Monthly Archives: March 2012

Australian Aged Care Credit Scheme

I overlooked reading this article when it first come and came across it just recently as I was researching for a new project. I did a research paper on reverse mortgages, a financial product common in the US which senior homeowners access the equity value of their homes when in retirement. Unfortunately, when this product became available in Australia, it was provided by profit oriented banks and financial institutions unlike in the US which was provided by a government agency.  The current report (see details below) recommends a similar action. Now, do we have a similar credit scheme available in the Philippines?

 

Major Overhaul of Aged Care Funding Recommended

By Ryan Witcombe
Monday, August 8, 2011 – 16:23
Fixing Aged Care: Major Financing Overhaul Recommended

A major overhaul of the way aged care in Australia is financed has been recommended as part of the Productivity Commission’s report into aged care.

A major overhaul of the way aged care in Australia is financed has been recommended as part of the Productivity Commission’s report into aged care.

Flickr Image: Some rights reserved [2] by ShelterIt [3]

Importantly the Caring for Older Australians report recommends against forcing older Australians to sell their homes to pay for aged care, as well as recommending a range of new choices for elderly Australians.

The report recommends the Government establish an Aged Care Home Credit Scheme to assist older Australians to make a co-contribution to the costs of their aged care and support, by providing a Government-backed line of credit secured against their home.

The report says that in establishing the line of credit, the Australian Seniors Gateway Agency would arrange a valuation of a home and specify a minimum level of equity. The individual could draw progressively down to that minimum to fund their aged care costs.

Elderly Australians who do wish to sell their home would be able to retain their Age Pension under the reforms, by investing the sale proceeds in an Australian Age Pensioners Savings Account. Under the current system, some elderly Australians who are forced to sell their homes to pay for accommodation and care lose the pension in a means test.

The report says with over 3.5 million Australians expected to be receiving aged care services by 2050, reform is needed to address current and future challenges faced by the aged care industry.

Launching the report, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says aged care reform is needed as the status quo will not meet the needs of older Australians over time.

Gillard says while the Productivity Commission is widely respected, that doesn’t mean they get everything right, and the government now wants to work through the issues and discuss them widely with the sector and those affected.

She says there is a need to discuss aged care reform in an open way.

The Minister for Ageing Mark Butler says while there may not be complete stakeholder agreement with the report’s recommendations, there is an appetite in the aged care sector for reform that there wasn’t 10 to 12 years ago when previous reforms were attempted.

Aged Care Sector Positive

Not for Profit Aged Care providers have reacted positively to the much-anticipated report.

Chair of the Uniting Care Australia Aged Care Network and Executive Director of Blue Care, Queensland’s largest aged care provider, Robyn Batten says the Commission’s funding and financing options are a welcome improvement on the current complex, inefficient and inequitable arrangements.

Batten says while those who can will be expected to contribute to the costs of their care and accommodation, safety nets including mandatory quotas and means testing will ensure that all Australians get the care they need regardless of their capacity to pay.

Batten says currently, too many Australians need to sell the family home to pay for aged care accommodation. The Commission’s proposal for an Aged Care Home Credit Scheme would enable people to borrow against their share of the family home without being compelled to sell it, or require a partner not needing residential care to leave the home.

She says if people do choose to sell their house, they can avoid having its value included in the pensions means test by using the proposed Pensioners Saving Account.

Batten says taken together, the recommendations about uncapping the supply of aged care services and future financing, if implemented, would deliver a robust and diverse aged care system without clawing away the family home or people’s pensions.

Uniting Care Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds says after decades of reviews, recommendations and neglect there is now a clear direction for comprehensive aged care reform, with the report ‘substantially delivering’ on the range and depth of reform needed.

Hatfield Dodds says UnitingCare strongly supports the report’s recommendation to shift from a rationed aged care system to a system based on entitlement. Rather than being entitled to be on a waiting list, older Australians will be entitled to aged care services.

She says UnitingCare also welcomes the report’s recognition that Indigenous Australians, and rural and remote communities require special arrangements to meet their particular needs.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO Patrick McClure says now is the time for government action on aged care reform.

McClure says it currently costs about $200,000 to build an aged care bed, but at present the funds required are simply not in the system.

He says is needed is a scheme in which the people who can afford to contribute to the cost of their care and accommodation, do so. Equally important though is to ensure that a safety net is in place to assist older people who cannot afford to pay.

McClure cautioned the Government to be mindful of the fact that any solutions will be based on a package of measures which will only work if implemented in concert with each other.

Proposed Reforms

The Caring for Older Australians report says that under the proposed integrated package of reforms, older Australians would:

  • be able to contact a simplified ‘gateway’ for: easily understood information; an assessment of their care needs and their financial capacity to contribute to the cost of their care; an entitlement to approved aged care services; and for care coordination — all in their region receive aged care services that address their individual needs, with an emphasis on reablement where feasible
  • choose whether to receive care at home, and choose their approved provider
  • contribute, in part, to their costs of care (with a maximum lifetime limit) and meet their accommodation and living expenses (with safety nets for those of limited means)
  • have access to a government-sponsored line of credit (the Australian Aged Care Home Credit scheme), to help meet their care and accommodation expenses without having to sell their home. A person’s spouse, or other ‘protected person’ would be able to continue living in that home when an older person moved into residential care
  • choose to pay either a periodic charge or a bond for residential care accommodation
  • if they wish to sell their home, retain their Age Pension by investing the sale proceeds in an Australian Age Pensioners Savings Account
  • have direct access to low intensity community support services
  • be able to choose whether to purchase additional services and higher quality accommodation.
  • Limits on the number of residential places and care packages would be phased out, while distinctions between residential low and high care and between ordinary and extra service status would be removed.
  • Safety and quality standards would be retained. An Australian Aged Care Commission would be responsible for quality and accreditation; and would transparently recommend efficient prices to the Government.

Dementia Ignored

Alzheimer’s Australia says the report is a great disappointment as it again failed to dementia as the core business of aged care, letting down people with dementia, their families and carers.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, says there is not a single recommendation that addresses dementia or acknowledges the additional costs of caring for individuals with dementia.

Rees says the failure of the Productivity Commission to address dementia is further compounded by the Government’s recent decision to terminate the Dementia Initiative and the guaranteed funding that supports valued services for people with dementia and their family carers.

 

Potential opportunities for Filipino Yayas

The need of nannies (yayas to Filipinos) in Australia looks like a consequence mainly due to both parents working and need someone looking after the kids at home not at a child care centre.  While currently the commonwealth government does provide limited financial support for nannies but the opposition Liberal party has committed to change this policy if it wins government. Let’s wait after the next federal election.

From the Sydney Sun-Herald

Welcome to the nanny state

March 25, 2012
Helping hand ... Belinda Pleffer with her 18-month-old charge Anton. Belinda works for Anton?s mother, Lise Rawlings, four days a week.Helping hand … Belinda Pleffer with her 18-month-old charge Anton. Belinda works for Anton’s mother, Lise Rawlings, four days a week. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Once solely found in the domains of rich people and families in Disney films, the humble, hard-working nanny is becoming a more viable childcare option for modern homes.

Cathy Clark can’t remember the last time a woman called her agency looking for a nanny to take care of the children while mum had a hit of tennis or went out to lunch.

”In the last five years I haven’t placed anyone with a non-working parent who only has one child,” says Clark, who has run the My Little Friend Nanny Agency in Ashbury for 20 years. ”Ninety-nine per cent of my clients are just hardworking families who want good-quality childcare and a good work life balance.”

Once considered a luxury enjoyed by the super wealthy, nannies are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to childcare as parents try to juggle professional careers with the needs of their children.http://ad-apac.doubleclick.net/adi/onl.bt.lands/lands;ctype=article;cat=lands;pos=3;sz=300×250;tile=3;ord=38216227?

”It’s not a Mary Poppins thing, where mum is just twiddling her thumbs and dad makes loads of money,” says Debbie Otto, who uses a nanny to look after her five-year-old twins – Jenson and Joshua – before and after school. ”It’s working parents just trying to make it work when they don’t have family around.”

Yet there is still a lingering prejudice that nannies are a more indulgent form of childcare. The federal government will pay half of a family’s childcare fees but its ”registered carer” benefit will buy just one hour with a nanny a week. Its rationale is that it cannot monitor the standard of care nannies provide and it does not want taxpayers footing the bill for the domestic duties nannies also perform. But social policy experts argue that in the absence of universally available quality childcare, the government must subsidise nannies if it wants to increase female participation in the workforce and bolster Australia’s productivity.

”Getting women into the workforce requires attention on what they’re not doing in the home,” an associate professor from UNSW‘s Social Policy Research Centre, Lyn Craig, says. ”Women’s home responsibilities have long been regarded as a women’s problem, not a society problem that needs to be addressed. If the objective is to assist families to ensure they have essential care and participate in the workforce, then what helps them do that is less important.”

A Bureau of Statistics 2008 childcare survey found that 3.3 per cent of under-twos in care were looked after by a nanny or au pair, rising to 4.6 per cent of three- to five-year-olds, and 4.2 per cent of six- to eight-year-olds.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the proportion of families using a nanny has risen markedly since then. The national Dial-an-Angel agency, based in Edgecliff, has recorded a 15 per cent increase in the number of parents wanting ”part-time professional childcare in the home” for their children since 2005.

The rise of the nanny reflects the shifting demographics of Australian society. Women are increasingly returning to work after having a child, keen to continue their career, or to simply help pay a hefty Sydney mortgage, according to the Women and Work Research Group at Sydney University.

Nearly half of Australian children under two have both parents employed but couples can no longer rely on extended family to help out. Many people do not live in the same city or even the same country as their parents. Those who do cannot count on grandparent care, as the baby boomer generation stays on in paid work longer.

”I don’t think grandparents are as involved as they used to be,” Clark says. ”More grandparents are working past the age of 65, and the demographics of Sydney have changed slightly. Twenty years ago people would buy a house around the corner from their parents. Now couples can’t afford to buy where they grew up. Families aren’t as accessible.”

For many working parents, formal childcare is not flexible enough. Their jobs do not always fit the rigid opening hours of childcare centres, and it can be a logistical nightmare making multiple drop-offs during the peak-hour commute across Sydney to the office. ”If the workplace isn’t flexible, then families have to be, and nannies are a flexible substitute for childcare,” Craig says.

There is less disruption to the child’s routine when they are looked after at home, nanny advocates say, and the added bonus that nannies will shop, clean and cook dinner while parents are at work.

Parents are willing to pay a premium for the flexibility of a nanny – especially when children get sick, or school holidays roll around. It costs $250 (plus superannuation) to hire a qualified nanny for 10 hours, almost double the cost of a day in childcare. But once you have two or more children, the fees are quite comparable.

”The costs associated with centre-based care are virtually equivalent to having a nanny once you have a couple of babies,” Roxanne Elliott, who runs online childcare information service CareForKids, says. She has noticed a big trend towards nanny sharing, where families split the cost of a nanny to make it more affordable.

”All the advantages are there, particularly for the career woman who wants to continue their career,” Elliott says. ”Knowing the child is in their home environment and getting individual attention, they can focus on work.”

Having twins made it more economical for Otto to use a nanny, especially when she could not get consistent before- and after-school care. ”It does put a bit more strain financially, but if I’m going to work then it has to work for everybody,” says Otto, who lives in Woolooware but commutes to the eastern suburbs to work as a group account manager. ”We want to make sure the boys are well-adjusted and they’re as comfortable as they can be.”

Nannies are particularly popular for babies and toddlers, partly because there is a chronic shortage of places at formal childcare centres for children aged two and younger, and partly because many mothers prefer one-on-one care for young children.

Lise Rawlings spends more than $50,000 a year on a nanny for her 18-month-old son Anton, which chews up her husband’s entire part-time salary. The 36-year-old mother from Lane Cove estimates she would save $10,000 a quarter if they swapped to childcare but agrees with parenting expert Steve Biddulph that individual care is best for boys under two.

”Me and my husband debate about it all the time,” says Ms Rawlings, who works full-time as a manager in financial services. ”He thinks it costs too much, I just keep quoting Steve Biddulph. I would have found it quite distressing leaving [our son] in childcare. When he gets a bit older we might think about it.”

As more families opt for nannies, there is mounting pressure on the government to remove the discrimination inherent in its childcare subsidies. ”The outsourcing of childcare costs should be treated equally, it shouldn’t be dependent on the type of service you use,” Craig says. ”Some families don’t have much alternative to using a nanny.”

Like nanny employers and many working mothers, Craig believes tax deductions or rebates for nanny services would boost female participation in the workforce – especially when the lack of quality affordable childcare prevents some mothers going back to work.

But the formal childcare sector is against government subsidies for nannies, arguing they do not provide the same regulated quality early education services. ”Government subsidies have very strict and increasingly high quality requirements,” Barbara Romeril, who represents non-profit childcare services, says. ”We would resist any blurring of the boundaries between a nanny and a government-subsidised service.”

Romeril believes that families using nannies can find themselves isolated from their community. ”It’s a loss to that family’s resilience. It doesn’t link the family in with broader social services.”

The government could not provide the same subsidies for nannies as childcare, as they are different services, according to the federal Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis.

”It is not feasible to monitor the standard of care provided under private arrangements in the child’s own home,” Ellis says.

”Nannies and au pairs also often provide other services – such as shopping or cooking – which aren’t childcare and shouldn’t be subsidised by taxpayers. It would be impossible to separately identify the time spent on such duties.”

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/welcome-to-the-nanny-state-20120324-1vqt6.html#ixzz1qjCnXSBE

Let’s get Google Street View in the Philippines

If Google will only knows to get more users to its Google Maps, its to get Google Street View in the Philippines. With about 9 million Pinoys living overseas it may get that many more using it than any other Asian country.

From CNNGo.com

Calling all voyeurs: Google Street View hits Thailand

Travelers can take a panoramic tour through Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok — red-light zones included — before they even get here

By Richard S. Ehrlich 26 March, 2012

Snapshot of a Google Maps Street View search for Khao San Road. The site allows users to learn the lay of the land before they get there.

For the first time, Google is exposing gorgeous, hedonistic and possibly even embarrassing photos of people, beaches, entertainment zones, hotels, homes, temples and other scenes in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket via its Street View maps.

Anyone in the world can go online and, for free, gawk at Google’s pictures, which are “digitally stitched” together to offer a movable journey through Thailand’s three famous tourism hotspots — including countless shots of Thais and foreigners unaware they’ve been photographed.

Google hopes its newest Street View portal will emphasize the paradises and delights of Thailand, and lure more tourists to enjoy the lusciousness this Southeast Asian tropical land offers.

“We drove Phuket, Chiang Mai and Greater Bangkok and we got 95 percent of those areas, and have images that are 360-degree panoramas,” says David Marx, global communications and public affairs manager for Google Asia Pacific.

“Tourists within Thailand and outside of Thailand can use this as kind of a tool to plan their trips and to virtually explore Thailand.”

Red-light districts during the day? Not so flashy

Voyeurs hoping to recognize drunken men cavorting with bikini-clad women in red-light districts in Bangkok and elsewhere should realize Street View has limitations.

“Basically, when we worked with the Tourism Authority of Thailand before we even started driving, the objective for us was how are we going to use the technology we have for Street View to promote tourism and to find great images of Thailand to share with the rest of the world,” says Amy Kunrojpanya, head of communications and public affairs for Google in Thailand.

 

Google’s Street View cars have 15 lenses, which take 360 degree photos as the driver rolls through city streets.

“There are some of the more colorful nightlife areas of Thailand. We are driving during the daytime, so I think that is probably one point as well, I would say, that helps. You get everyday life. You see the guys who are making fried chicken on the side of the road. You can see people eating mangos and sticky rice.” 

For anyone still worried about their escapades being documented for the world to see, Google provides two ways to protect reputations.

“We automatically blur faces and license plates. All faces,” says Marx.

In addition, each photo also has a clickable “report a problem” button so viewers can express any concerns to Google.

That may help keep Thais and foreigners from being identified on international websites such as DoxySpotting.com which boasts of “Spotting Prostitutes on Google Street View!”

Urban scenes in Street View’s 34 other countries have also included industrial wastelands, slums, mansions, ruins, medieval lanes, buildings on fire, shopping malls and  fabulous tourist attractions.

Street View has on occasion displayed some surprising pictures, such as the ones mischievously collected on the website 9-eyes.com, showing people armed with weapons, prostituting themselves, displaying their bare buttocks, grappling with animals, intoxicated, or sprawled dead surrounded by emergency workers.

“A Frenchman is suing Google for making him the laughing stock of his village after the firm’s Street View service put on the Internet a picture of him urinating in his garden,” Agence-France Presse reported on March 1.

Google’s lawyer, Christophe Bigot, said the lawsuit was “implausible.”

Although Google blurred his face, the man claims he became known in his small town so he filed a suit for infringement of privacy in a court in Angiers, the French news agency said.

How does it work?

Street View is accessed via the Google Maps website. While you search online for a city or street, you can click on the tiny human icon and see street-level photographs and navigate in any direction to view what is all around you.

 

A shot of Bangkok’s Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, as shown on Google Street View.

The photos were shot with a multiple-lens camera, positioned on a pole atop one of Google’s fleet of cars, which drove almost every thoroughfare, including highways flanked by empty countryside. 

Those particular visuals are often the best, capturing scenes of nature that rival the efforts of human photographers, including animals in action, sunlight filtering through foliage, ocean waves swirling along the coast and other evocative imagery.

When visiting Thailand, tourists can use Street View to explore places before they arrive, to get a sense of the area and figure out if the area is actually suited to their needs.

“You first will say, ‘Where am I going to stay?’ so you’re looking at a bunch of hotels,” says Marx, suggesting ways travelers can use the technology.

“Look up all your hotels on Street View. See where they are. What does the neighborhood around them look like? Is it close to something? Does it feel like a cute street?

“Maybe you’ve got a recommendation from a friend for this great restaurant, but it’s kind of an obscure place. So then you use Street View to say, ‘OK, it’s behind this thing.’ Or you turn the corner when you see the fruit stand, and then it’s right there.

“Just coming in with that self-confidence, that, ‘I know where all these things are, I have seen this before’ — itobviously doesn’t ruin the actual thrill of going to the place.”

Tourists and residents can wander as long as they like on a virtual tour, or take just one minute to find where they want to go right now, Marx says.

Some people in Bangkok claim to have witnessed the Street View vehicles driving around, including “chingy” who posted online: “as i walk out of my house…to throw away the trash, google street view car passes by my house, i was caught right in front of him, i stand there looking at the car as it drives slowly away…that would be funny if i turn up on google street view.”

Elsewhere in Asia, Street View is available in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

“This year we will be driving more of Thailand,” says Marx. “The idea is to drive the country.”

Richard S. Ehrlich is from San Francisco, California. He has reported news for international media from Asia since 1978, based in Hong Kong, New Delhi and now Bangkok.

Read more about Richard S. Ehrlich

Build the cruise terminal and the tourists will come

Here’s one idea the Philippines can copy from Singapore, build a cruise terminal to draw cruise tourists to the country.

 

From CNNGo.com

Southeast Asia: The next Mediterranean of cruises?

Singapore’s massive new cruise terminal is set to open this year. But don’t expect the world’s biggest ships to ride in just yet

By Karla Cripps 27 March, 2012

Singapore’s new cruise terminal opens later this year and features bigger and deeper berths to accommodate larger ships.

Land ahoy, cruisers. Singapore’s new International Cruise Terminal (ICT) is set to open later this year, with officials hoping the massive US$400 million facility will bring in some of the world’s largest ships.

The ICT will feature two berths, an arrival and departures hall, advanced passenger processing technology and a ground transportation area.

In other words, plenty of room for cruise-loving travellers looking to cram as many experiences as possible into a single vacation.

Cruises are certainly getting more popular in Asia, with several of the big global lines — Royal Caribbean, Silversea, Holland America and Celebrity — already offering passengers itineraries in the region.

But the Asian cruise industry is a long way behind Europe or North America, the latter of which accounts for around 60 percent of the global cruising market according to industry figures.

 

A graphic rendering of the US$400 million Singapore International Cruise terminal.

 

Aw Kah Peng, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, told media she hopes that will change with the opening of the city’s new cruise terminal, located between downtown Singapore and Sentosa Island.

“We think there’s a lot of untapped potential in cruising,” she says.

“Southeast Asia as a whole region is really interesting for cruising because of the many islands that form the archipelago of Indonesia, as well as Philippines and the long wonderful coastlines of our neighbours like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

“We think that Southeast Asia can be the next Mediterranean when it comes to cruising.”

So can the wonders of Southeast Asia — i.e. Angkor Wat or the beaches of the Philippines — compete with the likes of ancient Greek ruins, Alaskan glaciers, Carribean islands and French cafes?

No. At least not when it comes to crusing, say experts.

Infrastructure holding Southeast Asia back

Among the big brands being targeted by Singapore’s new ICT is Royal Carribean. When the ICT opens in mid-2012 — no official date has been announced yet — it will be big enough to facilitate Royal Carribean’s Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world with a passenger capacity of over 6,000.

But don’t expect to see Oasis sailing into Singapore any time soon.

“Cruising is a regional product and cruise lines look at the Southeast Asian region as a whole for business planning, not just based on one port,” says Jennifer Yap, managing director of Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia) Pte Ltd.

“To cater for Oasis, we will need ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] to come together to ensure that each country has one or more ports that is Oasis-friendly. They need to have terminals and piers that allow ships of Oasis’ size to dock and for the guests to disembark the ship smoothly, and not with tendering boats.

“So every ASEAN country will need to step up their infrastructure development to handle our large ships, so cruise lines can design and operate attractive itineraries in the region.”

Until that happens, cruisers will have to make do with ships like Royal Carribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, which holds about 3,800 passengers. The ship will arrive via Dubai in May and is equipped with a rock-climbing wall,basketball court, ice-skating rink and mini-golf course.

“The new International Cruise Terminal has enabled us to deploy our larger ships to Singapore namely Voyager of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium this year, all three from above 90,000 GRT [gross register tonnage] to 138,000 GRT,” says Yap.

“This brings the total number of our ships calling at Singapore to seven, compared to only two last year. We are calling at new interesting itineraries on these ships such as one to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as another to Bali and Australia.”

Karla Cripps is the Southeast Asia editor of CNNGo.com.

Travelling cheaply is possible in Sydney

Recession or not, travelling will help you rest and refresh you for the next big challenge (maybe finding a new job). But you can do this cheaply in Sydney.

From CNNGo.com

What recession? See Australia on the cheap

Soaring costs and the strong dollar are hurting tourism, but there’s no need to miss out on Oz

By Lauren Fritsky 29 March, 2012

Australia on the cheapGawking at stunning Aussie sights is free, but there’s a lot more to learn if you’re out to save your pennies.

With the seemingly never-ending global recession, the strong Aussie dollar and the increasing cost of living in Australia, some might say — beyond the obvious broader economic hurt — that there’s trouble in store for anyone in the business of tourism.

In fact, the latest statistics show the number of Aussies choosing to vacation overseas in 2011 was a record 7.8 million — that’s a full two million more than the total of incoming tourists, causing something of a problem for a country that relies so much on being an attractive destination for vacationers of all stripes.

While it’s true that flights from abroad can be expensive and the cost of staying and playing in cities like Sydney exorbitant, it is possible to see Australia on a budget.

The tricks, as we’ll show you, include being smart about how you get around and discovering the alternatives to the pricey tours.

Read on and save enough for more than a few extra shrimps on the barbie.

1. Stick with public transport in NSW

 

Australia on the cheap

The Blue Mountains cost half the price when you take a train instead of a tour.

 

It’s an expensive city, but many of Sydney’s main attractions are free.

You can see major landmarks like the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbour and the Art Gallery of New South Wales for nothing.

Don’t be lured by the tourist cruises — you can see the same sights for pennies on a ferry ride, recommends Matthew Long of travel siteLandLopers.

When you’re ready to escape the urban sprawl, swap a costly coach tour for a train ride to the Blue Mountains.

 

For $45, you can get an ExplorerLink ticket that combines a return train pass with the Explorer Bus, which heads to 30 attractions in the greater Blue Mountains area.

 

2. Pay less in Victoria

 

Australia on the cheap

The view’s free, but there’s more good, good stuff on the streets too.

 

Grab a map from the visitor center and stroll Melbourne’s laneways at your own pace. Head for Federation Square to people-watch, then immerse yourself in movies at the Australian Center for the Moving Image.

Don’t forget to stop by the Town Hall (90/120 Swanston St., +61 (0) 3 9658 9658), which houses the largest grand organ (more than 10,000 pipes) in the southern hemisphere.

Or take a day trip with Mornington Peninsula’s Attractions Pass for $55. You get up to 40 percent off admission at four attractions, including the koala-filled Moonlit Sanctuary, and discounts at three more.

 

3. Camp out in Tasmania

 

Australia on the cheap

Nature doesn’t charge by the hour, or any other way, in Mount Field National Park.

 

If you cross the water to Tassie, driving yourself can save money and grant easier access to national parks like Mount Field or Cradle Mountain, says Rachel Power, who runs the travel site Great Aussie Road Trip.

Skip the rental car and instead hire a one-way camper van for as little as $1 a day (really). Even with park entry and camping fees, you can spend under $50 a day for a powered site, less than half the average nightly cost of a hotel stay, and tour the area yourself.

When exploring, there’s also a good source of insider information without paying for a costly package tour, according to Power.

“We tend to talk to the visitor information centers,” she says. “They’re always the best point of call because they’re manned by people from the area.”

Must-see freebies include Cataract Gorge and the Japanese macaque enclosure in Launceston and the view from Mount Wellington outside Hobart.

 

4. Scrimp in Queensland

 

Australia on the cheap

Moreton Island is a quick — and cheap — ferry ride from Brisbane.

 

Free attractions are easy to come by in Brissie: there’s the South Bank riverfront area with its man-made beach, public tours of the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and free photography, art and live music at Brisbane Powerhouse.

Craving a day trip? A one-way train ride to the Gold Coast is only $15. Or, take a $45-return ferry cruise to the beautiful Moreton Island to see unique plant life, soaring sand dunes and the rusty shipwrecks.

If you want to see tropical north Queensland, you can hit Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest on one of the Cairns city shuttle buses for between $35 and $78 — a cheap substitute for the full-day tours, which range from $100 to $200.

 

5. Be one with nature in Western Australia

 

Australia on the cheap

See marine life for less with a glass-bottom boat tour in WA.

 

In Perth, visit the black swans at Lake Monger Reserve, walk the trails along the Swan River or climb the 15-meter DNA Tower in Kings Park for a stunning view of the city and the Indian Ocean beyond.

A daytrip to Rottnest Island is cheap if you time it right. Book a same-day return in advance and get a fare as low as $69, about $30 less than regular price.

 

Or head further north to the Coral Bay reefs, where the glass-bottom boat tour — a much cheaper alternative for those who can’t afford the over-touristed Great Barrier Reef — provides a memorable afternoon on the ocean. Prices start at $39.

 

6. Save in South Australia and Northern Territory

 

Australia on the cheap

You can soak up the outback without paying for a pricey tour.

 

Haigh’s chocolate factory tour, daytime bike rentals and the four-hectare St Kilda Adventure Playground in Fooks Terrace are all free in Adelaide.

The area’s noted wineries, McClaren Vale and Barossa, run half-day tours for as little as $50.

You can also get a taste of the outback with free entry to the mines and underground churches in Coober Pedy, a historic area known as the “opal capital of the world.”

 

Amanda Markham, director of research at the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and owner of the site Travel Outback Australia, dispels the myth you need a tour guide and a lot of cash to see the outback.

While it costs to get into the areas surrounding Uluru and Kakadu, the remaining Northern Territory national parks allow free entry and camping if you opt to rent a camper van.

One paid tour Markham recommends is through the Alice Springs Desert Park — it costs a scarcely believable $20.

“This place takes you on a complete tour through every outback environment and habitat,” she says.

“You’ll see emus, kangaroos, fabulous displays of eagles and falcons coming to feed and the nocturnal house, where there are lots of cute little outback marsupials that you’ll never see otherwise.”

More on CNNGo: Canberra: Why Australia’s capital needs to be noticed

Is the Philippines really progressing?

Its always good to get a reality check on how the Philippine economy performed especially from noted economist Ben Diokno.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

March 27, 2012

Is there reason for optimism?

In recent weeks, Filipino leaders, starting with President Aquino III, have gone into an aggressive PR offensive announcing to the world that the Philippine economy is doing well. The stock market is booming and the peso is strengthening. The the country’s credit ratings have been upgraded, though it remains notches below investment grade. And foreign direct investments into the country have reached record levels.

But what about the stubbornly high poverty rate and the rising hunger rate? What about the highest unemployment rate in this part of the world? The lack of jobs has been the main source of poverty. There are some three million unemployed and seven to eight million underemployed. The job market will continue to be put under a lot of stress with some one million new entrants to the market annually.

But what about government’s ineffectiveness to move projects? What about the stagnating tax effort (taxes as percent of GDP) at a low 12%? What about the stalled public-private partnership projects?

And what about the high costs and unreliable supply of power in the country? What about the crippling power crisis in Mindanao, a grim reminder of the serious power failures and outages during the waning years of the Aquino I presidency?

Optimism is good but it has to be within bounds of reason. Optimism has be balanced with a great sense of realism. The gravity of the problems and the severity of constraints have to factored in when making policy pronouncements. As the great writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Great men, great nations have not been boasters and buffoons but perceiver of the terrors of life and have manned themselves to face it.”

The reference to the soaring stock market and the strengthening peso reveal the poor economic quotient of Palace officials and other “economic” managers. The soaring stock market is a result of significant inflow of ‘hot money,’ which takes advantage of the high interest rates in the Philippines compared to the near-zero rates in the developed economies. While other countries have adopted measures to discourage the entry of “hot money,” the Philippine monetary authorities have remained, by and large, passive.

In the absence of an active policy to discourage the entry of “hot money,” say by requiring a-year residency requirement for portfolio investment, the temporary benefits afforded by such inflows may prove to be destabilizing in the long run. Any hint of weakness in the domestic economy could lead to a massive outflow of these “footloose” capital.

The entry of “hot money” may be welcome if it would lead to more factories, more modern farms, and more jobs in the local economy. But that’s a oxymoron.

An economy that lives by hot money dies by it.

Malacañang officials celebrate the strengthening of the peso. But a strong peso does not — repeat does not — necessarily mean a strong economy. They seem to be falling for the same fallacious belief as other previous Malacañang occupants.

A strong peso puts additional pressure on the ailing exports sector and the struggling manufacturing industry. As a result, it destroys, not create, jobs. Sadly, a stronger peso creates jobs outside Philippine territories as it encourages imports of goods that can be produced locally.

A strong peso creates havoc on the lives of 10 million overseas Filipinos and their families at home. Their (dollar, yen, dinar, etc.) remittances would buy less goods and services than better. A strong peso reduces consumption, slows investment in housing and other consumer durables, reduces spending for education and health care; in other words, it results in lower welfare for more than half of the Filipino people.

The massive inflow of hot money which leads to higher activity in the stock market and the appreciation of the peso results in greater misery for a large majority of Filipinos. That’s not a cause for celebration.

UNDERPERFORMING

After two years in office, Mr. Aquino would show an economy that is performing well below its long run growth potential — a GDP growth of 3.7% last year and possible 4.2% this year, or an average of 3.95%.

But the 4.2% growth will be lower than the 5.5 to 6.5% official growth target, and will be much, much lower than the government’s aspirational goal of 7 to 8% GDP growth.

The 5.5 to 6.5% GDP growth target was set long before the world economy turned grimmer. The UK-based Standard Chartered Bank is keeping its outlook of slower Philippine growth this year at a low of 3.2%. “For now, our growth outlook for the country has not changed… too much of what would happen externally would affect the growth of the country,” said Mahendra Gursahani, chief executive officer and consumer banking head of Standard Chartered in the Philippines, in an interview with BusinessWorld this week.

But 4.0% growth is not good enough. The World Bank said that the Philippine economy has to achieve growth above 5% a year on a sustained basis in order to improve the lives of the poor and to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors. “A huge window of opportunity currently exists for speeding up critical reforms,” said World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi.

Sadly, there is a big difference between facing a window of opportunity by acting, seizing the day, accelerating reforms to achieve strong, sustained growth and simply staring at it. The president’s major enemy is his own shadow. For as long as he believes he’s doing well in solving the country’s ills, he won’t act boldly and decisively, thus end up solving nothing.

The nation’s ills are enormous. Rising population, deep poverty and rising hunger rate, joblessness, ineffective bureaucracy, inefficient, inequitable and low-yielding tax system, crumbling infrastructure made worse by shortage of power supply, high costs of doing business, unattractiveness as an investment destination because of the high costs of doing business — these are just the major ones.

SCORECARD

Here’s the scorecard since President Aquino took over 19 months ago. Stock market index up. Inflation rate low and stable. Peso value up, trending to P40 per $1.

Foreign direct investments down. FDI inflow to the Philippines continue to be lowest in the region. BSP data showed that the net inflow of FDIs reached $1.26 billion last year, down by 2.8% from the $1.298 billion registered in the previous year. Bluntly, this is not a sign of investor confidence.

Poverty rate steady but number of poor people up. Hunger rate up and number of people who experienced involuntary hunger higher.

Unemployment rate basically unchanged but number of poor people up.

Costs of doing business worse than ever. A recent joint publication of the World Bank and the International Finance Corp., Doing Business 2012, published on October 20, 2011, ranked the Philippines 136th out of 183 countries in the world. It ranked the poorest among ASEAN-5 countries. Thailand ranked third, Malaysia fourth, Vietnam 98th, and Indonesia 129th. It ranked among the lowest fourth of all 183 countries covered in the study.

Public authorities have the responsibility to tell the people the truth. Unlike rich businessmen and firm owners, who may have highly trained experts in their staff, or have the resources to subscribe to studies done by economic think tanks, the ordinary man on the street has no other choice but to rely on what the government peddles as truth.

If government officials told the ordinary man in the street that the economy would do well, when the economy might be slowing, he may behave differently. He may spend his money rather than save as a hedge for the uncertain future. In this sense, overoptimism has a cost.

But what about public officials who predict a rosy future when a slower, more modest, growth is likely? Shouldn’t they be held accountable for missing their economic targets? For example, if they predicted an economic growth of 6.5%, but the economy grew by only 3.6%, shouldn’t they be held accountable for failing to meet their targets?

Benjamin Diokno is professor of economics at the School of Economics, University of the Philippines(Diliman). He was secretary of budget and management under the Estrada administration and undersecretary for budget operations under the Aquino 1 administration.

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?Section=Opinion&title=Is there reason for optimism?&id=49113

Philippine foreign investment, then and now

This article from the well respected economist Gerardo Sicat gives us some history of how the Philippines led and now follow the rest of the region in attracting foreign investments.

No photo
The Philippine Economy – (Part III) – A historical peep into foreign direct investments policy and economic reality

Recent international economic developments seem to favor the flow of more foreign investments to the Philippines. We have always possessed the propitious factors that could make us a home to foreign directinvestment. Through some fault in national outlook, however, we have not realized it fully.

There is nothing automatic that the flow of foreign capital into our economy will happen just because we want it to happen. The more our economic leaders realize this fact, the better shall we be prepared to be pro-active in doing a good job.

Why foreign direct investments are mainly in the export processing zones.” There is a reason why most of the foreign direct investments that have come to the country are mainly located in theexport processing zones and in special economic zones. This happened relatively late in the country’s recent economic history.

For decades since independence, laws designed to favor industrial development were biased heavily in favor of developing the national economy mainly for domestic Filipino enterprises. This has roots not only in the Filipino First policies of the 1950s but more significantly in the restrictive constitutional provisions affecting foreign capital.

The BOI (Board of Investmentinvestment incentives for industrial development and for export development had a strong bias to favor Filipino enterprises in this development. When the investment incentives that created the BOI were originally legislated during the late 1960s, Senator Jose W. Diokno, the inheritor of the nationalistic line of Claro M. Recto, guided the legislation in Congress.

The BOI incentives law circumscribed the role of foreign capital into a supporting cast in national industrial development rather than as a major partner. The main provisions of the “60-40” Filipino-to-foreign equity rule defining the recipients of investment incentives were cast in stone in the BOI investment and export incentives.

Over the years, some liberalization of these rules was undertaken in response to the country’s lag behind neighboring countries in attracting foreign investments. The amendments to the investment incentives law were however made on the fringes rather than on the core.

Two distinct economies result.” The result was that two separate economies developed as far as the involvement of foreign direct investments was concerned.

The dominant economy. The main economy that followed a restrictive, nationalistic development line with a lot of rules, regulations and restrictions became dominated by Filipino owned enterprises which received the industrial incentives. This large economy dominates the entire nation’s production and commercial landscape which is highly regulated and with a lot of problems to be fixed.

This is the highly regulated economy that gets rated in international surveys of economic, social and even political indicators. It is the economy that often characterizes the country when compared to other countries. This economy is marked by high cost, inefficient business processes and has inadequate services marked by bottlenecks in infrastructure facilities. It is for these reasons internationally less competitive.

To this day, this essence of this economic protection remains. The chambers of businesses owned by major Filipino groups – exemplified by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also including the more moderate Makati Business Club – benefited by this rule.

Even though their rhetoric has changed from the extreme nationalistic lines of the past to more pro-open economy lines of the present, this is the main line that the ruling business class continues to espouse – the protection of the domestic economy for themselves. This is why it is difficult to reform economic policy and partly the reason for the country’s stymied industrial growth.

The smaller but competitive economy. The other Philippine economy is the export-oriented enclave that grew out of the laws that promoted export processing zones. This sector was the escape route that enabled the country to become more outward looking, internationally competitive, and attractive to foreign capital.

This economy is more competitive internationally. Enterprises are mostly located in the export processing zones and other special economic zones. The foreign enterprises manufacture for export. Their operations are still essentially separated from the rest of the domestic economy.

Our neighbors learned from us….” The Philippine BOI became a model for our Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian neighbors. They learned from our mistakes. Compared to us, they launched their industrial development programs later.

They patterned their laws on the agency structure and powers of our BOI but they deviated in a most fundamental way from our policy. They did not incorporate the circuitous nationalistic lines that favored domestic enterprises.

Our neighbors simply allowed full foreign capital participation in their own industrial development programs by permitting 100 percent foreign equity investments to receive incentives. This was the main reason why, when conditions permitted the flow of foreign direct investment to ASEAN, more foreign capital went their way than to us.

Among our neighbors, the problem of governance has been an ever-present problem like in our case. As their development programs matured, they have also been able to put a lever to control or temper corruption. Also, our neighbors have had their episodes of political instability, an experience not unknown to us.

The two economies need to link.” Today, the critical problem of the economic structure is to link the small, dynamic part of this dual economy with the dominant, sluggish and highly regulated economy.

The resulting union ought to result in having the virus of dynamism in the export oriented sector infecting the sluggish, larger economy to make it more competitive internationally. A worse result would be to hold all regulations and policies unchanged so that little happens in accomplishing such an integration.

Why is it critical to integrate the two economies? At present, the value added created in the export oriented sector is limited. Most of the export companies source their raw materials from imports and they themselves are producing mainly raw material industrial parts for assembly with other products that are produced in other countries.

The more open policy for foreign investment that was instituted in Thailand, and (earlier in both) Taiwan and South Korea – as well as China of course – enabled the foreign investments that located in these countries to have more leeway in sourcing their raw material needs from the domestic sector as well as from imports.

One reason for this phenomenon is the larger set of foreign direct investors succeeded in participating in the domestic economy. Many investors manufactured intermediate goods for the exporting sectors and the larger economy. Suppliers of big foreign investors followed their main industrial partners when they migrated their locations to other countries.

The outcome of this is that higher economic value added in the domestic economy was generated even as foreign investment enterprises were involved.

In these countries, there are also manufacturers that assemble final products that sell these goods in the home economy as well as to other countries. In the Philippines, there are fewer of these final brand assembly manufacturers among the foreign investors.

My email is: gpsicat@gmail.comVisit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/

AIM Manila among the Hult Challenge winners

The Asian Institute of Management in Manila is one of those regional winners mentioned in this competition. Says a lot on the quality of management education in the country.

From Fast Thinking.Com

Hult Global Case Challenge Announces Regional Winners of US$ 1 Million Poverty Competition

Posted by

(BOSTON – March 1, 2012)— Hult International Business School today announced the regional winning teams of its 3rd Annual Hult Global Case Challenge. Carnegie Mellon University, Hult International Business School, ESADE, Aarhus University, Dartmouth College, UC Davis, NYU Abu Dhabi, Asian Institute of Management, Presidio Graduate School, University of Belgrade and HKUST will move on to the competition’s global final at the New York Public Library in April.

The regional competitions took place on February 25th in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai. Students teams who were not selected at one of the physical events can still submit their solutions online through the Facebook platform.

The Hult Global Case Challenge brings together the top college and university students from all over the globe to generate solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. This year, the Hult Challenge focuses on alleviating global poverty and student teams are tasked with devising solutions to provide affordable education, affordable energy and affordable housing to millions of people. The regional winners will now advance to the final on April 26th in New York City, where the winning teams are named and the benefactors – One Laptop per Child, SolarAid and Habitat for Humanity – will use the US $1 million prize to pilot the winning ideas.

“We congratulate all winners on their groundbreaking ideas and look forward to a game-changing competition in April,” said Dr. Stephen Hodges, President of Hult. “With millions of people worldwide living in poverty, sustainable solutions that use seed capital to get going, but thereafter are self-funding, are needed to kick-start the development of major change. By reaching beyond the traditional realms of business, we hope to engage the best international talent to develop social enterprise solutions to the world’s most intractable problems.”

The Hult Global Case Challenge has become one of the world’s top platforms for social change. Students globally recognize it as the largest case competition and non-profit organizations consider it to be a major crowdsourcing platform for social good. Some of the most influential business leaders such as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo; Michael Treschow, Chairman of Unilever; and Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Winner and founder of Grameen Bank will select this year’s winning business plan. President Bill Clinton will serve as this year’s keynote speaker and personally present the awards to the winning teams.

About Hult International Business School: Hult is the world’s most international business school with campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai. The School offers a range of business-focused programs including MBA, Executive MBA, Master and Undergraduate degrees. Hult’s one-year MBA program is ranked in the top 30 in the world by The Economist and among the top 100 by the Financial Times. For more information visit www.hult.edu.

Now even Filipino priests are needed in Australia

OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) normally cover a pretty wide diverse set of occupations. Now include priests as a new one.

From ABC news Australia

Catholics look to Asian priests to ease shortage

Posted March 27, 2012 08:46:43

The Catholic Church is keen to recruit priests from Asia to help overcome a shortage in regional Australia.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly from the Port Pirie diocese in South Australia says the church also needs to ordain younger people.

He says only three of 23 priests in the diocese are under 50.

Bishop O’Kelly says he has been to the Philippines and found strong support for the idea of relocations to Australia.

“The Australian church has never supplied enough priests by itself, we’ve been dependant on Ireland until relatively recent times,” he said.

“There’s scarcely a Catholic in the older generation who wasn’t taught by an Irish nun or had an Irish parish priest or an Irish brother.

“Now that source from European overseas, Ireland, has dried up, we have to look to Asia I believe.”

The Australian customer is now no.1

With the large spending days overs, Australian retailers will have to focus more intently on the needs of the customer.

Retailers, business advised: Focus on your consumer

Peter Dinham
Wednesday, 28 March 2012

It’s a tough market for Australian businesses, particularly retailers, as they feel the negative effects of difficult economic times, and with a recent survey by IT giant, IBM, revealing that consumers are still exercising frugality in their purchasing decisions.

Global Business Services A/NZ, says that consumers, here in Australia are spending their shopping dollars with only a few selected retailers that they trust.

Trust is a key theme that comes out of this year’s Smarter Consumer Study. There is a set of values – convenience, community, and trust – which underpin how consumers engage with retailers both online and offline. They then share their experiences within their well-connected communities – communities of ‘we’. These communities of ‘we’ are having a massive influence on consumer expectations, preferences and therefore, spending.

“Retailers should no longer be focused on whether their customers are being loyal to them, but whether they are being loyal to their customers – this is a new shift for many,” Wong suggests.

IBM surveyed 28,000 consumers globally, including 1,800 in Australia, with this year’s study showing that Australian consumers are ambivalent about their financial outlook, and with only 56 percent citing they are positive about their income situation.

The study also revealed that attitudes towards discretionary spending remain largely conservative with 47 percent of Australians searching for items which are on sale and only 10 percent indicating they will spend more in general.

According to Wong, however, some retailers are progressing in the right direction: In 2011, respondents said they trusted friends and family the most when making a purchasing decision (51%) and trusted retailers the least (3%).

“Interestingly in 2012, trust in retailers more than tripled to 10%, indicating that a small but rapidly growing number of retailers are successfully engaging with consumers in a more proactive and transparent way.

“These insights are relevant not only to the retail industry but also to sectors that have a retail or customer facing focus such as banking, insurance, telecommunications, and energy and utilities.”

Wong said the study also showed that Australian consumers are “leading the way in adopting new ways of buying online,” with 17 percent saying they are willing to use three or more technologies in the shopping process. The study found that 90 percent of Australians believe that social networks save them time in shopping (compared to 85% of consumers worldwide), while 40 percent of Australians want to use websites for comparative shopping.

However, Australians still value the ‘touch and feel’ element of the shopping experience and say that the store is still the preferred channel to make a purchase, according to IBM’s study.

Wong says it should come as “no surprise to retailers” that digital technologies and the Web are impacting the industry in a major way. However in Australia, Wong emphasises that the physical presence of a retailer is still very important, “so it’s not about eradicating bricks and mortar in favour of online,” and he adds, “brands that are truly succeeding are the ones that are delivering a consistent, positive, and personalised experience for customers across various channels – online, mobile, in-store.”

The CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association, Margy Osmond, comments that cross-channel retail is proving to be a “powerful force in generating competition and innovation, both of which will result in a healthier retail sector.” “The study shows that it’s a consumer’s market and retailers need to show loyalty back to customers across all channels of engagement,” Osmond said

“Retailers in Australia are acting on their understanding of the importance of having a cross-channel platform which delivers consistent, positive and personalised experiences to customers. This is a positive progression from last year,” Wong concluded.

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