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Lunes, Nobyembre 28, 2011

UN report: Syrian forces commit 'gross violations' of human rights

Syrian soldiers attend a funeral on November 26, 2011 of comrades reportedly killed in an ambush in the city of Homs.

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 28, 2011 -- Updated 1714 GMT (0114 HKT)

Syrian soldiers attend a funeral on November 26, 2011 of comrades reportedly killed in an ambush in the city of Homs.

(CNN) -- Syrian security forces have committed "gross violations of human rights" since anti-government protests began in March, a United Nations report released Monday said.The U.N. independent international commission on Syria's assessment was based on interviews with 223 victims and witnesses,but observers were not allowed access to the country, the report said.According to the report, evidence "documents patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture,including sexual violence, as well as violations of children's rights."Military deserters told the commission that they had been ordered to shoot at unarmed protesters without warning, the report said."The commission reiterates its call for immediate and unhindered access to the Syrian Arab Republic," the report said.Earlier this month, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights estimated that government forces had killed at least 3,500 civilians.Syria's government has consistently blamed armed gangs for the violence and said security forces are protecting the people."The Arabic Syrian military, which we are all proud of, has given martyrs in order to protect the life of civilians," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Monday.

Philippines economy decelerates for third straight quarter

Weak exports in the third quarter, notably in the electronics sector, were cited among the main factors behind the lethargic growth of 3.2 percent.

MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE3 - 4:40 p.m.) The domestic economy has decelerated for the third consecutive quarter from the 7.3-percent “honeymoon growth” last year to 3.2 percent this year, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) chief said Monday, but Palace officials were unfazed by the lethargic growth, saying they expected things to be better when the stimulus package kicks in by the fourth quarter.
Secretary General Romulo Virola attributed the “lethargic growth” to the “so-called death spiral of debt that hounds our trading partners, the uninvigorating, albeit already expanded government spending, and the decline in fishing due to unfavorable weather and the high cost of fuel.”
In a report on the agency's e-newsletter, he said the Services sector, as always, “saved the domestic economy from posting an even lower growth.”

With the second-quarter GDP estimate that was earlier revised downward, this puts the growth for the first nine months of 2011 at 3.6 percent, “quite a distance,” said the NSCB newsletter, even from the lower end of the whole year target of 4.5 percent.
Executive branch pins hope on Q4 
The Executive branch officials, meanwhile, are putting on a brave front about the sluggish growth, citing various factors for their optimism.
MalacaƱang Palace expects the impact of its vaunted P72-billion stimulus program to be felt in the fourth-quarter results.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is banking on the traditional surge in spending at Christmas; and the head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Director General Cayetano Paderanga, sees a confluence of favorable factors: the end-year surge of remittances from migrant workers, the Christmas spending; the impact of the stimulus, and the effects of a greater confidence in the business sector.
Palace officials shrugged off the country’s dismal growth performance from July to September, saying the P72-billion stimulus package will be reflected in the fourth-quarter GDP data.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the economic problems of the European Union and the United States had “spillover effects” on the country.
“We would all want to see higher growth, but our economy does not exist in a vacuum,” Valte said.
“Hopefully there would be an uptick in the fourth quarter. We would like to see the numbers go up… The acceleration plan was really programmed for the fourth quarter,” the Palace official added.
The P72 billion catch up package includes P37.92 billion that will be released to national government agencies; P6.5 billion to in support funds to local government units; P750 million as development assistance to Quezon province in line with the settlement of National Power Corp. tax liabilities, and P26.9 billion to government-owned or -controlled corporations.
It also covers the following projects, among others: P10 billion to relocate and resettle communities in identified danger areas that have been repeatedly affected by typhoons and other disasters; P5.5 billion for priority projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways; P1.6 billion for farm-to-market roads and irrigation projects; P1.29 billion for agrarian reform projects; P1 billion for housing projects for Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel; and P4.5 billion and P1.68 billion for improvements for the MRT and LRT lines, respectively.
Finance banks on Christmas spending 
After promising to spur growth through public spending in the latter half of the year, the national government is now banking on the Christmas rush to prop up the economy for 2011.
“Better prospects are in for the country as we close 2011 with the composite leading economic indicator improving to 0.0168 from 0.116 for the third quarter on the back of seasonal increase during the holiday season that we expect will boost domestic demand, thus stirring growth upwards,” Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said in a statement.
He said the modest expansion in the third quarter was pinned on the uncertainties in the global economy.
“[But] we expect this to further accelerate toward the end of the year as we take advantage of our wide fiscal space to enhance disbursements in order to shield the economy from the threats of present global uncertainties,” Purisima said.
NEDA’s report, outlook
“The typhoons that caused losses and damage in the agriculture sector, the global economic slowdown amid uncertainties in Europe and weakness of the US economy and contraction in the construction sector amid stricter project reviews for public construction projects, contributed to the modest performance of the economy,” Paderanga said in a  statement.
The services sector, he noted, continued to perform strongly on the back of sustained OFW remittances, relatively more favorable inflation environment, and increased pace in government expenditures, as the services sector saw strong performances by the transportation, communication and storage; real estate, renting and business; public administration and defense; and education, tourism, and other services subsectors.
On the demand side, said the NEDA chief, household consumption grew by a hefty 7.1 percent, on the back of sustained OFW remittances and a relatively favorable inflation environment.  Government consumption likewise grew by 9.4 percent due to increases in personal services and MOOE, up from the 4.3-percent growth in the second quarter of this year.  This indicates, he added, an acceleration of government expenditures.  
Capital formation likewise grew by 24.5 percent, even amid the contraction of the construction sector, as durable equipment grew by 9.9 percent.
As expected, exports contracted by 13.1 percent as foreign demand, particularly for electronic products, contracted.
In comparison with Asian neighbors, Philippine third quarter economic performance is weaker relative to Indonesia’s 6.5 percent growth, Vietnam’s  6.1 percent, Singapore’s 6.1 percent, Malaysia’s 5.8 percent, and Thailand’s 3.5 percent, said NEDA. Moreover, the third-quarter growth performance is below the 4.6-percent consensus forecast of both international and domestic analysts, including NEDA’s forecast of 3.8 to 4.8 percent.
Still, said NEDA, “there are indications of more favorable prospects for the fourth quarter of 2011.  These include: anticipated higher demand on account of the Yuletide and harvest seasons; a more stable macroeconomy; a broadly steady consumer sentiment; the continued inflows of remittances from Filipinos overseas; the reported higher level of business confidence relative to the previous quarter; and the full implementation of the PhP72 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program of the government.”
The upbeat expectations of the private sector for the next quarter will particularly boost construction and durable equipment, Paderanga said, complementing the rise in public capital expenditures as the stimulus package kicks in. Based on the recent business expectations survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the construction sector is expected to be bullish in the last quarter of 2011.
He sees public construction and government consumption and services picking up in the coming quarters due to quick releases and faster utilization of the P72-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program. 
As of November 8, 2011, the DBM has released P43.8 billion or 60.2 percent of the P72-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program.
The NEDA chief said the “private sector will continue to buoy real estate, renting, and business activities due to the sustained expansion of offshoring and outsourcing sector, and the stronger appetite of the real estate market. Other services will benefit from the expected surge in tourism. Mining will continue to benefit from the expected higher prices of metals in the world market.”
According to Paderanga, global downside risks in the fourth quarter and the start of 2012 will still threaten economic performance. “Further deterioration in the Euro zone would negatively affect Asia’s growth. On the domestic front, the country’s concerns include the acceleration of public spending, strategies/programs/projects on how to stimulate domestic demand while at the same time quickly generating jobs, the fostering recovery of the agriculture and fishery sectors from the devastations of the recent typhoons.”
He acknowledged the need to stimulate the economy, by beefing up further public construction and undertaking measures to boost trade relations---cashing in on the institutional set-up provided by the ASEAN and the country’s existing free trade agreements with Japan and China in order to increase the Philippines’ role in the regional production chain.  
“We will also prioritize our work, together with the private sector, on the crucial measures to improve the country’s exports, particularly in terms of infrastructure and logistics. The diversification of exports could be sped up by strengthening efforts to secure markets for new products (e.g. preferential market access with duty-free or low duty rates for exports) as well as providing more effective marketing support.”
He underscored the need to stimulate the economy in the countryside, by collaborating with the local government units to spur more economic activities and create more jobs.
The NEDA chief put a positive spin to the impact of the “external challenges” and natural disasters, noting that at the very least, “the foundation for a better standard of living for many Filipinos has been set.”
He elaborated: “there is improved governance and better respect for the rule of law, investments for improved human capital and greater infrastructure is increasing, and constraints to opportunities for greater economic activities and higher employment creation are given serious consideration.” With reports from Likha Cuevas-Miel, Chichi Conde