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TOP HEADLINES 30 May 2011
1. INDONESIA: Targeting faster growth
2. ASIA: The economic impacts of an aging society
3. INDIA: Reform-led growth benefits the poor
4. NEPAL: First step towards banning caste-based discrimination
5. PAKISTAN: Plans to increase spending on roads, health by 58 percent
6. ASIA: The promise of protection
7. PRC: The economics of dams
8. VIET NAM: Rapid growth has shaken macroeconomic stability
9. INDONESIA: Pile of foreign cash swells on investor appetite
10. ASIA: Impending rice crisis in developing nations looms?
IN DEPTH
1. INDONESIA: Targeting faster growth
Source: Channel NewsAsia

"Indonesian President Yudhoyono on Friday unveiled a plan to boost economic growth to as high as 9.0 percent a year between 2015 and 2025, from the 6.1 percent expansion last year. Southeast Asia's biggest economy will focus on investments in six designated growth centers in four provinces, while slashing inflation to 3.0 percent annually, he said.

The government is offering incentives to private investors to increase the contribution of investment to economic growth after decades of relying primarily on household consumption. Long-term targets hinge on attracting private investment of $465 billion until 2025. Economists have said property ownership rules will have to be liberalized for foreigners, infrastructure will have to be overhauled, corruption tackled and red tape in the form of levies and taxes slashed."



2. ASIA: The economic impacts of an aging society
Source: staradvertiser.com

"Over the past 50 years, economic and social modernization in Asia has been accompanied by a remarkable drop in birthrates. Gains in education, employment and living standards, combined with dramatic breakthroughs in health and family-planning technology, have led to lower fertility in every country of the region. In China, more than 13 percent of the population are now over the age of 60, up from less than 9 percent just two decades ago, while the percentage of youth has been dropping sharply.

Among the causes of decreasing birthrates, according to analysts, is the rise in women's education levels and employment rates that accompany increased prosperity, leading women to postpone childbirth or hold off altogether. Rapid urbanization trends play a role as well, since women in cities tend to have fewer children than rural women. The trend toward low birthrates has raised concerns about wide-ranging social and economic impacts, including expanding elderly populations and a shrinking workforce to pay for social services and drive economic growth."



3. INDIA: Reform-led growth benefits the poor
Source: East Asia Forum

"India's recent government census data reveals remarkable progress in human development: an increasing literacy rate, reduced population growth, and a declining infant mortality rate throughout the country. The evidence runs counter to those who argue that India's growth is only helping the rich, thus widening the poverty gap.

Literacy especially accelerated in the poorest states during 2001-2011. In Bihar, long the worst performer, literacy shot up from 47 percent to 63. Big gains came in other poor states -- in Uttar Pradesh, literacy increased from 56 to 69 percent; Jharkhand, 53 to 67 percent; Orissa, 63 to 73 percent; and Assam, 63 to 73 percent. This is contradictory to the view, held by a section of Indian intellectuals, that economic reforms have benefited only big business and the upper-middle class, while ignoring the poor."



4. NEPAL: First step towards banning caste-based discrimination
Source: radioaustralia.net.au

"The United Nations and rights advocates in Nepal have welcomed the passing of a draft bill in parliament that outlaws caste-based discrimination. It's a milestone for Nepal, where for centuries the Dalit minority, once known as 'untouchables' have faced poverty and abuse.

While Nepal's Dalit make up 20 percent of the population, they have appalling literacy levels and lower life expectancies, they're subject to violence, forced labor and prostitution and they're rarely given the opportunity to legally redress these problems. Two years ago the Nepalese government presented the draft bill -- the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Crime Act -- aiming to bring policy and practice in Nepal in line with the United Nations human rights conventions. The UN urged the passing of the bill, saying it would strengthen the fight against discrimination."



5. PAKISTAN: Plans to increase spending on roads, health by 58 percent
Source: sfgate.com

"Pakistan plans to increase spending on roads, education and healthcare by 58 percent in the next fiscal year to revive an economy hurt by floods and terrorism. The government will spend 730 billion rupees ($8.5 billion) on so-called development projects in the year starting July 1, compared with a revised estimate of 462 billion rupees in the current year.

The government projects economic growth will accelerate to 4.2 percent next year, helping to create jobs and cut poverty. Pakistan was forced to slash spending in the current year by 35 percent from its original target to reduce the budget deficit. Pakistan's federal government will spend 155 billion rupees on infrastructure including roads and railways, and 122 billion rupees on social services such as education and health."



6. ASIA OP/ED: The promise of protection
Source: Korea Times

"As the Asia-Pacific region slowly emerges from the recession of 2008 and attempts to cope with the after-effects of a food crisis and natural disasters, governments are looking anew at ways to mitigate the rising insecurity and heightened social risks experienced by millions of people across the region, especially those living in or close to poverty. The region's capacity to ensure all citizens receive a minimum level of security was at the heart of discussions as heads of state, ministers and senior officials from across Asia and the Pacific met last week for the 67th Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The region's new economic growth require a new commitment by governments to institute social protections to secure the benefits of economic growth for all the people of the Asia-Pacific region. Instead of approaching specific development setbacks and challenges through limited, reactive interventions, governments are now prepared to seek and implement comprehensive, universal coverage solutions capable of strengthening coping capacities and resilience as part of their vision of inclusive development."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
While media have made much of China's meteoric rise to become the world's second-biggest economy, when stretched out over 1.3 billion people, the people's purchasing power is still thin. International Money Fund figures show that China's GDP per capita stands at about $7,500 per year, far behind the world average of $10,900. In Huining it's thinner still: last year the county's GDP per capita was just under $400. More than 90 percent of locals here scratch out an existence from the soil, many living in homes made of mud and clay. And at Huining County Ganguo Middle School -- where dormitories house 52 girls to a room in a space suitable for 25 -- nearly 1,000 students survive on between 30 and 60 cents of food per day, according to figures provided by local school board officials.


7. PRC OP/ED: The economics of dams
Source: china-economics-blog.blogspot.com

"Under the last five-year state plan, China failed to meet its hydroelectric targets and is now playing catch-up in its 2011-2015 plan as it strives to derive 15 percent of energy needs from non-fossil sources, mainly hydroelectric and nuclear. The arithmetic pointing to more dam-building is clear: China would need 140 megawatts of extra hydroelectric power to meet its goal.

The demand for water region-wide will also escalate, sparking perhaps that greatest anxieties -- that China will divert large quantities from the Tibetan plateau for domestic use. Noting that Himalayan glaciers which feed the rivers are melting due to global warming, India's Strategic Foresight Group last year estimated that in the coming 20 years India, China, Nepal and Bangladesh will face a depletion of almost 275 billion cubic meters (360 billion cubic yards) of annual renewable water."



8. VIET NAM: Rapid growth has shaken macroeconomic stability
Source: Thanhnien news

"The Vietnamese government deserves praise for taking decisive action to mitigate the negative impacts of the global economic crisis, but the success has been achieved at a price, a new European Union report says. Pursuing a pro-growth agenda into late 2010 despite signs of overheating has had a significant negative impact on inflation, forex reserves, the exchange rate, and above all, investor confidence.

The report said Vietnam's economic growth has arrived at a 'critical stage' where the government should decide clearly to implement pro-business policies in order to boost investor confidence. Vietnam's inflation is expected to rise 19.78 percent this month compared with May last year. The government launched a series of measures late February in an attempt to restore macroeconomic stability and control inflation, and economists say the policies have begun to show their effect."



9. INDONESIA: Pile of foreign cash swells on investor appetite
Source: Jakarta Globe

"Indonesia's foreign exchange holdings have surged 21 percent this year as a result of continued investor appetite for Indonesian assets, the central bank announced on Friday. The foreign exchange reserves as of May 20 were $116.5 billion, and persistent overseas funds inflows into the country have helped the rupiah strengthen.

Economists have said loose monetary policies to spur recovery in major developed economies such as the United States, Japan and Europe have prompted overseas funds to seek higher returns in emerging economies, including Indonesia. The biggest target for foreign investors is Indonesian government bonds, with overseas holdings of the debt rising 15 percent this year to Rp 225.9 trillion ($26 billion) as of May 20."



10. ASIA: Impending rice crisis in developing nations looms?
Source: officialwire.com

"Manila-based research group International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said the food crisis that hit emerging countries in year 2008 can possibly occur again if importers like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and China suddenly panic-buys in the world market. Although rice prices may have stabilized in the region in recent months, panic buying among nations dependent on imports because of their increasing population and requirements including the Philippines will opt to buy at any cost.

The IRRI said the possibility of panic-buying of the rice staple similar to three years ago could send prices soaring again. Rice prices nearly tripled from $362 a tonne in December 2007 to almost $1,000 in April 2008 as stocks fell to 30-year lows amid surging global demand. About 90 percent of the world's rice is grown in Asia."



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