Note to readers: This is a post that ran out of control. I have explained why at the end.
This morning, I decided to do a short tour of the media in Australia's immediate region.
Over the ditch in New Zealand, the New Zealand Herald has, not unexpectedly, a fair bit of coverage of last night's Rugby test between New Zealand and Australia; the Kiwi's won 30-14. I watched the second half of the match. It was a fairly comprehensive win, but not without its good points for Australia.
Rupert Murdoch may be in a tad of trouble in the UK, but in NZ there is speculation that Sky may be able to buy cash-strapped rival TV3, as the Australian owners look for a way out of the channel's crippling $560 million debt.
A NZ Government report suggests that NZ small and medium enterprises are better at innovation than their Australian counterparts, although neither are especially good by global standards. From my own observations, NZ business has been more innovative simply because it has to be.
As in Australia, the response to the latest global economic troubles centres on good exports plus stable government. Finance Minister Bill English said New Zealand was better placed than many countries and, with debt staying below 30 per cent of GDP, there was no need to panic.
In Papua New Guinea, the National reports that new Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced a 14-member caretaker cabinet while calling on the outgoing government to respect parliamentary democracy in his election to the top post. The former Government seems disinclined to accept this view, despite the size of the vote on the floor of the House (70-24). Australian PM Gillard has rung the new PM to congratulate him on his appointment.
The trouble dates back to the illness of Sir Michael Somare. The Post-Courier has a more detailed account of the tumultuous events immediately before the election.
Meantime union leaders continue calls for repayment to the National Superannuation Fund of 125 million Kina ($A54 million) Kokopo infrastructure project. Kokopo became capital of East New Britain after the the volcanic destruction of Rabual. In other economic news:
- Plans by Japan’s leading Fishing company Ikegami Hiroshi International invest up to $US500 million in the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project at Bidar outside Madang were disrupted by the change in Government. According to the Post-Courier report, PNG is the best fishing ground for tuna in the world and investors are flocking in. Existing licences issued by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) indicate that Taiwan holds the highest number of fishing licences followed by the United States, Japan and China.
- INTEROIL and Pacific LNG Operations Ltd have clinched a deal to supply Noble Clean Fuels Ltd, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, with one million tonnes per annum of liquefied natural gas from the Gulf LNG project.
- Canadian company PNG Gold has raised C$38.4m to fund exploration and development work on the company’s Imwauna and Sehula properties on Normanby Island in Milne Bay and for general working capital.
In other PNG news, it appears that the PNG bid consortium has not given up hope of gaining a spot in the Australian National Rugby League competition, although it appears an outside chance. Rugby League is the most popular national sport in PMG.
PNG is a former Australian colony that gained independence in 1975. It is the closest country to Australia geographically,with parts of Western Province literally a canoe ride from Australian territory. Cairns is about one hour 46 minutes flying time from Port Moresby.
Australian knowledge of PNG has declined since independence, something that I think is a potential problem. Among other things, the PNG population is projected to rise from around 6.7 million now to 13.5 million in 2050. What happens to that population in terms of health, economic and social development will clearly be important to this country.
Moving west, we come to Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
East Timor is a bit over 700k north of Darwin, so within an easy plane flight.
The Jakarta Globe reports that long-running violence in a district just outside East Timor’s capital ended last week with a dance, a prayer, a speech and the sacrifice of a goat and a pig. The paper's story links this to a mediation process that had been going on since the troubles in 2006. It's actually quite an interesting story.
Meantime, an Al Jazeera story reports that former militia men who took the Indonesian side during and after the vote for independence and who were responsible for massacres in the wake of the vote for independence from neighbouring Indonesia in 1999 that claimed 1,500 lives and forced more than 250,000 - one-fourth of East Timor's population have found an ally in East Timor's president. Jose Ramos Horta has come out in favour of amnesties for them to allow them to return from the West Timorese refugee camps. This is obviously a sensitive issue in East Timor.
Indonesia is Australia's largest immediate neighbour and also borders East Timor and PNG.
In a story with direct Australian implications, the Jakarta Globe reports that compensation negotiations relating to the 2009 Timor Sea oil spill that spread into Indonesian waters have been delayed yet again, this time over political changes in Thailand.
Masnellyarti Hilman, the Indonesian government’s chief negotiator, said the signing of a memorandum of understanding with PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, had been deferred until later this month from the initial date of August 3.
In another story, The Globe also reports on Asian moves to calm markets down. In Kuala Lumpur, Yeah Kim Leng, a senior economist with financial research firm RAM Holdings, described Asia as a "relative sea of stability" compared to the volatile European and US markets. In an editorial, the Globe said in part:
In 2008, the last time the world faced such economic uncertainty, Indonesia managed to sail through the crisis relatively well. It will need to be resilient again. Fiscal discipline will be critical to maintain investor confidence in the rupiah and the bond markets. Investors will be looking for certainty in the face of global turbulence and Indonesia, if it plays its cards right, could be a major beneficiary.
in a way, this links to a point that I have made in a number of posts recently, the nature of the mismatch between current currency importance and the changing patters of world economic activity. If, as I expect and hope, Indonesia continues to strengthen its economic position, then it will emerge as a growing economic power in its own right.
I have had to stop here. What happened is that as I went around just this limited range of stories, I started checking past posts for background material. As I did so, I realised how fragmentary they - the background posts - were, just how many gaps there were.
You see, in just this simple range of stories as well as those I looked at but did not have time to include, I found that there was so much background material that would better inform the stories that I ran out of time. As it was, what was meant to be a simple controlled regional media round up took me over five hours!
What to do?
I have just drawn a line, and now have a dozen posts that I need to write to consolidate and fill gaps! I am going to do some of that over the next week or so.