• Curtains

    Farewell to Banyan, the blog

    by A.T. | DELHI

    IT IS with heavy trunk and trailing roots that Banyan, this blog, folds up its branches—and leaves. Many of us have grown attached to it over the past four years, in which time it has shot off nearly 1,200 posts. Starting life as Banyan’s notebook, which was itself named for our Banyan column, it grew quickly into a team-authored blog and then spun off its China coverage in 2012 as Analects. Along the way it found purchase all around the Asian continent.

  • Japan's quantitative easing

    A bigger bazooka

    by T.B. | TOKYO

    THE riposte to doubts about Abenomics, the three-part plan of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, to shake the country from its economic torpor, is more of the same, and a lot more. On October 31st the Bank of Japan (BoJ) stunned the financial markets by unexpectedly expanding its programme of quantitative easing. The bank’s existing measures, a “different dimension” of easing from past efforts, were already daringly bold. Now it will swell Japan’s monetary base at an even faster pace, by around ¥80 trillion ($712 billion) each year, up from ¥60 trillion-70 trillion currently. To do so, it will hoover up still larger quantities of Japanese government bonds (JGBs).

  • Gay rights in Singapore

    On permanent parole

    by J.F. | SINGAPORE

    A FOUR-YEAR battle ended yesterday, when Singapore's highest court upheld the constitutionality of Section 377(a) of the country's penal code, which renders any man convicted of committing "or abet[ting] the commission of...any act of gross indecency" with another man liable to two years in prison. Tan Eng Hong first challenged the law in September 2010, after he was charged under 377(a) for having oral sex with another man in a public-toilet stall. Two years later a second challenge was raised by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, a gay couple who have been together for 17 years.

  • Rebuilding Christchurch

    Soldiering on

    by The Economist | CHRISTCHURCH

    EVEN seasoned taxi drivers confess that they are finding it difficult to navigate sections of Christchurch. Portions of New Zealand’s second-largest city have become unrecognisable since an earthquake hit in February 2011, killing 185 people and injuring 11,000. High-wire fences still surround pockets of land where buildings tumbled. Streets in the central business district are desolate. Empty sections have been taken over by a firm selling parking spaces.

    The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), a central-government agency, says that over a quarter of the business district’s 4,225 buildings will need to be partially or fully demolished.

  • Casinos in Cambodia

    When the luck runs out

    by L.H. | PHNOM PENH

    CASINOS have served Cambodia as a rare and dependable cash cow ever since the country first emerged from its decades of civil war, in the late 1990s. On the face of it this year will be no different, with the government expecting to increase its takings, slightly, to $25m: a tidy sum for a tiny country, which still has the lowest GDP per person in South-East Asia.

    All that revenue, not to mention the profits enjoyed by the 57 casinos that are scattered around Cambodia, will come from the losses incurred by foreign gamblers; Cambodian citizens are by and large banned from gambling in their own country.

  • Japan and North Korea

    Stakes upped

    by D.McN. | TOKYO

    THE bet was bound to be a risky one. In July Japan decided to restart talks with North Korea in the hope of securing the return of citizens kidnapped in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The stakes have since been raised. North Korea’s initial report into the abductees was expected by now, but it revealed last month that the probe would take a year. Japan now finds itself playing diplomatic cat-and-mouse with a regime that has a history of drawing out negotiations in return for concessions.

    Predictably, the delay has triggered criticism among conservatives that Japan is being taken for a ride.

  • Nightlife in Japan

    Party on

    by T.B. | TOKYO

    WEIRDLY enough, Japan is still a land where you can’t move to the rhythm legally in a nightclub after midnight. This is despite years of campaigning by Japan’s youth. Yet nothing they have done has succeeded in changing laws—from the time of Japan's postwar occupation by American forces—that ban late-night dancing. The aim then was to stop prostitution linked to so-called dance halls. Occasionally, people have cleverly flouted the rules. One establishment in Tokyo offered bags of udon-noodle dough for clients to “knead” with their feet. This qualified them as workers rather than groovers, they said.

  • State elections in India

    The second Modi wave

    by A.R. | DELHI

    EVEN though the results were not surprising, they are significant. So large was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victory in general elections in May 2014, led by Narendra Modi, that his party was widely expected to triumph again in state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, held on October 15th. Results on October 19th confirmed it: the BJP came first in both states, winning an outright majority of 47 seats (out of 90) in Haryana and taking 122 seats (of 288) in Maharashtra. It will lead the governments, and supply the chief ministers, of both states.

  • Politics in New Zealand

    Third term lucky

    by S.McM. | WELLINGTON

    THIRD-TERM governments are reputedly difficult for a governing party—and particularly in New Zealand’s multi-party system, in which voters plump for both a party and a candidate for their local electorate. But John Key, the country’s prime minister, has made initial arrangements for staying in power look so easy as to seem casual.

    Mr Key was re-elected to a third consecutive term on September 20th. Earlier this month a final vote count confirmed that his National Party had won 60 of 121 seats in parliament: one fewer than initial results had indicated. But agreements struck with three parties mean National can govern in comfort.

  • Australia and terrorism

    Pushing the limits

    by R.M. | SYDNEY

    SHORTLY before he became prime minister last year, Tony Abbott praised the “freedom that our civilisation has nurtured”. Last month Mr Abbott’s mood in parliament was more sober. “Regrettably,” he said, “the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.”

    His conservative Liberal-National coalition government has since introduced some of the toughest anti-terrorism laws Australia has seen. Experts say the laws will have a bigger impact on personal freedoms than similar laws in countries that possibly face bigger terrorist threats than Australia does.

    The first law passed on October 1st.

  • Reconnecting Sri Lanka's north

    Slow train through Jaffna

    by The Economist | COLOMBO

    RAIL services between the south of Sri Lanka and its battle-scarred northern peninsula resumed on October 13th, for the first time in 24 years. Moments after the first train to complete the reopened service chugged to a halt at the new Jaffna railway station, teenagers bounded onto the tracks to take pictures with their mobile phones. They would have spent most of their lives weathering a brutal war between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government. The last time a ticket had been sold at Jaffna station, near the heart of the insurgency fought on behalf of the country’s Tamil minority, they were yet to be born.

  • Ebola's threat to India

    Shutting the door on Africa

    by A.R. | DELHI

    IN RECENT years India has made renewed diplomatic efforts to reach out to Africa. Manmohan Singh, India's former prime minister, visited the continent for six days in May 2011, promising $5 billion of loans on easy terms. Indian investors, like their counterparts from China, have a strong interest in winning access to immense natural resources in Africa, including oil, gas, coal and diamonds. Africa, potentially, offers a decent market for Indian firms, which have grown adept at "frugal innovation", that is making products that are both cheap and attractive, which might suit an emerging middle-class consumer in Africa as easily as the one at home.

  • Recovering the Philippines' riches

    National treasure

    by J.M. | MANILA

    RAIDERS in search of the lost art stowed away by Ferdinand Marcos during his two decades of dictatorial rule have turned their attention to a recent haul of 15 paintings. The task now is to have them authenticated. The investigators’ hope is that they have part of a valuable collection the Marcos family would have acquired with the proceeds of their fabled corruption.

  • Peace prizes for South Asia

    A noble pair

    by A.R. | DELHI

    IT IS a bitter irony that, in the days before the Nobel committee announced joint Indian and Pakistani winners of the 2014 peace prize, their armies have been shelling across their disputed border in Kashmir. In the past week or so both countries have been steadily breaking a decade-long ceasefire, killing each other’s soldiers and civilians. So far the dead in the latest exchanges are said to number at least 18.

    In Oslo, naturally, the attention is on the two winners of the peace prize.



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