|Asia News Digest
LaRouche Forces Break Open Water Debate in Australia
The Feb. 21 Australian newspaper, the nation's only national daily, featured a full-page ad by Queensland Premier Peter Beattie calling for the Federal government to adopt two major water projects which have been uniquely featured in the mass organizing by LaRouche's associates in the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC) over the last two years. Beattie additionally called for all Australian citizens to contact Prime Minister John Howard to lobby for the projectsa "mass outreach" also adopted from LaRouche's associates.
Australia has been in a horrific drought for most of the past six years. The British Crown/Club of the Isles which runs Australia has, most recently, directed Howard to attempt to ram though a $10 billion program based upon "market forces" (i.e., jacking up the price of water, and selling it to global cartels), conservation, and "recycling sewage" to allegedly solve the problem. The CEC, on the other hand, has featured its plans for "New Great Water Projects" in many of the 6 million copies of its newspaper, the New Citizen, it has published and distributed over the past two years, and has ridiculed Howard's "recycling" programs. Sources have informed the CEC that Beattie's government has taken an intense interest in LaRouche's ideas for great water projects, and, more generally, in the prospects for an "isotope economy."
The particular two projects Beattie is now championing were designed by Prof. Lance Endersbee, the CEC's chief advisor on its program for continental great water projects. His recent book, A Voyage of Discovery, first brought the danger of the depletion of the world's fresh-water aquifers ("fossil water") to public attention.
Afghan Situation Much Worse
From all available reports, it is evident that the on-the-ground military situation in Afghanistan for the U.S.- and NATO-led coalition is deteriorating fast, notwithstanding the infusion of fresh troops there. For instance, Al Jazeera reported Feb. 23 that during the two days that their correspondent James Bays spent embedded with the Taliban in the southern Helmand province, he saw no NATO troops. Armed Taliban were observed in towns and villages, where locals told Bays that the British troops never come out of their barracks to confront the Taliban. Helmand is where almost 50% of Afghanistan's poppy crop is grown. It is also where 5,000 British troops are based. Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced another 1,000 British troops will be sent there.
Guardian Unlimited reported that the famed Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah told Reuters that 6,000 armed Taliban militia are ready to fight, and they will "make this year the bloodiest for the foreign troops."
In Pakistan, there is a growing feeling that NATO will be out of Afghanistan before the year ends. If the Taliban cannot defeat them, finance will. NATO, said Arnaud de Borchgrave in his Washington Times op-ed on Feb. 23, reported that it takes $4,000-a-day to maintain a NATO soldier in Afghanistan. That translates to almost $50 billion a year to maintain the present level of 35,000 soldiers, including those who never come of the barracks.
In Pakistan, among the foreign policy "advisors," the defeat of NATO in Afghanistan will not only put Pakistan once again squarely in charge, but it would also push back the Western design to make NATO the global policeman.
Chinese Central Bank Takes Measures Against Inflation
The Chinese central bank took several measures to deal with the threat of inflation, on the eve of the two-week national Spring Festival, or New Year holiday Xinhua reported Feb. 20.
On Feb. 17, the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) again raised the required reserve ratio for deposit-receiving financial institutions, by 0.5% to 10%, to become effective Feb. 25. Although the measure was described as "moderate," this is the second increase of the reserve ratio in two months, and the fifth since last July. The decision was made to deal with "dynamic currency liquidity changes and to consolidate macro-economic controls," a PBOC statement said.
The underlying problem is imbalanced international payments, due to China's growing trade surplus.
The next day, Feb. 18, the PBOC warned of the potential for rising prices in the coming year, and said that enterprises will see higher labor, raw materials, energy, land, water, and other costs. The main cause would be the state's increased controls on social security, safety, and environment standards.
London Insider: 'Watch the Yen Carry Trade'
"Watch the yen exchange ratethat will have a more decisive effect on the yen carry trade than today's interest rate increase in Japan," a City of London analyst told EIR Feb. 21. "If there is a 2-3% shift in the yen exchange rate over the coming months, this would make a big difference in the world financial situation. He did not expect such a shift any time too soon, because nothing that good is going on in the Japanese economy.
The decision to raise interest rates to 0.5%, was made after internal fights in Japan. The Bank of Japan voted a notable eight to one to raise rates. However, at the same time, the BoJ statement said that any further rate rises would be "gradual" and this has led to initial calm on the yen exchange. Apparently, the political deal was, that there would be no more rate rises before July/August, when there will be Upper House elections in Japan.
It was the first time that the names of the BoJ governors and how they voted was published. The BoJ statement said that it would "adjust the level of interest rates gradually while maintaining the accommodative financial conditions ensuing from the very low interest rates for some time." On Feb. 19, the BoJ pumped the largest amount of liquidity on record2.1 trillion yeninto the money markets before the two-day board meeting. This brought down call rates, which had been up to 3.62 at the end of the previous week, the highest in over eight years, in anticipation of a BoJ rate rise.
Chinese Scholars Petition To Stop Privatizations
A group of Chinese scholars and former officials are petitioning the government to stop the privatization of state companies, because this process is widening the huge income gap in China. The petition is to the National Peoples Congress, which will convene on March 5. The petition says that the privatization, which is letting national assets go into private and foreign hands, violates the Chinese constitution. "With the unceasing advance of privatization, our country already has a serious gap between rich and poor, which is polarizing into two extremes," the petition states. There is a "rising wave upon wave of voices opposed to privatization."
Economist Han Deqiang, who wrote a very sound book opposing China's entering the WTO (reviewed in EIR May 12, 2000), said that the petition "is intended to check the passage of the property law." Last year, the NPC did not pass a law intended to protect private property, after much opposition. The bill has since been revised. "The property law basically takes all the illegally gotten income and legalizes it," Han said. "So the congress delegates ought to block it." The petition calls for the adequate protection of state assets and states the constitutional priority of state ownership.
Indian Children Suffer High Rates of Malnutrition
Children in India suffer from higher rates of malnutrition than those in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Times of London reported Feb. 22. This startling report comes from a new survey on National Family Health by the Indian Health Ministry, made in cooperation with UNICEF. Almost 46% of Indian children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition, the Ministry found. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate is about 35%. The last National Family Health Survey in India, done seven years ago, showed 47% malnourished children.
In many other aspects, India's economy is far stronger than that of Africa. However, these levels of child malnourishment are worse than Ethiopia, and the same as Eritrea and Burkina Faso.
Levels of anemia have even risen compared with seven years ago, with about 56% of women, and 79% of children below the age of 3, suffering from the disorder. There has also been little progress in child immunization levels, now at 44%, compared with 42% seven years ago. In the relatively wealthy state of Gujarat, the proportion of underweight children had risen to 47% from 45%. These problems especially affect very young children and their impoverished mothers. To help alleviate the problem, the Indian government has a national plan which provides school children with 120 million hot and nutritious free meals every schoolday.
Cheney Receives Cold Shoulder in Japan
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney received a "hostile reception" in Tokyo, according to the London TimesonLine Feb. 21. The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasihisa Shiozaki when asked what the point of Cheney's visit was, replied: "Since the other party is coming over, it must have some point for the other party." Last month, Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma had criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as a mistake based on wrong intelligence. A poll showed that most Japanese agreed.
In a speech aboard the USS Kitty Hawk Feb. 21, Cheney addressed the Iraq issue: "We know that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength, they are invited by the perception of weakness." He went on: "We know that if we leave Iraq before the mission is completed, the enemy is going to come after us. And I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat." He said: "We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and we want to return with honor." Cheney had breakfast with Shiozaki, then met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and then was received by the Emperor. He did not meet the defense minister. He meets with Australian Premier John Howard tomorrow.