Friday, September 17, 2010

Asia/Pacific: Major elections in Afghanistan tomorrow

Afghanistan is to hold lower parliamentary elections Saturday, only the second Afghan-led poll in the nation's history. Given the state of conflict in many areas, success will be perceived as the conduct of reasonably peaceful and fair voting for the general populace.

The last few days have seen significant insurgent-launched attacks, including the kidnapping of 20 individuals, including 2 parliamentary candidates. Additionally, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan's northeast region earlier today.

Despite the obstacles and threats, 76 percent of Afghans recently polled by a U.S. firm said they intend to go to the polls this weekend.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Asia/Pacific: China to intro stronger regulations to reduce pollution, import more from U.S.

Aileen Wang and Ben Lim have the details:

"China will introduce stricter rules to reduce industrial pollution, a senior economic planning official said on Tuesday.

"Zhang Xiaoqiang, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, also told a meeting of the World Economic Forum in this northern port city that China was willing to import more from the United States."

The most important financial reform news of the year

Almost certainly, the most important and most underreported story of the day is the clenching of a deal at Basel III, the international conference of regulators tasked with establishing financial oversight standards for much of the world. 

The quick and dirty is this: Basel has adopted surprisingly strong capital requirements (the amount of money financial institutions need to keep on hand). That's a major victory for U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who faced opposition from many European countries. Given that the financial regulation bill passed by Congress earlier this year contained no hard capital requirements, this iteration of Basel is arguably a bigger achievement for supporters of stricter standards. 

Felix Salmon from Reuters explains the emerging deal: 

"Possibly the most important thing here is the existence of the first column, setting minimum standards for common equity -- which is also known as core Tier 1 capital. Such standards did exist in the past, but they were set extremely low, at just 2%, and so were generally ignored. As of now, common equity is the main thing that matters. No more throwing any old garbage into the Tier 1 bucket and calling it capital: the new standards for common equity are significantly tougher than the old standards for Tier 1 capital in total. The absolute bare minimum for core Tier 1 capital is 4.5%, and the new minimum for Tier 1 capital in general has now been raised to 6%. The minimum for Tier 2 remains at 8%. But that’s just the beginning."
If you understood that and want more, see Salmon's complete rundown here.