Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Chanos unimpressed by China's Enron economy
Investors giddy about China’s buoyant industrial production and retail sales data forget where the growth is coming from: a continued surge in credit that may end badly. That's how prominent bear Jim Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, views China's 7.5 percent growth. The man who predicted the 2001 collapse of Enron has long called China the national equivalent of a house of cards. At a Bloomberg conference in New York, the short seller predicted a "credit event" within five years that will belie Premier Li Keqiang's pledges to reduce imbalances.
Forbes sees Godzilla grinning at Japan
It's hardly surprising that anti-tax zealot Steve Forbes is down on the idea of Japan doubling consumption taxes to 10 percent to trim public debt. Forbes was preaching this gospel long before Americans knew who Grover Norquist was. What's interesting, though, is how Forbes thinks Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is committing economic suicide by hiking rates, even using Godzilla as a plot device. Forbes's take is a timely antidote to the conventional wisdom that Japan's nascent recovery is strong enough to withstand higher taxes on consumers, whom the government hopes to prod to spend more. It didn't work 1997. What makes Abe think it will work now?
Macau learns to diversify with higher learning
Las Vegas East is finally getting around to developing something more than a casino-dominated economy, and not a second too soon. Analysts have long called on Macau to reduce its reliance on high-stakes gambling volume and find other growth sources. The Chinese special administrative region is doing just that by opening the $1.3 billion University of Macau to tap thriving demand for higher-education in Asia in general, and the greater China region specifically. It's a wise use of Macau's gambling receipts and a timely to way see them trickle down to the city's 590,000 people.
Asia's bull market in millionaires
Traders can debate all they want about a return to the crisis days of 1997 or massive outflows -- Asia's millionaires may be a bit too busy counting their fortunes to care. A report by Cap Gemini SA and Royal Bank of Canada found Asians sitting on at least $1 million in investable assets and predicted that bank accounts may surge to $15.9 trillion by 2015 from $12 trillion last year on their way to topping North America's wealth. Perhaps most surprisingly, Japan's growth is helping accelerate the trend. Even after 15 years of deflation, Japan accounts for more than half of Asia’s millionaires. If only Asia were as good at sharing the benefits of rising wealth as amassing it.
Australia finds killing carbon tax isn’t easy
Tony Abbott's government won this month's election pledging to scrap taxes on greenhouse-gas emissions. Business groups like the Minerals Council of Australia call carbon pricing a “dead weight on the economy." So it comes as a quite a surprise that Abbott can't rely even on the nation's most egregious polluters to support his policy change. Turns out, few mining magnates are speaking up publicly to end carbon taxes. Could it be that Australia's billionaires are putting the good of the nation's 23 million people ahead of profits? While I won’t hold my breath, it's hard not to find hope in events Down Under.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)