CUTS IN MEDIA-June 2006
Training Seminar on Commercial
June 27, 2006, Thesynergyonline News Service
WITH a view to provide a comprehensive perspective of the principles of Commercial Diplomacy and its effect on trade and investment flows, CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC) is pioneering a Training Workshop on Diplomacy in International Trade from June 28,2006 to July 1, 2006 at New Delhi.
The Training Workshop is being organised jointly with Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and Institute for Trade and Commercial Diplomacy, USA and supported by Department of Commerce, Government of India. The Seminar is targeted at officials in government departments dealing with international trade directly or indirectly, officials in foreign missions, corporate strategists and negotiators.
The key resource person, Mr Geza Feketekuty is a former US Trade negotiator and has served with the office of the US Trade Representative for 21 years in various senior trade policy leadership positions. He has played a central role in the conceptualization and development of US trade policy and global trade negotiations.
According to Pradeep Mehta, Director General, CIRC, training in commercial diplomacy is virtually absent in the country. In the past commercial diplomacy concerned itself largely with negotiations over tariffs and quotas on imports. However, in today's more interdependent world, trade negotiations cover a much wider range affecting international commerce. Commercial diplomacy encompasses the whole analysis, advocacy and negotiating chain that leads to international agreements on trade-related issues.
The first step in commercial diplomacy therefore is to undertake an in depth analysis of all the factors that can have a bearing on decision-making process at home and abroad.
The other resource persons for the training program comprise eminent experts, practitioners and academicians in the field of commercial diplomacy and related matters, both from India and abroad. The 4 day program would aim to bring forward an analytical framework for effective commercial diplomacy through real case studies and simulations on trade negotiations.
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June 16, 2006, The Hindu
The much- talked about mid-day meals scheme introduced in Rajasthan in the Government and Government-aided primary schools has had an affirmative effect on enrolment of children, particularly of the girl child, at the elementary level. It has helped improve the quality of education as well as the health of students, besides helping the families to tide over the problems of hunger and malnutrition, a new study has indicated.
A participatory expenditure tracking survey on the scheme in the district of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, conducted by CUTS-Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CUTS-CART) in association with the World Bank reported improvement of enrolment in 64 per cent of the schools and improvement in retention in 51 per cent schools in past three years. The enrolment of girls registered an increase in 58 per cent of the schools surveyed while it was found that quality of education improved in 49 per cent of them.
The survey results were presented at a State- level dissemination meeting before experts, World Bank representatives, JVR Murty, Vinod Sahagal, MLAs, C.P.Joshi, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and Nathu Singh Gujjar, besides Rajendra Bhanawat, Divisional Commissioner, Jaipur, Saroj Punhani, Accountant General (Audit), Jaipur, Sarathi Acharya, director of the Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur and former director S.S.Acharya.
Presenting the findings, the survey team leaders, K.C. Sharma and Dhudeshwar Kumar, however noted the decline in lifting of foodgrains by the State Government in the past three years. The off take of foodgrains was 67 per cent on an average during the period against the total grains sanctioned by the Centre. The unutilised fund (conversion cost) remaining with the districts had steadily increased from 27 per cent to 71 per cent during 2001-02 to 2004-05, they noted.
However, the dropout rate among children from Class I to Class VIII in the district in 2005-06 had been a little less at 37.12 per cent compared to 39.85 at the State level. Chittorgarh, on the other hand, had a wider gender gap at 11.56 per cent in the same category of children against 10.71 per cent at State level in 2005-06.
On the flip side again was the number of cooks employed for preparing the mid-day meals which stood at 7 and 6 per cent from Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, respectively, though the Supreme Court had issued a directive asking to give preference of SC/ST cooks. A maximum, 64 per cent cooks, belonged to the backward communities while the forward castes accounted for 23 per cent.
The survey found the quality of food served in the schools to the liking of the parents and the children. About 92-95 per cent of the students ate the mid-day meals at school and found it satisfying both qualitatively and in quantity.
The State had initially started the mid-day meals with "googri" or boiled wheat with either salt or jaggery. It started providing variety from April 2005 under the new guidelines of the Supreme Court. Under the guidelines, roti-subzi, roti-dal, puri-sabzi, mithe chawal, namkeen chawal, khichri, mitha daliya, namkeen daliya, lapsi and dal-chawal are in the menu.
Earlier the Centre was providing Re.1 per student as cooking conversion cost against 50 paise from the State Government. In the current session (2006-07), the Rajasthan Government has increased its contribution to Re.1.
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June 12, 2006, THE POST
THE Consumer Unity and Trust Society African Resource Centre (CUTS ARC) has said a strong law on consumer protection needs to be put in place in Zambia.
And Energy Regulation Board (ERB) executive director Silvester Hibajene has said communities need to be educated on their responsibilities towards the enhancement of service delivery by commercial utilities.
In an interview after the launch of the Lusaka Consumer Watch Group (LCWG) on Saturday, CUTS ARC research officer Vladimir Chilinya said there had been weak consumer protection by utilities in the water, energy and communications sector.
Chilinya hoped the creation of the LCWG would help address consumer concerns in service delivery.
“This should serve as a window where people can take their complaints and then they will be addressed, but we only hope it will be broadened, to be very inclusive,” Chilinya said.
He said a consumer was always at the mercy of the service providers.
Chilinya advised the regulatory alliance to prioritise community education on the importance of the consumer watch groups.
Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ), Energy Regulation Board and National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) formed the LCWG as a regulatory alliance for the commercial utilities.
The initiative was hoped to extend to other parts of the country within the next few years to look into the interests of consumers in the energy, water and ICT sectors.
And Hibajene said community sensitisation was expected to begin almost at the same time as the launch of the consumer watch group.
“We expect the watch groups to educate consumers because consumers also have a lot of misunderstanding to what is expected of them. For example, people steal oil from ZESCO transformers and others steal ZAMTEL cables which makes the whole area out of communication and yet these people live among the community, some people even know who are the perpetrators of these crimes,” Hibajene said. “The consumers therefore need to be educated that they need to protect these infrastructure.”
Hibajene said creating a sense of responsibility among the community would help in achieving development goals set out by the three regulators.
Hibajene said an increase in consumer participation in the industry would lead to economic growth.
He said it was therefore, imperative for regulators in Zambia to refocus their attention to encompass the welfare of consumers as a vital component in ensuring service providers meet their obligations.
“Much as we appreciate and encourage expansion and investment in their operations, we believe service providers’ very existence depends on consumers and they should therefore pay more attention to ensuring the rights of the consumer and this can only be done in a transparent environment and by putting in place effective monitoring tools,” said Hibajene.
And Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) president Muyunda Ililonga welcomed the formation of consumer watch groups.
Ililonga said watch groups would effectively monitor service provisions by service providers.
He said it was difficult for the association alone to do the monitoring of service provision as it was not in every part of the country.
“These structures of regulation will be effective as they are on the ground,” Ililonga said. “Consumer protection is a big task and one organisation cannot satisfy the whole market.”
He said the formation of the consumer watch groups in different sectors was important as they would have specific interest.
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June 09, 2006, Hindustan Times
Mid- Day meal scheme running in the government and aided primary schools is being liked by more than ninety percent students. The quality of the meal is also above average. It has shown the positive impact on the education and health of the students. Though the mid day scheme has not increased the particular girl child in schools as expected.
These facts were presented in state level dissemination meeting organised by CUTS – Centre for Consumer Action, research & training (CUTS-CART) in association with World Bank at Institute of Development Studies on Thursday. These facts have emerged out of the survey and expenditure tracking conducted by CUTS organisation in Chittorgarh district.
During last three years lifting of the food grain by the state government was sixty seven percent on an average against the sanctioned food grains by Government of India. The unutilised fund remaining with the districts is increasing year over year, pointed out the survey.
Addressing the met, MLA Nathu Singh Gujar said that due to Mid Day Meal Scheme dropout rate has reduced, the scheme has also shown the positive impact on health of students. Though, there are some lacunas in the scheme that can be addressed only by ensuring people awareness and public participation.
MLA and the President, Public Accounts Committee, C.P.Joshi emphasized over the need to fix accountability, he suggested for improving the traditional accounting system and also includes the need of social audit. Joshi also stressed upon that government should decentralise the whole system to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Presiding over the meeting, the Accountant General (Audit), Rajasthan, Jaipur Saroj Punhani said that the Audit Department is also involve in time-to-time review of the MDM scheme and the report forwarded to the state. She assured that the accounting system would be improved by incorporating social audit. She emphasized over the need of creating awareness among the people about the accounting system.
Divisional Commissioner Mr. Rajendra Bhanawat stressed that the utility of the evaluation is significant only when it is act upon. He also pointed out the fact that funds are being misused by infringing the attendance of the students, and the quality of education has not improved upto the expected level.
S.S Acharya, IDS, pointed out the fact that involvement of teachers in the MDM activities hampering the teaching work, which affect the quality of education.
George Cheriyan, Associate Director of CUTS-CART, Jaipur, briefed the objective and other important aspects of the scheme and about the social accountability tool of the survey.
June 09, 2006, Dainik Navjyoti
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