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.
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.
JAKARTA — Radio reporting on the Lion Air passenger jet that crashed off the coast of Java, Indonesia, early on the morning of October 29.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
JAKARTA — Survivors were leaving the disaster-hit region of Central Sulawesi on Thursday out of frustration with what they said was the slow provision of assistance from the Indonesian government and aid agencies in the aftermath of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami. Widely reported shortages of food, water, gasoline and other necessities have led to looting of damaged shops and supermarkets in Palu, the provincial capital of 380,000 residents near the quake’s epicenter. Though a few positive signs were emerging in the shattered city — with access to water restored for some residents — relief remained slow to arrive on damaged roads and ground that had churned into mud. Residents said there isn’t enough food and water for the thousands of injured and 70,000 left homeless. “The last I heard, my brother was picking up my mother and father in Palu to evacuate to another district,” said Imade Boby, a Jakarta resident whose parents and relatives live in Palu. He said the family hoped to travel by boat or by road to an area of Parigi Moutong, north of Palu, that was less affected by the disaster.
SINGAPORE — “Yes, hello, fruits?” Shouting above the din, vendor Sini Mohamad leans forward into a conga line of office workers edging between dozens of lavishly provisioned stalls in Singapore’s Tekka Market. It is lunchtime, and crowds throng the market as dozens of hawker stalls dish out noodles, rice and curries. Most ignore Mohamad’s appeals. But he keeps at it, alongside stallholders selling meat, fish, vegetables and spices. The lunchtime crowd offers a fleeting chance for butchers and grocers to persuade passers-by to do a bit of grocery shopping before they head back to work, their palettes whetted by the aromas of spices and herbs clinging to the steamy market air.