Asian Insider May 24: Modi’s spending push & new Cabinet; Brexit worries in Asia

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bhartiya Janata Party promised housing for all by 2022, a doubling of farmers' incomes and a spending splurge of up to US$1.44 trillion to build roads, railways and other infrastructure to boost manufacturing and a doubling of exports. Now all eyes will be on what he'll deliver in his second term. India's economy needs a boost, with indications that growth in the first three months this year has been around 6.7 per cent, the slowest pace since mid-2017. Also, jobs remain a key concern.

Further reading:

Modi's party unveils manifesto with something for everyone

India's jobless millions a key issue for PM Modi

Modi's new team: There's much buzz about Modi's new appointees. Reports suggest Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj may not figure in the new Cabinet because of their poor health. The Prime Minister's right hand man Amit Shah, who has been widely credited with coming up with the winning strategy and former TV actress Smriti Irani who defeated Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the key Amethi seat in Uttar Pradesh should get Cabinet positions. The watch game continues.

Further reading:

World leaders skip protocol to congratulate Indian PM early

Businesses cheer Modi win as markets hit record highs

Tea seller's son becomes India's Hindu nationalist hero


This couldn't have come at a worse time. Asia is grappling with the ongoing US-China trade war and could have done without further volatility and uncertainty in trade markets. But, this is not to be. British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to quit will mean a new leader who will define a new chapter in ties with the European Union. Many countries in Asia will step up their watch on affairs in the west. Beyond impact on trade, there are lessons to be pondered over on matters of integration, perils of holding referendums, systems of government and more.

Brexit's impact on Asia: Brexit, when it does happen, could have some gainers as Britain seeks new ties with major trading partners in the region and some losers. China, Japan and Hong Kong are expected to gain while Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are expected to lose, according to some economists. Read more here: China, Japan could be among Asia's biggest winners from Brexit

More related stories:

Power shift to Asia offers opportunity and challenge to German companies

Europe sidesteps lessons it gave Asia

The illusion of Singapore on the Thames


Tensions between the US and China are not getting any better. Actually it is getting worse. Implications? As The Straits Times says: Unilateral action is counterproductive.

Here's a quick update on this issue:

Reports say the US administration has been discussing with companies and industry groups how to update and redefine the products on the Commerce Department's export-control list. Administration hawks are pushing for broad definitions to restrict exports related to technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing that they call essential to competitiveness.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei is lying about the company's ties to Chinese government and has dismissed the latter's assertions that his company would never share user secrets.

China has said that the United States needs to correct its "wrong actions" for trade talks to continue and wants Washington to show sincerity and respect.

The International Monetary Fund has come out to dispute President Donald Trump's view that US companies are paying China tariff costs. IMF researchers found that "tariff revenue collected has been borne almost entirely by US importers".

Want to read more?

Huawei ban - a demonstration of American economic power

How Huawei could end up challenging Google's dominance


Two months after Thailand went to polls, Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida presided over the opening ceremony for Thailand's new Parliament, spelling hope for the announcement of the country's next Prime Minister.

Why happens next? Two hundred and fifty members of the senate were due to convene for the first time today. Next week, they will join 500 elected lawmakers to vote for Thailand's next PM. Catch up with some of our previous stories here:

Thailand's election results put Prayut closer to premiership

Pro-junta party likely to form Thai government

New Thai Senate filled with junta supporters

More on Thai politics: In another development, the country's Constitutional Court suspended Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's legislator status, on Thursday. Thanathorn's one year old party had won 80 seats in the polls to become the third-largest outfit in the 500-seat Lower House, and a thorn for established groups. The latest accusation is that he breached election rules by owning shares in a media company after he applied to run in the March 24 polls. And ST's Indochina Bureau Chief Tan Hui Yee says the suspension will last until a verdict is reached.

Young party's fate may affect political stability


In one of the most intriguing stories of our times, Japanese Chisako Kakehi, more well known as the "Black Widow", used cyanide to kill a string of elderly and rich lovers to pocket millions in insurance and inheritance payouts. She amassed more one billion yen (S$12.5 million) in payouts over 10 years but lost a substantial part too. The revelations gripped Japan and readers elsewhere, following her arrest in 2014. She was given the death sentence in 2017 but her lawyers launched a final appeal. The Osaka High Court rejected her appeal on Friday and Kakehi has said she was ready to hang, vowing to "die smiling". Here are some additional reads for those interested:

How Japan's Black Widow baited and killed her prey

Japan's 'black widow' sentenced to death for murder of lovers, husband

Black widows who murder, again and again

Meanwhile, in other developments:

Eight countries, including Singapore, issue travel advisories following Jakarta riots

North Korea blames US for failed summit, urges 'new calculation'

Taiwan holds first gay marriages in historic day for Asia

South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home sparks controversy

Video of Ipoh City Hall worker shooting dog goes viral

This coming weekend President Donald Trump will be in Japan to meet Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We'll have updates on this and much else happening in Singapore, Asia and elsewhere on And, ST Asian Insider will be back with you, in your mailboxes, on Monday. Have a good weekend.


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