From Volume 8, Issue 25 of EIR Online, Published June 23, 2009
Asia News Digest

Likely Shift in India's Domestic Economic Policy

June 14 (EIRNS)—India's Manmohan Singh-led government's domestic economic policy in the last five years has been oriented to creating growth using India's IT and other service sectors, enticing foreign-exchange deposits, and spending as little as possible to improve living conditions in India's poverty-stricken rural areas, where the majority of Indians live. However, that may change.

On June 4, at the inaugural of the new government, India's President, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, a protégé of Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, said, in the traditional parliament speech, what her government must accomplish in its next term: "My Government will ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated but also made socially and regionally more inclusive and equitable. The yearning of our people for inclusiveness—economic, social, and cultural—and the rejection of the forces of divisiveness and intolerance that my Government spoke of in 2004 continues as both its inspiring vision and its unfinished business."

She pointed out ten priorities, which include stepping up economic growth in agriculture, manufacturing, and services; consolidation of flagship programs for employment, education, health, rural infrastructure, and urban renewal; introduction of new flagship programs for food security and skill development; creation and modernization of infrastructure, and capacity addition in key sectors; and energy security and environment protection. It is likely that President Patil's speech was drafted in consultation with the Congress Party president.

In an unusual move, Prime Minister Singh has opted to make public his advice to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to incorporate in the budget the priorities outlined in Patil's address. The budget will be presented to the Parliament early next month for approval.

International Land-Grabbers Target Poor in Asia

June 17 (EIRNS)—"Those who have money can eat; the poor must perish," seems to be the campaign of the international land-grabbers, who are snatching up lands on long lease from poorer nations.

In Cambodia, this could create a serious conflict between the poor and the Phnom Penh government. Last year, delegations from oil-rich Kuwait and Qatar visited the impoverished nation, eyeing leases on land to export food back home—a move that could leave many Cambodians without enough food, say observers. As a carrot to Phnom Penh, Kuwait reportedly offered US$546 million in loans for dams and roads, while Qatar will invest a paltry $200 million in agriculture.

In recent years, Vietnam has procured 100,000 hectares of land in Cambodia, and another 100,000 hectares for rubber plantations, a cash crop; the Philippines has allotted 10,000 hectares for agro-fishery to Bahrain, and 100,000 hectares to Qatar; Indonesia is deciding on 500,000 hectares, a $4.3 billion rice investment, wanted by the Bin Laden Group of Saudi Arabia, among other deals that have taken place. According to the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), between 15 and 20 million hectares of farmland in Asian countries have been subject to transactions, or negotiations, since 2006. IFPRI estimates the value of such deals at up to $30 billion.

Ever since high world food prices in 2007 and 2008 raised the prospect of food insecurity for countries without much farmland, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have scoured Asia for land.

Collapse in Japan Drives Revolt Against Koizumi 'Reforms'

June 15 (EIRNS)—The collapse of the Japanese economy is driving a revolt against the privatization/deregulation reforms carried out under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06), whose policies went a long way toward destroying what was left of the American System policies that built post-war Japan into a world economic power. Particularly targeted is the privatization of the Japan Postal Bank, which had funneled personal savings into domestic infrastructure investments.

With an election required by September this year, leading factions in both major parties are declaring their intention to roll back these destructive reforms. Prime Minister Taro Aso took steps a few months ago to stop the privatization of the Postal Bank. He was not successful, but he did stop the scheduled privatization of the Development Bank of Japan, which is a primary government conduit for support for industry in the current crisis. Aso's close ally, Internal Affairs Minister Kunio Hatoyama, was leading a fight to remove the head of the Japan Post, Yoshifumi Nishikawa, who was overseeing the privatization process on behalf of Koizumi.

However, Koizumi and his remaining supporters within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are running an attack against Aso. Koizumi's faction this week forced Hatoyama's resignation, for opposing the Postal Bank privatization. While Koizumi won this factional battle, the disunity in the party assures that the LDP, which has ruled Japan almost without interruption since World War II, could lose to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the upcoming election.

Ironically, the current head of the DPJ, Yukio Hatoyama—the brother of the LDP minister driven out of the cabinet by Koizumi's boys—is also committed to stopping the Koizumi reforms. Thus, whether the election goes to the LDP under Aso, or to the DPJ under Hatoyama, the anti-privatization policies should prevail. This will not save Japan from the global crash, of course, but could potentially focus the forces needed to lead the country to join other nations in implementing LaRouche's economic recovery policies.

China Doubts Whether Obama Can Deliver

June 20 (EIRNS)—A prominent Chinese official said he is worried about the ability of the Obama Administration to deal with the very difficult challenges it is facing, at the British-German-U.S. "Foresight" conference in Washington yesterday. Expectations of the current U.S. government are very high, he said, but it has a lot on its plate now, and is facing a risky situation, and this is causing concern. This official, and several other participants from China, were certain that the crisis is going to get worse. Beijing's policy is to do all it can to deal with the enormous problems China faces, they said, and while China will play an international role, it has neither the intention nor the ability to commit resources to rescuing global institutions on any significant scale.

Swine Flu in Asia

June 14 (EIRNS)—Cases of confirmed H1N1 flu have broken out in two Southeast Asian countries, as the World Health Organization declared a Level 6 pandemic alert.

Thailand's "swine flu" cases tripled over the last three days to 150, with more expected as test results continue to arrive, a health official said today. The number of cases in Thailand jumped from 47 on June 12 to 106 on June 13, to "150 confirmed H1N1 cases as of today," according to Dr. Prat Boonyavongvirot, permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry. Some schools in Bangkok have been temporarily closed.

There is a confirmed outbreak of swine flu in the remote village of Barangay Hilera, Philippines. The community, which is only connected to the outside world by poor roads, has 103 confirmed cases in a population of only 1,622, or 6.3%.

Because 11 infected children passed the flu on to over 90 contacts, the strain seen in the Philippines may be especially infectious. The statistics for the original cases of the flu reported from Mexico indicated an infectiousness ratio of only 1.6, far lower than the almost 9.0 in this case.

Significant numbers of cases have been reported in Japan and Hong Kong, with major school closings. The disease is also present elsewhere in China, and in South Korea.

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