Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Syria worries hit Asian markets .
As if Asia didn't already have enough to worry about, the risk of U.S. military action in the Middle East is hitting markets. Credit risk rose along with oil prices today as investors worked tensions in Syria and elsewhere in the volatile region into their models and assumptions about world economic growth. India's rupee hit another record low at 68 to the dollar, worsening an already swollen bill for energy imports. Geopolitical uncertainty is one thing, but an imponderable such as this one is the last thing that Asia, already fretting another currency crisis, needs. Time to cancel those late summer vacations.
Vietnam's Internet censorship rankles 21 governments.
Nearly two dozen governments from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East -- as well as tech powerhouses like Google and Facebook -- are protesting an Internet law that's sure to hamper foreign investment as well as stifle free speech. The unusual coalition, which includes Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., should be a wakeup call to officials in Hanoi. The law's ambiguous language about harming national security, inciting ethnic or religious violence and disclosing "secrets" related to the army, economy and government could make China seem like a liberal nation. As self-inflicted wounds go, this one is a doozy.
Stiglitz ponders " crisis Down Under ."
As Australians prepare to vote on Sept. 7 vote, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has economic gloom on his mind. Oddly, it involves the trajectory of an economy that's been the envy of the developed world for well over a decade now. Stiglitz isn't predicting a crash, mind you, but complacency and political paralysis that squanders Australia's future. He recommends better utilizing the spoils of the nation's mining boom and investing in education, innovation and productivity-enhancing technologies. And Stiglitz has a point. If the so-called lucky country isn't careful, its luck will run out.
Japan's 'Whack-a-Mole ' crisis worsens before our eyes.
Two years ago, Russia offered to help Japan clean up its nuclear-accident-ravaged Fukushima station, but to no avail. Now, it is renewing its bid as Japan's government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the crippled Fukushima site, seek outside help. "We've allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they've essentially turned it into a game of 'Whack-a-Mole,'" says Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. "From now on, the government will move to the forefront." Anyone believe him? Tokyo needs to understand this is a matter of life and death, not a game.
Manufacturing is a necessary evil on way to wealth.
Asia is in a hurry to create good-paying jobs and innovate its way to prosperity. But the Asian Development Bank has a sobering take on the region's chances at white-color greatness in the short run. In a new report, "Asia Cannot Bypass Manufacturing on Path to Prosperity," the ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee argues that "historically, no economy has reached high income status without reaching at least 18 percent share of manufacturing in output and employment for a sustained period." That means, like it or not, factories that may blacken the skies and run afoul of international labor norms are here to stay.
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