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TOP HEADLINES 15 May 2012
1. ASIA/PACIFIC: Reduce poverty, increase prosperity
2. LAO PDR: Prospects as a regional link
3. INDONESIA: Car-free days the best policy?
4. PRC: Time ripe for FTA with neighbors
5. INDIA: Urged to take steps to boost higher education
6. VIET NAM: Approves tax relief for businesses
7. THAILAND: Floodway projects envisioned as solution
8. INDONESIA: Airline boom raises new safety questions
9. PHILIPPINES: Clustering of SMEs to boost economy
10. SRI LANKA: Exporters succeed in overseas maize market
IN DEPTH
1. ASIA/PACIFIC: Reduce poverty, increase prosperity
Source: Business Standard

"Asia-Pacific has made great progress in reducing poverty. Yet, with two-thirds of the world's poor, this region faces vulnerabilities on all fronts. In particular, it has many of the globe's most climate-exposed territories. Climate change also threatens further progress in poverty reduction and hard-won human development gains could be unsustainable. People here are four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than those living in Africa, and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.

The very survival of many of the region's major island states -- including the Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu -- is at risk due to rising sea levels. A new UNDP Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, One Planet to Share, argues that the developing countries of this region are much less locked into the old, carbon-intensive ways of growth. It underlines that countries in the region need to build the resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable people today, while addressing climate change and protecting the choices available to future generations."



2. LAO PDR: Prospects as a regional link
Source: Manila Times

"Long one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, Lao PDR has moved in recent years to capitalize on the region's robust economic growth and increased integration by recasting itself as a 'corridor country' able to facilitate cross-border trade across its land-locked territory. This plan is highly dependent on the cooperation of and interaction with neighboring countries that have traditionally treated Lao as a strategic buffer, contributing to its isolation and underdevelopment, and until recently showed little sign of changing their approach.

However, competition in Southeast Asia among China, the United States, India and Japan has led these countries and others to increase their interest in Lao. Vientiane senses an opportunity to mitigate the country's primary geographic limitation -- its lack of a coastline -- by courting outside investment in rail and road infrastructure through regional economic forums."



3. INDONESIA: Car-free days the best policy?
Source: Jakarta Post

"Jakarta has seen a so-called positive reaction from the public in response to the city administration's plans to intensify car-free days to one day a week to improve Jakarta's air quality. While the policy deserves accolade, a question arises as to why the administration looks reluctant to explore other, more significant ways of reducing air pollution.

Each of Jakarta's five municipalities are required to hold their own car-free days once a month. The city government is surely aware that the bylaw also stipulates a requirement to expand green areas, to use gas for all public transportation and to improve public transportation services to reduce vehicles running on the city's congested roads. Jakarta unquestionably needs to work harder to clean its air."



4. PRC: Time ripe for FTA with neighbors
Source: China Daily

"The trilateral investment agreement the leaders of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) signed in Beijing on Sunday is a necessary building block for their grand plan of establishing a trilateral free trade area. A free trade agreement between China, Japan and the ROK, the first, second and fourth largest economies in Asia, which together account for 70 percent of Asia's GDP, would have deep strategic significance for the three countries given the changes taking place in the international environment.

The economies of the three countries are closely related. Establishing a free trade agreement, including the reduction of tariffs, would benefit all three economies in the future. However, negotiations on a free trade agreement between the three nations will be difficult because of their different economic structures. China has the lowest level of industrialization of the three. It has many areas to worry about in opening up its market, especially technology-intensive manufacturing areas such as iron and steel production, petrochemical engineering and automobiles."



5. INDIA: Urged to take steps to boost higher education
Source: The Hindu

"After a prolonged period of weak initiatives in higher education that stunted enrolment in the university system, India now has the opportunity to speed up remedial action. If recent assessments are correct, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in universities and colleges has touched 20 percent, translating into about 20 million men and women in the 18 to 22 year age bracket entering the portals of higher learning annually. The goal is to reach a 30 percent GER by the end of the current decade.

Evidently, even if the target is achieved, the absolute number of young Indians able to get a recognized higher education degree will remain well below the level a knowledge economy needs. Progress demands an end to the fragmentation of the higher education system, improved infrastructure, overcoming the inability of students to pay high tuition and boarding fees, especially at private institutions, and filling faculty vacancies."



6. VIET NAM: Approves tax relief for businesses
Source: Thanhnien News

"The government of Viet Nam has issued a new resolution that approves a series of measures including tax cuts and lower interest rates in an attempt to stimulate the economy. According to Resolution 13, small and medium enterprises and labor-intensive companies will be allowed to delay value-added tax payments for April, May and June by six months. Real estate developers will be given up to 12 months to pay land use taxes.

The cost of land leases for 2012 will also be reduced by 50 percent, the resolution said. The Finance Ministry will also seek approval from the National Assembly to reduce by 30 percent the corporate income tax payments for small and medium companies. Meanwhile, the State Bank of Vietnam has been ordered to bring down interest rates further."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
A severe energy shortage remains the key challenge for the growth of the Bangladesh economy, which requires an urgent response, says a survey of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The report says that Bangladesh can address the problem by setting up viable new power projects, minimizing transmission and distribution losses, including theft of electricity; increasing exploration of natural gas, crude oil and coal; tapping regional markets and setting up infrastructure for energy imports and incentivizing the development of renewable energy resources.


7. THAILAND: Floodway projects envisioned as solution
Source: Bangkok Post

"Floodway construction worth 120 billion baht ($3.8 billion) is expected to be finished 2 1/2 years from now. The Thai government project is intended to be a permanent solution to flooding in the Chao Phraya River plain. The money will cover construction of a two-kilometer-wide road that will double as a dyke, extending 300 km from Nakhon Sawan province to the Gulf of Thailand.

Water will be allowed to cover the road to a depth of 1.5 meters, while flow is projected at 2,000 cubic meters a second. The plan includes two floodways. A 322-km eastern floodway will extend from the Pasak River to the Chao Phraya, while a 314-km western construction will go from the Tha Chin River to the Chao Phraya. The western floodway will be easier to build due to the fewer number of communities and general construction along the path."



8. INDONESIA: Airline boom raises new safety questions
Source: AP

"Dozens of fledgling airlines that have sprung up to serve Indonesia's island-hopping new middle class could jeopardize the archipelago's recently improved safety reputation, aviation experts say. The trend threatens to erode higher standards established after 2007, when frequent crashes prompted the European Union to ban all Indonesian airlines from landing on its runways for two years.

With growth rates of nearly 20 percent per year, Indonesia is one of Asia's most rapidly expanding airline markets, but the country is struggling to provide qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport technology to ensure safety. And with so many new, small carriers, it's hard to monitor all their standards."



9. PHILIPPINES: Clustering of SMEs to boost economy
Source: Manila Bulletin

"The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is implementing a national industry clustering approach to increase the contribution of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to the Philippine economy. This initiative is implemented through the three-year National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (NICCEP), which seeks to enhance SMEs' capabilities for job creation, investment generation, export growth, SME development, and poverty alleviation.

During the series of industry cluster development planning workshops, strategic development plans for target industry clusters were drafted using the value chain framework. The NICCEP is funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in coordination with the DTI to develop and mobilize pilot industry clusters nationwide. Twenty-four pilot projects were already identified in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao."



10. SRI LANKA: Exporters succeed in overseas maize market
Source: Daily News

"For the first time in Sri Lankan agriculture history, maize is being exported in large volumes to Canada, Gulf countries and Taipei,China. The managing Director of Wayamba Traders Company, Shahul Sadikeen, told Daily News Business that that they would be exporting 50,000 metric tons mainly to be used as raw material to manufacture poultry feed.

He said that with peace and more land being made available for agriculture, Sri Lanka achieved self sufficiency in maize this year. "The country's demand is 180,000 metric tons per year and during harvesting of the first season the yield was 200,000 metric tons," he said. He added that they are now looking at manufacturing poultry food in Sri Lanka for exporting to these countries."



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