1 Global business confidence at five-year low (BBC) Global business confidence slipped to five-year low in October, according to a survey of 6,100 companies. The number of firms that expect business activity to be higher in the year ahead exceeded those that expected a decline by about 28%. But, that net balance was lower than 39% in June and the lowest since the Markit Global Business Outlook Survey began in 2009. Hiring and investment plans also dipped to post financial crisis lows.
The decline in optimism among businesses was due to a growing list of worries, according to the report. Fears of a renewed downturn in the eurozone, the prospect of higher interest rates in the UK and US next year, along with geo-political risks from crises in Ukraine and the Middle East have all dented business confidence across the globe.
Russia was the biggest concern among the leading countries as “sanctions, a spiralling currency and uncertainty drove business expectations down sharply to a new low”. On the bright side, UK companies were the most upbeat about the year ahead out of all the major countries surveyed in October. On the downside was a surprise downturn in the US, where optimism hit a new survey low as the service sector saw a “dramatic” decline.
2 Asean’s youth advantage (Muhamed Hazali Abu Hassan in Straits Times) Asean is nearing its half-century milestone with quite a few notches under its belt, while facing new challenges with regard to its uniquely young demographic.
Moving forward, the grouping’s main challenges lie distinctly in fulfilling the hopes and dreams of its youth. One similarity all Asean nations have is our youth bulge. According to a 2012 Credit Suisse report – “Asean’s positive demographics underpin stable growth” – the median age for all Asean nations is below 40. This trend is expected to continue well until 2035. Malaysia, for example, has a median age of 25.1 while Indonesia’s is 27.9.
When there are many young people and they are provided employment or business opportunities, the country will experience a “demographic dividend” – a situation where people actively participating in the economy outnumber those who are dependent on it. However, if their needs are not addressed, the youth bulge will become a “demographic bomb” as a large mass of frustrated young people is likely to become a source of social and political instability.
Asean’s young people have consistently been vocal about finding non-material achievements. It is no longer enough to be financially or physically successful – it is also a question of how they get there. While gross domestic product is a direct measure of a country’s wealth, it is equally important that the people are able to find happiness in this community. This means a solid value system as well as job satisfaction from work that is individually fulfilling.
3 India’s women detective agencies (Snigdha Poonam in The Guardian) Bhavna Paliwal, Delhi’s self-anointed “commander of detectives” is Delhi’s most famous private detective. She’s also the most colourful. In 2003, she started her detective outfit, Tejas Detective Agency. Private investigation is technically illegal in India, and working from unidentified locations is common.
She lords it over matrimonial investigations. “I get three to four calls a day, sometimes more,” she says. The rate for a prematrimonial assignment – discovering the details of “salary, character, family status, and, if it’s a man, whether he drinks, smokes, gambles” – ranges from 50,000 to 150,000 rupees (£510-£1,530). The rate for cases involving married couples depends on the nature of the job, and can run into millions of rupees.
Paliwal’s success as a matrimonial detective is directly proportional to the failure of urban Indian marriage. She’s quick to point out a game-changing factor, though: “Earlier, the cheating was one-sided. Now it’s two-sided.” The culprit, she says, is technology: “Most people who come to me have been married for eight to 10 years. Their marriages were going fine, but they started copying youngsters and got into the habit of Facebook, WhatsApp. Many of them go too far into it, ruining their families.”
There were a handful of female detectives working in Delhi when Paliwal started out, but now women are a dominant presence. A basic internet search for female detectives in Delhi throws up a glut of agencies. Does their work make them cynical about marriage? None admit to it, but all the female detectives I speak to say they continue to be surprised by the games partners played in relationships.