Category Archives: Asia & Oceania

Hyped Bitcoin ban in China sees prices drop

Recent headlines that have seen China ‘banning’ Bitcoin have been misleading consumers and causing a significant drop in Bitcoin’s price this September. Bitcoin reached a peak of over $50,000 United States Dollars (USD) this month, but since the speculative release of much press and media announcing China’s ‘ban’, has dropped to around $40,000 USD in the last week of September 2021. 

Whilst not entirely false, the headlines have been definitely exaggerated. Henri Arslanian, PwC crypto leader and partner, took to Twitter to clear up the matter: “whilst this is not a surprise as China has “banned” crypto many times in the past, this time there is no ambiguity. Crypto transactions and crypto services of all kind are banned in China. No room for discussion. No grey areas.” 

The new directives from China do not go as far as to make owning cryptocurrency illegal, but they do make it much harder for those in mainland China to hold assets. Huobi Global and Binance are two of the biggest cryptocurrency service providers in China, and both have already made moves to host the majority of their business offshore to protect from interference from the Chinese authorities. Both companies have immediately stopped registering new users as a result of the legislation, and Huboi Global says it aims to close all existing accounts on the mainland by the end of the year 2021.

In a statement released by the Chinese government, it claims cryptocurrency activity has been “disrupting economic and financial order”. It went on to describe cryptocurrency as enabling illegal activities such as “gambling, illegal fund-raising, fraud, pyramid schemes, and money laundering, seriously endangering the safety of people’s property.”

Cynics of the ban cite China’s plan to launch its own digital currency as a key motivation for the legislation. It seems China’s government may be clearing competition from the market, ready for the Central Bank to launch an official cryptocurrency in the future.

WHO asks for more COVAX funding

COVAX, is the abbreviated term for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is the organised effort by the global health authoritative body on the fight against the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic across the world. Not only does COVAX work with companies to secure vaccine doses for developing and low income countries, but also with developed, high income countries to find the funding needed to purchase and distribute said doses.

For many nations and their peoples around the world, the COVAX vaccine programme might be their only chance of accessing a vaccine. Lower income countries are unable to secure high amounts of the vaccine by themselves, and for many nations the vaccine rollout has been slow and limited so far to frontline and healthcare workers. The WHO has repeatedly stressed the need for a coordinated and united world approach to solving the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has fallen on deaf ears in many places. 

Countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America and Israel, have all been accused of stockpiling the vaccine. Reports in the United Kingdom suggest the government has used the British manufacturing of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure there is even a spare dose available for British nationals. This caused tension with countries in the European Union, which the United Kingdom has only recently left, who accused the small island of a selfish and ultimately stupid approach. 

WHO has now come out to ask for over two billion United States Dollars in extra funding for the COVAX programme. COVAX vaccines were first delivered to Ghana on the African continent on the 24th February, 2021. Since then the programme has reached over 100 economies with the life-saving vaccine. Through the COVAX programme, an estimated 38 million doses so far have reached individuals, protecting them from the deadly virus. However, there will be much more support required from higher income countries if the programme is to continue successfully.

Giant shipping container blocks global trade routes on Suez Canal

The grand Suez Canal in Egypt has been blocked by one of the world’s largest shipping containers this week. In an extraordinary (almost) turn of events, the ship has been caught in the side of the canal as it tried to turn around. 

The news is not good for the global shipping industry which runs around 10 percent of its trade via the canal. As a result, the waterway is one of Egypt’s top earners in foreign currency, and one the country has invested in much over the years. The most recent investment in the canal’s structure by Egypt was in 2015 when the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi authorised a substantial expansion in the canal’s width to allow for it to accommodate larger vessels – like the one currently stuck. 

The Suez Canal provides one of the only direct routes from East to West and vice versa for trade shipping. The canal has been a crucial link in the global industries for natural gas, oil and shipping containers since it opened in 1869. The stuck ship comes only as the latest disruption to these international trades that have been already severely affected over the past year due to the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

The stuck ship is called the MV Ever Given and originated from Panama. It often carries trade between Europe and Asia via shipping container and is considered one of the world’s largest. The humongous container ship was grounded on Tuesday of last week, blocking traffic along the waterway ever since. 

The ship was trying to turn sideways in the canal although the reasons for why have remained a mystery to the Suez Canal Authority. The boat suffered a ‘blackout’ whilst in transit but the logistics company in charge of the ship have declined further comment. As of Saturday 27th March 2021 the ship remains blocking trade via the canal. 

Rice farmers join in one of India’s biggest protests

Rice farmers in India have been making global news headlines over the past few weeks for taking part in one of India’s biggest ever protests. The rice farmers are in protest against changes to the law made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will significantly change the way they do business. 

The proposed changes to the law currently stand to affect the country;s 146 million farms. The current state run system is said by the Prime Minister to be having an effect of too much constraint on the selling of rice and agricultural industry. As an alternative, Mr. Modi is advocating for market-orientated reforms he believes would improve the rice farmer’s ability to do business in the free market. 

Many of the local rice farmers however feel differently. It is not unusual in India for a farm to be less than three acres in size, and local farmers fear that larger corporations will come in and buy up their smaller plots of land. Their biggest fear is that allowing intervention by these larger companies in this way, the overall price of rice will be lowered and severely affect their business earnings. 

In defiance and protest of the current regulations being overhauled, many rice farmers have chosen to burn their crops. This move comes as a reaction to the pollution response fine and prison time set up by the government, to punish farmers who burn their crops. The fine is up to 10 million rupees, which is roughly $176,000 Australian dollars. 
Protests so far have taken place all over the country, with marches in the capital of Mumbai, and other areas like New Delhi and Punjab. More tension is caused by the protest due to the ongoing coronavirus worldwide pandemic that is currently worsening in India, exacerbated by the gathering of crowds to protest, as well as air pollution caused by crop burning.

Singaporeans to receive $100 SGD SingapoResdicovers vouchers

In an effort to revitalize home tourism spending after dramatic losses from the impact of COVID-19, the Singaporean government will be issuing each resident with a $100 SGN SingapoRediscovers voucher. In an announcement for further support to identified key areas, the Singaporean government described how it had allocated a 320 million SGD reserve for tourism credits to boost local tourism. The key areas identified as key to transforming Singapore’s economy in a post-COVID world were the aerospace, aviation, tourism sectors. 

The SingapoRedisocvers vouchers are an integral part of the government’s scheme to inject life into the local tourism scene. It hopes that by issuing vouchers to be used as credits in local, national attractions, that the Singaporean public will connect, or reconnect with ‘their local culture and heritage, nature, art, and architecture, while at the same time supporting our tourism sector.’ 

The vouchers will be released to all Singaporean residents over the age of 18 and available via the Singpass from December 2020. Credits can be used until June 2021, so that’s six-months of spending time available for those lucky receivers! Credits can be spent on over 400 local itinerary trips, 200 hotels, and 40 leisure attractions, all approved by the Singapore Tourism Board. 

The move comes as the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide reaches over 1 million. Whilst numbers of new cases each day are still growing exponentially in many places around the globe, Singapore has seen record lows, with only four new cases of coronavirus – the country’s lowest since March 4th 2020 with only two cases – reported on Monday 12th October. This takes Singapore’s total number of cases of the coronavirus pandemic to 57,880. Although 10 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Sunday 11th October, none of these were said to be cases of spreading within the community. All of the 10 patients had been waiting to find out their positive or negative COVID status, as they stayed in quarantine following their entry to Singapore.

Tensions rise between India and Pakistan over Basmati rice

Tension the rise between India and Pakistan over the geographical identification of Basmati rice. The two countries are currently in dispute over the European Union’s identification of the type of rice’s Geographical Indication (GI). In a recent lobby to the EU on September 11th, 2020, India has claimed the rice as being grown at the foothills of the Himalayas on Indian terrain – despite the EU’s assertion that Basmati rice is a joint export of India and Pakistan, in 2006. 

India claims a cultural legacy the basmati name: first recorded reference to basmati rice appears in ‘Heer Ranjha’, a Punjabi poem by Varis Shah in 1766. The Indian application of the name derives from two Sanskrit word roots. The first word ‘vas’ refers to the aroma of the rice, whilst ‘mati’ alludes to the ancient tradition of the rice in Indian culture, meaning ‘ingrained from the origin’. 
The opposition to India’s claim over the rice comes from the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood. Following a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO-Pakistan), and representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), Dawood declared Pakistan would oppose the designation sought by India with the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act. This would prevent India from claiming exclusive rights to Basmati rice labelling for products exported to the EU. Such an act would exclude Pakistan from being able to label their exported rice as Basmati, and could significantly damage rice sales that rely on customer’s brand recognition of the rice-growing region. In data from the Pakistani Commerce Ministry, out of the 500,000 – 700,000 tons of rice exported by Pakistan, roughly 200,000 – 250,000 is currently exported to the EU. Pakistan is known around the globe for its quality exports of the famous rice. Rice exports contribute over $2 billion to the Pakistan economy each year and are the second highest-grossing export after textiles.