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 sexy election candidates.
It's quite the electoral paradox: the nation with the world's biggest Muslim population is also a hotbed of sexy and scantily-clad female candidates. In this Foreign Policy piece, Catherine Traywick explores how political parties increasingly recruit a bevy of photogenic young ladies whose past exploits often "bring up 'leaked' nude photos, swimsuit or lingerie ads, and soft-core sex scenes" with the quickest of Google searches. It's all about buzz and headlines.Today's parliamentary contests, which precede a presidential election in July, featured a former Miss Indonesia, five models and at least nine singers and eight actresses. Who says politics lacks sex appeal?
IMF offers India some rare good news.
Growth of 6.4 percent in 2015? The International Monetary Fund's latest Indian forecasts will be reason for celebration in New Delhi, even this year's 5.4 percent prediction. While a far cry from the 8 percent or 10 percent pace politicians would prefer, such data suggest the financial crisis India seemed to be veering toward in 2013 has been averted. Even more interesting, perhaps, is the IMF's view that India will be among the seven biggest economies by 2019, surpassing Brazil, Italy and Russia. India still has considerable heavy lifting to do to reduce debt, rein in corruption and cut poverty, but the near future is looking a bit brighter.
George Shultz ponders a G-2 future.
Will the U.S. and China co-rule the world? Hardly, says former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. In this wide-ranging Asahi Shimbun interview, the 93-year-old explores the impressive economic gains China has made since the reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s. Asked about the future of the so-called Group of Two, Shultz says it's crucial for Washington and Beijing to develop a “working and constructive” relationship. But he's skeptical that officials will ever put differences aside and see eye to eye: "I don’t think we want to think that the U.S. and China can get together and decide how the world is going to work." So much for the G-2.
In Philippines, a big victory for Aquino.
The Philippine Supreme Court handed President Benigno Aquino a huge political victory by upholding large parts of plans to provide free contraceptives to the poor. While not quite the same as the U.S. justices supporting President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, the ruling in Manila is a big deal for Aquino's economic-reform drive. Addressing overpopulation is key to reducing poverty among the fifth of the nation’s 107 million people who live in slum conditions. Thankfully, the court rejected claims that family-planning efforts damage religious freedom. Consider this more good news for the Philippine economy.
Japan's Tepco sued by U.S. sailors.
Three-plus years after its negligence helped precipitate a still-ongoing nuclear crisis, Tokyo Electric Power has maddeningly avoided responsibility. It's never been nationalized, nor have any of its executives gone to jail. That's why this lawsuit by nearly 80 U.S. sailors is so important. They're seeking $1 billion in damages from the operator of the Fukushima reactors for allegedly lying about radiation levels in the days following a record earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. This is the second try by the aggrieved sailors, but good for them for demanding accountability from a company that's largely gotten a pass from the Japanese public.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @williampesek.)
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