May 2013, Issue 138

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNESCO Adopts Open Access Policy

Experts Urge Water's Inclusion in Development Goals

Top Concerns in Asia's Unfinished Development Agenda for the Post-MDG Era

 

 

 

 

CHINA: Mulling Online Shopping Legislation
China Adopts Law to Regulate Tourism

China Clarifies Law to Crackdown on Blackmail

China to Maintain Prudent Monetary Policy

China Issues White Paper on Human Rights

China Starts Annual South China Sea Fishing Ban

JAPAN: Abe's 'Stealth' Constitution Plan Raises Civil Rights Fears

Political Parties Gear Up for Constitutional Showdown

New Rules Set for Resolving Custody in Divorces

Gov't Takes Aim at Electricity Monopolies

Revised Election Law Allows Wards to Vote by Proxy

SOUTH KOREA: Committee Passes Revision to Protect Franchise Stores

Directions and Policies of Cultural Renaissance Discussed

Moves to Toughen Korea’s Online Transaction Security System

Gov't Foreign Investment Policy to Focus on Job Creation

Ministry of Health and Welfare Signs Hague Adoption Convention

MONGOLIA: SGK Approves Amendments to Strategic Sectors Foreign Investment Law

Mongolia Prioritising Education

 

 

 

 

INDONESIA: International Lawmakers to Push for Ratification of ICC

CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Farmers' Cooperative Law

Cambodia Says to Continue Cooperation with UN on Human Rights

MYANMAR: Reform Process Advances in April, Says President

Myanmar Drafts 5-Year Dairy Development Plan

SINGAPORE: App to Locate Clean Restrooms Launched

Singapore Outlines Govt ICT Spending Priorities

Proposed Anti-Discrimination Labour Law Needs to Be Balanced in Structure

VIETNAM: Nation to Co-Operate Over Aid, Says PM

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Govt’s Measures to Face “Mahasen”

Govt Pre-Cautionary Measures Lessen Casualties from Mahasen Minister

JS Body Finalises Report on Birth and Death Registration (Amendment) Bill

INDIA: BSNL Launches Project to Connect NE

Govt Mulling a New Law to Deal with Betting in Sports

SRI LANKA: Right to Development Calls for Effective Implementation

NEPAL: Govt Forwards Anti-Money Laundering Ordinances to Prez

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Extending Broadband Internet Project Until 2017

Parliament to Mull Changes to Law on Compulsory Insurance

Draft E-Gov Program for 2013-2015 Developed in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Improves Legal Framework for Space Cooperation

Azerbaijani Government Drafting New ICT Bill

Azerbaijan, ITU Join Effort to Draft New Convention on Information Security

TURKMENISTAN: Parliament Begins Consideration of New Draft Laws

Turkmen Parliament Ratifies Military-Technical Agreement with Ukraine

Electoral Code Comes into Force in Turkmenistan

UZBEKISTAN: President Signs Decree on Rewarding World War II Veterans

Uzbekistan to Legislatively Approve Principle of Mutual Consent to International Arbitration

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA: ICT Strategies Take Centre Stage

Joe Ludwig Launches National Food Plan to Grow Industry

Tougher Standards to Fight Corruption in the Resources Industry

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Promising Future

 

 

 

 

Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

Google Transparency Report: Government Censorship Up 25% in 2012

Asia's Public Services Failing Needy, New Approaches Required – Study

 

 

CHINA: Cutting Gov't Intervention to Push Reforms

China's Cabinet Appoints, Removes Officials

China Wealth Management Sector Shrinks

JAPAN: Science & ICT Ministry Strives to Create Jobs, New Industries

IT Educational Council to Be Set Up in Japan

New System Figures Quake Damage Fast

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Form Pan-gov't Body on Curbing Greenhouse Gases

Gov’t to Open Big Data Center

 

 

INDONESIA: President Asks to Improve Bureaucracy

Police Reform - What Reform?

CAMBODIA: PM Says to Stay in Power Until Age of 74

MYANMAR: Tech Training Centres Set Up

Myanmar Reforms Committee for Scrutinizing Prisoners of Conscience

Myanmar's Parliament Begins Special Session

MALAYSIA: Ruling Coalition Wins General Election

Malaysian PM Announces New Cabinet Line-Up

PHILIPPINES: Establishing New Inter-Agency Committee to Deter Extrajudicial Killings

SINGAPORE: Appointment of Deputy Chairman, MD at IDA

Mobile Mental Health Outreach Team to Be Set Up in July

New Police Centres, Technology for SPF

Singapore's ICT Authority Changes Leadership

VIETNAM: Having New Finance Minister

 

 

BANGLADESH: Court to Take Decision on Detained BNP Leaders MKA

Govt to Set Up 3 Handloom Service Centres

Govt Makes Efforts to Simplify Migration Process Minister

JS Body for Quick Completion of Food Ministry’s Recruitment Processes

SRI LANKA: Permanent Appointments to 15,000 Graduate Trainees in Public Service

MALDIVES: Govt Committed to Hold Free and Fair Elections, President Assures UN

NEPAL: Govt Will Fulfill Vacant Positions at NPC Soon FM Koirala

Govt Forms Committee to Recommend Online Media Regulations

PAKISTAN: Protection of Workers Rights Among Top Priorities of Govt Governor

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Heads of ICT Fund and High-Tech Park Appointed

Taxes Ministry to Simplify Submission of E-Declarations

KYRGYZSTAN: No Revolutions to Occur

KAZAKHSTAN: Head of Presidential Security Service Appointed

New Head to Be Appointed for Kazakh Kashagan Project’s Operator

TURKMENISTAN: Capital to Expand Boundaries

UZBEKISTAN: Democratic Party Has New Head

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Governments Want Mobility - But How Much Will It Cost?

NEW ZEALAND: Fast-Track Citizen Engagement Reforms

PM: Food in Schools Is Good, but Welfare Reform Still

SOLOMON ISLANDS: PM Commits to Transparent Mining

 

 

 

Facebook Becomes Member of Internet Freedom Group

New International Coalition to TPP Negotiators: We Demand a Fair Deal for the Internet

Asia Prosperity Requires More Innovation, Inclusion, Integration - ADB President

APEC Officials Gather in Hanoi to Discuss Business Continuity Planning

Asia's Mobile Revolution Is Changing the Way You Do Business

An Information-communication Revolution in the Pacific

 

 

CHINA: Stressing Minimizing Loss After Strong Quake

China to Tighten Crackdown on Illegal Fundraising

Chinese Premier Stresses Vigilance Against H7N9

Vice Premier Pushes Grain Base for Food Security

Government Promises More Micro Flexibility

China Raises Fuel Prices amid Market Reform

China's Cabinet Discusses Post-quake Reconstruction

Li Calls for More Job Channels for Grads

Chinese VP Stresses Scientific, Technological Innovation

JAPAN: App to Help Visually Impaired with Currency to Be Launched

Apps Convert Smartphones into Home Monitoring System

Japan Police Better Prepared to Fight Cyberattacks

Government to Subsidize Research on Inspection Robots

SOUTH KOREA: President Vows to Create Jobs by Mixing Industries, Culture

South Korea Uses Video Collaboration Tools for Disaster Management

Gov't to Allow Telemedicine Service in Free Economic Zones

NORTH KOREA: New Cash Cow - Cyber-Warfare

 

 

INDONESIA: E-Voting Simulations Conducted in Elections

Public Sector Reform Recognised in FutureGov Awards Indonesia

MYANMAR: Hosting Drug Control Meeting

MALAYSIA: To Study on Redelineation of Electoral Constituencies

PHILIPPINES: To Enhance R&D Capabilities with Supercomputer

SINGAPORE: Improving Library Services with ICT - Part I

Improving Library Services in Singapore with ICT - Part II

Driving Innovation with Open Source

THAILAND: Govts Urged to Spend More on Green Energy

VIETNAM: To Modernise Population Management Systems

New Project Aims to Support Legislative Research Institutes

 

 

BANGLADESH: Taking Steps for Implementing ADP Js Body

PAKISTAN: Inauguration of IT Center for Hujjaj on May 13

629 Properties Sealed for Non-Payment of Property Tax

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Shifting from Electronic to Mobile Government

Baku Hosts World Youth Mobile Forum

Azerbaijan Hosts Int'l Conference on E-Government in Customs Sector

Azerbaijan May Lift VAT from Non-Cash Payments

Azerbaijan Aims to Increase Wikipedia Coverage

Azerbaijani Ministry Supports Initiation of Criminal Liability for Online Insult of Honour and Dignity

KAZAKHSTAN: Investors Council to Discuss Country’s Innovation and Technological Development

Kazakh President Initiates the ‘Three Sevens’

 

 

Innovation Means Business for Pacific

An Information-Communication Revolution in the Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Feds Award $300m Less in ICT Product Contracts

Australia the 10th Best Place to Be a Mother: Report

NEW ZEALAND: University to Modernise Campus Network

NZ Moves to Speed Up Residential Developments

NZ Commits ‘Special Responsibility’ to the Pacific in Addressing Natural Disaster

Govt Mulls R&D Payback

Situation for Pacific People in NZ Unlikely to Affect Migration: Academic

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Pacific Trade Talks 'Waste of Time'

PNG Women Target Government in Fresh CEDAW Push

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Community Theatre to Help Build Courage Among Women

Improving Food Security Concerns

VANUATU: Shares Key Achievements Since the Last Global Conference on Disaster Reduction

 

 

 

58% Information Security Incidents Attributed to Insider Threat

Study: Mobile Users & Older Generations Are Driving Social Media Growth Around the World

Trojans Cause 80% of Worldwide Malware Infections

Cyberthreats Pose Unsettling Cyber-Consequences

Global Network of Hackers Steals $45M from ATMs

Mixed Signals for the Global Economy

World Bank Group President Urges Countries to Deliver Universal Health Coverage to Help End Poverty

Transforming Beyond 'Factory Asia' Key to Keeping Economies Strong

Improved South-Southeast Asia Connectivity Key to Boosting Trade, Rebalancing Economy

Report Reveals Need to Boost Asia Literacy in Schools

Asia Advised to Rebalance Its Economy

Asia Pacific Leads Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales Growth in 1Q13, Says Gartner

 

 

CHINA: Top Leaders See Difficulties, Challenges for Economy

China's Economic Development Offers Opportunity

Chinese Gov't to Support International Students

China Waging War Against Online Rumors

Informant Webpages Help Gather Corruption Tip-offs

Premier Calls for Sound Agriculture

Sophisticated 3-D Becoming More Affordable

Less Political Power Urged in Chinese Economy

E-commerce Giants Brace for Fierce Competition

'Lipstick Effect' Hits China as Economy Slows

China's Pension Insurance Covers 486 Mln People

Xi Pledges to Safeguard the Environment

JAPAN: New Digital Divide Threatens Economic Growth

Outlander Recognized as 2012's Top Safety Performer Among New Passenger Vehicles in Japan

Japan Communications Seeks Help in Interconnection Dispute

Japanese University to Deploy Supercomputer

Gov't Upgrades Economic Assessment for First Time in Two Months

Market Turbulence Poses First Serious Test for Abenomics

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't Demonstrates Smart Highway

Survey: S. Korean Men Spend Avg. 8 Years of Life on Job Prep.

Most Young People Positive About Rising Legal Retirement Age

The Cyber Terror on March 20 and Its Countermeasures

Threat of Malicious Code Growing in S. Korea

The World Bank: Mongolia Economic Update April 2013

 

 

MALAYSIA: Economy Grows by 4.1 PCT in First Quarter

PHILIPPINES: Expanding ‘Wireless Access for Health’ Programme

Philippine Province Introduces Electronic Filing and Payment System

The Philippines Seeks IT-Based Proposals to Solve Transport Woes

The Philippines Adopts Indonesia’s Open Source Disaster Mitigation Tool

SINGAPORE: Studying Measures to Restrict Access to Online Gambling Sites

More Restaurants in S'pore Joining Online Food Delivery Portals

New IT System for Nursing Homes Helps Cut Down on Manpower Costs

THAILAND: 4G Service 'Part of Push to Be Market Leader'

Thailand Launches e-Correspondence Management System on G-Cloud

VIETNAM: World Bank Supports in Phasing Out Ozone Depleting Substances

New Projects Seek to Remove Illiteracy

Corruption, Poverty and Growth Concern the People

 

 

BANGLADESH: New Gas Connections to Household Consumers Soon

JS Body for Ensuring Welfare of Expats

INDIA: eBiz Portal to Ease G2B Services

Jammu and Kashmir Gets SDC for Supporting E-Governance Initiatives

Cloud Campus by NIIT

Complaint Cell for Women

KSITM Launches New System to Trace Undelivered Aadhaar Cards

ICT to Promote Eco-Friendly Tools in Agriculture

Srilankan Airlines Introduces Self-service Check-in Kiosks

Sri Lanka Smartphone Sales to Take-off Samsung

MALDIVES: Govt to Review Salary Structures of Doctors

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: To Bolster Cyber Security

Azerbaijan Joins International Anti-Phishing Efforts

Financial Times: Azerbaijan Is One of World’s Fastest-Growing Economies

Registration of Mobile Phone Codes to Be Available Online

Program on Education System Informatisation to Be Applied in Azerbaijan

SOFAZ: Azerbaijan to Carry Out Reforms on Broadband Internet Development

Issuance of Mobile Digital Signatures Starts in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's Economy Rises 3.8 Pct

Azerbaijan Modernizes CTBTO Information Centre

Azercell Supports Science

Azerbaijan's Mobile E-Signature Experience to Be Studied Abroad

Azerbaijan to Stay the Course on Economic Growth This Year

IMF Hails Azerbaijan's Economic Development, Strong Non-Oil Growth

KAZAKHSTAN: 2 Million E-Signatures Issued

Kazakhstan's GDP Growth Can Reach 5 Pct This Year: Fitch Analyst

 

 

Informal Consultations Begin on the Possible Inclusion of Disaster Risk Reduction into New MDG Goals

Pacific Communities Must Retain Ownership of Their Exclusive-Economic Zones

AUSTRALIA: Qld State Launches Website for Indigenous Businesses

Get Smart with ICT, AIIA Tells Pollies

Australian State Engaging Citizens Online

End-of-Life Wishes to Be on EHR in Australia

Australian University Deployed Virtualised Monitoring Tool

FIJI: E-ticketing Compulsory for All Buses

Fiji Want Greater MSG Economic Integration

NEW ZEALAND: Govt Invests US$1.5 Mil in After-School ICT Learning

 

 

 

Developing Countries to Dominate Global Saving and Investment, but the Poor Will Not Necessarily Share the Benefits, Says Report

Developing World’s Share of Global Investment to Triple by 2030, Says New World Bank Report

ADB Improves Performance in 2012, Meets Majority of Its Targets

Healthy Bond Market Crucial to Funding Asia's Infrastructure Needs - ADB Seminar

 

 

CHINA: Swinging Back to Capital Account Surplus

Efforts 'Needed to Ensure Wider Use of Renminbi'

Yuan Reference Rate Hits High

JAPAN: BOJ Minutes Show Some Members Wary of Risks of Bold Easing

Japan's Public Debt: Don't Mention the Debt

G7 Says Japan Playing by Currency Rules

IMF Says Monetary Easing Could Drive Asset Bubble

Diet Oks Y92.6 Trillion Budget

SOUTH KOREA: FSS to Facilitate Opening of Foreign Financial Branches

 

 

PHILIPPINES: Gov't Allots More Funds to Address Widening Inequality

Philippine Government Bank to Launch E-Payment Channel for Household Workers

THAILAND: Govt Savings Bank to Lend Bt80 BN Initially

DTAC Plans Mobile Financial and Insurance Services

VIETNAM: Major Funds Raised for the Victims of AO

State Offers Insurance Help for Those Near Poverty Line

Viet Nam to Invest US$404 Million on Stimulating Industrial Production

Tax Code Reforms to Decipher Dependents

 

 

BANGLADESH: Pitching for Common Currency for South Asia

Budgetary Allocation for Dalits Demanded

Govt Loses Tk 1 Crore Revenue a Year from Forest Wood in Sunamganj

INDIA: SEBI Approves $10 Million Fund for Kerala’s Startup Village

Traders in Puducherry Get Common Service Centres for Filing Tax

SRI LANKA: Cutting Rates to Boost Credit – Update

NEPAL: Govt to Implement Dual Colour LPG from Next Fiscal Year

 

 

ARMENIA: National Debt Tops $4.2 Billion

AZERBAIJAN: To Ensure Depth of Banking Sector at 100 Percent of GDP

Azerbaijan’s Securities Market Exceeds 25 Pct of Non-Oil GDP

Azerbaijan’s 2012 Budget Successfully Implemented – Minister

TURKMENISTAN: Budget Gains Exceeded Plans by 115.7 Percent

UZBEKISTAN: Some $120 Bln in Investments Drawn in Economy Since Independence

Central Bank of Uzbekistan Keeps Refinancing Rate at 12 Per Cent

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Government to Cut $580m from Public Service

Federal Budget Positive for ICT Industry

MARSHALL ISLANDS: ADB Provides US$100, 000 for Drought Relief Efforts

NEW ZEALAND: Government Deficit Smaller Than Forecast

Budget 2013: Govt Allocates $188.6m for Welfare Reforms

New Zealand Budget Forecasts Return to Surplus

Govt to Spend $136m on School Network Project

New Zealand Earmarks US$11.4 Million on Identity Management Reforms

 

 

 

Asia-Pacific Crop Protection Sector to Increase at a CAGR of 6% Through 2018

Better Emergency Planning Can Help Business: APEC Officials

APEC Strengthening Marine Mining to Meet Industrial Demand

 

 

CHINA: Industrial Companies Post Lower Profit Growth

China Railway Corporation Liabilities Up in Q1

New Chinese Gov't Subsidies to Promote Green Cars

Chinese Rail Industry to See More Orders

Can Japan Turn to Foreign Workers?

Medical Care Key to Growth / Enhancing Industry Overseas Top Priority

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Strengthen Management of Private School's Buses

Gov’t to Bolster Small and Middle-sized Exporters

Gov't Picks 130 Deregulatory Tasks to Aid Small Businesses

UN Recognizes Korea’s Enterprise Architecture

 

 

INDONESIA: E-Commerce, Banks Synergize in Driving Online Business

CAMBODIA: PM Inaugurates Rubber Processing Plant in Far Northern Province

VIETNAM: State Asset Management Firm Handed Tax Break Boost

 

 

INDIA: Food Industry to Touch Rs 408,040 Crore by 2018

SRI LANKA: Seeking Private Investments for Large Infrastructure

NEPAL: Govt-Private Partnership Stressed in PPD Workshop

Nepal Organises Sales Mission in South East Asia

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Non-Oil Sector Coop in Focus of Talks with Commerzbank

Azerbaijan’s Industry Open for Small and Medium Business: Minister

Market Growth Raises Importance of Private Credit Bureaus in Azerbaijan

IFC Starts Funding Renewable Energy Projects in Azerbaijan

KAZAKHSTAN: Capital Interested in Foreign Investment

 

 

AUSTRALIA: ACCC Launches Online Education Program for Small Business

Small Business Struggle with Slumping Prices

Kits to Help Small Businesses Benefit from the NBN

NEW ZEALAND: Small Businesses Still Sluggish Online

Ethnic SMEs Offer 'Huge' Untapped Potential

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UNESCO Adopts Open Access Policy

 

Starting July 2013, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will make hundreds of digital publications available to millions of people free-of-charge, thanks to its recent implementation of an Open Access Policy. “Advancements in education, science and culture are made possible through broad and unfettered access to research and knowledge, enabling policymakers, researchers, practitioners and the general public to use and build upon this knowledge. As an intergovernmental organization, UNESCO has a fundamental interest in ensuring that the outputs created by the Organisation, including publications, data and resources, are available to the widest possible audience,” the agency said. Apart from maximum freedom use of the agency’s publications, the policy will also address the spiraling costs of the scientific literature, which is essential to researchers. According to an official statement, resources published through UNESCO will be assigned a license that allows anyone to use any content for as long as the original author and UNESCO are given credit for the original creation. In this aspect, UNESCO will make the publications available online through a multilingual Repository which will be launched in the coming weeks.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/16/2013

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Experts Urge Water's Inclusion in Development Goals

 

As the world faces growing water security challenges, experts are calling for better monitoring of the availability, quality and use of water, and its inclusion in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals as a key issue in the post-2015 development agenda.  Human activities, such as building dams and agricultural irrigation, they say, have fundamentally altered the global water system, threatening ecosystems and a steady supply of fresh water. But a lack of scientific data and monitoring mean there is still no effective global governance of this key resource. The Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, focus narrowly on drinking water and sanitation for human health, but ignore global water quantity and quality standards for personal use, agriculture and healthy ecosystems, argue scientists from the Global Water System Project (GWSP).

 

Experts will meet this week (21–24 May) in Bonn, Germany, to bring together global efforts on water research to help set scientific foundations for a common vision for the sustainable use and international governance of water. The conference, Water in the Anthropocene, is organised by the international research initiative, GWSP. It will showcase research conducted on the global water system over the past decade and recommend priorities for decision-makers in the areas of earth system science and management of water. "It will summarise past scientific achievements and proceed to conceptualise future research, which includes direct partnerships with policy and decision-makers," János Bogárdi, senior advisor to GWSP, tells SciDev.Net. The findings will feed into the 2013 Budapest Water Summit in Hungary in October, where "a multi-stakeholder crowd will discuss how water-related goals can be formulated and made an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals", Bogárdi says.

 

Anik Bhaduri, executive officer of GWSP, tells SciDev.Net that the task of simply extending the Millennium Development Goals into the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in relation to water, is not simple, given how human activities have transformed the global water system. According to GWSP experts, one of the biggest challenges is access to reliable data on water use, with most governments unwilling to share such information. Calling for more scientific research and better governance, the GWSP experts note that authoritative scientific determinations of how much water humans can draw from the environment without crossing a 'tipping point' threshold beyond which ecosystems would collapse, are still missing. "We may have one hydrological cycle in the world, but we do not have one governance system to avoid its collapse," Bogárdi warns. To achieve better water management, GWSP is developing international water quality guidelines for aquatic ecosystems, and has developed a digital water atlas for global water systems.

From http://www.scidev.net/ 05/20/2013

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Top Concerns in Asia's Unfinished Development Agenda for the Post-MDG Era

 

Asia and the Pacific face a daunting unfinished development agenda when the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) expire in 2015. The focus in this fast growing region should be on the glaring gaps in its MDG achievements: eradicating extreme poverty and making better progress on human development, especially reducing infant deaths and improving maternal health. Confronting the environmental degradation caused by the region’s rapid economic growth presents another critical challenge for the post-MDG era. A global debate is already under way on the best way to tackle the challenges of a post-2015 development agenda. To contribute to this discussion, Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has just released a study ADB’s Support for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The report assesses the region’s progress and ADB’s contribution. The study also seeks to answer a question that will be crucial for a new agenda: does setting goals make a difference to development results?

 

Adoption of the MDGs, which the United Nations announced in 2001, by governments in Asia and the Pacific offered great promise for focusing attention on the poor and accelerating socioeconomic development. Among the eight MDGs are targets to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, attain universal primary education, and promote environmental sustainability. Asia and the Pacific performed very well on reducing income poverty, which fell from 55% in the early 1990s to 24% by the late 2000s, a historically unprecedented global achievement. Even so, the region continues to account for two-thirds of the world’s poor, vast numbers of them concentrated in South Asia. Rising inequality across the region is hampering progress in reducing poverty. “Despite the past record of high economic growth, a sharp reduction in poverty remains a top development priority beyond 2015,” says Independent Evaluation’s Director General Vinod Thomas. “The findings of this study, coupled with other evaluative evidence, indicate that continuing the same pattern of growth will not be enough to stem rising inequality nor reverse environmental degradation in time—problems that in turn threaten sustained economic growth.”

 

Wealth gaps between rich and poor have widened in about half the region’s economies, home to some 80 percent of its population. Furthermore, Asia’s inequality, like the rest of the world’s, is not limited to income poverty, as much of the region also suffers from large disparities in the provision of basic services. The quality of economic growth is essential. “The human cost of neglecting the quality of growth in this successfully expanding region is large, as shown by the high incidence of malnutrition and stunting among children in India, the health consequences of chronic air pollution in the People’s Republic of China, and the grim death toll in the recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh,” says Thomas. Considerable gaps remain in the state of human development in the region, indicating that a positive link between economic growth and human development is not automatic. For example, the number of underweight children aged below 5 only declined modestly over two decades, from 35% in the early 1990s to 25% by the late 2000s.

 

The link between rapid economic growth and the environment is complex, with slow progress and even regression on some environmental targets in many countries. Linda Arthur, the study’s principal author, says: “Several environmental indicators are unlikely to meet their 2015 cut-off values, notably for CO2 emissions, forest cover protection, and improved sanitation.” Did setting goals make a difference to development results beyond historically expected trends? Country case studies for India, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea show that some of these countries adjusted policies and budgets because of the MDGs, leading to better performance on several indicators. Importantly, many development institutions redirected their financial support to MDGs. But goal setting ran into problems because of the limited resources and capacity in many countries to implement the MDGs. Poor data collection and data quality meant that many countries were unable to adequately track their MDG progress. This renders planning for further support to reach the MDGs by 2015 difficult and planning for the post-2015 agenda even more so.

 

“The data issue must be addressed when considering new targets for the post-2015 period,” says Arthur, “but the evidence on balance supports the positive effects of goal setting.” Some $32 billion of ADB’s total sovereign financing between 2002 and 2011, the period covered by the study, was for direct MDG support. Projects and programs aimed at reducing income poverty and promoting environmental sustainability comprised the major share of that portfolio, while MDG support for human development was less prominent. The study found that interventions directly supporting the MDGs were notably more successful than ADB’s overall historical average. Looking at ADB’s potential contribution to a post-2015 development agenda, the study suggests that a focus on countries and goals whose development progress falls furthest below a minimum standard is warranted. The best way forward for Asia and the Pacific will be a balanced pursuit of poverty reduction, human development, and environmental sustainability.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/23/2013

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CHINA: Mulling Online Shopping Legislation

 

With China's e-commerce market expanding at full speed, the country is for the first time considering amending its consumer rights law to protect online shoppers' rights and interests.The widespread of information technology has allowed the Internet, TV and telephone-based commerce to surge, said Li Shishi, director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's top legislature.While briefing national lawmakers during a three-day bimonthly legislative session that opened on Tuesday, Li said new shopping forms such as e-shopping differed from conventional consumption, as online shoppers cannot identify the goods' authenticity and are susceptible to deceptive advertisement."Consumers select commodities merely through pictures and text descriptions," he said.The consumer rights law, which was enacted in 1993, does not have stipulations on the protection of consumer rights in online shopping."Consumption patterns, structure and concepts in China have undergone great changes over the past two decades," Li said, adding that amending the law aims to adapt to the new situation in protecting consumer rights.

 

To deal with inadequate commodities or service information in online shopping, the draft amendments stress the protection of consumers' right to knowledge, saying sellers should provide authentic and necessary details of their products or services to e-shoppers.The draft also ensures e-shoppers' right of choice and grants them the right to unilaterally terminate contracts. "Consumers have the right to return goods within seven days and get a refund," according to the proposal."The cooling off period of seven days" allows e-shoppers to change their minds, which is in line with international conventions, said Hu Gang, an expert from the Internet Society of China."Online shoppers can ask for compensation from the e-trade platform where transactions took place if the seller has stopped using the platform," the draft said, adding the platform can claim compensation from the seller after offering compensation to e-shoppers.The move is "significant" as it increases the responsibility of online platforms, which further protects online shoppers' rights, Hu said.China's booming online commerce industry is expected to reap more than 1.1 trillion yuan (about 175 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue in 2012, statistics from the Ministry of Commerce show.The industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with its total revenue expanding from 25.8 billion yuan in 2006 to 780 billion in 2011 in China.

 

The growth dwarfed that of many western countries.Taobao, a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) portal similar to eBay, features nearly one billion products and has nearly 500 million registered users. It sells 48,000 products each minute and its maximum daily turnover reached 4.38 billion yuan, according to taobao.com.It's parent company, Alibaba, on track to become the world's largest e-commerce firm, also owns Tmall, a Chinese popular business-to-consumer (B2C) portal like Amazon.Although the draft's Internet shopping stipulations are "detailed and feasible," it mainly covered B2C trade, Hu said, adding currently about 70 percent of online transactions in China are C2C, which needs further regulations to protect e-shoppers' rights.Complaints about online shopping are on the rise in China, with the number surpassing half of all service-related complaints in the capital last year, according to the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce and the city's consumers' association.Cell phones and accessories, garments, domestic appliances and food are the categories that have been complained about most, said Huang Xiaowen, deputy director of the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce.

 

Online shoppers complained that online business runners did not fulfill discount promises or arbitrarily cancel orders. They also complained about late delivery and substandard products, according to Huang.According to a MasterCard Worldwide survey issued last week, the Chinese mainland leads the Asia-Pacific region as the market with the most propensity to shop online, ahead of New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and South Korea.The survey, conducted between November and December 2012, included interviews with 7,011 respondents from 14 markets who were asked questions about their online shopping habits. China's score has increased by four index points from last year's index.Driving these shifts in China are increased confidence in shopping as "people felt more secure while shopping online," according to MasterCard. There is also an emerging view that shopping online is "easy" among 89.5 percent of the Chinese respondents, up from 80.8 percent in 2011.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/23/2013

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China Adopts Law to Regulate Tourism

 

China's top legislature on Thursday adopted a law on tourism in an effort to protect the rights of tourists and clear the way for the industry's sustainable development.The Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress approved the bill at its bi-monthly session, which ran from Tuesday to Thursday, after three readings.It is the first law adopted by the 12th NPC Standing Committee, which convened its first meeting in March this year. The law is expected to go into effect from Oct. 1.The long-awaited tourism move is designed to regulate the tourism market, safeguard tourists' rights and interests, ensure reasonable use of resources, and foster the industry's sustainable and healthy growth, the NPC's Law Committee said when explaining the bill during the session.

 

ADDRESSING TOURISM WOES

The new law outlines measures to address key problems -- unfair competition, wanton price hikes, and forced goods purchases -- which have plagued the travel industry and aroused strong public discontent in China.The law includes provisions to counter the rampant practice of "zero- or negative-fare tours" in the country that undermine the legitimate interests of tourists and businesses."Zero- or negative-fare tours" usually refer to tour services sold by travel agents at or below cost in order to attract travelers, who are later forced to purchase goods or tip agents during their tour.Travel agencies may not sell services at "unreasonably low" prices to attract tourists or seek illegitimate profits by arranging for tourists to purchase goods at designated stores or any paid travel sessions other than those listed in the contracts, it says.The law stipulates that fixed-price tour contracts should clearly list tour itineraries, content and duration of each travel session, and conditions for transportation, hotel and dining services.Focusing on curbing wanton price increases at some scenic sites, the law introduces a compulsory public hearing procedure before a price rise.

 

According to the law, tourism sites developed using public resources should "strictly control rises in entrance fees or other additional charges." They will also have to hold public hearings if they plan to raise prices so as to prove it is a necessary and reasonable move.In addition, the law says tourism sites should issue early warnings to the public if the number of visitors to a site is expected to reach maximum capacity to keep tourists better informed and ensure their safety against the backdrop of the country's tourism craze, which is especially apparent during public holidays.The law also makes clear the legal consequences of violating the rights and interests of the tourists.Operations could be suspended for six months for scenic areas that fail to issue early warnings and take necessary measures to ease the flow of visitors or those that receive tourists in excess of the maximum capacity, according to the law.It also imposes a three-year ban on those whose tour guide certifications have been revoked for luring or forcing tourists to purchase goods or for unnecessarily changing tour itineraries.Furthermore, the law stipulates that local governments at or above county level should assign or set up special organizations for receiving complaints regarding tourism.China's domestic travel market is the world's largest. The country ranks third globally in terms of tourists received from overseas.Statistics from the country's tourism authorities show that domestic tourists totaled nearly 3 billion in 2012, a record high that is almost three times the combined population of the United States and European Union.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/25/2013

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China Clarifies Law to Crackdown on Blackmail

 

Chinese authorities on Friday unveiled a judicial explanation to clarify the seriousness of blackmail cases in order to crackdown on the crime.The nine-article explanation, issued by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, outlines the amounts of money or property considered "relatively large," "huge," and "extremely huge," which will determine the length of sentence for criminals. Suspects extorting public or private money or property worth between 2,000 yuan (324.4 U.S. dollars) and 5,000 yuan by blackmail, an amount considered "relatively large," will be sentenced to imprisonment of no more than three years, according to the explanation. The threshold range from 2,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan depends on an area's economic and social conditions. For those who have committed blackmail or committed the crime against minors, disabled or seniors, the threshold will be reduced to 1,000 yuan. Extorted money or property worth between 30,000 yuan and 100,000 yuan is considered "huge" and the suspects will receive jail terms ranging from three to 10 years. Those blackmailing more than 300,000 yuan and up to 500,000 yuan will be sentenced to more than 10 years in jail as the amount is "extremely huge," according to the explanation. Officials with the supreme court said the explanation aims to strengthen the crackdown on blackmail, which has become increasingly frequent and widespread in recent years. Some gangs use blackmail to bully and oppress members of the public, officials said. The explanation will take effect from Saturday.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/27/2013

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China to Maintain Prudent Monetary Policy

 

China will maintain a prudent monetary policy to highlight the quality and efficiency of economic expansion, according to a report published by the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the country's central bank, on Thursday.The report, showing the performance of China's monetary policy in the first quarter of 2013, urged a maintenance of prices at stable levels through enhancing the foresight, pertinency and flexibility of monetary policy, as well as reining in inflation.Currency credit and social financing should be guided for smooth and moderate growth with combined monetary policy tools, the PBOC said.It also demanded mild liquidity in the banking system so as to preserve a stable market interest rate.Meanwhile, the report mentioned the challenges baffling the world's second-largest economy including infirm foundations for stable economic growth and insufficient growth from within.The central bank specially vowed caution against future inflation risks. China's consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, grew 2.4 percent year on year in April, up from 2.1 percent in March.

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

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China Issues White Paper on Human Rights

 

The Chinese government on Tuesday released a white paper detailing the progress made in human rights in 2012, underscoring citizens' rights to a clean environment and the expression of opinion."The cause of human rights in China has entered a stage of planned, sustainable, steady and comprehensive development," says the white paper, published by the State Council Information Office under the title "Progress in China's Human Rights in 2012."A highlight of the white paper was an emphasis on human rights protection in ecological construction, according to Zhang Wanhong, an associate professor with the Public Interest and Development Law Institute of Wuhan University."Environmental pollution has become a serious issue in China. Everyone should be entitled to good health and a good environment," he said.Facing increasing resource constraints, severe environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation, China is working to raise awareness of the need to respect, accommodate and protect nature, give high priority to making ecological progress and incorporate it as a primary government goal, according to the white paper.China has adopted environmental protection as a basic national policy. The country has combined its human rights endeavors with economic, political, cultural, social and ecological construction, the paper says.

 

According to the paper, a legal and policy framework has been established to protect citizens' environmental rights. The government has further strengthened environmental monitoring systems and worked to protect citizens' right to live in a clean environment."Environmental protection matters to the human right issue of not only our generation, but generations to come," said Zhang Yonghe, a professor with the Center for Education and Study of Human Rights under the Southwest University of Political Science and Law."The government has realized it has to be far-sighted when it comes to the protection of human rights," said Zhou Wei, director of Sichuan University's Center for Human Right Law.The white paper, with its elaboration on the government's achievements in improving people's living standards, says development is the key to solving all existing problems and facilitating the progress of human rights in China.The country has prioritized people's rights to subsistence and development and made efforts to promote the comprehensive and balanced development of their economic, social and cultural rights, as well as their civil and political rights, it notes."After years of unremitting efforts, China has reached a higher level in terms of people's living standards, democracy, rule of law, cultural development, social security and environmental protection," says the white paper.

 

In 2012, the annual per capita net income for both urban and rural residents increased, hefty investment was directed to poverty reduction programs, housing conditions were improved for both urban and rural residents and the state made proactive efforts to boost employment, according to the white paper.Practical measures have been taken to ensure citizens' right to know and right to be heard, according to the white paper.Deepened reform and the rapid development of information technology have given the public greater power to acquire information and express their opinions, it notes.Government information, such as budgets and expenses, has become more accessible to the public. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has continued to press ahead with making Party affairs public and established a spokesperson system for Party committees, the paper says.The Internet has become an important channel for citizens to exercise their rights to know, participate, be heard and supervise, as well as become an important means for the government to hear public opinions, according to the white paper.Democracy building at the grassroots level has further expanded citizens' right to participate, the paper says.An important milestone in the development of China's human rights was the formation of a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics in 2010, according to the paper. The legal system "ensures that the country's human rights protection is done within the framework of the law."In 2012, "respecting and protecting human rights" was added to the amended Criminal Procedure Law. The white paper described the addition as an example of major progress in human rights protection and of great significance in punishing criminals, protecting the public and safeguarding citizens' right to litigation.In the judicial field, China has enforced strict controls over and prudently applied the death penalty and protected the rights of detainees, the paper says.In 2011, the death penalty was removed as a form of punishment for 13 economic and non-violent crimes, reducing the number of cases in which a defendant could be charged with the death penalty by nearly one-fifth.

 

According to the white paper, the government has adopted effective measures to respect and protect the right of self-governing organs in ethnic autonomous areas to exercise autonomy in recent years.Marked improvement has been made in public services as well, the white paper says. Rapid progress has been made in education and social security, medical care coverage has been expanded and cultural services have been made more equitable, according to the white paper.China upholds a policy of freedom of religious belief and ensures this freedom as an important part of its citizens' human rights, the paper says.The white paper praised social organizations' role in promoting human rights causes. In 2012, China's social organizations attracted over 25 million volunteers to participate in charity work.From 2010 to 2012, the government constructively participated in UN human rights activities and made active efforts to meet the obligations stipulated by the international human rights conventions it has joined, the white paper says."But serious challenges remain as China is still on the way to improve the level of human rights protection," Zhang Yonghe said.The white paper is China's 10th report on human rights since the government began releasing such reports in 1991. The ninth report was released in 2010.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/14/2013

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China Starts Annual South China Sea Fishing Ban

 

A two-and-a-half month fishing ban will begin at noon Thursday in most parts of the South China Sea as part of efforts to rehabilitate marine resources, according to fishery authorities.The Hainan provincial marine and fishing department said 9,007 locally registered fishing vessels have been moored.The annual fishing ban, which has been in place since 1999, will last from May 16 to August 1 this year, covering areas north of the 12th parallel, including Huangyan Island but excluding most of the Nansha Islands.The provincial bureau has allocated 600,000 yuan (97,500 U.S. dollars) in subsidies for impoverished fishermen to make up for the losses they will incur while the ban is in place.Provincial fishing authorities said fishing vessels with Nansha Islands fishing permits will not be affected by the ban.The fishing ban also applies to foreign ships.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/16/2013

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JAPAN: Abe's 'Stealth' Constitution Plan Raises Civil Rights Fears

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes no secret of wanting to revise Japan’s constitution, which was drafted by the United States after World War II, to formalise the country’s right to have a military - but critics say his plans go deeper and could return Japan to its socially conservative, authoritarian past. Abe, 58, returned to office in December for a second term as prime minister and is enjoying sky-high support on the back of his “Abenomics” recipe for reviving the economy through hyper-easy monetary policy, big spending and structural reform. Now he is seeking to lower the hurdle for revising the constitution as a prelude to an historic change to its pacifist Article 9 - which, if strictly read, bans any military. That would be a symbolic shift, loosening restrictions on the military’s overseas activities, but would have limited impact on defense as the clause has already been stretched to allow Tokyo to build up armed forces that are now bigger than Britain’s.

 

However, sweeping changes proposed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a draft constitution would strike at the heart of the charter with an assault on basic civil rights that could muzzle the media, undermine gender equality and generally open the door to an authoritarian state, activists and scholars say. “What I find strange is that although the prime minister is not that old, he is trying to revive the mores of his grandfather’s era,” said Ryo Moto, the octogenarian head of the Women’s Article 9 Association, a group devoted to protecting the constitution. “I fear this might lead to a society full of restrictions, one that does not recognize diversity of opinions and puts restraints on the freedom of speech as in the past.” Abe’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was a pre-World War II cabinet minister who was arrested but never tried as a war criminal. Kishi served as premier from 1957-60, when he resigned due to a furor over a U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

 

Riding high in the opinion polls and buoyed by big stock market gains, Abe has grown more outspoken about his conservative agenda, including revising the constitution and being less apologetic about Japan’s wartime past - a stance that has frayed already tense relations with China and South Korea, where memories of Tokyo’s past militarism run deep. Many Japanese conservatives see the constitution, unchanged since its adoption in 1947 during the U.S.-led Allied Occupation, as an embodiment of Western-style, individualistic mores they believe eroded Japan’s group-oriented traditions. Critics see Abe’s plan to ease requirements for revising the charter and then seek to change Article 9 as a “stealth” strategy that keeps his deeper aims off the public radar. “The real concern is that a couple of years later, we move to a redefinition of a ‘new Japan’ as an authoritarian, nationalist order,” said Yale University law professor Bruce Ackerman. The LDP draft, approved by the party last year, would negate the basic concept of universal human rights, which Japanese conservatives argue is a Western notion ill-suited to Japan’s traditional culture and values, constitutional scholars say.

 

“The current constitution ... provides protection for a long list of fundamental rights - freedom of expression, freedom of religion,” said Meiji University professor Lawrence Repeta. “It’s clear the leaders of the LDP and certain other politicians in Japan ... are passionately against a system that protects individual rights to that degree.” The draft deletes a guarantee of basic human rights and prescribes duties, such as submission to an undefined “public interest and public order.” The military would be empowered to maintain that “public order.” One proposal would ban anyone from “improperly” acquiring or using information about individuals - a clause experts say could limit freedom of speech. A reference to respect for the “family” as the basic social unit hints, say critics, at a revival of a patriarchal system that gave women few rights. “The constitution is there to tie the hands of government, not put duties on the people,” said Taro Kono, an LDP lawmaker often at odds with his party on policies. “There are some in both houses (of parliament) who don’t really understand the role of a modern constitution.”

 

Abe and the LDP say easing the revision procedures would allow voters a bigger say in whether to alter the charter. “The constitution is not something given by God, it was written by human beings. It should not be frightening to change it, so I’d like the people to consider trying it once,” Yosuke Isozaki, an aide to Abe, told the Nikkei business daily. Under Article 96, changes to the constitution must be approved by at least two-thirds of both houses of parliament and then a majority of voters in a national referendum. Abe wants to require a simple majority of lawmakers before a public vote. With Abe’s popularity high and the main opposition splintered, the LDP and smaller pro-revision parties appear to have a shot at winning a two-thirds majority in an upper house election in July. They already hold two-thirds of the lower house. “It’s not as easy as it might appear,” said Sophia University political science professor Koichi Nakano. “But for the first time, it’s a realistic prospect.” Japan celebrates Constitution Day on Friday.

From http://www.japantoday.com 05/03/2013

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Political Parties Gear Up for Constitutional Showdown

 

The opposition parties capitalized on Constitution Day Friday to express skepticism about the wisdom of revising the pacifist charter, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party tried to build momentum to significantly rewrite it. This year marks the document’s 66th anniversary. The LDP issued a statement claiming constitutional change is inevitable. “The issue is no longer whether we should change the Constitution,” it says. “We are at the stage of mulling how to revise it.” Drafting its own Constitution has been a goal of the LDP since its inception in 1955. The party says the current charter, drafted under the supervision of the U.S.-led Allies, does not reflect the will of the Japanese people and drafted a new version last year. In its campaign for the Upper House election this summer, the LDP intends to pledge that it will amend Article 96 to make it easier to launch constitutional revisions. Under Article 96, changes to the Constitution must be approved by at least two-thirds of both Diet houses and then a majority of voters in a national referendum.

 

The LDP aims to pare the requirement to just a simple majority of lawmakers in each chamber. And yet the LDP’s coalition partner, New Komeito, is a strong supporter of the pacifist Constitution. It has challenged the LDP’s position, warning that due caution is needed when discussing Article 96. Referring to the high standard it sets for constitutional revisions, New Komeito released a statement saying “the current requirement makes sense as it protects people’s human rights from the government.” “We should have more comprehensive discussion as to what we should revise, including the two-thirds requirement,” said the party, which is backed by the lay-Buddhist group Soka Gakkai. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan says that a broader public discussion is needed before the requirement can be eased, because revising it could pave the way for amending war-renouncing Article 9.

 

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said Tuesday that the second paragraph of Article 9, which prohibits Japan from having a military and states that “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized,” should be dropped as it could be interpreted as meaning the existence of the Self-Defense Forces is illegal. Other parties that want to keep the charter unchanged are the Social Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party. Both have criticized Abe’s motives. But Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has been advocating robust discussions about constitutional change as it pursues a partnership with the LDP. “The current Constitution was forced (on Japan) by the Allies and does not reflect Japanese culture or history, nor can it deal with the many challenges that surround Japan,” a Nippon Ishin statement said.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp 05/03/2013

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New Rules Set for Resolving Custody in Divorces

 

Rules have been established over the forced separation of children from one parent for the purpose of handing them over to the other parent in divorces in a practice called direct enforcement. The rules, which were set after discussions on the matter among judges nationwide, aim to mitigate negative effects of direct enforcement on children concerned. Under the rules, court enforcement officers will be allowed to separate a child of a divorced couple from a parent only at home, rather than at school or on a road to school, where trouble between officers and parents and others can potentially occur. The Supreme Court will inform courts nationwide of the new rules this month. The rules are expected to improve the situation of direct enforcement, where children may feel they are being moved around like property. There are also calls for establishing legislation on how direct enforcement is implemented.

 

Under direct enforcement, district court enforcement officers forcibly separate children from parents and transfer them to the other parent if the first parent does not abide by a family court's order to do so. Direct enforcement was rarely implemented until 10 years ago because some courts ruled that direct enforcement, which regards children as "movable property" based on the Civil Execution Law, is illegal. However, the number of direct enforcement cases has recently increased due to intensifying conflicts over children between divorced parents, with the number rising to 120 in 2010 and 132 in 2011. Previously, there were no rules for how direct enforcement was executed. Court enforcement officers sometimes separated a child from a parent at nursery schools, primary schools and school roads, sometimes causing incidents.

 

For example, officers separating a child from his father at a nursery school got into a scuffle with the man. In another case, a grandmother who realized that officers were there to take away her grandchild stayed in a nearby building and refused to hand over the child. Under such circumstances, about 150 district court judges and enforcement officers in charge of direct enforcement held a meeting in January and February to review the way direct enforcement is executed. Most participants at the meeting said direct enforcement should not be implemented on school roads or at primary schools because taking such measures in public could have a negative effect on a child's mental and physical health. They agreed that direct enforcement should rather be executed at a child's home when possible. Direct enforcement refers to a procedure of compulsory execution in which court enforcement officers seize fixed or movable assets of debtors who do not abide by court rulings for the purpose of transferring them to creditors.

 

Compulsory execution also includes indirect enforcement, under which debtors are obliged to pay a certain amount of money until they satisfy the court rulings. Until about 10 years ago, only indirect enforcement was implemented for the transfer of a child from one parent to another within the country. Regarding failed international marriages, a bill that stipulates procedures for the return of a child from one parent to another was approved at the House of Representatives' plenary session on Thursday. The bill, which was compiled to join the Hague Convention, is expected to pass the Diet in the current session. The bill defines not only the place a child should be separated from one parent but also the age range of children subject to forcible transfer, as well as the powers of enforcement officers. However, these rules will not be applied for direct enforcement in purely domestic cases. Judges and experts on direct enforcement said Japan should establish legislation to stipulate rules for the practice considering that Japan will join the Hague Convention, which contains rules for dealing with international child custody disputes.

From http://the-japan-news.com 05/12/2013

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Gov't Takes Aim at Electricity Monopolies

 

Japan is embarking on its most ambitious attempt at electricity industry reform since 1951, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe well-positioned for victory in a battle to break up powerful regional monopolies that is seen as a test of his political agenda. The time is ripe for the government’s push to reduce some of the highest electricity costs in the world by opening up the market for competition, with energy companies’ public image battered in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Major reform is rare in Japan, but Abe’s sweeping plan for the power industry is central to his drive to overhaul the country’s economy, as high energy costs would derail efforts to turn back decades of stagnant growth and deflation. The government is pushing for recently submitted legislation to be passed before parliament goes into recess on June 26. Change won’t be easy as the politically well-connected utilities are part of an entrenched web of interests and have resisted attempts since the 1990s to liberalize the industry. The companies and their affiliates have ties with politicians, fund their campaigns and often give government officials executive roles.

 

Japan’s power companies are good for nobody but themselves. So we gotta to get rid of that, energy costs are so expensive,” said Taro Kono, a lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who has long been critical of government support for utilities and says the plans should go further. The companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Co and Kansai Electric Power Co, still supply almost 98% of Japan’s electricity and terms for access to their transmission lines make it onerous for new entrants. Wrenching control of transmission from regional monopolies to create a national grid is also a key issue after the March 2011 earthquake that sparked the Fukushima disaster highlighted the inability to transfer power to areas suffering shortages. Toshimitsu Motegi, the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, told parliament in March that overhauling the market was at the core of attempts to reduce Japan’s soaring energy costs, which have pushed it into a record trade deficit. “This is a major reform of historic proportions, which fundamentally reviews the regional monopoly system that has continued for six decades,” he said.

 

The monopolies, set up in 1951 during the American occupation after World War II, followed the U.S. model at the time, with regional utilities controlling all aspects of power generation and transmission with legally sanctioned profitability. Tokyo Electric, which before the meltdowns at its Fukushima Daiichi facility was the most powerful utility, is under government control and is being split into separate units. The company will likely be the template for broader change. “TEPCO today is not the same TEPCO as the TEPCO of the past,” said Gerhard Fasol, chief executive officer at consultancy Eurotechnology Japan KK. Fasol said he expects the industry reforms to be pushed through unless there are significant political changes in the country, one of the last major industrialized economies to attempt to fully liberalize electricity markets. Japan’s ability to smoothly transfer power between regions is also hampered by it having two different frequencies dividing its eastern and western sides.

 

That is supposed to change in the first stage of the reforms, slated to be carried out over the next seven years. The government has submitted legislation to create a national grid company in 2015, with the bill also laying out a schedule for the following two phases of reform. Hopes to pass the bill in the current session ending June 26 may be fading with some members of parliament holding up debate, according to a government official involved in drafting the legislation. “We expect Minister Motegi to make a strong statement (to get parliament to start debating the legislation),” the official said. In the second phase, the government plans to liberalize the market for homes, an important source of earnings for power companies. The market to supply to customers using more than 50 kilowatts was opened up in 2005, but utilities can still block supply from independent power producers as they control transmission lines. The final and most ambitious phase envisages breaking the monopolies into separate generation and transmission companies by 2020 and abolishing all price controls.

 

While the ultimate aim is to reduce electricity prices for Japanese business and voters, one of those who helped draft the scheme questions whether the reforms will drive down costs. “Consumers in Europe and in the U.S. often found there was a rise in electricity bills after power sector deregulation,” said Hiroshi Takahashi, a research fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute and a member of panel that advised on the reforms. Subsidies for renewable energy, environmental taxes and higher fuel import bills kept prices in some countries from falling after deregulation, he said. While the energy companies say they support the thrust of the proposed changes, they have repeatedly urged the government to prioritize stable power supply and to slow reforms if this cannot be guaranteed. And the utilities may have had some success in watering down the legislation, Takahashi said. “When compared with the METI panel’s proposals in February, the bill looks to be somewhat weakened in terms of the authority of the (national grid company),” he said.

 

Still, trading houses and other companies are watching the developments with interest, sensing this time around might be different. “This a real opportunity I reckon, especially with TEPCO in the state it is in,” said Koji Takayanagi, a senior managing executive officer, at trading house Itochu Corp, when asked about the reforms at a recent earnings briefing. Japan’s trading houses say they are keen to enter or expand power generation businesses and they have plenty of funds, while the biggest regional electricity monopolies recently posted combined losses of $16 billion for a second year. The shutdown of most of Japan’s nuclear reactors for safety checks in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, has also sparked a search for alternative power sources such as renewable energy. “The trading companies, and also other companies such as real estate companies, gas companies ... and telecoms companies such as Softbank have already entered the electricity market,” said Fasol. “To some extent that is an avalanche, which will be difficult to stop now.”

From http://www.japantoday.com 05/19/2013

 

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Revised Election Law Allows Wards to Vote by Proxy

 

The House of Councilors enacted a law Monday that gives wards the right to vote, meaning that about 136,000 adults under legal guardianship will be able to cast ballots in the Upper House poll this summer. The Upper House of the Diet unanimously approved a bill to amend the Public Offices Election Law by removing Article 11, which prevents wards from exercising their right to vote. The bill passed the Lower House earlier. Under the revision, adults who are under guardianship will be able to exercise their voting rights via proxies. Proxy voting will also be allowed in national referendums on constitutional amendments. To prevent illegal voting, the new law only allows polling station officials engaged in clerical duties to act as the wards’ proxies. In March, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the election law clause was unconstitutional because it supports discrimination based on social status. The case was brought by a woman who had been put under legal guardianship because of a mental disability. Following the decision, the ruling and opposition parties began discussions on revising the law and jointly introduced an amendment bill, although the government is appealing the district court ruling. At a press conference Monday afternoon, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government cannot drop the appeal because doing so will finalize the ruling by the district court.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp 05/28/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Committee Passes Revision to Protect Franchise Stores

 

The parliamentary committee on national policy has passed a revision bill aimed at protecting the interests and rights of franchise stores rather than those of franchise operators. The committee held a plenary session on Monday and approved the revision, which prohibits franchise operators from forcing stores to operate at night if the late-night operations are deemed unnecessary due to extremely low sales. The revision also bans franchise operators from imposing a heavy penalty on store owners when cancelling their franchise contracts. The parent companies are also required to shoulder up to 40 percent of the costs for store renovations. In addition, the revision stipulates that in the contract, franchise operators designate an operation zone for each shop to prevent excessive competition among franchise stores in a small area.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 05/06/2013

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Directions and Policies of Cultural Renaissance Discussed

 

Future culture-related policies of the current government were discussed by scholars and researchers in a series of open forums held in Seoul in early May. Participants of the first of four sessions discussed the subject of “meaning and direction of cultural renaissance” at the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) headquarters on May 2. The second session, held on May 7 at the National Library, focused on “enjoyment of culture and happiness for the people.” “Cultural renaissance” is one of the four policy priorities of this administration as it is mentioned in the inauguration speech made by President Park Geun-hye in February. Considering that a keyword reflecting culture-related policy was never mentioned in inauguration speeches by previous presidents, the current administration has a keen interest in culture. The event was held by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute (KCTI) and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST).

Participants of the first session included Professor Jun Sang-in at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies of Seoul National University, Professor Lee Dong-yeun at Korea National University of Arts, and Yang Gun-ryol, a senior researcher at the KCTI. The world’s first culture ministry was born in France in 1959 and since then, culture-related ministries have been created in governments across the world. As the countries progress, their interest in culture and its role have grown. Looking at the phenomenon, it seems that the more developed a country is, the more emphasis is placed on culture and culture-related polices. “In the 21st century, culture is an important growth engine that creates added value for the future,” Lee said. “A sense of delight citizens get in their everyday lives from the enjoyment of culture and leisure in a society is a key value of the countrymen’s happiness.”

According to Lee, the concept of a creative industry first appeared in a report in Britain in 1988. Creative industry, here, includes advertising, art, antiques, design, fashion, film, entertainment, music, theater art, publishing, software, computer service, television, and radio. Another trend in culture in the 21st century is cultural diversity. “As Korea becomes more culturally diverse, cultural diversity is an unavoidable concept in making culture-related policies,” Lee said. “There is a task to accept the differences in the cultures of immigrants and understand the co-existence of various cultures within Korea in a step to evolve to a model of an ethnic mosaic.” Professor Jun stressed the importance of urban planning in ironing out culture-related policies. According to Jun, a city is the venue of creation, accumulation, and spread of culture and cultural competition.

“It is no exaggeration that urban planning is same as culture policy,” Jun said. “Decentralization of power and autonomy is a significant factor for cities to act as a base to generate culture.” Jun said urban culture in Korean cities is becoming unified and standardized, and unorganized countrywide development led by regional governments is encroaching on cultural individuality of regional cities in Korea. He also said the fact that architectural policies are handled by the culture ministry in France is a key difference that separates developed and developing nations.  “It would be considered taking a big stride toward a creative economy to reclaim the value of cities and draw outlines of Korea’s cultural policies,” Jun said. “Cultural renaissance in fact tends to start in a city and spread to other cities and countries,” said Yang. “The atmosphere in which creative individuals continue to flow to the city and freely engage in creative activities is the basis of cultural renaissance.”

Yang also said government-led and supply-oriented policies cannot satisfy the needs of the public and there need for pan-government strategies to turn the tide to demand-oriented and public-private policies. In the second session, Professor of Psychology Hur Tea-kyun at Korea University and KCTI leisure research head Yun So-jeong made presentations on the concept of cultural welfare and leisure. Explaining the concept of cultural welfare, Yun said welfare policies generally target low-income households while cultural welfare is geared toward to the entire public. Then, she called for “optimal solutions to achieve universal cultural welfare.” Hur said the government should consider more than financial support in planning out policies for low-income households who often have limited cultural opportunities. “There needs to be effort to provide them with more opportunities and choices and help instill a sense of freedom, going beyond simple reasoning of money,” he said.

From http://www.korea.net/ 05/10/2013

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Moves to Toughen Korea’s Online Transaction Security System

 

Two lawmakers of South Korea's main opposition party are determined to drastically revise Electronic Financial Transaction Act and Digital Signature Act in order to introduce various online security and certification technologies. Introduced in 1999, the Online Transaction Certification System has been used for online transactions worth over KRW 300,000. However, the abolition of the Online Transaction Certification System has been bandied around owing to massive cyber-attacks since 2012. Once revised bills pass the National Assembly, varied certification technologies other than the current Online Transaction Certification System based on Active X will be put to use. Also, new companies will be given the opportunity to participate in the certification issuance market, which is currently led by five certificate issuers. A proposed amendment to Electronic Financial Transaction Act stipulates that Financial Services Commission (FSC), Korea's top financial regulator, should refrain from forcing financial companies to use certain security technologies or services and dampening fair competition in security technologies.

From http://www.koreaittimes.com/ 05/21/2013

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Gov't Foreign Investment Policy to Focus on Job Creation

 

The South Korean government says it will change its foreign investment policy to spur job growth at home. Under the plan, the government will offer more incentives to foreign investors that create more jobs even if investment is small. Our Kim In-kyung has more. In an effort to create more jobs in South Korea, the government will shift its focus from how much money foreigners invest to the number of jobs they can create. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Thursday that it has finalized its new foreign investment policy, which will offer more benefits to foreign investors who create jobs and are technologically innovative even if investment is small. If a foreign investor has already created many jobs or has plans to hire large numbers of people, the government plans to lower the minimum amount required to invest in foreign investment zones. Currently, minimum investment is 30 million dollars for manufacturing businesses, 20 million dollars for tourism businesses and 10 million dollars for logistics companies. The government also plans to cut rent rates on leased land for foreign investors that boost job numbers. The rate is currently one percent of land price, but the government plans to exempt 75 percent of the rate for foreign manufacturers that invest more than five million dollars. If businesses invest in non-capital regions, the government plans to reduce the rent rate by another 10 percent compared to capital regions. The new policy includes plans to eliminate tax benefits for companies with common or widely used technology and instead offer incentives to businesses that induce employment or retain fundamental technology. The government also plans to attract more foreign investment by easing regulations concerning joint ventures with foreign businesses, setting up foreign educational institutes in free economic zones, and granting permanent resident status to foreigners who invest in public services.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 05/23/2013

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Ministry of Health and Welfare Signs Hague Adoption Convention

 

The Korean government joined the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) to protect children involved in international adoption on Friday, May 24, 2013. Chin Young, Minster of Health and Welfare, signed the convention in the witness of Netherlands Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport Edith Schippers, Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs - Head of the Treaties Division Joseph Damoiseaux, and newly appointed Secretary-General Christophe Bernasconi of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Binnenhof, The Hague, Netherlands. The Hague Adoption Convention was developed to establish safeguards which ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for the child’s fundamental rights. The convention was first signed in 1993 and took effect in 1995, and since then some 90 countries have joined. Last year, the government made amendments to the act on adoption and civil law to introduce new procedures such as civil court approval requirements, a careful deliberation period, stronger qualifications for adoptive parents, and strict conditions in the dissolution of adoptions. The government decided that the legal and institutional foundation was ready as the precondition of signing the convention. “This signature will serve as a pivotal case ensuring the best interests of children born here to grow up in a family here as well, while taking responsibility of the safety and human rights of internationally adopted children to show our country’s will to realign our children’s rights standard to match the global standard, herein and abroad,” said Minister Chin Young at the signing ceremony. 

From http://www.korea.net/ 05/27/2013

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MONGOLIA: SGK Approves Amendments to Strategic Sectors Foreign Investment Law

 

On April 19, 2013, SGK passed amendments to Strategic Sectors Foreign Investment Law (SSFIL) that was adopted in May last year. The new amendment aims to ease restrictions and create more favorable conditions for foreign investors. Parliamentary approvals for foreign non-state owned companies and threshold of MNT100bn (US$70mn) have been removed. The investments of state owned or state participated companies will still need parliamentary approval in case the investment exceeds 49% stake.

 

The SSFIL came into force on May 17, 2012 which stipulated in its article 4.7 that if a foreign investor stake in companies operating in strategic industries exceeds 49% and the investment amount exceeds MNT100bn (US$70mn), then the foreign invested companies will need an approval from SGK. The law states strategic sectors include mining, financial services, banking and media and communications. The impact of this law raised serious concerns among international and domestic investment community and multilateral development agencies as the law has brought in regulatory uncertainty, complicated the process of issuing permissions and put on hold a number of ongoing and new investment projects. The previous version of the law believed to affected the inflow of the foreign direct investment. The FDI fell 17% comparing to last year to 3.93 billion USD. The GDP growth also slowed by 5% from 17.5% last year to 12.3%.

From http://www.business-mongolia.com 04/25/2013

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Mongolia Prioritising Education

 

Attendance and school construction are on the rise in Mongolia, and the Ministry of Education (MoE) continues to harness foreign expertise, suggesting significant progress in the sector. However, critics say the government needs to do more to ensure improved and inclusive schooling at all levels, particularly given the promise of growing social development as a result of increased resource-related investment. Figures released by the National Statistical Office in February 2013 showed encouraging increases in the total number of students and graduates, as well as schools operating in the country. The total number of students increased 0.8% from 890,000 to 897,000 for the 2012/13 academic year. Meanwhile, the number of graduates from secondary, technical and vocational schools, and universities rose to 167,000 from 133,000. Additionally, 70 new schools – four secondary schools and 66 kindergarten – began operations in 2012/13.

 

A further positive sign for the sector is the joint strategy launched in 2011 by the government and the UK’s Cambridge University, which leaders say will improve the quality and effectiveness of the education system. Teachers from Cambridge have been working with Mongolian counterparts on new textbooks in maths, science, biology, chemistry, physics and English for 10 grades, as well as developing reforms in national education policy. Under the plan, a small network of elite schools will be built in Ulaanbaatar and regional centres. “Cambridge University is giving us advice in accordance with the contract that the government signed with them. They are helping us achieve a world-class standard of education,” L Gantumur, the minister of education and science, told local weekly publication The UB Post in March 2013. However, some critics have taken aim at the MoE’s relationship with Cambridge, saying Mongolia must develop its own country-specific education system. “Mongolia should try to find its own solutions by establishing relationships between teachers and students and motivating their intellectual creativity,” wrote the Mongolian Economy magazine in an editorial in September 2012. Other observers have said the government’s plan to allow only the best students access to the elite schools will create a two-tier system, suggesting the MoE instead develop a plan that sees quality education trickle down through the rest of the system.

 

Mongolia is using its newly exploited mineral wealth to reform its social services. While the government should be applauded for looking to the future… separating academically successful children into an elite system raises serious concerns about equity,” wrote Kate Lapham, senior programme manager for the Open Society Foundation’s Education Support Programme, in March 2013. Given the design of the Cambridge system, it is also uncertain whether it will tackle another key challenge – teachers’ salaries. While the government pledged in 2010 to raise these to MNT410,000 ($292) per month, online news portal InfoMongolia reported in November 2011 that the average teaching salary was still MNT300,000 ($214), which resulted in over 10,000 public school teachers from 108 schools going on strike in December that year. In an attempt to address the issue, while discussing an amendment to the education law regarding funds allotted for teachers’ salaries, the Cabinet opted to grant an additional MNT30m ($21,352) compared with the initially proposed MNT150bn ($106.76m).

 

Critics also say there is a greater need for vocational schools to teach unemployed Mongolians job-specific skills that can integrate them faster into the economy. Key to this will be reforms to technical and vocational education and training (TVET), which is currently being developed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB has stated that the initiative aims to deliver employment-focused and quality TVET to both rural and urban learners. “Many TVET schools have largely inherited the pre-[Soviet], transition-period set-ups in terms of inadequate teaching and training techniques, outdated equipment, and poor state of training facilities… [this project] will support development of preparedness and trainability among students in general secondary and special education schools and the provision of guidance for their future career choice,” the ADB wrote in its project data sheet in early February 2013. Both the recently introduced and upcoming changes to the education system will indeed generate a number of benefits, including a higher standard of education and more highly skilled nationals. However, the government must strive to continue its educational development and compensate teachers financially if it hopes to become a global competitor.

From http://www.business-mongolia.com 04/29/2013

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INDONESIA: International Lawmakers to Push for Ratification of ICC

 

A international delegation of legislators will head to Indonesia next week to discuss the Southeast Asian nation's moves to join the group of nations signed up to the International Criminal Court (ICC). New Zealand Member of Parliament and president of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Ross Robertson, would lead the delegation in talks with officials from Indonesia's foreign and defense ministries on the country's ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC. "If ratified by Indonesia, the ICC will have a role in ensuring future generations of Indonesians are not victimized by the inhumane and destructive force of international crimes," Robertson said in a statement Friday. "The ICC is the first permanent body with the power to hold to account those who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. As of today, 122 sovereign states have decided to join the ICC Statute, but the largest democratic nation in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, has not yet done so." Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had taken the " principled decision" to ratify the statute and it was hoped the Indonesian Parliament would pass the legislation to confirm the ratification, said Robertson. The PGA delegation would work with leading Indonesian lawmakers, government officials and civil society leaders to progress the cause, he said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/10/2013

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CAMBODIA: Parliament Passes Farmers' Cooperative Law

 

PHNOM PENH, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's National Assembly on Thursday adopted a law on farmers' cooperatives in order to support government policies in bolstering the agricultural sector, particularly paddy production and milled rice exports. Eighty out of the 83 lawmakers who were present at the parliament session approved the law. The law would allow farmers to organize themselves in legally recognized cooperatives, which could improve their market position and increase access to financial and technical support. According to the law, a cooperative can be established by at least 15 people working in farming and agricultural business. Under the law, the government would find financial institutions that could offer credit to farmers through the cooperatives, allowing farmers to get loans without collateral as the cooperative would guarantee the loans of its members. "The law would give advantages to farmers that joined a cooperative," Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said during the parliament session. "Farmers unified in a cooperative would be in a stronger position to sell their produce."

 

The minister said since 2003, the Ministry of Agriculture has established 375 agricultural communities throughout the country with 35,630 members and a total capital of 2.25 million U.S. dollars. "Currently, agricultural communities are playing an important role to help the government promote paddy production and milled rice exports," he said. "The communities will improve food security, reduce starvation and bolster economic and social development." Cambodia is an agrarian country. More than 80 percent of the population is farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture announced in January that the country produced 9.31 million tons of paddy rice last year. Of this amount, besides local consumptions, the nation had around 3 million tons of milled rice left over for export this year. Chan Sarun said the country had exported about 210,000 tons of rice in the first four months of this year. "With this figure, I am optimistic that the country will be able to achieve the goal of exporting one million tons of milled rice a year from 2015."

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/09/2013

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Cambodia Says to Continue Cooperation with UN on Human Rights

 

PHNOM PENH, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Senior Minister Om Yentieng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said Wednesday that the country would continue good cooperation with the United Nations for a better human rights development. Speaking to reporters after a two-hour meeting with visiting Surya P. Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Cambodia, Om Yentieng said as a member of the United Nations, Cambodia, in the status of a sovereign state, always enhanced every UN's policy on human rights."As a good and active member of the UN, Cambodia will continue to work with the United Nations in developing human rights," he said. In the meeting, Subedi said he wanted to follow up his recommendations made in his previous reports on the judiciary, parliamentary reform, electoral reform and economic land concessions in Cambodia.

 

Meanwhile, Om Yentieng lashed out at Subedi, saying that his reports were groundless and had a trend towards the opposition party. He said Subedi produced the reports by listening to only a very small group of people with opposition tendency, ignoring the opinions of millions of the Cambodian people. Subedi arrived in Cambodia Sunday for a one-week fact-finding mission on human rights situation.During the stay, he had already met separately with a ruling party lawmaker Chheang Von, chairman of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Commission at the National Assembly, Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, Im Suosdey, chairman of the National Election Committee, and civil society representatives as well as some victims in cases of human rights violation.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/22/2013

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MYANMAR: Reform Process Advances in April, Says President

 

Myanmar President U Thein Sein made a review over the country's reform process, especially the progresses made in April, in a radio speech to the nation Thursday. U Thein Sein said he paid goodwill visits to New Zealand, Australia and European countries in April, aiming at further cementing relations with the international community as well as making cooperation in all sectors needed for the country. He said he could make coordination with these countries on cooperation in technology, environmental conservation and political, economic and social sectors during his visits. "To build friendlier relations with the world countries is meant to ensure the betterment of our people, to promote trade and to make them understand Myanmar. Thanks to the huge inflow of foreign investments, our people would enjoy the fruit of advanced technology transfer. We are making strenuous efforts to become international-standard businesses," he said.

 

He underscored that during the month, establishment of better relations with world countries was an important milestone, saying on April 22, EU lifted all sanctions against Myanmar except for arms embargo. He said Myanmar would be soon able to solve the political, economic and social conflicts which are the consequences of international sanctions thereby promoting socio-economic status of the Myanmar people. On April 29, U Thein Sein attended the summit held in Bangkok of Thailand and delivered a speech as to cooperation with UN ESCAP in regional economic and social affairs and unexpected natural disasters. He also accepted the UN ESCAP honorary prize there. He maintained that reengagement with international community can help Myanmar rejoin with the global economy, saying it would be beneficial to the development of Myanmar. On the other hand, Myanmar is to make preparations for world economic crisis and its unexpected impacts, he said. He described his goodwill trip to China as remarkable as he attended the economic forum in Hainan Island.

 

He noted that his visit is a more memorable one for him because Hainan Island had taken part in Myanmar's road to independence and was also the place where Myanmar's thirty comrades learned the arts of war. "We need to see the fact that we are sharing border with China, the world's fastest-growing economic power, as a strong point and create opportunities for the development of our country," he stressed. Briefing that the Myanmar government has been focusing on economic development, poverty alleviation and improving socioeconomic status, adopting related policies, objectives and projects, U Thein Sein said he would like to inform the people that the government have started electrification and low-cost housing projects out of those projects. "While our government is striving for better economic performance, we acknowledge that technology and human resources, also known as the human capital, are pivotal for sustainable development," he said.

 

Dealing with education reforms, he disclosed that the government has placed a special emphasis on production of all- round youths for state-building. By so doing, the younger generations will become duty-conscious, responsible and accountable leaders and citizens with magnanimity for the motherland, he added. To ensure national reconciliation, he said the government has granted amnesty for a total of 93 inmates from prisons across the country, making them to reunion with their families. As April 2013 marked a historic moment in Myanmar with certain success in politics, economy and international relations of the country and it also coincides with time honored New Year Water Festival, U Thein Sein extended his special thanks to all of the country people for he saw a traditional, love-drenched water festival with no discrimination against race or religion and any troubles, best representing the image of a polite Myanmar society.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/02/2013

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Myanmar Drafts 5-Year Dairy Development Plan

 

Myanmar is drafting a five-year sustainable plan to develop the country's dairy cattle breeding sector to which New Zealand government offered to render assistance, official media reported Friday. The five-year draft concept plan (2013-18) were discussed recently at a stakeholder consultation workshop with Myanmar dairy sector representatives. The report quoted Minister of Livestock and Fisheries U Ohn Myint as saying that regional dairy development boards have been formed across the country, stressing the need for more efforts to establish dairy cattle breeding farms and value-added dairy product factories. New Zealand ended decades of limited contact last year when Prime Minister John Key visited Myanmar and pledged 7 million NZ dollars (5.7 million U.S. dollars) toward humanitarian aid and the construction of dairy farm capabilities.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/10/2013

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SINGAPORE: App to Locate Clean Restrooms Launched

 

The Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) has launched a mobile app to help the public locate clean toilets in their vicinity. The ‘LOO (Let’s Observe Ourselves) Connect’ app uses OneMap, Singapore’s geo-spatial portal, to allow users to locate clean toilets certified by the RAS, a non-profit organisation advocating for clean public toilets. The app was developed in collaboration with Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Nanyang Polytechnic. Users can also give feedback on bathrooms they use by adding public bathrooms on the map and posting comments on their cleanliness. They can also add comments on the cleanliness of bathrooms already on the map. The RAS wants to encourage socially responsible behaviour among the public. The app allows users to categorise bathrooms in three groups – disgusting toilets, certified restrooms, and STAR@Schools (schools credited with a platinum, gold, silver or bronze star under an RAS awards programme). RAS will also use the information collected through the app to helps its volunteers during ‘mystery audits’ of public bathrooms. "As a non-profit charity advocating for clean public toilets, we are always keen to leverage on the use of new technology to promote our cause", said Tan PuayHoon, President of RAS. LOO Connect is currently only available for Android-based smartphones.

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

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Singapore Outlines Govt ICT Spending Priorities

 

G-Cloud, Big Data, Analytics, Information Security, and a more pervasive use of sensors to position Singapore as a ‘smart city’ - these were the key areas of focus for ICT spending over the course of the next financial year, announced at an industry briefing organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) this morning. Government ICT spending is set to remain unchanged for the year ahead at S$1.2 billion (US$947 million), but the Deputy Chief Executive of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, James Kang, heralded a major shift in the way the government will procure ICT.

 

Smaller, but more frequent, projects

Explaining that the world of ICT was becoming more complex, and the needs of users were changing at a faster rate, Kang set out a vision of ‘agile software development’ where agencies would break down larger ICT projects into their constituent elements with a view to delivering services faster, and with less risk. “We can no longer wait nine months or more for delivery, the world is moving too fast,” explained Kang. “And there has been a tendency for agencies to list their maximal requirements, including things they did not need. This can lead to very complex programmes where the risk and magnitude of failure increases.” “So what we want to move towards is a more disciplined approach, where the most important functions are prioritised and the emphasis is on going live as quickly as possible,” he continued.

 

G-Cloud: open for business

The next phase in the development of the Singapore government’s ‘G-Cloud’ received particular attention, as Kang signalled a switch from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). “Many agencies have been encouraged to take advantage of public cloud services for non-confidential systems, and the take up rate has been good. So we are now trying to extend the same benefits for systems which are dealing with confidential information, and that is the function of the G-Cloud,” he explained. Inviting solutions providers to work with IDA to make their cloud-based applications available from the G-Cloud, a private cloud infrastructure that has been built up over the past year, Singapore’s GCIO revealed that “close to 100 systems are already making their way to the G-Cloud”. ICT companies were encouraged to adapt to this new provisioning model as individual agencies sought to tap “the agility, scalability and utility pricing model of the cloud while maintaining the governance and security of confidential systems and data”.

 

Information Security

In response to a question from FutureGov Asia Pacific magazine, Kang revealed that the one continuous strand linking this industry briefing with previous years was the enduring importance of information security. “If anything it continues to grow in importance every year - you would be surprised to see our own statistics on what is happening. We literally receive billions of attacks a year from automated crawlers and viruses. So this year we are going to enhance our ‘Cyber-Watch Centre’ (CWC) so that we can have constant monitoring throughout the day, and where there is real time detection of suspicious activity so that we can take remedial action - as opposed to being attacked and not knowing about it.” The CWC was set up by IDA in 2007 to provide alerts on cyber attacks for government agencies. It currently runs a round-the-clock Security Operations Centre staffed with security professionals. In the coming year it will develop new capabilities in the areas of web site security, detection of data loss, and better detection of malware. These enhancements are expected to be implemented by April 2014.

 

Big Data = Smarter Cities

The large volumes of data being automatically created by an ever-growing array of sensors was another area that Kang drew attention to during the briefing. Referring to the city-as-a-system, and the internet-of-things, Kang backed the Singapore government’s efforts to break new ground in the field of ‘smart cities’: “I think we are doing things that you won’t see anywhere else, and if you look at our procurement plans you will see a lot of money being spent on cameras and other passive sensors.” Citing the danger posed by high tides coinciding with sudden downpours of rain that can lead to road flooding within 30 minutes, Kang said that real time decision would make the city more liveable and improve the quality of life for residents. “Data analytics will help the Singapore government to analyse all this multimedia data coming in, as well as a lot of unstructured data, and help improve the delivery of services, analyse feedback, optimise our operations, and improve safety and awareness,” he explained. “We are moving towards a data-driven, actionable intelligence mindset. And we are looking for more innovative applications through mash ups with private sector data in order to co-create initiatives that leverage all this government data.”

 

Thinking differently

During the morning session Kang was at pains to stress that the government was seeking to work more collegiately with industry, and that he acknowledged that government departments needed to step out of their comfort zone to make this work. “I think the government is now a collaborative government. Not ‘government to you’ - but ‘government with you’. We are looking to become a government that co-creates with the private sector,” he concluded. “The mindset of government must change. You have to have partnership thinking. I just think that this approach is more appropriate for the complex environment in which we find ourselves.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/23/2013

 

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Proposed Anti-Discrimination Labour Law Needs to Be Balanced in Structure

 

SINGAPORE: Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say said that any anti-discrimination labour law enacted will need to be balanced in structure for the benefit for both employers and workers. Mr Lim, who is also the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, was responding to Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's recent comment that his ministry is open to the idea of having anti-discrimination laws. Speaking to the media at the May Day Family Fiesta on Saturday morning, Mr Lim said he is encouraged by Mr Tan's recent comment. However, he said if the legislation is "too loose", it may not provide enough protection for workers, and if the legislation is "too tight", it may make the labour market more rigid for employers. Mr Lim said: "I'm very sure that the tripartite partners, through a process of consultation, should be able to reach a consensus. As a labour movement, we look forward in the coming months in working very closely with our tripartite partners to see how we can put in place a legislation framework so that it'll address both the concerns of the workers as well as the businesses." The Fiesta is the final event of the labour movement's May Day celebrations. This year, about 50,000 union members and their families attended the event at Downtown East.

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/25/2013

 

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VIETNAM: Nation to Co-Operate Over Aid, Says PM

 

The Vietnamese Government will closely co-operate with the World Bank (WB) to make sure that the bank's aid is distributed as efficiently as possible, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has said. Dung made the pledge at a reception for visiting WB East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg in Ha Noi yesterday.  During the meeting, the PM highlighted the positive developments in the Viet Nam-World Bank relationship, and expressed gratitude to the WB for the aid programmes and practical policy consultations it has provided to Viet Nam over recent years. He made clear his hope that the WB would continue its support for Viet Nam's socio-economic development, human resources training and poverty reduction programmes, while continuing to offer practical and effective policy consultations to the country. For his part, Axel van Trotsenburg, who is visiting Viet Nam until Thursday, confirmed that the bank will continue granting Viet Nam financial resource where possible in order to help the country achieve its socio-economic goals. He also pledged that his bank would always stand side by side with Viet Nam, especially in providing policy advice relating to stabilising the macro-economy and maintaining growth. The bank is willing to assist Viet Nam in accessing capital resources and promoting public-private partnership, he added.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 05/08/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Govt’s Measures to Face “Mahasen”

 

The district administration has made necessary arrangements to shield life and property from the cyclonic storm “Mahasen” formed over the Southeast Bay and adjoining area. It is feared that the cyclone, which was centered at 6pm today (Sunday) about 1410 kms south southwest of Chittagong port, 1330 kms south southwest of Cox’s Bazar port and 1345 kms south of Mongla port, may hit the coastal areas of Chittagong on Tuesday afternoon. A special committee comprising representatives of Bangladesh Army, Chittagong City Corporation, Fire Service and Civil Defence and Cyclone Preparedness Committee has been formed to monitor the development of the cyclone and take measures to minimise losses. Additional deputy commissioner of Chittagong SM Abdul Qader is heading the committee. DC Abdul Mannan said the committee will monitor cyclone and take measures to reduce losses. He also asked all the upazila administrations in the district to remain alert in this regard, saying a control room has also been opened at the DC office.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/12/2013

 

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Govt Pre-Cautionary Measures Lessen Casualties from Mahasen Minister

 

Disaster Management and Relief Minister Abul Hasan Mahamood Ali on Thursday claimed that all-out pre-cautionary measures taken by the government lessened the losses of lives and property from Cyclone Mahasen. “We kept over 50,000 volunteers and members of Bangladesh Army, Navy, Coast Guard, police and Red Crescent on alert in 15 coastal districts to come in the help of the cyclone- affected people promptly,” he said while briefing reporters at his office. The minister also said the government will soon give proper compensation to those who were killed and affected by the cyclone after making a list through respective deputy commissioners. Revealing that a total of 956,671 people were evacuated to 3296 cyclone shelters in the 15 coastal districts as of Thursday morning, he said his ministry has already allotted Tk 10 crore and 5,000 tonnes of rice for those districts.

 

The 15 coastal districts include Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakati, Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira. Weakened further and bearing down on the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) over Sitakunda of Chittagong on Thursday afternoon, Cyclone ‘Mahasen’ killed at least five people in three districts during its morning fury. The deaths were reported from Barguna, Bhola and Patuakhali districts where the tropical storm also damaged several hundred houses. Though the cyclone is moving at a speed of 25 kph, winds are lashing the regions packing a maximum speed of 100 kph under its influence. Earlier, the cyclone made a landfall in Bangladesh through Khepupara coast of Patuakhali in the morning.  Later, it passed over Feni and Noakhali regions at noon.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/16/2013

 

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JS Body Finalises Report on Birth and Death Registration (Amendment) Bill

 

A parliamentary watchdog at meeting on Thursday finalised its report on the ‘Birth and Death Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ to place it before parliament for passage. Held at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with committee chairman M Rahmat Ali in the chair, the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on LGRD and Cooperatives discussed in details the bill. Later, the committee finalised the report with necessary recommendations. Committee members Noor-E-Alam Chowdhury, M Abul Khair Bhuiyan, AKM Mostafizur Rahman, M Monwar Hossain and Ashrafun Nessa Mosharraf attended the meeting. Local Government Division Secretary Abu Alam M Shahid Khan, acting Secretary to the Rural Development and Cooperatives Division MA Quader and other high officials were also present.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/16/2013

 

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INDIA: BSNL Launches Project to Connect NE

 

BSNL has launched an ambitious programme to improve connectivity in rural and tribal areas of the northeast with the Centre planning to reach out to the rural population for effective governance through Common Service Centres (CSCs). About 1300 CSCs are to be established in the region and work for connectivity to these, informed Chief General Manager Telecom (CGMT), NE-1 Circle, DP Singh. The NE-1 Circle, comprising Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, is “always striving hard” to improve the telecom scenario in the region, Singh said. He added that while meeting sales target set by BSNL, growth in many new thrust areas have also been achieved. “During 2012-13, about 1.7 lakh GSM mobile connections were provided and 57 towers installed and commissioned, which has enhanced the capacity of 1 lakh lines and improved coverage to cater to the needs of the public in rural and remote areas,” the CGM said. “Phase-VII project for augmenting mobile capacity by 3 lakh with 468 Base Transceiver Station (BTS) tentatively is planned to be rolled out in the financial year 2013-14. There is considerable progress in rolling out wireless broadband, WiMAX services,” he said.

 

Arrangements are being made to provide 9312 broadband connections for which 81 new broadband equipment are under various stages of commissioning, he said. He added that 45 internet broadband-enabled kiosks have also been provided. Singh said 103.36 km of optical fibre cable (OFC) route has been laid for connectivity to all the three states together. The CGM said a telecom plan for the N-E region has been worked out, which would involve Rs 10,000 crore in the first phase of implementation. Singh said a project has been launched to provide broadband connectivity to all government schools in Meghalaya. “The project is being monitored by the Union human resource development ministry,” he said. The CGM further said that NE-1 Circle has shown that profits can be made even in these “grave economic times”. He added that the overall revenue for NE-1 for the last financial year 2011-12 stood at Rs 204.85 crore and this year the revenue has increased to Rs 213.96 crore and expenditure has come down for 2012-13 by Rs 2.9 crore.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 05/01/2013

 

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Govt Mulling a New Law to Deal with Betting in Sports

 

New Delhi: In the wake of controversy over spot-fixing in IPL matches, the sports ministry has started holding consultations with the law ministry to draft a new law to deal with betting in sports. "Yes, I talked to (sports minister) Jitendra Singh.... We will soon draft a new law to deal with the malice of betting," Law minister Kapil Sibal said. He said the confidence of the people in sports is shattered when such controversies erupt. While people think whatever is happening in the field is in the interest of the game, facts turn out to be otherwise, the minister said. The Indian Premier League was dealt a massive blow when Special Cell of Delhi Police arrested pacer S Sreesanth and his Rajasthan Royals teammates -- Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan -- on Thursday for allegedly indulging in spot-fixing in at least three IPL matches as per arrangements with bookies who are suspected to have underworld connections abroad. Delhi Police on Sunday arrested three more in the spot-fixing scandal including a former Ranji player. The police have asked hotels in Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad to provide CCTV footage to scan meetings of the three arrested cricketers with bookies in connection with the spot-fixing case.

From http://www.siliconindia.com 05/20/2013

 

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SRI LANKA: Right to Development Calls for Effective Implementation

 

A strong political will is needed for endorsing the draft Right to Development criteria and operational sub-criteria, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha said. “A strong political will is needed to finalise the process of considering, revising, and ultimately endorsing the draft Right to Development criteria and operational sub-criteria, towards the elaboration of a coherent set of standards on this intrinsic right,” he said. Addressing the 14th session of the UN Open-ended Intergovernmental working group on the Right to Development at the UN in Geneva on May 13, Aryasinha said: “With the world struggling through multiple crises, a renewed international commitment toward sustainable development at RIO+20, and the post-2015 development agenda upon us, the effective implementation of the Right to Development is required now, more than ever before”.

 

Ambassador Aryasinha noted that “the Declaration on the right to development clearly defines development as a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population, and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development, and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom; and it is this comprehension, that has led the development process within Sri Lanka, with a emphasised focus on equity and sustainability. “Sri Lanka has constantly taken steps to implement the right to development nationally. As a result our literacy rate of 90 percent has been maintained since the early 1980’s. Our rural economy has undergone an imperative transformation, with more and more people and families receiving access to electricity, IT and mobile connectivity, and further benefiting from the development of the rural and agricultural road network and vast infrastructure development. “Healthcare remains free to the populace, and focus on the enhancement of national health capacities, has taken the forefront with Rs 3 billion allocated this year alone to combat non-communicable diseases”.

 

He said: “However, while there could be numerous examples of national initiatives from countries such as Sri Lanka in the implementation of this intrinsic right, national responsibility alone as we know, is insufficient. Within the right to development’s individual and collective levels, within its multidimensional and global character, the international aspect, is to be considered on par with the national. “It remains evident that in order for us to effectively remove the obstacles, and achieve a conducive environment that provides for the implementation of this inalienable right, international cooperation, including effective partnerships for development, are essential. “Sri Lanka further notes the importance of mainstreaming the right to development in the policies and operational activities of the UN and its specialised agencies, programmes and funds, as well as international financial and multilateral trading systems, as ‘indispensable in achieving the right to development and preventing discriminatory treatment arising from political or other non-economic considerations, in addressing the issues of concern to developing countries.”

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 05/20/2013

 

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NEPAL: Govt Forwards Anti-Money Laundering Ordinances to Prez

 

The government has decided to forward anti-money laundering ordinances to the President , on Thursday. A meeting of the Cabinet took the decision as the International Financial Action Task force gave Nepal until June 2013 to show progress in preparing legislation against organised crime and money laundering. In February this year, the taskforce had said that Nepal should continue to work on implementing its action plan to adequately criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing; establishing and implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets; implementing adequate procedures for the confiscation of funds related to money laundering; enacting and implementing appropriate mutual legal assistance legislation; ensuring an effectively functioning Financial Intelligence Unit; and establishing adequate suspicious transaction reporting obligations for money laundering and terrorist financing. Similarly, the government has decided to appoint Chiranjivi Nepal the economic adviser to the finance ministry.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 05/02/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Extending Broadband Internet Project Until 2017

 

The project on the development of broadband Internet in Azerbaijan will be implemented in the period 2013-2017, Communications and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov said on Thursday. The project has been extended for two years as it was previously expected to be completed by 2015. According to Abbasov, Azerbaijan's State Oil Fund allocated 103 million manats ($131 million) for the project this year. Funding will also be provided in the coming years. All regions of Azerbaijan will be provided with high-speed access to the Internet by 2017. Regarding digital content in Azerbaijan, Abbasov said the increase in the number of electronic signature users contributes to its development. According to the minister, the number of electronic signatures issued by the certification center has now reached 12,000. This is a low figure given the country's population of over 9 million.

 

The use of digital signatures will spur the development of electronic services and in particular e-commerce, as well as simplify the procedure for issuance of official documents, he said. Abbasov noted that by the end of the year, the ministry intends to continue the implementation of the e-government project in the country, commission a new ground satellite station to monitor the earth's surface and complete the full transition to digital broadcasting. According to Aztelekom Production Association, the number of broadband internet users in the network of the association increased by 19 percent since the beginning of the year and currently is over 136,000 connections. In April, the number of households with access to broadband Internet reached 250,000 in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, with the figure expected to reach 400,000 by the end of 2013.

 

The introduction of broadband internet is being implemented under the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project. The project is aimed at building a fiber network for providing high-speed broadband internet services to the population. The traffic speed in FTTH technology will vary between 10 and 100 Mbit/s, while with ADSL the private user can enjoy only 2 to 8 Mbit/s speed depending on the telephone line's condition and distance from the telephone exchange. The project is to be implemented in three phases. The main goal of the project is to provide remote regions of the country with broadband Internet with a speed of 10 to 100 Mbit/s and expand the number of users to 85 percent. Azerbaijan has maintained its leading position among the CIS countries in terms of broadband Internet penetration over the past three years. Internet penetration rates increased from 65 to 70 percent in 2012.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/03/2013

 

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Parliament to Mull Changes to Law on Compulsory Insurance

 

The Economic Policy Committee of the Azerbaijani Parliament recommended discussing a bill on amendments to the existing law on compulsory types of insurance at the plenary session on Thursday. The bill envisages including the compulsory insurance against accidents and disease at work in the list of compulsory insurance regulated by the Compulsory Insurance Bureau. Currently, the law regulates four types of compulsory insurance - real estate insurance, liability insurance while exploiting real estate, civil liability insurance of vehicle owners and private insurance of passengers. The insurance companies have begun using the new law on "Compulsory types of insurance" since December 16, 2011. Moreover, the changes involve the expansion of the information system coverage of the Compulsory Insurance Bureau. At present, insurance policies on civil liability insurance of vehicle owners for all four kinds and compulsory insurance against accidents and disease in the workplace are registered through the bureau. Earlier, head of the State Insurance Supervision Service under the Azerbaijani Finance Ministry Namiq Khalilov told Trend news agency that the initiative of concluding the contracts through the information system and other types besides the civil liability insurance of vehicle owners came from these insurance companies. "This system is convenient to control the portfolio and sellers," Khalilov said. "It is very difficult to control it all over the country taking into account the massive sales on compulsory kinds without such a tool." There are 28 insurance and one reinsurance companies in Azerbaijan. Pasa Heyat, Atesgah Heyat and Qala Heyat companies may deal with compulsory insurance against accidents and disease at work.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/03/2013

 

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Draft E-Gov Program for 2013-2015 Developed in Azerbaijan

 

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan has developed a draft State program for the development of "e-government" 2013-2015, Isfandiyar Aliyev, head of strategic development at the Communications and IT Ministry said on Monday. According to Aliyev, the project was submitted to the government, and works on the implementation of all activities envisaged by it will begin upon its approval. "The program is expected to be approved in June 2013," Aliyev said. The new program is continuation of the state program on developing the ICT sector in Azerbaijan in 2010-2012. The program is aimed to create the e-government, develop the methods of management by means of implementing modern information and communication technologies in state bodies, providing e-services, as well as taking comprehensive measures to provide simplified and free access of citizens and organizations to such services.

 

The e-government project, which mostly covers the government sector, is an integral part of the broad "electronic Azerbaijan" idea. The establishment and development of the e-government in Azerbaijan will encourage fruitful work of the state bodies, guarantee its transparency and reduce bureaucracy. The e-government targets to reduce poverty, provide suitable conditions for the population's prosperity and address the issues reflected in the state program on poverty reduction and sustainable development in 2008-2015. Gabala city, some 225 km from Baku, hosted the fifth anniversary International Scientific Conference on "E-government: innovations in customs" on May 6-7. Some 102 representatives from 55 world countries attended it. The conference was held to discuss the global practice in developing and using the e-government, modern forms of cooperation between public organizations in the field of e-governance, using the information and communication technologies in the field of customs and other areas of the economy, as well as examining the current situation on innovative methods of governance and exchanging the experience in this area.

 

Chairman of the State Customs Committee, lieutenant-general of the customs service Aydin Aliyev, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Elmir Velizade, UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, Resident Representative of the UN Development Program Antonius Broek, head of the European Regional Office for Capacity Building of the World Customs Organization Vitali Mikeladze attended the opening ceremony of the conference. 2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan and the ICT University was established under a presidential order on February 2. President Ilham Aliyev also approved the regulations on the State Fund for IT Development and the Action Plan on the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan. According to the action plan, it is planned to develop an ICT strategy, improve the registration procedure of the national domain .az, and significantly reduce fees for telecommunication services and internet access.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/07/2013

 

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Azerbaijan Improves Legal Framework for Space Cooperation

 

Azerbaijan's accession to the Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, will expand its international cooperation links, 'Azerkosmos' told Trend on Monday. This intergovernmental agreement will help accelerate the growth of the country's activities in outer space, from both an economic as well as a scientific point of view and also serve as a form of intellectual potential and material and technical base in the space sector; it will also create favorable conditions for the implementation of the objectives set out in the state program for the creation and development of the space industry in Azerbaijan. The Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies was ratified by Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan and approved by the President. The Outer Space Treaty which entered into force in 1967, defines the basic legal framework of international space law. States party to the treaty shall pursue the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter and for the maintenance of international peace and security and for promoting international cooperation and mutual understanding.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/13/2013

 

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Azerbaijani Government Drafting New ICT Bill

 

Azerbaijan's Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies jointly with ASAN Service, which ensures unified and coordinated provision of services by government agencies, is drafting a bill "On state information systems and resources". Isfandiyar Aliyev, head of strategic development at the Communications and IT Ministry, said that the draft law will cover the creation and management of information systems, regulations on their use, technical issues, and information security. "Work on the new bill will be completed by June, after which the procedures of its review and approval will begin," Aliyev said. "The document is intended to provide support for building electronic government and expanding the scope of its activity, as well as solving a number of existing problems in this area," he said. The preparation of this bill is part of the action plan of the communications ministry for the current year due to the announcement of 2013 as the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan. Earlier Aliyev said the ICT ministry had developed a draft state program for the development of "e-government" covering the period 2013-2015.

 

The new program follows up on the state program on ICT development in 2010-2012 and is aimed to create the e-government, develop methods of management by means of implementing modern information and communication technologies in state bodies, providing e-services, as well as taking comprehensive measures to provide simplified and free access of citizens and organizations to such services. The e-government project, which mostly covers the government sector, is an integral part of the broad "electronic Azerbaijan" idea. The establishment and development of the e-government in Azerbaijan will encourage fruitful work of the state bodies, guarantee its transparency and reduce bureaucracy. The e-government targets to reduce poverty, provide suitable conditions for the population's prosperity and address the issues reflected in the state program on poverty reduction and sustainable development in 2008-2015.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/13/2013

 

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Azerbaijan, ITU Join Effort to Draft New Convention on Information Security

 

Azerbaijan jointly with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is working on a new convention on information security, Azerbaijani Communications and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov has said. Abbasov was speaking at the first nationwide scientific conference on information security in Baku on May 17. The conference was organized in the frame of the 2013 action plan on the ICT year, which was announced in Azerbaijan this January. May 17 is celebrated as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day around the world, which is linked to the establishment of the ITU in 1865. The main aim of the Day is to promote awareness on the opportunities of the Internet and information and communication technologies. According to Abbasov, a similar initiative on information security was put forward by Russia in 2010, but the world community has not yet made a specific decision on the issue. Some countries have made amendments to their legislation and went as far as equating cyber-attacks to a declaration of war. "Today, information security is becoming more important in the world," he said. "The main reason is the global digitization of all spheres of life.

 

A new electronic infrastructure is emerging and the main activity of many organizations is based on it. The most developed spheres are telecommunication and mobile networks," the minister said. The evolution of television and the transition to digital TV broadcasting also require a thorough approach to reliable information security systems, Abbasov said. "According to the statistics, the loss as a result of cyber-crime in the world amounts to approximately $1 trillion, which is comparable to the illicit drug trade turnover," he said. "About 600,000 people become victims of cyber criminals every year." Azerbaijan is working to develop its ICT sector and to protect the users. The ICT ministry is coordinating the work of various state bodies to protect users from online threats, malware cyber-attacks and other adversities. Along with ensuring effective protection against outside threats, it is equally important to organize public awareness work. For this purpose, the Electronic Security Center was set up under the ministry in March. The Electronic Security Center is planning to launch seminars and periodic publication of a "virus bulletin" containing information about the most recent threats. It is also planned to launch a special website in the near future.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/17/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Parliament Begins Consideration of New Draft Laws

 

Majlis (parliament) of Turkmenistan will hold a regular meeting of the IV convocation on May 4, during which it will consider a number of legislative documents intended to strengthen the legal framework, the progressive development of the economy and society, the Turkmen government said. According to the report, the Majlis Chairman Akja Nurberdiyeva recently informed the government about the current legislative activities of the parliament. "It was noted that the work on the legislative consolidation of progressive reforms and changes in Turkmenistan is underway given advanced international practice and with the active participation of relevant ministries and departments of the country," the report says. The term of office of deputies of the Majlis shall be five years. According to the Turkmen constitution, parliament passes laws, makes changes and additions to the Constitution of Turkmenistan; examines the state budget approval and addresses questions on holding referendums. It also announces presidential and parliamentary elections, considers issues on appointment and dismissal of the chief of Supreme Court, attorney general, interior minister and minister of justice. It also ratifies and terminates international treaties and addresses issues on change of state borders and the administrative and territorial division of Turkmenistan.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/03/2013

 

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Turkmen Parliament Ratifies Military-Technical Agreement with Ukraine

 

The Majlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan has ratified an intergovernmental agreement between Turkmenistan and Ukraine on the implementation of a program of military-technical cooperation between the two countries in 2013-2014, the Turkmen government said on Wednesday. This decision was taken at the regular meeting of the Parliament of the fourth convocation. As reported earlier on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the agreement signed in late January 2013 will expand cooperation in repairs and in the modernization of weapons and military equipment for Turkmenistan as well as in the development of aviation repair facilities and naval forces and the procurement of military goods. Another package of intergovernmental agreements was signed in February 2013 within the state visit of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to Turkmenistan. Among the signed documents are: a memorandum of understanding between the National Joint-Stock Company Naftogaz of Ukraine and Turkmengas, a program of cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two countries in 2013, a cooperation agreement between the National Olympic Committees, a memorandum of understanding between the State Service for Financial Monitoring of Ukraine and the Ministry of Finance of Turkmenistan in cooperation in the sphere of combating legalization (laundering) of proceeds of crime and financing terrorist, agreement between the Kyiv Regional State Administration of Ukraine and the mayor's office (administration) of the Akhal velayat (region) of Turkmenistan on trade-economic, scientific-technical and cultural cooperation.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/08/2013

 

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Electoral Code Comes into Force in Turkmenistan

 

A new electoral code which is being published in the local press has come into force in Turkmenistan. The government report mentioned earlier that the new document has been developed in accordance with international norms and standards. The Code regulates relations arising in preparing and holding the presidential elections, the elections of MPs, members of the local self-government bodies - People's Council and Gengeshy, as well as referendums. It aims to ensure the free will of Turkmen citizens. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) rendered the consultations in the development of a unified election code. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at a meeting with MPs in February this year that the end of their term of office in 2013 requires a solid base for MPs for the next convocation, as well as to elect new parliamentarians at a high organisational and political level. Representatives of at least two parties - the Democratic Party and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs created in early 2013 will stand against each other in the Turkmen parliamentary elections.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/16/2013

 

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UZBEKISTAN: President Signs Decree on Rewarding World War II Veterans

 

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov signed a decree on rewarding the participants of the World War II. In accordance with the decree, in order to reward participants and disabled people of the war, the war veterans will receive a one-time reward of 500,000 sums in connection with the Day of Memory and Honor, which is celebrated on May 9, and the 68th anniversary of the victory over fascism. According to the decree, the related expenses will be covered by the state budget. The Ministry of Defense, Interior Ministry, the National Security Service and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank are instructed to ensure the payment of the reward in the solemn and ceremonial atmosphere. As it was reported earlier, in 1941, 6.5 million people lived in Uzbekistan, more than 1,433 million of whom took part in the war. In the fights 450,000 Uzbeks were killed or went missing. Currently, just over 5,200 war participants live in Uzbekistan. The official exchange rate is 2059.59 sum to $1 on April 28.

From http://en.trend.az/ 04/28/2013

 

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Uzbekistan to Legislatively Approve Principle of Mutual Consent to International Arbitration

 

This autumn the Government of Uzbekistan is going to develop and to submit to the Parliament of the country amendments to the Law 'On guarantees and measures of protection of foreign investors' rights, establishing the principle of mutual consent to participation in international arbitration, First Deputy Minister of Justice of the country Esemurat Kanyazov said at the international conference 'Oil and Gas of Uzbekistan'. In particular, amendments to the Article 10 regulating issues of settlement of investment disputes will be submitted for consideration by the parliament. "This article only defines possible options of solving investment disputes, and does not provide for Uzbekistan's consent to the submission of all arising disputes for the arbitration. But some investors wrongly interpret this aspect, and we have to clarify this," Deputy Justice Minister said. According to Kanyazov, the amendment will fix the situation, providing for the consideration of Uzbekistan's consent to submission of investment disputes for international arbitration in each case separately and expressed in written form. In recent years a number of foreign companies have declared their application to an international arbitration or their intention to apply in response to the actions of the Uzbek Government in connection with their business in the country. In a number of cases, the Government of Uzbekistan has not provided its written consent to arbitration, referring to the lack of an appropriate legal framework.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/15/2013

 

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AUSTRALIA: ICT Strategies Take Centre Stage

 

Federal and state governments – in Australia and New Zealand – are refining their ICT strategies. These road-maps clarify just how the ICT dollar will be spent this decade – while delivering faster, cost-effective and improved services to citizens. Broadly, the focus is on corporate governance, modernising technology infrastructure, boosting service delivery, and engaging with the industry at the outset. More recently, South Australia unveiled its ICT strategy, with its ‘South Australia Connected – Ready for the Future’. South Australia is not immune from pressures worldwide to do more with less with the spending dollar, this strategy notes. The focus is to stay “connected,” and policy planners must innovate to address the needs of information-savvy citizens.

 

In New South Wales,

The NSW Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ seeks to bring NSW out of the “dark ages and into the 21st century.” This strategy cautions there are no “easy or quick fixes” to how the ICT dollar is spent. This state aims to use its annual AU$2 billion ICT spending programme more effectively. The goal is to increase competition, manage time and resources, and tackle the costs and risks of embracing new platforms.

 

In Victoria,

The Victorian government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2013’ observes that portfolio management is one panacea to helping agencies avoid unnecessary investment, while freeing up resources. Where practical, agencies may reuse and share ICT systems and contracts rather than develop new solutions. Plans are under-way to establish a single common register of ICT business systems. This register identifies sharing opportunities as an alternative to developing new systems. Victoria is exploring a mix of in-house, managed and outsourced service delivery. Planners are focusing on staying cost-effective, responding to changing needs, and leveraging available market expertise and opportunities. The Queensland Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ seeks to work more closely with the ICT industry. This collaboration reinforces partnering with the private sector, while identifying new ways to do business. This engagement involves teaming up with solutions providers to support government initiatives.

 

At the federal level

The Australian Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012-2015’ offers a comprehensive roadmap for reform. This strategy aims to use ICT to simplify and integrate government services, while keeping communications private and secure, especially for citizen data. The focus is on innovation and a strategic use of ICT, while harnessing the full potential of a digital economy and new technologies, including cloud services. The federal government wants to engage more openly with citizens and the industry. It aims to create, generate, share, manage, and efficiently use information resources.

 

Other more broad-based strategies include

The Tasmanian Government’s ‘ICT Strategy 2012’ The states of Western Australian, Tasmania, and Northern Territory have ICT strategies as well — however, not as detailed as the Eastern seaboard states. Across the Tasman, in New Zealand, the government has its own version of a strategy, ‘Government ICT Directions and Priorities’. The New Zealand strategy is currently under scrutiny. Plans are under-way to refine this roadmap further — while building on what the administration has delivered to date. Cloud computing is under closer investigation — including cost-savings this platform delivers.

 

Adding to these strategies, the Australian and New Zealand governments have also appointed government chief information officers (GCIOs). These GCIOs add gravitas to how strategies are implemented, while ensuring that technologies-of-choice match agency-wide needs, are cost-effective, and deliver the biggest bang for the buck.

 

States with GCIOs (or equivalent) include Queensland, NSW, South Australia, and a more recent addition in Victoria. The Federal government, on the other hand, has split the role of GCIO into two under the auspices of the peak agency AGIMO. These roles incorporate the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer, and GCIO — with a sharing of responsibilities.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 04/16/2013

 

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Joe Ludwig Launches National Food Plan to Grow Industry

 

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has unveiled a new plan designed to grow the local food industry and put Australia on the world food map. First promised in the 2010 election campaign, the National Food Plan includes a multi-million-dollar research fund to help Australian producers capitalise on the so-called Asian "dining boom". There is also funding to better brand Australian food exports. "It's about helping domestic opportunities find connections in Asia," Mr Ludwig said. "It's about putting our Aussie mark on food and making sure that we all get a benefit out of it." The largest contribution of $30 million will go to an Asian food markets research fund to help farmers capitalise Asia growth. Almost $6 million will go to promoting Australian agriculture in overseas markets and $2 million to develop a strong and unique Australian food brand. A further $5.6 million will be used to boost trade ties in Asia, with $1.5 million will be spent on promoting careers in agriculture and food. Mr Ludwig says the plan recognises that foreign investment is a significant player in Australia.

 

"Some reports already recognise that the level of capital investment that we will need over the next five, 10, 15 years to take some of these opportunities forward will require foreign investment," he said. "Whether it increases or not is a matter for foreign investors, whether they see opportunities in Australia." He says the plan also touches on Australia's supermarket duopoly. "One of the areas that the industry has already been dealing with is bringing together a round table to come up with outcomes from the supermarket chain right through from producers and deal with that," he said. Mr Ludwig says there needs to be a Productivity Commission to review and reform food supply chain regulations and an Australian Council on Food to engage with industry and community leaders.

From http://www.abc.net.au 05/25/2013

 

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Tougher Standards to Fight Corruption in the Resources Industry

 

More of the world's governments have signed up to measures designed to reduce corruption in the global resources industry. Around 3.5 billion people live in poor countries that are rich in resources but they do not see the trillions of dollars that flow from their mineral and energy reserves. Last week, the United Kingdom and France joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which requires countries to fully disclose taxes, royalties and other fees they receive from oil, gas and mining income. About 40 countries have now implemented the voluntary scheme and about $US1 trillion in revenue has been disclosed. Australia has launched a pilot EITI scheme but is not yet fully compliant. Despite recent reforms in the US and the European Union, Australia does not require mining and energy companies to publicly reveal the taxes and royalties they pay to governments around the world for natural resources. Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray said in his written speech prepared for the EITI conference in Sydney last week that transparency for transparency's sake was not necessarily the best policy.

 

"While I recognise the benefit for governments to better understand and negotiate market conditions, exposure of sensitive project, contract and other market information will distort market competitiveness," he said in the speech. But the senior policy manager for extractive industries at Oxfam America, Ian Gary, says investor pressure is mounting in Australia for more openness. "I think Australia certainly needs to join the US as well as the European Union in putting in place mandatory disclosure requirements for companies that are on the Australian stock exchange," he said. Around 1,000 people from 100 countries attended the biennial EITI conference, including government officials, non-government organisations and mining and energy firms. The conference approved new standards which make countries release information about production volumes and mining licences on a project-by-project basis. Jonas Moberg, the secretary of the EITI Board, says transparency is becoming a reality in the energy and mining industries although there is still room for improvement. "What the new standard seeks to do is to make sure that's linked to contract transparency that will now be encouraged," he told the ABC.

 

NGO says EITI merely symbolic

However, NGOs would like to see the standards tightened further as some of the new rules merely "encourage" countries to increase disclosure. Environmental NGO, Global Witness, has called EITI a "totemic reformers club", saying corrupt countries such as Nigeria are members. Daniel Kaufmann, president of the Revenue Watch Institute, says the new EITI standards are a step in the right direction. "Compared with the past it's significant progress but we are not there yet," he said. Mr Kaufmann says contract transparency and disclosure of the ownership of mining licence holders should be mandatory as corruption in the mining and energy industries is rampant. In its latest Resource Governance Index, the Revenue Watch Institute says Myanmar is the most secretive country in the world when it comes to revealing the income it receives from its natural resources. Mr Gary says the problem is that the EITI code is voluntary and is dependent on good governance and strong rule of law. "In many countries they simply haven't taken the step to disclose," he said. "And in those countries that are part of the EITI process we see big problems with implementation; for example, disclosures that happens many years after actual production," he said.

 

While conceding that Nigeria has serious problems with corruption, Mr Moberg, says the country has improved its EITI reporting standards. Mozambique mining minister Esperanca Bias told the ABC that her country is committed to EITI. "We are revising our mining law. The cabinet [has] just approved the petroleum law. We hope in the next session the parliament can clear those two laws also with the fiscal regime laws," she said. Oxfam is also targeting the world's major oil companies, Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and Chevron, because of their support for legal action challenging disclosure rules for the oil industry in the US. The companies sit on the EITI board and Mr Gary says they need to change their stance. "It's completely unacceptable that those companies should participate on the board of an international transparency initiative while at the same time supporting this litigation," he told the ABC in an interview.

 

Human rights concerns over resettlement

Rio Tinto and Brazilian miner Vale are also under fire from Human Rights Watch. The NGO accuses the big miners of worsening the lives of people in northern Mozambique who were resettled to clear the way for coal mines. Rio Tinto says it takes the issue of resettlement very seriously and Vale says it managed resettlements based on respect for human rights. Earlier this month, brickworkers who lost their livelihoods because of the mines blocked the main railway in the region which transports coal. Ms Bias says the Mozambique government is trying to address concerns about displacement. "The mining activities are new in Mozambique," she said. "We need to have more dialogue among companies, communities and government." HRW senior researcher Nisha Varia, who wrote the report, says the Mozambique government has a poor record on human rights and consultation with affected communities. "Communicating with affected communities and working with other parties such as civil society groups is one of the weakest areas so far," she said from Mozambique. "The government really needs to increase its engagement [to make] sure people know what their legal rights are."

From http://www.abc.net.au 05/26/2013

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Promising Future

 

Papua New Guinea is enjoying solid economic growth and the future looks bright despite serious development challenges facing the country, Treasurer Don Polye told Parliament Thursday. He said the PNG economy has grown by 170 percent over the last 10 years and 73 percent in real terms in the same period. Polye revealed this in his ‘Update on the PNG Economy’ statement. He said based on the first quarter (three months) of the year, the 2013 budget is broadly on track. “Revenue collections to date show broadly offsetting influences – some taxes such as GST, personal tax and company tax being higher than forecast, with others such as mining and petroleum taxes and dividend withholding taxes and a range of international taxes being lower than expected,” the Treasurer told Parliament. He said the decline in commodity prices in the first quarter would be expected to reduce 2013 revenues by some K275 million. “However, the stronger growth forecast will have a positive impact on other forms of tax collection, and currently this is expected to raise taxes by almost exactly the same amount,” Polye said.

 

“I believe that any variations will be minimal and manageable. The biggest overall impact on revenues at this stage is the decreased likelihood of asset sales raising the K100 million expected at the time of the budget. I am of the view that the O’Neill-Dion Government will soon execute the asset sales strategy, not only to raise revenue but also to dispose off liabilities to the State.” Minister Polye said the PNG economy had grown by 170 percent over the last 10 years, or by 74 percent in real terms after allowing for price changes. He said many people would think that the growth in the resources sector had played a major role in the significant economic growth, but this was not so as actual output from mining and quarrying sector had declined over the last 10 years. The Minister said the oil and gas extraction sector grew by 19 percent in nominal terms and after allowing for price changes and the impact of inflation the sector actually decrease by 50 percent in real terms since 2002. “But by 2017, the total size of the minerals, quarrying, oil and gas sector will still only represent 27 percent of the total economy,” Treasurer Pole told Parliament.

 

“So where has the growth of 74 percent, after allowing for inflation, occurred in the economy? I would be very proud today if most of this growth had occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing parts of the economy. This is the source of livelihood for the vast majority of our people. However, the growth rate in this sector has actually been somewhat disappointing. Indeed the overall growth has only been 37 percent in real terms – less than half the overall rate of the economy. This is a major challenge.” He said the strong growth was in transport and communication.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 05/24/2013

 

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Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

 

Social networking sites have grown more important in recent years as a venue for political involvement, learning, and debate. Overall, 39% of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign. This means that more Americans are now politically active on social networking sites (SNS) than used them at all as recently as the 2008 election campaign. At that point, 26% of the population used a social networking site of any kind. The growth in several specific behaviors between 2008 and 2012 illustrates the increasing importance of SNS as places where citizens can connect with political causes and issues: •In 2012, 17% of all adults posted links to political stories or articles on social networking sites, and 19% posted other types of political content. That is a six-fold increase from the 3% of adults who posted political stories or links on these sites in 2008. •In 2012, 12% of all adults followed or friended a political candidate or other political figure on a social networking site, and 12% belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue. That is a four-fold increase from the 3% of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008. Read or download the full report: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Civic-Engagement.aspx

From http://www.i-policy.org/ 04/29/2013

 

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Google Transparency Report: Government Censorship Up 25% in 2012

 

The latest Google Transparency Report was released on Thursday. The report is a disclosure of user data requests, removal requests, and real-time and historic traffic information requests by governments, courts, agencies, and copyright owners globally. The report indicates that government removal requests increased 25% between the first and second half of 2012 (from 1,811 to 2,285 requests, encompassing 24,179 total pieces of content requests for the second half of 2012).  Between 2010 and 2012, a top reason cited for content removal by governments was defamation of political figures and public officials, often for criticizing their policies or linking them to corruption. In France, a regional leader requested the removal of a blog because it criticized aspects of his career: “We received a request from the leader of a regional government entity to remove a blog post that criticized aspects of his judicial career. We did not remove content in response to this request," the Google report read.

 http://media2.policymic.com/b630085a6c5723f8e5d2c6cac375a230.JPG

In Brazil, two judges requested the removal of content that linked them to corruption: “We received a request from one judge to remove a blog that allegedly defamed him by referencing or linking to accusations of corruption, and a similar request from a different judge to remove a search result. We did not remove content in response to this request," the report read. The United States government requested content removal for “allegedly defaming police officers, government officials, and public prosecutors” as well, according to the report. With the proposal of SOPA and PIPA last year, and now CISPA and the Internet Sales Tax, many fear these statistics indicate a global rise in the scope of government that attempts to increasingly censor and control the internet, writes Google Legal Director Susan Infantino, on her blog. The number of cases where national security letters received to retrieve user data or accounts using a subpoena, search warrant, or other forms of legal authorization obtained from the ECPA has also declined by 10% since 2009 (6% in the United States).

 

Some governments have responded to criticism by disrupting entire Google services for the posting of defamatory or critical content. Since 2009, China has disrupted Google websites, Google’s Picasa web album service, and YouTube. In response to anti-Islamic videos, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh disrupted YouTube services in September 2012. The most common reason cited among disrupted regions was the defamation of Muslim innocence: “We received inquiries from 20 countries regarding YouTube videos that contain clips of the movie, ‘Innocence of Muslims’: Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Australia, Egypt, and the United States requested that we review the videos to determine if they violated our Community Guidelines, which they did not. The other 17 countries requested that we remove the videos. We restricted videos from view in Indonesia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Turkey. Due to difficult circumstances, we temporarily restricted videos from view in Egypt and Libya,” the report read.

From http://www.policymic.com/ 05/13/2013

 

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Asia's Public Services Failing Needy, New Approaches Required – Study

 

Public services in developing Asia’s are frequently failing to reach the needy, says a new ADB study showing services are often shrouded in heavy bureaucracy that impedes efficiency.NEW DELHI, INDIA – Public services in developing Asia’s are frequently failing to reach the needy, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study which recommends improvements to avoid a further widening of the region’s already sharp divide between rich and poor. “Access to services such as clean water, sanitation, health care, and schooling is an essential ingredient of personal well-being, economic development, and long-term growth,” said ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee. ”Empowering communities can certainly improve service delivery, but this needs to go hand-in-hand with a change in the way the state does business.” The report, Empowerment and Public Service Delivery in Developing Asia and the Pacific, launched today at ADB’s 46th Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors, says the delivery and quality of public services have lagged the meteoric growth rates seen in many economies in the region. It examines the challenges state providers face in delivering quality basic services to low income groups, and the potential for giving disadvantaged communities more power over service delivery. Service delivery across the region is mixed. In South Asia for example, access to primary schooling has grown substantially over the past decade, but the report found there is no evidence of improved access to public health services, and very little progress in the provision of improved sanitation and water sources. Services are often shrouded in heavy national bureaucracy that impedes efficiency.

 

Turning the present situation around will require state institutions to be far more responsive to demands for services and much more focused on targeting support for those genuinely in need. Creative solutions must be explored, such as contracting out the delivery of some public services to private parties and non-government organizations, broader adoption of new communications technologies, and a possible shift to a cash-based social assistance transfer system. Giving communities more say and power over service provision will require legal and institutional arrangements which encourage citizen participation, as well as the necessary capacity-building support and resources. Ensuring citizens have information on services and understand their entitlement to them is also essential. Few countries in the region have enshrined the right of citizens to information on basic services, although India became the exception with the passage of the Right of Information Act in 2005. India is also carrying out an information and communications technology project which will eventually provide unique identification numbers to all citizens in a bid to deliver welfare benefits more effectively. The project is the largest of its kind in the world.

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/04/2013

 

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CHINA: Cutting Gov't Intervention to Push Reforms

 

In a gesture to push forward reforms in the world's most populous nation, the State Council -- headed by Premier Li Keqiang -- introduced changes to itself by starting to cut intervention in investment and production activities.In an executive meeting on Wednesday, the State Council, or China's cabinet, announced it would cancel or delegate power to lower levels concerning 71 items that were previously subject to central government administrative approval.The move that allows local governments to have a greater say in approving local investment projects is a result of a plan passed by China's top legislature to push institutional reform and transform government functions.Government functions at ministerial level need to be changed to reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues as part of the country's efforts to build an efficient and law-based government with a clear division of power, reasonable distribution of labor and well-defined responsibilities, according to a report adopted by the National People's Congress last month.Analysts said central government hopes to inject a fresh dynamic and vitality into the economy and social development through such transformation as the country has ushered into a medium-speed growth era after three decades of almost two-digit expansion.

 

"With fewer items subject to administrative approval, the new government has shown its determination to facilitate market-oriented reform," said Nie Gaomin, director of Economic Structure and Management Institute with the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner.Since 2001, the State Council has introduced six rounds of reforms cancelling or adjusting its intervention in more than 2,400 investment and production items."The next reform should begin with the government itself," said Chi Fulin, director of the China (Hainan) Institute for Reform and Development."Reducing administrative approval items may be a minor step, but it could lead to major reforms in the country," Chi said.Moreover, to remove or delegate the power of approving such investment and production projects by central government could also open up more opportunities for the private sector and help stabilize short-term growth.The reform plan passed by the top legislature in March also pledged to minimize the inconveniences and high costs involved when enterprises and individuals are trying to obtain the services they require and boost their independence to start a business or make an investment.For those investment projects still subject to state approval, the plan introduces a deadline for completing the application process, as well as simplified procedures for each case, while emphasizing enhanced management over land use, energy consumption and emissions of pollutants to prevent duplication in investment and disorderly competition, according to the plan.Experts said after more than 30 years of gradual reforms, China has almost completed its market-oriented reform in the commodity-related sector, but still retained tight control over the monopoly industries and factors concerning production, or segments related to land, labor and capital."We should deepen reforms to ensure companies of different ownership can participate in fair and open market competition, equally accessing land, labor and capital," Nie said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/27/2013

 

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China's Cabinet Appoints, Removes Officials

 

The State Council, or China's cabinet, on Saturday announced a number of appointments and removals of government officials.Wang Yongqing, Shu Xiaoqin and Wang Zhongwei were appointed deputy secretary-generals of the State Council, with Shu also serving as director of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls. Meanwhile, Wang Zhongwei was removed from his post as vice minister of culture.He Jianzhong was appointed vice minister of transport. Xu Zuyuan no longer holds the position.Xiang Zhaolun was removed from his post as deputy secretary-general of the State Council and appointed vice minister of culture, replacing Wang Zhongwei.Wang Guoqiang, Ma Xiaowei, Chen Xiaohong, Wang Pei'an, Liu Qian, Yin Li, Cui Li and Xu Ke were appointed deputy directors of the newly created National Health and Family Planning Commission.Ma Zhengqi was appointed deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

 

Wang Dongfeng and Teng Jiacai were both removed from the position.Nie Chenxi, Tian Jin, Wu Shulin, Yan Xiaohong, Sun Shoushan, Li Wei and Tong Gang were appointed deputy directors of the newly created State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.Yin Li, Liu Peizhi, Wang Mingzhu and Teng Jiacai were appointed deputy directors of the China Food and Drug Administration.Shi Yubo, Liu Qi, Wang Yumin, Zhang Yuqing and Xu Yongsheng were appointed deputy directors of the National Energy Administration.Chen Lanhua, Fu Xuanyi and Zhu Wangyu were appointed deputy heads of the State Railway Administration.Chen Xu was appointed permanent representative of China to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), replacing Zhang Jun.The State Council also removed Qian Xiaoqian from his positions as deputy head of the State Council Information Office and deputy head of the State Internet Information Office.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/28/2013

 

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China Wealth Management Sector Shrinks

 

Chinese authorities' recent tightening over banks' wealth management products has led to a decrease in the number of new products and their yields.Chinese banks and financial institutions in April issued 2,439 wealth management products, a kind of high-interest deposits. The figure was 12.8 percent lower than in March, according to Bankrate.com.cn.In the first week of May, 35 Chinese banks issued 282 products, as compared with more than 400 products sold in the previous week.According to the website, average yields of products with a term of shorter than one month have fallen 28 basis points to 3.58 percent in the week ending May 11, from the last week of March, during which the latest tightening measures were launched.Guo Tianyong, a professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, said he had expected the drop."China has limited the investment of wealth management products in non-standard assets, which inevitably led to a decline in new products," said Guo.Non-standard assets, which are not traded on the inter-bank market or stock exchanges, includes trust loans, acceptance bills, letters of credit, accounts receivable and other credit products, according to the the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

 

Zeng Gang, a banking expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said non-standard assets usually yield comparatively higher returns among all the investment objectives for wealth management products. "Once investment into these assets becomes less, the yields will fall."Wealth management products have boomed in China over recent years as investment channels are limited and inflation is considered high.By the end of 2012, outstanding wealth management products amounted to 7.1 trillion yuan (1.2 trillion U.S. dollars), higher than the 5.6-trillion-yuan fiscal revenue collected by the central government in that year, a report of China International Capital Corporation (CICC) showed.Zeng said China launched the tightening regulations for two purposes -- safeguarding the buyer's interests and dissolving risks in the country's shadow banking system.More Chinese customers are eyeing wealth management products to seek higher returns. There is a margin of roughly one percentage point between bank deposits and wealth management products.But problems also emerged, with one product sold through Huaxia Bank failing to pay its return last year and another product by CITIC Trust delaying payments.The regulation required that investment in non-standard assets should be no higher than 35 percent of the bank's total outstanding wealth management products, or no more than 4 percent of the bank's total assets at the end of the previous year, in an effort to reduce default risks.

 

By the end of last year, 40 percent of the outstanding wealth management products, or 2.8 trillion yuan were invested in non-standard assets, a CICC report showed.The tightening of wealth management products also came after Chinese banks' rush to sell such off-balance-sheet products in recent years to evade regulatory oversight.Wealth management products are believed to help channel funds to property developers and local government financing vehicles (LGFVs),raising concerns over China's shadow banking system, a fast-developing, unregulated sector.Zeng said "standard assets," referring to financial tools traded in the inter-bank market, will be the main investment direction for wealth management products in the future, citing asset securitization products as an example."The shrinking business brought by new rules will only be temporary," said Zeng. "The new controls will push banks to be more innovative in the wealth management business, helping the sector to develop in a much healthier way."Zeng said there is great room for wealth management products to develop in China as it has just reached a level equal to about 11 percent of the country's total outstanding yuan loans, which stood at 63 trillion yuan last year.In some developed countries, the level is between 50 to 60 percent, said Zeng.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/18/2013

 

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JAPAN: Science & ICT Ministry Strives to Create Jobs, New Industries

 

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has placed the focus of its policy direction for 2013 on creation of jobs, new industries and new demands. Choi Moon-ki, who tapped to head the science & information, communication and technology (ICT) ministry, said that the government will create an environment where everybody can suggest fresh ideas and establish venture companies. At the same time, the ministry plans to cement the foundation of science technology and ICT by intensively fostering basic science and software (SW) fields. In a recent briefing on the 2013 policy goals to President Park Geun-hye, he said that the ministry will create more jobs by fostering a climate for business start-ups and bringing the country's scientific research close to a world-class level.

 

Along with this, the minister said that the ministry will make doubled efforts to create communication and Internet environment, which will be helpful to the people's daily life, by pulling down communication fees and expelling Active X from major websites. "The ministry will also launch a government-wide project, under which social issues such as food safety and environmental accidents could be resolved through scientific technology," said Choi, the first minister of the newly established ministry.The ministry was created under the government's reorganization plan, and is the icon of the Park administration's "creative economy," where scientific technology and information technology play key roles in the country's economic growth. Earlier in the year, President Park said that the ministry will be a main government agency responsible for the nation's future economic growth and job creation. She has repeatedly stressed that ICT is a future growth engine for the country.

 

Noting that the ministry will extend support and strengthen policy coordination with related agencies in a bid to create an environment for business start-ups, he said, "It will begin a project to create 10 new industries by 2017 through combination of science, ICT and culture." It aims at creating a total of 408,000 new jobs by 2017, about 90,000 of which are to come from business start-ups. Related to this, the ministry projects to help universities provide training programs to students who want to be involved in business start-ups. Choi said the ministry will work to boost scientific research and development with sales of state-funded institutes rising to 500 billion won in 2017 from 107 billion won in 2012. Stressing that the ministry will nurture scientific minds and groom the knowledge industry, he said it plans to boost output of the country's software industry to 100 trillion won in 2017 from 31.2 trillion won in 2012.

 

"We will also exert all-out efforts to let the country boast the world's fastest wireless and wired network in 2017 with the number of public Wi-Fi zones saoring to 10,000 in 2017 from 2,000 in 2012, and gigabit speed Internet connections available in most parts of the country as well," said Choi. The ministry is also moving to encourage local mobile operators to phase out subscription fees by 2015. The fee currently ranges from 24,000 won to 39,000 won. The ministry expects the abolition of a mobile subscription fee to cut mobile charge by around 500 billion won annually. "In particular, we will actively push ahead with building a data base (DB) of information useful for the private sector, including culture and medical service," he said. He added that the ministry will make a strong push for the national informatization project, which grafts ICT, the vitamin of the creative economy, onto a variety of fields, including traditional markets, agriculture and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

From http://www.koreaittimes.com/ 04/22/2013

 

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IT Educational Council to Be Set Up in Japan

 

A consortium of about 30 computer, telecommunications and textbook companies in Japan are forming a council to promote the use of IT in schools, reports the Nikkei. About ten firms will become founding members, including Microsoft Japan, NTT Docomo, NEC, Fujitsu, Intel, Uchida Yoko, Tokyo Shoseki and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East. An additional twenty companies or so, including device makers and textbook publishers, will also take part in the move. The move is intended to provide consultation services for schools and municipal governments, and to propose IT systems for education, to be developed by members of the group. This comes at a time when the government plans to provide primary and secondary school students with tablet computers by 2020. Member companies will offer funds, devices, and training personnel, aiming to set up IT seminars for teachers and to conduct demonstrations at schools around the country.

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

 

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New System Figures Quake Damage Fast

 

The National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention says it has developed a near real-time earthquake damage estimate system. In test operations over the past three years, the system provided estimates with a high degree of precision within five minutes, institute officials said. Their results will be announced Friday in Chiba at a meeting of the Japan Geoscience Union. Fast and reliable rough estimates could help rescue operations, said Shin Aoki, head of the institute’s Earthquake and Volcano Data Center. The system, called J-RISQ, provides estimates of the number of affected people and damaged or destroyed buildings in the earthquake area using a database with daytime and nighttime populations as well as the numbers, types and quake-resistance of buildings.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 05/24/2013

 

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Form Pan-gov't Body on Curbing Greenhouse Gases

 

The government says it plans to set up a pan-government consultation group to find ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The aim to establish the envisioned group comes as South Korea moves toward its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions significantly by 2020. Our Bae Joo-yon has more. The government convened a policy coordination meeting chaired by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Friday and finalized ways to meet goals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was agreed at the meeting to establish a pan-government consultative body led by the second vice-chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination. The group will comprise related ministries’ bureau directors. Currently, the Ministry of Environment is charged with creating a roadmap for meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals, while the Office for Government Policy Coordination handles a five-year green growth plan and responses to climate change. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is in charge of energy-related plans and the Finance Ministry deals with emission trading. The Office for Government Policy Coordination said that once the consultation group is established, the possibility of inconsistency or contradiction among ministries will decrease and greenhouse gas reduction plans can be carried out more effectively. Though it’s not bound by the UN's Kyoto Protocol, South Korea pledged in 2009 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below business as usual by 2020. Given that the goal was set four years ago, the government plans to draw a new implementation roadmap within this year that reflects changes in situations regarding greenhouse gas.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 05/03/2013

 

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Gov’t to Open Big Data Center

 

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has announced a plan to establish an information center on big data. The ministry said that with the state-run National Information Society Agency, it will establish the big data center where anyone can analyze and utilize big data. The center will also boost the introduction of big data services nationwide. The ministry will select someone to build the center through competitive bidding by next month and open it on a trial basis in September. Big data refers to a huge and extensive collection of data sets created by IT devices in everyday life, such as cell phone signals and records, messages on social media sites, digital pictures and videos, and online and mobile purchase transactions. The use of big data can generate added value if it is analyzed and applied to businesses. 

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 05/10/2013

 

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INDONESIA: President Asks to Improve Bureaucracy

 

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday asked authorities to improve the country's bureaucracy as an effort to boost the country's investment climate. Yudhoyono told a cabinet meeting at the State Palace that there were still room to shorten the country's long and complicated bureaucracy process that has hampered business in the country. "We have suffered many loss, or missed opportunity, because of bureaucracy, its complicated process for business," Yudhoyono said. "I think it is time for us to carry out a revolution on bureaucracy," he said. Yudhoyono said bureaucratic processes in the country could be shorten to one third of the original scale. "I have got a report that tens procedures must be undergone to get a license in the oil and gas sector. If we shorten them, they can be one third. This is one of the examples of how to get a business permit in our country," he said. Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi has said that Indonesia ranked 6 out of the 10 ASEAN member countries in term of the speed of processing business license. In Indonesia, the issuance of the permit needs 43 days, longer than 18 days in Malaysia and only 2 hours in Singapore, which put Indonesia on rank 160 out of 189 respondent countries in the world, he said. Yudhoyono expected them to shorten the process to 17 days.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/07/2013

 

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Police Reform - What Reform?

 

Fourteen years after being separated from the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police remains one of the few state institutions untouched by reform. Integrity and transparency have increasingly become rare ideals within the police force after policy makers expanded its law enforcement mandate — a decision that aimed to end 35 years of military domination of security affairs. National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo has regularly boasted of the progress in police reform and integrity since 2000, but without detailing any benchmark or outcome of the process.  The classic tales of extortion and kickbacks in dealing with the police have not even slightly abated.  Stories of a pervasive culture of kickbacks emanate from the earliest stages of recruitment and permeate the entire process until an officer receives his or her posting. The force is literally a haven for practicing corruption.

 

The police’s permissive culture and the lack of external independent oversight have been blamed for the pervasive corrupt practices. Analysts have called for the amendment of Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police by inserting articles to establish an independent and rigorous supervisory institution with the authority to discharge or demote errant police officers. The absence of such external supervision along with the police’s overwhelming authority is the root of all evil plaguing the force. Unlike in developed democracies, violations committed by police officers here are dealt with internally without any independent institution able to verify the process or to conduct an independent investigation. Due to a strong esprit de corps, the police regularly protect their own, particularly the top brass, even regarding gross violations.

 

“The police’s internal supervision division remains lenient with bad cops,” said Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) chairman Neta S. Pane recently. “This permissive culture still exists because of the degree of solidarity within the force. Some bad cops are protected by their superiors or they bribe their fellow officers to get away with their crimes,” he said. The National Police is overseen by the National Police Commission (Kompolnas). However, Kompolnas are legislatively restricted by the police law to merely serve an advisory role. Without the slightest authority to summon a recalcitrant police officer, Kompolnas is in effect a toothless institution. Kompolnas’ independence has also been undermined by the recent selection of its new members, many of whom have personal ties with police generals. “The House of Representatives should draft a law that gives teeth to Kompolnas,” police analyst and retired police officer Sr. Comr. Alfons Lema said.

 

Currently, several Kompolnas members are in talks with lawmakers and relevant government officials to revise the law and provide more firepower for the watchdog. They demand a revision of Presidential Regulation No. 17/2011 or a promulgation of the Kompolnas Law to allow them to carry out independent investigations. “Kompolnas should be placed above the National Police. Give Kompolnas more authority to enable it to respond to complaints filed by the public,” Al Araf from rights group Imparsial said. However, as many senior legislators have allegedly conspired with recalcitrant military generals to keep their dirty laundry hidden from public view in exchange for maintaining the current corrupt establishment, there is little hope that they will initiate any reform within the police force. Aside from problems in oversight, the police’s permissive culture in education and training have also undermined reform.

 

During Soeharto’s New Order regime, low-ranking officers, for example, were required to undergo at least 11 months of training, but since the dawn of the reform era in 1998, the system has been unclear. New recruits are only required to join a three-month training before deployment. “The training, education and promotion systems are a mess. The police say they do not have the money to finance long periods of education and training, but they spend a fortune on graft-riddled projects,” Neta said. Neta also criticized the police for allocating most of their budget on lavish facilities and infrastructure rather than investing in police education.  Earlier this year, the police allocated Rp 1.36 trillion (US$140 million) to purchase a number of vehicles, laptops, dogs and horses.

 

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Suhardi Alius claimed that the police needed state-of-the-art facilities to solve sophisticated crimes. “In security, sometimes we need to disregard efficiency to achieve our goal. How can we solve cyber crime if we don’t have the tools?” Suhardi said.  Kompolnas member Hamidah Abdurrachman believes all the problems plaguing the force could be eradicated if the police had an innovative and courageous leader with high integrity. “We need a National Police chief with a strong commitment to reform. The police have designed a great reform blueprint but they have never implemented it,” Hamidah said.

 

National Police milestones:

l          Aug. 21, 1945: First Insp. Mochammad Jassin, a police commander in Surabaya, East Java, proclaims the launch of the National Police four days after Indonesia’s independence.

l          Sept. 29, 1945: President Sukarno inaugurates the first National Police chief, Gen. R. S. Soekanto.

l          1960: The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) designates the National Police within the Indonesian Armed Forces or ABRI (the former name of the current TNI).

l          April 1, 1999: The MPR separates the National Police from the TNI.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/ 05/20/2013

 

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CAMBODIA: PM Says to Stay in Power Until Age of 74

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, 61, said Monday that he will stay in power until he is 74. At the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a China- funded road in Kampong Speu province, the prime minister also appealed to people to vote for his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) in the upcoming general election. Cambodia is to hold a general election for the 123-seat parliament on July 28. Political analysts predicted that the CPP of Prime Minister Hun Sen will dominantly win the election. In March, Hun Sen also projected that his party would win at least two-thirds majority in the upcoming poll. Hun Sen, one of the longest serving political leaders in the world, came to power in January 1985.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/06/2013

 

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MYANMAR: Tech Training Centres Set Up

 

University of Computer Studies, Yangon (UCSY), and University of Computer Studies, Mandalay (UCSM) joined forces with Cisco for a channel partner network under the collaborative support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The establishment of the country’s first two Cisco Networking Academies at the UCSY and the UCSM was announced last week, and the programme is being support through Cisco’s long-term partnership with the USAID. The project is also a part of the Myanmar government’s initiative to work with private and public organisations in the country to build a “Smart and Connected Myanmar”. Thought the programme, Cisco will be providing training and development to foster the business partnership in Myanmar. Cisco’s authorised channel partners will be trained to help ensure that network equipment is regularly upgraded and software is up-to-date, and protecting the integrity of the network.

 

The two training centres will provide students with critical information technology and networking skills to design, build, and maintain the infrastructure highway, while increasing the number of job-ready graduates for the country’s ICT sector. Under the agreement, Cisco will be donating networking equipment for labs and providing 21st century career skills training for up to 15 faculty staff from the two universities to support the programme. Chris Milligan, USAID/Myanmar Mission Director, said technology is a powerful tool to advance Myanmar’s development while contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth. “This collaboration with Cisco brings innovative technology and education to build on the strengths and capacity of the country. The initiative will provide ICT skills training and increase the number of job-ready graduates for the country’s emerging ICT sector,” he said. Not only Cisco showed interest in moving into one of the least-connected places like Myanmar, USAID-sponsored delegation also included Google, HP, Intel, and Microsoft. The USAID technology delegation aimed toward improving technology education as the first step towards commercial engagement. USAID Head Rajiv Shah said that Google had a range of potential partnerships, one of which is to improve an access to online learning.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/08/2013

 

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Myanmar Reforms Committee for Scrutinizing Prisoners of Conscience

 

Myanmar has reformed the Committee for Scrutinizing Remaining Prisoners of Conscience with U Soe Thane, Minister at the President's Office, as Chairman, according to an announcement of the President's Office published Thursday. The reformation of the committee is to scrutinize and release more such remaining prisoners of conscience for ensuring the state 's peace and stability, implementing eternal peace making process, national reconsolidation and all inclusiveness in the political process, the announcement said. The reformation involved representatives from government ministries, civil society organizations and some political parties. Myanmar government released some 93 remaining prisoners including prisoners of conscience and three foreigners under an amnesty order of the President on April 23. In November 2012, 518 prisoners including 31 foreigners were also released under two amnesty orders of the President. A total of 29,668 prisoners have been pardoned since the new civilian government took office on March 30, 2011.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/09/2013

 

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Myanmar's Parliament Begins Special Session

 

Myanmar's union parliament began its special session in Nay Pyi Taw Monday, two months after the last regular session. Presided over by speaker of the two-house union parliament U Khin Aung Myint, the session will seek approval on declaration of state of emergency in riot-hit Meikhtila and its extension of the period of emergency. The matter will be discussed in Monday's session and the decision is expected to come out on Tuesday. Myanmar President U Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in four townships in Meikhtila District of northern Mandalay region on March 22 as communal riot escalated after its outbreak. Four townships including Meikhtila, Wandwin, Mahlaing and Thazi were covered by the state of emergency. Meikhtila has now returned to normal, with local residents resuming their normal life as reported.

 

Despite the restoration of peace and stability, the state of emergency is still in force to ensure non-recurrence of riot and unrest there. In the riot, a total of 43 people were killed and 86 others injured with 1,355 houses, shops and buildings being destroyed as well as 39 various vehicles being burnt. The series of riots were sparked by a brawl between buyers and sellers over a bit of gold clip at a gold shop in Meikhtila on March 20. In addition, the parliament's special session passed a proposal to establish a joint commission for studying rights of employers and employees. The session came before a next regular session, which is the 7th and was set to convene in late June after the end of the last 6th session on March 21.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/20/2013

 

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MALAYSIA: Ruling Coalition Wins General Election

 

Malaysia's ruling coalition won a fiercely contested general election with a slimmer majority, polling results showed early Monday, as opposition declined to accept the result citing electoral fraud allegations. The ruling coalition Barisan National secured 133 seats in the 222-seat lower house of parliament, down from the 140 seats in the last election in 2008 while also failed to retake the two-third parliamentary majority. The ruling coalition owns its victory largely to the lead in its strongholds of the state of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia, which contributed a total of 47 parliamentary seats. Barisan managed to make some improvement in the state legislation elections, in which it won in 9 out of the 12 states contested. Speaking at a press conference on early Monday, Barisan chairman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Razak urged the opposition to accept the election result "with open heart." He also stressed that the Barisan government will fulfill all the promises it make to the public.

 

The ruling coalition survived a "Chinese Tsunami" as the Chinese minority voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, which Najib said he didn't expect. "I expected to some extent, but I didn't expect to this extent," he said. Oh Ei Sun, Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said Barisan is depending of its large support in the rural areas dominated by the Malay majority, while doing badly in urban areas. Meanwhile, the opposition has declined to accept the election results, accusing wide spread to electoral fraud in the election. "We are not accepting the results," opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told a press conference, "until the Election Commission responds and issues an official statement to the allegations of irregularities and fraud." Anwar has claimed victory shortly after the close of polling, urging the ruling coalition and election commission "not to hijack the results." A record high of more than 80 percent of the 13.3 million voters cast ballots in the closest election ever held in the country.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/06/2013

 

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Malaysian PM Announces New Cabinet Line-Up

 

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday announced a new cabinet line-up to help his transformation agenda and national reconciliation after a tightly-run general election. Najib described the new cabinet as a "balanced" one with experienced former ministers, technocrats and young politicians. "I believe those experienced will contribute in the continuity based on their experience as former ministers," he told reporters at the Prime Minister's Office when unveiling the new line-up. "The technocrats will contribute with their specialties, which are very important in bringing in creative ideas for the government's consideration. For those young, except for their capability, they will try to bring the feeling of the youth into the consideration of the government." Najib will continue to hold the finance minister portfolio; Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will head the new Ministry of Education and Higher Learning, which was merged by the education ministry and higher education ministry.

 

Old faces dominate other key cabinet posts, as Anifah Aman and Mustapa Mohamed remain as Foreign Minister and Minister of International trade and Industry respectively. Former Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and former Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi saw their jobs swapped. Those new faces include Abdul Wahid Omar, President and CEO of Maybank, Malaysia's leading commercial bank; as well as Paul Low Seng Kwan, an anti-corruption campaigner and President of Transparency International Malaysia. Both of Low and Abdul Wahid were appointed as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. P. Waytha Moorthy, human rights activist and Chairman of HINDRAF, an NGO that campaigns for equal rights for ethnic-Indians, will serve as a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. Khairy Jamaluddin, a 37-year-old popular assemblyman, will be minister for Youth and Sports. Najib also described his new line-up as "capable", which will continue national transformation and increase the trust of the people to the government.

 

Earlier in the day, Najib met with Supreme Head of State Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah to get his consent on the new government. Najib was sworn in as prime minister for a second term on May 6, the second day of the general election. The new cabinet saw a sharp drop of number of ministers or deputy ministers from the ethnic-Chinese, which accounts for 25 percent of Malaysia's total population, as Malaysian Chinese Associations (MCA), major Chinese component parties of the ruling coalition, has declined to accept any cabinet posts due to its poor showing in the election. Najib left the position of Transport Minister vacant with Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein as caretaker, pending MCA to reconsider its decision. The ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, or National Front, won 133 out 222 parliament seats in the May 5 general, but failed to retake the parliamentary two-third majority that it lost in the previous election in 2008. The opposition, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, has organized several big rallies across the country since the polling to protest against the electoral fraud. Najib has vowed to push for national reconciliation in the multi-ethnics country. The new ministers were expected to be sworn in on Thursday.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/15/2013

 

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PHILIPPINES: Establishing New Inter-Agency Committee to Deter Extrajudicial Killings

 

The Aquino administration assured the public that it has taken significant steps to deter extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, a Presidential Palace official said on Friday. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a regular press briefing here that the Chief Executive had already created an inter-agency committee in order to deter extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses in the country. According to Lacierda, Philippine President Aquino has created an inter-agency committee (IAC), through Administrative Order No. 35 (AO 35) last November, to investigate human rights abuses both by state and non-state forces and to ensure a focused probe and speedy resolution of all unsolved and new cases. Lacierda said under AO 35, the secretary of the Department of Justice serves as the chairperson of the IAC, whose members include the head of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Local Government and National Defense, the presidential advisers of the Peace Process and Political Affairs, chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National police chief and the National Bureau of Investigation director. The chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman sit as observers and resource persons in the IAC, he added. The government also vowed to effectively enforce its policy to go after the perpetrators of extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses, Lacierda said.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/03/2013

 

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SINGAPORE: Appointment of Deputy Chairman, MD at IDA

 

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) have announced the appointment of Mr Steve Leonard as executive Deputy Chairman and Ms Jacqueline Poh as Managing Director of IDA Singapore. They will officially assume their new appointments on 10 June 2013. The current IDA CEO, Mr Ronnie Tay, will return to the Administrative Service. Mr Leonard, an industry veteran with more than 28 years of international experience working in global technology firms, will have executive leadership responsibility for IDA as the new Deputy Chairman. He will focus primarily on industry promotion and development. To assist Mr Leonard, Ms Poh will lead IDA's policy and regulatory functions, including developing infocomm policy, telecoms regulation and information security, as well as guide the strategic Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) function. Ms Poh will be seconded from the Administrative Service to take up the new position at IDA. She was previously the Divisional Director, Workplace Policy and Strategy Division, Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Prior to MOM, Ms Poh served in other ministries including the Ministry of Finance. On the new management appointments, IDA Chairman, Ms Yong Ying-I said, "Infocomm technology is now pervasive, transforming how societies function, how government engages with citizens, and how business is done. The possibilities and the challenges have increased. "The appointments of an executive Deputy Chairman and a Managing Director at IDA, who bring strong private sector and public sector experiences with them, will enable IDA to more strongly drive impactful transformation across a broad range of sectors and issues affecting our economy, society and government."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/02/2013

 

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Mobile Mental Health Outreach Team to Be Set Up in July

 

SINGAPORE: A new mobile team will be set up in July to help those who may be affected by mental conditions. The Mobile Mental Health Outreach Team will take calls from members of the community and send case workers to follow up. This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at a Singapore Association for Mental Health's (SAMH) charity dinner on Friday evening. SAMH aims to promote mental wellness and empower people with mental illnesses to rebuild their lives. The association is hoping to raise S$500,000 for its cause. 

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/03/2013

 

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New Police Centres, Technology for SPF

 

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Friday announced a slew of new initiatives at its annual Workplan Seminar, which was held at the Home Team Academy. These include new systems and technology to help fight crime, a new Police Divisional Headquarters in Woodlands, as well as two new Neighbourhood Police Centres in Geylang and Bidadari to be set up in the next five years. Police would also be rolling out their community policing system at six more police centres by the end of the year. This is where their officers will also go on daily foot and bicycle patrols. Among the new crime-fighting tools unveiled on Friday is the ProVision 2 Body Scanner. The unit can detect a broad range of concealed objects, including those made of non-metallic materials like liquids, gels, and even paper. Passengers currently walk through metal detectors at checkpoints, such as airports. The police are set to roll out a trial of the body scanners in June at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3.

 

Also unveiled is a 3D Laser Scanner, which will be deployed at crime scenes. The scanner captures 3D images which eliminates human error during crime-scene documentation. The system requires only six minutes, compared to one full day, to capture crime scene footage. The V Scope+ scanner, which was first tested at the 2012 Singapore Airshow, was also showcased at the seminar. The scanner captures detailed images of what is beneath cars and may soon be used at checkpoints and protected areas. Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran said: “From a policing perspective, technology can be a boon, but it can also be a bane, because it can lead to new crime trends... technology also provides police with new crime-fighting capabilities.”

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 05/03/2013

 

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Singapore's ICT Authority Changes Leadership

 

Starting 10 June 2013, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will be welcoming Steven Leonard and Jacqueline Poh as new members of its executive leadership team. Steven Leonard, an industry veteran with more than 28 years of international experience working in global technology firms, will have executive leadership responsibility for IDA as the new Deputy Chairman. He will focus primarily on industry promotion and development. This includes strategic planning and development of manpower for the infocomm sector, infrastructure development, spearheading the transformation of innovative start-ups and local enterprises, and overseeing various national cross-sectoral programmes. Meanwhile, Jacqueline Poh, former Divisional Director of the Workplace Policy and Strategy Division at Ministry of Manpower (MOM), will be taking the lead as IDA’s Managing Director. She will be leading IDA’s policy and regulatory functions, which include developing infocomm policy, telecoms regulation and information security, as well as guide the strategic Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) function.

 

On the new management appointments, IDA Chairman, Yong Ying-I said, “Infocomm technology is now pervasive, transforming how societies function, how government engages with citizens, and how business is done. The possibilities and the challenges have increased. The appointments of an executive Deputy Chairman and a Managing Director at IDA, who bring strong private sector and public sector experiences with them, will enable IDA to more strongly drive impactful transformation across a broad range of sectors and issues affecting our economy, society and government.”  The current IDA CEO, Mr Ronnie Tay, will return to the Administrative Service from 10 June 2013 for another posting.  Mr Tay has helmed IDA since November 2007 and under his leadership, Singapore has successfully deployed the Next Gen Nationwide Broadband Network to 95 per cent of homes as well as businesses, with more than 250,000 fibre broadband subscribers. For the infocomm industry, the S$46 million Infocomm Industry Productivity Roadmap was launched in 2011 to push for productivity in the ICT sector, benefitting more than 70 companies and 6,700 infocomm professionals to date. Similarly, through the Infocomm@SME programme, more than 5,000 SMEs have benefitted from the iSprint grant scheme to use infocomm to enhance business productivity. In addition, various sectoral transformation programmes for education, healthcare, finance, logistics and transport were implemented, and the eGov2015 masterplan was launched in 2011.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/08/2013

 

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VIETNAM: Having New Finance Minister

 

The Vietnam's National Assembly (NA) on Friday approved the government's nomination of Dinh Tien Dung as finance minister of Vietnam with 71.28 percent of votes in favor. The legislature also voted in favor a resolution relieving Dung of his position as General Auditor, paving the way for the legislative ratification of the government's proposed nomination? At the ongoing fifth session of the 13th NA on Thursday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung proposed General Auditor Dinh Tien Dung to replace his predecessor Vuong Dinh Hue who was assigned to head the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission. Born in 1961, Dung was elected State General Auditor of Vietnam in August 2011 by the NA, local online Voice of Vietnam VOV reported.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/24/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Court to Take Decision on Detained BNP Leaders MKA

 

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir on Saturday said it is the jurisdiction of the court to grant bail to the detained BNP leaders being tried on charges of criminal acts. “BNP is demanding unconditional release of its detained leaders. But it’s only the court which will take decision about their trial or bail,” he said addressing a meeting after inaugurating a new thana at Ruhia in Sadar upazila. About Hefajat-e-Islam’s May 5 Dhaka siege programme, the Home Minister said if they want to hold any programme peacefully the government will not obstruct them. He urged all to remain alert so that no one can create any anarchy in the country in the name of religion. Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen and Dabirul Islam, among others, addressed the programme.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/05/2013

 

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Govt to Set Up 3 Handloom Service Centres

 

The government has taken an initiative to set up three handloom service centers in different loom intensive areas of the country for providing pre-weaving and post-weaving related services to the weavers through some 1.40 lakh handlooms. A project titled ‘Establishment of 3 Handloom Service Centers in Different Loom Intensive Areas’ was recently approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC). Bangladesh Handloom Board (BHB) under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute will implement the project at a cost of Tk 50.54 crore by December 2015. The project cost will be borne entirely from the government exchequer. The project area covers Kalihati upazila of Tangail, Shahzadpur upazila of Sirajganj and Kumarkhali upazila of Kushtia. Once the project is completed, it would directly employ some 165 people and help create employment opportunities for another 4 lakh handloom weavers.

 

Talking to UNB, Planning Ministry officials said that the project aims to provide different pre-weaving and post-weaving services to the weavers like fabric colouring, mercerizing, sizing, calendaring and folding through the setting up of three service centers. Besides, through these service centers necessary assistance will be provided to the handloom weavers for producing improved and standard fabrics apart from enhancing the skills of the handloom weavers by reducing the production rate of faulty fabrics through setting up new machineries. According to sources at the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, the number of handlooms in Tangail and Kalihati areas is about 37,222 as per the handloom census of 2003 and the handloom weavers of this area used to weave different cotton sarees. But, the handloom weavers of this area face various problems in absence of pre-weaving and post-weaving services. The handloom census of 2003 also showed that there are some 79,889 handlooms in and around the areas of Shahjazpur of Sirajganj and the weavers of this area usually used to weave lungees, sarees, three-pieces, american sarees and fabrics.

 

But, the weavers are not being able to produce quality fabrics for lack of yarn colouring, post-weaving services and other fabric processing facilities. Besides, the weavers of some 22,348 handlooms in Kumarkhali of Kushtia are also facing difficulty to produce quality fabrics due to inadequate facilities for yarn colouring and post-weaving services as well as poor fabric processing facilities. The service center in this area would facilitate the handloom weavers for producing high-standard lungees, bed sheets, bed covers, towels and curtain fabrics, said a Textiles and Jute Ministry official. The pre-evaluation committee (PEC) meeting on the project was held twice and the Planning Commission recommended for implementing the project to help producing standard fabrics through enhancing the efficiency of the handloom weavers. According to the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, handloom sector in Bangladesh consists of more than 0.183 million handloom units with 0.505 million handlooms and about 1 million handloom weavers -- 50 percent being female workers. About one million weavers, dyers, hand spinners, embroiderers and allied artisans have been using their creative skills in more than 0.30 million active looms to produce around 687 million meters of fabrics annually. Production of these handloom fabrics spreads over numerous production centers all over the country which are linked up by a network of primary, secondary and central markets.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/10/2013

 

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Govt Makes Efforts to Simplify Migration Process Minister

 

Revealing that over 80 lakh Bangladeshi workers are engaged in 157 countries around the world, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain on Tuesday said the present government is making relentless efforts to make the migration process easier. The minister was addressing a seminar titled “CEDAW and GR 26” aiming to protect the dignity of female migrants organised by Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) at a local hotel. Observing that the migration process for women should be expedited along their male counterparts to develop the country’s socioeconomic condition, he said the government has taken various programmes to make the migration of women safe and meaningful. Engineer Mosharraf said, “The government achieved a lot of success in the last four years in female worker migration. The rate of female worker migration has been increased to 6.14 percent and various practical measures have been taken to resolve their problems.” He said the female workers were sent to new countries like Hong Kong and Singapore to expand the job market abroad. Women and Children Affairs Secretary Tarik-ul-Islam, acting secretary of Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry M Hazrat Ali and Manager of UN Women Programme Nahid M Ahmed, among others, addressed the seminar with BMET Director General Begum Samsunnahar in the chair.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/14/2013

 

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JS Body for Quick Completion of Food Ministry’s Recruitment Processes

 

A parliamentary watchdog at a meeting on Sunday recommended that all the recruitment processes of the Food Ministry and Directorate General of Food be completed quickly on merit to expedite their activities. Held at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with committee chairman M Imaj Uddin in the chair, the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food Ministry also underscored the need for properly procuring paddy, rice and wheat in the current season. The meeting expressed satisfaction over the progress of setting up silos and food storages, stressing the importance of strengthening follow-up and monitoring of the work. It also suggested the authorities concerned produce documentaries on the success achieved by the Food Ministry over the last four years and present those before country’s people. Committee members Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, M Atiur Rahman Atiq, Narayan Chandra Chanda, M Mozahar Ali Pradhan and Akram Hossain Chowdhury attended the meeting.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/19/2013

 

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SRI LANKA: Permanent Appointments to 15,000 Graduate Trainees in Public Service

 

15,000 graduates who were recruited the public service recently have been made permanent in their positions. Additional secretary to the Ministry of Public AdministrationJagathChandrasiri emphasized that all the recruits will be made permanent in their service. Around 50,000 graduates have been recruited as trainees. In addition, the Minister of Health MaithreepalaSirisena has handed over 380 appointments to newly recruited midwives who completed their two year training. The Ministry says the recruitment of midwives will help to enhance rural health service. Meanwhile, Minister Basil Rajapaksa pointed out the need of awarding a degree for the nursing sector. The nursing service of the country has set high standards which can be compared with rest of the world. The minister made these remarks at a ceremony held at the Temple Trees today to mark the International Nurses Day.

From http://www.priu.gov.lk 05/18/2013

 

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MALDIVES: Govt Committed to Hold Free and Fair Elections, President Assures UN

 

President Waheed made the statement during a meeting with Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco at the President’s Office on Thursday. At the meeting, President and the Assistant Secretary General discussed the current political situation of the country and the preparations been made for this year’s presidential elections. Underlining the importance of conducting a transparent, free and fair electoral process, Taranco stressed the need to engage in political dialogue amongst all parties, President’s Office said. According to the President’s Office, Taranco noted the tremendous strides made by the country towards embracing and institutionalization of multi-party democratic governance. He applauded President Waheed for his leadership techniques in restoring peace and stability following the change of power in February 2012. President Waheed expressed appreciation for the continued support and cooperation received from the United Nations for the development of the Maldives.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 05/09/2013

 

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NEPAL: Govt Will Fulfill Vacant Positions at NPC Soon FM Koirala

 

Finance Minister Shanker Prasad Koirala assured to appoint the vice-chairman and members at the National Planning Commission (NPC) soon. During the meeting with development partners in capital on Tuesday, FM Koirala assured to give continuity to the thee-year national development plan following the serious concern of the development partners with the absence of NPC members. The planning commission is vacant after the resignation of the officials at the Commission including its Vice-chairman Deependra Bahadur Kshetry and three members. This has been hindering finalisation of the draft for the Three Year Interim Plan. FM Koirala also urged the donor partners to come up with their respective development strategies as per the government policies. Similarly, Koirala also expressed commitment to introduce timely budget for the next fiscal year as the delay in the full budget has affected capital spending hampering development works this fiscal year.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 05/01/2013

 

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Govt Forms Committee to Recommend Online Media Regulations

 

The Ministry of Information and Communications has formed a five-member committee to recommend the government on introducing new regulations to govern online media. Ministry Joint-secretary Narayan Prasad Sanjel has been appointed chief of the committee, which comprises editors of various Nepali language-based online news portals and a representative from Federation of Nepali Journalists, RSS reported. The report said that the committee is holding consultations to include online media under the ambit of the Broadcasting Act.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 05/11/2013

 

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PAKISTAN: Protection of Workers Rights Among Top Priorities of Govt Governor

 

KARACHI: Sindh Governor Dr. Ishrat-ul- Ebad Khan has said that protection of workers rights is among the top priorities of the government. In a message on the Labour Day, the Governor said that it is foremost priority of the government to give due rights to the labour class. The Governor while paying homage to the Chicago Martyrs for their fight against oppression a century ago said that workers are backbone of the economy. He said good relation between employer and employee are must as satisfied workers were central to the production cycle and national development. He pledged that each and every step would be taken for empowerment of labour class as it is the driving force behind any industrial and agricultural progress of any country.

From http://www.brecorder.com 05/01/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Heads of ICT Fund and High-Tech Park Appointed

 

Executive Director of Azerbaijan's State Fund for Information and Communication Technologies was appointed on Monday. Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov appointed Elchin Zeynalov, the Head of the Department of Strategic Planning, Investment and Scientific Potential of the ICT Ministry, to the position. 2013 was declared the ICT year in Azerbaijan. The action plan on the ICT year ensures the functioning of the State Fund for ICT Development, the High Technologies Park, Information Security Center, Virtual Qarabag ICT center, and IT University. The Fund was established to implement the state policy on development and support of small enterprise in the scientific and technical fields, providing them with direct financial assistance and personnel training, which in turn will help to create new jobs. The Fund envisions three mechanisms of financing - investments, grants and credits. Priority will be given to export-oriented projects. Grants will be awarded primarily for the development of innovative ideas after detailed study. Elchin Zeynalov said work on legal and organizational issues related to the functioning of the State Fund is underway. This pertains to the legal documents indicated in the Fund's bylaws, as well as hiring personnel of the Fund. After completion of the work, the Fund will begin financing ICT projects as well as holding grant contests.

 

Earlier Zeynalov said the Fund may start financing "start-ups" in the next few months. Financial support for "start-ups" and creative ideas contribute to the development of the ICT in the country, he believes. The ICT minister also appointed the chairman of the Azerbaijan-Turkey Business Association Seymur Agayev as head of the State High Technologies Park. According to the ministry, the staff of the park will be formed in the near future. Under the plans, the construction of the park will start by the year-end. Earlier in April, the ICT ministry said that work on the construction of a high-tech park had started. The High Tech Park was established in the country last November. The high-tech park is supposed to be a territory which has the necessary infrastructure, logistics, management structures for the development of new and high technologies, research in the field of energy efficiency, space and telecommunications, information technologies and communications. The park will be located near the capital Baku and a relevant location spanning 20 hectares was allocated by the state for this purpose. In the future, local and foreign ICT companies will be involved in the park's activity. Research companies, startup project developers and production enterprises will be based in the park area. The park's residents will enjoy favorable conditions. The park's participants will be tax and customs duty-exempt for seven years.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/23/2013

 

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Taxes Ministry to Simplify Submission of E-Declarations

 

Azerbaijan plans to simplify the procedures of submitting electronic declarations and invoices in Azerbaijan until 2016 under the State program of development of "e-government" for 2013-2015, the Taxes Ministry reported on Thursday. Azerbaijan's Communications and Information Technologies Ministry is developing a draft state program on the development of e-government for 2013-2015, which is a continuation of the state program on developing the ICT sector in Azerbaijan in 2010-2012. Among other priorities for the Ministry within the program are the increase of transparency of tax control and inspections, provision of taxpayers with all necessary information as well as education activities. It is also planned to implement additional acitivities to harmonize the activity of tax authorities in accordance with international standards, to accelerate work on the transition to electronic payments as well as strengthening information security. The state program, which mostly covers the government sector, and is an integral part of the broad "electronic Azerbaijan" idea, is aimed to create the e-government, develop the methods of management by means of implementing modern information and communication technologies in state bodies, providing e-services, as well as taking comprehensive measures to provide simplified and free access of citizens and organizations to such services. The establishment and development of the e-government in Azerbaijan will encourage fruitful work of the state bodies, guarantee its transparency and reduce bureaucracy. 2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan and the ICT University was established under a presidential order on February 2.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 04/26/2013

 

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KYRGYZSTAN: No Revolutions to Occur

 

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev promised that there will be no revolutions in the country, KyrTAG reported on Tuesday. The statement was made during the meeting of Atambayev with CIS, Baltic and Georgian media. "Kyrgyzstan is the most stabile country. We have a number of meetings every day. But there will be no more revolutions," he said. He promised to do everything to keep the Kyrgyz democratic development. Atambayev also added that the religious situation in the country causes anxiety.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/21/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Head of Presidential Security Service Appointed

 

According to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's order, the first deputy head of the Kazakh Presidential Security Service - head of the Presidential Security Service, the Kazakh President's administration said today. According to the report, Ardak Ashimbekuly was appointed to this post. His predecessor - Anuar Sadykulov was dismissed in early 2013 and at the same time he was appointed head of "Arystan" Special Forces of the Kazakh National Security Committee.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/04/2013

 

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New Head to Be Appointed for Kazakh Kashagan Project’s Operator

 

A new head will be appointed for the North Caspian Productions Operations Company, which is Kazakh Kashagan project's operator, on the eve of oil production start at Kashagan field, Kazinform reported. The acting managing director of the company Hans Bakker will leave his post on June 1. He will be replaced by the acting deputy managing director of the company, Adian Van Dyke. Speaking about the Kashagan project, Hans Bakker expressed hope that oil production at Kashagan will start successfully in near future. Kashagan is one of the largest fields discovered in the past 40 years. According to the analysts, it has the potential to unite the top five largest oil companies in the world. Kazakh geologists estimate geological oil reserves at 4.8 billion tons. According to the project operator, total oil reserves are 38 billion barrels (six billion tons), with a recoverable volume of about 10 billion barrels. Natural gas reserves are estimated at over one trillion cubic meters. At present the Kashagan project participants are Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total and KazMunaiGas, which owns equal shares (16.81 per cent), as well as ConocoPhillips - 8.4 per cent and Japan's Inpex - 7.55 per cent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/17/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Capital to Expand Boundaries

 

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov chaired a meeting on the development of the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. Results of a special commission set up to form new districts in Ashgabat and to define their boundaries are now available, Turkmen TV said on Thursday. "Taking into account its geographic location, the Turkmen capital receives more foreign visitors," the report said. "The city has become the venue for international events at a world level. All this poses new challenges for the development of Ashgabat." The matter rests in joining the territories of the town of Abadan and the Ruhabat district of the Akhal region to Ashgabat. The president instructed that measures be taken to ensure the optimal conditions for living, including utilities, the smooth operation of communication systems, power and water supply in the new regions. He said that the establishment of the proper functioning of the urban economy is connected with the road transport area. This issue is expected to be thoroughly discussed at a meeting to be held in the palace of Maslakhat Koshgi in the coming days. "Ashgabat must be worthy of the high title of the capital of an independent, neutral Turkmenistan," the Turkmen president was quoted by the Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary state news agency. Therefore, work on the development of the main city of the country must go ahead, taking into account the growing dynamics of socio-economic processes. Ashgabat is the largest administrative, political, transport, trade, scientific and cultural centre of the country. As of early 2012, some 12.7 per cent of the population (fifth place among the regions) lived there. One of the leading sectors of the capital's economy is its industry, namely the light industry and food products, as well as mechanical engineering, wood processing, pharmaceutical and building industries. Around 4.6 per cent of the total industrial production of the country (fifth place among the regions) was produced in Ashgabat in 2011.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/24/2013

 

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UZBEKISTAN: Democratic Party Has New Head

 

Plenum of the Central Council of the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan "Milli Tiklanish" (National Revival) elected Sarvar Otamuratov as new head of the party, the part's press service reported. According to the press service, the plenum dismissed the former leader of the party - chairman of the Executive Committee of the Central Council, Akhtam Tursunov due to the deterioration of his health. Sarvar Otamuratov, born in 1973, graduated from the Tashkent State University (now the National University of Uzbekistan), Banking and Finance Academy, Academy of Public Administration under the President of Uzbekistan. In 2009 Otamuratov was elected as member of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (lower house of parliament) of Uzbekistan. Since 2010 he has been working as Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Budget and Economic Reforms of the Parliament. The Democratic Party "Milli Tiklanish" was founded in 1995. In 2008, it merged with the National Democratic Party "Fidokorlar".

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/14/2013

 

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AUSTRALIA: Governments Want Mobility - But How Much Will It Cost?

 

More than 80% of Australian government agencies believe mobility can improve their efficiency, yet almost half have no idea what it will cost. The 2013 Government Mobility Survey, based on interviews with senior managers across all governments, found strong enthusiasm for the potential of mobile devices and services. Of those questioned, 81.8% said they would "improve processes and deliver efficiencies".But 47% of respondents admitted they didn't know how much budget to allocate for mobility projects. A further 31% said they had "a pretty good idea" while 15% felt they had "formulated an estimate". Only 7% of respondents were confident they knew precisely how much money they would need to spend on their project. The survey, conducted by Tech Research Asia on behalf of BlinkMobile Interactive, offers fresh insight into the way mobility is being used within the Australian public sector and how this usage is likely to expand during the next two years. “It is interesting to see how quickly demand for mobility solutions is growing within all levels of government,” said Darren Besgrove, COO of BlinkMobile Interactive.

 

“There is clearly a broad understanding of the benefits it can deliver, yet the research shows there remains work to be done in the formulation of strategies, the choice of technology and accurate budgets. This challenge is likely to stem from agencies recently appreciating the need to take an agency wide approach to mobility over the traditional ‘point solution’ or project-by-project approach." The survey found most agencies won’t develop mobility solutions in-house, with only 25% of respondents nominating this path. The remainder plan to either use existing vendor mobility solutions (38%) or engage a specialist organisation to design and implement a solution (37%). The study also found that senior business managers are more likely to be the driver of mobility strategies rather than the IT department itself. "This shows the majority of government agencies recognise they don't have all the required skills in-house to undertake a successful mobility project," said Besgrove. "With more devices and more capabilities within those devices, plus open web services evolving so quickly, they see merit in making use of the experience and knowledge of an external provider to get the very best result for their users, be they citizens or internal staff.” Asked to nominate their key priorities for agency-wide mobility projects, 70% of respondents identified integration with existing systems and services as being either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important. This was followed by support for future technologies (59%) and the ability to support most or all of a department's needs (55%).

 

When it comes to the specific functions within their agency that would benefit most from mobility, more than half of respondents (51%) nominated field data collection and inspections / reporting as being either "extremely" or "very" important. Email was placed in the same category by 50%, followed by work orders and asset management (36%)."These priorities align with those of many private-sector organisations," said Besgrove. "The key benefit of mobility is that it can provide access to centrally held applications and data. This is particularly powerful for field workforces who need fast, reliable access regardless of where they happen to be.” Asset management is a key candidate for mobility. Many organisations have not yet fully realised the advantages it can bring in terms of time savings, efficiency and actual asset and lifecycle management. On the device front, the survey found Apple's iPad was the most supported device within government agencies (nominated by 73.13% of respondents). This was followed by the iPhone (67.16%), Android devices (40.30%) and BlackBerry handsets (33.58%).Tim Dillon, Director of Tech Research Asia, said: “The data clearly highlights the desire of government agencies to incorporate mobility into their business operations to provide better services to both employees and constituents. It’s pleasing to see the mobility discussion change focus from a preoccupation with which device are being used to productivity and engagement.”

 

"IT managers within government agencies are dealing with a diverse range of client devices," said Besgrove. "For an agency-wide mobility project to succeed, applications must be able to run across them all. Careful selection of a robust application management and deployment structure is therefore vital as is the requirement to deliver users activity-based applications specific to their job roles and daily tasks. This ensures mobility projects have the highest possible success with greater user adoption and less training and support costs.”

From http://www.itwire.com/ 05/22/2013

 

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NEW ZEALAND: Fast-Track Citizen Engagement Reforms

 

New Zealand’s Minister for Internal Affairs Chris Tremain is fast-tracking the government’s digital engagement strategy under a new initiative that brings together core agencies at the front-line of public services. These agencies are banding together under the auspices of a recently-established “Digital Service Council.” Minister Tremain, also a keynote speaker at the Annual FutureGov Forum New Zealand being held Tuesday 28th May in Wellington, says this new project enables New Zealanders to interact more readily with government in an on-line environment. “The aim of the funding is to increase the efficiencies of agencies working together to allow more New Zealanders to interact with the Government online,” he says. “Our target is for 70 per cent of New Zealanders’ most common transactions with government to occur online by 2017.” New Zealand’s peak agency, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is managing this programme, in partnership with the Digital Service Council.

 

Council membership and contributions from lead agencies encompass the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Customs Service, Inland Revenue, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand Transport Agency, and the DIA. These agencies are pooling NZ$2.9 million to fund the project – while sharing innovative ideas and common goals to engage with citizens. The government’s commitment to citizen engagement also comes under the spotlight at the Annual FutureGov Forum New Zealand. A dedicated panel discussion, “Gov 3.0; Engaging Citizens” weighs the benefits and challenges of connecting with citizens in an on-line environment. This panel features speakers from New Zealand’s DIA, as well as the Office of Economic Development Board (South Australia), Land Information New Zealand, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, and the Department of Local Government (Western Australia).

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/16/2013

 

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PM: Food in Schools Is Good, but Welfare Reform Still

 

National will announce a food-in-schools programme early this week to prevent children becoming victims of learning problems, Prime Minister John Key told party members yesterday. However, in a scene-setting speech for next year's election delivered to 350 party faithful attending the party's northern convention in Auckland yesterday, Mr Key said his Government's controversial welfare reforms remained the best way to tackle poverty. Mr Key said the food in schools programme for low-decile schools which had been expected as part of the Budget announcement two weeks ago would be revealed early this week. He expected a debate when the programme was announced. "Some people will say we shouldn't do it because parents should look after their children and feed them, and if they don't they're not carrying out their responsibilities." However, "if the child is not fed ... we know they don't learn. "In the end they are a victim, they may well be a 6- or 7-year-old victim that can't stand up for themselves so we have some responsibility to do something about that."

 

The fastest way to tackle poverty remained through work and education and he told party members that controversial welfare reforms, led by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, "may well prove to be one of the great legacies of this Government". Staking out the ground for next year's election, Mr Key said it would be "quite a different election to what you normally see". "Normally elections are fought between the centre-left and the centre-right. That is not what's going to take place next year. David Shearer has cut his cloth and it is wrapped around Russel Norman. But that now becomes an election between the centre-right and the far-left." Mr Key yesterday would not rule out working with New Zealand First, depending on the outcome of the election, in spite of its leader Winston Peters' latest tirade against Asian immigrants. "We'll make a decision in 2014."

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 05/27/2013

 

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: PM Commits to Transparent Mining

 

Solomon Islands prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo says he's committed to developing the country's mining sector transparently and sustainably. Mr Darcy Lilo was in Sydney on Thursday to give a keynote address at the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative's (EITI) sixth global conference. His country was the first Pacific nation to sign up to the EITI, a global anti-corruption initiative for the mining industry. Mr Darcy Lilo has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the move has led to improvements in the way Solomon Islanders view the local mining industry. "We have promised them and have shown them the commitment to disclose revenue flows, for instance, marketing contracts and even sharing with them the details of the social expenditures that would never be disclosed in the past," he said. "That brings a lot of confidence from our people to be more willing to come forward and cooperate." Mr Darcy Lilo said it was the Solomon Islands' experience of conflict a decade ago that prompted it to sign the EITI. "To avoid further conflict an overarching internationally accepted framework is necessary," he said. Mr Darcy Lilo said transparency and accountability will be crucial as the Solomon Islands' economy moves from logging to mining. He welcomed the EITI's new standard that requires publication of local level payments as well as those at the national level.

From http://www.abc.net.au 05/23/2013

 

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Facebook Becomes Member of Internet Freedom Group

 

Facebook on Wednesday became a full member of the Global Network Initiative, a non-governmental organization promoting Internet freedom and privacy rights. The announcement came one year after the world’s biggest social network gained observer status at GNI, whose corporate members include Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google. “We welcome Facebook as a full member of GNI and look forward to working more closely with them to advance the freedom of expression and privacy rights of Internet users worldwide,” said the group’s executive director Susan Morgan. “Adding the power of Facebook’s community of one billion global users puts GNI in an even better place to press governments to fulfill their obligations to protect rights online.” Facebook Vice President Elliot Schrage said the California company joined the group as part of its commitment to “advancing human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to communicate freely.” “We’re pleased to join GNI and contribute to its efforts to shed a spotlight on government practices that threaten the economic, social and political benefits the Internet provides.” The news was welcomed by Human Rights Watch, which is also a member of the initiative. “Facebook has an undeniable responsibility to safeguard human rights for the more than billion people who use it,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “By joining the Global Network Initiative, Facebook is taking an important step to respect its users’ human rights and to be accountable to them. The real test is to see how it implements GNI’s principles.” Other GNI members include the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

From http://www.rawstory.com/ 05/23/2013

 

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New International Coalition to TPP Negotiators: We Demand a Fair Deal for the Internet

 

EFF joins organizations from the around the world representing a diversity of interests in launching a new coalition to ask for A Fair Deal on intellectual property (IP) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The coalition has launched a website at www.OurFairDeal.org calling for TPP negotiators to “reject copyright proposals that restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights.” The TPP meetings are taking place in Lima, Peru this week until May 25th, and EFF has been on the ground working with groups to fight those provisions and demand a seat at the table at these secretive negotiations.

From http://www.i-policy.org 05/25/2013

 

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Asia Prosperity Requires More Innovation, Inclusion, Integration - ADB President

 

Growth in Asia and the Pacific has been more robust than expected after the global crisis, and must be sustained for the region to reduce poverty and increase prosperity, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao said in his first address to the ADB Board of Governors. “Asia is making the transition to growth led by domestic and regional demand,” he said. “But Asia cannot be complacent. To achieve sustainable growth, I believe Asia must become more innovative, more inclusive, and more integrated.” The new ADB President emphasized the need for an enabling environment in which the private sector can grow, innovate, and create jobs. Critical elements include conducive regulatory systems, support for start-ups, broad-based financial systems, and infrastructure development. Governments must also invest more in their people, providing vocational and tertiary education, and accessible, cost-effective health services. “All of these must be underpinned by good governance. The rule of law and its just implementation, accountability, and protection of property rights are essential in building a better a climate for investment and innovation,” Mr. Nakao said. With more than 800 million people in the Asia-Pacific still living in absolute poverty, the region has to address rising inequality, Mr. Nakao noted. For the region’s growth to be sustainable, it also needs to be inclusive, requiring the region to address issues like income inequality, access to good education and health services, gender equity, and provision of social safety nets. “Inclusive growth is ultimately an issue of empowerment,” Mr. Nakao said. “Empowerment is not just a means of development, but should also be a primary objective of development.”

 

More can be done toward creating a truly integrated Asia, the President noted, pointing to the success of the Greater Mekong subregion, Central Asia, and South Asia in connecting transport and energy networks, and the potential for improved ICT connectivity to integrate isolated Pacific island economies into the Asia and Pacific region. “The re-engagement of Myanmar presents a great opportunity for deepening integration, with the promise of substantial gains for Asia and the world as a whole,” he said. The President noted that Asia’s growth in the world economy brings with it a new responsibility – the responsibility to contribute to solving global issues like climate change and the post-2015  Millennium Development Goals agenda. In considering ADB’s role in the region, Mr. Nakao highlighted the need for finance, leverage, and knowledge to better meet the region’s needs. He committed ADB to step up efforts to leverage bilateral official sources of finance, private sector finance, and public-private partnerships, and to combine finances more closely together with development knowledge.

 

The President also announced the initiation of a mid-term review of Strategy 2020 “based on the progress of its implementation, and also on developments in Asia since its adoption in 2008.” He said ADB will also consider a long-term strategic vision for the Asian Development Fund in line with the region’s changing needs. While the general capital increase in 2009 and successful ADF replenishments have strengthened ADB’s financial resources, the President noted that ADB must “continue examining how we can secure the resource base needed in order to continue to pursue our objectives well.” Mr. Nakao closed his address by saying that “Perhaps what matters most is ADB’s performance and the results it achieves … I will place the highest priority on outcomes to ensure we respond to the region’s needs as efficiently and effectively as possible.” Regarding human resources, Mr. Nakao said: “ADB is fortunate to have a diverse staff of talented, professional, and determined women and men. I intend to promote the potential of all our staff through a proactive talent management process.”

From http://www.adb.org/ 05/04/2013

 

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APEC Officials Gather in Hanoi to Discuss Business Continuity Planning

 

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) officials gathered in Vietnam's capital Hanoi at two seminars to discuss measures for business continuity planning (BCP) despite the potential impacts of natural disasters, local media reported on Friday. The events, co-organized from May 8-10 by Vietnam and Australia in the framework of an initiative to help businesses resume operations and production after natural disasters, were approved by APEC's Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) in 2012. Participants discussed the roles of state agencies in fostering and creating conditions for implementing BCP, and shared expertise in policy building and planning for BCP in several economies. They also brought forth important recommendations to enhance cooperation and improve emergency preparedness, and discussed measures to foster collaboration within APEC and between the grouping and international organizations in the field, reported state-run Vietnam News Agency. The Asia-Pacific region regularly experiences the consequences of extreme natural disasters, which cause huge economic damage and have an effect on businesses in the region. Therefore, one of APEC members' concerns is to increase businesses' awareness of the importance of mapping out recovery plans to help resume operations after a disaster, as well as share practical experiences and policies to boost BCP among businesses. As a co-chair of EPWG during 2012-2013 periods, Vietnam is working closely with APEC's member countries and regional organizations to implement the Group's initiative.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/10/2013

 

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Asia's Mobile Revolution Is Changing the Way You Do Business

 

Over 20 years ago when I first came to China to work I had a frustrating time as communication systems were not developed - there were no mobile phones, fax machines needed to be registered with the local government and internet connectivity was non-existent. Communication with the rest of the world was really only relegated to the morning and night when I could return to my hotel or office and get access to the necessary devices to send a message. Fast forward to now and most business people in China carry two, if not more mobile phones. In fact, China, and Asia as a region, has more mobile phones than personal computers. Apple and Samsung see this as one of their most important markets. With its open system, Google's android operating system maintains a significant majority of market share in Asia. Additionally, there are many low cost manufacturers (Chinese 'shanzai brands' or 'knock-off' mobile phone equipment manufacturers) who use the android platform to produce very affordable smart phones.

 

Combine the availability of phones, accessibility of an open operating system and the 3G speed of the telecom networks and the result is an ecosystem of the most connected individuals in one of the most dynamic areas in the world. This ecosystem is the driving force between many entrepreneurial efforts. WeChat, a chat product from internet services company Tencent launched in 2011, has seen phenomenal growth; signing up over 300 million users in less than 18 months. WeChat, however, has another distinction of being directly responsible this year for the first decline in Chinese New Year text message volume. More relevant, though, WeChat has created a platform for business. A significant portion of the WeChat users are business people who create chat groups to keep in touch with colleagues, customers and potential partners. Microblogging site Sina Weibo has also successfully created a marketing platform for individuals and businesses to develop and engage in a conversation with their customers. Combined, Weibo and WeChat have over a billion users. Most interestingly, though, in a culture where building personal relationships is the corner stone of any opportunity, these two companies are proving that mobile relationships are not only possible, but also potentially quite lucrative.

 

WeChat, Weibo and Kakao Talk (a chat application similar to WeChat) in Korea, are leading this shift from fixed line/PC to wireless/mobile devices. Business users are becoming more comfortable with the mobile phone as a business tool instead of just a communication device. And the chat function introduced by these companies has very quickly become as important as a phone call or traditional text message in business circles. And this is just the beginning. Given the ever growing reliance on mobile phones, the prevalence of lower cost smartphone devices and the ability to 'mobily' maintain business relationships, provides a strong opportunity in developing cloud based mobile technologies to help companies manage their teams.

 

This convergence of cloud (Internet based services) and mobility now allows developers to build robust solutions where the mobile phone is the primary device. In addition to the chat functions, businesses can now download mobile sales force management solutions, virtual call center platforms where workers can effectively work from a tea shop, logistic tracking solutions that are exclusively mobile phone based. Amazingly, a company in Shanghai is releasing an app with video streaming where you can now choose your pig before you buy it. Asia already has the most mobile phone users in the world, now it is time for the software solutions to catch up with the market opportunity. Unlike the West, Asia will develop management solutions that are mobile and cloud based, yet again leap frogging western countries that are still focused on office based solutions. Is it possible that Asia will be the first region to support and build a truly mobile business environment ? I would be surprised if this does not happen. Asia has already caught up in terms of the hardware, it is entirely possible that software will be the next area where Asia can leapfrog the West.

From http://www.cnbc.com/ 05/10/2013

 

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An Information-communication Revolution in the Pacific

 

Information and communication technology outreach is happening fast in one of the most dispersed regions on Earth, the Pacific. It’s a region comprised of some 9,000 islands spread across a vast ocean, where governments and businesses deal with some of the highest transaction costs in the world. Over the last six years, more than two million people in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands gained access to mobile phones. In countries like Vanuatu, eight in ten people now have a mobile phone connection (a 70 percent increase from 2007), and call prices have dropped. Villagers who for years had made treacherous three-hour long boat trips to make a simple phone call to the capital, are now calling and texting family in other provinces and other countries. Access to mobile phones has reduced isolation, made it easier and cheaper to do business, and increased government options for service delivery.

 

The benefits have been felt right across Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, and are now stretching into the North Pacific. This ‘telecommunications revolution’ is also creating jobs where they are needed most: directly creating livelihoods for at least 30,000 people in Papua New Guinea alone. Mobile phones are just the beginning. High-speed broadband is the next step to help overcome these challenges. Most Pacific Island countries still depend on costly satellite links with limited bandwidth, and internet connectivity costs are among the highest in the world. A 256kbps broadband internet connection costs US$650 per month in Palau. In Kiribati, one of the poorest countries in the region, it would cost $430. Such high rates are common across the Pacific. As a result, less than one percent of the region’s population typically has access to a reliable internet connection. Outside the main towns, people are still more likely to communicate with letters transported by ship than an email.

 

Where the internet exists it’s often painfully slow. Kelela Pasina runs an internet café just outside of Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, but there are major bandwidth constraints. “The internet here is so bad. Sometimes it comes on and off and on and off again. It’s very bad for business and for my family.” Like many Tongans, he has family overseas but he says, he can only contact them on Sundays when less people are using the internet. It will take him half an hour to upload a single photo of his new baby to send to his sister in Hawaii. The internet here is so bad. Sometimes it comes on and off and on and off again. It’s very bad for business and for my family. Yet the coming months will see the arrival of broadband. Through a World Bank and Asian Development Bank funded project, an 830 km fiber-optic cable will be installed underwater to connect Tonga, a country made up of 176 islands spread across 700,000 square kilometres of ocean, to the Southern Cross Landing Station in Fiji, and onwards to global broadband networks. As more countries connect, benefits are expected to resound in the region.

 

Faster, cheaper, and more reliable connections can result in the development of: •New opportunities to share information: Governments, teachers, doctors, farmers, and fishermen use technology to communicate, share information, buy goods, find better prices, make payments, improve the reach of their services and increase their bargaining power. •E-services: Developed by Pacific governments to provide geographical information systems, new modes of distance learning, and online business applications. •Trans-national cooperation: On issues such as monitoring of natural resources like fisheries, disaster mitigation, and collaboration on service delivery like health and education, including in remote areas. There is huge potential to harness the power of technology to create economic growth and opportunities and to reduce poverty. The World Bank Group, together with partners like AusAID, NZAID, and ADB, is working with the countries of the Pacific to realize this potential. Currently the World Bank has projects to better ICT access in seven Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste, including in far-flung rural areas and Outer Islands, with projects on the way in Palau and Federated States of Micronesia.

From http://www.worldbank.org/ 05/17/2013

 

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CHINA: Stressing Minimizing Loss After Strong Quake

 

At an executive meeting of China's State Council, or the cabinet, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged more efforts to minimize casualties and resettle affected residents after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake jolted southwestern Sichuan Province.Li proposed a moment of silence to mourn the victims of the Lushan earthquake and people who lost their lives in disaster relief operations.The rescue cannot be given up although the "golden rescue time," or the first 72 hours after the quake, is over. Rescuers should continue their all-out efforts in a scientific way, checking every corner to search for survivors, said a statement issued after the meeting.Medical staff and materials, including blood and medicines must be guaranteed to ensure timely treatment of patients, the statement said.The strong earthquake, which struck Lushan County in Ya'an City Saturday morning, has left 196 dead, 21 missing and 11,470 injured as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

 

Local authorities have been urged to relocate affected residents and ensure their access to a safe house, food and clean water. Tents, clothes, sheets and prefabricated homes as well as food and funds allocated by the central government should be distributed to the needy as soon as possible, the statement said.Epidemic prevention, especially disinfection in key areas, should be strengthened, it added.Precautionary efforts should be made against secondary disasters such as landslides, cave-ins and mud-rock flows, the statement warned.The conference also called for traffic in the quake zone to flow smoothly and the repair of electricity, communication and water supply infrastructures.Medical institutions, commercial outlets and schools should be reopened quickly and post-quake reconstruction will be launched at an appropriate time, it said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/25/2013 

 

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China to Tighten Crackdown on Illegal Fundraising

 

China will further crack down on illegal fundraising after handling 4,293 cases concerning this crime since 2011, a senior legal official said on Friday.A total of 4,170 such criminals have been sentenced to penalties in this period, with 34.75 percent receiving five years or more in jail or the death penalty, said Miao Youshui, deputy chief judge of the criminal trial division of the supreme court, at a press conference on the policing of illegal fundraising.Miao added that the rate of severe penalties for illegal fundraising is higher than that of other economic criminal cases, representing the country's determination to strictly curb illicit fundraising in accordance with laws.According to Du Jinfu, head of the Inter-agency Anti-illegal Fund-raising Taskforce (IAFT), recent years have seen frequent cases of illegal fundraising in most cities.They involved a number of industries, including agriculture, forestry, real estate, education and logistics, and extending to emerging areas such as technology, environmental protection and equity investment, said Du.He added that private lending and usury are hot beds for illegal fundraising in some regions, with these practices bringing serious harm to social harmony and stability.Liu Wenxi, deputy head of the Economic Crime Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security, said that the amount of money concerned in these cases is on the rise.Less than five percent of economic crimes in the time period covered by the data involved illegal fundraising, yet the amount of money involved in them constituted more than 10 percent of the economic crimes' total value, Liu said.According to Du, the IAFT will carry out a national publicity campaign across China in May to fight against illegal fundraising, via TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet and mobile communication, in order to educate people to keep away from such illegal activities.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/27/2013

 

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Chinese Premier Stresses Vigilance Against H7N9

 

Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday urged authorities to be vigilant against the H7N9 avian flu virus and prepare themselves for any new developments."Countermeasures have been effective so far, but the situation is still developing as new cases turn up," he said while visiting the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."We cannot afford to take it easy or relax, as we are facing a new virus," he said. "We should be prepared for any possible development."Li urged health departments to find the source of the infections and step up research on the virus.More efforts should be made to diagnose and treat infected people as early as possible, he said.Li pledged to spare no efforts in treating infected patients and reducing casualties."We will make sure no patients have to deal with delayed treatment because of costs," he said.Li said the government will continue to cooperate with international organizations, release information openly and improve public awareness of the virus.The National Health and Family Planning Commission said last Wednesday that 108 H7N9 cases have been reported in China, including 23 that have resulted in death.

 

Since then, a dozen new cases have been reported, including two new infections in east China's Jiangxi Province.The government will work to introduce modern technology to the poultry industry in order to prevent future epidemics, Li said.Li visited a CDC lab to see how the organization is monitoring the virus and analyzing its genetic sequence. He endorsed the lab staff's work thus far and encouraged them to continue to monitor the virus.During his visit to the CDC, Li spoke with a CDC branch in east China's Zhejiang Province, where some of the first H7N9 cases were reported.He told the branch that it is important to find, report and treat new infections in a timely fashion.Li also spoke with a CDC branch in Lushan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province, which was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake a week ago.He urged CDC staff in Sichuan to double their efforts to prevent epidemic outbreaks in shelters erected for earthquake victims.The Lushan quake has left at least 196 people dead and more than 13,400 others injured.

From http://www.news.cn/ 04/29/2013

 

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Vice Premier Pushes Grain Base for Food Security

 

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang on Sunday pushed the national grain base to speed up sowing seeds after a spell of low temperature and waterlogging in spring in Heilongjiang Province.The unfavorable natural conditions this spring delayed the sowing by seven to ten days in the northeastern province, which is a key base of China's grain production.Wang asked to secure stable yield and enough food this year and help farmers increase income.He also asked agricultural experts and technicians to help solve problems in sowing seeds, and mobilized agricultural cooperatives and farming enterprises to deploy more machines in the seasonal sowing.Wang urged implementation of the comprehensive coordinated pilot reform for modernized farming in the province, exploration of new mechanism for modern agriculture, large-scale agricultural production and services, encouragement and guidance of transfer of land contract rights, coordinated management of agricultural funds, and innovation in financial and insurance services in rural areas.Wang also urged to protect soil, underground water, forest and wet land for sustainable development in the province.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/05/2013 

 

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Government Promises More Micro Flexibility

 

The most significant latest development was no doubt the Political Bureau's standing committee meeting to review the economy's performance in the first quarter. It took place on April 25, shortly before the May Day holiday. Most people worked for only two days last week.For the first time in China, the top leaders proposed (from the Politburo meeting) a three-pronged guideline. It is, translated roughly, to keep steady in macroeconomic policies, to be more flexible with microeconomic policies and to guarantee the bottom line in social policies.The most noticeable part of it is the acknowledgement that the government should become more liberal in day-to-day business administration, or that, to put it another way, the government's present way of looking after the economy remains unhealthily stiff.On Friday, the central television network CCTV reported that, as business registration rules were made easier in Shenzhen, one of the country's special economic zones to pioneer reform, local residents lined up from early morning to register their new business ventures.

 

The change was, to be sure, not a big deal. It would not incur a major cost from the government, or compromise its general power over the economy, in just relieving the applicants for registration of the need to show immediate capital deposits and a few papers it takes time and even long-distance journeys to obtain. But small as it is, the change has obviously produced a profound social impact.A lack of small businesses, especially those in various service trades, and a lack of competition for those that do exist, is easily spotted in Chinese cities. Difficulties in getting an inexpensive quick lunch or waving down a taxi are classic cases in big cities, despite the municipal officials' repeated pledge to fix the problems.Indeed, without many seemingly small but practically important changes showing flexibility on the microeconomic level, it would be hard to imagine how the country's ambitious urbanization program would succeed without helping at least 200 million migrant workers and their families completely settle down in the cities.Using urbanization as a new engine to drive China's economic growth is a point that Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly made. The practical snarl up, however, is that his team has only been lined up for six weeks and problems to prevent private initiatives, such as the impossible hassle faced by business registration applicants in Shenzhen in the past, still abound in many details in society.

 

Making the country's whole economic machine inclusive and flexible takes a major effort. And before the confidence and activity among citizens is rekindled by the changes that the top leaders have promised in flexibility, the economy can probably only continue to show the kind of lackluster progress that people are inferring from the latest data.Those data are far from indicating an economy heading toward a ditch. But they are not pretty either. GDP growth was 7.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, as compared with 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.The official manufacturing PMI was 50.6 in April, lower than March by 0.3 of a point.And the official non-manufacturing (mainly services) PMI, as released on Friday, was 54.5 in April, lower than March by as much as 1.1 points. Local governments' debts have been piling up at the same time, as a lot of money was borrowed to re-finance their incomplete projects.It appears the economy cannot yield much greater efficiency by relying primarily on administratively driven growth any longer.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/06/2013

 

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China Raises Fuel Prices amid Market Reform

 

China will slightly hike gasoline and diesel prices starting Friday, the first increase since the fuel pricing scheme was reformed in March.The retail price of both gasoline and diesel will be raised by 95 yuan (15.32 U.S. dollars) per tonne, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, said Thursday.The benchmark retail price of gasoline will be increased by 0.07 yuan per liter and diesel by 0.08 yuan per liter.As part of government efforts to promote market-oriented pricing for energy resources, the NDRC introduced in March a new pricing mechanism in the domestic market to better reflect global market changes.It shortened the fuel price adjustment cycle to 10 working days from 22 working days, scrapped the four-percent floating band for oil price changes and adjusted the varieties of crude used to calculate price changes for domestic oil products.Under the new pricing regime, domestic fuel prices will not be changed if global oil price changes are less than 50 yuan per tonne.After the new scheme went into effect, the NDRC skipped the first adjustment window on April 10, as global price changes were less than 50 yuan. Two weeks later, it cut the price of gasoline by 0.29 yuan per liter and diesel by 0.34 yuan per liter to reflect declining international crude prices.Friday's increase is the smallest in years, as global price changes have passed 50 yuan by a small margin.

 

Wang Zhen, a professor at the China University of Petroleum, said the recent adjustment indicates that the government is serious in implementing the reform and that it will obey market principles in future economic activities.The more transparent new pricing system also helps curb speculation and hoarding, he said.Previously, domestic fuel prices would be adjusted when prices for Brent, Dubai and Cinta crude oil changed by more than 4 percent over 22 working days.The long observation period left domestic speculators room to stockpile to secure handsome profits, which caused big market fluctuations.Shortening the adjustment cycle to 10 days makes single-day changes important to the final decision. Meanwhile, the new scheme did not specify the types of the benchmark crude, making it difficult for speculators to forecast future changes, said Zhang Kuikuan, general manager of the www.jkx.com.cn, a petrochemical information consultancy.Fuel pricing has been strictly regulated in China as policymakers are very concerned about its impact on inflation in the world's most populous nation.The National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday that China's Consumer Price Index, a main gauge of inflation, accelerated from a month earlier to grow 2.4 percent in April.Because of its small scale, the latest price hike is not expected to push up inflation further, analysts said.Gao Jian, an analyst with oil consulting website http://intl.sci99.com, predicted global crude prices would climb in the short run as economic recovery boosts demand.

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

 

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China's Cabinet Discusses Post-quake Reconstruction

 

The State Council, China's cabinet, on Wednesday urged concerted efforts and innovation in reconstruction following the deadly earthquake that jolted Sichuan Province in April.At an executive meeting presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the cabinet decided to set up a mechanism to direct and coordinate post-quake reconstruction and initiate reconstruction "at an appropriate time."About 797,000 affected local residents have been resettled so far, all schools have reopened, and production and life order in the quake zone have gradually been restored, according to a statement issued after the meeting.Relevant departments should carry out post-quake reconstruction planning and introduce relevant policies based on a scientific assessment of disaster conditions, it added.Unremitting efforts should be made to guarantee the basic living conditions of all quake-affected residents in the transitional period and to ensure that those injured in the disaster continue to receive effective medical treatment, according to the statement.To prevent new losses, precautionary efforts should be made against fire risks, epidemics and secondary geological disasters, the statement warned.A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Lushan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province on April 20. The earthquake left at least 196 dead and affected an estimated 2 million others.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/15/2013

 

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Li Calls for More Job Channels for Grads

 

Premier Li Keqiang called for more employment channels for college graduates on Wednesday to relieve the tough employment situation.At an executive meeting of the State Council, Li said there is increasing pressure on employment this year because nearly 7 million students - a record number - will graduate from college.The employment of college graduates is closely related to social stability and improvements in the economy and people's livelihoods, so effective measures should be taken to create more job opportunities, he said. "We should explore more employment channels and develop more job opportunities and guide college grads to work in small and medium-sized enterprises, non-public sectors and grassroots places."However, many college graduates prefer to be civil servants or work for State-owned enterprises, said Zhang Yi, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Those sectors can only absorb a limited number of fresh college graduates, he said.SMEs provide the most jobs for laborers, so more supportive measures in fields such as finance and taxation should be provided to help create more jobs for college graduates, Zhang said. Every single percentage point of GDP growth can help create 1 million to 1.2 million jobs, he added."So if SMEs, a major driving force for economic growth, can develop and help push GDP growth to 8 percent this year, another 10 million new jobs could be created," he said.Universities should also adjust their majors and courses according to market needs, he added.

 

Zhang Kaiyuan majored in administrative management and will graduate from Xiamen University in Fujian province in July. Zhang said that of the 30-some students in his class, only four have found jobs."The employment situation is tough and many grads have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, and most of them want to work at large and famous companies," the 22-year-old said.Zhang Yi said one of the reasons college graduates are reluctant to work at SMEs is because the government provides insufficient support measures for those enterprises.The State Council meeting encouraged college graduates to start their own businesses. Local governments should also provide startup-related training subsidies, small loans and implement tax reduction and exemption policies for college graduates.Chen Yu, director of the China Institute for Occupation Research at Peking University, said only a small number of college graduates choose to start their own businesses.The government should provide more guidance for graduates who want to run their own business, he said.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/16/2013

 

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Chinese VP Stresses Scientific, Technological Innovation

 

Vice President Li Yuanchao has called for science and technology (S&T) workers to devote themselves to innovation.Li made the remarks on Saturday at the opening ceremony of the 15th annual meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).The meeting, which will last until Monday, is being attended by more than 2,500 S&T workers, as well as renowned scientists and scholars from abroad.Li said the country's innovation drive will require the wisdom of all its S&T workers, encouraging them to ensure that their own professional pursuits are in line with the requirements of the country's strategic development.Li said enterprises should use innovation to help them transform their industrial growth modes.While encouraging ambitious professionals to go beyond campuses and research institutes to set up their own S&T companies, Li also urged CAST organizations at all levels to improve services for S&T workers.Founded in 1958, CAST is a national, non-governmental organization of scientific, technological and engineering workers. It has member societies and local branches throughout the country.

From http://www.news.cn/ 05/25/2013

 

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JAPAN: App to Help Visually Impaired with Currency to Be Launched

 

The Ministry of Finance, and the Bank of Japan are together working on a smartphone application to help the visually impaired identify and differentiate between banknotes. The app will use a smartphone’s camera to scan each banknote and provide the user with audio feedback on the note’s denomination. The value of the note will also be displayed on the screen in large print for users with limited visual ability. The app will help people with poor vision pay the right amount in their commercial transactions, and remove the need to carry additional devices to identify their cash. The app will work on regular commercial smartphones, including both iOS and Android devices. The app is planned for release towards the end of this year.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/02/2013

 

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Apps Convert Smartphones into Home Monitoring System

 

Worried about what your dog is chewing on when you’re at work, or whether your home is secure while on vacation? New apps can transform old smartphones into remote security cameras for home monitoring systems. Presence, which was launched late last month, converts a spare Internet-connected iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a free video camera with real-time video and audio streaming, and motion detection and notifications.“Essentially we give you an inexpensive security system that you can use to monitor your house, or help you watch your kids, cats, elderly relatives or act as a baby or nanny cam,” said Gene Wang, chief executive of the Palo Alto, California-based company People Power. Unlike traditional monitoring systems that can be expensive and need technical knowledge to install and use, Wang said Presence is a free do-it-yourself system that can be set up simply by downloading and configuring the app. To use it consumers install and login to their account on two devices - for example two iPhones. Then they can start the camera within the app on one of the devices and it can be viewed from the app on the other. Triggers can also be set to record when motion is detected and to send alerts. The app can help to avoid false alarms, according to Wang, because it sends a video clip in an email to the user showing the motion that triggered the alert.

 

“With these high-end security systems, you have a lot of false positives and then the security company and police come out and it turns out it was your cat knocking over a broom or something like that,” Wang explained. He added that many people have replaced their old smartphones with new ones and a monitoring system would be a good way to make use of the old devices. Another app created by a company called People Power 1.0 for iPhone and Android reads electricity meters in real time to show consumers how much they’re spending and whether they are going over budget. “The center of computing has switched to these smart computers that we all carry in our pockets,” Wang explained. “What people are going to want to be able to do is control their personal Internet of Things from their hands,” he added, referring to Internet-connected devices in the home. The company also plans to work with underfunded public schools to help them set up security systems using old devices donated by the community. Other apps have similar functions. AirBeam is a home monitoring app for iOS that allows users to access video feeds from a Web portal. Izon is an app that streams real-time audio and video from iZon cameras to iPhone and Android devices, and Ivideon, for iOS and Android, also lets people build their own surveillance system

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 05/07/2013

 

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Japan Police Better Prepared to Fight Cyberattacks

 

Japan's National Police Agency on Thursday launched a new center comprising about 20 staff members as part of efforts to better fight cyberattacks. The center, established at the Security Planning Division of the NPA Security Bureau, will play a central role in information gathering and analysis, and investigations related to cyberattacks by the Japanese police.

From http://newsonjapan.com/ 05/17/2013

 

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Government to Subsidize Research on Inspection Robots

 

The government will promote the development of robots for inspecting tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure to efficiently maintain such aging structures, people familiar with the matter said. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will provide subsidies to companies and institutions engaged in developing such robots, and hopes to start inspections using them in about five years, they said. The need to extend the life spans of aging infrastructure has raised the importance of effectively carrying out inspections, which are both labor-intensive and time-consuming. The government plans to use robots equipped with cameras and surveying instruments to check tunnel walls, bridge supports, road surfaces and underwater facilities, they said. Each year, the state spends some ¥3.5 trillion on infrastructure inspections and repairs, it said.

From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ 05/28/2013

 

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SOUTH KOREA: President Vows to Create Jobs by Mixing Industries, Culture

 

President Park Geun-hye gave shape to her creative economy initiative, one of the main administrative visions of the government. “The government will make new added value and generate more jobs by combining science and ICT and mixing industries and culture with human creativity and imagination,” said the president, introducing the creative economy initiative, one of her main administrative visions. President Park emphasized the importance of invention as “the growth engine of a creative economy” and indicated the future direction of her administration at a ceremony to mark the 48th anniversary of Invention Day on May 15. “Today is the era where creative ideas and imagination are keys to achieving competitiveness for businesses and countries,” said President Park. 'Your role and responsibility hold great significance for this reason. If intellectual property is the energy of a creative economy, inventions are the basic engine to make the energy."

“To protect individual creative potential and innovative will and freedom, I will lift regulations,” said President Park, suggesting deregulation to promote venture businesses. “The government will concentrate on setting up policies to make a ‘venture ecosystem’ where a virtuous circle of business and investment helps individuals to start businesses and start-ups can make challenges again by overcoming failures.” Next to the ceremony venue were displayed award-winning inventions, including a virtual reality aquarium using 3D technology, safety hinges, umbrellas with cup holder grips, and flame detector devices. President Park tested each of the displayed inventions and questioned the inventors. The 3D technology-based aquarium was awarded a presidential citation. Users can catch fish at the virtual reality aquarium and learn more about marine life. They can also play games with this aquarium by connecting to a smart TV.

The displayed flame detector device can detect a very small flame or smoke in a short time and alert the person in charge through social networking channels. This device, which received the Silver Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit, is being equipped to protect industrial sites and cultural assets, including UNESCO World Heritage sites like Jongmyo and Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. President Park praised the device inventor who explained to her that the detector is also installed at Korea’s national treasure No. 1, the recently restored Sungnyemun. Other inventions that drew the attention of the ceremony attendees included an umbrella with cup holder grip which received the Jung Yak-yong Award, and safety hinges which won the gold award of the Korea International Women's Invention Exposition. Users hold both an umbrella and a beverage of their choice and still enjoy the freedom of their hands. The safety hinges are designed to prevent people’s hands from being caught in a closing door. All of these inventions are designed to boost conveniences of life. Jeong Yak-yong (Jung Yak-yong) (1762-1836) is a well-known scholar and scientist of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) who led the construction of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. Invention Day, which marks its 48h anniversary on May 19, was set up to celebrate the invention of the cheugugi, a rain gauge, during the Joseon era of Korea.

From http://www.korea.net/ 05/16/2013

 

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South Korea Uses Video Collaboration Tools for Disaster Management

 

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), South Korea, has deployed video collaboration solutions to improve communication and collaboration among its teams throughout the country. NEMA, the first independent disaster management government authority in South Korea, has emergency response teams in 17 cities and provinces in the country. The video solutions deployed by the agency will allow these teams to talk and share content through video sessions. The system allows any number of teams to join the video call, accelerating decision-making and information sharing during crises. In addition to connecting remote teams with NEMAheadquarters in Seoul, the video solution, provided by Polycom, also allows NEMA teams to collaborate efficiently with decision makers and other concerned agencies in the government, such as the National Police Agency. Quick communication allows these organisations to share information in real-time, such as videos of affected areas and on-site reporting. The video collaboration system adopted by NEMAinteroperates with the agency’s existing IT infrastructure and video and voice systems. Video conferencing works even in unstable or congest networks. Video solutions by Polycom were used by heads of local governments to communicate and make decisions when Typhoon Bolaven hit Korea in 2012.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 05/20/2013

 

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Gov't to Allow Telemedicine Service in Free Economic Zones

 

The government will push to allow telemedicine services within South Korea's free economic zones. Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Kim Jae-hong announced Seoul's plan during a conference Wednesday in Songdo, Incheon. which focused on ways to develop free economic zones into a service sector hub. Under the plan, the FEZs will be used as a testbed to create a health care service market that combines medical tourism and telemedicine, the use of telecommunication and information technology devices to provide treatment or health care service from a distance. Health care services such as diagnosis, counseling, education on diet and exercising will be provided with the use of information technology. The government aims to create new markets in telemedicine and medical tourism with the goal to save costs and time spent in public health care management. Legislating a public health management service act was pursued in the 18th National Assembly for similar purposes but the bill was scrapped when the session ended.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 05/22/2013

 

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NORTH KOREA: New Cash Cow - Cyber-Warfare

 

Amidst heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, the focus from global media networks has largely been on the instability in North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong Un and the threat of potential missile attacks on South Korea. The media has also actively reported on a multitude of other physical threats levied against South Korea, the United States, and their allies.However, on top of these imminent threats that are taking the world’s attention by storm lies a dark backstory that is garnering a much smaller amount of media coverage regarding how North Korea is able to continually fund their military operations: cyber-warfare. Long known to be a cash-strapped nation, North Korea has designed a number of intricate and highly technological methods of procuring money from a variety of illicit sources. The North Korean military division of the Reconnaissance Directorate General has been identified as having trained a number of hackers in cyber-warfare as well as financial fraud. Using this training, North Korean hackers have the ability to access banking information in a variety of countries that they deem as “hostile”, such as the United States and South Korea. Once the hackers are inside the banks’ computer system, they disable their security measures and subsequently have carte blanche to steal funds from personal or corporate accounts.

 

Many of these hackers have been operating out of China, where they blend in amongst other individuals by posing as researchers and businessmen in cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai. The reasoning for this is due in large part to the lack of reliable Internet access available in North Korea, as the country lacks broadband networks for data usage. Unlike many leaders, who may plead ignorance to such blatant cyber-attacks, Kim Jong Un seems to take personal pride in the abilities of his fleet of hackers. Sources report that Kim, who believes that these hackers are as important to combating the United States and South Korea as their nuclear and missile programs, largely touts the abilities of the North Korean hackers.  The North Korean government has rewarded many of these cyber terrorists with luxurious homes and lavish promotions. The hackers themselves are said to feel immense pride in their work and contribution to the impoverished economy. This new form of cyber-warfare and procurement of funding differs from riskier moves that North Korea was known to take in the past, such as drug trafficking and dealing in counterfeit currency. These days the hacking attacks can happen from remote locations and involve far less potential risk, rendering it potentially more potent as a reliable source of currency that the government is able to allocate as it desires.

 

The fear from the international community is that this constant influx of cash will sway North Korea from partaking in negotiations with the United States and potential adherence to a peace treaty and the disarmament of their prospective nuclear program. With this inflow of foreign currency, North Korea can move forward with its military operations as it desires with little regard for outside opinion. North Korea has a history of hacking and cyber-warfare. In March they were initially thought to be behind the cyber-attack on upwards of 40,000 P. Amidst heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, the focus from global media networks has largely been on the instability in North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong Un and the threat of potential missile attacks on South Korea. The media has also actively reported on a multitude of other physical threats levied against South Korea, the United States, and their allies.

 

However, on top of these imminent threats that are taking the world’s attention by storm lies a dark backstory that is garnering a much smaller amount of media coverage regarding how North Korea is able to continually fund their military operations: cyber-warfare. Long known to be a cash-strapped nation, North Korea has designed a number of intricate and highly technological methods of procuring money from a variety of illicit sources. The North Korean military division of the Reconnaissance Directorate General has been identified as having trained a number of hackers in cyber-warfare as well as financial fraud. Using this training, North Korean hackers have the ability to access banking information in a variety of countries that they deem as “hostile”, such as the United States and South Korea. Once the hackers are inside the banks’ computer system, they disable their security measures and subsequently have carte blanche to steal funds from personal or corporate accounts. Many of these hackers have been operating out of China, where they blend in amongst other individuals by posing as researchers and businessmen in cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai. The reasoning for this is due in large part to the lack of reliable Internet access available in North Korea, as the country lacks broadband networks for data usage.

 

Unlike many leaders, who may plead ignorance to such blatant cyber-attacks, Kim Jong Un seems to take personal pride in the abilities of his fleet of hackers. Sources report that Kim, who believes that these hackers are as important to combating the United States and South Korea as their nuclear and missile programs, largely touts the abilities of the North Korean hackers.  The North Korean government has rewarded many of these cyber terrorists with luxurious homes and lavish promotions. The hackers themselves are said to feel immense pride in their work and contribution to the impoverished economy.This new form of cyber-warfare and procurement of funding differs from riskier moves that North Korea was known to take in the past, such as drug trafficking and dealing in counterfeit currency. These days the hacking attacks can happen from remote locations and involve far less potential risk, rendering it potentially more potent as a reliable source of currency that the government is able to allocate as it desires. The fear from the international community is that this constant influx of cash will sway North Korea from partaking in negotiations with the United States and potential adherence to a peace treaty and the disarmament of their prospective nuclear program. With this inflow of foreign currency, North Korea can move forward with its military operations as it desires with little regard for outside opinion.

 

North Korea has a history of hacking and cyber-warfare. In March they were initially thought to be behind the cyber-attack on upwards of 40,000 PCs and servers in South Korea that resulted in immense problems for a number of banks and major broadcasting networks, although the validity of this claim was later brought into question. In 2011, North Korea is known to have attacked South Korea’s Nonghyup Bank, resulting in the prevention of millions of South Koreans from accessing credit cards and personal accounts from an ATM for several days. Cs and servers in South Korea that resulted in immense problems for a number of banks and major broadcasting networks, although the validity of this claim was later brought into question. In 2011, North Korea is known to have attacked South Korea’s Nonghyup Bank, resulting in the prevention of millions of South Koreans from accessing credit cards and personal accounts from an ATM for several days.

From http://www.koreaittimes.com/ 04/29/2013

 

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INDONESIA: E-Voting Simulations Conducted in Elections

 

The General Election Commission of Bantaeng Regency in Indonesia conducted simulations of e-voting in the elections held on 17 April. Out of the 361 polling stations set up in the regency, 42 participated in the e-voting simulation. The votes cast under this project were not counted or publicised, but used for research purposes to test the viability of electronic voting in Indonesia, and make a recommendation to the House of Representatives about the election bill currently being drafted. The pilot project received positive responses from participants who tested it out. Muhammad Alhamid, Chairman of the Election Supervisory Committee (Bawaslu), said that e-voting would reduce the amount of money the government spends on organising local elections, and eliminate potential violations during ballot counting. Indonesia intends to introduce electronic voting for the presidential elections in 2014. In the past, problems that emerged with e-voting included technological illiteracy, lack of voter confidence in the electronic system, and cost and efficiency of e-voting equipment and system maintenance.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/30/2013

 

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Public Sector Reform Recognised in FutureGov Awards Indonesia

 

The achievements of Indonesia’s public sector have been highlighted in the first national FutureGov Awards - with eleven winning organisations over fourteen categories announced at an awards ceremony at the close of the annual FutureGov Forum Indonesia conference yesterday. The FutureGov Awards Indonesia 2013 were presented by James Smith, Managing Director of FutureGov at a ceremony held in the Shangri-La, Jakarta, in front of an audience of 200 senior civil servants and representatives from the technology industry. “Indonesian government organisations have consistently competed with their regional peers over the last six years in our annual benchmarking process which has tracked the project management, planning and vision of over 500 government agencies since 2007,” said James Smith, Managing Director of FutureGov. “This led us to develop this national awards process this year to enable a greater focus on the good work being done by one of ASEAN’s most respected public services.”

 

The winners in this year’s FutureGov Awards Indonesia were drawn from across Indonesia’s public sector in the following categories:

• Technology Leadership: Lembaga Kebijakan Pengadaan Barang/Jasa Pemerintah (National Public Procurement Agency)

• Information Society: Provinsi Jawa Barat (West Java Province)

• FutureCity: Kota Surabaya (Surabaya City)

• Data Centres: Kementerian Keuangan (Ministry of Finance)

• Business Process: Kementerian Keuangan (Ministry of Finance)

• Government Transformation: Kementerian Dalam Negeri (Ministry of Home Affairs)

• Citizen Engagement: Polda Metro Jaya (Jakarta Police)

• Information Management: Badan Pengawasan Keuangan Dan Pembangunan (Finance & Development Supervisory Agency)

• Team of the Year - Kementerian Komunikasi Dan Informatika (Ministry of Communications & Information Technology)

• Information Security: Kementerian Komunikasi Dan Informatika (Ministry of Communications & Information Technology)

• Digital Inclusion: Kementerian Komunikasi Dan Informatika (Ministry of Communications & Information Technology)

• E-Government: Provinsi DKI Jakarta (Jakarta Capital City)

• Citizen Service Delivery: Kementerian Agama (Ministry of Religious Affairs)

• Gov 2.0: E-Government Laboratory, University of Indonesia

 

Among the year’s winners were many “firsts” in Indonesia: Surabaya City was under the spotlight for implementing the first government e-procurement programme — well ahead of national initiatives — while KOMINFO (Indonesia’s Ministry of Information & Communications Technology) received three awards for pioneering and wide-ranging work in government modernisation and citizen-facing services. This year’s FutureGov Awards Indonesia are an offshoot of the longstanding FutureGov Awards — given out every year for the last seven years — enabling the judges to highlight a broader range of deserving agencies in Indonesia.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/16/2013

 

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MYANMAR: Hosting Drug Control Meeting

 

Myanmar started to host a senior officials meeting on drug control at Chatrium hotel in Yangon Monday through to Tuesday and a ministerial meeting will be followed at Thingaha hotel in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday, local media reported Monday. Representatives are those from China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), said the Popular News. At the meeting, Myanmar Deputy Police Chief Zaw Win was elected as Chairman of Mekong Regions Transborder Drug Elimination Team. In 1993, Mekong Region Drug Eliminating Team was formed with Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as well as UNODC as partner organization. From 1990 to 2011, Myanmar authorities burned seized narcotic drugs worth of a total of 2.433 billion U.S. dollars.

 

In 2012, Myanmar authorities exposed 4,006 drug-related cases, punishing 5,740 culprits including 901 women. Annually, Myanmar held drug destruction ceremonies in June on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Myanmar is also cooperating with Thailand in implementing alternative development and socio-economic development tasks in Shan state's Tachileik and Monghsat under a memorandum of understanding reached between the two sides. Myanmar continued to fight drug in 2013 under a revised 15-year drug eradication plan (1999-2014) which has been extended for another five year until 2019 to maintain the momentum of war against drug. Myanmar has been implementing the 15-year plan since 1999 in three five-year phases to fight against drug.

 

The original plan has now reached the fourth year of the final five-year phase before it was extended.Meanwhile, Myanmar and the U.S. will resume carrying out a joint opium yield survey early this year and reestablish channels of cooperation on counter-narcotics issues as a means of assisting law enforcement entitles of Myanmar in addressing the production and trafficking of opium and combat transnational crimes. Myanmar and the U.S. had already conducted joint opium yield survey 10 times before 2004. In December last year, Myanmar and the UNODC vowed to boost cooperation in drug eradication, especially that with regional and neighboring countries.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/06/2013

 

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MALAYSIA: To Study on Redelineation of Electoral Constituencies

 

Malaysia will soon begin a study on the redelineation of electoral constituencies following opposition complained that the imbalance of voter distribution in constituencies had distorted the results of the recent general election, local media reported Thursday. The review and redelineation of the parliamentary and state constituencies has to be carried out every eight years according to the constitution, said Election Commission chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar. He was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama that the latest study should be conducted two years ago but was postponed due to the recently held general election. The ruling coalition retained power in the May 5 election by winning 133 seats out of the total 222 in the lower house of parliament.

 

However, the opposition cried foul on the alleged electoral fraud and the imbalance of voter population in different constituencies. The ruling coalition lost the popular votes but secured 60 percent of the parliamentary seats. It retained power by winning seats in the vast but less populated rural areas while the opposition reaped strong support in small but densely populated urban areas. Large rallies were organized by opposition across the country to protest against the election results and election commission leaders were urged to resign. Opposition leaders said they would appeal the election results in some closely contested constituencies. Wan Ahmad denied that the election commission was favouring the incumbent, stressing that the organization had done its best. He accused the opposition had another agenda in mind or wanted to create havoc by inciting the people, particularly the younger generation.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 05/23/2013

 

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PHILIPPINES: To Enhance R&D Capabilities with Supercomputer

 

The Department of Science and Technology and the University of the Philippines announced yesterday that they will be leveraging the world-renowned IBM Blue Gene supercomputer to support key priority R&D projects focused on reducing poverty.  According to an official statement, the first pilot trial of the supercomputer aims to tap its high performance computing capabilities to improve weather forecasting in the country. “The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer will be most applicable to DOST’s major programs such as The Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards and Smart Agriculture (NOAH), “said DOST Secretary Mario Montejo.  “First we will work toward Blue Gene’s integration to Project NOAH to provide more advanced seven-day local weather forecasts. We can also use it to run various weather models and validate the accuracy of results almost real-time.” The Philippines, being in the typhoon belt, makes it severely affected by natural disasters such as typhoons and floods leaving massive losses in property, livelihood and lives. The Supercomputer will help local scientists process and gain insights from the data collected, to produce faster, more accurate forecasts and improve localised weather prediction for the country. This will enable them and various government agencies to better prepare disaster preparedness plans. The DOST also revealed that other possible projects to be supported by the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer include flood management and genomics.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/17/2013

 

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SINGAPORE: Improving Library Services with ICT - Part I

 

Lee Kee Siang, CIO and Director, Technology & Innovation, at the National Library Board (NLB), Singapore, discusses with FutureGov the role different technologies play in improving library services and NLB’s ICT plans for the near future.

 

How do you think ICT can resolve challenges that libraries are facing in the digital age?

Within NLB, we rely on technology to help us to create new services and improve existing services, particularly with the changing habits and reading styles of our patrons. IT is becoming more and more critical to be able to reach out to different patrons with different reading habits and lifestyles The adoption of e-resources is growing exponentially, but we see print and electronic content as complementary. To make a library service complete for a reader, physical print and online resources must co-exist. Offering electronic content will help us remain relevant, particularly for the younger generation that demands instant gratification through access to e-resources.

 

What technology does NLB currently use?

Our core library management system and RFID technology are the foundations of all our IT systems. RFID technology gives patrons a seamless experience of borrowing and returning library items. Last year, we upgraded the technology to allow patrons to borrow multiple items together without having to scan each one individually. Patrons can return the items at book drops anywhere in the city, and RFID technology will immediately detect the return. We are also focussing on using search engines to drive our content. We want our information to be “GYM-able” – available on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft search. When patrons look for information, these are the search engines they use, so we are making sure that our information is available within the first two pages of the search results, and then pointing them back to our website.

 

Which areas are you expanding in? What are your plans for 2013?

We want to leverage mobile technology to reach out to patrons. The mobile penetration rate of Singapore is more than 150 per cent. One capability we want to create is using an app to check out library items. Once you scan the barcode of an item, the app will send a signal to our database to check the item out and disarm the RFID security tag. We are also working on a feature to allow patrons to scan the barcode of books they see in stores to check if the library carries the item. If the book is available, patrons can reserve it immediately. On top of that, we will try to leverage on electronic content searches. Today, our patrons face several issues in finding e-resources conveniently. While publishers have generated a lot of electronic content, access is dependent on different content aggregators. Patrons don’t always know about specific aggregators such as OverDrive. We want them to just have to key in the title they’re looking for in a search engine, and we will tell them where it’s available. We’re working with various content aggregators and publishers to offer this service.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/25/2013

 

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Improving Library Services in Singapore with ICT - Part II

 

FutureGov continues our conversation with Lee Kee Siang, CIO and Director, Technology & Innovation, at the National Library Board (NLB), Singapore, to discuss the growing importance of data sharing and analytics.

 

Do you think that the role of the library in society is changing?

I think the role is still the same. We’re still promoting readers for life. What has changed is the technology and channels of reaching out to patrons. In the past, they came to libraries to borrow books, but today, we have to reach out to them. We are adapting to the technology that patrons use and their new lifestyles. Even online, though we have a website, people don’t always remember the URL. They use search engines, so we try to use that to point them to our website. We use the same kind of approach in the physical and the digital space - reach out to where patrons are and bring them back to us.

 

Does NLB use any data analytics?

We use data analytics for two things. The first is the characteristics of patrons – their age, their behaviour in terms of the books they read. This helps us optimise our acquisition of resources. For example, while loans of physical books have increased over the past five years and continue to grow today, the use of electronic resources has grown exponentially. We recognise the demand for both print and digital publications, and can plan accordingly. The second is spatial data – looking for patterns in branch usage, whether people use libraries in their residential neighbourhoods or in their workspaces. This helps us in library planning. For example, we’ve open a few libraries in malls to attract more youngsters.

 

This year, we are planning to open up some of our data to the public. We want to allow individuals to use our data to come up with new services and applications that may be useful for patrons. This would include data about our catalogue, locations, events, etc. Eventually, we also want to share aggregate data on library usage, such as information on popular genres or titles. Currently, we’re looking at a proof of concept with OneMap (Singapore’ geo-spatial data portal). It will probably remain for internal use this year, and exposed to the public at the end of this year or next year.

 

What challenges do you face today? What do you think are the critical factors of success?

The greatest challenge is not the technical implementation, but conceptualising new ideas, and adapting technology and business needs together to resolve problems. Luckily, I have a team of efficient and effective IT staff that understands the business, and is aware of the technology out there. Beyond a competent IT team, buy-in from the users is critical. It’s important as part of service delivery to engage citizens to try out new services and give feedback, so we can fine-tune services before deployment on a large-scale. We also need strong collaboration within NLB staff, especially those working in the libraries and acting as front-liners to the patrons, to understand how technology can be used to provide a useful service to our patrons.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/03/2013

 

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Driving Innovation with Open Source

 

Yesterday, eighteen technology decision-makers from the Singapore Government gathered at the FutureGov lunch briefing — conducted in partnership with Red Hat — to discuss how Open Source technology can drive openness and innovation in the public sector. The senior public sector officials attending the event were from agencies such as the Ministry of Health, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Land Transport Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore Management University, and the Ministry of Communications and Information, among others. The round table discussions underscored the role of Open Source software in helping public sector organisations become more innovative, more agile and more cost-effective by building on the collaborative efforts of Open Source communities. In particular, Simm Sikut, National ICT Policy Advisor from the Government of Estonia, shared how the use of Open Source has helped facilitate a “digital way of life” in the country.

 

For the last ten years, Estonia has been ranked as the ‘Best of the Best’ for e-government applications by the United Nations. Sikkut said part of their success can be attributed to the use of open source in projects such as: e-health; e-police and e-justice; national citizens and business portals; e-procurement; document exchange systems; and digital culture portals and systems. He added that open source gave the government “more bang for the buck” by taking advantage of the technological know-how and input from open source communities. Sikkut’s presentation stimulated a spirited discussion on concerns relating to the accountability, ownership, confidentiality and security when using Open Source. In particular, experts from Red Hat were able to clear out misconceptions about the use of open source software, particularly on perceived ambiguities about licensing. Delegates were also asked, through an interactive polling session, if they agreed to make all source code developed using public funds available to everyone under open source licenses. 36 per cent of the respondents agreed, while 64 per cent disagreed, with many of them saying they much prefer to restrict their source code to within their agency as a security measure.

 

Responding, Harish Pillay, Global Head, Community Architecture and Leadership at Red Hat, said that open source is the best form of citizen engagement as it allows citizens to take active role in helping the government improve the services that they deliver. He cited how the US Government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — a relatively new agency — has even gone as far as being ‘Open Source by default’, by releasing everything it does to the community. Similarly, the White House uses the Drupal content management system for whitehouse.gov, and once they contributed some improvements they made, the open source community immediately identified and fixed some security flaws it found. He added that the source code used in the Whitehouse.gov site is readily availale in Github, a collaborative portal which allows users to share code, giving other orgnisations the oppotunity to replicate what the Whitehouse has done. Meanwhile, Damien Wong, Red Hat’s General Manager for ASEAN, said that open source is paving the way for more innovative services as evidenced by over 40 countries releasing policies and mandated preference for open source. Among the countries that have released open source policies are Australia, Malaysia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden. This Global movement, Wong said, is a clear indication that open source is a mission critical tool needed to address a variety of infrastructure, platform and application needs.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 05/23/2013

 

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THAILAND: Govts Urged to Spend More on Green Energy

 

Prominent economists and financial organisations are calling on governments and the private sector across the globe to address the development of renewable energy and shift their investments away from emission-intensive infrastructure and move toward more sustainable transportation. "There is a need for a lot more research on the storage, transmission and portability of energy for transport now," Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate and professor of economy and philosophy at Harvard University, said in his keynote speech at the three-day International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany. The May 22-24 forum, which was attended by more than a thousand participants from 54 countries, including ministers, high-ranking official, experts and private-sector representatives, focused on the dilemma of funding.

 

According to Sen, developing renewable energy for the transport sector faced many kinds of challenges, including guaranteeing the continuous availability of power generated by solar or wind-energy sources. "This takes us to scientific and engineering research on cutting down the cost of storage and transmission," he said, adding that some research is already underway but much more needs to be done. Sen explained that there was a need for more radical research to find some form of non-fossil fuel that can be used for aviation. Also, the dependence on fossil fuel has to be addressed at many different levels in research. "Different types of research in science and engineering are needed to address the problem of energy usage in transportation, which is very important for trade, and their role in helping economic progress as well as in removing human deprivation," he said.

Sen added that even developing better means of public transport can cut down on more energy-guzzling ways of moving people and goods around. But all this needs a great deal of public discussion as well as careful decision-making on public policy, he warned. The economist also raised concerns about achieving equilibrium between the expansion of transport and the environment. He pointed out that if transport was central to economic progress and to reaching those who do not benefit from growth, then there is a need for the expansion of the type of transport that will be essential to enhancing the quality of life. Transportation has been a significant source of fine-particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ozone, which pose serious risks to human health.

 

A recent Environmental Outlook by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projects that premature deaths from exposure to particulate air pollutants will double from the current level to 3.6 million per year by 2050. Over this period, transport-related greenhouse-gas emissions - which are driven mainly by the growing demand for cars in emerging economies - are expected to double unless additional policies are put in place. However, as stretched public finances provide limited opportunities for public investments, it is critical for governments from advanced, emerging and developing countries to engage the private sector to scale-up investment in transport infrastructure. "We, therefore, face the opportunity - and the urgency - to move private investment towards building right, not just building more. By scaling-up and shifting investment towards more sustainable transport modes we can reduce local air pollution and traffic congestion and achieve significant environmental, human health, social and economic benefits," Angel Gurria, OECD secretary-general, told the forum.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 05/27/2013

 

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VIETNAM: To Modernise Population Management Systems

 

The Government unveiled plans to modernise administrative procedures related to population management as part of its efforts to improve its capacity to collect, process and disseminate population information and data. The draft version of the plan was unveiled during a high-level meeting last 26th April. The Ministry of Justice said it will be collecting feedback from concerned stakeholders before submitting the finalised plans to the National Assembly Standing Committee and the Government for continued consideration. According to an official statement, the project will be implemented in two phases and will start by the end of 2013. The first phase of the project essentially involves a review and needs assessment of the current IT infrastructure and administrative procedures. Results from the review will enable the steering committee to draft an IT roadmap needed to modernise and improve the efficiency in procedures related to population management. Meanwhile, the second phase involves the building of the technical infrastructure needed for the national population database which is scheduled to be implemented on June 2013.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 04/29/2013

 

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New Project Aims to Support Legislative Research Institutes

 

A three-year project worth US$1.7 million was laucnhed yesterday to support co-operation among legislative research institutions and the National Assembly's (NA) committees in Viet Nam. The project, named "Strengthening the Provision and Exchange of Legislative Information among agencies of the National Assembly of Viet Nam," was run by the Institute for Legislative Studies and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It will support the institute to ensure that important information and in-depth research are freely available to the NA and its committees and deputies. This will be a particularly essential resource when the NA's Committee on Law is considering revisions to key laws and the organisation of bodies including the People's Council, People's Committee and People's Procuracy. Speaking at the project's launching ceremony; the director of the Legislative Studies Institute Dinh Xuan Thao said that the initiative would lead to the improvement of Viet Nam's legal frameworks in the near future.

 

He added that the country was undergoing a significant development period with focus on making the legal system more fit for purpose and reforming the operations of judicial agencies. "The need for accessible information and research when deliberating draft laws is essential since the majority of the 500 NA deputies are working part-time and two-thirds are newly elected," Thao said. The country director of UNDP Viet Nam, Louise Chaberlain, said that Viet Nam's ongoing reform must be aided by the formation of a professional National Assembly support service system, comprising of professional staff, a set of standard parliamentary orders and the capacity to expand quality research to NA committees and deputies. "A more efficient legislative study institute will lead to better informed deputies who in turn will be able to take more informed decisions on issues that directly affect people's lives, and adopt more inclusive and equitable policies and strategies as Viet Nam continues its international integration," she said.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 05/08/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Taking Steps for Implementing ADP Js Body

 

A parliamentary body on Sunday suggested taking necessary steps for the implementation of Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the fiscal 2012-13. The parliamentary standing committee on Planning Ministry came up with the remark at its 49th meeting at Sangsad Bhaban committee chairman HN Ashiqur Rahman in the chair. Committee members Planning Minister AK Khandakar and Reza Ali attended the meeting. Planning Division secretary, Statistics and Information Management Division secretary, members of the Planning Commission and others were also present.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 05/19/2013

 

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PAKISTAN: Inauguration of IT Center for Hujjaj on May 13

 

ISLAMABAD: Information Technology Center of Ministry of Religious Affairs will be inaugurated here at Ministry of Religious Affairs, on Monday May 13. Saudi Ambassador in Pakistan Abdul Aziz Algadeer will inaugurate the IT center, said a press release issued here today. The IT center has been renovated and equipped with modern computerized gadgets for the facilitation of intended Hujjaj.

Form http://www.brecorder.com 05/10/2013

 

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629 Properties Sealed for Non-Payment of Property Tax

 

RAWALPINDI: Excise & Taxation Department has sealed 629 properties in Rawalpindi division for non-payment of property tax during its three day campaign. The department also recovered property tax arrears amounting to Rs65,89,197. The Excise & Taxation department during its special campaign which was run for three days, from May 14 to 16 also checked 8,941 vehicles in the division and recovered Rs33,94,217 in head of token tax. This was disclosed by Director Excise & Taxation Shahid ur Rehman in a statement issued here. It was further disclosed that an amount of over Rs10.4 million was recoverable as property tax and a special campaign was launched for the recovery of the outstanding dues. Action in accordance with the law was taken against the defaulters and total 629 properties were sealed. Director Excise & Taxation said that the recovery of Rs53,53,630 was made in head of property tax in district Rawalpindi while Rs5,48,691 was recovered from district Jhelum.

 

Similarly, an amount of Rs3,93,581 was recovered from district Chakwal and Rs2,93,255 was collected from district Attock under head of property tax. Shahid ur Rehman further informed that during general holdup for the recovery of token tax, total amount of Rs33,94,217 were recovered from the defaulters while during the campaign out of a large number of vehicles which were checked, as many as 932 vehicles were found against which the annual token tax were not cleared. 130 unregistered vehicles were also checked and fined while the registration and other documents of 830 vehicles were retained and 326 vehicles were fines which were on roads without paying life time token. Director Excise & Taxation Shahid ur Rehman urged the owners of properties and vehicles to pay their property taxes and vehicles token taxes at the earliest otherwise strict action against the defaulters would be taken under the law.

From http://www.brecorder.com 05/18/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Shifting from Electronic to Mobile Government

 

Azerbaijan is launching the transition from the electronic to a mobile government and has set up a new center to accomplish this goal. "In order to prevent current and future challenges in the implementation of e-services, a center for electronic signature certification closely integrated with the automated tax information system has been established under the Ministry of Taxes," Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov said on Thursday at a conference titled "ASAN-signature as a key to mobile government". The center was established in accordance with European standards, which will allow mutual recognition of electronic signatures in Azerbaijan and Europe. This, according to the minister, will allow the citizens of Azerbaijan to set up joint ventures with citizens of other countries and sign contracts over the Internet. "As the [new] center is integrated with the mobile signature center, access to e-signatures will be possible through any device. This, in turn, will give an impetus to the development of the Internet and mobile banking in the country and the expansion of non-cash payments," Minister Mammadov said.

 

According to him, the launch of the center and its integration with the mobile signature center should be regarded as a transition from the e-government to a mobile government. "Continued development of information technologies and mobile services in Azerbaijan increases the demand for the use of e-services among the population as well as the need to use an e-signature," the minister said. According to Mammadov, the Ministry of Taxes plans to increase the number of e-services and expand the use of e-signatures as well as the provision of services using mobile devices. The conference is organized by the Ministry of Taxes, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies and ASAN-Xidmet of the State Agency for Public Services and Social Innovations under the President of Azerbaijan. Head of the legal affairs department of the Ministry of Taxes Samira Musayeva said that the Ministry jointly with ASAN-Xidmet has announced the launch of services of mobile digital signature. According to her, people can obtain mobile digital signatures by applying to the ASAN-Xidmet centers and the Ministry of Taxes.

 

"The new platform of the mobile signature center is integrated with the platforms of all three mobile operators of Azerbaijan. To use the mobile digital signature it is necessary to change the Sim-card. The installation of the application and the activation of the mobile digital signature will be carried out both in the center for electronic signature certification under the Ministry of Taxes and ASAN-Xidmet centers," Musayeva said. The mobile digital signature "ASAN-imza" ("ASAN-signature"), she says, fully complies with European Union guidelines, which will facilitate its recognition by European countries. The presentation of the new center took place in Baku on Thursday. Specialists from the Ministry of Taxes demonstrated the work of the software required for operations with the use of the digital signature. In the future, it is planned to install this application in new identity cards, whose issuance is scheduled for 2014. According to Musayeva, the mobile digital signature will be used on personal, portable computers and tablet PCs as well.

 

The subscriber's mobile number will be applied for the use of mobile digital signatures on mobile and personal computers. In this case, two versions of Pin-codes will be required. The first one is needed for the confirmation of authentication and the second one for signing of the document. After the conclusion of the operation, a notification confirming that the operation had been completed will be received by the subscriber's mobile number. The State Agency for Public Services and Social Innovations and ASAN Service Center No.1 were opened by President Ilham Aliyev on December 29. The agency and the service were created in accordance with the presidential decrees issued on July 13 and September 5. The state agency was established to increase transparency in state bodies' activity, render more high quality, convenient services to citizens by using new methods and innovations, improve services and accelerate the transition to electronic services. ASAN Service Center No.1 covers three districts of the capital Baku -- Nasimi, Narimanov, and Binagadi, and is located on Heydar Aliyev St. 36. The first ASAN service center renders access to 23 services that are provided by nine state entities without extra expenses and loss of time. The center is open from 10:00 AM until 20:00 PM and until 17:00 PM on Sundays. ASAN Service Center No.2 and No.3 will open in May in Khatai district and in July in Yasamal district. A regional ASAN center will also open in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second largest city. More than 35,000 people applied to ASAN in the first quarter of 2013.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/02/2013

 

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Baku Hosts World Youth Mobile Forum

 

Azerbaijan's capital Baku has hosted the World Youth Mobile Forum, organized by the Caspian Investment Center and supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Deputy Minister Intigam Babayev said that the forum aims to bring Azerbaijani youths nearer to new technologies and use the existing opportunities in this area effectively. The aim of the two-day forum was to provide an insight into the latest achievements in mobile technologies and to study international experience in making and using mobile applications. Babayev said such forums open up new prospects for the development of the outlook of youths on mobile technologies. The Baku forum also received organizational support from ECAbit, Eastern European and Central Asian Business Incubators and Technology Parks Network, and infoDev, a global program of the World Bank. The event featured several sessions on topics including mobile technologies and "youths' virtual business", innovations and investments in mobile technologies, etc. The forum was attended by around 30 ICT specialists from 20 countries -- the U.S., Finland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Tunis, Jordan, India and Singapore.

 

Azerbaijani mobile operator Bakcell held a meeting of Mobile Monday Azerbaijan (MoMo) jointly with the Caspian Investment Center in the frame of the World Youth Mobile Forum. The meeting gathered a community of professionals and amateurs of the mobile industry of Azerbaijan and gave them all a chance to ask questions in "real-time" to experienced and professional mentors from Britain, Finland, Romania, India and Germany. Bakcell CEO Richard Shearer, who also participated at the meeting, made a presentation about the development of mobile communications and announced the winners of the competition for the best mobile application announced by Bakcell in October 2012 in the frame of Mobile Monday. The winners of the competition for the best local mobile application organized by Bakcell are

Shaig Muradov and his team ("Kinotap" application). Farkhad Alekperov and his team with their "Aztagram" application took 2nd place and Agshin Khalikov and his team with their Baku ATM" application ranked 3rd. Originated in Helsinki Finland, in 2000, Mobile Monday (MoMo) is an open community platform of key mobile industry visionaries, developers and influential people fostering cooperation and business opportunities through live networking events. Baku is the 123rd city joining Mobile Monday and Bakcell is the Official Partner of MoMo Azerbaijan in collaboration with CIC. The number of users of mobile communication services is growing in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's mobile communication operators have already launched 3G and 4G services.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/02/2013

 

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Azerbaijan Hosts Int'l Conference on E-Government in Customs Sector

 

Gabala hosted the fifth anniversary International Scientific Conference on "E-government: innovations in customs" on Monday. Some 102 representatives from 55 countries attended it. The conference was held to discuss the global practice in developing and using the e-government, modern forms of cooperation between public organizations in the field of e-governance, using the information and communication technologies in the field of customs and other areas of the economy, as well as examining the current situation on innovative methods of governance and exchanging the experience in this area. The conference participants visited the monument to national leader Heydar Aliyev erected in the center of Gabala. Chairman of the State Customs Committee, lieutenant-general of the customs service Aydin Aliyev, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Elmir Velizade, UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, Resident Representative of the UN Development Program Antonius Broek and head of the European Regional Office for Capacity Building of the World Customs Organization Vitali Mikeladze attended the opening ceremony. Chairman of the State Customs Committee Aliyev informed the participants about the improvement of the information system in customs bodies and new projects in this area. Azerbaijani Deputy Communication and IT Minister Velizade recalled that 2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan. He stressed the importance of holding such events in the country.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/06/2013

 

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Azerbaijan May Lift VAT from Non-Cash Payments

 

Payments made with the use of credit cards in Azerbaijan may be exempted from value added tax (VAT), the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) Alim Guliyev told reporters on May 16. The VAT rate in Azerbaijan is at 18 per cent. According to him, a package of proposals was prepared on behalf of the president of the CBA in conjunction with the relevant ministries and government agencies aimed at increasing the share of non-cash payments in the country. "This issue is one of the most pressing at the moment. Based on international best practices, we have prepared a package of proposals aimed at the development of cashless payments in Azerbaijan. Primarily, these proposals are aimed at encouraging greater use of non-cash payments. They provide a variety of tax relief measures for the development of appropriate infrastructures including communications in the regions. Specifically, it is expected that e-payments will be exempt from VAT," Guliyev said. In addition, the proposal also provides for exemptions from customs duties for certain types of purchases made via the Internet and paid electronically.

 

According to him, the CBA takes various measures to increase the share of non-cash payments. "The share of non-cash payments in Azerbaijan is still low and amounts to 7.6 per cent of total payments. Cash payment is still the majority type of transaction and is influenced by many factors. Tax evasion and the shadow economy as a whole are based on cash payments. "Poor awareness of the population about the benefits of electronic payments plays its role. "The main objective of our package of proposals and the second state programme project is to eliminate these factors and to develop the appropriate infrastructure that will ultimately increase the share of non-cash payments in Azerbaijan to an international level, " Guliyev said. He stressed much work was conducted within the activity on the development of this area. There are five processing centres and new payment systems are being introduced. "We have created an opportunity for making various payments in more than 800 branches of the Azerpost national postal operator," he said. "We have also launched the portal of state payments. Earlier, it was possible to pay only utility bills. At present individual and legal persons can pay virtually all types of state payments. We have worked and continue working with the ministries and other agencies to expand the opportunities of the portal."

 

At present, the bill on electronic payments is being worked out. A working group, completing work on the bill, has been formed. "We believe that it will be reviewed by the Azerbaijani Parliament during the autumn session," he added. He stressed that the package contains proposals for the specification of the regulatory framework, based on international practice. "This package ensures the administrative measures for the development and promotion of non-cash payments, as well as restrictions on the use of cash for payments in certain areas," he said. "This is widely-spread in international practice. We rely on the CIS experience, such developed countries as France and the U.S, having the restrictions on cash transactions between businesses. We envisage similar restrictions. This package shows some types of calculations which must be carried out only in non-cash form. "

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/16/2013

 

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Azerbaijan Aims to Increase Wikipedia Coverage

 

The Institute of Information Technology of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) has put forward an initiative to increase the number of articles in Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. The Institute said that work in this area is envisaged in the ANAS action plan for 2013. Currently, more than 37.6 million articles are available in Wikipedia. Azerbaijan's efforts to increase coverage in the online encyclopedia will promote the country internationally. Currently, Azerbaijan with 94,635 articles is in the 47th place among 286 countries represented in Wikipedia. Georgia and Armenia, the other two South Caucasus republics, are ranked 52nd and 68th, respectively. According to the ANAS Institute, over the last eight years, the number of articles in the Azerbaijani language posted in Wikipedia has significantly increased. Whereas in 2004 the number of such registered articles was only 25, the figure has now exceeded 94,000, and it can be increased further. "More attention should be paid to this issue -- presenting to the world historical, geographical, linguistic and other articles," the Institute said. Azerbaijani Wikipedia was launched in January 2002, and the first article in Azerbaijani appeared in April 2004. As of May 16 it has 58,026 registered users, including 14 administrators. Azerbaijani Wikipedia has been consistently increasing the number of its articles. However, some of the articles are in the form of stubs or have grammatical and syntactical mistakes. The first meeting of the Azerbaijani Wikipedia Community was held in Baku in December 2009. The event was organized in order to forge ties of friendship and familiarity between Wikipedians and mull a number of issues including technical problems and prospects for future development. Wikipedia is a multilingual, Web-based, free-content encyclopedia project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on an openly editable model. It is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 05/17/2013

 

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Azerbaijani Ministry Supports Initiation of Criminal Liability for Online Insult of Honour and Dignity

 

The Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry supports the appeal to the Azerbaijani Parliament in connection with the initiation of a criminal liability for the insult of honour and dignity in online settings, Azerbaijani Communications and IT Minister Ali Abbasov told media today. The minister said that many countries have similar legal statutes. "The protection of the rights, honor and dignity of people online is very relevant today around the world and in Azerbaijan," he said. "Cases involving the insult of the honor and dignity of people that lead to disastrous consequences frequently occur on the internet." Nowadays, practically all spheres of the society's activity are online. The internet will be a hard medium to tame, Abbasov said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/17/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Investors Council to Discuss Country’s Innovation and Technological Development

 

The 26th plenary session of the Foreign Investors Council under the president of Kazakhstan will be held on May 22 in the capital of Kazakhstan, the official representative of the Service of Central Communications under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Altai Abibullayev said at a press briefing in Astana on Monday. "The meeting, which will be attended by the head of state Nursultan Nazarbayev, will focus on the issues of innovation and technological development of Kazakhstan," Abibullayev said. According to him, the meeting will also discuss the investment climate in the country as well as development of local content in major projects. "It is expected that the head of state will receive some of the members of the Foreign Investors Council," Abibullayev said. The Foreign Investors Council was established by a decree of the president of Kazakhstan in 1998 to improve the investment climate in the country as well as cooperation in investment between the Government of Kazakhstan and leading foreign investors.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/20/2013

 

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Kazakh President Initiates the ‘Three Sevens’

 

The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has put forward the initiative of the 'three sevens' with regards to the promotion of innovation projects, KyrTAG reported with the reference to the KazTag. "I propose to set the general task and call it an initiative of the 'three sevens' which can be implemented through joint efforts throughout the year. First, it is necessary to attract at least seven scientists from around the world to Kazakhstan. Then seven Kazakh companies should be provided with high tech orders and the creation of seven innovative start-ups should be supported. I think we can do it," Nazarbayev said at a meeting of the Foreign Investors Council on Wednesday. Nazarbayev urged foreign investors to assist Kazakhstan with its innovations. "Those who introduce innovations would be prioritised and supported by the state. I urge you to help our business, education and science to regroup and aim at innovation," Nazarbayev said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 05/22/2013

 

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Innovation Means Business for Pacific

 

It’s no mean task to address the collective Pacific Islands’ $1billion trade imbalance with New Zealand. But Pacific Islands Trade & Invest Trade Commissioner Adam Denniss believes that innovative ideas, creativity and courage will help push the Pacific forward. “We have groups of Pacific Island entrepreneurs that are willing and able to try something new,” he said. In 2012 PT&I assisted the Pacific with $1.9 million in export sales and $495,000 in Pacific based investments. This year, PT&I continued to build momentum with innovative projects. On May 13, Cook Islands and New Zealand based enterprise Film Raro will launch a major new film initiative that will bring international attention to the Cook Islands for a 12-day short film competition. The brainchild of Film Raro Managing Director Stan Wolfgramm, the project has taken on a whole new meaning for locals who have been recently trained to work on and star in the productions. The finished films will be screened in Rarotonga at a public premier on May 25. The project is designed to kick start film industry development in the Cook Islands. Meanwhile, three Cook Islands based business women, who have already captured the international spotlight, banded together to sell their different products at the Tav store in Royal Oak, Auckland.

 

Tav is a Cook Islands resort fashion label owned by Ellena Tavioni who created ‘the dress’ made famous when worn by the Duchess of Cambridge during the Royal Tour of the Pacific Islands tour with Prince William. The Te Ra clutch purses and handbags range owned by Rachel Guinea was notable when United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton carried a Te Ra clutch to a private function. And the Te Tika, a skin care range pioneered by Cook Islands Dr Graham Matheson and promoted by Michal McKay provided a perfect complement. The beauty range is based on Cook Islands Maori medicine and uses natural ingredients such as aloe vera, hibiscus, radish root all grown organically in the Cook Islands. Dermatologists praised the range for its use of botanical and naturally derived ingredients using bio active oils. The popularity of the range has seen Te Tika expand its reach into New Zealand and Australia.

 

Last but by no means least, PT&I launched its own Aquaponics project during the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Leaders’ meeting in August 2012. PT&I worked alongside Aquaponics world leading expert Dr Wilson Lennard in association with the Cook Islands Marine Resources Department. The project captured the attention of New Zealand and Pacific government agencies interested in promoting food security worldwide. These initiatives show Pacific entrepreneurs are unafraid of forging into new territory and that success will become bigger and better in future, says PT&I Trade Commissioner Denniss.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 05/01/2013

 

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An Information-Communication Revolution in the Pacific

 

Information and communication technology outreach is happening fast in one of the most dispersed regions on Earth, the Pacific. It’s a region comprised of some 9,000 islands spread across a vast ocean, where governments and businesses deal with some of the highest transaction costs in the world.

 

Two million more people in the Pacific gained access to mobile phones

Over the last six years, more than two million people in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands gained access to mobile phones. In countries like Vanuatu, eight in ten people now have a mobile phone connection (a 70 percent increase from 2007), and call prices have dropped. Villagers who for years had made treacherous three-hour long boat trips to make a simple phone call to the capital, are now calling and texting family in other provinces and other countries. Access to mobile phones has reduced isolation, made it easier and cheaper to do business, and increased government options for service delivery. The benefits have been felt right across Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, and are now stretching into the North Pacific. This ‘telecommunications revolution’ is also creating jobs where they are needed most: directly creating livelihoods for at least 30,000 people in Papua New Guinea alone.

 

High-speed broadband next step in the Pacific

Mobile phones are just the beginning. High-speed broadband is the next step to help overcome these challenges. Most Pacific Island countries still depend on costly satellite links with limited bandwidth, and internet connectivity costs are among the highest in the world. A 256kbps broadband internet connection costs US$650 per month in Palau. In Kiribati, one of the poorest countries in the region, it would cost $430. Such high rates are common across the Pacific. As a result, less than one percent of the region’s population typically has access to a reliable internet connection. Outside the main towns, people are still more likely to communicate with letters transported by ship than an email. Where the internet exists it’s often painfully slow. Kelela Pasina runs an internet café just outside of Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, but there are major bandwidth constraints. “The internet here is so bad. Sometimes it comes on and off and on and off again. It’s very bad for business and for my family.”

 

Like many Tongans, he has family overseas but he says, he can only contact them on Sundays when less people are using the internet. It will take him half an hour to upload a single photo of his new baby to send to his sister in Hawaii. Yet the coming months will see the arrival of broadband. Through a World Bank and Asian Development Bank funded project, an 830 km fiber-optic cable will be installed underwater to connect Tonga, a country made up of 176 islands spread across 700,000 square kilometres of ocean, to the Southern Cross Landing Station in Fiji, and onwards to global broadband networks. As more countries connect, benefits are expected to resound in the region.

 

Faster, cheaper, and more reliable connections can result in the development of:

# New opportunities to share information: Governments, teachers, doctors, farmers, and fishermen use technology to communicate, share information, buy goods, find better prices, make payments, improve the reach of their services and increase their bargaining power.

# E-services: Developed by Pacific governments to provide geographical information systems, new modes of distance learning, and online business applications.

# Trans-national cooperation: On issues such as monitoring of natural resources like fisheries, disaster mitigation, and collaboration on service delivery like health and education, including in remote areas.

 

There is huge potential to harness the power of technology to create economic growth and opportunities and to reduce poverty. The World Bank Group, together with partners like AusAID, NZAID, and ADB, is working with the countries of the Pacific to realize this potential. Currently the World Bank has projects to better ICT access in seven Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste, including in far-flung rural areas and Outer Islands, with projects on the way in Palau and Federated States of Micronesia.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 05/17/2013

 

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AUSTRALIA: Feds Award $300m Less in ICT Product Contracts

 

The Federal Government awarded $300 million less in ICT contracts over the past financial year, bringing its spending back in line with 2009-10 levels. An analysis of contracts posted to AusTender by consultancy Protiviti (pdf) found the Government had not maintained an increase in contract spending on ICT products. The value of reported contracts for ICT hardware and software fell from $2.9 billion in 2010-11 to $2.6 billion in 2011-12. In 2009-10, contract values totalled $2.5 billion. After what appeared to be a major server refresh in 2010-11, with $778 million in contracts awarded, server contracts crashed to $96 million in 2011-12. Software was a bright spot, with the total value of awarded contracts rising from $639 million in 2010-11 to $948 million in 2011-12. Big money was also spent on communications devices and accessories. Total contract value year-on-year rose from $212 million to $638 million.

 

Telephony equipment spending also rose from $13 million to $65 million in the space of a year, though spending on data voice and multimedia network equipment stagnated. Contracts for IT services — which are listed in a broader category of 'engineering, research and technology services' — fell $300 million in value year-on-year, again broadly in line with 2009-10 results. The value of technology services contracts was not broken out. The report looks at contracts worth at least $10,000 awarded to third-party suppliers. It does not take into account "inter-agency transactions" where one agency supplies another products or services.

From http://www.itnews.com.au 04/11/2013

 

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Australia the 10th Best Place to Be a Mother: Report

 

Australia has been ranked as the 10th best country to be a mother in a new report by charity Save The Children. Researchers assessed the health, educational, economic and political conditions for mothers and children in 176 countries as part of the Australian charity's annual State of the World's Mothers report. Scandinavian countries topped the list this year, with Finland coming in first place, followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Australia is the only non-European country listed in the top 10. Save the Children's Annie Bodmar-Roy says there is not much separating the top 10 countries. "You can think about it like an Olympic race," she said. "The person who comes in second, third and fourth are half-seconds behind the person who comes in first so it's a very small difference. But really I think what we need to look at for Australia is access to education and health for all different groups across the country. It would make a difference in getting us back up there."

 

The United Kingdom is 23rd and the United States is 30th. The Democratic Republic of Congo came in last, behind Somalia and Sierra Leone. Save The Children says countries in sub-Saharan Africa need better health care and improved educational standards so women can make healthier lifestyle choices. "One way to invest in women and girls is to invest in the survival and well-being of their children, and the recent story of child survival is terrific nearly any way you look at it," Melinda Gates wrote in the report's foreword. "Each year, 3 million newborns die." The report says more than 1 million of those deaths happen on the first day of life, mostly due to preventable causes such as infection. One of its key recommendations is to target the underlying causes of newborn deaths, especially gender inequality. "When mothers are strong and stable - physically, financially and socially - their children are more likely to survive and thrive," the report said. "Educated girls tend to marry later and begin childbearing later in life, when their bodies are more fully developed. "They are also more likely to make healthy choices for themselves and their babies." The report recommends a raft of low-cost treatments like basic antiseptic to prevent deadly infections and antenatal steroids to help premature babies breathe.

From http://www.abc.net.au 05/12/2013

 

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NEW ZEALAND: University to Modernise Campus Network

 

University of Otago, New Zealand has announced its decision to invest US$ 22 million over the next five year to transform its campus network environment. The project will be in partnership with Dimension Data who would modernise the school’s multi-campus LAN and Wireless network in Dunedin, Invercargill, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. “This will also be a major step towards achieving our broader IT operational excellence objectives and will pave the way for the delivery of a more responsive, agile service experience to our users to support teaching, research and administration activities,” said Mike Harte, University of Otago Director of Information Technology Services. He explained that students’ needs and expectations are changing, and we are investing to ensure that Otago students receive a seamless ‘connected’ experience on campus.

 

“To undertake this transformation, we needed a specialist partner that can integrate a state-of–the-art network and also help us provide the service availability and proactive support that our users expect,” he added. The University of Otago is ranked the 8th largest organisation on the New Zealand Management Information System (MIS) Top 100 ICT users. The school had over 21,000 students enrolled during 2011. The total population of New Zealand is about 4.4 million.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 04/26/2013

 

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NZ Moves to Speed Up Residential Developments

 

The New Zealand government is moving to fast-track residential developments to deal with a growing housing affordability crisis. In handing down the budget this afternoon, finance minister Bill English said the government would move to urgently pass legislation to speed up home construction in areas where it is least affordable. "High housing costs affect financial stability and create an increased demand for housing assistance," he said. Mr English says the government and local councils will jointly designate areas where building can be fast-tracked. But he says if agreement cannot be reached, the legislation would allow the government to override councils and approve construction. The new law would apply for three years.

From http://www.abc.net.au 05/16/2013

 

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NZ Commits ‘Special Responsibility’ to the Pacific in Addressing Natural Disaster

 

New Zealand has used the UN Global conference on disaster risk reduction in Geneva to commit its ‘special responsibility’ to the Pacific in addressing impacts of natural disaster. Nikki Kaye, the Minister for Civil Defense told hundreds of delegates that New Zealand, as a Pacific nation considers the small island developing states in the Pacific as part of its ‘family’ and feels responsible for its welfare. “New Zealand knows first-hand the difficulties of dealing with a major disaster, like the devastation of earthquake in February 2011. However, we feel a special responsibility to assist our neighbours in the Pacific, despite our own losses and damage, said Kaye. One of this assistance will be directed to Samoa next year when it hosts the 3rd United Nations global conference for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). “We are committed to assist Samoa in hosting this major SIDS conference in 2014. As a family member, New Zealand feels responsible to help Samoa as it prepares for this major event, Kaye told delegates at the UN Global Platform on disaster reduction meeting now underway in Geneva.

 

Apart from Samoa, New Zealand is also assisting other Pacific countries in disaster risk reduction related areas. Preparing for next year’s SIDS conference, delegates discussed some possible agenda issues for the Samoa meeting. “One thing we should emphasise in Samoa is that SIDS are already world leaders in new innovation for disaster risk reduction integrated approaches at all levels. We are leading by example and we should not be begging to donors, all the time, said Christophe Legrand of Mauritius. Legrand urged organizers of the Samoan SIDS meeting to develop common positions on disaster risk reduction and climate change to ensure that SIDS concerns and aspirations are heard loud and clear. The conference, which will be held in Apia, Samoa, in 2014, will seek a renewed political commitment to address the special needs and vulnerabilities of the small island developing States by focusing on practical and pragmatic actions. Building on assessments of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation, the conference will aim to identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for sustainable development of those States, particularly through the strengthening of partnerships between small islands and the international community.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 05/22/2013

 

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Govt Mulls R&D Payback