17 January 2007 01:46 [Source: ICIS news]
Asahi Shimbun, Japan (online edition) ?xml:namespace>
A multilingual approach for when natural disaster strikes
The same Tokyo government entity that in April 2000 warned that foreigners would run amok in the event of a major disaster is now taking steps to ensure their safety if catastrophe strikes.
On Tuesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government held its first earthquake drill for foreign residents and visitors. The event was held to mark the 12th anniversary today of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that levelled much of Kobe in 1995, killing in excess of 6,400 people.
Half of semi-public railways profitless
Nearly half of semi-public railway companies have remained unprofitable since they were established to take over struggling routes of Japanese National Railways, which was privatized in 1987, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.
Of the 28 “third-sector” train companies still in operation, 13 have always posted losses and two have run out of funds designed to cover their deficits, the survey found.
Business & Industry
Dai-ichi didn’t pay up to Y5bn in benefits
Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance said Tuesday it had failed to pay benefits in up to 1,800 legitimate cases worth yen (Y) 5bn ($41.4m) during the past five years.
Most of the benefits were for optional contracts on medical insurance policies, such as those payable when the policyholder is diagnosed with cancer, stroke or heart attack.
Labour, business clash over pay claims
The leaders of the nation’s largest labour organization and its biggest business group clashed Monday over how to distribute corporations’ rising earnings in a time of economic recovery.
The meeting in Tokyo between Tsuyoshi Takagi, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), and Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Chairman Fujio Mitarai was considered a curtain raiser for the nation’s annual shunto spring labour negotiations.
Veteran revolutionary Bo Yibo dies at 99
Senior politician Bo Yibo, who served in several key posts including vice-premier and deputy head of the former CPC Central Advisory Committee, has died at the age of 99, according to an official statement yesterday.
Bo died of illness at 8:30 pm on Monday in Beijing, it said. It described Bo as “an excellent CPC member, a great Communist warrior, a great proletarian revolutionary and a prominent leader in the Party’s economic work.”
Nuke power security a key concern
New efforts will be made to ensure nuclear and radioactive security now that nuclear power generation is growing and radioactive treatments are widely used in medical service.
Zhou Shengxian, Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a high-level conference yesterday that the central government had allocated a budget of yuan (CNY) 40m ($5.1m) to monitor possible nuclear and radioactive pollution.
Business & Industry
Foreign investment in China rebounds
Foreign investment in China increased last year, picking up from a mild decline in 2005 amid optimism over an expanding economy and a stronger yuan.
China received $63bn in foreign investment in 2006, up 4.47% from a year earlier, Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai told a conference in Beijing yesterday.
Gasoline and jet fuel drop boosts stock mood
SHANGHAI: A drop in the price of gasoline and jet fuel was widely seen in the stock market yesterday as a potential boost to profits of companies in the transportation sector.
The government announced on Sunday that the prices of gasoline and jet fuel were down by CNY220 and CNY90/tonne, respectively, after international crude oil prices tumbled to a 19-month low.
Taiwan seeks US help in Rebar investigation
Taiwan’s prosecutors plan to seek the help of their counterparts in the United States in finding fugitive Rebar Group founder Wang You-theng and his wife and to determine whether the pair remitted overseas a large sum of money they allegedly embezzled from the group’s subsidiaries, a Taipei prosecutor revealed yesterday.
“The Taipei District Prosecutors Office will ask the Ministry of Justice to make the request to the US,” said Fred Lin, a spokesperson for the Taipei prosecutors’ office.
Eighty bills placed on legislative agenda
With the current legislative session due to end Friday, the Procedure Committee yesterday placed several bills on the agenda for Thursday and Friday when lawmakers will decide on issues such as whether to confirm the nominee for state public prosecutor, approve a supplemental defence budget and disclose the names of major delinquent debtors.
The committee put about 80 bills on the agenda for the session’s last two days, including the proposals to reinstate a privileged interest rate on the pension savings of retired civil servants, renovate old military residential communities and open direct flights between Taipei Songshan Airport and Hong Kong and Macao.
Business & Industry
UK experts to share urban regeneration tips in Taiwan
British companies targeting Taiwan’s multibillion-worth of infrastructure projects in the next four years will be sharing their expertise on urban regeneration on 23 January in Taipei, the British Trade and Cultural Office announced yesterday.
Carrying the theme “Sustainable, Enjoyable, Diversified Cities in the 21 Century,” the seminar is organized by the BTCO and the Chinese Architecture and Building Centre.
Taiwan plastic products on display in Israel packing exhibition
An international exhibition for plastics, rubber and packaging, known as Plasto Ispack 2007, is being held in Tel Aviv, Israel, with seven Taiwan-based firms setting up exhibition booths to promote their plastic products.
Republic of China Representative to Israel Ting Gan-cheng visited Taiwan exhibitors Monday, cutting ribbons for them to play up their presence in the exhibition, according to a spokesman.
Goh Kun bails out of race
Former Prime Minister Goh Kun yesterday dropped out of the presidential campaign in the wake of falling public approval and lacklustre support from political circles.
“After deep agony, I have decided not to run in the 17th presidential election. And from today, I will wrap up political activities,” he said in a statement released yesterday.
Labour minister threatens force in Hyundai strike
Labour Minister Lee Sang-soo yesterday indicated that the government will consider using force to end what it has declared to be an illegal strike by Hyundai Motor union.
The threat came as police were seeking arrest warrants for six union leaders on charges of assaulting the company president earlier this month.
Business & Industry
Concern over Japan-like stagnation
Concern over possible Japan-like stagnation taking hold in Korea continues to weigh heavily on the financial community here in the wake of a series of government measures intended to cool the property market.
Some analysts say Korea will follow the path of Japan, which suffered a 10-year recession after its bubble burst, while others analysts believe current policies are well designed to prevent such a crash.
FTA negotiators tackle sensitive agriculture issues
Korean and US negotiators began talks on agricultural issues in free trade agreement discussions in Seoul yesterday, an area that could ultimately make or break the trade negotiations.
Washington is asserting that a full reopening of Korea’s beef market is critical to working out a trade pact. Korea’s Agriculture Ministry has pledged to protect sensitive markets, which includes rice. US negotiators have insisted that there will be no exceptions for Korea’s staple grain.
UB to buy Whyte & Mackay for Rs43.5bn
The Vijay Mallya-controlled United Breweries group is close to acquiring Glasgow-based distillers Whyte & Mackay for nearly £500m (Rs43.5bn, $985.3m) by the end of this month.
This will be the largest buyout by an Indian company abroad, pipping Dr Reddy’s Laboratories’ acquisition of Betapharm last year for £480m (Rs27.4bn).
Cashing in on mobile money
For ms of non-resident Indians, remitting money could soon be an SMS away.
Led by Indian telecom companies like Bharti Airtel under the aegis of the GSM Association — the global body of GSM mobile operators — a unique experiment will be launched in February to make global money transfers through the mobile phone on a common platform a reality.
Economy & Policy
Fresh differences between Left, govt over pension Bill
Fresh differences have arisen between the government and the Left parties over pension reforms that may indefinitely stall the Pension Funds Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill.
According to government sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is opposed to offering assured returns if pension funds are deployed in equity markets.
ADB to raise Rs45bn via bonds for PSUs
The Asian Development Bank has sought approval from the government to raise about Rs45bn from the domestic market through rupee-denominated bonds and cross-currency swap, to lend to public sector undertakings and state governments.
“We have applied to the government for permission to raise one billion dollar from the local market and it could be through a mix of rupee denominated bonds and cross-currency swap,” ADB Principal Economist Narhari Rao said here. The approval was expected early this year, he said.
Train young Vietnamese quickly to capitalise on regional boom: MM Lee
Vietnam should gear its young population to ride on Asia’s economic boom, says Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
The country has youth on its side, but its fast growth could run into a shortage of trained manpower in the next five years, he said during a one-hour meeting with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung yesterday.
Bangkok summons Singapore envoy over Thaksin’s visit
Thailand yesterday summoned Singapore Ambassador Peter Chan over ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s private visit to Singapore over the weekend.
Hours later, the government also rescinded an invitation to Singapore’s foreign minister, while the Thai foreign ministry said that it was suspending a civil service exchange programme with Singapore and cancelling a meeting this month about the programme.
Business & Industry
Robust upturn in construction industry seen
After a long journey through a dark tunnel, Singapore’s construction sector is finally seeing the light, with contracts expected to pour in from both the private and public sectors.
The recovery is expected to be robust. Economists BT spoke to expect growth to be 2-4% this year, before picking up speed in 2008.
Another good year seen for luxury condos
The high-end residential property market is expected to perform even better this year, after last year’s 17.4% increase in the average capital value of freehold luxury apartments in prime districts to $1,690/square foot, DTZ says in a report.
The property consultancy group cites increasing foreign participation and numerous quality projects that will be launched, such as the luxury apartments at the Orchard Turn development and Wheelock’s redevelopment of Scotts Shopping Centre and The Ascott Singapore.
Update: Singapore spat escalates
Thailand on Tuesday cancelled a visit by Singapore’s foreign minister later this month in retaliation against the city-state’s “inappropriate” stance towards ousted former premier, Thaksin Shinawtara.
The announcement was made after the Thai Foreign Ministry summoned Singaporean Ambassador Peter Chan Tuesday morning to express the government’s concerns over a meeting last week between Thaksin and Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister, S Jayakumar.
IMF sees healthy world economy in 2007
IMF chief Rodrigo Rato said the world economy remains robust with the United States set for a “soft landing” and China extending its breakneck expansion.
But there remains the risk of a “disorderly adjustment” in the global economy, with Asian currency rates still too rigid and oil prices remaining volatile, the International Monetary Fund managing director said.
Business & Industry
Exporters confident bird flu can be tamed
Chicken exporters are optimistic that the latest bird flu outbreak will have only a minor impact on the country’s exports.
Authorities yesterday confirmed the outbreak at a duck farm in Phitsanulok, the fifth in Thailand since early 2004 and the first since last July.
Panasonic to invest Bt6bn over three years
Panasonic Group of Thailand, part of the Japanese conglomerate Matsushita Electric Industrial, plans to invest baht (Bt) 6bn ($167.2m) over the next three years.
The investment budget is unchanged from Panasonic’s last three-year plan, and comes despite market uncertainties over government plans to overhaul the Foreign Business Act and security worries.
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