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Posts Tagged ‘reforms’

France to push G20 monetary reforms: finance minister

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2010 at 3:26 am

World Bank calls for more reforms

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Seoul Reforms Marriage-Agency Rules After Bride’s Murder

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

Within three days, a man can meet and marry the Vietnamese bride of his dream, one typical marriage agency claims. The Vietnamese woman will be faithful, submissive, between the ages of 18 and 25 and a virgin, the agency promises.

Indeed, the potential bride’s background is much better vetted than the man’s: one popular Singapore-based marriage agency will medically exam the woman to ensure she’s a virgin – once by a doctor in Vietnam and a second time in Singapore – just to be sure. Until now, that’s been business as usual in an industry that has been facilitating thousands of marriages each year in Asia since the late 1990s, forever transforming the demographics of places like Taiwan and South Korea. But last month’s brutal murder of a Vietnamese bride has caused Seoul to rethink its approach to international-marriage brokers.

In July, just eight days after Thach Thi Hoang Ngoc, 20, arrived in South Korea, her new 47-year-old husband beat and stabbed her to death. The man, it turns out, had been treated for schizophrenia at least 57 times in the past five years. He allegedly told police he had listened to a “ghost’s voice,” which had urged him to kill his wife. While men who go through marriage agencies have the opportunity to ask “an enormous number of questions” about the women they choose, the woman doesn’t get to ask questions about the man that selects her, says Andrew Bruce, a regional director at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). As a result, Ngoc was in the dark about the person she had agreed to marry. Her last words to her father were: “I will live happily,” according to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in a radio address to the nation, in which he offered his “deepest sympathy to her family.” (Read about matchmakers in China.)

Asia’s private international-marriage agencies typically take men to meet their prospective brides on a seven- to 10-day trip in the bride’s country of origin, according to a report by DaniÈle BÉlanger, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario in Population & Societies journal. Some marriage agencies, however, advertise three-day itineraries that have men finding their wife on the day they arrive. The women are presented to the men, and the process of choosing a wife often takes less than an hour. In many cases, the woman can decline a proposal, but Bruce says it’s normal for these women to be held captive until they’re selected, giving them little real choice but to accept. The whole trip, which includes a full wedding, costs the groom between $5,000 and $10,000, while the local Vietnamese brokers that recruit the brides have started charging women between $1,000 and $3,000 to be matched with a prospective husband.

Marriage-brokerage reforms have an impact beyond the thousands of couples directly involved. Arranging foreign marriages is big business. In South Korea alone, there are some 1,253 registered marriage agencies. In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, marriage migrants make up the second largest group of new immigrants behind temporary workers. In 2008, four out of every five naturalized residents in Taiwan were immigrant wives from Vietnam, and in 2009, 25,142 women went to South Korea as foreign wives. Though the number of marriages each year between a Taiwan man and a foreign spouse has decreased since Taipei cracked down on private marriage brokers in the mid 2000s, the island still had the highest proportion of marriages that involved a foreign spouse – 15% in 2009 – among countries where marriage brokers are popular. (Watch a video about Ireland’s last matchmaker.)

In South Korea, the men using these brokerages tend to be in their 30s and 40s, and are often from rural and working-class background. One survey show that more than 35% of fishermen and farmers in South Korea took foreign brides, but BÉlanger writes that societal pressure on Korean men “is so strong that it is difficult for them to remain single and childless,” and that these marriages are now starting to spread to the urban middle classes as well. And the numbers could rise. Due to sex-selective abortions in the 1980s and ’90s, the proportion of male births increased, and as this generation enters the marriage market, more men could opt for a foreign bride.

At the moment, Vietnam hasn’t made controlling this industry a priority. Though commercial marriage agencies in Vietnam are technically illegal, more than 70% of marriages between Vietnamese women and Korean men are arranged through brokers. Kang Sung Hea, the chief director of the Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women in South Korea, says the high costs of procuring a Vietnamese wife lead some Korean men and their families to feel “they have bought the women.” Kang says the primary problem with the brokerage process “is that the decision on marriage is more in the hands of Korean men rather than with the women themselves.”

In Seoul, Ngoc’s murder has spurred a flurry of reform. To give women more information, starting in November, Korean marriage brokers will need to provide the prospective brides in their own language the facts about the man’s marital status, occupation, health and criminal record. Another proposal would mandate that Korean men receive some form of pre-education before marrying. Lee Hye Kyung, a professor at Pai Chai University in South Korea, says this would give the government a chance to review the potential groom’s information in person, creating “an indirect screening system.” The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family says it will also set up a hotline for migrant women that will go live in November 2011, and that experts from the Multicultural Family Support Center will visit households with migrant wives to help the couple deal with any issues they may have.

But the debate in Korea isn’t over. Some within South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family want to ban private marriage-brokerage firms altogether, according to Lee, though she fears this would only lead to black-market matchmaking. “If all such activities go underground, they would be more difficult to control,” Lee says, potentially opening a greater market for trafficking. Trafficking for the marriage market is already a problem in Asia. In June, South Korean authorities broke up a gang that used foreign marriages to smuggle in an estimated 240 women over the past two years. In March, Cambodia even went as far as to temporarily ban marriages between South Korean and Cambodian citizens to protect its women from trafficking.

Some experts, however, caution that there’s no evidence these marriages are any more prone to abuse than regular marriages or that human trafficking through fake marriages is widespread. “In terms of domestic violence, we don’t know if it’s more prevalent in these unions,” says BÉlanger. Though most of these women dislike the quick pace of the matchmaking process, she says these women do want to get married and migrate elsewhere: “It’s very easy to say this is the selling of women, but the women are not stupid. They have agency.” Moreover, in a country like South Korea with a relatively low birthrate, an aging population and an increasing number of women choosing to stay single, this new immigrant wave represents an important demographic shift, and new marriage laws could change the makeup of the country into the future. Says BÉlanger: “There’s a lot at stake. These women are literally birthing the next generation.”

Source: SGGP

Greece will tame debt with reforms: IMF official

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Greece will overcome its huge debt crisis with its austerity plan, an IMF official said Sunday as a poll showed a majority of Greeks fear that unpopular pension reforms will be in vain.

A group of demonstrators gather in front of the Greek parliament on June 25 in Athens during a cabinet meeting to finalise changes in a controversial pension reform.

Poul Thomsen, the head of the International Monetary Fund mission dealing with Greece, told To Vima daily that Athens is making progress on its “ambitious” programme of cuts.

The cutbacks have caused labour turmoil and a series of protests across Greece, with a new general strike, the fifth since February, due to be held on Tuesday.

“Such an adjustment is not easy and often causes discontent,” Thomsen said. “This is understandable as people see things getting worse before they improve.”

But he added: “The effort has begun vigorously and I firmly believe that Greece will succeed.”

Thomsen also applauded the Greek government’s decision not to restructure its debt as this “which would entail a huge cost.”

After decades of unrestrained state spending, Greece faced bankruptcy this year with a national debt of nearly 300 billion euros (371 billion dollars).

It was rescued by a bailout loan from the European Union and the IMF for which it had to pledge a spate of deep spending cuts.

Among the measures is an overhaul of the pensions system which has eaten up vast amounts of state funds.

The government this week finalised reforms which progressively raise by 2015 the age of retirement for both men and women to 65 years for a full pension, equating the sexes for the first time.

It also increases the mandatory workforce period from 37 years to 40 years.

The new system will see an average reduction in pensions of seven percent and bonus retirement dues which pensioners used to receive for Christmas, Easter and summer vacations will be slashed.

Parliament is expected to begin debate on the reforms next week.

A poll in Proto Thema daily on Sunday showed that 64.8 percent of Greeks believe their sacrifices will not save the crumbling pensions system, which currently consumes 12 percent of national output.

The Alco poll also found that 51.1 percent of 800 respondents believe Prime Minister George Papandreou is “too submissive” towards Brussels.

Source: SGGP

After century-long fight, US enacts health reforms

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2010 (AFP) – President Barack Obama signed into law historic, sweeping reforms Tuesday that lay out health care coverage for almost every American and realize the dreams of generations of past US leaders.

“Today, after almost a century of trying, today after over a year of debate, today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America,” Obama said.

US President Barack Obama signs the health insurance reform bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AFP photo

“The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” he told a jubilant, packed audience at a White House signing ceremony.

Delighted lawmakers and guests cheered as Obama made good on his campaign vow to overhaul America’s embattled health care system, enacting a huge shift in US policy and the biggest social legislation in over four decades.

Meanwhile, the Senate began debate on a package of fixes sent by the House, with dozens of amendments to be proposed. Among the changes are canceling special agreements benefiting states like Nebraska and plans to fill the “donut hole” of Medicare health coverage for the elderly.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved the legislation that is now US law by 219-212 late Sunday, using the Democratic majority to muscle the measure through a united Republican opposition.

The 940-billion-dollar overhaul will extend coverage to some 32 million Americans who currently have none, ensuring 95 percent of under-65 US citizens and legal residents will have health insurance.

The historic signing came a century after president Theodore Roosevelt first called for a national approach to US health care, and after past leaders such as Bill Clinton tried and failed to reform the creaky, costly system.

For the first time ever, almost all Americans will be required to buy insurance or face fines. Among other key reforms, the new law bans insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, from dropping clients who get sick or from setting lifetime caps.

“You’ve made history,” Vice President Joe Biden told a beaming Obama. “Mr President, you’ve done what generations of not just ordinary, but great men and women have attempted to do.

“You have turned, Mr President, the right of every American to have access to decent health care into reality for the first time in American history.”

In the ceremonial East Room, where president Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights bill into law in 1964, a party atmosphere prevailed as euphoric Democrats gathered to witness the act, sharing hugs and slapping palms.

Among them were Vicki and Caroline Kennedy, the widow and niece of the late senator Ted Kennedy, who struggled for almost five decades to enact health care reform, the cause of his life.

Obama used some 20 different pens to sign the 2,000-plus page bill, intending to give most of them to guests and key lawmakers and administration officials as souvenirs of the momentous occasion.

The Senate is taking up changes needed to their initial legislation. It is expected to approve them separately under rules that prevent Republicans from using a filibuster to indefinitely delay and kill the measure.

But Obama still has a hard sell defending the reforms ahead of the key congressional mid-term November elections, with Republicans throwing up their arms at a legislation they say is too costly.

“We’ve heard a lot today about how historic this bill is, and it’s true,” said Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele in a statement. “It is an historic betrayal of the clear will of the American people. It is an historic loss of liberty.”

House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner lamented “a somber day for the American people.”

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN that “repeal and replace will be the slogan” for Republicans going forward.

Yet a USA Today/Gallup poll taken just after the bill’s signing found that nearly half of Americans support the landmark health care overhaul, with 49 percent of respondents saying the bill was a “good thing,” while 40 percent considered it a “bad thing.”

On Thursday, Obama takes to the road, visiting Iowa for the first in a series of campaign-style events on the bill’s behalf.

Overturning the plan is a mathematical impossibility in this election cycle as Republicans cannot win the two-thirds majority in the House and Senate needed to override Obama’s veto.

But 14 states filed lawsuits against the legislation just moments after Obama signed the bill. Idaho and Virginia have already passed laws preventing their residents from being forced to buy insurance.

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Medvedev to set out economic reforms in speech

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was expected to ramp up his drive for economic reform Thursday when he delivers an annual state of the nation speech with industry still reeling from the economic crisis.

Medvedev’s plans, which aim to trim the government role in the economy, would target Russia‘s “state corporations” — a key legacy of his Kremlin predecessor, Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev, who last month slammed state corporations as “out of control,” in August ordered audits of the conglomerates that control some of Russia’s prize industrial assets.

The probe showed state funds squandered and executives overpaid, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika reported to the Kremlin leader on Tuesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was expected to ramp up his drive for economic reform Thursday when he delivers an annual state of the nation speech with industry still reeling from the economic crisis

At that meeting, Medvedev gave the initial nod to a proposal to transform state firms set up by Putin into more transparent joint-stock companies.

Under Putin, now the prime minister, Russia created an array of state champions to spur growth in sectors such as car manufacturing, aviation, nanotechnology, nuclear energy and arms building.

But analysts say the opaque structure of such firms has given immense powers to Putin associates like Sergei Chemezov, head of the Russian Technologies conglomerate, and attempts to rein them in have led nowhere so far.

Medvedev has said he would discuss measures to increase accountability and transparency at state corporations in his state-of-the-nation speech, his second since taking office in March 2008.

In a much-discussed article seen as a preview of Thursday’s speech, Medvedev lashed out at his country’s economic backwardness and corruption, while urging Russians to drink less.

“Bribery, thievery, mental and spiritual laziness, drunkenness are sins insulting our traditions,” Medvedev wrote in the article published on the liberal news website in September.

Russia’s pre-crisis prosperity was built on high oil prices and surging capital inflows, which powered a decade of steady growth of 7.0-8.0 percent annually.

But the crisis and an ensuing plunge in oil prices has highlighted the need to diversify Russia’s economy, the World Bank said Tuesday. The bank predicted a steep contraction in gross domestic product of 8.7 percent in 2009 and very weak recovery in 2010.

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