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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why Asia Could Be The Best Place To Park Your Money

By Irwin Greenstein

A new labor report by an agency of the United Nations indicates that Asia could be the best place for investors to wait out the global recession. While the report does not indicate abundant opportunities in Asian regions, it does show that Asia could be more resilient and consequentially return potential longer term gains.

For investors in survivor mode, the report may be interpreted as an investment roadmap with a relatively safe course.

The report, titled Global Employment Trends, is an annual survey from the International Labour Office (ILO), arm of the U.N that brings together governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programs for fair and humane employment practices.

Based on new developments in the labor market, the report says global unemployment in 2009 could increase over 2007 by a range of 18 million to 30 million workers, and more than 50 million if the situation continues to deteriorate.

The ILO also said that in this last scenario some 200 million workers, mostly in developing economies, could be pushed into extreme poverty.

The lowest unemployment rate was observed in East Asia at 3.8%, followed by South Asia and South-East Asia & the Pacific where respectively 5.4 and 5.7% of the labor force was unemployed in 2008, according to the ILO.

As per the report, three Asian regions – South Asia, South-East Asia & the Pacific and East Asia – accounted for 57% of global employment creation in 2008. In the Developed Economies and European Union region, 900,000 jobs were lost in 2008.

Compared with 2007, the largest increase in a regional unemployment rate was observed in the Developed Economies and European Union region, from 5.7 to 6.4%. The number of unemployed in the region jumped by 3.5 million in one year, reaching 32.3 million in 2008.

In looking at the breakdown of the Asian regions identified in the report, we see countries where cheap labor abounds. While this may not be the best possible news for the ILO, the lower unemployment rates in Asia could show an acceleration in outsourcing – not just from the industrialized West, but from mature emerging markets such as China and India.

For example, South Asia consists of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries. Pakistan’s large-scale manufacturing efforts have stumbled over the past few years due to rising commodity costs. Now that commodity prices have plunged, and manufacturers seek out lowest cost providers, Pakistan could see a turning point in this sector.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, has seen exports rise 60% since 2004. It is now the second largest exporter of apparel to the U.S. market after China.

Southeast Asia consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Given their proximity to China and India, these countries could see trickle-down business as the two emerging-market giants move away from knock-offs to creating original intellectual property.

In East Asia, the countries to watch for growth are Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and South Korea. Although the global recession has certainly put a damper on these fast-growing economies, the investment returns from these regions could outpace industrialized countries based the ILO’s employment numbers.

This could be a prudent time for investors to investigate ETFs and other funds that get you into these markets without the risk of cherry picking stocks.

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FARMS makes headway on Cambodia self-sufficiency project

Cambodia (MNN) ― After years of living in refugee camps, many Cambodians who now are free are unsure of how to handle life on their own. Vietnam occupied Cambodia from the 1950's until the 1990's and held many of its people in camps for at least that long.

"[Cambodia] is probably one of the more difficult areas I've seen in the world: the skills, the background, and the history of most Cambodians revolves around being refugees. Now they're being relocated back into their own country without the history that's normally there with a people like this," says FARMS International's Joseph Richter. "I think one of the big challenges is the dependent mentality, which is just the result of living in a camp for 20 or 30 years."

Years ago, FARMS took notice of the need in Cambodia, especially as it related to native Christians, and they began to seek out ways to start a program there. FARMS plans to help people on their way to financial and vocational independence.

"The whole idea of self-help is new to people," Richter explains. On Richter's most recent trips to the area, however, Christians have seemed receptive. "People there were very encouraged, I think, about the FARMS idea of helping people locally so that they could help their own churches."

FARMS is currently raising funds in preparation to officially launch a program in Cambodia alongside two or three other organizations within the next few months. The program will be run through local churches and will provide micro-loans, as well as help with technical and managerial skills, in order to get people on their feet again. Distribution of aid in these forms also provides a platform to share the Gospel.

"FARMS believes that the church is the center for development in any community," says Richter. "It's a very natural thing that people can share what God has done in their lives through the program and through their belief in Jesus. This is the way FARMS really accomplishes evangelism: through the changed lives of the people involved in the churches."

While FARMS is preparing to launch the program, Richter asks for prayer that native believers' hearts will be open to a new way of living, and there will be progress made toward independence.

If you would like to help begin this important new ministry in Cambodia, click here.


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