What our Readers are saying about us
Emulating US Politics?
In your piece “Lesson in Grace” (“Inside Out”,Jan-Feb’09) you exhorted politicians in Indonesia and Southeast Asia to emulate the sporting attitude and traditional respect from the losing side as demonstrated in the US Presidential elections last year. Now no more than three weeks into his Presidency, Obama’s stimulus bill has been dragged into the bitter partisan politics that is the hallmark of the US Congress. The President’s call for bi-partisanship and change in Washington and Capitol Hill has largely gone unheeded. So much for the sporting attitude and traditional respect shown by losers in US politics. Though there is a lot that politics and politicians in Asia can learn from the US, there are equally a lot of things that should not be emulated. At the end of the day politicians the world over do what they know best, “Playing Politics”.
Bad Loans Never Die!
Your cover story (Jan-Feb’09) was very interesting to read. However it would have been even more interesting if you could have given examples of companies whose books are still laden with bad loans from the 1997 Asian financial crisis. That would have shown that Bad Loans indeed never die. Your depiction on the cover dumping such once-upon-a-time mighty brands as Citi Bank, AIG, and Lehman Brothers into the garbage bin reflects the times we live in. Even in the middle of last year such depiction would have been shocking, but today that is the stark reality. Half of the $700 B TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) funds have disappeared into the black hole that is Wall Street without any accountability except for the $20 B that has been doled out as bonuses to executives who have brought this disaster upon us. The US syndrome of throwing money at problems may work but GOD forbid if it fails, then indeed your prediction that BAD LOANS NEVER DIE will have come true.
Middle Kingdom’s iron grip on Southeast Asia!
“China’s development cannot be achieved without the development of Asean and vice versa”, said the Chinese Ambassador to Thailand (“Beyond Asean”, Jan-Feb’09). Such is the integration of the Chinese economy into Southeast Asia that no major player, even the US can come near to the hegemony and influence that the middle kingdom enjoys in this region. No wonder the First Eleven refers to Asean plus China (10 Asean countries and China). China’s trade with Asean has reached a staggering $200 B a year.
On the other hand EU-Asean FTA process is mired in endless talks as remarked by Philippe Meyer of the European commission in his interview with your magazine (“Beyond Asean”, Jan-Feb’09). His frustration is obvious and by the looks of it, it seems the EU has a long way to go before it can see the integration of the 27 countries of the EU with the 10 countries of Asean into a single market of 37 countries and almost one billion people.
India on the other hand is trying very hard to catch up but is far behind China with trade with Asean at a meager $40B with a target of $50B by 2010 (“Beyond Asean”, Nov-Dec’08).
Countries such as Myanmar which has the full backing of China will continue to flout international norms of democracy with the ruling military junta clinging on to power with the tacit blessings of the Middle Kingdom. In this region China’s influence is greater than the UN or US or EU. That is the reality.
The RAHMAN Prophecy fulfilled!
Come 31st March and Malaysia's deputy premier Najib Razak will take over as Prime Minister from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, thus fulfilling the RAHMAN prophecy (“Inside Out”, Jan-Feb’09). The initials follow the sequence R A H M A N, each stands for the name of the 5 Prime Ministers of Malaysia. The current and the 5th PM Abdullah Badawi will be replaced by the 6th PM, Najib Razak.
Najib takes over a country that is sliding towards recession. Data released in February showed exports fell nearly 15 percent in December from a year ago, much worse than expected.
PM Abdullah's lacklustre administration and unfulfilled reform promises led in part to a polls backlash in the general elections in 2008 when the coalition lost its cast-iron two-thirds parliamentary majority forcing Abdullah to quit early.
The 55-year old British-educated Najib will be leading a coalition and government still struggling to turn around from the election losses amid the first likely recession in eight years for Malaysia.
No one knows what comes after the initial ‘N’. One can only hope the next set of initials will stand for a set of different chapters in the future of Malaysian politics.
Medical Tourism in Asia: Too good to be true!
How it is that Stem cells treatment is available in Thailand and so difficult in US (“Dr Stem Cells” Nov-Dec’08)? Don Margolis seems to have hit on a good thing by setting up stem cell treatment in Thailand and western patients seems to be flocking to his centre. Is this the case of developing countries being more progressive or turning a blind eye (lax regulations) to farangs (foreigners) setting up operations to attract more farangs earning medical-tourism dollars for the country? Columnist Jon Bradshaw should investigate this further.
LUSI-The East Java mud disaster
Mikhail Tsyganov’s long article (“The importance of being first”, Nov-Dec’08) is interesting but his rant against scientists from the west seems to be a personal crusade of a journalist. His wrath especially seems to rain down on one particular British geologist, Dr Richard Davies. He accuses Dr Davies of being more interested in “being first” rather than being accurate because that’s the law of show business and truth be dammed. One can only hope that scientists, from wherever they come from realize that scientific evidence and truth must always come first.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Finding Obama’s secret Muslim Identity?
It was revealing to learn that voters in the US who opposed Obama went as far as Indonesia to find evidence of Obama’s secret Muslim identity. To their dismay, they found that the classrooms where Obama attended the third and fourth grades are meant for non-Islamic students (“Inside Out”, Nov-Dec’08). The historic election of Obama may not have been fully digested by those who dislike Obama, particularly anti-Obama elements in and outside the US. For Southeast Asia, the US elections should provide some encouragement to those who hope and strive to build democratic institutions, which the region sadly lacks.
Detroit, Mich, USA.
Asean needs to act urgently to integrate the logistics sector
Your cover story “Making the Right Move” (Jul-Sep’08 issue) was timely and the insight it shared by the CEO’s of two of the leading logistics companies in the region was useful. Each member nation in the 10 member bloc has its own customs and clearance procedures, a great barrier to smooth flow of goods and services in Southeast Asia. I hope the leaders at the upcoming Asean summit will take the issue urgently now that the group wants to speed up the single market drive, scheduled for 2015.
Manila, The Philippines
Its about time India finally got its act together when it comes to Asean. The cultural and physical proximity of India to Southeast Asia has never been fully exploited by either side. The exclusive interviews with India’s Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath and External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee (Nov-Dec’08 issue) shed a light on the road that lies ahead for both India and Asean and the opportunities for trade and investment. However China has beaten India to the game for a long time and it remains to be seen whether India can realise its potential in Southeast Asia.
Detroit of SE Asia?
For long Thailand has emerged as the premier destination for investments by global automotive players. Toyota has two plants with over 16,000 employees in Thailand and is planning a third plant. With the world’s second largest pick up market, Thailand has long enjoyed an enviable reputation of being the Detroit of SE Asia. Your piece “Mission Impossible” (Nov-Dec’08 issue) should serve as a wake up call for Thailand and the apparent complacency in the auto industry and among the policy makers. With Vietnam fast catching up and other Asean countries luring investors, Thailand must get its act together or lose its unique position in the region to its challengers.
A disaster in the making – “The Pariah’s nuclear bond!”
I was shocked to learn Myanmar is colluding with N Korea to acquire nuclear technology (“The Curse of Fuel Subsidies”, Nov-Dec’08). For over four decades the military junta has ruled Myanmar ruthlessly and now they are planning to acquire the weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps that gives a good excuse for the world powers to take action against a regime which relentlessly continue to suppress the democratic forces. When N Korea figures prominently on the list as the No.1 enemy for the US, why shouldn’t Myanmar be given a joint No.1? China, India and Asean members, Thailand, Singapore have kept doing business with the junta, even competing among themselves to outbid each other to lay their hands on Myanmar’s natural resources –oil and gas. A nuclear Myanmar will be the worst nightmare for Southeast Asia. We hope the world will act sooner rather than later to prevent this catastrophe before it is too late.