Thursday, October 30, 2008

Won soars 16.5 pct on currency swap deal

Won soars 16.5 pct on currency swap deal

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean won spiked 16.5 percent against the dollar Thursday on a currency swap deal with the U.S., a bullish stock market and Seoul's decreased current account deficit, dealers said.

The local currency closed at 1,250 against the greenback, up 177 won from the previous session's close and the biggest daily gain since Dec. 26, 1997.

The currency, which plummeted to a more than ten year low of 1,495 won to the greenback, rallied as foreign exchange authorities accelerated moves to restore confidence in financial markets.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) said earlier in the day it has concluded a currency swap agreement of up to US$30 billion with the U.S. Fed, which will help stem the won's sharp decline against the dollar.

BOK Gov. Lee Seong-tae said the swap deal will help the local financial market and ease concerns about local banks' dollar shortage.

Finance Minister Kang Man-soo also said that the country is seeking to forge similar deals with Japan and China.

"The news will help market sentiment improve, and help ease concerns over a shortage of dollars at banks and local companies," said Kwon Woo-hyun, a currency dealer at Woori Bank. "But it will take time for the currency rate to stabilize due to continued foreign sell-offs of local stocks."

The local currency has lost more than 30 percent against the greenback so far this year, in large part due to the continued sell-offs of local stocks by foreign investors and concerns that local lenders are facing difficulties repaying short-term foreign debts.

A bullish run on the local stock market also helped the local currency gain against the greenback while a narrowed current account deficit reduced dollar demand, they said.

The won's sharp rise was also helped by a central bank report that the country's current account shortfall narrowed sharply to $1.22 billion in September, compared with a deficit of $4.7 billion the previous month.

South Korea has posted current account shortfalls for every month this year except May as oil prices and the won's tumble drove up the cost of imported goods.

A continued deficit raised concerns that declining dollar supplies will further put downward pressure on the local currency.

The bank forecast that the economy is likely to post a current account surplus of more than $1 billion in October as the trade balance swings to the black.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sri Lanka recruiters visit Shawnee State University

Sri Lanka recruiters visit Shawnee State University
Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.

This summer, Priyanthi and Dissa Dissanayake, college recruiters to the United States from Sri Lanka, visited Shawnee State University for the first time to look at possibly sending students for their education.

More than 100 students have come to the United States from Sri Lanka for higher education since 2001 with the help of Priyanthi Dissanayake, who is recognized as Sri Lanka's foremost individual recruiter to colleges and universities in the U.S.

Her daughter, Sashi, wanted her higher education in the United States when she first started researching and after many rejections, she found a private college in Minnesota that worked with her. After that, her friends wanted help in sending their students to the United States.

"There had been very few Sri Lanka students coming to the United States for higher education before that," said John Lorentz, executive director of SSU's Center for International Programs and Activities. "They usually would go to Australia."

Lorentz has been involved with strategic planning in the state of Ohio with the Ohio International Council. One of the discussions of the group was determining how to promote education in Ohio, including promoting education abroad.

Shawnee State is also a founding member of the American International Recruitment Council, a new accrediting association for recruiters. The purpose of the organization is to develop standards of ethical practice to recruit international students to American educational institutions. Through his involvement in these organizations, Lorentz was introduced to the Dissanayakes.

"Last summer, we were introduced to Ohio," Dissa Dissanayake said. "We are visiting 16 schools in 10 days. What we have found is that Ohio offers so much diversity in schools for our students."

Until they came to Ohio, the Dissanayakes were working with about a dozen schools and now they have about 28 schools for their students.

"Having worked with so many schools in so many states, I see Ohio as one of the most forward-looking states where the international students are concerned," Dissa Dissanayake said. "From what we have seen, Shawnee State University has a lot to offer our students. We feel that students coming here would have a quality education."

In the next month, Lorentz will be traveling to Sri Lanka and Nepal for education exhibitions to introduce students to SSU.

"When you invite international students and you teach them a liberal arts education and the values of democracy, you pass on certain values to the future generations, the future leaders," Dissa Dissanayake said. "America has a lot to offer through its education to make the world a much safer place, a much better place. What I see here is that it goes far beyond educating individuals. This is the ultimate goal."

Visitors from Sri Lanka tour Shawnee State University to consider sending students. Contact: Elizabeth Blevins, Director, Office of Communications

Office: (740) 351-3810; FAX: (740) 351-3179; Cell: (740) 464-4854

Sourced: goswoop

S. Korea plans more measures

SEOUL - SOUTH Korea said on Monday it is planning measures to prop up the construction sector, after announcing a US$130 billion (S$191 billion) package to stabilise financial markets.

The government believes the fiscal measures announced on Sunday are sufficient, preemptive and decisive, said Deputy Minister of Strategy and Finance for International Affairs Shin Je-Yoon.

'And in order to help the real economy, the government plans to announce measures on Wednesday to support the construction sector and (at a future date announce) additional means to help small and medium-sized enterprises,' he told foreign correspondents.

The financial package was earlier welcomed by the International Monetary Fund, saying it should help foster confidence.

A statement by managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Seoul's decision to guarantee up to US$100 billion in foreign borrowing by its banks will ease pressure in the local dollar funding market.

'While global financial conditions will likely remain unsettled for some time, the government's policy package should support confidence in the Korean financial system and return attention to Korea's solid macroeconomic fundamentals, including its sizeable foreign reserves,' the statement said.

Apart from the guarantee, the government also announced it will supply US$30 billion from foreign reserves as soon as possible to local banks and exporters to ease a dollar shortage which has been driving down the won.

Despite foreign reserves of almost US$240 billion, South Korea was seen as vulnerable to the current global turmoil because of a surge in short-term foreign borrowing by its banks over the past year as US interest rates fell.

The global credit crunch was complicating efforts to roll over those loans, causing a scramble for dollars and a plunge in the won's value.

Some US$80 billion in foreign currency borrowing is due to mature by next June.

The won rose against the dollar following Sunday's announcement. It closed at 1,315 won to the US unit, up 19 from Friday's close.

Shares ended 2.3 per cent higher on Monday as gains in Asian markets offset doubts over the effectiveness of the stabilisation measures.

The central bank chief said the economy is expected to grow slower next year amid difficulties at home and abroad, and the bank plans a monetary policy to prevent it from sharply weakening.

'There is a possibility that the growth of the South Korean economy will considerably slow down in 2009, but the economy is not expected to contract,' Lee Seong-Tae, governor of the Bank of Korea, told lawmakers during a parliamentary audit. -- AFP

Gulf Compensation Trends 2008

Gulf Compensation Trends 2008 (Download for free)'s fourth annual review of compensation trends:

Average pay rises by country and sector
Drivers of salary increases
Structural trends in employment
Outlook for 2009, including impact of global economic slowdown
Individual country analysis for UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some bottled water just as contaminated as tap water: study

Some bottled water just as contaminated as tap water: study
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tests on leading brands of U.S. bottled water turned up a variety of contaminants, including cancer-linked chemicals three times higher than California's health standard, according to a study released Wednesday by an environmental advocacy group.

The findings challenge the popular impression — and marketing pitch — that bottled water is purer than tap water, the researchers said.

All the brands met federal health standards for drinking water. And most of the detected contaminants are common in tap water too.

"In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better," said Jane Houlihan, an environmental engineer who co-authored the study.

Lab tests detected 38 chemicals in 10 brands, with an average of eight contaminants found in each kind of bottled water. Tests showed coliform bacteria, caffeine, the pain reliever acetaminophen, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals and the radioactive element strontium.

The two-year study was done by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, an organization founded by scientists that advocates stricter regulation. It bought bottled water in California, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Researchers tested one batch for each of 10 brands. Eight of those did not have troubling levels of contaminants.

But two brands did, so more tests were done and those revealed chlorine byproducts above California's standard. The researchers identified those two brands as Sam's Choice sold by Wal-Mart and Acadia of Giant Food supermarkets.

The other eight, which researchers didn't identify, carried legal levels of many contaminants. Some of those chemicals, like arsenic and the solvent toluene, have been tied to health risks.

Some of the contaminants apparently came from pollutants often found in tap water, and others probably leached from plastic bottles, the researchers said.

In the Wal-Mart and Giant Food bottled water, the highest concentration of chlorine byproducts, known as trihalomethanes, was over 35 parts per billion. California requires 10 parts per billion or less, and the industry's International Bottled Water Association makes 10 its voluntary guideline. The federal limit is 80.

Water researcher Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, who had no role in the study, singled out trihalomethanes as the biggest concern because of strong research links to cancer.

"These are levels that should not be in bottled water," he said.

Giant Food officials declined to comment. Instead, company officials released a brief statement asserting that Acadia meets all regulatory standards.

Acadia is sold in the mid-Atlantic states, so it isn't held to California's standard. In most places, bottled water must meet roughly the same federal standards as tap water.

The researchers also said the Wal-Mart brand exceeded California's limit by five times for a second chlorine byproduct, bromodichloromethane.

The Environmental Working Group said it notified California's attorney general of its intent to sue Wal-Mart. The group wants the company to label its bottles in California with a warning of cancer-causing chemicals. Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment.

Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, said he would not defend any company that is exceeding the standard in California. "If they have exceeded it, they should meet it," he said.

The chlorine byproducts, which studies have also linked to birth defects, presumably come from chlorine used as a disinfectant, which ends up in public water systems. Tap water is often repackaged and sold as bottled water, and the researchers said that was true of these two brands.

The researchers recommend that people who are worried use a carbon filter for their tap water.

Tenure-track Position in International Business: Yonsei School of Business, Yonsei University

Tenure-track Position in International Business
Yonsei School of Business, Yonsei University

Yonsei School of Business invites application for a tenure-track faculty position in the area of International Business, available Spring 2009 or after.

The tenure-track faculty will teach two courses per semester in the area of International Business. The new faculty is expected to teach general international business courses, such as international business environment, international strategic management, international marketing and/or international HRM. Expertise in teaching specialized courses such as Asian Management, Chinese Management, International Human Resources, etc. will be favorably considered. The successful candidate should demonstrate outstanding research potential and excellent teaching capabilities. Applicants should have a doctorate in business administration or related field and at least one year of research or teaching experience after completion of doctoral degree. Faculty rank is open depending on qualifications.

As the best private university in Korea, Yonsei has a spacious and well-wooded campus located just 20 minutes away from the economic, political, and cultural centers of the Seoul metropolitan area ( Yonsei School of Business has been leading the business programs in Korea by offering the nation’s first undergraduate commerce program in 1919 (, first MBA program in 1965, and first full-time English MBA program in 1998 ( The school has 68 full-time faculty and more than 1000 undergraduate, MS/PhD, and MBA students graduate from the school every year.

Interested candidates may visit Yonsei website ( and at the bottom of right hand side will be “Professorship for 2009.” Please follow the instruction there and submit your application accordingly. Yonsei School of Business will provide the housing support, the settlement support, and strong incentives for research and publication. We look forward to your active participation. Thank you.

Dr. Young-Ryeol Park
IB/Strategy Faculty Search Committee
Yonsei School of Business
134 Seodaemoon-gu, Shinchon-Dong
Seoul, 120-749, Korea
Tel: +82-2-2123-2529
FAX: +82-2-2123-8639

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dubai Drink Technology Expo 2008

Dubai Drink Technology Expo 2008

“The UAE foodservice market is larger and more important than is initially apparent and is also growing at rates not seen in any developed countries of the world. (over 10% per annum in most channels)” (Drink Expo UAE, 2008)

Date: December 14-16, 2008
Venue: Dubai Convention & Exhibition Centre, in Dubai, UAE. Zabeel Hall

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thailand and Sri Lanka: Prospects for Canadian Franchise Degree Programs?

Thailand and Sri Lanka: Prospects for Canadian Franchise Degree Programs?
(pdf file attached)

Nova Scotia Export Sucess Stories: Under the Radar?

Nova Scotia Business celebrates Canadian Export Awards 2008 for the following businesses. I think it would be wonderful if every Canadian Embassy Abroad would provide similar success story links of Canadian provincial export businesses at home eliciting federal representation of Canadian exporters in a high profile and easy to access format which is above board and above the radar.

LP East River Plant

"As a world leader in the manufacture of premium composite wood products, the LP East River Plant will ensure sustainability, by being increasingly profitable with world class safety performance, customer satisfaction and innovative management systems."

Fossil Power Systems Inc.

"Fossil Power Systems Inc. (Fossil) is a Canadian company that has been supplying system hardware/software and services to international customers for more than 25 years."

Trail Blazer Products Limited

"Trail Blazer is a Canadian based manufacturer of hatchets, knives, saws, tree loppers & extension poles, which meet any challenge, from the needs of the outdoor enthusiast to odd jobs around the home & cottage."

PV Inspection Services Limited

"PV provides third party inspection, technical project management, and procurement support services including expediting, logistics management and QA/QC coordination for a diverse range of industry sectors around the world."

Cherubini Metal Works Limited

"Cherubini has built its reputation on one thing, steel."

Stark Oil

"Over the past fifteen years, STARK has been the industry leader in providing transformer maintenance and related services."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Brazilian Stocks Fall, Led by Banks, Homebuilders; Bolsa Drops

Brazilian Stocks Fall, Led by Banks, Homebuilders; Bolsa Drops

By Paulo Winterstein and William Freebairn

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Brazilian stocks fell for a sixth day, the longest losing streak in a year, as the global economic slowdown and worsening credit crisis threaten the country's expansion.

Cyrela Brazil Realty SA Empreendimentos e Participacoes and Gafisa SA, the biggest real estate developers, led declines on the index, losing more than 13 percent each. Uniao de Bancos Brasileiros SA paced losses among lenders. Tam SA and Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, the country's largest airlines, dropped after Deutsche Bank AG said passenger traffic growth was ``timid'' in September. Tele Norte Leste Participacoes SA and Brasil Telecom Participacoes SA fell on concern tighter credit will raise the costs of a merger between the phone companies.

The Bovespa Index dropped 1,513.24, or 3.9 percent, to 37,080.30, extending its losses for the year to 42 percent. Mexico's Bolsa index slid 0.9 percent. The BM&FBovespa MidLarge Cap index dropped 4.4 percent. The BM&FBovespa Small Cap index fell 3.3 percent. Mexico's Bolsa Index fell 1.8 percent, while Chile's Ipsa dropped 1.7 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 9,000 for the first time since 2003.

``We're importing the crisis, and also this market volatility,'' said Andre Caminada, partner at Victoire Finance Capital in Sao Paulo, which manages about $130 million in assets.

Airlines Fall

Tam, the biggest Brazilian carrier, fell 8.3 percent to 27.60 reais. Gol fell 8.1 percent to 8.76 reais.

A global cooling of economic growth will also lead to slower expansion in Brazil, which ``should hurt the demand for aviation services,'' Deutsche Bank analyst Bernardo Carneiro wrote. The weaker real also will likely cut third-quarter profit, with ``record high financial losses (all non-cash) of about $450 million reais'' due to recent drop in the real. The real had lost 18 percent in the past six days.

The cost of borrowing in dollars for three months in London soared to the highest level this year as coordinated interest- rate reductions worldwide failed to revive lending among banks for any longer than a day.

Unibanco, as Brazil's third-biggest non-government bank is known, dropped 7.7 percent to 14.21 reais. Banco Bradesco SA, the biggest non-state bank, slid 7.2 percent to 23.49 reais.

Tele Norte voting shares dropped 9.2 percent to 29.50 reais, the lowest price in three weeks. Preferred shares of the company whose parent agreed to buy Brasil Telecom Participacoes SA fell 7.1 percent to 27.41 reais. Brasil Telecom Participacoes fell 12 percent to 13.55 reais, while operating unit Brasil Telecom SA tumbled 15 percent to 10.90 reais.

``The current credit scenario makes it more complicated for Telemar to borrow money for the tag-along of Brasil Telecom shares,'' Peter Lyons, an analyst at Oscar Gruss & Son Inc., said in a phone interview from in New York.

Homebuilders Fall

Cyrela dropped 14 percent to 11.42 reais. Gafisa dropped 17 percent to 15.05 reais.

Brazil's central bank may raise rates at its next meeting, Caminada said.

``The central bank wants to show that the market is healthy, that this isn't a matter of insolvency in Brazil, but a question of liquidity. The rates will likely go up because inflation continues to be an important concern,'' he said in a phone interview.

Consumer, construction and wholesale prices as measured by the IGP-M index rose 0.55 percent during the first ten days of the data collection period, according to the Getulio Vargas Foundation. Economists were expecting a 0.19 percent climb, according to Bloomberg data.

``For now we are not betting on an interruption of the tightening cycle for this year yet,'' UBS AG chief Latin America economist Eduardo Loyo said on a conference call today. ``If the economic contraction is stronger, that may lead the central bank to revise its flight plan and end up with a shorter tightening cycle than planned.''

Bolsa Drops

Mexico's Bolsa fell for a sixth day, led by Cemex SAB, the largest cement producer in the Americas, which dropped the most in 11 years after Citigroup Inc. cut its rating, citing the global credit crisis.

Cemex was reduced to ``hold'' from ``buy''. Citigroup said a global credit freeze could raise borrowing costs and slow construction spending.

Many Mexican companies fell on concern over their debt in dollars as the peso continued a series of record low closing values. The peso has dropped 19 percent during its seven-session slide.

Empresas ICA SAB, Mexico's largest construction company, fell 11 percent, erasing earlier gains, even as it said it has financing for 90 percent of its projects and is protected from swings in the peso.

Cemex fell 15 percent to 10.52 pesos. ICA declined 1.97 pesos to 16.02 pesos.

In other Latin American markets, Argentina's Merval dropped 5.3 percent, Colombia dropped 2.3 percent and Peru's IGBVL plunged 8.8 percent. The MSCI Latin American index fell 1.3 percent. The index has lost a third of its value this month in the steepest seven-day drop since the index began in 1987.

To contact the reporters on this story: Paulo Winterstein in Sao Paulo at; William Freebairn in Mexico City

Last Updated: October 9, 2008 16:59 EDT

Asia plunges futher into financial chaos

Asia plunges futher into financial chaos
Japan's Nikkei index fell 10pc and the price of oil hit a 12-month low of $83 a barrel as fears intensified about a global recession.

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai The Telegraph

A move by US and European central banks, as well as by central banks in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and South Korea, to slash borrowing costs has failed to reassure investors.

"It's impossible to predict the bottom, and technical analysis is meaningless as panic and fear overwhelm the markets," said Jang Huh, at Prudential Asset Management in Seoul.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index fell 10pc, the biggest loss since “Black Monday” in October 1987 and it third biggest loss ever. The index, which closed down 881.06 points at 8,276.43, has lost more than 24pc over the past week.

Prime Minister Taro Aso warned that the slump could have real effects on Asia’s largest economy. The share price fall “has reached a point where it affects the real economy and fund raising,” he told reporters.

All indications are that European markets will open sharply lower.

The sudden plunge in the price of oil followed falls in the price of other commodities, including steel, as investors gambled that a recession would translate into falling production in the world's factories. Both Ford and Volkswagen have confirmed that their sales growth has dramatically slowed in China.

Even Japanese government bonds, traditionally the safest haven for investors, were being sold off as investors scrambled to translate their assets into cash. The yield on the 1.5pc 10-year bond rose 3.5 basis points.

In China, the government took the unprecedented step of ordering all foreign companies operating on the mainland to declare the state of their financial health and to provide details about how the ongoing crisis could affect their business.

Chinese companies in joint ventures with foreign firms will also have to testify about their partner's solvency, amid fears that the collapse of a major company in China could cause widespread shocks.

Meanwhile, China's markets regulator has asked for unofficial "audits"

of all foreign financial institutions in the country. The decision includes Hong Kong-based banks, hedge funds and private equity houses.

All new share listings have been suspended. In 2005, the markets regulator suspended all new offerings for 12 months in response to market turbulence.

The lack of confidence in Asia continued to weigh heavily on markets, with the Shanghai composite index touching the 2,000 point barrier at one point. By lunchtime, the Chinese market was 2.8pc down at 2015.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 7pc to a near three-year low, and the market has lost almost half its value since the beginning of the year. In Singapore, the market fell more than 6.6 percent, after new statistics showed that the island, one of the richest economies in the world, was in recession. Sydney fell 6.5pc.

The falls followed another plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the US, which closed beneath 9,000 points for the first time in five years, wiping out almost USD900 billion in market value.

The crisis of confidence in Asia has seen HSBC, Hong Kong's biggest bank, defy the island's central bank by leaving its benchmark lending rates unchanged. Even though interest rates have been slashed by a full percentage point, the interbank lending rate – the rate at which banks lend money to each other - has spiked to a one-year high after the region's banks refused to believe in each other's solvency.

“It is ghastly,” said Macquarie Equities associate director Lucinda Chan in Sydney. “Investors are buying up gold. It’s the only safe haven out there, otherwise it’s red everywhere.”

CMC Markets senior dealer Matthew Lewis described the rout as “total market capitulation”.

India’s central bank said it would inject a further 400bn rupees ($£5bn) into the financial system, by cutting the cash reserve commercial banks must hold to 7.5pc.

“This was done due to the evolving liquidity situation in the context of global and domestic developments,” the RBI said in a statement.

The injection came as shares on the Bombay stock exchange fell more than 7pc.

Iceland seeks Russian comfort

Iceland seeks Russian comfort

Remember the crisis of 1998 when the ruble went from being 6 rubles to a dollar, to 10 rubles, and on and on until it quickly reached previously unimagined levels? Well, now this nasty experience has been played out for somebody else. Swept by the global financial crisis, little Iceland discovered its own currency - the krona - had devalued 30 percent against the euro in just 24 hours on Monday. In an effort to save its banking sector, the country nationalized its third-largest bank, Glitnir, last week, its second-largest bank, Landsbanki, this week - and loaned its largest bank, Kaupthing, 500 million euros (13 billion rubles).

The measures have not been enough and Iceland has been addressing its European neighbors with requests for some cash (about 4 billion euros) that could "help Iceland a lot" to quote Jon Thorisson, CEO of VBS, an Icelandic investment bank. Russia received a similar official request late on Tuesday and the country's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was quoted by Interfax as saying: "We will consider it. Iceland has a reputation for strict budget discipline and has a high credit rating. We're looking favorably at the request." Negotiations on the loan are supposed to start on October 14.

To quote the classic "Casablanca": "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Iceland's Tho­risson told The Moscow Times daily: "This is looking like the beginning of relations between Russia and Ice­land." The AP quoted the country's Prime Minister Geir Haarde as saying that in times of crisis "one has to look for new friends". As relations with the rest of the "democratic" world have turned icy after the South Ossetia operations, Russia is looking for friends in new places. Some might argue though that the newly-emerging relationship with Iceland is just a revival of old traditions. As Vladimir Krendel from the Moscow-based Institute for Financial Research put it: "We had a long-standing relationship with Iceland in the times of the Soviet Union, when we provided them with oil. This was very unusual because Iceland was part of NATO, and NATO was the enemy."

It might seem strange to some that Russia is willing to give away 4 million euros ($5.4 billion) in loans at a time when its own financial system needs a bailout. I don't see anything strange at all. Even after spending $25.6 billion (670 billion rubles) in support of the Russian ruble that lost considerable value after the country's foray into Georgia, The Russian Central Bank still has gold and currency reserves of $556 billion (14.5 trillion rubles), not to mention the Stabilization Fund of at least $175 billion (4.6 trillion rubles). Iceland's need for $5.4 billion (141 billion rubles) is almost nothing compared to the $190 billion initiative proposed by Russia's chief financial institution to help the domestic banks try to weather the economic storm. Not to mention the fact that Russia has given away much more money in forfeited loans to numerous third-world countries, while this one actually stands all chances of being repaid.

Providing Iceland with a much needed loan that would hardly dent Russia's huge currency reserves is purely political, there is nothing economic in it. And although Russia is now looking for friends in strange new places, it is clear that should Moscow approve the loan to Reykjavik, it would not be doing so in the hope of becoming great friends. Moscow needs political heavyweights as friends, not an island state with a population of 310,000. But Iceland is a perfect instrument to demonstrate Russia's goodwill to the rest of the developed world at very little cost. Yes, 4 billion euros seem a lot to us, mere mortals, but in this particular situation this sum is a) capable of seriously helping a whole country and b) is not a serious burden on Russia's reserves. For a sum of 4 billion euros Moscow has an opportunity to show Europe that it's willing to "play ball". At a time when President Medvedev is employing divide-and-conquer tactics between the EU and US, showing that Russia is willing to part with its hard-earned money to help a little European country is like dangling a carrot on the stick. Clearly, nobody will hide under Moscow's wing just because of that, but the Russian authorities seem to know that words don't mean anything, actions do. Giving Iceland a loan is very pragmatic, and pragmatism is better than embarrassing rhetoric.

By Marina Pustilnik

Russia's Jerusalem land claim worries Israelis

Russia's Jerusalem land claim worries Israelis

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Russians are coming to downtown Jerusalem, reclaiming ownership of a landmark with the approval of the Israeli government, just as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visits Moscow to try to iron out serious policy differences between the two countries.

After years of contacts, Olmert's Cabinet agreed Sunday to hand over the small tract known as Sergei's Courtyard. The area, which once accommodated Russian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, now houses offices of Israel's Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

The property includes a lush garden and the massive buildings around it — a turret-like structure at the intersection of two downtown streets and the sand-colored fortress-like wings leading from it.

The timing of the gesture is clear. After years of relatively smooth relations, serious problems have cropped up between Israel and Russia. One concerned Russia's summer invasion of Georgia, which has become a close ally of Israel in recent years. More importantly, Israel is concerned about Russia's role in helping, or not stopping, the nuclear program of Israel's archenemy, Iran.

Olmert hopes to talk through those issues during his two-day trip to Moscow. He was scheduled to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday before returning to Israel.

Not everyone is happy about Israel's Jerusalem goodwill gesture. Hardline groups bridle at any transfer of control in Jerusalem, because they oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts that would require sharing the city.

Israel TV described the transfer as "Russian autonomy in downtown Jerusalem." The Cabinet decision says no major changes can be made at the site without approval of both governments.

The official transfer may be delayed because of an appeal filed by the nationalistic Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which said the deal is a "breach of Israeli sovereignty."

Nachi Eyal, the group's director, warned the deal could set a precedent for other land claims.

A Russian official denied accusations it seeks greater influence in the Middle East through the acquisition of Sergei's Courtyard, calling its desire to own the place a matter of historical significance.

"This has nothing to do with what is being called imperial ambitions because it's not a military base or something that can serve those purposes," said Alexei Skosyrev, a political counselor at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv. He said the building will be used as a Russian cultural center to "promote bilateral relations" between the two countries.

The site, named for Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, a son of Czar Alexander II, was built in 1890 and is part of the larger Russian Compound, most of which Israel purchased 45 years ago. It paid in oranges because it lacked hard currency.

Negotiations over the site began in the 1990s. In 2005, after years of lagging progress on the deal, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised former Russian President Vladimir Putin the land would be returned.

S.Korea won extends gains, up 9 pct vs session low

SEOUL, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The South Korean won extended gains after recovering from an earlier steep loss against the dollar on Friday as dealers said they believed the authorities to be selling dollars throughout the day to lift the local unit.

The won rose to as high as 1,329.9 per dollar from Thursday's domestic close of 1,379.5. It now represents a gain of 9.3 percent from the day's low.

(Reporting by Yoo Choonsik; Editing by Keiron Henderson - Thomson Financial News)

Survey reveals 76.7 % employment rate among higher education graduates

Survey reveals 76.7 % employment rate among higher education graduates
Date: October 08, 2008
Source: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

The overall employment rate of higher education institution graduates reached 76.7 percent in average, according to results of the 2008 Statistical Survey on the Employment Rate of Higher Education Graduates, announced on September 26 by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The employment rates of students graduating from junior colleges, universities and graduate schools(master's and doctoral level) marked 85.6 percent, 68.9 percent and 81.6 percent, respectively.

On April 2008, a total of 558,964 graduates were sampled for the survey, who had graduated from 374 universities and junior colleges, and 146 graduate schools nationwide, in February of the same year.

When counting full-time employments only, the rate reached 64.5 percent among junior college graduates and 48.0 percent among university graduates.

At the graduate level, 60.2 percent of master's and 61.1 percent of doctoral degree achievers found jobs upon graduation. In average, the full-time employment rate marked 56.1 percent, down by 0.7 percent point compared to the 2007 rate of 58.8 percent. Among those who found full-time jobs, 32.2 percent were employed at small and medium businesses, 9.7 percent at large companies, 5.7 percent at hospitals and medical clinics, 3.0 percent at schools, 2.7 percent at administrative organizations, and 1.3 percent at public organizations.

A total of 92,824 graduates had found part-time jobs, accounting for 18.8 percent of all employment cases. The part-time employment rate marked 19.1 percent, 19.6 percent and 16.8 percent among graduates of junior colleges, universities and graduate schools, respectively.

Of the February 2008 graduates, 111,727 were found to be in unemployment as of April in the same year.

Of this volume, 57.0 percent replied that they were searching for jobs, while 20.8 percent were preparing for state exams. Another 8.6 percent were preparing for further studies, 3.1 percent had found engagement as housewives, and 10.5 percent had not entered the work place due to other various reasons.

By region, the metropolitan area showed a gross employment rate of 75.2 percent among higher education institution graduates, compared to 77.7 percent in rural areas. When singling out the cases of full-time employment, the rates reached 56.2 percent and 56.1 percent in metropolitan and rural areas, respectively.

By gender, the total employment rate of female higher education graduates was surveyed at 75.4 percent, 2.6 percent point lower than the male average rate of 78.0 percent. The gap grew to 7.7 percent when counting full-time employments only, with a 52.3 percent employment rate among females and 60.0 percent among males.

By academic field, education majors achieved the highest employment rate(91.1%) among junior school graduates. Among university and graduate school students, medical majors were most successful in finding jobs upon graduation, with an employment rate of 92.0 percent and 92.4 percent each. By discipline, employability was highest among those who had majored in optical science and energy(94.0%) at junior college, medical science(97.0%) at university, and dentistry(94.6%) at graduate school.

Of all graduates surveyed, 72.6 percent found employment in fields that match their academic majors. Among junior college graduates, education majors were most successful in finding relevant jobs(90.9 percent). Among those graduating from universities and graduate schools, 96.5 percent and 98.7 percent of medical majors found jobs directly related to their major field, respectively.

Detailed statistics will be published later this year by the Korea Educational Development Institute, and also provided online for public access at

Korean builders win $40 billion in overseas orders

Korean builders win $40 billion in overseas orders
Date: October 09, 2008
Source: Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the International Contractors Association of Korea (ICAK) on Wednesday (Oct. 8), the amount of overseas construction orders won by Korean enterprises exceeded the US$40 billion mark, about two months after they topped $30 billion in late July.

To be exact, overseas construction orders amounted to $40.4 billion as of Oct. 7 this year, a record increase from $39.8 billion in 2007.

Korean builders have consistently won medium- and large-scale orders, each of which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars on average. In July, a construction consortium won a supersize order worth $6.3 billion for the Al-Zour refinery project in Kuwait, the ministry said. Other major projects include the Al-Shuweihat S2 desalination project in the UAE ($810 million for Samsung C&T and $800 million for Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction), the Manzanillo LNG storage tank project in Mexico ($630 million for Samsung ENG), and the Manifa gas facilities project in Saudi Arabia ($500 million for GS Engineering & Construction).

The $40 billion-worth of overseas orders were an increase of 45.4 percent year-on-year, mainly due to increases in strong demand in the Middle East (an increase of 36.2 percent) and in Asia (an increase of 56 percent).

Orders for plant construction projects accounted for 60 percent, or $24.26 billion, of all overseas orders won by Korean builders this year. Civil engineering projects recorded a rapid growth rate of 118.6 percent year-on-year. Orders for general engineering projects reached $550 million, up 75.8 percent from last year.

Top 10 construction companies accounted for 71 percent of all overseas orders this year -- Hyundai Engineering & Construction ($6.08 billion), GS Engineering & Construction ($5.13 billion), Daelim Industrial ($3.08 billion), SK Construction ($2.84 billion), POSCO Engineering & Construction ($2.67 billion), Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction ($2.47 billion), Daewoo Engineering & Construction ($2.07 billion), Samsung C&T ($1.68 billion), Woolim Construction ($1.56 billion), and Samsung ENG ($1.29 billion). Small- and medium-sized enterprises won $5.82 billion in orders, up 30.5 percent year-on-year.

The ministry said the Korean builders' overseas construction projects will keep contributing significantly to the national economy for the time being amid the difficult economic situation caused by the U.S. financial turmoil. The ministry predicted that Korean builders will continue to win overseas projects mainly in the Middle East, which has sufficient holdings of petro-dollars.

The ministry also predicted that Korean builders could rack up $50 billion this year in overseas projects, if they succeed in winning orders for the Hasian power generation/desalination project in the UAE ($6.2 billion), the Jumeirah village center project in Dubai ($600 million), the Landbridge railway project in Saudi Arabia ($4.9 billion), and the Sidi Abdellah land leveling project in Algeria ($1.5 billion).

To support Korean conglomerates' efforts to win overseas orders, the ministry plans to take high-level diplomatic initiatives with major countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, and introduce Korea's technologies and enterprises to them.

While closely watching what effects the U.S. financial crisis will have on the overseas construction market, the ministry will carefully study the feasibility of overseas real estate investment projects and conduct risk management of existing projects.

Meanwhile, the ministry urged Korean builders to refrain from excessively competing with each other in their bidding efforts especially in the Middle Eastern region, but rather to engage in fair play under ICAK guidance.

By Chung Myung-je Chief Staff Writer

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lawmakers hope for investor optimism after Bush signs bailout

Lawmakers hope for investor optimism after Bush signs bailout

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US lawmakers were hoping for investor optimism after President George W. Bush signed an historic 700-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout that still would not be an instant fix for the crisis.

The House of Representatives Friday voted 263 to 171 to pass the largest US government economic intervention since the 1930s, after sparking market and political turmoil by rejecting an earlier version of the bailout on Monday.

"I am hopeful that we have gone a long ways towards restoring confidence in our markets," said Democratic Senate Majority whip James Clyburn.

Lawmakers said that the combination of tumbling stocks, which pulled down market-linked pension plans, and a credit freeze that had bitten deep into the day-to-day economy, had changed the political calculation since Monday.

But in the initial reaction US stock markets fell sharply Friday, mirroring losses in Asia. The declines appeared to reflect the realization that the plan would not be a panacea for the broad economic and banking woes in the United States.

Following two weeks of high political drama, Democratic leaders credited White House nominee Barack Obama for helping to win over votes of wavering Democrats and ending a political crisis which became a major test of leadership between him and Republican rival John McCain.

However, McCain called the bailout package a necessary "outrage" and vowed to clean up Wall Street if elected.

"This rescue bill is not perfect, and it is an outrage that it's even necessary," he said. "But we must stop the damage to our economy done by corrupt and incompetent practices on Wall Street and in Washington."

Top House Republican John Boehner said that the version of the bailout passed by the House was superior to the original version requested by the Bush administration, which some critics described as a "blank check".

"The passage of this flawed but necessary bill is not cause for celebration," he said, saying Congress had allowed sectors of the finance industry to "run amok."

House speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately signed the bailout package, which allows the US Treasury to buy up billions of dollars in bad mortgage debts choking the US economy, and sent it to Bush for his signature.

"I really want to commend Barack Obama," said Pelosi, a Democrat, adding that the Illinois senator had helped reassure lawmakers in tough reelection fights.

"He really gave them confidence that this was the right thing to do," Pelosi said.

Obama said while campaigning in Pennsylvania that he was glad "we finally got this dealt with" and called on the Treasury to carry out the plan in a way that "protects taxpayers" and helps avert further foreclosures.

"I want those plans on tap quick so that we start getting some relief to homeowners out in neighborhoods," he said.

The Senate passed a revised version of the bailout package 74-25 on Wednesday, including sweeteners on extending bank deposit insurance and expired tax breaks in order to get more House Republicans behind the legislation.

The debate resumed amid more shocking news for the world's largest economy which shed some 159,000 jobs in September, as the weight of the housing collapse and credit crunch hit a broad swath of industries.

The unemployment rate held at 6.1 percent, a five-year high, with payrolls having fallen by 760,000 this year, the Labor Department said.

Democratic leaders said the next Congress and president would be compelled to follow up with not only tougher regulation of the banking and financial institutions but also more economic stimulus measures aimed at creating jobs.

"This is only the first step," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "While we address the balance sheets of banks, the next steps must address the checkbooks of families and the challenges they face."

The amended version of the plan is laced with 150 billion dollars in tax breaks to coax reluctant lawmakers from both the Democratic and the Republican parties to get on board.

The bailout gives the US Treasury power to buy up toxic mortgage debt which has been choking the financial industry and would create a 700-billion dollar federal program to buy bad assets from banks and other financial firms.

The Senate raised the ceiling on federal insurance for bank deposits from 100,000 dollars to 250,000 dollars, and added up to 150 billion dollars in tax break extensions for middle class families and business.

They also retained limits on "golden parachute" severance payments to disgraced Wall Street executives.

The Washington Post said in an editorial Saturday that additional steps would be needed to overcome the current economic troubles.

"Yesterday's action by no means ensures that the problem has been solved. The bad economic news continued to mount, with a drop in orders for manufactured goods and a seven-year high in claims for unemployment benefits," the paper said. "Maybe the only sure thing is that without the congressional action, prospects would be far bleaker."