Promoting South-South Cooperation
South Africa has urged developing countries to push for reform of the global governance system via the G77+China, in particular, for the enhanced voice and representation in the decision-making structures of international organizations. In early January 2015, South Africa took over the reigns as chair of the G77+China, the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries at the United Nations.
The G77+China has played a critical role in promoting South-South cooperation for development as well as successfully strengthening economic and technical cooperation among developing countries, said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa at a press conference briefing on international developments in Pretoria in early February.
The G77+China remains a champion for a more legitimate and accountable global system of governance, but for far too long, developing countries have not been at the center of global standard-setting and decision-making processes that impact on their development, Nkoana-Mashabane added.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu said that his government will pilot a one-year visa waiver for nationals from two European and two Asian countries to ascertain the effect on tourism arrivals. However, the president did not name the countries to which the visa waiver will be applied. The government, he said, would undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the waiver with specific focus on the impact of security and other related matters.
Timber Ban Lifted
Kenya has lifted the ban on timber harvest imposed to curb the unsustainable exploitation of forest resources. The scrapping was effective from February, according to Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu. Wakhungu said the decision was taken following an audit by stakeholders of the forestry industry. She also said to develop the timber industry, the allocation of forest plantation material would be restricted to those who have demonstrated capacity for investments. Kenya instituted the ban in December 2014.
Privatize Transport Sector
Nigeria will begin the privatization process of its transport sector, said Benjamin Dikki, Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises. The process will begin as soon as necessary legal and regulatory frameworks are put in place, Dikki said. Nigeria's transport sector would become a viable investment destination for investors from across the globe once this was done, he added. According to Dikki, the bureau was concerned with the viability of the transport sector because it was critical to the growth of the nation's economy.
Semi-arid Botswana will step up implementing its National Action Plan to Combat Desertification. The Department of Forestry and Range Resources has invited tenders from firms interested in carrying out an alignment process. Drought-prone Botswana, one of the most serious victims of desertification in Southern Africa, signed and ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1995 and 1996 respectively. The UNCCD has a 10-year strategy and all countries party to the convention have to align their national action programs to it.
Better Industry Standards
Foreign-invested enterprises will be given more chances to be involved in China's setting up standards to make its products more competitive and popular internationally, according to a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council on February 11.
"To push the Chinese economy to a higher level, the key lies in improving products and services," the statement said.
Premier Li Keqiang, presiding over the meeting, called for better products, citing problems such as a lack of unified standards, low standards and weak management.
China will improve standardization laws and regulations to guarantee quality. The government will also revise national, local and industrial standards. In areas such as health, safety and environmental protection, a mandatory unified national standard will be introduced.
Associations, commerce chambers and industrial technology alliances are encouraged to set standards that meet the needs of the market and innovation, according to the statement.
China has expanded its program to attract overseas talents by adding 55 introduction plans to the latest brain-gain list. Overseas personnel introduced by the plans will enjoy preferential policies in visa applications, residence permits, settling in China as well as exit/entry convenience equal with members of the influential Thousand-Talent Program initiated in December 2008, the People's Daily reported recently.
More overseas personnel have come to China thanks to the talent introduction programs. Since 2008, the Thousand-Talent Program has introduced more than 4,100 overseas staff, according to official figures. New rules on foreigners' permanent residence in China are in the pipeline and expected to take effect before the year end, which will further highlight preferential policies.
Rural Medical Insurance
Medical insurance subsidies for China's rural residents will increase this year, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a circular recently. Under the new rural cooperative medical program, the annual government grant for each rural resident will rise from 320 yuan ($51) to 380 yuan ($61) this year, according to the document. Rural residents will each pay a 120-yuan ($19) premium in 2015, 30 yuan ($4.78) more than they did previously, bringing the total financing for each person to 500 yuan ($80). China launched the rural insurance scheme in 2003 in a bid to ensure that the country's vast number of rural residents have access to affordable medical treatment and to reduce illness-induced poverty.
China will step up reforms and innovation to speed up agricultural modernization in 2015, according to a key policy document released on February 1. As the Chinese economy, under the "new normal," shifts from high-speed to medium-to-high-speed growth, continuing to consolidate the position of agriculture as the foundation of the economy and further increasing farmers' income have become priorities, said the document. The document listed 32 points in five aspects for detailed government work on reforms and tasks related to the issues of agriculture, rural areas and farmers. The document highlighted the challenges facing China's agricultural sector, including surging production costs, shortage of agricultural resources, excessive exploitation and worsening pollution.
New National Park
China plans to build a national park in the Sanjiangyuan region, the cradle of the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Lancang River in northwest China's Qinghai Province. A guideline for the park has been completed by a design institution under the State Forestry Administration. The park will cover more than 30,000 square km, including the rivers' sources in Madoi, Zhidoi and Zadoi counties. If the plan is given the green light, construction can begin at the end of the year.
China's foreign trade drop year on year in January 2015
China's tourism revenue in 2014
Predicted number of Chinese aged 60 and over in 2050
Lost annually through illicit financial outflows in Africa
Kenya's economy growth forecast for 2015