Pesek's View From Asia
Good morning, all. I'm back from holiday with a fresh take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Federal Reserve to world: "You’re on your own."
The Fed's annual confab of the world's monetary intelligentsia in Jackson Hole, Wyoming ended on a discordant note. Officials rejected international pleas for coordination as they reverse their quantitative-easing experiment. Their reluctance is understandable; one paper presented at the conference argued that domestic considerations would always trump any efforts to contain the spillover effects of the Fed's actions. But while the Fed has 12 districts in the U.S., it's no longer far-fetched to think of Latin America as the 13th district, Southeast Asia the 14th, Russia the 15th, China the 16th, and so on. While acting locally, the Fed really should be thinking more globally than ever.
Bo Xilai disputes guilt as China court microblogs.
The trial of the former politburo member has been plenty tantalizing: murder, corruption, sexual peccadillos, marital distress, you name it. Yet most fascinating about the legal theater playing out in the city of Jinan is that it's being microblogged with live updates by court officials. The coverage is calculated, of course, and seems to be directed at shifting blame mostly to Bo's wife, whom he described as "crazy" in his testimony. But it's also a hint of what could be if Communist Party bigwigs in Beijing gave true openness a try. What may really be on trial here is China's relationship with transparency.
Japan's radiation crisis taints its 2020 Olympics bid.
The front page of The Japan Times on Sunday was a tale of unfortunate juxtaposition for the Tokyo government. Above the fold was piece on how Governor Naoki Inose's final pitch for the 2020 Summer Olympics next month will include reassurances that the Fukushima nuclear crisis won't pose a problem. Right below that was an item on how Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the leaking reactor, fears losing the battle to keep more than 200,000 tons of radioactive water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean. If the International Olympic Committee goes with Tokyo, this may be the first Games to issue commemorative Geiger counters.
Internet helps root out corruption in Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino's move to abolish discretionary budgets for lawmakers won't win him many friends in Manila, a political capital notorious for graft and inefficiency. Initially cautious about such a step, Aquino was compelled to act amid threats by civil-society groups to stage massive anti-corruption protests in the capital, as well as a mushrooming campaign on the Internet. Emboldened by a government audit uncovering abuse, cyber-activists are raising hell for elected officials. The Philippines -- one of Asia's most promising, but often mismanaged economies -- will be better off for it.
Gold may be the only winner from India's growing crisis.
So much for the great gold bubble bursting. Fresh reminders that the U.S. recovery is undershooting expectations drove bullion above $1,400 an ounce for the first time since June. Bullish bets on gold by hedge funds and other speculators are now greater than any time in the last six months. The precious metal John Maynard Keynes's derided as a "barbarous relic" may get even more support thanks to India's fast-deepening crisis. India's 1.1 billion people are enthusiastic gold fans in the best of times. But as the rupee hits all-time lows and inflation flares up, gold is the natural hedge that may prove more resilient that Keynes could ever have imagined.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)