Asian Insider, Dec 21: Japan's $68b military budget; Jokowi may reshuffle Cabinet as early as this week

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In today's bulletin: Japan sets record $68b military budget with stealth jets, long-range missiles; Jokowi may reshuffle Cabinet as early as this week; Thai new year celebrations hang in the balance after latest cluster; China's online shopping addiction is killing its green packaging drive; M'sian high court convicts Umno treasurer Tengku Adnan of graft; and more.

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Japan sets record $68b military budget with stealth jets, long-range missiles

Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga's government approved a ninth consecutive rise in military spending on Monday (Dec 21), funding the development of an advanced stealth fighter and longer-range anti-ship missile to counter China's growing military power.

A planned jet fighter, the first in three decades, is expected to cost around US$40 billion (S$53.2 billion) and be ready in the 2030s.

Other big purchases include US$628 million for six Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters, including two short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) B variants that will operate off a converted helicopter carrier.

Read more:

Japan's record $1.37 trillion budget highlights Covid-19 challenge to growth, debt

Jokowi may reshuffle Cabinet as early as this week

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is expected to announce as early as this week a much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle to replace underperforming ministers, including two ministers recently arrested for corruption and maybe Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto.

The public has for months urged Mr Joko to sack the Health Minister - famously known for asking people to pray to ward off the coronavirus - for incompetence.

News of the reshuffle has emerged as early as June, when the President berated his ministers over the "lack of a sense of crisis" in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

For more:

Indonesia's Jokowi slams officials again over poor Covid-19 budget planning and spending

Thai new year celebrations hang in the balance amid outbreak among migrant workers

New Year celebrations that Thailand has been banking on to lift consumer spending are hanging in the balance as the country mulled on Monday (Dec 21) whether to widen containment measures amid its biggest Covid-19 outbreak in months.

The latest cluster, emanating from a shrimp market in the seafood processing hub of Samut Sakhon province, has hitherto affected more than 800 migrant workers and the government expects its mass testing to surface more infected cases.

More on Thailand's latest cluster:

Thailand to test 10,000 people after record rise in cases

Get the latest Covid-19 updates at our dedicated website.

China's online shopping addiction is killing its green packaging drive

If you worry about all the waste generated by the annual rush of holiday shopping and gift giving, it's nothing compared to the mountains of discarded packaging that comes from a single event: the Nov 11 Singles' Day in China.

Alibaba, the e-commerce operator that started the mega sale event, reported almost 500 billion yuan (S$101 billion) of sales this year, nearly four times US Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending combined. On its Tmall platform, transactions reached a peak when 583,000 orders were made in a single second.

All those purchases meant 675 million packages had to be delivered, a 26 per cent increase from 2019.

About China's plastic ban:

China reveals plan to cut plastic use by 2025

M'sian High Court convicts Umno treasurer Tengku Adnan of graft

The treasurer-general of Umno, the biggest party in Malaysia's ruling Perikatan Nasional alliance, was sentenced to a year in jail and fined RM2 million (S$660,000) after he was convicted of corruption by the Malaysian High Court on Monday (Dec 21).

Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, 70, was found guilty under Section 165 of the Penal Code - which criminalises using public office to receive gratification - for accepting RM2 million from a local businessman in 2016, when the former was the federal territories minister.

The former Cabinet minister is the second high-profile Umno leader to be convicted of corruption in recent months, following the conviction of former prime minister Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal in July.

In other news…

US lawmakers back $2.5 billion to replace Huawei, ZTE telecom equipment: US lawmakers will back US$1.9 billion (S$2.5 billion) to fund a programme to remove telecom network equipment that the US government says poses national security risks as part of a US$900 billion Covid-19 relief Bill, two sources briefed on the matter said on Sunday (Dec 20). The US earlier designated China's Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp as threats, a declaration that bars US firms from tapping an US$8.3 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.

Philippine cop's execution-style killing of mother and son sparks outrage: Filipinos woke up on Monday morning (Dec 21) to a harrowing five-minute video of an off-duty police officer shooting point blank at a neighbour and her son in broad daylight over some disputes in front of a small crowd. The incident was shocking and disturbing for its portrayal of brazen impunity, critics said.

M'sia faces revenue crunch as spending mounts: Malaysia will enter 2021 with its biggest spending plan yet to spur its virus-hit economy, but concerns are focusing on how to foot the bill after a sovereign-rating downgrade earlier this month. The government expects revenue to rise 4.2 per cent next year, counting on higher tax collections - without raising taxes or introducing new ones - coupled with a move to slash its dependence on oil. The plan hinges on one key assumption: that tax income will rise as economic activity returns close to normal.

That's it for today. Hope you enjoyed today's stories, and do check back tomorrow for more insightful reads.

Choo Kiong

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