Pesek on Asia: George Lucas Inspires
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.
George Lucas hits Singapore.
After years of trying to create a more entrepreneurial culture with limited success, Singapore is looking to George Lucas for inspiration. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasized the point by greeting the famed "Star Wars" filmmaker, who was in town to open Lucasfilm's new office. "The magic lies not in the equipment or processes, but in the creative spark that resides in human minds," Lee told an audience that included people in Darth Vader and Storm Trooper costumes. "And these can only light up in an environment which inspires people, promotes creativity and helps people to realize their dreams and to dream big. That is what we are trying to create here." Warp speed ahead for Singaporean innovation? Stay tuned.
Has the Aussie peaked?
For over a decade now, punters and business people have marveled at the Teflon currency. No matter what bad news or scary theory investors threw at the Australian dollar, nothing stuck. It wiped itself off, and kept on rising. Not anymore, thanks to China's slowdown. Australia is arguably the biggest leveraged bet on China in the world. If Asia’s biggest economy slows, Canberra can forget about achieving a sustained budget surplus. Politicians also will rue the day they put on the central bank whatever chips they didn’t wager on China, abdicating their own responsibility to re-calibrate the economy as job growth slows. Now that China is losing steam, so it the Aussie.
Is Indian tourism a goner?
Economic impacts are often the last thing we to consider when a rape occurs. But the latest one in New Delhi, a brutal gang rape case involving a Danish woman, is sure to be felt in the nation's pocketbooks as well as its hearts. This, of course, is the latest in a string of attacks attracting international headlines and raising valid questions about the country's seriousness about violence toward women. Time for the national leaders to intensify cooperation with state ones and local law-enforcement officials? I'll say.
Thai protest effects hit Asia.
Perhaps the most unexplored part of Thailand's perpetual state of political chaos is implications for neighboring economies. This timely Asia Sentinel piece looks at Myanmar, and how the increasing number of Thai-financed infrastructure projects is in jeopardy and imperiling growth. It's easy forget that, for all its domestic tumult, Thailand is a role model for fellow Mekong River nations Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Well, perhaps not this week as anti-government protests overwhelm Bangkok. But officials in Bangkok would be wise to consider how these constant people-power demonstrations are affecting its foreign policy, and even the prospects for growth in the region.
Fitch's anniversary slap at Abenonics.
In the annals of inconvenient economic timing, Fitch's report on Japanese debt deserves a mention. Almost a year to the day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unleashed his "Abenomics" program, Fitch warned about the growth of the fiscal deficit. Japan's current-account deficit also is widening as the yen weakens and Japan imports more energy to offset mothballed nuclear power stations. The upshot is that the Bank of Japan could be forced to pump even more liquidity into markets in a bid to boost inflation. All this "could have an adverse effect on the sovereign's own cost of funding," Fitch says. Japan's bond bubble isn't about to explode, but Abenomics is surely looking at a dicey 2014.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)