Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Aid pours into Philippines
As the death toll rises, a massive international effort is underway to ferry rescue personnel, supplies and financing to typhoon-ravaged Philippines. While it's too soon to attempt a tally, the Philippine Daily Inquirer does a yeoman's job in detailing who is sending what from Asia, Europe and the U.S. and, of course, the gamut of aid agencies. There's even been a shout-out from the Pope who led 60,000 people in prayer for Asia's 13th-biggest economy in St. Peter's Square. Considering roughly 9.7 million Filipinos, or a tenth of the population, have been affected by a typhoon that may have killed as many as 10,000, let's hope the world's attention -- and dollars -- keep heading the nation's way.
Bo Xilai's supporters launch new new party
If real estate is all about location, location, location then a making a splash in the media is all about timing, timing, timing. People loyal to the ousted Politburo member from Chongqing sure know the value of a wisely-timed news leak. Wang Zheng, an academic and supporter of Bo, unveiled a new political party to coincide with a critical four-day summit of Communist leaders, calling upon the ruling Communist Party to obey China's constitution. Adding insult to injury, Wang named Bo, sentenced in September to life in prison for bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, the party's "chairman for life." How do you say "ouch!" in Mandarin?
More misleading Japanese data
Japan watchers are so beguiled by the glitz and promise of "Abenomics" that they are forgetting how to read basic economic data. Case in point: optimism that gains in consumer prices mean deflation is over. Nope, they just mean Japan is importing too much bad inflation from rising energy imports. Today's unexpected widening of the current account surplus is equally suspect. This Wall Street Journal piece delves into the seasonal peculiarities at play in September -- including a jump in dividend payments by overseas subsidiaries of Japanese companies. Japan's trade balance isn't on the mend nearly as much as Abenomics enthusiasts would like to think.
Indonesia's $7 billion forest tragedy
In the twilight of his presidency, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made improving infrastructure a top priority. His failure to fix roads, bridges, ports and airports are a sizable stain on a largely solid performance since 2004. Last year, for example, Yudhoyono announced a $20 billion boost in infrastructure spending amid scarce resources. Yet that investment could have been much bigger if not for vast sums lost to mismanagement and corruption, as detailed in this sobering Bloomberg story on more than $7 billion that should have flowed to state coffers from 2007 to 2011. Those are dollars and resources Indonesia doesn't have to waste.
Weather patterns bedevil Australia's Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard, a former holder of the job for the opposition Labor party, picked an odd week to debate the existence of climate change. Their tiff comes just as the devastated Philippines is offering real-time and tragically graphic evidence that changes in the earth's temperature are likely increasing the frequency of extreme weather. Abbott's government soon plans to introduce bills to repeal Australia's carbon-price scheme. He might want to turn on the Weather Channel first.
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