|Asia News Digest
Bangladesh-India Talks on Long-Term Food Purchase
Feb. 25 (EIRNS)Bangladesh's Food Minister, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, has initiated discussion with his Indian counterpart, K.V. Thomas, to buy grains on a regular basis, over a long term, to bolster food security, as governments seek to avoid a repeat of the unrest that broke out when prices last soared, in 2008. Razzaque said: "When we go for international tenders and prices suddenly rise, private suppliers sometimes fail to fulfill their commitments. They don't supply us, and [thus] put us in trouble. It has happened."
A long-term agreement will protect Bangladesh from possible defaults by private traders, who sometimes fail to meet their commitments if prices gain, Razzaque said in an interview yesterday. "Rice prices rose this year in our country; people are suffering, as they have limited income."
According to India's Food Ministry data, as of Feb. 1, about 47 million tons of food grains are stored in the warehouses of Food Corporation of India: nearly 28 million tons of rice and more than 19 million tons of wheat. Both cereals exceed the strategic reserve and buffer stocks norms.
Bangladesh has agreed to purchase 300,000 tons of Indian rice, as well as 200,000 tons of wheat. The country will buy 1.2 million tons in 2011, by June 30, up from a 600,000-ton target set in November, Badrul Hasan, Bangladesh's director for procurement at the Directorate General of Food, said last month. If the planned purchases happen, said Bangladesh's food minister on Feb. 24, our imports will exceed 1.2 million tons this [fiscal] year, ending June.
China 'Mass Strike' Is Mostly Western Reporters
Feb. 20 (EIRNS)Calls for street protests in 13 Chinese cities were issued from foreign websites over the weekend, calling for a "Jasmine Revolution," and naming specific locations for protests. Even the Western press admitted that almost no one showed up, while emphasizing that police outnumbered the would-be demonstrators. Some press even admitted that the foreign reporters outnumbered the protesters.
ASEAN May Have Stopped Brits' Thai-Cambodia War Plan
Feb. 22 (EIRNS)The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held an emergency meeting today on the threat of war between Thailand and Cambodia. Despite the Thai regime's repeated insistence it they would only allow "bilateral" discussions, with no outside involvement (thus allowing them to continue their military adventures), Thailand was forced by ASEAN to accept ASEAN observers, who will come from Indonesia, to be deployed on both sides of the border.
The question on the minds of many ASEAN leaders, including the Cambodians, is: Why is Thailand acting in such a self-destructive manner, threatening to sabotage economic development in the region, especially with China recently offering huge assistance, including high-speed rail development? The answer is simple: The Thai monarchical regime answers to London, and it is precisely the regional cooperation on basic infrastructure development which is the target of the British, ordering their Thai puppet regime to provoke a crisis over a territorial issue which had been solved successfully by international cooperation in 1962.
Last week, there was an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the issue, which was sabotaged by the U.S. delegation (headed by Ambassador Susan Rice). The United States was the only UNSC member to support Thailand's demand that the issue be left to bilateral talks. Rice answers to the White House, not to the State Department, as we have seen in her provocations in Africa, and in her effort to start a war in Korea in December (see "China/Russia/U.S. Cooperation Defuses British War Plans in Korea" in EIR, Jan. 14, 2011).
However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton circumvented the Rice/Obama problem by giving her support to ASEAN to assert its authority and force Thailand's hand. Sources told EIR that Assistant Secretary of State for Asia Kurt Campbell told the ASEAN nations that the U.S. was counting on ASEAN to find a solutiona direct affront to the Thai position. ASEAN has done precisely that, which is a victory for ASEAN over the British game.
China Attacks Real Causes of Global Food Crisis
Feb. 20 (EIRNS)The lead article on the English website of China's official Xinhua News Agency asks, "What are the main factors behind the food price spikes? The answer lies in the ultra-loose monetary policy of the United States, the financialization of the global farm produce market, the development of biofuels and the extreme weather events affecting harvests in the world's main grain-producing areas.
"The U.S. Federal Reserve is driving up food prices by cranking up its dollar printing presses and devaluing its own currency."
Power Emergency in Philippines as Rural Areas Revert to Dark Ages
Feb. 23 (EIRNS)Numerous areas in the Philippines served by small electrical generation facilities under the National Power Corp's Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) have been without power for as long as a month, since they have run out of petroleum and their suppliers refused to deliver any more. The suppliers' refusal to deliver stemmed from non-payment of their fuel purchases. About a dozen localities are already without power, and other plants that are still operating were also slated to run out of fuel in the next few weeks if Napocor (National Power Company) cannot pay.
Napocor president Froilan Tampinco claims that the state power firm would soon be able to pay SPUG's fuel suppliers, because it had asked the national government to reimburse certain expenses. The government's response is not yet known.
The Philippines has the highest electric rates in Asia, and near the worst service. Even in the important urban areas, there is an overall electrical shortfall.
All these problems can be directly traced back to the overthrow of Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos by George Shultz, then Secretary of State25 years ago to the day, Feb. 23, 1986. Marcos had been bringing the Philippines into the nuclear age, with the first commercial nuclear power plant in Southeast Asiaa prime justification for his ouster. The closure of the just completed, but never used, Bataan Nuclear Plant for "safety reasons" was the first act undertaken upon the overthrow of Marcos. The country has just completed payment for the plant, for which not 1 watt of power had been delivered.
Thailand and Indonesia Move on Fuel Costs
Feb. 25 (EIRNS)Indonesia has cancelled a planned elimination of fuel subsidies for most vehicles which had been scheduled to begin in April. Satya W. Yudha, a member of Indonesian House of Representatives' Commission overseeing energy, said increasing global oil prices had forced the government and the House to re-evaluate the policy's potential social impacts. "The restriction may cause unexpected unrest, because the price of non-subsidized fuel has climbed very high in the past several months."
Indonesia's national budget will take a $600 million hit from the cost of continuing the subsidy in the first year alone (when the subsidy cut was to be begun in the capital city of Jakarta), if oil prices don't rise further.
In Thailand, the government increased its subsidy on diesel fuel to keep prices below the psychologically and politically important mark of 30 baht ($1) per liter. The increased subsidy comes from a special Oil Fund that looks to be depleted in three months, again if there is no further rise in price.