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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Southeast Asia Optimism

Can democracy be taking root throughout Southeast Asia?

Neal Asbury is the president of "Greenfield World Trade which is the largest foodservice equipment and related services export management company in the industry." He has extensive overseas business experience including Southeast Asia. He says that since Southeast Asias' financial crisis in 1997, there has been some rough times in South East Asia. As usual, the United States was being blamed for everything wrong in the world and so it should be no surprise that some blamed the 1997 Financial Crisis on the U.S. as well because “"the Americans did not want to see the Asians become successful and powerful.”"

When in actuality, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis was caused by and "attrributed to cronyism, corruption, non-transparency, non-accountability, insolvent financial institutions, crooked legal systems, government waste and large scale funding of unjustifiable projects. It was also blamed on the cozy relationship between government and business where staggering sums of money and influence flowed both ways."

Many hardworking families in the region lost everything. Those families who lived in poverty for generations now had a reason to be hopeful about their future. With their acceptance of free (or at least "freer") markets came a huge influx of foreign investment. This influx of capital of course meant new factories and decent paying jobs. Unfortunately, it ended. "Just as they were starting to believe the system could work for them, their currency was reduced to meaningless paper and their jobs vanished. They were back in the dark ages of Asia once more."

But now there is, once again, optimism in this region. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are essentially democracies with free markets. They are positive and hopeful, once again, about their countries futures and are now receptive towards American products.

The Philippines has many problems. The Philippines has terribly hostile labor unions - maybe one of the most hostile unions in the world. One of the more positive things they have going for them, though, is that they have Asia’s most open society and freest press, due largely to America's influence. The Philippines economy is starting to percolate. It is not unreasonable to assume that we should continue to see a comparatively prosperous market - a market that historically has always had a penchant for American products and services.

It should be pointed out that Thailand is also moving forward in a positive way. Thailands' Prime Minister is a very successful entrepreneur as well as a graduate of the police academy. He is very much interested in fighting corruption. Potentially, it could be an exciting country in the Southeast Asia region to watch and see if it develops into a country with which we could do a lot of business.

Recently there has been a major shift in attitude towards American products throughout the region. Now that the Euro is at an all time high, many Asian companies are trying madly to find US import substitutes. "Asian importers of European products have held on as long as they can with the hope that the Euro would go back to an exchange rate of 1:1 versus the Dollar. This is not going to happen for a long while."

Viet Nams' time has not come yet; and it may not arrive for awhile yet. They just don't get it yet - due in large part to the strong Communist influence. More than likely, a best case scenario may mean it could be a decade, but probably more, before we see any real promise here.

What I am wondering is if this optimism for this area of the globe materializes, how does it (if at all) impact China? Will it be a positive influence? And, will it help in shaping Chinas' continued economic revolution and embrace of capitalism?


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