ever be better. In addition to “Abenomics” boosting growth and the Olympic win providing a feel-good factor and hopes of more economic activity, Abe’s ruling coalition secured full control of the legislature in a July election and has three years until the next polls. Aso, a former premier, and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda have come out strongly for the tax increase. A panel set up by Abe, as well as his party’s tax commission, have signed off on the hike and turned their focus to economic measures to blunt the negative impact on growth. Japan’s top business lobby, Keidanren, has also thrown its weight behind the tax hikes, arguing that backtracking would hit business confidence and lead to market turmoil. Still, Koichi Hamada and Etsuro Honda, two academic economists credited for shaping Abe’s reflationary thinking, argue that Japan’s recovery was still missing critical components such as sustained increases in wages, corporate investment and consumer prices.

From http://www.japantoday.com 09/11/2013

 

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Govt to Create Comprehensive EEZ Law

 

The government has decided to establish a comprehensive law to define the management of the nation’s exclusive economic zones to promote their development and use, sources said. Besides promoting the development of the EEZs by companies the envisaged law is also aimed at putting pressure on China, which has been intensifying its maritime activities. The government plans to submit legislation to the ordinary Diet session next year at the earliest. A project team under the Headquarters for Ocean Policy headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held its first closed-door meeting on Sept. 5. The team of experts discussed the establishment of a law concerning Japan’s EEZs and confirmed that it would compile a report on the matter by the end of the current fiscal year. Under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, countries can claim areas extending 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) from their coastlines as EEZs. It gives signatory countries fishing rights and the right to develop natural resources on the seabed on a priority basis in the EEZs. Japan currently has no uniform law concerning its EEZs although it has a law on the sovereign right of fishing and other activities in the exclusive economic zone, the Mining Law and a law on prevention of marine pollution and maritime disasters.

 

The establishment of a comprehensive law on Japan’s EEZs is aimed at stressing, domestically and abroad, Japan’s determination to protect its maritime interests at a time when China is accelerating moves to become “a great maritime power.” Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and Beijing has sent its marine research ships into Japan’s EEZs many times. There are believed to be ample undersea resources such as methane hydrate in the nation’s EEZs. Due to concerns over nuclear power generation, the government is accelerating efforts to develop seabed resources and ocean energy. Industries that plan to take part in the development of the EEZs have expressed concern that there is currently no clear domestic law concerning Japan’s EEZs, while some people are focused on fishing rights in the EEZs. It has been pointed out that it will take time to coordinate the interests of the Cabinet Office and ministries as related laws concern different government bodies. The United States and many European countries have comprehensive laws and projects for their EEZs. In China and South Korea, the public and private sectors are jointly working on the development of marine resources. Japan must come up with a comprehensive law concerning Japan’s EEZs as soon as possible to counter these countries.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/11/2013

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Enact Bill on Ordinary Wages Within This Year - Labor Minister

 

The government plans to draw up a bill on the scope of ordinary wages this year in an effort to settle lingering disputes between labor and management circles over whether bonuses and various allowances should be considered part of regular wages, the labor minister said Sunday. Ordinary wages are money that is paid regularly and uniformly to employees. With no clear law provisions on the scope of the regular wages, South Korean companies have excluded bonuses from basic wages used as a standard to calculate overtime allowances and severance pay, based on a government guideline published in 1988.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/08/2013

 

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President Park Proposes ‘Creative Economy’ for Job Creation

 

President Park Geun-hye put forth new solutions to low growth and imbalance facing the global economy at the G20 Summit which took place in St. Petersburg, Russia from September 5 to 6.  At the September 5 opening session under the theme “The Growth of the Global Economy,” President Park emphasized that a stimulus program exit strategy with the planned reduction of quantitative easing might cause “negative repercussions” on developed nations such as financial instabilities if struck without taking into consideration the financial situation faced by emerging economies, while acknowledging such an exit plan would help get the global economy back on track.  During the September 6 session themed on “Job Creation and Investment,” Park proposed, in a lead speech, her “creative economy” vision as a new approach to the creation of quality jobs. “Amid poor economic growth, the global economy still faces high unemployment and widening economic inequalities following the global financial crisis,” the president explained. “In that sense, I see eye to eye with the host country Russia on the importance of job creation and inclusive growth as the agenda for this G20 summit.”  As for political measures to solve such issues, Park stated that “more multilateral examinations are needed to see if there are any structural deficiencies in the market economy overall,” championing her creative economy vision and also “a disciplined market economy” as new approaches. 

“The past economy used to run on mineral resources, whereas what drives the creative economy I envision is creative ideas,” Park contended. Citing the Korean singer Psy who caused a sensation worldwide with his hit song “Gangnam Style,” she said, “his ‘Gangnam Style’ YouTube video has been viewed 1.7 billion times around the world, creating significant added value, which provides a good example for the creative economy.”  On top of that, Park said that start-ups and venture firms would serve as a catalyst for the creative economy.  “Hopefully there will be more opportunities to discuss ways of helping vitalize and grow start-ups and venture companies in a sound way, for example improving their approaches to the financial market, protecting their intellectual property rights, and activating R&D efforts.”  Regarding another new approach -- a disciplined market economy -- Park also pointed out such unfair practices as big companies’ abuse of market dominance and unfair transactions. Emphasizing the need for G20-level approaches to rooting out such unfair activities and working toward inclusive growth through job creation, Park called on international organizations including the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and ILO (International Labour Organization) to look closely at the two approaches she proposed, affirming they could bring more jobs. 

From http://www.korea.net 09/09/2013

 

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NORTH KOREA: Kim Puts Top Priority on Economic Development

 

North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator told a forum in China last week that the North's young leader Kim Jong-un has been prioritizing the economy, indicating Kim might put more effort in developing the country's moribund economy, a diplomatic source who attended the forum said Sunday. Ri Yong-ho, the North's chief delegate to the long-stalled six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program, made the remarks during the forum in Beijing that marked the 10th anniversary of the talks, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/22/2013

 

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INDONESIA: To Step Up Cyber Security Policy

 

Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology has raised the importance of including cyber security in the national security strategy to protect more than 55 million internet users in the country. Minister Tifatul Sembiring, said, “The country needs to be wary of cyber security threats. In order to protect the citizens from internet threats, the Government should include cyber security under its national security police.” The Minister highlighted the rapid rise of internet access in the archipelago providing necessity for the Government to escalate cyber security in its national policy. Indonesia has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Southeast Asia, and in 2010, it grew by 30 million users. The high internet use leads to higher risk of cyber crimes. This is coupled with the spread of malware viruses, which has now reached 5.5 billion, he informed. He added that strengthening of cyber security would also help further Indonesia’s economic development. Bearing this in mind, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (KOMINFO) has been developing programmes and building human resource capability in order to minimise and face threats from cyber crime, the Minister assured.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/09/2013

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Indonesia Takes Concrete Action to Address Sustainable Consumption, Production Drive

 

Indonesian Environment Ministry embraced businessmen under the coordination of Trade and Industry Chamber (KADIN) to address its aims related to the implementation of 10 years Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP). The concrete move intended to address implementation of SCP drive was conducted in a MoU signing between the ministry's and KADIN senior officials in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province on Tuesday, a statement released by the ministry said. The signing of the MoU was regarded as a concrete move to encourage businessmen across the country in procuring sustainable goods for their production processes. Such a move was greatly expected to increase the access to sustainable goods among the people. "We urge all stakeholders to actively take part in the implementation of the 10 years SCP framework. Businessmen should be the government's ultimate partner in addressing sustainable consumption and production. They hold strategic role in upstream section because it is them who determine business strategy that include planning, investment, product design, adopt the technology to run the production and the factory location," Indonesian Environment Minister Balthazar Kambuaya said in the statement.

 

If the businessmen do so, it would increase procurement of environment-friendly good by government and private sector as well and eventually would spur green lifestyle among the public, the minister added. The minister said that should all of those processes are going well, it would advance the environment preservation, people's social, economy and life quality conditions.Given that Indonesia has a huge population of over 240 million, records continuing annual high growth with growing number of middle class society and productive age man force as well, implementation of SCP in Indonesia is very essential as it may support the country's environment and natural resources supporting power, preserves the nation's sustainable high growth and improve people's welfare, the minister pointed out. Indonesia was appointed as one of ten United Nations Sustainable Consumption and Production (UNSCP) members in a United Nations' Economic Social Council (UN ECOSOC) meeting held in Geneva on July 19. As a member of UNSCP Board, Indonesia was tasked to actively directing and guiding the implementation of 10 year framework programs for sustainable consumption and production (10YFP SCP) in international level that would be facilitated by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) that acts as the 10YFP SCP secretariat.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/17/2013

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MYANMAR: Urging Public to Cooperate in 2014 Census

 

Myanmar Minister of Immigration and Population U Khin Yi Sunday urged the public to cooperate in nationwide census set for 2014 for working out a national development plan. U Khin Yi told a press conference here that the 12-day census using a work force of 120,000 will be carried out from March 30 to April 10, 2014. International technical assistance will be involved in the move, he said, citing United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The census will be based on statistics from 14 regions or states covering 70 districts, 330 townships, 3,051 wards, 64,346 villages and 13,620 village-tracts inhabited by 135 nationalities with five major religious faiths. Myanmar started census-taking process as of 1891, Khin Yi recalled. The last two census were carried out in 1973 and 1983, which registered Myanmar's population as 28.92 million and over 35 million, respectively. After 1983, once-in-a-decade nationwide censuses could no longer be taken for various reasons including conflicts in some areas and inaccessibility in some others. Myanmar's announced population in October 2012 stood at 60.98 million. According to Khin Yi, of the expected cost of 58.5 million U.S. dollars for the census, Myanmar government had committed 15 million dollars and the United Nations pledged 5 million dollars for materials and courses, leaving a funding gap of 38.5 million dollars. Experts from 13 countries as well as U.N. Statistics Division, UNFPA, U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the World Bank will also help Myanmar in the process, another report said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/15/2013

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Myanmar Govt to Resolve Land Confiscation Issues Soon

 

The Myanmar government held a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday to discuss land confiscation cases and resolve them within the year. During the meeting, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Myint Hlaing said that the government must solve farmland and other land confiscation issues in accordance with the law, in order to protect public interest. “There have been 565 complaint letters related to the Ministry of Defence Service and 63 complaint letters about lands that were confiscated due to the expansion of urban areas and industrial zones,” said Myint Hlaing, adding that farmlands have also been confiscated after the privatisation of agricultural and animal husbandry projects. “There have also been 117 complaint letters regarding lands that were confiscated due to expansion of railways, motorways, and airports, or the construction of state-owned factories and workshops. There are 745 cases that have occurred in previous administrations,” he said.

 

The report from the parliamentary committee covers cases that have occurred since the administration of the Union Revolutionary Council as far back as 1962.  Various ministries, including the Ministry of Defence Service, and private companies are involved in the land confiscation so evidence is needed to solve these cases, Myint Hlaing said. He added that a discussion will be held regarding what actions might be taken against private companies and persons who obtained virgin lands from the government but have not used them for business. According to the parliamentary commission’s report, the military land grabs have been most controversial in Mandalay Region and Mon State, areas where the commission received 156 and 144 complaint letters, respectively. The Minister of Defence told parliament in July that the military will return more than 18,000 acres of confiscated farmlands to their original owners.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 09/20/2013

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Myanmar Approves UNESCO's Peace Education Project

 

Myanmar has approved UNESCO's peace education project in northern Rakhine state reaffirming its commitment to promote peace education as a means of fostering mutual respect for cultural diversity at the school level, official sources said on Sunday. The project is to be jointly implemented by the UNESCO and the government in three townships in the state --Maungtaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung with the fund support by the Belgium government. Under the project, 350 teachers from 40 conflicted-affected schools will be trained in peace education and it will benefit 10, 000 students, the sources said. The project also aims to reactivate 40 parent-teacher associations and set up three community learning centers, the sources added. Following the recent communal violence in Rakhine state which has affected hundreds of schools and thousands of students, the government and international community have identified peace education as one of the priority to address underlying causes of the communal tension. The overall aim of the peace education project is to enhance the capacity of schools teachers, students and their parents to facilitate inclusive problem-solving process and consensus- building around community priority and to strengthen the commitment to an inclusive civic national identity.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/22/2013

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MALAYSIA: State to Launch Digital Maps of Rural Roads by 2014

 

The state of Johor Bahru is embarking on an initiative to digitally map out 5,000 kilometres of rural roads, a first of its kind in Malaysia. The project, which was estimated to cost at about RM300,000 (US$90,900), is a joint effort between Infra Desa Johor Sdn Bhd (IDJSB), a state-owned company that is responsible for the maintenance of rural roads, and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Faculty of Geoinformation and Real Estate. The latter will provide consulting expertise in order to fully maximise the GIS and mapping applications for the project. According to Menteri Besar (State Chief Executive) Datul Mohamed Khaled Nordin, the availability of the digital map would allow the state government to better plan for the development and maintenance of roads. “With this system, we will also be more effective in awarding tenders for the maintenance as we will be able to have better information on which roads are in need of repairs or upgrade,” said Khaled. The State chief executive revealed that the project is expected to be completed by mid-2014. Furthermore, the map would also be available for mobile navigation and GPS device.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/06/2013

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PHILIPPINES: President Inks Anti-Bullying Law

 

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the law against bullying in schools. Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 on Sept. 12 but it was only released Wednesday. The following are considered as bullying: unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim, one that causes damage to victim's psyche and/or emotional well-being, slanderous statement that causes the victim undue emotional distress and cyber-bullying. The new law calls for all elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to address the existence of bullying in their respective institutions. "All elementary and secondary schools shall provide students and their parents or guardians a copy of the anti-bullying policies being adopted by the school," the law states. Under the law, education officials are required to train school administrators and teachers to develop their knowledge and skills in preventing or responding to any bullying act. The school principal or any person who holds a comparable role shall be responsible for the implementation and oversight policies intended to address bullying. The Education Secretary was authorized to prescribe the appropriate administrative sanctions on school administrators who would fail to comply with the requirements under the new law, and erring private schools would also suffer the penalty of suspension of their permits to operate.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/18/2013

 

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THAILAND: Police and E-Transaction Agency Sign Cybersecurity MoU

 

The Royal Thai Police and Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) of Thailand are to collaborate to develop human resource capabilities, and transfer and disseminate knowledge on cybersecurity, in order to improve security of electronic transactions. The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), pushing for a mechanism to protect against and deal with cybersecurity risks. The agencies recognise the rise of digital forensics for protecting the cyberspace, and the importance of developing human resource capability and technical knowledge.  The agreement, lasting for five years, includes dissemination of information on cybersecurity risks to the public, exchange of technical know-how, and facilitation of training sessions and seminars. The two agencies are also looking to jointly work on the verification of digital evidence, development of digital evidence authentication standards, and contribute to the development of technical knowledge on digital evidence and authentication.  Both agencies are to take turns hosting a joint biannual meeting to prepare and update the annual work plan and monitor the progress of projects implemented under this agreement.  The Police and ETDA expressed hope that this agreement will enable citizens and businesses to engage in secure and safe electronic transactions.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/20/2013

 

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VIETNAM: Says Achieving UN Millennium Development Goals

 

Vietnam has achieved three important millennium development goals (MDGs) of poverty elimination, universal primary education and promoting gender equality, said Vietnam's Ministry of Planning and Investment on a draft MDG Report 2013. According to the ministry, Vietnam's national poverty rates have dropped from 14.2 percent in 2010 to 9.6 percent in 2012, reported local online newspaper Nhandan (the People) on Wednesday. The number of primary educated children reached 97.7 percent while female workers accounted for 48 percent of new employment in 2012. In addition to the MDGs on poverty, education and gender equality, Vietnam is likely to reach MDGs of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by 2015, said the ministry. The country has also made significant advances in implementing other MDGs of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other serious diseases. The report also pointed out the challenges that Vietnam has to face in the coming years, including the widening gap between the rich and the poor among the regions and population groups, along with climate change issues.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/18/2013

 

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Viet Nam Unveils Plans to Overhaul Education System

 

Viet Nam is expected to comprehensively renew education and training by 2030 to effect in both education quality and efficiency. The target is part of a draft master plan on education and training renovation released by the Ministry of Education and Training at a press briefing on Thursday. Under this plan, the education and training sector will aim to help Vietnamese people develop basic knowledge, skills and creativity to contribute to national development. The country also hopes to provide pre-school education for all five-year-olds by 2015 and tuition fee exemptions by 2020. To fulfill these targets, the master plan focuses on several key measures. These include increasing Party leadership and State management over the education renovation process and continuing to strongly renew education programmes (including education targets, content and methods) towards developing students' quality and capacity. Other measures include restructuring exams and education quality assessments together with renovating policies, financial mechanisms and enhancing infrastructure.

 

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien admitted the current education system was failing to promote the capacity of each individual. Education solely focuses on equipping students with knowledge, but fails to outline appropriate study methods for them, he said. He said the sector's target was to develop students' capacity and quality, not just focusing on providing knowledge. Therefore, the master plan would pay more attention to increasing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge. Regarding education human resources, the head of the ministry's Personnel Department, Bui Manh Nhi, who is also a member of the compiling board, said more preferential policies were needed to attract more outstanding candidates top work in the sector. At present, students at education-focused universities enjoy free tuition and the policy had helped lure a large number of students, but not enough worked as teachers after graduating from these universities, he said. The master plan is scheduled to be submitted to the Party Central Committee for approval next month.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/21/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Cabinet Okays Draft of Food Safety Bill 2013

 

The Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the Food Safety Bill, 2013 keeping provision of maximum five years imprisonment or Tk 500,000 fine for adulteration of food. The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. Briefing reports after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan termed the proposed law as comprehensive and modern, which defined many aspects of food security. Under the proposed law, an institutional framework will be established to ensure food safety, he said. Besides, he informed that a Food Safety Advisory Council, headed by the Food Minister, will be constituted and a safe food authority will be established, while there will be detailed lists of activities which are harmful for health and arrangement of food testing would be made. The Cabinet approved the draft of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Bill, 2013, subject to the vetting of the Law Ministry. The existing BIISS Ordinance of 1984 was annulled following the cancellation of the fifth and seventh amendments of the Constitution by the higher court.  

 

In order to maintain the continuity of the BIISS, the proposed law has been drafted and will be placed in Parliament during the upcoming session, the Cabinet Secretary said. The meeting also approved the National Strategy Paper on the Myanmar Refugees living in Bangladesh and Myanmar citizens who infiltrated into Bangladesh to take coordinated efforts to deal with the problem. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the Strategy Paper proposed to conduct a survey on the Myanmar citizens in Bangladesh and prepare a list to determine their actual number. The government will ensure all amenities for those who have already included in the list of the government. Besides, the strategy paper said that a National Coordination Committee, headed by the Foreign Minister, and a National Taskforce led by the Foreign Secretary will be constituted to look into the matter. Similar taskforce will be formed at district and upazila level, headed by the Deputy Commissioners and Upazila Nirbahi Officers.   Reports on the visits of Bangladesh delegations to India led by the Jute and Textile Minister in August; China visit led by the Planning Minister in June; France, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia visits of the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister in June-July; participation of the Foreign Minister at the ASEAN Regional Forum held in Brunei in July; and visit of the Fisheries and Livestock Minister to New Zealand in July were placed before the cabinet.   Cabinet members, advisers to the Prime Minister, State Minister concerned attended the meeting while secretaries concerned were present.

From http://unbconnect.com 09/09/2013

 

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Legislature to Decide Whether JS to Be Dissolved CEC

 

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad on Monday said it is the legislature that will decide whether the current parliament will be dissolved or not ahead of the 10th parliamentary elections. The Election Commission will hold the general election in line with the constitution, he told reporters at the EC secretariat in the afternoon. Replying to a query whether the commission wants parliament to be dissolved, the CEC said, “It’s too early for us to comment… the dissolution of parliament depends on the legislators. But we’ll arrange the election following the constitution.” Asked whether the commission has received any indication from the government regarding the status of parliament during the election, he replied in the negative and said, “The Commission doesn’t feel any pressure.” Sought comments that two major political parties — BNP and Jatiya Party — have already shown their non-confidence in the incumbent Election Commission, the CEC said, “All those are their own views… we (Rakibuddin Commission) have held over 600 elections, including six city corporation polls and six by-elections. Local and international observers as well as the media watched the polls.”   In reply to a query whether Bangladesh Jamaat-e Islami now can be counted as registered party with the EC, Rakibuddin said, “The court order is still in force… we have to count the order.” He further said that the decision on distribution of National Identity Card (NID) of the fresh voters, whose names were registered during the countrywide voter list updating exercise last year, will be taken within a couple of days. The commission will discuss the distribution of NID through postal or election offices, but the door-to-door disbursement will be tough for the EC in the capital as many city dwellers do not stay home during daytime, he added. About his deputy Abu Hafiz’s remark that it will be tough for the commission to arrange the general election keeping parliament in place, the CEC said it is his personal opinion. “Commissioners can express their personal views, but the commission’s decision is otherwise. The commission still examines the issues and it wants to hold a fair and free election.” To create a level-playing field for all the candidates, the commission scrutinises the election code of conduct of other countries, he noted.

From http://unbconnect.com 09/09/2013

 

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INDIA: DoT Plans to Seek 10-year Tax Relief for Telecom Infrastructure Sector

 

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is planning to ask the finance ministry to offer a tax relief for 10 years without a sunset clause and make viability gap funding available for the telecom infrastructure sector. Telecom sector companies including the service providers and struggling tower companies had sought for more fiscal benefits from the government over the last couple of months. The sector was formally given an infrastructure status in April this year but some demands of the industry around funding and investment remained unmet. In the draft note prepared for the finance ministry, the telecom department (DoT) said that telecom plays a critical role to facilitate growth of the economy. The telecom tower sector has been in a quagmire since last several quarters, with fewer towers being added in the wake of the 2G airwave scandal that resulted in cancellation of 122 telecom licenses, and hence the exit of players based on whom tower companies had made their business case. Muted capital expenditure and expansion from telecom operators added to the companies’ woes.

 

DoT has recommended that a 100 percent tax holiday for 10 years in a block of 20 years be given to the telecom industry, including towers, to bring it at par with other infrastructure sectors like ports, roads and power, according to the note. It has sought benefits for the industry like viability gap funding and lower insurance premium on infrastructure assets, which other infrastructure sectors avail. It has also recommended that capital goods used to erect towers – angles, beams and pre-fabricated shelters – be included in the Central Value Added Tax credit rules to reduce the overall cost of offering services. DoT has however left it to the department of revenue’s judgment to approve the industry’s demand of availing higher depreciation. It has also not sided with the industry on demands of reducing or exempting import duty on equipment and allowing external commercial borrowing to be used for working capital.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/03/2013

 

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Telecom Commission Approves Plan to Give Free Tablets and Mobiles

 

Telecom Commission ,the highest decision-making body in Department of Telecom (DoT), recently approved a proposal to give free mobiles to families in villages and tablet PCs to students in government schools that could cost the exchequer nearly Rs 10,000 crore. The scheme is expected to benefit 2.5 crore individuals in rural households while the free tablet programme would cover 90 lakh students in 11th and 12th classes. It is to be jointly funded by the Department of Telecom and Universal Services Obligations Fund (USOF) – a fund to facilitate telecom services in rural areas. The project is proposed to be implemented through state-run BSNL which will float tenders for sourcing of mobile phones and tablets. The tablets will cost around Rs 4,972.5 crore, of which the USOF will fund 60 per cent and the remaining amount will be provided by DoT. Similarly, the mobile phone scheme, meant for mainly MGNREGA workers, is estimated to cost the government Rs 4,850 crore. The mobile phones and tablet PCs are proposed to come with a warranty of three years. Both the schemes are expected to start after March 2014. General elections are due to be conducted before May. The tablet PC will be distributed in three phases where is first phase 15 lakh students will be covered, 35 lakh in second phase and 40 lakh in third phase. Under the proposed scheme, students will get tablets for duration of their studies at the school they are enrolled with. The mobile phone scheme is proposed to cover 25 lakh beneficiaries in first year, 50 lakh in second, 75 lakh in third and 1 crore in fourth year. The mobile phone scheme, meant for mainly MGNREGA workers is likely to be completed over period of six years.

                                                                                                                             From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/11/2013

 

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Government Plans to Fund Electronics Startups to Encourage Local Manufacturing

 

The government is finalising plans to fund and formulate technology startups that specialise in electronics as it seeks to encourage local manufacturing and limit import of electronic merchandise. Electronic imports is country’s second-biggest foreign exchange-drainer after oil. International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore and Delhi University are being roped in for housing such incubators, as told by a senior government official. “Promoting startup incubators is an important part of the policy,” said Ajay Kumar, joint secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology. The latest move comes in the wake of government’s earlier initiatives such as the National Electronics Policy 2012 and the Rs 10,000-crore Electronic Development Fund announced earlier this year. While the government has not decided on how much money will be earmarked for the startup incubators, Kumar said it will it likely to draw from the Rs 10,000-crore fund. “We are expecting the approval to come in a few weeks,” said S Sadagopan, director at the IIIT-B, which is expecting to support 10 electronic product startups in a year. “We will be putting in Rs 50 lakh on an average per company. This comes to Rs 5 crore per year for the incubator. We are expecting part-funding from Karnataka state government and the central government.” India imported electronic goods worth $32 billion (Rs 2 lakh crore) in 2012-13, and that amount is projected to cross $300 billion by 2020, when it would have overtaken crude oil as the biggest item on India’s import bill. Industry observers said that the incubator and funding assistance by government is a step in the right direction, especially as electronics-focused startups face high initial investment.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 09/17/2013

 

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SRI LANKA: Seeking Pragmatic Approach in Addressing Issues of Transitional Justice

 

Sri Lanka yesterday called for a pragmatic, context specific approach in addressing issues of transitional justice. Making a statement during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff , the Sri Lankan delegation at the UN Human Rights Council said that Sri Lanka has consistently upheld the position that the approach of each state to reconciliation be context specific taking into account the particularities of each state and the aspirations of its people. Sri Lanka welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that truth commissions adopt a gender-based approach and his highlighting the funding aspect in the functioning of commissions. The Sri Lankan delegation futher noted that the government is looking forward to the visit to Sri Lanka by the Special Rapporteur on IDPs in December. Sri Lanka says it remains committed to continuing its engagement with the Council as well as sharing best practices. Full statement by the Sri Lankan delegation: 24th session of the Human Rights Council – Agenda Item 3 Statement at the ID with the SR on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-recurrence

 

Mr. President,

The delegation of Sri Lanka thanks the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence Mr. Pablo de Grieff for his Report (A/HRC/24/42), and takes note of the range of information presented based on different models o transitional justice. We note the SR's assertion that while the past two decades have witnessed a steady increase in the establishment and use of various truth-seeking mechanisms, they, in particular state-sanctioned commissions can be important instruments for the redress of violations when implemented in a comprehensive manner. The SR also notes that given the significant expansion of the commissions beyond fact finding, they find it increasingly difficult to satisfy growing expectations. We concur that the expansion of commission mandates without coherence, specificity and clarity, does not help in achieving reconciliation. We welcome the SR's recommendation that the truth commissions adopt a gender-based approach, and his highlighting the funding aspect in the functioning of commissions, the latter being an often overlooked fact.

 

Mr. President,

As a community that has experienced and emerged from a protracted terrorist conflict which lasted three decades, Sri Lanka has consistently upheld the position that the approach of each state to reconciliation be context-specific, taking into account the particularities of each state and the aspirations of its people. In this regard, the Government of Sri Lanka has undertaken a harmonious and holistic approach to reconciliation, taking into consideration a range of cross-cutting issues including resettlement, housing, land, rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants including former child soldiers, democratisation, accountability, demilitarisation, deming, infrastructure development, livelihood development, education, vocational training, trauma and psych-social counselling, support for the female-headed households and war widows, the trilingual policy etc. These actions initiated shortly after the ending of the terrorist conflict in May 2009 are presently being continued in the context of the National Plan of Action for the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC, in a time bound manner. In July 2013 the Government added 53 more recommendations of the LLRC for implementation. This reconciliation process is also well integrated into the country's governance system through the wide network of line Ministries and Agencies. For example, the implementation of the identified recommendations of the LLRC through the National Plan of Action fall within the purview of over 20 line Ministries ranging from, Defence, Public Administration, Justice, Land, Child Development and Women's Affairs, Education, National Languages and Social Integration, to Culture and Arts and Sports.

 

Mr. President,

We have briefed the Council on a regular basis on progress in the different facets pf the reconciliation process detailed above, including under Item 2- General Debate of the current session. We are pleased that the High Commissioner was able to witness first-hand this multi-faceted nature of Sri Lanka's reconciliation process during her visit, and uphold the progress already achieved. We look forward to the visit of the Special Rapporteur on IDPs in December this year to review progress in resettlement, and to a visit by the SR on Education in the future. We remain committed to continuing our engagement with the Council, as well as sharing best practices.

 

In conclusion, Mr. President,

We highlight the need to adopt a pragmatic, context specific approach in addressing issues of transitional justice.Thank you.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 09/13/2013

 

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Govt Is Committed to Develop North and South Equally – President

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said yesterday the objective of the government is to work to uplift the people despite communal, religious and regional differences and the government has streamlined plans to develop the North and South equally. Addressing a massive public rally held in Pudukuduirippu Pradeshiya Sabha Grounds last morning in support of the ruling party candidates for the upcoming Northern Provincial Council, the President said the government has taken expeditious measures to develop the war-battered Province within the last 4 years after defeating terrorism. Highlighting the development in infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and schools, the President said what was destroyed in the region have been provided to the people in a period of 4 years and the government is taking measures to solve problems related to housing and land and uplift the lives of the people. He assured to return everything people lost during the past 30 years except the lives.

 

President Rajapaksa appealed to the people in the North not to get misled by the false propaganda of the major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance. The President pointed out that the Tamil party is misleading the people by promising self-government and independence but not in a position to uplift the people's lives or provide the basic facilities they need. He noted that the Presidential, Parliamentary and Pradeshiya Sabha elections were held and democracy has been established in the region following the war. Holding an election in the north that was subjugated to terrorism for 30 years is a great accomplishment he added. During the rally TNA organizer for Oddusuddan Thirunam Kurupu Rakesh joined the UPFA and several former LTTE leaders also expressed their support to the ruling alliance. Senior Minister DEW Gunasekera, General Secretary of UPFA Minister Susil Premajayantha, ministers Reginold Cooray and Susantha Punchinilame and MPs Praba Ganesan, Murugesu Chandrakumar and Hunais Farook also participated in the rally.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 09/16/2013

 

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PAKISTAN: Govt Launches Seven New Schemes for Poverty Alleviation

 

ISLAMABAD: Federal government has launched seven new schemes for poverty alleviation and employment across the country. Government has increased the allocation of cash support programme from Rs.44 billion for fiscal year 2012-13 to Rs.75 billion for fiscal year 2013-14 for poverty alleviation and employment. According to available document with APP, under the Prime Minister's Youth Training Programme all those completing a 16 year degree programme and having age blew 25 years will be provided one year training programme. During the training, they will be entitled to a stipend of Rs. 10,000 per month. The small business loans scheme will enable the youth to start their own businesses. Small business loans from Rs.100,000 to Rs. 2,000,000 will be made available through banking system at a mark up cost of eight percent while the remaining cost will be generated by the government. In the first year of the scheme, a total of 50,000 loans will be offered. In Prime Minister's Microfinance Scheme men and women will be enable to undertake microenterprise activities, Rs. 5.00 billion have been allocated for Qarz-e-Hassana Scheme (loan without mark-up). These micro loans will be made available through selected micro finance providers including Akhuwat, NRSP and provincial RSPs. Fifty percent of the beneficiaries of this scheme will be women. Under the Prime Minister's Youth Skills Development Programme, 25,000 young persons up to the age 25 years with minimum qualification of middle will be imparted training in a number of trades across the country. Six month training will be given for which fee will be paid by the government. In the Fee Reimbursement Scheme for Less developed Areas bright students from Balochistan, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan are being provided tuition fee support for higher education at Master's and Doctorate levels. This scheme is being extended to other equally less developed areas such as those of interior Sindh ,South Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

From http://www.brecorder.com 09/08/2013

 

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Mpas Rise Above Political Affiliations to Support Women Friendly Laws

 

KARACHI: Women members of Sindh Assembly have agreed to rise above their respectively political affiliations in support of Child Marriage Eradication Bill and proposed policy for Home Based Workers. Actively participating in a session held here the other day under the aegis of Parliamentary Committee for Women Empowerment in close coordination with Sindh Women Development Department, they agreed that 18 years must be adopted as the minimum marriage age of a girl, as proposed under drafted Child Marriage Eradication Bill, 2013. MPAs Rubina S. Qaimkhani and Ghazala Sial from PPP, Sorath Thebo from PML (N), Nussrat Sahar Abassi from PML (F), Dr.Seema Zia from PTI and Rana Ansari, Heer Soho, Naheed Begum, Naila Munir, Aysha Khatoon, Shazia Javeed, Irum Azeem Farooqi from MQM actively participated in the consultation. They were of the unanimous opinion that since the 18th amendment in the constitution formulation of legislation on social issues was the prime responsibility of provinces and it was important that the cause of women friendly laws are supported at every level.

 

Sindh Minister for Women Development, Social Welfare and Special Education, Rubina Qaimkhani said the main purpose of the meeting was to develop consensus and harmony among the women members about the women related bill and policy prior to their presentation before the provincial assembly. She said it was after consultation with various stake-holders that a clause has been added in the bill under which Nikahkhwan would be legally required to ask for CNICs of bride and groom at the time of nikah for registration. Nikahkhwan would also be responsible to mention CNIC numbers in Nikahnama and that a copy of Nikahnama should be provided after registration of nikah to both the parties i.e. bride and groom Nuzhat Shirin from HomeNet Pakistan briefed the women parliamentarians about the proposed draft of Provincial Policy on Home Based Workers. All the women parliamentarians present in the meeting unanimously agreed to support the proposed policy and agreed that it was need of the time that they worked together for the well being of women in the province. They said it was also incumbent upon women development department to facilitate all efforts towards women empowerment in the province.

 

They also appreciated the role of provincial labor department and HomeNet Pakistan for preparation of proposed draft related to provincial policy for home based workers policy. It was acknowledged that the home based women workers suffer a lot due to lack of support or absence of any recognition of their work under the existent labour laws. Sindh Minister for Women Development said her department supports this policy as a major step towards induction of home based women workers in the labour work force. "It is also a major way forward towards women empowerment as share of women work in informal sector is at least 80 % of the total," said MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, from PML (F). MPA Dr Seema Zia from PTI emphasised on proper reporting system in context of home based workers as well as nikah of girls performed in the province. Noor Muhammad Leghari, Secretary Women Development Department, Shakeel A. Mengrejo, Secretary Social Welfare, A. Aleem, Secretary for Special Education, Mussarat Jabeen Deputy Secretary WDD, representatives from labor department including Syed Ali Ashraf Naqvi, were also present on the occasion.

From http://www.brecorder.com 09/23/2013

 

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ARMENIA: Minimum Wages to Be Set at 50,000 Drams as from January 2014

 

Minimum wages will be 50,000 drams in Armenia as from January 2014, the country’s minister of labor and social affairs Artem Asatryan said at a government meeting Thursday. Under the new amendments to the law about minimum monthly salary, the amount of minimum wages is increased by 30% to 45,000 drams as from July 1, 2013, which means an extra 6 billion drams was appropriated from the budget. A new salary calculation scheme will be introduced in Armenia as from January 1, 2014, with an additional of 50 billion drams to be allocated from the budget. At its Thursday’s meeting Armenian government declined the bill submitted by the Prosperous Armenia party faction, suggesting setting the minimum wages at 75,000 drams in the country as from the beginning of the next year. The minister said minimum wages will keep increasing every year under the government plan for 2013-2017. In particular, the program envisages increasing the minimum wages to 55,000 drams as from 2015, to 62,500drams as from 2016 and to 70,000drams as from 2017. Wednesday Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan said at his meeting with the officials of the ministry of education and science that minimum wages will reach the threshold of 90,000 drams in 2017. According to ArmStat, monthly average nominal wages was 144,850drams in January-July, an increase of 3.2% from the respective level of 2012. ($1=405.95drams).

From http://arka.am/ 08/29/2013

 

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Armenian FM Expresses Country’s Readiness to Continue Close Cooperation with EU

 

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Saturday met with his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevičius in Vilnius. The Ministers touched upon Armenia's decision to join the Customs Union and in this context had in-depth discussion of further development of Armenia-EU relations, reads the statement issued by Armenian MFA. Edward Nalbandian confirmed Armenia's readiness to continue close cooperation with EU in different areas as much as it will be acceptable to the European Union and will not contradict Armenia's membership to the Customs Union. The Ministers shared the opinion that Armenia-EU relations must be advanced based on results mutually achieved over the recent years.

From http://news.am/ 09/07/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: To Prepare Proposals on Tourism Development with CIS Countries

 

Azerbaijan will prepare proposals on tourism development jointly with CIS countries, Azerbaijan Tourism Association (ATA) chairman's advisor Muzaffar Agakerimov told Trend on Saturday. According to him, Azerbaijan should develop tourism with CIS countries. Proposals on this issue will be presented by ATA to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism after their development. Agakerimov noted that Azerbaijan is close to the CIS countries both in terms of distance and in terms of absence of a language barrier. "We should try to attract more tourists from the CIS countries to Azerbaijan. Most of these tourists go to Turkey, Dubai. If we direct a part of these tourists to Azerbaijan, it will significantly assist in development of tourism and economy in the country," chairman's advisor said. Agakerimov noted that railway tourism should be established in Azerbaijan as well. According to him, it is possible to establish separate tourist coaches. "For example, a three-day tourist trains to Tbilisi may operate. A lot of tourists go from Azerbaijan to Batumi from where they travel to Turkey. It is possible to open route on this way," Agakerimov said. According to him, work on this project will be carried out in cooperation with Georgia.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/31/2013

 

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Mortgage Improvement Strategy in Azerbaijan Submitted to Government

 

Mortgage improvement strategy in Azerbaijan has been developed and submitted to the government, said the chairman of the Central Bank Elman Rustamov. He says one of the key points of the strategy is facilitation of mortgage, including a social one: “The matter is not about interest rates or terms, but also about implementation of a new mortgage model. This model envisages ensuring access to mortgage through charges of population, construction of economy class houses and sale through mortgage”. 

From http://www.news.az/ 09/06/2013

 

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Azerbaijan to Enact 14 New ICT Standards

 

Adoption of 14 new national standards in information and communication technologies is expected in Azerbaijan, Deputy Communications and IT Minister Elmir Velizade told media on September 10. According to Velizade, ICT Technical Committee established under the Ministry is engaged in the preparation of standards in the ICT sector and localization of international standards into the Azerbaijani language. "At present, around 30 standards have been passed in the ICT sector in Azerbaijan, including information security standards, standards on the creation of information technologies, terminology, and others. Work in this direction continues," he said. Among the latest standards, which are to be adopted in Azerbaijan, are those for biometric technologies, for digital television in the development of software products and standards on terminology. International standards serve as a basis for their preparation, Velizade said. Work to develop the ICT sector in Azerbaijan is underway in accordance with the action plan for the ICT Year, which was announced in Azerbaijan in 2013. Velizade also said the work on organizing the activity of the State Fund for ICT Development is drawing to a close. According to him, the fund will finance projects of new companies, as well as projects of companies which already have a foothold in the Azerbaijani market, and ICT projects implemented abroad. The State Fund was established to implement the state policy on development and support of small enterprises in the scientific and technical fields and defines three ways of financing - investments, grants and credits. Each Azerbaijani citizen may avail of the advantages of the ICT Fund's financing. The initial financing volume for 2013 is 15 million manats (over $19 million).

From http://www.azernews.az/ 09/11/2013

 

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KYRGYZSTAN: To Build 63 Social Objects in 2013

 

In 2013 the national budget of Kyrgyzstan under the article on 'capital investment' is allocating two billion 400 million soms, the Kyrgyz government's press service reported on Thursday. These funds are planned for construction and commission of 63 social objects. These comprise 44 secondary schools, nine hospitals and clinics, five houses, a kindergarten and four facilities of various types. Currently taking the specified list, 22 are already built and put into operation. The remainder are under construction or near completion. Of the two billion 400 million soms allocated for capital construction, one billion 357 million soms have already been spent. In addition, implementation of the programme 'Financing of agriculture' continues. Currently on the programme are five domestic banks issuing about 34,000 subsidised loans to farmers and peasant farms totalling two billion 935 million soms. Of this amount, farmers received loans of 270 million soms, breeders - two billion 617 million soms and those engaged in the processing of agricultural products - 49 million soms. The official exchange rate for September 5 is 48.75 KGS/USD

From http://en.trend.az/ 09/06/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: To Start Investing Its National Oil Fund Assets into Its Own Economy Starting from 2014

 

Next year Kazakhstan will start investing oil savings into its own economy, according to the country’s Economic Affairs Minister Erbolat Dossayev. “In 2014-2016 Kazakhstan plans to inject its oil savings into the national economy, notably infrastructure projects to boost transit shipment and facilitate Kazakhstan’s exports to global markets”, Kursiv.kz quoted the Minister as saying. To this end, the annual transfer [to complement the country’s budget] from the National Oil Fund will make up about $9 billion, with an extra transfer of $980 million to be earmarked in 2014 [according to an earlier statement made by the Minister, this special transfer will go to finance prep works for EXPO-2017 to be held in Astana and some large-scaled infrastructure projects]. Assets of the National Oil Fund will exceed $122 billion by 2016, Newskaz.ru reported, citing the country’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Budget Planning Erbolat Dossayev as saying on the sidelines of a government sitting August 28. “With the oil revenues at the planned level, the assets of the National Oil Fund will rise from $93.9 billion in 2014 to $122.1 billion in 2016”, the Minister said when presenting the 2014-2016 draft country’s budget. As of August 1, the assets of the National Oil Fund stood at $64.343 billion (11.39% up against the start of the year). The National Fund of Kazakhstan was created in 2000 as a stabilization fund that accumulates windfall revenues from oil sales and ensures the economy of Kazakhstan will be stable against the price swings of oil. The assets of the National Fund assets are monitored by the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

From http://en.tengrinews.kz/ 09/12/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Considering New Laws

 

The Turkmen Parliament will hold its regular meeting of the fourth convocation on August 29, during which a number of legislative documents will be considered, the Turkmen government reported. According to Turkmenistan's constitution, parliament adopts laws, makes changes and additions to the main law. It approves the state budget, solves issues relating to carrying out the nationwide referendums and appoints the election of the president, deputies of the Majlis and members of the representative bodies. The parliament also considers issues about any appointment or release from a position of the Supreme Court Chairman, General Prosecutor, Interior Minister, Minister of Justice on the president's proposal, ratifies and denounces international agreements and addresses issues of changing of state borders and the administrative-territorial division of the country.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 08/27/2013

 

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Turkmenistan Adopts Regulations in Organ Transplantation Field

 

During the next meeting of the Turkmen Majlis (Parliament) of the fourth convocation a bill "On the transplantation of organs and (or) tissues" was passed, a Turkmen government statement published on Friday reported. Submitted to the deputies the project will complement a number of laws aimed at protecting the health of citizens and determine the legal and institutional framework of transplantation of organs and (or) tissues. According to the report, it applies to matters arising in the field of transportation. At the same time the government guarantees the preservation of information about the donor and the recipient, and establishes liability for damage to the health of citizens. The statement notes that the legislation is improved along with formation of modern infrastructure of the health system. Last year a State Development Program in the health sector of the country for the period until 2016 was approved in Turkmenistan. During this period it is envisaged to dusburse about $ 500 million for new medical projects and about 30-40 percent of them will fall to foreign investment. Over the past 10 years the total cost for the construction of medical facilities in Turkmenistan amounted to over $ 1.5 billion. According to local sources, for the period up to 2030 it is scheduled to spend $2.114 billion for large-scale construction and renovation of existing health facilities, purchase of modern medical equipment.

From http://en.trend.az/ 08/31/2013

 

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Pacific Plan to Become a Regional Framework on Regional Integration

 

Seven years after the Pacific’s first master strategy for regional co-operation and integration came into force, there is now plan to re-launch it into a regional framework on regional integration. “There needs to be a reinvigoration of the Pacific Plan to be able to quicken the pace for regional integration, said Feleti Teo, the deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Teo said the “emphasis is on strengthening the political process, providing Leaders with the opportunity to have the right conversation on the issue.” From their region wide consultation, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) led by Sir Mekere Morauta of Papua New Guinea discovered that the region has done reasonably well in regional co-operation. “The Pacific Plan provided the platform for the region to co-ordinate efforts, share and pool resources and provide support to countries that are not able to provide certain technical services through the work that regional organisations provide.

 

However, little progress was made in regional integration in the last decade, according to the interim findings of the EPG review team. Teo said the team found integration was particularly very slow in the area of regional trade. “The trade agreements amongst countries, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) is still not happening and its ratification process is taking a long time. The trade and development co-operation agreement between Forum Island Countries and Australia and New Zealand (PACER Plus) is moving slowly and it’s almost ten years and the region has not reached an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, said Teo. The review wants Forum Leaders to have a more hands-on role in determining the regional agenda. “They found that regional processes under the Pacific Plan are too bureaucratic. Officials are clogging the Leaders agenda. They want Leaders to be given the space to decide and focus more enthusiastically on regional integration.

 

In addition, the review team is asking for a major overhaul of the Pacific Plan. “They want to reform the Pacific Plan Action committee (PPAC) and change it into a more business entity, with Board of Directors to manage the new framework, said Teo. Oversight of the Pacific Plan is provided by the PPAC, a committee of senior foreign affairs officials from Forum Island Countries whose role is to review implementation of the Pacific Plan and provide high-level advice to Leaders on strengthening regional cooperation and integration. “The idea is to streamline the political process and minimize the control of officials of the agenda and allow leaders to decide what they want to discuss. Teo said the Forum Secretariat was not involved in the review. It was an entirely independent exercise. “We welcome the review. There were some very good recommendations but there are a lot of details still missing because the final report is not available. “The original expectation was that a formal report was to be made to the Forum Officials Committee when they met in Suva last month to collectively consider the report and make necessary recommendations.

 

However, that didn’t happen and the EPG will brief Leaders on Wednesday here in Majuro to present key recommendation to include in their final report. “The justification of taking this approach is that they don’t want to finalise their report until they are absolutely sure that they have the political backing for some of the recommendations. “The briefing is to solicit some guidance from leaders on some of the recommendations. The Pacific Plan was endorsed by Leaders in Port Moresby in 2005.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/02/2013

 

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ADB Welcomes Review of Pacific Plan

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has welcomed the decision by Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum to reinvigorate the political direction behind Pacific regionalism, through the review of the Pacific Plan. Speaking to Forum Leaders in Majuro, the director of the ADB, Dr Robert Guild said the bank has seen the importance of political ownership and direction in promoting regional integration in other parts of the world. “The idea of the Pacific Plan as a framework for advancing the political principle of regionalism through robust, inclusive processes of political dialogue and the decisive implementation of key, game changing , drivers of regional economic integration, makes a lot of sense, said Dr Guild. “We stand ready to assist members in the Pacific in this process.” The development of the ADB’s next regional strategy and priorities in the region will be guided by thinking in the revised Pacific Plan.

 

“We will be taking the opportunity to think more deeply about how innovation as well as greater inclusion and integration, will allow us better to assist countries of the Pacific, in concert with other development partners.” The ADB is supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Pacific to reduce costs and improve energy security. At the Pacific Energy Summit earlier this year, development partners committed to develop sustainable and affordable energy. Over the next three years, the ADB anticipates a portfolio of over US$270 million in new loans, grants and technical assistance, delivered through partnerships with the public and private sectors for clean energy investments. Dr Guild announced that the Federated States of Micronesia has been given US$9 million to allow the State of Yap generate almost a fourth of its energy from wind and sun. The ADB has also approved US$6.5 million solar project for Vava’u in Tonga and will soon consider hydropower projects in Samoa and Solomon Islands.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/05/2013

 

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Pacific Regional Environment Programme Increases Support to Pacific Members

 

The financial and technical support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to Pacific island countries and territories has increased from USD 2.4 million in 2010 to US$5.4 million in 2012. Support for the SPREP member regional level activities increased from US$7 million in 2008 to US$19 million in 2013. This was announced at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme by the Director-General David Sheppard as he presented an overview to SPREP members. “This year we are presenting a balanced budget for 2014 of approximately USD 22 million to this years' SPREP Meeting. The increase in SPREP's budget reflects the increasing confidence of donors and partners in our work. SPREP values this trust and commits to working hard to ensure we deserve it,” announced Sheppard.

 

In 2012, landmark decisions by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand to support SPREP through multi-year funding as opposed to annual funding has significantly increased SPREP's ability to plan and support long term programmes in the Pacific members of SPREP. “This multi-year support is acknowledged with appreciation and it is hoped that other “Metropolitan” members of SPREP will also consider shifting their support to SPREP to a multi-year basis.” While the budget has increased the salary costs, as a percentage of the total SPREP budget this has dropped from 49% in 2009 to 29% in 2013. The increasing budget for SPREP has been allocated to practical programmes in Pacific Island Countries and Territories. “SPREP's focus was, is and will continue to be, on increasing tangible support to our Pacific Island members.” The 24th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme is held in Apia, Samoa from 17 to 19 September, chaired by the Government of Nauru and brings together 24 of the 26 members of SPREP, including the newest member, the Government of the United Kingdom.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/18/2013

 

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AUSTRALIA: Queensland Launches Revitalised ICT Strategy

 

Queensland Minister for Technology Hon Ian Walker has unveiled a comprehensive raft of reforms – with 80 “new measures” designed to improve governance and accountability. Mr Walker, a keynote speaker at the industry’s flagship FutureGov Forum Queensland, says this new ICT action plan lays the foundations for a rigorous public sector, working in tandem with the industry. The just-released Queensland Government ICT Strategy 2013-2017 offers a comprehensive roadmap to reforms over the next five years. During an interview with FutureGov, Mr Walker noted this ICT action plan improves governance, while establishing clear guidelines about how projects are managed and delivered. “We need to avoid mistakes of the past, especially the health payroll system that ended up costing taxpayers considerably more than the original budget.”

 

He added that in future, agencies will take full responsibility for projects. “However, we are placing checks and balances that ensure that high-profile, or at-risk projects, first get ministerial approval. There needs to be a business case, before a green light is given for big-spending items.” Current reforms do not foreshadow adding “layers of bureaucracy” to the business of government. “Our policy agenda simply addresses many of the concerns raised by high-level audits and committees investigating Queensland’s project and service delivery programmes.”

 

Dashboard access to projects

As a first step, the administration has launched a Public-Facing Dashboard. This dashboard, flagged as a first in government, helps citizens track timelines for projects. From November 2013, agencies will need to publish their data on this dashboard. All agencies are expected to go on-line by December 2013. This information-sharing ensures better risk management for major government ICT activities. This dashboard is readily accessed by anyone using a web browser of their choice.

 

Governance takes centre stage

Efficient and accountable governance is at the core of an “ICT renewal process,” noted Mr Walker. “The key to achieving this is to remove system complexity, to simplify business process where possible and to take a one government approach to investment in ICT.” New approaches to ICT investment are now governed by strict risk management arrangements. “The way government manages significant ICT investments will change substantially.” Under a transparent reporting regime, the ministerial nod is needed before funds are released for projects, especially those classified as high-risk. Mr Walker observed that “Had this level of openness and accountability been implemented under the previous Labor Government, Queenslanders would not be facing an AU $1.2 billion bill for the Health Payroll disaster.” Queensland’s ICT action plan addresses key findings from the Queensland Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry, the ICT Audit 2012 and the Queensland Commission of Audit.

 

Dedicated workforce

To avoid fragmented service delivery, agencies need dedicated staff that take direct ownership and remain accountable. “In the past, it was difficult to track areas of responsibility, for example, with the health payroll system.” A future roadmap establishes new management frameworks, while tackling the security of at-risk systems. “We are putting more rigour around the way we govern and report on programmes and projects, giving Queenslanders faith in the way government invests in ICT.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia 08/29/2013

 

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Australian Opposition Unveils New ICT Action Plan

 

Australia’s Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, has unveiled a new road-map for ICT reforms, while placing the administration’s annual AU$ 6 billion spending effort under closer scrutiny. These ICT reforms, jointly released with Shadow Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Mr Andrew Robb, are highlighted in the Coalition’s Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy September 2013. This document clarifies the Opposition’s views on ICT procurement and technologies-of-choice. This action plans comes just five days before Australians go to the polls on Saturday 7th September.

 

Delivering value for money

Among the changes, the Coalition is proposing an “aggressive reform agenda to ensure value for money in ICT procurement.” The focus is on transparency of expenditure as well as better services for taxpayers. “This is critical if we are to address Australia’s recent and alarming deterioration in global rankings with regard to our digital competitiveness and innovation.” To improve “lagging productivity and generate secure, highly-skilled and well-paid jobs, the Coalition will require virtually all government services and public interactions to be available digitally by 2017 on an opt-in basis. This is backed by hard-copy access to documentation. The Coalition, under the leadership of Mr Tony Abbott, plans to improve the “transparency of government ICT spending.” This incorporates launching a US-style online ‘dashboard’ so taxpayers can assess the performance and progress of major projects. Australia’s public sector accounts for about a third of GDP. Many programmes are difficult to implement without a cost-effective use of technology.

 

Coalition’s ICT road-map

If elected, the Coalition will require agencies to trial next-generation tele-presence systems from 2014. Other plans include trialing an opt-in “digital pigeonhole” from 2014 for Australians who want to go ‘paperless.’ This incorporates a free, secure digital inbox for communication from at levels of government. The Coalition is seeking “leadership” that encourages standards in areas including online identity verification and mobile payments. It also encourages agencies to use cloud services and operate their IT functions more efficiently. The Coalition’s road-map factors in developing a “National Digital Economy Strategy.” This will be done in close consultation with States and Territories, recognising that states play a key role to deliver public services.

 

Fast-tracking broadband services

The Coalition plans to builds on an April 2013 commitment delivering the National Broadband Network (NBN) “sooner, cheaper for taxpayers and more affordably for consumers.” The Opposition notes that: “Labor’s costly, delayed plan to upgrade broadband has dominated the public policy digital agenda for the past six years.” Many Australians were “misled into thinking that unless we get Labor’s NBN we cannot be a successful, sophisticated 21st century economy. That is not true. Nevertheless, broadband – particularly achieving universal access as soon as possible – does matter. That is why the Coalition will upgrade broadband for households and businesses with poor connectivity as soon as possible.”

 

ICT spending figures

Among the statistics, whole-of-government spending in 2011-12 topped AU $5.97 billion. ICT spending rose by 13 per cent through to 2011-12. At the federal level, spending is dominated by a handful of intensive users. These portfolio agencies include the Australian Taxation Office, Human Services, Centrelink, Medicare, Defence, Health, Immigration and Customs. Eighteen agencies with annual ICT budgets ranging from AU $35 million to AU $1 billion account for 85 per cent of whole-of-government ICT spending. The other 88 agencies covered by a Financial Management and Accountability Act (1997) accounted for the remaining 15 per cent. Approximately 68 per cent of expenditure in 2011-12 was on ‘business as usual’ ICT. The Australian government hires 13,900 IT staff (about 7 per cent of all Australian Public Service staff). In 2011-12, 20 per cent of ICT staff were ‘external,’ that is contractors. Combined, hardware and software accounts for about a third of costs. Labour accounted for about half of overall costs.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/02/2013

 

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Australia’s Focus Will Be Asia - Abbot

 

Australian election frontrunner Tony Abbott Wednesday vowed Asia will be his main foreign policy focus if he assumes office. The conservative Abbott's diplomatic credentials came under fire this week after he said the Syria conflict was "baddies versus baddies." His first travel priorities would be Indonesia, China, Japan and South Korea, he said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the flagship paper of Fairfax Media whose chairman declared his support for the conservative. "Only after our regional and trading partners have been suitably attended to would I make the traditional trips to Washington and London," Abbot said.

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 09/05/2013

 

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Australian Prudential Regulator Releases Guidance on Managing Data Risk

 

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) recently released in its prudential practice guide on the management of data risk for all its regulated institutions. APRA is the prudential regulator of the Australian financial services industry. It oversees banks, credit unions, building societies, general insurance and reinsurance companies, life insurance, friendly societies, and most members of the superannuation industry. The Prudential Practice Guide CPG 235 Managing Data Risk (CPG 235) is a cross-industry guide designed to assist authorised deposit-taking institutions, general insurance industry, life insurance industry and the superannuation industry in appropriately managing their data risk and is targeted at those areas where APRA has identified weaknesses through its supervisory activities.

 

According to APRA, the management of data risk is crucial for the said institutions because it can affect their ability to meet financial and other obligations to beneficiaries. “The risks associated with the use of data, including data application, retention, storage and security, have become more significant with increasing automation and the criticality of data to decision-making,” the agency said. With the release of the CPG 235, the agency hopes that the Boards and senior management of APRA’s regulated finance institutions can incorporate it in their overall resilience strategy.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/09/2013

 

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South Australia Launches Open Data Initiative

 

South Australia now requires all government agencies to ensure that their data is available to the public, as the State Government launches a series of initiatives to kickstart its open data programme. South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, noted, “We want South Australia to be vibrant and innovative so we are opening up our data to industry, community groups, digital entrepreneurs and start-up companies. This will create an enormous economic benefit to the state through the development of smartphone and web-based applications and will enable informed investment decision making.” The Premier has officially launched the South Australian Government’s open data portal – data.sa.

 

“As the custodian of a significant amount of data, the State Government can help to fuel a boom in the local digital marketplace, but it’s equally important that industry and community groups release their data too,” he added. The Office of the Chief Information Officer is to lead an Open Data Action Plan to guide agencies in classifying, licensing and releasing their data, while maintaining highest standards of privacy, security and integrity. The Government also launched its inaugural open data challenge, Unleashed. It brought together more than 100 digital entrepreneurs to use government data to create new applications, visualisation tools and websites. The Premier has extended this challenge to be an annual event. “Unleashed now will take place annually and I’m confident that even more digital entrepreneurs will use open data to create exciting new ways to benefit their community,” he said.

 

South Australia’s open data initiatives are a leading force in the development of an open data policy at a national level through the Council of the Australian Federation, an intergovernmental forum for State and Territory leaders. There are currently 229 open data sets on the data.sa portal, provided by agencies across the Government. The Premier remarked, “We already have among the highest number of data sets openly licensed in Australia. Opening our data to all means that we can work together to design policy and projects that will benefit our citizens.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/09/2013

 

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NEW ZEALAND: Law Stomps on Foreign 'Patent Trolls' with Software Exemption

 

IT professionals and legal experts Thursday welcomed the passing of legislation in New Zealand that bans the patenting of software, saying it would discourage foreign monopolies over basic lines of computer code. The Parliament passed the Patents Act late Wednesday, and it will replace the previous 60-year-old patent law when it takes effect in 12 months. Commerce Minister Craig Foss said the Act marked a significant step toward driving innovation in New Zealand with a patent system suited for the 21st Century. "By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations," Foss said in a statement. The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment said the new law was aligned with that of New Zealand's trading partners and international practice, making it easier for New Zealand businesses to export and grow. Institute of IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews said the legislation sent a clear message to the rest of the world that New Zealand would not tolerate "the vexatious practice of patent trolls," who patented software with the sole purpose of bringing costly litigation against inventive technology companies.

 

The law had taken five years to form, but became controversial in August last year with the introduction of a motion to remove software from the exemptions to patents. "The patents system doesn't work for software because it is almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist, often for very obvious work," Matthews said in a statement. Communications and IT spokesperson for the main opposition Labor Party, Clare Curran, said she had been contacted by several overseas IT companies which wanted to transfer their business to New Zealand because of the more favorable environment for software development. "Patenting software would have stifled the local industry and favored largely foreign companies by allowing them to use monopoly rights over inventions inside New Zealand to discourage competition and innovation," Curran said in a statement.

From Xinhua 08/29/2013

 

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New Zealand to Push for Economic Integration at APEC Ministers Meeting

 

New Zealand would be pressing for greater economic cooperation and integration in the Asia- Pacific region at this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) annual meeting of finance ministers, Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman said Tuesday. New Zealand actively engages with its regional partners, and APEC provides a crucial forum where members can discuss issues, share new ideas and build common approaches, Coleman said in a statement. "Sustainable economic development, increased trade and investment, and economic cooperation and integration are key pillars to developing prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "New Zealand is well placed to benefit from that prosperity, with growing numbers of consumers wanting access to the goods and services we produce." Coleman, who will represent New Zealand at the meeting in Bali, Indonesia, would hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from a range of members.

From Xinhua 09/17/2013

 

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TUVALU: New Govt to Release Road Map for First 100 Days in Power

 

The new Tuvalu government plans today to release a road map laying out its policy over its first 100 days in power. The government was voted in five weeks ago and prime minister Enele Sopoaga says it got a boost last week with the winner of the Nui by-election committing to their side. He says the road map will present the government’s priorities, covering governance issues, economic growth, stability, and foreign and social policy. “There are things that can be delivered within 30 days, within 60 days, within 100 days. There are things that we cannot deliver in whole, but we can deliver at least an initiation of those in terms of consultation and planning for proper delivery during the following year. And this is timely because we are currently producing our national budget for next year,” PM Sopoaga explained. Sopoaga says it is extremely important that they communicate these ideas to the people of Tuvalu and the country’s development partners and other stakeholders.

 

Meanwhile, the Tuvalu prime minister believes the Majuro Declaration made by Pacific leaders earlier this month at their summit in the Marshall Islands will achieve its ultimate goal of a binding agreement on cutting gas emissions. The declaration commits Pacific countries to taking a lead on climate change and sea level rise, by, for instance, cutting their own use of fossil fuels. There has been some criticism that the declaration is a backward step but Enele Sopoaga says while the small island states emit only miniscule amounts of green house gases, they must take some responsibility. “I think the commitment is there to tell the world that, yes, we are doing this on our own. We didn’t need to be told, and so on, to do that. I mean the leaders are taking on the responsibility of helping their own island countries. We know exactly that the obligations are there for the industrialised countries to do [the same] and that is exactly the message from the Majuro Declaration,” Sopoanga said.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/18/2013

 

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CHINA: Vice Premier Stresses Role of Customs Tariff

 

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on Tuesday stressed the importance of customs tariffs and called for tariff improvements. Customs tariffs are a key vehicle for regulating economic activity, and tariffs and import linkage taxes are important sources of revenue and play a special role in China's reform and opening up, Zhang said at the first plenary meeting of the Sixth Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council. Though China's general tariff level has lowered to 9.8 percent, there is more room for tariff regulation as China has become the second largest economy and a key player in exports and imports, Zhang said. More efforts should be made to study tariff policies and leverage tariffs to manage advantages in global and domestic markets, Zhang said. Tariffs should be given full reign in their role to stabilize the economy, improve economic transformation, and promote healthy growth of key sectors, Zhang said. The country should use trade remedies reasonably, actively deal with trade protectionism, handle trade frictions properly and protect the rights of Chinese enterprises, Zhang said. The meeting was chaired by Lou Jiwei, China's finance minister and head of the commission.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/20/2013

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Xi Demands Greater Initiative in Publicity Work

 

President Xi Jinping has called for greater initiative in publicity and ideological work to ensure "correct political direction" to be followed when major issues of principles arise.Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said more efforts must be made to help cadres and people draw a clear line between right and wrong.Xi made the comments while addressing a national conference on publicity and ideological work, which was held in Beijing from Monday and Tuesday.He said officials and cadres involved in publicity and ideological work should firmly hold the correct political stance, and resolutely promote key decisions made by the CPC Central Committee."[They] must resolutely maintain unity with the CPC Central Committee and resolutely safeguard the authority of the CPC Central Committee," he said.He urged them to publicize the CPC's theories, guidelines, and decisions and judgement on major issues, and safeguard and promote fundamental rights and interests of the people.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/20/2013

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Chinese Gov't Resolute in Cutting Red Tape

 

The Chinese government on Wednesday vowed to strictly restrain itself from adding new administrative procedures in approving business projects as part of its campaign of cutting red tape to boost the market economy.According to a statement released after a State Council's executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, the government will not add new procedures in approving business investment, manufacturing and qualifications."It will help prevent the hidden reemergence of red tape, reduce business burdens, spur market vitality and promote social equality," the statement said."As long as the technical standards can judge projects, administrative approvals are prohibited," it said.China's new cabinet has pledged to reduce red tape by freeing up about one third of items within the government's grasp previously, as Premier Li reiterated that the market is the creator of social wealth and the source of self-sustaining economic development.

 

The government has canceled or delegated power to lower levels for 183 items previously subject to central government administrative approval.At Wednesday's meeting, the government vowed to strengthen evaluation and supervision of the necessary administrative approval procedures.Before decisions are made, all voices should be heard and hearings should reflect people's real opinions, the statement said.Also at the meeting, the State Council listened to a report on the oversight of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).It vowed to strengthen the supervision of SOEs and make their operations more transparent.SOEs should preserve and increase the values of state-owned assets, honor their social responsibilities and play their backbone role in upgrading the Chinese economy, the statement said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/22/2013

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Party Discipline Agency Vows Timely Exposure of Corruption

 

The anti-graft agency of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will report corruption cases in a timely manner on its new website and will possibly open a microblog amid efforts for transparency, an official said Thursday.The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the CPC and the Ministry of Supervision jointly opened the official website, www.ccdi.gov.cn, on Sept. 2. for better communication and interaction with the public.A section of the website will report cases being investigated by disciplinary authorities of all levels, especially serious ones handled by the CCDI's supervision department, said Cui Shaopeng, general secretary of the commission.The website was launched upon the proposal of Wang Qishan, head of the commission, said Cui during an online interview on the website.The website is smart phone and tablet friendly.

 

Mobile application services will be introduced so that the public can get access more easily, said Cui."The website is preparing to open an official microblog and Wechat service (a social networking platform) when the situation is ripe," he said.The website will carry interviews following the supervision department's key work or if there are public concerns. The department's senior officials, members of the CPC Central Committee and experts will be invited for the interviews, he added.As the only official website of the CCDI's supervision department, it will not carry any advertising or seek sponsors. Also, there are no branches in local areas."It has been reported that some fake journalists or websites are operating illegally under the name of our website," Cui said. "We welcome netizens reporting such behaviors and we will investigate the cases."The website consists of ten sections, including an online forum where the public can leave their opinions and proposals as well as ask questions about anti-corruption work.

 

There is also a section for tip-offs about corruption cases. The website will publish latest information of important meetings, campaigns and investigations of graft.When asked about retaliation that reporters of corruption cases might face, Cui said the authorities will protect reporters' safety according to the law."Those who take revenge against online whistleblowers will be punished seriously," he said.He also said reporters should be responsible for the information they provide. "Do not slander others or report based on hearsay."Cui said, "We encourage the public to report corruption cases under their real names and with accurate contact information. Such reports will be handled and responded to with priority."The Chinese leadership is adopting more channels such as the Internet to strengthen anti-corruption efforts, with a number of high-level officials being punished or placed under investigation, some felled by online whistleblowers.

 

Liu Tienan, former deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, was investigated after a journalist disclosed his suspected economic violations.In another case, Yang Dacai, former head of Shaanxi provincial work safety administration, was sentenced to 14 years in jail last week for taking bribes. His corruption was exposed after netizens posted a photograph of him smiling at the scene of a fatal road accident and then a series of photos showing him wear luxury watches.Wang Yukai, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the website will play an important role as a platform for authorities and the public to interact with each other in the anti-corruption campaign and encourage people to report officials' wrongdoings in a more credible and timely way.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/12/2013

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Society President Discusses Human Rights in Key Speech

 

Discussion about human rights would be empty without sustainable economic development to go with it, according to Chen Shiqiu, vice president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.His remarks came at the 6th Beijing Forum on Human Rights, which opened on Sept. 12 in the Chinese capital.In his speech, ,Chen outlined five aspects of building an environment for sustainable human rights development. He talked about the political, economic, social, cultural and legal environments.Development itself is an unalienable human right, as well as a prerequisite for the people's survival and improvements in living standards, Chen said. The right to development is especially important for people in developing countries.China has developed very rapidly, and its growth has become more scientific and sustainable, which has safeguarded its people's rights, Chen noted.The annual forum is co-organized by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the China Foundation for Human Rights Development. It was initiated in 2008.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/12/2013

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Li: Innovation Should Drive Reform

 

Innovation should be one of the major driving forces of China's ongoing economic reforms and development in the future, as the country's GDP is expected to slow from double-digit growth, Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday.Li stressed that China's innovation drive should cover several areas, including technology, the economic system and the government's management mechanism, which are closely linked with the reform blueprint formed since he took office in March.The Premier made the remarks at a meeting with the World Bank's President Jim Yong Kim in Beijing. This is the second time that Kim has visited China since he became the top leader of the organization.Li sees innovation as the main driver to promote social comprehensive competitiveness, improve the quality and efficiency of economic development, as well as accelerate the growth pattern's upgrading process.

 

The world's second-largest economy went down from 7.9 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter of last year to 7.7 percent in the first quarter of this year and 7.5 percent in the second quarter, with a reduced increase in consumption, investment and foreign trade.Meanwhile, existing problems, including an excess of production capacity in the manufacturing sector, shadow-banking risks and expanding local government debt require the government to keep making progress on the reforms to secure the economic growth's bottom line.On Sep 11, at the opening ceremony of the seventh Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2013, known as Summer Davos, Premier Li said in his keynote speech that "reform and innovation is the running theme and spirit of the policies adopted by the Chinese government and it is the banner that we will always hold high"."We are implementing the innovation-driven development strategy at a faster pace, aggressively promoting technological innovation and deep integration of science and technology with the economy, and are building a social environment friendly to innovation and business start-up activities," Li added.

 

Louis Kuijs, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said that China will not grow at 10 percent per year anymore but at around 8 percent in the coming years, moderating to around 7 percent by 2020."Li rightly focuses, in his presentation and in his work on economic policy, on structural reforms," Kuijs said. "It's good to see that there seems to be a reasonable degree of consensus on how to move forward on financial and monetary reform."The World Bank is working with China on a broad agenda including eliminating poverty, protecting the environment and improving the urbanization process.Liu Yuanchun, associate dean of the School of Economics at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said that the sustainable growth of China's economy will remain a driving force of global development.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/18/2013

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JAPAN: Government Should Pull the Plug on Laggards in Feed-in Tariff System

 

Among business operators awarded licenses to generate electricity through solar power or other renewable energy sources and to sell it to power companies under the so-called feed-in tariff system, a surprisingly large number have yet to flick the “on” switch. Do these operators, who obtained the right to sell electricity at high, fixed rates, intend to start generating electricity only after solar panel prices fall further? The cost of purchasing renewable energy from these operators will be added to electricity charges set by power utilities. Consumers will not accept that they will eventually have to bear this additional financial burden. The government must firmly deal with this situation by, for instance, canceling licenses issued to operators who are needlessly delaying their generation of electricity.

 

The feed-in tariff system started in July 2012. According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, renewable power-generating facilities approved by the end of May this year had a total capacity of 22.4 million kilowatts. However, these facilities were only generating about 3 million kilowatts. Particularly conspicuous is the fact that more than 90 percent of mega solar plants, which account for the lion’s share of facilities approved under the system, have not yet started generating power. Solar power generation should have the advantage of requiring less time to get from the planning stage to actual generation, compared with the time needed for wind power or geothermal power generation. Even after taking into account such circumstances as the supply shortage of solar panels and the difficulty some operators have in obtaining them, solar power projects have been lagging.

 

The purchase price for electricity generated by solar energy was lowered in April to about ¥38 per kilowatt-hour from the initially set ¥42. Nonetheless, it remains nearly double the rate for wind power. Shortly before this purchase price was lowered, there was a rush of applications to establish solar power generation facilities. Some applicants, in a bid to acquire a license to sell electricity at high rates, apparently submitted documents despite having no clear plan for acquiring land or purchasing equipment needed for their facility. To reduce “fake applications” that are devoid of substance, the government should set the purchase price not at the time when the license is given, as is currently done, but at the time when power generation actually starts. There are fears that even some of these shoddy projects could be approved under the present screening of application documents. We think it is essential to more strictly check applications by, for instance, making unannounced inspections of the construction sites and equipment suppliers.

 

The ministry has indicated it plans to inspect solar power generation projects that have been certified but whose construction has not yet started. There are reportedly some despicable cases in which licensed operators have sold their renewable energy generation projects to others as “rights.” We hope the ministry gets to the bottom of this matter. Setting the purchase price of electricity generated by solar power too high in the first place has caused various problems. Costs for installing solar panels have fallen by as much as 40 percent since 2009. To prevent electricity charges from soaring, the government needs to flexibly lower the purchase prices of renewable energy, in line with the costs for generating such energy. Although expectations for renewable energy are high, the current feed-in tariff system is riddled with flaws. The system should be changed into a more reasonable one that gives greater consideration to the burdens it places on consumers.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/10/2013

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MPD to Increase Cybercrime Cops

 

In response to a sharp increase in online crime, the Metropolitan Police Department said Friday it would increase the number of special cybercrime investigators to 260, adding 60 to its current force, by autumn next year. The MPD found it necessary to strengthen its investigative capabilities on the force, which is tasked with initial investigations for such crimes as child pornography and online banking fraud, including illegal money transfers. The lack of knowledge of cybercrime became apparent in a case last year in which four men were erroneously arrested over threatening messages sent via remotely controlled PCs. That prompted the MPD to beef up the number of cybercrime investigators.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/21/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Tax Service Announces Reform Measures

 

The National Tax Service (NTS) announced a series of reform measures on Thursday to prevent corruption and irregularities by its officials.Under the measures, high-ranking tax officials will be banned from dining out or playing golf with executives or tax advisers of the nation’s top 100 business groups and their holding companies.The tax service will set up a team to investigate corruption cases involving high-ranking public servants. Tax officials will also be required to sign a written pledge on work ethics when assigned to a different position or promoted.The tax service plans to launch a committee led by a civilian chairman to oversee and supervise tax inspections in order to gain public trust of those inspections.The tax agency will also re-evaluate results of all tax audits on large companies that post 500 billion won in sales. Under the measure, tax inspections on about 100 to 200 large companies a year will be re-evaluated. It is the second time this year the NTS announced reform measures since April.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 08/29/2013

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Gov't to Create Flex-Time Civil Service Positions

 

The government plans to recruit 4,000 part-time civil servants over the next four years as part of efforts to provide people unable to work full-time with more chances to serve in the public arena, the home affairs ministry said Monday. Under the plan put forth by the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, the government will hire a total of 4,000 mid- to low-ranking government employees from 2014-2017, who will be allowed to work four hours per day or 20 hours a week.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/16/2013

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INDONESIA: City Enhances Citizen Engagement

 

Indonesia is continuing efforts to transform Depok (population 1,751,696) into a Cyber City as the Depok City Government sets up a call centre service number as an additional channel to provide public services. Head of Data and Information Office of Communications and Informatics (DISKOMINFO) at Depok City, Hj. Reni Siti Nuraeni, said, “The Depok Cyber City flagship project will provide information and services that are responsive to community demands. One of the efforts under this project is the setting up of the call centre.” “Besides communicating with the local government directly or via mail, the citizens can also liaise with agencies through the internet and social media. However, there is less direct interaction through online channels, and the call centre provides a more direct communication path.” The call centre service is currently at an early stage, as the Diskominfo continues capturing more information on the citizens’ needs and service demands. At this stage, the call centre is not yet operating as a one-stop solution as it is able to resolve general queries and complaints.

 

More detailed cases are accepted and then passed to the relevant regional organisation (OPD). Each regional organisation must communicate the resolution to the call centre within three days after receiving the case. “The next step from here would be to develop a roadmap to directly link citizens with the regional organisations”, said Reni. The local government expects the call centre to serve as the nodal point for receiving all concerns, expectations and feedback regarding city government services. The DISKOMINFO is now conducting campaigns through social media, publications and dialogues to raise awareness on the call centre. Reni added, “Such interaction is expected to create mature citizens who convey their grievances and aspirations, and contribute constructively. We hope to improve the service in the future, as we continuously evaluate it on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/29/2013

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Indonesian ICT Ministry and Police Sign Cybersecurity Mou

 

Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (KOMINFO) is collaborating with Indonesian National Police to enforce law and security in communications and IT. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Minister of Communications and IT, Tifatul Sembiring, and Chief of Police, Timur Pradopo on behalf of newly appointed National Police Security Chief, Badrodin Haiti, in Jakarta yesterday. Chief Timur said, “Advances in ICT have removed restrictions of distance, space and time, supporting people in their daily activities. It has increased productivity and efficiency, which in turn improve the welfare of people.” However, Timur also warned of the dangers posed by the ICT sector, driven by easy access to information which is often misused by people. He highlighted, “The other side of ICT advancement poses threats in the form of cybercrime such as credit card fraud, hacking, cyberfraud, terrorism and spread of destructive information.” The agreement between the Police and KOMINFO will lead to a more effective, comprehensive and integrated strategy to fight all kinds of crime that use ICT as their main propellant, he noted. The two agencies will cooperate to exchange information, improve human resources and coordinate operations. Timur also expects this cooperation to percolate to the lower government levels in order to allow implementation of cybersecurity measures at the ground-level.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/17/2013

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MALAYSIA: ICT Agencies Reorganised to Streamline Functions

 

Malaysia’s national ICT agencies have been reorganised to integrate activities and better coordinate the country’s ICT agenda. The Communications and Multimedia Ministry (KKMM), yesterday, took over the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and Malaysian Network Information Centre (MYNIC) from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). KKMM has said that the streamlining of the ICT agencies under one ministry was to allow more effective execution of functions and implementation of powers entrusted to the Communications and Multimedia Minister. KKMM will now also develop, implement and monitor the National ICT Policy. Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek shared that this transfer would continue to strengthen and enhance the role of the country’s ICT sector. “Certainly, the role of the two bodies will be enhanced because how we coordinate our resources is also an important aspect. “One of the two things which we should look at in the ICT sector is infrastructure, which has to be built fast. After we have the infrastructure, it is then the content which is also a huge industry and has to be developed accordingly,” he added. MDeC is the nodal agency to ensure the success of the Multimedia Super Corridor, a national initiative to attract global leading ICT companies while also strengthening the local ICT industry. MYNIC is the sole administrator of the .my national level domain name, managing the internet identity of Malaysian agencies and individuals. KKMM will now coordinate and optimise the issue of content development grants provided by MDeC, Communication and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) and National Film Development Corporation (FINAS). Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin,k expressed confidence that the change will strengthen the Malaysian ICT ecosystem, including more comprehensive use of ICT by people and organisations.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/11/2013

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PHILIPPINES: Women in Politics

 

If women comprise half of the population, an equitable situation in politics would be one where half of elective positions are occupied by women. But the actual figures in the Philippines show we’re a long way off from that equity. In 1998, only 16.2 per cent of elected officials (including the president and vice president and Congress and local government officials, down to city and municipal levels) were women.  In the succeeding elections, the figures showed little or no progress: 17.2 per cent in 2001, 16.6 per cent in 2004, 18.6 per cent in 2007 and 18.4 per cent in 2010. These figures came from the Commission on Elections and were shared by Dr. LaRainne Sarmiento, one of my colleagues at the anthropology department in UP Diliman. LaRainne was one of the speakers at a lively roundtable discussion on “Gender and Politics” last Tuesday, organised by the Social Sciences Division of the National Academy of Science and Technology. Besides LaRainne the other speakers were Professpor Josefa 'Gigi' Francisco, chair of the International Studies Department at Miriam College, and Alice Herrera, former city councillor and vice mayor of Quezon City. The panellists offered many first-hand experiences, Gigi bringing in experiences from women’s NGOs and the academe, Alice from being a city official herself and LaRainne having been a barangay chair herself, and directing a microfinancing project for women for the government in Quezon City.

 

Empowered?

The picture that came out of the discussions was mixed. The low number of elected women officials reflects the fact that very few women even bother to run for elective office. Yet, the Philippines ranks high in the World Economic Forum’s annual yearbook on gender equity, the highest in fact among developing countries. The yearbook uses economic, social and political indicators.  For political empowerment, the World Economic Forum does note that we don’t fare too well with the number of women in elective positions, and in ministerial or Cabinet posts, but we did get more points in this area because we have had two women heads of state, Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo, their terms lasting a total of 16 years, much more than many countries. (The United States for example, has never had a woman head of state.) I can see some of you shaking your heads now and going, “But should we be proud of Gloria?” At the forum people did ask, are women better leaders? Are women less or more corrupt, with Janet Lim-Napoles’ name and the pork scams repeatedly coming up? I’ll get back to the matter of corruption in a while, but let’s continue looking at the bigger picture of women in politics. We’ve seen women as a minority in government, at least in the executive branch. In many government offices though, women do occupy high positions, and the percentage is probably increasing. (We need an audit here, considering that the Magna Carta of Women does call for greater consciousness in filling up positions in all government agencies, including the police and Armed Forces.)

 

Gigi spoke on the rationale for getting more women into politics to reshape public policies. She warned against playing the numbers alone, because a woman winning an elective position might still lack a gender and human development perspective. Women are needed to push for more “women-friendly” public policies and this includes the electoral processes. There were some discussions about how much more difficult it is for women to vote, or even to register to vote, because many of them might not be able to leave young children at home. (I actually saw this when our college in UP hosted voter registration and I was startled by the number of women who had to bring their children along.) These domestic responsibilities also discourage women from running for office. LaRainne talked about reactions from relatives and friends when she decided to run as barangay chair. They would ask her about how she would handle domestic responsibilities, as well as the rigours of public office: Could she go out to patrol the streets at night, for example? LaRainne retorted, and why not? In fact, seeing what the streets were like at night—men drinking for example—convinced her even more to think of how women can “take back” the night, meaning make the streets safe for women to come out.

 

Alice described how difficult it was to run for office, mainly raising the money for the campaign trail, including questionable donations. As a woman intent on bringing in reforms, she saw how the campaign itself, with so much wheeling and dealing, could corrupt the candidate. Just getting her political party to endorse her was another major achievement, since our political parties continue to be dominated by male traditional politicians (remember the abbreviation of trapo?) who cannot see women’s “winnability” beyond physical features and/or celebrity background. Alice also talked about how culture can work against women candidates, observing that the campaign activities themselves are very “male,” using inuman (drinking) as an example. Apparently, to get votes you need to be able to drink. Women candidates face a no-win situation: If you don’t drink, then you lose chances to interact with male voters; but if you drink, people think you’re not fit for office because women shouldn’t drink.

 

Weak political parties

One very striking observation that kept coming up was how our weak party system works against women. Our political parties revolve around personalities and money, which breeds opportunism, politicians shifting from one party to another. Ideally, the parties should have clear platforms, offering voters concrete programmes  on how to bring about economic and social development, including responses to women’s needs. This is clearly not happening, so the political parties do not see women as important, either as candidates or voters. During the open forum, political scientist Dr. Olive Caoili gave an important historical insight, reminding the audience that the Americans skewed our political system because they first granted voting rights only to the male elite—the poor, the uneducated, and women, were not allowed to vote. The first political parties had no women as members and by the time women could participate in the political process, they had to face a formidable system of male patronage. Caoili’s observation helps us to understand, too, why women-politicians (and political brokers like Napoles) can be so corrupt, needing to beat men at their own game. Women are catching up but more needs to be done to speed up the process. Gigi spoke on the need to do more research into women who are in politics: What made them run for office, what have their experiences been. We need more success stories of women who did make a difference and—I am thinking more as an educator—we need to have those stories told in schools. Just look at our textbooks, and you will find very little inclusion of women leaders. The recent Ramon Magsaysay awardees remind us too that there is no lack of women leaders in our neighbouring countries, but their stories, too, still need to be told to wider audiences.

From http://www.asianewsnet.net/ 09/06/2013

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Philippine National Defense to Improve Transparency with Corporate Credit Card System

 

In the past years, the Department of National Defense’s (DND) reputation has been marred by bad record keeping when it comes to managing funds. However, thanks to a new tri-partite project with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Citibank, the agency can now improve its transparency, uncover financial irregularities and clamp down on corrupt spending practices. The project entails the establishment of a corporate credit card system that aims to replace the “petty cash” system in DND. The corporate credit cards will be used to purchase items such as: plane tickets, emergency medicines and other small items needed by various units of the Armed Forces. “In the Philippine Army, a battalion commander is authorised to purchase the individual requirements of his troops. Oftentimes, this privilege provides a ‘window of abuse’ every time a small value procurement of less than Php 10,000 (USD 242) pesos is made,” said Fernando Manalo, Undersecretary at DND, during the Visa-sponsored FutureGov breakfast briefing held recently in Manila.

 

“As of now, there are PX stores where soldiers can buy their goods, and while there is a limit to what the battalion commander can buy — the system for monitoring such purchases is weak. By having a procurement card or debit card in place, we will be able to efficiently track purchases and quickly identify financial discrepancies once they occur.” With a procurement or debit card in place, the DND can streamline its processes by reducing time-consuming paperwork associated with issuing purchase orders, invoices and checks. In addition, the agency will be able to improve transparency into who is buying what, from whom and when, to ensure compliance with its spending policies and procedures. A finance official from DND told FutureGov that at present, they are still finalising tri-partite agreements with the stakeholders involved in the project. Once the DND pilot trial is launched, it will serve as a model for other central government agencies in the Philippines to follow

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/09/2013

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Philippine Police Chief Engages Netizens on Twitter

 

The Philippine National Police Chief, Director General Alan Purisima has been engaging netizens with his personal Twitter account @alanlpurisima. Officially launched in mid July this year, the account serves as a response to the fast growing social media demands of citizens. Purisima sees Twitter as an opportunity to build stronger ties with the Filipino digital community. The Philippines is currently ranked 10th globally among users of this social networking site, with an estimated 9.5 million users in 2012. To-date, Purisima has 3620 followers and has published 112 tweets since 19 July, with his first tweet “Serbisyong Makatotohanan Para Sa Bayan”, which means to provide honest or reliable services to citizens. While the Twitter account serves as a way to reach the Chief in a more direct and personal manner, the Police reminds the public that it should not be mistaken for @ireportangkrimen, the agency’s official Twitter account where complaints and issues concerning public safety and law enforcement can be aired.

 

According to Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, Chief of the Public Information Office, the creation of the Chief’s personal Twitter account is also an additional effort to expand ‘Serbisyong Makatotohanan’ even in the digital realm. The Twitter account is also an added channel where the Chief can further realise his brainchild strategic focus of ‘Competence, Organisational Development, Excellence and Professionalism: C.O.D.E-P 2013 and Beyond’.  “This also manifests the responsiveness of the Philippine National Police to the ever growing need for socially relevant information on matters of public interest,” said Purisima. “As the most prominent symbol of government presence in every nook and cranny of the entire country, the Police finds it imperative to provide more effective ways to link-up with the people through this social network.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/20/2013

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SINGAPORE: Announcing Changes to Cabinet, Other Appointments

 

Current Acting Minister for Social and Family Development of Singapore Chan Chun Sing will be promoted to full minister and continue to helm the ministry from Sept. 1, the city-state's Prime Minister Office (PMO) announced Wednesday. Chan, also the current Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence, will be Second Minister for Defence ever since the beginning of next month. Chan's promotion will make him "the youngest full minister in Cabinet," local paper the Straits Times said. This was one of several changes to the city-state's Cabinet announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Tan Chuan-Jin will continue as Acting Minister for Manpower and relinquish his appointment as Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development. Meanwhile, four female politicians will be promoted. Among them, Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor Lean Suan will be promoted to Senior Minister of State for the heath and manpower ministries. Current Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo will also be promoted to Senior Minister of State for the two ministries. Other two female politicians, Sim Ann and Low Yen Ling, will also see promotion. Among them, the current backbencher Low will join the government from the beginning of October. She will be parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 08/28/2013

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VIETNAM: Province Streamlines Online Engagement

 

Department of Information and Communications of Nghe An province (population 3 million) in Vietnam has launched e-government portals for districts in the province, sharing all public administration procedures at the district and provincial level and integrates citizen service delivery. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications, the Government seeks to improve management and administration in departments at the province and district level through IT application. So far, 58 district portals have been established. The individual district portals are integrated under the Nghe An province portal . The portals were launched recently at a conference organised by the Department of Information and Communications. At the conference, public officials raised some difficulties in the implementation process: difficulty in reviewing articles, too many administrative procedures and restrictions to updating the portals. Agencies which have a large number of visitors proposed maintaining both the integrated portal as well as their own independent website.

 

Ho Quang Thanh, Director of Information and Communications said, “Government units are required to maintain their own portals and developing human resource capacity to plan, manage and upgrade their portals. They are also responsible for providing the public with information and sharing administrative procedures online.” The public agencies are to establish an editor responsible for content development and management. Each unit will be provided with an account to operate their portal. The Department will provide guidance to new units on account management and operation, and content management. It is also working with other government agencies to review information security and assess the functionality of the portals. Ho has proposed the establishment of specialised agencies by the provincial and district governments to update the portals, by November this year. In the coming months, the Department will work to ensure all independent government websites are integrated under the Nghe An portal and complete remaining administrative procedures.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/05/2013

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BANGLADESH: Govt Out to Create Constitutional Anarchy BNP

 

Senior BNP leader Rafiqul Islam Miah on Friday alleged that the government is trying to create a constitutional anarchy in the county with its plan to hold the election without dissolving Parliament. “There’s no country in the world where its national election is held keeping parliament functional. The government has broken the base of democracy by incorporating such a bizarre provision in the constitution,” he said. “They’ve done it to create a constitutional anarchy in the country,” Rafiqul told a discussion at the Jatiya Press Club. Saptahik Prachyabarta arranged the discussion, titled ‘Bangladesh’s Democracy: Past, Present, Future, and the Role of Shaheed Zia, Begum Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman’. Rafiqul alleged that the government amended the constitution in such a way so that they can use it to gain their purpose and cling to power. He urged the party leaders and activists to take all-out preparations to save the country from the hands of Awami League through a strong street movement. Chaired by Prachyabarta editor and BNP chairperson’s adviser Shamsuzzaman Dudu, the programme was addressed by, among others, BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and assistant office secretary Shamimur Rahman Shamim.

From http://unbconnect.com 09/20/2013

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SRI LANKA: Govt. Totally Committed to Protect All Religious and Ethnic Groups – President

 

President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured that the government is always committed to protect the rights of all religious and ethnic groups living in the country when he met with the Muslim community of the Kandy district at the President's House in Kandy. During the meeting, the President assured the Muslim community that the government is always committed to protect the rights of all religious and ethnic groups living in the country asked them not to be misled by the attempts by some groups to distance the Muslim community from the government. Recalling the destruction of mosques and killing on Muslims in places of worship by the Tamil Tiger terrorists, the President said his government has taken steps to renovate the destroyed structures and restore the lives of affected people. All infrastructure facilities including hospitals and schools have been re-established during the past few years, President Rajapaksa noted. The President stressed that he will be committed to strengthen fraternity with Muslims in Sri Lanka.

 

Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne, Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie, Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Deputy Minister Abdul Cader, MP A. H. M. Azwer also participated in the meeting in Kandy. Later in the day addressing a massive election rally held at the Hatton Danbar Grounds in Nuwara Eliya, the President said the government will launch a housing programme to replace the line rooms in the tea estates. He also said the government has launched programs to develop the schools in the estates to provide better education for the children of the estate workers. A large crowed of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities gathered to the rally amidst heavy rain experiencing in the area. Ministers Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Mahinda Amaraweera, Premalal Jayasekera, MPs P. Digambaram, Vadivel Suresh and Lohan Ratwatte attended the rally.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 09/09/2013

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NEPAL: Govt Renews Call to Poll-Opposing Parties to Join Election Process

 

The government has renewed its call to the poll-opposing 33-party alliance led by CPN-Maoist to participate in the second Constituent Assembly election scheduled for November 19. A cabinet meeting Friday urged the poll-opposing alliance to join the ongoing election process after concluding that elections were necessary to end the protracted political transition in the country and strengthen as well as institutionalize democracy. The meeting also conveyed to the 33-party alliance the government’s commitment to bring the poll-opposing parties on board the election process at any cost. However, the 33-party alliance of poll opposing parties say they won’t partake in the upcoming election until their demands of poll deferral and resignation of Interim Election Council chairman Khil Raj Regmi from the post of Chief Justice were met.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 09/20/2013

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ARMENIA: Consideration Given to Fully Parliamentary System

 

A transfer from presidential model of governance to parliamentary, expected to be touched upon during the coming discussions over constitutional changes, is unacceptable and even dangerous, some Republican law-makers claim. Several days ago in his interview to RFE/RL David Hautyunynan, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on State and Legal Affairs, executive board member of the ruling Republican party (RPA), said that the Armenian authorities, RPA decision makers, have started discussion over constitutional amendments which may lead to a decision on transfer to fully parliamentary system of governance. According to him, the Constitution adopted in 1995 and amended in 2005 does not offer sufficient solutions to today’s issues, hence there is shared opinion among some that it is time to reconsider the country’s fundamental principles of governance and introduce some changes.  On Sunday, reflecting on this issue parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamyan told the press during a briefing at Armavir local government that the process is at a stage of discussions, however nothing has been said about the actual shift to a parliamentary republic.

 

He claims that today’s governance system in Armenia “works just fine”. RPA faction leader Galust Sahakyan told the press on Tuesday that “naturally there is need for constitutional changes”, however, he says, it is a rather time-consuming process “requiring development of concept papers, open discussions to make it public. It is not happening tomorrow or the day after, for us to be able to say today what we are planning to do”.  In reference to possible discussion of the shift to parliamentary system, Sahakyan said the model of governance in Armenia must not be changed; moreover, it would be dangerous for Armenia. “We are a country in a state of war with blocked exit road communications. Can you imagine what might happen in a situation when urgent decisions have to be made and each of the parties stick to their respective positions? Somebody has to be the warrant for all. In the world practice, reforms, economic developments and lifestyle are never linked to the governance system,” says Sahakyan, adding that the task force group to work on the constitutional changes will hold discussions, accept suggestions from both political forces and citizens of Armenia, and as a result the document would be put before a public referendum.

From http://armenianow.com/ 09/03/2013

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Armenia Moves to Reform Its Constitution: Change of Form of Government May Be on Agenda of Expert Body 

 

Representatives of political parties and experts in Armenia predict that the newly established commission for constitutional reform will also consider the issue of changing the system of government, in this case a transition from the current semi-presidential to parliamentary system.  Constitutional Law Center Board Chairman Gevorg Danielyan, a member of the commission set up by President Serzh Sargsyan’s decree on Wednesday, did not rule this out either. “The range of issues does not specifically say that the issue should be discussed, but the issue of the form of government may be discussed. The Commission on Constitutional Reform has been tasked with the matter of general reform, especially the entire procedure of the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms, subjects, competent bodies, methods of implementation,” Danielyan, a former justice minister who heads the Chair of the Department of Constitutional Law at the Yerevan State University today, told ArmeniaNow. The presidential decree establishing the commission says that it is done “pursuant to the need for the realization of the principle of the rule of law, improvement of constitutional mechanisms to ensure the fundamental human rights and freedoms, guaranteeing full balance of power and raising the efficiency of public administration.”

 

Remarkably, along with the demand for switching to all-party list elections to the National Assembly major opposition forces have also demanded that the authorities change the form of government, approving a parliamentary model of government. Among these non-governing political forces were Heritage, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Prosperous Armenia party, the Armenian National Congress.  At the end of August Republican MP David Harutyunyan, who heads the National Assembly’s State and Legal Affairs Standing Committee, announced that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) started discussions about changing the Constitution and did not rule out that as a result of the discussions it would be decided to propose a transition to a parliamentary republic. Meanwhile, RPA spokesman and deputy speaker of parliament Eduard Sharmazanov, after the September 5 meeting of the party’s executive body, said that the issue of switching to a parliamentary republic was not on the political agenda of the authorities. The member of the Commission on Constitutional Reform said they may discuss the issue of taking the most appropriate elements from varied forms of government.  “We should solve a number of key issues, such as the issue of independence of power, and it is quite possible that separate details of different forms of governance will be discussed, and not that one form or another is immediately preferable, but [we will discuss] what elements can be taken from this or that one, because now there is no state that would have classically, purely one form or another; you will rather meet mixed forms, a priority is given to one form, but certainly forms that are most appropriate for a given country at a given period of time are applied,” explained Danielyan. 

 

No one from the opposition is involved in the commission tasked with elaborating constitutional amendments. Danielyan, however, gave assurances that the commission will work in an open and transparent manner and will also discuss the proposals and views of political forces and all parties concerned.  Armenian Center for National and International Studies expert Edgar Vardanyan thinks that no serious and drastic changes [related to essence rather than form] should be expected from the constitutional amendments. “My impression is that the current initiative is aimed at strengthening the positions of the ruling class so that its reproduction becomes easier. This is [President] Serzh Sargsyan’s last term in office, and taking into account the comments by David Harutyunyan that he does not rule out a transition to the parliamentary system, I do not exclude that [during the next elections] the RPA’s proportional list will be headed by Serzh Sargsyan, that he will become prime minister who will be de facto head of state,” the expert told ArmeniaNow.  Vardanyan hopes that in this case at least the opposition will try to show that “amendments being made for the reproduction of the government are not what they had expected.” “It would be reasonable to expect the opposition political parties to insist that these amendments stipulate that the person who currently occupies the presidential post be barred from becoming prime minister… so that at least some positive things can be extracted from these changes. But I don’t think that this demand will be met. In world history there have been different examples when an authoritarian government changed the constitution to extend the term of office of the incumbent president,” said the expert.  The main reaction of major non-governing political forces to the establishment of this commission is that they will wait and see what its agenda is and then will formulate their standpoints.

 From http://armenianow.com 09/06/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Quality of Municipal Governance Improves

 

The Ministry of Justice, as the supervisory authority, reports the improvement in the quality municipal management in Azerbaijan in 2013, in any case in the preparation of municipal acts.  The Ministry reports that for the 1st half of 2013 it reviewed about 30,000 municipal acts within the framework of the administrative supervision.  "At that, only 1,156 acts were repealed or amended at the suggestion of the Ministry, and the culprits were brought to administrative responsibility," the Justice Ministry informed.  The necessary materials only on 16 facts were transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office.  This is the first time when 1,718 municipalities operating in the country issued such a low number of acts not conforming to the law (3.85% of the total number of documents).

From http://abc.az/ 08/31/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Government Establishes Audit Commission to Deliver Savings

 

Australian government Treasurer-elect Mr Joe Hockey is laying the groundwork for the establishment of a Commission of Audit under moves to review spending and staffing across front-line agencies. This Commission of Audit will report on findings of a “top-to-bottom independent review of public spending” by December 2013. This is a one-off Commission and not an “ongoing quango,” according to Mr Hockey. An upcoming agency-by-agency audit is supported by systematic internal scrutiny, wide consultation with stakeholders, and rigorous assessment by the Parliamentary Budget Office. In an earlier statement, Mr Hockey noted that the Federal Budget is “more than a set of statistics. It is more than a forest of forecasts. It is a statement about much more than the fiscal and the financial.”

 

Targeting wasteful spending

As a next step, the Coalition plans to bring the Federal Budget back under control. It seeks to deliver on an election promise that cuts down on “wasteful and inefficient expenditure” across Commonwealth agencies. Senior public servants are expected to volunteer areas of day-to-day administration that can be potentially pruned back to deliver savings, without having to sacrifice jobs, at the outset. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Hockey earlier pledged to cull nearly 12,000 full time public service jobs by the end of 2015. Agencies identified as potential targets have included Medicare, Centrelink, Australian Federal Police, Defence, Customs, and Department of Health and Ageing.

 

Operational efficiencies

Mr Abbott noted that: “It’s likely that a contemporary process might identify scope for vast improvements in the functions, efficiency, and cost of government without compromising its core business.” The operations of government can be improved and streamlined while a new government has “maximum political capital” to take hard decisions. “If we are serious about building a more productive economy, it’s vital to ensure that the Commonwealth and its agencies are only doing what they really have to do and doing it as efficiently as they reasonably can.” The Commonwealth government accounts for almost a quarter of Australia’s gross domestic product output. An earlier fiscal governance panel review sought insights from three eminent experts in public finance and administration. These were Mr Geoff Carmody, co-founder of Access Economics and current Director of Geoff Carmody & Associates; Mr Len Scanlan, a former Queensland Auditor-General; and Professor Peter Shergold AC, former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/11/2013

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GOVCFO Forum Australia Spotlights Governance Reforms

 

In a show of support, finance chiefs from leading international and Australian agencies are converging this December at the industry’s flagship GovCFO Forum Australia 2013. This 3rd regional event, being held Monday 2nd December at the Canberra Convention Centre, galvanises finance heads as well as technology experts presently from the UK, Denmark, Singapore, and New Zealand. The CFOs of Australian commonwealth, state and local agencies are also represented. These officials are drawn from portfolio agencies covering taxation, human services, finance, ICT, and the environment. With governance high on the agenda, the GovCFO Forum Australia offers a first-hand look at how core agencies are delivering on fiscal reforms. This dedicated gathering also offers a fresh look at technologies that are helping design, deliver and manage budgets during fiscally-prudent times.

 

UK shared services reforms

Among the international experts, London-based shared services advocate, Mr Paul Marriner, UK Government Shared Services Cabinet Office shares insights about the UK government’s shared services reforms. Drawing on a two-year stint with the UK Cabinet Office, Mr Marriner shares news about the role of shared services, and why cost-sharing arrangements are high on the government’s agenda.

 

Managing cost at the grass-roots

Financing front-line services at a local level is explored by Mr Duncan Whitfield, president Society of London Treasurers UK. Mr Whitfield, also director of corporate and financial services, London Borough of Southwark, explains how this council is delivering cost-control measures, while supporting grass-roots’ services. Digitation and budget management is showcased during a case study presentation by Mr Siggi Brandt Kristoffersen, deputy director of services at the Municipality of Copenhagen. This presentation explores the co-relation between digitisation, citizen service delivery, and innovations in business modelling.

 

Governance agenda

The broader governance agenda is tracked by CFOs from Singapore and New Zealand. Among these, Mr Ho Tuck Chuen, Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) , Singapore, and Ms Sara Brownlie, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, State Services Commission & Treasury, New Zealand will lead a series of discussions at the forum. The changing role of CFOs, and closer integration with CIOs, is explored. Discussions feature updates by agencies with large budgets, and a mandate to deliver savings across different portfolios. Building a shared agenda between CFOs and CIOs comes up for discussion, including cost-control measures, good governance, and transparency. Among the Australian CFOs in attendance are Ms Frances Cawthra, Australian Taxation Office, Ms Ann Fleischer Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Mr Atillio Martinello Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Mr Zane Edwards, Department of Human Services, Ms Jacqui Myers Geoscience Australia, and Dr Maxine Cooper ACT Auditor-General’s Office.

 

Commonwealth-state partnerships

In other news, Ms Lynn Wood, chairman, Financial Reporting Council, offers a perspective about drivers for cost-effective Commonwealth-State relations, and strategies to eliminate duplication involving Commonwealth-State operations. Forum delegates gain fresh insights about governments’ financial management agenda, while ensuring that financing remains sustainable, and is built around fiscally-sound policies. Among the discussions, the role of independent reporting comes up for discussion. The delivery of stewardship during tough economic times is also covered.

 

Risk management

An interactive debate, “Government a risky business?” offers different perspectives about risk management, the maturity of public sector risk models, and whether a CFO is best-placed to manage risk. Tackling risk and economic volatility is explored, including steps to minimise waste and improve productivity across government.

 

Technology showcase

The GovCFO Forum Australia is complemented by a series of highly-popular Interactive Discussion Tables. These discussions, led by public sector leaders and technology experts, offer a chance to participate during in-depth conversations throughout the day, while sharing the direct experiences of delegates. These discussions are complemented by a dedicated technology showcase, supported by industry partners. These include lead sponsor, Visa, a leading global payments company. Additional sponsors include the cloud, big data, and security solutions provider, EMC, and an enterprise resource planning and financial management solutions company, Unit4. Delegates will assess cost-savings from ICT platforms that encompass shared services, e-procurement, cloud computing, procure-to-pay, mobile banking, financial management information systems, analytics, and information security solutions.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/16/2013

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Australia's New Policies to Shrink Public Service Offices Arouses Concern

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to merge Australia's overseas aid agency (AusAID) into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has aroused concerns over the national public service and Australia's international reputation, local media ABC News said on Thursday. Abbott made this announcement Wednesday along with the sacking of three public service chiefs in the first few hours after he was sworn in as prime minister. Former AusAID officials suggest this decision could affect the country's diplomatic standing in the region and act as part of a wide-ranging shakeup of the public service. "There is inevitably something of a signal to the Asian region that Australia is tilting in some other direction and perhaps pulling back from development issues and tilting towards diplomatic issues," Peter McCawley, a former director-general of AusAID and a current economist with the United States' Agency for International Development (USAID), was quoted as saying. "But I believe the real question is not what is the impact on Indonesia and other countries in the region, but what is the impact on Australia and what is the impact on our own standing in the Asian region." he added.

 

The Coalition has promised to cut 12,000 Commonwealth public service jobs over the next three years. The prime minister planned to cut 4.5 billion Australian dollars (4.21 billion US dollars) from foreign aid to save more federal budget to contribute to the government's diplomatic policies, according to media reports. Annmaree O'Keeffe, AusAID's former deputy director-general and current research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said this will have big ramifications for Australia's aid program. How it will be managed remains to be seen because there's tension from time to time between AusAID and DFAT on how development can support foreign policy objectives. "There is a conflict because then you start getting into this ridiculous discussion around how aid is a part of a global relationship to lift people out of poverty but it's actually all about trade," said Archie Law, the executive director of charity ActionAid Australia.

 

According to Law, the decision about this merge showed the conservative politics for the Coalition remains as the dominant value. He also told local media that he received opinions of disappointment worldwide from his peers after the government's announcement. "Unfortunately, I was with the United Nations in New York when Australia had this sort of policy before, and Australia wasn't highly regarded on the international stage," Law was quoted as saying. Those major changes has been criticized as the backwards step in the public service sector, but Abbott has emphasized how much he respects the public service.

From Xinhua 09/19/2013

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FIJI: Advertises for Supervisor of 2014 Parliamentary Elections

 

The Fijian government on Monday announced it has advertised the position of the Supervisor of Elections in the lead up to the 2014 parliamentary elections. The advertisement has been published locally and has also been distributed overseas through diplomatic channels. Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said that the government was particularly encouraging applications from elections experts overseas. "It is very important that this position be filled by an individual with the necessary skills and expertise, who can build capacity in the Elections Office and who can ensure that Fiji's national elections are conducted in a fair, transparent and credible manner," Sayed-Khaiyum said. The position is established under the 2013 Constitution and key responsibilities include administrating the registration of voters and conducting elections for members of parliament. According to the Ministry of Information, preferably, applicants must have at least 15 years' experience in conducting elections and must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills and capacity to conduct national elections in one day using best international practices. Applicants must also be able to demonstrate that they have the ability and a plan to build long term capacity, skills transfer and career paths within the Elections Office. Applications must be received by no later than Oct. 25. Fiji is holding parliamentary elections by September 2014, which is on the basis of one person, one vote.

From Xinhua 09/16/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: Preparing to Trial Online Voting in 2016

 

The New Zealand Ministry of Local Government is to trial online voting at the 2016 local authority elections. Minister for Local Government, Chris Tremain, noted, “Online transactions are the way of the future and the Government is committed to rolling out digital services for New Zealanders.” “Voter turnout in local body elections is traditionally low and we need to look at other ways to encourage people to become involved in the democratic process. Online voting will be more convenient and appeal to young voters. It will also make it easier for people with disabilities to vote,” added the Minister. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) will be forming a working body to consider the options, costs and security issues involved in online voting. The body will consist of government and local agency officials, and information technology experts. The Ministry looks to have robust regulations in place, in order to gain voters’ trust and confidence in the online voting system. The working group will be looking to systems used in public elections by other countries and assessing their security and technology to mitigate risk.

 

The Government’s online identity verification service, RealMe, will be used to provide security to the voting system. Electoral enrolment details can now be updated online using a RealMe verified identity, according to the recently introduce Electoral Amendment Bill. “There is a high level of interest from the sector in online voting with organisations like the Porirua City Council and the Manawatu District Council volunteering to take part in the trial. Once the working party reports its findings, the next step will be to formulate a plan to implement online voting in local body elections,” the Minister informed.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/06/2013

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National Telehealth System for New Zealand in 2014

 

New Zealand is to get a new national telehealth system allowing residents to receive health and injury advice via phone or the web, announced Health Minister, Tony Ryall. Aiming for a more comprehensive telehealth system, the Minister noted, “Not only are we planning to expand the ways people receive advice, we are also looking at having a wider range of health professionals available for people to talk to, such as pharmacists.” The Ministry of Health will fund nine phone advice lines, including Healthline, Poisonline, Quitline and Depression helpline. In addition to these, New Zealanders will be able to receive advice via text, online chat, email and mobile applications. The new service will prioritise improving quality of health and injury advice. Currently, there are a number of health advice lines being operated independently, handling around 2 million calls annually. “However, the current services are not connected, each with their own call centre, phone number and system for triaging calls. And some are too small to invest in new technology, such as text and online-chat,” said the Minister.

 

In 2011, the National Government committed to develop a more comprehensive telehealth system for New Zealanders, establishing the New Zealand Telehealth Forum and completing its first telehealth pilot. “By making the service even more comprehensive and helpful, we expect the new telehealth service will help reduce the pressure on after-hours primary care, ambulance services and emergency departments,” he remarked. The Government will issue a Request for Information for the new telehealth service, later this month on the Government Electronic Tender Service. Following which, a formal request for proposal will be issued in February 2014. The new service will not include New Zealand’s emergency phone line 111 or Plunketline, the service for parenting and childcare advice. The Health Ministry anticipates the national telehealth service to be up and running by end of 2014.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/13/2013

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Set to Establish Anti-Corruption Body

 

The Solomon Islands government is reportedly preparing legislation to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption. Transparency Solomon Islands says it has been told by the Prime Minister’s Office that the bill will most likely be ready early next year. The draft bill will establish an independent body responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption and enhancing integrity in government institutions. Such a body is required under Article 6 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption that Solomon Islands signed last year. TSI says the success of such a commission depends very much on the public input in the bill. The anti-corruption group says the current government has made a habit of inviting stakeholders to consultations on important new bills and then mostly ignoring their input. The watchdog says the government has to do more than just tick the consultation box without giving people an opportunity to make constructive suggestions or comments. It says that tactic is an attempt to hide the truth from the public, not to seek their input.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/09/2013

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TONGA: Good Time to Bring in Quota for Women Parliamentarians - Scholar

 

A Tongan scholar says now is a good time for her country to introduce a quota system for women parliamentarians. Sulia Makasini is writing a paper on how an interim quota system might work while in Australia under the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Programme. Tonga’s legislative assembly has only one woman MP, Ana Taufe’ulungaki, and she was not elected but appointed by the Prime Minister. Makasini, who works as a committee clerk for the assembly, says ideally Tonga’s parliament will be 50 percent women but a quota system is still very controversial and would have to be introduced gradually. “I believe it won’t be needed on a permanent basis, I think the main barrier right now is getting women into parliament and so the quota system is supposed to address those barriers, to put women in parliament as a practical demonstration to Tonga - not just for Tongan women but the Tongan public in general - that women are capable of performing in there.” Makasini says people in Tonga need education on how increasing the number of women parliamentarians will benefit the country.

From RNZI 09/09/2013

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G20 Leaders Will Need Great Political Courage to Win Fight Against Tax Dodging

 

G20 governments will need to find great political courage if they are to curb multinationals' multi-billion tax dodging, campaigners warn today. Christian Aid, ActionAid International, Oxfam, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Tax Justice Network and others say governments' attempts to curb the epidemic of tax evasion and avoidance will only succeed if politicians stand up to lobbying by the powerful companies and individuals who benefit hugely from the status quo. Their warning comes in a new briefing endorsed by 34 organisations and published in the run-up to G20 countries' summit meeting in St Petersburg on 5th and 6th September. Alex Prats, Principal Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, said: 'Almost every day, we get new evidence that aggressive tax avoidance and sometimes evasion are now the norm for large multinational companies, not the exception. They are making billions from these activities, while ordinary people - especially in poor countries - pay the price in higher taxes and worse public services. 'G20 and other governments have around two years in which to prove whose side they are really on.'

 

The new briefing argues that governments should explore a range of possible ways to make multinationals pay their fair share. James Henry, Chair of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, said: 'The G20 and other governments, as well as the OECD, should explore credible alternatives to the existing rules. At present, despite its good intentions, the OECD seems to be trying to save an international corporate tax system which is fundamentally flawed.' In July, the OECD published an Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) by multinational companies. Campaigners' new briefing encourages policymakers to pursue a rigorous study of the merits, risks and feasibility of alternatives to the OECD's existing rules, such as unitary taxation and formulary apportionment. In addition, it urges the OECD and G20 countries to do more to include poor countries in the BEPS discussions on making multinationals pay their fair share.

 

Maria Villanueva, policy advisor at Oxfam, said: 'The people hardest hit by multinational tax dodging are poor people in developing countries. Developing countries can't compete with corporations' sophisticated methods of tax dodging and lose billions every year in potential revenues. This is a disaster for people living in poverty. 'The OECD and G20 countries should urgently ensure that developing nations are included as equal partners in the international search for solutions - not just asked to rubber-stamp plans agreed elsewhere. So far, with the exception of the BRICS, this has not happened.' A third part of the briefing looks at what else governments must do, beyond the OECD BEPS Action Plan, to curb the financial secrecy which sustains tax evasion, corruption and money laundering across the world. Reforms such as automatically exchanging tax information between governments and greater transparency around the identities of the real owners of multinationals and what the companies do in each country where they work must become the norm.

From http://allafrica.com/ 08/23/2013

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TPPA Goes into Overdrive and Underground – Kelsey

 

Moves to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to the point of sign-off by the end of the year went into overdrive at the round just ended in Brunei, according to Professor Jane Kelsey who was present as a ‘stakeholder’ for the final few days. Only the most problematic chapters met in Brunei. They included intellectual property (which discussed patents on medicines), state-owned enterprises, environment, investment and market access for goods, including agriculture. Most other chapters are ‘closed’. That means the technical work is complete and ready for political deals on the controversial matters that remain unresolved. ‘Some countries report that little progress was made in Brunei. But that should not lull anyone into complacency’, Professor Kelsey warned. ‘While many negotiators were exhausted and some were incredulous about concluding their chapter by the end of the year, the politicians seem determined.’ ‘To have any chance of pulling off an outcome, groups negotiating some chapters will have to meet every month between now and December.’

 

Detective work indicates that informal ‘inter-sessional’ meetings on six chapters- are scheduled within the next four weeks - all in North America. ‘"Inter-sessional" is a misnomer’, says Professor Kelsey, ‘because they are not planning any more formal sessions. There will be no access for the media or stakeholders to these smaller meetings.’ ‘Past inter-sessionals have been shrouded in secrecy to ensure we can’t find out what’s happening and we don’t have access to those negotiators who see value in talking with us.’ ‘The last three years of the TPPA have been widely condemned for their lack of transparency. The process is now going further underground’. The chief negotiators will apparently meet in Washington DC from 22-24 September, with the US in the chair. They will report to their trade ministers who meet on the margins of APEC in Bali in early October. The ministers are expected to begin the political horse-trading then. They will report, in turn, to their leaders who are in Bali on 6-7 October for APEC and immediately after that in Brunei for the ASEAN summit. Obama will apparently chair their meetings.

 

‘It remains to be seen what they can settle by December. The US is expected to table a new text on patents for medicines. There are rumours that this aims to divide and rule its opponents and could leave New Zealand out in the cold.’ ‘But the biggest obstacle to a deal is the US-driven chapter on state-owned enterprises, where discussions on the text have barely begun. A new version that combines US and Australian proposals is beset with political, conceptual and technical problems. Almost no progress was made on it in Brunei.’ ‘Finishing in December may mean the Obama administration has to give this chapter away’, Professor Kelsey speculated. ‘Yet the SOE chapter has been a centrepiece of their sales pitch to Congress on the TPPA. Without it, Congress may refuse to give the President "fast track" authority and retain their power to pick apart any final deal.’ ‘There are still many twists and turns to go in these negotiations. The problem is that we will have even less chance to know what they are and what political deals are being made to eliminate them.’

From http://nz.news.yahoo.com/ 09/01/2013

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Water: Governments Must Deal with Rising Risks

 

Water shortages and floods illustrate the risks posed by too little, or too much, water. By 2050 more than 40% of the world’s population will live under severe water stress and nearly 20% could be exposed to floods. The economic value of assets at risk from floods is expected to be about USD 45 trillion by 2050[1]. Water pollution is also increasing, adding to uncertainty about future water availability. These water risks are exacerbated by climate change. Governments must manage them, so they do not jeopardise growing populations and cities, economic growth and food or energy security. “Instead of just reacting to water crises, governments mustassess, target and manage water risks proactively”, urged OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. ”We have been forewarned - there is no doubt these risks are increasing. We must now arm ourselves with risk management strategies that will prevent water shortages and pollution and protect against the droughts and floods that are endangering human lives, ecosystems and economies.”

 

OECD’s new report Water Security for Better Lives sets out a pioneering risk-based approach to water security and proposes practical steps to implement it. The report notes that water security is ultimately about establishing an acceptable level of water risk by weighing the costs of improving water security against the expected benefits, and ensuring that responses are proportional to the magnitude of the risk. Flexibility is important, allowing acceptable levels of risk to be adjusted to changing situations. For instance, New York City is reassessing its flood protection level following Hurricane Sandy and investing billions to avoid future disasters. Using this risk-based approach, another new OECD report Water and Climate Change Adaptation: Policies to Navigate Uncharted Waters reviews countries’ initiatives to adapt water management to climate change. It reveals that nearly all countries project increasing water risks due to climate change, with extreme events (floods and/or droughts) cited as a primary concern by 32 countries and 23 saying water shortage is a key issue.

 

About half the countries surveyed noted that climate change impacts on water supply and sanitation are a key concern, with a similar number highlighting concerns about the impacts on water quality. Though countries are building the evidence base to inform decisions about water risks, faced with the impacts of climate change, they should do more to better target and manage them. Besides their obvious relevance for policy makers in the fields of water and of climate change, these two publications will be key OECD contributions to the Stockholm World Water Week taking place from 1-6 September. To receive a copy of “Water Security for Better Lives” and“Water and Climate Change Adaptation: Policies to Navigate Uncharted Waters” journalists should contact the OECD Media Division or call +33 45 24 97 00. The results of the survey of initiatives by OECD countries to adapt water policies to climate change are available on line at www.oecd.org/env/resources/waterandclimatechange.htm.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/02/2013

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OECD Countries Address the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials

 

The OECD has recommended its Member Countries apply existing international and national chemical regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with manufactured nanomaterials. The Recommendation, approved by the Organisation’s governing Council, noted that these frameworks and other management systems may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of manufactured nanomaterials. Manufactured nanomaterials are chemical particles that exhibit new characteristics in contrast to the same material without nanoscale features. These novel features offer possibilities for new commercial applications, such as solar cells using silicon nanocrystals to achieve higher efficiency. They also raise questions regarding potential unintended risks to humans and the environment. For example, new manufactured nanomaterials have applications in sunscreens and cosmetics, and so the potential risk from their exposure to consumers needs to be carefully assessed and managed. The OECD has been working since 2006 to develop approaches for risk assessment for manufactured materials that are of high quality, science-based and internationally harmonised.

 

The Recommendation notes the importance of the OECD Test Guidelines for the Safety Testing of Chemicals, concluding that many of the existing guidelines are also suitable for the safety assessment of nanomaterials. At the same time, it recognises that some guidelines may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of nanomaterials. Work continues at OECD to achieve that. An important consequence of this Recommendation is that much of the data collected as part of the safety assessment of nanomaterials will fall within the scope of the OECD system for the Mutual Acceptance of Data (MAD) in the Assessment of Chemicals. The OECD Mutual Acceptance of Data system is a multilateral agreement which saves governments and chemical producers around 150 million every year by allowing the results of a variety of non-clinical safety tests done on chemicals and chemical products, such as industrial chemicals and pesticides - and now nanomaterials - to be shared across OECD and other countries that adhere to the system.  Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa as well as all OECD countries are full adherents to the MAD system, and Thailand is a provisional adherent. The extension of the scope of MAD to nanomaterials will considerably reduce the potential for non-tariff trade barriers between countries when marketing manufactured nanomaterials or products which include nanomaterials as well as allow for sharing the workload between countries in testing and assessing all the nanomaterials which are on the market. There will be a review of the Recommendation in three years to assess how it has been implemented in OECD countries and those partner countries which have adhered to it.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/20/2013

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APEC Targets Reduced Disaster Risk

 

Asia-Pacific economies are seeking to improve preparedness in the world’s most natural disaster-prone region to help businesses stay up and running and ensure people’s livelihoods in an emergency. APEC senior disaster management officials took stock of related challenges and charted a path towards greater inter-agency cooperation to reduce disaster risk during a two-day meeting in Bali that concluded on Thursday. “The Asia-Pacific region experiences more than 70 percent of all natural disasters globally,” said Dr Syamsul Maarif, Head of the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency. “When emergencies strike, our first priority is to protect lives and livelihoods.” “The effects of business disruptions in one economy can ripple across the region and inflict a heavy toll on the cross-border movement of people and goods,” Dr Maarif explained. “This has the potential to impact productivity on a wide scale and, with it, prices and income flows which make cooperation to improve disaster preparedness essential.”

 

APEC economies are exploring ways to expedite the delivery of international support to disaster-affected areas based on collaboration between disaster management, customs and immigration agencies, noted Dody Ruswandi who chaired the 7th APEC Senior Disaster Management Officials’ Forum. “Enhancing the mobility of emergency responders and their personal equipment can save lives as well as safeguard the supply chains and production bases that are vital to trade and economic growth throughout the APEC region,” said Ruswandi who also serves as Deputy for Prevention and Preparedness at the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management. Support for the development of this initiative is a component of APEC’s three-year strategic plan for strengthening disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness within the public and private sectors.

 

“Small businesses are the backbone of economies in the Asia-Pacific but are particularly vulnerable to disruptions caused by natural disasters,” said Dr Li Wei-sen, Co-Chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group. “The building of risk awareness and promotion of business continuity planning through training and best practice-sharing are central to our efforts to keep these firms operating as normally as possible.” Delegates welcomed inputs from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and recognized the importance of deepening engagement with regional and global emergency management bodies to further these aims. “An open exchange of information, including real time data, helps to synchronize planning and resource deployment needed for effective disaster risk reduction,” concluded Dr Nguyen Huu Phuc, who also Co-Chairs the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group. “Identifying possible areas of joint cooperation is a key element of our agenda.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 08/26/2013

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ADB, Gates Foundation Partner to Tackle Asia's Huge Sanitation Needs

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have formed a new partnership agreement to expand and speed up access to safe sanitation in Asia and the Pacific. “Hundreds of millions of people suffer from poor sanitation and ADB and the Gates Foundation share a common vision for improving the health and dignity of all people in the region,” said Amy Leung, Director of the Urban Development and Water Division in ADB’s Southeast Asia department.  “This partnership will allow us to support testing and pilot implementation of innovative solutions to deliver long lasting, quality sanitation services to Asia’s urban poor.” Creation of a new Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund will be announced during World Water Week, held in Stockholm, Sweden until 6 September. An investment of $15 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation into the Trust Fund will leverage more than $28 million in investments from ADB by 2017 to expand non-sewered sanitation and septage management solutions across Asia.

 

The Trust Fund will pilot innovations in sanitation and septage management, provide grant funds for innovations in ADB’s sanitation projects, and support polices on septage management and sludge treatment to meet the needs of low-income urban communities who lack access to piped networks or safe wastewater disposal systems. “Investing in solutions that help bring safe sanitation to the billions people who don’t already have it leads to healthier people and stronger communities,” said Brian Arbogast, Director of the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are confident that this new partnership with ADB will help spur government officials, city authorities, companies and civil society to apply innovative thinking to the ongoing sanitation challenges in Asia.”

 

Currently, around 1.7 billion people in Asia and the Pacific have no access to safe sanitation, and about 780 million still practice open defecation, resulting in pollution and exposure to diarrheal diseases, the second leading cause of infant and child deaths worldwide. Sanitation problems are becoming increasingly acute in urban areas, with tens of millions of people moving into Asian cities every year. Many end up living in slums with little or no sanitation facilities. The region needs investments estimated at $71 billion to deliver improved sanitation to all its citizens. The Trust Fund will be part of ADB’s Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF), an instrument which pools finance and knowledge from development partners to support improvements in the sector. ADB has lent a total of $8.8 billion in water supply, sanitation, and wastewater management projects since 2006. Of that, $2.5 billion were investments that benefited from WFPF support.

From http://www.adb.org/ 09/02/2013

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Countries in East Asia and Pacific Region Show Mixed Progress in Combatting Health Challenges

 

In the East Asia and Pacific region, most diseases that affect children rapidly declined over the past two decades, but chronic diseases are killing more people prematurely and causing increasing disability. Demographic changes, such as population growth and increasing average age, have likely contributed to the substantial rise of non-communicable diseases and injuries. Health loss from ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease, increased by 76%, lung cancer by 86%, and diabetes by 76% between 1990 and 2010. As countries in East Asia and Pacific have become more developed, road injuries have taken a growing toll on human health. For example, in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, road injuries were among the five leading causes of health loss. Early death and disability from road injuries was up 51% in the region. These are some of the findings published September 4 by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in a report titled The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy: East Asia and Pacific Regional Edition. The report is based on the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 (GBD 2010), a collaborative effort of researchers from 50 countries around the world led by IHME at the University of Washington. 

 

“The rapid shifts in disease burden place poor people in low- and middle-income countries at high risk of not having access to appropriate services and incurring payments for health care that push them deeper into poverty,” said Timothy Evans, Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group. “The data in these new reports are critical inputs to the efforts of policymakers in countries towards universal health coverage that aim to improve the health of their people, communities, and economies.” The report examines changes in the leading causes of premature mortality and disability in East Asia and Pacific, compares the performance of countries in the region, and also compares regional and global trends. “The tectonic disease burden shifts in Asia are more prominent than anywhere else,” said Toomas Palu, World Bank Sector Manager for Health, Nutrition and Population in East Asia and the Pacific. “The speed of demographic and epidemiologic transition is occurring much faster than it did in the developed world, and countries need to adjust their public health policies, health financing, and service delivery systems.”

 

The World Bank commissioned the first GBD analysis as part of its World Development Report 1993. Earlier this year, IHME presented GBD 2010 findings in meetings hosted by the World Bank. Bank officials saw how the GBD analysis could be applied to the Bank’s work in specific countries and began working with IHME on six regional reports. “In East Asia and Pacific, the decline in premature death and disability from most communicable diseases and newborn conditions is encouraging,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME Director and one of the lead authors of the GBD study.  “But East Asia faces challenges posed by a variety of other health issues ranging from maternal health to road injuries.” The report also examines the increase in health loss due to risk factors such as dietary risks, high blood pressure, smoking, and high body mass index (BMI), which are all on the rise. “Many of the risk factors that are causing an increasing amount of health loss in East Asian countries are preventable,” said Professor Alan Lopez, an Affiliate Professor of Global Health at IHME and one of the lead authors of the GBD study. “Policymakers can and should use country-specific GBD data to identify the most important local health challenges in order to prioritize interventions to improve health in East Asia.”

 

Among countries in the region, the leading causes of disease burden in 2010 were as diverse as lower respiratory infections in Myanmar and the Philippines, diabetes in Tonga and Samoa, and stroke in China, Indonesia, and North Korea. When comparing rates of premature mortality from diseases and injuries across countries in East Asia and Pacific and taking into account differences in population growth and ages, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia were among the best performers. The Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Papua New Guinea were among the worst. In East Asia and Pacific, the top 10 causes of premature death and disability and percent change between 1990 and 2010 were:

•Stroke: 37% increase

•Ischemic heart disease: 76% increase

•Road injury: 51% increase

•Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): 27% decrease

•Low back pain: 46% increase

•Major depressive disorder: 29% increase          

•Lung cancer: 86% increase      

•Lower respiratory infections: 72% decrease

•Diabetes: 76% increase

•Liver cancer: 42% increase

 

In South Asia and Pacific, the top 10 risk factors for premature death and disability and percent change between 1990 and 2010 were:

•Dietary risks: 47% increase

•High blood pressure: 56% increase

•Smoking: 13% increase

•Household air pollution: 46% decrease

•Ambient particulate matter air pollution: 5% increase

•High fasting plasma glucose: 64% increase

•Alcohol use: 22% increase

•High BMI: 198% increase

•Occupational Risks: 1% increase

•Physical inactivity: percentage change unavailable due to lack of data

 

Detailed findings for East Asia and Pacific and each country in the region are available online in a series of country profiles and data visualization tools. Anyone can search by condition or country on the IHME website at http://www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org/search-gbd-data. Building on the success of GBD 2010, IHME is expanding its network of researchers from around the world with expertise in specific diseases, injuries, and risk factors. Through this broader network, IHME hopes to strengthen the country-level assessments that are produced and make GBD updates more frequent. Application information is available here.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/04/2013

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APEC Ministers Focus on Removing Barriers to Women

 

The 2013 APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy issued a statement on Sunday, concluding a four-day meeting focused on ensuring women realize their full potential as economic drivers. “We are working on removing obstacles that currently restrict women from realizing their full economic potential,” said Ms Linda Gumelar, Indonesian Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, who chaired the meeting that included Ministers, officials and private sector leaders. “This can be achieved through concrete actions to implement gender-responsive policies and programs as well as by implementing laws and regulations to expand economic opportunities and leadership roles for women in APEC economies,” added Minister Linda Gumelar. The United Nations estimates that the Asia-Pacific economy would grow by an additional $89 billion annually if women were able to achieve their full economic potential. The World Bank estimates that output per worker would increase 7-18% if female entrepreneurs and employees in the East Asia Pacific region worked in the same types of jobs, sectors and activities as men with similar level of productive resources.

 

However, according to the World Bank, the average female-owned and run enterprise is smaller than male-run enterprises in terms of total employees, sales and profits. In addition, these female-owned enterprises tend to be based in the informal sector or run out of their homes. “For example, women-owned enterprises face a host of institutional constraints that limit the ability of their business to thrive,” explained Minister Linda Gumelar. “Our goal is reduce these obstacles through a number of priorities such as ensuring women have access to information technology and by removing legal and regulatory barriers to women’s property, asset ownership and ability to sign contracts,” said Minister Linda Gumelar. Other priorities include incentivizing the private sector to invest in the empowerment of women in their business operations, senior management and corporate social responsibility programs as well as government programs that improve access to training for women and girls and foster flexible workplace policies.

From http://www.apec.org/ 09/09/2013

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CHINA: Safety Situation Remains Serious

 

In the first half of this year the number of accidents and consequent deaths in China dropped 3.8 percent and 13.9 percent year on year respectively, but the situation remains serious, a safety official said Tuesday.Safety rules must be followed strictly to avoid future tragedies, and supervision must be fully carried out in order to protect people's lives, said Yang Dongliang, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, at a national conference on work safety.About 100,000 road traffic accidents killed 26,000 people in China in the first seven months of the year, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security. Meanwhile, 174,000 fires were reported across the country, claiming 1,164 lives.From January to July, there were 158 boat-related accidents, which rose2.3 percent over the same period last year, resulting in 148 people dead or missing, said Dai Dongchang, chief planner with the Ministry of Transport.By Aug. 15, special equipment, such as elevators and boilers, killed 102 people in 108 accidents and injured another 101, said Chen Gang, vice director of the General Office of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/20/2013 

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Food Safety Tops Public's Concerns

 

Illegal additives, poor hygiene and unsafe materials in the manufacturing process were the major concerns of the public in 2012, while private and multinational companies were the major sources of the worry, a new report says.The report on Chinese public opinion and crisis management studied 1,593 of the 5,000 major "public opinion events" last year in an effort to find the characteristics and trends of the events, government agencies' response to them, and public feedback.The report — produced by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory and Crisis Management Center of Shanghai Jiao Tong University — recorded 113 large public opinion events related to food safety.That number was up 74 percent from 2011."The country has been facing various crises of public opinion. At the same time, the emergence of new-media tools has been pushing public opinion more frequently than before, especially those concerning food safety, education and healthcare," said Xie Yungeng, an expert on public opinion and new media at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

 

Private companies were most often mentioned in food safety scandals in 2012, accounting for 53.2 percent of the total compared with 43.1 percent in 2011, followed by multinational companies, accounting for 17.4 percent.In February 2012, frozen dumpling producer Zhengzhou Sinian Food Co in Henan province suffered a loss of public confidence after a customer found an adhesive bandage inside a glutinous rice dumpling.In April, preserved fruits sold by several big-brand stores, including snack chains Laiyifen and Baiweilin, were found to be processed in unsanitary factories and had excessive additives. All are private companies.In December, the Shanghai Food Safety Office said excessive amounts of antibiotics were found in eight batches of raw chicken samples taken from a KFC supplier from 2010 to 2011, triggering public outrage.

 

China's food industry suffered a crisis of confidence in 2008, when milk powder produced by a company in Hebei province was found illegally laced with melamine. The chemical additive led to the deaths of six children and sickened 300,000 others.Even so, recurring scandals in the food industry in recent years suggest that lessons were not learned from the 2008 scandal.Earlier this month, New Zealand diary giant Fonterra said clostridium botulinum, a kind of toxin, was found in its whey protein, which other companies buy to produce baby formula and sports drinks.After that, Chinese producers who used contaminated materials from New Zealand began to recall products, the latest blow to Chinese consumers' confidence in milk powder products.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/21/2013

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Chinese VP Urges Nurturing Teenagers' Creativity

 

Vice President Li Yuanchao on Thursday called for nurturing creativity among teenagers and make them become China's future innovative talents.Li made the remarks at an award ceremony for students who have excelled in scientific and technological subjects.Science and technology are decisive factors for national prosperity and strength, said Li, adding that the awards are aimed to motivate student's scientific passion.The awards were set up under the last wish of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 2004 when the 100th anniversary of his birth was marked.Li urged teenagers across China to devote their studies to science and technology and apply their knowledge in promoting the development of China.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/22/2013

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Experts Urge Better Training for China’s Migrants

 

Experts have called for improved vocational education for migrant workers to help them better integrate into cities."Sound vocational education and training systems for migrant workers are prerequisites for their stable employment and urban inclusion," said Zhu Liangyu, manager of the Haidian District branch of the Beijing Security Service General Company.Zhu, also a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, was speaking at a symposium held on Wednesday about the issue.Migrant workers, especially younger ones, lack quality education, income and social identity, and have not been integrated well into urban life, Zhang Wujun, an official with the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said at the symposium.Migrant workers aged 21 to 30 accounted for 31.9 percent of the migrant group in 2012, according to Zhang.Zhu said authorities must reform current employment and social insurance systems for migrant workers as well as vocational education and training systems to help them familiarize themselves with city life.Other experts recommended that vocational and technical education be promoted in communities and called for enhanced training in new industries.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/22/2013

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PLA Tightens Troupe Management

 

The Chinese military will strengthen the management of its art troupes and curb extravagance at official galas, the People's Liberation Army's chief political organ has announced.Show organizers from military units must deeply limit gala expenses and excessive performances, the PLA's General Political Department said in a regulation issued on Monday, urging organizers to rigorously supervise budgets for such shows.Large-scale galas should not be staged during field training or military drills, it said.Extravagance and unnecessary performances will be subject to disciplinary action.The regulation also seeks to restrict the pursuit of personal gain by a handful of performers with the PLA's art troupes.Tighter controls will be applied to art troupe members' participation in TV talent shows, the document said, noting performers are forbidden to take part in shows that will "taint the image of the military and servicemen", including those that are privately funded or held in karaoke pubs and bars.

 

Also prohibited are signing contracts with local performing and brokerage companies, starting private businesses and sensational promotion.Those who take part in overseas performances or take leave for personal purposes without approval, or participate in making advertisements will be seriously punished, the regulation says.The department requests that playwrights and composers in the PLA spend at least one month in grassroots units of the armed forces so they can understand the real lives of soldiers and officers and what is needed for their artworks.Art troupes that perform song and dance routines should stage at least 100 shows for military units a year and for those who perform drama or opera, at least 60 shows are required.Failure to meet the assigned target will disqualify the troupe and its leaders from awards and promotions.In addition, senior members of art troupes may not use the rank of "general", a practice that has commonly occurred when they were introduced on public occasions.They are also urged to "purify" their circle of acquaintances."We are drafting detailed guidelines on the implementation of the regulation," said Li Zhiqiang, an official with the Song and Dance Co under the General Political Department, which is the biggest performing unit in the military.

 

 "I am very proud that our troupe has a good record of regulating and managing its members."He said the troupe has long enforced a strict performer management policy and never allows them to take part in talent shows."None of the members has violated the requirements mentioned in the regulation. In addition, we don't hold extravagant galas because what we seek is to present the beauty of art to the audience, not flashy formality."Zhang Fan, a publicity worker with Hunan TV, one of the country's most-watched satellite channels, said he has never heard of members from the PLA's art troupes signing up for talent shows made by the broadcaster.Lu Fei, publicity director with Canxing Productions, said even if a performer from the military applied to join a talent show, he or she would have difficulty in advancing through rounds of competitions because most organizers request players sign a commercial agreement with brokerage companies if they enter quarterfinals or higher contests, but the PLA forbids service members from doing so.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/28/2013

 

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China Pledges Safe Rural Drinking Water by 2015

 

China will ensure the safety of drinking water by the year 2015 in rural areas, where it still remains unaccessible to more than 100 million people, a senior official said Thursday.Safe drinking water is that which reaches standards for four indicators: quality, quantity, level of convenience, and assurance rates.At the end of 2012, 298 million people in rural areas were suffering from lack of access to safe drinking water, but by the end of this year, 63 percent of them will have safe water, said Li Guoying, vice minister of water resources.The problem for the remaining 110 million people, including 15 million students and teachers in rural areas, will be solved in the following two years, he said while responding to legislators' inquiries on infectious diseases at the ongoing bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.The government has allocated nearly 179.1 billion yuan (29 billion U.S. dollars) for drinking water safety projects from 2005 to 2012, Li said.For the next few years, authorities will expand the water supply network to more rural areas, strengthen the monitoring of water quality and improve environmental protection in water resource areas, he said.Unsafe water is one of the main reasons for the spread of infectious diseases, lawmakers said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/30/2013

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Local Gov'ts Pressed to Reveal Birth Control Fines

 

China's health and family planning watchdog has called on local departments to soundly manage family planning fines, urging them to disclose related information to the public."Health and family planning departments should fulfil every requirement in the management of 'social compensation fees' in accordance with laws and regulations, including information disclosure," said Yao Hongwen, spokesman with the National Health and Family Planning Commission.Yao's comments were aimed at recent controversial claims that some local officials have misappropriated family planning fines, or "social compensation fees" to use their official title, for government profits or even personal use.These fines are paid to local family planning departments by any family that violates China's one-child policy and can amount to tens of thousands of yuan for each extra child.

 

Further complicating the matter, finance and family planning departments in only 17 of the 31 provincial-level regions on the Chinese mainland revealed the total amount of fines they received in 2012 when prompted by a lawyer, while the rest claimed such data should not be publicized or simply didn't reply.Meanwhile, none of these departments told how they spent the money.Citing a regulation on the collection and management of social compensation fees, Yao said local governments have the right to set down fine standards according to their regional realities and these fines must be fully transferred to local government budgets for financial management."These fines should be incorporated into the entire local fiscal input and spent on public services and social projects," he said, adding that the money doesn't belong to the earnings of local family planning departments.

 

According to the spokesman, the costs of the country's family planning work are fully covered by local government budgets, and they should be in no way related to family planning fines."As the main body responsible for imposing and collecting social compensation fees, family planning departments at county level should conduct their work and turn in the fines strictly in accordance with laws and regulations," Yao added.In late August, the National Audit Office said at a meeting that it had failed to pay adequate attention to and hadn't audited certain public funds including the social compensation fee due to limited auditing capacity and technology as well as the fact that such funds involved small amounts of money and were scattered in vast areas."The original intention of social compensation fees is to compensate inadequate public resources and control the population, but, in some places, it's become a channel for more births, and more births mean more funds for the government," said Ma Guanghai, a social development professor with Shandong University."Is this a policy to dig profits or ensure public benefits?" asked Ma, urging related government departments to publicize information on the fines as soon as possible to gain people's trust.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/04/2013

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China Learns from the World in Urbanization

 

China hopes to integrate its urbanization with its ongoing industrialization and to promote its development in modern agriculture, says Chen Weigen, the deputy governor of Jilin Province.

Chen conveyed his remark at the 3rd Global Economic Leaders Summit (GELS), which opened today in Changchun, Jilin Province.The summit, focusing on China's ongoing urbanization, will discuss global urbanization experiences and to inform the development of China's cities and townships.Zheng Xiongwei, acting Chairman of Asia-Pacific CEO Association, highlighted the significance of urbanization in the speeches of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang."President Xi referred to urbanization as a historic mission, which plays a key role in expanding the domestic demand for economic growth," said Zheng.

 

Many experts believe that urbanization's ultimate goal is to transform rural residents into urban dwellers, both physically and psychologically.Myung Oh, former deputy premier minister of the Republic of Korea said that people should first figure out who are the targets of development. In his opinion, urbanization works for the city dwellers.City dwellers are not only confined to the current urban residents, it will also include those rural families which compose the mainstream in the course of urbanization.According to Yan Xuan, the president from the Chinese branch of Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, rural residents are becoming a growing force behind the domestic consumption.

 

He said that the disposable incomes and the Consumer Confidence Index have been growing in rural China in 2012. He called for the enterprises to seize opportunities to research new trends and demands from the rural dwellers.GELS, an international cooperation summit, was initiated by Asia-Pacific CEO Association (APCEO) and is co-hosted by relevant governments. Hosted for the third consecutive times following 2011 and 2012 in Jilin Province, it will focus on opportunities in China's sustainable urbanization for global cooperation and it will also learn from the previous urbanization experience in the world.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/05/2013

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China Improves Transparency for Graduates Recruitment

 

China's educational authorities have vowed to improve transparency for recruiting graduate students, especially those recommended for admission, in order to safeguard fairness.The Ministry of Education said in a circular on Wednesday that schools should ensure an open recruitment process by publicly stating selection criteria and publishing the lists of admitted students on their website for no less than 10 days for public scrutiny."Applicants whose names have not been made available to the public must not be admitted by schools," it said.Any issues should be investigated and rectified and supervision should be stepped up on recruitment, said the circular.Applicants for graduate programs in Chinese universities or academic institutes should attend national exams, or recommended by schools where they pursued bachelor's degrees for admission to graduate schools.Cheating in exams should be prevented by ensuring smooth operation of the anti-cheating system including monitors and metal detectors, the circular urged.Schools' autonomy should be further expanded in recruiting graduate students and professors' role should be given full play in selecting outstanding applicants, it added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/11/2013

 

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Li Vows to Provide More Jobs

 

China will strive to generate more jobs in coming years by launching additional reform policies and placing greater emphasis on the service sector's role, Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday.He highlighted the government's task of assuring people's livelihoods, saying this to a great extent means providing jobs.The premier's comments came as he met a group of global business executives before the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2013, or the "Summer Davos" in Dalian.Li stressed that China is able to tackle difficulties and challenges in the course of its economic development, as reform can release the "biggest bonus" to boost the market's vitality.Instead of taking short-term stimulus measures to bolster the economy, China has focused on reform polices and economic restructuring to boost growth, with these measures having some effect.

 

Main economic indicators such as the Purchasing Managers' Index have suggested positive signs, he said.The manufacturing PMI, which reflects factory production activity, rose to 51 in August from 50.3 in July, indicating the fastest expansion of the industry in 16 months.A reading above 50 indicates activity in the sector is accelerating, while one below 50 points to a slowdown.Li said China will be able to achieve long-term and healthy growth based on three basic factors.These are huge potential for domestic demand in the industrialization and urbanization process; reform to eliminate obstacles in the government management system; and improvement in growth quality and efficiency based on increasing people's incomes and consumption."For the government, the top priority is to ensure sufficient employment," he said.

Li said the government will adopt a long-term, proactive employment policy, accelerate the service industry and promote occupational training to keep the labor market stable.

 

Chris Leung, a senior economist at DBS Bank in Singapore, said China is expected to maintain stable economic growth and achieve the 7.5 percent growth target set for this year, boosted by a series of positive economic figures for trade and inflation."The present macroeconomic environment is much different from the late-1990s, when conventional Keynesian and monetarist approaches could be applied aptly," said Leung, who added that he believes the policy taken by the Chinese government will neither over-stimulate the economy, nor allow it to sink further.The country's economic growth slowed to 7.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 7.7 percent for the first. It was the ninth deceleration in the past 10 quarters.Investors had feared the economy was slipping into a deeper-than-expected downturn, especially after the money market suffered an unprecedented cash crunch in June.

 

But the central government has introduced measures to stabilize the economy, including small-scale investment on railways and public housing construction and the launch of policies to help small companies in need of financing.The country's policymakers have repeatedly said China is capable of reaching this year's economic growth target.Li also said on Tuesday that the government is studying the launch of a deposit insurance system, further opening up the financial market and encouraging more Chinese enterprises to expand business overseas.Earlier, in an opinion piece published in the Financial Times, Li wrote that China will maintain healthy growth in the long term and will continue its reform and opening-up program.Economists said the recent positive economic figures will leave room for China to push forward the reform initiatives and restructure the economy away from dependence on credit, investment and exports toward growth driven by consumption.

 

Zhu Haibin, chief Chinese economist at JPMorgan, said the ongoing economic reform and restructuring, which are the top priority for the new leadership, will benefit China's growth in the long term, although they may slow it in the short term."In particular, overcapacity and low investment efficiency in a number of sectors, as well as credit imbalances and rising leverages accumulated in the past four to five years, remain the major challenges to be addressed by the new leadership in the coming years," Zhu said.Li is scheduled to give a keynote speech at the Dalian forum on Wednesday on China's economic growth and policy.

From http://www.news.cn/ 09/11/2013

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JAPAN: Govt to Develop Accurate Pollution Forecast Model

 

The Environment Ministry aims to develop an accurate projection model for air pollution in response to an increase in particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and other materials. The ministry plans to include ¥626 million in comprehensive measure expenses, 2.6 times higher than for this fiscal year, in its budget request for the next fiscal year.The envisaged model will gather detailed measurements of air quality in every city, town and village. The data can be used to deal with cross-border air pollution from China.With a program to analyze the volume of domestic emissions from automobiles and other sources as well as meteorological conditions, the model will make projections that take air pollutants generated both overseas and domestically into account. The ministry hopes to put the model into practical use in two to three years. A high density of PM2.5 in the air has been recorded for some days, especially in the Kyushu region, since a severe bout of air pollution in China in January. The ministry has set provisional guidelines for air pollution advisories such as those recommending that residents not go outside unless necessary. Kumamoto, Shimane and other prefectures have issued such warnings.

From http://the-japan-news.com 08/30/2013

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Japan Aims to Develop Ultrafast Wireless Technology by 2020

 

Japan is aiming to develop a super-fast wireless system by the 2020 Tokyo Games that would allow a smartphone user to download three high-definition movies in one second, an official said Friday. The technology, which is still in its early stages, would use wireless semiconductors, the official of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry told AFP. “The chips would use very high frequency bands, called terahertz signals, which could move data at a rate of 100 GB per second. And that would be as fast as downloading three movies in a second,” he said. The ministry wants the technology in place in time for the Tokyo Olympics, he said, adding subcontractors would be recruited to take on the research.

From http://www.japantoday.com 09/14/2013

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Successful Epsilon Launch Opens Door to New Leap into Space for Japan

 

This may be a quantum leap for Japan’s space exploration. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its new solid-fuel rocket Epsilon on Saturday from the agency’s space center in Kagoshima Prefecture. Epsilon sent a planet observation satellite into orbit as scheduled. The first launch scheduled in late August was canceled because of an inspection computer glitch just before liftoff. We are pleased the rocket was successfully launched. The Epsilon is the first new Japanese rocket to be launched in 12 years since the H-2A rocket lifted off in 2001. The development of the new rocket, distinctive because of its low cost and simplified launch, is aimed at lowering the threshold to space. The new rocket is expected to give Japan’s space business a significant boost as both the public and private sectors are trying to win orders from other countries to launch satellites. The successful launch of the first Epsilon is considered an important step toward that aim.

 

In the past, Japan placed priority on developing the world’s most advanced technology for rockets, rather that lowering costs, even from the development stage. For instance, engines and many other parts of the H-2A rocket were highly evaluated by other countries. But launching costs were prohibitive—as much as ¥10 billion each time. The H-2A lost a lot of business because it took years from the beginning of production to the actual liftoff. Since a number of countries recently have produced satellites that are much smaller and lighter, the demand for heavy rockets like the H-2A to launch them has dwindled. The Epsilon hopes to tap the market for launching small satellites. According to JAXA, the cost for launching the new rocket is currently ¥3.8 billion, but further efforts will be made to lower the cost to ¥3 billion. The future price tag makes the Epsilon competitive with similar rockets in other countries, the agency said. Of course, the rocket not only needs a competitive price but also a good performance to compete in the global market.

 

The Epsilon utilizes conventional rather than new technology to reduce development costs and improve technological reliability. For instance, the Epsilon uses a solid-fuel adapter rocket that was attached to the sides of the lower section of the H-2A as its first booster. However, JAXA is also using world-beating technology in the Epsilon. The rocket is equipped with a computer that automatically carries out some of the inspections to detect mechanical abnormalities. It also can be controlled by only two personal computers. These two technologies make it possible to shorten the launch preparation period and reduce the necessary manpower for a launch. The government is considering exporting Japanese satellites in addition to infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and the Shinkansen system. The government is planning to sell small Japanese-made satellites to other countries and launch them with Epsilon rockets. However, this means the Epsilon must be consistently regarded as a rocket that never fails to take off as scheduled. We hope the Epsilon will be successfully launched time and time again.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/16/2013

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Govt, Labor, Firms Hold 3-Way Talks

 

Representatives from the government, the business world and labor have held their first meeting to discuss how to improve wages and employment. “I hope the three parties will exchange views frankly so that a virtuous circle of economic growth will be established,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told those at the Friday meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office. Abe’s economic policy package, known as Abenomics, has helped weaken the yen and lift stock prices. Backed by these developments, earnings at large companies have begun to improve. The government started the three-way forum in hopes of ensuring that the recovery of large companies will spill over to improvements in wages, employment and the profitability of small and midsize companies, all of which, in turn, would benefit big companies. The economy is turning around thanks to Abenomics, Abe said. “The key is how this favorable development can be converted into a virtuous circle of earnings growth, wage rises and employment expansion.” Another big issue at the forum is how to secure a smooth transition of labor from low-growth sectors to young industries with strong growth potential. The government hopes to win support from labor for measures to facilitate such a transition, including easing employment rules. Those attending Friday’s meeting included Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari, Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura, the heads of groups for small and midsize companies, labor group leaders and academic experts.

From http://the-japan-news.com 09/22/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Anti-Corruption Forum Opens in Seoul

 

Heads of anti-corruption agencies from the Asia-Pacific region have gathered in Seoul for a two-day gathering to discuss policy cooperation and exchanges in order to fight against corruption. Nine government organizations from eight countries will share information and experiences and discuss cooperation and exchanges on corruption prevention and anti-corruption policies at the 7th Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Forum which will be held on September 2 and 3. Representatives of seven ACA member countries -- Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Australia, Malaysia -- and Vietnam as an observer country participated in the ACA heads’ meeting led by Korea’s Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) Chairperson Lee Sungbo on September 2.The attendees of the ministerial-level meeting included Ombudsman of the Philippines ConchitaCarpio-Morales, Australia’s Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss, Deputy Commissioner Theresa Hamilton of the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Australia, Deputy Chief Commissioner Hon Dato' HjZakariaJaffar of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Commissioner Adnan PanduPraja of the Corruption Eradication Commission of Indonesia, Acting Director Ricky Yau of the Independent Commission against Corruption of Hong Kong, Deputy Director AngSeowLian of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau of Singapore, and Deputy Inspector General Nguyen Van Thanh of the Government Inspectorate of Vietnam.At the meeting, the participants shared achievements, activities, and the latest trends of corruption cases in their countries and discussed ways to enhance international policy cooperation.

They paid strong attention, in particular, to presentations titled “Policies and practices of gifts and gratuities excluding typical forms of bribery” by Commissioner Adnan PanduPraja of the Corruption Eradication Commission of Indonesia and Acting Director Ricky Yau of Independent Commission against Corruption of Hong Kong at the meeting. At the open discussion session following the presentation, the participants shared opinions on various issues of anti-corruption policies of their countries, ranging from the comprehensive, legal definition of bribery in each of their governments and anti-corruption policy implementation, to anti-corruption law enforcement.ACRC chairman Lee Sungbo said that Korea has been playing "a leading role as a secretariat country in the ACA since its establishment in 2002." Lee also said he aims to introduce “anti-corruption policies" and "the will of the Park Geun-hye administration to counter corruption and strengthen transparency." The ACA Forum will be also held on September 3 at a hotel in Seoul, gathering public officers from Korea and ACA member countries and anti-corruption experts in the private sector.

This forum is designed to share policy information on anti-corruption and spread outstanding cases among ACA member countries under the “Seoul statement” adopted at the previous ACA heads’ meeting held in Seoul in September 2009. The Seoul Statement contains agreements among the heads of ACA member agencies who agreed to take cooperative measures to enhance the capacity of member agencies for technical assistance and training, sharing of information and best practices, and partnership and coordination on anti-corruption.Chairman Lee will deliver his presentation titled “Korea's anti-corruption strategies and experiences” at the forum, where representatives from other ACA member countries will present their views on a wide range of issues, including protections for whistleblowers, investigation of corruption cases, guarantees of independence of anti-corruption agencies, public education and preventive efforts, and anti-corruption training. Apart from delegations of ACA member countries, the forum will be attended by about 100 additional people, including representatives of the anti-corruption agency of East Timor, Korean government officials, business people, the academia, and civic groups. The ACA is held every two years. The next meeting will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2015.

From http://www.korea.net/ 09/02/2013

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Plenum for World's First Eco-Mobility Festival Begins in S. Korea

 

The general meeting of the world's first eco-mobility festival began on Monday in the city of Suwon, providing international experts with an opportunity to discuss ways of promoting sustainable transport, organizers said. The EcoMobility World Festival 2013, dedicated to sustainable development, kicked off Sunday and will run until Sept. 30. The festival is being held in Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/02/2013

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S. Korea to Develop Satellite Based Navigation System

 

South Korea plans to develop a new satellite-based navigation system that will significantly reduce the margin of error and enhance the safety of public transportation, including airline services, the government said Tuesday.The country will begin developing what is known as a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) from next year for completion by 2018, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/03/2013

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Digital Map Allows Clearer View of Korea

 

A new digital map has been developed with higher than ever resolution of the Korean Peninsula. The National Geographic Information Institute (NGII) under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport(MOLIT) created a digital map of Korea that was made using high-quality aerial images. It is easier and clearer to recognize terrain features than previous versions, in which major features are marked with symbols. The map is also highly accessible because it can be accessed via the Internet, navigation devices, and mobile apps. The NGII explains that in addition to the enhanced resolution, which became possible with the imagery acquired at a spatial resolution of 25 centimeters, the satellite map has improved accuracy by adding regions of disinterest, excluded from previous maps. The NGII have already made sections of the new map available to the public, offering some parts of the Peninsula including the capital and six megalopolis regions, with plans to come up with additional parts such as Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province), Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province), Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang Province), Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province), and Jeju Island. The map is designed to update new images on a two-year basis. 

From http://www.korea.net 09/05/2013

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S. Korea Develops Way to Use Advanced GPS in Navigation System

 

South Korea has developed a technology to allow the use of an advanced global positioning system (GPS) in any ordinary digital multimedia broadcasting device, such as car navigation systems, the government said Tuesday. The so-called differential GPS (DGPS) will be made available to the public as early as next year, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr 09/10/2013

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Discover Mongolia-2013 Mining Investors Forum to Take Place

 

The Discover Mongolia-2013 International Mining Investors Forum will take place at the Mongolian Children’s Palace in Ulaanbaatar on September 5 and 6, and a mine site visit will take place on September 7. “This year’s forum is special in multiple respects. First of all, the organizing committee is proud that this event has grown to such a hallmark status, and will be celebrating its 11th annual event this year. Secondly, this year’s Discover Mongolia IMIF will be held right after the presidential election in Mongolia. We all know that political stability and the Government of Mongolia’s policy towards mining is of the utmost importance to international and domestic investors in the mining sector. Hence, we look forward to being the information platform for Mongolia’s governmental policy towards minerals,” commented Ochirbat Punsalmaa, chairman of the IMIF’s organizing committee and former President of Mongolia.

The forum aims to be a bridge between Mongolian mineral sector stakeholders – the industry, the government, and civil society, for more meaningful and constructive cooperation. It also seeks new engagement and collaboration opportunities that serve the mutual and collective interests of all industry stakeholders.

 

This year, the organizing committee decided to make slight changes to the traditional format of the mining conference. The conference will be comprised of panels addressing core issues that are essential for the development of a robust and effective minerals industry. These are; Stable Legal Environment for the Minerals Sector; Optimal Infrastructure Solutions for Mining Development Needs; Environmentally Sound Mining; Human Resources for Mining; Demand and Supply; and Stakeholders Engagement at the Local Level In addition to these five panels, the conference will organize an Ambassadors’ Panel with the Ambassadors of Japan, South Korea, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China to discuss regional cooperation in the minerals industry. The concluding session of the mining conference will be an international exchange session presenting the views of Australia, Kyrgyzstan and North Korea, with a focus on the perspectives of cooperation with Mongolia in the minerals industry. Hosted concurrently with the mining conference, the forum will feature an exhibition of geological and mining companies, joined by dozens of companies that provide various services to the minerals industry.

 

Since 2003, the Discover Mongolia International Mining Investors Forum has presented Mongolia’s largest mining conference and investment exchange exhibition to introduce and discuss issues critical to the development of the Mongolian mineral industry.  The Discover Mongolia forum is organized by Prime Info LLC and the Mongolian National Mining Association, supported by the Ministry of Mining and sponsored by a stock of Mongolian and foreign mining entities, media, banking and IT companies. Representatives from over 10 countries have been registered to participate at the forum. Participants will include the Ministry of Mining as an official supporter, the Ministry of Environment and Green Development, the Ministry of Finance, the Mineral Authority and other agencies from the Government of Mongolia. Governors and Chairmen of the People’s Representative Khural of Govi-Altai, Khovd and Umnugovi provinces will also be in attendance.

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn 09/03/2013

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ASEAN Leaders Meet on Welfare

 

The 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Social Development (AMMSWD) yesterday opened in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen led the Vietnamese delegation to the meeting. Addressing the event, themed "Social Development for All", both Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh laid special emphasis on the significance of social welfare to the integration and development process. The ASEAN Secretary General applauded the coordination among ASEAN member countries as well as between the ten-member group and its partners in promoting social welfare programmes and assisting poor people and vulnerable groups, thus contributing to sustainable social development. PM Hun Sen said social welfare and development has always been part of ASEAN's socio-economic development strategy for the past decades.

 

The PM urged ASEAN member countries to pay attention to improving social assistance at all levels, to ensure that every person, especially the poor, vulnerable groups, people with disabilities, the elderly, illiterate teenagers and migrant labourers receive equal assistance and essential social services, in order to consolidate the bloc's socio-cultural community. The 8th AMMSWD meeting will discuss policies and programmes on social services and put forth suggestions to increase social services and protection for disadvantaged groups, specifically focusing on the elderly, children and people with disabilities. It is also an opportunity for member countries to compare notes and share experiences with good social security models. The ASEAN ministers will also work on the drafts of the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection and the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children, which will be submitted to the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei in October this year for approval. Within the framework of the 8th AMMSWD from September 2-7, there will be the fourth ASEAN+3 Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare, the ninth ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting on Social Welfare and the 8th ASEAN and Non-governmental Organisations Forum.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/07/2013

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INDONESIA: Concludes Environmental Audit Training Program for Timor Leste Officials

 

JAKARTA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia concluded the second batch of training program intended to hone up the skill of Timor Leste officials in carrying out Environment Feasibility Assessment (AMDAL) essential to assure sustainable development in latter country, the Indonesian environment ministry said here Thursday. The program was carried out in the ministry's education and training facility in Serpong, Banten province since Sept. 2 under the South-South and Triangular Cooperation between Indonesia, Timor Leste and Japan, endorsed by a MoU on Environmental Cooperation between Indonesia and Timor Leste signed in May 2011. "Capacity building on AMDAL skill was essential for the new- born country Timor Leste that declared its independence in 2002 and now is intensifying its development in infrastructure and energy sectors. AMDAL is very essential to assure sustainable development in Timor Leste and reduce impact of development that may risk the environment," the statement said.

 

Japan that acts as the donor country in the training program. Besides that, the option to choose Indonesia to hold the training program was based on little difference of development gap in the two countries and convenience of technology transfer. The statement said that on geographical aspect, Indonesia and Timor Leste have communal responsibility in assuring the sustainability of environment that would eventually beneficial to efforts in attaining prosperity in the two neighboring countries. The second batch of the training program constituted 19 Timor Leste officials from its National Directorate of Environment (NDE), trade ministry and Commerce, Industry and Environment (MCIE) ministry. The conclusion of the training program was conducted by Capacity Building and Environment Technical Development Deputy Minister Henry Bastaman, at the presence of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Indonesia representative Kanji Usui and Timor Leste MCIE Director General Joao Carlos Soares.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/19/2013

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MALAYSIA: Launching Emergency Services App for the Physically Impaired

 

For people with speech and hearing impairments, emergency services are now just a click away thanks to a new mobile application called “SaveMe 999”. Developed by the Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS), the new mobile app uses the Global Position System (GPS) feature of smartphone s to identify the location of the caller. To use the application, users will be required to fill in their personal particulars such as name, details of disability and their next-of-kin’s contact details. Meanwhile, to report an emergency, the user is required to click on the type of emergency being reported and may choose to upload a photo of the incident as reference. The information will then be forwarded to one of the response agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police, Fire and Rescue Department, Health Ministry, Civil Defence Department and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency for immediate action. The user will then receive an SMS notification when the report has been successfully submitted to the 999 service. Communication and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek revealed that Telekom Malaysia, the government’s private sector arm who helped build the SaveMe 999, is now looking at developing a similar application for the visually impaired. The “SaveME 999” application can be downloaded free of charge and is available on Android, iOS and Windows platforms.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/a 09/11/2013

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PHILIPPINES: Province to Use GIS for Forest Management

 

The German Technical Cooperation – Manila, the social development agency in the Philippines on behalf of the German Government, will be conducting capacity building workshop on the use of GIS in forest management. GIS continues to evolve according to the needs of the users. Since it is capable of handling large amounts of data and create new information about our environment, decision makers can leverage it to arrive at well-informed decisions related to soil and water conservation, wildlife conservation and many others. The workshop will be given to the Local Government Units located in Easter Samar which include: Guiuan, Llorente, Can-avid and the City of Borongan, which are now being considered as “Eco-towns”. Eastern Samar is one of three provinces on Samar Island, the second largest island in the Visayas, the region between Luzon Island to the north and Mindanao Island to the south. According to Samson C. Nerves, Officer-in-Charge at the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), the capacity building workshop will support GIZ’s climate change adaptation and biodiversity programs. Meanwhile, Dr. Bernd Markus Liss, GIZ Program Manager, said the his agency will be providing the LGU’s with the trainings, hard, and the GIS tools to make sure goals for project are met.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 08/30/2013

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The Philippines Conducts Geo-Tagging Workshop to Improve Project Monitoring

 

The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in SOCCSARGEN is investing on capacity building workshops and the acquisition of ICT tools to enhance the monitoring and evaluation activities under the National Greening Program (NGP). SOCCSARGEN stands for the region’s four provinces and one of its cities namely: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.  NGP is a project by President Aquino, which seeks to achieve ecological security in the country by planting 1.5 billion trees in around 1.5 million hectares of public lands for six years, starting 2011 to 2016. According to DENR, project monitoring reports are a critically important because it provides information on whether targets are being met as scheduled and as planned.

 

In this aspect, more than 80 NGP implementers from across Mindanao island were gathered in General Santos City recently for a three-day course on the use of global positioning system (GPS) and the geo-tagging of project sites. Geo-tagging involves attaching location-specific information such as geographical coordinates to pictures, videos and even SMS messages. By incorporating geo-tagging, DENR can easily validate and evaluate NGP planting sites. It will also help them verify where trees have been planted, and confirm if the trees have survived, and subsequently track their improvements and survival. The agency expressed confidence that the new project monitoring tool would not only enhance the implementation of the NGP but also contribute to the improvement and enforcement of forestry laws in the province.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/03/2013

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The Philippines to Launch Online Tax Payment for Self-Employed Individuals by 2014

 

Starting April 2014, self-employed individuals and small business owners no longer have to queue up for long hours at the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) offices to file and pay taxes, thanks to the agency’s new online tax payment facility. According to BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, the move stemmed from the agency’s goal to get more people in the tax net and increase tax collections. “We recognize that there’s a big amount of tax that needs to be collected. So I think the assumption that we have is that there’s still a lot of people who are not paying the right taxes. First, either they’re not registered, or those registered and filed are still not paying the right amount of taxes.” “Right now, with the help of the Department of Budget and Management, we’re building our IT capability to allow the electronic filing of various returns such as: capital gains tax, donors tax, estate tax so they can file online and the BIR will deliver the certificate electronically and submit it directly to the Registry of Deeds so they don’t need to come to our office,” the commissioner said. Henares added that the BIR is hoping to implement an e-notarisation system since most government documents have yet to be notarised.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/18/2013

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More Filipinos Have Access to Potable Water, Better Sanitation: Study

 

More Filipinos now have access to potable water and improved sanitary facilities compared to a decade ago, according to a regional report released Thursday. According to the 2012 ASEAN Community Progress Monitoring System (ACPMS) Report released by the ASEAN stats, the proportion of Filipinos with access to safe drinking water rose to 82.5 percent in 2010 from 78.7 percent in 2000. The proportion of Filipinos with access to better sanitary facilities likewise improved to 91.9 percent in 2010 from 79 percent a decade before. Given this improvement, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said that it is possible for the Philippines to attain its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ensuring that 86.5 percent of the country's population will have access to improved drinking water. The 83.8 percent MDG for access to sanitary facilities, meanwhile, has already been met in 2002.

 

More than that, the NSCB believes that improving access to water and sanitation facilities will help with lifting more people from poverty. "Improved access to water and sanitation in the long term will lead to better health conditions and will positively affect the quality of the labor force," the NSCB said. The NSCB said that the ACPMS Report indicated improvements across all ASEAN member states (AMS) on the indicator on safe drinking water as well as on better sanitary facilities. Each member state of the ASEAN recorded an increasing trend from 2000 to 2010 in terms of the percentage of population with access to improved drinking water and sanitary facilities, the agency said. The Philippines ranked sixth among the ASEAN member countries in the improved drinking water indicator. Singapore and Brunei topped the list with 100 percent of their population having access to safe drinking water. Singapore also ranked first in the indicator on improved sanitary facilities, with 100 percent of its population having access to sanitary toilet facility, which was followed by Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/19/2013

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SINGAPORE: Best in Asia for Intellectual Property Protection

 

Singapore is the best in Asia for intellectual property protection and the second best in the world, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore said Friday, citing a report by the World Economic Forum. The latest Global Competitiveness Report, with intellectual property protection as one of the criteria, covered nearly 150 countries and regions. It is the third year in a row for Singapore to retain the top ranking in Asia. Singapore's Intellectual Property Office said its business- friendly intellectual property regime has bolstered business confidence of international conglomerates and attracted long-term investment in research and development by multinationals. Singapore came in the second place in the overall global competitiveness ranking, trailing Switzerland. China's Hong Kong was the seventh, while Japan came in the 9th.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 09/06/2013

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Singapore Library Uses Analytics and Big Data Technology to Ease Users’ Search

 

National Library Board (NLB) used data mining and text analytics techniques, as well as big data technologies, to connect its structured and unstructured content so the most relevant information can be pushed to users automatically on its web sites and portals. “With so much data available, how can busy users find the right bits of information? For example, a typical search on an Internet search engine returns thousands of results. A user has to sieve through articles after articles until he finds what he needs,” explains Lim Chee Kiam (pictured), Senior Solution Architect at NLB. “Instead of having users repeat the tedious search and sieve process, we should push the most relevant information packages to them. To do this, we must connect our content.”

 

Connecting Structured Data

The group of 25 public libraries and one National Library houses over a million physical titles, which generate over 30 million loans a year. Using data mining techniques on past loan transactions and bibliography records of books, the library successfully connected their titles and launched a title recommendation service on its websites and portals since 2009.  “Besides showing the book that you’ve searched for, a section on the side shows you a list of books other patrons who have borrowed this book also borrowed. Collaborative filtering mines the reading patterns within hundreds of millions of loan records in the last three years to make recommendations,” he elaborated. The system also rely on content-based filtering using bibliographic records and generates another list of recommended books, under ‘similar titles you may also enjoy’. Because fiction titles are more frequently loaned, the system can generate recommendations for 89 per cent of the fiction titles, compared to only 53 per cent of non fiction titles. NLB is currently working on title recommendations on new arrivals. Once rolled out, when a patron is looking at a particular title, he or she will be able to see if there are related new arrivals of interest.

 

Connecting Unstructured Data

Unstructured data makes up a huge and growing portion of content that NLB holds. It has successfully used text analytics on Infopedia (a micro site with less than 2000 articles), the Singapore Memory portal, and 58,000 newspaper articles on NewspaperSG. “The results were very promising. Interestingly, when we organise the recommended articles in a chronological order, we can discover the progression of an event and see how the story unfolds,” said Lim. Lim’s team is now working on using text analytics on the above collection and 6 million newspaper articles. “This gave us our first real scalability issue. The processing ran for more than a week before we ran out of disk storage,” he recounted. Processing the older issues of the newspapers surfaced another challenge. Newspaper microfilms were digitised by using Optical Character Recognition software, but errors were common. There errors introduced ‘noise’ into the data set, and also significantly increased the complexity of the computation, leading to lengthy processing and the need for huge amount of intermediate disk storage.

 

“To address this issue, we tuned the parameters for the text analytics algorithm to ignore infrequent word tokens. We also set up a full Apache Hadoop cluster with 13 virtual serves on three virtual machine hosts so that we have a reliable, scalable and distributed computing platform,” continued Lim. While the team has successfully reduced the time needed to process the data, they are still working towards processing the 6 million articles. Looking ahead, Lim hopes to enrich the content with semantic information so that content becomes connected semantically instead of just textually. He also wants to enrich the content with language translations to explore the possibilities of connecting content in different languages, particularly useful given that Singapore has four official languages.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/11/2013

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Polytechnic in Singapore Rolls Out Records Management System

 

Republic Polytechnic has implemented a new records management system, in order to capture and allow easy retrieval of institutional knowledge, CIO Neo Yong Chiang told FutureGov. “The records management system, called eDocs, was rolled out in November last year. To date, it has accumulated close to 300,000 records. In August, we officially cut-over completely to eDocs, discontinuing edit access to the old storage system,” said Neo. The polytechnic, which started in 2003 with 200 students, have now grown to support 15,000 students and 1,000 administrative and teaching staff. The eDocs project is part of a larger IT transformation roadmap, aimed to consolidate applications and databases which have started to buckle under the growth. The four key areas which the IT team has focused on are: student services, staff and corporate services, customer relationship, and institutional knowledge. eDocs is also a major component of the overall storage framework for the archival of important records and institutional memory of RP. Other important platforms of this storage framework are the network drive and MS Sharepoint which enable collaborations within and across departments. The final component is mail-boxes where transaction information may be maintained for future reference.

 

Before the implementation of eDocs, important data - such as approvals, policies and curriculum - was saved in the network drive and email system. Over time, it became challenging to quickly find the latest version of the document, and to establish if the document saved was the approved version. “Teaching staff are required to submit their curriculum for approval before the start of every term. Sometimes, a newer version gets approved but doesn’t get updated in the network drive,” described Neo. “It is important to keep an accurate record of our curriculum because overseas universities do ask for specific module’s materials when our students are applying to them.” “Previously, departments have designated common email accounts so staff can forward important approvals or policies to that account for record purposes. Over time, it gets really difficult to search through the mailbox due to the sheer volume of emails. Also, comments and amendments are not captured in a structured manner,” he continued. Before the roll-out of eDocs, the team had to discuss and debate on their retention policy and where to keep the old data. “The committee first had to look at the different categories of data we currently have, and for each data how long we should be retaining them,” he said.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/19/2013

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THAILAND: To Install Database to Track Rice Subsidy Scheme

 

Thailand’s National Rice Policy Committee has approved the implementation of a web-based database to manage the corruption-plagued nationwide rice price scheme. A budget of THB 200 million (US$ 6.3 million) has been set for the purchasing of infrastructure to be installed at implementing agencies across the country. The rice pledging scheme was implemented to benefit rice farmers in Thailand through a boost in the price of rice. Under this scheme, the Government has implemented a policy to buy rice from farmers at generous prices and store the rice in warehouses. Cutting supply from one of the largest rice exporters, the move was to have raised the global price of rice, allowing the Government to sell rice at a premium in the world market. The scheme, however, exposes large amounts of rice stored in warehouses across the country to the risk of contamination and illegal diversion. Commerce Minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisarn, hopes that this online system will help “prevent corruption in the rice pledging scheme through effective tracking of the rice, and timely and effective data processing and reporting”. The database will be supported by 200 computers which will link the relevant agencies to the online database. The connected agencies will then be able to verify documents, and access information on volume of rice in the national stockpiles, locations of rice warehouses and volume of rice released to the market. The Public Warehouse Organisation was chosen to be the hub of data and information. Other organisations which will be linked to the database are Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Marketing Organisation of Farmers, Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand, Commerce Ministry, Finance Ministry and Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry. The installation of the system is expected to be completed in the next two months.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/16/2013

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VIETNAM: Sci-Technology Vital for Agriculture

 

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung yesterday declared the necessity of boosting the development and application of science and technology in agricultural production to raise the value of the country's produce. Hung, who has long supported technological advancement in the sector, was speaking at a conference on the subject attended by relevant ministers and over 150 leading experts. He stated that science and technology have not been effectively utilised to develop agriculture in rural areas, and called on the participants to identify measures to end the shortcomings. Nguyen Van Bo, director of the Viet Nam Agriculture Science Institute said there was a serious lack of scientists with agricultural expertise. He argued that it was necessary to create favourable conditions for scientists to dedicate their careers to a specific area of research, rather than having them change every five years or so. Each scientific or research centre should employ and finance about 20 experts in different areas of study and support them to realise their ideas, he said, adding that these institutes should be given the freedom to allocate finances and recruit well-qualified scientists as they saw fit.

 

Dang Kim Son, director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (Ipsard) agreed with Bo and said State-owned science centres had yet to be granted the right to decide their own staff, financial resources and research topics, leading to the failure in attracting scientists to aid the agricultural sector. Nguyen Xuan Dung, chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Science, Technology and Environment said the delay in applying solid technological theory to agricultural production had lessened its effect. Son called on leaders to do more to encourage economic sectors to participate in science and technology research and attract young people to work in rural areas. Dung agreed and said labourers in agricultural sector receive lower wages than others – often as little as VND 50,000 (US$2.3) per day, lowering the attraction of work in this field. Hung said it was necessary to apply science and technology to all agricultural production processes and form close relations between researchers, enterprises and farmers. However, it was not all doom and gloom and experts did acknowledge that technological advancements had reinvigorated cultivation, formed new breeds and seeds of crops and improved post-harvest processing techniques. Last year the agriculture sector earned more than $27 billion, equivalent to one-fifth of the export turnover.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/04/2013

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Vietnam Partners with South Korea to Build Land Management Database

 

Nguyen Minh Quang, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) signed two agreements with South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport as part of ongoing efforts to support the expansion of various development activities. For the past years, the two ministries have conducted bilateral projects whereby decision makers from both sides can discuss and share their best practices and technology applications to improve the implementation and management of their respective projects.  The first Memorandum of cooperation is on the creation of a space and land management database for the wide-ranging fields of geodesy, topography maps, remote sensing and land management. The second one is signed to replace the last Memorandum of Understanding which was signed on 19 April 2011. According to MONRE Deputy Minister Nguyen Manh Hien, the agreement will focus on supporting research efforts, software and technology development, technical support and building up the capacity building trainings for human resources to address the skills gap in the area.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 09/11/2013

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Viet Nam Steps Closer to Green Production

 

The third conference and exhibition on European environmental problems and solutions, Green-Biz 2013, opened yesterday in Ha Noi. Its aim is to assist the public and State stakeholders discover opportunities for green growth and investment. The two-day event was organised by the European Chamber of Commerce in Viet Nam (EuroCham), the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. EuroCham vice chairman David Champion said it provided an opportunity for private and pubic dialogue and also for Vietnamese and European businesses to interact. Nearly 100 high calibre speakers, including experts from the private sector, academia, governments and independent institutions will take part, together with about 70 European firms. The conference is not only focusing on traditional technical solutions for energy efficiency and resources management but also on providing a green education and encouraging a green mindset. This includes access to healthcare, green consumption and production. Champion said green production was important now that Viet Nam was negotiating an EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement.

 

The deputy minister of the Ministry of Industry, Nguyen Cam Tu, said the Government was aware of the challenges, including controlling the impacts of climate change, environmental pollution and wastage of energy. "As the ministry manages most key industry sectors, it plans to make industrial production more advanced by using natural resources and energy more efficiently, moving forwards a green economy," he said. The Swedish Secretary for Trade, Gunnar Omm, said European companies, particularly Sweden, were at the cutting edge of green and clean technologies. "We are looking for partnership with Vietnamese companies," he said, noting that although Viet Nam had become a middle income country at an amazing speed, there were challenges ahead as rapid economic growth often came at the cost of the environment, raising the need for measures to combine economic growth and sustainability. VCCI general secretary Pham Thi Thu Hang said that technology was the key to production and technology transfer from European to Vietnamese companies. He said this could introduce waves of advanced technology and boost productivity. She also said that Vietnamese enterprises needed to be more active and creative in raising their competitiveness as well as helping the country avoid the middle-income trap.

 

At a conference yesterday on green consumption and green production, Frans Verspeek, team leader of the Switch Asia Network, said that barriers included lack of business awareness about resources-efficient production, lack of technical and managerial skills on clean technology and poor access to financial services for small and medium sized enterprises. He said there were also barriers shaping demand, including weak communication of products to consumers, low accessibility to sustainable products and services. And there were barriers against investment. including the low cost of non-compliance. "To address the barriers, access to information must be provided, skills must be developed by businesses and networking on green finance set up by businesses and policy makers," Verspeek said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 09/20/2013

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INDIA: Committed to Tobacco Free Society

 

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India is committed to a tobacco-free society and emphasised on providing alternative livelihood to those engaged in tobacco farming or manufacture. The prime minister said India recently banned the sale of gutkha, a widely consumed form of chewing tobacco. "India is firmly committed to the vision of a tobacco free society," the prime minister said in a recorded message at the International Conference on Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century. "As we act with conviction and commitment to eliminate tobacco as a threat to human health, we must also assist those engaged in tobacco farming or manufacture, to move towards economically viable alternative livelihood," he said. More than 130 speakers from over 30 countries are participating in the two-day deliberations to discuss ways for tobacco control. India is the second largest consumer of tobacco products in the world and the third largest producer of tobacco. Nearly 275 million people use tobacco in India. Almost 48 percent men and 20 percent women use some form of tobacco. Stating that India faces a unique challenge in its response to the tobacco burden, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said: "There are myriad varieties of tobacco products, both smoking and smokeless forms, which are widely used in India." He said of the nearly 35 percent of Indian adults, who use tobacco, 21 percent used smokeless tobacco products like gutkha, zarda and khaini, which were chewed orally. "India has the highest number of smokeless tobacco users in the world and tobacco causes over 1 million deaths in India annually. "Also, India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world and 90 percent of these are attributable to smokeless tobacco use," he said. K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India, emphasised on levying tax on tobacco industry. "If unchecked, the death toll due to tobacco abuse could claim over a billion lives in the 21st century globally," he said.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 09/12/2013

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SRI LANKA: Govt to Increase Fertilizer Quantity

 

The Government has decided to increase the quantity of fertilizer provided to paddy farmers for the 2013/2014 ‘Maha Season’ by 15 per cent over last year. Fertilizer stocks required for this have currently been stored and are available, the Ministry of Finance and Planning said. The government expects around 700,000 hectares of land to be cultivated for the Maha Season, and the decision to increase fertilizer was taken after considering this fact, the ministry said.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 09/04/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Plans Changes in Social Insurance Deductions

 

Azerbaijan will change the structure of deductions for mandatory state social insurance, chairman of the State Social Protection Fund Salim Muslumov said at a press conference dedicated to improving the basic labor pensions on August 28. The current rate of such deductions is formed from two sources: the deductions made by the employer in the amount of 22 percent of the salary fund of the enterprise, and the deductions worth 3 percent of the employee's wage. "We do not plan to change the deduction rates for social insurance," Muslumov said. "The changes will be made within the rate. Currently it makes up 25 percent under the "22+3" scheme, while we proposed to change the scheme to "18+7". Thus, it is assumed that the individual part of this rate for employees will increase from 3 to 7 percent, and the employer will pay 18 percent out of the salary fund." According to Muslumov, a similar process is underway in European countries and the CIS. "The share of the funds paid out of wages increases and the liability of employers decreases. In European countries the popular scheme "50/50" is being used: if the tariff is set at 20 percent, 10 percent is paid by the employer and the other 10 percent by the employee. Moreover, increasing the share of employees in the rate of social security deductions is provided for in a relevant state program," Muslumov said. According to him, the structure of the social tax may be changed later this year, and in the event of difficulties this could happen in early 2014. The State Social Protection Fund is the central executive body administering mandatory state social insurance and labor pensions in Azerbaijan. In its activity the Fund is guided by the Constitution, the laws of the Azerbaijan Republic, decrees and orders of the President, resolutions and orders of the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as international agreements joined by Azerbaijan.

From http://www.azernews.az/  08/30/2013

 

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Azerbaijan to Map Out Its Solar and Wind Capacity

 

Azerbaijan is set to ramp up its renewable energy capacities. The government has instructed the Institute of Geography (IG) at the National Academy of Sciences to draw up the country’s solar and wind power maps by July next year.  "This is a new initiative of the government shows it is striving to focus more on renewables development in the country. Green energy has been a buzz word recently, and there is recognition that Azerbaijan cannot fall behind other countries, especially those in the region," Ramiz Maxmud Ogly Mamedov, the IG interim director, told pv magazine.  The IG scientists, he says, have already been dispatched to the country’s various regions for assessment of solar and wind capacities, as well as atmospheric conditions and relief.  "We’ve tasked them with finding out where the solar insulation is the highest, lower and lowest, as well as evaluating other optical conditions of the atmosphere. The ultimate goal is assessing the entire territory as to solar and wind power potential. This will help encourage renewable energy installations," Mamedov said.  The $30 000 project is being financed by UNESCO.  The current renewable energy production is approximately 3 – 4% of total energy production, according to Mamedov.  To boost the renewable energy sector, Azerbaijani government has founded the State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources (SAARES) at the beginning of the year.  To ensure its independence, the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev has eliminated a state-owned company on alternative and renewable energy sources, AREA, from partaking in the SAARES.  By 2020 the Azerbaijan government plans to increase its share of renewable energy sources to 9.7% of its total energy consumption.

From http://www.pv-magazine.com/ 08/30/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: Alternative Medicine Tries to Fill Healthcare Gap

 

Outside Aslan Arlozorov’s cottage in suburban Bishkek three people discuss their ailments as they wait in line. One has asthma; a second has a stomach ulcer; a third, cancer of the liver. The last patient is turning to Arlozorov, a practitioner of herbal medicine, or a “travnik,” out of desperation. But the other two have not seen a regular doctor in years and have been consulting Arlozorov routinely for a decade. “My father was a travnik. When I was in the first grade I knew 35 plants by their names and curative properties,” said Arlozorov. “Now I know 441. Many doctors refer their patients to me.” As Kyrgyzstan’s healthcare system experienced a steep decline after the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991, the use of alternative medicine – any treatment viewed as unorthodox by the medical establishment – gained popularity. According to research published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a quarter of Kyrgyz citizens now rely on alternative approaches to treat any of 10 common symptoms ranging from coughs to lumps under the skin, the highest proportion in the eight post-Soviet countries surveyed. Doctors working in Kyrgyzstan’s predominantly state-run health sector attest to this tendency, and worry that it handicaps their ability to treat serious diseases. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these so-called healers sprang up like mushrooms after a rainstorm,” said Suyumjan Mukeeva, director of the Association of Family Doctors, a professional lobby in Bishkek. “A person in the village goes to one of them with first-stage cancer and they are told they have an ‘evil eye.’ By the time it becomes fourth-stage cancer, it is too late for the [health] system to cure them,” said Mukeeva.

 

At the same time, she acknowledged that patients in some of Kyrgyzstan’s regions lack “physical access” to qualified doctors. A shortage of specialists and doubts about the quality of prescription drugs have encouraged Kyrgyz citizens to explore alternative cures. Observers also attribute the popularity of alternative medicine to the persistence of shamanist beliefs in this nominally Muslim country. Alongside listings for used furniture and plumbers, the pages of Vechernii Bishkek, a popular Russian-language newspaper, are full of classified advertisements for witch doctors who claim to have the power to “remove” a patient’s “evil eye” – an ancient concept that explains bad luck -- as well as cure common ailments such as chronic back pain. Arlozorov, whose bookshelves bend under the weight of texts on botany, homeopathy and Chinese medicine, and who treks into Kyrgyzstan’s flora-rich countryside every week to gather ingredients for his remedies, draws a distinction between his work and the shamanistic practices of folk doctors in the country’s regions. “That man, who came to me with cancer of the liver – perhaps I can’t cure him. But I can help him as much as his regular doctor,” Arlozorov told EurasiaNet.org. “The liver has 570 distinct functions. My remedies will enable some of them to work more effectively.” Arlozorov claims that his patients fear Western pharmaceutical companies use Kyrgyzstan as a laboratory, “testing” their medicines. Such fears help his business, he admits, though he declined to discuss his income. Attempts by the government to regulate alternative medicine have been unsuccessful, says Mukeeva, the doctor. A spokesperson for the Health Ministry told EurasiaNet.org that the government “could not endorse” non-orthodox medical practices, “since they are too diverse, and there are some forms of so-called treatment that cause more harm than good.” Perhaps Kyrgyzstan’s most famous practitioner of alternative medicine is Jenishbek Nazaraliev, a trained psychotherapist, whose private clinic in downtown Bishkek, the Doctor Nazaraliev Medical Center, treats drug addicts from the United States and Europe as well as former Soviet states.

 

By combining “classical medical approaches to psychological and physiological healing” with techniques sourced from paganism, Sufism and other world religions, Nazaraliev has built an international reputation as an expert in curing addiction. Nazaraliev believes his early experiments with alternative psychotherapy for alcoholics, televised during the late 1980s, unwittingly “gave impetus” to a shamanist revival among the historically nomadic Kyrgyz, and branded him a witch doctor among those unfamiliar with his methods. “Even the current president [Almazbek Atambayev] thinks I’m a shaman,” complained Nazaraliev, who launched a short-lived political career on the back of his clinic’s success. “When we were [presidential] candidates in the 2009 elections, he accused me of turning him into a zombie!” Nazaraliev believes that alternative and orthodox medicinal treatments can be jointly used in areas other than drug rehabilitation. But Kyrgyzstan’s “intellectual deficit” – characterized by the loss of “95 percent of our medical specialists” to emigration and old age since independence – prevents any sort of “synthesized approach” to patient care, he added. A lack of coordination also plagues Kyrgyzstan’s practitioners of alternative medicine. “Now one person works with salt, another with plants, another with mud, and some cast spells. Everything is piecemeal. As a country we lack unified systems for treating patients,” he told EurasiaNet.org.

From http://www.eurasianet.org/ 08/28/2013

 

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Kyrgyzstan Lifts Bubonic Plague Quarantines

 

Kyrgyzstan fully stopped quarantines for bubonic plaque in the Issik-Kul Oblast of the country, Interfax.ru reported on Thursday. The centre of the illness has been localized. The quarantine was imposed in the end of August because of the death of a fifteen year old boy. At the moment, there are four people, that had contact with the dead boy in medical centers, but the there is no suspicion that they are unwell.

From http://en.trend.az/ 09/05/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: First Central Asia CIO Summit Kicks Off

 

The first Central Asia CIO Summit, organized by IDC, kicked off in Kazakhstan's Rixos Borovoe hotel on September 5. Building on 5 years of successful IDC CIO Summits in the Middle East and Africa, IDC is now launching its CIO Summit Series in Central Asia. The Central Asia CIO Summit, which is being held in Kazakhstan on September 5 - 6, is the most important ICT event in Central Asia in 2013. It brings together more than 80 ICT directors from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The event draws leading ICT companies. "Today the organizations enter new round of their development with the use of innovative technologies, approach to business method and management of various processes, by using better 'clouds', mobile technologies, social networks and 'big data'. Now it is very important to stay in know of recent developments and global trends in order to understand how it will affect the information technologies in the organization and thus, its further activity," regional director of IDC Andrei Beklemishev said. According to him, it is very important for being ahead of not only local, but also regional as well as global competitors. Such topics as business intelligence, data management, cost optimization and cost management, and IT management are being discussed at the event. Executive Vice President of IDC International Business Units Philippe de Marcillac, IDC Senior Vice President Steven Frantzen, IDC Vice President Robert Farish, and Vice President and Regional Managing Director of IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, Jyoti Lalchandani, attended the event. The Central Asia CIO Summit is a unique ground for the representatives of various countries to share their projects during the summit sessions, to discuss innovative trends in the IT sphere during panel discussions, to hold individual meetings and to get answers to key IT questions for development of modern companies and organizations. IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community to make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. More than 49 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 09/06/2013

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New Technologies Fund to Be Created in Kazakhstan

 

A new technologies fund, will be established in Kazakhstan, Managing Director and Member of the Board of the Kazakh National Holding Baiterek Kanysh Tuleushin said on Friday, Novosti-Kazakhstan reported. "We are now working on creation of the new technologies fund. The fund will focus on investment activities," Tuleushin said at Innovation Decade Forum. In particular, this new fund and National Agency for Technological Development will invest in innovative projects and venture funds. "The main part of its funds will be attracted from private capital," Tuleushin said. The Fund will focus on financing of the major investment projects implemented by Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University and the innovative technology park as well as technology centers around the world.

From http://en.trend.az/ 09/20/2013

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TAJIKISTAN: Applies Lessons Learnt to Improve National Pandemic Preparedness

 

Recent infectious disease outbreaks, including the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in 2009, have demonstrated that some countries are not ready to confront a full-fledged pandemic. Following WHO recommendations, Tajikistan used the lessons learnt during the 2009 pandemic to revise the country’s National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan and improve the national preparedness and response to acute respiratory infections.  Working with the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance Service of the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan, WHO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) contributed to this effort through the German Pandemic Preparedness Initiative (PPI). Revision of the Plan involved collaboration between an inter-ministerial working group and WHO and UNICEF experts. Further joint activities to facilitate implementation of the Plan included a training course and a simulation exercise.  Implementation A four-day training on implementation of the National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan at subnational level was organized 27 February to 2 March 2013 for heads of State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance Centres (SSESC), heads of hospitals and heads of primary health care facilities from the four regions of Tajikistan plus Dushanbe-city, as well as experts from the institutions involved in the National Antiepidemic Task Force (scientific institution and laboratory). The training helped participants prioritize components of the plan, perform gap analyses and consider operational steps. Among the topics discussed were risk assessment, risk communication, health services planning, effective use of resources, the infectious disease epidemiological situatuation and possible threats.  After the training, a simulation exercise was held allowing stakeholders to practice responding to a theoretical outbreak. The simulation helped to test the practicability of the plan and fed back into the planning process in Tajikistan.  Ongoing support WHO continues to support implementation of the Plan and to strengthen national and regional capacities to detect and respond to outbreaks of severe acute respiratory infections. A mission to further strengthen national and regional outbreak response capacities and pandemic plan implementation will take place in October 2013.

From http://www.euro.who.int/ 09/04/2013

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Foreign Direct Investment Very Important to Pacific Island Countries

 

South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Chief Executive Officer, Ilisoni Vuidreketi says that foreign direct investment is very important to Pacific Island Countries. Vuidreketi was speaking at the opening of the two day workshop at the Hexagon International Resort in Nadi, Fiji on the 2nd Regional Training on Investment Promotion Tools and Techniques which has brought together 16 National Tourism Officers from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshalls, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. “Tourism has grown to become the most important industry in Pacific Island Countries, in terms of its contribution to foreign exchange earnings, employment and sustainable economic development of our economies,” said Vuidreketi. He said that developing countries around the world work hard to attract more foreign direct investment. “Direct and aggressive campaigning for investment projects is needed. Any country that believes it is not in competition with other countries for footloose global capital which find it left behind.” The SPTO CEO says the aim of this workshop is to share ideas and knowledge of maximizing the foreign direct investment on the ground in the various island countries.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 09/23/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Fighting Crime with “World-First” Facial Recognition Technology

 

In a project being canvassed as a “world-first,” the University of Queensland is developing facial recognition technology that enables smart phone and tablet consumers to use their face as a “password” for credit card transactions and on-line banking. This facial recognition technology is also showcased at FutureGov Forum Queensland being held 17th September in Brisbane. It helps map the face with more precision, while using a single photo for different settings. This project is being led by Professor Brian Lovell, Director of Engineering Programmes at the University of Queensland (UQ), School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering. Professor Lovell notes that banking passwords and PIN numbers can be easily forgotten or stolen. These gaps potentially breach security at all levels of transactions. UQ researchers hope to tackle security concerns with facial recognition software, to be prototyped within a year. Plans are under-way to also commercialise this technology for on-line banking and shopping. Future apps incorporate airports, and other high-traffic places.

 

Face in the crowd

A smile, frown or bad hair day is often enough to stump even the best face recognition systems in busy public areas, says Professor Lovell. The UQ software offers the ability to identify faces in “real-time.” This identification is possible under different lighting conditions. Built-in precision helps map different facial expressions, such as smiles and frowns. “There are many systems out there,” observes Professor Lovell. “But their typical failing is that they work in a lab, but don’t scale well to crowded airports and train stations.”

 

Single photo features

The UQ’s “claim to fame” with its technology is the ability to slot in a single photo. This single photo then recognises the same person, under different lighting and facial expressions. “If you take a reasonably good photo of a person, it would recognise them even if half the face was in shadow,” adds Professor Lovell. The UQ software, developed by PhD students over five years, has been trialled successfully on still images and video. This software is being enhanced to recognise several faces at a time, and from different angles. This means people do not have to stand straight-on to the camera for “mug shots.”

 

Apps for airports and public places

Australian passport photo guidelines insist on closed mouths in pictures because the system is sensitive to photos showing teeth. The UQ system is more robust and can detect faces, whatever the expression. The UQ software, when fully commercialised can be installed at airports, shopping centres, or other public places. This offering will help identify threats in public spaces, also ensuring appearances are no longer deceptive to face recognition software. Identity management under the spotlight at FutureGov Forum Queensland during a session featuring the University of Queensland and Australia Post.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/04/2013

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New Australian Government “Open for Business”

 

Australian Prime Minister Hon Tony Abbott says his administration is now “open for business,” while seeking closer ties with the private sector. With a new cabinet to be announced next week, the federal AU$6 billion spending programme also comes up for closer scrutiny. Plans involve including private sector advisers on a new ICT advisory board. Among the developments, the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Australian Government Information Management Office are expected to conduct an audit of ICT spend over the last three years. Earlier, the Coalition outlined its ICT Action Plan. This plan lays the foundations for procurement reforms, and technologies-of-choice at the federal level.

 

Big data strategy

The Coalition’s ICT agenda involves a review and finalisation of a big data strategy during 2013-2014. This strategy focuses on improving the quality of data. The reach of the government’s Data.gov.au is also expected to be expanded. Plans involve improving the quality of data to open up information access, and deliver services, as and when needed. Three designated agencies with high-volume transactions will trial next-generation tele-presence services. This incorporates web-browsing capabilities, in real-time.

 

Secure cloud services

Plans to migrate secure government data to the cloud are preceded by a series of trials. These trials test the viability of hosted data centre services, while tackling privacy and data sovereignty concerns. Under steps to create a digitally networked economy, the administration is exploring common standards that enable public and private sector stakeholders to “speak the same language.” These standards lay the groundwork for internationally-accepted communications protocols.

 

Mobile communications

A 2015 timeline involves a closer look at mobile services. Agencies will report on services that are not available using mobile communications channels, while opening up access to mobile services. By 2017, more correspondence will go digital, together with hard copy documents as back-up. Moreover, government interactions that reach 50,000 a year will go online. An opt-in option is available for citizens and businesses that want access to secure digital mailboxes.

 

Compact with business

A new “compact with business” sees the Coalition offering business a “seat at the table.” Policy planners will take a different strategy to building, and nurturing relationships with the business community. Moves are under-way to strengthen engagement with the Asian region. This enhances business opportunities, and broadens the focus beyond mining to include agriculture and services. Educational ties are being expanded with the Asian region, while boosting Asian language studies in schools. Government financial management reforms come under the spotlight at the GovCFO Forum Australia 2013 being held Monday 2 December in Canberra.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/10/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: Improving Health Care Delivery with New Patient Identification System

 

Since the new National Health Index (NHI) system was rolled out in May, about 35 healthcare organisations, who’ve worked closely with the Ministry of Health during its pilot trial, said they experienced significant improvements in the quality of patient care delivery. The NHI is a unique identifier that is assigned to every person who uses health and disability support services in New Zealand. It is stored on the NHI system along with the person’s demographic details. The new NHI system replaces a 20 years old version that had become increasingly difficult to update and maintain. Through the new system, individuals’ details are checked 80,000 times a day to ensure they are up-to-date and accurate. Since its launch the Ministry of Health has seen a reduction in the number of duplicate NHI numbers created and improvements in data quality, availability and response times. “Having accurate information about patients is critical to ensure the right health information is matched to the right person,” said Health Minister Tony Ryall.

 

“This can make a real difference to patient care. For example, if a 45-year-old woman is admitted to hospital with an infection, clinical staff can quickly and accurately identify her from anyone else with the same name and immediately view a medical warning that she is allergic to penicillin.” Each day the NHI database processes around 380,000 transactions by authorised health professionals and support staff. These include identifying a patient correctly so they can receive hospital treatment or updating addresses to send reminders to women who are due for a mammogram.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 08/30/2013

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New Zealand Building Shared Online Engagement Service

 

New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is building a new Government Online Engagement Service (GOES) in order to improve efficiency of the government’s interactions with citizens and stakeholders to inform policy and decision-making processes. The GOES will be a shared online engagement service that standardises and automates key elements of engagement management, communication and contribution analysis, allowing agencies to identify appropriate engagement methods and share expertise on digital engagement practices. Nadia Webster, Senior Advisor for Government Information Services at DIA, says, “Many New Zealand public agencies have begun experimenting with online channels for engagement. However, the approach so far has largely been to replicate paper-based processes such as posting downloadable PDF discussion documents and request formal written submissions by email.” Webster added that due to the lack of a single comprehensive online consultation and engagement service for the New Zealand Government, agencies are duplicating investment in digital engagement channels and have disproportionate access to online engagement expertise.

 

Moreover, more New Zealanders are now seeking user-friendly public services online as FutureGov wrote about here. The Kiwis Count Channels Report 2013 found that the internet is the preferred channel for citizens looking for information on or dealing with public services. The New Zealand Government’s strategic thinking emphasises user-centric service and information delivery, sharing solutions, reusing common technology and delivering better services at low cost. It has also committed to providing more open and transparent governance. Addressing this situation, DIA formed a cross-agency working group to build a service vision for creating a shared approach to online engagement and improving the efficiency of the government’s use of the digital channel for communication and information exchange. “The GOES project aims to provide a single source all-of-government online engagement service that assists agencies with the end-to-end management of the engagement process and improves the service delivery to participants,” said Webster. The project is currently in Phase 1 (August 2013 – January 2014) where DIA has established a ‘Community of Practice’ to gather the knowledge of engagement practitioners to co-create best practice online engagement guidance.

 

It is also outlining the user-centric design of the base GOES platform, (known as Minimal Viable Product or MVP GOES platform). DIA is currently securing commitment from key agencies to GOES when it is delivered, as it prepares for Phases 2 and 3, where they will build the MVP GOES platform. It will undergo several rounds of launching and refining based on user feedback, before deciding the product roadmap and future steps.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 09/05/2013

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Electricity Information 2013 - with 2012 Data: Developments and Trends

 

Electricity Information 2013 provides a comprehensive review of historical and current market trends in the OECD electricity sector, including 2012 preliminary data. An introduction, notes, definitions and auxiliary information are provided in Part I. Part II of the publication provides an overview of the world electricity developments in 2011, covering world electricity and heat production, input fuel mix, supply and consumption, and electricity imports and exports. A greater focus is given to the 34 OECD countries with more detailed information covering production, installed capacity, input energy mix to electricity and heat production, consumption, electricity trades, input fuel prices and end-user electricity prices. Part III of the publication provides a corresponding statistical overview of developments in the world and OECD electricity and heat market for 2011, as well as monthly OECD production and trade electricity data for 2012. Part IV provides, in tabular form, detailed and comprehensive statistical coverage of the power and heat industry developments for each of the OECD member countries and for OECD and IEA regional aggregates. It provides comprehensive statistical details on overall energy consumption, economic indicators, electricity and heat production by energy form and plant type, electricity imports and exports, sectoral energy and electricity consumption as well as prices for electricity and electricity input fuels for each country and regional aggregate.

From http://www.researchandmarkets.com/ 08/23/2013

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Advanced Economies Growing Again but Some Emerging Economies Slowing, Says OECD

 

A moderate recovery is underway in the major advanced economies, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Assessment.  Growth is proceeding at encouraging rates in North America, Japan and the UK. The euro area as a whole is out of recession, although output remains weak in a number of countries. Growth has slowed in some of the large emerging economies, however. One factor has been a rise in global bond yields – triggered in part by an expected scaling back of the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing  –  which has fuelled market instability and capital outflows in a number of major emerging  economies, such as India and Indonesia. Since they now account for a large share of the world economy, the slowdown in the emerging economies points to sluggish near-term growth globally, despite the pick-up in the advanced economies. Economic growth in the major advanced economies is expected to continue at a similar pace in the second half of 2013 as in the second quarter.  In the three largest OECD economies, the US, Japan and Germany, activity is expected to expand by about 2 ½ per cent annualised in the third andfourth quarters. France is forecast to grow by about 1½ per cent annualised in the second half of the year, while in Italy growth is expected to remain mildly negative.

 

GDP growth in China is forecast to pick up to about 8% by the final quarter, after a slowdown in the first half of 2013. Even that would represent a slower rate than in recent years, however.

Presenting the Assessment in Paris, OECD Deputy Chief Economist Jorgen Elmeskov said: “The gradual pick-up in momentum in the advanced economies is encouraging but a sustainable recovery is not yet firmly established. Major risks remain. The euro area is still vulnerable to renewed financial markets, banking and sovereign debt tensions. High levels of debt in some emerging markets have increased their vulnerability to financial shocks. And a renewal of brinksmanship over fiscal policy in the US could weaken confidence and trigger new episodes of financial turmoil. ” He added: “Continued support for demand is still needed to make sure recovery takes hold, and it remains vital that this be complemented by structural reforms to boost growth, rebalance the global economy and avoid a ratcheting-up of structural unemployment.”

 

Tackling high unemployment is crucial and must be a key focus of government action, says the OECD. Unemployment rates are around 12 per cent in the euro area and 7½ per cent in the United States, far above pre-crisis levels, and to avoid high rates getting entrenched even as a recovery takes hold governments must implement effective training and activation policies, backed by support for stronger demand. Reforming tax-benefit systems should improve work incentives while targeted measures are needed for vulnerable groups such as jobless young people outside the training and education system. The Interim Economic Assessment says public finances have been improving in most advanced economies, with the exception of Japan, but that fiscal consolidation policies must continue. Such policies need to be better designed, however, to protect the most vulnerable in society, to build public support for necessary structural reforms and to prioritise spending to help get people back to work.  

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/03/2013

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Global 2013 Smartphone Sales to Hit 1 Billion: Survey

 

Global smartphone sales are expected to top one billion in 2013, driven by low-cost handsets and gains in emerging markets, a research firm says. International Data Corp said it sees the smartphone market growing 40% this year, and will likely grow to 1.7 billion annually by 2017. Overall mobile phone sales will grow 7.4%, rebounding from a nearly flat year in 2012, IDC said. Total mobile handset sales are expected to be some 1.8 billion, with more than half of that in the smartphone segment. Smartphone growth is the result of a variety of factors, including steep device subsidies from carriers, especially in mature economic markets, as well as a growing array of sub-$200 smartphones. “Two years ago, the worldwide smartphone market flirted with shipping half a billion units for the first time—to double that in just two years highlights the ubiquity that smartphones have achieved,” said Ramon Llamas, IDC’s mobile research manager. “The smartphone has gone from being a cutting-edge communications tool to becoming an essential component in the everyday lives of billions of consumers.”

 

By 2017, smartphones are expected to take over nearly all sales in the most developed economies, according to IDC’s Kevin Restivo. “Aggressive carrier subsidies of handsets, falling prices, higher consumer awareness, and a vast array of devices will mean almost all phones shipped to the developed world will be ‘smart,’” he said. “However, smartphone shipment volume will be dominated by emerging markets, such as China, even though the percentage of smartphones to feature phones won’t be as high.” Llamas said the Google Android system will remain the top platform, followed by Apple’s iOS. “What remains to be seen is how Windows Phone and BlackBerry’s respective futures will play out pending their recent announcements,” said Llamas. “Windows Phone has inched ahead of BlackBerry during the first half of 2013, and we believe that will extend into the future. However, overall shipments will continue to trail those of Android and iOS.”

 

The IDC forecast indicates Windows Phone market share will increase to 10.2% by 2017 from 3.9% this year, while Android’s share will slip to 68% from this year’s 75%. Apple meanwhile is expected to see modest gains to 17.9% from 16.9%, IDC said. A Kantar Worldpanel ComTech report released Wednesday indicated that Android still dominated the U.S. market despite its share slipping more than 7% to 51.1% in the second quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS grew nearly eight percent to claim 43.4% of the U.S. market, according to Kantar. “However, with Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia, we may see a larger proportion of consumers choosing a Windows device over iOS or Android, replicating the strength seen in Europe and Mexico,” Kantar said in its report.

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 09/06/2013

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Global Value Chains Offer Major Opportunity for Growth and Progress in Advanced and Developing Economies, According to OECD-WTO-UNCTAD Report to G20

 

Global value chains (GVCs) have become a dominant feature of world trade and investment, offering new prospects for growth, development and jobs, according to a new joint report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Effective participation in GVCs will require significant further investment in technology dissemination, skill building and upgrading, the report says. Implication of Global Value Chains for Trade, Investment, Development and Jobs, presented to Leaders at the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg on 5-6 September 2013, argues that success in international markets depends as much on the capacity to import high-quality inputs as on the capacity to export: intermediate inputs account for over two-thirds of the goods and 70% of the services traded worldwide. The report says action is needed now to implement an effective framework for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, in which all countries could reap benefits.

 

The new report outlines how both the costs of trade and investment protectionism and the benefits of multilateral opening in agriculture, manufacturing and services are much higher in today’s highly interconnected world than previously thought. Practical trade facilitation reforms, such as those being negotiated at the WTO today, offer significant potential to reduce trade costs and improve countries’ ability to participate in GVCs. Trade facilitation is about easing access to the global marketplace and doing away with the complicated border crossing procedures and excess red tape that raise costs, which ultimately fall on businesses, consumers and our economies. “GVCs can magnify the benefits of open markets for trade and investment; but in order to reap the benefits for all countries we need to advance structural, innovation and skills policies,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “A 1%  reduction in the cost of global trade alone would boost income by over USD 40 billion, mainly to the benefit of developing countries,” Mr. Gurria said (Read the full speech).

 

Open, transparent and predictable trade and investment policies need a range of flanking policies to ensure benefits from GVCs are inclusive and widespread. In some developing economies, particularly the less developed, there remains much work to be done to address specific obstacles to effective participation in GVCs. Aid for trade initiatives and trade facilitation can play an important role in supporting the efforts of those economies.  "This report helps policymakers to examine with greater clarity the opportunities and challenges associated with the phenomenon of Global Value Chains. Global Value Chains are undeniably an important component of the globalization process of today," said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo. Overcoming obstacles to GVC participation will pay big dividends: developing economies with the fastest growing GVC participation have GDP per capita growth rates 2% above average, according to the report. "Global production chains are a common feature in many industries involving an increasing number of developing countries.  A key challenge is how to generate employment, and upgrade technology and productive capacity in order to maximize development benefits", said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. The new OECD-WTO-UNCTAD report was requested by G20 leaders at their Los Cabos Summit in June 2012, as part of wider efforts to analyse the functioning of GVCs and their relationship with trade and investment flows, development and jobs.  The OECD hosted a G20 stock-taking seminar on GVCs on 29 May 2013 in Paris.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/06/2013

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Connecting to Work: How ICTs Are Expanding Job Opportunities Worldwide

 

When Gopal Maharjan, a young engineering graduate in Nepal, started looking for a job in Kathmandu he did not get a great response. Then he heard about online jobs with CloudFactory, a “microwork” platform. He and some friends formed a group and applied online. They were accepted and given part-time jobs doing work such as digitizing old, hand-written data, tracking supermarket receipts, or even medical transcription. The group meets regularly with CloudFactory staff to share questions about their work and learn. “Economically, this job is a lot of help,” says Gopal. “Now I don’t have to feel odd in front of my friends who are working, as I have a source of income as well. My family is also very supportive of the job, as they feel that I am being productive and not wasting my time.” Across the globe, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are transforming the world of work, creating new job opportunities and making labor markets more innovative, inclusive, and global. 

 

According to a new World Bank policy note, “Connecting to Work: How Information and Communication Technologies Could Help Expand Employment Opportunities,” three trends are driving the increase in ICT-related jobs worldwide: 

•Greater connectivity – more than 120 countries now have over 80 percent market penetration of mobile telephones.

•Digitization of more aspects of work – today, telecommuting and outsourcing have become standard business practices globally.

•More globalized skills – India and the Philippines have become major outsourcing hubs thanks to their English language skills, and other countries are targeting the sector for future growth.

 

“ICTs are influencing employment both as an industry that creates jobs and as a tool that empowers workers to access new forms of work, in new and more flexible ways,” says Chris Vein, World Bank Chief Innovation Officer for Global ICT Development. “The emerging ICT-enabled employment opportunities matter because countries around the world are looking to create more good jobs, which have positive economic and social implications for workers and for society.”  ICTs are providing new avenues for job creation that could help tackle global unemployment. Take the mobile phone applications industry: A firm that provides a digital application to the Apple app store, for example, gains access to over 500 million app store account holders. ICTs connect people to jobs.  Online employment marketplaces are helping an estimated 12 million people worldwide find work by connecting them with employers globally. Babajob in India, Duma and M-Kazi in Kenya, and Souktel in the Middle East and North Africa are examples of job search services using internet-based and mobile tools. Such services are making labor markets more inclusive; for instance, Souktel targets low-income communities.

 

ICTs also enable new, more flexible forms of employment and work: 

•Online contracting uses ICT to increase access to work opportunities worldwide, mainly for smaller employers.  Popular services include oDesk and Elance. In 2012, about 2.5 million jobs were posted on these services, for tasks ranging from writing to customer service to software development.

•Microwork platforms like CloudFactory, MobileWorks or Samasource break down large business processes into smaller discrete tasks – such as data entry and verification, copy-writing, or graphic design – and distribute them to workers across geographic boundaries. Analysts suggest the market size is about US$1 billion today and could grow to US$5 billion by 2018.

 

ICTs create opportunities, but also pose new challenges for workers and employers. Many ICT-enabled jobs are temporary or contract-based, for example, leading to a separation of work from social safety nets such as health insurance or pensions. But, for young people especially, they offer a way into more formal careers, as well as providing a supplementary income. “The potential gains from ICT-enabled work are not without risks and challenges, but the implications of ICT for work are inevitable and will benefit those students, workers, firms, and governments who prepare for them,” explains Siddhartha Raja, World Bank ICT Policy Specialist and lead author of the policy note.  

 

To maximize the positive impact of ICTs on employment, the note recommends that policymakers pay attention to five enabling systems, adapting the mix as needed to the country context: 

•Human capital systems: A labor pool with appropriate ICT skills, and the awareness and soft skills that give competitive advantage in the labor market.

•Infrastructure systems: Ubiquitous connectivity to ICT; access to electricity and transport; infrastructure to support innovation and adoption of technology by SMEs.

•Social systems: Networks of trust and recognition for workers and employers, social safety nets, and measures to minimize possible negative outcomes of ICT-enabled employment.

•Financial systems: Efficient and accountable systems to ensure timely payments; and access to finance to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

•Regulatory systems: An enabling environment that creates employment opportunities and increases labor market flexibility while protecting the rights of workers.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/10/2013

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ICTs Are Creating New Jobs and Making Labor Markets More Innovative, Inclusive, and Global – World Bank Study

 

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are transforming the world of work, creating new job opportunities and making labor markets more innovative, inclusive, and global, says a new policy note released today by the World Bank. “ICTs are influencing employment both as an industry that creates jobs and as a tool that empowers workers to access new forms of work, in new and more flexible ways,” said Chris Vein, World Bank Chief Innovation Officer for Global ICT Development. “The emerging ICT-enabled employment opportunities matter because countries around the world are looking to create more good jobs, which have positive economic and social implications for workers and for society.”

 

The new policy note, “Connecting to Work:  How Information and Communication Technologies Could Help Expand Employment Opportunities,” identifies three global drivers responsible for the increase in ICT-related jobs worldwide: 

•Greater connectivity – more than 120 countries now have over 80 percent market penetration of mobile telephones

•Digitization of more aspects of work – today, telecommuting and outsourcing have become standard business practices globally

•More globalized skills – India and the Philippines have become major outsourcing hubs thanks to their English language skills, and other countries are targeting the sector for future growth.

 

ICTs are providing new avenues for job creation that could help tackle global unemployment.  For instance, the development of the mobile phone applications industry has created new opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A firm that provides a digital application to the Apple app store, for example, gains access to over 500 million app store account holders. ICTs connect people to jobs.  Online employment marketplaces are helping an estimated 12 million people worldwide find work by connecting them with employers globally.  Babajob in India, Duma and M-Kazi in Kenya, and Souktel in the Middle East and North Africa are examples of job search services using internet-based and mobile tools.  Such services empower workers by making labor markets more transparent and inclusive; for instance, Souktel targets low-income and marginalized communities.

 

ICTs also support innovation that has created new, more flexible forms of employment and work: 

•Online contracting uses ICT to increase access to work opportunities worldwide, mainly for smaller employers.  Popular services include oDesk and Elance.  In 2012, about 2.5 million jobs were posted on these services, for tasks ranging from writing to customer service to software development.

•Microwork platforms break down large business processes into smaller discrete tasks – such as data entry and verification, copy-writing, or graphic design – and distribute them to workers across geographic boundaries.  The platforms include CloudFactory, MobileWorks, and Samasource.  Analysts suggest the market size is about US$1 billion today and could grow to about US$5 billion by 2018.

 

ICTs create opportunities, but also pose new challenges for workers and employers.  By enabling new forms of work, ICT also changes the structure of jobs, the way people develop their career, and the way they work.  Many ICT-enabled jobs are temporary or contract-based, for example, leading to a separation of work from social safety nets such as health insurance or pensions. But, for young people especially, they offer a way into more formal careers, as well as providing a supplementary income. “The potential gains from ICT-enabled work are not without risks and challenges, but the implications of ICT for work are inevitable and will benefit those students, workers, firms, and governments who prepare for them.  Our aim in this note is to help governments consider how they can prepare for these changes and expand ICT-related employment opportunities,” explained Siddhartha Raja, World Bank ICT Policy Specialist and co-author of the policy note.  

 

To maximize the positive impact of ICTs on employment, the note recommends that policymakers pay attention to five enabling systems, adapting the mix as needed to the country context:

•Human capital systems: A labor pool with appropriate ICT skills, and the awareness and soft skills that give competitive advantage in the labor market.

•Infrastructure systems: Ubiquitous connectivity to ICT; access to electricity and transport; infrastructure to support innovation and adoption of technology by SMEs.•Social systems: Networks of trust and recognition for workers and employers, social safety nets, and measures to minimize possible negative outcomes of ICT-enabled employment.•Financial systems: Efficient and accountable systems to ensure timely payments; and access to finance to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

•Regulatory systems: An enabling environment that creates employment opportunities and increases labor market flexibility while protecting the rights of workers.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/10/2013

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Applicable Research Key to Development

 

World Bank research plays an increasingly important role in development, as the institution works closely with stakeholders around the world to build long-term infrastructure and social safety nets amid economic shocks. “It’s all about evidence, evidence, evidence,” said Mahmoud Mohieldin, special envoy for the president of the World Bank. “What works? What doesn’t work? What are the preconditions for success?” With data and research supporting a sustainable, long-term infrastructure, it’s much easier to convince Bank clients to take steps to promote long-term growth and avoid the rush to focus on short-term fixes, he said. “And the World Bank will be even more in demand than ever to provide support and manage risk.” The Bank’s Global Financial Development Report, for example, covers timely topics, such as microfinance and financial inclusion, with policy-relevant metrics and country-by-country data, he said. Those quantifiable goals, much like President Jim Yong Kim’s goals to end poverty and boost shared prosperity, make progress more likely. “If you can’t measure it, you won’t be able to manage it.”

 

Mohieldin, who holds a doctorate in economics and now advises President Kim on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda, financial development and the G20, delved deep into World Bank research during his one-week visit in August at the Development Research Group, the Bank’s research department. He held in-depth discussions with researchers working on a wide range of topics, such as long-term financial development, household survey data, energy, trade, and the political economy. He also met with staff in charge of Open Data at the Development Prospects Group. He said he will continue the dialogue with researchers and data experts on evidence-based policy solutions. By spending time with both researchers and practitioners, the visit provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the political economy of reforms, bridging the Bank’s strongest theoretical and policy research and actual cases where change was supported on the ground in Latin America and Africa. It was an opportunity to further discuss proposals for long term finance,  infrastructure, new measures of poverty and well-being, and frontier issues such as those to be treated in the upcoming WDR on the Behavioral and Social Foundations of Development.

 

Mohieldin’s visit is part of the Development Economics Vice Presidency’s Visiting Experts Program, which aims to foster knowledge sharing between researchers and staff from the rest of the Bank. A dozen experts, including country directors, program managers and regional consultants, are spending between one week and six months at the research department this fiscal year. “Dr. Mohieldin has deep experience in government, academia and international consensus building, and he also has been a staunch supporter of World Bank research,” said Asli Demirguc-Kunt, the World Bank’s director of research. “Our researchers learn a great deal from interacting with him and other field experts, and we look forward to long-term collaborations.” Since joining the Bank, first as managing director, Mohieldin has worked closely with Senior Vice Presidents and Chief Economists Justin Lin and Kaushik Basu, Demirguc-Kunt and others to put research into policy across the Bank.

 

As co-chair of the president’s Financial Development Council, he was an advocate for the inaugural Global Financial Development Report, “Rethinking the Role of the State in Finance,” a joint product by the Development Economics Vice Presidency and the Financial and Private Sector Development Network. He chaired the bank-wide review meetings and discussed it with executive directors and other stakeholders. The second volume, which will be released in November, focuses on financial inclusion, a priority of the G-20 countries. He is also participating in discussions of the concept note for the third annual report, on long-term finance. “All these are important topics for research – the debate side – and also for practical implications and suggestions – the policy-making side,” Mohieldin said. The research department’s strength, he said, is that “you know how to use analytical tools for problem-solving.”

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/11/2013

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GAFSP Set to Reach More Than 10 Million Farmers Across 25 Countries

 

Partners in the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multi-donor trust fund established in 2010 to improve food security in the world’s poorest countries, today announced the allocation of $254.5 million in grants to eight countries.  The grants will support country-led initiatives to increase agricultural productivity, improve food and nutrition security, and reduce poverty in Burkina Faso, Honduras, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Nicaragua, Uganda, Yemen, and Zambia. International food prices have spiked three times in the last five years.  With the outlook for future food pries uncertain, GAFSP seeks to improve food security and reduce poverty by delivering targeted financing for the agriculture sector in low-income countries. It takes up where emergency and recovery assistance leaves off, targeting transformative and lasting long-term development. "Canada is proud that its investment of more than $250 million since 2010 has made a significant contribution to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program's efforts to secure positive results in developing countries such as increased agricultural productivity, strengthened links between farmers and markets, and enhanced technical capacity of institutions to develop agricultural policies,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development. “Increasing food security is one of Canada’s priority international development themes and we are pleased to be part of this global partnership which promotes sustainable, country-led solutions to strengthen agriculture as a pathway to prosperity.”

 

Including these new allocations, GAFSP has allocated $912 million to 25 countries and expects to improve the incomes and food security of over 10 million beneficiaries, mainly smallholder farmers and their families. The program is already having a large impact on the ground. For example,  in Sierra Leone, where the agriculture sector contributes 40 percent to GDP, GAFSP support has already worked to rehabilitate 1,300 hectares of inland valley swamps and to increase access to rural financial services including creating 15 Financial Services Association and 4 community banks. “GAFSP provides merit-based financing that consistently produces high impact, sustainable results, focused on smallholder farmers in poor communities,” said Lael Brainard, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs. “It’s no surprise that demand for GAFSP's targeted assistance remains high, as evidenced by the record number of well-developed programs received this round. Given the importance of global food security, the United States is proud to support this innovative and successful program, and we ask that other nations increase their investment in GAFSP."

 

The Steering Committee allocated new funds to the following country proposals:

•In Burkina Faso, GAFSP funds totaling $37.1 million will increase agricultural production in the cereal, horticulture, livestock, and fish value chains in three food deficit regions.

•In Honduras, GAFSP funds totaling $30.0 million to improve food security, under-nutrition and rural poverty in the most vulnerable area in Central America.

•GAFSP has allocated an additional $21.5 million to the current GAFSP project in the Kyrgyz Republic. The funds will support the ongoing project rehabilitating irrigation and drainage systems, building the capacity of water user associations, and promoting a nutritional component.  

•In Mali, GAFSP funds totaling $37.2 million to support water control, improve farm productivity, and build capacity for local authorities and farmer organizations.

•In Nicaragua, GAFSP funds totaling $33.9 million will focus on small producers, ethnic minorities, and value chains with growth potential in the impoverished Caribbean coast region of Nicaragua.

•In Uganda, GAFSP funds totaling $27.6 million will support the government to link agriculture, nutrition, health and education through school-based demonstration gardens, nutrition education, and small gardens.

•In Yemen, GAFSP funds totaling $36 million will strengthen community land and water management as well as enhance access to animal health services, higher value crops, and microenterprise.

•In Zambia, GAFSP funds totaling $31.1 million will improve food production, develop value chains, and build capacity in districts with the highest levels of poverty and food insecurity.

 

The successful country proposals were selected by the GAFSP Steering Committee from a very competitive pool of 20 complete proposals. The fund’s Steering Committee is comprised of members from donor and recipient countries, as well as representatives from civil society organizations, supervising entities, and other stakeholders. Successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, a supportive policy environment, and a comprehensive plan for agricultural development. “Smallholders are central players as both actors and beneficiaries in solving the food security problem,” said Uon Sophal, Chair of the Asian Farmers Association. “We are happy that GAFSP is channeling more resources to strengthening smallholder activities and smallholder-owned enterprises.”

 

The countries awarded GASFP funding in previous rounds are: Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Haiti, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Togo. GAFSP was established in the wake of the food price crisis to fund long-term solutions that build resilience, put policies in place to help people cope with price volatility, and help avert future crises. To date, a total of $1.3 billion has been pledged to GAFSP by Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Japan, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with funds going to countries that have strategic, innovative and credible plans already in place to improve agricultural productivity and food security. United States has issued a funding challenge to match an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors up to $475 million from the United States; in order to maximize the pledge, GAFSP needs to raise an additional $575 million from other donors.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/11/2013

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UN: Global Child Deaths Down by Almost Half Since 1990

 

In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide – 18,000 children per day – died before reaching their fifth birthday, according to a new report released today by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division. This is roughly half the number of under-fives who died in 1990, when more than 12 million children died. “This trend is a positive one. Millions of lives have been saved," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.  "And we can do still better. Most of these deaths can be prevented, using simple steps that many countries have already put in place – what we need is a greater sense of urgency.” The leading causes of death among children aged less than five years include pneumonia, prematurity, birth asphyxia, diarrhoea and malaria.  Globally, about 45 per cent of under-five deaths are linked to undernutrition. About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. India (22 per cent) and Nigeria (13 per cent) together account for more than one-third of all deaths of children under the age of five.

 

Newborn children are at particularly high risk

“Care for mother and baby in the first 24 hours of any child’s life is critical for the health and wellbeing of both,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General at WHO.  “Up to half of all newborn deaths occur within the first day.” The lives of most of these babies could be saved if they had access to some basic health-care services. These include skilled care during and after childbirth; inexpensive medicines such as antibiotics; and practices such as skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their newborn babies and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

 

Progress, challenges

While the global average annual rate of reduction in under-five mortality accelerated from 1.2 per cent a year for the period 1990-1995 to 3.9 per cent for 2005-2012, it remains insufficient to reach Millennium Development Goal 4 which aims to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. “Continued investments by countries to strengthen health systems are essential to ensure that all mothers and children can get the affordable, quality care they need to live healthy, productive lives,” said Keith Hansen, Acting Vice President of Human Development at the World Bank Group. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, faces significant challenges as the region with the highest child mortality rates in the world. With a rate of 98 deaths per 1000 live births, a child born in sub-Saharan Africa faces more than 16 times the risk of dying before his or her fifth birthday than a child born in a high-income country. However, sub-Saharan Africa has shown remarkable acceleration in its progress, with the annual rate of reduction in deaths increasing from 0.8 per cent in 1990-1995 to 4.1 per cent in 2005-2012. This is the result of sound government policies, prioritized investments and actions to address the key causes of child mortality and reach even the most difficult to reach populations.

 

Global and national action to improve child health

Both globally and in countries, a series of initiatives are in place aimed at improving access to maternal and child health care, inspired by the United Nations Secretary-General’s widely endorsed Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which aims to save 16 million lives by 2015 through a “continuum of care” approach. As part of this strategy, focus on specific areas is given through:

•A Global Vaccine Action Plan that is working towards universal access to immunization by 2020. Vaccination against preventable diseases is one of most effective country-driven and globally-supported actions, as it currently averts an estimated two to three million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. In 2012, an estimated 83 per cent (111 million) of infants worldwide were vaccinated with three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine.

•Some 176 countries have signed on to A Promise Renewed – the call to action spearheaded by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, together with UNICEF in a global effort to stop children from dying of causes that are easily prevented. 

•The United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children is helping countries improve access to priority medicines such as basic antibiotics and oral rehydration salts.

 

•Earlier this year, WHO and UNICEF joined other partners in establishing a new Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea which aims to end preventable child deaths from these two major killers of under-fives by 2025. The plan promotes practices known to protect children from disease, such as creating a healthy home environment, and measures to ensure that every child has access to proven and appropriate preventive and treatment measures.

•Similarly, partners are working on Every Newborn: a global action plan to end preventable deaths. The aim is to launch this global newborn action plan in May 2014 and provide strategic directions to prevent and manage the most common causes of newborn mortality, which account for around 44 per cent of all under-five mortality.  

 

UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank Group all support the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) global movement in its efforts to collaborate with countries to implement programmes to address poor nutrition at scale with a core focus on empowering women. "Global partnerships to further accelerate the reduction of under-five mortality globally and in sub-Saharan Africa are essential," said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations. "In this regard, it is critical that national governments and development partners redouble efforts through to the end of 2015 and beyond." NOTE: Global estimates of child mortality are challenging to produce because many countries lack complete systems to track vital records.  The estimates released today are based on statistical models and data from a variety of sources, including household surveys and censuses. All the numbers cited here fall within a statistical confidence range. For example, the estimated global number of 6.6 million deaths in 2012 falls within the statistical confidence range from 6.3 to 7.0.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/13/2013

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New Partnership Seeks to Bring Benefits of Open Data to Developing Countries

 

The World Bank has joined forces with the Open Data Institute and the Open Knowledge Foundation in a 3-year project designed to help policy makers and citizens in developing countries understand and exploit the benefits of open data. The project, launched today at the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva, has three objectives: supporting developing countries to plan, execute and run open data initiatives; increasing the use of open data in developing countries; and growing the evidence-base on the impact of open data for development. Amparo Ballivian, Lead Economist at the World Bank said, “Open data has already brought extraordinary benefits to people in rich countries, helping them to understand and improve the world around them. This project will take the benefits of open data to the developing world. It will explore and extend the frontiers of open data and harness its benefits for poverty reduction.” The project will include scoping the state of open data; assessing the readiness of countries to open up – and use – their data; training government officials, other policy makers, and civil society; undertaking research and producing guidelines on the best use of open data; and producing case studies of impact. At this stage all developing countries have an equal chance of participating. 

 

Gavin Starks, CEO of the ODI said, “Open data drives economic growth and spurs innovation, unlocking previously unforeseen benefits for everyday citizens and for society as a whole. This project will enable more countries and citizens to discover solutions to their most pressing challenges. Our partnership with the World Bank and the Open Knowledge Foundation opens up almost limitless possibilities: to share, collaborate and generate value from open data at a global scale. Plus, it aligns entirely with the ODI’s aim to expand into new countries and sectors.” With an initial budget of $1.25m in year one, the three founding organisations are looking for other partners to join them on the project. Interested parties should contact the ODI or Open Knowledge Foundation to find out more. Laura James, CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation said, “Making government, scientific and other data accessible and usable drives positive change across the spectrum: from health to transport, education to entrepreneurship, culture to community. This project will give citizens in developing countries the knowledge they need to campaign for change, and empower them to their hold their governments to account.”

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 09/18/2013

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Support to Agriculture Rising After Hitting Historic Lows, OECD Says

 

Government support for agriculture in the world’s leading farming nations rose during 2012, bucking a long-term downward trend and reversing historic lows recorded in 2011, according to the latest version of an annual OECD report.vPublic support to producers stood at an average one-sixth of gross farm receipts in the 47 countries covered in OECD Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013. The Producer Support Estimate has increased to 17% of gross farm receipts in 2012, compared to 15% in 2011, according to the new analysis. The OECD sees a generalised move away from support directly linked to production, but finds that support that distorts production and trade still represents about half of the total. While OECD countries are increasingly de-linking support from production, emerging markets are relying more on border protection and market price support measures that tax consumers.

 

“With world markets for food and commodities buoyant and higher commodity prices expected to continue, the time is ripe for governments to credibly commit to wide-ranging farm support reform,” said OECD Trade and Agriculture Director Ken Ash. “Meeting the needs of a growing and richer world population requires a shift away from the distorting and wasteful policies of the past towards measures that improve competitiveness, allowing farmers to respond to market signals while  ensuring that much-needed innovation is fully funded,” Mr Ash said. This year’s OECD report examines the state of agricultural policy in 47 countries that account for nearly 80% of global farm output, including seven emerging economies that are major players in food and agriculture markets: Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. It shows that support levels vary widely, both across the OECD countries and across major emerging economies.

 

In the OECD area, support to producers stood at $258.6 billion (EUR 201.2 billion) in 2012. Support represented 19% of farm receipts in the OECD, up from 18% in 2011. The report points to sharp divergences behind these figures, with the countries that offer farmers the highest levels of support recording increases (Japan 56%, Korea 54%, Norway 63% and Switzerland 57%) while relatively low-support countries fell further (Israel 11%, Mexico 12%, United States 7%). Support remained very low in others (Australia 3%, Chile 3%, New Zealand 1%). The European Union mirrored the OECD-wide trend, with farm support rising from 18% to 19% of farm receipts. The June 2013 agreement on EU’s Common Agricultural Policy for the 2014-20 period  does not represent a major departure from either the current orientation or size of farm support in the 28 country bloc.

 

Some emerging economies which are key players in agriculture continued to increase support – in China farm support rose to 17%, in Indonesia it rose to 21%, and in Kazakhstan support reached 15%. Others maintained low levels of support, like Brazil (5%) and South Africa (3%). Some of the sharpest increases in farm support have occurred in countries that have turned their policy focus to self-sufficiency. The OECD sees only weak links between higher self-sufficiency and improved food security, particularly in less developed economies. Access to food would be more effectively improved by reducing poverty and developing safety nets, the report said. Multi-faceted efforts are also needed to increase investment, which would raise domestic production, improve access to imports (and to export markets) and create emergency food reserves.

 

Public investments for the sector overall should receive more attention. Innovation policy is key to improving farm productivity. Investments in research and development, technology transfer, education, and extension and advisory services have high social returns in the long run.  Expenditures on other general services to the farm sector, such as food safety and food quality assurance systems, also contribute to long-term profitability, competitiveness and sustainability. Further de-linking of farm support and production is necessary. Even where a large share of support is now delinked from production, payments tend to be based on past entitlements or on farm area, and as a result favour the largest farms. There is considerable scope to re-orient spending towards specific goals such as those related to low incomes, rural community well- being and environmental sustainability. For further information, see: Agricultural Policy: Monitoring and Evaluation 2013.

From http://www.oecd.org/ 09/18/2013

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Future Development Goals Target an End to Poverty by 2030 – Study

 

Decent jobs, liveable cities, and protection against disasters should become part of a new global blueprint for development that could aim to end poverty by 2030, says a new report co-authored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “The Millennium Development Goals have been a powerful tool for rallying global support around common objectives including poverty reduction,” said Kazu Sakai, Director General of ADB’s Strategy and Policy Department. “The report proposes the inclusion of new goals on zero income poverty and zero hunger and malnutrition by as early as 2030, as part of a broad post-2015 agenda.” With less than 1,000 days remaining until the 2015 deadline to meet the MDGs, the report, Asia-Pacific Aspirations: Perspectives for a Post-2015 Development Agenda, provides an insight into where the region stands with the MDGs and what it must do to accelerate their implementation. More importantly, the report proposes 12 specific goals that the international community should work towards to end poverty and other deprivations by 2030. Adopting these goals would also help respond to aspirations from Asia and the Pacific.

 

Apart from aiming to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, the report says a potential set of future goals could include gender equality; decent jobs for everyone of working age; health and quality education for all; improved living conditions with a focus on the poor; liveable cities; environmental responsibility and management of natural resources; disaster risk reduction; accountable and responsive governments; and strong development partnerships. The report follows months of consultations with a wide range of national and sub-regional stakeholders, and contributes to an ongoing United Nations-led process to draw up a post-2015 global development agenda. It was co-produced with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the United Nations Development Programme. The Asia-Pacific region remains woefully off-track in meeting the MDGs on such basic areas as hunger, health, and sanitation, the report notes. Despite an impressive reduction in income poverty in recent decades, the region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poor, and more than 60% of its hungry people.

 

In addition to the ‘unfinished agenda’ from the MDGs, the region must address new emerging challenges like rising inequalities, unplanned urbanization, climate change, pollution, and water scarcity. Ultimately, for any new agenda to be sustainable, it will need to be underpinned by the principles of inclusive growth, social equity, and environmental responsibility, which will require improvements in health and education, generating quality jobs, and increasing social protection for the poor, the report says. The report notes that while a post-2015 framework should detail shared global goals, it should also give individual regions or countries flexibility over how best to achieve them, with responsibilities for global public goods based on capacities. Reaching future targets will also require a broadening of financial resources, with state-backed official development assistance expected to decline, and much closer cooperation and partnerships amongst national, regional and international institutions. Equally important will be support to bridge serious data deficits to strengthen coherence between national and international efforts.

From http://www.adb.org/ 09/20/2013

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Manufacturing Key to Escaping Middle-Income Trap — ADB Report

 

The Philippines and the rest of developing Asia must include industrialize to avoid the middle-income trap, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. The new report said manufacturing is essential to a highly productive service sector, technological innovation, and modernizing agriculture. “Historically, no economy has reached high income status without reaching at least 18 percent share of manufacturing in output and employment for a sustained period,” Changyong Rhee, ADB chief economist said. The report noted that one group of economies -- Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan -- rapidly industrialized to become high income countries, while another group of economies -- People’s Republic of China, Malaysia and Thailand -- are transforming more slowly. Other developing Asian nations, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan or the Philippines, are changing even more slowly, have created few manufacturing jobs, and are shifting from agriculture to services.

 

To escape the middle-income trap, the Philippines needs to develop a deeper industrial base to complement its service sector, the report said. “Right now, as services boom in the region, it’s tempting to shun industrialization, but it will be a serious mistake if a country wants to be prosperous,” it added. The report said the industry sector does not lead the way in Asia, as services corner the largest share of developing Asia’s output while agriculture is the largest employer, providing an income for 700 million people. "The Philippines is also experiencing transformation from agriculture into services," the ADB said, adding that services make up the country’s largest sector in terms of economic output and employment for at least 50 percent of each. In 2009, employment in the service sector in the Philippines was close to 500,000 workers out of the 38 million total employment, with revenues of about $7.2 billion. The bank said the Philippines' share of manufacturing in gross domestic product (GDP) is slightly over 20 percent, while that of employment is about nine percent.

 

Between 1974 and 2004, the average labor productivity growth in the Philippine manufacturing industry stood at 0.29 percent, lower than Indonesia's 4.95 percent, Thailand's three percent, Singapore's 4.77 percent, Korea's 6.90 percent, Hong Kong's 7.03 percent, China's 7.91 percent, India's 3.05 percent and Japan's 3.68 percent. Economies like the Philippines, India and Pakistan that have failed to industrialize employment and are undergoing a transition from agriculture to low-productivity services need to reassess the importance of industrialization, the report said. "An advanced and sophisticated manufacturing sector is key for developing advanced complementary services sectors, such as logistics, transport, and finance. Such countries may wish to consider continuing to develop these more productive segments of the service sector, while not neglecting manufacturing," the ADB said. 

 

In this sense, the Philippines needs to complete and implement successfully its manufacturing roadmap, the bank added. The Department of Trade and Industry has commissioned state-run Philippine Institute of Development Studies to draft a manufacturing roadmap. According to draft roadmap, the auto and motorcycle assembly, electronics, food, garments, shipbuilding, chemicals and allied businesses are among the industries that will enjoy government support. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan had said the Philippines had a relatively high manufacturing-to-GDP ratio in the 1980s but has since been overtaken by other Asian countries. From 39 percent of GDP in the 1980s, Philippine industry fell to 33 percent in 2010-2012. In contrast, Thailand's ratio peaked at 44 percent in 2010-2012 from 30 percent in the 1980s.

From http://www.interaksyon.com/ 08/22/2013

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Five Asian States 30% More Energy Efficient — ADB

 

FIVE ASIAN countries, including the Philippines, have improved energy efficiency by 30%, a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said. "Energy efficiency improvements of at least 30% were observed in Cambodia, the PRC (People’s Republic of China), India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka," the ADB said in the Energy and Environment section of its Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2013 report. The Philippines was also one of seven economies that were said to have recorded energy efficiency in excess of the global average in 2010. The other economies were Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Taipei. "Several economies that recorded the biggest improvements in efficiency had access to cheap energy as states of the former Soviet Union, and their more efficient use in recent years can be partly attributed to increases in energy prices," the bank noted. The ADB also said, "Efficiency in energy use is influenced by several factors, including changes in industrial structure, technology, and energy mix."

 

"Agriculture and services tend to generate higher GDP (gross domestic product) per unit of energy than manufacturing," it added. Asia "accounted for almost 40% of global energy demand in 2010," far more than that of Europe and North America, the ADB said. It further stated that most Asian economies require imports to meet energy demand, with Hong Kong, China and Singapore importing nearly all their energy requirements. In comparison, the Philippines was the ninth biggest net energy importer, out of 29 countries, from 2008 to 2010. The report also showed that Asia’s economic development has increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to climate change. The highest per capita GHG emissions in 2010 came from Brunei, Australia and Kazakhstan. On the other end of the spectrum, Nepal, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines were the lowest emitters, with Nepal producing the least emissions. Most economies in the region were shown to have eliminated ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, which were used in aerosol and refrigeration, among others.

From http://www.bworldonline.com/ 08/23/2013

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CHINA: To Combat Illegal Online Drug Sales

 

The Chinese government launched a five-month campaign on Tuesday to combat illegal online pharmaceutical sales, the latest in a spate of efforts to clean up online activities.The campaign will primarily focus on websites that have obtained Internet drug sale licenses but were found to have been involved in the promotion or sale of fake drugs, according to department authorities.The campaign was jointly launched by China Food and Drug Administration, the State Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, according to a statement issued by the departments.Vendors who market drugs on the Internet without obtaining business licenses and those selling fake drugs will also be targeted during the campaign, the statement said.Drugs for the treatment of tumors, sexual dysfunction, diabetes and high blood pressure have been listed as "major targets," according to the statement, adding that the campaign will also crack down on producers of counterfeit drugs.Regulations relevant to online drug sales will be revised, and drug producers, traders and consumers are encouraged to provide tips in order to regulate online drug sales, it added.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/20/2013

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Online Shopping Clicking Up

 

Amid the fierce competition among online retailers in China, total transactions in the Internet retail marketplace jumped 47.3 percent year-on-year to 754.2 billion yuan ($123.2 billion) in the first half of this year, according to a report released on Monday.Online retail transactions accounted for 6.8 percent of all the retail sales in China during the same period, according to the report by the China e-Business Research Center, a Hangzhou-based independent research firm.Online shopping is expected to contribute 7 percent of China's retail sales by the end of this year, with the total turnover of online shopping reaching 1.74 trillion yuan in 2013, said the report.Tmall.com, a leading business-to-customer online platform owned by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is the biggest winner in the first half of this year by securing 50.4 percent of the market share in Web-based retail business.JD.com, another online retailer, slightly increased its market share to 20.7 percent, taking second place.

 

The online business sector of Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd, a leading home appliance retailer, made significant progress in the first half of the year.The company's market share increased 54 percent year-on-year, securing a total of 5.7 percent of China's online shopping market between January and June.Despite that booming growth, online retailers still feel a certain chill. Liu Qiangdong, the founder and chief executive officer of JD.com, a leading online retailer in China, said "it is difficult to sell", speaking at the company's open platform conference in late July. His speech was echoed by a lot of seated vendors, who sell their products via JD.com.Mao Ajing, an e-commerce analyst with the Beijing-based research firm Analysys International, said with the maturity of the online shopping market in China, the extremely high records in sales, which were set by Web platforms in the previous two years, are unlikely to happen again.

 

According to a previous media report, as much as 19.1 billion yuan, a record-high, was spent on a 24-hour shopping bonanza at Taobao.com and Tmall.com - both owned by Alibaba Group - on Nov 11 last year, a date known as Single's Day in China."The growth rate of the online retail business in China was about 60 percent in 2011. It will be difficult for the market to keep a similar momentum this year because online shoppers are becoming more rational," Mao said.Her company expects the growth rate of the online shopping market in the second half of this year to increase by 5 percentage points compared with the figure in the first half of this year. However, the overall growth rate of the online retail market in China is still estimated to be below 50 percent, she said.China's State Council issued guidance in mid-August to boost information-sector consumption, aiming to make the industry a new economic powerhouse for China.According to the guidance, the transactions of e-commerce, which is a major part of the information sector, are forecast to total 18 trillion yuan, with online retail transactions reaching 3 trillion yuan by 2015.

From http://www.news.cn/ 08/20/2013

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