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Unofficial readings on China’s industrial activity released on Thursday add to a sense that the underlying economic vibrancy of the world’s second largest economy may have continued its ebbing trend into October.

This may surprise those who bought into the notion that industrial output rebounded strongly in September, rising to 8 per cent year on year, up from 6.9 per cent in August. In fact, though, that September “rebound” was largely the result of a big statistical base effect, according to China Confidential research.

Similarly, the announcement on Thursday of a pick up in HSBC/Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) to 50.4 in October so far – up from 50.2 in September – is misleading. In fact, readings on manufacturing output and new orders – the key measures of industrial vibrancy – revealed markedly weaker trends. Continue reading »

A jeweller in Surat, Gujarat, has been the talk of the town – and the whole nation – after giving cars and apartments to hundreds of employees.

Savjibhai Dholakia, chairman of Hari Krishna Exports, handed out 500 Fiat Puntos, 207 apartments and 570 pieces of jewellery, according to the Guardian newspaper, which said that he would pay for his mysterious beneficence in installments “over the next few years.”

The scale of Dholakia’s generosity is unusual, but it is somewhat in keeping with Indian tradition. Throughout the country, offices are piled high with hampers of dried fruit and chocolates, gifts from companies to employees and clients, as India celebrates its festival of lights on October 23. Continue reading »

India has stepped up efforts to curb nearly 1m tobacco-related deaths a year by issuing new rules to embolden the health warnings on tobacco packets and make the country one of the world’s strictest in terms of tobacco labelling.

But while regulators try to crack down on branded cigarettes and similar products, there is still a vast unregulated market for tobacco in India. And it’s far from clear that slapping warnings on cigarette packs will have much impact on health.

For one thing, many more Indians smoke traditional bidis than branded cigarettes. In addition, a lot of people get their nicotine fix from chewing tobacco and other products often produced in the informal sector. Continue reading »

Last month Ricardo Hausmann, a normally mild Harvard academic, set off the equivalent of a financial bomb. The economist suggested that Venezuela had already defaulted on many of its suppliers, its oil service contractors, and its citizens. So who or what might come next?

When Hausmann suggested Wall Street, the market reaction was huge. Indeed Venezuelan bonds, undercut by the falling oil price, have been dropping ever since. Yet it turns out that Venezuela’s latest default has been, in fact, to China. Given that Beijing is one of Caracas’ closest allies, this is surprising. It is also bullish for Wall Street. Continue reading »

The dream of an “Asean car” was first floated, in broad terms, by former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, when he spearheaded the creation of Proton in the 1980s. The idea was to form a national Malaysian car company that could be exported to Southeast Asia and beyond.

That didn’t quite work. Proton failed to gain traction much beyond its home market of Malaysia, although it did see some success as a low-priced, competently engineered vehicle in Britain for a time, thanks to the provision of engines by Mitsubishi of Japan.

Now, the idea has resurfaced. Najib Razak, current Malaysian prime minister, has announced that Malaysia and Indonesia plan jointly to develop an “Asean car”. Continue reading »

In a private meeting with the US Ambassador to China in 2007, provincial Communist Party secretary Li Keqiang described his country’s GDP figures as “man-made” and unreliable.

To get a good idea of what was happening to the economy in his province of Liaoning, Li said he preferred to focus on three alternative indicators: electricity consumption, volume of rail cargo and the amount of loans disbursed.

All other figures, and especially GDP statistics, were “for reference only”, Li told the Ambassador, with a broad smile on his face. Continue reading »

If you are bored of Botswana, tired of Tunisia and Mongolia is just not edgy enough any more then perhaps Tajikistan could be your next true frontier market destination.

The Tajik government certainly hopes so. It has just organised its first ever investment conference – and with some 600 people in attendance, it would seem there is certainly some curiosity about what Tajikistan has to offer.

“The development of the private sector and attracting investment is one of our top priorities,” Tajikistan’s strongman president, Emomali Rahmon, told the assembled delegates in Dushanbe’s national library. “We definitely need huge investment to fully realise our resources and potential.” Continue reading »

There you are, taking it easy on your summer holiday in Istanbul or Dubai, searching online for the next restaurant to sample. You may not know it, but the information you seek could be coming to you courtesy of a small company based in Gurgaon, near New Delhi.

Zomato, an online restaurant directory, has become a household name in India. That could soon be true in many other markets. Over the past year the website has expanded quickly overseas – from Poland to New Zealand – through a mixture of acquisitions and organic growth. Continue reading »

GDP growth. Third-quarter growth could be the slowest since the depths of the global financial crisis, when China reported 6.6 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2009.

By Amitabh Dubey of Trusted Sources

Elections this week in the states of Maharashtra and Haryana offered the first popular gauge of India’s reformist government since it won its big parliamentary majority in May, and underscored its dominance of Indian politics. But an equally important test has emerged in one of the country’s most troubled sectors, coal, after the Supreme Court’s mass cancellation of captive coal block allocations last month. How Prime Minister Narendra Modi handles the issue will be the first major test of his capacity for reform affecting a vital industry which finds itself in a dire situation. Continue reading »

By Riccardo Puliti of the EBRD

Until recently the Nabucco pipeline, just like the chorus in Verdi’s opera of the same name, was a symbol of freedom. It was designed as an alternative route for large quantities of natural gas coming into Europe, reducing the continent’s dependency on the Soviet-built pipeline system that runs from East to West.

But the Nabucco dream did not become reality, mainly because it would not transport enough gas to make it viable and especially because Turkmenistan, a big producer of natural gas, was not part of the project. However, this vision of independence could yet live on in another guise – but only if there is the political will to drive it forward. Continue reading »

The number of regulations governing South Korea’s financial sector has been creeping up, raising concern at the possible damage to the country’s goal of becoming a world economic power.

The number of regulations rose from 918 in 2009 to 1099 in September this year, an increase of almost 20 per cent in five years, according to a recent report by Kim Jong-hoon, a South Korean lawmaker and member of the country’s National Policy Committee. Continue reading »

The Indian Super League, the country’s new professional football league, kicked off last weekend. Sceptics who doubted its pulling power were proved wrong as Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium packed out for the first game.

In a nation where cricket is tantamount to a religion, few expected football to have much appeal. But the ISL – backed by media group Star India and IMG-Reliance, a partnership between the sports management group and Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man – has captured the attention of the public, the players and the sponsors. Will it last? Continue reading »

Slowing productivity growth is holding back the economies of Asia, making them overly dependent on credit to sustain demand, says HSBC. And, because the root of the problem is structural, not cyclical, the only real panacea is domestic structural reform.

Things should be looking pretty good for Asia just now, said the bank in its quarterly review of the region’s macro economics, Losing Steam. Yet, positive developments – among them an uptick in growth over the summer, hopeful election results in India and Indonesia and mini stimulus measures in China, as well as growth in the US and a drop in the price of raw materials – had not removed a “nagging feeling”. Continue reading »

A reported export surge in September is failing to dispel the gloom suffusing forecasts for China’s third quarter GDP growth, which several economists predict will slump to a five-year low.

One problem lies with the export numbers themselves, which raise suspicions that over-invoicing may once again be artificially inflating export statistics as Chinese smuggle hot money into the mainland from Hong Kong to take advantage of an appreciating renminbi. Continue reading »