Monday, December 31, 2007

U.S. Generation Y more often to patronize libraries

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- More than half of Americans visited a library in 2007, with young adults from Generation Y -- 18 to 30 years old -- being the heaviest users, according to a survey released on Sunday.

Public libraries drew visits by more than half of all Americans -- 53 percent -- in 2007 for all kinds of purposes, the survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said.

"The age of books isn't yet over," said Lee Rainie, Pew's director.

The study found that library usage drops gradually as people age — to 62 percent among Americans generally aged 18-30 compared with 32 percent among those 72 and up, with a sharp decline just as Americans turn 50.

"These findings turn our thinking about libraries upside down," said Leigh Estabrook, a professor emerita at the University of Illinois and co-author of a report on the survey results.

"Internet use seems to create an information hunger and it is information-savvy young people who are most likely to visit libraries," she said.

Internet users were more than twice as likely to patronize libraries as non-Internet users, according to the survey.

The study also found that more than two-thirds of library visitors in all age groups said they used computers while at the library.


Editor: Wang Yan

Bangladesh likely to cut 50% internet tariff

DHAKA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The Bangladesh government is likely to cut internet tariff by 50 percent soon in a bid to boost the country's ICT (information and communication technology) industry, local newspaper The Daily Star reported Monday.

Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB), which is responsible to fix internet tariff, last week sent a proposal to finance ministry to reduce prices.

Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) earlier urged the government to reduce the tariff by 75 percent so that Bangladesh's software companies can compete in the global market.

An internet subscriber has to pay 35,000 taka (about 500 U.S. dollars) a month for 256 kbps (kilobits per second) dedicated internet connection to BTTB. But in India, a subscriber pays the amount that is hardly 1,800 taka (about 25.7 U.S. dollars) for the same connection.

BTTB's charge for 512 kbps dedicated internet connection is 62,500 taka (about 893 U.S. dollars) and for 1 megabit is 120,000 (about 1,714 U.S. dollars). In India, charges for the same connections are about 64.3 U.S. dollars and 107 U.S. dollars.

The government's high internet tariff is holding back the country's software industry to have a strong position in the global market, BASIS President Rafiqul Islam Rowly was quoted as saying.

"Even after 50 percent reduction, we have to pay more than 10 times compared to the rates in India," said Shameen Ahsan, joint secretary of BASIS.

According to the industry insiders, the number of internet users is only 450,000 in the country. The home-based as well as industry users feel discouraged to use internet due to high rental costs.

Local paper unveils Top 10 News of Cambodia in 2007

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Major local Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News here on Monday unveiled the Top 10 News of Cambodia in 2007, which presented a peaceful and flourishing picture of the country.

On top of the chart was the inauguration of the new National Assembly office building on July 7. The Khmer-style mansion took four years and cost 26 million U.S. dollars to become the most updated government building of the country.

Secondly, Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, the spirit of Cambodia's governing body, won new uttermost honorary titles from King Norodom Sihamoni on Oct. 12.

Thirdly, Hun Sen on March 15 emphasized that his government consistently supports the One-China Policy and won't allow the Taiwanese authority to establish representative office in Phnom Penh.

Fourthly, the Asia-Pacific City Coalition of Anti-Racism held its first meeting in Phnom Penh on June 5, with the attendance of the deputies from more than 10 regional countries.

Fifthly, Kim Yong Il, Prime Minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), paid his four-day official visit to Cambodia.

Sixthly, the National Assembly approved the Civil Aviation Law on Dec. 5, which will provide legal security for passengers and boost the tourism industry.

Seventhly, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) arrested former leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea (DK, 1975-1979) Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan in December.

Eighthly, the Cambodian government on Dec. 11 blasted United Nations Human Rights Envoy Yash Ghai's recent criticism of the country's judicial system and land rights management, calling him tourist rather than envoy.

Ninthly, Hun Sen on Oct. 28 attended the China-ASEAN Expo in Guangxi, China, for the fourth time consecutively, which bore witness to the ever growing political and trade ties between the two countries.

Finally, the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) scored landslide victory in the commune councils election on April 1, which guaranteed for CPP a secure forecast of its performance in the general election in 2008.

According to other recent reports of local media, political dominance by CPP and macro-economic stability are the key words to assess the situation of Cambodia in 2007.

CPP, in conjunction with the Funcinpec Party, has governed the kingdom for almost a decade, while the economy during this period developed positively, with its average growth rate from 2004 to 2006 standing at 11 percent.

Meanwhile, one third of the country's population still live poverty and the government has been under ever rising international pressure to cope with corruption and social injustice to testify its competence and legality, said the reports.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Local paper highlights Top 10 Economic News of Cambodia in 2007

By Xia Lin

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Major local Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News here on Monday highlighted the Top 10 Economic News of Cambodia in 2007 and outlined the robust pulse of the kingdom's economic vibration.

On top of the chart was the signing of the single visa agreement between Cambodia and Thailand on Dec. 17, which allowed foreign tourists from a third country to visit the two countries with a single visa and thus promoted more foreign tourists to visit both countries.

Second, Cambodia re-opened its Sihanoukville International airport on Jan. 15, after more than 20 years of hiatus, in order to perfect its air traffic network and attract more travelers to the seaport city.

Third, the kingdom started to construct its National Road No. 8on March 15, which, upon its completion, will improve the country's road network and provide more choices for its outgoing people.

Fourth, the National Assembly on Dec. 3 approved the government accounts settlement for 2005, which had 89.2 million U.S. dollars in surplus and confirmed its successful economic reform.

Fifth, the Special Economic Zone of Sihanoukville began to be constructed in 2007 with the participation of Chinese investors. The project aimed to provide full-scale business service for export-oriented factories and companies.

Sixth, real estate prices in Phnom Penh surged drastically in 2007, as it inhabitants increased by 3.2 percent on annual basis and foreign investment rushed in to share the country's foreseeable economic boom in the near future.

Seventh, Cambodian has become the sixth largest garment exporter in the world. The industry created job opportunities for about 0.5 million Cambodians and generated some 0.3 billion U.S. dollars of monthly payment for the employees.

Eighth, maiden direct flight between Europe and Cambodia was made on Dec. 7, which would bring more tourists to the kingdom.

Ninth, agricultural exports flourished in 2007, as palm oil, peanuts, rice, pepper and other rural products became ever more popular in the international markets.

Finally, luxury real estate project the Longqing Resort in Kandal province was demolished on July 31, as it expanded its land illegally and in effect constituted menace to the safety of the capital city.

Earlier in November, the Asia Development Bank put Cambodia's economic growth rate for the current year at 9.5 percent and nine percent in 2008, while the Cambodian government gave a conservative estimation of seven percent both in 2007 and 2008.

In addition, the latest World Bank (WB) East Asia and Pacific Update said in November that despite slight decline, Cambodia's economic outlook for 2008 will remain strong overall, with its growth rate dropping from 9.5 percent in 2007 to 7.5 percent in 2008.

According to official figures, the economic growth rate of the kingdom in the past three years averaged 11 percent, by which the government said that macro-economic stability has been realized out of decades of war and turmoil.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Approval of Cambodia securities and stock exchange law

PHNOM PENH (ThomsonFinancial) - Cambodia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law that takes the country a step closer to opening its first stock exchange, planned for 2009. The National Assembly approved the law setting out the rules and regulations by which private and state enterprises can issue stocks and bonds.

‘This law will help develop the national economy and society by collecting capital from the public or securities investors… for investment,’ a copy of the draft said. The law also aims ‘to promote investment from abroad and the participation in the securities market in Cambodia,’ it said. The government now must establish a nine-member Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia to regulate the planned market and the issuing of government bonds, it said.The government last week launched a project to establish the country’s first securities market, partnering with South Korea in a programme that hopes to see a stock exchange established by 2009.

Despite concerns from oppostion lawmakers over the independence of the new commission, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the law meets international standards. But he acknowledged that many challenges remain — particularly creating the infrastructure for the market and a computer system to manage trading. He said the government will control the new securities commission until at least 2015 and will spend some 15 million dollars to develop the market. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy urged the government not to interfere in the securities market. ‘When there is a lot of interference, it could lead to conflicts of interest,’ he said. ‘There will be a lot of money coming across the securities market, so then there will be the risk of cheating,’ Rainsy said.

While still one of the world’s poorest countries, Cambodia has emerged from decades of conflict as one of the region’s rising economies. The country has posted annual economic growth averaging 11 percent over the past three years on the back of strong garment and tourism sectors. Cambodia remains a largely cash-only economy and a high degree of mistrust keeps many people hoarding their money at home instead of using the banks. In April, Cambodia was assigned its first-ever sovereign debt rating by the credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s, which said the impoverished country’s outlook was ’stable’.

The B+ rating is below investment grade status, restricting many institutional investors, but it is a significant step in Cambodia’s bid for economic respectability.

Japan stocks rise on thin trading

Japanese trader looks at market board in Tokyo - file photo 12 December 2007
Japanese stocks have fallen nearly 10% so far in 2007
Japanese stocks jumped to close at a two-week high with the benchmark Nikkei index ending trading up 1.9% to finish Tuesday's business at 15,552.59.

Trading was light after Monday's holiday in Japan and with most overseas investors closed for Christmas.

Japanese shipping companies, financial groups and industrial companies such as Hitachi led the gains.

The Nikkei-225 stock index has so far dropped nearly 10% this year after gaining 6.9% in 2006.

A slightly weakening US dollar and a rally on Wall Street contributed to Tuesday's gains, said analysts.

Cambodia Eyes Stock Market for Capital

Sunday November 18, 2:58 pm ET
By Ker Munthit, Associated Press Writer

Cambodia Plans Stock Market for Cash-Strapped Economy, but Will Companies Open Their Books?

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Until recently, the buzzwords of hope for lifting Cambodia out of dire poverty were "offshore oil."

Now come new ones -- "securities market" -- that the government hopes will draw international capital to this tiny country and help it expand the economic base beyond the clothing industry, which has been Cambodia's main moneymaker so far.

Last month, senators passed a law on the issuance and trading of stocks and bonds in the latest move to prepare the country for establishing its first stock market by 2009.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon says the country needs a stock market to diversify the way businesses raise money. So far, beyond international aid for development projects, most financing has come from banks.

But he acknowledged that it will take some time for Cambodian entrepreneurs and the public to accept the idea of a stock market -- particularly the requirement that all companies' bookkeeping would be open to scrutiny.

"It is like entering exams with a strict standard. Some firms could be reluctant to be part of it," Keat Chhon said.

Companies will not be allowed to sell shares if their accounting is not certified by independent auditors, he said.

Neighboring Vietnam started its stock market in July 2000, and it has been a big success, both for companies and investors.

"There's always complaints made that capital is hard to get in Cambodia," said Bretton Sciaroni, an American lawyer running a law firm in the capital, Phnom Penh. "The banks are very liquid but it's all short-term money that the banks have, and it makes it difficult for long-term projects."

For investors, the country's junk-level credit ratings suggest it is a risky bet because of its weak oversight and rampant corruption.

The economy, while growing at more than 11 percent annually during the past three years, is small and largely driven by just one industry, textiles, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of exports. The other key industries are tourism, construction and agriculture, and telecommunications is a promising area.

"The very weak state of governance -- in terms of overall effectiveness of government operations, regulatory quality and rule of law -- adversely affect Cambodia's credit fundamentals," Thomas Byrne, a vice president of Moody's Investors Service, said in a statement in May.

Until Cambodia is able to broaden its economic base, "it will remain vulnerable to domestic and external shocks," he said.

Moody's gives the country's government bonds a credit rating of "B," five rungs below investment grade. Standard & Poor's put Cambodia at "B+," four levels below investment grade.

U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp.'s discovery of offshore oil in the Cambodian seabed last year has triggered hope that the country could benefit from that income. But it is not clear yet if the oil will be commercially viable or when it can be tapped.

Cambodia needs to move beyond relying only on international aid and banks loans, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in early September at the launching of the stock exchange plan.

Those two sources are "still not sufficient to fulfill enormous capital demand of the Cambodian capital-hungry economy," he said, adding that banks loans last year totaled about $500 million.

The creation of a stock market would likely boost foreign direct investment, which last year totaled just $483 million, compared with $2.3 billion and $9.7 billion in neighboring Vietnam and Thailand respectively, according to the U.N.'s World Investment Report 2007.

Local business executives appear to be positive -- and perhaps somewhat cautious -- about setting up a local bourse.

"Having a stock exchange is a good idea. Companies and the public can benefit by taking part in it," said Kith Meng, president of Royal Group, which includes Mobitel, the country's biggest mobile phone service provider. "But I will have to see first."

To be listed on the exchange, companies will be required to submit their balance sheets for auditing and stamping by certified professional accountants, government officials say.

In Channy, the CEO of Acleda Bank PLC, a leading commercial bank in the country, says his company has already been making its financial reports public on its Web site for some time.

That's "our bank's obligation to let our partners and clients know about our situation," he said. "We have no fear to participate in a stock market."

Last month, the government began requiring some 400 enterprises to submit their financial statements to independent auditors by December -- one of a series of steps the government says is necessary for a successful opening of a stock market.

To develop an exchange, Cambodia has turned for aid to South Korea, which has provided $1.8 million to set up an exchange and train personnel.

But Sam Rainsy, the country's former finance minister and main opposition leader, warns that most Cambodian companies have questionable business practices.

"There are few companies that meet international standards. But the rest are rather dubious if not controversial companies, which are here doing business not in a transparent manner but rather (through) friends and cronies of political establishment," he said.

"I am afraid that many potential stock holders will be cheated by stock manipulation" such as insider trading, said Sam Rainsy, the president of Sam Rainsy Party. "Big risk. They will be victims of manipulation."

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