Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Pimco Gross-ed out in China.
Well, Bill, good luck with that next China business visa. Officials in Beijing can't be happy to hear Bill Gross, arguably the world's most famous bond investor, dismissing their economy as the "mystery meat of emerging-market countries." Yet China would be mistaken to ignore the Pacific Investment Management honcho's warnings about the murkiness and official hype that surrounds the mainland economy: "There’s a little bit of bologna, so we’re just going to have to wonder going forward through this year as to the potential problems." China's huge shadow-banking industry in particular makes the country the ultimate black box. That a household name is calling China Inc. a financial sausage (the less you know about what's inside, the happier you are) should be timely food for thought in Beijing, and incentive to clean up its act.
Is Hong Kong exporting its housing bubble?
Hong Kong and Vancouver often seem joined at the hip, migration-wise. But are all those wealthy Chinese flocking to North America taking their property bubbles with them? Eyeing comments by Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson in recent months, Hongkongers can't help but wonder. It's interesting, too, that of the nine places tracked by the Demographia International Housing Affordability survey, Hong Kong and Vancouver are the two where you get the least for your money. Here's a South China Morning Post take on the Robertson controversy.
World economy's rough road ahead.
If you're wondering when the top tick of Indonesia's economic boom was reached, it was probably in May 2010 when Sri Mulyani Indrawati left the Finance Ministry to join the World Bank. Since then, officials in Jakarta have grown complacent about the need to upgrade the economy. A timely and thought-provoking op-ed from Sri Mulyani lays out what's in store for emerging nations as the Federal Reserve pulls the monetary steroids that have pumped up world markets in recent years. Her conclusion that "surviving the crisis is one thing; emerging as a winner is something else entirely" is sobering indeed.
Replacing failed Thai program.
As Thailand digs in for another year of anti-government protests, few topics inspire greater anger than Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's rice-subsidy program. To many, it's a colossal waste of about $20 billion; to others it's a lifeline. But we critics haven't come up with many good alternatives to support rural areas. Here, Thailand Development Research Institute's Peeradej Tanruangporn takes a crack at an answer, including new welfare and employment programs for the poor. Perhaps a more indirect and less wasteful scheme to offer price insurance for agricultural goods? Bottom line, there's lots Yingluck could be doing to support growth. Doing something different could even help her stay in office. She just needs to try.
Does the Tiger Mom need to study?
Isaac Stone Fish asks a question on many Chinese minds as "Tiger Mom" provocateur Amy Chua of Yale and husband Jed Rubenfeld hawk a new book about China's place in the 21st century. While the tome tackles other cultures too, the crux of Fish's critique is that Chua and Rubenfeld "misstep by paying scant attention to the role of government and society on national character" in China. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Fish gets that angry phonecall from New Haven, Connecticut.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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