Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
How 1937 holds India back, too.
It's often said that India ties one hand behind its back when running the economy, with excessive regulation and myriad levels of inefficiency. Well, make that one wing, too. That's certainly AirAsia's experience as the region's biggest budget carrier runs into a never-before-invoked 1937 rule. Regulators want CEO Tony Fernandes to seek public feedback (it must be positive, of course) before starting services in the country. For anyone wondering why India ranks a dismal 134th out of 189 countries in the World Bank's ease-of-doing-business barometer, AirAsia's travails are just the ticket.
Look in the mirror, emerging markets.
As the blame game gets into full swing in Asia, and policy makers grasp for external culprit (like the Federal Reserve) to blame for plunging share markets, Manuel Hinds has a simple suggestion: look in the mirror. In this Quartz op-ed, El Salvador's former finance minister paints with a broad brush, wrapping India, Indonesia and Thailand into his critique about complacency and missed opportunities. Emerging-nation policy makers ignored the old adage that it's best to fix a leaky roof when the sun is out. Now that it's raining, Hinds says, these officials must bear considerable blame as economies get wet.
Taiwan offers dash of good news.
As Asia braces for a chaotic 2014, an economy on the front lines of global uncertainties is performing better than expected. Taiwan is a highly open economy that's strongly correlated with global cycles, particularly the trajectory of U.S. growth. So news that gross domestic product rose 2.92 percent from a year earlier after increasing 1.66 percent in the third quarter tosses a spot of optimism into an otherwise gloomy Asian picture. Any sign U.S. demand for Asian goods is snapping back will calm nerves in this region. We may have just gotten one.
NASA's future may be tracking pollution.
Here's a sobering New York Times piece accompanied by maps generated in space exploring the depths of environmental degradation challenging Asia's two rising superpowers, China and India. Even more alarming than both nations generating unprecedented amounts of “PM2.5,” or fine airborne particulates that cause disease and premature death in high concentrations, is how they're doing so this early in their respective development cycles. The only silver lining here is that NASA, the U.S. space agency, isn't without a future: providing data and maps on the migration of pollution clouds from East to West.
Leave those cigarettes home, young Koreans.
OK, so it won't seem particularly draconian for New Yorkers, Parisians or Londoners. But South Korea's move to ban smoking in the nation's ubiquitous game rooms and Internet cafes is not going over well. Tokyo has tried this from time to time, and with very mixed success. But Seoul's gambit is as ambitious as it's certain to foment anger around the nation. Korea is still a puffer's paradise and hipsters there are aghast at the mere suggestion they can't light one up while comfortably ensconced in cyberland. Will the global anti-smoking campaign meet its match among Korea's gamers? Place your bets.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)
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