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Posts Tagged ‘reform’

Spanish unions protest retirement reform

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 7:57 am

Tens of thousands of Spanish workers staged strikes in 40 cities Saturday to protest state plans to up the retirement age to slash public deficit, the highest in the eurozone after Greece and Ireland.

The strikers gathered in central Madrid carrying red flags and holding placards such as “No to retirement at 67”, police said giving the estimates, adding they were essentially from the main UGT and CCOO unions.

“It’s a direct attack on the rights of workers, who have already suffered in the crisis for two years,” said Juan Carlos Caceres, a railway union leader.

A boy holds a placard reading, No to retirement at 67 during a rally in Madrid

Raising the retirement age “makes no sense because there is a very high level of youth unemployment,” said Maria Eugenia Marcos, an unemployed telecommunications worker.

However, the 56-year-old said the protests against the reforms were “weak” as many people realised that something needed to be done safeguard future pension pots.

The government aims to trim the public deficit from 11.1 percent of annual output last year to 6.0 percent in 2011 and three percent, the European Union limit, in 2013.

Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, the leader of the CCOO syndicate, threatened a repeat of a September 29 general strike in January when Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero unveils reforms which will see the retirement age increase by two years.

Zapatero reiterated his commitment to the reforms on the sidelines of a European Union summit on Friday, and his cabinet is expected to approve the measures on January 28.

Zapatero’s Socialists struck a deal on Wednesday with the conservative opposition on changes to the way pensions are calculated, although there is as yet no agreement on raising the retirement age.

The reforms are part of plans to soothe market fears that Spain could be dragged under by the tide of debt that has already drowned Greece and Ireland.

Adding to the concern over the nation’s finances and the potential implications for the eurozone, public debt rose to a 10-year high in the third quarter while bad bank loans struck a 14-year-high.

Source: SGGP

WB steps up support for Vietnam’s higher education reform agenda

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:39 am

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$50 million for Vietnam’s higher education development policy program.

WB agreed November 30 additional support for the sustained implementation of the government’s reform agenda for the second operation in a programmatic series of three credits.

Students at a lecture hall. WB decides to give additional support for Vietnam’s  higher education development policy program

The credit is provided by the International Development Association (IDA) – the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.

The program as a whole is designed to support the Government’s implementation of its “Socio-Economic Development Plan 2006-2010” and its “higher education reform agenda”. 

This operation aims at to strengthen governance, rationalize financing, improve the quality of teaching and research, improve accountability for performance, and enhance transparency in financial management within the higher education sector. 

“The operation supports a number of policy measures that are being put in place by the Government, aimed at modernizing and improving the efficiency of Vietnam’s higher education system,” said Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank’s Country Director for Vietnam. “The reform program will help tertiary institutions in Vietnam begin to meet growing demand for better quality higher education, including through greater private participation in higher education provision.”

The education sector in Vietnam has expanded rapidly, with the fastest growth taking place at the upper levels of education.  As a result of these enrollment and demographic trends, gross and net enrolment rates have continued to increase for all education levels.  Higher education coverage, though, remains relatively low.

Source: SGGP

Lawmakers applaud administrative reform

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Get rich quick trumps market reform: analysts

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

France braces for another pension reform protest

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

France braced for another day of street rallies against pension reform Saturday as rolling strikes cut the fuel pipeline to Paris airports and shut down most of the country’s oil refineries.

High-school students have increasingly joined the protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, with riot police firing tear gas and arresting over 200 at student rallies on Friday.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has told police to “limit the use of force to what is strictly necessary” when dealing with the students ahead of Saturday’s protests, the fifth in less than six weeks.

Unions want to pummel the government into backing down on its pension reform plans, staging strikes on weekdays and mass demonstrations in cities at the weekend. Over 230 rallies are planned for Saturday, the CGT union said.

The strikes have shut down 10 out of 12 of France’s oil refineries, despite riot police being dispatched to keep the fuel flowing amid reports of panic buying.

The government has given oil companies permission to tap into their own emergency stocks, but has resisted calls to open the part of the French strategic fuel reserve controlled by a government committee.

Lack of supply forced the shutdown of the fuel pipeline to Paris’s two main airports as well as depots outside the capital.

The main Paris air hub, Roissy Charles de Gaulle, only has enough aviation fuel to last 48 hours, La Tribune financial daily reported, and authorities have advised planes arriving there to bring enough fuel for the return flight.

“Aviation companies are worried. Air France expecially,” the paper said.

Because of a Belgian railway workers’ strike over deadlocked negotations, all high-speed Thalys trains between Paris and Brussels will be cancelled. Eurostar trains travelling under the Channel will be unaffected.

National railway operator SNCF said that on average two out of three high-speed TGV trains would be running in and out of Paris, although only one TGV in four will run outside the capital.

The Paris metro will be running normally, with operator RATP saying that only five percent of its workers were on strike on Friday.

Unions and the Socialist opposition have vowed to defend the right to retire at 60. They accuse Sarkozy of making workers carry the burden for the failure of the financial sector, and have proposed increasing taxes on the rich.

A nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations last Tuesday brought more than a million people on to the streets, and workers in some sectors have kept up their stoppages since then. Another mass strike is planned for next Tuesday.

Despite the ongoing strikes and protests, the government showed no sign of retreating from what is a cornerstone of Sarkozy’s reform agenda as he prepares for his likely re-election battle in 2012.

Key sections of the reform have been passed by the upper house Senate and the government hopes for it to be passed in its entirety by the end of the month.

Source: SGGP

Obama praises Wall Street reform, rejects Republican plan

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

US President Barack Obama Saturday praised a Wall Street reform law enacted this week and rejected a Republican plan to jump-start the economy, saying it will take the country backward.

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the economy in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington July 23, 2010. (AFP Photo)

“Wall Street reform is a key pillar of an overall economic plan we have put in place to dig ourselves out of this recession and build an economy for the long run — an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle-class more secure,” Obama said in his weekly radio address.

On Wednesday, the president signed into law the most sweeping reform of the US finance industry since the 1930s, promising US taxpayers would no longer get the bill for Wall Street excess.

The legislation, which some Republicans have pledged to repeal, introduces new consumer protections, checks the power of big banks and cracks down on deceptive practices by credit card firms.

Seeking to restore public confidence in his economic leadership as unemployment flirts with double digits, Obama said the bill would repair the fractures and abuses that produced the financial meltdown.

“It’s a plan based on the Main Street values of hard work and responsibility — and one that demands new accountability from Wall Street to Washington,” the president said in his address.

Obama also rejected an economic plan offered by House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner, saying it would repeal health insurance reform and take away tax credits from millions of small business owners.

According to the president, the Republican plan would also permanently keep in place the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.

“These are not new ideas,” Obama said. “They are the same policies that led us into this recession. They will not create jobs, they will kill them. They will not reduce our deficit, they will add one trillion dollars to our deficit. They will take us backward at a time when we need to keep America moving forward.”


Source: SGGP

Obama signs historic finance reform bill

In Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 (AFP) – President Barack Obama Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping reform of the US finance industry since the 1930s, promising US taxpayers would no longer get the bill for Wall Street excess.

The legislation, which some Republicans have pledged to repeal, introduces new consumer protections, checks the power of big banks and cracks down on deceptive practices by credit card firms.

US President Barack Obama speaks before signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, July 21, 2010. AFP PHOTO

“Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more tax-funded bailouts,” Obama promised.

Seeking to restore public confidence in his economic leadership as unemployment flirts with double digits, Obama said the bill would repair the fractures and abuses that produced the financial meltdown.

“It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility, from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington,” said Obama, before adding the legacy-boosting law to his huge health care reform passed earlier this year.

“These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said, before signing the new law, passed by Congress last week.

“These protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people — not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses.”

The financial reform bill finally squeezed through Congress with just a handful of Republican votes, as the opposition party stuck with its policy of trying to block Obama’s ambitious reform program at all costs.

Republican leaders on Wednesday condemned the new law, saying it would crimp growth, and handcuff the might of America’s financial titans.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Obama of trying to convince “skeptical Americans that he is doing everything he can to lower unemployment.”

“President Obama has signed into law a 2,300-page behemoth that will saddle the business community with innumerable unintended consequences, tighter credit, and countless job-killing regulations,” Steele said.

Mike Pence, a leading Republican in the House of Representatives, said the bill would hugely expand government control of the private sector.

“We need to repeal this new big government program and replace it with common sense reform that protects taxpayers from bailouts,” he said, disputing Obama’s claims that the law would end the need for government rescues.

Obama is facing his lowest approval ratings yet in some polls, but the idea of cracking down on banks is popular with the public.

However, much of the financial reform bill, like the health care law, will take time to implement and so may not help his political plight for months.

For instance, it will be up to a year before a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set up to protect American consumers from hidden fees and deceptive lending practices when they get a new mortgage or credit card.

It could be 18 months before new regulations emerge to stop banks from engaging in impermissible proprietary trading and investment in hedge funds under the Volcker rule, named after former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

In a bid to highlight the help the bill will grant to the middle class, Obama was joined at the signing ceremony by several Americans who suffered unfair treatment at the hands of credit card firms and banks.

The legislation closes loopholes in regulations and requires greater transparency and accountability for hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders, as well as arcane financial instruments called derivatives.

The measure has drawn praise but also skepticism from economists and analysts.

The bill “addresses a number of key weaknesses in the US financial regulatory structure that led to the financial meltdown in 2008 and early 2009,” said Brian Bethune at IHS Global Insight.

But Diane Swonk at Mesirow Financial warned that much of the impact is not known.

“We will have more regulators overseeing — but not necessarily averting — risk, and with a bill so large and undefined, we are likely to get more, in terms of unintended than intended consequences, going forward,” she said.

The law is likely to generate heated debate ahead of congressional elections in November as Republicans call for its reversal.

House Republican leader John Boehner said recently the law “ought to be repealed” and replaced with “common sense things that we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system.”

Source: SGGP

IMF head laments ‘loss of momentum’ in financial reform

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:25 am

World leaders’ commitment to global reforms of the financial sector is flagging, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Thursday

 World leaders’ commitment to global reforms of the financial sector is flagging, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Thursday.

“I am sometimes a bit worried about the loss of momentum” in the reform of the financial sector, in face of the “huge” task ahead, Strauss-Kahn told a conference.

Previously, “leaders were very committed to do something in the financial sector but as the crisis vanished, most of them are more concerned by domestic questions,” the head of the International Monetary Fund said.

“It would be unfair to say that the momentum has disappeared … nevertheless I don’t see the pressure as big and strong as it was a few months ago,” Strauss-Kahn added.

Governments in the United States and Europe have been scrambling to revamp and adapt banking rules since the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008 sparked a global credit crunch.

The IMF however has said that more direct measures than those proposed so far are needed, such as levies tied to risk presented by individual banks or limits to the size of their business.

Strauss-Kahn also said he was concerned about the consistency in priorities in financial reform across borders, citing different approaches in the United States and Italy as examples.

“Having an inconsistent system in the biggest economies … is of course creating new cause for regulatory arbitrage and the trigger for the next crisis.

“The countries having experienced some problems in the financial sector, namely the US and the European countries, are really keen to do something,” he said.

However, those countries that have not had major problems in the financial sector, like Canada and some emerging economies, tend to say that major reforms are not needed, he added.

Source: SGGP

Nigeria president urges electoral reform by year-end

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday vowed to ensure elections due by next April were free and fair and called for the passage of electoral reforms by the end of the year.

In a broadcast to the nation to mark Democracy Day, which celebrates the end of military rule just over a decade ago, Jonathan said the challenge for Africa’s most populous nation was to hold elections in which every vote counted.

“That is why the consummation of the process of electoral reform is a collective task that must be done this year,” he said in the address.

“Let me once again assure all Nigerians that this time, under my watch, all votes will count.”

Jonathan is keen to avoid the sort of shambolic elections which brought late president Umaru Yar’Adua to power in 2007, polls so marred by ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation that independent observers deemed them not to be credible.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan waves after an official visit to the family house of late president Umaru Yar’Adua in the northern city of Katsina, May 8, 2010.

Electoral reform legislation has been before parliament for months but time is quickly running out for meaningful changes to be implemented ahead of the next polls, due by April 2011.

One of the recommendations is a six-month buffer between polling day and the swearing in, which always takes place in May, to allow the resolution of legal challenges. That could mean polls as early as the end of the year.

An unwritten agreement in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) states that the office of president should rotate between the Muslim north and Christian south every two terms.

Late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died at the start of May, was a northerner in his first term meaning the ruling party nominee should be another northerner who can complete at least the second term.

But Jonathan has not ruled out standing and has won support from some northern politicians, even though a bid by him could split the PDP, which has won all of the past three elections since the end of military rule in 1999.

Critics say the PDP’s overwhelming dominance in national politics — with a strong majority in both houses of parliament and control of over three quarters of Nigeria’s 36 states — has turned Nigeria into a virtual one-party state.

The powerful governors’ caucus in the party has handpicked presidential nominees who have always gone on to win the polls, leading some Nigerians to question the relevance of Democracy Day, meant to commemorate the day in 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo become the first elected leader since the end of military rule.

“For the parties to be relevant in the nation’s democratic enterprise, it is compulsory that a regime of internal party democracy must prevail,” Jonathan said.

Jonathan also took the opportunity to announce a new salary scale for public workers to address “pay distortions,” but gave no details, and said 10 billion naira ($67 million) would be disbursed in loans for civil servants to buy their own homes.

Source: SGGP

Wall Street reform reaches home stretch in US Senate

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Ambitious Wall Street reform, which has become a top priority for President Barack Obama, enters the home stretch in the US Senate this coming week, with a final vote on the proposal possible as early as Wednesday.

Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to renew his push for the reform proposal, saying it would help secure the country’s economic future.

“The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could,” Obama said.

“But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.”

Obama is promising the most sweeping regulatory reform drive since the 1930s Great Depression, and is seeking to build momentum for efforts by Democrats in Congress to overcome Republican opposition and pass a new Wall Street reform law.

Republican leaders have so far been united in opposition to the bill to impose tougher regulations on banks and finance firms and to frame a new consumer financial protection agency.

They say Obama’s reforms would introduce the heavy hand of government deeper into the US free enterprise system and would lead to a culture of financial bailouts, an accusation Democrats say is false.

But Obama countered by saying the proposed reform will help level the playing field in the financial industry by making sure all lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight.

He said the bill under consideration will prevent banks from taking too much risk and will give shareholders more say on executive pay.

“The Wall Street reform bill in Congress represents the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” the president pointed out. “You’ll be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make the choices that are best for you. We’ll help stop predatory practices, and curb unscrupulous lenders, helping secure your family’s financial future.”

Once the senators finish offering amendments, they will have to come to an agreement on ending the debate. And if that is achieved, the reform proposal could be brought to a final vote as early as Wednesday.

If approved, the reform bill will have to be reconciled with a proposal that passed the House of Representatives in December and was then sent to the president for his signature.

“There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of conversations,” Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, a sponsor of the bill, told reporters. “Things are going well. I hope by the end of next week it’s done.”

But on Monday, senators will still have to discuss some amendments inspired by the Greek financial crisis.

For example, an amendment offered by Republican John Cornyn of Texas would give the US representative at the International Monetary Fund the right to oppose rescue packages designed to help foreign states if there was concern that the money would never be repaid.

Another amendment would enhance the powers of the Federal Trade Commission, a body that ensures the fairness of market competition in order to enhance consumer protection.

Obama closely follows the debate. On Wednesday, he blasted an amendment offered by Republican Senator Sam Brownback that would shield automakers from scrutiny by the proposed consumer protection agency.

“We simply cannot let lobbyist-inspired loopholes and special carve-outs weaken real reform that will empower American families,” the president said, urging the Senate to continue to defeat the efforts of special interests to weaken protections for all consumers.

On Tuesday, lawmakers adopted an amendment designed to make the US Federal Reserve more transparent.


Source: SGGP