Pesek on Asia: Groundhog Day in Bangkok
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
It's Groundhog Day in Bangkok.
"Groundhog Day," the 1993 Bill Murray film in which his character is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right, can be had for a couple of dollars at any DVD stall around Thailand. Now Thais find themselves starring in the real-life sequel as results from yesterday's election might not be certified for months. This is dawning on more and more political observers and investors, too. “The election won’t solve the political deadlock,” says Win Udomrachtavanich, CEO of Bangkok-based One Asset Management Co., speaking for many Thais. As the nation keeps reliving the same farce day in, day out, its economy loses more global standing.
Some sobering news from Myanmar.
The odds of Aung San Suu Kyi becoming Myanmar's next president may be decreasing. The Nobel laureate is still the obvious choice to replace President Thein Sein in elections next year. But the constitution requires tweaking first, and a government committee exploring the process cites worrisome signs of reform fatigue in a nation whose political and economic opening has only just begun. Resource-rich Myanmar has incredible potential, but it's a mistake to take progress there for granted. For all Suu Kyi's charisma, it remains an open question whether the generals who freed her from a long house arrest will let her rule.
Time for a booze-related economic index?
Drinking in South Korea requires etiquette and endurance. That's because late, booze-fueled evenings are a cornerstone of the nation's business culture. The trick is to try to drink as much alcohol as your rivals without getting wasted and being comatose at the next morning's negotiations. Yet even by these standards, here's a factoid that may surprise many: Koreans drink more shots of liquor per week on average than even Russians. No moral judgments here. I'm just thinking this ranking is great fodder for a related economic index. Anybody up for creating one? Now that'd be the spirit.
Sharing economy takes hold.
The rise of the "sharing economy" in the developed world is a curious side effect of the 2008 global financial crisis. In the typically materialistic, bling-obsessed U.S., for example, economists like New York University's Arun Sundararajan see the makings of a new wave of productivity gains as consumers lend and borrow cars, bicycles, homes, electronics, designer clothes, baby toys, golf clubs, you name it. Now, there are signs the phenomenon is reaching Asia. Here's a piece on how it's reshaping Singapore and holds the promise of spreading elsewhere in the region and broadening the benefits of growth.
India loses yet more altitude.
Asia's third-biggest economy is flying a bit lower today, dropping a notch on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's safety ranking scale. It's not that Indian planes are falling out of the air. It's that India isn't hiring enough inspectors to keep that from happening. Chalk this up as yet another example of the self-inflicted wounds with which India keeps damaging its economy. Thing is, if India's dysfunctional system can't get the small and obvious things right, it will be that much harder to convince the world it's on top of the really big stuff -- like overhauling the economy and avoiding a financial crash this year.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)
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