Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Indonesia's election drama.
Indonesia's upcoming election is Joko Widodo's to lose. The wildly popular Jakarta governor's reputation for integrity, competence and forward-leaning policies have voters in the fourth-most populous nation thinking he's the one to reinvigorate the reform drive championed by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The outgoing president had a great first term from 2004 to 2009, but Yudhoyono's efforts to reduce corruption and improve infrastructure lost momentum in the second. Can Widodo take the nation to the next level of growth and prosperity? Here's a look at what's at stake.
Malaysia's "intolerable" crisis management.
If Najib Razak thought stepping to the microphone and offering more information about Flight 370 would turn away the global tide of anger toward Malaysia, the prime minister miscalculated hugely. Now more than ever, China, home to the vast majority of passengers on the Malaysian Airlines flight, is screaming coverup. "Intolerable" is how China's official Xinhua news agency described the Southeast Asian nation's failure to release information more quickly and fully and accused the government of "dereliction of duty." It's been more than a week since the plane vanished. And the hits to Malaysia's global image just keep on coming.
Some good news for Thailand.
The nation's most recent anti-government protests were the death knell of the all-important manufacturing sector. Or so went the conventional wisdom. But here's heartening news that Japanese companies, major investors in Thailand, are largely staying put. Still, Thai leaders would be remiss to think the world isn't getting fed up with their near-perpetual standoff with demonstrators. It's high time Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her detractors sorted out this economy-slamming mess.
Australia slips in Asia rankings.
Sydney is now looking at the back of Shenzhen and Shanghai in the latest Global Financial Centers Index by London-based think tank Z/Yen. Australia's main business city business fell to 23rd place this year from 15th this year, while Melbourne slipped to 37th place, behind Osaka and Abu Dhabi (New York topped London to become No. 1 this year). At the very least, these figures should be a wake-up call to Prime Minister Tony Abbott as he pledges to solidify Australia's place in the Asian Century.
The alleged Mr. Bitcoin speaks.
As Newsweek stands by its story, the man the magazine claims invented Bitcoin, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, claims he can't even afford the Internet. You'd think a technology genius and visionary who conjured up the world's most famous virtual currency and avoided cyber-detection all these years would give up clothing or food -- or even hack a bank or two -- before cutting off his Web access for financial reasons. Not a great sign for Newsweek's fact checkers as these things go.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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