Mar 21, 2014

This week Economist on Southeast Asia: Indonesia’s elections; Indonesia’s haze; A census in Myanmar

This week Economist has three articles on Southeast Asia worth to check:

Indonesia's elections
The chosen one
IT WAS what many Indonesians had waited months to hear. On March 14th Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president and head of Indonesia’s main opposition party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), at last anointed Jakarta’s popular governor, Joko Widodo, as her candidate for president. This appears to make Mr Joko, known to all as Jokowi, a shoo-in to succeed Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is coming to the end of his second and final term as president.Most opinion polls put support for the 52-year-old Jokowi at about 40%, twice that of his closest rival, Prabowo Subianto, a former special-forces commander, who is now patron of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). Barring an unforeseeable disaster, Jokowi seems unbeatable. He may even secure the 50% of votes he needs on July 9th to win the election in the first round, and avoid a run-off in September. After what is widely perceived as years of drift under the likeable but ineffective Mr Yudhoyono, many believe Jokowi is the man to galvanise a sluggish bureaucracy, clean out corruption and boost the economy. That includes the markets: on news of his nomination, Indonesia’s stockmarket and...

Indonesia's haze
Leaders fiddle as Sumatra burns
PEKANBARU, the capital of Riau province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has been shrouded in an acrid white cloud of smoke so dense that visibility is down to 50 metres (about 160 feet). The air quality is officially described as “dangerous”, and most people are wearing face masks, even indoors. Nearly 50,000 people in Riau have already been treated for respiratory, eye or skin problems. All flights last week were cancelled, and only a few have got through since. The provincial governor has declared a state of emergency. The haze is back, and has arrived earlier this year than usual.Drive to Pekanbaru from the ferries that dock at a north Sumatran port, and you can see what the cause of the problem is: mile upon mile of smouldering or charred land. Much of it is peat-bog, where fires can burn up to two metres underground and take weeks to end. A few minutes in, the inferno stings the eyes and sets off a hacking cough. These fires have been burning for nearly two months. According to Greenpeace, a pressure group, more than 1,000 fires covering at least 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of forest and peatland are burning in Riau. And that is just one province...

IT seemed like a good idea at the time. Among the many things Myanmar lacks after half a century of military dictatorship are data, of any sort. For a new government managing the transition to democracy, basic facts about the country are essential. Hence, a census. There has not been one in Myanmar since 1983, and it is a normal step in the economic development of any poverty-stricken country.But however well-intentioned, the census has provoked a political crisis at a time when the country can ill afford one. The questions stray beyond the collection of run-of-the-mill data—household incomes and the like—into the minefields of race and religion. These are extremely sensitive issues in a diverse country with a long history of ethnic conflict. Sensitivities are particularly acute at a time when relations between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority have been scarred by serious violence.Among the 41 questions that the 100,000 or so census-takers, mostly young school-teachers, have to ask every household in Myanmar is one on race. But respondents can only choose from an anachronistic, inaccurate and divisive list of 135 ethnic groups. The...


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