Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dalai Lama fasts and prays with people for peace

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama joined his follower in fasting and praying for peace from his hospital bed in Mumbai Saturday.

The Dalai Lama was hospitalized for fatigue after returning from a grueling travel schedule in Europe.

A spokesperson for the leader of Tibetan exiles said that the Dalai Lama is expected to return to Dharamsala, his home in the mountainous regions of northern India in a day or two.

Washington Post

Ailing Dalai Lama and Other Tibetan Exiles Fast For Peace
Voice of America - 4 hours ago
By VOA News Tibetan exiles in India fasted and prayed for peace on Saturday, and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, joined in from a hospital bed in Mumbai.
Video: Dalai Lama in Indian Hospital for Tests AssociatedPress
Tibetan exiles stage fast as Dalai Lama takes part in hospital AFP

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thai govt vows no crackdown on protesters

Thai protesters defied a court order as they continued to occupy a government compound. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej promised not to use force against the demonstrators.

The protests largely pit the supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup, against opposition forces dominated by royalists.

Opposition forces see Samak and his allies as puppets of Shinawatra, who lives in exile in Britain.

BBC News

Thai PM vows 'no showdown' as protesters dig in
AFP - 58 minutes ago
BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's embattled prime minister vowed Thursday to end massive rallies against his rule without force -- raising the spectre of a prolonged siege of Bangkok's main government compound.
Thais speak out on protests BBC News
Thai protesters defy court order to leave compound The Associated Press

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anwar sworn into Malaysian Parliament

Anwar Ibrahim was sworn into parliament after a decade of absence that included a prison term for corruption and sodomy.

Before his earlier fall from grace, Anwar was one of the rising stars of Malaysia's strongest party, the currently leads the ruling Barisan coalition.

Anwar faces new charges of sodomy, but he claims that these accusations along with the earlier ones for which he was convicted are untrue. The opposition leader has promised to unseat Barisan in a mid-September confidence vote vowing to end widespread government corruption.

Barisan has grown increasingly unpopular among Malaysia's minorities who feel that it has been moving toward fundamentalist Islamic law.

Wall Street Journal

Anwar sworn in as MP in Malaysian parliament
Reuters - 30 minutes ago
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's leading opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim, was sworn in on Thursday, taking his parliamentary seat after a decade-long absence following convictions for sodomy and corruption.
Politics May Drag Malaysian Stocks Further Lower CNBC
Critics want Malaysia PM to resign over Anwar win The Associated Press

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pakistan government collapses

Pakistan's ruling coalition today split into two threatening to send the country into further instability.

For years, former President Pervez Musharraf held things together in this country rife with Islamic fundamentalism especially in the border area with Afghanistan. Pakistan is the only predominantly Muslim country known to possess nuclear weapons.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif left the coalition after disagreement on the restoration of two Supreme Court justices ousted by Musharraf.

Bombing attacks in Pakistan last week killed about 100 people.

Washington Post

Pakistan's ruling coalition collapses amid dissent
The Associated Press - 10 hours ago
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan's ruling coalition collapsed Monday, torn apart by internal bickering just a week after Pervez Musharraf's ouster and ...
Post-Musharraf Gloomy Pakistan Islam Online
Former PM quits ruling coalition The Press Association
Pak bans umbrella group of Taliban militants Press Trust of India

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic medal count

Olympic medal count

Gold Silver Bronze Total
1. China
6 2 0 8
2. South Korea
3 2 0 5
3. United States
2 2 4 8

Gold medal winner Xian Dongmei of China waves on podium during the judo women's -52 kg category medal ceremony at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (CHINA)

Gold medal winner Xian Dongmei of China waves on podium during the judo women's -52 kg category medal ceremony at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (CHINA)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership set for Ratification

Philippine Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) is certain to be ratified by the Senate in September.

The senator said that the pact already has 14 of the 15 or 16 votes needed with another four to six votes nearly assured.

(Update) RP-Japan free trade deal as good as approved
ABS CBN News, Philippines - 23 hours ago
The controversial free trade agreement between the Philippines and Japan is as good as approved by the Senate, according to Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago ...
JPEPA approval assured -- Santiago
RP-Japan trade agreement ‘virtually assured’ of Senate OK GMA
13 senators back Japan deal Manila Standard Today

Japan's workforce is shrinking rapidly due to demographic changes in birth rate and an aging population. The nation is turning toward immigration to solve this problem, and Philippine proponents of the new free trade pact see this as an opportunity for Filipino workers especially nurses and health workers.

Philippine supporters also note that agriculture and exports should flourish under the deal. Japanese proponents cite greater opportunities for Japanese corporations looking to set up business in the Philippines.

Opponents in the Philippines say that it will allow Japanese business to overrun the Philippines, and in Japan, opponents worry about a swarm of new Filipino immigration.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Economics: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Bill Clinton

The current hoopla about the expanded value added tax (E-VAT) on petroleum products in the Philippines got me thinking about Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's economic thinking.

Macapagal and former U.S. President Bill Clinton were friends and they shared some ideas on economics. Both believed in balancing the budget, and viewed excessive national debt as a core problem.

Clinton managed to balance the budget through painful cuts particularly in military spending. His drawing back on the military industrial complex is believed by some to be the main cause of his intense dislike among conservative Republicans. The latter tend to be well-invested in this sector.

During the Clinton administration, many military bases and facilities were shut down and military procurement was downsized.

Eventually, Clinton did manage to balance the budget and the economy began to jumpstart out of recession.

Clinton's economic growth was real and not based on debt spending, which had been the hallmark of Republican "supply side economics." Growth based on debt is rather meaningless unless the growth continues enabling one to pay off the borrowed money.

For Clinton, it was information technology (IT) that brought success. His administration was really responsible for helping to build up the internet. However, Clinton did not interfere much in the financing that went on in the IT field. Speculation ran wild.

Speculation really is just another form of lending. Debt became a problem here too, eventually resulting in the dotcom meltdown.

When Clinton left office, his successor George W. Bush went back to the old Republican ways of a debt-driven economy. The government will break the budget deficit record again this year at nearly half a trillion dollars.

Now, Macapagal may for the first time in her adminstration, balance the nation's budget this year. This will be the first time the budget will have been balanced in many years. When she first came to power, the nation was deep in debt and in danger of defaulting like Brazil when the latter country captured world headlines.

It was at this time, that Macapagal came up with a stroke of genius -- the E-VAT tax. The 12 percent consumption tax on petroleum products keyed in on the country's growing dependence on imported oil.

Suddenly, the deficit began shrinking dramatically but not through any drastic budget cuts as occurred when Clinton balanced his budget. In fact, government spending has instead increased sharply, something needed in a country which still has inadequate infrastructure. And last year, the country registered its strongest GDP growth in three decades, while very nearly balancing the budget. Even in the current world inflationary crisis, the Philippines will still grow at a very brisk pace this year also.

In many ways, E-VAT has been sort of a panacea for Philippine economic woes.

For example, not only did the country face a debt problem when Macapagal came to office, but they also had balance of accounts woes. Foreign currency reserves were low. The deficit here was also due in no small part to the need to buy foreign oil. By taking a slice of oil sales, the nation has been able to build up record foreign reserves.

Oil imports also meant loss of capital and the vast majority of petroleum products were used by the wealthy citizens of the Philippines. Much of this was excess wasteful spending that had no benefit for the majority of the people. Traffic congestion and pollution were becoming intolerable problems.

E-VAT helped curb this excess spending and the resulting environmental problems.

Curiously there happens to be another type of E-VAT, not an expanded valued added tax, but an ecological value added tax. This latter tax is defined as a consumption tax "to make what is more polluting, depleting, and ecologically damaging more expensive, and what is sustainable less expensive."

What could be less sustainable and more ecologically-damaging than petroleum in today's society?

Thus, E-VAT in the Philippines helps move the country in the direction it should be moving -- toward greater conservation and toward development and adoption of green technologies and practices.

Eventually in this scheme of things, E-VAT revenues would decline as petroleum consumption is replaced by local sources of energy including geothermal, solar and wind power. Vehicles would use greater percentages of biofuels, and more efficient vehicles would replace the old fuel hogs. The loss of revenues though would not be a bad thing.

The new power sources would become also sources of new government revenue. The outflow of capital from the country would naturally decrease. Everything would become more efficient.

Of course, in order for this to happen, the Philippines needs to avoid what happened in the U.S. after the Clinton administration when the country shifted back to the old debt-driven economy mode.

There are two forces that would not like to see ideas like E-VAT spread around to other appropriate countries -- the banking sector and the oil companies. With the latter, the reason is obvious. The bankers of course make their money mainly on loans, and thus they would naturally oppose anything that reduces debt spending.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tonga's King Tupou V Crowned

After a traditional anointing and installment ceremony, Tonga's King Tupou V was crowned in a British-style royal church service in Nuku'alofa on August 1, 2008.

The lavish ceremonies in the tiny, poor South Pacific nation have drawn mixed reaction as shown in this Al-Jazeera news video.

The king's coronation had to be delayed by a year after deadly riots ripped the nation following the last king's death.

King Tupou V has already agreed to give up many of his royal powers, and there are some observers who believe he is placing the nation on the path to democracy and may be the last Tongan king.

Many foreign guests including royals from Japan, Britain and Thailand, and South Pacific chiefs and heads of state were present for the ceremony.