Women's work

Amid wave after wave of Covid-19 in Japan, Mariko, a college lecturer and mother, has been working and raising her four-year-old daughter in an apartment shared by a family of four in Tokyo.

18 Oct 2021

NEWSPAPER SECTION: ASIA FOCUS

WRITER: PARITTA WANGKIAT



Carbon neutrality with Chinese characteristics

China's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, now enshrined in its 14th Five-Year Plan, has been met with international enthusiasm. If China succeeds, it could singlehandedly reduce global temperatures by 0.25 degrees Celsius, relative to their expected rise. But is its plan realistic?

18 Oct 2021

Care with passion

There is sometimes a moment in life that changes you forever. It can sometimes define the course of your life. Not many have experienced that lightbulb realisation, but Sigal Atzmon has.

18 Oct 2021

What a waste

Crates of paper, metal, plastic and unwanted rubbish from developed countries are piled up at ports in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, while vast toxic wastelands of imported plastics have emerged across Malaysia.

11 Oct 2021

AROUND ASIA

Buzz

A global energy crunch is expected to boost oil demand by half a million barrels per day (bpd) and could stoke inflation and slow the world's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday. "Record coal and gas prices as well as rolling blackouts are prompting the power sector and energy-intensive industries to turn to oil to keep the lights on and operations humming," the Paris-based agency said. "Higher energy prices are also adding to inflationary pressures that, along with power outages, could lead to lower industrial activity and a slowdown in the economic recovery." The IEA also warned that the current economic recovery from the pandemic was "unsustainable" and revolved too much on fossil fuels. Investment in renewable energy needs to triple by the end of the decade if the world hopes to effectively fight climate change, it said.

  • Philippines

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa says democracies and press freedom in Southeast Asian nations are on a "rollback" as she highlighted the crucial work journalists must do to hold the line. The Filipino journalist likened online disinformation and fact-twisting to a "virus of lies unleashed in our information ecosystem", pushing back decades of democratic gains. "I think that the Nobel Committee chose journalists for this moment in time is a signal that something is happening in our information ecosystem," Ms Ressa, 58, told Kyodo News. "This is a recognition … of how the information ecosystem has changed, how journalists have lost gatekeeping powers to technology platforms that have abdicated responsibility to protect the public sphere."

    READ MORE >
  • Laos

    China last week handed over to Laos a sixth batch of donated Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines at a ceremony in Vientiane. The shipment of one million doses is part of a total of 6.8 million that are being donated to Laos this year to help the country exceed its annual vaccination target and to jointly build a global community of health for all, said Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong. As of last week, Laos had fully vaccinated 2.1 million people or 29% of its population.

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  • Malaysia

    After clearing a key vote in parliament, Malaysia is set to raise the limit on government debt for the second time in a little over a year as it seeks to fund additional pandemic support measures and bolster its economic recovery. A majority of lawmakers in the lower house voted to lift the statutory debt ceiling to 65% of gross domestic product until the end of 2022, from 60%. The increase will enable the government to fund 45 billion ringgit (US$10.8 billion) in extra spending on economic aid and stimulus packages, Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz said.

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  • Indonesia

    Bali reopened to international flights from selected countries on Thursday, including China, Japan and France, as the Indonesian holiday island took a step toward welcoming back tourists. Foreign visitors must be vaccinated, quarantine in a hotel for five days and follow strict visa requirements. "We're ready and waiting for international flights," airport spokesman Taufan Yudhistira said on Thursday. "But so far there's nothing scheduled today." Ngurah Rai International Airport is open to travellers from 19 countries including South Korea, China, Japan, France, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and New Zealand. But the partial reopening does not include Australians — a key source of the millions of tourists who flocked to the island before the pandemic.

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  • Myanmar

    Myanmar's ruling military says it has not blocked a special Southeast Asian envoy from visiting the country but it will not allow him to meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, because she is charged with crimes, the junta's spokesman said. A delay in the United Nations approving the military government's UN ambassador nomination was politically motivated, spokesman Zaw Min Tun added, saying the UN and other countries and organisations "should avoid double standards when they are engaging in international affairs". His remarks came as international pressure builds to honour a five-point peace plan that Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief, agreed to in April with Asean. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres asked to postpone a virtual meeting with Asean ministers at the last minute on Friday to avoid signalling recognition of Myanmar's junta by being seen in the same online room as the military's envoy, diplomats said.

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  • Singapore

    A record-breaking spike in electricity prices is short-circuiting Singapore's efforts to liberalise its power sector, in the latest sign that the global crisis is delivering a blow to both energy suppliers and customers. The electricity supplier iSwitch Energy said it wold cease power retail operations on Nov 11 due to "current electricity market conditions". Existing customers will be moved to SP Group, the state-owned power provider. The surge in wholesale electricity prices is erasing profits for many independent retailers in Singapore, according to James Whistler of the futures brokerage Simpson Spence Young. "There is clearly a gas shortage that is causing issues, pipeline capacity is low and LNG supplies might not have been coming through either."

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  • Vietnam

    Vietnam's coffee exports in September were down 10.2% from August at 100,340 tonnes, while rice exports in the same period rose 19%, customs data showed. For the first nine months of 2021, Vietnam exported 1.18 million tonnes of coffee, down 5.4% from a year earlier, but revenue rose 3.4% to US$2.2 billion, it said. Rice exports in the first nine months were down 8.3% year-on-year to 4.57 million tonnes.

    READ MORE >
  • Cambodia

    The United States on Wednesday accused Cambodia of lacking transparency about Chinese construction activities at its biggest naval base, and urged the government to disclose the full scope of Beijing's military involvement. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) made public what it said were satellite images showing construction in August and September of three new buildings and the start of a new road. US embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said any foreign military presence at the Ream base would violate Cambodia's constitution and undermine regional security. Cambodia last year razed a US-funded facility at the Ream naval base to allow for further expansion. But it has repeatedly denied reports that it is planning to let China place its forces at the facility.

    READ MORE >
  • Japan

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, setting out his agenda ahead of the Oct 31 election, is vowing shift economic policy and freshen up the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's stodgy image by scrapping a growth strategy panel and replacing it with a more gender-balanced group tasked with fomenting a "new form of capitalism". By highlighting the importance of distributing the benefits of growth more fairly, Mr Kishida is again hitting on a theme he hopes will shore up support for the party in the election. Almost half the 15 expert members of the new panel are women. Only a quarter of the growth council's experts were female.

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  • India

    The state miner Coal India Ltd has temporarily stopped supplies to consumers other than power stations as the country looks to prevent blackouts. The move is aimed at helping boost power plants' depleted inventories that are putting their continued operations at risk. But it could worsen the situation at other industries such as aluminium smelters, cement producers and steel mills, leaving them with a difficult choice of looking for costlier options or slashing production. Inventories of coal, which helps produce about 70% of India's power, have plummeted at power stations, raising fears of blackouts.

    READ MORE >
  • China

    China's economy is being hit from all sides — a property slump, an energy crisis, weak consumer sentiment and soaring raw material costs — and government data due today will show just how bad things are looking. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict a slowdown in gross domestic product growth to 5% in the third quarter from 7.9% in the previous three months, and a weakening in monthly industrial production and investment figures in September. Retail sales may show a pickup after a major virus outbreak was contained, say economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

    READ MORE >
  • South Korea

    South Korea said on Friday it would lift stringent anti-coronavirus curbs on social gatherings this week, as the country prepares to switch to a "living with Covid-19" strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel is drawing up a plan for a gradual return to normalcy and reopening of the economy in November on the expectation that 80% of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. Starting today, the government will allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people, and ease operating-hour restrictions on venues like restaurants, cafes and cinemas.

    READ MORE >
  • Australia

    Pfizer Inc will seek expedited approval from Australia's medical regulator for its Covid vaccine to be considered for use in children aged five to 11, Health Minister Greg Hunt said. If the Therapeutic Goods Administration approves the vaccine, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation then needs to okay the shots, he said. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said it was a welcome step that would help protect children and their families.

    READ MORE >
  • Hong Kong

    Hong Kong teachers might have to pass a test on the city's national security law, a top government official said, as the local education system is remade to foster greater loyalty to Beijing. Examinations would bring requirements for government educators in line with those for civil servants, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said on Friday. The city has used the Beijing-imposed law to arrest more than 150 people on charges carrying sentences as long as life in prison and justify a wave of new policies on everything from tax exemptions to film censorship. "We have to work on national education, national security education, and we hope to foster students' national identity," Mr Yeung said. Sweeping changes to the curriculum in the past year have seen children as young as six taught to memorise offences criminalised by the law, and teachers are advised to report on children who breach the law.

    READ MORE >
  • Taiwan

    Taiwan on Friday faced the aftermath of a massive fire that gutted a building in the southern city of Kaohsiung, killing 46 people and injuring dozens in the island's deadliest blaze in decades. The inferno broke out in the 13-storey, mixed-use building before dawn on Thursday, raging through multiple floors before firefighters finally got it under control. The fire department said most of the fatalities occurred on floors seven to 11, which housed residential apartments. The first five floors were for commercial use but were unoccupied.

    READ MORE >

IN NUMBERS

Nareerat Wiriyapong

COMMENTARY

The Squid Game K-shock

When I saw the K-pop sensations BTS taking centre stage at the United Nations headquarters in New York ahead of the General Assembly last month, I was surprised by the cheerful mood of the world-renowned boy band from Asia.

READ MORE >

Other News

18 Oct 2021

The Squid Game K-shock

When I saw the K-pop sensations BTS taking centre stage at the United Nations headquarters in New York ahead of the General Assembly last month, I was surprised by the cheerful mood of the world-renowned boy band from Asia.

18 Oct 2021 2
11 Oct 2021

Facebook needs a serious fix

Over the years, we have seen an increasing number of people worldwide becoming hugely reliant on Facebook, using the platform of the social media giant to connect with loved ones or reconnect with lost ones.

11 Oct 2021 3
11 Oct 2021

Time to speed up the journey to Net Zero

The urgency of climate action has never been greater with Covid-19 bringing issues of climate change and resilience to the fore over the past year.

11 Oct 2021
11 Oct 2021

Blue skies: mapping Thailand's EV transition

'Unhealthy" is a common term used to describe the glittering capital city of Thailand. In 2019, Bangkok recorded extra high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above what the World Health Organization considers acceptable, causing over 9,000 deaths and 112 billion baht in economic losses from sick leave, healthcare and medical issues.

11 Oct 2021
4 Oct 2021

Huge tasks for Japan's new leader

When I first heard that two women -- Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda -- were seeking the leadership of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), I was blessed with a hopeful thought that maybe the result of last Wednesday's election could bring real change to Japanese society.

4 Oct 2021
4 Oct 2021

Energy crossroads

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on nearly all forms of economic activity and the energy sector is no exception. Mobility restrictions and lockdowns have put energy resilience to the test as demand plunges and many projects come to a standstill.

4 Oct 2021
4 Oct 2021

Asean's crucial digital mission

Speeding up digitisation and bridging the digital divide in the region is a mission of paramount importance, in the view of lawmakers who took part in the 42nd General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly was held in August this year.

4 Oct 2021
4 Oct 2021

Powering up rooftop solar in Thailand

2020 was a record-breaking year for renewable energy. Solar photovoltaic power will be at the forefront of this continued opportunity in 2021-22, with renewable energy expected to account for 90% of new capacity expansion globally.

4 Oct 2021
27 Sep 2021

Trade politics get very messy

Geopolitics in Asia Pacific have become increasingly complex and drawn growing interest from outsiders since the US, the UK and Australia announced a new alliance known as AUKUS to enable Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines.

27 Sep 2021
27 Sep 2021

Game on

Not everyone aspires to a traditional career path, and while getting paid for playing games might sound far-fetched to some, it's becoming a lucrative niche for talented e-sports stars.

27 Sep 2021