APAC Assistance Director Paul Quaglia discusses Main Issues in East Asia Pacific.
Main Issues in East Asia Pacific
Firstly in INDONESIA
- President Joko Widodo said yesterday that he is considering forming new ministries for investments and exports to tackle a decline in investment and weak export growth. The statement comes weeks before the elections amidst rising concerns over a constant fall in foreign direct investments.
- The Investment Coordinating Board reported an 8.8% decline in foreign investment and a 30 % decline in foreign direct investment in 2018 compared to 2017. Exports grew at 65 % in 2018 compared 16 % in 2017.
- Bringing back investments to Indonesia will be the key for Joko Widodo if he gets re-elected in April 19 elections. Indonesia ranks 73 among 190 economies in 2018, in the ease of doing business ranking published by the World Bank dropping one place from 72 in 2017.
Also in INDONESIA
- A debate between the two vice-presidential candidates, Ma’ruf Amin and Sandiaga Uno, will be held on March 17. .
- The debate will cover topics including education, health, human resources, social issues and culture. Both candidates lack experience in working on policies which could prove a challenge for them.
- Indonesia will hold Presidential elections on April 19. Incumbent President Joko Widodo is leading in the latest opinion polls with 59% while his challenger Prabowo Subianto is lagging behind with 31%.
Also in INDONESIA
- A police officer and other people were injured after an explosive device was detonated yesterday during a anti-terror raid on a house in Sibolga city in North Sumatra. One suspect was arrested in the blast.
- The incident occurred few days before President Joko Widodo’s scheduled visit to Sibolga on March 17.
- Clients are advised to expect travel delays due to extra security checks in Sibolga city until the President completes his visit.
- The prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai Party, Sudarat has demanded that Abhisit Vejjajiva of Democrat Party should decide whether his party will consider forming coalition with the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party. Abhisit had announced that he would not back Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s re-election.
- Sudarat said that there would be two choices after the March 24 elections, first is being a part of a coalition government and second is to be in opposition.
- Several leaders from different parties have accused Abhisit of confusing the voters and his announcement is driven by a personal agenda. However, they added that the motive of Abhisit will be clearer post March 24 election.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- The President of Bougainville John Momis yesterday said that the landowners who criticized the government’s proposed changes in mining laws have been misled by mining companies and others with vested interest. The government has sought money to help pay for the Bougainville Island referendum to be held in October on seeking independence or greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea.
- The president added that under the new law the landowners will get more returns from the mining companies. The old law only guarantees the ownership of the minerals to landowners before extraction.
- The mining law change is seen as a step by the government to set up a joint venture named Bougainville Advance Mining with an Australian company, Caballus. They aim to re-open the Panguna copper mine in the southern parts of Bougainville Island.
- A police officer was killed and another injured in an ambush by the New People’s Army rebels in the Motiong town on the Samar Island in the Eastern Visayas region. Police said, they are in pursuit of the rebels in the area. The ambush occurred during a regular patrol by the police.
- Clients are advised to exploy extreme caution while travelling in Samar Island and to expect extra security checks in the Island.
Also in THE PHILIPPINES
- The Department of Finance has appealed to the Senate to adopt its proposal for fiscal mining reforms, as contained under the Senate Bill 1979. The Department of Finance wants to pushes for a uniform royalty rate of 5 % for all mining operations located inside or outside a mineral reservation areas.
- For those operations outside mineral reservations, the bill seeks royalty fees 3 % in the first three years of implementation, 4 % on the fourth year and 5 % in the fifth year. It also provides for an additional government share when its basic share is less than 50 % of the net mining revenue.
- The Senate Bill if passed may generate USD 136 million. According to the data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Bureau of Internal revenue collected USD 20 million in excise taxes from mining operations in 2017.
- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he’s looking into the options for selling off or shutting down the Malaysian Airlines. He said, the decision is open for the government to decide and it must be decided soon.
- The Malaysian Airlines is facing increased pressure to revive its performance post its parent company Khazanah Berhard incurred a loss of USD 1.5 billion in 2018. Managing director of Khazanah said that the airline is looking into flight routes to Indonesia and Thailand to revive its loss.
- Malaysian Airlines was made into a private entity in 2014 post the tragic incidents it faced. First, being the disappearance of the flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean and second flight being shot down over Ukraine in 2014.
- The United States trade chief has warned that the negotiations with China to end the tariff war is at risk of failing, saying major issues still need to be sorted out and he could not predict success at the current stage.
- One of the key issue being tasked by the U.S is to ensure that China lives up to its commitments in the trade deal, and the U.S should reserve the rights to impose tariffs on China if the deal is found violated.
- China and the U.S officials hope to sign the deal between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S President Donald Trump during President Xi’s visit to the U.S in March.
Main Issues in South Asia
Firstly in PAKISTAN
- The Pakistan Air Force reportedly remains on full operational alert with multiple squadrons of F-16 fighters being deployed on its eastern front with India. The Pakistani air space along the border with India is still under restrictions.
- The Pakistan Army and its Special Forces brigade have been deployed all along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and air defenses have been strengthened across Pakistan.
- The eastern airspace of Pakistan along the border with India remains closed. The security measures come after India conducted air strikes in Pakistan on February 26, following which Pakistan retaliated by conducting its own airstrike on February 27, while shooting down an Indian fighter and capturing a pilot. The captured pilot has been returned back to India.
Also in PAKISTAN
- Police have obtained surety bonds to ensure peaceful behavior of twenty-nine individuals out of the thirty-four individuals who are being monitored under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The surety was offered to maintain security ahead of the celebration of Pakistan Day on March 23.
- As per to the bond, the individuals under watch list, cannot leave the country and they can’t get arms licenses. Additionally, they have to inform the police before leaving and after returning to their permanent residence.
- Police and the army have started joint search operations on a daily basis across major cities to prevent any untoward incidents. Clients are advised to expect travel delays across major cities due to increased security measures until March 23.
Also in PAKISTAN
- Pakistan government plans to offer more than thirty onshore gas blocks to foreign companies for exploration.
- Head of Task Force on Energy Reforms, said that Pakistan is drafting its first shale gas policy in 2019, with aims to license the shale gas blocks in the first half of 2020. Pakistan’s conventional gas reserves are estimated at 20 trillion cubic feet, and shale gas reserves at more than 100 trillion cubic feet.
- According to the Petroleum Ministry of Pakistan, domestic gas output has fallen to 1.46 trillion cubic feet in 2017-18, from 1.51 trillion cubic feet in 2012-13. The shortfall has led to severe gas shortages across Pakistan where the demand has risen sharply over the years.
- Supporters from the Bangladesh Awami League party and the Juba League clashed yesterday at Habignaj district in north-eastern part of Bangladesh. The clash has led to several critical injuries.
- According to the police, a derogatory remark allegedly made by an Awami League candidate on social media led to the Juba League Chairman to respond. Police have taken control of the situation.
- Clients are advised to avoid any political and religious events across Bangladesh as the clashes between the political parties are major of a concern.
Also in BANGLADESH
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday strongly condemned the February 14, attack on Indian soldiers and showed her support to India’s anti-terrorism stand during her talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- The two Prime Ministers jointly inaugurated four projects which included the supply of buses for the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, thirty-six community clinics in north and northeastern districts of Bangladesh bordering India, water treatment plants and extension of India’s National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh.
- Foreign Minister of India Sushma Swaraj said, the projects inaugurated by the two Prime Ministers symbolize the breadth and depth of partnership between the two countries and also reaffirm India’s Neighborhood First Policy.
- A three-member mediation panel appointed by the Supreme Court arrived in Ayodhya city in Uttar Pradesh state yesterday to begin the process to resolve the Babri Masjid-Ram birthplace title suit from today.
- The mediation will take place inside the Gendalal Dixit Guest House inside the Awadh University campus where entry and exit have been restricted. According to the court order, the mediation process should be concluded in eight weeks and the first status report is to be submitted in four weeks.
- Strict security measures have been imposed along major roads in the city. The identity of all residents has been verified and heavy police force has been deployed in the area.
Also in INDIA
- The Civil Aviation Authority of India yesterday decided to ground all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft immediately, after the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 MAX plane in Ethiopia on March 10. According to the official of Aviation Authority, the planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure the plane models safe operations.
- Domestic airlines Jet Airways and SpiceJet operate Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The decision is likely to affect the schedules of both airlines.
- Clients are advised to confirm the status of the flights after the suspension and consider alternate airlines.