INTERNATIONAL

 

July 15 - 21, 2002

 

1.INTERNATIONAL

2. INDUSTRY

3. FINANCE

4. POLICY

5. TRADE

6. GULF

 

BUSH VOWS TOUGH PENALTIES FOR CORPORATE FRAUD

US President George W. Bush proposed tough new criminal penalties for wayward executives, vowing to root out corruption and "cooking the books" in a speech on Tuesday to Wall Street.

 

New legislation would double the maximum prison terms for those convicted of financial fraud from five to 10 years, Bush said. He also said he was creating a new corporate fraud task force by executive order.

"We will use the full weight of the law to expose and root out corruption," Bush said. "My administration will do everything in our power to end the days of cooking the books, shading the truth and breaking our laws."

According to a White House summary, the president wanted to expose and punish acts of corruption, move corporate accounting out of the shadows, and protect small investors and pension holders.

Bush pressed the US Sentencing Commission to "enhance prison time" for executives found guilty of criminal fraud. And he called for tougher laws criminalizing document shredding and obstructing justice.

"The president will unveil tough new criminal penalties and enforcement provisions to punish those who refuse to play by the rules and threaten to undermine the integrity of our financial markets," the White House said.

The speech follows an avalanche of corporate scandals that began last year with the fall of Texas-based energy giant Enron. The group's auditor Arthur Andersen was found guilty of obstruction of justice for destroying documents.

Outrage against corporate misdeeds reached a peak last month when telecommunications giant WorldCom revealed a 3.8-billion-dollar black hole in its accounts.

NERVOUS MARKETS HOPE WORST IS OVER

A recovery in Asian share prices has fuelled hopes that the worst of this week's market turmoil could be over.

Japan's Nikkei 225 share index rose more than 1% in early trading, fuelling a surge in markets around Asia, after Wall Street rallied late on Thursday.

The bounce has sparked hopes that markets may have hit bottom on Thursday, when European shares plunged, with London's FTSE 100 index down more than 4% to 4,230 points.

M&S SET FOR TAX REBATE JACKPOT

British retail giant Marks & Spencer looks set to scoop a multi-million pound tax rebate after winning a European court battle against Customs and Excise.

EU TO RELAX RULES ON BUDGET DEFICITS

The European Commission is getting ready to relax budget rules to give member countries more freedom to fuel economic growth with public investment.

The Commission is ready to scale down its resistance to public investment funded by running deficits in other words building up debts, according to Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes Mira.

In a speech ahead of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting on Thursday, and a full-blown EU finance ministers' meeting on Friday which will review the rules, Mr Solbes stressed the need for change.

"More emphasis needs to be given to the implication of current budgetary policies on the long-run sustainability of public finances," Mr Solbes said.

Such a change in emphasis could make it more acceptable, in the eyes of the Commission, for healthy economies to run a deficit in the short-run so they can improve growth in the long-run.

The EU executive's move was sparked by the way "growth prospects were quickly revised downwards and budget deficits started to widen" during the economic downturn of 2001, Mr Solbes said.

It precedes a proposal, due this autumn, which will outline common standards for economic policy which should preserve macroeconomic stability raise the economic growth potential cope with economic shocks

"The focus is increasingly on growth" said Mr Solbes.

The move is also seen as a response to criticism from several European Union member states which have been angered by what they see as the Commission's meddling with their national spending plans.

On Wednesday France ignored Mr Solbes' warning and raised its budget deficit target by 50% to 2.6% of its gross domestic product.

SWISS ENVOY ACCUSED OF MONEY LAUNDERING

The Swiss ambassador to Luxembourg has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering.

Peter Friederich, aged 60, was detained in the Swiss capital, Bern, on Monday, after an investigation which began with a tip-off from Luxembourg in February.

A spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office said the arrest followed "private transactions worth several hundred thousand francs", and that the money was of "unknown origin".

He told Swiss Radio International that authorities were eager to uncover the source of the money.

News of the arrest comes some two months after the Swiss ambassador to Germany, Thomas Borer, resigned following newspaper reports alleging he was having an extra-marital affair.

Under Swiss law, Mr Friederich faces a maximum five-year prison sentence or a fine of one million francs ($670,000).

After the tip-off from Luxembourg, Swiss prosecutors opened an initial investigation in April into persons unknown.

AFRICA'S GROWTH RAISES UN OPTIMISM

Most of Africa's countries enjoyed rapid economic growth last year, pushing the average gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 4%, according to a United Nations report.

The growth rate was faster than in any other developing region in the world, thanks to strong agricultural output, proper economic management and an end to conflicts in many countries, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report said.

BANGLADESHI EXPATS REMIT DH635M

UAE-based non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) have remitted 9.93 billion takas (Dh635.24 million) during the first nine months (July 2001 to March 2002) of the last fiscal year which ended last month, according to Bangladesh's central bank.

This makes the UAE the fourth largest source of remittance for Bangladesh, after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the U.S.

This is a sharp increase from the 2000-2001 total remittance of 7.79 billion takas (Dh498 million) sent by an estimated 300,000 Bangladeshi expatriates living in the UAE.

Total remittance received by Bangladesh from NRBs in 2000-2001 was 101.70 billion takas (Dh6.5 billion), of which 49.73 billion takas came from Saudi Arabia, 13.36 billion takas from Kuwait, 12.18 billion takas from the U.S., 4.5 billion takas from Oman, 3.42 billion takas from Qatar, 3 billion from UK, 2.38 from Bahrain, 1.64 from Malaysia, and 3.65 takas from other countries.

EU UNVEILS FARM POLICY SHAKE-UP

The European Commission has approved a radical reform of Europe's much-criticised Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that would sever the link between farm subsidies and output.

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said farmers would be offered a single "direct payment" based on past income, providing strict environmental conditions are met.

The move will thus cut out the current, bewildering array of payments based on the number of livestock or the amount of land under cultivation.

Tough talks lie ahead as the reform has still to be approved by the EU's 15 national parliaments but it has been cautiously welcomed both by non-European competitors and states applying for EU membership.

US DRUGS GIANT UNDER INVESTIGATION

The drugs firm Bristol-Myers Squibb has said that US regulators are investigating its sales practices.

The firm said it had been talking to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since April regarding the sale of drugs to wholesalers last year which led to excessive stocks being built up.

PENSIONS SET FOR SHAKE-UP

A radical selection of changes aimed at saving company pensions is expected to be put forward by a sweeping review of UK pensions regulation on Thursday.

The government-appointed review by Alan Pickering, former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds, will recommend that company pensions should no longer rise in line with inflation, reports said.

WORLDCOM CASE SHIFTS TO NEW YORK

Fears over a conflict of interest have persuaded US officials to move an investigation into troubled WorldCom to New York.

The US Attorney in WorldCom's home state of Mississippi had been due to probe allegations of fraud at the firm, which recently admitted $3.8bn (2.5bn) in accounting irregularities.

YAHOO BREAKS ITS LOSING STREAK

The internet company Yahoo has provided a welcome boost for the tech market, after reporting its first quarterly profit for more than a year. The company made a net profit of $21.4m during the second quarter, compared with a loss of $48.5m in the same period last year.

UK STILL INVESTORS' FAVOURITE

The UK has held onto its position as Europe's top location for foreign investment, despite the global economic downturn.

Foreign investors took part in 764 British projects during the year to late March, securing the UK's place at the top of the European investment league table, the government said on Wednesday.

THE UK'S DOPE ECONOMY THRIVES ON

The government's decision to relax the cannabis laws has thrown the spotlight once again on Britain's thriving drugs economy.

The cannabis industry is, in strict economic terms, one of the UK's great unsung success stories.

According to the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit (IDMU), a consultancy which provides expert evidence to the courts, the British cannabis market has grown from scratch to an annual value of about 5bn ($7.7bn) over the past thirty years.

CAR INSURANCE PREMIUMS STILL RISING

UK car owners still face higher insurance premiums, but the relentless rise is slowing down, according to the AA.

Its latest survey found that premiums for fully comprehensive motor insurance have been rising at an annual rate of less than 6% recently, compared to increases of up to 20% in recent years.

UK MANUFACTURING PICKS UP

Official figures show that UK manufacturing output edged higher for the second consecutive month in May, reinforcing hopes that the sector is firmly on the road to recovery.

Manufacturing production rose by 0.7% in May compared with April, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday.

The figures, which beat analysts' expectation of a 0.2% rise, mark the first back-to-back monthly increase in manufacturing output since October 2000.

EURO 'COULD HAVE SAVED STEEL FIRM'

Collapsed steel manufacturer Allied Steel and Wire could have stayed afloat if the UK had signed up to the euro currency, a Labour minister has told the Welsh Assembly.

Receivers called in to Cardiff-based ASW on Wednesday have revealed they hoped to sell at least some of the business to new owners.

FRENCH BUDGET RISKS EU WRATH

The French government has increased its target budget deficit by about 50% and is in danger of breaching limits set by the European Union.

It plans to set itself a budget deficit of 46bn euros (29.4bn; $45.7bn) in 2002, officials have said.

The new 2002 deficit figure is expected to amount to 2.6% of France's gross domestic product, as long as surpluses in local authority and other finances come through.

This compares to the 1.8-1.9% forecast by the previous Socialist government.

The new right-of-centre government has accused its predecessor of leaving state finances in disarray.

IKEA BUILDS RUSSIAN MEGA-MALL

Construction work is well underway on the biggest shopping complex Russia has ever seen.

Moscow's $250m (161m) mega-mall will open in December, and promises to be one of the biggest innovations for local shoppers since the arrival of the city's first McDonalds fast food restaurant more than a decade ago.