Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Public March and Rally on Wage Protection for FDWS in HK

The Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR), a coalition of 7 grassroots organizations and trade unions in Hong Kong, once again invites members of the media, non-government organizations and migrants’ associations in Hong Kong to join the public march to support CMR’s ongoing campaign on Wage Protection for Foreign Domestic Workers in Hong Kong.

Dubbed as a “Heart Breaking Public March,” CMR members want to express their disappointment in the Hong Kong government’s failure to adequately protect the working and living conditions of foreign domestic workers (FDWs), particularly its failure to ensure FDWs a fair wage. On 18 May 2005, the Labor Department of HK announced a HK$50.00 monthly wage increase for FDWs, a measly 1.5% adjustment from their previous monthly wage of HK$3,270. CMR members believe that this adjustment of their monthly wage is insufficient, especially in light of their substantial contributions to the social and economic conditions of Hong Kong.

CMR calls on the Hong Kong government to take immediate steps towards a more significant increase to FDWs monthly wage by implementing the previous HK$3,670 and to correct their substandard working and living conditions for FDWs, by taking immediate action to stamp-out underpayment of wages, early termination of contract by employers, excessive recruitment fees, and to scrap the Two-week Rule (NCS Policies) of Hong Kong, among others.

Public March and Rally: 12 February 2006
Assembly Place: HSBC Basement, Central, HK
Assembly Time: 12:00 noon
Start of the March to the CGO: 12:45 noon
Public Rally at CGO Compound: 1:00 - 2:00 pm
(Submission of Position Paper)
March from CGO back to HSBC: 2:30 p.m.

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Charges against 1 South Korean Dropped

Hong Kong prosecutors have dropped their case against a South Korean protester who was arrested during last year's World Trade Organization meeting in the territory, citing insufficient evidence.

Evidence from a police officer, videotapes and witnesses failed to establish that Yang Kyung-kyu took part in an unauthorized assembly as charged, according to a prosecution statement read out in a court hearing Friday.

But prosecutors will go forward with unlawful assembly charges against two other South Koreans, Park In-hwan and Yun Il-kwon, the statement said.

If convicted, Park and Yun face a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

The men were among more than 1,000 people rounded up after a Dec. 17 anti-globalization march in Hong Kong turned into a riot.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them South Koreans, broke through police lines and tried to storm the convention center where trade ministers from around the world were in the final hours of negotiations on a framework agreement aimed at reducing global trade barriers.

Technorati Tags: , , , and .

Monday, February 13, 2006

Indonesia May Repay Debt Ahead of Maturity

A minister says the government is considering repaying Indonesia's US$8 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund ahead of its 2010 maturity date.

The suggestion comes amid recent calls to reduce the country's reliance on foreign borrowing.

The government will, however, study and proceed with the plan carefully, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono told reporters on Thursday, taking into particular account the constraints on this year's
state budget.

"If we can speed up the payments, than we will do so, but I don't think we should overly force ourselves," Boediono said.

"If the government has enough money this year to repay the debt ahead of schedule, then it would be better to do so. But if not, and we instead just pay the debt as scheduled, then this would still be fine. Let's just wait for a full analysis of the plan from the finance minister."

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati first suggested early repayment during a hearing Wednesday night with the House finance commission.

"The Finance Ministry and the central bank are currently studying the possibility of speeding up the repayment of our debt to the IMF," she said, adding that the country currently owed $8 billion to the Fund.

Sri Mulyani, a former executive director of the Fund, did not elaborate further on how the cash-strapped government might accelerate repayment.

Between 1997 and 2003, the IMF provided some $25 billion in loans to help Indonesia rescue its banking system, rehabilitate the economy by restructuring private and government debt, and strengthen its foreign
exchange reserves.

Criticism however quickly arose as the loan program called for the government to implement a number of tough economic reform programs under IMF supervision, including privatizing state firms and reducing subsidies, which many nationalists saw as damaging the nation's interests without significantly improving the economy.

A stand-by loan, managed by Bank Indonesia (BI), for supporting Indonesia's forex reserves was also criticized as it could only be used as a last resort fund, while the government still had to shoulder the
principle and interest payments.

This eventually led to the government, under public pressure, terminating its program with the IMF at the end of 2003. Indonesia is now in what is termed "post-program monitoring", where the Fund reviews
the country's economic progress every two years to see whether the government's own reform targets are being met.

Under the current IMF monitoring scheme, Indonesia must also annually repay some $1 billion of the remaining $10 billion debt over a period of seven years, until it brings down its debt to below the IMF member-quota level of $2.8 billion, and totally exit all IMF programs.

Although IMF monitoring and the publication of detailed economic programs helps restore investor confidence, Indonesia is no longer eligible for Paris Club debt rescheduling as a consequence of ending the
IMF program.

Sri Mulyani acknowledged this, explaining to lawmakers that Indonesia has little hope of securing debt relief or reductions in the future, aside in the form of bilateral debt swap agreements.

The government plans to raise $3.5 billion in foreign loans and issue Rp 28.4 trillion worth of bonds this year to help cover the budget deficit.

By comparison, it will spend Rp 63.5 trillion to pay of part of its sovereign debt, which currently stands at $61 billion, leading to further criticism that the government is spending more on repaying its debts than on improving public welfare.


Loan, taken as an aid comes with a package of non-negotiable policies from the lending body, the IMF. There is little wonder why those poorer nations only fall deeper into debt.

Technorati Tags: , , and .

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Singapore: We Will Cane Protesters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) -- Singapore's government said it is prepared to cane or imprison protesters who commit violent crimes during the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, to be held in the city-state in September.

The World Bank and IMF expect about 16,000 people to attend their annual meetings, which often attract anti-globalization demonstrations and other protesters.

Tightly controlled Singapore bans public demonstrations or protests, and uses punishments including caning and the death penalty to curb crime.

"The Police would not hesitate to investigate and prosecute any breach of our laws," Wong Kan Seng, Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs, told Parliament on Monday, according to a written answer to questions distributed by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts on Tuesday.

"This is especially so for any person or groups committing violent crimes such as vandalism, arson, and causing hurt which would attract severe punishment, including caning and imprisonment," Wong said.

Singapore attracted worldwide attention in 1994 when an American teenager, Michael Fay, was caned for vandalism.

The city-state is keen to attract more conferences and other big events to boost tourism. The World Bank/IMF meeting is an opportunity for it to show off its modern infrastructure.


This is absurd. How can this country even exist? It denies the most basic of human rights; freedom of expression. While seizing the opportunity to show its modern infrastructure, sods of globalisation, it bares its antiquated darconian claws on people demonstratng to better the lives of other people. At the same time, it shows the invisible leash on all its people.

How can we be pronounced guilty, fighting for our rights?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , .