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TOP HEADLINES 18 January 2012
1. THAILAND: Better transport needed to connect to neighbors
2. MONGOLIA: Quest to balance human development
3. PHILIPPINES: Rolling out 'pushcart classrooms'
4. BANGLADESH: Vulnerable children run their own bank
5. PAKISTAN: High hopes for new rice variety
6. PRC: What lies ahead for railways?
7. VIET NAM: Retail market overcomes hurdles
8. INDIA: Agriculture needs technology to expand
9. INDONESIA: Bullish over broader tax incentive scheme
10. SRI LANKA: 2011 total exports to exceed $11 billion
1. THAILAND: Better transport needed to connect to neighbors
Source: Bangkok Post

"Thailand needs to accelerate developing transport that connects neighboring countries to create trade and investment opportunities for Thai entrepreneurs in the Mekong sub-region. The country also needs to revise infrastructure plans to open new development areas appropriate for industry. The latest 10-year development plan (2012-2022) focused on building an economic corridor that linked the region and supported private investments, especially new production bases in neighboring countries.

Thailand is involved in three main routes: from Kunming, China to Singapore, from Mae Sot to Danang, Viet Nam, and from Dawei, Myanmar to Ho Chi Minh City. With the first development, Thailand will build another highway apart from Phahon Yothin Road. A road link from Mukdahan in the second project to the Eastern Seaboard on the third will be the transport route for Thai entrepreneurs using Lao, PDR as a production base. A rail link from Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai has also been discussed, along with perennial talk of a high-speed train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok."

 ADBI What's New

Asia Pathways blog launched
ADBI has launched Asia Pathways, a blog covering economic and development issues in Asia and the Pacific. The opening posts include an introduction by ADBI Dean Masahiro Kawai, a proposal to restructure Japan's electric power industry, and a recommendation that the PRC should redirect money away from increasing external reserves toward social spending. Future posts will cover the impact of the eurozone crisis on Asia's medium- to long-term growth, the succession issue in North Korea, and social security and labor migration in ASEAN, among others.

2. MONGOLIA: Quest to balance human development
Source: Brookings Institute

"Mongolia finally burst onto the world economic scene in 2011 when mining of its vast mineral deposits led it to a 6.7 percent economic growth rate that was 2nd highest in the world. During the fourth quarter of last year the economy was booming at a growth rate of close to 20 percent. Both the Asian Development Bank and the Economist Intelligence Unit are predicting a 2012 growth rate of 15 percent.

Mining experts estimate that the country possesses as much as $1 trillion worth of untapped precious metals and minerals in at least 6,000 sites. That works out to potentially over $333,333 per every man, woman and child in the country. While this is undeniably a positive situation for Mongolia, the challenge facing the nation is to ensure that its mineral wealth benefits the whole nation rather than just certain sectors of society, as has been the case in some other resource-rich countries."

3. PHILIPPINES: Rolling out 'pushcart classrooms'
Source: Australia Network News

"The Philippines' Education Department has begun a roll out of so-called 'pushcart classrooms' aimed at educating street children and out-of-school youth in the capital. Metro Manila has an estimated 4,000 street children, according to government figures. Eventually, each of the 17 cities in the metropolis will have its own 'pushcart classroom' with carts stocked with books, chalkboards and other materials.

It is hoped the program will also be implemented in other cities with street children outside Manila. The Education Department provides the carts, books and other learning materials. The Health Department and village officials equip each cart with a medical kit, while food will also be provided by each local government."

4. BANGLADESH: Vulnerable children run their own bank
Source: UNICEF

"Bangladesh's drop-in centers are a key component of the UNICEF-supported Protection of Children at Risk project, which protects children living on the streets from abuse, exploitation and violence. An innovative banking program, run by the young staff, offers basic financial services to children, and teaches them essential life skills in the process.

The Children's Development Bank is a fully functional, entirely child-run operation that offers vulnerable children a safe place to deposit their money and earn interest on deposits. Customers may only withdraw money from their savings accounts twice a year, but they can withdraw from their current account at any time. However, if they want to withdraw more than 500 taka ($6) a month, they must receive approval from the drop-in center's manager and coordinator."

5. PAKISTAN: High hopes for new rice variety
Source: Dawn

"Future food yield increases will have to come from crop varieties using less water and nitrogen in view of global climate change. This can only be done by increasing the efficiency of the photosynthetic system, i.e. developing a C4 rice plant. Insufficient yield of rice produces food insecurity and social unrest. The C4 Rice raises hope that threats to food security will be tackled.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country and its graph of poverty is rising due to rocketing food prices. Being agro-based, the bulk of the country's population is linked directly or indirectly with agriculture. It has all the favorable conditions of soils, irrigation water and climate but it is a net importer of food grains."

6. PRC: What lies ahead for railways?
Source: China Daily

"Despite substantial investment since 1949, PRC's railway route length compared to its land area is still one-third that of the United States and only one-sixth that of the European Union. With such high utilization and growing traffic, China has no choice but to build new lines in its main inter-city corridors. The question is, whether the new lines should be built for traditional-speed or high-speed railways. Building high-speed railways normally costs more than building traditional rail infrastructure.

But in China the incremental cost, usually considerable, is not prohibitive partly because most new lines are built on viaduct and through tunnels to minimize the use of land whether for traditional-speed or high-speed railways. The development of railways in China faces several challenges. First among them is the safety and reliability of the high-speed rail network. Secondly, it is important to establish a durable funding model which recognizes that infrastructure built to last and serve a century cannot start paying back during its first few years."

Millions of young Habitat for Humanity volunteers will use their social and digital networks to raise funds and draw attention to the dire housing situation in the Asia-Pacific region. Brought together as part of 'YouthBUILD', activity will peak on May 12, when thousands of people will simultaneously build houses in PRC, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Habitat for Humanity expects over one million young people to get involved with YouthBUILD -- raising awareness and funds through social and digital networks.

7. VIET NAM: Retail market overcomes hurdles
Source: Vietnam Net

"The Ministry of Industry and Trade has estimated that the total retail turnover in Viet Nam in 2011 reached 1994 trillion dong ($94.8 billion), an increase of 29.3 percent over the previous year, an impressive growth rate in the context of the economic difficulties. This has been explained by the fact that the market has been expanded over the last few years, while the demand of 87 million people has been increasing steadily.

The ministry has predicted that in 2012, the total revenue of goods and services retailing would increase by 20 percent, while the same growth rate would be maintained in the next five years. The Vietnamese retail market has witnessed the strongest growth in the modern retail channel with the existence of 600 supermarkets, shopping malls, convenience stores. Besides, Viet Nam has a system of 9,000 traditional markets that serve different classes of consumers."

8. INDIA: Agriculture needs technology to expand
Source: Hindu Business Line

"India's annual agriculture growth rate has the potential to exceed 4 percent. However, farmers are starved of access to scientific and technological information, which would enable them to modernize their agricultural practices. This is despite the large number of agricultural scientists in India. In fact, agricultural productivity and growth have stagnated on account of incomplete transfer of technology to farmers.

This is quite a paradox, given that institutions involved in teaching, research, development and administration have their own systems to educate and train farmers in modern agricultural practices. However, the reach of these science centers has proved to be limited. Farmers in need of information inputs have to run from pillar to post -- whether it is to discuss technology issues with the experts concerned, or to seek solutions to seasonal problems. Hence, it is suggested that all these facilities be established in one place, where farmers visit in large numbers in their normal course of work."

9. INDONESIA: Bullish over broader tax incentive scheme
Source: Jakarta Post

"A director at the Investment Coordinating Board was quite bullish about the impact of tax incentive programs that were expanded late last month to almost 130 other business sectors, expecting over $31 billion in new domestic and foreign direct investment approvals this year.

The additional incentive consists of a tax allowance that permits companies to reduce their taxable income up to 30 percent of their total investment, carried over six years, to accelerate depreciation and amortization and carry forward losses over five to 10 years. The impact of this additional tax incentive, notably on job creation, would still be quite positive because of the broad range of industrial sectors it covers, mostly in downstream operations."

10. SRI LANKA: 2011 total exports to exceed $11 billion
Source: Daily News

"The export sector of Sri Lanka is well poised to surpass the revenue target for 2011. According to provincial figures issued by the Export Development Board, the sector has recorded $9.96 billion up to November last year. Sri Lanka recorded exports of merchandizing products to the value of $9.96 billion for the first eleven months with an overall growth rate of 22 percent.

The export revenue for November was $895 million. Based on these results, 2011 exports will be in the range of over $10.5 billion. The export sector performance shows a healthy growth and when the December export value is obtained the growth will remain above 22 percent. Considering the sectoral growth up to November, the agricultural sector recorded an overall growth of 10.8 percent with revenue of $2.4 billion mainly contributed by coconut, rubber, spices, vegetables, fruits, cut flowers and foliage."

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