Friday, July 31, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
PANAMÁ. Una nueva metodología de trabajo implementarán a partir del próximo año, el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD) y el gobierno panameño.
Así lo anunció el ministro de Economía y Finanzas, Alberto Vallarino, quien dijo que con ese fin se vienen realizando reuniones con altos representantes de este organismo.
Los programas oficiales administrados por el PNUD en Panamá suman 136 millones de dólares.
Vallarino expresó que los fondos para el desarrollo de los programas son entregados en un solo desembolso al PNUD, los que son depositados en un banco privado, y lo que el gobierno propone es manejar los fondos a través de una carta de crédito del Banco Nacional de Panamá y realizar desembolsos mensuales.
El 3% del costo del proyecto pasa a los fondos del PNUD por costos de administración. El ministro cuestionó recientemente las altas cifras que pagaba el Estado a los consultores de este organismo.
PANAMA. The Ministry of Economy and Finance is going to have a meeting with representatives of the Development Program of the United Nations (PNUD) over the next few days to discuss the advisory projects that organization has with the Panamanian government.
The Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino has questioned the amount of money that the State has paid to PNUD advisors, because some of them were receiving salaries higher than those earned by ministers.
Vallarino said that although the PNUD is giving advice to the government, the money that it is handling comes from the National Treasury.
The minister said that he called PNUD after the second meeting of the National Economic Council (CENA) place to gain information about the resources the government invested in those programs.
In April this year it was $48 million, which was considerably lower that it was in February, when it was of $59 million.
“What we want from PNUD is clarification of the program’s expenses. This goes beyond the PNUD. It has to do with putting the public finances in order,” said Vallarino.
“We do not want to have any problems with the United Nations, because we appreciate the work they are doing for Panama, but we need to know more,” said the minister.
Vallarino also said that currently his ministry is investigating the concessions given to the Fish and Yacht Club.
The letter was sent to its board of directors asking to appoint three representatives to talk with the General Comptroller and the Ministry of Finance with regards to the landfills.
Consultants were overpaid
07-15-2009 | MARIJULIA PUJOL LLOYD
Panama Star PANAMA. The millionaire payments that the State made to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for advisory services has provoked the Finance and Economy Ministry to call the representatives of that international organization to a meeting to explain just who the advisors are and why they are receiving so much money.
The Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, said that the past administration abused the system by hiring too many UNDP consultants, some of whom received salaries higher than that of the President of the Republic and his ministers. Some advisors have two contracts, one as civil servants and a second as consultants, in what is was an abuse of the system by a group of civil servants.
Meanwhile, during the second meeting of the National Economic Council (CENA), the approval of $72 million in additional credits was postponed due to lack of information and inconsistencies, particularly regarding additional payments to the National Institute of Human Development (INADEH) and other government institutions.
Vallarino is carefully studying and analyzing all the debts the government has with international organizations and private companies.
One of Vallarino’s main goals is to find ways to save money and, at the same time, to generate enough income to allow the Martinelli administration to carry out social interest programs.
The Economy minister is also looking at concessions contracts to make sure that entrepreneurs and companies are paying the money they owe to the state.
The first target of the Ministry of Finance has been the concessions in Amador where, for several years, companies have neglected to pay towards the use of that land.
According to Vallarino, there are inconsistencies in the contracts and money wastage in different areas of the government.
Just two weeks into the Martinelli administration, Vallarino is attempting to clarify the government’s assets and to streamline finances.
The UNDP consultant scandal is the second inconsistency that he has discovered so far. He will probably find more as he begins to understand how the Ministry of Economy and Finance works.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Earlier this year, UNDP announced that it would return to North Korea after securing promises from the DPRK government that it would permit UNDP to operate in a manner that would comply with the U.N. rules and regulations that it had previously ignored.
Since that decision, North Korea has demonstrated its disdain for the U.N. by ignoring the directives of its most powerful body, the U.N. Security Council, regarding its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missiles programs. Moreover, despite the fact that estimates by the World Food Program indicate that over a third of the North Korean population is dependent on food aid, North Korea has increasingly restricted the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in the country. In March 2009, the North Korean government abruptly informed the U.S. that it would no longer accept food assistance and ordered five non-governmental organizations involved in distributing the food aid to leave the country. In June 2009, North Korea further constrained the ability of the World Food Program to monitor U.N. food distribution, expelled Korean-speaking employees of WFP, and ordered WFP and the U.N. Children's Fund to cease operations in parts of the country.
Yet, in typical U.N. style, UNDP continues with its plans to restore its DRPK activities and WFP and UNICEF seemingly are content to allow North Korea to trim their activities to serve its agenda.
The barbaric indifference of the North Korean government to the suffering of its own people should lead the U.N. to pull out of North Korea all together. In other repressive regimes, the U.N. and NGOs can sometimes work around the government to help the people directly. In these cases, there is some justification for continuing U.N. humanitarian activities. There is little basis for this approach in North Korea. The regime controls virtually all international humanitarian activities. Despite the best efforts of the U.N. and other providers of humanitarian assistance, aid to North Korea is only permitted if it benefits the regime. The U.S. should press for complete suspension of these programs until the North Korea government agrees to permit them to operate in a manner that does not impede their humanitarian mission.
— Brett D. Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation and editor ofConundrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
* Committee could complete task as early as Thursday
* U.S. officials tighten screws on North Korean business
By Patrick Worsnip and Paul Eckert
UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council neared agreement on Wednesday on North Korean firms and individuals to be added to a blacklist for involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, diplomats said.
Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters "We are very close" to agreement on the expanded sanctions list. Diplomats from several countries said a council committee that has been discussing the issue for a month was on target to meet a weekend deadline for completing its task and could do so as early as Thursday.
As diplomats put the finishing touches on expanding U.N. sanctions, U.S. officials said they had succeeded in increasing international awareness of methods North Korea uses to disguise its trade in illicit weapons as legal business transactions.
"North Korea engages in a variety of deceptive financial practices that are intended to obscure the true nature of their transactions," said a senior Obama administration official.
A U.S. team is traveling to key world capitals to warn governments and banks that North Korean practices make it "virtually impossible to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate business," the official said in Washington.
Firms and governments in China, Hong Kong and other places North Korea does business were taking seriously the U.S. warnings about Pyongyang's practice of using front companies and unusually large cash transactions, he added.
At the United Nations, the committee, representing all 15 nations on the council, met twice on Wednesday and Turkish envoy Fazli Corman, who chairs the group, said it would meet again on Thursday.
Final agreement "may require some delegations to receive instructions from their capitals," Corman said, adding, "The sense of urgency is there."
The Security Council passed a resolution on June 12 that expanded U.N. sanctions against North Korea in response to a nuclear test it carried out on May 25, and asked the committee to add more names to the sanctions list.
The committee in April placed two North Korean companies and a bank on the list in its first action in two years. That move followed a long-range rocket launch earlier in the month by Pyongyang.
This week's blacklisting is expected to go further by specifying individuals and goods to be subject to sanctions, as well as additional companies.
The measure would prohibit companies and nations around the world from doing business with the named firms and require them to freeze assets and impose travel bans on the individuals.
The steps described by the U.S. official were in addition to the U.N. measures and targeted counterfeiting, narcotics trafficking and other North Korean activities in addition to illicit weapons proliferation, officials said.
"There's a broad consensus, including by China, that this is the right way to go and I don't think the Chinese would take this stuff lightly," said a second U.S. official.
The official said there was a growing international consensus that tightening sanctions on North Korean entities is "the best chance we have to influence their calculations."
Names to be put on the list were submitted to the committee last month by the United States, Britain, France and Japan. Western diplomats said China and Russia had been slow to respond, but they believed the delays were mainly bureaucratic.
"We're confident of an outcome which will be commensurate with DPRK (North Korea) actions and will be effective and will significantly improve the (sanctions) regime," said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition he not be identified.
The sanctions are intended to target only companies and individuals connected to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and diplomats said the proposed goods to be sanctioned were also all weapons-related.
The June 12 sanctions resolution banned all weapons exports from North Korea and most arms imports into the reclusive communist state.
It also authorized U.N. member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, requiring them to seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of the sanctions.
North Korea responded by saying it would take "firm military action" if the United States and its allies tried to isolate it.
The sanctions committee was created after the Security Council adopted punitive measures against North Korea for its first nuclear test in October 2006. (Editing by Eric Beech)
Monday, July 13, 2009
The condo is in The Corinthian, a high-rise built in 1987.
Shah has served as the finance director of the United Nations Development Programme, formed in 1965 and based in New York.
Thanabalasingam has served as the deputy director in the office of human resources of the United Nations Development Programme, which acts as the United Nation's global development network.
There were 164 condo sales in Murray Hill in 2008, with a median price of $628,000.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday , July 07, 2009
By George Russell
Alongside its military posturing, North Korea's bellicose dictatorship is continuing to put new restrictions on United Nations relief organizations operating in the country, which are the main lifeline for its starving population — a fact that apparently leaves the Kim Jong Il regime unmoved.
A spokesman for the World Food program has confirmed to FOX News that on July 3, the emergency relief organization was ordered to limit food deliveries to 57 of the 131 North Korean counties it previously served. At the same time, the agency was told that it must give seven days' notice of visits to oversee food deliveries at all of its relief sites — a sharp change from the one-day notice previously required under a deal to retain U.S. support for North Korean relief efforts. As a result, the spokesman said, WFP is "reviewing the current terms and conditions for our work" in North Korea, "to ensure that our work and our accountability is not compromised."
Additional constraints were also slapped on the child relief organization UNICEF in June, according to a spokesman, Chris de Bono. He told FOX News that the regime banned UNICEF from operating in its northerly Ryanggan province, which borders China, and is one of the impoverished country's poorest areas. UNICEF still operates in 56 other counties across North Korea.
The restrictions make even more dire the food situation in a country where starvation and malnutrition are widespread, even as the Kim regime continues to set off atomic blasts and fire missiles in the direction of Japan and Hawaii.
Furthermore, they once again raise questions about the U.N.'s ability to monitor whatever relief activities that remain in the country. UNICEF's spokesman told FOX News that only WFP had won the right to 24-hour notification for inspection visits, and that all other U.N. institutions in North Korea have operated with the one-week request limit as a matter of course.
UNICEF has ten international staff and 20 local staffers in North Korea. None of the international staff speak Korean. The agency is budgeted to spend $13 million a year on North Korean operations, principally on food for infants, children and pregnant women, along with emergency vaccination programs, essential medicines and clean water supplies.
But nowhere near that amount of money from international donors is currently available. According to its Web site, UNICEF has received only 10 percent of the total, or about $1.3 million, undoubtedly a result of the North Korean regime's aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons. Unless more money is received soon, the UNICEF spokesman said, "it will be difficult to maintain the current level of operations and this will have serious negative consequences for children and other vulnerable people."
The same funding shortfall applies to the World Food Program, which told FOX News a month ago that donor nations had provided only $75.4 million toward a 2009 goal of $503 million for North Korea, with more than half of that amount — $38.8 million — food aid that was not delivered in 2008.
The only other U.N. agency that has significant operations in North Korea, the United Nations Population Fund, reports that it has received no curtailment in its activities, but it only operates in 11 North Korean counties. It was slated to spend roughly $8.3 million in North Korea between 2007 and 2009, chiefly for birth control and other forms of "reproductive health" and for helping the regime collect population statistics.
Nonetheless, a big question mark still hangs over the North Korean operations of the United Nations Development Program, the U.N.'s major anti-poverty agency, which suspended operations in North Korea in 2007 in the wake of revelations from an independent inquiry that it had wrongfully provided millions in hard currency to the North Korean regime, ignored U.N. Security Council sanctions in passing on dual-use equipment that could conceivably be used in the country's nuclear program, and allowed North Korean government employees to fill key positions.
The North Korea case also led to a major crisis of the United Nations' whistleblower protection system, after UNDP refused to follow the recommendations of the U.N.'s chief ethics officer, Robert Benson, and pay a penalty for violating the rights of a UNDP whistleblower who brought UNDP's North Korean rulebreaking to light. UNDP has not changed its position.
UNDP's governing executive board voted last January to allow the agency to return to North Korea, providing that it corrected its previous abuses and win North Korean agreement. A UNICEF spokesman was quoted last month as saying that two UNDP staffers were in Pyongyang, working on reopening UNDP's office.
Queried by FOX News, a UNDP spokesman revealed that one UNDP staffer was currently in North Korea "in temporary premises." The main focus of UNDP activity was indeed on renovating its office building, which "is in a state of disrepair following two years of non-use."
UNDP's actual operations in North Korea, however, "have yet to resume," the spokesman said. "We are monitoring the situation carefully," he added. "Full operational capability is not expected for some time to come."
That said, the spokesman underlined that the latest Security Council resolutions imposing additional sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear brinkmanship "exempts humanitarian and developmental activities which affect civilian populations."
George Russell is executive editor of FOX News.