Must-Reads from Around the World, July 31, 2012

Tuesday's picks include Africa's next megacity and used-car lots in Hong Kong.

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Africa’s Next Big Thing — Will it be Africa’s answer to Singapore, or a den of slums? That’s the question facing Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city and one of the fastest growing metropolitan centers in the world , according to BBC Magazine. While Dar es Salaam has more or less gone the last 20 years without any formal guidance on planning, it now “badly needs a master plan” according to one of the experts commissioned by the government to develop that program. Yet despite the government’s talk of being the next Singapore, the city still has a long way to go: The UN estimates that 70% of its population live in informal settlements, and as of last year, Tanzania’s entire economy was worth less than a tenth of Singapore’s.

Used Lamborghinis – Bloomberg reports on the number of unsold pre-owned luxury cars in Hong Kong, and hints at what this demonstrates about the uncertain asian market. “The more expensive the car, the more dry the business,” Tommy Siu at the Causeway Bay showroom of Vin’s Motors Co. told Bloomberg, adding that sales of ultra-luxury cars have fallen by half in the past two or three months. “A lot of bankers don’t want to spend too much money for a car now. At this moment, they don’t know if they’ll have a big bonus,” he said. But the decrease in ultra-luxury car sales is about more than just an economic lull, which something like watch sales might indicate — it is also a finger on the pulse of how some of Asia’s richest view their long-term prospects.

A Looming Leadership Battle – Although Romanian President Traian Basescu squeaked past a recent referendum to unseat him,  the battle between Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta (who called for the vote in the first place), is far from over. “The war has just begun,” a Romanian journalist tells the New York Times. “These two men have shown that they can’t live with each other.”

Kim Jong Un in China? – Supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jon Un, may be planning his first visit to neighboring China, in order to secure support for his rule, the Daily Telegraph writes. According to a South Korean news site, a senior Chinese diplomat met with his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang on Monday. The reported meeting follows a visit to China by North Korean Public Security Minister Ri Myong-su last week. Michael Breen, author of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s Dear Leader, told the paper that, “The trip serves two purposes: securing Chinese aid following the flooding in North Korea and, to strengthen confidence in his leadership in Pyongyang – not, as one might expect, by the show of support from China – but rather by the exhibition of that peculiar North Korean skill of appearing to permit foreign powers the privilege of donating.”

Assad Losing Grip – The Washington Post examines the Syrian rebels’ seizure of rural territory. In recent weeks, the Assad regime has lost control of vast areas of rural territory from the Turkish border in the south of Syria. In the farming village of al-Bab east of Aleppo, “the absence of upheaval was long construed as an implicit signal of support for the government led by President Bashar al-Assad.” However, “once the battle started in May, it unfolded at lightning speed. Village residents are now “celebrating their near-complete victory over regime loyalists after the town’s last army garrison fled Sunday, its food supplies gone and its morale shredded.”

Forgotten Refugees – Al Jazeera English analyzes the plight of Sudanese refugees in Lebanon, who are “on hunger strike, calling to be resettled elsewhere after facing what they call discrimination.” Ibrahim Mahdi, one of 18 Sudanese refugees on a hunger strike outside the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the network, “This is not life.”  He added, “We don’t have any rights here. All we want is to be resettled elsewhere and no one is letting us go.” He fled Darfur eight years ago and continues to wait for the UNHCR to look at his case and resettle him in another country. It is not unheard of for Sudanese refugees to be living in Lebanon for as much as 15 years without officially being granted refugee status.

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