Pesek on Asia: Kim's War Crimes
Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Kim Jong Un's war crimes status.
It wouldn't have surprised the North Korea leader to learn the the United Nations are no fans of the Kim Dynasty's repression and violence. But the specter of being tried for war crimes is sure to send a chill through Pyongyang and pose challenges for Kim Jong Un's benefactors in China. In its report on human rights in the North, the UN accused Kim's government of everything from "murder" to "enslavement" to "torture" to "rape" and urged the world to take action. Defending Pyongyang from efforts by the global community to curtail its shocking exploits has been denting China's "soft power" for years now. But protecting a man who's now formally in war-criminal territory will be be very hard for President Xi Jinping's government to explain.
For BOJ it's the calm before the next storm.
Anyone who thinks Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is the government's poodle should think again after today's policy meeting. By holding his monetary fire, Kuroda effectively sent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a message: Your move, sir. Over the last year, as Kuroda unleashed modern history's greatest liquidity surge, Abe has done nothing on the structural reform side of the ledger -- the most important one. Kuroda is holding his fire to signal that it's crunch time for Abenomics. That's not to say the BOJ won't do more in the year ahead to battle deflation. But Abe needs to realize that the days of the central bank doing the government's job for it are ending.
Philippines overheating? Not yet.
Call it Amando Tetangco's "irrational exuberance" moment. One hour after Philippines President Benigno Aquino told a room in Manila packed with foreign investors his economic reforms are progressing and bearing fruit, central bank Governor Tetangco asked the question on many minds: Is the place already overheating? Not the kind of question monetary authorities tend to raise in any public context, and Tetangco said the answer is no. Still, the fact that officials in Manila are mulling such questions should be seen as good news for Asian markets. The last thing the region needs is another asset bubble; it's good to see the Philippines making sure investors aren't too far ahead of improvements in economic fundamentals.
World has nothing on Mumbai rush hour.
If you want to take the pulse of an Asian economy, you could do worse than hang around a train station or two. Be it in Jakarta, Mumbai or Shanghai, the increasing hordes of people arriving at downtown rail stations with everything they own offer investors more insights than government statistics or the financial pages. They suggest global demand for energy and other raw materials will continue rising in the years ahead. So will strains of transportation systems. On this surface, this Bloomberg News piece by Anoop Agrawal and Bhuma Shrivastava details the trials and tribulations of metro rail commuters in India's business capital. But it's really a look at the challenges facing Asian governments, who are struggling to manage the biggest urbanization flows humankind has ever seen.
China IPOs blues tell bigger story.
The world's most populous nation has become to initial public offerings what the ".com" suffix was for companies in the late 1990s: All it takes to excite investors is slapping the word "China" into the name. Well, at least that's how things used to work. As the Wall Street Journal points out in this story, China's newly open IPO market isn't providing investors the big post-issuance rallies of the past. That's prompting companies to cheapen deals to woo investors -- a sign that worries about the nation's shadow-banking system may be lowering all boats, including equities.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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