South Korea’s General Elections

Snap elections were announced following Park Geun-hye’s forced removal from office, and the result of that installed Moon Jae-in as the next President of South Korea

Moon Jae-in was recently declared the winner in the South Korean presidential elections, and his win came as a bit of a surprise, given Moon’s past track record of having constantly protested against dynastical rule by Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye. The win for Moon can be regarded as a landslide and it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the negativity that has been circulating around South Korean politics for quite some time now. Ever since, the last president, Park Geun-hye, was sent to prison following a parliament impeachment because of having taken bribes from large corporations with a friend, as well as both permitting her friend to interfere in policy-making and sharing state secrets with her, the next wise political step for South Korea has been shrouded in confusion.

Moon’s recent electoral victory has largely been about making the Korean state fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor, corruption in South Korean society because of the government’s close connections to big corporations, and the grievous difficulty in securing jobs for the young are major issues, which Moon should use his singular five-year term in power to address. Moon has promised to make his government more kind to the public’s concerns – more than half of his votes came from young people in their twenties and thirties, so over the big question of providing more employment opportunities to young South Koreans, which at the time is tough to get without good connections, Moon has promised job creation, primarily in the public sector, a portion of which will be targeted towards young people in South Korea.

Major challenges also exist for Moon over bettering relations with neighbour states: Japan, China and North Korea. South Korea and North Korea still do not see eye-to-eye on matters very much because of the latter’s constant insistence of ramming up nuclear developments. It’s so tough to imagine a different orientation of matters but Moon has offered to reach out if things improve – at the moment, President Trump is pressing for payment of a US-born missile-defence system (THAAD), which brews concern over South Korea’s relations with China because the communist state is already unhappy about THAAD’s use, leading it to boycott South Korean goods. Meanwhile, Japan’s trouble with South Korea is an entirely different one though – the state is not pleased with a revival of anti-Japan protests in South Korea, over what happened during the second world war.

Advertisements

China’s Economic Woes

Embed from Getty Images

How much should socialism really remodel itself in today’s China?

Economic uncertainty is a widespread concern for China despite the prevailing national sentiment that it should not be so because projections suggest there will be no slash in growth rates and targets will mostly be met. But this isn’t the full picture: the index fell 7percent at first and then another 15percent during the beginning of the year, and this, frankly speaking has been China’s worst economic performance when the economy is supposed to be in an excellent state as the new year settles itself into the summer. Most of the fear is not stemming from the idea that it will be so tough for the Far Eastern nation to become a stable income country but rather it is about a hesitation to warm to technocrats. Economic trouble around the world has made the start of this year the second worst after 1970 and China is not indifferent to it. This means that the popular image of the country back in the day of a Communist state on the rise is now changing hands with the growing debts, trouble in the labour market and a political system unable to grapple with market, as much as the national idea of Mao.

Speaking of national sentiments, the prevailing question about the uncertainty in economic understanding for Xi Jinping and his party, brings to the forefront of memory how hard China had it as early as 2009. Less babies were being born, which meant a dent in the working age group, and a growth in the elderly people diaspora, and the constant dread of having to accommodate looking after the old, for the young. This was alongside unemployment for graduates that just kept on peaking, unaffordable property prices, and an environmentally unfriendly attitude to industrialisation. The party, though, can proudly label itself as a socialist reformer, taught up at the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The state in the past had a burdened welfare structure, it permitted NGOs to operate within its borders, business people dominated Chinese ranks and low-scale elections for posts within the party wasn’t such a strange thought.

There is half democracy, a totalitarian slant, manufacturing job cuts in store for blue-collar workers that can’t be looked upon as a positive occurrence, instead now but the Communist party doesn’t think along those lines when it abhors protest movements. The rural class and the middle class need to feel economically secure for the government to be looked upon favourably so the challenges keep on looking tougher for the inflexible model of socialism the Communist party likes to abide by. It is very similar to the regular spotting of Confucian traditions in dining interspersed with braised hog insides, because these dishes were once a part of Confucius’ family dining experience, in China. Cookery in this style is not about delicious roast duck as it is about following the political slant within the Communist party, but as a roast duck fan, myself, I wouldn’t find it sad at all to skip on tasting out the cooking of hog in a rather absurd primitive style.

India: Pollution + Economic Growth

Embed from Getty Images

Environmental pollution and a barely-there, economic growth for India. Where is the local excitement?

India is one of the most densely polluted countries in the world. Everyday it sees fine powders of arsenic, black carbon, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in it’s metropolitans, especially in the capital; in fact, this environmental damage is twice the amount that China has to witness daily, and Beijing is already known around the globe, for it’s less-than-average green credentials. In stark contrast, economic growth is happening for India (a first in the millennium) and China is instead trailing India in it. Overall, the last quarter of 2015 saw India lose out on economic growth, but this is still considerably higher than the economic growth rate for it’s rival, China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies Delhi as the most polluted developing city and this is a growing concern for the health of all residents. Many people in Delhi die annually because of air pollution, and admissions to hospitals to treat respiratory illnesses is sometimes even ballooning. But where is all of the big smoke coming from? Confined to plenty of other Indian metropolitans too, the causes for the smoke aren’t cars or factories, primarily but instead it is home cooking. North India, specifically, has this problem because of stubble-burning in a rural environment. Cars and other vehicles are a major contributor to pollution too: recently local government efforts saw the implications of emissions standards for brand new passenger cars, and it is hoped that the same set of standards will follow suit for both two-wheelers and three-wheelers. There is also a great big rush in the government-level to make sure the calibre of fuel gets a lot better.

If all of the efforts are rolled out by 2020, then environmental pollution will be slashed into fractions of what it is today. Other such similar expected measures, includes the development of the metro network in Delhi, and sustaining roads more, which singularly feed into air dust. All of these new initiatives run parallel to the ones introduced more than ten years ago, when rubbish-burning was curtailed, both power plants and industries badly polluting the country were no longer allowed to operate, and vehicles, such as buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis were required to use natural gas as fuel to drive. The government also did very little in the past to ease environmental concerns when it dwindled diesel to attract support from farmers using it for both water pumps and tractors. This move catapulted a push towards the vehicle industry mushrooming into a diesel-dominating one. The new initiatives, because of that, are welcome moves because more and more vehicles travel on the roads in India now, than they did back then.

Meanwhile, the major roadblocks to economic improvement for India, range from cement production to investment, but as a developing country, India, has alone come a very long way. Issues of bureaucracy are still hurting the local Indian business environment, which is a major issue for a country predicted to become the third largest economy in a little over decade, right behind the United States and China. Furthermore, the dampening of weather conditions lately has impacted agriculture, and Narendra Modi has highlighted that his government prioritises all farmers worries, and stressed the importance of a good calibre of seeds and irrigation patterns. There are also plans to introduce refrigeration facilities, raise the incomes of farmers, profits free-flowing from reaped produce direct to the pockets of farmers, and decrease any losses amounted by farmers, right after harvest season.

The Fuel Shortage Episode In Nepal

Nepal’s government needs to be more concerned about border relations with India and the Nepalese

Recent tensions between India and its neighbour, Nepal has begun to hurt in places: a humanitarian crisis has emerged over the blockade of key trade areas. Import bans on basic goods is hampering Nepal and this restrictive measure for border areas is in place because of an opposition to the new constitution in the country. Lives have come to a stop because of this episode – schools and hospitals are either closed or running out of supplies.

This episode has been stretched for months now and it is restricting both fuel and basic goods arriving to Nepal from India, which is hard luck because the country is dependant on India for imports. India is an economic heavyweight, which Nepal acknowledges as a neighbour so protests have also erupted for this blockade from school children. Emphasis has been placed on negotiations (which breakup over any reports of the government’s implementation of force to slacken the deadlock) between the government and those opposed to it but what this episode is, is an abhorrent abuse of diplomatic governance for the South Asian country.

The queues at petrol stations stretch over a mile, transport workers have to wait for days for fuel in Kathmandu and the general idea is that politicians are responsible for the daily lives of citizens getting disrupted. In the Terai section of Nepal, the situation is worsening for the groups responsible for this blockade: political parties, the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic factions are holding regular week-long strikes.

The parties opposed to the new constitution need to understand that relief to earthquake victims are screeching to a halt because of the blockade. Food prices have gone up, hospitals are running out of medical supplies and due to a shortage of cooking gas, homeowners are making use of firewood instead to cook food.

Trucks are filled with supplies and lie motionless at India’s border but politicians in Nepal pay no heed to how they are actively trying to thaw border relations by accusing India of administering the blockade, after confusing dialogue with interference in local politics. India is the single biggest trade partner and foreign investment resource for Nepal so under no circumstances should accusations of local political trouble in Nepal, responsible because of India be taken kindly.

The constitution has been written in such a way that it has cut out portions of Nepalese people from participating so perhaps the dialogue between India and Nepal should really focus on how diplomatic that is and what can be done to cease a very unfair trade absolution.

The Chinese Communist State

Embed from Getty Images

China and it’s idea of communism is slowly evolving

Xi Jinping recently announced that he likes to put his faith in the Chinese dream: but what is it? To put it simply it is an ideology that firmly follows the foundations of Chinese Communist culture: the ruling party of China was established in 1921 and under the leadership of Mao Zedong they pursued heavy development, with the help of industries and extra income from peasants.

Mao grew his own brand of Communism and called it Maoism. Too much industrialization to grow China eventually sacrificed many to starvation but his boldness in hunting his enemies is still worth appreciating. China today is interested in modernism and preserving it’s classical traditions. The Chinese Communist Party wants to see itself as one of the dominant powers in the world of politics but that is so tough to do.

Once humiliated as an independent nation and after falling into poverty from riches, now it is littered with fast trains and statues of Confucius. Traditionally, it is tough to comprehend how much Xi wants to preserve the past and grow the Chinese state despite his chants about family roles and individualism and its positive relationship with China.

Mao was influential in protecting his country from outside influence, such as that from Japan and the West – they could not control as many ports as before! But his industrialization efforts also gave rise to famine and poor agriculture harvesting. Although, the wonders of Marxism cannot be spoken enough off and what it did to identify ‘the struggles of numerous classes’, it is always tentative steps or too much industrialization, sans sufficient risk assessment that greets you over national interpretations of Communism in various states.

The Dilemma with Foreign Capital in Indonesia

Embed from Getty Images

How excited should investors be about Jokowi’s economic plans?

In Indonesia, until recently the only possibility to conduct business was shrouded in a cloud of miasma, too busy harming the country. Investment opportunities don’t seem to be lost now though, with the Jokowi administration vocally vouching for the wonders of foreign capital but is too early to speak of it’s wonders? Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s new and young President has outlined his desire to see a large-scale regulation overhaul that could perhaps give foreign capital more room to breathe.

The past six months has seen Indonesia roll out measures such as, foreigners granted permission to open bank accounts and import restrictions have been slashed on a wide array of products, inclusive of cosmetics – they were previously in place to protect the local industry. However, in the middle of all this optimism there are still widespread concerns about how slow the reforms have been in reigning in change.

Indonesian national currency, the rupiah is sliding next to the dollar and economic growth is slow since 2009. The massive overhauls still need to happen because so many sectors in the country are not open to foreign capital, such as exports of metal-ore.

Batavia, a port town in Indonesia used to be renowned for pepper but now it is home to old colonial mansions from the Dutch East Indies period. The town is so different from Jakarta and it’s smog and it is worth visiting if the area is better looked after as heritage sites – tourism is a priority for Widodo and it’s not hard to rake in economic progress through it because Indonesia is littered with beaches.

Indonesia is a lucrative environment for business with its strictness in laws, like the one that makes it mandatory for foreigners to the country to pass a language test and acting as a relatively moderate Islamic nation. So Jokowi would be well advised to listen in on the complaints over the delays in deregulation, on revitalization, and roll them out perhaps on a stage that impacts more – the decentralization of national government administration and handing more power to local government in the new millennium, is a good example of positive political reforms.

Singapore’s 50th Birthday

Singapore is celebrating independence from the British Empire, this month

Singapore is turning 50 years this month – a birthday that also marks independence from the British Empire. It’s a tiny state that is an island, and was thrown out of an union with Malaysia in 1965 for which there was no survival technique that seemed in sight for Singapore. But today it is one of the most affluent nations in the world, praised for its environmentally-clean government, love for being ordered, and efficient. Taxes are low in the country, it has good public services, and is globally ranked, all the time, highly, over ease-of-business.

Singapore was once upon a time very poor – it had no water, no hinterland and a population of Chinese, Indian and Malays, who never got along. It faced competition from the bigger-in-size Indonesia, and the relatively more populated with similar people, Malaysia, who could overrun it, without a moment’s notice. The founding father of Singapore, Lee, once called the tiny state an absurd thing, but I grossly disagree because lands don’t come built, they have to be build and that is a mighty lot of hard work.

Many leaders in Singapore, have this insecurity about how its national finances don’t have enough transparency – they prefer to use the word mysterious, even though it sounds a whole lot like there is something wrong there with the mysteriousness, that there is a requirement that all men serve in the armed forces for two years, and the government’s sordid support for manufacturing, and it’s ability to control how speech flows in the country, without making it look like a Communist state, at all. Not that there is nothing wrong with being a Communist state because we do not have an unspoken Cold War with China or something, like China and Japan, officially does, but it is a matter of pride for us that we can ensure so much control politically in a state, that is democratic, not socialist. Singapore is more secure today than it has ever been, unknown to the leaders of the land today. Relationships with Malaysia are blossoming, as are ASEAN trade ties and territorial integrity is not under attack at all.

There is no opposition here, but the government survives just fine in policymaking without it, earning accolades along the way. Many consider Lee to also be responsible for all of this success in policymaking because for him Singapore operates a clean, slick and pragmatic rule. The People’s Action Party is the only party to have never been out of power in the industrialized world, but some critics suggest that people here will need more options and more rigorous, clear and new checking because even though it has been running so great all this time, it cannot sustain itself in the long run. I don’t know what to say to those absurd insinuations but this: the way forward is to craft good policies, that know how to address an evolving and positively growing Singapore, absolutely nothing else.