India’s economic slowdown a stain on 2011

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) building is seen in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, 24 January 2012. India's central bank said growth will slow to 7 per cent this fiscal year, but left interest rates unchanged Tuesday as it struggles to balance a toxic mix of high inflation and a flagging economy. (Photo: AAP)

Author: M. Govinda Rao, NIPFP

India’s economy was one of the earliest to stage a turnaround after the global financial crisis.

The decisions taken in early 2008 to increase public-sector wages, forgive loans for farmers who had borrowed from the banks, and massively expand the rural-employment guarantee scheme assisted the economy before the global financial crisis unfolded in the last quarter of the year. Read more…

Political surprises dominate the Korean peninsula in 2011

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The historic victory of Park over the ruling party candidate in 2011 is indicative of growing dissatisfaction in Korea.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yoon Young-kwan, Seoul National University

After North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean frigate, Cheonan, and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, inter-Korean relations did not improve much in 2011.

There was limited official contact between the South and the North and between the US and the North to discuss the possible resumption of Six-Party Talks or food aid. Read more…

Pakistan: a tumultuous economy and divided politics

A Pakistani sweets vendor waits for customers at a roadside of Islamabad on 17 January 2012. For the fourth year in a row, GDP growth in 2011−12 will fall below its long-term growth rate. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ishrat Husain, IBA, Karachi

Pakistan’s economy remained sluggish in 2011 due to domestic political instability, energy shortages, deteriorating Pakistan-US relations, global climate change and internal security concerns.

For the fourth year in a row, GDP growth in 2011-12 will fall below its long-term growth rate. Read more…

Pakistan: lots of headlines, little progress

A Pakistani woman looks for warm clothes at a roadside market in Islamabad on 17 January 2012. The Pakistan economy has been badly affected by three major factors, including devastating floods in 2010 which caused damage US$10 billion worth of damage, an increase in oil prices at the international level, and the turbulent security situation. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Alicia Mollaun, ANU

In Pakistan, external shocks and unforeseen events defined 2011. But for the Western world and for Pakistanis, this past year will be remembered very differently.

Drones, floods, economic misery, developmental challenges and a fraught relationship with the US will stick in the memory of Pakistanis. While in the West, 2011 will be remembered as the year the US killed Osama bin Laden — only 50 kilometres from the Pakistani capital.

Read more…

New Zealand: might 2012 be smoother?

A sign advertising the 2011 Rugby Worl Cup stands outside the destroyed Christchurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 22. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Robert Ayson, Victoria University of Wellington

Visitors to New Zealand during the uneventful general election in November 2011, which returned John Key’s National Party to office, would be forgiven for thinking things were running smoothly.

This was helped by the fact that a few weeks earlier, New Zealanders gained the greatest prize they could wish for. This was not a Nobel Prize for their leading scientists; nor a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, which Mr Key’s government wants to secure; nor the competent hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland, which came and went without much trace. Read more…

Singapore in 2011: the emergence of quality-of-life concerns

A rickshaw driver cycles near the business district in Singapore on 12 January 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mukul Asher, NUS

With the end of 2011, Singapore’s policy makers have ample reason to be satisfied with their economic management, and the results of the long-prevailing business location growth model.

Singapore’s macroeconomic indicators, excepting the inflation rate, exhibited encouraging trends in 2011. Read more…

The Philippines: signs of economic improvement

People walk along a flyover at the South Luzon Expressway in Manila on November 18, 2010. The Philippine government said 18 November it would ask investors to pour in billions of dollars to upgrade the creaking infrastructure of Manila, promising protection from business blackholes. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Cesar Virata, Manila

The Philippines began 2011 with high expectations and optimism after the Aquino administration announced various reform-minded plans and programs.

These included a vigorous anti-corruption campaign, plans for greater government transparency and accountability, a number of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for major infrastructure projects, social programs addressing poverty alleviation, and improved education and health programs. Read more…

Burma in 2011: contradictory impulses

Myanmar President Thein Sein, right, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar Thursday. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jacqueline Menager, ANU

Contradiction is a mainstay in Burmese life. In downtown Rangoon, a giant new Toshiba TV screen hangs over the street, while rickety cars and taxis from the 1970s whir past below. Crumbling colonial-era buildings are mixed with shiny new Chinese-funded monoliths.

But nowhere is the country’s inherent contradiction more apparent than in the developments of 2011. Primarily, the new parliament’s formation must be juxtaposed against resumed violence in border regions. And we must decide which of the two dynamics to take as the year’s prevailing reality. Read more…

Malaysia’s progress in a gloomy global economy and contested political environment

Anwar Ibrahim celeberates his acquittal on January 9, 2012. The Malaysian opposition leader was acquitted in a surprise end to a politically-charged sodomy trial he has called a government bid to cripple his opposition ahead of upcoming polls. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mahani Zainal Abidin, ISIS Malaysia

After stating in 2010 his vision to transform Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib’s task in 2011 was to turn vision into reality.

The Government Transformation Programme made some progress on this front, improving the delivery of some public services. A number of Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) projects also delivered higher private-sector investments and successful large property joint ventures between the government and the private sector, both of which helped revive the investment climate. Read more…

Thailand in 2011: a year of surprises

Thailand's new Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, center, waves to media at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, 5 Aug. 2011 after Thai lawmakers chose US-educated businesswoman Yingluck as the country's first female prime minister. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University

After facing two violent street protests in the last two years, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government started 2011 in relative calm.

The then-opposition Pheu Thai Party was without a visible leader, and many saw the red shirts as still suffering from the May 2010 violence and thus unlikely to stage another street protest. Read more…

Will Asia step up to the global challenges of 2012?

US President Barack Obama speaks to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk during a meeting with Trans-Pacific Partnership leaders at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, on 12 November 2011. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Wendy Dobson, University of Toronto

The euro crisis hijacked the G20 Summit in Cannes — even by late December Europe’s leaders still had not fully diagnosed the problem, but without an accurate diagnosis how can there be an effective prescription?

This missing link accentuates two challenges that Asian integration will face in 2012: the consolidation of regional architecture and the need for deeper structural adjustments. Read more…

Regional cooperation and national sovereignty: Asia and the euro crisis

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron chat during the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, 9 December 2011. Euro zone governments decided to adopt tighter budget rules outside normal EU legal arrangements in a move designed to bypass 'unacceptable' demands posed by Britain. EU leaders gathered in Brussels beginning late 08 December to discuss a slew of Franco-German proposals, including balanced budget commitments monitored by the European Court of Justice, greater scrutiny from the European Union on national policies and more automatic sanctions for reckless spenders as they sought to alleviate the sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Shinji Takagi, Osaka University

The unfolding euro crisis makes clear the difficulty of managing a single monetary policy among a group of countries that retain separate fiscal policies and regulatory rules over national banking systems. The lessons for Asia are profound.

In order to help save the euro, in December 2011, European leaders agreed to impose binding limits on national budgets and borrowing, with penalties for those who violate them. Read more…

Détente and the Myanmar spring?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours the Shwedegon Pagoda, a Buddhist temple founded between the 6th and 10th centuries, in Rangoon, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Roger Lee Huang, City University of Hong Kong

President Thein Sein’s actions over the last few months suggest he is a skillful leader who has the ability to balance the push for critical reforms while also preventing a backlash from more conservative elements within the military.

New laws have been passed in quick succession, allowing citizens a range of rights denied since the 1962 coup. Read more…