Must-Reads from Around the World

On deck for Monday: The World Bank lowers its GDP outlook for East Asia, the U.N. urges countries to plan for aging populations, and what now for Venezuela?

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South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before a trilateral meeting during the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum retreat on the sidelines of the 45th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on July 12, 2012.

Asian Slowdown — The World Bank cut its GDP outlook for the East Asia and Pacific region Monday, citing uncertainties and various risk factors in the global and regional economies, notes Reuters. The World Bank expects developing economies in East Asia to grow by 7.2% this year and 7.6% in 2013, down from previous forecasts of 7.6% and 8.0%, respectively. Even so, according to Reuters, “the bank said most developing East Asian economies were well positioned to weather troubles in the global economy as they enjoyed current account surpluses or only modest deficits and held high levels of foreign exchange reserves relative to their international payment obligations.”

Korean Carmakers — South Korean automakers posted record sales in China last month, reports Bloomberg, as sales of Japanese cars declined due to anti-Japan protests over the disputed islands. Korea’s biggest carmaker, Hyundai Motor, and its affiliate Kia Motors sold a total of 127,827 vehicles in the world’s largest auto market in September, which represents a 109% sales increase from the same period last year. Meanwhile, Japan’s largest automaker Toyota Motor reported a 50% drop in sales in China from August to September, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

Aging World — The United Nations is urging countries to accommodate the world’s rapidly aging population, reports VOA News. A new U.N. report indicates that populations are aging in all parts of the world, especially in developing countries. Experts point out that the elderly require more income security, stronger social safety nets, better health and long-term medical care, and social security systems that reflect the needs of older people, wrote VOA.
Venezuelan Impact – President Hugo Chávez won the election in Venezuela, his third re-election, but what does this mean for the country’s struggling economy? The BBC looks at the leader’s economic strategy in wake of Venezuela’s “crumbling infrastructure, overvalued currency and underperforming industry.” The article charges that Chávez’s social programs have benefited many poor Venezuelans more than they had under what he has called “the rotten elites that used to be in charge,” but examines whether a lack of transparency in financial records tied to the country’s oil wealth is sustainable.

Afghanistan’s Collapse – The International Crisis Group has issued a report warning that the NATO troop exit in 2014 could be followed by collapse and a civil war, the BBC reports.  Though the Afghan government dismissed the claims, ICG warns that Afghanistan could be headed towards “a devastating political crisis after 2014.” The group cites the potential for fraud and vote-rigging in the next election, as well as an unprepared police force and army if adequate preparation for the transition is not taken. The report’s release was released a day after the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.

Iran Criticizes IAEA –  Iran’s tone towards the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sharpened in recent weeks, which many fear will lead to end of the Islamic republic’s cooperation with the nuclear watchdog, the New York Times reports. Iran has accused inspectors at the IAEA of spying and sabotage. Last month Iran accused the agency of attacking electrical grids at the country’s two uranium-enrichment plants. The Times reports that officials at the U.N. rejected the allegations and now have been unable to confirm whether the attacks happened at all.