Singapore was found to be the best performer in a
number of categories, including quality of maths and science
education, affordability of telephone connection charges and internet
access, and government policy on ICT.
"It is clear that information and
communications technologies will continue to play a growing role in
boosting the efficiency of the increasing integrated global
economy," said the report's co-editor Augusto Lopez-Claros.
He said that in turn enabled countries to
"improve resource allocation and boost growth prospects".
The use of technology in 104 economies was
assessed, while the report's Networked Readiness Index (NRI) measured
the level to which countries exploit the opportunities.
Iceland was found to have achieved the greatest
improvement among the top ten performers, moving up eight places to
number two in the index.
Nordic governments, business communities and
households are "enthusiastic users" of new technologies, the
The booming economies of China and India moved up
10 and six places respectively to into 41st and 39th in the index.
SURPRISE RISE IN UK FACTORY OUTPUT
UK manufacturing output recorded a surprise
increase in January, official figures have shown, but the UK's trade
deficit worsened unexpectedly.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said
manufacturing output grew 0.2%, pushing the annual growth rate to
1.4%, its highest since June 2004.
But overall industrial production dipped 0.2% in
January after energy suppliers were hit by the mild weather.
The goods trade gap widened to £5.2bn from a
revised £4.9bn in December.
Lower exports caused the wider deficit. Analysts
had expected the gap to narrow to £4.6bn.
The trade gap in goods and services widened to
£3.7bn in January, up from a revised £3.5bn deficit in December.
The ONS said it expected production to see further
improvements in industrial production in February, with output from
energy suppliers set to bounce back as a result of the recent cold
Output from utilities such as energy suppliers was
hit by January's weather - which was the mildest for 15 years.
"Whilst manufacturing may have gone through a
softer patch, these figures show it continues to remain in more robust
health than is often portrayed," said Steve Radley, chief
economist at employers' organisation EEF.
"However, with the prospect of even higher
energy costs and problems for exporters from a stronger pound there is
no room for complacency."
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the
figures reinforced its assessment that "while the sector is not
in recession, any recovery in manufacturing has persistently remained
weak and inadequate".
AFRICA REPORT TO DEMAND NEW CASH
Tony Blair's Commission for Africa will urge
wealthy nations to increase their aid to the continent by £30bn a
year over the next decade.
African leaders needed to root out corruption and
promote good governance, the commission's final report says. It urged
that trade barriers against African producers be lifted and debts
cancelled for the poorest states.
Blair set up the commission, which includes several
African leaders and Bob Geldof, in February 2004. This major UK
government initiative to deal with poverty in Africa, which the report
calls "the greatest tragedy of our time", will show quite
how far things have changed in recent years.
FORBES RICH LIST AT RECORD LEVELS
The Forbes magazine list of the world's super-rich
has increased to a record 691 people with a combined fortune of $2.2
trillion (£1.14 trillion).
Microsoft's boss Bill Gates is top of the
billionaires' list for the 11th year in a row, ahead of Warren Buffett.
Meanwhile, India's Lakshmi Mittal and Ikea's Ingvar
Kamprad have joined the top ten billionaires. Mittal, who is in the
steel business, reached third position in the ranking and Kamprad is
Despite his continued ascendancy Gates nevertheless
saw his net worth decline slightly to $46.5bn from $46.6bn
Mexico's telecommunication tycoon Carlos Slim has
also entered in the top ten list of world's billionaires. Slim, who is
the biggest shareholder in US MCI, has also an impressive increased of
his fortune from $13.9bn to $23.9bn. Forbes said the highest riser was
Mittal, whose fortune increased by $18.8bn to $25bn.
CHINA'S IMPORTS BOUNCE BACK
China's February crude oil imports rose from a
14-month low the month before, customs officials said.
The news helped restore confidence in growing
demand from the world's second-biggest consumer.
China imported 18.17 million tonnes (2.25 million
barrels per day) of crude in the first two months of this year, the
officials said, down 12.7 per cent from a year ago.
The figure implied that imports in February alone
rebounded to 10.37 million tonnes (2.7 million bpd), much higher than
the meagre 7.8 million tonnes (1.84 million bpd) the previous month.
Imports were down only 1.5 per cent from February 2004.
The import level was even more impressive
considering last year's high base and the fact that Chinese New Year
fell in February this year, a period in which all activities generally
slow. In 2004, the Lunar New Year fell in January. China imported an
average 2.45 million bpd last year.
BANGLADESH CLOTHING EXPORTS SLIDE
Bangladesh has seen its exports of woven clothing
slump since the end of an international textile trade deal on 31
December, according to reports.
According to reports, exports of woven garments
fell 21.34% in January from the previous year.
The 1974 Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) set up a quota
system to govern the garment trade.
India and China are likely to benefit most from the
end of the MFA by capitalising on economies of scale. The garment
industry is a key part of Bangladesh's economy, with many workers in
the cities using their wages to support families in rural areas.
Textiles make up about 85% of Bangladesh's exports.
EU SPENDING PACT ROW RUMBLES ON
European Union (EU) finance ministers have failed
to agree on how much they should change the EU stability pact, despite
marathon talks in Brussels.
France and Germany have called for the pact to be
modified after repeatedly breaking borrowing limits.
The two want some spending, such as the funding of
long-term economic reform, to be excluded from the pact.
Smaller countries that have kept to the rules have
opposed the move. Emergency talks will now take place on 20 March.
JAPAN HITS BACK AT OVERSEAS M&A
Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has
thrown out plans to ease foreign takeovers of Japanese firms.
LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he
wants to double foreign investment in Japan. But his plan to let
overseas firms buy Japanese ones by swapping shares, a common tactic
elsewhere, touched nerves in a country unused to foreign buyouts.
In the wake of several messy takeover battles, the
law change has now fallen foul of a key LDP committee.
Until now, foreign firms wanting to use shares —
rather than cash — to buy into Japan have had to use their Japanese
subsidiaries as a vehicle for the transaction. Koizumi's idea was to
cut out the intermediate stage, hoping to boost Japan's laggardly pace
of foreign inward investment amid a 42% rise in mergers and
acquisitions during 2004.
CHINA PRIVATE AIRLINE AIRBORNE
China's first private airline has taken to the
skies, ending the government monopoly on the rapidly growing civil
Okay Airlines made its maiden flight from Tianjin
in north China to the central city of Changsha last Friday. The
company has benefited from Beijing's decision last month to expand
opportunities for the private sector, opening up previously closed
BOE OPTS TO LEAVE RATES AT 4.75%
The Bank of England has left interest rates
unchanged at 4.75% for the seventh month in a row. Last month, the
monetary policy committee (MPC) said a rate rise "might be
warranted in due course" if the economy followed its forecasts.
The decision to hold fire this month was widely expected, with a
Reuters poll of 50 economists unanimous on the view that there would
be no change.
JAPANESE FEARS DRIVE DOLLAR DOWN
The US dollar has fallen after Japan's prime
minister hinted that the country could look elsewhere for its foreign
Junichiro Koizumi's comments weakened the dollar,
pushing the euro up 0.5% to a two-month high of $1.3455.
The US's massive deficits are being propped up
largely by Asian central banks buying dollars. Suggestions that South
Korea might diversify away from the dollar prompted sharp falls on
Expectations are that the euro, which has been at
historic highs, could pick up the slack if the dollar's attraction as
the world's reserve currency weakens. Also last Thursday's exchange
rate shake-up was triggered by testimony from Koizumi to a Japanese
NIGERIAN FOREIGN DEBT ROW EASES
Pressure on the Nigerian government to suspend
foreign debt payments has eased after the country's Senate voted to
honour debt obligations this year.
The House of Representatives earlier called for a
halt to payments on Nigeria's $35bn (£18bn) debt.
Nigeria has a cripplingly high debt despite making
payments of more than $40bn since the late 1960s.
INTERCONTINENTAL SEALS HOTEL SALE
Intercontinental Hotels has agreed to sell 73 of
its UK hotels for £1bn ($1.9bn) to consortium LRG Acquisition.
The world's largest hotelier said it would use the
proceeds from the sale to return £1bn to shareholders. The
announcement was made as the UK-based group reported a 27% rise in
pre-tax profits to £309m for 2004.
CATHAY PACIFIC PROFITS GO HIGHER
Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's biggest airline,
reported profits of 4.42 billion HK dollars ($567m; £294m) for 2004
buoyed by a strong local economy.
The firm said an improved world economy also
contributed to profits which were more than triple the 1.3bn Hong Kong
dollars of Sars-hit 2003.
AIRBUS SALES HELP EADS FLY HIGHER
Increased sales of Airbus aircraft and healthy
orders helped its parent company, EADS, significantly boost its
profits and sales last year.
The aerospace firm said a strong performance from
Airbus, which it majority owns, helped boost total sales by 5% to
31.8bn euros ($42.4bn;£22bn). Total profits before tax, interest,
goodwill amortization and exceptional items climbed 58% to 2.4bn
TSUNAMI ERASES AIRLINE'S PROFIT
Sri Lankan Airlines has said high fuel costs and
the drop in revenue following the Asian tsunami means it will report a
loss of about $10m (£5.2m).
CHINA SPENDS ON COALMINE SAFETY
China's Premier Wen Jiabao has promised the state
is to spend 3bn yuan ($362m; £189m) to "truly make coal mining
safe", state media reported.
The money will be used to improve safety equipment
at state-run mines.
At least 6,000 miners died in China's mines last
year, making them the deadliest in the world.
BUFFETT WARNS ON US TRADE DEFICIT
Billionaire US investor Warren Buffett has warned
about the extent of the US trade deficit. He made the comments in his
widely-read annual letter to shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway
He warned that the US trade deficit, which totalled
$672bn (£484bn) last year, meant a knock-on over-reliance upon
foreign investment into the US. Buffett said this foreign investment
could become too dominant. "Other countries and their citizens
now own a net of about $3,000bn of the US," he said.