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Weekly NewsLetter
22  August  2011
    Vol.1 No.28

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The Editor's Corner


Markets continue to drop
          It’s been a down week on the world’s stock exchanges led by the biggest drop on Wall Street since 2009.

Asian markets have gone down with the rest of the world’s exchanges as well, but Asean economies have several things that are working in their favor.

Although exports to the West will probably soften, trade within Asia continues to show strength. China is now Asean’s largest trading partner and India wants to complete a free trade agreement this year by covering the services sector. A trade target of US$ 70 billion by 2012 has been projected by Asean and India.

The influx of investment into the region continues at historical levels resulting in strengthening of currencies. For example, the Thai baht was pegged at 25 baht to the US dollar before the 1997 fiscal crisis in Asia. Right now, without an artificial peg, the baht is in the 29-30 to the dollar range.

The influx of investment has also lifted the foreign reserves held by Asean central banks to historical highs.

In the United States the size of the national debt is a core issue that is depressing the economy. In Asean, national debt is under control. In Thailand, for example, the national debt is 42 percent of gross domestic product.

Asean central banks have responded promptly to the inflation by raising prime interest rates.

Asean's secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, told the Wall Street Journal August 9 that investors wary of Western financial markets should consider Southeast Asia as a safe alternative:

“Surin Pitsuwan noted that Southeast Asia is growing, it is nestled between India and China and it dealt with its own scary debt problems over a decade ago, making it an attractive alternative amid the global volatility triggered by concerns about how the U.S. and Europe will deal with their debt, as well as whether the U.S. economy will slide into recession again.

"If they are looking for a safer haven, this is it," he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. "The Chinese and the Japanese that are worried will want to look around for better prospects for their investments and this is one of the hopeful regions."


Top News from Southeast Asia

August  21 , 2011


These were the most important news stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of August 13-August 19.

Aquino visits China in midst of sea dispute
President Benigno Aquino 3rd will hold his first state visit to China from August 30 to September 3 to “strengthen the over three decades of friendship and mutually beneficial relations” between Manila and Beijing, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

Proposed Thai wage hike may be optional
The government's plan to raise the minimum wage to 300 baht (US$10) a day nationwide took a new twist yesterday when Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong hinted it would not be mandatory for businesses.

Myanmar newspapers remove anti-Western slogans
Myanmar's state-run newspapers dropped back-page banners attacking Western media for the first time in four years on Wednesday, the latest indication its new government could be softening its stance towards opposition voices.

Dollars flood Singapore
Singapore is attracting an unwelcome flood of US dollars that has caused a key interest rate to turn negative, complicating efforts to dampen inflation and prompting speculation the central bank will tweak its policy to slow the rapid rise in the country's currency.

Cash shortage delays Vietnamese projects
The Ministry of Transport is trying to speed up delayed traffic projects of all types, including Da Nang International Airport.

FTA consolidation proposed
Japan proposed the consolidation of free-trade pacts with Asean into a single agreement for 16 countries, said Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the Thai Trade Negotiations Department.

Hun Sen signs off on lake residents relocation
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has signed off on an offer of on-site relocation for Boeung Kak lake residents, perhaps bringing to a close an embarrassing chapter in the development of Phnom Penh’s urban landscape.

Yingluck’s rice subsidy to hit consumers
Yingluck Shinawatra became Thailand’s first female prime minister by pledging to lift rural incomes through higher rice prices. The rest of Asia may now have to pay for her campaign promise.

Tax holiday for high-value Indonesian investors
To boost foreign direct investment into Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia on Monday said it planned to grant tax holidays for major investors in select sectors.

Iskandar investments expected to reach goal
Iskandar Malaysia attracted about RM95bil (US$ 31.6 billion) in committed investments from January to June 2011, according to Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim.

“Philippine customs agents should be jailed”
A ranking House of Representatives member said 14 officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that should be booked for theft and smuggling after 1,910 container vans that hold high-duty goods went missing since January.

New finance minister prods central bank
New Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanat-naranubala is questioning the Bank of Thailand's hawkish focus on inflation by lifting the policy interest rate again, saying it would be a key obstacle for businesses.

Immigrant worker registration extension welcomed
The Malaysian government’s decision to extend the deadline to register illegal immigrants under the legalisation and amnesty exercise to August 21 has been welcomed.

Fugitive ex-PM Thaksin gets Japanese entry
Breaking a long-standing policy of not permitting foreigners with criminal records to enter Japan, the Japanese government will allow entry to deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra later this month, Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul said yesterday.

GM, Peugeot to revive Indo plants
General Motors and Peugeot plan to revive their assembly plants in Indonesia, following moves by other car makers that are using the nation as a base for exporting to the region.

Talks with Suu Kyi continue
Myanmar's army-backed regime held out an olive branch to its critics Friday, pledging to continue talks with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and to allow a visit by a UN human rights envoy.

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