Indian ocean piracy a serious concern, says regional body

Indian ocean piracy a serious concern, says regional body

NEW DELHI -– Piracy is a serious concern in the Indian Ocean, posing a threat to maritime commerce and the safety of seafarers, the 12th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association of Regional Cooperation (IORARC) highlighted.

Such a scenario, it said, makes insurance costlier and incurs extra costs to the shipping industry in the Indian Ocean Region.


“Weak governance and instability in parts of the region have contributed to its degeneration into transnational organised crime,” said the 20-member grouping in the communiqué released at the end of the meeting held in Gurgaon, a satellite town of the Delhi National Capital Region.

The geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean cannot be underestimated in world trade, particularly when 80 per cent of the world’s seaborne energy trade transits through this part of the globe, India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.

As global economic growth shifts to Asia, it would occupy even greater salience in the member countries’ strategic perspective, he said at the end of the meeting.

Hence, stability and well-being of the Indian Ocean is critical for global economic prosperity, and even more so for the countries on its rim, he said.

Although there have been several useful regional and multilateral  anti-piracy initiatives, the Indian Ocean Region and IORARC should consider ways of engaging with these where feasible and complementing each other’s efforts.

“We would like the IORARC seminar on maritime security scheduled for 2013 to consider concrete proposals for cooperation in the broad area, including institutionalisation of a regional mechanism for continuing exchange of views and monitoring of the situation,” said the communiqué entitled “IORARC at 15 – The Next Decade.”

It said IORARC offers a useful platform for exchanging information on white shipping, and developing legislative frameworks and sharing best practices in coastal security and regulation of fishing activities in coastal waters.

The grouping also called for further development of port and harbour infrastructure in the region. It directed the working group on trade and investment to explore the potential of cooperation in this sector, including investment in and upgrading of shipping infrastructure and logistics chains in the region.

The 15-year-old association accepted its 20th member, the Union of Comoros. Its other members are Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The meeting also saw the inclusion of the United States as the sixth dialogue partner, joining China, Egypt, France, Japan and the United Kingdom. – BERNAMA

Source: MOLE

Students to take to the streets against PTPTN

The student group Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) will hold a rally on April 14 to demand the immediate abolition of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans, a scheme that is said to be a burden to university undergraduates.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today, SMM chairperson Mohd Safwan Anang said they target to attract 5,000 students and youths to attend the rally, to be held at Dataran Merdeka in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

“We want the government to abolish PTPTN immediately, failing which the students will vote en masse for somebody else who can do it,” he said.

Mohd Safwan was upset with the recent statement of Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin, who said such abolition is not viable as it burdens the government and curtails students’ competitiveness.

“Our country’s tax revenues were RM169 billion last year. Under this year’s Budget, RM50.1 billion was allocated for the education sector, but only RM12.1 billion was designated for public universities.

“On the other hand, we see the total amount of loans approved by PTPTN was only RM6.1 billion, so in what sense can the government say they can’t afford to scrap it?” he said.

Malaysia Reformist Student Club (Karisma) secretary-general Mohd Hafizuddin Abdul Mukti noted that Sri Lanka and Mauritius have adopted a free education policy, alongside European countries such as Norway, Sweden and Scotland.

“Malaysia, as a country with rich natural resources such as petroleum and timber, has no excuse in not granting free education.

“Furthermore, Mauritius has started providing free transportation to its university students since 2005,” he said.

‘An indebted generation’

The group argued that the PTPTN scheme produces an indebted generation where students are compelled to bear the heavy loan repayments of up to RM50,000 or more upon their graduation.

It is not helped by the fact that a fresh graduate only gets a salary of RM2,000 a month, which they claimed is insufficient for the scheme’s installments, expenditures for himself or herself and contributions to parents.

“Education should be the responsibility of government, not a tool for capitalists to make money,” Mohd Safwan said.

The group also called on the government to remove the names of some 132,000 people who were blacklisted by PTPTN so that the individual’s freedom of movement would not be curtailed.

The rally is supported by the Malaysia Free Education Movement, Malaysian Islamic Students National Association and Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

Chinese village exports cheap labour

Chinese village exports cheap labour

LUJIAZHUANG: Xie Guolu proudly shows off the two-storey home he is having built in this small Chinese village, paid for by money his son earns thousands of kilometres away in Algeria.


The 63-year-old’s son is one of more than 300 people in the village — about three hours from Beijing by road — who work in sometimes unstable countries, lured by better pay and firm contracts.


“In China, it’s difficult to get paid regularly. If, for example, work on the construction site stops, we don’t get any more money. So if he can sign a contract abroad, my son will do it,” Xie said.


The dangers faced by migrant workers abroad came under the spotlight at the end of last month when dozens of Chinese labourers were kidnapped in Egypt and Sudan.


While those captured in Egypt were subsequently released, 29 workers were still being held in southern Sudan, where the body of another missing Chinese worker had also been found, according to China’s state media.


But the risks have not deterred the residents of Lujiazhuang — a village where working-age men are in short supply and the work of tending the arid fields and raising pigs and poultry mostly falls to women and the elderly.


Village chief Guo Zhanyong said Lujiazhuang had been sending its young men abroad since the 1980s, when a large group of workers went to Sudan. It has a reputation for sending an unusually large number of its people overseas.


“Out of fewer than 3,100 inhabitants, we have more than 300 abroad. They are scattered in most European countries, but also in Singapore, Angola, Congo, the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius,” said Gu.


Some construction workers toil away around 10 hours a day, 30 days a month, and with few opportunities to spend their hard-earned cash they send it back to the village where plush new homes are being built with the proceeds.


Most residents in Lujiazhuang have relatives working overseas.


They earn between $8,000 and $11,000 annually, well over the average annual salary for construction workers in big cities such as Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, which was 40,500 yuan ($6,400) last year.


Jing Liying, another villager in her forties, says her husband is in Cameroon and her two sons in Singapore.


“I live with my daughter-in-law,” she said. “The recruiters come here as they know people here are ready to leave. They take those who are under 45,” she added.


Officially, more than 810,000 Chinese people currently work abroad, according to the commerce ministry, the majority on short-term contracts of one or two years.


In 2011 alone, 452,000 workers went overseas — including 243,000 people employed by Chinese firms — and few of these have any substantial contact with locals.


Africa, where China has emerged as a major funder of infrastructure projects, is growing particularly attractive for migrant workers seeking to earn good money.


But the work does not go without its share of risks, as was illustrated last week by the abduction of the road-builders in Sudan and the technicians and engineers working for a military-owned cement factory in Egypt.


Last year a dozen workers from here were involved in the mass evacuation of 36,000 Chinese nationals from Libya as civil war raged.


Gao Baohu, for his part, has just returned from three years in Singapore.


“Our firm arranged accommodation for us. Ten of us would sleep on bunk beds in a room, and we had our food delivered or would make it ourselves,” he said, adding he was able to expand his house in China thanks to his earnings.


“We often worked overtime, from eight in the morning to around 10 or 11 at night, with an hour for lunch. On Sundays, we finished at five in the afternoon.”


Wang Peng, a carpenter, earned 60,000 to 70,000 yuan a year between 2002 and 2005 in South Korea, but now hopes to be able to earn almost as much at home.


With the gap in earnings shrinking, the numbers working overseas may start to decline. “Salaries are on the rise in China,” said Wang. “So it’s becoming less interesting to go abroad.”

Source: MOLE