Asian Insider Sept 18: Today’s outlook: Hazy… in more ways than one

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

Today’s bulletin is full of questions with somewhat hazy answers ( When will the transfer of power take place in Malaysia?  Who will govern Israel? How badly will global oil supply be affected by the Saudi oil attack) , and, of course, an update about the actual haze in South-east Asia.

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Five years, three years, two years - All manner of dates and timelines have been proffered in the ongoing guessing game of when Malaysia’s 94-year-old prime minister will hand over the reins to his named successor Anwar Ibrahim. Today, Dr Anwar offered another target: one year. He said in an interview with Bloomberg that he should take power around May 2020 though he said no one should be too “petty about the exact month”. Much has been said about the transition process in Malaysia but there remains little by way of a concrete step and it is far from clear how much weight to give to this latest target. Dr Anwar remains an MP and his party’s leader but he does not hold a Cabinet position.

What has been said about when the handover will take place: The succession plan


For the first time since Israel’s founding, an election wasn’t celebrated in any camp - with exit polls leaving politics in a deadlock. “Netanyahu has lost, but Gantz hasn’t won,” was how the results were described on Israeli TV as neither side could cobble together the 61 seats required for a majority in the Knesset. What follows now is an intriguing set of scenarios and likely intense lobbying as both parties try to lure defectors.

A run-down of the possible scenarios: Will the knives be out or defectors be kingmakers?


Saudi Arabia gave assurances that Saudi Aramco will meet customer commitments this month by drawing on crude oil reserves, as it moved to recover from the drone attacks over the weekend. It also said it managed to recover more than half of the production lost during the attack. However, there remains uncertainty over what output will be like in the medium term given full output may be available only at the end of November. There also remains uncertainty of how the conflict in the Middle East will develop.

Latest reports on the Saudi oil attack:

Saudi Arabia partially restores production at damaged oil plant

Iran President Rouhani blames US, Saudi for conflict in region

Costly Saudi defences prove no match for drones, cruise missiles

Saudi Arabia joins US-led coalition to protect oil shipping


The haze situation affecting large swathes of South-east Asia worsened today with air quality in Singapore dipping back into the unhealthy range while Malaysia was forced to close over 1,000 schools. The PSI reading in many parts of Malaysia exceeded 200 - putting it in the very unhealthy range. With no end to the haze in sight in the near term, today Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called for a law that would compel Malaysian companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad. Forest fires - blamed largely on land clearing in Indonesia - have blanketed the region in smoke in recent weeks.

Affected by the haze? Here’s what you need to know:

What PSI and PM2.5 tell you about air quality

Can surgical masks be worn on both sides, and which side guards against the haze?


A top adviser to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said today that the government will not be giving in to more demands from protesters. Mr Bernard Chan, convener of the city’s executive council said in a n interview that the government does not believe that protests will stop even if the protesters’ five demands are met. There had been talk from some quarters that a move to fulfil a second demand - for an independent inquiry into police actions - might get most of the protesters off the streets. But Mr Chan said an inquiry could take years and would do little to solve the immediate problem. His remarks came as Hong Kong activists appealed directly to US lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow the US to sanction leaders who undermine Hong Kong’s democracy.

Latest developments on the Hong Kong protest:

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Denise Ho take cause to US Congress, urge pressure on Beijing

Hong Kong won't concede to more protester demands, top adviser says

Hong Kong hotel workers go on unpaid leave as tourists shun city


Vaping ban: India's Cabinet on Wednesday (Sept 18) banned the production and import of electronic cigarettes, a public health move that is seen as dashing the expansion plans of companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International.

Medical records breached: Millions of records belonging to patients worldwide, including X-rays, mammograms and MRI scans, were long freely accessible online without basic security measures, German authorities said on Tuesday (Sept 17) after a media investigation.

Commitment to a parking ticket:  A video of a police officer in Indonesia hanging on to the windscreen of a car as it drives down a busy street is making the rounds online. Apparently the whole incident started with a parking offence.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

- Jeremy