Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Abe's belated third-arrow update.
Better late than never. That's the most enthusiasm Moody's can muster for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's restructuring program for Japan. In June 2013, the prime minister promised details of his deregulation plans to support the first two phases of Abenomics -- monetary and fiscal expansion. That he waited 12 months to do so damaged Japan's chances for success. "While the potential gains from structural reform, one of the 'three arrows' of Abenomics, are significant, the uncertain and staggered timeframe for implementation of these structural reforms exposes the strategy to significant implementation risks," says Moody's economist Lucio Vinhas de Souza.
Food for thought out of China.
There's food for thought, and there's thoughts about food. China's attention is rapidly swinging toward agriculture as the most populous nation faces the unappetizing reality that for every pound of beef and bushel of wheat the world produces, it needs almost half of that to feeds its citizens. Now its $650 billion sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp., is on the case investing in agriculture around the world, and as CIC Chairman Ding Xuedong tells the Financial Times, "across the entire value chain."
Kim is busy spinning in Pyongyang.
We're two-and-half years into Kim Jong Un's reign of error in North Korea amid signs of worsening economic conditions and increasingly atrocious human-rights abuses. But that hasn't stopped the Kim Dynasty scion from making domestic spin an even bigger priority than his father and grandfather did. Here, from the Atlantic, is a fascinating pictorial account of Kim's tireless visits to hospitals, factories, military bases and even bakeries -- punctuated with amusing captions along the way.
Philippines banks on international court.
In turning to the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague to settle disputes over territory claimed jointly by Manila and Beijing, the Philippines could open a geopolitical Pandora's Box. By all means, President Benigno Aquino should take his complaints to impartial jurists. It's not like dealing with Beijing on a bilateral basis has gotten Manila anywhere. But in asking the court for a quick decision, the Philippines is risking a serious backlash from China. If you think the Asian seas are risky now, just wait.
Singapore ponders " please-all " economics.
In case you missed it, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore shared some rather intriguing economic thoughts on Facebook. Inspired by a column by Andy Mukherjee of Reuters about the dangers of "please all" populism over sage leadership, Lee wrote: "We do enjoy important advantages compared to other countries, but it will still not be easy. There are serious trade-offs, which we must be willing to acknowledge and address. If we just pretend that everything can be better, and no hard choices are necessary, we will get into trouble."
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