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Italy: Measures to Reactivate the Economy, Promote Development, and Reduce Bureaucracy

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(Nov 19, 2014) The Italian legislature recently passed legislation to strengthen the national economy and to reduce bureaucracy. (Decree-Law No. 133, of September 12, 2014 (D.L. 133), Urgent Measures for the Opening of Construction Sites, the Construction of Public Works, Digitization of the Country, Reduction of Bureaucracy, the Mitigation of Hydrogeological Instability, and for the Resumption of Productive Activities [in Italian], GAZETTA UFFICIALE [G.U.] No. 212 (Sept. 12, 2014).)

D.L. 133 contains measures on the reopening of shipyard facilities (id. arts. 1-4); the enhancement of highway networks and telecommunications (id. arts. 5-6); environmental protection and the mitigation of hydrogeological damage (id. arts. 7-8); cutting of bureaucratic red tape (id. arts. 9-16); revival of construction activities (id. arts. 17-27); ports and airports (id. arts. 28-29); the reactivation of investment in the country, particularly through the promotion of the "Made in Italy" brand (id. arts. 30-32); environmental remediation and urban regeneration in areas of national interest (id. arts. 33-35); energy-related matters (id. arts. 36-39); and financial affairs within the purview of local authorities (id. arts. 40-45).

More specifically, D.L. 133 includes urgent measures to implement improvement of rail service between Naples–Bari and Palermo–Catania–Messina. (Id. art. 1(1)-1(10).) To that effect, the legislation provides that the Chief Executive Officer of the National Railroad System be appointed as Commissioner to oversee the Naples–Bari railway work in accordance with Italy's Strategic Infrastructure Plan, set forth in Law No. 443 of December 21, 2001. (Law No. 443 of December 21, 2001, Delegated Powers Concerning Infrastructure and Strategic Production and Other Interventions for the Recovery of Productive Activities), art. 1(1) [in Italian], G.U. No. 299, Dec. 27, 2001.) The Commissioner's term will be two years from the entry into force of D.L. 133. (D.L. 133, art. 1(1).) The Commissioner is entitled to seek help from other government agencies in order to attract investment for the implementation of the projects. (Id. art. 1(6).)

D.L. 133 includes updated rules for highway concession contracts. (Id. art. 5(1).) In particular, it allows concessionaires of national highways to request, before December 31, 2014, amendment of their concession tracts to allow the unification of interconnected, contiguous, or complementary sections, in order to facilitate uniform management. (Id.) The amended plans, which must ensure economic and financial balance and not result in further financial burdens for the state, must take effect by August 31, 2015. (Id. arts. 5(1) & (2).)

D.L. 133 sets forth a series of measures directed at the modernization of electronic communications throughout the country, including the creation of broadband networks, the excavation and installation of aerial cables, and the implementation of more extensive mobile telecommunications networks. (Id. art. 6.1.)

D.L. 133 also includes legislative amendments seeking to accelerate interventions for the management of water resources, particularly for the mitigation of hydrogeological risks, the adjustment of sewage water collection systems, and the financing of urgent work needed on watercourses in metropolitan areas adversely affected by flooding and alluviums. (Id. art. 7.)

Finally, among other interesting measures, D.L. 133 orders the Executive Branch to issue regulations, which will provide for uniformity throughout the applicable legislation, on eliminating excavated earth and rock from being considered waste. (Id. art. 8.) The purpose is to treat those materials, under certain conditions, as byproducts for purposes of meeting environmental goals. (Id.)

Author: Dante Figueroa More by this author
Topic: Aviation and airports More on this topic
 Budget More on this topic
 Economic development More on this topic
 Government lending and loan guarantees More on this topic
 Transportation and public works More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Italy More about this jurisdiction

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Egypt: Draft Law Banning Publishing of Information Concerning the Armed Forces

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(Nov 19, 2014) On November 6, 2014, the legislative department of the State Council of Egypt (a judicial organ) approved a draft law banning the publication in media outlets of any information concerning the armed forces. The State Council referred the draft law to the Council of Ministers, the country's Cabinet, for further debate and final approval. (The State Council Refers a Draft Law Banning the Publishing of Any News Related to the Armed Forces to the Council of Ministers [in Arabic], AL MASRY AL YOUM (Nov. 6, 2014).)

Highlights of the Draft Law Provisions

The draft law prohibits the publication without permission of any information or news about the armed forces in daily and weekly newspapers, on TV and radio channels, and also on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (The Final Text of a Draft Law on the Prohibition of Publishing News on the Army [in Arabic], AL BAWABA (Nov. 9, 2014).)

The draft law also requires that advance permission be obtained from the General Command of the Armed Forces before the following kinds of information are published: the number of Egypt's military units, statistics or data on the movement of forces, the performance of those forces, military strategies, and "any other information that might harm the security of the members of the armed forces." (Id.)

The draft law imposes sanctions against individuals who violate the prohibition. The sanctions include a term of imprisonment of six months to five years, in addition to a fine of L.E.10,000-L.E.50,000 (about US$1,403-$7,013). If the violation takes place during a time of war or a state of emergency, the penalty will be increased to long-term imprisonment and a fine of L.E.100,000-L.E.200,000. (Id.)

Civil Society Reactions to the Draft Law

According to news reports, human rights groups have denounced the draft law. They consider it to be one of a series of recent measures adopted by the Egyptian authorities to extend military control over the country's media outlets. The rights groups also claim that the draft law will eradicate the freedom of speech gained after the January 25, 2011, revolution against former President Hosni Mubarak's regime. A representative of what is known as "the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression," a Cairo-based organization, commented that if such a law is approved by the Council of Ministers, it would constitute an infringement of the Egyptian people's right to access information and right of free speech. (Patrick Kingsley, Egypt Mulls Military News Ban, GUARDIAN (Nov. 7, 2014).)

On the other hand, 17 editors of major state and private newspapers recently agreed to avoid criticizing the performance of certain government agencies. They announced their "rejection of attempts to doubt state institutions or insult the army or police or judiciary in a way that would reflect negatively on these institutions' performance." (Id.)

Author: George Sadek More by this author
Topic: Arms control and nonproliferation More on this topic
 Freedom of information More on this topic
 Freedom of speech More on this topic
 Freedom of the press More on this topic
 Internet More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Egypt More about this jurisdiction

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Saudi Arabia: Women Not Allowed to Perform Notary Duties

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(Nov 14, 2014) Notaries public in Saudi Arabia are public employees under the Ministry of Justice, in accordance with article 73 and subsequent articles of the Judiciary Law issued by Royal Decree No. M/78 of 2007 (1428 Hijri). (Text of the Law [in Arabic] (Sept. 2, 2007), Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers website).

On November 5, 2014, pursuant to article 74 of the Law, the Minister of Justice issued an order regulating the granting of licenses to attorneys and university graduates who meet specified requirements to perform certain notary duties. Being a male applicant is not one of the qualifications or requirements for being a notary mentioned in the order. (Text of the Order [in Arabic] (Nov. 5, 2014), Saudi Ministry of Justice website.) However, a few days after issuing the order, the Ministry of Justice declared that women attorneys are not permitted to obtain licenses to perform notarial duties because such duties are provided for in the Judiciary Law and are therefore part of the general competency requirements for judges; under Sharia law, women are not qualified to become judges.

Some members of the judiciary appear to disagree with this interpretation. For example, Judge Issa al-Gaith stated in the al-Hayat newspaper that notary duties are not a part of judicial competency requirements and there is no legal prohibition under Sharia law against women performing such duties. ("Justice": "Notary Licenses" Are Within the General Judicial Competency for Which Women Are Not Eligible [in Arabic], AL HAYAT (Nov. 11, 2014).)

Author: Issam Saliba More by this author
Topic: Islamic law More on this topic
 Judicial powers More on this topic
 Lawyers and legal services More on this topic
 Women's rights More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Saudi Arabia More about this jurisdiction

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Suriname: VAT Tax to Be Initiated in 2016

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(Nov 14, 2014) On October 31, 2014, the International Monetary Fund commended Surname's recent efforts to address the country's "widening fiscal and external imbalances, and the progress made on financial sector reform," in the wake of its weakened macroeconomic conditions in 2013, and called upon its authorities to continue to adopt prudent policies and reforms to ensure stability, provide for diversification, and broaden growth. The IMF noted that "the main challenges the authorities are addressing continue to be to strengthening institutions and adjusting policies to reverse the recent deterioration and strengthen external stability." (Press Release, No. 14/492, International Monetary Fund, IMF Executive Board Concludes 2014 Article IV Consultation with Suriname (Oct. 31, 2014).)

To that end, the IMF proffered the advice that "[t] imely implementation of the VAT [value-added tax], together with further reform and modernization of the customs and tax structure, will strengthen revenues." (Id.) The IMF had already urged Suriname to adopt the VAT in 2013, and the tax was to have been implemented as of January 1, 2014. (Mike Godfrey, IMF Pushes for VAT Introduction in Suriname, TAX-NEWS (Oct. 25, 2013).)

The change was not implemented this year, however, and, and Suriname still charges a turnover tax for a wide range of goods and services supplied within the country as well as on the importation of most goods. (Suriname, § 8. Value Added Tax, IBFD Tax Research Platform, International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation [IBFD] online subscription database (last visited Nov. 10, 2014).) A turnover tax is "[a] tax paid on a good during or after its manufacture, rather than when it is sold. It is usually calculated as a percentage of the value of a good. (Turnover Tax, THE FREE DICTIONARY (last visited Nov. 10, 2014).)

The general rate of Suriname's turnover tax "is 10% for the supply and import of goods and 8% for the supply of services. Basic foodstuffs are zero rated." (Suriname, supra.) In contrast to turnover tax, VAT is a form of consumption tax applied to a good "whenever value is added at a stage of production and at final sale," and the amount of VAT paid by the user "is the cost of the product, less any of the costs of materials used in the product that have already been taxed." (Value-Added Tax – VAT, INVESTOPEDIA (last visited Nov. 10, 2014).)

Now Suriname plans to introduce the VAT system starting January 1, 2016. It is expected that the VAT will replace the turnover tax. Suriname also reportedly may reduce the income tax levied on low-income earners. (Janne-Eve d'Auvergne Suriname; International Monetary Fund: VAT to Be Introduced, TAX NEWS SERVICE (Nov. 6, 2014), IBFD online subscription database.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: International organizations More on this topic
 Taxation More on this topic
 Value-added tax More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Suriname More about this jurisdiction

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Israel: Law on Inspection of Food Quality and Nutrition in Educational Institutions Passed

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(Nov 13, 2014) On July 28, 2014, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed the Food Quality and Proper Nutrition in Educational Institutions Inspection Law, 5774-2014 (Food Quality Law). (SEFER HAHUKIM [Book of Laws, SH] 5774 No. 2470 p. 762, Knesset website (Aug. 7, 2014).)

The Law requires the Minister of Education, in consultation with the Minister of Health and with the approval of the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, to set requirements for the composition and nutritional value of food that can be supplied or sold at educational institutions where ten or more students study. (Id. § 2(b).) An "educational institution is defined as "an institution for the systematic instruction of children or adolescents," based on the Compulsory Education Law, 5709-1949. (2 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL, 5709-1948/49, as amended.)

In determining the requirements, the type of institution and students' needs and ages must be considered. (Food Quality Law, § 2(b).) The Food Quality Law further requires any food supplier who supplies or sells food in an area belonging to an educational institution to publish the composition and the nutritional value of the food supplied in conformity with the Minister of Education's stipulations. (Id. § 3).

The Law requires the principal of an educational institution to provide students and parents with information on food quality and nutrition requirements at the beginning of the school year and to provide the Ministry of Education (MOE) a yearly report on their implementation. (Id. §§ 4(b-c),) The Law similarly requires the principal to prevent the supply or sale of food that does not meet these requirements. (Id. § 4(a).)

The Law authorizes the Minister of Education to appoint an inspector to implement its requirements. The inspector is authorized, among other powers, to require persons to identify themselves and to enter premises without a search warrant, except in the case of places used for residential purposes. (Id. §§ 19-22.)

The Law establishes a mechanism for an expedited regulatory procedure for the imposition of a financial lien on violators. (Id. §§ 5-18.) At the same time, the Law recognizes the right of a person who has violated the requirements to be informed of the MOE inspector's intention to impose on him/her a lien and the right of the violator to object to the lien in writing within 30 days after being so informed. (Id. § 7.)

Author: Ruth Levush More by this author
Topic: Administrative law and regulatory procedures More on this topic
 Child health More on this topic
 Education More on this topic
 Food safety More on this topic
 Health More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Israel More about this jurisdiction

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