Pesek's View From Asia

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Good morning, everyone. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

The Bank of Japan maintained its unprecedented monetary-stimulus program.

Watching Haruhiko Kuroda's press conference today, I couldn't help but sense the central bank governor's loneliness. His unprecedented monetary stimulus was the first ``arrow'' in Shinzo Abe's revival strategy, and a spectacular one at that. Yet five months on, Kuroda is still waiting for the prime minister to do his part. Abe's vague plans and foot-dragging have got to be worrying: if his pledges to institute tough structural reforms turn out to be more hype that reality, Kuroda will be the fall guy, and the BOJ will get all the blame for the biggest debt crash modern economics has ever seen. While he held his tongue today, here's what Kuroda probably wanted to say: Come on Mr. Prime Minister, don't leave me hanging.

Australia should be careful what it wishes for as it courts a weaker dollar.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government should consider something then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said in 2002. The former aluminum-company bigwig angered exporters by stating that good chief executive officers don't live and die by exchange rates. They adapt and move on. The same is true of countries. The strong dollar is a sign of Australia's attractiveness, and the capital flows it pulls in boost equities, lower bond yields and give companies more latitude to raise funds. No one doubts corporate Australia is facing its share of challenges as global growth slows. But the dollar is a symptom of Australia's success, not a cause for alarm.

If the Philippines is growing faster than China, why isn't the economy creating jobs ?

This question is the talk of Manila's economics community and President Benigno Aquino must address it urgently. The numbers speak for themselves. The nation is growing at 7.8 percent, but the jobless rate is 7.5 percent. That's by far the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia and it tarnishes Aquino's otherwise impressive efforts to rein in corruption and repair the national balance sheet. Aquino must redouble efforts to attract more foreign-direct investment, improve infrastructure and increase access to education and training. What good is rapid growth if only small portion of the Philippines's 106 million people are benefiting?

Chinese visit Pyongyang, treat North Korean children like ducks.

Kim Jong Un's regime has found its first growth industry: Chinese tourists. He took over the family business in December 2011, a rough time for the Kim Dynasty when GPS technology and rigid sanctions had made exporting weapons and counterfeit $100 bills much harder. That's why 1.3 billion Chinese with dollars to spend and a growing sense of wanderlust look like a great new source of cash. Not surprisingly, though, the business is off to a rocky start. Case in point: mainland tourists have been throwing sweets at local children ``like they're feeding ducks,'' Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours told the South China Morning Post. Still North Korea's 23 million people may have to suck it up. Hard currency is nothing to quack at..

Asia's past gets in the way of an otherwise bright future.

Tensions flared as China sent ships into waters near islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo, just two days after Japan unveiled its biggest warship since World War II. Japan and China should be joining forces to promote rapid growth with free-trade zones, regional bond markets, linked stock markets and peace on the Korean peninsula. Instead, the wartime enemies are in danger of slipping into a vicious cycle: As their posturing hampers trade and slows growth domestically, both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be tempted to ramp up their nationalistic rhetoric even more. Now is the time to reverse course.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Willie Pesek at wpesek@bloomberg.net