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Headlines For Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fukuda begins marathon talks with African leaders ahead of TICAD

"Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda began marathon bilateral talks on Tuesday with visiting African leaders ahead of a three-day development conference in Yokohama, where Japan will pledge to double aid and investment in hopes of securing diplomatic support and energy supplies from the resource-rich continent. While Fukuda meets separately with 16 African presidents and premiers throughout Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and his counterparts from 52 participating African nations will gather in the afternoon to fine-tune documents for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which will begin Wednesday.


At the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Japan will offer assistance for the improvement of infrastructure such as roads, electricity grids, healthcare and education as well as for raising agricultural productivity including a goal of doubling rice production.


As G8 president, Tokyo is hoping to secure African support for Japan's ‘Cool Earth 50’ initiative to halve global emissions by 2050 and to calculate targets based on a ‘sectoral approach,’ the first time that TICAD will take up measures on global warming. …” [Kyodo News (Japan)/Factiva]


FT notes that “…The prospects for sustainable African development are perhaps better than they have been in years. This week’s gathering, which begins on Wednesday in Yokohama, comes after four years of annual growth in Africa above 5 percent. Last year it notched up 5.9 percent. …” [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]


Thai News Service reports that World Bank President Robert Zoellick “will be in Tokyo and Yokohama during his visit and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Fukuda, Finance Minister Nukaga, Foreign Minister Koumura and other senior representatives of the Japanese government.


Zoellick will also meet with heads of state from several African countries and participate in a meeting on the global food crisis jointly-organized with the African Union, the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This meeting will focus attention on the immediate and medium-to-long term actions needed to tackle the global food crisis.” [Thai News Service/Factiva]


In a separate piece, Kyodo News writes that World Bank and International Monetary Fund Development Committee Executive Secretary Kiyoshi Kodera “…called on Tokyo on Monday to reverse its trend of slashing official development assistance. … [He] said that although Japan is facing tight fiscal conditions, the overall tax burden in the country is still lower than the US and some European nations. …


Kodera stressed that donor countries should ‘accept the harsh reality’ that sub-Saharan African countries will remain heavily dependent on foreign aid until they find a new growth path. …Kodera was speaking at a World Bank seminar ahead of the TICAD…” [Kyodo News (Japan)/Factiva]


Rice Market Eases As Cambodia Lifts Ban On Exports

The rice market showed tentative signs of easing yesterday after Cambodia became the first country to lift trade restrictions on the grain. Cambodia, the world's eighth largest rice exporter, imposed a ban on foreign sales two months ago to fight food inflation. But Hun Sen, Prime Minister, yesterday said the country was no longer facing a rice shortage. …” [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]


IHT reports he said Cambodia “…clearly had enough rice for its own needs.  … Hun Sen said that Cambodia's next harvest was looking like a good one. ‘It seems we already have plenty of rice to come,’ he said. ‘We need more warehouses to store our rice.” [The International Herald Tribune/Factiva]


AP notes that “…Beginning Tuesday, rice exports can be resumed for some 1 million tons of milled rice Cambodia has in excess of its needs for domestic consumption, he said. Cambodia produced a surplus of nearly 1.6 million tons of milled rice from last year's farming season, he said. But he added that exports must not exceed the total amount of surplus until the new harvesting season begins in December. Hun Sen said that more than 500,000 tons had already been exported before he imposed the two-month ban. …” [The Associated Press/Factiva]


Reuters writes that “…Analysts said the move could contribute to a gradual softening of prices from last month's record levels, which has been fuelled in part by a panic reaction by major importers such as the Philippines to supply restrictions in Asia. …” [Reuters/Factiva]



World Needs To See Indonesia As Normal Country-Report

 “The world needs to update its image of Indonesia and start treating it as a ‘normal’ country, similar to middle-income developing nations Brazil, India and Mexico, an Australian strategic think-tank said on Tuesday.


The influential Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in the 10 years since the end of former President Suharto… Indonesia had become a strong democracy, with solid economic growth and competent leadership. …


Their report on Indonesia, titled Seeing Indonesia as a Normal Country, said … the Indonesia government had taken strong steps to fight corruption …The report said poverty would continue to be a problem for Indonesia for some time, with 49 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day and with maternal mortality rates three times higher than in Vietnam and six times higher than in China. …” [Reuters/Factiva]


The Age notes that “…Indonesia today is a stable, competitive democracy, playing a constructive role in world affairs. It is no longer in a state of profound flux and turmoil. Indonesians have embraced their democracy by voting in more free, fair and peaceful elections, and with higher voter turnout rates, than nearly any other democracy in the world in recent years. The internationally respected Freedom House survey now identifies Indonesia as the only fully free country in South-East Asia. …


In the absence of radical disjuncture … Indonesia will be a middle-income developing country making slow headway in lifting living standards and consolidating democratic governance. …” [The Age (Australia)/Factiva]


Kosovans Say Independence Fails To Solve Woes: Poll

Jobs, money and the cost-of-living, rather than independence, are Kosovans’ biggest worries since the Balkan territory unilaterally broke with Serbia…said the survey conducted by the UN Development Program (UNDP).


The UNDP chief in Kosovo, Frode Mauring, said this was ‘the good news’ regarding the first such poll conducted in Kosovo since …independence on February 17. Mauring said that instead of worrying about Kosovo's political status, Kosovo people had since ‘turned their full attention toward the development challenges of Kosovo.’…” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


SeeNews adds that “…The UNDP-conducted survey, the first one in Kosovo after the February 17 independence proclamation, included 1,310 respondents, of which 874 ethnic Albanians, 200 Kosovo Serbs and 236 from other minorities. The survey, conduced in April and May, observes the changes in Kosovo citizens’ opinion after the independence declaration. …Over 70 percent of Kosovo citizens polled consider unemployment, poverty and prices as the paramount problem facing Kosovo. From those, 10 percent say the price increases remains the biggest daily issue. …” [SeeNews (Bulgaria)/Factiva]


Global Fisheries At Risk

 “More than 80 per cent of the world's fisheries are at risk from over-fishing and the World Trade Organization must act urgently to scrap unsustainable subsidies, lobby group Oceana said Tuesday. ‘The world's fishing fleets can no longer expect to find new sources of fish,’ said Courtney Sakai, Senior Campaign Director at Oceana…” [The Advertiser (Australia)/Factiva]


AFP notes that “…Based on data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the report found that only 17 percent of the world's known fish stocks are under-exploited or moderately exploited. Particularly overfished are stocks in significant parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the Western Indian Ocean and the Northwest Pacific Ocean.


The report said that in the Western Indian Ocean, for example, over 70 percent of known stocks have been fully exploited, while the remainder are overexploited, depleted or currently at a stage of recovery. …The group estimated that current fishing subsidies are worth at least $20 billion annually, or the value of 25 percent of the world's catch, giving strong economic incentives for overfishing. …It urged countries to push to ‘reduce and control subsidies’ during the current World Trade Organization negotiations on fisheries subsidies. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Also in this Edition: Briefly Noted...

Briefly Noted… Angola is to spend $1.7 billion to build a chain of state-run supermarkets to combat food shortages, state daily Jornal de Angola reported Monday. The aim of the whole project is to build 31 supermarket stores in the country, project coordinator Gomes Cardoso told the paper. [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Peru's poverty rate has dipped below 40 percent, the government said on Monday. Poverty fell 5 percentage points to 39.3 percent last year from 2006 and is down from 48.7 percent in 2005, the country's statistics agency (INEI) reported. [Reuters/Factiva]


State action, by direct transfer of resources - such as the payment of social plans, pensions or unemployment insurance-or taxes charged, helps little in Argentina to correct the strong social inequity, writes a document prepared by World Bank economists Edwin Goñi, Humberto Lopez and Luis Servén. [La Nación (Argentina)/Factiva]


While the world's attention has been focused on the tussle between Burma's military regime and the international aid agencies, ordinary citizens are taking up the task of providing relief to the regions worst affected by the cyclone. Resigned to the junta's inability to safeguard its own citizens, a disparate network of individuals, businesses and religious groups are braving their own hardships to organize convoys of supplies, food and medicines to send to the Irrawaddy delta. [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]


World Bank Lead Economist Martin Rama in a recent interview with the Tuoi Tre newspaper said that Vietnam needs to slow down credit growth, but should not curb abruptly. Speaking about Vietnam’s economic situation, Martin Rama said that Vietnam’s economy is rather safe as the government’s priority is to stabilize macro economy and it is good that indirect foreign investment is shrinking. [Vietnam News Brief Service/Factiva]


Surging food and construction costs drove Vietnam's inflation rate to 25.2 percent in May, the highest in more than a decade, the government said Tuesday. Despite authorities' efforts to control inflation, including interest rate hikes, consumer prices were 4 percentage points higher than last month, according to the Government Statistics Office. [The Associated Press/Factiva]


Bangladesh's emergency government said Monday it will set up a corruption truth commission that would allow businessmen and politicians to avoid going to jail if they confess and refund the money. The Voluntary Disclosure of Information Ordinance, which was approved late Sunday, runs for a period of five months, the government said. [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


The International Finance Corp (IFC) proposed on Monday to purchase 20 percent of the voting shares of mid-sized Russian bank Rostpromstroybank. The proposed project consists of an equity investment of up to $22 million, IFC said in a statement. [Reuters/Factiva]


Turkey can only reach a primary surplus target of 3 percent of GDP in 2009 if it takes fiscal measures to offset planned higher spending on infrastructure and municipalities, International Monetary Fund Turkey representative Hossein Samiei told Referans in an interview published on Monday. The government has cut its public sector primary surplus, which excludes interest payments on government debt, to 3.5 percent this year from 4.2 percent, and 3 percent next year in order to stimulate a slowing economy. [Reuters/Factiva]


Europe should increase its long-term aid spending on agriculture in the developing world rather than raid unspent farm subsidies, farm Ministers said on Monday expressing skepticism about a European Commission proposal to give the money away. [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]


In the global fight against climate change, Swedish answers include a train powered by cattle-derived gas and household cooking heaters fueled by waste water. The experiences of Sweden in finding new sources of energy and creating energy-saving systems following the oil crises of the 1970s may offer practical lessons for countries hard-pressed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such as Japan. [Jiji Press (Japan)/Factiva]


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