Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China's IPO glut hits market
China's move to end a 13-plus month ban on initial public offerings and allow the sale of preferred shares tantalized markets today as investors mulled the pros and cons of 760 firms waiting to float shares. China, the world's largest IPO market in 2010, hasn't had a new listing since October 2012 amid a crackdown on fraud and misconduct. It's safe to say the resumption of IPOs will boost fees for brokerages and create a plethora of new trading opportunities. But it's less safe to assume the hiatus made China's companies more transparent and less prone to fraud. Investors now have 760 chances to test China's Inc. mettle.
Are Thais giving up on democracy ?
Just when you thought things couldn't get any crazier in Bangkok. Three protesters died in clashes over the weekend as calls grew for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. But have Thais officially abandoned democracy at this point? Yes, according to this timely Asia Sentinel piece, which explores why even many progressive middle-class Thais are calling for an end to electoral politics. Why? In a nutshell, blame former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for how he's tainted and dominated all things government even while in exile.
The Philippines' latest import: people
The good news about the Philippine plan to rebuild the nation after Typhoon Haiyan is the country should have no problem staffing the effort. Roughly 10 percent of the nation's 106 million citizens live abroad, mostly for lack of good jobs at home. Now, as Philippine President Benigno Aquino spends an initial $934 million to rebuild infrastructure, housing and agriculture, large blocks of the nation's diaspora may be ready to come home. Will they stay for good? It's up to Aquino to entice them with better employment opportunities.
Japan's Abe loses his buzz
What a difference a year makes. On Dec. 26, 2012, Shinzo Abe became prime minister for the second time and promised the world not only to voters, but to overseas investors who'd long since given up on Japan. As his first anniversary approaches, Abe has delivered on monetary and fiscal stimulus -- not the more important structural reforms. But what's really bugging voters, and pushing his support rate below 50 percent for the first time, is a government secrets bill that most firmly oppose. Abe will have to do better in 2014 if he wants to keep his job this time.
Shanghai kids , please play inside
A day after 35,000 runners from 84 countries turned out for the Shanghai International Marathon, and somehow lived to tell of it, officials recommended that children and the elderly stay indoors. Pollution in the city's air today exceeded the World Health Organization's recommended safe levels more than tenfold. So go ahead and invest in factories in China and pour ever more money into the world's fastest-growing major economy. Just don't expect to breathe deeply.
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