Pesek on Asia: 89 Billion Reasons

William Pesek's take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.

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

Asia's $89 billion loss is no one's gain

Neglecting the so-called weaker sex is obviously bad economics. In Asia's case, the numbers are appalling: According to the United Nations, gender discrimination accounts for an eye-popping loss of $89 billion a year in unrealized output. That figure should be used early and often to shame Asian leaders into empowering women. A region struggling to raise many of its nearly 3 billion people out of poverty can't afford to squander roughly the annual gross domestic product of Slovakia. Simon Ogus of consultancy firm DSGAsia calls Asia's failure to tap the potential of educated women a "self-inflicted wound." It's completely unnecessary, too.

Why U.S shutdown has India worried

As Americans wring their hands over lawmakers in Washington allowing their government to shut down, investors in far off places are assessing the fallout. Nearly 8,000 miles away in Mumbai, India's stock punters are bracing for reduced capital inflows from the world's biggest economy. The world has grown used to political dysfunction in Washington. But self-imposed financial gridlock that has a chilling effect on the world economy? Not so much. Indian markets avoided a big stumble today on news the nation's current-account gap widened by less than economists forecast. Tomorrow could be a very different story.

Will Tokyo Olympics empower Japan's right ?

American-turned-Japanese author and activist Debito Arudou is a constant thorn in the side of nationalist politicians. His blog items and columns pull no punches and his latest, headlined "Triumph of Tokyo Olympic Bid Sends Wrong Signal to Japan's Resurgent Right," is raising blood pressures in Nagatacho, Tokyo's Capitol Hill. But his concerns that euphoria over the Olympics will detract attention from the nuclear crisis in Fukushima and rebuilding efforts in earthquake-ravaged Tohoku are widely shared in Japan. His warning that hosting the 2020 Olympics will encourage Japan to flex its muscles in a tense North Asia deserves equal attention.

International executives, meet Chairman Mao

For all the talk of China racing forward, many elements of its political culture appear to be moving backward. Beijing's ever-expanding crackdown on the Internet is the most obvious example. But the Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on how the biggest multinational companies are running into Mao Zedong-era politics. It details how China's intensifying crackdown on corruption and price-fixing has taken on an anti-foreigner edge. Sure leaves you wondering whether China is declaring war on the companies it once wooed. Worse, it suggests Beijing is more interested in weeding out graft among expatriate executives than the Chinese ones doing business with them.

Thailand quietly pulls out of the red

As investors debate which economies are vulnerable to another 1997-like crack up, Thailand is quietly taking itself off the list. It posted a convincingly large current-account surplus for August -- $1.3 billion -- and should benefit from renewed capital inflows. Challenges still abound for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, including reducing budget-busting subsidies on rice and other commodities. But by shoring up its economy ahead of the Federal Reserve's monetary tapering process, Thailand is confounding naysayers and setting the stage for healthier growth.

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