Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Korea in review

Author: Yoon Young-kwan, Seoul National University

The year 2010 was the most turbulent year in inter-Korean relations in the recent decade.

Though the relationship between the South and the North has begun to deteriorate since the start of the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2008, there was a hope for improvement until around March 2010. Read more…

Singapore: Prospect of greater pluralism?

Author: K Kesavapany, ISEAS

Last year was not a year of dramatic change for Singapore. It was, instead, a year for fine-tuning existing public policies to meet the impending and fluid economic and political challenges of globalization.

One of the key decisions the Singapore government made this year was the reduction of the number of foreign workers admitted into the city-state. Read more…

Indonesia: Blessed by strong economic growth and the curse of resources

Author: Thee Kian Wie, LIPI, Jakarta

The Indonesian economy continued to grow strongly at 5.8 per cent (yoy) during the third quarter of 2010, which was slightly lower than during the second quarter of  the year when growth reached 6.2 per cent.

The slightly lower growth during the third quarter of 2010 was due to the unusual weather conditions caused by continuous rains. Read more…

India: sustaining high growth needs new reform momentum

Author: M. Govinda Rao, NIPFP, New Delhi

India’s economic growth accelerated significantly in the latter half of 2010. The growth of real GDP during the final two quarters of 2010 averaged 8.9 per cent as compared to the 7.5 per cent recorded during the corresponding period in 2009.

The acceleration of growth has been broad based and is seen in all the three sectors – agriculture, industry and services. Read more…

India’s high points and lows: no time for backsliding

Author: Rajiv Kumar, FICCI, New Delhi

Last year has indeed been a rollercoaster year for India. The high point has been India securing a firm place on the high table of global governance.

The process started with the G-20 summit in November 2008 and culminated in the second half of this year that saw the heads of government of all five Security Council members visiting Delhi. Read more…

Thailand: Divisive politics but economics-almost-as-usual

Author: Chalongphob Sussangkarn, TDRI, Bangkok

The Red Shirts’ protracted occupation of a central Bangkok area and the eventual violent and deadly end in May 2010 reiterated the highly divisive situation in Thai politics.

This protest, like the Yellow Shirts’ closure of the Bangkok airport toward the end of 2008, had the potential to have extended negative impacts on the broader economy, particularly on foreigners’ confidence. Read more…

Malaysia: A new way forward?

Author: Mahani Zainal Abidin, ISIS

After taking office in April 2009, Prime Minister Najib Razak consolidated his position in 2010 as he introduced plans to transform the economy and the public sector.

Najib’s popularity was further bolstered by Malaysia’s robust economic performance and a foreign policy that saw relations with key countries improve rapidly. Read more…

Australia: a country racked by division and drift

Author: Andrew MacIntyre, ANU

Australia continues to enjoy markedly better economic performance than most other wealthy countries. But problems are accumulating.

The 2010 federal election yielded a hamstrung, minority government. Neither of the major parties shows any real appetite for large-scale policy reform. Read more…

PNG’s bumpy road to high growth

Author: Aaron Batten, Ministry of Finance, Malawi

Optimism continues to run high about PNG’s development prospects.

The last eight years have seen sustained growth across the PNG economy – the first time since independence. It is also the first time that real per capita incomes have begun to increase after a 30 year period of stagnation. Formal sector employment across all industries is now at record levels. Read more…

Australia’s future in the Asia-Pacific

Author: Andrew Low, RedBridge Grant Samuel

It has now become conventional wisdom in Australia to observe that the growth of China and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Asia rescued our economy from a likely recession after the global financial crisis. While a sound banking system and proactive fiscal and monetary response were also important, Australia was fortunate to be the most proximate and efficient quarry for commodity-hungry capital investment in the region.

There is, however, a danger that Australia’s good fortune in having good customers and terms of trade might lead it to overlook the other fundamental changes going on in the region. Read more…

Thailand in 2010: When the royal rumble turned blood red

Author: Nicholas Farrelly, ANU

In Thailand’s traditional style of kick-boxing, the bout begins with ornate and time-consuming preambles. Offerings are made. Respect is shown. Brutal bursts of punches, high kicks, knees and elbows follow. It is fast and furious combat that rewards total commitment once the fight begins.

As a public spectacle of martial prowess, Thai kick-boxing offers some insight into the formidable capacity for violence which can lurk in the corner of the easy-going Thai smile. Read more…

New Zealand: A cautious year and another cautious year ahead

Author: Gary Hawke, NZIER

At home, New Zealand marked time in 2010. Public commentary remained dominated by apprehension about the international economy. The Governor of the Reserve Bank published a memoir about the very reasonable worries over what could have happened but didn’t. The financial crisis in Europe and North America, which triggered a trade crisis in Asia, ultimately had only a moderate impact in New Zealand, which was also true for much of Asia. New Zealand’s insecurity is due to investment exceeding national saving and that is domestically driven.

After 24 years of sound government accounts, government expenditure has been allowed to exceed revenue and this is expected to continue for some time. This is partly attributable to the government’s response to the global financial crisis but more much to decay of the effective expenditure control, which was one of the least-heralded but most important of New Zealand’s economic reforms in the eighties. Read more…

The Philippines: Weak institutions drag on economic performance

Author: Josef T. Yap, PIDS

After two years of slow growth — owing primarily to the repercussions of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis — the Philippine economy expanded by 7.5 per cent in the first three quarters of 2010. The growth rate in 2010 is nearly equal to that of 2007 which is not surprising since economic activity in both years was boosted by election spending. The new administration has therefore benefited from favourable economic conditions. The challenge is to sustain the momentum and make economic growth more inclusive and balanced.

In the short-term, the Philippines, like many other emerging market economies, has to deal with the surge in foreign capital inflows. The peso appreciated by 5.6 per cent in the first 11 months of the year. Read more…

Singapore: Economy bounces back, but…?

Author: Mukul G. Asher, NUS, Singapore

The 2008 global crisis and its aftermath have not adversely impacted Singapore’s medium term growth performance. After only 1.4 per cent growth in 2008, and negative 2.0 per cent growth in 2009, the economy rebounded strongly in 2010, with the most recent projected growth rate of 14.8 per cent. The cyclical upturn in the global demand has been a major factor in the strong rebound in 2010 with goods producing sectors, including electronics manufacturing, being the largest contributor.

The services sector was aided by the commencement of casinos during 2010. This is reflected in the projected S$300 million in collections from levy on Singapore residents who visit casinos. The projections are that Singapore’s gambling market could exceed that of Las Vegas by end 2011. Read more…

The US-Asia relationship in 2010: Progress and problems

Author: Simon Tay, SIIA

President Obama’s 10 day tour of Asia’s four largest democracies showed a continued commitment to engage Asia, even if difficult Tea Party politics at home might derail the practicalities of increased regional engagement. For Americans, President Obama brought home deliverables on jobs in India and helped lay groundwork for trade agreements with Korea. For some Asians, there is a feeling of relief that US-Asia relations will continue.

Yet while the trip was positive, there is no room for complacency. While the US and Asia remain interdependent, there remain significant obstacles to the development of the post-crisis relationship, in spite of leaders’ best intentions. Read more…