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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Audit raps USAID for wasting almost $50m in Afghanistan

Audit raps USAID for wasting almost $50m in Afghanistan

A watchdog body criticized the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Monday for spending nearly $50 million on programs in Afghanistan which had so far failed to strengthen local government or improve stability.
An audit from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted concerns with USAID's "Stability in Key Areas Programme" which runs across the war-torn country.

The report from the official US watchdog will raise further worries about wastage of some of the billions of dollars of international aid spent in a country battling a 12-year Taliban insurgency.

"It's troubling that after 16 months, this program has not issued its first community grant," SIGAR's special inspector general John Sopko said in a statement.

"Rather, it has spent nearly $50 million — roughly a quarter of the total program budget — on conferences, overhead and workshops. This looks like bad value for US taxpayers and the Afghan people."

The projects were intended to expand the authority and legitimacy of Afghan provincial governments by helping them implement development and governance initiatives in local communities.

As US-led NATO combat troops prepare to depart next year, leaving behind a strong Afghan government is considered crucial to avoid a feared return to civil war.

But 16 months into the 4 USAID programs, which have an overall budget of more than $203 million, SIGAR said none of them had awarded grants to communities to address sources of instability.

USAID blamed the lack of progress on a delay in finalising with key Afghan government partners how the project would be carried out.

SIGAR said it was "disconcerting that USAID did not secure the agreement of key government partners prior to issuing the requests for proposal or, at the very least, before awarding contracts". -
Read more »

Bhutan says India fuel subsidies to restore next month

Bhutan says India fuel subsidies to restore next month

Subsidies on cooking gas and kerosene will be restored first week of August. This official confirmation came from the prime minister’s office Monday evening.
This means Bhutanese consumers will be able to buy these products at prices that existed before July 1 when the subsidy was lifted.
An LPG would cost Nu 504 and not Nu 1,196.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Indian Ambassador VP Haran discussed the issue of subsidy withdrawal by the Indian external ministry in July.
A news release from the prime minister’s office stated that following his request, Ambassador VP Haran informed him that the Indian government would restore all subsidies starting first week of August.
Trade department officials claim they were, however, not informed of this confirmation.
Earlier this month, Indian media reported that India’s foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai had instructed the petroleum ministry officials to reinstate the subsidy on both fuels from August.
When the subsidy was lifted, which led to a significant jump in the prices of these products, words around town was that the move was politically driven as it came a fortnight before Bhutan went to the polls.
Before the election, the Indian external ministry had asked the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), which supplies the fuel to Bhutan to lift the subsidy as it would be unable to reimburse the subsidy to IOC.
India’s stand on the move was that there existed discrepancies in terms of how much Bhutan reported as imports and how much India recorded as exports to Bhutan.
There was also a huge jump in the level of subsidy for these two products.
For example, the subsidy bill for cooking gas and kerosene imported by Bhutan had increased from Nu 330M in 2011 to Nu 550M in 2012, which was a 66 percent increase.
This meant Bhutan was misusing by way of deflecting the subsidised goods back to the Indian market.
After the elections however, Ambassador VP Haran clarified that the sudden increase in the subsidy had nothing to do with deflection and it was rather because of increase in global oil prices.
The subsidy level increase is at par with the increase in these fuel prices in the global market, which the government buys but sells it to its people at a subsidised rate.
The difference in prices is the loss the government bears.
Meanwhile, gas depots in the capital city are preparing for a loss, which they will be bound to incur during the time the subsidies are restored.
Tashi Commercial Corporation’s gas depot manager in Motithang, Karma Thinley explained that the company has to keep its stock so that the supply is not constrained.
When the prices drop, we would even have to sell the old stocks, which had been bought at the existing rates at the new ones, meaning the difference in the price will have to be borne by the company.
For example if today 100 cylinders were bought at the existing rate of Nu 1,196 and if prices dropped suddenly to Nu 504 a cylinder, the company will have to bear at least an additional Nu 69,200 for the 100 cylinders.
Karma Thinley estimates at least 300 cylinders would be bought at the existing rates and stockpiled. Should the new prices be effective from August 1, the losses would be around Nu 270,000.
Soon after the July rush for LPG, the depot had been informed by the trade department to control the supply of cylinders and maintain limited stocks to avoid losses.
“Earlier, we used to keep as many as 1,000 cylinders in stock,” he said. “But in July we realised we would only run into losses should there be any price changes.”
The sale of LPG had dropped significantly after July 1. Before, the depot sold around 400 cylinders a day, after July 1, the sale dropped to an average 160 cylinders a day.
This could mean consumers are waiting for the prices to drop.
“Our manual works have been reduced greatly because not many people are coming to buy cylinders today,” Karma Thinley said. “But with people who come to buy cylinders, we spend a great deal of time arguing and explaining the increase in prices.”
A corporate employee said while she waited for the prices of cylinders to drop, she was using electric cookers as an interim measure and going sparingly on the gas.
“It was worth the wait after all,” she said.
Read more »

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Hundreds of Uyghurs( Muslims) Detained Over Deadly Attack on Chinese Dam Workers

Hundreds of Uyghurs ( Muslims) Detained Over Deadly Attack on Chinese Dam Workers

Two Uyghurs are being sought in connection with a May 20 attack which led to the death of seven Han Chinese workers building a dam in Qaraqash county.
Chinese authorities have detained for questioning hundreds of ethnic minority Uyghurs and are hot on the trail of two key suspects in connection with a fatal knife attack on Han Chinese workers building a dam in the restive Xinjiang region, according to local officials and residents.

Dozens still remain in custody following the May 20 attack which led to the death of seven Han Chinese workers building a dam on the Qaraqash River in Hotan (In Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Qaraqash (Moyu) county.

The incident came to light only this month after the Chinese authorities released a “most-wanted” list of 11 suspects in connection with eight incidents of violence in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region over the past year and a half.

The Qaraqash incident has not been reported in China’s official media. RFA’s Uyghur Service used the wanted list to trace the circumstances under which warrants of arrest were issued for two of the 11 suspects by contacting officials and residents in the area.

The two Uyghur male suspects were identified as Yusup Ehmetqadir and Memtili Tursunniyaz.

RFA investigations revealed that around 300 people have been detained for questioning over the incident, nearly all of them Uyghurs.

According to the wanted list, the Qaraqash attack was the work of “terrorists” and three of the five alleged Uyghur assailants had been captured by police.

Chinese authorities blame outbreaks of violence in the region on Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.

The attack is the latest of a string of violent incidents in Xinjiang blamed on the Muslim Uyghurs who complain of discrimination by the authorities and China’s majority Han Chinese.

Knife attack

Memtimin Yasin, the leading official of the Chinese Communist Party for No. 11 Village in Qaraqash’s Hanerik township, confirmed the incident in an interview with RFA.

“In the early morning on May 20, five suspects armed with knives went to the Qaraqash River by motorcycle,” the village party secretary said, adding that most of the dam workers were asleep in tents near the site.

“At around 3:00 a.m., the suspects stormed into the tents and attacked the workers, killing five of them and injuring four. Two of the four injured later died of their wounds after being brought to an area hospital.”

Authorities took nearly two hours to travel to the location of the incident due to the distance and other complications, he said, and by the time they arrived, the suspects had already escaped.

“That day, all the village chiefs and party secretaries in Hanerik township were notified to assist in police operations, particularly in conducting house-to-house searches,” Memtimin Yasin said.

“After 15 days, authorities had arrested three of the five suspects, while the other two remain in hiding. One of those who escaped was a resident of my village, so I am working hard to assist the police in their search for him,” he said.

‘Politically motivated’

The party secretary said that while he did not know the reason for the attack, he believed it was “politically motivated.”

“Usually, fights or quarrels occur between Han immigrants [to Xinjiang] and Uyghurs over land and water disputes, or sometimes over cultural differences,” he said.

“This time it appears that it was more politically motivated.”

Police had shown him a 50-centimeter (20-inch) knife purportedly recovered from the road the suspects had used to flee the scene of the attack, which he said was “not for daily use” and “made especially for killing people.”

“That is why I assume that the incident had been prepared for in advance and was well organized.”

He said that around 300 people in Hanerik township had been detained for questioning in connection with the attack.

“I know 52 people from my village [who were detained], including all of the suspect’s family members over the age of 14, his close friends and former classmates,” he said.

“Twenty-nine of them were released after a month and 23 are still being held. I expect they will be released after Yusup Ehmetqadir is captured.”

Residents weigh in

Residents of Hanerik township also confirmed the incident, saying the alleged attackers were members of a group which sought independence for Xinjiang from Chinese rule.

“Police and village officials searched my home three times because one of the suspects was my eldest son’s former middle school classmate. I heard about the incident through their conversation,” one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

“[It was] a separatist group—all of them were from our township,” a second resident said.

“Some of them were arrested, but two escaped. Police and officials are still searching for those two.”

‘Fighting for independence’

A school teacher from Hotan said that the assailants had been driven to carry out the attack because “their land had been occupied, their resources taken and their people faced forced assimilation [into Han culture].”

He said that the incident, and other acts of violence by Uyghurs against Chinese in Xinjiang in recent months, was carried out in the name of “fighting for independence.”

“The fight is being conducted by small groups … [with the] goal to die with honor and draw international attention to the current situation of the Uyghur people.”

“Land grabs by Han Chinese companies, rising unemployment rates for Uyghurs, and continued religious and political pressure can be seen as the cause for the most recent incidents, including the Qaraqash River incident.”

The teacher said that Uyghurs are no longer targeting their attacks only on authorities in Xinjiang, as more and more Han Chinese move to the region.

“In the view of the attackers, the Han workers in the region are not civilians, they are part of the tools of colonization and they are siding with the army and the police all the time,” he said.

“I believe this is the major factor in why Chinese workers are now being targeted.”

Xinjiang has seen a string of violent incidents since June 26, leaving at least 64 dead in total, as the region marked the fourth anniversary earlier this month of July 5, 2009 clashes between the minority Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese.

Rioting in Urumqi left some 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in the days that followed the 2009 conflict, according to official media reports.
Read more »

Thein Sein Orders Myanmar’s Second Major Cabinet Reshuffle

Thein Sein Orders Myanmar’s Second Major Cabinet Reshuffle

Thein Sein (C) gives a speech during a ceremony in Rangoon, June 2, 2013.
Myanmar President Thein Sein has announced his second major cabinet reshuffle since taking power two years ago from the former military junta, reassigning four ministers, dropping two deputy ministers and naming scholars as among 10 new deputy minister appointments.

The announcement by the President’s Office, made late Thursday, marks the first significant shakeup since Thein Sein approved nine new cabinet posts in August last year.

Observers cautiously welcomed the changes, calling on the scholars appointed as deputy ministers to positions once held by the military particularly to speak out to make government policy more effective.

As part of the shakeup, former Minister of Rail Transportation Zeya Aung was reassigned as minister of energy, former Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Welfare Maung Myint as minister of industry, former Minister of Industry Aye Myint as minister of labor, employment and social welfare, and former Minister of Energy Than Htay as minister of rail transportation.

Two deputy ministers with the education and rail transportation ministries, Aye Kyu and Thura Thaung Lwin, were allowed to resign, the announcement said.

Of the 10 reshuffled deputy minister positions, five were reassigned and five newly appointed, among which were a handful of scholars from the private sector.

Additionally, former Police Chief Brigadier-General Kyaw Kyaw Tun was promoted to deputy home minister, while his vacant post was assigned to his deputy, Brigadier-General Zaw Win.

No details were given about why the reorganization had taken place.

‘Speak their minds’

While some observers have said that the shuffle mainly served to reward those close to the President’s Office with key ministerial positions, others say that the appointment of scholars as deputy ministers marks a significant step by Myanmar to include non-military personnel in decision-making roles.

Khin Maung Swe, Chairman of the opposition National Democratic Force party, said that in order to be effective leaders, the new deputy ministers must speak out about the subjects they are knowledgeable in to help produce progressive policy.

“The scholars who were appointed as ministers must not defer [to others] on issues related to their fields,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service Friday.

“If they don’t speak their minds in an effort to hold onto their seats, the situation will remain as before. We just want ministers who will speak out about what they think and who exhibit leadership qualities.”

Khin Maung Swe said that Myanmar must place more “democratically-minded” people into government before the country’s next national election in 2015 in order to ensure its new political system survives.

“We have heard some comments such as, ‘The government’s team is weak and indecisive’,” he said.

“I know that it won’t change completely, as the new government was born from the military government, but I think more strength is needed to build a better administration.”

‘Good listeners’ needed

Tin Myint, a former director of the ministry of energy, said that it is not enough to appoint scholars to high-level positions in the government—their superiors must also consider their ideas.

“The ministers should be good listeners,” Tin Myint said.

“The presidents can’t know everything. The president listens to proposals from his ministers and makes decisions based on that, so deputy ministers and ministers must speak out about what they think it is right.”

Kyaw Lin Oo, a commentator on Myanmar politics, said that having an effective group of ministers is essential to a government’s ability to implement successful policies.

He warned against appointing ministers who might compromise their position because of personal issues.

“A ministerial position is a political position. Although there are intelligent and skillful ministers in the ministries, there may be previously unforeseen difficulties for them,” he said.

“If policy is suffering from flaws and other weaknesses because of these difficulties, the relevant minister should be willing to take responsibility and resign.”

First reshuffle

In August, Thein Sein switched up nine of 33 cabinet posts, including for the key finance, information, industry, national planning and economic development portfolios.

The changes replaced Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, seen as a stumbling block to media reforms, with Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, the president's point-man in talks with pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thein Sein also appointed Railway Minister Aung Min, who had played a leading role in ceasefire talks with ethnic rebels, as well as Finance Minister Hla Tun, Industry Minister Soe Thein and Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Tin Naing Thein, key figures in economic reforms, as ministers in the president's office.

The cabinet changes followed the appointment earlier in August of navy chief Nyan Tun, who has a reputation as a political moderate, to be one of the country’s two vice presidents, replacing a hardliner who resigned for health reasons.
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Myanmar Sets Up Panel to Review Constitution But Concerns Remain

Myanmar Sets Up Panel to Review Constitution But Concerns Remain

The lower house of Burma's parliament meets in Naypyidaw on Oct. 18, 2012.
Myanmar has set up a 109-member parliamentary committee to consider amendments to the country's constitution that could enable opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to make a bid to become president and provide greater rights for ethnic minorities, according to lawmakers.

But some warned that the panel is unwieldy, does not fully represent the pro-reform groups, and could be a halfhearted attempt merely to defuse pressure from Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) pushing for the amendments to the charter framed in 2008 by the previous ruling military junta.

As the committee membership is based on current representation in parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the military, the views of the opposition and ethnic groups most wanting the reforms may be ignored, veteran dissident Win Tin said.

"The ratio of the parliamentarians to members of the committee is not balanced," he said. "The decisions may not be right because of the imbalance."

The NLD co-founder said the panel should first outline any constitutional changes and then seek the views of experts to refine and finalize them.

The committee comprises about 50 USDP members, 25 representatives from the military, seven members of the NLD, and five representatives from ethnic-based parties, lawmakers said.

"The constitution is the life of a country and if it is written democratically, other laws, the administration, judiciary and legislature would operate in a democratic way," Win Myint, an NLD lawmaker said.

The NLD is banking on having any constitutional amendments endorsed before the 2015 general elections in which Aung San Suu Kyi believes her popular party would wrest power and she could become president, taking over from incumbent Thein Sein.

The present constitution however prevents her from becoming the president. It says that any Myanmar national whose relatives are foreign citizens or hold foreign citizenship is not qualified to serve as president or vice-president. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and her two sons hold British citizenship.

Thein Sein has said that he is not preparing to run in the 2015 polls and that he would not oppose Aung San Suu Kyi vying for the top post, while the opposition leader's potential rival, parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, has said that any charter revision will have to take into consideration not only her case but the interest of all citizens.

Aung San Suu Kyi also wants the constitution amended to do away with the military’s mandatory 25 percent quota in parliament.

A constitutional amendment requires at least 75 percent approval in parliament. But together, the military and Shwe Mann's military-backed USDP control more than 80 percent of the seats.

The constitution also gives sweeping powers to the military and places conflict-ridden ethnic regions under strict control of the central government.

"People who wrote this constitution accepted that it might have weak points," said Aye Maung, leader of the ethnic Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP).

"I assume that the USDP representatives would push for amending the constitution and will push the country towards a federal system [that would give ethnic states greater autonomy]."

Public comments

Sai Nyunt Lwin from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said the committee should rope in members from outside parliament or accept comments from the public to have diversity of views.

The NLD and several other opposition groups boycotted the 2010 general elections—from which nearly most of the current parliament membership is derived—because it was based on the 2008 constitution for which they were not consulted.

The present constitution represents views of a few representatives of the people and those handpicked by the military junta, said Ko Ko Gyi, the leader of 88 Generation Students' Group, a key reform organization.

"The result of the 2010 election does not represent political and especially ethnic organizations," he said. "We welcome the approval to amend the constitution but the amendments should reflect the opinion of all political and ethnic organizations." 
Read more »

Monday, 29 July 2013

'My Father Is a Hero'

'My Father Is a Hero'

Qi Ji, the daughter of Chinese dissident Qi Zhiyong, speaks to RFA in San Francisco, June 2013.
Qi Ji is the 15-year-old daughter of Beijing-based dissident and rights activist Qi Zhiyong, who was maimed when a tank ran over his legs on the night of June 3, 1989, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) put an end to weeks of peaceful protest on Tiananmen Square. Having a parent who is linked to China's pro-democracy movement, or to a political event deemed "sensitive" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, could be seen as a disadvantage. State security police continue to harass the victims of the crackdown and their families. But Qi Ji—who was born nine years after the event, and now lives in the United States—told RFA's Mandarin Service that she doesn't see it that way:

The PLA should protect the people. How could they turn their guns on their own citizens? They should turn them on our enemies. We are not the enemy. We are the citizens of China.

There was one time when my father was lying on the bed reading a book, and I was sitting on the cot watching TV. Suddenly, a bunch of people came bursting in, and hit my father over the head with a beer bottle. I was scared to death. One of them dragged my father off the bed onto the floor, to beat him up, right in front of me. That man told me I shouldn't scream, and that if I did, he'd beat me to death. They were the police. My father had several broken ribs from that attack.

He was just fighting for freedom; to stop the country carrying on the way it was going, and to stop the Communist Party from getting more and more corrupt.

That's why he was opposing the Party. I think he is totally awesome. That's why I think my father is a hero. He only has one thought in his head; to struggle to have the verdict on June 4 overturned. And he has kept fighting for this all along.

'Incredibly strong'

My mother has a lot of compassion for my father. My mother says that my father is incredibly strong, and that's why she fell in love with him.

Veterans of the 1989 democracy movement said they see little sign of any change in the official view that the bloody military crackdown on the student-led movement was necessary to put an end to "political turmoil."

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army (PLA) tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989 remains a mystery.

Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government has never issued an official toll or list of names, stepping up security in recent years to prevent public displays of mourning by the relatives of victims
Read more »

'A Crucial Stage That Cannot Be Avoided'


'A Crucial Stage That Cannot Be Avoided'

Students gather at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.
Something must be done about the issue of June 4, 1989. I am not going to predict how this will happen in the future. All I can say in advance is that whether the issue is resolved or eliminated will depend on two things: firstly, free access by our citizens to the truth about this incident; and secondly, the freedom of citizens to express their own evaluation of this incident.

In today's world, it is difficult to solve any major problem in the absence of freely available information and the freedom to express an opinion about it.

June 4, 1989 wasn't an isolated incident. As such, any efforts that go towards freedom of expression and opinion will play their part in resolving the issue of June 4. Similarly, a complete resolution of the June 4 issue is a crucial step that cannot be avoided, on China's road to becoming a civilized society.

Our new leaders don't bear the responsibility for June 4. But they are not entitled to block the free flow of information into China, or the free expression of opinion. If they continue to blockade the facts, ban publications and suppress freedom of speech about the June 4 incident, all it will prove is that they themselves are identified with past events.

As citizens under their oppression, who can see where our leadership is going wrong, we have a duty to help them and to force them to return to the right path.

As Chinese people, we all have responsibility to put this pressure, which isn't without a certain amount of danger, on our leaders, so that the weighty historical matter of the June 4 crackdown can be cleared up for good.

This is merely my humble opinion, and is certainly not comprehensive. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.
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China Struggles With Economic Policies

China Struggles With Economic Policies

A man walks past a branch of the People's Bank of China in Lin'an city, Zhejiang province on June 25, 2013.
China's second market disruption in less than four months has sparked questions about the new government's management of economic policy, analysts say.

On June 25, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) tried to ease market fears of a liquidity crisis following a two-week spike in interest rates and a plunge in share prices to 2009 lows.

"In recent days, the central bank has provided liquidity support to some financial institutions that meet the demands of macro prudence," the PBOC said in a statement on its website.

The announcement was seen as the first sign that the bank had injected at least some funds into the banking system after shutting off the spigot abruptly in early June, leaving lenders on edge.

Abrupt announcement

Just as suddenly, the bank signaled it had turned the support tap back on.

"We'll closely monitor the change of liquidity within the banking system going forward [and] flexibly adjust liquidity management based on international payments and the liquidity demand-and-supply situation," said Ling Tao, deputy head of the PBOC's Shanghai branch, as quoted by Bloomberg News.

The conciliatory terms came one day after the PBOC appeared to rebuff calls for help from cash-strapped banks, driving overnight lending rates to record highs of over 13 percent and spurring rumors of default.

"Currently, overall liquidity in the domestic banking system is at a reasonable level," the PBOC said in a tight-fisted statement on June 24.

The Shanghai Composite Index responded with a one-day drop of over 5 percent. Shares were down nearly 20 percent from February levels, according to The New York Times.

In Li Keqiang's lead

The PBOC is believed to be following the lead of Premier Li Keqiang, who has been trying to break the easy-money cycle that has bloated wasteful enterprises, local financing vehicles, and the shadow banking industry, which Moody's Investors Services estimates to be worth 29 trillion yuan (U.S. $4.7 trillion).

The new government that took office in March has won praise for trying to put China on a more sustainable growth path after years of relying on stimulus programs, infrastructure spending, and property development.

But the government's prescriptions for the slower-growth economy have at times appeared ill-considered, badly implemented, or crude.

"I think it's a sign of, basically, inexperience," said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

"It probably takes a long time for authorities who were brought up in a command-and-control political environment to adjust to a more market-oriented environment," Hufbauer said.

Earlier move

The liquidity squeeze is the second surprise move that has backfired since March.

On March 1, the State Council sowed widespread confusion among home buyers and property investors by announcing plans to slap a 20-percent profit tax on housing sales.

The order gave local governments one month to issue their own versions of the measure, producing a patchwork of rules which have since been largely ignored.

But in the meantime, the order that was intended to discourage price hikes instead drove prices higher as buyers rushed to beat the deadline for a tax that apparently was never imposed.

Unintended consequences

David Bachman, a political science professor and China specialist at University of Washington, said the liquidity crunch is another case of unintended consequences.

"It's certainly clear that the bank is doing things that don't correctly anticipate how markets and others will react," Bachman said.

"The bank seems to have attempted something that may have been laudable, but it produced the exact opposite effect of what they were intending," he said.

Cracking down on wealth management products

According to a rare critical analysis by the official Xinhua news agency, the PBOC backed off after "the market reacted to [the] regulators' call in a way that was the opposite of what regulators had hoped for."

The PBOC's aim was to reduce the risks of shadow banking and crack down on wealth management products (WMPs), which offer well-heeled clients higher short-term rates of return at higher risk.

Fitch Ratings service has estimated that there were 13 trillion yuan ($2.1 trillion) of WMPs outstanding in March, posing a serious leverage issue for the economy.

The liquidity shutdown left banks scrambling to meet their payment obligations at high WMP rates. Banks were left with little choice other than to double down on WMP bets.

"In desperate need of cash, banks rolled out massive WMPs to attract deposits, and the yields of these investments grew much higher than previous ones, thus posing greater risks," Xinhua said.

'Factional action'

The threat to the banking system and the economy may now be greater than the problem that the government was initially trying to solve.

Bachman said the sequence of events may also suggest "factional action" within the government rather than mismanagement by a single authority.

"One side is trying to advance a set of issues and perhaps gets the jump on others by announcing them," he said.

But these forces may not be prepared, while the other side overreacts and tries to sabotage the policy, forcing the initiators to back away.

World markets

If that is the case, world markets could be in for months of abrupt changes and back-and-forth battles as China struggles to implement its economic shift.

"The leaders are still feeling their way in terms of interaction with the markets," said Gary Hufbauer.

China's economic announcements have tended to create more sudden shocks than those of Western governments, he said.

"In Europe and the United States, central banks and the finance ministries usually make a lot of effort to gradually inform the market of changes in policy," said Hufbauer.

"In China, they don't do that kind of preparation to the same extent," he said. "So, the result of these abrupt announcements is quite a shock effect in the market instead of a slow transition or adjustment over time."
Read more »

Doubts Rise Over China's Economic Growth

Doubts Rise Over China's Economic Growth

Pedestrians walking along an overpass in Beijing, July 11, 2013.
China's economic growth has continued to slow as the government tries to crack down on inflated official reports.

On Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 7.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 7.7 percent in the first quarter of the year.

The slippage was in line with a consensus of forecasts reported by the official Xinhua news agency a week before.

It was also in keeping with the government's target rate of 7.5 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP), a key benchmark for economic expansion, for all of 2013.

Last week in Washington, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei suggested that the government is prepared to accept slower growth.

"We don't think 6.5 percent or 7 percent will be a big problem," Lou said, according to Bloomberg News.

Industrial output rose 8.9 percent in June from a year earlier, down from 9.2 percent in May, the NBS said.

Deepening reforms
In a commentary Monday, Xinhua called for deepening reforms rather than relying on new loans to pump up growth in the bloated manufacturing sector.

"Time is on the new government's side. The fear of massive workforce downsizing is diminishing while public understanding of slower GDP growth is rising," the agency said.

But the growth dip raised concerns on several counts.

First, the trend has been down following GDP growth of 7.9 percent in last year's fourth quarter and 7.8 percent for all of 2012.

Second, China's economy has routinely topped official targets in the past, raising expectations for greater growth than the conservative goals. The official target was also 7.5 percent for last year.

Third, and perhaps most troubling, the government has raised new doubts about the accuracy of its own reports, leaving the question of real economic growth rates up in the air.

The result is greater uncertainty about the gravity of the growth slowdown.
'Serious punishment'

On June 26, NBS director Ma Jiantang issued the latest threat of "serious punishments" for companies and officials who continue to commit data fraud and exaggerate economic results.

"Ma added that some companies are providing false figures to the national statistics system, and that some local governments are also distorting statistics," the official English-language China Daily reported.

The warning appeared to be another sign that the reform of official reporting that NBS launched last year has not worked.

Both economists and the government have known for years that China's economic data is inflated, usually by provincial and local officials seeking promotion by claiming higher production and growth rates.

Last year, the Communist Party flagship paper People's Daily charged local officials with fabrication to enhance their careers.

"In some regions or public organizations, leaders are engaged in lying, empty talk, fabricating statistics, or trumping up political achievements," the editorial said.

In one case reported by National People's Congress (NPC) investigators and state media in 2009, officials pressured data collectors in southwestern Chonqing Municipality to multiply the output of an enterprise by a factor of 10.

New law

The government has tried to stop the practice with a new statistics law that provides harsher penalties for falsification.

In February 2012, the NBS also launched a direct reporting system for 700,000 companies accounting for some 80 percent of GDP to bypass local distortions.

But the tampering has continued with reports of "convergence" efforts by local officials, pressing companies to report figures that match inflated data from the past to protect the local authorities.

Derek Scissors, senior research fellow for Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said big discrepancies make it hard for the system to suddenly eliminate inaccurate reporting.

"The same thing is true for the companies, the counties and all the way up the line. All of these places have been putting out false numbers, and I think they're all aware of it," Scissors said.

"My opinion is that the whole statistical chain is broken from top to bottom," said Scissors. "Everyone's going to have to make an adjustment."

No explanation

Although the NBS has repeatedly cited problems, it has not explained what factors it uses for statistical corrections or adjustments to its GDP reports.

Time and base comparisons also make it hard to extract any meaningful reading from official GDP growth estimates.

"The lies didn't just start now. We've had year after year of lies, so what's the base that we're talking about?"
Scissors said.

Analysts have long urged China's leaders to discourage data distortion by ending the practice of promoting officials based on economic results.

On June 28, President Xi Jinping touched on the issue at a meeting of the Communist Party's Organization Department, Xinhua reported.

"We should never judge a cadre simply by the growth of gross domestic product," Xi said.

The party "should consider a local official's work in various aspects including people's livelihood, the development of local society and the quality of environment," the report cited Xi as saying.


Scissors had praise for the statement, although it could also lead to political manipulations of economic data.

"It's one step on a long journey, but it's a step forward because it's a signal saying to everyone, go ahead and test the waters on weaker GDP," he said.

The result could be a gradual readjustment of GDP figures to greater accuracy, or a shift from an upward to a downward bias.

"What dominates Chinese statistics is politics, not accuracy," Scissors said.

Xi's statement may also be a sign that the government is taking the issue of inaccuracy more seriously as it tries to steer the economy toward a more sustainable growth mode.


This year, China's official statistics have been repeatedly challenged.

In June, the NBS announced pilot programs in three provinces to correct "doubtable" data on fixed asset investment.

The agency cited a "notable gap" between the quantity of construction work reported and the gross product of the country's construction industry.

In April, controversy also erupted over suspiciously high export growth figures reported by the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

The government later acknowledged that the export numbers had been inflated to hide speculative "hot money" flows.

Last week, GAC reported a sudden 3.1-percent drop in June exports, the biggest monthly decline since 2009.

But it was hard to tell whether the figures reflected greater accuracy or an adjustment to compensate for previous exaggeration.

The problem of disguised hot money had been "tackled in May," making the export data "more reflective in June," GAC spokesman Zheng Yuesheng said, according to China Daily.
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China Eyes Effect of Slowing Economic Growth on Jobs

China Eyes Effect of Slowing Economic Growth on Jobs

Chinese workers labor at the construction site of an industry park in Wenxian county, Jiaozuo city, central Henan province, May 1, 2013.
As China's government moves toward a new development model, it appears to be abandoning old formulas for job creation and economic growth.

For years, government planners believed that economic growth rates of at least 8 percent were needed to provide jobs for new entrants to China's cities. Minimum growth of 8 percent in gross domestic product (GDP), a key benchmark for economic expansion, was seen as the key to employment and social stability.

Some commentators have traced the origin of the assumption back to the days of Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and his goal of quadrupling GDP by 2000.

But China's new leaders who took power in March seem to have scrapped the 8-percent rule for good by refusing to launch new stimulus programs as GDP rates drop to 7.5 percent.

The government has been sending signals that the job market is "generally stable" despite the drop, downplaying social stability fears as planners guide the economy to slower, more sustainable rates.

On July 16, Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, said China had added 7.25 million jobs in the first half of the year, although GDP growth slowed.

The figure showed a gain of 310,000 jobs from a year earlier, the official Xinhua agency said. China's registered urban unemployment rate has also stayed at a steady 4.1 percent, said Yin.

Break with tradition

Former Premier Wen Jiabao previously broke with tradition by setting a GDP target as low as 7 percent in 2004. But growth-minded officials ignored it and continued to pump up the economy with cheap loans, producing a 9.5-percent surge in the economy that year.

At the outset at least, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have shown more determination to resist calls for wasteful stimulus spending after GDP growth dropped to 7.8 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent in the second quarter of this year.

"We should not shift our policy orientation just because of temporary changes in economic indicators," Li told economists and corporate leaders on July 16, the official English-language China Daily reported.

Days earlier, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei suggested the government could allow growth to slip even lower.

"We don't think 6.5 percent or 7 percent will be a big problem," Lou said, according to Bloomberg News.

So, what happened to the concerns about jobs, social stability, and the 8-percent principle?

Fundamental changes

Yukon Huang, senior associate in the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, cited fundamental changes in the jobs market and the economy.

"Before, growth had to be nearly double-digit to absorb the twin inflows of job seekers from the countryside and labor being shed by overstaffed state enterprises. This phase is over," Huang said.

"The labor force is now shrinking," said Huang. "Thus 6.5 percent is enough to deal with employment of the average worker."

The new problem is finding jobs for college-educated workers, he said, now that China is producing six times as many graduates as a decade ago.

Huang calls matching the skill mix with opportunities "a different and more complicated issue." It is also unlikely to be solved by old formulas for job growth and GDP.

The changes may mean that the government will stick with its economic rebalancing strategy, rather than be driven back into stimulus strategies by fears of unrest.

A key reason may be that China no longer needs such high rates of job growth.

In May, Zeng Xiangquan, dean of Renmin University's School of Labor and Human Resources, warned in a paper that the surplus supply of rural labor would drop to "zero" this year.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has estimated that China's workforce of 937 million fell by nearly 3.5 million last year.

Slow to shift?

To some economists, like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, that means China is in "big trouble" because it has been too slow to shift from its old investment-driven model to consumption-led growth.

"You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be," Krugman wrote on July 18.

In its recent annual report on China, the International Monetary Fund also urged a faster transition, warning of "the consequences of continuing the current growth model."

"With demographic trends implying a decline in the labor force after 2015 and exhaustion of surplus labor around 2020, the returns on investment would be progressively lower than envisaged, which would cause bankruptcies and losses," the IMF said.

The result would be a boomerang effect, resulting in higher unemployment, the fund said.

The reports by Zeng and the NBS on the labor force suggest the risks cited by the IMF are not futuristic but are already at work now.

'Fictional data'

One problem with getting an accurate read on both jobs and the effects of economic growth is the credibility of China's official statistics, which are also used in IMF reports.

"All economic data are best viewed as a particularly boring genre of science fiction, but Chinese data are even more fictional than most," Krugman wrote.

China's unemployment figures may be a case in point.

While official GDP has varied from year to year with the effects of stimulus spending and the global downturn, the unemployment rate has been suspiciously constant, holding at exactly 4.1 percent since 2010.

In 2008 and 2009, it was virtually unchanged at 4.2 and 4.3 percent respectively.

Even if the reports were accurate, they would only reflect employment in the urban job market, which represented 48 percent of China's workforce of 767 million last year, according to NBS reports.

"What if the NBS decided to put out a real unemployment or a real investment figure?" said Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Derek Scissors in a recent interview.

"It would be completely different from the ones they've been putting out for years, so they're not going to do that, either," Scissors said.
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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Death revisits Parachinar


Death revisits Parachinar

People gather around one of the blast sites in Parachinar on Friday. PHOTO: EXPRESS
The conflict in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, resurfaced once again, when two suicide bombers targeted a busy market killing, at least, 51 and injuring almost 190 tribesmen from the predominantly Shia, Turi and Bangash tribes. Just last month, security forces, which had concluded a successful military operation in the neighbouring Sadda area of the agency, claimed to have restored peace by flushing out the militants who were advancing towards Parachinar. But the unabated violence continues. After the attack, the workings of the security apparatus were further put into doubt when the political agent of Kurram Agency claimed to have had intelligence reports of a possible attack during Friday prayers but did not manage to avert the danger.
While fear looms across the tribal areas, death tolls have become a mere statistic. The conflict in Kurram is not new. The sectarian strife, considered to be a by-product of the Afghan war in 1982, has trickled down since then. The recent attacks were claimed by the Ansarul Mujahideen, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The same group has also claimed attacks on the Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan; only this time, its motive was to apparently target Shias. Residents believe that the inefficiency of the government and security forces has been the cause of death of hundreds of people. The road to Parachinar, which remained closed for over four years, was reopened in 2011 only after a large number of residents, who had to travel to another area in their own country via Afghanistan, were killed across the border. However, despite this, there have been several incidents of violence.
Many have found no solution but to migrate permanently to a settled area, but even then, their lives have not been safe. A number of high-profile sectarian targeted killings across Pakistan are mostly targeting those from Kurram Agency. Last year, a boat that capsized off the coast of Indonesia, had almost 200 asylum seekers — a majority of them were young men from Parachinar. That these people have had to live in such uncertainty for so long is deplorable. It is high time that the government made a more concerted and decisive effort to catch those responsible for the violence and bring them to book.
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UAE stops visas for Bangladeshis

UAE stops visas for Bangladeshis

The United Arab Emirates have temporarily stopped issuing all kinds of entry permits for Bangladeshi passport holders because of security concerns over identification and fake documents.
But the Bangladesh authorities do not know about the UAE action.
‘The suspension of issuing visas is not permanent and is not a ban,’ Major General Nasser Al Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation and Residency and Ports Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Interior was quoted by Dubai-based Gulf News as having said.
Al Menhali said the situation will return to normal once a number of issues are resolved by the Bangladesh government.
For the time being, he said there will be no new visit visas, resident visas, tourist visas or any other kind of visa for Bangladeshi nationals.
Current Bangladeshi visa holders in the UAE will not face any difficulties in extending their visa or renewing residency permits.
‘We are not issuing any new visas to Bangladeshis but we are renewing for those who already have residence visas,’ Al Menhali said.
He said the step was taken recently, but did not specify when the restrictions would be lifted. He said the UAE is concerned over the validity of the passports.
When contacted, expatriate welfare minister Eng. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told New Age on Thursday evening that he was not aware of the information. ‘I’ve just heard about it from you.’
Asked whether he will take up the matter being the minister in charge of the expatriate welfare ministry, Mosharraf said, ‘I’ll definitely take up the matter with the UAE authorities to meet their concerns as soon as I will officially be informed of it.’
Gulf News said they learnt that there were cases of Bangladeshi people caught trying to enter the country with forged passports.
Weeks before the visa suspension, a number of Bangladeshis were arrested for entering the country with illegal documents. Many were found carrying forged passports and forged visas.
Minister Mosharraf did not outright reject the allegation of forged passports and visas held by some Bangladeshi expatriate workers.
He blamed a section of recruiting agencies who were members of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies for sending these workers abroad with fake travel documents.
The minister said BAIRA should take action against those dishonest recruiting agencies which were registered with their association.
Mosharraf said the government is now sending workers abroad with SMART cards containing all information about a particular worker going abroad with job. He said if any SMART card holding worker commits forgery ‘we will be held responsible for our lapses.’
Over 700,000 Bangladeshi expatriates are now staying in the oil rich gulf state. The number of workers coming from Bangladesh to the UAE has witnessed a jump.
The statistics show that 2,03,308 traveled to the UAE from Bangladesh in 2010 for different job purposes while the number grew up to 2,52,734 in 2011.
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Buddhist leaders unhappy with govt probe


Buddhist leaders unhappy with govt probe

Buddhist gurus in Cox’s Bazar on Thursday said that they had lost confidence in the government’s investigation of the attacks on minorities at Ramu that left 22 temples damaged as they believe that the committee had no scope to work independently.
They also questioned the activities of some elected representatives and ruling party leaders and said that such activities indicated that they were influencing government actions.
Courts in Cox’s Bazar, meanwhile, allowed 105 out of the 205 people arrested in connection with the sectarian attack, to be remanded in police custody for periods varying from one to seven days for interrogation.
Two were remanded in custody for seven days, 14 for three days, 23 for two days and the remaining 66 for a day.
The police administration in the district on Thursday withdrew Tajul Islam, a subinspector of the Special Branch posted to Ramu, on charge of instigating people into the attack.
Monk Pragyananda Bhikkhu, resident director of Ramu Central Sima Bihar, meanwhile, said, ‘We expected a fair investigation which could identify the culprits that instigated and mobilised people for such violent attacks. But activities of government officials and some politicians are forcing us to lose confidence in the government investigation.’
The Sima Monastery chief Pundit Satyapriya Mahathero, the most revered monk in Cox’s Bazar, echoed the opinion of his disciple.
‘Many senior people visited me after the attacked and enquired about my condition and said nothing. The attack destroyed all my achievement of 83 years. I asked them to identify the culprits and punish them in an exemplary manner. Arresting innocent people would make no sense but a chaos,’ the senior member of the Bangladesh Sangharaj Bhikkhu Mahasabha said.
Pragyananda said that the government investigation committee members had visited the monastery and hurriedly left after asking a few questions. ‘It gave me the impression that they are in a hurry to prepare something.’
The monks said they would take up the issue with the National Human Rights Commission, which is expected to visit Ramu today.
The monks were also unhappy about people who instigated the mob on Saturday night moving about freely. ‘We have heard that these people are claiming that there would be no harm to them. They are also threatening people they deem to have talked with the police and the media about their involvement,’ Pragyananda said.
‘If criminals get the blessings of the government or ruling party leaders, no investigation would be fruitful. We now prefer a judicial investigation as the administration people have many limitations,’ he said adding that as negligence of officials was responsible for the violence, an investigation by the officials could not be impartial.
The Bengali Buddhists, locally known as baruas, at Merangroa said that some villagers had captured Nurul Islam Selim, a Swechchhasebak League activist people accused of instigating the mob, and handed him over to the police on Tuesday but the upazila council chairman, Sohel Sarwar Kajal, had him released from the police.
The government investigation committee headed by additional commissioner of Chittagong division, visited a number of places at Ramu and recorded statements of a number of people.
Quamrul Hassan, a member on the committee, declined to give details. ‘We are visiting places, interviewing people and trying our best [to find out the culprits].’ He expected to complete the task by the deadline.
The government set up the committee on Sunday and asked it submit the report in 10 days.
Uttam Kumar Barua, said to have given a posting on Facebook that resulted in the sectarian attack at Ramu, was still untraced, five days after the incident.
It was believed that he had been taken by the police in their custody but the Ramu police said that they had taken only Uttam’s mother and aunt in their custody and were not aware of his whereabouts.
Uttam’s uncle Tapas Barua said that as the violence spread, Uttam’s mobile was switched off. ‘We are not in touch with him but I am not sure whether he had contacted his in-laws,’ he said.
There was a rumour that Uttam had surrendered to the Bandarban police but the superintendent of police in Bandarban, Quamrul Ahsan, said it was not true.
‘We had he same rumours and we have instructed the police to to interrogate anyone spreading such rumours,’ he said.
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Leadership training should be mandatory for youths: Defence Secy

Sri Lanka -

Leadership training should be mandatory for youths: Defence Secy

Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said it should be mandatory for the country’s youths to undergo leadership training to earn laurels both locally and internationally.
“Leadership training should be compulsory for youths to build self - confidence and earn victories in the international sphere as well as locally,” the Defence Secretary said at the Piping Ceremony of the SLEAS Class 1 Principals and MOE officers as Brevet Colonels at the Defence Ministry yesterday.

He said if their confidence, leadership qualities, team work abilities etc were not built up properly, they would not be able to take the best probable decision at the crucial point of a competition which would be a let down for the country as well as a setback at a special occasion in one’s life.

The Defence Secretary said the Sri Lankan cricket team while being the best, failed on four consecutive crucial occasions, the last being at the 20-20 World Cup as they lacked self – confidence.

He said Tony Greig told him at a discussion prior to the match that the Sri Lankan team was talented enough to win the World Cup. Secretary Rajapaksa said an environment should be created for children to take decisions without being spoon fed. He said it was left to Principals, teachers and schools to play an important role in achieving this end.

Secretary Rajapaksa said the government in its attempt to inculcate leadership qualities in youths initiated a leadership course for university entrants last year as the first phase.

He said students, parents and certain groups protested against this course at the beginning, However 98 percent agreed the course was successful after the completion of the course.

The Defence Secretary said due to intense competition today, children have no time for extracurricular activities such as participating in the National Cadet Corps which would build leadership qualities, team work, team spirit, self - confidence etc which would finally produce a complete youth.
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Anti-Maoist stir on Indo-Nepal border, security beefed up

Anti-Maoist stir on Indo-Nepal border, security beefed up

District authorities stepped up security along the Indo-Nepal border following tension in Sonauli area of Maharajganj district on Saturday after traders staged a bandh against Nepal's Maoist Party obstructing entry of traders and tourists from India.
Traders said Maoists on the other side of the border were constantly attacking and looting Indian traders and not allowing trucks and tourists buses to enter Nepal for the last few days. "There is business worth Rs 5 crore per day between India and Nepal through Sonauli. Maoist activities in the last 10 days have caused a huge loss," Ranjeet Chopra, president of a local trader association, told TOI.

"Hundreds of trucks carrying goods and essential commodities get stranded on the border. We have requested Uttar Pradesh government to take up our cause with the Centre and resolve the issue by talking to the government of Nepal as early as possible," he said.

Traders say the dissident faction of Nepal's Maoist Party is creating trouble after parting ways with the party led by Prachand in June. Leader of the faction Mohan Vaidya Kiran has accused Prachand of deviating from the revolutionary ideals. Kiran has floated the Nepal Communist Party Maoist and has demanded scrapping of all treaties signed with India, including the Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950. The new party has launched a movement against plying of vehicles bearing Indian registration number, screening of Hindi movies and broadcast of Hindi songs by FM radios in Nepal.

Citing a report prepared by the administration for the government, sources said the anti-India Maoists group could be enjoying China's support. "We have information that the Kiran faction is being supported by Chinese agencies who want to see how India reacts to the trouble. We have sought the Centre's intervention," a senior government official told TOI.
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Nepal Maoists ban Indian films, fish and fruits

Nepal Maoists ban Indian films, fish and fruits

Maoist self-proclaimed heads of Tamsaling state comprising 10 Nepal districts close to the China border have banned entry of vehicles into the neighbouring country from India and also banned cinemas from exhibiting Hindi films and songs.
While the leaders claim it is in a bid to save the Nepal film industry from collapsing and their society from veiled insults in Hindi films that show Nepali stereotypes, the mainstream political parties brand such attempts puerile and say Nepal's ties with India run deep and go back to ancient times. In support of their ban on goods being carried from India to Nepal every day, the Maoists say Nepal is self-sufficient to meet the daily need for milk, bananas, fish and vegetables and their import from India will cripple their agricultural growth.

The visit of prime minister Baburam Bhattarai to India has not gone down well with the Maoists who have termed it anti-Nepal. Second in command in Nepal's Maoist party, Mohan Vaidya Kiran formed a party called NKP and announced a Tamsaling state including Chitwan, Makwanpur, Dhading and Kambhrey districts into which Indian vehicles are not being allowed. The party states in a press release that Indian produce and Hindi films have been banned in 10 districts of Nepal to safeguard their agriculture, film industry and society.

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Narayan Sharma Bipin confirmed the barrier saying the ban on Indian vehicles was imposed to restrict transport of agriculture produce from India to Nepal, as it was affecting domestic farmers and market. He also confirmed and defended ban on Hindi films and songs, saying "Different broadcast media based in Chitwan have stopped playing Hindi songs from today." Even sale of Hindi music and movie DVDs is banned.

Asked if the ban applied to all Hindi movies or only those that "insult Nepal and Nepali people, spread hatred and promote vulgarity and cultural anomaly," as mentioned in the statement, CPN-Maoist spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said, "We are against only those Hindi movies that hurt the sentiments of Nepali people or undermine the notion of Nepali-ness. But since we haven't figured out which movies are against Nepal and Nepali people, we will impose a blanket ban on all the Hindi films."

Bhusal added, "We can form an independent mechanism later to censor anti-Nepal Hindi movies after consulting all stakeholders." According to Bhusal, the party aims to prohibit all cable channels from screening "anti-Nepal or vulgar" Hindi movies, songs and programmes in the long run. "But, we won't target the cable channels immediately as we lack an efficient mechanism for censoring television content right now," she said.

Indian vehicles are allowed to ply on Nepal's roads on payment of nominal daily charges at the border check points for which a temporary number plate is issued. The ban on Indian vehicles, Hindi films and songs are part of the 70-point list of demands submitted by the CPN (M) to the PM on September 5.

As for the entry of Indian vehicles into Nepal, the CPN-Maoist has clarified that those Indian vehicles that are already in Nepal will not be obstructed while returning to India.

Although the CPN-Maoist diktat has jolted Nepali cinema hall operators, they are tight-lipped about it. "We'll react only after discussing the matter among ourselves," a cinema exhibitor not willing to be named told TOI.

Some mainstream parties TOI spoke to said the ultra-leftist party's move could be counterproductive and termed the decision childish. CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) leader Bhim Prasad Acharya said it was nothing but CPN-M's puerile aggression against the northern neighbour. The CPN-M has argued that it decided to impose the said ban 'to promote self-reliant national economy, protect employment opportunities for citizens and encourage domestic investment'. But Acharya said there was nothing wrong in movement of Indian and Nepali vehicles across the border is. "The onus to safeguard national interest and sovereignty lies in the hands of national stakeholders. We cannot blame India of damaging our nationality and sovereignty," said Acharya.

General secretary of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party Jitendra Sonal said a serious review of the issue is a must before taking any decision that can have an adverse impact on the country's relations with India. "We have age-old multi-faceted ties with India. Thousands of Nepalis go to India to take a holy dip in the Ganga. Similarly, Indians in large numbers visit Pashupatinath Temple every year. It is unfortunate that the CPN-Maoist has come up with such a decision without taking into account the deep ties between the two countries," said Sonal, adding that such a hasty and imprudent move could bring on unprecedented difficulties for people, especially of the Madhes region. "The CPN-M must keep in mind that Madhesi people will take to the streets if it does not withdraw its decision," said Sonal. Nepali Congress Spokesperson Dilendra Prasad Badu said his party strongly objected to the CPN-M's decision.

When the Maoists were in power, they would talk poison against India but after coming into power and following the visit of Baburam Bhattarai to India, the protest was over. Acting against the liberal attitude of the Maoist Prime Minister Bhattarai the second level leader cum vice president of Maoist party Mohan Vaidh Kiran termed the move of friendship with India anti-Nepali and isolated himself from the original party. Later he formed a different party called N.K.P. Maoist and the party announced an imaginary Tamsaling state. Ten districts fall under this so called state and these states adjoin the China border. Tamsaling state committee has announced the prohibition of entry of Indian vehicles in these districts which are Chitwan, Makwanpur, Dhading and Kambhrey. It has been stated in a press note that the entry of the Indian vehicles in Nepal adversely affects the agriculture sector not only this Nepali film industry is also collapsing due to the screening of Indian movies here. This Maoist party also said in its announcement that the CD's and music cassettes of Indian movies will not be sold here. The screening of Hindi movies has been stopped in 10 districts of Nepal including Makwanpur and Chitwan districts.
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Mukherjee lauds SAFMA's efforts for promoting SAARC agenda

Mukherjee lauds SAFMA's efforts for promoting SAARC agenda

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has lauded South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) for its efforts for promoting the agenda of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“The SAFMA programme for South Asia, which is in operation for the last several years, is quite appreciable,” Mukherjee told a SAFMA delegation headed by Secretary General Imtiaz Alam that met him in New Delhi on July 24. The SAFMA team included SAFMA President Vinod Kumar Sharma and SAFMA India President Gautam Lahiri.
Indian President and the SAFMA officials discussed the prospects of peace between India and Pakistan in the light of recent overtures from both the countries.
SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam told President Mukherjee that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was positively inclined towards finding an amicable solution to all bilateral issues and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields.
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Friday, 26 July 2013

Nawaz to set up 'China Cell' in PM house

Nawaz to set up 'China Cell' in PM house

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping. PHOTO: PPI
SHANGHAI: To follow up on all the projects signed during the recent China visit, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will set up a dedicated “China Cell” in the prime minister house.
Nawaz revealed this while speaking to the media from China on Sunday.
Thanking the Chinese authorities for their overwhelming response, Nawaz said all the projects – when completed – will be of great benefit to the people of Pakistan.
He asked the nation to pray that these schemes materialise soon and that no untoward incident cause a setback.
Stressing on the need to immediately end the ongoing power crisis, the prime minister said violence and power issues are linked and must be addressed simultaneously.
During his time in China, Nawaz called upon Chinese investors to invest in Pakistan, particularly in the energy sector.
The premier emphasised that the new government in Pakistan was pro-business and investment-friendly.
As part of an effort to boost the annual trade volume between the two countries from $12 billion to $20 billion, leaders from both countries had agreed to construction of economic and industrial cities in Gawadar and other parts of Pakistan.
They had reached agreements over the establishment of trade corridors and railway links as well as in the area of power development.
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