Pesek on Asia: Dollars and Peso
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Gee, Ben, thanks for nothing!
Asia spent the last three months obsessing over the Federal Reserve's plans to reverse its quantitative-easing scheme. And on the day for which the region waited with bated breath? Nothing. The decision by Ben Bernanke's Fed to stick with the $85 billion-a-month program prompted a brief sigh of relief in developing markets. That is, until investors realized they're looking at another couple of months of obsessing over all things Bernanke. Luciano Coutinho, president of Brazil's state development bank, speaks for the emerging-market world when he says: "The worst thing is the uncertainty.” It seems this uncertainty will be with us indefinitely.
India's troubling prostitution paradox
It's time to throw out those Economics 101 textbooks when it comes to progress and child prostitution. That's the upshot of a timely and disturbing Bloomberg News expose detailing how rising living standards in India aren't saving many girls from being forced into the sex trade, often by their mothers. Not only does the National Human Rights Commission find the number of child prostitutes to be growing, but the average age at which they enter brothels is now between 9 and 12. This is one challenge India's dysfunctional government cannot ignore.
Abenomics looks for assist from private sector
As Shinzo Abe tries to enliven Japan's consumer sector, he's running into a wall of skepticism. Companies like Sony and Toyota are benefiting from a weaker yen, but reluctant to share higher profits with workers in the form of fatter paychecks. To jumpstart the virtuous wage cycle needed to make Abenomics work, the prime minister is taking a highly unusual step: holding three-way talks between his government, business leaders and labor unions. The outcome of Friday's gathering should provide some clues as to whether Japan deflationary funk is ending.
A rap duo's unlikely North Korean odyssey.
Pyongyang is perhaps the last place you'd expect a couple of aspiring Washington, D.C. rappers to film a video. The Kickstarter project by performers known as Pacman and Peso raises a tantalizing question: Is North Korea suddenly, well, cool? Are basketball star Dennis Rodman's trips to party with Kim Jong Un giving the place some street cred with American hipsters? While this unlikely story will sound more like fodder for TheOnion.com than the Washington Post, stay tuned for the forthcoming "Pacman & Peso Make a Music Video in North Korea."
Bo Xilai takes wishful thinking to new heights.
Ahead of Sunday's verdict, China's best-known prisoner says he will be cleared “one day” on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. Bo's trial last month transfixed the nation and highlighted not only corruption, but the risks of challenging Beijing's pecking order. To many observers, Bo's real crime was ambition. Until his downfall, the Communist Party boss from Chongqing was the closest thing China had to a political rock star and a spoiler for its plans to install Xi Jinping as president. Now, Bo's conviction is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The belief he'll be exonerated in the years ahead shows that he's still dreaming big.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)