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TOP HEADLINES 31 July 2014
1. INDONESIA: Rising gap between rich and poor
2. PHILIPPINES: Infrastructure needed to keep momentum
3. THAILAND: 2 high-speed train routes approved
4. MYANMAR: Gas pipeline to PRC nears full capacity
5. MONGOLIA: Reaches free trade deal with Japan
6. VIET NAM: Investors give up on wind power projects
7. HONG KONG: Minimum wage fails to ease poverty
8. UZBEKISTAN: Steps up healthcare expenditures
9. SRI LANKA: Urged to enhance FDI inflows from Japan
10. KYRGYZ REP: Develops 'innovative schools'
IN DEPTH
1. INDONESIA: Rising gap between rich and poor
Source: Aljazeera

"The gulf between rich and poor has widened in Indonesia more than in any other developing country. It has grown by as much as 60 percent over the last decade, according to a comprehensive look at inequality in the country. While the rich get richer, around 40 percent of the country's 250 million people still live with less than $2 per day.

Indonesia's economy has boomed since the 2000s, but this has benefited the rich more than the poor. So what's the cause of Indonesia's rising inequality? Recent economic growth has been fuelled by a commodity boom -- as world prices have increased, there's been a rise in exports such as coal and palm oil. Natural resource production demands capital investment, hence the commodity boom generally benefits the already rich."



 ADBI What's New

Asia Pathways:
Globalizing the RMB? Beijing appoints three new clearing banks in London, Frankfurt, and Seoul


2. PHILIPPINES: Infrastructure needed to keep momentum
Source: Business World

"The Philippines is well-positioned to withstand domestic and external shocks because of strong economic fundamentals, but the government must implement more 'hard' and 'soft' infrastructure projects to sustain growth, an economist said. 'The next wave of economic development is going to be about soft infrastructure, intellectual capital and services,' said Brian Murray, chief economist and head of research of AIA Group.

Murray said investments in 'soft' infrastructure such as education and health care should be on top of the hard infrastructure projects being executed. He lauded the government's public-private partnership program (PPP), saying it is 'exactly what the Philippines needs in terms of providing the basis for long-term economic growth.' The government has rolled out seven PPP projects cumulatively worth P62.6 billion ($1.44 billion) as of June."



3. THAILAND: 2 high-speed train routes approved
Source: Bangkok Post

"The National Council for Peace and Order has approved two high-speed train projects in Thailand at a total cost of 741.4 billion baht ($23.2 billion). The two routes approved are intended to serve as a transport link between Thailand and southern China.

Permanent secretary for transport Soithip Traisuth said the maximum speed of the trains to be operated on the new routes, between Nong Khai and Map Ta Phut and between Chaing Khong and Ban Phachi, would have to be reduced to 160 kilometers per hour from 200 km/ph. The construction of the two routes will begin next year and should be completed by 2021."



4. MYANMAR: Gas pipeline to PRC nears full capacity
Source: Irrawaddy

"PRC imported 1.87 billion cubic meters of gas through the China-Myanmar gas pipeline in its first year of operation, China National Petroleum Corp recently said as the pipeline slowly ramps up to full capacity. The multibillion-dollar gas pipeline stretches over 2,400 kilometers from the Indian Ocean through Myanmar to the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, allowing China to bypass the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The pipeline should be able to carry up to 12 billion cubic meters of gas a year at full capacity, while a parallel oil pipeline due to come online later this year will carry up to 440,000 barrels of oil a day. The gas pipeline brings gas to China from the Shwe fields off the coast of Myanmar's western Arakan State."



5. MONGOLIA: Reaches free trade deal with Japan
Source: UB Post

"Mongolia and Japan recently signed an Economic Partnership Agreement, as Mongolia hopes to diversify its trade partners and maintain its fast-paced growth. Within the agreement, all Mongolian exports to Japan, including meat and raw minerals, and 96 percent of Japanese exports to Mongolia will be exempt from tariffs in the coming decade.

Experts and international analysts say that mining products will account for a large amount of the overall trade between the nations, as the agreement includes an investor-state dispute settlement clause, which makes it possible for firms to seek compensation if government policy hurts their investments."



6. VIET NAM: Investors give up on wind power projects
Source: Thanhnien News

"Of the many wind power projects in Viet Nam licensed by the province of Ninh Thuan since 2005, only one has actually progressed to the construction phase, according to the vice chairman of the provincial people's committee Do Huu Nghi. Other projects have been delayed for years and the provincial authorities now plan to pull investment licenses from projects that have dragged on for too long.

According to Le Tuan Phong, vice head of the Energy Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, 48 wind power projects have been registered for investment nationwide. However, only 3 (with a combined production capacity of 52MW) have come into operation. Tran Viet Ngai, chairman of the Vietnam Energy Association, said there are many reasons for the lack of successful wind power development in Viet Nam, but the most critical is the low price of energy."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
Designs for flying cars are being targeted at humanitarian organizations for use in a variety of missions, from delivering vaccines to transporting medics and patients. The cars are lightweight vehicles with a propeller at the back and an extendable parachute, rather than wings, which allow them to take off. The cars can carry two people and an additional load of around 300 kilograms, with a flying range of almost 200 kilometers on a single tank of gas. They can fly up to 3-5 kilometers high and need less than 100 meters to take off and land.

7. HONG KONG: Minimum wage fails to ease poverty
Source: SCMP

"Most economists oppose minimum wage laws because they increase unemployment -- particularly among workers with very low productivity owing to inexperience or handicap -- and therefore fail to reduce poverty. Supporters say they increase the standard of living of workers and reduce poverty. Hong Kong, China, enacted a minimum wage law in May 2011. Has this helped low-income households and reduced income inequality?

A preliminary answer to this question can be gleaned from data in the General Household Survey. In the four quarters before May 2011, an estimated 233,000 households (or 10 percent of all households) had at least one member who qualified for the minimum wage. In the four quarters following the introduction of the minimum wage, that number was halved to 121,000 (or 5.1 percent of all households). This, according to the advocates, demonstrates the success of the minimum wage in helping workers with low pay. But is this really the case?"



8. UZBEKISTAN: Steps up healthcare expenditures
Source: Central Asia Online

"The Uzbek government in investing more in the country's healthcare system. 'Increases in Uzbekistan's state budget and economic growth are allowing us to allocate more and more funds toward developing medical services for the public,' said Anvar Khakimov, a Health Ministry spokesman.

The annual health budget in 1999, he said, was $28 million; this year, it's $1.8 billion. That translates to more medical centers and more-modern medical equipment. 'In 2010, only half of specialized medical centers had adequate equipment," Khakimov said, adding that currently, 92 percent of medical institutions have everything they need."



9. SRI LANKA: Urged to enhance FDI inflows from Japan
Source: Daily News

"Sri Lanka has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and will have the fastest growing economy in South Asia next year, said visiting State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, Kasuyoshi Akaba. The Japanese minister agreed that there was a pressing need to develop avenues to enhance FDI inflows from Japan to Sri Lanka. At the forum, a wide range of subjects of interest to Japanese investors in Sri Lanka were discussed in the areas of labor relations, taxes, electricity tariffs, immigration issues and government information available to investors.

Minister of Investment Promotion, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, briefed Minister Akaba on Sri Lanka's considerable potential for investment, and also expressed confidence that Japanese FDI will grow over the next few years. He added that Japanese investment would increase productivity in the country and also result in significant technology transfers."



10. KYRGYZ REP: Develops 'innovative schools'
Source: Central Asia Online

"The Kyrgyz Republic has selected 100 schools to share in a $1.92 million project to improve education by upgrading the institutions to become 'innovative schools,' the Kyrgyz Ministry of Education and Science reported. The schools must be situated in district capitals and be in good condition and have reliable access to electricity and water so that schoolchildren can conduct laboratory experiments.

By September, the state plans to provide these schools with up-to-date computers, smart boards and other technology to improve the educational development process. At the Olympic elementary school in Osh, 658 pupils next year will start classes under the new system, which will include creative teaching methods."



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