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IAfrica News Kenya Focus 

January 04 - 10, 2013

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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Asian economies surge ahead
despite global slowdown

Analysts pointed out that China’s recent data
show signs of a “ soft landing” for next year’s
economic recovery in the entire region

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT
Ding Qilin, Hu Junxin

SINGAPORE (Xinhua) -- Emerging economies in Asia have surged ahead despite the impact of debt crisis in Europe, the slow world economic recovery, and the feared U.S. “fiscal cliff”.

These economies performed well in 2012 although their growths were slower than expected. A United Nations report released recently says that economic growth of Asia and the Pacific in 2012 is forecast to be 5.6 percent, down from an earlier forecast of 6. 5 percent.

For the upcoming 2013, economists are generally optimistic on the continued growth in the Asia Pacific with strong domestic demand expected to offset weak export growth.

Goldman Sachs recently released 2013 Asian Economic Outlook report, expressing optimism about the economic outlook for next year in the region excluding Japan.

It predicted that economic growth in Asia would average 6.9 percent in 2013 and to further expand to 7.3 percent from 2014 to 2016.

Singapore, for its part, which is more open to the outside world, was obviously the most affected by the weak global economy. The European Union (EU) is Singapore’s second largest trading partner, second only to its neighboring Malaysia.

According to official data, the bilateral trade between Singapore and the European Union reached 106 billion Singapore dollars (about 86.9 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011, an increase of 7 percent. This year, Singapore’s non-oil exports to the EU fell by 16.5 percent in the third quarter of this year.

Based on weak exports in the third quarter, the International Enterprise Singapore Board forecasts non-oil domestic exports growth would be reduced from 4-5 percent to 2-3 percent the whole year, and next year’s non-oil domestic exports grew by 2 percent to 4 percent, the total trade would grow by 3-4 percent.

According to Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore’s economic growth in the third quarter in 2012 remained in the doldrums. The first quarter GDP grew by 1.6 percent, the second quarter by 2.5 percent, the third quarter by only 0.3 percent.

In Indonesia, although the central bank has forecast a 6.2 percent growth for the fourth quarter, the full-year growth would be 6.3 percent, which is still within the country’s growth forecast for 2012.

However, Indonesian exports reflect a slowdown in external demand. According to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in October, Indonesia exported 15.67 billion U.S. dollars and imports of 17.21 billion U.S. dollars, a deficit of up to 1.55 billion U.S. dollars, a record monthly trade deficit in Indonesia.

Wellian Wiranto, Asia Investment Strategist, Barclays, in an interview with Xinhua, said that in Indonesia, domestic demand was the main engine of economic growth this year and in the upcoming year.

After the devastating floods of 2011, Thailand exports have gradually recovered. According to official data, the total export value of Thailand in October year-on-year increased by 15.57 percent, mainly from the rebound in exports of agricultural and processed products of agricultural products and a variety of industrial products.

As for India, experts called for a “rebooting” of the country. India’s high growth rates of 8-9 percent have been revised downwards to 5.5 percent, an all-time low since 2004. Wiranto said that overall, Asia has done well despite the global headwinds of eurozone situation and the feared effect of the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the United States.

Albert Hu Guangzhou, associate professor, National University of Singapore, said in an interview that the Asia-Pacific emerging economies have taken timely measures to cope with external factors, adding that these “proactive” measures have stimulated domestic demand to make up for the shortfall in export revenues.

“In the short term, these policies have achieved certain positive results in the majority of countries,” Guangzhou said.

In the Philippines, the country’s economic growth for the first three quarters was 6.5 percent. For the second quarter, the Philippines grew by 7.1 percent, the second fastest in Asia after China. The Philippines expects to grow by more than 6 percent for the whole year of 2012.

Analysts pointed out that China’s recent data show signs of a “ soft landing” for next year’s economic recovery in the entire region. Wiranto believes that China’s new leadership will be more policy-oriented and clearer, so China can successfully achieve economic transformation.

He forecasts that China’s economic growth next year would exceed 8 percent. “China’s recovery will not only improve market sentiment but will also increase the speed of economic growth of the Asian economies, because trade between Asia’s emerging economies is becoming increasingly important,” Wiranto said.

Moody’s Analytics senior economist Glenn Levine, in a recent report, said that China will drive the entire Asian region forward, adding that if China’s economy improves, it would definitely push the economies in the region upwards.

Levine believes that Asian economies in 2013 will continue to exhibit remarkable growth. This could be triggered by more spending for infrastructure projects and sound economic reforms, particularly in attracting foreign investments.

China’s steady economic recovery, the structural reforms in the eurozone countries, and perceptible advances in the U.S. economy would help maintain the growth momentum of the emerging Asian economies.

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Fiji finally makes headway on
road to democratic election

SUVA (Xinhua) -- The year 2012 has seen the Fijian government take several major steps to realize its promise to hold a democratic and free general election in 2014 to return the island-state into normalcy.

Improvement in relations with its Pacific neighbors has also created a favorable external environment for the island country that has been outcast since the 2006 military coup led by incumbent Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

With progresses in electoral preparations and external relations, analysts say there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

In 2012, progress has been made in Fiji’s constitutional and electoral processes since Prime Minister Bainimarama, after reneging on a promise to hold the elections in 2009 and tearing up the constitution, reiterated that the country will hold general elections in 2014.

The Constitution Commission handed over a draft constitution to President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on Dec. 21, which was seen as the first tangible manifestation of the long awaited election.

The president will deliver the draft constitution to a Constituent Assembly, which comprises representatives from a wide cross-section of society, to deliberate on it and adopt the final form of the constitution.

The work of the Constituent Assembly is expected to be completed by late March 2013. And the new constitution should come into effect the day after President Nailatikau assents to it.

Meanwhile, remarkable results have been achieved in voter resignation and fund allocation.

The Fijian government announced on Dec. 11 that more than 500, 000 Fijians, or over 80 percent of the estimated number of eligible voters, have registered to vote in the elections.

This is a significant achievement in Fiji’s Electronic Voter Registration, said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fijian attorney-general and minister responsible for elections.

The registration will continue in 2013, notably for Fijians living overseas.

To ensure a successful general election, the government has allocated 1 million Fiji dollars (550,000 U.S. dollars) for the Constituent Assembly, 11 million Fiji dollars (6.08 million U.S. dollars) for the preparations for the 2014 elections, and 1 million Fiji dollars (550,000 U.S. dollars) to refurbish the parliament complex for the first parliamentary sitting in 2014.

“We will have parliamentary democracy in 2014 - a democracy that is built to last... People said we won’t have this but we will,” Bainimarama said in his address to the nation while announcing the budget on Nov. 22.

The improvement in Fiji’s relations with its neighbors, especially Australia and New Zealand, has been deemed as major progress that will bring back international aid, while its Look North Policy has also been strengthened.

In November, 13 leaders of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) met separately with Bainimarama during a meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and invited Fiji back into all talks in the Pacific ACP.

This means that all 14 countries of the Pacific ACP will participate together in all meetings and in all activities relating to the group.

At a meeting with Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in July, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully agreed to exchange top-level diplomats with Suva for the first time in three years and to ease travel bans against members of the Fijian regime, which were implemented after the coup as part of sanctions.

On Dec. 15, Carr announced Margaret Twomey would be Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji. Several days later, McCully said New Zealand would follow suit by early next year.

Noting Fiji’s constitutional and electoral progress, both Australia and New Zealand have pledged to provide financial and technical support.

At the same time, Fiji has also pushed forward its Look North Policy, adopted following the coup with an aim to open up new markets in Asia and China in particular to meet its trade and investment aspirations.

According to the Fijian government, the level of official Chinese development assistance to Fiji has increased considerably since 2006, mainly in the form of direct grant projects.

Fiji also has gained access to Chinese government concessional loans through the Export-Import Bank of China to upgrade its national infrastructure.

The 2014 election is the only way forward for Fiji, said well- known Fijian academic Dr. Steven Ratuva, a senior lecturer at Pacific Studies of the University of Auckland. “For the military, it is the only exit strategy. And for the population generally, it is a way of moving out of the post-coup quagmire,” he said.

There is both optimism and cynicism in the air. It’s difficult to imagine the election being postponed after all the advanced preparations for it in the form of the constitutional review process, voter registration and the high expectations generated.

“I don’t think anyone, including the government, has any reason or excuse not to have an election. The momentum is simply too big to stop at this point in time,” Ratuva said.

Like many Fijians, Ratuva’s concern is that the country has not really addressed the fundamental issue of national reconciliation.

“The election will not solve all the problems. History has taught us that Fiji’s problems usually happen after the elections. Election is the trigger for conflict. Thus we still need to address the fundamental issues of ethnic competition, socio- economic inequality and power contestation if elections are to be meaningful,” Ratuva told Xinhua in an emailed interview.

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