• Television Corporation of Singapore Fonds

    Fonds/Collection

  • News and Current Affairs Series

    Series

  • 28/09/1999

    Record Date

  • 28/09/1999

    Broadcast/Release Date

  • 00:30:00

    Recorded Duration

  • English

    Recording Language

  • 1999000330

    Accession No.

  • Audiovisual

    Type

  • Betacam SP

    Format

  • Access permitted

    Conditions Governing Access

  • Use and reproduction require written permission from copyright owner(s)

    Conditions Governing Reproduction


  • Synopsis :

    Zero tariff to be reached by 2015

    Senior officials meeting at the ASEAN Economic ministers meeting in Singapore on Tuesday have thrown up a possible target date of 2015, for the grouping to achieve free trade on a wide range of products. A senior Indonesian trade official told Channel NewsAsia, that Tuesday's meeting attempted to form a consensus around a deadline for zero tariff. This took place, as the senior officials wrapped up meetings in preparation of ministerial talks which begin on Wednesday morning, where the ministers are expected to tackle the issue.

    ASEAN ministers had agreed in March to eventually cut tariffs to zero percent to create an ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). The issue, that delegates had to chew on was when exactly is this to be achieved. This was especially crucial, since the six founding members of the grouping are due to have 0.5 percent tariffs on 60 percent of their products by the year 2002. Said Mr Hatanto Reksodipoetro, the Indonesian Director General of the department of Industry and Trade: "What we want is to be as quick as possible after 2002 to begin moving ahead with incremental increases towards zero tariff. "

    Dates like 2015 or 2018 are understood to have been floated for discussion. Officials said that some countries like the Philippines and Thailand may find it more difficult to slash tariffs altogether. Thus, one challenge going forward is to ensure that economies will not compensate for the zero percent tariff rate with counter policies, to restrict imports. ASEAN ministers will also keep an eye out for the upcoming World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. The ministers will also be discussing what kind of message can come out in view of the Seattle ministerial meeting

    Senior officials from the grouping have been in talks since Monday to lay the groundwork for the ministerial meeting. At this stage, there are already hopes that the zero-percent tariff status for the entire ASEAN region could be achieved sooner rather than later. Progress is also expected on the ASEAN Investment area aimed at making the region more attractive to foreign investors.

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    2 dead, 4 injured in Paya Ubi Industrial Park mishap

    Civil Defence officers extricated the body of the construction worker who was buried under a rubble of cement and debris at the Paya Ubi Industrial Park at about 9 pm Tuesday night. They located the body of the Chinese national around 6.30 the same evening, almost 14 hours since the collapse of a scaffolding of an unfinished flatted factory at the industrial park. Another worker was killed and four others were injured in the incident at Ubi Ave 1. The other dead worker, a 38-year-old Indian national, who was submerged in wet cement, was pulled out about three hours after the collapse by Civil Defence officers.

    The SCDF received a call about the incident at 4.15 Tuesday morning. When they arrived five minutes later, the four injured men, one Indian and three Chinese nationals, had been pulled out of the rubble by their colleagues. The four men sustained cuts and bruises, but are now in stable condition in Changi General Hospital. At the time of collapse, 23 workers were doing concrete work for the construction of a driveway going up to the third storey of the factory, when a section of wet concrete gave way and collapsed onto the ground.

    Said Mr Chen, a construction worker: "I heard a loud noise. It sounded like the scaffolding and cement had fallen together. I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary, as they could be taking down the scaffolding, but when we finally saw the accident area, we were dumbfounded and didn't know what to do." This is the second time an accident has occurred at the same construction site. Almost exactly three months ago, on the June 27, the fifth floor of a buidling collapsed onto the third floor, injuring 10 workers.

    The work then was also undertaken by the same main contractor, Tekken Corporation. The authorities had found that inadequate bracing made the formwork structure unstable. After that first accident, the Manpower Ministry had required the contractor to put in place a permit-to-work system, which calls for three levels of checks when erecting the project's formwork. Final clearance also had to be obtained from the project manager before casting concrete.

    Checks by the Ministry showed that the permit-to-work system had been implemented. While the cause of this latest collapse has yet to be determined by investigators from the Manpower Ministry and the Building and Construction Authority(BCA), a stop work order has been issued, prohibiting any work on site. That is because numerous unsafe conditions were discovered by Ministry officials, and they had to be rectified. Management and supervisors will also have to attend a Safety Awareness course conducted by the Ministry, so that they would know what went wrong at the site and what preventive measures to take.

    The contractor has also been ordered to engage a professional engineer to check that all formwork structures are safe, before work can resume. The BCA has also revoked the construction permit till investigations are completed. The NTUC says that it is shocked to learn that unsafe conditions were uncovered at the Paya Ubi worksite, despite its repeated calls for greater safety at construction sites. In a statement, NTUC's Quality Lifestyle Director Yeo Guat Kwang, said that the labour movement expresses its deepest sorrow and anguish over the death of another worker, and called for tighter safety measures at construction sites.

    He strongly urged all professional bodies, such as contractors, architects and engineers, to make a more concerted effort to enhance worksite safety. Mr Yeo, who's also MP for Cheng San GRC, said that 39 workers, so far, have lost their lives this year, and reminded employers that it was their moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free work environment for workers.

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    National Cancer Centre launches Singapore's first cancer helpline

    The National Cancer Centre has launched Singapore's first cancer helpline to provide information on cancer and related issues. The helpline was set up with help from the anti-cancer council of Victoria, Australia, which has ten years' experience in providing such a service. The cancer helpline is a confidential telephone service manned by trained oncology nurse counsellors who can answer queries in the four official languages. The National Cancer Centre says the aim of the helpline is to reach out to as many people in our Asian society who are fearful of discussing the taboo subject of cancer openly.

    Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr Chan Soo Sen said: Many people treat cancer as a death sentence so they don't want to talk about it. By not talking about it, by denial, cancer can deteriorate and often it becomes too late by the time they talk about it. So we hope the helpline can help to reverse this psychology." In fact during a soft launch of the helpline last month and with very little publicity, nurses received nearly sixty calls from people suffering from cancer and their family members.

    Many wanted information on how they could get emotional support. Senior Staff Nurse, National Cancer Centre, Tamilarasi Arumugam said: "When they call they say I'm just worried, I don't know what to do. We do also have callers who have gone through treatment and ask about the side effects they are going through. Callers also ask about lumps and we give them the assurance that not all growths or lumps are cancerous."

    The Centre's Director says the subject of cancer needs to be tackled at two levels, first to dispel common myths about cancer, and next to reach out to the public at an early stage. Director for the National Cancer Centre, Professor Soo Kee Chee said: "You find that a lot of cancers are lifestyle related, and we feel the greatest impact on cancer education is to start very young and we have to go down to the primary and secondary schools."

    The cancer centre plans to start a programme to provide cancer education materials to teachers and students. You can call the centre's helpline at 225-5655.

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    Hunt for Outstanding Social Workers on

    The hunt is on, for two Outstanding Social Workers of the year. The award was jointly launched last year by the Ministry of Community Development and the National Council of Social Services, with the aim to recognise social workers for their consistent and professional contributions towards the improvement of social service. The two who won last year's award on Tuesday shared their research, and overseas social work experiences with fellow volunteers.

    The unanimous agreement at Tuesday's sharing session, chaired by the two 1998 Outstanding Social Worker Award winners, was that it all begins with the social workers themselves. Besides promoting higher quality volunteer services by their own exemplary commitment, social workers can also spark off innovative programmes and well-researched policy directions. In addition, if Ms Winnie Phoon's elderly care and housing programme recommendations come through, aging in Singapore could well be an interesting experience of fun, learning and companionship.

    Having spent her award grant on a training attachment in Australia, Ms Phoon shared with fellow social workers the many community-based social services there, that could be applied in Singapore's context. For example, getting general practitioners to join in neighbourhood elderly medical care programmes, and establishing a network of professionals who can volunteer maintenance services and learning programmes for senior citizens.

    For the other Outstanding Social Worker Ms Sudha Nair, her sharing of preliminary research findings on a child witness of family violence brought on both heartache and renewed faith in the resilience of the Singapore family. Children's experiences of family violence have far-reaching impact, which in turn affects their adolescent behaviour. In addition, preemptive social work efforts in the area of family violence can go a long way, in preventing juvenile crimes and strengthening the society.

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    MOH to help fund smoking-control schemes in schools, community youth groups

    The fight against smoking among youths will be getting a boost soon. Early next year, the Health Ministry will help to fund smoking-control schemes in schools and community youth groups. To be called the Smoke-Free Youth Initiative, it is to encourage more youths and community groups to promote smoke-free activities. The plan was announced by Mr Peter Chen, Senior Minister of State for Education, when he opened the International Consultation on Tobacco and Youth forum.

    The event also saw the World Health Organisation honouring Singapore's Environment Ministry with this year's World No Tobacco Day medal. The WHO said Singapore is one of the few countries in the region where all indoor, air-conditioned public places are smoke-free.

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    Rents for factory space remain stable in 3rd quarter

    Average rents for factory space in Singapore remained stable in the third quarter. This statement was made according to property consultant CB Richard Ellis. It also added that rents for high-tech industrial space in established industrial estates are set to improve in the next quarter, buoyed by positive market sentiment. CB Richard Ellis said that rent for ground floor factory space remained at $1.60 per square foot per month in the third quarter, while upper floors command a rent of $1.30.

    In contrast, rents for hi-tech industrial space, such as those in Kaki Bukit and Eunos, stood firmly at $2.15 per square foot per month. With the pick-up in demand, CB Richard Ellis said incentives given by landlords, such as rent-free periods, have been gradually reduced. It added that the improvements in rental and take-up rates was due to landlords carving up large floor space into smaller lettable areas, in response to the reduction in space requirements by medium sized companies to under 6,000 square feet, from as much as 15,000 previously.

    This trend is expected to translate into a marginal increase of three to five percent in prime high-tech industrial rents in the fourth quarter. Despite the improving market conditions, CB Richard Ellis noted that the investment market for major industrial buildings remain slow, as industrialists are hesitant to acquire large premises, since the manufacturing sector recovery is still fragile.

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    Manpower summit commences on Wednesday

    Singapore's first Manpower Summit will be held on Wednesday. The inaugural Summit is spearheaded by the Singapore National Employers' Federation, the NTUC and Manpower Ministry. It would incorporate the tripartite CEO Forum, organised by SNEF for the past few years. The theme of Wednesday's conference is "The Knowledge Economy-Challenge for the Tripartite Partners". Officiating it is Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who also launched the Manpower 21 initiative last month.

    There will also be dialogue sessions on forging a new and strong partnership with the government, and the labour movement. These dialogues will be with Manpower Minister Lee Boon Yang, and Minister without Portfolio and NTUC Chief Lim Boon Heng. The Summit also aims to tap the wisdom of the tripartite partners and widen participation for the partnership approach in formulating manpower strategies.

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    Richard Hu and Lim Hng Kiang to attend IMF and World Bank joint annual meeting

    Finance Minister Richard Hu and Health and Second Finance Minister Lim Hng Kiang will be in Washington DC to attend this year's Joint Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The three-day meeting starts on Tuesday. A Finance Ministry statement says that they will be accompanied by senior officials from the Ministry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. While in Washington, both Ministers will also meet government officials of various countries and private bankers.

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    Look Ma, no hands! at the Singapore Art Museum

    The term 'hands-free' takes on a new meaning at the Singapore Art Museum. The latest exhibition there features a display of mechanical music instruments from the 17th century to the present. "Invisible Musicians" will bring alive music from bygone eras as well as our own time - all 'live' in the museum, and without a musician in sight. The old-time ambience is enhanced by the old-fashioned phonographs and collections of records. Among the items on display are barrel organs featuring monkeys in 18th century aristocratic outfits - meant to mock the upper classes.

    Indeed, many of the 80 instruments, which come from Belgium's Automatia Musica Foundation, are not just musical curiosities - they are historical documents in their own right. Take for example the musical instrument that was supposed to go on the Titanic - it missed the boat and survived to tell the tale. The exhibition is arranged chronologically, and that, says curator Karen Lim, allows visitors to go on a journey of the evolution of musical instruments. And visitors need not stumble befuddled through this journey. The museum is offering free guided tours of the "Invisible Musicians" exhibition, where specially-trained volunteers will demonstrate how the instruments work. "Invisible Musicians" will run from this Thursday, September 30 to November 21, before returning to Belgium.

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    Speed limits to be raised on 2 expressways

    With effect from October 1, the speed limit will be raised on two expressways and selected roads. The speed limit along the East Coast Parkway (ECP) stretch between Benjamin Sheares Bridge and Changi Airport, as well as the Kranji Expressway will be raised from 80 km/h to 90 km/h. Ten other roads with 50km/h limits will also see an increase to 60km/h. In a statement, the Traffic Police said that improved road conditions and vehicle engineering have allowed for the upward revision.

    A study will be conducted for a three-month period to assess the effects of the increased speed limits on the two expressways, before deciding if the speed limits for the other six expressways can be raised. The Traffic Police reminded all motorists to keep within the speed limits.

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    SCDF on 8th day of operations in Taiwan

    The Singapore Civil Defence overseas rescue contingent, deployed to assist the local rescuers, is now in its eighth day of operations in Taiwan. In a statement, the SCDF said that cut and lift operations are currently being done by the Taiwanese authorities at the Golden Paris condominium, in Dali City. In addition, the SCDF contingent is on standby, ready to be deployed once any casualties are found. It adds that three bodies were extricated during Monday's operations.

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    15-year-old TCS hacker sentenced to 12 months' supervised probation

    In the Juvenile Court Tuesday, a 15-year-old Myanmar national was sentenced to 12 months' supervised probation and 100 hours of community service for hacking into the Television Corporation of Singapore websites on the internet . The boy, who cannot be named as he is below 16 years old, faced eight charges of unauthorised entry and disclosure of password. Of these charges, four were taken into consideration for sentencing.

    On June 15 this year, the Secondary two student successfully connected to the mediacity server. He then told an 18-year-old teenager, whom he met on the Internet, about the access code to the mediacity server. They later obtained more access codes to the server and hacked in. The Prosecution disclosed that a letter of apology from the younger boy had been sent to TCS Multimedia Division and has been published on the website. The older boy's case is still pending. Another TCS web page was hacked into on Monday morning and defaced. TCS is contemplating making a police report.

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    Singapore confers prestigious military award on Indonesia's Army Chief of Staff

    Indonesia's Army Chief of Staff, General Subagyo Hadisiswoyo has been conferred Singapore's prestigious military award, the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Tentera) or Meritorius Service Medal (Military). The award was conferred by Deputy Prime Minister and  Minister for Defence, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam at Mindef Tuesday morning. A Mindef statement says that under General Subagyo's leadership, the warm ties and professional cooperation between both armies have continued to grow from strength to strength. The award is in recognition of the Indonesian General's key role in fostering closer ties between the Indonesian and Singapore armies.

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    Singapore Internet stock investors could reach 100,000 by end 2000

    The number of Internet stock investors in Singapore could jump four fold to 100,000 by the end of next year, according to financial data provider Moneycast. A new partnership between the Stock Exchange of Singapore, local brokers and Moneycast offers online investors an integrated trading platform promising faster access to real time information. In America, 10 million, or one in ten households trade online.

    In Singapore, Moneycast estimates that there are currently 25,000 online traders, a number which it expects to surge to 100,000 by the end of next year. Managing Director of MoneyCast, Mr Adrian Rietberg said: "The brokers are really jumping on it now, to catch users now. Listing on the stock exchange is getting a lot easier now. And commission structure will come down over the next year and a half, which will make it cheaper to trade on the internet compared to trading on the phone."

    Moneycast's push and broadcast technology provides information faster than Internet-based sites, and investors can also connect to their brokers' online systems from this platform. So far, response to most of on-line trading offered by 11 SES brokers has been better than expected. They are also looking to use Internet trading to enlarge the pie of investors. General Manager for Lim and Tan Securities, Mr Cheng Khin Tin said:

    "Just like in Korea, we expect or hope to have new investors coming into the market by providing them with an easy means of doing share trading with the Stock Exchange of Singapore." Moneycast is expected to be operational in the next two weeks, at which time Lim and Tan, JM Sasson, and Fraser Securities will be ready to offer this service to their clients while DMG will hook up at the end of October.

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    SIA installs life-saving equipment on all its passenger aircraft

    Singapore Airlines (SIA) has installed life-saving equipment on all of its 86 passenger aircraft. The automated external defibrillators (AED) are used to help anyone who experiences a sudden cardiac arrest, by delivering an electrical jolt to try to revive the heartbeat. In a statement, SIA said it has trained over 900 senior cabin crew on the use of the equipment. They were also trained in identifying the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest as well as the importance of early treatment. The installation process, which took nearly a year, was completed this April.

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    Police inspector sentenced to 6 weeks' jail for hindering CPIB investigations

    A police inspector has been sentenced to six weeks' jail for hindering the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau's probe on a police sergeant. Frederick Foo Siang Wah, 41, alerted Teo Eng Huat of the probe and suggested that Teo destroy incriminating evidence last October. Teo, a former police sergeant, is now serving a 20-month jail for soliciting sex from shoplifting suspects. In mitigation, the defence counsel told the court that Foo has 24 years of unblemished record with the Police Force.

    However, prosecution pressed for a deterrent sentence, saying that the offence was a grave one. The prosecution also urged the court to consider the public interest in deterring similar offences, in view of the difficulty of detecting such offences. The CPIB only got wind of Foo's interference into the probe by listening in to a chance conversation between Teo and another witness.

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    2 arrested for distributing ketamine

    Officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau have arrested two men in their thirties following an undercover operation at Jalan Rajah off Balestier Road. Acting on information, CNB officers had been trailing a 35-year-old man believed to be distributing ketamine in the Balestier area. Following undercover operations, officers detained the man Monday evening. When led to his apartment, several sachets of ketamine and two straws of heroin were discovered. The other suspect, aged 31, was also arrested at the same apartment and officers recovered heroin weighing 225 grammes on him. Under Singapore's drug laws, anyone found in possession of 15 grammes or more of heroin faces the death penalty upon conviction.

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    Mark Philippoussis to play in Heineken Open

    The man with the fastest serve in the tennis world is ready for action in Singapore, at next month's Heineken Open. Mark Philippoussis, known as "SCUD" for his fast serves, believes that he has not reached his peak. The Heineken Open is the first tournament that Mark will play in, after his injury at the US Open this year. Speaking to the local media in a video conference from Miami, Mark appeared relaxed, and shared good news about his recent knee injury.

    "Now it's 100 percent and I am training very hard every day and feeling very fit. I'm looking forward to playing there," he said. Mark's career titles this year include the San Jose and the Mercedes Super nine at Indian Wells. He also reached his highest single ranking of eight. The 1.94 metre tall hunk, a right handed player adept at playing at any surface, had this to say about his style of play. "That's my strength. I have a serve, forehand, back ground strokes. What can I do, I worked hard and I'm giving myself an edge. Every athlete should have an edge on the game," he said. The 22 year-old star, who is currently ranked 11th in the world will be joined by two other Australians, who have been making headlines recently, Lleyton Hewitt and Wayne Arthur.

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    Aussie peacekeepers open government warehouse to refugees

    In East Timor, Australian peacekeepers took it upon themselves to provide humanitarian aid. They opened a government warehouse previously kept off limits by Indonesian troops, to starving refugees returning to the East Timor capital of Dili. And what followed was a systematic and orderly method of rice distribution in contrast to the rampant looting in the capital.

    As the multi-national force struggles to restore peace in the troubled territory, tens of thousands of refugees forced from their homes by pro-Jakarta militias wait anxiously over the border for their chance to return. But concern is growing that attempts may be under way to relocate the refugees elsewhere in Indonesia. Tens of thousands of East Timorese had took refuge in nearby hills during the reign of terror by pro-Jakarta militia and forced deportation following the territory's August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia.

    Many have returned, but only to find their homes destroyed. The future is a little more uncertain for these East Timorese, arriving in Sulawesi, via Kupang, West Timor. It is feared they are being drafted into the Indonesian government's controversial transmigration program, where they will be moved to other islands in the vast archipelago, perhaps never to return home. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who visited two camps earlier this month, vowed she would seek to ensure no refugee was moved against his will.

    Said UN High Commisioner for refugees Sadako Ogata: "Some of these people who do not decide to go back right away, they will be taken to these resettlement, these transmigration resettlement programs, and when they are moved to these places, they will be fully informed of what the choices are." Those left behind in the camps do not know if they are any luckier. Many are staying put for fear of the militias or feel they have nowhere else safer to go. There is no killing here, but poor sanitation and overcrowded are taking their toll.

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    UN peacekeeping force meets Falantil group in town of Dare

    The commanders of the UN peacekeeping force and the leaders of East Timor's largest pro-independence group, Falantil, have met in the town of Dare. Greeting his Falintil counterpart, British Commander David Richards, said the two groups need to liaise closely with one another, to keep each other informed of their activities. Falantil commander Shalar Goil, who visited Dili in the past three days, said he saw for himself, the extent of the devastation.

    He also said he realised how barbaric the Indonesians were and that what they did not take, they destroyed. It is the first ever meeting between the Interfet forces and the Falantil, who have waged an armed struggle against Indonesian rule since 1975. The Falantil are believed to be well-armed and to run bases in the highlands of East Timor.

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    Bring forward presidential polls: Indonesia's political parties

    Indonesia's main political parties want to bring forward a presidential poll due in November, because of what they describe as the weak rule of President B J Habibie. According to the Secretary-General of the National Awakening Party or PKB, an agreement was signed at the weekend to bring forward the vote. And he said the seven largest parties in the new parliament had backed the move. Reports said the parties had set October 22 to November 1 for the nomination and election of the new president and vice president. The presidential vote had been expected to take place in early to mid-November, although no schedule has yet been set.

    Meantime, Indonesia's ruling Golkar party has reaffirmed its commitment to nominate President Habibie for the next election. Golkar chairman Akbar Tanjung also said the party would back Armed Forces Chief General Wiranto as vice-president. Golkar has already nominated four candidates for vice-president, including General Wiranto. But Mr Akbar's comments indicate the party would back the General out of the four, and support a Habibie-Wiranto team.

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    Indonesia's 6 main political parties meet before new parliament opens in Friday

    Indonesia's political big wigs from the six main political parties met on Tuesday in an effort to forge a national consensus before the new parliament opens on Friday. It was the first complete meeting among them since the June election and the twist, it was sponsored by the military. It was a two and a half hour meeting that was cordial and polite. Even frontrunner Megawati Sukarnoputri from the PDI-P party attended. Party leaders recently grumbled that Ms Megawati has too often turned down invitations for cross party meetings.

    Armed forces chief General Wiranto initiated the meeting and urged all parties to reach a political compromise to avoid more bloodshed. So they agreed to discuss a useful mechanism for selecting a president and vice-president soon. General Wiranto, according to those present, also told party leaders his soldiers are tired and may not behave when they are constantly taunted and tested by demonstrators. Observers say it is significant that the military has chosen to take the lead now.

    Over 60,000 troops have been deployed to secure Friday's parliament session. Students who are still in mourning, turned up at parliament on Tuesday not to demonstrate but to lay wreaths. The meeting was more symbolic than constructive after last week's shooting which killed seven. The capital is a little on edge with people fearing the worst. Analysts note the military has started the ball rolling, now it is up to the civillians to keep up the momentum.

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    Taiwan quake survivors picking up the pieces

    Taiwan's industrial juggernaut, derailed by a killer earthquake, is putting itself back on track, as survivors begin the process of mourning for the more than 2,000 dead. Tremours rippled through the stock market on Monday, when it reopened after the big quake. As hopes of finding more survivors fade, Taiwan's people make a concerted show of getting on with their lives. With aftershocks making rescue work dangerous, officials were taking the painful step of calling off searches and bringing in wrecking crews to clear hazardous buildings for fear of further deaths.

    The stock market reopened on Monday, after a five-day closure, with a widely expected loss. The government had sought to contain panic-selling by placing emergency limits on how far shares can fall in any one session. Meantime, the central bank struck a note of optimism, saying that the quake did only limited damage to infrastructure and industry, and Taiwan's recovery would be swift. Latest figures showed that the quake killed 2,092 people, injured more than 8,700 and toppled 12,000 buildings. Much of the island's factories and businesses are idling, with sweeping blackouts persisting in the hardest-hit central sections.

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    Heavy rains in Taiwan add to misery of thousands made homeless by quake

    Heavy rains in Taiwan are adding to the misery of the thousands of homeless people, rattled by last week's devastating earthquake. The rains came as a funeral pall was cast over the island as relatives of the dead, held ceremonies to bid goodbye to the victims. Nantou county which is near the epicentre of last week's killer quake was the target of a heavy downpour early Tuesday.
    The rains sent tonnes of rocks and soil, loosened by last week's tremor, tumbling down the mountains onto Nantou's roads.

    There were no injuries but the landslides caused a massive traffic jam along access roads. It also complicated matters for the homeless and the grieving now living in tents at various evacuation sites in the county. The homeless are too afraid to return to their homes because of a series of aftershocks that have rocked the capital. Meanwhile, monks and bereaved relatives have begun ceremonies for the dead. According to local tradition, the spirits of dead will return on the seventh day after death, hoping to find ceremonies that will usher them into a next and better life.

    The "First Seven" ceremony begins a long period of mourning. President Lee Teng Hui was among those who took part in a massive mourning ceremony Monday, outside Taipei's landmark Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

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    Anwar's sodomy trial adjourned until fitness certified

    The sodomy trial of former Malaysian deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was adjourned on Tuesday, a day after he complained he was still feeling ill. Anwar appeared in court on Monday for the first time in over two weeks after being hospitalized following alleged attempts to poison him with arsenic. But on Tuesday morning, his lawyers presented a letter from his doctors to Judge Arifin Jaka, saying Anwar is suffering from "tension headache".

    After seeing the latter, Judge Ariffin said the trial is adjourned until the hospital certifies that Anwar's fit to attend court. Anwar faces up to 20 years if convicted of sodomy. He is already serving a six-year jail sentence after being found guilty in April of corruption.

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    Russia rules out imminent ground operation in Chechnya

    Russia has ruled out an imminent ground operation in Chechnya Tuesday. Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Vladmir Putin confirmed the decision, saying Russia would pursue its current air campaign against the rebel republic. Russian warplanes bombed the breakaway region of Chechnya for the sixth day running, prompting even more civilians to pack their bags and flee. Russian defence officials said the strikes targetted precise sites which Moscow believes are being used by Islamic rebels it blames for incursions and terrorist bomb blasts.

    Chechnya has denied these allegations. In response to the attacks, Chechnya has declared a general mobilisation. Several Russian generals have recently suggested that Moscow was mapping out a ground invasion of Chechnya. This especially since Russia has reinforced its troop presence along the border with Chechnya in recent days. In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin met with his defence and interior ministers to discuss the current military campaign, which, so far, has gained widespread political support. Chechnya fought a brutal 1994-96 war for independence that killed an estimated 80,000 people.

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    Japanese cult to admit to 1995 subway killing

    In a surprising turn of event, the Aum Supreme Truth Cult in Japan will admit to their involvement in a 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways, that killed 12 people and injured thousands others. According to reports in Japan's national dailies, the sudden shift in the cult's line comes, as the government plans to outlaw Aum by submitting new legislation which will effectively ban the group from expanding its membership and facilities. The cult is expected to announce its "views" on the subway attack, and admit that its members had spread the deadly gas.

    Chief spokesman, Mr Hiroshi Araki was quoted as saying that the sect was forced to admit its members 'involvement in the subway attack', after cult guru, Mr Shoko Asahara suggested in court last week, that the Sarin nerve-gas attack was planned by its followers. Mr Asahara and dozens of his followers are being tried on charges ranging from fraud to murder, related to the attack. The reports also revealed that the cult is considering changing its name.

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    Clinton plans to visit India and Pakistan

    With tensions easing between warring India and Pakistan, US President Bill Clinton has made plans to visit the countries. He will do this after the Indian elections and his main aim is to lay the foundations to install a new government. Mr Clinton will also make a stop at Bangladesh, on a visit that was originally planned last year, but had to be postponed when India and Pakistan set off nuclear tests. This was revealed by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is in New York for a series of diplomatic meetings, when she met with the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on Tuesday.

    The meetings were kept private and separate from each other. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is in New York for the two-week opening session of the UN General Assembly, met Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh in the privacy of her hotel suite. Mr Singh told reporters after the meeting that the talks went very well. Said Mr Singh: "We had a very cordial and productive meeting and we covered a wide range of issues."

    Mrs Albright apparently discussed tensions between the two countries, over the disputed Kashmir and the need to move peace talks along. Also discussed, nuclear non-proliferation and the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking. Mrs Albright was also concerned with 1998's nuclear tests by both countries. The secretary of state told India that curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction is one of the US's highest priorities, as the world moves into the 21st century. Some 600 million Indians have gone to the polls in the national election, and a new government is expected to take office by the middle of October.

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    US Presidential elections: John McCain in, Dan Quayle out

    While one candidate officially joins the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, another is calling it quits. Vietnam war hero and US senator, Mr John McCain has declared his presidential campaign, pleding to respect the dignity of the presidency. Soon after his declaration, former Vice-President Dan Quayle announced that he was dropping out of the race due to a lack of money. Mr McCain announced his bid for the Presidency in front of a crowd of 500 supporters, in Nashua, New Hampshire. "It is because I owe America more than she has ever owed me, that is why I am a candidate for President of the United States," he said.

    His signature issues include pledging to protect social security, cutting taxes, improving access to the internet and beefing up the US military. Meanwhile, Mr Quayle has dropped out of the race. "There's a time to stay, and there's a time to fold. There's a time to know when to leave the stage. Thus, today, I'm announcing that I will no longer be a candidate for President of the United States," he said. He also added that his decision was based on money. With only four million raised so far, he was far from Mr Bush's campaign warchest of more than US$50 million.

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    Art show in NY becomes political battleground for Mayor Giuliani, First Lady

    An art show in New York is making waves even before it opens. In fact, it has become political fodder in the undeclared Senate race between New York's mayor and the US First Lady. "Sensation", the art show, truly lives up to it name, because of the controversial piece, a dung-splattered painting of the Virgin Mary. Said New York City Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani: "I mean, this is like, sick stuff" The Mayor has threatened to cut US$7 million in funding if the Brooklyn Museum of Art goes ahead with the show of new British artists this weekend.

    However, the museum's directors insist the show must go on. Said Charlotta Kotik, Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum: "People should come and see the work with their own eyes and decide what they like and do not like." The museum is now considering legal action. Some experts say the law may be on art's side. According to the Supreme Court, the government is not required to fund the arts, but once it does it cannot withdraw those funds based on the personal views of an elected official like Mayor Giuliani.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton, who like Mayor Giuliani is expected to run for the New York Senate seat, has been drawn into the argument. She has declared that the museum should not lose its funding, even though she admits she would not go to the exhibition. However, Mayor Guiliani has accused the First Lady of supporting the use of public money to attack and bash the Catholic religion.

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    Ronaldo to kick off global drive against poverty

    Help for the war-torn territory of Kosovo is coming in very different forms. Popular Brazilian football star, Ronaldo makes headlines, but this time, not so much for his soccer exploits. The international sporting hero lends his support to a global drive against poverty, even making a financial donation to a primary school. Ronaldo met with UN Administrator in Kosovo, Mr Bernard Kouchner and received a hero's welcome, as thousands turned up to see the two-time FIFA player of the year. The Inter-Milan striker is one of the many celebrities lined-up by the UN Development Programme, to support its "Teams to End Poverty" campaign.

    The aim of the initiative is to encourage new donations and projects to tackle world poverty. Ronaldo himself chose to donate to the cause, handing a cheque for an unspecified amount, to help a primary school get back on its feet after the ravages of the Serb Albanian conflict. The international soccer star also delivered school supplies to ethnic Albanians, in one of Kosovo's most heavily damaged cities.

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    First feature film on Rwandan genocide made

    Bringing the real horrors of ethnic cleansing to the big screen. A British film maker is doing just that in a feature film on the genocide in Rwanda five years ago. Called 100 Days, the film is set against the former Hutu government's effort to kill as many Tutsis as possible. About 800,000 people died as a result and those that star in the new film are the very survivors who live to tell their tale. The blood may be fake but the experiences real.

    For many of the actors in 100 Days, it was re-living a painful truth. Director Nick Hughes himself was an eyewitness to the genocide, documenting the events as a cameraman in Rwanda. Mr Hughes said: "This is very important because I supposed I feel really strongly about what happened in Rwanda and a film is something I know, or maybe I know, maybe I don't know how to make a film but it is something I can do." The film tells the story of two young lovers who try to survive the slaughter but are separated after both their families are brutally murdered.

    Scenes like these took place across the country in 1994, when the Hutu government called on the army, local militias and civilians to rise up and kill Tutsis. 100 Days is the first fictional account of the genocide. There have been countless documentaries, but the director hopes that his film will have a wider appeal. Made on a budget of just over US$1 million, the film will also highlight the role of the Catholic church and the international community which failed to stop the genocide. Critics say thousands could have been saved if United Nations troops had been sent in early on. Instead, the survivors lived in fear until the Tutsi rebels seized power and ended the violence.

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    British volunteers arrive in Pristina with trainload of aid from England

    British volunteers have finally arrived in Pristina with a trainload of aid from England. This, after a three-day delay to their journey in Macedonia. The Train For Life, as it has become known, reached its destination after a journey through 11 countries. The train, staffed entirely by volunteers, left England via the Channel Tunnel 12 days ago. It picked up aid from many of the countries it passed through. Among the items in the cargo, food, winter clothes, medicine, toys and even artificial limbs. The idea came from two former British railway workers, John Morris and Neil Howard, who were moved by what they saw on television.

    Train Driver John Morris said: "We are all volunteers. We have either other jobs during daytime or are retired. When we saw the dreadful things happening in Kosovo, we thought we could do something about it. So that's what brought us here today." In an important spin-off of the venture, three British locomotives will be left in Kosovo for three months and KFOR soldiers will use the engines to deliver more aid across the war-ravaged territory. The effort is coordinated by UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR and KFOR with over 300 NGO's and aid agencies that have showed interest in using rail as a delivery means.

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    ASEAN, Japan share concerns over strong yen

    Japan and South East Asian nations said they share similar concerns over the strong yen, fearing it could hamper Japan's economic recovery. The Southeast Asian countries made their feelings known after a meeting with Japan's Finance Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, in Washington. At a 50-minute meeting between finance ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Japan, ASEAN members showed strong interest in how Japan's economy was faring.

    Japan assured the meeting that it would continue stimulus measures until domestic demand led growth was a certainty. Earlier in the month, Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi had said that the yen's recent rally was good news for other Asian countries as long as it mirrored Japan's economic recovery. A strong yen would mean growth in Japan-bound exports of Asian countries, and this would have a positive impact on Asia. However, Mr Miyazawa said a higher yen could also affect Japan's economic recovery, which would not be favourable for Asian nations.

    Turning to Japanese aid, Mr Miyazawa said ASEAN nations did not ask for an increase in the US$30 billion rescue package intended for crisis-hit Asian economies. However, the aid offered to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, may be extended to Vietnam in the form of an extension of yen loans. During the meeting, Myanmar also voiced interest in receiving aid from Japan.

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    Gold prices post record rise of 6%

    In New York, gold prices surged six percent, in their biggest one-day gain in 17 years on Monday. Gold is regaining its shine after the 15 European central banks, including the Bank of England, agreed to curb gold sales. The metal's six percent surge seems to confirm market talk that gold is in a new bullish phase, after its slump to 20-year lows earlier this year. Global mining stocks posted double-digit gains, after Sunday's joint statement by the 15 central banks, which agreed to cap annual gold sales at 400 tonnes for five years, and importantly for producers, curtail leasing and derivatives use.

    The intraday peak of US$285 was the highest since May 7, when prices were skidding right after Britain announced it would sell most of its 715-tonne stockpile. However for some producers, soaring prices is a mixed blessing. Some had already sold forward future production to protect against a drop below the benchmark US$250 an ounce breakeven for the industry.

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    Greenspan urges Japan to diversify financial system

    US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said that Japan's development of a broad and diversified financial system is key to that country's economic recovery. He warned that Japan has not made sufficient progress and that it needs to diversify its financial system. The US Fed chief conceded that Japan had taken steps to spur its economy through boosting government spending and money supply. However, he said those steps would not be enough.

    He said the Bank of Japan has created massive liquidity, yet bank lending has responded little. Mr Greenspan said this was because banks do not lend out money in unstable times even with increased liquidity. The US Fed chief says diversifying the Japanese financial system is a necessary but not sufficient condition in itself, in promoting Japan's long term recovery. The US Fed chief noted that the chief lessons of the Asian economic crisis were that countries with narrow capital markets, which have no alternative other than banks, suffered greater economic disruptions than those with diversified and accountable capital markets.

    The cost of recovery, he said, was compounded when governments failed to act promptly. Mr Greenspan did not discuss the immediate outlook for the US economy. He also kept mum on interest rates.

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    US, Japan to start talks tackling row over steel trade

    The United States and Japan have agreed to hold a high-level dialogue aimed at settling the row over levels of Japanese steel exports to the US market, a US senior trade official said. Contacts will take place at the vice-ministerial level, with more frequent meetings at the working level, the first of which will be held in late October. The United States, under heavy pressure from its domestic steel industry and labour unions, has slapped punitive duties on imports of Japanese hot-rolled steel on grounds that these had been "dumped" on the US market.

    In addition, Washington has begun an initiative to curb imports of Japanese steel beams. All these in an effort to protect the future of the US steel industry which it fears is being threatened by cheap imports from Japan, Russia, Brazil and other producers. Japan has denounced the US campaign, saying that their shipments to America have simply filled gaps in US output.

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    Taiwanese stock market closes 2.3 percent down

    The Taiwanese stock market closed down 2.3 percent Tuesday, after a 2.7 percent plunge on Monday, when it re-opened after a devastating earthquake the week before. The Taiwan Stock Exchange weighted price index plunged 182.08 points to 7,577.85 on Tuesday. Analysts said the stock market could fall further, some venturing that the bourse will decline by some 15 percent. Traders say fund managers on Tuesday rushed to cash out of the market, to meet mounting redemption demands.

    They said the psychological impact of the September 21 earthquake will continue to pressure the bourse, in the short-term. Investors continued to dump semi-conductor stocks, knocking prices down by the daily limit. Interest is focused on Taiwan's semi-conductor makers, who produce ten percent of the world's chips, and about 80 percent of the motherboards, used to run personal computers. The stock market's biggest losers include Taiwan's top chipmaker, Taiwan Semi-Conductor Manufacturing, which went limit down, despite assurances that half of its production equipment are already operational again.

    Analysts said Taiwan's entire economy will be rocked by the quake, with falls in GDP inevitable, and rises in interest rates and unemployment expected. However the downslide is being moderated, by imposition of a daily 3.5 percent limit down, and Taiwanese government-related funds, to shore up prices. Still, analysts say the government's move to slash the daily limit-low for the stock market, from 7 percent to 3.5 percent will only prolong the stockmarket's downturn.

    Trading however seems to have eased off, with only US$2.05 billion traded on Tuesday, compared with a massive US$10.55 billion Monday. Another sign that sentiment is improving, Simex Taiwan October stock futures closed at 325.5, up from Monday's close of 312.5. Dealers said the Taiwan Stock Market is likely to open lower Wednesady, but could well finish with a rebound later in the day.

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    East Asia countries regaining status as emerging markets

    The President of the Asian Institute of Management and former Philippine finance minister, Roberto de Ocampo, said the Philippines and other East Asian countries are regaining their status as emerging markets. However, Indonesia's political turmoil continues to be a factor that could slow Asia's economic recovery. Mr Ocampo and other Asian finance officials are in Washington DC this week for annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

    In Washington DC, Filipino Vice President and the President of the Asian Institute of Management were part of a panel looking at recovery efforts in Asia, where emerging economies are still struggling to rebound from the financial fallout of the last two years. Countries in East Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, made up a kind of growth zone before the economic crisis. However, Mr Ocampo noted that the growth zones have found themselves aborted due to economic weakness and political instability.

    Full economic recovery, he said, will not come without an improving political situation in Jakarta. Said Mr Ocampo: "The political stability of Indonesia is something that all of the East Asian companies are hoping would take place sooner rather than later. Because it is that political stability which we feel would lend itself to economic stability. Without that, I think it would make life much more difficult." Filipino Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo credited Indonesia for its own indirect contribution to economic recovery in the Philippines.

    She said: "(The) Southern Philippines has become very, very prosperous. Its growth rate has been higher the rest of the Philippines, and we feel Indonesia helped us very much to bring about peace which provided for that growth rate." With the handover of East Timor to a UN-mandated peacekeeping force, there is hope that the situation is calming.

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    Singapore share prices in for rough ride in final quarter '99

    Share prices in Singapore are in for a rough ride in the final quarter of 1999 as investors remain skittish about possible interest rate increases, regional instability and disruptions associated with the year 2000 computer glitch. Analysts said with radical swings in share prices, it is hard to predict where the benchmark Straits Times Index will end this year. Nevertheless, a survey of five analysts yielded an average forecast of 2,232 points, a gain of about 12.1 percent from Monday's close of just a shade over 1,990 points.

    The analysts said the economic turnaround and rising earnings, which powered a 56 percent increase in the index in the first half of the year, have long been discounted by the market. Jonathan Harris, regional head of research at HSBC Securities in Singapore, said that between now and year-end, there is not a great deal of upside left for the index. Now, analysts are expecting a continuation of the uncertainty that hobbled the market in the third quarter. The index fell 8.2 percent in the quarter through September 27.

    Concerns include tensions between China and Taiwan, fears of rising interest rates and political turmoil in Indonesia. Most analysts assume that interest rates will remain fairly benign until the end of the year, both in Singapore and elsewhere. Many said fears of a rate hike by the US Federal Reserve Board are exaggerated. Even so, investors will be wary of any hint of a rate increase, with the result that volatility will be high.

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    Suzhou Industrial Park expected to earn US$72 m in profits this year

    China's troubled Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) joint venture with Singapore is expected to earn profits of 600 million yuan or US$72 million dollars this year. Earlier this month the joint venture's chief executive officer was reported as saying the park had lost an average US$23 million to US$24 million a year since 1994 and cumulative losses would hit US$90 million by the end of next year. However, the China Daily quoted Chen Ming, deputy director of the park's administrative committee, as saying profits were expected to reach 800 million yuan in the year 2000.

    It did not mention pre-1999 earnings. The newspaper said the park had attracted contracted foreign investment of US$6.43 billion by August, compared with US$6.3 billion dollars at the end of July. Singapore officials were not available for comment. The newspaper quoted Xie Jiabin, director of the administration committee, as saying the success should be credited to the smooth co-operation between the Chinese and Singapore partners. The SIP, planned in 1994 as a US$30 billion, 70-square-kilometre version of Singapore in the east China city of Suzhou, ran into trouble when the local government began building a rival industrial park.

    In June, the park's partners agreed to swap their stakes from January 1 2001, reducing Singapore's share to 35 percent from 65 percent. The Singapore consortium would remain as a minority partner until at least 2003, but would not invest further in the park if it continued to make losses.

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    Malaysia will not lift foreign investment restrictions: Mahathir

    Malaysia's prime minister, often criticised for his unorthodox economic policies, said he will not bow to international pressure to lift restrictions on foreign investment. In a speech on Monday to investment bankers, financial analysts and diplomats, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will only roll back its year-old financial controls after world leaders have heeded its call to rein in currency traders.

    Dr Mahathir has repeatedly blamed currency traders for the Asian financial meltdown two years ago. Dr Mahathir, who is in New York to address the UN General Assembly, was making his first speech in the US, since he imposed sweeping controls last September on the flow of money in and out of Malaysia. Those controls have since been eased, but a tax on repatriating profits and a ban on offshore trading of the country's currency remain.

    The ringgit also continues to be pegged at 3.80 to the US dollar. US finance officials have been the most critical of Malaysia's capital controls, which Mahathir insists are needed to shield its fragile economy against attacks by currency traders. Although many economists initially ridiculed Mahathir's policies, the 73-year-old leader has recently drawn praise from the International Monetary Fund for reviving the economy quickly from a deep recession.

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    HK brokers approve plan to merge stock, futures exchanges

    In Hong Kong, brokers have overwhelmingly approved a plan to merge the city's stock and futures exchanges, in a move to boost Hong Kong's competitiveness as a global financial hub. The approval on Monday clears the way for the Hong Kong stock exchange and Hong Kong futures exchange to be de-mutualised and merged with three associated clearing houses, into a single corporation. Under the plan, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing will be owned by members of the exchanges, but have outside directors on its board to protect the public interest.

    The plan must get court and legislative approval. A green light would allow the new exchange to start operations on January 31 and list publicly in September next year. Many brokers initially opposed to the plan switched to supporting it after the government sweetened the financial terms of the deal. The merger plan gives the stock exchange a 70 percent stake in the new entity, and the futures exchange 30 percent.

    Each stock-exchange member will receive 805,000 shares in the new entity, while each futures-exchange member will get 1.4 million shares. The Hong Kong government hopes the merger will put Hong Kong back on track to compete with Singapore as a financial hub.

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    Most Asian markets closed higher

    Tokyo share prices surged three percent, as foreign investors snapped up Japanese exporters on the back of the yen's retreat against the dollar. The key Nikkei index closed higher for the first time in four sessions, but brokers say that the margin of growth was exaggerated by limited trading volume. It rose 504.64 points, to 17,325.70. Advancers outnumbered losers eight to three. Local investors took to the sideline as they prepared to settle accounts for the April-September term.

    The Nikkei index met strong upside resistance at around 17,400 points, amidst lingering uncertainty on the near-term outlook for the yen. Traders said that investors were also reluctant to take fresh positions, as they waited for the release of the quarterly Bank of Japan survey of business confidence next Monday. Hong Kong stocks closed 0.7 percent higher on bargain hunting, boosted by an overnight recovery of Wall Street and by sharp gains on the Tokyo market.

    The market had rose 1.6 percent at the open, but softened later amidst thin volume. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index rose 84.47 points to close at 12,844.93. Traders cautioned that the regional markets would quickly give up their gains, should the yen show signs of reversing course. Institutions could also unload their positions to buy the unit trust fund, expected to be launched by the Exchange Fund Investment next month.

    Thai stock prices ended 0.8 percent higher in a technical rebound, after sharp losses last week. The Stock Exchange of Thailand index rose 3.09 points to 385.23. Traders said that bargain hunters favored the big-capital communications, and energy sectors, but the banking stocks ended down on profit-taking by short-term retail investors, after gains of a little over one percent in each sector at the end of the morning session.

    Indonesian shares closed sharply higher. The Jakarta Stock Exchange's Composite Index rose 14.154 points, or 2.8 percent, to 529.221 In Manilla, higher gold prices and Wall Street's overnight gains fueled a technical rebound in Philippines shares, with mining stocks leading the way. The Philippine Stock Exchange index of 30 selected companies rose 13.39 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,070.43.

    The Australian stock market closed higher, as the All Ordinaries Index closed at 2920.6, up 9.5 points, or 0.3 percent. In Seoul, share pr

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