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TOP HEADLINES 2 September 2014
1. INDONESIA: Economy remains fragile
2. THAILAND: Tottering toward waste crisis
3. VANUATU: Preparing to shed 'least developed country' status
4. INDIA: Special window for Japanese investments
5. CAMBODIA: Action plan for early childhood development
6. BANGLADESH: 'Blue Economy' boon
7. LAO PDR: Teacher supply still thin in rural areas
8. INDONESIA: Building a global network
9. BANGLADESH: Poverty maps show inequality
10. VIET NAM: Mulls $1-billion bond issuance
IN DEPTH
1. INDONESIA: Economy remains fragile
Source: wsj.com

"Indonesia squeezed out a narrow trade surplus in July, but the Southeast Asian nation's economy remains fragile and exposed to sudden shifts in capital flows. The country trade balance is in deficit for the year, and the government also runs a budget deficit, a reflection of costly state subsidies on the price of fuel. These twin deficits mean the country is reliant on foreign funding to make up the difference, largely in the form of hot money flows into the nation's stock and bond markets.

A year ago, a reversal of these flows caused by fears that U.S. yields would move higher, hurt Indonesian assets. The government has set about trying to readjust the economy, but as Monday's figures show, there's still a way to go. The region's largest economy posted a $124 million surplus on about $28 billion in trade in July. But the return to surplus in July masks weakness in the economy. Exports fell 6% on year, reflecting lower commodity export growth as China's growth moderates. Imports fell 19.3%, keeping the trade balance positive."



2. THAILAND: Tottering toward waste crisis
Source: thehimalayantimes.com

"A blaze at a vast rubbish dump home to six million tonnes of putrefying trash and toxic effluent has kindled fears that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Locals had long pressed for the closure of the foul-smelling Praeksa landfill site, which is wedged between a cluster of industrial estates on the fringes of Bangkok. But a ferocious eight-day fire that cloaked the eastern suburbs of the capital in poisonous smoke earlier this year thrust Praeksa to the heart of a national debate over rubbish.

Thailand is not alone in struggling to tame its trash. From Jakarta's Bantar Gebang dump to Manila's 'smokey mountain', open landfills blight Southeast Asia's booming megacities, as urban planners labor to keep pace with rapid urbanization and industrial growth. Experts warn those dumps are a time bomb for the environment and the increasing number of communities forced to live cheek-by-jowl with them."



3. VANUATU: Preparing to shed 'least developed country' status
Source: unctad.org

"In the run-up to shedding 'least developed country' status in 2017, Vanuatu is working with UNCTAD to revisit their trade policy and develop a national action plan to boost production and export coconut oil, single origin organic cocoa and high quality sandalwood oil, among other 'green' products. Technological advances now mean that coconut oil is increasingly used to replace diesel fuel, improving energy efficiency and sustainability.

Start-ups have also been set up in the cocoa industry. They are already producing cocoa nibs and will soon start producing single origin artisanal chocolate for tourists, who visit the Pacific island nation. Vanuatu, like most other Pacific island countries and all small-island developing states, struggles with island-specific difficulties in international trade, including lack of economies of scale, and higher vulnerability to economic shocks and natural disasters."



4. INDIA: Special window for Japanese investments
Source: domain-b.com

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed a special management team be set up directly under the prime minister's office to facilitate Japanese investments in India. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on his part, is expected to propose a doubling of Japanese investment in India over the next five years, from around $2 billion last year, even as his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi has pitched for greater cooperation between the two countries.

Modi, who arrived in Japan on Saturday for a five-day trip aimed at capitalizing on a personal affinity with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to bolster security and business ties with Asia's second largest economy. Modi said he wanted India to follow the Japanese model for skill development, so that its demographic dividend can meet the global requirement of skilled manpower."



5. CAMBODIA: Action plan for early childhood development
Source: globalpost.com

"Cambodia on Monday launched a five-year policy and action plan for early childhood care and development with an aim to increase enrollment and enhance protection for children aged less than six years old. Cambodia is one of the first countries in the ASEAN that established the national policy and action plan on holistic early childhood care and development.

The plan will focus on parenting education, early stimulation, nutrition, health, preschool education and sanitation. Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said about 40 percent of children under six years are stunted, 28 percent are underweight and 11 percent are wasted. He said malnutrition is implicated in more than 6,400 child deaths annually."



6. BANGLADESH: 'Blue Economy' boon
Source: bdnews24.com

"'Blue Economy' is a concept that can significantly contribute to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Describing the Bay of Bengal as Bangladesh's 'third neighbor', the Prime Minister said sea-related subjects would determine Bangladesh's future development and economic growth.

She said the role of marine resources in poverty alleviation, acquiring autarky in food production, protecting environmental balance, facing adverse impacts of climate change and other economic possibilities are unlimited. The Prime Minister insisted on strengthening the navy and the coast guard to fight piracy and protect the country's Exclusive Economic Zone and its Continental Shelf that held the key to the steps for establishing an effective 'blue economy'."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
'Free' schools for migrants from Myanmar in Thailand are facing financial difficulty. The schools educate children of migrant workers in Thailand, but they face difficulties due to the lack of funds and teachers and because international donors are more interested in local causes to contribute to. About four million migrant workers from Myanmar work in Thailand. Half of the children of these workers are educated at these schools, which are often not totally free.

7. LAO PDR: Teacher supply still thin in rural areas
Source: The Nation

"The issue of teachers is important both in Thailand and Laos, but in a different way. Thailand has over 450,000 teachers for 11 million students nationwide. Yet, a concentration of teachers is obvious in some schools but not in remote areas, which suffer teacher shortages. Importantly, quality of teacher is being hotly debated. Meanwhile, Laos is set to face a severe shortage of teachers, as the government allows the employment of only 1,800 teachers despite an estimated demand of 3,000.

Vientiane has cut back from last year's 5,000 teachers and administrators for the Ministry of Education and Sports, with the drastic decrease being put down to the Laos government's budgetary crisis. The problems have resulted in cutbacks, for not only the education sector, but also for other departments across the country, the education official said."



8. INDONESIA: Building a global network
Source: thejakartapost.com

"Realizing Indonesia's strategic geographical location, state-owned telecommunication company Telkom is embarking upon a mega project that will make Indonesia a global gateway for telecommunications traffic, connecting Europe and the west coast of the US. The company is teaming up with other world-class operators to construct a submarine cable communications system through a consortium known as South East Asia - United States (SEA-US).

The SEA-US submarine cable has several advantages, such as relatively small barriers, even in congested traffic, lowest levels of latency, as the cables are located in volcano-free areas with minimal risk of natural disasters. This submarine cable communication system will provide stable connectivity and will be the sole submarine cable system linking Southeast Asia to the US that avoids the earthquake-prone areas in East Asia. The project is expected to be completed by 2016 and begin operating immediately."



9. BANGLADESH: Poverty maps show inequality
Source: Financial Express

"Experts held income inequality and centralization of resources and power as the main reasons behind the regional disparity in poverty, as exposed in the recently-released poverty maps. The Poverty Maps of Bangladesh 2010 were jointly published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, World Bank and United Nations World Food Program.

The maps show that Dhaka division has the highest share of the country's poor population, followed by Chittagong, as people from impoverished areas migrate to these economic hubs in search of employment. The reports mentioned that of a total of 49.4 million poor people, 15.9 million or 32.3 percent live in Dhaka and 8.29 million in Chittagong. It means nearly half of the country's total poor population lives in these two regions."



10. VIET NAM: Mulls $1-billion bond issuance
Source: thanhniennews.com

"Vietnam is considering issuing $1 billion in new bonds to fund its debt exchange plan, thereby allowing the nation to cut interest payments. Nguyen Van Nen, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office, said the yield of $1 billion of existing international bonds --maturing at 6.95 percent a year -- is high and the government now has a chance to issue bonds at lower interest rates.

Vietnam issued bonds for the first time in 2005. At that time, the country raised $750 million on the New York Stock Exchange by selling 10-year bonds at a coupon rate of 7.125 percent. If the plan comes to fruition, it will be the third time the Vietnamese government has issued international bonds during the last nine years."



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