MW-81 -- Democracy Without US Invasion and Occupation

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M O N E Y W A T C H
Weekly Financial Commentary from Tokyo
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Issue No. 81
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Tokyo

CONTENTS
@@ VIEWPOINT: Democracy Without US Invasion and Occupation

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Democracy Without US Invasion and Occupation

I was doing my regular tour of the economic situations in various
countries around the region and a very pleasant pattern struck me, not
from the economic numbers that I was reviewing but from a variety of
recent political events that all have a positive
common theme.

The start of the huge bull market in Japan (or the huge bull market that
we are predicting here on Money Watch) is predicated on Japan being the
value-added manufacturer and key knowledge source for the rest of the
Asian region. High value-added services and significant capital (which
I hope will be better deployed than it has been inside the coastline of
Japan) will help unlock regional economies, provide a significant
market place in the region and ultimately be the driver for the next five
to 10 years. But for this to really work, political stability is a
prerequisite.

I was looking around the region at the various countries which will be
prominent in its development: Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand and China. There is an interesting trend in the
majority of these countries: democracy appears to be working and has
become well engrained in the psychology of their citizens.

Taking each in order: Taiwan had a very contentious election, which
included a shooting of the incumbent. The result was challenged by
the opposition and a recount of the ballots was ordered.
The result was declared after the recount -- and the winner is in
power.

Korea had a constitutional crisis when the president was thrown out
of power on a technicality. The technicality was challenged in court,
the highest court overruled and the legally elected leader was
reinstated.

The Philippines once had an ex-movie star as its president, not a
problem, apparently (Reagan, anyone?), but this one was incompetent
and corrupt, so a public outcry (along with SMS messaging) had
him thrown out of power. Now national elections have been held and the
results were declared over the weekend. These have been seen as
reasonably fair and open, and will further reinforce the power of
democracy.

Indonesia recently had issues with outlying states which are at
various stages of devolution; the rest appear to be holding together.
The elections recently completed split the vote into no fewer than
seven roughly equal power groups -- but they were fair and
invigorated the debate.

Malaysia, recently run by the closest one could get to a benevolent
dictator, has had a clean passage of power to the incumbent political
party. But speech is becoming free and the country is opening up to
free market economics.

Thailand has had many elections over the recent past, but look how
the decadent spending ideas of the president (buying a piece of
Liverpool Football Club) were challenged and stopped.

China is a bit of a worry in this particular analysis, but certainly
the attitude of the citizens of Hong Kong must provide hope that
eventually some form of direct elections must be allowed
in China. (We must rely on hope in China.)

In general, all these countries have grown from dictatorships of
various descriptions less than 20 years ago and become democracies
of various stripes. There have been challenges along the way,
and I am sure there will be many more in the future but the basis
of our hope is twofold: Democracy is working and becoming
engrained in societies at the deepst level. And when the process or
constitution is challenged, the courts are working and the law is
being followed.

Fundamentally, this will provide a stronger infrastructure for
investors -- who will become more confident. The virtuous cycle will be
reinforced.

These are great societal advances for the region, which will manifest
economically over time. Japan will continue to be the economic and
intellectual leader in Asia -- at least for now. Hang on for the ride.

-- John Charles-Decourcy

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STAFF
Written by John Charles-Decourcy (jcd@japaninc.com)

Edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)

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