7th February 1999
According to the report, says Fidler, the Bank had generally reduced its project failure rate over the last two years, but the Bank says that too many projects still neglected to address the development of institutions in borrowing countries.
Fidler cites the report as saying that strong institutions including legal systems, government bureaucracies and supervision of banks are regarded as essential for economic development and social stability.
Yet, according to the report, only 40 per cent of Bank projects have a substantial impact on the development of institutions.
The average of Bank projects with a satisfactory outcome increased from an average of 65-70 per cent in 1990-1996 to 75 per cent or higher in 1997 and 1998.
This was partly because, states the report, of quality improvements in the finance and public sector management which had been performing poorly.
The article goes on to say that, according to the report, projects with long-lasting or sustainable incomes rose from 46 per cent in 1990-1996 to 54 per cent in 1997.
However, the report notes that this percentage dropped to 50 per cent in 1998 largely because of a sharp drop - 66 per cent in 1997 to 43 per cent in 1998 - in the long-term sustainability of projects in East Asia and the Pacific.
The report points out, says Fidler, that improved project performance alone was not a sufficient objective because "the international environment had become more hostile as financial crises have hit more and more borrowing countries."
The report notes that Africa enjoyed a significant improvement in policy performance, particularly, in agriculture but it remained the region with the highest chance of project failure.
The report states that part of the higher success rate was because project objectives had been outlined more modestly since 1996 and, therefore, the improved project outcomes were "not matched either by gains in project sustainability or by development of institutions".
Fidler states in conclusion that the World Bank President, James Wolfensohn has emphasised that institutional development is an important goal of the Bank but, although the Bank projects are performing better than they did with regard to improving institutional development "there remained scope for much further improvement and the issue needed greater emphasis," the report said.
The Sri Lankan government intends tapping the international capital markets for a US$ 200 mn sovereign loan later this year, a top Central Bank official said.
With the general crunch in foreign aid flows, the government needs to look towards commercial borrowing to finance its future infrastructure projects, the official said.
The government commenced commercial borrowings from overseas through the issue of Floating Rate Notes, in order to reduce its reliance on the domestic capital markets.
Following an initial FRN issue of US$ 50 mn in 1997, the government subsequently raised US$ 100 mn from the Foreign Currency Banking Units of the domestic commercial banks in December 1998.
The US$ 100 mn loan was earlier intended to be raised on the international capital markets with assistance from ABN Amro Bank. But the lack of a sovereign rating and the uncertainties in the international markets led the government to raise the money domestically.
The commercial banks' FCBU's are flushed with money due to subdued private sector demand for foreign credit. Foreign credit has become unattractive as the Sri Lankan rupee slid to 10 per cent to a dollar as at the end of last year.
The onset of the East Asian crisis, and uncertainties in the international markets put a damper on the government desire to go for a sovereign rating last year.
Analysts say the lack of a sovereign rating has hampered the development of the domestic debt market.
(Reuters) - Japanese bond market interest rates rose sharply on Friday as the market began worrying about a controversial proposal to have the Bank of Japan buy government debt.
Investors sold JGBs, pushing yields higher, after a credit rating agency told Reuters Television that such central bank debt underwriting could hurt Japan's sovereign rating.
Some Japanese politicians as well as private economists favour the idea of BOJ debt purchases, which would effectively mean the central bank would print money, helping to boost the economy and ease pressure on long-term interest rates.
"There is always the risk that there will be a larger amount of government borrowing which could even actually push up interest rates or crowd out private sector borrowing that would lead to greater fiscal debt for Japan — which would have a negative impact for our sovereign rating of Japan," Fitch IBCA managing director David Marshall said in an interview.
As a result of Marshall's comments, fears over Japan's rating fuelled heavy selling towards the close of trading.
The yield on the 10-year benchmark climbed as high as 2.375 percent in late afternoon, up from Thursday's close of 2.190 percent. The rate rise pushed the yen up against the dollar. The JGB yield was still below Wednesday's high of 2.440 percent, the highest since June 1997.
Wednesday's rise came after Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said they were not concerned about recent rises in Japan's long-term interest rates. (REUTERS)
The two private telephone operators expressed their dismay that the government telecommunication watchdog has permitted Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) to use wireless technology to expand its service islandwide except in the Colombo region.
The private operators (Suntel and Lanka Bell) who have a duopoly licence on wireless technology till year 2000, earlier complained that Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) was using the 800 MHz band to expand their services in the urban areas.
"Our licence says we are one of two wireless operators. The ruling says we are one of three. We will address these issues with the regulatory authority," Suntel Managing Director Jan Campbell said.
The two private operators have pointed out that the original basis for SLT continuing to serve some of their customers using the 800 Mhz frequency band, was to reach rural customers where it was too costly to run copper wire lines.
The expansion of SLT's wireless services to Colombo and other major urban areas is a direct competition to the duopoly licence of Suntel and Lanka Bell.
This they claim has adversly affected their shareholders and lenders whose investments and financing were based on a guareteed duoploy.
The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) last week permitted SLT to use wireless technology on condition that SLT surrenders the frequencies used for the expansion of cellular mobile services.
"SLT will have to surrender the frequencies used around Mobitel areas, as they need the extra frequencies for their expansion programmes," TRC Director General, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva said.
The 800 Mhz band frequencies was earlier assined SLT on an interm baiss as they would be rewuried for the expansion of mobile serives and to enable the existing mobile opearos to migrate from the present analogue to the digital system.
SLT has requested for more frequecies to give 30,000 new connections islandwide. The request for new 30,000 lines include 5,000 new connections within the Colombo region. This would mean that SLT would be direcly competing with the two private operators in Colombo.
SLT has been lobbying senior government ministers that the TRC was not giving them enough spectrum to expand their services in the rural areas.
"These spectrums have been allocated by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), not by the TRC, contrary to various reports," Prof. Samarajiva said.
Gestetner of Ceylon and Ceycom Global Communications have entered into a joint venture to establish a chain of high tech business centres to provide all communication and secretarial services.
Known as a 'Digital Business Centre', they would be promoted as "the office of the next millenium."
"It's a major step in bringing the 21st century technology to the rural village people and to any class of society that desires", Chairman Ceylinco Consolidated, Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala said addressing a recent media briefing.
Information technology has been Colombo based and available to a few people who are knowledgeable and sophisticated businesses hours in the Western Province. The strategic alliance is meant to overcome this and as a first step we are pooling the resources of Gestetner and Ceycom Global Communications, he said.
"We dream that Punchi Singho the farmer in Mahiyangana will be able to go to a booth and have the latest technology available in Sinhala, Tamil or English and have all the services that Mr. Perera has in Colombo," he added.
Each Business Centre will operate as a franchise operation, where the franchiser will undertake to advertise and promote the business for a nominal royalty fee.
The first of such business centres is to open at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre, with a further 50 centres planned islandwide, Ceycom Managing Director, Khavan Perera said. "We hope to have 10 centres in operation by the end of this year," he said.
The high tech centres could be used by businessmen as a "mobile office".
Facilities provided would include a Ceycom cyber exchange, secretarial services, graphic designing, typesetting, word processing, digital photocopying, digital printing, internet facilities, e-mail, video conference and telephone facilities including international direct dialing facilities.
Scientists in the US say they are ready to create life from scratch in a laboratory. A project to create a bacterial cell from inanimate chemicals for the first time will go ahead as soon as it is passed by an ethics committee.
Craig Venter, a pioneer of gene discovery, said molecular biology and genetics had advanced enough to take what would be a momentous step.
"My assumption is that it will be possible to construct a totally man-made organism but we will not know until we try," said Dr Venter, who last year moved from the Institute for Genome Research to set up Celera, a large gene sequencing company.
"We have not decided to go ahead with the experiment yet because we want to give the ethics a chance to catch up," he said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. "Will we be setting off down a slippery slope that could have negative consequences?"
The bio-ethics centers at the University of Pennsylvania is reviewing the idea. The assessment will cover all foreseeable objections, including the threat that bio-terrorists might make use of the technology to create artificial germs.
The benefits of the project would be practical and scientific, Dr Venter said. Artificial organisms might have untold applications in medicine and industry.
The project would also address philosophical questions. Microbiologist Frank Young, who ran the US Food and Drug Administration and now heads the Reformed Theological Seminary, said: "The progress of genetics has raised to the fore a question that had not been asked intensively since the Middle Ages - what is the essence of life?"
As a theologian Dr Young did not believe that creating artificial life would pose ethical problems. Manipulating existing life was more of an issue, he said.
The scientists will first try to create the simplest possible cell with the minimum number of genes required to sustain life. Many details of the synthesis have yet to be worked out, but the project is likely to be very difficult and take several years to complete.
(CNN) — Reports of new planets being discovered outside the solar system have become almost routine. But how about a planet that disappears?
Pluto, smaller than Earth's moon, was first classified as a planet nearly 40 years ago. Now the International Astronomical Union is considering revoking that honour, leaving our solar system with just eight major planets.
The head of the Planetary Systems Sciences Division says it's "obvious" Pluto doesn't fit because of its small size. He also says other "major planets" have roughly circular orbits, but Pluto carves out a sweeping ellipse that frequently takes it closer than Neptune to the sun.
Another astronomer says he wants to classify Pluto as a "minor planet," and that it wouldn't be a demotion for the planet, but an honour.
University of Maryland astronomer Mike A'Hearn has another idea: to create a new class of objects for ice balls that orbit beyond Neptune and call them Trans-Neptunian Objects. Pluto would be Trans-Neptunian Object No. 1.
A decision may be made within months, the London 'Daily Telegraph' reported.
Pluto, only two-thirds the diameter of our moon, is just an over-sized comet or perhaps an asteroid, some experts have claimed.
The argument about the reclassification of Pluto has been brewing for decades and began shortly Pluto's discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
A growing number of astronomers say that if Pluto was discovered tomorrow, it would never even occur to them to link it with the Big Eight planets, the Daily Telegraph said.
New Mexico astronomer Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, suggested the debate is somewhat silly since there's really no clear definition of what a planet is. And, besides, "a hypothetical resident of Jupiter would probably laugh at our calling Earth a 'major planet.'"
The International Astronomical Union is the only internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies
Digital TV is supposed to be bigger and better, but new electronics technology also promises to make it smaller and cheaper.
Microtune, a Plano, Texas, start-up, introduced the MicroTuner2000, a new "tuner on a chip" that could solve analog-to-digital transition problems and allow small devices like cell phones to pick up DTV signals.
"We are the first company to come out with a silicon tuner," said Microtune vice president Jim Fontaine. "It took us about three years. It was extremely difficult to put these components on a single piece of silicon."
The chip will shrink the electronics real estate from a box the size of a pack of cards to a space the size of a fingernail.
In addition, the new tuner overcomes a significant technical problem for DTV reception: stray interference. Microtune's chip design essentially cancels out unwanted signals, Fontaine said.
The chip has a built-in bonus. Since DTV transmissions can carry scads of bits per second, handheld computer makers like Palm Computing could use the MicroTuner2000 to receive data from the airwaves, Fontaine said.
"Digital signals could deliver the 300 most popular Web pages [for example], sent by a TV broadcaster as part of its broadcast," Fontaine said.
The chip's price is already competitive with conventional tuners, Fontaine said. In million-unit orders, the tuner would be available for US$19.95 a chip, or less.
Using $22 million in start-up capital, the closely held company plans to sign on manufacturers as soon as it can. Fontaine said Microtune expects to announce deals with major cable set-top manufacturers and TV companies by the middle of the year
A new "beam shaping" system will allow doctors to zero in on hard-to-reach tumours and bombard them with radiation while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue, its developer says.
The Millennium MLC-120 from Varian, a Palo Alto, California, maker of medical products, shapes a radiation beam to match the form of a cancerous tumour, making the therapy more effective and avoiding damage to other tissue.
The multi-leaf collimator, which causes radiation beams to move as parallel rays, uses tiny, overlapping leaves to shape the beam. Varian's new device uses 120 moving leaves, while the standard device today has 80. It works like a camera aperture with mechanical leaves that can be programmed to sculpt the shape of a tumour.
"The whole goal of targeting radiation is so that you're precisely delivering the radiation exactly where the sick cells are and avoiding the healthy tissue," said Michelle Maynard, delivery systems product manager at Varian. "We've radically improved the targeting in an automated manner."
Not only does the MLC-120 have more leaves, but also each measures only half a centimetre, half the size typically found in collimators.
The additional leaves also provide for a larger area of treatment, said Bobby Baker, oncologist and president of the Cancer Institute of Maui. "This should allow for a 60 centimetre field.... In the past, it's been a problem that you couldn't get a large enough field — up to only 40 centimetres with the 80-leaf collimator."
A new type of radiation delivery called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) adds a third dimension to the tumour-killing process.
"This is probably the newest revolution in cancer therapy, because if you think about what we were doing, two dimensional process could only get so conformal," Maynard said. "With this process you're able to ... improve your conformality with a level of precision no one's seen before."
By using the new collimator and IMRT together, oncologists can take a three-dimensional computer model and make a beam come out in the shape of the tumour.
"It's almost like using a laser, it's so precise," Maynard said.
The fear of damaging healthy tissue surrounding the tumour has limited the amount of radiation doctors could use to kill a tumour. But doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York who tested this technique found that they could increase the amount of radiation per dose with fewer side effects, which improved cancer cure rates.
Without a multi-leaf collimator, radiation oncologists must hand-pour lead blocks to shape the beam of radiation after measuring the tumour, Maynard said. This technique gives extremely smooth edge to the perimeter of the radiation delivered, but is labour intensive. Plus, oncologists typically deliver the radiation from up to 12 different directions and each change requires the technician to walk into the other room and reposition the block. With a collimator, the adjustments are made automatically using a computer.
At the Cancer Institute of Maui, Baker said doctors' still employ hand-poured blocks, but he's anxious to try the new technology.
"A multi-leaf collimator will never be as accurate as a hand-made block, but the difference is relatively insignificant," he said. "The biggest advantage is to improve streamlining and efficiency." By some estimates, clinics could increase the number of patients treated by 50 percent with the same staff size.
The MLC-120 will be part of Varian's Generation 6 platform, a database that integrates patient data charts, diagnostic imaging, treatment planning and simulation, treatment verification, and medical records and reporting.
The company expects the Millennium MLC-120, which is already in use in Australia, to receive FDA clearance by March.
A silicon microchip could one day replace painful injections, hard-to-swallow pills, and foul-tasting medicines.
Instead of packing it with data, scientists plan to load the tiny chip with drugs. It could then be swallowed or implanted under the skin and programmed to release tiny quantities of drugs at precise times.
It may sound far-fetched, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say a "smart tablet" or a "pharmacy-on-a-chip" could soon be a reality.
The chip might also be used in jewelry to emit scents, or in any capacity to deliver one or more chemical compounds in specific amounts at specified times, Langer said.
It may even be possible to create a microchip that could be put in televisions to release scents. Then, an ocean scene could be matched with the smell of salt air, or gardens with floral aromas.
The device is the first to allow the timed release of chemicals from inside of a microchip. A microprocessor, remote control, or biosensors can be used as a trigger mechanism.
In a letter published in the science journal Nature, the scientists described how they tested a solid-state microchip the size of a dime. It had 34 pinprick-sized reservoirs that could hold 25 nanoliters of chemicals in solid, liquid, or gel form. A nanoliter is one thousand-millionth of a liter.
The researchers said they could reduce the size of the chip even further, to as tiny as 0.08 inch, depending on its desired use. There is also the potential for more than 1,000 reservoirs, maybe thousands, if the reservoirs are smaller.
"Envision a container with tiny little wells. Each well has a drug or chemical and each of those wells is covered with gold. You can ... individually remove any of those gold caps," Langer explained.
Another benefit of the chip is that it is cheap. Langer and his team are making them in a research lab for about US$20 each. However, if they are produced in larger batches, the price could fall to a few dollars per chip.
It is still too early to predict when the microchip will be widely available, but the researchers already have two patents pending — Reuters
Sri Lanka Telecom, with Directories Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. announced that the 1999 Greater Colombo Telephone Directory has been rescoped. Owing to the rapid increase in the number of connections and so in directory listings, the rescoped directories will be easy to handle and convenient to use, a news release says.
The rescoped directories ensure there is no waste of natural resources.The rescoped directories will include separate volumes for business and residential directories. There will be four directory volumes:
• Basic Business Directory will include government information, business white pages and the yellow pages;
• Basic Residential Directory will include government information, residential white pages and the yellow pages;
• Business only white pages;
• Residential only white pages. Directories will be distributed as follows:
• For business customers, one basic business directory per business line will be free of charge. They will also be entitled to one copy of the Residential Directory for the first line and additional copies in multiples of 10 lines,
• For Residential Customers, one Basic Residential Directory per residential line will be free of charge. With the Yellow Pages featuring all business white page listings industry-wise, customers can refer to business numbers very easily.Sri Lanka Telecom has also announced that additional copies will be available at modest prices at their Teleshops and Regional Telecommunication Offices.
The photographic products and medical imaging specialists Hayleys Photoprint Ltd., has been awarded a contract for the supply of 10 Fuji Automatic X-ray Film Processing machines by the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine.
The tender for the supply of these machines was called for by the Bio-Medical Engineering Services Division of the ministry, and specified that the X-ray processors would have to be installed and serviced by the company, at selected general hospitals countrywide, a company release says.
The supply of the processors and their maintenance for five years will cost about Rs 8.5 million, which is the largest single order received by the company's Health Care Products and Services Section to date, the release adds.
The X-ray processor to be supplied under the contract is the Fuji FPM 2800, one of the most advanced models available in Sri Lanka. It has several unique in-built features, which make maintenance easier and provides high quality prints.
Equipped with three processing cycles, the model can process upto 171, l4" x 17"x-ray films in an hour, cutting down on the time patients have to wait.
Another time saving feature is the precise drying facility, which is a unique drying system combining both infrared and hot air technology to yield a high quality finish.
The FPM 2800 also has an automatic rinsing system which eliminates the need to manually clean the rollers. In most other processors the rollers in the machine get coated with chemicals due to lack of or improper maintenance resulting in a drop in the quality of X-rays.
Facilitating easy maintenance, the FPM 2800 processor's tanks are also automatically filled with chemicals to the proper levels after cleaning.
The FPM 2800 contains a self diagnostic software that ensures the unit is running properly and provides a warning if there is a problem, the release says.
Hayleys Photoprint will take delivery of the 10 units this month, and will commence installation at the designated hospitals. The company has installed the same model at the Nawaloka Hospital in Colombo.
Hayleys Photoprint also supplied and installed an ultrasound scanner at the Radiology Unit of the Ratnapura Co-operative Hospital in December.
The machine is mainly for the use of obstetricians and gynaecologists to check on the development of the foetus in expectant mothers, and other special investigations. The scanner, costing about Rs 900,000 was from Honda Electric Co. Ltd., of Japan.
Hayleys Photoprint recently expanded the company's medical imaging section to include medical equipment and accessories. The company is the sole agent in Sri Lanka for Fujifilm, which is a world leader in medical imaging technology.
John Keells Holdings high profile CEO Ken Balendra has joined Ceylon Tobacco Company as a non - Executive Director with effect from January 28, 1999.
Mr Balendra, a preeminent businessman, helms the John Keells group as Chairman and CEO a conglomerate comprising over 60 diverse subsidiary and associate companies, the listed companies of which account for more than 12% of the market capitalisation of the Colombo Stock exchange.
In its December 1998 issue , the Fortune magazine ranked JKH amongst the top ten buys in the whole of Asia describing the John Keells group as a superbly managed conglomerate, a CTC press release says.
Outside the JKH group, Mr Balendra is also a Director of Union Assurance Limited and United Motors Limited.1997 saw his appointment as non Executive Chairman of the US $ 110 million South Asia Regional Fund sponsored by the Commonwealth Development Corporation for investment in South Asia.
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