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TOP HEADLINES 17 April 2015
1. INDONESIA: Education not making the grade
2. PHILIPPINES: To lead SE Asian growth into 2016
3. NEPAL: Optimism over hydroelectricity sector
P O V E R T Y   S P O T L I G H T
VIET NAM: Sad lives adrift on 'floating slum'
4. INDIA: Coal turnaround to ease power cuts
5. CAMBODIA: Farmers to reap info flow
6. VIET NAM: Looks to update poverty line
7. NEPAL: Clean cook stoves could benefit millions
8. MYANMAR: Child labor continues
9. THAILAND: PPP law picked for makeover
10. ASIA: Insurance market expected to bloom
IN DEPTH
1. INDONESIA: Education not making the grade
Source: Business Jakarta Globe

"In its 2015 Education for All global monitoring report, the United Nations education agency, or UNESCO, highlighted some sobering truths about just how far Indonesia stands today from being able to boast a decent education system. The report, which compares the picture in 2012 (the most recent year for which figures were available) to 2000, shows that while Indonesia doubled the proportion of children receiving early childhood education, from 24 percent to 48 percent, it is still woefully short of UNESCO's target of 80 percent.

Even more shockingly, the number of primary school-aged children not in school has doubled to 1.336 million, dwarfing all other countries in Southeast Asia combined. It is also telling that the key metrics for those other nations, in particular Viet Nam, have improved while Indonesia's have for the most part gone backward."



2. PHILIPPINES: To lead SE Asian growth into 2016
Source: Business World

"The Philippines is projected to be the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia this year and next even as growth in the region will likely be uneven, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report. The latest World Economic Outlook report that said that trends within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-5 -- composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam -- will 'continue to diverge.'

The report showed that economic growth in ASEAN-5 is expected to average 5.2% this year and 5.3% in 2016, with the Philippines seen to outpace its peers in both periods at 6.7% and 6.3%, respectively. The IMF's forecasts for the Philippines, however, fall short of the government's 7-8% target for 2015 and 2016."



3. NEPAL: Optimism over hydroelectricity sector
Source: Himalayan Times

"Currently, there are reasons to be optimistic about the hydroelectricity sector of Nepal. In a recent TV interview, economist Dr. Swarnim Wagle, a member of National Planning Commission, stressed the importance of developing hydro power sector in Nepal to achieve higher rates of economic growth in the country.

It is the only sector in the country with the potential to unleash fast economic growth and prosperity for Nepal residents. Cross-country evidence shows that access to electricity and its consumption is strongly correlated to social development and overall economic growth. Both economic and social returns from this sector outweigh private returns."


P O V E R T Y   S P O T L I G H T
VIET NAM: Sad lives adrift on 'floating slum'
Source: Voice of Vietnam

"Dozens of households have lived on shabby rafts and in wretched conditions near Hanoi's hallmark Long Bien Bridge over the Hong (Red) River for years. Only a stone's throw from the heart of the capital, twenty-six households with some 100 members in total have called a 'floating village' adrift on a section of the river their 'home' for many years, with some of them having lived there for over two and a half decades.

The residents' rafts are generally anchored near the Long Bien Bridge, one of the capital's cultural icons and historical witnesses, which spans over the Hong River and links Hoan Kiem and Long Bien Districts. These people's wretched living conditions are a far cry from Hanoi's hustle and bustle and opulent lifestyle even though they reside just two kilometers from the downtown area. The residents have no access to electricity or modern comforts. None of the children there go to school and most follow their parents' footsteps as scrap scavengers or hired hands to eke out a meager living."


4. INDIA: Coal turnaround to ease power cuts
Source: Live Mint

"Fewer power cuts are likely in India this summer after a surge in output at Coal India Ltd helped generators amass record stocks, a turnaround for Narendra Modi who had to battle a power crisis within months of becoming prime minister last May. Fast-track mine approvals, tighter production oversight and more flexibility in coal sales have helped power station stocks recover from a six-year low hit in October.

As Modi prepares to mark his first year in office and seeks to fulfill a poll promise to provide power to all of India's 1.2 billion people by 2019, power stations hold 28 million tons of coal, a 38% jump from a year ago, government data shows. India, the world's third-largest coal buyer, is expected to cut imports by a fifth in the fiscal year to March 31 from an estimated 200 million tons in the previous year. Power companies have relied on imports for 15% of their coal needs."



5. CAMBODIA: Farmers to reap info flow
Source: Phnom Penh Post

"The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Cambodia will roll out a new Agricultural Extension Policy that will look to boost the sector by making new knowledge and technology easily accessible to farmers and communities, in a bid to increase efficiency and productivity in the sector.

Minister Ouk Rabun said the policy, which is expected to be launched in two months, will disseminate and make accessible new technologies that will help farmers increase their yield in a sustainable manner. Mak Soeun, director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, said the policy will be implemented using a five-pronged approach: strengthening the regulatory framework on agricultural extension; increasing the capacity of officers and agents; incorporating affordable and practical farming techniques; improved information and messaging; and better delivery systems for this information."



6. VIET NAM: Looks to update poverty line
Source: Voice of Vietnam

"A new updated poverty line relevant to modern conditions in Viet Nam will be submitted to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this September since the existing line is too low, said Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen on April 15. The poverty rate among households nationwide was cut from 14.2 percent in 2010 down to 5.8-6 percent by the end of 2014. The figure is expected to fall to below 5 percent in late 2015.

The number of low-income families in Viet Nam reduces by an average of 2 percent annually, while the rate in impoverished districts drops by more than 5 percent yearly, meeting the targets set for 2012-2015. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen noted that though the poverty rate has decreased sharply in disadvantages districts and ethnic minority communities, it is unsustainable and still exceeds 50 percent in some localities."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
Backed by a new satellite observation system, officials at Bangladesh's Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre are confident of staying ahead of flood-related disasters in the country this season. Every year, between March and September, monsoon rains and snow-fed rivers combine to inundate Bangladesh, resulting in damage to crops and property and loss of lives. Experimental trials conducted last year proved that an eight-day advance warning of floods was possible against the previous three or four days.

7. NEPAL: Clean cook stoves could benefit millions
Source: IPS

"When 26-year-old Laxmi married into the Archaya household in Chhaimale village, Pharping, south of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, she didn't think she would be spending half the day in the kitchen inhaling smoke from the stove. The toxic gases are known to create respiratory problems, pneumonia, blindness, heart diseases, cancer and even low birth rates. Every year 4.3 million premature deaths worldwide are attributed to indoor air pollution.

Fortunately for the Acharya family, the U.S.-based organization Global Peace Foundation had been working in the village and helping communities build mud-brick clean stoves with locally available materials. Unlike traditional stoves, clean cook stoves have airtight chambers that prevent smoke from escaping into cramped kitchens. They also have small chimneys through which poisonous exhausts can exit the house."



8. MYANMAR: Child labor continues
Source: Aljazeera

"Every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Soe Min Lwin takes orders, serves food and washes dishes at a tea shop in Yangon. Every night, he climbs onto a wooden table and falls asleep. He's 12, and by earning just over a dollar a day, he is his family's main breadwinner. Children have long been pillars of Myanmar's economy, with many working as housecleaners, factory hands and shop assistants. But their role has come under increasing international scrutiny as the country opens up after five decades of military dictatorship.

Since Myanmar began major economic and political reforms in 2011, more and more children have moved from the country's rural areas to cities. Recent statistics are hard to find. UNICEF's latest data is from a 2006 study that found nearly 33 percent of children ages 7 to 16 surveyed had jobs."



9. THAILAND: PPP law picked for makeover
Source: Bangkok Post

"New laws governing public-private partnerships in Thailand will clarify regulations and facilitate investment in public infrastructure for the private sector, says Kulit Sombatsiri, director-general of the State Enterprise Policy Office. The government hopes to invest 1.35 trillion baht ($41.63 billion) in public infrastructure over the next five years, largely through partnerships with the private sector.

The five-year plan, which is expected to be submitted to the cabinet for approval shortly, outlines 65 investment projects in 20 categories. Investment is expected to begin this year, starting with projects such as an extension of the light-rail Blue Line, an inland container depot initiative of the State Railway of Thailand and an Internet broadband initiative under the government's 'digital economy' policy."



10. ASIA: Insurance market expected to bloom
Source: Voice of Vietnam

"The Southeast Asia region's insurance market will continue to reap success once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is formed at the end of 2015, said a report. Managing Director of international credit ranking agency AM Best Asia Pacific Roger Sellek said that insurers are planning to expand their business to overseas markets once the AEC is formed and international credit rates will be a 'passport to neighboring markets' for 110 insurance and reinsurance companies with branches in Singapore.

With impressive growth in the island country's market, AM Best Asia Pacific experts predicted the personal insurance market will blossom in Thailand and Indonesia, the newspaper said, adding that Singapore is currently the biggest insurance market in the Southeast Asian region with total revenue from life insurance and non-life insurance reaching nearly $23 billion in 2013."



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