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Testimonials – What our Readers are saying about us
 
     Sep-Oct 2009

Cashing in on the Confidence Crisis.
Your cover story (Jul-Aug ’09) may sound upbeat by showing what the retail players in Southeast Asia are trying to do to lure the wary consumer, but across Asean and much of the world, the crisis of confidence in markets and governments hold sway. However much leaders across the world try and show a brave face while making lofty announcements that the worst is over and they have got a grip on the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, the ordinary consumer and people know who to believe-they just have to look around and see the depressed look on faces everywhere. “It’s a difficult and arguably fruitless exercise to try and predict when different economies will begin to recover” as remarked by Sir Terry Leah, CEO TESCO PLC in your cover story.

Patrick Wong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ASEAN-EU FTA- the way forward !
Europe and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) opened free trade negotiations in 2007 but little progress has been made. Leaders of the EU hope breakthroughs with individual countries could lead the way to a broader deal. “We have wondered whether or not it’s now time for us to, in a sense, take forward individual free trade agreement discussions with a small group of Asean countries as a precursor to a regional deal. It’s quite clear that we are not going to get significant progress regionally within the Asean bloc. These markets are opening up in a significant way, but there are still taxes and tariffs and all sorts of non-tariff barriers to trade in this region. Similarly, Asean countries have their issues with the EU,” said one of the leaders. However, in the face of the global slowdown it makes sense to forge deeper trade ties with countries with growing economies in Asia. Imagine a market of 3b people from Bombay-Bangkok-Beijing-Berlin. Doing business the Asean/Asian way is something we as Europeans must learn and the only way to do that is to learn and get a better understanding by engaging with each other sincerely and not in a superficial way which many of the forums and events tend to promote. It’s a continuous process rather than a one off touch and go approach. Further more I have discovered in my personal travels through out the Asian region that we tend to compare or judge Asia and Asian ways from a fixed, pre-determined frame of reference, be that the German or European standpoints. Needless to say that approach can only throw up predictable results and that is create zero understanding. I’m a subscriber to your publications and I think ASEAN AFFAIRS is doing a great service by connecting people in the two continents through news, views and analysis in both print, online and events.

Maximilian Rosler
Frankfurt, Germany.

Outsourcing Myths and PROTECTIONISM!
Southeast Asia-the outsourcing hotspot according to columnist Harish Nim (Asean Tech, Jul-Aug’09) takes the blame every time there is slight dip in the acceleration of output, jobs or incomes. According to the recent McKinsey study, for every dollar spent on a business process that is outsourced to India, the US economy gains at least $1.12. When economies go into free fall-protectionism is a natural reaction. Countries like India and SE Asia developed industries around outsourcing which was nothing but cheap labor or “Cyber Coolies” as described by somebody in India. These so called IT titans created nothing innovative or cutting edge, all they did was provide cheap labor to replace the worker in the developed world. They should have known price advantage can only be short term. Thousands of workers in the IT and ITES industry in Asia have been laid off once the credit crisis started. Instead of blaming the governments in US and the developed world of protectionism, Asia should realize that these industries were created in the first place in the west by dint of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship while Asia focused on cheap labor. If Asia wants to play a meaningful role in having its rightful share of influence in the world, then its time that it develops its human capital instead of treating it as cheap.

Mark Stone
New York


     July-Aug 2009

Resurrection of a 300 year Pipe Dream!
300 years on, the Asian Panama Canal (or Suez Canal) remains a distant dream. Your cover story KRA CANAL: COUNTDOWN TO RESURRECTION ( May-June’09) has raised more questions than answers. People in favor of the Kra Canal keep on arguing how it will benefit Thailand and Southeast Asia. The critics say that the 300 year pipe dream is just that, a mere dream of Thai nationalists. The vested interests around this potentially multi-billion dollar project (estimates vary from $20B to $100 B) are many. Historically the colonial powers would not let such a project be in the hands of anyone else just as they ensured that the Panama Canal (controlled by Americans) and the Suez canal (controlled by the British) always remained in their control. Controlling shipping lanes guarantees an edge in naval and merchant dominance for the world powers. And then there is Singapore which stands to lose its dominant port status in Southeast Asia if the Kra Canal comes alive.
The silver lining may come from China which wants to ensure the uninterrupted flow of trade which today is at the mercy of the pirate infested Malacca straits. The Kra Canal would provide a suitable alternative to the Malacca straits and afford China the muscle it needs to flex as the new superpower of the world. One hopes that the tide which has started turning in favour of Asia culminates in the Resurrection of this 300 year old dream.

Charnchai Wuttiwangso
Bangkok, Thailand

Communist Google and Yahoo dot com.
“Policing the Blogosphere” (“Inside Out” May-June’09) was an article showing once again how governments in communist countries, in this case Vietnam are manifesting their paranoia by doing their utmost in curbing freedom of expression of their citizens. The hypocrisy of the west is revealed by their icons of capitalism capitulating to the pressure from the communist governments. Internet giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have been accused of colluding with China and now Vietnam with these government’s restrictive policies. Their excuse is that they are merely complying with the local laws. Yahoo in particular provided authorities with personal user information later used in trials of “cyber dissidents” jailed for using the internet to question government policies. The question is how safe is our personal data and information on the internet when the very companies who are supposed to protect them can buckle under pressure from authoritarian regimes?

Caron Huynh
New York

Taking on the Recession, Singapore Style
Your story (“Inside Out” Mar-Apr’09) is typical of Singaporeans aping the west. The Lee Kuan Yew approach to building the economy has paid rich dividends but the same open economy has now made Singapore the No1. Country in Asia to be affected the most by the global economic crisis. So the gimmicks employed by the government in coming up with all kinds of funny and interesting acronyms are at best jokes in bad taste and not all amusing for all those hit hard by the recession in the wealthy city state except of course its ministers who are the highest paid in the world. The record losses that Temasek (the Singapore governments’ investment company) is totting up across the world should be a good indication that its time to change course for this tiny nation.

Mark Rogers
Washington, DC

BET ON THE BOUNCE BACK
The cover story (Mar-Apr’09) is very optimistic. The economic crisis, swine flu, and political turmoil in Asean countries will make it extremely difficult for any bounce back to happen very soon. Airlines, hotels are cutting prices to fill empty seats and rooms and the worst may not be over yet. Where is the silver lining? All eyes are on China and its affluent travellers. The Chinese tourists continue to come saving many an operator from going bust. The huge stimulus package put into place by the Chinese government is going to turn China into the world’s growth engine and help the globe to come out of recession. Asean’s advantage is that it counts China among the ‘First Eleven”, and Chinese investments in Southeast Asia will help reduce its dependence on the west. One hopes the “Tiger” (India) joins the dragon in integrating its economy with SE Asia. That will create a market of 3b people linking Bombay-Bangkok-Beijing.

Maximilian Rosler
Frankfurt, Germany.


     May-June 2009

Thailand has a Prime Minister but no Leader.
Mr Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, you and your country should be ashamed of the fiasco that ensued in Pattaya in April 2009 when dignitaries from around the world were evacuated by helicopters from the venue (Royal Cliff and Resort hotel) of Asean & its dialogue partners meeting.
A handful of red shirted hooligans (supporters of ousted fugitive PM, Thaksin Shinawatra) held your government at ransom and made a mockery of you and Asean. You should be visiting each of the 10 Asean nations and their dialogue partner countries and personally apologising to the Heads of government for your utter failure in anticipating the fiasco and failing to protect the summit from achieving its objectives.
Perhaps you should step down as Chairman of Asean and give way to the next member, Vietnam. I wonder how you will be “Getting Thailand back on its feet” (“Asean Talk”, Mar-Apr’09).

Richard Woo
Hong Kong

ASEAN BUSINESS AWARDS
Southeast Asia’s most admired companies (Mar-Apr’09) made for an interesting mix of companies that made the cut. What are the criteria of selection for these awards? The process should be made known to people at large so that more companies could participate.
The Asean summit and the Asean BIS (Business and Investment Summit) remains confined within the closed walls of bureaucracy and limited to a handful of companies and investors. Your publication ASEAN AFFAIRS is trying to fill that need by providing insights into this dynamic region of 560m people and ten nations and reaching out across the world. Keep up the good work.

Dilip Rajaretnam
Singapore

Laidback Laos!
I would like to make my strong objection known to the stereotype “Laidback” (“Inside Out” Jan-Feb’09) to Laos that your publication and the media at large seems to have stuck on this beautiful country. Laos is attracting sizeable investments and interest from major powers and very soon the country will be able to stand up to its more prosperous neighbours.
I would like to invite you and others who are reading this magazine to come to Laos and discover for yourself the huge potential that remains untapped and participate in the development of the country. The Laos of today is no more the secretive communist country it once used to be, it’s modern, yet simple outlook will win the hearts of many.

Darounny Bounsy
Vientianne, Laos

Taking on the Recession, Singapore Style
Your story (“Inside Out” Mar-Apr’09) is typical of Singaporeans aping the west. The Lee Kuan Yew approach to building the economy has paid rich dividends but the same open economy has now made Singapore the No1. Country in Asia to be affected the most by the global economic crisis. So the gimmicks employed by the government in coming up with all kinds of funny and interesting acronyms are at best jokes in bad taste and not all amusing for all those hit hard by the recession in the wealthy city state except of course its ministers who are the highest paid in the world.
The record losses that Temasek (the Singapore governments’ investment company) is totting up across the world should be a good indication that its time to change course for this tiny nation.

Mark Rogers
Washington, DC

BET ON THE BOUNCE BACK
The cover story (Mar-Apr’09) is very optimistic. The economic crisis, swine flu, and political turmoil in Asean countries will make it extremely difficult for any bounce back to happen very soon.
Airlines, hotels are cutting prices to fill empty seats and rooms and the worst may not be over yet. Where is the silver lining? All eyes are on China and its affluent travellers. The Chinese tourists continue to come saving many an operator from going bust.
The huge stimulus package put into place by the Chinese government is going to turn China into the world’s growth engine and help the globe to come out of recession. Asean’s advantage is that it counts China among the ‘First Eleven”, and Chinese investments in Southeast Asia will help reduce its dependence on the west.
One hopes the “Tiger” (India) joins the dragon in integrating its economy with SE Asia. That will create a market of 3b people linking Bombay-Bangkok-Beijing.

Maximilian Rosler
Frankfurt, Germany.

Seven Reasons to be Cheerful?
Rohit Bajoria is a brave man (Mar-Apr’09) and a true banker. In spite of what the discredit Wall Street has brought upon banks and bankers alike, he has the guts to fish at the bottom of the mess to find reasons to be cheerful! Maybe in Asia and India, but not where I live.
For me and my family and friends there is nothing cheerful about this horrible situation. I have lost my house, my job and am looking at a dark abyss that was once my life.

Martin Hurry
Detroit, USA.


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