Pesek on Asia: Moody's Hugs Philippines

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

Good news in Philippines disaster

Desperate for a smidgen of optimistic news this week, the Philippines got some from Moody's. As Manila counts its dead and assesses the economic damage from Typhoon Haiyan, its credit rating is safe. The fastest growth in Southeast Asia and President Benigno Aquino's pledges to narrow the budget deficit are enough to keep credit raters happy. That provides a comforting cushion for Aquino, whose normally sky-high popularity ratings have taken a hit after widespread criticism of the speed of rescue efforts. The catch, of course, is that any failure to stay the economic-reform course could prompt a drastic reappraisal of the state of play in Manila.

Hong Kong grabs IPOs from China

The nearly decade-old drought in big Hong Kong initial public offerings is ending. The city, which has been increasingly losing out to Shanghai, is now benefiting from the reverse: a rush of mainland companies fed up with their regulators. In its efforts to clamp down in insider trading, China's Securities Regulatory Commission has tossed out the baby with the proverbial bathwater. More than $5 billion of deals originally planned for China have been moved to Hong Kong since September 2012. Another reminder that rumors of Hong Kong's demise are greatly exaggerated.

Abenomics face rice litmus test

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's odds of shaking up Japan Inc. depend on a bunch of aging farmers tending to the nation's notoriously inefficient rice paddies. This Bloomberg News piece offers a good primer on what's at stake. Bottom line, Abe's ability to bring the agricultural sector to heel and open it to competition isn't just a litmus test for Japan's inclusion in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will decide whether Abenomics becomes a force for change or a cocktail-party joke.

China warms up to Bitcoin ?

According to this Quartz piece, China has the Bitcoin bug. It seems that having real estate developers and top Chinese tech companies like Baidu, the nation's leading Internet search engine, announce last month that they would accept the virtual currency was enough to encourage investors and developers to lose their inhibitions. Is Bitcoin the currency of the future, or a Ponzi scheme? Over the next few years, China may provide the answer. My money is on the latter.

India's Tata warns of obstaclesto Indian growth

If U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was hoping for a blunt, unvarnished view of India's challenges he won't leave New Delhi disappointed. The perspective came from no less than Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of India's largest business group, one that bears his name. The U.K., Tata told Cameron, "is a very open environment. We've become quite used to having multiple roadblocks in most things that we do here and it's been a very refreshing change" to do business there. Hopefully those Indian politicians wondering why Asia's third biggest economy isn't attracting more investment were listening.

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