Given that Asia is now widely seen as leading the world out of the crisis, it is fitting that the role of Asia was more prominently recognized in the global economic system in the recent G20 meeting held in Pittsburgh. Since we last looked in July, the outlook for the emerging markets of East Asia has continued to brighten. The latest regional forecasts come from the Asian Development Bank in its Asian Development Outlook (pdf) published last week. It points to “the rapid turnaround in [Asia’s] largest, less export-dependent economies” and predicts that “the regional economy is now poised to achieve a V-shaped rebound.” These are very positive words indeed! As the graph below shows, the ADB has in fact upgraded its growth forecasts for a number of economies for 2009.
Although the signs are pointing upwards, performance is still mixed in a number of key areas.
|For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain on Luzon, causing massive floods and destroying lives and property in Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy of IRRI Images under a Creative Commons license)|
Muelmar Magallanes, an 18 year-old construction worker, had already saved 30 people from the raging floodwaters last Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, he dived back into the murky waters to save a mother and a baby girl who were bobbing up and down among the floating debris and brought them to safety. Then he was gone, swept away by the torrents. His body was found the following day.
Magallanes is one of the more than 240 casualties caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana). For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain (double the volume brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina) on Luzon, causing massive floods in Metro Manila and the adjoining regions, destroying lives and property, and creating anguish and devastation in the metropolis.
As China’s economy seems to be recovering, many people here have expressed concerns about inflation. I was able to air my views on the subject in an Op-Ed in China’s main English language newspaper, the China Daily, together with two other experts.
Go anywhere after a 30 year break and you expect to see change – and you hope things will be better. Thus my wife Jane and I, together with our four children, were intrigued to see what life was like now on Siberut, the largest and most northerly of the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, when we visited it a few weeks ago. Jane and I had lived in a hut in the middle of the island conducting wildlife research for over two years until 1978. We wanted to see our closest friend there, Potifar Tengatiti Siribetuk, as well as other old friends, our old study area, some of the remaining traditional houses, and as many of Siberut’s four endemic species of primates as we could.
Visiting the island and the provincial capital of Padang also provided an opportunity to observe the impacts of the $1 million of grants which had focused on Siberut under the Phase 1 of the World Bank-implemented Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. These grants had followed on from an Asian Development Bank loan project (pdf) from 1992-2000 which was not a resounding success for a variety of reasons. This had itself followed on from WWF projects.
|The Superbotrechus Bennetti beetle was discovered during a survey of cave biodiversity in China.|
The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.
Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.
|I thought that seeing zoo animals would have prepared me for seeing these unfettered beasts at close quarters, but I was completely wrong. They are HUGE.|
I’d seen the video, read the book, heard the David Attenborough podcast, written the box, gone to the zoos, got the T-shirt. So I thought I knew Komodo Dragons pretty well, even if I hadn’t seen them in the wild. I’d seen many other types of monitor lizards in forests and along rivers all over Asia and Australia, and didn’t think that seeing a larger one would be an especially great way to use up a precious day of vacation.
So when we landed in Flores in the dry Lesser Sunda islands of southern Indonesia, we were in two minds whether to bother to go to Komodo National Park which for nearly 20 years has been a World Heritage Site. There are certainly other things to do in western Flores such as trekking the Mbeliling forests, visiting the remarkable highland village of Waerebo, snorkelling/diving, and vegging out in some interesting hotels such as the EcoLodge. Eventually, on the grounds that it would be faintly ridiculous to be so close to such a famous site and not to take a day to go, we rented a boat for the two-hour trip to the park’s Tourist Zone. (Mind you, I believe I’m one of the very few people ever to have gone to Agra and not seen the Taj Mahal.)
Earlier today, the World Bank released its annual Doing Business report, which tracks business regulation reforms and ranks emerging economies on the “ease of doing business.”
|At Ban Thalang, a resettled village in the Nakai area of Laos, a standing memory of a not-so-forgotten past is now being happily used as a green onion harvesting pot.|
|Rows of solar collectors line the roofs of many buildings in China.|
Driving through Jiangsu and Anhui provinces adjacent to Shanghai, China, last month, I was struck. Not by the sheer number of people and vehicles, or by the seemingly endless number of new buildings under construction with their distinct bamboo scaffolding, but by what was on top of those roofs: continuous rows of solar collectors.
China’s increasing emphasis on renewable energy on a large-scale level can be seen by wind farms in Inner Mongolia and several other green World Bank projects in the country. However, the most pervasive example for the public and individuals has been the explosion of the use of solar water heaters.