Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
China's GDP fiction
Can the world's investors trust China's growth figures? Hardly a new question, but one being asked anew with a fascinating verve and urgency by Morgan Stanley's Ruchir Sharma, author of the 2012 book "Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles." Even in the best of times, China's data can be about as accurate as tossing a dart at a chart on the wall. It's a structurally imbalanced economy distorted by top-down policies and considerable "gray activities" that are hard to measure, not least of which is the sprawling shadow-banking sector on which the central bank has been clamping down. There also are daunting scale issues. With modest resources, Chinese officials sitting in a room need to condense and capture the activities of almost 1.4 billion people at many levels of poverty, prosperity and urbanization over three months or 365 days. Then, they are expected to come up with a single figure that news agencies can headline and traders can react to. Good luck with that, gents.
Is Philippine president corrupt ?
"I'm not a thief." Words I never expected to hear President Benigno Aquino utter, given the incredible success his administration has had improving governance in a nation more known for economic-growth-killing graft than efficiency. In a rare televised address, Aquino assured the nation that there was no corruption in government savings that was used to finance infrastructure, military, police and weather forecasting equipment. All I can say is let's hope so. Otherwise, ratings companies might have to rethink the investment-grade ratings bestowed on the Philippines this year.
On the dangers of business trip sex
In clearly one of the raciest court cases in modern Australian history, a government employee injured while having sex on a work-related trip won't be getting workers' compensation. The decision made for spicy headlines around the nation of 23 million people and inspired many a colorful cartoon. Linked here, along with this article, is one of my personal favorites carried by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tech-industry desperation has a name: Ashton Kutcher
It's certainly a creative move on the part China's Lenovo Group. If you want to counter Apple's growing dominance in tablet computers, who better to hire as spokesman than the guy who played Steve Jobs in Hollywood's rather weak take on the technology guru's rise, fall and rise again. I'm thinking Lenovo would get more traction hiring 10 or 15 world-class programmers for whatever they're paying Kutcher.
Bank of Japan stays the course
The central bank maintained its commitment to unprecedented monetary easing and reiterated its forecast that inflation will almost match its 2 percent target in the year starting April 2015. But for how long? The failure by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to implement a single structural reform since taking office in December has traders betting on further BOJ action. Additional monetary liquidity may be the only way to keep disappointed investors from bailing on yen markets. It also would increase the odds Japan is building one of modern history's biggest asset bubbles.
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