Sanctions? What sanctions? North Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years in 2016, despite the isolated country facing international sanctions aimed at curbing its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Christine Kim reports that Pyongyang does not publish economic data but South Korea’s central bank figures say gross domestic product in the North last year rose 3.9% from the previous year and this expansion, driven by mining and energy, marked the biggest rise since 1999.
Russia’s eastern boom: The Russian Far East is experiencing a boom and has attracted more than US$36 billion in direct investment, with more than 95% of this coming from the private sector, writes Alexander Ohkrimenko. Vladivostok will soon host this vast area’s third annual Eastern Economic Forum and Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexander Galushka, explains what is attracting business, investment and tourism — from Asia-Pacific and beyond — to the region.
Indian caste reforms? Ram Nath Kovind’s landslide Presidential victory comes at a time when attacks on low caste “dalits” in India are on the rise and although the office of president is largely ceremonial, there are hopes he can spur social reforms. E Jaya Kumar writes that President-elect Kovind thanked his voters by saying he would represent all hardworking people and humbly recalled a childhood spent in a leaky mud hut in Uttar Pradesh.
Duterte’s rule unchecked: The Philippine leader has asked his government to extend martial law until the end of 2017, a move that will give priority to security over civil liberties and further consolidate his strongman rule. George Amurao writes that despite Duterte’s critics saying the Marawi ISIS crisis has wound down from its chaotic height and contend the tough-talking leader is playing on popular fears, his request is expected to pass through Congress in the coming days.
Vietnam’s billion-dollar hole: It’s unclear where Hanoi will find the US$480 billion it needs to finance on-going infrastructure projects and sustain near-term fast growth, writes David Hutt. Vietnam has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates in Southeast Asia, averaging nearly 7% in recent years, but rising GDP has not translated to improved state finances and it seems these sort of budgetary issues are not ones that the Communist Party’s financial planners are well-equipped to deal with.