Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Yen is casualty of U.S. default risk
The cornerstone of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to revitalize Japan is a weak yen. As profits swell among giant exporters, the thinking goes, they will pay workers more and unleash a virtuous cycle of consumption and economic growth. That dynamic seemed well underway in May, when the yen hit 4 1/2-year lows and business confidence began perking up. It's now being challenged by fears of a U.S. default, which this week drove the yen to eight-week highs. Janet Yellen’s nomination as Federal Reserve chairman also raises the odds of prolonged U.S. stimulus that could strengthen the yen. Turns out Abe has more at stake in Washington's budget battle than $1.1 trillion of dollar holdings. Hanging in the balance is Japan's best hope for a rebound in a decade.
IMF urges China to get serious
The International Monetary Fund doesn't seem too impressed with Premier Li Keqiang's reform pledges. In July, when the lender warned that time was running short for China to restructure its economy and reduce the role of state-owned enterprises, it voiced hope Li was beginning to do just that. Now, the IMF is raising fresh concerns as it trims its China growth forecast for 2014 from 7.7 percent to 7.3 percent. "Without fundamental reform to rebalance the economy toward consumption and stimulate productivity growth through deregulation, growth is likely to slow considerably," the fund said in report. Li might consider a little less talk of change and more action.
Singapore needs market circuit breakers
When Singapore welcomed casinos in 2010, it hadn't planned for its stock market to become one of them. But wild swings at Singapore Exchange, Southeast Asia’s biggest bourse, have investors urging regulators to reevaluate safeguards and add circuit breakers. It's worth a serious look after the stocks of three commodity companies erased nearly $7 billion in value in just three days. Around the globe, regulators have been stepping up oversight of capital markets since the global financial crisis in 2008. As Singapore's market grows in global stature, it should be doing the same.
Cashing in on China's gambling addiction
Speaking of casinos, Foreign Policy has a timely piece on what could be the next Macau -- the Matsu islands in the Taiwan Strait. William Weidner, who until 2009 was chief operating officer at Las Vegas Sands, is among those with big plans for the place -- $8 billion big. The piece cites another eye-popping number from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which forecasts the Asia-Pacific gaming market will total nearly $80 billion in 2015. That would represent more than a doubling of the industry's take since 2010, and much of the growth is coming from China, home to a billion passionate punters. A safe bet for Weidner and his ilk? The odds are yes.
A Nobel for Myanmar's reformist president?
Few quibble with Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize. Her poignant campaign for democracy and 15 years under house arrest earned her a place in history as Myanmar's answer to Nelson Mandela. That said, here's an intriguing argument for the Nobel committee honoring President Thein Sein, too. Few could have foreseen the former general bringing Myanmar's sprawling and ambitious military to heel and embracing democracy and economic liberalization. While this year's group of Nobel hopefuls is an impressive one, including Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, Thein Sein deserves a place among them.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)