Southeast Asia braces for more oil price swings ahead of OPEC meeting – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Rattled by rapid oil price swings in recent months, Southeast Asian economies are on tenterhooks ahead of an OPEC meeting this week that is expected to result in a supply cut to boost prices. The recent plunge in prices — the benchmark Brent crude dipped under $60 a barrel last week — has benefited economies such as Indonesia and the Philippines that are net importers of oil. This is helping to blunt the inflationary effects of currency slides against the U.S. dollar in these countries, which are caught in the crossfire of the U.S.-China trade war. Oil rebounded as much as 5% on Monday after the U.S. and China agreed to a truce in their trade conflict. This latest move follows a 30% slide in crude last month, after it touched four-year highs at the start of October. While nations in the region welcome the break in trade tensions — Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday that he hoped to see the U.S. and China take further “constructive” steps — they have to be prepared for further volatility after the meeting of the oil producing cartel that starts on Thursday.

Asian wage growth far outstrips Western countries – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Wages in Asia grew by an average of 3.5% last year, nearly ten times faster than the 0.4% increase seen among the wealthiest members of the Group of 20 countries, whose leaders will meet in Argentina later this week. Driven largely by Asian economies and China in particular, wages in the G-20’s emerging or developing economies — including Indonesia and India — have tripled overall in the two decades since the Asian financial crisis, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization. The disparity between developed countries such as Japan — where wages declined by 0.4% last year — and less-developed countries in Asia, is partly due to emerging economies growing much faster and enjoying lower inflation than other emerging or developing regions such as Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

Myanmar tops FDI league ranking of poorest countries – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — Myanmar attracted the most foreign direct investment of any of the world’s so-called “least developed countries” in 2017, even as the nation’s reputation plummeted over its forced expulsion of tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims. The $4.3 billion worth of realized FDI that went into the resource-rich Southeast Asian country put it on top of the global economy’s bottom division of 47 nations, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Myanmar edged out second-place Ethiopia, with Asian neighbors Cambodia and Bangladesh taking third and fifth spots. Even so the nations remain far behind Association of Southeast Asian Nations peers such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

Asia-Europe leaders meeting comes after inconclusive Brexit talks – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — A spokesperson for the EU stated that the bloc “wants to continue to negotiate ambitious and balanced trade agreements with key partners in the region — this is what we have been doing with Japan, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.” A “no deal” Brexit could work in one of two ways. While it would risk sidetracking the EU from tricky trade talks with Asia, Brexit could also make the bloc “more interested” in international agreements,” according to Joergen Oerstroem Moeller, a senior visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank at the National University of Singapore. The EU “will not want to appear paralyzed or inward-looking after Brexit,” Moeller said.

Disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist overshadows global financial meeting – Los Angeles Times

NUSA DUA — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Saturday that he was sticking with plans to attend a government-sponsored investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month despite the uproar over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist, although he said he would reconsider that decision “if more information comes out.” Mnuchin said he was concerned about the fate of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last week and has not been seen since. Turkish investigators say Khashoggi, a well-connected Washington Post columnist who had become a critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, was killed and his body dismembered by an elite Saudi security team. Saudi officials say Khashoggi left the consulate freely, but have not substantiated their claim.

Jack Ma slams Western economic models, says Europe over-regulated – Nikkei Asian Review

NUSA DUA — Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma slammed Western economies as over-regulated during a frank exchange with World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim at a conference in Bali. “In Europe they don’t like me, in America they don’t like me,” Ma said, drawing laughter from an audience at the International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meeting that included government representatives from around the world. “In Europe a lot of people talk about regulations, they love to discuss about the worries, asking what ya gonna do. In America they have their system,” said Ma, who will step down as chairman of Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese internet giant he founded, in September next year

Indonesian search for earthquake and tsunami victims to end Friday; death toll at 2,073 – Los Angeles Times

NUSA DUA — Hundreds of mostly Indonesian aid workers continued to distribute relief items to the nearly 88,000 people left homeless by the disaster, after days of slow access to the region, which is a near-three-hour flight from Jakarta. The impact of the 7.5 quake cracked roads and left rocks and debris blocking routes outside Palu to rural areas and smaller towns. By midweek, many of the roads to remote regions were passable, but mostly still to smaller trucks and cars, said Irwan Firdaus, an aid worker with Oxfam in Indonesia. The main routes across Sulawesi to Palu had been opened up to larger relief convoys. “We have been seeing donations come in from other areas of the island,” said Dini Widiastuti of Yayasan Plan International, another aid organization.

U.S.-China trade war has yet to hurt rest of Asia – Nikkei Asian Review

NUSA DUA — Asia is not yet feeling the effects of growing trade friction between China and the U.S., due to the internal strengths of the region’s “solid” economies, according to Takehiko Nakao, president of the Asian Development Bank. The trade dispute “is not as damaging right away,” Nakao told the Nikkei Asian Review on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings being held in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian island of Bali. “The Asian economies are solid,” Nakao said, but he also warned that any escalation of the tariff war between the world’s two biggest economies could hit Asian exporters hard. “If it escalates, if it damages supply chains, as East Asia is connected to [global] supply chains, it could have a dire impact,” Nakao said. The fear is that complex supply chains, in which multinational companies make or source parts for finished goods in countries across Asia before final assembly, often in China, could be disrupted. But for now, domestic demand within Asia’s bigger economies could offset the impact of the trade restrictions, Nakao said earlier at the forum.

A week on from Indonesian disaster, mass prayers for the dead – Los Angeles Times

JAKARTA — Dini Widiastuti, Executive Director of Yayasan Plan International Indonesia, a local NGO affiliated with Plan International, described a challenging conditions for getting relief items such as tents to survivors, many of who are sleeping outdoors. “Warehousing, storage, channels of transportation, these are all difficult,” she said, speaking by telephone. There are three main avenues for assistance to the affected region, home to around 1.5 million people: Balikpapan, a city on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, or Kalimantan, as well as Makassar, the biggest city Sulawesi, from where it can take a day by road, and via the airport in Palu itself.  “It is difficult to move aid around, the airport is operating but limited. We can send more by boat, and it is less expensive, but air is faster,” Ms. Dini said.  “From Jakarta, it can take 7 days to Makassar by boat.”