Typhoon Haiyan

A house by Tacloban airport (Getty)

By Amie Tsang and Luisa Frey
The Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters. But in just a few days, it has been transformed from emerging market star – its economy grew at annual rate of 7.6 per cent in the first half of 2013, faster than China – to a “state of national calamity”.

Typhoon Haiyan will cause inevitable damage to the country’s economy, but loss of output will be dwarfed by the devastating loss of life.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that losses from typhoons and earthquakes cost the Philippines around $1.6bn each year. The World Bank estimates the annual typhoon season typically shaves 0.8 percentage points off annual GDP growth. 

By Luisa Frey
♦ Aid workers’ comparison of typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines with the one after 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is “daunting”, says Shawn Donnan. It raises questions about whether the world has learned lessons and will apply them now.
♦ In Europe, Germany’s “holy trinity” – tight monetary policy, export-led growth and financial system dominated by small banks – came under fire last week from the ECB and the European Commission, comment’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels.
Three hospitals in northern Israel have been treating severely wounded Syrians, reports FT’s John Reed. Some of the wounded are civilians, while others acknowledge affiliation with the Free Syrian Arming fighting Bashar al-Assad.
Outside private funds are helping sustain the Syrian conflict, writes The New York Times. They exacerbate divisions in the opposition and strengthen its most extreme elements.
♦ Mike Giglio, from BuzzFeed, tells the story of a Syrian activist who believes the revolution is already lost.
♦ Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s organisation Setad has been used to amass assets worth tens of billions of dollars. Its holdings rival the ones of the late shah and support Khamenei’s power over the country, according to Reuters. 

By Luisa Frey
♦ Typhoon Haiyan should remind us of something basic: the Philippines remains an extremely poor country, says David Pilling.
♦ Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s requirement that online information concerning citizens to be kept within the country sparks furore, writes the FT’s Brazil correspondent Joseph Leahy.
The EU is trying to gather six former Soviet states in its Eastern Partnership programme. Ukraine, the centre of attention, could face Russia’s retaliation if joining.
♦ In an Iran hobbled by sanctions, organization Setad provides an independence source of revenue and patronage for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reports Reuters.
♦ John Kerry’s Saturday-night meeting with his counterpart Laurent Fabius was a late turning point in three days of intense talks about a deal on nuclear Iran, according to The Guardian.
♦ In China, dozens of couples travelled to the birthplace of Mao Zedong to participate in a collective wedding. This comes amid growing divisions over how to define Mao’s legacy ahead of the 120th anniversary of his birth, reports Sinosphere, The New York Times’ China blog.
♦ The mystery surrounding recently discovered masterpieces stolen by the Nazis reveals much about Germany’s attempt to deal with its past, writes Spiegel Online. 

David Pilling

A survivor in Tacloban (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Typhoon Haiyan, which swept through the central Philippines hurling makeshift homes and shacks through the air like so many matchboxes, should remind us of something pretty basic. The Philippines remains an extremely poor country.

In recent years, the southeast Asian country of nearly 100m people has deservedly gained the attention of investors. It has gradually shed its image as the basket-case of Asia and attracted serious inflows of foreign capital. Since 2010, it has had a president, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, who has put in place the most credible administration in a generation.

Mr Aquino has made genuine, if imperfect, efforts to tackle endemic corruption, to improve infrastructure and to crack down on tax evasion. The economy has grown fast, expanding for 58 straight quarters. In the first half of this year, it grew 7.6 per cent, bucking a downturn in much of the region and challenging China as the fastest-growing Asian economy.