Weekly Highlight: 15.04.2008

Denmark:

Swindle with Danish foreign aid
15.04.2008

Following a Norwegian revelation of foreign aid swindle in Tanzania, Danish development aid will be scrutinised to avoid inconsistencies.
Millions of foreign aid kroners are winding up in the wrong pockets in the African nation of Tanzania, reports DR public broadcaster.
According to Arthur Andreasen, a Danish accountant who has worked in Tanzania for 20 years, up to half of Danish foreign aid does not reach those who need it.
Andreasen had recently investigated Norwegian aid to the developing nation on behalf of the Norwegian government. His report, which caused a stir in Norway, showed that between a third and half of the Norwegian aid disappeared before it reached its intended recipients.
Danish aid to Tanzania amounts to over 500 million kroner annually, making Denmark the seventh largest donor to the country.
However, as was the case with Norwegian aid, up to half of the money has wound up in the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians, said Andreasen.
He said one way of swindling was allocating money for non-existent projects and persons. Another method was to write fictive or excessively high bills and receipts.
His findings caused the Norwegian development minister, Erik Solheim, to withdraw 250 million kroner in support from a nature regeneration project recently.
At the same time, the Norwegian government decided to strengthen monitoring of development aid, but Andreasen said that it was not enough for only one country to react.
‘If all governments follow suit, it would have an effect. However, if only one country does it, the recipient country might not react,” he said, urging the Danish government to heighten its controls for foreign aid.
Ulla Tørnæs, development minister, told DR that she would address the matter with her Norwegian colleague this week.
Denmark has given aid to Tanzania since the early 60s and finances projects targeted at gender equality, human rights, democratisation and corruption. (LYT)

Finland:

Wages, Inflation Up Briskly in Recent Months
Published 15.04.2008, 10.30 (updated 15.04.2008, 11.56)

Overall gross wages and salaries during the December-to-February period were up by 8.7 percent compared with a year earlier. Inflation is also up significantly.
According to Statistics Finland, year-on-year growth in the same period of 2006-07 was 5.2 percent.
Pay rose in all sectors. The briskest growth was in construction, where wages were up by 11.1 percent from a year earlier.
Wages climbed almost as steeply in private health care and social services (10.5 percent) and financial services (10.3 percent).
Even in sectors where growth was moderate, there was still considerable improvement in paycheques. Growth was the slowest in private-sector educational services, where pay was up by 6.2 percent.
Inflation Hits 8-Year High
Meanwhile inflation is rising faster than it has since the year 2000. In March, inflation was 3.9 percent higher than March 2007, and had also risen from February’s rate of 3.7 percent.
Inflation was seen particularly in the cost of clothes and vegetables. The actual cost of living has also increased, as seen in price hikes for fuel, housing and home loans.

Netherlands: How many times have you cried lately?

‘Men cry an average of nine times a year’
Tuesday 15 April 2008

Men burst into tears an average of nine times in 2007 while women cried on 33 occasions, according to an internet poll in the May issue of Psychologie Magazine, reports ANP news service today.
This is significant because research shows young boys are more likely to cry than girls, the magazine says. ‘The way they are brought up and the influence of male hormones appears to make it harder for men to cry,’ it concludes.
Of the 800 people polled, 65% said the last time they cried was because they were sad, 38% said powerlessness was the reason and 26% said they were touched by something.
Women are more likely to cry out of rage, fear and disappointment than men, the poll showed. The magazine said that this may be because men are more likely to become aggressive when frustrated or faced with a situation they could not influence.
But men do have a soft side. The poll showed that they are more likely than women to cry tears of joy or to cry at a poignant situation.

 Norway:

New study reveals less materialism, more idealism
First published: 09 Apr 2008, 12:31

While the media constantly serves up the results of opinion polls, consumer statistics, market analyses and predictions, Norsk Monitor, a comprehensive biannual market-research survey, strives to map out Norwegians’ changing values, beliefs and attitudes over the years.
Subscribers pay some NOK 300,000 (USD 60,000) each for the results of the nationwide survey, which has been carried out every other year since 1985.
The 200-page report is based on questionnaire responses and extensive interviews with some 4,000 Norwegians about everything from how often they go to the movies, to how much organic produce they consume, to their religious and spiritual beliefs.
“All of the answers are used to draw up a kind of map that shows what powers are influencing us,” explained Erik Dalen, a director in research firm Synovate (formerly MMI), which produces the biannual report.
Dalen says the survey gives important insight into more than consumption, opinions and behavior. “We’ve developed a tool that can measure more than how much TV we watch or which party we vote for,” he told newspaper Aftenposten. “We can measure the socio-cultural development in Norway.”
And according to Dalen, the winds have shifted in the past couple years. “Ever since we began [the survey] in the mid-80s, we’ve seen Norwegians getting more materialistic,” said Dalen. “We’ve become more and more preoccupied with enjoyment, consumption, and things.”
Change underway
The latest results, however, show that for the first time in more than 20 years, Norwegians are now becoming more worried about the environment, more interested in the differences in the world, and more positive towards foreign aid –- and they are more satisfied, too.
“Our satisfaction didn’t grow when we were moving in a materialistic direction,” commented professor Ottar Hellevik, also involved in the Norsk Monitor survey. “We’ve changed our course, and are moving from materialism towards idealism.”
Hellevik says that Norwegians are now back at the same place on the “idealism/materialism axis” as they were in the early 1980s.

Sweden:

Absolut retreat puts California back in US hands
Published: 11 Apr 08 15:56 CET

Amid a stampede of criticism, the makers of Absolut Vodka have pulled a controversial advertisement depicting large swathes of the United States as Mexican territory.
“We’re really very sorry,” said Jacob Broberg, a spokesperson with Vin & Sprit, the company which manufactures the popular vodka brand, to The Local.
“The ad should never have been approved.”
The controversial ad featured a map depicting how America looked prior to 1848, when California was still part of Mexico. The ad was part of print and billboard campaign launched in Mexico as a part of the ‘Absolut World’ campaign, and was not meant for a US audience.
But word of the ad spread quickly through on-line and traditional media, sparking a firestorm of criticism directed at Absolut, accusing them of ignoring sensitivities related to the issue of Mexican immigration into the United States.
“We’ve really learned a lot from this experience,” said Broberg.
“There is no such thing as a local ad in a global world.”
Broberg wanted to assure the drinking public that Absolut was taking the controversy seriously, which was part of why the ad was pulled.
“We’re working to improve our marketing practices so that nothing like this happens again in the future,” he said.

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