Pesek's View From Asia
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China's latest bubble is diabetes.
The most populous nation has more diabetics than the U.S. -- 114 million and counting -- and health officials are beginning to tally the costs. This nascent bubble could grow far bigger given the Westernization of diets, spotty access to health care in rural areas and the lack of national databases. “The booming economy in China has brought with it a medical problem which could bankrupt the health system," says Paul Zimmet of the International Diabetes Federation. "The big question is the capacity in China to deal with a health problem of such magnitude.” Chinese leaders had better start weaving together safety nets to prepare for an epidemic that will steadily eat into worker productivity and economic growth.
One in four Asian men admit to committing rape.
As Indians grapple with the scale of sexual violence against women in their country, a shocking new study finds they are hardly alone. The Lancet Global Health journal reports that 24 percent of the 10,000 men surveyed in six Asian countries admitted to committing rape at least once. And just under half of respondents in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka said they'd done so more than once. While outrage over the brutal New Delhi gang rape and murder of a student on a bus is certainly appropriate (four of the accused were found guilty this week), countries across the region need to recognize that they confront a social nightmare that goes well beyond one nation or one culture.
Indonesia's Yudhoyono fiddles as rupiah burns.
As Indonesia's currency plunges the most since Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008 (down 15 percent this year), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems bizarrely detached. He's said Indonesia needs “to keep the rupiah exchange rate against the dollar from weakening further,” but offered no plan to restore confidence. He's proposed no new measures to rein in a runaway current-account deficit ort to halt the exodus of capital, which imperils all the hard-won economic gains since the 1997 crisis. With Asia's outlook as a whole turning murky, Yudhoyono needs to step up quickly and reaffirm investors' confidence, before the fire burns up the legacy he's built in office.
Gaijin closes in on Japan's home run record.
Sadaharu Oh is the Babe Ruth of Japan and his 55 home-runs-in-a-season record has stood since 1964. Last night, Wladimir Balentien, a 29-year-old from the Caribbean nation Curacao, tied Oh's tally. The question is whether he will be allowed to surpass it. Two other former gaijin players, Tuffy Rhodes (2001) and Alex Cabrera (2002), tried and were thwarted by Japan's insularity. Pitchers kept throwing balls in order to keep a foreigner from getting the record. Balentien's fate has become a quirky litmus test for Japan's willingness to level the playing field not just in sport, but business, too. Batter up!
Philippines battles Muslim rebels.
As if Benigno Aquino didn't face enough challenges already, the Philippine president has a fast-worsening Muslim insurgency on his hands. It's a reminder that for all the great news in the onetime Sick Man of Asia -- fiscal progress and growth outpacing even China's -- local warlords still hold outsized sway in Manila. Clashes between rebels and Philippines troops have forced about 15,000 people to flee their homes in resource-rich Mindanao, a southern region whose spoils could help support government coffers and fund poverty reduction efforts. The risk is that this growing distraction takes Aquino's eyes off ongoing efforts to upgrade the economy.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)