PH grants visa-free privileges to 7 countries

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday announced that it is granting visa-free privileges to seven more countries.

The DFA identified the seven countries as Belize, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The said countries have the privilege to enter the Philippines for a period of stay of 30-days.

The move will further promote tourism and investments between the Philippines and the said countries.

“The DFA fully supports national efforts to attract more tourists and potential investors to the Philippines. In particular, the DFA, through its various embassies and consulates abroad, has been playing an active role in helping the Department of Tourism reach its target of 10 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2015,” said DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis.

The move to include more countries which will enjoy a visa-free stay in the Philippines was a result of inter-agency coordination with the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Tourism, Department of Justice, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the National Security Council.

Meanwhile, Somalia has been removed from the list of countries whose nationals enjoy visa-free privilege. Somali nationals may apply for visas at Philippine embassies or consulates in their countries of origin or residence.

Nationals of countries who may enter visa-free can avail of the privilege by presenting a national passport valid for at least six months beyond the contemplated period of stay and a return ticket to the country of origin or onward ticket to the next country of destination.

A list of all countries with visa-free privilege, now numbering 157, is available at the DFA website at

PH grants visa-free privileges to 7 countries | ABS-CBN News.

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Belarus to get World Bank funds for biomass district heating

The World Bank has approved a loan of $90 million for a biomass district heating project in Belarus.

The project will provide heat for 79,000 Belarusians in 13 towns, the bank said.

With the funds, Belarus will finance replacement of existing gas and oil boilers with biomass boilers; installation of wood chipping equipment and biomass fuel storage facilities; installation of individual building-level heat substations with temperature control; and upgrades to district heating networks.

CO2 emissions savings over the project’s lifespan are projected at 1.9 million tonnes.

‘By improving energy efficiency and replacing imported natural gas and oil with less expensive local wood biomass, the project would reduce the cost of heat supply on average by 63% in participating project towns,’ said Fan Zhang, World Bank task team leader for the project.

Belarus’s government aims to increase the share of local fuels, largely biomass, in the country’s energy mix from 25% in 2011 to 32% in 2020.

According to government figures, 60% of Belarusians rely on district heating.

Belarus to get World Bank funds for biomass district heating – Cogeneration & On-Site Power Production.

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Vanuatu government withdraws airport motion

Vanuatu’s government has withdrawn a motion regarding a loan from China’s EXIM Bank for the country’s proposed 350 million US dollar airport development.

The government will instead send all documents and information relating to the plan to a committee that has been set up to vet the plan which will report back to parliament on the 28th of June.

The opposition leader, Ham Lini, who threatened an opposition boycott of parliament to protest the way the government was dealing with the project, says he considers the move a victory.

“The way it is proceeding, we do not agree with that because it will cause a lot of burden for the people of Vanuatu if we had gone ahead and did what the government wanted us to do.”

Ham Lini says there are a lot of issues surrounding the proposal, such as landowner rights, that need to be addressed before it can move on.

Vanuatu government withdraws airport motion | Radio New Zealand News.

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Developing the fastest-growing, unbeatable economy

NEARLY four years ago, time might have been the least of worries of the government’s economic managers. After all, a lot of things could be accomplished in six years.

Today, with about two years left, they no longer have the luxury of time. It is time to make a quick review of what has been done and prepare a list of projects that can be completed at the shortest possible time on or before June 2016.
Actually, the deadline should have been set months earlier because we cannot do everything in the next two years, considering the ban on public- works projects during the coming national elections.

Even the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been revised downward, as far as these apply to the Philippines, under the updated Philippine Development Plan.

Every agency or department of the government would want to complete its own projects. Taking into account limited resources and time, priority should go to projects with the greatest positive impact on the economy which can be completed before the administration bows out of office.

My vote goes to tourism-related infrastructure projects, specifically, airport improvement or expansion projects. These projects can be completed in the short time left remaining for the administration. Also, international airports will help develop tourism to become the third leg of growth for the Philippines economy.

We already have two legs: the growing inflow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers and the business- process outsourcing industry. These two legs both generate precious foreign exchange, which shields our economy from the impact of slowdown in exports and capital flight from emerging economies.

Tourism is also a dollar earner, in addition to being an employment generator—from construction to operation—and from businesses spawned by tourism.

The Philippines is already the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia, but that’s mainly because of domestic consumption, which does not create enough jobs to fill demand. What we have is, as economists put it, “jobless growth.”
With tourism, we can have a three-legged, dollar-generating and job-creating growth. We will be the fastest-growing economy in the region, and we will be unbeatable. Growth will be sustainable and inclusive.

Unfortunately, we still lag behind our neighbors in tourism. Even Thailand continues to attract a lot more visitors despite the floods a few years ago and the political crisis that started last year. Data published online by the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., show that tourist arrivals in Thailand reached 26.7 million in 2013, nearly 20 percent higher than the number of visitors in 2013. This year the Tourism Authority of Thailand expects arrivals to top 28 million.

Tourist arrivals in the Philippines totaled 4.68 million in 2013, up 9.6 percent from 4.27 million in 2012, according to the Department of Tourism. The figure fell short of the target 5 million visitors and raised doubts about the 10 million target for 2016.
Still, the tourism sector generated $4.4 billion in revenues last year, equivalent to P186.15 billion, and reflecting a 15-percent increase from the previous year. Imagine the amount of foreign exchange that tourism would generate if we attracted even half the number of visitors in Thailand.

The Philippines, as I have said many times before, is no less beautiful than Thailand or any of our neighbors. Boracay alone is a gem. It has been recognized as one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the world.
But we need to bring the tourists from all over the world to Boracay and our many other destinations. The removal of the Philippines from the restricted list of the United States is a big opportunity for us to attract more visitors from the US.

The US Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the Philippines’s aviation security rating to Category 1 status on April 10. The European Union made the same move last year, which allowed the Philippine Airlines (PAL) to resume flights between Manila and several European countries.

Under Category 1 status, PAL will be able to increase flights and destinations in the US, which will also make travel to the Philippines more attractive to Americans. PAL already announced that it was ready to implement an expansion plan in the US, beginning with the deployment of its fleet of newly acquired Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to routes between Manila and the US.

The airline currently operates a total of 26 weekly flights to the US, with frequencies to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam.

Developing the fastest-growing, unbeatable economy – PPP Center.

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15 Injured in China Train Derailment

A total of 15 people were hospitalized after a train derailed in northeast China early Sunday, officials said.

The railway bureau in Heilongjiang province’s regional capital of Harbin said on its official microblog that the cause of the pre-dawn accident was under investigation.

It said bureau officials responded to the accident, accompanied by police and fire and rescue services.

China has one of the world’s most extensive networks of railways, but accidents are extremely rare.

The Harbin railway bureau said the train was an older model, rather than one of the high-speed trains that have been brought into service in recent years.

China’s most serious recent railway disaster involved a pair of high-speed trains that collided near the eastern city of Wenzhou in 2011, killing 40 people.

15 Injured in China Train Derailment.

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Kazakhmys acquire mine in Kazakhstan

Kazakhmys has announced that it has concluded the agreement for the purchase of Koksay from CCC Mining Construction, an unrelated private company.

First announced in February, Koksay will be the Group’s third major growth project. Completion is subject to Kazakhstan Government and regulatory approvals.

The net acquisition cost will be $260 in cash, of which $65m is deferred. Of the deferred consideration, $30m is payable on 1 January 2015 and $35m on 31 July 2015. The latter is subject to confirmation of reserves.

The Koksay deposit is in south eastern Kazakhstan around 234 kilometres from Almaty and is well located for existing infrastructure. The mine has a total resource of approximately 3.4 MT of copper, with an average grade of 0.48%. There are by-products of gold, silver and molybdenum.

The project is at scoping stage and has an estimated mine life of over 20 years with average annual production of around 80 kt of copper cathode equivalent, 60 koz of gold, 400 koz of silver and 1 kt of molybdenum in concentrate.

Oleg Novachuk, chief executive said: “We are delighted to have secured Koksay, which will provide long-term growth beyond our existing projects of Bozshakol and Aktogay.

“The acquisition is in keeping with our strategy of production dominated by low cost, open pit, long life mines. Koksay will provide a sound return for shareholders, and local benefit through employment and economic growth.”

Kazakhmys acquire mine in Kazakhstan | 15 April 2014 | Stock Market Wire.

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NEDA Board confirms 12 new projects worth P67 billion

PHILIPPINES – The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board has confirmed 12 new projects with a total estimated cost of P67.07 billion in the first quarter of 2014.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will implement six of the projects worth P38.15 billion. Three of these projects are in the National Capital region (NCR), one each in the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas, and one for nationwide implementation.

The three DOTC projects to be implemented in the NCR are the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 2 East Extension project; Mass Rail Transit 3 Capacity Expansion Project, which involves the acquisition of 52 light- rail vehicles; and the LRT Line 1 North Extension Project-Common Station project.

The other three DOTC projects are the Bicol International Airport Project in Daraga, Albay; the Tacloban Airport Redevelopment Project; and the Land Transportation Office-(LTO) Infrastructure and Information System (LTO-IIS) Project/DOTC-LTO.
The Department of Agriculture will be the implementing agency for three projects worth P15.61 billion that were confirmed by the Neda Board in the January-to-March period.

The three projects are the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project-Irrigation Component Phase in Central Luzon; the Umayam River Irrigation Project in Caraga; and the Malitubog- Maridagao Irrigation Project Phase 2 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Soccsksargen.

The three other projects that were approved by the Neda Board in the first quarter are the Department of Public Works and Highways’ P5-billion Flood Control Projects; the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System’s P5.72-billion Strengthening of Angat Dam and Dike Project; and the National Power Corp.’s P2.6-billion Agus 6 Hydroelectric Power Plant (Units 1 and 2) Upgrading Project.

The powers and functions of the Neda reside in the Neda Board. It is the country’s premier social and economic development planning and policy-coordinating body.

The board is composed of the President as chairman, the Socio-Economic Planning secretary and Neda director general as vice chairman, and the following as members: the executive secretary and the secretaries of Finance, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Public Works and Highways, Budget and Management, Labor and Employment, and Interior and Local Government.

NEDA Board confirms 12 new projects worth P67 billion – PPP Center.

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World Bank to provide $13 million for Gaza environmental projects

The World Bank will provide $13 million in grant money for environmental projects in the Gaza Strip, a statement said Monday.

According a World Bank statement, the money will go toward providing “long-term solutions to the treatment of sewage and solid waste” in the Strip.

The UN financial institution will grant $10 million to the Gaza Solid Waste Management Project, which “aims to improve the solid waste disposal in the Gaza governorates through the provision of an efficient, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly mechanism.”

Meanwhile, $3 million will go to the North Gaza Wastewater Treatment Project, which aims to construct “a modern wastewater treatment plant and the development of a reuse program to irrigate surrounding fields with safely treated effluent.”

“Several residential areas have been recurrently flooded with raw sewage causing property damage, injuries and deaths,” Steen Jorgensen, World Bank country director for West Bank and Gaza, said in the statement.

“Illegal dumping and burning of waste are common practices across rural and urban areas causing soil, air and water pollution as well as health hazard,” Jorgenen said.

“Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are entitled to live in a healthy and clean environment. Proper management of municipal waste is a priority that the World Bank is supporting to avoid negative health and environmental impacts on the well-being of Gaza citizens,” he added.

On wastewater treatment, Richard Pollard, World Bank senior water and sanitation specialist, said that “the collapse of sewage ponds at the overloaded Beit Lahiya wastewater treatment plant in northern Gaza in 2007 raised critical questions about the long-term viability of water management systems in the Gaza Strip.”

“The groundwater is alarmingly contaminated by leaked sewage. While the project was developed as a response to an emergency acute public health and environmental crisis, the new grant aims to ensure the long term sustainability of the facility,” Pollard added.

The Gaza Strip has been under an economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

World Bank to provide $13 million for Gaza environmental projects | Maan News Agency.

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PHL moves bid deadline for P2.5-B Southwest Terminal to June

The Philippines has moved to June 16 from May 15 the deadline for making a bid for the P2.5-billion Integrated Transport System-Southwest Terminal, saying it wants to give investors enough time to prepare for the tender.

The Southwest Terminal consists of a 2.9-hectare property at the Coastal Road Terminal along the Manila-Cavite Expressway. The public-private partnership program would give passengers from Cavite the opportunity to have a choice of urban transport systems, including the future Light Rail Transit South Extension to Bacoor, as well as city buses, taxis, and other public utility vehicles in Metro Manila.

The Department of Transportation and Communications said it has deferred to June 16 the deadline so prospective investors could have more leeway in preparing their bid documents.

“In order to give ample time for the bidders to prepare for a competitive tender, the deadline for the submission of bids is hereby moved from May 15 to June 16,” Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla said in a bulletin released over the weekend.

Among the companies expected to vie for project are San Miguel Corp., Ayala Corp. and Ayala Land Inc., Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., Robinsons Land Inc., Filinvest Land Inc. Mega-wide Construction Corp., D.M. Wenceslao and Associates Inc., Vicente T. Lao Construction, and French-owned Egis Projects Philippines.

The winning bidder would finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain the Southwest Terminal for 35 years.

The project would consist of a passenger terminal building, arrival and departure bays, public information system, ticketing and baggage handling facilities and park-ride facilities.

PHL moves bid deadline for P2.5-B Southwest Terminal to June | Economy | GMA News Online.

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Bulgarian Railway Co Faces Bankruptcy Unless Accounts Are Unblocked

Deputy Transport Minister Anton Ginev has cautioned that the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) company faces bankruptcy unless its accounts are unblocked.

In a Monday interview for mediapool, he said that the talks on the matter with the creditors of BDZ were cumbersome and difficult.

In early February 2014, German financial institution FMS Wertmanagement froze the bank accounts of BDZ over overdue debts of EUR 11 M.

One year earlier, the assets of the cargo unit of BDZ, BDZ Freight Services, were frozen due to unpaid debts to Depfa bank.

Ginev made clear Monday that Germany insisted on solving the problem with the outstanding debts of the Bulgarian state-owned railway company on a governmental level, adding that a solution was unlikely to be reached soon.

Bulgaria’s Deputy Transport Minister did not specify a deadline for the end of the talks but he assured that BDZ had the necessary sum of over BGN 10 M to pay the loan installment due in May.

Ginev also explained that it was good news that the debts of the company were decreasing, reaching BGN 620 M from a previous rate of around BGN 700 M.

He also noted that BDZ was considering creating a subsidiary specializing in repairs.

Ginev admitted that repair works were not profitable but he argued that efficient management combined with a minority private stake would help optimize the state-owned railway holding.

Ginev did not name the company with which BDZ was planning to set up a joint venture.

He said that an analysis was being made to select the repair units of BDZ which would become part of the subsidiary, given that the company had over 20 such sites based in Sofia, Plovdiv, Karnobat, Dimitrivgrad, etc.

Ginev claimed that the components of the subsidiary would be clear by mid-2014.

He also informed that the Transport Ministry did not plan to establish new state-owned companies.

Bulgarian Railway Co Faces Bankruptcy Unless Accounts Are Unblocked – – Sofia News Agency.

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Skyway Stage 3, NAIA Expressway seen operational by mid-2015

BAGUIO, Philippines – The president of the company operating the Skyway said two projects meant to help ease traffic in Metro Manila would be operational by middle of next year.

“We are required to deliver the first phase — from Buendia to Plaza Dilao — by mid of next year and it would be operational by then,” Skyway O&M Corp (SOMCO) president Manuel Bonoan told participants of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines-San Miguel Corp (SMC) Business Journalism Seminar held in this city.

The P26.7 billion Skyway Stage 3 Project involves the construction of a 14.8-kilometer, six-lane elevated expressway that will connect the end of the Skyway in Buendia to Balintawak.

Citra Central Expressway Corp, the proponent of and concessionaire of Skyway Stage 3, is a joint venture among SMC, Citra Lamtoro Gung Persada and state-owned Philippine National Construction Corp (PNCC).

The project has eight access points, namely Buendia, Quirino, Nagtahan, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez, Quezon Avenue, Sgt. Rivera and Balintawak.

The project, which would link the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), will provide 6,000 direct jobs and an additional 10,000 indirect jobs during construction.
The project, which started construction early this month, is scheduled for completion by June 2016.

It is meant to help decongest Edsa and reduce travel time between Buendia in Makati City and Balintawak in Quezon City to 20 minutes or less from the existing two hours.

A Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) report said traffic congestion in Metro Manila has cost the country P2.4 billion in economic and opportunity losses.

A second project — the P15.5 billion NAIA Expressway Project Phase 2 — is likely to be completed by middle of next year, Bonoan said.

The project involves the design and construction of a 7.15-kilometer elevated structure from the terminus of Phase I at Sales Avenue going to Andrews Avenue, Domestic Road, MIA Road, before ending at Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard and going to/from Manila and to/from Entertainment City.

One of the Aquino administration’s public-private partnership (PPP) ventures, included in this project is the construction of the 2.20 kilometer six- to eight-lane at-grade road going to the Entertainment City.

SMC, through unit Private Infrastructure Development Corp, won the contract to build the project.

Skyway Stage 3, NAIA Expressway seen operational by mid-2015 – PPP Center.

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Banks ready to fund PPP projects

BAGUIO CITY , Philippines – Philippine banks are ready and capable of funding capital-intensive public-private partnership (PPP) projects, the flagship project of the Aquino administration.

Adequate financial muscle of lenders and numerous funding options for PPP proponents will support the rollout of more big-ticket infrastructure projects until 2016, an official of the country’s largest bank said.

“Philippine banks are well-positioned and are stronger with increasing capital. Banks are ever ready to support PPPs and the private sector,” Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist of BDO Unibank Inc. said, during the 2014 SMC-Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines’ Journalism Seminar.
Ravelas said local banks are now capable of servicing PPP needs as they have already developed the expertise to do cash flow lending and project finance, giving PPP proponents more leeway to raise funds.

For instance, half a decade ago, tenors go as far as five years with a maximum loan of P3 billion. But so far, loans can go up to P80 billion with 15-year maturity.

In terms of options, PPP proponents can take advantage of non-recourse project finance as opposed to plain vanilla corporate loans while single-borrowing limit is already at P40 billion from the previous P1 billion, Ravelas said.

So far, the Aquino administration has awarded six PPP projects worth P45.1 billion, including the P17.5-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport project and the P1.72-billion Automated Fare Collection System.

Thirteen more projects worth P367.9 billion are in the pipeline. Of these, nine projects worth P187 billion are seen to be awarded before 2016, Ravelas said.

Other big-ticket infrastructure projects to be auctioned off by the government include the P64.9-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite extension, the P62.7-billion Metro Rail Transit 7 and the P24.4-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project of the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System.

So far, Philippine banks are involved in advisory, funding and other services for PPP projects, Ravelas said. Banks do due diligence and risk assessment, allowing them to advise the government and potential bidders.

For PPP project proponents starting from scratch, Ravelas said a private placement of debt or equity will allow them to raise cash.
Companies with existing businesses can attract investors through initial public offering, follow-on offering or bonds given their track record, Ravelas said.

PPP, the flagship program of the Aquino administration that involves railroad, tollroad and airport ventures was launched in 2010 to address the country’s infrastructure backlog. It has since attracted the attention of top conglomerates like San Miguel Corp., Ayala Corp., SM Investments Corp., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and JG Summit Holdings Inc.

However, issues like updated feasibility studies are causing delays in the bidding of PPP projects, Ravelas said, adding that companies should take advantage of the low interest rate environment.

Banks ready to fund PPP projects – PPP Center.

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Government should teach Kazakhstan’s citizens to pay off loans: President Nazarbayev

The Government should teach Kazakhstan’s citizens to pay off loans, reports, citing the country’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev as saying.

“Kazakhstan’s people haven’t learned to pay off their loans … and the country’s leadership has been trying to be too understanding”, President Nazarbayev said when speaking at the sitting of the Foreign Investors’ Council (FIC).

According to him, the share of NPLs is the most alarming in agriculture. “Every year the sowing campaign entails a big wave of NPLs”, Nazarbayev said.

He cited four companies operating in the agriculture industry with a combined debt of $4.3 billion. “These four companies are responsible for 2 million tons of grain, with the grain production figure being insignificant for Kazakhstan (…) half of such [irresponsible] companies should be let go bankrupt (…) at some point they will burst anyway (…) we’d better let companies go bankrupt to make room for more prudent managers”.

President is confident that excessive support to businesses on the part of the Government hampers businesses from developing. “I am saying that so that the government would start taking measures”, he closed.

For more information see:
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Government should teach Kazakhstan’s citizens to pay off loans: President Nazarbayev. Finance.

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Malaysia’s 1st hybrid airport set to begin with 5 airlines

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has confirmed that the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) will begin its commercial flight operations on May 2, as scheduled, with five airlines.

Its senior general manager for operation services Datuk Azmi Murad said MAHB will stick to its plan of opening the country’s first hybrid airport with full flight operations, which should include AirAsia Bhd and other airlines previously operating from the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT).

“We are working on the plan together with the other airlines to ensure everything runs as scheduled,” he told Business Times on Thursday.

“Within a week after the May 2 opening, the airlines that are operating from the LCCT now will start their operations at klia2, including AirAsia,” he added.

Azmi said the airport will first open with carriers that have fewer flight frequencies, such as Malindo Air, Lion Air, Cebu Pacific Air, Tiger Airways and Tiger Mandala.

AirAsia, in recent reports, had been quoted as saying that it would not move to klia2 on May 9 due to security and flight operation concerns.

In response, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the low-cost carrier must move to klia2 as scheduled, and that the government, through MAHB, was prepared to listen to the airline’s concerns regarding the transfer.

RHB Research opines that AirAsia has the bargaining power in this situation, given its huge fleet.

However, Hong Leong Investment Bank Research does not expect AirAsia to stay long at the LCCT.

“Should AirAsia group insist on staying in the LCCT for a long period, other low-cost carriers (LCCs) may take advantage of the situation and add capacity aggressively, such as new routes and additional frequencies.

“Those LCCs may also attempt to hog the preferred time slots at klia2,” it said in a research note recently.

AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani, when asked on the issue, said on the sidelines of the Entrepreneurs’ Conference TEC2020, here, yesterday: “I think it’s best to speak to (AirAsia chief executive officer) Aireen Omar because we’re doing this as a group. So I prefer if Aireen addresses all the issues on klia2.

“I’m not going to answer any questions on klia2. Aireen is going to speak for the group on the matter,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, AirAsia executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said the group would, at one point, be shifting its commercial flight operations to the new terminal but could not confirm the exact date.

“What I can confirm is that we will move (to klia2) when everything is okay. Let’s not deliberate on that,” he said on the sidelines of a dialogue between the prime minister and about 50 corporate leaders and captains of industries on sustainability and diversity.

Malaysia's 1st hybrid airport set to begin with 5 airlines | AsiaOne.

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China wants to build power plant in Kazakhstan

China is interested in constructing a thermal power plant (TPP) in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports citing the press service of Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan’s state-run National Wealth Fund.

“As part of the 2014 Boao Forum for Asia the Chairman of the Board of Samruk-Kazyna Umirzak Shukeyev met with top managers of Datang Corporation and China Engineering Machinery Corporation (CMEC). They discussed construction of Turgay TPP. The Chinese companies expressed interest in constructing the 2000 MW power plant in Kostanay region,” the message said.

“Head of Tau-Ken Samruk mining company Mazhit Turmagambetov said that the project would involve the Turgay basin, where an open-pit mine to develop Kushmurun coals will be constructed for the new TPP. The mining complex will produce 10 million tons of coal a year. The preliminary project cost is about $4 billion,” the press service said.

The TPP in Turgay is a reference project because there are plans to utilize advanced technologies and new approaches, especially environmentally friendly tools.

According to “Samruk Kazyna”, the Turgay coal deposit located in Kostanay region is one of the largest ones in Kazakhstan, and its geological reserves exceed 50 billion tons of coal.

China Datang Corportation is among the five largest companies producing power in China. Its total assets are worth $31.4 billion. The corporation has a subsidiary, China Datang Technologies & Engineering Co., Ltd., specializing in design of power plants. The Corporation is also engaged in production, transportation, supply and sale of coal and is developing its own coal deposits in mainland China.

China wants to build power plant in Kazakhstan. Science & Technologies.

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Strong quake hits near Solomon Islands; tsunami warning cancelled

A powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck near the Solomon Islands on Sunday morning, triggering a tsunami warning that was later cancelled, according to U.S. government agencies, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

The quake was centred 100 km (60 miles) south of Kira Kira on the island of Makira at a depth of 29 km (18 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“So far we have received no reports of damage,” said Constable Taylor Fugo from Kira Kira police. “The people responded very well to the (tsunami) warning. They all went up the hills and have been watching and waiting for advice.”

A tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu was cancelled after only very small tsunami wave activity, just a couple of centimetres, had been measured at two reading stations near the epicentre, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
An earlier tsunami watch for Fiji, Australia, Indonesia and nearby areas was cancelled after the earthquake was revised down from its original magnitude of 8.3.

A series of aftershocks followed the quake, the strongest a magnitude 5.9, hit the region shortly afterwards, the USGS said.
The Solomon Islands straddles the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a highly seismically active zone where different plates on the earth’s crust meet and create a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes.

A powerful 8.0 magnitude quake in 2013 in a similar area generated a local tsunami that killed at least five people.

Strong quake hits near Solomon Islands; tsunami warning cancelled – Yahoo News Philippines.

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World Bank refuses loan to Himachal hydro project

The World Bank has turned down a request by public sector hydropower undertaking Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL) for a $650 million loan for its project in Himachal Pradesh, the lender said Friday.

The bank’s official website indicated the status of $1,150 million Luhri hydropower project, on the Sutlej river in upper Shimla, as dropped.

The environmental groups and affected people, under the banner of the Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti, considered this as a major victory of the campaign to save the last remaining stretch of the Sutlej.

The decision of the World Bank came subsequent to an appraisal by the USAID team, which has been commissioned to review the environmental and social impacts of the project, said the activists opposing the project.

The activists said the team visited India in November-December 2013 and interacted with stakeholders, including the project developer SJVNL, the affected people and NGOs like Himdhara Collective in Himachal Pradesh and SANDRP in New Delhi.

“This will give a major boost to the people’s belief that our voice matters in deciding our own future,” said Nek Ram Sharma, of the Satluj Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti, in a statement.

The samiti, which has challenged the environment clearance granted to the project last year at the National Green Tribunal, has been opposing the project because of the impact of the proposed 38-km-long tunnel to be constructed as part of the project.

Fifty national groups and green activists have questioned the ministry of environment and forests about the clearance given to the project.

In a missive to former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan in January 2013, the activists demanded cancellation of the clearance granted by the ministry’s panel.

An expert appraisal committee of the ministry has recommended clearance to the project in November 2012, the letter said.

“Recommending environment clearance without first undertaking carrying capacity and cumulative impact assessment, is in violation of the Supreme Court order of May 2006,” it said.

The SJVNL is a joint venture between the central and the Himachal Pradesh governments. The former holds 74.5 percent stake, while the remaining 25.5 percent is held by the state government.

However, the central government sold 10 percent equity in May 2010.

The SJVNL’s maiden project is located in Kinnaur district that started its work in 2004-05.

World Bank refuses loan to Himachal hydro project | Business Standard.

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World Bank for focus on world’s poorest topped by India

With close to one-third of the world’s extreme poor concentrated in India and another one-third in four more countries, a sharp focus on them will be central to ending extreme poverty, says a new World Bank paper.

The top five poorest countries – India (with 33 percent of the world’s poor), China (13 percent), Nigeria (7 percent), Bangladesh (6 percent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5 percent) – together are home to nearly 760 million of the world’s poor.

Adding another five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya — would encompass almost 80 percent of the extreme poor.

Tackling poverty requires understanding where the greatest number of poor live, while at the same time also concentrating on where hardship is most pervasive, according to the World Bank paper “Prosperity for All”, released here Thursday.

This entails concerted efforts in countries where large numbers of the world’s 1.2 billion poor live, it says.

While economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, the paper said suggesting that countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor.

“These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programmes, such as conditional and direct cash transfers,” it said.

In addition, the paper notes, it is imperative not just to lift people out of extreme poverty; it is also important to make sure that, in the long run, they do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to a lack of opportunities that might impede progress toward better livelihood.

Citing the example of India, the report notes that in recent years, new Information Communications Technologies (ICT) applications have created opportunities to re-engineer and upgrade traditional systems and to empower beneficiaries.

“India’s ambitious new programme” to provide its citizens and residents a unique, official identity, the UID (Universal Identity) “aims to improve the delivery of government services, reduce fraud and corruption, facilitate robust voting processes, and improve security”, it noted.

“Indeed, ICT has the potential to be a powerful tool in the fight against global poverty and in boosting shared prosperity,” the report said.

“However, the benefits are not automatic and our understanding of its impact is yet incomplete.”

“Economic growth has been vital for reducing extreme poverty and improving the lives of many poor people,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

“Yet, even if all countries grow at the same rates as over the past 20 years, and if the income distribution remains unchanged, world poverty will only fall by 10 percent by 2030, from 17.7 percent in 2010.”

“This is simply not enough, and we need a laser like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programmes to assist the poor directly if we’re going to end extreme poverty,” he said.

“It is a sad commentary on our prosperous world that over one billion people live in extreme poverty,” said Kaushik Basu, senior vice president and chief economist at the World Bank.

“It is a welcome call from the World Bank Group to not just mitigate poverty but bring it to closure and also to strive for a more equitable world,” he said.

“To achieve these ends we will need determination, but also ideas and innovation, for the ways of the economy can be strange.”

World Bank for focus on world's poorest topped by India | Business Standard.

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WORLD BANK to set up branch in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR – The government and the World Bank Group (WBG) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will see the bank open its first office here.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and representatives from WBG signed the MoU on the sidelines of the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC yesterday.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement the office would broaden and deepen the partnership between Malaysia and WBG.

“The main long-term objective of the office is to facilitate the sharing of Malaysia’s successful development experience in areas such as poverty eradication and development of a sound financial sector, with other developing countries around the world.

“WBG’s local presence will also allow Malaysia to directly leverage further global knowledge and expertise of the World Bank to enhance capacity essential for its transformation to a high-income economy.”

Present to witness the signing were Malaysian ambassador to the United States Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin and Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Husni said during the signing that Malaysia was particularly well-placed to collaborate with WBG to achieve its goals of further eradicating poverty and promoting shared prosperity globally.

Meanwhile, World Bank vice-president for East Asia, Axel van Trotsenburg, said the bank’s Malaysian office fit the broader context of its strategic engagement with middle-income countries, and recognised Malaysia’s success as a rising upper middle-income country and its role both as a client and partner in advancing global development.

Husni is expected to meet with Chinese vice-minister of finance Shi Yaobin and WBG’s managing director and chief operating officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati during the course of his three-day visit to Washington.

WORLD BANK to set up branch in Malaysia.

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Belarusian Railways to promote piggyback transportation in Lithuania

“It is a new and promising type of transportation and Belarusian Railways is determined to promote it. The first steps were made in 2013 when Belarusian Railways together with Lithuanian Railways started implementing a piggyback transportation project. The Neman piggyback train started running on the Kolyadichi-Vilnius/Kaunas-Kolyadichi route in November 2013. Since the project was launched, 17 piggyback trains travelled from Belarus to Lithuania and 40 trains from Lithuania to Belarus,” said Voitekhovich.

The route of the Neman piggyback train might be extended to Klaipeda and Kaliningrad. Intermodal transportation to Poland is also on the agenda. One of the advantages of the new type of transportation is fast border crossing and customs clearance. The time of travelling (including border crossing) is 11 hours.

“The information about piggyback transportation service offered by Belarusian Railways is available in the Internet. We informed all cargo carriers about our new service,” noted Voitekhovich. He pointed to the lack of enthusiasm on the part of carriers. Drivers do not mind spending time on the border as they get paid for their time. However, cargo owners will greatly benefit from piggyback transportation, as it is faster and cheaper.

Vitebsk is hosting a meeting of heads of transportation services of railway companies from the CIS member states on 9-10 April. Taking part in the meeting are over 50 delegates from Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Uzbekistan, as well as Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The participants of the meeting are expected to reconcile their positions on various aspects of railway service development, including new forms of transportation management, increase in transit and export/import transportation and observance of timetables.

Belarusian Railways to promote piggyback transportation in Lithuania :: The Baltic Course | Baltic States news & analytics.

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