Arrivals in Singapore fall
Singapore expects the number of tourists to fall between 30 percent and 40 percent this year because of an outbreak of SARS that has infected 206 people on the island, said Gerald Lee, a director at Singapore Tourism Board. That would be the worst-ever decline in tourism, he said. The disease, which has killed 28 in Singapore -- the fourth-highest after China, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- has prompted national carrier Singapore Airlines Ltd to cut a third of its capacity since March. Last month, the city said tourist arrivals fell 67 percent.
Anti-SARS pact in the works
Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia will form a pact to highlight that the Southeast Asian neighbors are free from the deadly SARS in a bid to boost tourism, it was reported yesterday. "We want to stress that there is no local transmission of SARS in these countries," said chairman of the Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Marketing Taskforce, Syed Mohamad Aidid Syed. "We encourage people to travel within this sub-region but they should take health precautions, exercise a high standard of hygiene and frequent food outlets and places with a high quality of cleanliness," he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.
Ex-CFO faces new charges
Andrew Fastow, the former chief financial officer accused of fueling Enron Corp's downfall, was to be arraigned yesterday regarding new charges released against him earlier this month. Fastow, 41, was indicted in October on 78 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Yesterday he was to be arraigned on new charges of insider trading, filing false tax forms and conspiracy to falsify books and records in an expanded indictment unveiled May 1. Fastow, who pleaded innocent to the first round of charges last year, was allowed to postpone his arraignment on the new charges because a status hearing in his case already had been slated for yesterday, according to prosecutors. He won't appear in court under a new federal rule allowing defendants to waive appearances when new charges are added to existing indictments.
Talks raise fears in Australia
Fresh concerns arose yesterday about the impact of a free-trade deal with the US on Australian agriculture and drug prices as negotiations on the accord resumed in Hawaii. A private think-tank, the Australia Group, warned that pensioners and the chronically ill could be forced to pay double for medicines if Canberra gives in to US demands for changes to its Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Under the PBS, the government subsidizes certain medicines, often significantly cutting the price of new drugs. "US drug companies claim that Australia's world-leading PBS is costing them around A$1 billion (US$666 million) a year," said Clive Hamilton, the institute's executive director. Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile tried to alleviate those concerns yesterday, saying the US had already given up trying to change the PBS. The negotiations began in March in Canberra and a third round of talks is scheduled for July.