Geopolitics

Geopolitics

Achieving a ‘high quality RCEP’

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) encompasses 25 percent global GDP, 45 percent of the total population, 30 percent of global income and 30 percent global trade. Led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it is one of the most useful strategic opportunities for the 16 countries – ASEAN-10, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – to realise an economically open and liberal Asia Pacific.The potential that RCEP has is immense. If it is completed, it stands to be the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round in 1994 which established the World Trade Organisation (WTO).However, completing the trade deal is a mammoth task.In a briefing paper published by Singapore based ISEAS – Yusuf Ishak Institute, authors Malcolm Cook and Sanchita Basu Das concluded that RCEP’s biggest challenge is “the differing negotiation positions between key non-ASEAN RCEP parties.”The paper rightly indicates that RCEP economies come from “different starting points” – the wealthiest RCEP economy (Australia) being 48 times richer than the poorest (Cambodia). Besides that, the largest RCEP members do not have Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with each other – India-China, Japan-China and Japan-Korea – and that their bilateral baggage often hampers RCEP negotiations. Moreover, protectionist economic attitudes is a huge stumbling block to the completion of negotiations. India, for example is being pressured to liberalise tariff lines from 80 percent to 90-92 percent. However, New Delhi has been wary of such measures – that it might cause cheaper Chinese goods to flood its markets and hurt its manufacturing industry. As of now, 20 rounds of negotiations have been completed and the 16 nations are slowly inching towards a deal agreeable to all. Speaking at a lecture on Singapore’s priorities as ASEAN Chairman in 2018 at the ISEAS – Yusuf Ishak Institute in early December, Singaporean Foreign Minister, Vivien Balakrishnan expressed his hope that a ‘high quality RCEP” would be completed by the end of next year. “Do I hope that all the homework that ASEAN had set for itself, not just from our Chairmanship, but from earlier Chairmanships, is also settled by December? I think we can make progress on all that,” he added.Balakrishnan was referring to the Trans-Pacific Agreement (TPP) which is being concurrently negotiated as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The TPP which was dealt a blow when the United States reversed its commitment to the pact upon President Donald Trump’s elections, has continued to trudge along – with Japan leading negotiations among the remainder 11 economies.In pursuit of the goals of the ‘pathways’ to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), the RCEP seems like the better bet than the TPP.In the same briefing paper, the authors agreed that US withdrawal of the TPP has made RCEP” the most inclusive pathway” towards achieving FTAAP.“The US…

Indonesia court rejects bid to outlaw extramarital sex

A bid to make all sex outside marriage illegal was thrown out by an Indonesian court Thursday, as concerns grow over rising intolerance in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country. Five out of nine judges on the Constitutional Court in the capital Jakarta narrowly rejected the push to criminalise extramarital relations. The unsuccessful petition would have affected unmarried heterosexuals and gay people, who cannot marry in Indonesia – several months after the arrests of a group of men accused of holding a "gay party". The court heard a judicial review filed by Islamic activist group the Family Love Alliance that sought to alter the criminal code. "The appeal is rejected in its entirety," said the Constitutional Court's chief justice Arief Hidayat. Under current laws, sex is only illegal in Indonesia for both homosexual and heterosexual people if it involves a minor. However, gay sex is illegal in conservative Aceh province, which upholds sharia law. Under a local law that came into force in 2015, people can also be punished for having gay sex with up to 100 strokes of the cane. Aceh, on Sumatra island, began implementing Islamic law after being granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency. There was a backlash against the country's LGBT community last year with government ministers publicly making anti-gay statements. In May, police arrested a group of men holding party in two hotel rooms in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city. Some of the men were watching gay porn and performing "deviant sexual acts", police said at the time. Authorities named eight men as suspects and filed preliminary charges against them under Indonesia's tough anti-pornography law, which can result in years in jail. Also this year, two men having sex were caught by a group of vigilantes who raided a boarding house in Aceh. Indonesia has often been praised for its moderate inclusive brand of Islam, and the constitution guarantees freedom of worship for six religions. However, the diverse archipelago's sizeable religious minorities – mainly Christians and Muslim minority Shiites and Ahmadis – have been increasingly targeted in recent years. – AFP   Recommended stories: Vietnam’s promising future for women in companies Indonesia court rejects bid to outlaw extramarital sex Chinese, S. Korean leaders meet hoping to smooth tensions

Vietnam’s promising future for women in companies

According to a recent report, Vietnam seems to have a bright future for gender diversity in the Southeast Asia region as there is a higher illustration of women serving as board of directors and chief executive officers in comparison to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported that some 25 percent of CEOs on board of directors in Vietnam are women. Currently, women hold 14 percent of CEO or board level positions in Malaysia and 10 percent in Singapore. Indonesia came in last among the four countries, at six percent.The majority of Southeast Asian companies with women on the board still make up a small number despite a miniscule year-to-year increase.The reasons which contribute to low levels of representation of women in the boardroom across ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) include deep-rooted corporate culture, long working hours and household responsibilities, particularly in raising children.Additionally, the BCG report also found that more women in Vietnam are “also hoping to be promoted” after surveying more than 2,000 employees.At the moment, Malaysia has the biggest proportion of female respondents that intend to not leave their current positions.This is because there are various beliefs around the discourse of promoting women in the boardroom. These being mostly misconceptions, include that company growth and transformation are more urgent priorities compared to promoting women.According to Bloomberg, Ian Grundy of Switzerland-based employment firm Adecco Group AG, the world’s largest provider of temporary workers said that "women in Vietnam lead or own many SMEs and large enterprises which provides positive, visible and diverse role models to other women.”An earlier study by Deloitte this year noted that 17.6 percent of board members in a survey of 50 Vietnamese companies were women. This statistic proves that it is double of Asia’s average of 7.8 percent as developed nations like Taiwan, South Korea and Japan ranked amongst the lowest in Asia.Board members in other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore comprised of 13.7 and 10.7 percent of women, respectively.Percentage of women on boards in five ASEAN countries. Source: Deloitte Global’s Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective.“Emerging countries outperform developed countries in Asia in women’s representation on company boards,” said Adecco’s Grundy. “Vietnam’s progress in gender diversity is partly due to measures by government and businesses to retain and grow female talent,” he said."Having said that, it is important to remember that Southeast Asia still lags behind Europe and North America," said Grundy. "And globally we are still some way from achieving optimal gender diversity, which means there is continued effort required from all stakeholders in the region."On a larger scale, recent research from Citigroup Inc. also found that the GDP in advanced economies could grow by 6 percent if gender equality in…

Philippines' Duterte wins extra year of martial law powers

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won martial law powers across the southern third of the country for one more year on Wednesday to combat Islamic militants and leftist rebels, as Congress brushed aside fears of a looming dictatorship. Duterte's request to extend martial law in the Mindanao region until December 31 next year and detain rebellion suspects there without charge was approved by 240 votes to 27 at a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives. Asked by reporters later on Wednesday if he would extend martial law to the whole country, Duterte said "all options are on the table". In May Duterte imposed military rule and suspended a constitutional guarantee against warrantless arrests across the region of 20 million people, hours after armed Islamic militants seized the southern city of Marawi. The initial period of martial law was limited by the constitution to 60 days. However, in July Congress authorised Duterte to extend martial law until the last day of 2017 as he moved to retake the city from hundreds of gunmen he accused of plotting to turn Marawi into a regional base for the Islamic State group. Duterte declared Marawi "liberated" in October after a five-month US-backed bombing campaign that claimed more than 1,100 lives and left large areas of the city in ruins. But on Monday he warned that those who escaped were regrouping. Duterte, who called off peace talks last month with communist rebels, also warned one of Asia's longest armed rebellions had stepped up "terrorist acts". His request added to critics' fears he was seeking to steer the Philippines back into dictatorship like the late president Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972. On Wednesday Duterte compared the communists who operate in rural areas all over the country to the Islamic militants who are based in Mindanao. "They are the same," he said. Opposition legislators said Wednesday that martial law was illegal because Duterte had declared the liberation of Marawi and described the communists as a "spent force". "Is this now a prelude to declaring martial law nationwide?" said senate minority leader Franklin Drilon. Duterte has repeatedly said he may impose martial law across the entire nation to save the Philippines from narcotics, crime and terrorism-induced anarchy. But his cabinet members downplayed those fears. "We do not ask for unlimited martial law. What we are seeking is unlimited peace," Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told the joint session. – AFP   Recommended stories: Chinese, S. Korean leaders meet hoping to smooth tensions Empowering civil society in ASEAN Asia's top inflation-targeting bank may be preparing to hike

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Energy

Energy

Asian markets on course for broad gains after volatile week

Asian markets rallied on Friday, bringing a volatile week to a positive end as tech firms extended their rebound while investors tracked advances on Wall Street following reports Donald Trump is…

GE's 12,000 job cuts highlight uneasy shift to renewable energy

After spending years building up its gas-power business, General Electric Co. is trying to figure out how to keep pace in a world that’s no longer all that interested in fossil fuels.The plan to cut…

Infrastructure development, done the InfraCo Asia way

As the Southeast Asian region develops rapidly, its future lies in sustainable development. The combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) members stands…

Markets

Market

Bank Indonesia decision guide: On hold now, but 2018 is open

As central banks around the globe get ready to pull the trigger on interest rates, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is in no rush to do the same.After reducing interest rates eight times since the…

Asia's top inflation-targeting bank may be preparing to hike

A small economy that’s constantly battling risks beyond its control like typhoons and oil prices has been one of the most successful in managing inflation in Asia.The Philippine central bank, which…

Southeast Asia online economy seen reaching $50 billion in 2017

Southeast Asia’s internet economy, spanning online travel to ride-hailing, will reach $50 billion this year, putting it on a solid trajectory to grow fourfold by 2025, according to a joint research…

Asian stocks fall ahead of Central Bank meetings

Most Asian equities fell as traders await US and European central bank meetings this week for further clues on the 2018 policy outlook. The dollar was steady and oil extended gains above $58 a barrel…

Gadfly: Bitcoin options are what we need to tame this beast

The seminal financial event of this year, the current decade, and possibly our generation is here: Futures trading in bitcoin has begun.But the derivative that would really damp the current crypto…

Technology

Technology

Google to open Beijing AI centre in latest expansion

Google is deepening its push into China as it seeks an edge in one of technology’s most competitive fields: artificial intelligence.The Alphabet Inc. unit will announce…

How fintech is helping Southeast Asia’s ‘unbanked’

Southeast Asia has shown itself to be one of the most rapidly advancing regions in the world.With a booming population of 644 million (and rising), half of whom are…

Will driverless cars be common in Southeast Asia?

Autonomous cars have been all the rage in recent years.Car manufacturers like Audi have made developments in autonomous cars a big part of their marketing push. It’s not…

Environment

Environment

Mount Agung’s eruption: Of cancelled flights and climate change

According to the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), a pinkish plume was seen over Mount Agung in Bali early on Monday morning.The head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency of Indonesia, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho shared a photograph on Twitter of the plume rising form the volcano in Bali. He also stated that the volcanic activity remains high at Mount Agung.The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) said that greyish-white plumes have soared as high as 2,000m…

Sanofi urges Philippines to lift dengue vaccine suspension

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi on Monday urged the Philippines to lift the suspension of its anti-dengue vaccine, insisting it was safe, but the government accused the firm of "dishonesty". Sales of Dengvaxia and a landmark public immunisation programme using the vaccine were suspended by the Philippines this month after Sanofi warned it could lead to "severe" symptoms for people who had not previously been infected with dengue. But the company's regional head said on Monday that…

Indonesian president recognises land rights of 9 more indigenous groups

The Indonesian government has relinquished control over nine tracts of forest to the indigenous communities that have lived there for generations, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced at a recent conference on land tenure in Jakarta.The move follows the government’s recognition last December of nine other communities’ rights to their ancestral forests, in line with a 2013 decision by Indonesia’s highest court that removed indigenous peoples’ customary forests from under state control.“The…

Indonesia’s deforestation is driving Sumatran tigers to extinction

The "Panthera tigris sumatrae" better known as the Sumatran tiger has been driven to the brink of extinction by a combination of factors. Since the 1980s, it has been suffering a severe loss of habitat due factors such as the continuous cultivation and harvesting of palm oil and timber estates as well as wildlife trafficking. Such is the rate of its decline that its population is estimated to be numbered less than 600 in existent in the wild. It is rated as a “Critically Endangered” animal,…

Real Estate

Real Estate

Singapore property bulls ignore Central bank's warning into 2018

Property companies such as City Developments and UOL Group Ltd. are among the top performers in Singapore in 2017, with developers collectively on…

Manila gridlock spurs dormitory demand in the Philippines

Ayala Land is investing three billion pesos (58 million dollars) building five dormitories on four sites in the Makati and Taguig business districts.

‘Hungry Ghost’ month affected home sales in Singapore

Despite a slow month, Singapore’s property market is showing signs of a turnaround.

Singapore's home-sharing sector is on the rise

Despite government rules restricting the likes of Airbnb operating in Singapore, there are signs that home-sharing has become more prolific in the…

Malaysian billionaire acquires Singapore's most expensive land

Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan's Guocoland snagged the Beach Road site for a record S$1.62 billion (1.2 billion dollars).

Events

Home Event

The ASEAN Women of Tomorrow Conference 2017

Event Date
Event Location
Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa (23 Nov) & Tanarimba, Janda Baik (24 Nov)
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