Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Investors are bullish on India's Modi.
India investors aren't letting a little election uncertainty get them down. The nation's benchmark stock index hit a record today and the rupee rallied to nine-month highs amid excitement over Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party possibly winning an election that wraps up on Friday. What's more, punters are betting on a sizable mandate for a party that is pledging to cut red tape, attack corruption and unleash pro-growth reforms. Are expectations too high for Modi's BJP? They may very well be. Exacting change in New Delhi will be nothing less than a Herculean task. For now, though, the bulls are ruling the day.
Less talk from China, more action.
It would be really grand if Xi Jinping stopped talking about a significant Chinese slowdown and got down to engineering it. Only when growth slips well into the 6 percent range, if not 5 percent, will we have confirmation that the Chinese president's talk of epochal restructuring is real. Repeating for the umpteenth time that China will tolerate less than today's 7.4 percent pace and promising a "new normal" won't wean the economy off excessive investment and exports. Only bold action can do that. Let's see some, Mr. Xi.
Asean fiddles as geopolitics burns.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, has long been a toothless tiger. At annual summits of the 10-member grouping, leaders shake hands, pose for photos in brightly-colored shirts and release ambiguously-worded communiques about cooperation and Asian brotherhood. But as two crises dominate the headlines, Asean's uselessness is on display as rarely before. As Thai democracy unravels and China bullies member states Vietnam and the Philippines, the best Asean can muster is vague calls for self-restraint and calm. It's high time Asia created a NATO-like alliance to rein in nationalist tendencies and fill the regional leadership void.
Time to bet on Japanese casinos.
If Shinzo Abe is serious about adding new growth engines to Japan's economy, Las Vegas seems a sure bet. As Sheldon Adelson and other gambling magnates look to pour billions of dollars into Japanese casinos, the prime minister's government is being oddly coy. Gaming tables would give Japan's underperforming tourism industry and tax revenues a serious boost. Why the delay, when gambling is already thriving in the nation's ubiquitous pachinko parlors and horse and cycling tracks? As Abe looks to enliven Asia's second-biggest economy, rolling the dice on casinos is a no brainer.
Fallout from Samsung tycoon's heart woes.
A major corporate titan being sidelined by a heart problem would be big news in any country. But when we're talking about Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee, the stakes are considerably larger. The company Lee helped transform from a copycat manufacturer into Asia’s biggest technology name generates almost one-quarter of South Korea's gross domestic product. At a time when Samsung needs to be conjuring up game-changing products to keep up with rivals such as Apple, Lee's health is fueling great concern about not just his company, but Asia's fourth-biggest economy, too.
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