Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Singapore property on downswing?
“I don’t think the cycle is over.” Shudders probably swept through the hearts of many property owners in Singapore at those words by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, indicating he believes prices have further to fall. The challenge, of course, is keeping things from collapsing and slamming the entire economy. But when even the city-state's top economic official is saying “I think further correction would not be unexpected,” Singaporeans can’t say they weren't warned.
Some bad news from the IMF.
For Asia's open and trade-reliant economies, the latest comments by Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, will be hard to swallow. “The global economy is gathering speed, though the pace may be a bit less than we previously predicted because the growth potential is lower and investment” spending remains lackluster, Lagarde said Sunday. It sure sounds like a downward revision to the IMF's forecasts for average global growth of 3.6 percent this year and 3.9 percent in 2015 is in the works.
Reunions color Indonesia's weekend.
A few reunions, rumored and real, dominated the world's fourth-most populous nation in recent days. The rumored one involves Gerindra Party presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto getting back together with his ex-wife, the daughter of late dictator Suharto. Another was frontrunner Joko Widodo reuniting with his supporters after a few rocky weeks. As the Jakarta Post reports, he "received the rock star treatment" at stadium events over the weekend. The third: Polls suggesting the electorate is being reunited with its senses as voters embrace Widodo, who's all about the future against Prabowo's desire to drag the nation back to the past.
China's new economy stocks?
When President Xi Jinping talks about rebalancing China away from exports and excessive investment to domestic demand-led growth, he's really talking about a thriving service sector. It stands to reason, then, that investors would be betting on so-called New Economy stocks that stand to gain most from the transition. Turns out, those bets are beginning to go bad. Last year, punters did well in industries from technology to healthcare to consumer companies. This year, gauges of these sectors are down more than 6 percent. The message for Xi: If you are indeed revolutionizing the economy, you're facing a growing trust deficit.
Is the world becoming a better place?
In a Huffington Post item, Charlotte Alfred tackles this most contentious of questions and comes out on the half-glass-full side of the spectrum. Among her main metrics, based on research from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, are improvements in child mortality and maternal health care. She's especially encouraged eyeing the world though the lens of Bangladesh, where "child mortality rates declined by 72 percent between 1990 and 2012, partly due to better immunization programs and treatment of diarrhea and vitamin deficiencies. Around the globe, economic development and investment in healthcare have improved children's chances of surviving their fifth birthday." Hey, who doesn't need bit of good news on a Monday?
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