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SIIA Media Note: 13 Jan 2010

Updated On: Jan 13, 2010
CHURCHES IN MALAYSIA ATTACKED
The firebombing of churches in Malaysia reveals social tensions that have been growing for sometime. While PM Najib and the government have condemned the violence, on going party politics between the ruling coalition and the opposition has re-emphasized differences of religion and race, notes SIMON TAY. 
Assoc. Prof. Simon TAY is the Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. He is a faculty member of Law at the National University of Singapore, as well as the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
LIGHT-SKINNED TO THIN-SKINNED:  REPUBLICANS ‘GAME CHANGER’
As President Obama defends Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for ‘inartful language’ regarding the 2008 presidential campaign, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich declares in Esquire Magazine, “I’m blacker than Barack Obama,” and obviously dumber, as he also apologized for his comment a few days later.  As President Obama’s approval ratings slide and unemployment remains at 10%, Republicans are on the attack by keeping the spotlight on these comments and distracting everyone from the historic healthcare reform in Congress and positioning themselves for the upcoming midterm elections in 2010, says DAWN DEKLE.
Dr. Dawn DEKLE is an Associate Council Member of the SIIA, and the Dean, Center for Leadership, S.P. Jain Center of Management JD.
EU’S CLIMATE DEBACLE?
2009 ended on a “cold front” for the European Union (EU) in its efforts to lead the global community in tackling global warming and climate change.  In the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit, the EU outlined its key objectives and emphasised that the EU would work to achieve maximum progress towards an ambitious and legal binding global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.  Not only did they not succeed in this endeavour, they were completely sidelined. The eleventh-hour deal and the 3-page Copenhagen Accord was hammered out by US, Brazil, China, India and South Africa without EU’s participation. European politicians were quick after the summit to blame China for holding the conference hostage. Internally within the EU, there would also be a review of what went wrong in the Copenhagen conference. 
There is no doubt that climate change would continue to dominate EU’s agenda in 2010 as EU works to salvage its reputation and “recapture” its leadership role. What would this entail?  Would the EU in its review of the failings in Copenhagen resort to using trade measures as a bargaining chip to foster a stronger climate agreement much more inclined to its own policy preferences? If this would be the inclination, there is need for all to be vigilant that linking trade and climate change issues does not spiral into protectionism.  
Dr. YEO Lay Hwee is a Senior Research Fellow with the SIIA, and the Director of the EU Centre in Singapore.
2010 ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
In 2010, Asia will see stronger growth, higher inflation, higher interest rates and firmer currencies.JOSEPH TAN expects growth in the first half of 2010 to be strong for Asia, driven by low base effects and still relatively expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. While Asian policymakers are concerned that the current economic rebound might be a false dawn, they are also challenged by higher rates of inflation. Inflation in Asia is expected to be double-faceted in 2010 led by a surge in asset prices and commodity prices. Whatever form inflation takes, it is unequivocal that Asia is no longer in crisis mode and central banks need to normalize the ultra-loose monetary conditions," said Mr Tan. The gradual adjustment of monetary policies in Asia to a more neutral setting will also see Asian currencies rise across the board versus the USD.
Mr. Joseph TAN is Council Secretary for the SIIA, and also Asian Chief Economist at Credit Suisse.

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