Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Airport attack rocks Karachi.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to end an insurgency that has killed 50,000 people in Pakistan since 2001 and stifled economic growth had a devastating setback this morning. A deadly attack at Karachi’s international airport, leaving at least 27 dead, all but destroyed the chances for peace talks between the Taliban and the man who rose to office in 2013 determined to end years of horrible violence. A sad, sad day for the South Asian nation.
Protesters roll dice on Macau.
The former Portuguese city is known for its jam-packed casinos, pulsating nightlife and anything-goes mores. But protests? This South China Morning Post account details a recent 20,000-strong demonstration over pension payments. Might these tensions intensify and confront Beijing with a Hong Kong-like pro-democracy movement? Says Macau University's Eilo Yu Wing-yat: "The crux of this campaign is that Macau people, who used to believe they have no power to say no to government, finally realize that they can make a change if they stay united. This is very powerful."
Indonesia's consumer cushion.
The world's fourth-most populous nation is putting its demographic dividend to good use: wooing overseas retailers like South Korea's Lotte. Along with Indonesia's rapid growth, the appeal is explained by this factoid: By 2020, the number of middle-class and affluent citizens is predicted to nearly double to 141 million, from 74 million in 2012. Lotte sees the opposite at home, where the population is aging and shrinking. Indonesia's future really is the government's to lose.
Thai trains pay price for Yingluck's rice.
The fallout from the estimated $15 billion Yingluck Shinawatra blew on a rice-subsidy scheme for farmers is now hitting Thailand's high-speed train network. As the Bangkok Post reports, a $21 billion rail project that promised to create jobs and raise competitiveness "will be put on hold as questions remain concerning the projects' appropriateness and benefits as well as economic viability." That's code for there's no money left for an enterprise Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy desperately needs.
Japan's economy holds it ground.
Turns out, Japan's three percentage-point April sales tax hike to 8 percent didn't devastate the first quarter. The economy actually grew at a faster-than-expected 6.7 percent thanks to a jump in business spending. That's leading many economists to downgrade the odds of additional fiscal and monetary stimulus this summer. We'll see. I still think that until companies begin upping wages to offset increases in Japan's consumer prices, the economy is at risk of something approaching stagflation.
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