he foreign ministry in Beijing has denounced the legislation as an example of “zero-sum thinking which distorts the facts and smears China’s development path and domestic and foreign policies”.
Geopolitics has assumed an economic edge with Tuesday’s passage by the US Senate of the decidedly anti-China bill, the vote-count being a convincing 68 to 32. The economic and military war between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China has sharpened with the Senate approving what it calls a “sprawling” $250 billion bill to curtail China’s economic and military ambitions.
The legislation, adopted on a bipartisan vote, invests heavily in US science and technology while threatening a bevy of punishments ~ is ‘reprisal’ the right expression? ~ against Beijing. The bill is intended to counter China’s growing economic and military prowess, hoping that major investments in science ~ and fresh reprisals targeting Beijing ~ might give the United States an enduring edge.
In a chamber whose functioning has often been impeded by partisan division, Democrats and Republicans found rare accord over the sweeping measure, known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act. Nonetheless, lawmakers have warned that Washington risked ceding the country’s technological leadership to one of its foremost geopolitical adversaries. The legislation is quite the most important achievement in US history in recent times.
At another remove, the Communist Party of China has been straining every nerve to ensure global economic dominance. China has spent billions propping up state-owned enterprises and subsidising research and development. According to a section of the Senators, the government in Beijing often uses US ideas to compete ~ “and sometimes cheat” ~ American employees and business enterprises.
Small wonder the National People’s Congress has been remarkably prompt in expressing its robust dissatisfaction. “This bill seeks to exaggerate and spread the so-called China threat to maintain global American hegemony. The United States uses human rights and religion as excuses to interfere in China’s domestic politics, and deprive China of its legitimate development rights”.
The foreign ministry in Beijing has denounced the legislation as an example of “zero-sum thinking which distorts the facts and smears China’s development path and domestic and foreign policies”. As regards the nitty-gritty of the legislation ~ beyond polemics ~ the US Innovation and Competition Act invests more than $100 billion of taxpayers’ funds to reinforce the US leadership in scientific and technological innovations that are critical to national security and economic competitiveness.
Additionally, it will also strengthen the security of essential supply chains, and the US’ ability to address supplychain disruptions during an economic crisis. This bill, in a word, could be the turning point for American leadership in the 21st century, not to ignore the signal development in President Biden’s narrative. The terms of trade are at least theoretically weighted in favour of America ~ an eventuality that is unlikely to be readily digested by China. It is a new chapter in bilateral economic history.
HISTORICALLY, the Japanese love the Olympics, but they haven’t had the best luck with them. In the 1930s, Japan successfully made a bid to host the Summer Olympics in 1940, four years after Nazi Germany’s Berlin Olympics, but they had to give up the great enterprise because of World War II. In 1964, two decades after the war ended, they finally realised the ambition.
Since then, Japan twice played host to Winter Olympics in Sapporo and Nagano. And no one had thought of a pandemic when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires in 2013 gave Tokyo the right to host the Summer Games for the second time. It was an act of compassion and encouragement for a nation suffering the severe consequences of a tsunami and nuclear disaster two years earlier.
Now, less than 50 days before the grand opening of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, already delayed by one year, a big question mark looms over the brand new Tokyo Olympic Stadium. If the IOC decides to cancel the 32nd Summer Olympics, as it did in 1916,1940 and 1944, the calendar will move on to the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, while Paris and Los Angeles are not likely to concede to Tokyo their respective designations for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics.
The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is struggling between the people’s growing opposition to the Games and the robust stand of the IOC leadership to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics. The Olympic Stadium and other facilities for the Games have been completed at the cost of approximately US$26bil (RM107.3bil) but the coronavirus has disinterested the people from the Games.
Some 70% of the Japanese public is telling pollsters that they do not want the Games to be held in Tokyo for fear of infection. The US State Department’s travel warning for Japan over virus risk must be particularly embarrassing because it followed the White House summit between President Joe Biden and Suga in April where they agreed to cooperate closely in fighting the pandemic, among other things.
How in a country that boasts the world’s top level of healthcare and medical service systems do we hear daily reports of new coronavirus infections by the thousands and of the extremely slow pace of vaccination, ranked 130th among nations? One of the primary reasons, as critics argue, was the Japanese authorities’ early complacency with their antiepidemic posture and their excessive caution in approving the use of foreign-made vaccines.
The Asahi Shimbun, one of the official sponsors of the Games, came out last week with a strong appeal to the prime minister, the metropolitan government of Tokyo and the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee to call off the Summer Games and the Paralympics. In a lengthy editorial, the influential liberal newspaper said that “it is simply beyond reason” to hold the Games this summer amidst the people’s distrust and apprehension.
The foremost concerns must be about citizens’ lives, health and livelihoods which are the basis of the Olympic spirit pursuing equal opportunities, friendship, solidarity, fair play and mutual understanding, the paper stressed. They are obviously right. But I would like to ask this question to the sceptics: Is cancelling the quadrennial event, the great property of humankind, the only and right option?
To South Koreans, Japan’s closest neighbour, the 2020/21 Olympics carry regional significance. Starting from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea’s north-eastern town of PyeongChang, north-east Asia will host three consecutive Olympic Games through Tokyo to Beijing in 2022.
An interruption might look to be hampering this kind of international order.
Back in 1964, the Tokyo Olympics helped open South Korea’s windows wider to the world as the global community paid more attention to this part of Asia. The following year, the two countries normalised diplomatic relations 20 years after the end of Japan’s 35-year colonial rule. Nearly half a century later, Seoul and Tokyo have arrived at the lowest point in bilateral ties because domestic politics has kept scratching unhealed legacies from the past.
Between South Korea and Japan, there has been no scarcity of emotional issues. When the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee drew the map of the Japanese archipelago, it marked a dot in the sea between the two countries to depict Dokdo Islands, which the Japanese call Takeshima and claim to be their territory. A brief diplomatic exchange of protest and rejection ensued unnecessarily. Time is for the peoples of the two countries to forge a forward-looking partnership with the Olympics renewing the mood.
Whatever meaning the outsiders find in the Tokyo Games, it is Japan that badly needs the Olympics this summer. The Tokyo Olympics could mark the revival of the country after decades of economic stagnation and especially from the catastrophe of the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear powerplant disaster.
Rejuvenation of Japan is not something South Korea or any other regional players should be wary of.
More than 200 South Korean athletes have undergone hard training aiming at Olympic medals.
Over the past five years since the 2016 Rio Olympics, tens of thousands of sports talents on five continents have shed enormous amounts of sweat, tears and even blood in preparation for the Olympics in pursuit of personal glory as well as national pride. Their missing the Olympics till Paris 2024 means giving up their career in their prime.
Some 90,000 people will make up delegations from the 205 National Olympic Committees (excluding North Korea), consisting of athletes, officials and supporting personnel. Volunteers and medical workers who have been fully immunised in Japan and elsewhere should be invited to come to Tokyo and take care of these visitors during the Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics.
The 32nd Summer Olympics should go ahead, even if the arenas would only have the contestants and television cameras. There may be a limited number of spectators to be admitted through rigorous social distancing formulas. Japanese officials must be able to prove their well-known capability in their task of saving the Olympics and ensuring the continuity of this beautiful aspect of human culture.
Let us just imagine the excitement of watching a marathoner from Asia, Africa or any other place entering the Olympic Stadium to present the world with the possible stunning record of 120 minutes or fewer at the final moment of the great festival of sports.
“Olympics to prove mankind’s triumph over Covid-19.” This sounds an apt official slogan of the Tokyo Olympiad. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
Tobacco race: where quitters and non-runners are the real winners
According to a recent study published in the The Lancet smoking killed 7.69 million people globally in 2019, while the number of smokers rose to 1.14 billion as the habit was picked up by young people around the globe. It was also the leading risk factor for death among males (over 20% of male deaths). Another worrisome finding is that 89% of new smokers are addicted by the age of 25, thanks to the continuous nefarious tactics of Big Tobacco, which is working round the clock to addict a new generation of customers.
While all tobacco users must be encouraged to ‘Commit to Quit’- which is also the theme of 2021 World No Tobacco Day – governments also need to focus on reducing the uptake of tobacco use among young people, said the authors of The Lancet study “call on all countries to urgently adopt and enforce a comprehensive package of evidence-based policies to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and prevent initiation, particularly among adolescents and young adults”.
The tobacco industry finds ways and means to turn every effort that is designed to reduce the power of its fatal tentacles into an opportunity to sharpen them. It is trying to sabotage life-saving public health cessation measures by misleading the public about what constitutes cessation strategies by promoting their so called ‘reduced-risk nicotine products’, like electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products as cessation tools.
Over the last decade, it has promoted e-cigarettes as cessation aids under the guise of contributing to global tobacco control, even though switching from conventional tobacco products to e-cigarettes is not quitting. According to a study “one-in-five teenagers have used e-cigarettes and 16% of them had never tried cigarettes before.” E-cigarettes are not a gateway to re-normalise the act of smoking just as it was becoming de-normalised, but are potentially harmful products. Researchers says that people who use e-cigarettes have a high rate of visual impairment. Findings of another study link the use of e-cigarettes with wheezing and shortness of breath in young adults. Yet another study says that people who use e-cigarettes have a high rate of visual impairment.
“We must be guided by science and evidence, not the marketing campaigns of the tobacco industry – the same industry that has engaged in decades of lies and deceit to sell products that have killed hundreds of millions of people. E-cigarettes generate toxic chemicals, which have been linked to harmful health effects such as cardiovascular disease and lung disorders”, says WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The tobacco industry has even exploited the still raging Covid-19 pandemic and unashamedly tapped it as an opportunity to advance its own interests. Strategies used by Big Tobacco to reverse the harm caused to their sales by the pandemic lockdowns include
– marketing of newer products (such as IQOS) that are even more profitable than cigarettes and more amenable to online marketing. In many countries special offers were made for their home delivery, along with masks and hand sanitisers;
– using philanthropy to distract people from the lethal harm their products cause and build public trust back into the tobacco industry. They have given huge donations to governments and hospitals, particularly in low and middle income countries, under the garb of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. These apparently altruistic contributions are nothing more than public relations stunts which capitalize on a global tragedy to paint the industry in a positive light and thus threaten tobacco control progress in many countries.
In India too, tobacco companies have extensively engaged with all stakeholders, including the central and state governments, non-governmental organisations and trade groups, during COVID-19, under the garb of CSR collaboration. According to one study, the Indian tobacco industry gave about US$ 36.7 million in donations to various government funds, including the ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund) of the Government of India and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund of different state governments, between March 2020 and June 2020. These contributions were publicised in leading newspapers and mentioned on high-profile Twitter accounts of cabinet ministers and Chief Ministers. The companies used their corporate trademarks (which are also used on their tobacco products) in all such CSR activities. These instances of CSR activities by Indian tobacco companies, especially the use of companies’ trademarks, not only constitute breaches of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 (COTPA 2003) Section 5 (3)(b), but also contravene the guidelines for implementation of Article 13 and Article 5.3 of the legally binding global tobacco treaty (formally called as the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or WHO FCTC).
“During this crisis of the pandemic, it is becomes more relevant than ever to not only strengthen the implementation of existing tobacco control laws but also bring in new laws, both at the local and national level to make sure that the tobacco industry does not indulge in any direct or indirect advertising or promotion of tobacco products, through its CSR and other activities”, said Dr Thriveni B S, a member of Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT) and Project Director, Partnership for Healthy Cities Initiative, Bengaluru in India.
It has been suggested that, in the interest of public health, India should ban mandatory CSR activities for tobacco companies, under the Companies Act, and instead collect an equivalent amount as a direct government levy of 2% on the net profits of tobacco companies. This funding could then be allocated for tobacco control and other public health purposes (including COVID-19 relief) as done by Thailand and some other countries. This will eliminate the tobacco industry’s choice over how such money is spent, reduce the CSR-related opportunities for corporate image enhancement and minimise CSR-related policy influence. It would also be consistent with India’s obligations under both Article 5.3 and Article 13 of the WHO FCTC and its commitments made to protect people from harms of tobacco under COTPA. Policymakers should not permit tobacco companies to continue exploiting public health emergencies for corporate gains.
Recently a Nepal charity, Kathmandu Institute of Child Health, rejected a ‘donation’ of US$ 400,000 for a new children’s hospital from Surya Nepal, the country’s largest tobacco company due to mounting pressure from tobacco control advocates and media exposure, thus preventing the company’s greenwashing attempts to improve its public image while simultaneously marketing its deadly products.
Rightly remarks Dr Tara Singh Bam, Asia Pacific Director at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union): “Even in times of public health emergencies of international concern the tobacco industry continues to spread misinformation. At the same time tobacco companies continue to aggressively market their products, which cause 8 million deaths every year. But the message is loud and clear: tobacco industry tactics to undermine public health will not be tolerated.”
Let us not forget that the tobacco industry- an industry of disease and death- will stop at nothing to increase the sale of its lethal products. It is imperative for policy makers and all stakeholders to ensure that not only do current tobacco users quit, but also that no new users join the race and get hooked to the deadly habit.
Recently, Shih-chung Chen, the health Chief of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities of the Taiwan region of China, published an article on very few Thai media’s websites, falsely promoting Taiwan as a “country” and wrongly clamoring for “includ(ing) Taiwan in WHO and its meetings, mechanisms, and activities”.
Such an erroneous argument is another attempt to confuse the public, “seek secession under the pretext of pandemic response”, and undermine the one-China principle.
As is known to all, there is but one China in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal Government representing the whole of China, and the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The Taiwan region’s participation in the activities of international organizations, including the WHO, must be handled in accordance with the one-China principle. This is a fundamental principle affirmed by the Resolution 2758 of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Resolution 25.1 of the World Health Assembly (WHA).
The DPP authorities obstinately adhered to the separatist position of “Taiwan independence”, refused to admit the 1992 Consensus embodying the one-China principle, and placed political schemes above the well-being of the people in the Taiwan region. As a result, the political foundation for the Taiwan region to participate in the WHA has ceased to exist. In order to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and uphold the solemnity and authority of relevant UNGA and WHA resolutions, China cannot agree to the Taiwan region’s participation in this year’s WHA. This decision by China has received broad-based support and understanding from the international community.
At the time when the “Taiwan independence” fallacy was published, the 74th WHA had clearly refused to include particular countries’ so-called proposals to “invite Taiwan to participate as an observer at the WHA” on the agenda of the Assembly. Before the opening of the Assembly, over 150 countries voiced their support for China’s decision through diplomatic channels. More than 80 WHO members sent letters to the WHO to express their commitment to the one-China principle and opposition to Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. This fully shows that there is no way out for “Taiwan independence” and it is against the will of the international community to hype up Taiwan-related issues at the WHA. The one-China principle is the common aspiration of the people, the overriding trend of the world, and the unanimous voice of countries upholding the just and right stand.
The Chinese Central Government always attaches great importance to the health and well-being of our compatriots in the Taiwan region. Under this precondition of abiding by the one-China principle, appropriate arrangements have been made for the Taiwan region’s participation in global health affairs. Since the early stages of COVID-19, the Chinese Central Government has given the Taiwan region 260 updates about the situation, and approved participation by health experts from the Taiwan region in 16 WHO technical activities. There is an International Health Regulations Contact Point in the Taiwan region. Taiwan enjoys the unimpeded channel and sound mechanism for information exchanges with the WHO and countries in the world. The claim of Taiwan being “ruled out of the global health network” is totally groundless.
At present, the pandemic prevention and control situation in Taiwan is deteriorating. The helter-skelter DPP authorities are doing nothing but blindly shirking their responsibilities, which has exacerbated the pandemic and aroused people’s complaints and anger. The international community have been focused on anti-pandemic cooperation, the DPP authorities, however, are bent on the opposite way by insisting on tabling Taiwan-related proposals at the cost of disrupting WHA proceedings and undermining international anti-pandemic cooperation. Incompetent in fighting the pandemic and dishonorable in seeking secession, what qualifications do the DPP authorities have to brag about “Taiwan can help”?
The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm of international relations and a common consensus of the international community, including Thailand. No one should provide a platform for “Taiwan independence” forces to speak out. The sharp-eyed people of the world are discerning. The one-China principle allows no challenge and there is absolutely no way out for the attempt to “seek secession under the pretext of the pandemic”.
In the time of COVID, strengthening tobacco control makes even more sense for Thailand.
While Thailand tackles its third wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, the country has been facing another, even more deadly epidemic for many years: tobacco use.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus has claimed around 700 lives in Thailand as of mid-May 2021. During the same period, tobacco has killed nearly 80,000, or over 100 times more people.
Every year, May 31st marks World No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme is ‘Commit to Quit,’ aimed at empowering tobacco users to succeed in stopping tobacco use through policy and society-wide support.
Over 10 million people smoke tobacco in Thailand. And now is the best time to quit and support quitting. Quitting can save your life and that of loved ones: smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can cause chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and lung disease, which increase the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
It is never too late to quit. Lungs begin to work better within just two weeks of quitting tobacco.
However, given the highly addictive nature of tobacco and its enormous socioeconomic aspects and impacts, quitting is very often beyond individual action. It requires an integrated approach where the ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ create an enabling policy and social environment to support tobacco users to quit.
Quitting can keep households from facing or deepening poverty, by preventing financial hardships in low-income households through extra expenditures and lost income opportunities associated with disease, disability or premature death of breadwinners. In Thailand, people in the bottom 25 percent spend 17 percent of their income on tobacco: it diverts significant household resources from productive investments that can help lift and keep people out of poverty, such as food, education, and agricultural inputs. The impacts are even severer today when many are losing income due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Tobacco also inflicts a massive economic cost: a 2020 study by the Chulalongkorn University estimated that Thailand lost THB 93 billion (USD 3 billion) from tobacco use in 2017, equivalent to 0.65 percent of its GDP or 17 percent of its current health expenditure. Thailand’s contracting economy coupled with swelling COVID-related expenditures cannot afford unnecessary losses, particularly when the loss is due to preventable causes such as tobacco use.
In short, quitting tobacco makes health, economic and development sense.
Over the recent decades, Thailand has made remarkable achievements on tobacco control, notably since the country joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the first international public health treaty adopted in 2003.
Thailand, for example, is the first country in Asia to roll out plain cigarette packaging, which puts the logo-free brand name in standardized format alongside graphic warning to make smoking less attractive. Thailand also bans electronic cigarettes as well as smoking and cigarette-butt littering on its most popular beaches, which protects not only the health of tourists and locals, but also the country’s vital economic resources: beautiful beaches, pristine oceans, and diverse marine life.
Gaps exist, however, particularly in tobacco taxation. Thailand received a score of merely 1.75 out of 5 in the most recent Tobacco Tax Scorecard, which assesses the performance of tobacco tax policies across 174 countries. As the extent and frequency of tobacco tax increase fall behind inflation and income growth, tobacco products in Thailand are more affordable today than in 2008. Different tax rates for different tobacco products (e.g. manufactured cigarettes vs shredded tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes) allow switching to lower-taxed products instead of helping people quit when taxes are increased.
Tobacco tax increase presents the single most effective, proven, pro-poor measure to help stop youth from starting smoking and motivate tobacco users to quit, particularly the poor and youth, who are highly price-sensitive. It also brings many other benefits: boost labour productivity and economic growth; decrease avoidable public expenditures and increase government revenue; reduce poverty and inequality; and mitigate environmental damage. These development gains can accelerate Thailand’s progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Royal Government of Thailand recognizes these gaps and intends to act. Unfortunately, the implementation has been delayed. Strengthening tobacco taxation is win-win: it can empower Thailand to better cope with the COVID-19 crisis, by helping smokers to quit, thereby decreasing the risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes; and by generating additional revenue for COVID-19 response, part of which could be allocated to supporting tobacco quitting and helping tobacco farmers shift to alternative crops or livelihoods as in the Philippines.
To examine the cost of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), for which tobacco is the leading risk factor, the UN Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, WHO and UNDP in partnership with national stakeholders are developing an investment case at the request of the Royal Government of Thailand. NCDs account for 74 percent of all deaths in Thailand and are strongly associated with COVID-19 related deaths. Tobacco control must be an integral part of the COVID-19 response.
World No Tobacco Day reminds us that the whole-of-government and whole society must work together to stop the tragic loss of lives due to tobacco. Now is the time to act.
Published : May 31, 2021
By : Mr. Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative, UNDP in Thailand Dr. Daniel Kertesz, WHO Representative to Thailand
The U.S. Federal Reserve risks waiting too long before trimming back its stimulus out of fear of a repeat of the 2013 taper tantrum, but this time really is different as it needs to prove its inflation-fighting chops.
The dangers of leaving it too late and losing the market’s confidence are worse than those from cutting back the flow of quantitative easing. With a balance sheet of more than $7 trillion the risks of overdoing the tapering are relatively small.
A difference of opinion between the Fed’s view of what it sees as transitory price gains and the market’s assessment of the pricing of forward inflation expectations led to a sharp bond selloff in February. The Fed risks a repeat if it doesn’t appear credible on inflation. If its more benign view is proved right – and inflation returns to close to the 2% Fed target next year – it can always modify its course.
The Fed isn’t alone in this dilemma but it’s the only one suffering institutional paranoia because of the 2013 taper tantrum. It needs to get over this: The levels of stimulus and the upswing in inflation were much lower then. The Bank of Canada has started tapering without any discernable impact on yields and the Bank of England will almost certainly end its QE program at the end of 2021. The grumblings from hawks on the European Central Bank’s governing council are getting louder but it’s in no shape to front run the Fed. Inflation is a collective global problem but where the U.S. goes the rest largely follow.
That’s why it’s important to recognize any subtle shifts in the Fed’s view of whether the economic rebound will lead to an embedded shift in the inflationary environment. Vice Chair Richard Clarida noted last week that, “If we were to see upward pressure on prices or inflation that threatened to put inflation expectations higher, I’ve no doubt that we’d use our tools to address that situation.”
Even Lael Brainard, a dovish member of the Federal Open Mark Committee, qualified her belief that long-term inflation expectations are well-anchored with the proviso that “we have the tools and the experience to gently guide inflation back to target” and that “no one should doubt our commitment to do so.”
The Fed is still sticking by its central belief that most of the sharp inflation gains will fade next year. As a result, market fears of runaway inflation are subsiding even though central bank stimulus shows little sign of wavering.
But the prospect of inflation hasn’t suddenly vanished. For the Fed to still be pumping in monthly stimulus of $120 billion creates big inflationary pressures, especially when set alongside U.S. growth this year that’s forecast to exceed 6%. Consumer prices rose at an annual pace of 4.2% in April, with the more forward-looking producer price measure rising 6.2%. The release of the May CPI data on June 10 will be a major test of market confidence in the Fed’s reassurances.
James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s boss, believes the Fed will start tapering at the end of this year and begin raising rates in early 2022. That might be too fast for the FOMC’s current thinking but if inflation remains significantly above the 2% official target it may be hard to resist, especially if Joe Biden’s administration continues with its multi-trillion dollar fiscal splurge.
Bond yields are probably heading higher over time, which is logical with the global economy recapturing lost ground from last year. The question is whether this will be an orderly process, with the Fed more in lockstep with the evident inflationary risks. Financial markets need to believe central bank modelling isn’t divorced from the reality of supply bottlenecks, commodity price surges and a boom in retail sales. Time for central banks to start planning the orderly wind down of record stimulus. It’ll be safer in the long run.
– – –
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Marcus Ashworth is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering European markets. He spent three decades in the banking industry, most recently as chief markets strategist at Haitong Securities in London.
Published : May 27, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Marcus Ashworth
Building a resilient and inclusive global health system together—Taiwan can help
The threat that emerging infectious diseases poses to global health and the economy, trade, and tourism never ceases. Up until April 2021, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused more than 150 million cases and more than 3.16 million deaths worldwide.
The disease caused enormous medical, economic, and social impacts around the world, and significantly threatened global efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .
Taiwan had been expected to be one of the countries that might be severely affected by the epidemic due to the proximity to China. However, given the past experience of fighting SARS outbreak in 2003, Taiwan was able to piece together various information to foresee a picture that implied the scope and severity of this pandemic might be much worse than the global society perceived. Authorities thus launched heightened monitoring on December 31, 2019, and have tirelessly implemented public health containment measures. In contrast to the global economic recession, Taiwan’s GDP growth for 2020 was approximately 3.11%, with even higher growth of 4.94% in the fourth quarter.
Public trust and comprehensive cooperation with the government’s measurements have certainly been a crucial element in Taiwan’s practices in containment of COVID-19. The government of Taiwan has worked hard to maintain the balance between people’s right and effective intervention to safeguard public health. Under the pandemic, Taiwan has demonstrated an emphasis on the right to health, the fairness of people and the protection of minority groups as well as strong opposition to human rights violations. The effort to secure both freedom and safety of people by the Taiwan government hast thus gained public trust and understanding in complying with all COVID-19 countermeasures.
Recently, many countries have suffered from the fast-spreading variants of COVID-19 virus, which have triggered the latest wave of transmission immediately. Meanwhile, the dramatic rise in the number of confirmed cases has also laid a growing burden on the healthcare system to many countries. The influx of infected people has challenged the capacity of hospitals and caused shortage of wards. Medical supplies and intensive care units are tested to their limits on a daily basis. As a reliable partner-in-waiting to the global health system, Taiwan would like to share with the world a valuable lesson acquired from past experience. After dealing with SARS pandemic, Taiwan established a nationwide infectious disease healthcare network that is led and overseen by related experts across six regions of the country. More than 100 secondary response hospitals are included in the network and all twenty-two special municipalities, counties and cities have designated their primary response hospitals. The network also provides the legal authority for transferring patients with highly contagious diseases to designated facilities based on public health and clinical need.
This has proven instrumental in protecting health systems and health professionals from being overwhelmed, and allowed most non-COVID-19 health services to continue to operate without disruption during the pandemic. To date, there is zero death of health professionals related to hospital outbreaks of COVID-19.
This pandemic has proven yet again that Taiwan cannot be ruled out of the global health network. The pandemic has also called for Taiwan’s capacity to research, develop, produce, and supply therapies and associated tools (including two COVID-19 vaccines that are presently in Phase 2 trials). Being able to comprehensively participate in and contribute to international COVID-19 supply chain systems, as well as global diagnostics, vaccine, and therapeutics platforms, would allow Taiwan to work with the rest of the world.
We urge WHO and related parties to include Taiwan in WHO and its meetings, mechanisms, and activities. Taiwan will continue to work with the rest of the world to ensure that every person enjoys the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution. Echoing the mantra of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, no one should be left behind.
Published : May 25, 2021
By : Dr. Shih-chung Chen, Minister of Health and Welfare, Republic of China (Taiwan)
How working remotely has brought human touch back to business
Though 2020 has come and gone, travel bans remain, which means virtual meetings are here to stay. According to the latest Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI), 68 per cent of businesses in the Asia-Pacific/Japan (APJ) region plan to conduct more business using video conferencing and limit travel where possible.
This brave new world of business continues to turn a lot of long-held beliefs on their head. Business leaders have celebrated the value of face-to-face meetings for decades, suggesting that being face-to-face was the only way to build relationships based on trust. Nowhere is this more ingrained than in Asia, a region where professional travel is a way of life and in-person meetings are crucial for engaging new customers, showing respect to partners and navigating both business and cultural nuances.
There is also a belief in Thai organisational culture that humility and face-to-face meetings enable smooth negotiations and facilitate immediate reaction nuances.
However, the Covid-19 outbreak has shifted all long-held beliefs. Many businesses are inevitably increasingly turning to online meeting tools and looking for solutions that meet the needs of their organisations.
The Digital Government Development Agency (DGA), for example, provides online teleconferencing via a high-speed internet network called GIN Conference (Government Information Network) to government agencies, aiding the effective deployment of resources to deal with emergencies and crises.
Adapting to a new world
In essence, never has the power of technology been so felt and understood. Without it, the pandemic would have forced us to retreat into our enclaves. Instead, while we haven’t been able to travel corporeally, technology has enabled us to maintain and build new human connections.
The companies I have seen truly embracing technology as a means to “carry on” are the ones I deem to have a truly innovative mindset. For example, KTBST Securities Public Co Ltd (KTBST SEC) is a Thai securities brokerage firm that uses technology to digitise its working processes and strategic plans. Before the transformation from its legacy infrastructure to a hyper-converged one, the company spent time training and changing the mindset of its employees. The payback was very positive. Chosen solutions were implemented in a much speedier and smoother fashion than expected. In addition, the company has the capacity to upgrade or enhance its systems seamlessly and with confidence to meet changing customer expectations.
Some countries have made the most of the changes. We have already seen companies pivot to deal with the significant uptick in work from home, with 46 per cent of global organisations and 62 per cent of Thai organisations modifying their IT infrastructures to improve support for remote workers according to the ECI research. This rapid change has been supported by technologies like hybrid cloud, which allowed organisations to deliver secure and efficient access to virtual apps, desktops and data to all remote workers.
Now, business leaders need to apply similar technological transformations to their external business relationships.
This is already starting to happen. Company executives that were once hard to pin down for in-person meetings were suddenly available to take virtual meetings that they would have previously demanded be face-to-face. And once they settled into the fact that face-to-face was no longer possible, they embraced the benefits that virtual meetings enabled – including more time available to actually do business, rather than sitting in traffic, or being stuck on the train during the morning commute. They have also gained the chance to turn “administrative” meetings into emails or messages, and the ability to conduct business with people around the world from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
Great paradox: Physical separation creating deeper emotional bonds
There is another silver lining to doing business virtually. Thanks to technology, we’ve all inadvertently been invited into the homes of our peers and colleagues and witnessed children, pets, partners, or tradespeople wandering in and out of frame. This has allowed us to build relationships that are more real and based on our shared human experiences, rather than on the hyper-professional facades we present to each other on short business trips.
Likewise, with everyone working remotely, we have all faced the struggle of making ourselves understood via video conference or group call. Previously, a room full of people would have a speakerphone in the middle of the table and maybe a video on a big screen to connect to one or two remote workers. Now, remote work is everyone’s challenge – creating a common ground that a new generation of business relationships can be built upon. When everyone is remote and often communicating asynchronously, it is easier to use translation tools as well, which broadens participation around the region.
The pandemic has been undeniably hard and, as we’ve all experienced, it has changed the very fabric of society. But being grounded hasn’t stopped me from connecting with my employees, customers and partners. On the contrary – being in one place on a more predictable schedule has enabled me to fit in more one-on-one calls, more conversations with team members on the frontline, and more online meetings with a larger number of partners than I would ever be able to fit into a business trip. This ability to come together despite distance and considerable challenges exemplifies humankind’s capacity for innovation – one of our greatest assets – and I am excited for us all to embrace our newfound resilience and create better ways of doing business soon.
Published : May 18, 2021
By : Thawipong Anotaisinthawee, Country manager, Nutanix (Thailand)
New trends emerge in luxury residential market, as pandemic prompts change in lifestyle
What will happen in the wake of the pandemic when people begin to look again at investing in luxury residential properties? While our fight against Covid-19 continues, changes in buyers’ behaviour over the past 12 months have already begun to reshape the luxury real estate market.
Encouraged by the need for social distancing and the rise of remote working, an increasing number of people living and working in major cities now split their time between home and ‘away’ – a long stay in a holiday destination or a second home.
The trend towards purchasing second homes reflects this shift. According to Knight Frank’s Global Buyer Survey – undertaken in June 2020 across 44 countries – over 26 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to buy a second home as a result of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also underscored the importance of nature and space, wellness and well being, and quality time spent with family.
Within the luxury segment in Asia, we are seeing a trend towards multi-generational real estate purchases – with pooled investment being made in residences that can be used by grandparents, parents and children, as well as preference for landed and single-family homes – where outdoor space abounds, privacy is a given and living spaces are customisable to fit the needs of a large or growing family.
What we are most excited about, however, are some of the shifts that are happening within the travel and hospitality sector.
With border restrictions confining the majority of travellers to domestic destinations, many have taken the opportunity to discover lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path destinations. We are also seeing a move away from “big box” travel and towards a “boutique” holiday experience, with an increasing number of travellers seeking a more bespoke or personalised experience during their stay.
New trends emerge in luxury residential market, as pandemic prompts change in lifestyle
The post-pandemic era offers an opportunity for branded residences – those that are managed by a hospitality brand through an adjoining hotel or resort – to position themselves as the investment property of choice.
The branded residence sector is growing around the world, especially in this region. According to a March 2020 report by C9 Hotelworks on the sector, Asia now has a third of the world’s branded residences, with most developments located in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
New trends emerge in luxury residential market, as pandemic prompts change in lifestyle
The promise of a global hospitality brand is at the core of the branded residence offering. Leveraging the developer’s and operator’s combined expertise, they offer assurance in terms of quality and service standards, including those governing the safety and well-being of residents, for additional peace of mind amidst the current global pandemic.
From a real estate standpoint, the branded residence model presents an opportunity for investors to generate both short- and long-term returns. With a full complement of hotel or resort amenities, buyers benefit from hassle-free home-ownership, and the opportunity to earn returns through a resort-managed rental programme.
In the long run, buyers stand to benefit from an increase in resale value. Savills, in its 2019 Branded Residences Report, estimates that the average premium for branded residences over a non-branded product starts at 35 per cent, rising to as much as 70 per cent in emerging destinations, where buyers also stand to benefit from first-mover advantage.
The trend and demand for luxury branded residences will only continue to gain traction in the future, driven largely by the rise of the upper- and middle-class market segment in Asia. Its growth trajectory will be closely linked to the travel and hospitality sector: we foresee branded residences growing in importance as drivers of tourism development in emerging destinations. Adding a branded residential project to a destination helps strengthen its attractiveness as a travel and investment destination, supporting the development of the destination from an economic perspective.
New trends emerge in luxury residential market, as pandemic prompts change in lifestyle
With over 500 hotels, resorts and residences globally – 40 of which are under the Anantara brand – Minor International has built a reputation as a luxury hotel owner and operator over the past 50 years. As a real estate developer, we leverage this depth of experience when we build and manage our residential developments. Where relevant, we seek emerging destinations with growth potential, and invest in these locations as a pioneering developer, together with local partners that share our vision.
Our branded residences portfolio in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia allows us to offer a more attractive real estate investment opportunity than pure home-ownership. Our portfolio is purposefully small, which enables us to nurture a personalised relationship with every buyer, which lasts throughout the duration of their ownership. All our developments are also boutique-sized, to create and foster a strong sense of community within our owners.
Despite the challenges that remain, we feel there is sound cause for optimism in this post-pandemic world. For the luxury real estate sector, it is crucial that we remain cognizant of how the market is changing and how these shifting trends can be leveraged to uncover new opportunities.
The writer is vice president for real estate at Minor International
Resident Evil VIII rekindles the illogical, weird magic of the series
Resident Evil is about the balance of fear and power. Its a staple of the series. At the beginning of each game, the player is meant to feel overwhelmed and confused. By the end, they can fight back against these emotions – usually with a rocket launcher.
“Resident Evil VIII: Village” continues this tradition, dropping faceless protagonist Ethan Winters – also the star of “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” – in the middle of a wildly unfamiliar situation. But if you loved the understated horror of Ethan’s adventure in the seventh game, you’ll only get a bit of that here. In fact, you’ll likely leave disappointed. But if you’re like me and your favorite title is “Resident Evil 4,” this will delight.
Built like a Disneyland of horror tropes and gore, the eponymous village funnels you toward gory sights and sounds, with Ethan circling a drain of carnage. Resident Evil games are almost literally visceral experiences, holding up guts and gross things up to the camera to intimidate, bewilder and occasionally even charm. The good news: “Village” is a visually stunning ride. Later in the game, when the action ramps up, I couldn’t help but compare it to 2019′s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” with its arresting visual and audio fidelity. (Just swap the guns and militants for werewolves and biomechanical freaks).
“Village” quickly moves along narrative beats familiar to “Resident Evil 4” veterans, including oddball villains like the now-infamous Lady Dimetrescu, the 9-foot-tall vampire that dominated the game’s marketing. She and the other lords of the village conjure gleeful energy throughout the game, fabulous and fearsome. It’s the kind of gory glamour the series sometimes loves to dress itself in, as in the opera-house drama of “Code Veronica,” or the sixth sequel’s climactic battle between a zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Jeep. In “Village,” Ethan trades the small-town Louisiana horror of “Biohazard” for weirder territory.
Now we turn to some bad news: Dimetrescu is far from the game’s focus. Rather, she’s just one of four villains Ethan must topple to rescue his daughter. Yes, it’s another horror game about the travails and emotions of being a dad. The premise is stale, so it’s good that the four “children” of the chief antagonist, Mother Miranda, try to breathe life (or death?) into it. Not all of them do. A third villain’s section of the horror theme park is a swampy trial-and-error drudge, and his fight fails to excite.
Dimetrescu is charismatic to the detriment of your other foes. She is imperious and poised, and you’ll find it impossible to unglue your eyes from the screen any time she appears, or even as she stalks you throughout her castle. No one, not even the mysterious Mother Miranda, commands as much attention, and it’s hard not to notice once she exits the stage.
Fortunately, the horror showcase that follows is immediately terrifying. Anyone concerned that Dimetrescu’s flamboyance might subdue the game’s fear factor need not worry. The next monster is a constant startling presence, with a face so unsettling it had the polar opposite effect of Dimetrescu: I kept having to look away.
“Village” gives players plenty of opportunity to explore. It’s very much a lighter “Metroid” experience, where accomplishing certain tasks gives you the key to explore more areas and find more secrets. The actual village hub has a few locked doors and treasure chests with ample rewards and story nuggets about what exactly is going on. It’s surface-level stuff, and hardly any of it is coherent or compelling, but this is Resident Evil, not “The Last of Us.”
Make no mistake: the environment isn’t interactive, it’s mostly there to set a majestic mood while leaving just enough visual cues to push you forward. This game is far from clever, and the puzzles are about as hard as they were in the recent remakes. But they’re enough to make some players feel clever, and that’s all you can ask. And the backdrop for these simplistic puzzles almost never gets old to tour. Outside of the village and the castle, the story takes you to the expected tropes of past Resident Evil titles, but plays with your expectations enough to keep it engaging and surprising.
As audience surrogate and everyman, Ethan Winters is not an interesting or wise character. But “Village” eventually turns him into a sympathetic one, painting him as a hapless, entangled victim. By the end of the game, Ethan Winters is no longer the dogged, serious and scared hero of “Biohazard.” He’s the tragic superhero protagonist of a Zack Snyder film, a singular, narrow vision of emotion maximized to mythology. It’s here where Resident Evil returns to its classic escalation of stakes and action. Unlike the lonely “Biohazard,” “Village” ends with a muddy conspiracy and muddier motivations, and at a scale we haven’t seen since the loud, ridiculous “Resident Evil 6,” all the way back in 2012.
This is why your enjoyment of “Village” depends on what you want out of Resident Evil. I love when “Village” leans into camp and slapstick goth violence. I love when it magically, without logic, gives me the tools I need to fight against the madness. I love how many aesthetic cues it takes from the fourth game. I love how many gameplay mechanics “Village” borrows from it too, especially the return of the attaché case. Resident Evil games are as much about inventory management as they are about killing zombies, and “Village” allows you to play “Tetris” with your items. My Ethan Winters took plenty of breaks to play Marie Kondo, decluttering and rearranging until the joy sparked.
A mercantile system also returns in the very large body of the Duke, who lords over the proceedings with a watchful eye. The Duke is absolutely related to the famous “What’re ya buying” anonymous merchant of “RE4,″ whose identity has confounded fans and lore theorists. But the Duke gives a few more clues about the nature of these retailers, and about the whole series in general. After buying one of the many upgrades for your weapons (which persist in future playthroughs), the Duke will cheerfully tell you to “have a wonderful adventure.”
The Resident Evil series is eternally challenged by balancing its aggressive violence, the grim beauty of its environments, and the whimsy of its typecast, entirely moronic characters. “Village” almost walks that line – until it can’t help itself, and runs amok with its own imagination. Many fans, myself included, will welcome it. If the end of the world already feels like a bunch of nonsense with irrational, emotional people, might as well make an adventure of it.