CUTS IN MEDIA-2005
Who has the medicines?
Some leaders are having wrong expectations
of NEPAD – Deyell
CUTS bags WTO project
Good Economics is Good Politics-
Private sector’s failed
to use COMESA
of Domestic Child Workers
22, 2005, The Statesman
A World Health Organisation (WHO)-funded study on the availability of essential medicines at state government hospitals across seven districts of West Bengal including Kolkata has found that only one-third of the core list of essential medicines of WHO are available at public hospitals.
Funded by WHO and Health Action International (HAI) and authored by Dr Santanu Tripathi, medical superintendent of SSKM Hospital, Dr Avijit Hazra, department of pharmacology, SSKM and Mr Dalia Dey of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) among others, the survey found that only seven of the 21 drugs identified by WHO as essentials were available at the public hospitals of the state. Thirty two medicines (of which 21 are from the core list of the WHO/HAI methodology), were surveyed in 26 public organisations including rural hospitals and 35 private retail outlets spread over Kolkata and six other districts of West Bengal. Out of the 32 medicines surveyed, only 13 were available at the public hospitals surveyed that included four city-based hospitals — SSKM, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, NRS Medical College and Hospital and Sambhunath Pandit Hospital.
Of the 13 (of the 32) essential medicines available, only amoxicillin 250 mg tablets/capsules showed over 90 per cent availability. Only four of the seven anti-bacterials were available. Isosorbide dinitrate, a very cheap emergency medicine for acute anginal attacks, was not available. The treatment of epilepsy would not be possible at public hospitals as neither phenytoin nor carbamazepine (or for that matter, other antiepileptics) were available. Diazepam tablets too were missing. There were no inhalers for asthmatics and also no drugs to calm acutely agitated psychiatric patients.
“The WHO/HAI manual provides a core list of 30 medicines. However, nine core medicines were removed from the survey because of known limited availability in West Bengal. As WHO/HAI methodology provides for inclusion of supplementary medicines reflecting local morbidity patterns, we included 11 medicines, which meant that 32 medicines in all were surveyed,” Mr Dalia Dey, one of the members of the survey team, told The Statesman.
The survey also found that medicines were readily
available from private retail counters, but this comes at a price
higher than international reference prices. Standard treatments
are mostly affordable, provided that the earning member of a family
draws minimum daily wages at rates specified by the government,
the survey ruled.
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December 28, 2005, The Hindu
The Minister for Commerce, Mr Kamal Nath and his team fielded a good show at the Hong Kong Ministerial.
The much-awaited World Trade Organisation's Hong Kong Ministerial, as part of the Doha Development Round, has come and gone. And what has been the outcome? Did the developing countries get anything out of it? There is much debate on what the Commerce Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, brought back from Hong Kong.
Left leaders Prakash Karat and Anil Biswas were quoted by a daily rating Mr Kamal Nath's performance as `Good', and India's role as positive. "It is true that all our demands are not met. But, given the present situation of the trade talks, it would not have been possible for the Government of India to do much better than what it did at Hong Kong," according to the leaders. That was indeed generous, given that the Left has been attacking both the WTO and the Congress for its globalisation policies. This, in all probability, indicates that when the matter is debated in Parliament the Left has no intentions of attacking the UPA Government.
"Laddoos and jalebis for Kamal Nath" wrote Dr Pradeep Mehta of CUTS, who was part of the official Indian delegation to the Hong Kong ministerial, in a business daily. "We need to encourage Nath and his team of bureaucrats, rather than run them down. They are fully conscious of the bigger goal of protecting our farmers and achieving the goal of development not only for India but also for the whole South," he went on.
Not much of a difference between the perception of the Left and that of the NGOs.
The performance of Mr Kamal Nath and his team can be judged by what was brought back for India at the end of six days of strenuous and acrimonious negotiations.
The ministerial negotiations had several aspects. But the key was, of course, agriculture. Team Kamal Nath had a very limited representation of the Agriculture Ministry. But, then, with agriculture's contribution to GDP down to 21 per cent, it no more presents the same interest as it did during the Uruguay Round, even though it sustains 70 per cent of the country's population.
The limited advance in the negotiations on the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) should not weigh disproportionately on one's judgment about what India, as a whole, really gained. The country has much larger interests in the industry and services sectors and inter-sector trade-offs are the reality of the day.
As to what India gained from Hong Kong Ministerial, the answer will obviously depend on one's perception of the interests of India as also the expectations one had about the outcome.
If one expected that because of the emphasis on the development aspects in this Round, the richer countries would make all the concessions, obviously that did not happen. True, the Hong Kong Declaration assures that the Green Box would be passed in review; that there would be a safe box for the food-aid receiving countries, and that the developing countries would have greater latitude in listing the special products. But the fact remains that the rich countries have not made any concessions on the domestic support in agriculture. Even the export subsidies are to be abolished according to a calendar that suits the European Union.
Those who thought that they would get all the concessions from the United States and would not have to make any to Bangladesh in the matter of trade in garments would also be disappointed. Nationalist protectionism invariably has double standards. Its expectations are bound to be frustrated in any trade talks.
But no one really expected any significant advance at Hong Kong. In fact, most knowledgeable people knew that there would be a further round of talks, in the near future. That has happened. The new modalities are to be negotiated in another four months. That is rather an ambitious time schedule. But it at least shows the sincerity of the negotiators.
There is reason to be happy that Hong Kong was an improvement over the Cancun ministerial. In that there is a common ministerial declaration. The WTO has survived in spite of the verbal tirades and violent protests on the streets of Hong Kong. The ministers have succeeded in moving towards enunciating certain principles and the work programme for future action.
The dominant factor at Hong Kong was the consciousness of "the cost of failure". If the ministerial had collapsed as in Cancun, that would have been an irretrievable setback for the WTO. Both the OECD and the developing countries were well aware of this reality. Similarly, everyone was aware of the fact that no agreement could be arrived at Hong Kong and that they were to use the occasion for voicing their concerns.
India had played a major role in organising the Group of 20 at Cancun. At Hong Kong, a strong bridge was built between the G-20 and the G-110 that represents the developing and the least developed countries. After the joint meeting of the G-110 and the European Union, it was clear to all that the poorer countries were in no mood to give any thing way without a stiff resistance. Mr Kamal Nath played a major role by becoming a prominent interlocutor for the group. It is the consolidation of the G-110 and the G-20 that forced the European Union to make a major concession on export subsidies on the very last day.
The Hong Kong Ministerial has kept the hope alive. If it took 60 years for the GATT (General Agreement of Trade and Tariffs) to blossom into the WTO, the WTO agreements will take a much shorter period to bring in a world, if not sans frontiers, at least with minimal barricades.
Nothing palpably concrete came out of the Hong Kong Ministerial. So, it would be wrong to deride or play up Mr Kamal Nath's role.
After the Doha conference there was a stalemate. The Cancun ministerial failed. Mr Kamal Nath was sent as the night watchman to keep the innings going until the real stroke-play starts. The Minister (and his Team of 80) has done quite well at the crease. He should be feeling quietly confident of giving a good account of himself in four month's time.
December 23, 2005, The Hindu
The Indian delegation at the just-concluded Hong Kong World Trade Organisation Ministerial conference was better prepared than in the previous rounds, parliamentarians, cutting across political parties, said on Wednesday.
The fact that the conference did not break down was "a success in itself," they said at a meeting held here under the banner of the Parliamentarians Forum on Economic Policy Issues.
The former Maharashtra Governor and independent member of the Rajya Sabha, P. C. Alexander, said duty and quota-free market access to the least developed countries was cause for concern in India.
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December 22, 2005, ZEE News
India's policy of opening up the economy on its own and without any pressure from other countries may weaken its negotiating position at the WTO, former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha has said.
"India through its liberalization is moving forward. Our average tariffs came down to 20 per cent. However, it is feared that this autonomous liberalization will weaken our negotiating position in the WTO," he said, at a discussion under the banner of the Parliamentarians Forum on Economic Policy Issues (PAR-FORE).
Other MPs who took part in the discussions of PAR-FORE, constituted at the initiative of cuts international, were of the opinion that there has been a major change in the negotiating skills of India and other developing countries in comparison to the Uruguay round of GATT.
Sinha said, India was now better organised than the previous rounds.
"As the negotiations are getting complex
we are increasingly improving our preparedness towards negotiations.
Now, there is a greater interest both inside and outside the Parliament
on trade related matters," he said.
December 21, 2005, The Hindu Business
It has the advantage of mirroring faithfully the situation of the negotiation, not introducing through the back door convergence, which did not appear by the front door.
It has the inconvenience of mirroring faithfully the situation of the negotiation… which is 5 per cent above the July framework… 50 per cent of the road, as can be seen by the final text. This text was adopted by the General Council, which has not happened since 10 years.
On balance, I believe that, given the very short time remaining for the negotiation in 2006, a clean mirror should be the best incentive to move forward.
December 18, 2005, PTI
Expressing dissappointment over the WTO deal, leading civil society organisations today flayed the sixth WTO Ministerial declaration saying developed countries must do much more for a fair outcome.
The World Development Movement said the gains from the 2013 as the end date for elimination of export subsidies had been blown out of proportion.
"Setting the date of 2013 to end export subsidies is a symbolic gesture of marginal benefit, made ten years late," Peter Hardstaff, Head of Policy at the World Development Movement said.
Action Aid said, "poor countries cannot wait for eight years to see an end to EU's export subsidies. The offer means that yet again, minority interests are put before the needs of the majority of the world's population".
Another leading NGO Green Peace also said the agreement on 2013 as the date of elimination of export subsidies was only a symbolic gesture.
"This text is only a symbolic gesture, creating the delusion that the developed countries have given something in return for the concessions they have extracted from developing countries, " the organisation said.
CUTS International described the deal as a mixed bag and a forward movement over the July package of 2004.
December 13-19, 2005, The
What could a recovering HIV/Aids patient admitted at Kabale Hospital and a half-naked, emaciated woman standing with a loaded bowl at a relief distribution point in an Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camp in Gulu, have in common? One would say, both are overwhelmed by the predicament they are faced with and require help from outside.
Also, both are consumers: the latter is a consumer of aid (mainly from the USA) and the former is a healthcare consumer fighting for dear life with help of free life-sustaining anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy accessed through a state-funded (but donor supported!) distribution programme.
And well as the above observations are correct, we may be looking at symptoms. The root cause remains concealed from ordinary eyes. It is an apparent paradox: the two people could be pawns or accidental beneficiaries in a skewed global trading system under the aegis of the Word Trade Organisation (WTO).
The system continues to lock out poor countries from partaking benefits that their rich counterparts enjoy.
With the sixth meeting of the highest decision-making body in the WTO, the Ministerial Conference, starting today in Hong Kong, China, its time to take stock of where we stand in the global trading system.
Like the Cancun (Mexico) Ministerial meeting, the Hong Kong summit is already widely seen as a likely flop.
For a decade now, grim-faced developing countries have waited to smile. The emotional feeling has been motivated by expectations that efforts aimed at regulating world trade, under the WTO, would enable poor countries to reap from a rules-based trading system. Their dreams are yet to turn into reality.
According to the Draft Ministerial Text (DMT), the beef is mainly around trade liberalisation - agriculture and non-agricultural products. Other issues include; trade facilitation, special and differential treatment (a kind of affirmative action to poor countries), trade and environment, Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) and public health.
However, in a pre-conference analysis, renowned consumer activists and WTO critics, Pradeep S. Mehta and Pranav Kumar, maintain that progress on all these issues is highly dependent upon substantial movement on the core issues of trade liberalisation, particularly agriculture.
The main additional issues at Hong Kong will include trade and aid for trade.
But let us see how the victims at Kabale and Gulu fit into the picture. First, availability of free ARVs came about after immense pressure from an increasingly powerful civil society lobby interspersed with a few feeble public sector voices from poor countries.
The picketing of civil society melted the hitherto
strong resistance against relaxing the global intellectual property
(IP) regime through lacing it with a humanitarian appeal. They
discussed figures reflecting that every year, millions of poor
people die of malaria, Aids, TB, diarrhoea among other ailments,
for lack of basic drugs.
Universal compliance with TRIPS meant that cheap generic drugs would disappear from drugstore shelves and community health facilities like the one at Kabale. This appeared to pierce the hearts of the rich countries.
Accordingly, during the Doha Round of the WTO trade negotiations, poor countries were given a lifeline: compliance with TRIPS was pushed up to 2016 (in case of pharmaceuticals). But given a second look, it was a convenient trade-off; to contain noise and attention from the more contentious negotiations on agriculture trade, the broad area under which we shall later examine the woman from the IDP in Gulu.
International trade data suggests that the multi-billion dollar global pharmaceuticals industry can at most get a tiny scratch when the status quo prevailed for a while. Africa's share in the pharmaceuticals market is an insignificant 1 percent; even when the other developing countries are considered (minus India, china and Brazil), the figures remain in single digit.
And how does the IDP fit into the picture of global trade? International aid programmes, it is widely observed, are a conduit for off-loading surplus production from agricultural giants, the USA and the EU. Highly subsidised, yet employing a tiny fraction, the developed country agricultural steamroller continues to stifle poor countries' efforts to compete favourably and access markets. This costs jobs, threatens food security, sovereignty and upsets prudential fiscal planning.
Of course Pascal Lamy's WTO was not even established when the 20-year civil war in northern Uganda started. Neither is the organisation and the system it nourishes directly behind the high HIV/Aids infection rates in poor developing countries, including Uganda.
But let us peer a little further. If the global pharmaceutical industry was not motivated by the huge profits partly buttressed by the prevailing patent regime, perhaps several manufacturers could have been humane enough and dedicated a substantial part of their research and development budgets to finding a cure for malaria, HIV/Aids and the other 'diseases of the poor.'
Moved by pictures depicting malnutrition and despondency in Africa as is often relayed on network TV channels, the rich countries would, through their respective agricultural policies, protect the livelihood of over 70 percent of the wretched people in poor countries who entirely depend on agriculture. That has been the long held story.
Yet, against the above common wisdom, the World Food Programme last week threw a spanner in the works: the global food aid agency suggested that food aid consumers and poor farmers are simply being used as pawns by poor countries to drum up reforms that would win them badly needed concessions from their developed counterparts.
The agency said the global humanitarian food aid system and trade are two separate things and should not be fused during the negotiations.
With this ammunition, the developed world should step to the new battlefront with fresh blood. Like renowned Kenyan activist Oduor Ongwen said recently, international trade is like war; one has to fight to retain ground, while making efforts to capture some more.
I should add that in this perpetual war, the consumer could conveniently be taken as prisoner of war, or might suffer the fate of the grass (denoted in a common cliché), depending on what side he/she is found whenever fresh battles breakout.
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December 15, 2005, The Himachal Times
Farmers must have their say on the question of sharing the natural resources preserved by them over hundreds of years. This was emphasized at a capacity building workshop organized in Dehradun by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Calcutta and the Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) Dehradun.
In the context of WTO, the question of prior informed consent of the farmers and the principals of benfit sharing by them with any external individual, institution or organization has become extremely important. Vijay Kumar Dhaundiyal, additional secretary, Minster of Agriculture, Government of Uttaranchal, inaugurated the workshop.
In his keynote address, SMA Kazmi described the plight of farmers in the mountain regions of the country, especially in the central Himalayas, inspite of the extremely rich natural resources of the region, and their profound traditional knowledge in this regard. He observed that the WTO regime has put intense pressure on our government to do away with all kind subsidies and determined by the developed countries regarding agriculture seeds, crops etc.
Among the other speaks and participants Shishir Prashant, Dr. Ghayur Alam, Director Centre for Sustainable Development, Dehradun, discussed briefly the basic issue concerning WTO and its pros and cons in respect of the farmers and their rights.
Kunwar Prasun of “Beej Bachao Andolan” from Tehri Garhwal shared elaborately the traditional knowledge and practices of the farmers of Garhwal Himalayas, which are now increasingly threatening by the tendencies of monoculture.
A large number of farmers and NGO functionaries from different parts of Garhwal participated in the day long discussion.
Many of them raised a number of relevant questions and gave their observations and perception about the external interventio0ns and the extremely inadequate role of the government. Prof Nabin Sen of the Calcutta University wrapped up the workshop.
December 10, 2005, The Hindu
A "Parliamentarians' Forum on Economic Policy Issues", comprising 45 members of various parties, has been launched here.
Meant to be a bipartisan platform to address economic issues, it has been set up by CUTS International, a research, advocacy and networking group, working on policy issues.
The MPs, who were present at the launch, felt that India needed a stronger regulatory framework and that regulators should be made accountable to Parliament instead of to ministries.
December 09, 2005, Dainik Bhaskar
December 09, 2005, Rajasthan Patrika
December 05, 2005, THE POST
ZAMBIA needs to identify and implement national agricultural projects if she is to benefit from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) it has been observed.
Stakeholders at a recent workshop on NEPAD agriculture programmes organized by PELUM Association Zambia, and Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) agreed that the country currently had scanty benefits from the continental initiative.
They identified projects deemed relevant under NEPAD, which they recommended Zambia to pursue.
These include capacity building for small-scale farmers on the use of land and water systems, construction and improvement of rural road network, fish farming and fish conservation, rice growing, sugar cane growing and processing, cassava project in all rainfall regions, constructing and renovation of existing dams and the development of agriculture market information systems.
The stakeholders noted the importance of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the need to streamline it into national policy in order to promote agriculture in Zambia.
The vision for agriculture is embedded under CAADP, which is sanctioned on four pillars. These are : extending the area under sustainable land management And reliable water control system, improving rural infrastructure and market access, including inputs and finance, increasing food supply and reducing hunger and agriculture research and technology.
The stakeholders observed that the dependence of most Zambian farmers on seasonal rainfall has contributed to food insecurity in the nation, in instances of late rains or droughts.
They recommended the encouragement of water harvesting technologies and the promote irrigation to encourage productiveness, throughout the year.
However, they noted that a major constraint to the use of modern irrigation techniques was electricity, of which is concentrated along the line of rail to the disadvantage of small scale farmers.
They recommended that electricity should also be taken to rural areas.
The stakeholders also identified the problems pertaining to market access, including inputs and finance.
They said there was inadequate transportation facilities to enable agriculture products access the domestic markets, which was worsened by the absence of market information.
They said this situation resulted in farmers selling produce at a price below the production costs.
They recommended that in order for farmers to realize profits from agriculture produce it is important that they are provided with a well net worked transportation system, which will provide efficiency and reduce the cost of production.
December 03, 2005, Asia Times
Ask Sompal Chaudhuri, a farmer in western Uttar Pradesh, what he thinks of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and he will tell you that those three letters, in a language he does not understand, have something to do with dwindling demand for the mustard oil seed he grows.
Beyond that, WTO, or for that matter the whole alphabet soup of acronyms - TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights), TRIMS (trade-related investment measures), NAMA (non-agricultural market access), ROO (rules of origin), ATC (Agreement on Textiles and Clothing), GATS (general agreement on trade in services) and SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) - make no sense whatever.
"I just hope that our babus [bureaucrats] understand these things and get us a better deal, but it seems they know little about farming and have even less interest in trade," he said.
"The complexities of the WTO are not understood even by well-educated individuals," said Pradeep S Mehta, secretary general of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International, a research and advocacy-oriented non-governmental organization (NGO) based in the Indian city of Jaipur and specializing in World Trade Organization issues.
Mehta recalled an instance when a senior civil servant from the government of India asked him what the word "acquis" meant. "I, too, was frankly stumped," said Mehta, explaining the word could not be located in a dictionary of legal terms. "Eventually we discovered that acquis is a French word referring to the total body of law in the European Union that has been cumulatively assembled so far."
It is on such shaky terminological grounds that the futures of large numbers of people - some 800 million farmers, artisans and industrial workers in India alone - are going to be decided, thanks to the regulations they seek for movement of their goods and services across international boundaries.
But the jargon is unavoidable, Mehta said. Each
discipline demands expertise and deals with subjects that are
inherently complex, even esoteric, and cannot be simplified beyond
"Jargon is inevitable," said economist Bibek Debroy, who has authored and edited eight books on WTO-related subjects since 1992. "But there would be no contradiction if one simultaneously argues that there is a strong case for simplifying trade-related issues for a wider audience."
Take the noun "non-paper", which sounds like an oxymoron (a word or phrase that is apparently incongruous or contradictory), but is often used as a diplomatic technique.
In the WTO, when a country presents a non-paper it means its government has made a certain submission during negotiations or discussions to which it is not bound. In other words, a so-called non-paper contains a specific viewpoint of a government at a particular juncture that could change subsequently.
Biswajit Dhar, professor at the Centre for WTO Studies at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade in New Delhi, is of the view that excessive use of jargon at the WTO often mystifies the real issues and concerns of large numbers of people.
"Developed countries make attempts to have their way in trade negotiations by using words and phrases that cannot be easily comprehended by representatives of less-developed countries," Dhar said.
He pointed out that many of the 148 member countries of the WTO do not have the resources and experts to study and understand the complex factors that determine the direction and flow of world trade. Therefore, they cannot participate in negotiations as equals.
For example, developed countries have succeeded in imposing stringent intellectual property rights on pharmaceutical products and food safety standards on items exported by developing countries, Dhar said, adding that this effectively deprives these countries of easy access to the markets of wealthy nations.
Mehta is of the view that it is not easy to simplify the nitty-gritty of trade rules without making them overly simplistic. "Four years ago, we translated a book on GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the WTO] from English to Hindi and had found the going extremely difficult."
Even the title of the CUTS publication "Unpacking the GATT" had to be translated to "GATT ke rahasya", which literally means "Mysteries of the GATT".
Debroy thinks the Indian government is doing much more than it did in the past to make its position on WTO issues public by providing more information on its websites.
As executive head of a powerful Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi, he said industry associations needed to go beyond large cities and reach out to people in small towns, adding that the business media in India often did not explain issues - for example, what the "Swiss formula" on farm subsidies implied.
Civil society organizations are perhaps best placed to explain the implications of WTO regulations to ordinary people, Debroy feels. He added a caveat that NGOs should differentiate between facts and opinion, news and views - which, in his opinion, they sometimes do not.
All stakeholders must consciously start addressing the deficit in communications as far as the WTO is concerned, Dhar said. "Lack of clarity on trade-related issues leads to a lot of misunderstanding and even the spread of falsehoods."
The WTO is often unfairly portrayed as the villain or is held responsible for all kinds of ills of developing countries, including the fact thousands of farmers have committed suicide in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh - a state that has taken heartily to globalization - because of their inability to repay loans.
"Even if some of us are of the view that the WTO system has so far tended to benefit the developed world rather than developing countries, my opinion would be a bit more nuanced," Dhar said.
The Geneva-based international body still has the potential to uphold the interests of developing countries and play an important balancing role in rapidly expanding global trade, he said.
But if it is serious about that role, it could
start ensuring that the representatives of less-developed countries
are suitably empowered to negotiate with officials of developed
countries who are better acquainted with the intricacies of WTO
negotiations - as well as the jargon deployed by them, Dhar said.
November 30, 2005, THE POST
SOME African leaders have been having wrong expectations of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Canadian High Commissioner John Deyell has observed.
During a workshop on NEPAD agriculture activities at Chrismar Hotel yesterday, High Commissioner Deyell said many African presidents have been complaining that NEPAD is not delivering according to what they expected it to deliver.
They complain that many infrastructure development progammes are not financed under NEPAD. There has been disillusionment that huge government-funded infrastructure programmes are not funded from NEPAD funds. It is a wrong expectation. I am not sure that is what NEPAD promised to deliver.” He said.
High Commissioner Deyell said NEPAD’s emphasis was putting in place a good governance mechanism to attract private sector Investment.
He said some countries had already started benefiting from it.
“The emphasis was on regional cooperation and it is bearing fruit for Zambia,” he said.
Referring to the Zambia/Namibia Bridge, the proposed Zambia/Botswana Bridge and Zambia/Malawi railway line, High Commissioner Deyell said such infrastructure programmes were in the spirit of NEPAD.
“I don’t see why African leaders are complaining.” he said.
He said NEPAD provides one of those Pan-African frame-works, which is capturing world attention very effectively.
He, however, said NEPAD would mean nothing until Individual countries picked it up, people understood it and consequently put pressure on their governments to start living up to the principles of NEPAD.
The dialogue that happens between African leaders and the developed world started in 2001 in the context of GS and issues of Africa have been put forward at various fora. The principles that attracted world leaders were two: The admission that Africa was responsible for its own destiny and that Africans would hold each other accountable for good governance.” He said.
The workshop, organized by Participatory Ecological Land-Use Management (PELUM) association and Consumer Unity and Trust Society – Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC), is being held as activity under the partnership project titled: Information-based Advocacy, Networking, and Capacity Building on NEPAD in Zambia, supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The workshop, aims at integrating NEPAD agriculture programmes into the National Development Plan, and build capacity among development actors from both civil society and government to have a comprehensive understanding of the NEPAD agricultural programmes.
PELUM board chairperson Jonathan Chisaka said the workshop was another voice to enhance agriculture.
Chisaka said the agricultural sector was facing massive problems and that certain problems such as weather pattern changes are beyond human capacity.
“But there are things humans can put in place to ensure that they solve these problems. We can direct our energies to solve those problems. We hope we will tap what NEPAD has to offer in terms of agriculture, he said.
Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR) director Fr Peter Henriot said agriculture was essential to Zambia’s development considering its impact on feeding people, providing employment and exports.
Fr Henriot said it was relieving that agriculture featured so well, at least in words, in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme and the National Development Plan.
November 29, 2005, HT Live
To make governance, institutional strengthening and infrastructural development key elements for development and poverty reduction in developing countries, experts felt that emphasis needs to be laid on trade liberalisation and other trade reforms.
Supporting the theme, Cuts international in cooperation with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINBUZA) organised a Symposium titled ‘Exploring Linkages between Trade, Development and Poverty Reduction,’ in Geneva recently.
Participants included representatives from many European development ministries, developing country WTO missions, UNCTAD, UNDP, World Bank, and academic and civil society organisations from across Africa, Asia and Europe, where the project is being implemented.
Opening the conference, CUTS secretary general, Pradeep S Mehta gave an overview of the project’s objectives – gathering new insights into trade linkages, poverty reduction and communicating these to national and international policy-makers so that trade policy responds to the needs of the poor. Illustrating the project’s importance by quoting from a recent dialogue in China where a participant stated, “we understand the linkages between trade, development and poverty in our country better than they (global policy-makers) do.”
UNCTAD, Division on International Trade in Goods, Services and Commodities, director; Lakshmi Puri said initiatives like it were ‘vital to giving marginalised groups in developing countries a voice to advocate the type of reforms that will empower them to develop secure livelihoods”.
Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, director general, Anders Ahnlid, spoke on the importance of ‘development’ in taking forward Doha round of trade talks.
In the first session, the discussions focussed on how the project can develop synergy with other relevant initiatives taking place in the project countries.
Margaret Chemengich from Kenyan Ministry of Trade said, “Although improvements were made in developing electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, access to this is still prohibitively expensive to many of the poor in Kenya”.
A Uganda-based consultant, Alexander Werth said, a recent study he undertook “found that a wide range of trade related technical assistance (TRTA) projects supported by global donors lack domestic ownership and are directed by a donor led-agenda that is often unresponsive to priorities of the developing countries receiving the support”.
He added “more needs to be done to engage
civil society organisations in the debate surrounding the TRTA
design interventions so that they respond to the people’s
needs at the grassroots level.” World Bank, International
Trade Department, senior advisor, Carlos Braga expressed concern
that international donors are failing to co-ordinate their TRTA
activities with each other and those being undertaken by developing
countries. These reforms should be co-ordinated with national
development strategies to ensure domestic ownership, he stressed.
Sustainable Development policy Institute in Pakistan, assistant
Executive president Dr. Abid Suleri, emphasised the need for nations
supplying aid to support trade expansion, to respond coherently
to these challenges.
November 22, 2005, Star Business
A two-day national consultation on regional economic cooperation in South Asia began yesterday in Dhaka. The consultation was organised to engage stakeholders' participation in regional trade initiatives and promote policy response.
Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury formally inaugurated the consultation, jointly organised by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), NGOs Unnayan Shammannay, CUTS International and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.
Inaugurating the consultation, the commerce minister said, "I hope under the umbrella of Saarc all member countries can reap benefits from implementation of mutually beneficial action plans."
Replaying to a query, the minister said South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) should be implemented from January 1, 2006. However, he said, if the contentious issues are not resolved by December this year, the Committee of Experts may be given another three months to resolve the issues.
Chairman of Unnayan Samunnay Atiur Rahman said without a serious political will it is not possible to resolve the barriers in implementing SAFTA.
He also urged the SAARC member countries to allow South Korea to be an observer in the SAARC to expedite the regional trade.
Speaking at the function, FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain said South Asian countries should take measures for removing administrative and regulatory constraints to boost investment between themselves.
FBCCI Second Vice-president Dewan Sultan Ahmed and Policy Analyst of CUTS Pranav Kuman also spoke at the function.
November 22, 2005, United News of Bangladesh
Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury yesterday deplored that the SARRC could not achieve any remarkable work for development for its members in the last two decades.
"We humbly agree that though 20 years have passed since the launching of SAARC, not much remarkable work for the development of the SAARC member countries could be accomplished," the minister said at the inaugural session of 'National Consultation on Regional Economic Cooperation in South Asia' in Dhaka.
But the Commerce Minister highlighted the success of the 13th summit of the seven-member regional body held in Dhaka early this month. The summit, he said, was an opportune occasion to draw up a roadmap for regional cooperation in South Asia for the next decade.
"I firmly believed that the 13th SAARC Summit provided an important vision to find new avenue for meaningful cooperation as well as to face the common challenges of globalization and the disastrous impact of natural calamities," Altaf said.
Organised jointly by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Unnayan Shamannay and Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Centre for International Trade, Economic and Environment (CUTS-CITEE), the function at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel was chaired by Dr. Atiur Rahman of Unnayan Shamannay.
FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain also spoke in the occasion.
The commerce minister said that SAARC heads of State and Government have declared the Decade of 2006-2015 as SAARC decade of Poverty Alleviation. "I strongly feel that we need to work collectively for successful implementation of this decision," he said.
Altaf Hossain expressed that hope that under the umbrella of SAARC all member countries could reap the benefits equitably by implementing the mutually beneficial action plans. Later, the Commerce Minister told reporters that apart from revenue loss compensation the SAARC leaders had reached a consensus on the SAFTA.
Speaking on the occasion, Atiur Rahman said despite many uncertainties, there was no doubt that high hopes have been raised by the leaders of South Asia with regard to implementation of the promises they had been making for the last two decades.
"The realisation by the South Asian Leaders that the 'business as usual' will not work and that SAARC will have to rise up to the expectations of the one and a half billion people, 40 per cent of whom are, in fact, poor indeed commendable," he said.
He, however, said that the weak secretariat of SAARC has not been able to exploit the meetings of the South Asian leaders gainfully. "This has been reflected in the sad reality of the very precarious living conditions of at least 600 million poor living in South Asia," he said, adding South Asia is still the hot spot of poverty and hence terrorism.
FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain said that it was now the duty both at government and business level to devise appropriate tools that would bring about the desired economic development through trade and investment. He said called for immediate negotiation on SAFTA for its timely launching.
In this context the FBCCI leader referred to
outstanding issues of Rules of Origin (RoO), trade facilitation
measurers, mechanisms including trade promotion measurers for
compensation of revenue loses, harmonisation of standards and
customs regulations, finalisation of sensitive list and technical
assistance for capacity building.
November 22, 2005, The Financial Express
Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury said that the time for resolving contentious issues ahead of the implementation of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) could be extended beyond December, the deadline set for launching of body.
“The Committee of Experts (CoE) will be given three more months after December if they fail to complete negotiations towards launching of SAFTA by December, he said.
The minister was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of a two-day national consultation on “Regional economic Cooperation in South Asia”
The consultation was jointly organised by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Unnayan Shamannay and Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Centre for International Trade, Economic and Environment (CUTS-CITEE) India. The preliminary session was also addressed by FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain, noted economist and Unnayan Shamannay chief Dr. Atiur Rahman, and Pranav Kumar, a policy analyst of CUTS.
SAFTA must be implemented through removing the existing tariff, non-tariff and para-tariff barriers, the commerce minister said.
He said dumping and antidumping issues, revenue losses, compensation package, negative lists; rules of origin and other related matters should also be addressed.
He said, “ The main focal point of the 13th SAARC summit was to settle some unsettled issues SAFTA implementation. The seven leaders have made a remarkable headway in this regard. Now we need a declaration before the World Trade Organisation’s next round of talks in Hong Kong about the access of our goods to developed and developing countries’ market including India.”
Identifying SAFTA implementation as a probable remedy for reducing the yawning trade gap among the SAARC countries he said: There should not be any further delay in reaching consensus on implementation of SAFTA.
Atiur Rahman said: “The volume of intra-regional trade is still less than five percent of the global trade compared with 29 percent among ASEAN countries and 63 percent in the EU. To enhance trade volume among the SAARC countries a strong political will is necessary as most of contentious issues can be resolved if the political leaders come to a consensus.”
In an era of growing economic integration across the world the SAFTA implementation can open up windows of opportunity for the poverty-stricken and disaster-prone people of this region, Atiur said.
He said the harsh reality is that 600 million poor are living in South Asia having no access to sufficient food, nutrition, safe and pure drinking water and quality primary education.
FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain said: “Flexible rules of origin with lower value addition criteria may pave the way for expanding the local export basket and reducing the existing trade imbalance.”
UNB adds: Commerce Minister regretted that the SARRC could not achieve any remarkable work for development for its members in the last two decades.
"…although 20 years have passed since the launching of SAARC, not much remarkable work for the development of the SAARC member countries could be accomplished," he said.
But the Commerce Minister highlighted the success of the 13th summit of the seven-member regional body held in Dhaka early this month. The summit, he said, was an opportune occasion to draw up a roadmap for regional cooperation in South Asia for the next decade.
"I firmly believed that the 13th SAARC Summit
provided an important vision to find new avenue for meaningful
cooperation as well as to face the common challenges of globalization
and the disastrous impact of natural calamities," Altaf said.
November 14, 2005, Western Times
The idea to have a National Competition Policy for India is good, and the Planning Commission will take up this policy issue in its approach paper for the 11th Five-Year Plan, observed Anwarul Hoda, Member, Planning Commission. Hoda was commenting on a presentation on National Competition Policy for India made by Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International at the Yojana Bhavan on Friday 11 November.
The suggestion to do a competition audit (assessment) of all government policies and practices on the touchstone of competition principles is worthwhile, observed Hoda.
Mehta, in his presentation, outlined the need for a National Competition Policy to provide a declared intent to the government’s resolve of promoting competition in the market. India has been following market-oriented economic reforms for over a decade, but government policies continue to be framed and implemented without acknowledging the market process. Mehta gave several examples of government policies and practices that thwart the market process.
The guiding principles to formulate policies and practices in a liberalised regime are missing, observed Mehta. He outlined nine principles of Competition Policy to fill the policy vacuum, and rationalise the role of the government (Centre as well as States).
Officers from the Ministry of Company Affairs, Department of Economic Affairs, Planning Commission, and the Competition Commission of India (CCI), attended the presentation.
Welcoming the need for a National Competition Policy for India, V.K. Dhall, Member, CCI, observed that besides ensuring efficiency and thereby sustained economic growth, a well articulated competition policy would also serve to enhance consumer welfare.
The process of liberalisation and deregulation are incomplete without a competition policy, and there is a need for a larger policy framework to guide the formulation and implementation of government policy, observed Dr Suman Bery, Director-General, NCAER.
Prof TCA Anant from the Delhi School of Economics observed that the nine principles would serve as a good touchstone for framing and harmonizing the various government policies. Anant added that competition is not the ultimate goal, and there may be justified deviations from the competition policy principles. However, it is important to notify and publicly justify such deviations. Hoda concurred with this view.
October 31, 2005, The Hindu Business Line
CUTS International, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has been awarded the project to conduct a strategic review of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) trade-related technical assistance programme, according to a release.
CUTS would conduct this review in partnership with the Argentina-based Latin American School of Social Science (FLASCO) and the Canada based North-South Institute over the next six months, the release added.
October 25, 2005, DNA
This must be a bitter pill to swallow, but there is a connection between your food habits and the drugs you take. Did you know that the bitter gourd which you relish so much can heighten the effect of diabetes medicine and lower your blood sugar to dangerous levels? Or that soyabeans and cabbage can worsen goitre (an iodine-deficiency disorder)? Or you should avoid tea or coffee while taking a course of ciprofloxacin (an antibiotic).
Particularly vulnerable are elderly and children, and those who suffer from diseases of the liver, kidney, gastro-intestinal tract, cancer. It is also applicable for individuals whose normal diet is not healthy and balanced.
These and much more are highlights of the Food-Drug Interaction chapter of a Patient Information Manual (PIM), which the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) released in Mumbai recently.
The 40-page manual was prepared by a team of Kolkata-based doctors including Dr Krishnangshu Roy, Dr Himangshu Roy, Dr P K Sarkar and Dr T K Chattaraj with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) India office and that of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
“We have noticed a few instances but they are not very common. Mostly the reaction is detected before it becomes a crisis,” said Dr Jyoti Taskar, a family physician practising in South Mumbai.
“One instance that comes to mind is the adverse effect of eating cheese or milk products while taking anti-depressant drugs. We always warn such patients,” said Dr Vijay Panjabi, a senior family physician practising on Napean Sea Road.
The new volume also advises consumers to avoid
allopathic and herbal medicines simultaneously.
The same chapter also points to the fact that Isabgol husk, which is often recommended for constipation, could retard the efficacy of iron and calcium and result in a deficiency of these minerals.
Similarly, liquorice which people use frequently
for treating cough does not go well with cardiovascular drugs
and this may even result in some form of chronic heart failure.
October 07, 2005, Dainik Bhaskar
October 07, 2005, The Western Times, Ahmedabad
Most of the people has viewed that Central United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is working satisfactorily but government has not completely succeeded in implementing the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). For this, non-cooperation among various parties in the alliance is the major factor.
These results have emerged out of the survey conducted by the Jaipur based consumer advocacy group ‘Consumer Unity and Trust Society’ (CUTS) in order to evaluate the overall performance of the UPA government and efforts made for solving various burning problems related to the common man. The results are based on the views expressed by the residents located in different parts of Rajasthan State. The study was conducted in all the 32 districts of Rajasthan.
As per the results of the survey, 29.20 percent people have the feeling that the UPA government is working in the right direction, whereas 41.26 percent people say it is partly on the right path. However, rest of the people do not agree with this view. On the other hand 32.52 percent people are of the view that non-performance of the government in the right direction is mainly due to non-cooperation among various parties of the alliance. 25.52 percent people says that the government is working on the lines of the Common Minimum Programme and 46.33 percent says, government is partly performing, whereas rest do not agree with this view.
Expressing their views on the central budget for the year 2005-06, 22.20 percent says that it is as per the expectations of the common people, on the contrary 32.69 percent partly agrees with this view, whereas 36.19 percent are against this. Majority of the people have appreciated the VAT system implemented in most of the states and said that this is fruitful for the consumers but 32.52 percent of the people are against this system.
Regarding steps taken by the government for control over the prices, 45.45 percent of people were of the view that government has failed in controlling the dearness. On the other hand 28.32 percent are partly hopeful on this issue, where as only 18.36 percent are confident about the steps taken. Commenting on the foreign policy of the government 27.27 percent of the people says that the present policy is in right direction and will bring positive results. On the contrary 34.09 are partly hopeful on this issue whereas 27.28 percent are not in favour of the policy adopted by the government. With a positive view 44.41 percent of the people says Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh is successful one, 26.75 percent partly agree with this view whereas 22.73 percent do not agree to it. A question regarding completing the term of the government was asked from people. 44.93 percent are hopeful that the government will complete its term but 17.66 percent are partly hopeful, whereas 19.58 percent are not sure.
People were asked about priorities of their burning problems. In analyses, it has revealed that 100 percent of the people have given top-priority to unemployment, 99.30 percent to corruption, 98.25 percent to water, 98.08 to terrorism and the rest priorities were: hunger, law and order, increase in population, health, dearness, illiteracy and electricity.
For combating corruption people suggested for hard punishment; removal from the posts; removal of corruption from politics, judiciary and administration; strengthening the corruption controlling agencies, etc.
About achievements and deficiencies of the UPA government people have appreciated steps taken for passing employment guarantee act, control over inflation, right to women in the parental property, reducing financial deficit. On the other hand people have criticised for non-cooperation among various parties of the alliance, decreasing GDP rate, failure in combating corruption, increase in prices like petrol-diesel, electricity and other essential commodities.
October 05, 2005, New
Kerala & Webindia123.com
The availability of medicines at West Bengal government hospitals is abysmal, even for drugs that are easily available at private retail counters, says a survey by a prominent consumer rights body.
The survey by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) revealed that medicines obtained from public hospitals free of cost by poor patients are economical but the overall unavailability in this sector nullifies the advantage of free drugs.
The survey found that medicines are readily available from private retail counters but this comes at a price higher than international reference prices, with brand premium for many items.
According to the CUTS survey released in October, the availability of medicines at public facilities during the period of the survey, September to December 2004, was poor with surveyors encountering only 13 of the 32 medicines (40.6 percent) they looked for.
Only amoxicillin 250 mg tablets/capsules showed over 90 percent availability in public hospitals.
The survey found that only four of seven anti-bacterials were available. These were dismal trends for the treatment of bacterial and other infections at public hospitals, the survey said.
Isosorbide dinitrate, which is a very emergency medicine for acute anginal attacks, was not available.
The treatment of epilepsy would not be possible at public hospitals as neither phenytoin nor carbamazepine (or for that matter other antiepileptics) were available.
Diazepam tablets were missing while there were no inhalers for asthmatics and also no drugs to calm acutely agitated psychiatric patients.
The availability was adequate in the private sector, with median availability of 40 percent for IB (innovator brand or patented drugs) medicines, 70 percent for MSGs (most sold generic) and 77 percent for LPGs (lowest price generic equivalent).
Medicines for all therapeutic categories in the survey were available in the private sector, although the innovator brands may be unavailable. On the other hand there was widespread availability of generic equivalents.
"Urgent steps are needed to assess the functioning of the public procurement system for medicines in West Bengal to rectify the situation," said Dalia Dey, survey manager and one of the authors of the report, along with doctors Santanu Tripathy and Abhijit Hazra.
"Enhancing the efficiency of central medical stores public procurement mechanisms is required," said Dey.
Tripathy, author of the report and vice-principal cum superintendent of the state-run SSKM Hospital (PG) here, said: "This is a baseline survey in which we have identified the problem but not the reason. Further we need to concentrate on this specific issue only after studying the public distribution system."
"We don't have a state-level essential medicine list. We must prepare that to make our procurement more focused," he said.
The survey followed the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) methodology.
October 05, 2005, NEW AGE Business
‘Bangladesh, an LDC itself, has to pay an additional $500 million in import bill for oil, creating tremendous pressure on the balance of payments,’ he said speaking at a plenary session of the civil society forum at the Sheraton hotel in Dhaka.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue is organising the three-day International Civil Society Forum, inaugurated Monday, for advancing the LDCs interests in the Hong Kong ministerial in December.
On Tuesday representatives of local and international civil society organisations, development activists and non-governmental organisations deliberated on the Doha Development Round and working sessions on agriculture, intellectual property rights, special and differential treatment, implementation issues, and WTO rules.
‘Oil price surge has become a big shock for the LDCs in the recent times and the World Trade Organisation should address the issues for LDC interests,’ said Khosru.
He also blasted the International Financial Institutions for imposing contradictory policy prescriptions against the WTO principles in poor countries.
‘When in WTO negotiation, LDCs are exempted from the any tariff reduction commitments, the World Bank asks [Bangladesh] to cut down import tariffs and tags it with aid disbursement,’ he added.
‘Again the International Monetary Fund frequently recommends changes of interest rates that hinder entrepreneurs from making long-term investment plans,’ said Khosru.
In the session, Zambian ambassador to the WTO, Love Metsa said trade-off is possible only between countries with the same level of economic strength, ‘Else it is unfair.’
He also said the LDCs are determined to make the ministerial conference at Hong Kong a success. ‘We do not want another Cancun because it is not in our interest to have it fail.’
He, however, cautioned if countries like the United States, European Union and Japan did not move substantially towards addressing issues of LDC concern as well as developing countries, another Cancun might be witnessed in Hong Kong.
The Cancun ministerial conference held in September 2003 collapsed amid deadlocked negotiations in agriculture and four issues known as the Singapore issues.
Mesta also said capacity building and technical assistance is very important for the poor countries.
Taking part in the discussion, Pradeep Mehta of India-based Consumer Unity Trust Society said Cancun was not a failure, rather a deferred success.
‘But Hong Kong is less ambitious as nobody will give up their rights and peoples’ opinion in the respective countries are stronger,’ he added.
Mehta termed the anti-dumping mechanism as a ‘political instrument’ used against poor countries.
In another working session on WTO rules, Prabhash Ranjan of Centad, an Oxfam initiative, said anti-dumping is an economic instrument and temporary trade remedial measure, but the way it is used by developed and developing countries, anti-dumping has turned into a more political weapon.
‘India, one of the largest anti-dumping initiator, employs it for the country’s benefit. But it also abuses the instrument,’ he said.
He also said anti-dumping is biased against consumers and it is to uphold the interest of the industries anti-dumping duties are imposed against imported products.
Former commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, Bangladesh permanent representative in WTO Toufiq Ali, Debapriya Bhattacharya and Mustafizur Rahman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, were among others who spoke at the plenary sessions earlier in the day.
The speakers of different working sessions include, FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain, former commerce secretary Sayed Alamgir Farrouk Chowdhury, Mouhamet Lamine Nadiaye of Senegal, Buba Khan of Gambia and Chandrakant Patel of SEATINI.
The forum will conclude on Wednesday adopting the Dhaka Declaration.
October 03, 2005, Asian Age
According to recently published results of a survey conducted by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) and Community Development Medical Unit (CMDU), some of the big and reputed government hospitals across the state are not equipped even with drugs to combat diseases as a bacterial infection..
The survey, financed by World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI), was carried out in 26 government hospitals and 35 private clinics in Kolkata as well as seven districts including Jalpaiguri, Malda, Burdwan, West Medinipur and South 24 Parganas from September to December in 2004.
A meager 40.6 per cent or 13 of 32 drugs, used
to cure general ailments like bacterial and fungal infections,
diarrhea, epilepsy, asthma and even heart attacks, was found to
be available in the government hospitals. Reportedly, the availability
ratio was better in the private clinics in the same period. Apart
from district, sub-divisional and rural hospitals, some of the
major city based government hospitals like SSKM Hospital, Shambhunath
Pandit Hospital, NRS Hospital and RG Kar Hospi6tal featured in
thelist of surveyed hospitals. Only four out of the seven antibacterial
were available according to the reports. Medicines like Aciclovir,
Fluconazole, Sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine, used to cure bacterial
and other infections, were not available in government hospitals.
October 02, 2005, Hindustan Times
The availability of medicine at government hospitals in the city and districts is poor, says a survey conducted by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Calcutta Resource Centre and Community Development Medicinal Unit, West Bengal. Funded by the World Health Organisation, the survey was carried out in Kolkata, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Burdwan, Purulia, West Midnapore and South-24 Parganas. Only four of seven listed antibiotics were available at he hospitals while inhalers for asthma patients and drugs for psychiatric patients were hard to find.
October 01, 2005, Ajkal
September 28, 2005, Western Times, Ahmedabad
NEW DELHI, The ‘Parliamentarians’ Forum on Economic Policy Issues’, formed at the behest of five MPs cutting across party lines is gaining popularity with every passing day with more and more MPs expressing their willingness to join the forum. Already about 30 MPs from different kparties have agreed to join. The forum will be an informal and non-partisan platform to facilitate discussions among MPs on a periodic basis on core economic policy issues to accelerate consensus on both the content and process of reforms, it is being hosted by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a non-profit making and a leading civil society organization.
“….at this point of time when economic reforms are sweeping our country and globalisation has become all pervading, having a Parliamentarians Forum on economic policy issues on non-partisan lines is most appropriate and would be appreciated by one and all irrespective of what political party one belongs”, obseree M.V. Rajasekharan, Minister of State for Planning, Government of India, in a letter to join the Forum.
“….a great idea to provide Parliamentarians the forum to discussthe core economic policy issues and to arrive at consensus cutting across party line particularly in the present day economic scenario where India is on the path of emerging as an economic giant in the world”. Observed Santosh Bagrodia, M.P.and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on industry.
Yashwant Sinha of the Bhartiya Janta Party, Suresh Prabhu of the Shiv Sena, N.N. Krishnadas of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Madhusudan Mistry of the Congress, and Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress are the initiators of this Forum.
“The forum aims to discuss divergent opinions
on core economic policy issues reflected in and out of the Parliament
and the media and impart necessary information to MPs so that
debate inside could be more informed” said Pradeep S. Mehta,
Secretary General, CUTS.
September 25, 2005, The News
KARACHI: Federal Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan on Saturday called upon the business community, media and civil society to influence and pressurise the politicians to take bold steps for achieving greater regional economic cooperation in South Asia.
He was speaking at a three-day national consultation on ‘Regional Economic Cooperation in South Asia’ jointly organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) India, Sustainable Development Policy Institute Pakistan, CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment, India and Pathfinder Group of Pakistan.
The country level consultation was part of a regional project that endeavours to assess the present status of South Asia regional bloc and analyse the future prospects of economic cooperation in South Asia. This regional project undertaken by CUTS is being supported by FES India.
The Commerce Minister lauded the consultation process saying this would help engage stakeholders in regional trade initiatives and give inputs to the regional governments to move forward on having more regional trade arrangements. He said Pakistan is having negotiations to finalise free trade agreements with a number of countries. Humayun said that the visa regimes within the region, particularly between India and Pakistan, should be flexible so that it could facilitate movement of people to engage themselves into multiple businesses.
He called for a great trade potential between Pakistan and India. He specifically called upon media in South Asia to encourage their respective governments and businessmen to take the initiatives that could expand trade volume. He mentioned that Pakistan has to still give the most favoured nation status to India.
He said that the WTO is going to be a global free trade arrangement in the coming years.
Earlier, Dr Abid Qayyum Suleri of SDPI, Ikram Sehgal of Pathfinder Group, Dr Prasad P Rande of CUTS India and Kabir of FES India spoke on the initiative of having regional and national level consultations by seeking opinions of the representatives from government, media, civil society, business community and intelligentsia.
M Sulaiman while speaking on South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) said that the agreement is going to be effective in January 2006, but it does not really address India-Pakistan trade in real sense. He said that until the visa regime between India and Pakistan remains tough and the immigration process humiliating, no real growth in trade would be possible. "We need to address this first before we open up free trade," he said.
Huma Fakhar was of the view that SAFTA does not provide full benefit in terms of regional economic cooperation as it lacks services and investment sectors. She questioned how SAFTA would move forward in such an environment. She rather proposed a bilateral investment treaty between India and Pakistan.
Intervening in the discussion, Shafqat Munir, Regional Coordinator South Asia Centre for Economic Journalists, said that for an effective trade and visa regime, both India and Pakistan have to change the mindset of their establishments urging them to remove the ‘enemy image’ of each other.
"Without removing enemy image from their dictionary, they cannot move towards trade, economic cooperation and peace," he said.
Kazi Abdul Muqtadir, Abdul Rauf Shaikh and Nasreen Ali during the session on Investment and Finance said there is an enabling environment in Pakistan for investment and the economy is moving in the right direction. They said Board of Investment promotes investor friendly atmosphere in the country. Dr Abid Suleri, Dr Sajajd Akhtar and Dr Qazi Masood and Shandana Gulzar touched upon different aspects of the Millennium Development Goals.
The speakers were of the opinion that South Asia is far behind in attaining the MDGs at the mid term and there is dire need to move further on fast track to achieve them. Dr Khalid Amin, Javaid Mansoor, Ahadullah Akmal and Irtiqa Ahmad Zaidi while speaking on the trade facilitating measures said that these measures could be a better solution towards achieving the goal of regional economic cooperation in South Asia.
September 22, 2005, DAILY NEWS, Sri Lanka
India said it cannot open up its agriculture market further for developed nations unlessl the US and EU eliminate their trade-distorting subsidies.
“We cannot open our agriculture markets till the billions of dollars of trade distorting subsidies are eliminated.” Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, G.K. Pillai said at a CUTS seminar on WTO Saturday.
Agriculture talks at the WTO headquarters in Geneva are stalled, he said, adding there can be no substantial progress on the contentious issue till India gets clear signals that the EU and US are willing to move forward.
Pillai said the G-20 group of developing countries in their recent meeting in Pakistan had clearly sought time bound phasing out of domestic support and elimination of export credits by the developed nations.
September 19, 2005, Western Times
“We need to get the development dimensions back to the centre stage of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations, and the civil society movement should campaign on this before, during and after the Hong Kong Ministerial,” said G. K. Pillai, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. “Whatever we agree at Hong Kong will only be a long and arduous journey to get equity in the international trading system”.
He was delivering the inaugural address at a national consultation in the run-up to the WTO’s Hong Kong ministerial conference organised by the Jaipur-based CUTS International. More than 50 participants representing government, civil society organisations, research institutions, media took part in this deliberation where issues relating to trade in agriculture, services, industrial goods were discussed. A few experts from Nepal and Sri Lanka were also present.
The event was organised as part of a project titled “WTO Doha Round & South Asia: Linking Civil Society with Trade Negotiations” being implemented by CUTS with the support of Novib (Oxfam, The Netherlands).
“Civil society is playing a significant role in manifesting people’s concerns with respect to WTO issues and we need support from the civil society in Hong Kong in order to make the outcomes of the Doha Round of negotiations more balanced,” Pillai said.
He emphasised on the negotiations on agriculture and said that it would be impossible for countries like India to reduce tariffs on agricultural goods while rich countries continue with their high level of trade-distorting subsidies.
“Agriculture negotiations are progressing gradually and it would take another four to six rounds of negotiations in order to arrive at a balanced agreement to the satisfaction of all WTO members. WTO is not about market access only and this should be up fronted during negotiations and implementation of WTO rules,” he added.
Welcoming the participants, Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International highlighted the need for sustaining developing-country coalitions at the WTO, like the G-20 group on issues of agriculture. He explained why the Cancun ministerial was not a failure, as many believe. “Cancun was a deferred success or a turning point in WTO negotiations and established that in future poor countries cannot be taken for granted while negotiating on issues having significant implications on livelihoods,” Mehta said.
Poshraj Pandey, President of Kathmandu-based South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment provided an overview of Nepal’s position on farm goods. Prof. Jacob George of Haryana Institute of Public Administration gave an overview of negotiating positions of South Asian countries on agriculture issues at the WTO.
Prof. Ramesh Chand, Director of National Centre for Agriculture Economics and Policy Research presented an overview of how the agriculture sector of South Asian countries are performing in the post-WTO period.
“An unique feature of South Asian countries is that economic progress has failed to take people out of agriculture. Employment outside agriculture is the key to a country’s progress. India, being a net exporter of agricultural commodities, should take a more proactive stand to get better market access in rich countries and for this India should push for the reduction of trade-distorting subsidies in agriculture,” Prof. Chand argued.
This project is being implemented in five South Asian countries and the research results will be presented at the Hong Kong ministerial conference of the WTO. A feature of this project is that the research is based on stakeholder perceptions. Trade negotiators and trade policy officials in Geneva and at the country level have taken keen interests on this research, so that they are better prepared to negotiate at the WTO with development as the benchmark.
September 17, 2005, The Financial Express
Speaking at a national consultation organised by CUTS International on the WTO’s Hong Kong ministerial meet scheduled in December, Mr Pillai said whatever was agreed to at Hong Kong would only be a long and arduous journey to get equity in the international trading system.
Highlighting the intricacies and sensitivities of the agricultural negotiations, Mr Pillai said it would take about four-six rounds of negotiations in order to arrive at a balanced agreement in agriculture to the satisfaction of all members. “WTO is not about market access only and this should be upfronted during negotiations and the implementation of WTO rules,” he said.
According to CUTS secretary general Pradeep Mehta, there is a need to sustain the coalition of the developing country at the WTO like the G-20 group on the issues of agriculture.
“Cancun was a deferred success or a turning point in the WTO negotiations and established that,in future, poor countries cannot be taken for granted while negotiating on issues having implications on livelihood,” Mr Mehta said.
The Hong Kong ministerial meet in December is crucial as it will determine whether it is possible to conclude the on-going Doha development round in the next two years.
September 13, 2005, HT Live
CONSUMER UNITY and Trust Society – International (CUTS) launched its new project for setting up of an Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC) at Jaipur. The institute, to be set up in Jaipur, will fill up a vacuum in the area of training and education on the subjects of commercial diplomacy, economic regulation and competition policy, and critically their interdisciplinary approaches.
It would develop as a global standard institute offering regular training and education courses and carrying out research in these areas.
Speaking at the launch in New Delhi on Friday, Dr. C. Rangrajan, Chairperson, Economic Advisory council to the Prime Minister who is also the chairman of the Governing Council of this Institute said that “ Given the changed circumstances and the role of Governments in the globalised era, it is seen that training and education on these subjects, which are still evolving, is essential”.
CIRC will adopt a multi- stakeholder approach and target regulators and their staff, Government officials, civil society representatives, academicians, business, media, trade unions from the developing nations, in particular Africa & Asia. It would offer both general and customised training to meet the requirements of the various stakeholders.
The Institute also plans to offer online diploma and training courses in 2006. CIRC would also offer these courses in collaboration with the Universities and Institutes in the developed and developing nation, such as University of Manchester; University of East Anglia for developing the course contents, and for offering CIRC’s courses to local students, informed CUTS official.
The Governing Council includes several eminent personalities like Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary General of the UN, Justice D.P. Wadhwa, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Former Chairman, SEBI, India, D.R.Mehta, former Secretary to Government of India, Nripendra Misra, former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, India, S.L. Rao, S. Sundar and B.K. Zutshi, the former Indian Ambassador to the WTO and Deputy Chairman, TRAI.
September 12, 2005, The Hindu Business Line
THE Consumer Unity and Trust Society, based in Jaipur, has been in the forefront of efforts by means of well-documented studies and purposefully organised workshops to evolve policies and measures bearing on the process of liberalisation, demands of competitive environment and consequences of globalisation, with consumer interests as its primary focus.
With its constructive spirit, it has been able to forge fruitful relations with official agencies, corporate enterprises and other players and stakeholders, and establish productive links with kindred organisations abroad.
It owes not a little of its success to the perseverance and drive of its Secretary-General, Mr Pradeep S. Mehta, and the band of knowledgeable, experienced and eminent advisers associated with him.
One of the most notable contributions it has made is to prepare, based on a series of seminars, a set of recommendations for ensuring the autonomy, credibility, effectiveness and accountability of regulatory bodies, particularly in the infrastructure sector so vital for faster economic growth.
The qualifications, selection, appointment, tenure, service conditions and compensation of the heads and members of these bodies, and those of the appellate tribunals, are at present entirely within the discretion of the administrative Ministry concerned, resulting in wide disparities and variable tenures.
Their independence is often compromised by the appointment of political favourites. They are bereft of basic financial powers, being treated as "subordinate offices" of the Ministry. Absence of statutory checks over Ministerial interference further hamstrings them.
The Society has forwarded to the Government salutary recommendations on all these and other aspects, including the entrusting of selection of appointees to a group of eminent persons of impeccable credentials, making the Cabinet Secretariat responsible for drawing up and applying uniform service terms, with emoluments and tenure attractive enough to highly qualified professionals in their prime, requiring the line Ministry to get the concurrence of the regulatory bodies before issuing a policy directive and vesting them with full control over their own finances and internal administration.
The sooner the Government acts on them, the better.
B. S. Raghavan
September 10, 2005, Rashtriya Sahara
31, 2005, Zambia Daily Mail
Government says the private sector in Zambia has failed to exploit trade opportunities in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Commerce Trade and Industry permanent secretary, Davidson Chilipamushi, said Zambians have particularly failed to take advantage of the market in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
He said it was disheartening that Zambians have not taken advantage of the market in the three countries and instead allowed South Africa, which is not a member of the COMESA, to supply DRC and the Great Lakes region.
He said Zambians should use their membership to COMESA and the country’s and the country’s proximity to DRC and Great Lakes region to boost export of goods and services.
Mr. Chilipamushi, who was officiating at the Linkages Between Trade Development and Poverty Reduction workshop national launch, said as Southern African Development Community (SADC) and COMESA move towards a custom union, there is a need for Government to make a decision on which regional grouping to belong to.
He added that Zambia has historical ties with most countries in the SADC region and the infrastructure in these countries was built by the colonial masters to facilitate trade flows.
He noted that recently the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with United Nation Conference for Trade and development and Consumer Unity & Trust held a stakeholders workshop to discuss the investment policy review for Zambia.
Mr. Chilipamushi said Government is working towards identifying the priority reforms and trade – related technical assistance programme to overcome the constraints to expansion and diversification of exports.
He added that Government has identified a number of problems within the domestic market, which makes it difficult for existing investors to expand.
“Our findings suggest that there are a lot of administrative barriers to trade. We have issues of immigration and customs, high cost of doing business, high interest rates and incentive structure for business is something we have to work on,” he said.
Mr. Chilipamushi said if Zambia is to develop, there is need to work on all the identified obstacles, which are being addressed through the private sector development Programme.
He also noted that linkages between trade development
and poverty-reduction that is a four-year project is being implemented
in 15 selected countries, Africa, Asia and Europe in a partnership
Mr. Chilipamushi said the project will facilitate cross fertilization of experiences and lessons learnt on linkages between trade, development and poverty-reduction in developing countries to attain appropriate policy responses.
25, 2005, HT Live
Should the economy be market driven or government driven, corruption and participation of the common man in economic development were among the issues discussed at a seminar in the city on Wednesday.
Some of the perplexing questions were: "Under successful economy whether market should control the government or government should control the market?" "What we can do to combat corruption which is the main hindrance to the success of the programme?" "How should we assess the future in reference to development?" "Though there has been economic development, the social development is lagging behind." "From where can the participation of common man be invited for development?" "How should we ascertain it?" "How much has agricultural trade contributed to economic development?"
The above issues were discussed at the seminar on 'National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) and its prospects on Economic Reforms' organised by CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CUTS-CART), Jaipur in association with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, New Delhi (FES India) at Patel Bhawan, HCM-RIPA, JLN Marg, Jaipur.
In the beginning of the seminar Rajendra Kumar Sharma of CUTS mentioned the background of the seminar and activities to be undertaken under the project.
Addressing the seminar, Secretary General of CUTS Pradeep S. Mehta said the nation is facing serious economic challenges. Development is also big challenge, which includes the issue of poverty.
There is no consensus over the NCMP; this is a matter of great concern. Government has to pay more attention to ensure its implementation.
On this occasion, senior journalist of the newspaper 'Business Standard' TCA Srinivas Raghavan said we have to think whether there is a need for implementation of the NCMP. Another important issue is how the benefit of public investment reaches the common man.
24, 2005, HT Live
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CUTS-CART) in association with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, New Delhi (FES India) will be organising a regional seminar on the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and its prospects for economic reforms.
According to the organisers the seminar would be held on Wednesday, from 9.30 a.m. at Patel Bhawan, HCM-RIPA.
The prime objective of the seminar is to take stock of various aspects of the NCMP, with emphasis on issues relating to economic reforms and development, to discuss concerns and necessary actions of different stakeholders.
It would also strive to achieving better coherence between policy formulation and implementation and to contribute towards a networking platform to stakeholders in order to discuss issues of mutual interest and build partnership between and among different stakeholders.
Participants representing various groups and sectors from the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Punjab will discuss and debate key issues relating to the NCMP.
Keeping in line with the objectives of the seminar, the sessions will involve discussions on economic substance of the Common Minimum Programme, economic reforms vis a vis social care, trade vis a vis protection of domestic industries, stimulation of social welfare by economic policies and social security etc.
The whole purpose of the seminar is to cultivate critical points for debates and discussions, so that there is a better understanding on issues leading towards convergence of various approaches and views.
24, 2005, Zambia Daily
The Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC) says there was need to ensure that the immigration and land policies were complementary to each other to promote investment flows in the country.
ZIC director, Jacob Lushinga said it was important to check the two policies on whether they were in conformity with each other.l
“Currently, the two policies were affecting businesses in the country in terms of lthe establishment of new investments,” he said.
Mr. Lushinga said this on Monday at the stakeholders workshop on investment policy review of Zambia in Lusaka.
The meeting was attended by Government and the private sector and organized nby the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and Consumer Unity Trust Society- Africa Resource Centre.
Mr. Lushinga also said commercial disputes were among other issues that adversely affected investment flows in the country.
He also said microeconomics stability was vital, adding that since 1991 after the liberalization of the economy there had been slightly increased investment flow in thecountry.
He cited Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda as some countries that were doing much better in attracting foreign direct investment because of policy frame work being receptive to investors.
23, 2005, The Post
Commerce minister Dipak Patel yesterday admitted that privatisation has de-industrialised Zambia.
And United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) policy review section chief Taffere Tesfachew has said Zambia could net at least US $300 million (about K 1.5 trillion ) in foreign direct investment (FDI) annually if the investment policy was fine-tuned.
Annually if the investment policy was fine-tuned.
Meanwhile, Patel has directed all heads of department in the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) to remain in Lusaka until the draft Trade and Industrialisation policies were ready for presentation to Parliament by December this year.
Officiating at an investment policy review Stakeholders’ workshop yesterday, Patel however said the failure could have been because the privatization programme’s implementation was hasty.
“In the early 1990s, we were under a lot of pressure to liberalise the economy. One aspect of this was privatization, which made the country deindustrialise rapidly within a decade,” Patel said. ‘But now as we move forward, we are guarded so that we can rebuild what was lost. At the World Trade Organisation (WTO) level, we are negotiating for policy space that will enable us enact policies that can protect local industries while enabling is to participate fairly and competitively in the international market.”
Patel’s comments come barely a week after he vehemently supported the privatisation of Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) in parliament.
Debating a motion moved by FDD president Edith Nawakwi to restrict the sale of 49 per cent ZNCB shares to Zambians, Patel argued that the bank’s sale was not debatable because we it was under performing, and described its recent performance as cosmetic.
President Levy Mwanawasa has since ordered that ZNCB’s sale must be stopped.
On the investment policy review process, Patel admitted that despite repeated commitments; the government has not practically delivered on improving the investment environment.
He noted that while various initiatives have been mooted, including last year’s Private Sector Development (PSD) initiative, most of the policy documents that could support the enactment of a comprehensive investor-friendly Investment Policy were still in draft form.
“In fact, it is sad to note that some of the documents have been in draft form since 1995. Now, I must admit that we have held too many meetings and workshop0s and the time has come for action,” Patel said.
“Last night (Sunday), I was discussing this same issue with my permanent secretary (Davidson Chilipamushi) and we agreed that all heads of department should remain in Lusaka until the relevant policies are finalized for incorporation into the legislation that we shall be tabling before Parliament either in December or during the budget session.”
Later, Tesfachew urged the government to work at strengthening the domestic private sector for Zambia to enhance her benefits from FDI.
He said worldwide, it has been established that a dynamic and vibrant domestic private sector was a critical incentive to attracting FDI because it opened up opportunities for partnership between foreign and local investors.
“Although FDI flows into Zambia have increased since the country embarked on liberalization, the volumes have remained too low compared with its resource endowment among other positive things,” Tesfachew noted.
“But even this increase has been volatile and erratic because of the dominance of large-scale and one-off investments like mining, which accounts for over half of the investment flows. However, if all things are put right, especially regarding the Investment Policy, Zambia can attract a minimum of US$300 million every year in FDI alone.”
He also stressed the need to urgently address the high cost of doing business in the country especially by investing in transport and communications infrastructure and addressing the high costs of energy and accessing capital.
23, 2005, Zambia Daily Mail
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has advised Government to scrutinize activities of invetment agencies before the establishment of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) to foster foreign investments in the country.
And Government has said it realises the importance of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) as a pre-requisite to enhanced economic development.
UNCTAD chief policy review section, division on investment, technology and enterprise development, Taffere Tosfachew, said Government’s concept was in the right direction but needed thorough study to ensure ZDA was effective.
He was speaking at a stakeholders workshop on movement policy review for Zambia held at international Hotel in Lusaka yesterday organized by the Ministry of commerce, trade and industry. UNCTAD and Consumer Unity Trust Society-Africa Resource Centre.
The meeting was attended by Government department and the private sector.
Mr. Tesfachew said merging of Zambia investment Centre (ZIC) Export Board of Zambia and the Zambia Processing Zones Authority was meant to streamline resources but that each of the three institutions should be carefully looked at before the merger.
Mr. Tesfachew said policies that gave conflicting signals should be avoided but there should be a drive to attract potential attract potenti8al stragey into investor tracking system as well as elaborate investor targeting strategy, continuous review and bench marking of FDI attractiveness of target sectors.
He pointed out that Government should strengthen the advocacy role of ZIC by developing an after-care programme to provide reinvestment.
"We do know that there is a lot of talk on ZDA. We do not know how this will go," he said.
And Commerce Minister, Dipak Patel, said all efforts aimed at attracting foreign investors and mobilizing local investment had become Government’s development programmes.
Mr. Patel said it was Government’s policy to promote private sector participation in the country’s economy because it viewed the private sector at an engine of economic development.
To achieve this, Government had endeavored to create a conducive investment climate in which all businesses operated freely.
"So far the Zambian economy was one of the most liberal economics in the region, characte3rised by the most liberal fiscal policy, no foreign exchange controls and investors are free to externalize their profits as they wish," he said.
He said currently the Investment Act and the Industrial, commercial and trade policy were being reviewed top make them meet the current developmental challenges and economic climate.
This included, among others, resolutions of administrative barriers and the uncompetitive costs of doing business in the country.
18, 2005, Vietnam News
Hanoi – An international seminar on building compettiveness in Asian countries opened in Hanoi on Tuesday.
The seminar is part of the 7UP2 project, funded by the British and Swedish governments, help enhance the abilities of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to build competition Foreign and domestic officials offered comments on Viet Nam’s progress.
Hans Peter Egler, a representative from Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland (SECO), praised Viet Nam’s dynamism during its 20 years of renewal, saying that from acou ntry quite unfamiliar with the concept of competition, Viet Nam has become a major trade partner, offering many important goods and services. It has made noticeable achievements in recent times in improving the business environment, but there are still a lot of things to be done ahead.
Meanwhihle, Roger Nellist, a representative from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), said it is vital to have a comprehensive economic management mechanism in order to have a good investment climate.
Pradeep Mehta, secretary general of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), stressed the role of the public sectgor in boosting cooperation among the regional countries, as well as the role of the International Network of the Civil Society Organisation on Competition (INCSOC).
Other participants also spoke highloy of Vietnam’s Competition Law, which was issued at the end of November 2004 and took effect on July 1, 2005, and which provides a alegal framework for a system of transparent legal documents on competition.
In addition, many foreign and domestic officials agreed that the signing and implementation of the Vietnam-US bilateral tgrade agreement, issuance of the Competition Law and Vietnam’s final stage of talks for WTO membership illustrated the country’s dynamism.
Efforts of the trade ministry and relevant ministries and services to implement the law in daily life were also seen as indicators of Viet Nam’s strong commitment to create a healthy competitive environment.
At the seminar, Dinh My Loan, head of the trade ministry’s competition management department, revealed that the fvour guiding documents for implementation of the Competition Law have been completed and submitted to the Government for approval as early as September. She said this was the fastest time ever for legislation to be brought to life.
To serve enactment of the Competition Law, the competition management department, though established just more than a year ago, has launched various training courses for the staff in charge of the work, especially investigators, to enable them to work efficiently ina more competitive market place.
Officials from the Ministries of Trade, and Planning and Investment, while agreeing with the international guiests assessments, admitted that many shortcomings remained from the old economic regime. They stressed the need to create a sound business environment and to raise the national economy’s competitiveness. Businessmen should be helped to understand the meaning of competition as well as the differences between economic sectors, they .pointed out.
Deputy Trade Minister Le Dash Vinh said the country had witnessed a sharp increase in the number of businesses so far, with more than 1,70,000 in all economic sectors, stirring a bustling market place. However, notions of a competitive economy remained new to many. Vinh said, calling on the international community to grant assistance to Viet Nam to help it turn efforts in this field into practical outcomes.
07, 2005, The Hindu
Vijayawada MP Lagadapati Rajagopal on Saturday observed that the monopoly enjoyed by political and industrial forces hampered growth and development in the country.
Speaking after inaugurating a seminar on "National Common Minimum Programme and economic Reforms" organised by Consumers' Guidance Society here, he said by political monopoly, he meant the village and mandal level set-up, which was under the grip of particular sections of society for a long time.
Mr. Rajagopal pointed out that economic reforms began on a positive note in 1991 but the process received a setback after the NDA came to power at the Centre. Theirs was a single point agenda of constructing temples and destroying mosques.
The NDA constituents failed to understand that communal harmony was a prerequisite for achieving good results from reforms.
During a brief interactive session with the audience, he fielded questions on different issues. He denied that political monopoly had resulted from the failure of parliamentary democracy. The fault was in the grassroots and efforts were being made for the uplift of the marginalised sections in remote villages.
07, 2005, The New Sunday Express
With the top leaders of the three major political parties sharing the dals, heated debates and trading of acrimonious charges should be the order of the day. However, it was a refreshing change for those attending the seminar on Common Minimum Programme. It prospects on Economic Reforms, held by the Consumer Guidance Society here today. There were neither acrimonious remarks nor veiled threats but only an intellectual discussion on the topic.
Vijayawada MP L. Rajagopal (Congress), Nalgonda MP Suravaram Sudhakara Reddy (CPI) and former minister Y. Ramakrishnudu (TDP) participated in the debate, which was moderated by former editor of Visalandhra C. Raghavachari.
Defending the economic reforms and the doing away of the licence Raj system, Rajagopal said that state should balance the priorities between it economic development and social obligations.
04, 2005, The Hindu Business Line
IN THE beginning of 1990, there were about 30 countries with a competition law, but now the number is about a hundred, informs Vijay Kelkar in his foreword to a new book from Academic Foundation (www.academicfoundation.com), titled Towards a Functional Competition Policy for India: an overview edited by Pradeep S. Mehta.
In the intro, one comes across dismal statistics, cited from a 2004 report of the World Bank: "... in India entrepreneurs on average go through 11 steps to launch business, which takes 89 days on average, against a regional average of 9 steps and 46 days." In a sample of 145 countries, India scored the 130th place in terms of number of days to get procedural clearances!
The book compiles more than a score chapters written by experts and the topics covered include evolution of competition policy, the Competition Act, mergers and acquisitions, cross-border competition issues, competition in agriculture, manufacturing, and so on.
Mehta is the founder Secretary-General of CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) based in Jaipur. And, predictably, there are chapters devoted to the consumer. "Unfortunately, there is no agreed definition of consumer welfare," he writes, before looking at the UN's guidelines in this regard for help.
Consumers have eight rights according to the Charter of Consumers International, and these are about basic needs, safety, choice, redress, information, consumer education, representation, and healthy environment.
Another chapter studies `competition abuses at consumer level' and focuses on `tied-selling in healthcare and education services'.
On `competition and professional services', T.C.A. Anant states that the key feature is that the service, supplied through individuals, is highly idiosyncratic in character, and so services are strictly not comparable across consumers.
This characteristic lays the ground for different types of market failure, which can be due to informational issues, both asymmetric and imperfect, or externalities, comments the author.
A book to keep pace with.
01, 2005, HT Jaipur Live
ATTITUDINAL CHANGE is an important factor in reducing social evil like child domestic help, said Alka Kala. Principal Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), Government of Rajasthan. She was delivering the inaugural address formally launching the project on Child Domestic Workers titled “Hum Bhi Bachche Hain” in the city of Jaipur CUTS Centre for Consumer Action Research and Training (CART) is implementing this unique project in the city of Jaipur in partnership with Save the Children (UK).
She also shared the Kerala experience of how high level of education resulted in decreasing infant as well as maternal mortality rate. She streamlined the fact that child development is the key to development for countries like India.
Lakshmi Rani, National Project Manager of Save the Children (U.K) spoke about the progress made under the project in different states of India – Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Jharkhand. She also said it is matter of appreciation that Jaipur city is also becoming part of the national advocacy campaign through this project.
George Cheriyan, Assistant Director, CUTS CART introduced the project and threw lights on its objectives and plan of action for the one year period. He also briefed the roadmap beyond the project period. He further said the project would be implemented through 35 selected schools in Jaipur in close collaboration with the department of education, Social Welfare Labour, Women & Child Development, Government of Rajasthan.
Dharampal S. Choudhary, Director of National Child Labour Project (NCLP), while delivering the valedictory, explained about various government programmes aiming at prohibition and rehabilitation of child domestic workers and spoke about child labour in a wider perspective. He said that the State and Central governments are determined to make the country free of child labourers.
K.C.Sharma explained different activities under
the project Dharmendra Chaturvedi proposed the vote of thanks. About
100 government officials, teachers and students participated in
28, 2005, Rajasthan Patrika
28, 2005, Rajasthan Patrika
28, 2005, Dainik Navjyoti
27, 2005, The Hindu
The Consumers' Guidance Society, in association with CUTS of Jaipur, will organise a two-day regional seminar on "National Common Minimum Programme and Economic Reforms" at Hotel Ilapuram on August 6 and 7.
The objective of the seminar is to focus on economic issues covered in the NCMP, discuss concerns of different stakeholders and provide a networking platform to debate issues of mutual interest. The Vijayawada MP, Lagadapati Rajagopal will inaugurate the seminar on August 6 at 9.45 a.m. The CUTS Director, Bipul Chatterjee and others will speak.
Dr. Kodanda Ram of Nizam College will make an introductory statement on "Do economic reforms contradict social care?" Dr. Naresh Sharma of the University of Hyderabad will present another introductory statement on "Does trade contradict protection of domestic industries?"
Prof. K.R. Choudhary of Forum Against Globalisation, Dr. Sudharshan Reddy of CKM College, A. Bhavani Prasad of Federation of Farmers' Associations and others will apeak.
The CSG will organise a round table discussion on 'WTO and Andhra Pradesh' on August 7 at 10.00 am at the same venue. Mr. Bipul Chatterjee, Rural Resources Group Centre for Good Governance Director V.K. Parigi, former MP, Yelamanchili Shivaji and others will speak.
27, 2005, The Hindu
Issues in the agenda of World Trade Organisation (WTO) are prompted by the selfish motives of rich and developed nations like the European Union (EU) and the United States of America, said K.R. Chowdary, president of th Indian Rural Development Contress.
Addressing an awareness meet on the WTO, organised by members of the Consumer Guidance Society here on Sunday, Mr. Chowdary said the WTO established in 1995 after seven years of negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was grossly biased in favour of developed nations.
Referring to the controversial Dunkel's Draft, he said it was unfortunate that in a democracy like India, no discussion had taken place either on Dunkel's proposals or the WTO. While nearly 30 African nations walked out without signing the draft after realising that it was detrimental to the interests of their respective nations, the Government of India went ahead and signed it, he pointed out.
Mr. Chowdary pointed out that heavy import cess was being levied by developed countries on goods exported by developing countries. "The flawed policies of the Government has ruined the agriculture sector," he lamented.
The director of the Rural Resources Group, Centre for Good Governance, V.K. Parigi, spoke about the different views prevailing on the WTO. "Some oppose, some favour, while some others are proactive. It is for us to enter or make an exit out of the agreement. A defensive mechanism should be developed and we must make the best of our negotiating skills," he felt.
The secretary of the CGC, Diwakar Babu explained about the various aspects related to WTO.
The CGS had also organised a debate on 'Pro-poor economic reforms', where leaders of different political parties had stressed the need for giving more thrust to poverty alleviation.
A project on domestic child workers titled “Hum Bhi Bachche Hain” (We too are children) will be launched here in the Rajasthan capital on Wednesday. The CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CART), in partnership with Save the Children (U.K) will implement the project in 35 select schools in close collaboration with the Departments of Education, Social Welfare, Labour, Women and Child Development. The first phase of the project, which will assess the magnitude of the problem of child domestic workers in the city and generate awareness about it, will be for one year from July 2005 to June 2006. “It is going to be a child-to-child approach in which 50 students from each of the 35 schools will participate. One student will take care of 10 houses,” according to George Cheriyan, assistant director, CUTS. “The State Government can give the responsibility of monitoring the situation to the select schools”, Mr. Cheriyan said, pointing out that the city schools have responded enthusiastically to the project. Child domestic workers, working within the homes, as such, were invisible for public scrutiny. India employs the largest number of working children in the world as every third household in the country had a working child, he pointed out. Mr. Cheriyan said 17 per cent of India’s domestic workers are under 15 years and 40 per cent of them are girls.
25, 2005, The Hindustan Times
CUTS’S CENTRE for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CART), Jaipur in partnership with the Save the Children (UK) has conceptualized a unique project titled ‘Hum Bhi Bachche Hain’ on domestic child workers.
This project is going to be launched formally in Jaipur on Wednesday at a meeting in Patel Bhawan. The participants here would be government officials and teachers and students from selected schools; representatives of donor agencies/CSOs working on child issues, representatives of social organizations, etc.
According to a press release, the project will be implemented through 35 selected schools in Jaipur city in close collaboration with the Departments of Education, Social Welfare, Labour, Women and Child Development, Government of Rajasthan. The first phase of the project is for a year, from July 2005 to June 2006.
22, 2005, Amar Ujala
22, 2005, Business Standard
Five Parliamentarians cutting across party lines have joined hands to float a parliamentary forum on economic issues, originally conceived by Consumer Unity and Trust Society.
The MPs who would be part of the forum are former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, Suresh Prabhu (Shiv Sena), Madhusudan Mistry (Congress), Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool Congress) and N N Krishnadas of CPM. The idea behind such a forum is to hold discussions on the divergent opinions on the core economic policy issues reflected in and out of Parliament and the media, the society said in a statement.
22, 2005, The Hindu
Five MPs have floated a parliamentary forum on economic issues. The non-profit organization, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), is playing host to the initiative.
The MPs who have formed the forum are Yashwant Sinha of the Bhartiya Janta Party, Suresh Prabhu of the Shiv Sena, N. N. Krishnadas of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Madhusudan Mistry of the Congress, and Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress.
A CUTS spokesperson said letters will be sent to all MPs seeking their participation. The aim is to discuss divergent opinions on core economic policy issues reflected in and out of the Parliament and the media. “Now when India has come up as one of the top ten gross domestic producers and is on the way to become a great economic giant, it is incumbent upon policy and law makers to think and guide both the establishment and the public about what is best in the national interest,” said CUTS.
The parliamentary forum is expected to be “non-partisan and informal” where MPs cutting across party lines will be able to air their views on a periodical basis on basic economic issues in the field of trade, competition, regulatory reforms, investment and their cross linkages.
15 , 2005, Business Standard
City-based NGO, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), recently held workshop on ‘Access Benefit Sharing and Prior Informed Consent’ regarding the rights of farmers, at the Rotary Sadan. Chennai-based environmental lawyer Bharat Jairaj discussed the possible lacunace in implementation of the benefit sharing and prior informed consent clauses in the Biological diversity Act, 2002, at the seminar.
The two-day workshop was attended by RV Anuradha, freelance consultant on biodiversitgy issues and farmers’ issues; Prof N. Sen from the department of Business Management, University of Calcutta; Dr. D.K.Hore of the national Bureau of Plant Genetic Research, Shillong; Dr. Ghayur Alam, director, Centre for sustainable Development, Dehra Dun; Dr. Shilanjan Bhattacharaya from the department of Zoology, Vivekananda College; Kamalesh Adhikary, from the South Asian Watch on Trade Economics and Environment; Dr. Bala Ravi from the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation; Dr. D. Deb from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Kolkata and Dr. Ashish Ghosh of the Centre for Environment and Development, Kolkata, among others.
Unity & Trust Society