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By KATE LINEBAUGH, DIONNE SEARCEY and NORIHIKO SHIROUZU

Wall Street Journal

[ToyotaJmp] AFP/Getty ImagesToyota Motor’s President Akio Toyoda, second from left, and Vice President Shinichi Sasaki, left, bow following a news conference Tuesday.

For six years, evidence mounted that cars made by Toyota Motor Corp. could accelerate unexpectedly. The problem was a suspected factor in crashes causing more than a dozen deaths.

Toyota blamed the problem on floor mats pinning the gas pedal—until Jan. 19. That day, in a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., two top executives from the auto maker gave regulators surprising news: Toyota knew of a mechanical defect in its gas pedals. And Toyota had known for more than a year.

The two top officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “were steamed,” according to a person who discussed the meeting with both sides. As the meeting closed, NHTSA chief David Strickland hinted at handing down the agency’s toughest punishments, which can include forcing auto makers to stop selling cars.

The yearlong delay and other newly uncovered details from the crisis enveloping Toyota reveal a growing rift between the Japanese auto maker and NHTSA, one of its most important regulators. Regulators came to doubt Toyota’s commitment to addressing safety defects, according to interviews with federal officials and industry executives, and accounts of interactions between Toyota and NHTSA the past year.

The heart of Toyota’s problem with U.S. regulators: Its secretive corporate culture in Japan clashed with U.S. requirements that auto makers disclose safety threats, people familiar with the matter say. The relationship soured even though Toyota had hired two former NHTSA officials to manage its ties with the agency.

Toyota’s troubles spread Tuesday when it recalled all Priuses to address a braking problem, even as executives suggested the step was unnecessary. (Story in Column 6.)

Toyota acknowledges the rift with regulators. “Believe me, we have changed our mindset,” said Shinichi Sasaki, Toyota’s quality chief, referring to a heated December confrontation in Tokyo with NHTSA officials over floor mats. “We don’t believe this is going to be a problem in the future. We are completely on the same page with NHTSA.”

Toyota’s woes have roots in 2001’s redesigned Camry sedan, which featured a new type of gas pedal. Instead of physically connecting to the engine with a mechanical cable, the new pedal used electronic sensors to send signals to a computer controlling the engine. The same technology migrated to cars including Toyota’s luxury Lexus ES sedan. The main advantage is fuel efficiency.

But by early 2004, NHTSA was getting complaints that the Camry and ES sometimes sped up without the driver hitting the gas. It launched its first acceleration probe, focusing on 37 complaints, 30 of which involved accidents, according to a NHTSA document filled out by Scott Yon, an agency investigator, dated March 3, 2004.

[TOYOTA]

Mr. Yon and another NHTSA official, Jeffrey Quandt, discussed the case several times over the next 20 days with Toyota, according to an affidavit by a Toyota executive filed in a Michigan lawsuit related to one of the fatal crashes. In that accident, a 2005 Camry allegedly raced out of control for a quarter-mile, and sped up to 80 miles per hour from 25, before crashing and killing its driver.

By the end of the month, Mr. Yon updated his NHTSA case file with a memo. It said NHTSA had decided to limit the probe to incidents involving brief bursts of acceleration, and would exclude so-called “long duration” incidents in which cars allegedly continued to accelerate down the road even after the driver hit the brakes. That decision would come back to haunt regulators.

The reason: Investigators decided it would be easier to isolate any possible defect by zeroing in on shorter incidents rather than the longer ones, an NHTSA official said. The shorter incidents looked more like “pure cases of engine surging due to a possible defect,” the official said. Longer incidents were excluded because they showed more signs of driver error such as mistaking the accelerator for the brake.

Messrs. Quandt and Yon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Of the 37 incidents, 27 were categorized as long-duration and not investigated. On July 22, 2004, the probe was closed because NHTSA had found no pattern of safety problems.

Complaints kept rolling in. In 2005 and 2006, NHTSA got hundreds of reports of unintended acceleration involving Toyotas, according to Safety Research & Strategies, a consumer-safety research firm. On two occasions, Toyota filed responses arguing that no defect or trends could be found in the complaints.

In March 2007, the agency opened a new probe, focusing on whether the gas pedal in the Lexus ES350 sedan could get caught beneath heavy rubber floor mats sold as accessories. It looked at five crashes, including four multivehicle accidents. In some cases, cars reached speeds of 90 miles per hour.

NHTSA sent surveys to 1,986 owners of ES350s. Six-hundred responded, and 59 said they had experienced unintended acceleration. Thirty-five of those attributed the engine surge to a floor mat pressing down on the gas pedal. The rest either didn’t specify or cited other possible explanations.

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RIGHTS: EU Faults U.N. for Slowdown in Gender Empowerment
By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4, 2010 (IPS) – Against the backdrop of continued widespread gender discrimination worldwide, the European Union (EU) has urged Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to “urgently” speed up the creation of the proposed new U.N. agency for women.

The proposal for a “gender entity” was recommended by a high-level panel back in 2006 and approved by the 192-member General Assembly last year.

But for the last four years, the proposal has been kicked around in the corridors of the United Nations, short of implementation.

“If this decision is further delayed, the current gender agencies will be kept in limbo and unable to deliver for women around the world,” warned Ambassador Juan Antonio Yanez-Barnuevo of Spain, current chair of the 27-member EU.

The proposal calls for the consolidation of four existing U.N. “gender agencies” – the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) – under a single new U.N. body to be headed by an under-secretary-general.

The secretary-general has proposed that UNIFEM and INSTRAW be “abolished” and their existing mandates and assets be transferred, along with that of OSAGI and DAW, into the new “composite entity”.

Addressing delegates Thursday, Ambassador Yanez-Barnuevo said the EU was calling on the secretary-general “to urgently advance” the process of appointing the new under-secretary-general of the composite entity.

The new U.N. official, he said, should be in “a position to lead the organisation through the changes required to have a strong U.N. entity focused on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

According to U.N. sources, the secretary-general is likely to name a woman USG to head the gender entity – possibly before the next meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), scheduled to take place Mar. 1-12.

If the General Assembly endorses Ban’s proposal, the new entity will have an annual budget of about 500 million dollars: 125 million dollars for basic support capacity at the country, regional and headquarters level, and 375 million dollars for country-specific U.N. programmatic support.

In contrast, the 2008 funding available to the four existing gender entities was 6.2 million dollars from the regular budget of the United Nations and 218.5 million dollars from voluntary contributions.

But the new figure of 500 million dollars still falls far short of a demand made by an international coalition of women’s organisations campaigning under the banner Gender Equality Architecture Reform Campaign (GEAR) which has called for a start-up of 1.0 billion dollars.

In a 25-page report released here, Ban has spelled out in greater detail the new infrastructure, its functions, composition of staff and sources of funding.

The composite entity will be a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and report to the Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The Commission on the Status of Women will play a crucial role in guiding its work and an executive board will oversee its operational activities.

The composite entity will also be the centre of the gender equality architecture of the United Nations system, “which comprises the capacities of the whole system working for gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Making a strong case for the new body, the report says that gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society.

Women lack access to decent work and continue to face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps.

In too many cases, the report points out, they are denied access to basic education and health care.

“Some 500,000 women and girls still die every year in pregnancy and childbirth,” the report says.

And women in all parts of the world are not able to exercise their human rights and they suffer violence and discrimination.

Women are underrepresented in political processes and decision-making in all areas.

“Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are inextricably linked to poverty eradication and human development, and the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals,” it says.

These goals, including poverty and hunger reduction, will not be met by the 2015 deadline unless women and girls are empowered.

In his report, the secretary-general also says that “grounded in the vision of equality enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”, the composite entity will work for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls; the empowerment of women; and the achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.

Placing women’s rights at the centre of all its efforts, it will also “lead and coordinate United Nations system efforts to ensure that commitments on gender equality and gender mainstreaming translate into action throughout the world”.

Additionally, it will provide strong and coherent leadership in support of member states’ priorities and efforts, building effective partnerships with civil society and other relevant actors.

The report also says that UNIFEM currently has a presence in more than 80 countries, “where it responds to the greatest needs”.

The U.N.’s capacity to respond, however, has been far below country demand for support and expertise.

In the first phase of the establishment of the composite entity, Ban says, emphasis could be placed on maintaining a minimum basic presence in those 80 countries, as well as deploying teams in the six United Nations regional operational support centres to provide core services in countries where the composite entity does not have a physical presence.

A total of approximately 760 staff would be needed for the start-up capacity in those 80 countries, including 600 national staff, compared with the current total of 196 field staff.

(END)

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PM’s job tops stress list

2009/09/27

By Sonia Ramachandran and Chandra Devi Renganayar

NST Online

KUALA LUMPUR: So you think your job is stressful? Think again, especially if you are not the prime minister.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s job was rated the most stressful in a poll of 120,000 job seekers in Malaysia over the last two weeks.

Najib is not alone at the top. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is said to have the most stressful job in Britain according to a similar survey recently in that country.

Doctors have the second most stressful job in Malaysia, according to the poll by online recruitment company JobStreet.com.
“Don’t think the job is like what is portrayed on television,” said Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David K.L. Quek.

The poll results were made available to the New Sunday Times yesterday. The job of the often-in-the-news Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), was placed at No 3.

His quick comment on the poll was, “People sometimes do not understand the nature of our job…” Tun Zaki Azmi’s job as chief justice, the head of the judiciary, comes in at No 4.

Stockbrokers and teachers come next, followed by the attorneygeneral (Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail), the Inspector-General of Police (Tan Sri Musa Hassan) and pilots.

“Yes, we are highly stressed. When our students sit for exams, we are equally stressed out,” said teacher S. Rachel.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had this to say: “I don’t know if my job is less stressful than that of a teacher. I have never been a teacher and I don’t think I will make a good one.”

Journalists were placed at the bottom of the list.

“I was slightly surprised as I expected some positions, like that of the IGP, to have scored a higher ranking,” said JobStreet.com regional communications head Simon Si.

“Some jobs that seem highly desirable are also associated with a high degree of stress.
“Every occupation has its level of stress. Often it is mitigated by one’s passion and desire to succeed in that occupation and that sometimes makes the stress less noticeable.”

While prime ministers held the most stressful job in Malaysia and Britain, in the United States, this honour goes to the surgeon.

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September 27, 2009 00:25 AM

US Deputy Secretary Of State To Visit Malaysia

By: Ramjit

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 (Bernama) — United States Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg will make a two-day visit to Kuala Lumpur starting Sunday.

Steinberg, accompanied by senior officials of the State Department, Defense Department and Directorate of National Intelligence, is likely to discuss key bilateral, regional and international issues with Malaysian leaders and officials, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Steinberg is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay, the statement says.

“The working visit by Steinberg reflects the strengthening of bilateral relations and cooperation between Malaysia and the US,” it says.

— BERNAMA

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Isu Selcat Hanya Propaganda BN Porak-Perandakan Kredibiliti Pakatan Rakyat

Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Mengenai Keupayaan, Kebertanggungjawaban dan Ketelusan Selangor (Selcat), Teng Chang Kim menyifatkan isu perbicaraan awam Selcat yang digembar-gemburkan adalah propaganda Barisan Nasional.

Katanya, pendengaran awam yang dijalankan oleh Selcat adalah secara  professional dan bukan untuk menyinggung perasaan pegawai-pegawai kerajaan yang menjalankan tugas.

“Mungkin ada unsur-unsur propaganda dalam perkara ini tetapi yang harus rakyat faham ialah bahawa cara kita mengedalikan Selcat ini adalah  mengikut amalan dan piawai komanwel dan piawai yang dilakukan oleh negara maju seperti Amerika Syarikat…seperti kita melihat kepada rakaman Selcat sendiri..tidak ada banyak beza, guna bahasa Malaysia dan Negara barat lain bahasa Inggeris,” katanya.

Teng yang ditemui TVSelangor di pejabatnya hari ini juga menjelaskan, tiada sebarang masalah dalam pentadbiran kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat  yang dianggotai PAS, PKR dan DAP.

“Saya rasa itu bukan masalah Pas dengan Dap, cuma individu tertentu sahaja, saya nampak tak ada masalah dalam hubungan dan kerjasama antara tiga parti dalam Pakatan Rakyat Selangor ini,” katanya.

Katanya, kenyataan Dato Dr Hasan Ali hanyalah satu pandangan untuk menambahbaik perjalanan Selcat dan bukan untuk menjatuhkan Selcat.

Namun jelas Teng yang juga Speaker Dewan Negeri, isu ini sengaja di perbesarkan dan dipolitikkan pihak tertentu.

“Tidak ada masalah dalam Pakatan Rakyat dalam isu ini, cuma ada sesetengah pihak cuba mempolitikkan perkara ini. Sebenarnya, Selcat ini harus dilihat dari segi perlembagaan, amalan palimen dan pentadbiran dan tidak harus dipolitikkan,” katanya.

Teng turut menyangkal dakwaan Ketua Pembangkang Selangor, Khir Toyo yang mengatakan keanggotaan jawatankuasa dari kalangan ahli politik menyebabkan berlaku ketidakadilan dan pilih kasih dalam perbicaraan.

“Tiada soal pilih kasih kerana keanggotaannya terdiri daripada penyokong kerajaan dan juga pihak pembangkang, cuma ada anggota dari UMNO itu tidak berminat dari mula lagi, hanya hadir sebanyak 2 kali lebih daripada 15 kali menyuarat ynag diadakan oleh Selcat, tak ambil bahagian langsung, sekarang malu nak datang semula, dan megatakan keanggotaan tidak sesuai,” jelas Teng.

Jelas Teng lagi, perbicaraan awam yang dijalankan ini adalah jauh lebih baik berbanding pemberian penyapu oleh Khir kepada pegawai kerajaan.

“Bagi Khir Toyo, saya kira Selcat ini jauh lebih baik daripada pemberian penyapu kepada pegawai, saya rasa cara bila kita menyoal itu tidak menjatuhkan martabat, cuma saya merasakan ada sesetengah pegawai yang disoalsiasat terkejut, tidak bersedia dalam perbicaraan Selcat, sebab itu mereka rasa kelam kabut dan merasa malu apabila tidak dapat memberi jawapan yang lengkap,” katanya.

Teng turut menjelaskan keanggotaan ahli jawatankuasa pilihan ini mestilah dianggotai oleh ahli dewan.

“Sebenarnya kalau mengikut amalan, tak kira negara mana, jawatankuasa dewan mesti terdiri daripada ahli dewan sebab ia terdiri daripada ahli dewan sebab itu ia dipanggil jawatankuasa dewan, dan jawatankuasa ini mnempunyai tanggungjawab dan mandat daripada dewan untuk mencari fakta dan kemudian membuat laporan kepada dewan untuk dewan mendapat gambaran jelas tentang perjalanan sesuatu kawasan,” katanya.

Terdahulu, isu Selcat hangat diperkatakan apabila Exco Hal Ehwal Islam, Adat-adat Melayu, Infrastruktur dan Kemudahan Awam, Dato Dr Hasan Ali kononnya mempertikaikan Selcat sebagai membuli pegawai kerajaan kerana ada pegawai yang mendakwa mereka dilayan dengan cara yang tidak sewajarnya dan menjatuhkan semangat untuk bekerja.

Khir yang digantung tugas selama setahun hasil siasatan Selcat berhubung isu Balkis awal tahun ini, juga menyarankan agar perbicaraan awam Selcat tidak diteruskan kerana kononnya merendahkan martabat orang lain.

TV Selangor

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Sep 26, 2009
M’sia churches speak up

This adds new dimension to a political landscape that already has many players

By Carolyn Hong, Malaysia Bureau Chief

KUALA LUMPUR – WHEN When the provocative cow’s head protest took place last month, the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) was among the first to issue a statement of condemnation.

When opposition aide Teoh Beng Hock died during a graft investigation in July, the CCM’s youth section came out with a strongly worded statement.

And when Perak descended into political chaos after the Barisan Nasional toppled the Pakatan Rakyat government in February, council members joined the chorus calling for fresh state elections.

These are not ‘Christian’ issues, but the CCM – an organisation of the mainstream Protestant churches – considers them as issues of social responsibility.

It is not the only church body that has become socially conscious and vocal. The Catholic church has long been active in such issues.

‘I think it augurs well for moral responsibility. This is a responsibility of our faith,’ said Reverend Hermen Shastri, secretary-general of the CCM.

Christians make up about 9 per cent to 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 27 million people.

Their active political voice adds a new dimension to a political landscape which already has many players. Political parties are the most active, but civil liberties groups and bloggers have emerged as another force.

However, until recently, non-Muslim religious groups have rarely been active in political activism other than a few Catholic churches.

‘This will definitely have an impact on politics. We may describe the activism as activities by churches, but churches are made up of members, and voters,’ said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

Straits Times, Singapore

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Q&A: ‘Stiglitz-Sen Moving in the Right Direction, but Slowly’
Miren Gutierrez* interviews HAZEL HENDERSON

ROME, Sep 18 (IPS) – Hazel Henderson is a futurist, an economic iconoclast, founder of Ethical Markets Media, and author of the books Building A Win-Win World, Beyond Globalization, Planetary Citizenship, and Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy. Her main focus is exploring the “blind spots” in conventional economic theory.

She has devoted her research to the creation of an interdisciplinary economic and political theory with a focus on environmental and social issues. For instance, she has investigated the “value” of fresh water and clean air, needed in huge amounts to sustain life, but taken for granted.

In the wake of the publication of the “Stiglitz-Sen report” – which says that countries need to find ways to measure well-being alongside raw economic growth, her views couldn’t be more pertinent.

Henderson spoke to IPS in an emailed interview.

IPS: We often hear that country X will not reach the Millennium Development Goals. According to Jan Vandemoortele, one of the architects of the MDGs, the MDGs have become money-metric and donor-centric, meaningless catch-all phrases. If there are no concrete, common, comparable targets, how do we know we have been successful?

HAZEL HENDERSON: We need to see the MDGs in the rapidly changing world context since 2000: the U.S. has lost its single superpower position. China, India and Brazil are now key global players, the G7 and the G8 are superseded by the G20, and soon the G192 will be the expanded venue for democratising the global economy after the crises in finance changed the game for all players.

So, we need to retain the MDGs as the goal and align them with the rapidly emerging consensus on climate change: the Global Green New Deal, lead by private investments by the world’s pension funds (assets of over 120 trillion dollars) and with low-risk government guarantees for 10 trillion dollars of Climate Prosperity bonds over the next decade.

Since all the old metrics: GDP-measured economic growth and traditional “efficient markets” model are now defunct, we need to not tie MDG goals to these old metrics. New scorecards of progress beyond money-coefficients now appearing in Europe, Canada, China, Brazil and many other countries will be able to track MDGs performance more realistically.

IPS: French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked award-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, and 20 other experts to find new ways to measure growth. The panel issued a report that says that countries need to find ways to measure happiness and well-being alongside raw economic growth. How would this new way of measuring growth affect poor countries? Bhutan, for example, declares a high “Gross National Happiness”. If a new well-being index is the reference for wealth, Bhutan may need no aid, trade or investment in spite of being one of the poorest countries of the world…

HH: The Stiglitz-Sen report is moving in the right direction but too slowly and is still trapped intellectually in the now-defunct “economics box”.

Complex human societies can never be measured by using a single discipline, especially by economics which was never a science. Economic calculations are blind to most of the social and environmental costs its narrow decisions impose on others, reframed as “externalities,” i.e., costs companies and projects omit from their balance sheets. These uncounted impacts of financial decisions have accumulated unnoticed by economists until they are now crises of poverty, inequality, social exclusion and pollution – culminating in the greatest market failure: climate chaos.

Stiglitz and Sen cannot see that new national indicators of “progress” must be multi-disciplinary and use many metrics as appropriate in the kind of systems approach used in the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, an alternative approach I designed with the Calvert Group, tracking 12 aspects of quality of life.

I am very cautious about “happiness” indicators because they are culturally dependent and too subjective (e.g., people living near a hidden toxic dump or drinking polluted water can say they are “happy” while ignorant of these dangers). Conservative economists and statisticians have seized on “happiness” surveys as an excuse to cut social welfare budgets.

IPS: The report recommends GDP growth be used simply to measure market activity and that new systems take into account environmental health, safety and education. Aren’t MDGs enough as a reference?

HH: The report is in error in recommending that GDP continue to be used to measure market activity because this would perpetuate ignoring the social and environmental “externalities” piling up. These must be subtracted from GDP to calculate a net level of real GDP.

The report also makes the mistake used by statistical offices and the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA): keeping social, environmental, health, education, poverty gaps, etc. which have proliferated but are designated as “satellite accounts” and therefore ignored by media and devalued. Real reform of GDP as I have urged, explicitly covering goals similar to the MDGs, is still needed. The Stiglitz-Sen commission was composed of economists rather than including sociologists, health experts, educators, and environment experts.

IPS: Domestic work, done mostly by unpaid women, is an economic engine. Because millions of women do it, the state doesn’t have to pay for it. How do you see domestic work being recognised in practical terms? And if this hidden underground chunk of economy is taken into account, won’t countries were women don’t have access to formal labour appear wealthier?

HH: Unpaid work in the home, community, is estimated at approximately 50 percent of all productive activity even in industrial countries, and as much as 60-70 percent in many developing countries. UNSNA national accounts ignore all unpaid production. The U.N. Human Development Report and its Human Development Index (HDI) in 1996 calculated that unpaid work was estimated at 16 trillion dollars (11 trillion dollars by women and 5 trillion dollars by men), which was simply missing from the official global GDP figure of 24 trillion dollars, although a truer figure would have been 40 trillion dollars for global GDP in 1996…

This highlights that policy changes are needed to restructure work, pay, pensions and the way money itself is created and allocated. Money has no intrinsic value – it is merely one form of information. The evolution of human barter and money systems now means that money can no longer allocate resources. Finance must be reformed to serve real production and access to money and credit must also be democratised. In today’s Information Age, much trading is now via information; the new form of barter now is electronic. So, your questions focus well on the need for these fundamental reforms.

IPS: How could the value of a forest, for example, be counted as part of one countries’ resources or growth?

HH: The value of forests and all our ecosystems’ life support must be valued as factors of production – much more basic than just land (in the old model: land, labour and capital). Ecosystems are natural capital assets and have been estimated at providing approximately 34 trillion dollars of services to human societies annually, but missing from GDP.

In our Beyond GDP proceedings, we went much further than the Stiglitz-Sen report. Both unpaid work and ecosystem services flow from social capital and ecosystem capital which are assets estimated by the World Bank in its Wealth of Nations Report (1995): social capital at 60 percent; ecosystem assets at 20 percent; built capital (factories, roads, etc.) at 20 percent. Thus, the World Bank admitted that 80 percent of the wealth of nations was overlooked in their programmes, which focus mostly on the 20 percent of human-built capital.

This report was never incorporated into the UNSNA’s model of GDP. This key reform of GDP is the addition of an asset account to record not only the social capital of a society and the ecosystem assets, but also its tax-supported public investments in infrastructure: roads, schools, ports, hospitals, internet, etc. These public assets if valued and on the GDP books would counterbalance the public debt used to create them.

I have argued for decades in many countries for this simple accounting change, which would cut most countries’ public debts by over 50 percent with the stroke of a pen!

Wall Street and sovereign bondholders resist this change because it would also cut interest rates by 50 percent. The U.S. in 1996 made a start at accounting for public investments as “savings”. This still inadequate change contributed about a third of the Clinton Administration’s budget surplus (the rest from tax receipts from the dot.com bubble and a cut in military spending). Canada followed suit in 1999 and turned its deficit into a 50 billon Canadian dollars budget surplus!

IPS: You are leader of the international movement to review the GDP as the only measure of growth. From your perspective, has the “Stiglitz-Sen report” left anything out?

HH: This asset account is still not addressed in the Stiglitz-Sen report.

IPS: What is the practical significance of this report outside France?

HH: Because Stiglitz and Sen are well known, this report will elevate the debate in media. Politicians aligned with business and finance will resist, as will conventional statisticians because it will reduce their claim to profits and politicise economics and reveal its lack of any scientific basis.

Similarly, statisticians and many academics will have to write off their intellectual investments, reshuffle their models and time series and defer to many other more scientific measures of current world problems and conditions.

IPS: Is it a coincidence that this “conceptual revolution” coincides with a new push in favour of the Tobin tax – intended to put a penalty on short-term speculation, supported now by unexpected advocates like Adair Turner, technocrat and chair of the British Financial Services Authority?

HH: I am happy to see Lord Adair Turner revisiting the proposal for a financial transaction tax – which now must be by international agreements by the U.N. General Assembly. Even Larry Summers (Director of the White House’s National Economic Council for President Barack Obama) proposed a financial transaction tax in a paper he wrote in 1989. I proposed it in 1995 in the book The United Nations: Policy and Financing Alternatives, which I co- edited with Harlan Cleveland and Inge Kaul. I and my partner, mathematician Alan F. Kay, also designed a computer programme to make collection of such a small tax – the Foreign Exchange Transaction Reporting System, which earned a patent, now expired.

IPS: And now what?

HH: The next steps are to publicise all these reform proposals more widely, including the European Commission’s directive September 2009 proposed for the EU countries in 2010 by Stavros Dimas (European Union commissioner for the environment) and the new Canadian Index of Wellbeing, and the Chinese Green GDP (which has run into local opposition from provincial politicians still judged and rewarded by GDP standards).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) held a conference in 2007 in Istanbul. However, the lead statisticians at OECD and EUROSTAT with whom I co-organised the Beyond GDP conference in the European Parliament are actually very ambivalent about correcting GDP. They take the same flawed view as Stiglitz that it’s ok to still use GDP for measuring market activity – still ignoring those “externalities” instead of subtracting them…

I would love to engage in an open debate with Stiglitz et al on all this!

*Miren Gutierrez is IPS Editor-in-Chief. (END/2009)

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Indonesia awards exploration rights for gas, oil blocks

Sep 21, 2009

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 21 — Indonesia has awarded five oil and natural gas blocks to several companies, aiming to increase oil and gas reserves and to lift dwindling production.

“The companies will drill three exploration wells. We believe those areas have hydrocarbon potential,” said Evita Legowo, director general oil and gas at the ministry of energy. A total investment of $91.5 million has been committed for the projects in the first 3 years.

Indonesia awarded exploration rights to Talisman Energy Inc. for Andaman III block off North Sumatra, while Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pertamina and Malaysia’s Petronas won exploration rights to West Glagah Kambuna, off North Sumatra.

A consortium comprised of Niko Resources and Black Gold Energy won rights to the three remaining blocks: Halmahera Kofiau, off South Halmahera; East Bula, off of Seram; and West Papua IV, off of Papua.

Indonesia has been offering exploration rights and financial incentives for oil fields in a bid to stem a steady decline in production, but this year’s efforts have not been entirely successful.

Officials said Indonesia failed to attract enough investors to develop all the blocks offered in this year’s first quarter due to the global economic slowdown and concerns over revisions to the cost recovery mechanism.

Of the 16 oil and gas blocks offered between December 2008 and April of this year, only five blocks won developers, according to the final results of the bidding process announced Sept. 11 in Jakarta.

Should the situation persist, the government will be in serious trouble due to its inability to meet oil production targets amid soaring demand that has already made Indonesia a net importer of oil and oil products.

“This is very bad, but this is the fact. If the situation remains like this, my objective to maintain national oil production at about one million b/d cannot be achieved,” said Legowo.

Legowo cited two main factors hampering investors’ interests in bidding for the blocks: the global liquidity crisis and the government’s plan to revise the cost recovery mechanism.

Indonesia has turned into a net oil importer in recent years as production has dropped due to the failure to tap new fields fast enough. Indonesia also is Asia’s largest importer of oil products, with Pertamina’s nine refineries able to supply less than 70% of domestic oil product consumption.

Due the lack of refining capacity, a Pertamina official earlier this month said the state firm expects the country’s gasoline imports to more than double from existing levels by 2017.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that annual domestic gasoline consumption would climb to 192.7 million bbl in 2017, from a forecast 123.8 million bbl in 2009.

He said Indonesia’s refineries can only produce 68.5 million bbl/year of gasoline, so imports would have to rise to 124.2 million bbl in 2017, from 55.3 million bbl in 2009.

“If Indonesia wants to cut gasoline imports, it must build new refineries as quickly as it can,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Pertamina said it expects to import about 5.6 million bbl of gasoline and 3.6 million bbl of diesel in October, down slightly from the figures for September.

The state firm earlier said it planned to import 5.8 million bbl of gasoline, and 3-4 million bbl of diesel in September in an effort to boost supplies for the the Muslima holidays of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, takes place from Sept. 21-22.

Agustiawan also said the company currently has 20.9 days of gasoline stocks and 25 days diesel stocks.

“We will secure domestic oil products supply, especially during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr,” said Karen Agustiawan, Pertamina’s president director, who added that “Gasoline and diesel imports are expected to be normal in October.”

———————————————————————————————

Selangor gets its first Malay DAP branch

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — Ibrahim Salleh, a school security guard, proudly displayed his new red DAP membership card which he obtained last week.

He is among 50 Malays from Kampung Lembah Kinrara in Selangor to join the Chinese-based opposition party, forming the state’s first Malay-led branch.

“I have no problem with DAP being led by Chinese. I believe this can bring change to the Malay community,” he told The Straits Times.

There are already four Malay DAP branches in Perak and membership has risen to about 200 after last year’s polls.

Kinrara state assemblywoman Teresa Kok is determined to set up at least three more Malay branches by the end of the year.

Ibrahim, a father of five, believes the DAP will help the Malays to progress, as the democratic party strives for equal opportunity for all.

He pointed out that although Barisan Nasional talked about protecting the Malays and giving them special rights, it was only those in Umno who benefited in the end.

To him, the DAP is a multi-racial party that respects the rights and religions of other races.

“I believe in DAP now. People used to tell Malays that if DAP takes over, we cannot even have azan (call for prayers) but that is not true,” he said.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is pleased with the development, said: “This shows that DAP has been accepted by the Malays, just like the Chinese and the Indians who accepted PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.” He believes that DAP’s recruitment of Malay members will strengthen his Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

The DAP’s success in drawing Malays is significant for the party, which is generally seen by Malays as stridently championing Chinese interests such as Chinese schools, and fighting for issues like the right to sell alcohol and pork in public places.

The DAP’s motto, Malaysian Malaysia, and its socialist roots have also turned off many Malays who see it as a sidelining of the Malay agenda, and promoting a secular culture.

But the party broke through a psychological barrier when Malays voted for it in droves in last year’s general election after they were disillusioned with Umno.

Political analyst Agus Yusoff of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said: “Malays used to stay away from DAP but they have changed because it is a different political scenario now.”

The party also received a boost when the well-respected former Transparency International Malaysia president Tunku Abdul Aziz submitted his membership form last year and is now a party vice-president.

For a long time, the only well-known Malay name in DAP was MP Ahmad Nor, who was its vice-president until his death in 2003.

Umno leaders had criticised the new Malay grassroots leaders of DAP as “politically lost” and “ungrateful”.

Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan told Berita Harian that the DAP wanted to attract Malays only to advance its narrow political agenda that will eventually be detrimental to the Malays.

“We ask the Malays not to be taken in by the DAP’s tricks; it’s just to give the DAP a positive image,” he said.

But Haron Wahab, 56, who helped to set up the Kampung Lembah Kinrara branch, disagreed.

“My friends and I are not lost or ungrateful. We want to support DAP because Kok has been helpful to us,” he said. — The Straits Times

————————————————————————–

Terrorist Noordin Top’s wife wants to bury him in Malaysia

September 17th, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR – Slain Malaysia-born terrorist Noordin Mohammed Top’s wife has calmly received the news of her husband being killed by the Indonesian police. She wishes that his body be brought home in Malaysia’s Johor Baru for burial.

Her father, Rusdi Hamid, 67, said: “We were always prepared for such an outcome especially after the last time when he was suspected to have been killed.”

“We will live our lives normally as it has been a long time since he has lived with us,” said Hamid who last month regretted his decision to marry his daughter to a man who initially was a sober teacher.

Top was gunned down in a shootout in Indonesia Wednesday.

Hamid Thursday said it was his daughter’s wish for her husband’s body to be returned home to be buried.

Hamid, a trader residing in Kampung Sg Tiram in Johor state, said his daughter and Noordin’s three children, a 10-year-old son and daughters aged nine and eight, had lost contact with Noordin for about eight years.

“Even after eight years, my daughter still wished for him to be buried here now that it is confirmed that he was killed.

“My daughter and grandchildren had to live without him but thankfully they are used to the situation,” he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

Hamid hoped that the media and other parties would leave his family alone now that it has been confirmed that Noordin was killed.

“We will carry on without him,” he said.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said he was ’sad’ at Noordin’s death and felt that he could have been rehabilitated.

“What he did was wrong. We don’t condone what he did. I am sad that we did not get to rehabilitate him, like we have done with many others, including Jemaah Islamiah militants.

“I am sad because a life is a life,” he told reporters.

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