Indian consumer-price inflation eased for a third straight month in February while factory output unexpectedly rose in January, as interest-rate increases cooled Asia’s fastest price rises before elections next month.
India’s government pledged to reduce the fiscal gap to the lowest in seven years in an interim budget before elections due by May, while boosting defense spending and cutting taxes on cars, mobile phones and television sets.
Let’s start with the bad news: The North Korean problem has no simple or quick solution. The North’s weapons-grade plutonium and nuclear devices have already been manufactured, and are now safely hidden in underground facilities. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, remains unwilling to support a truly rigorous (read: efficient) sanctions regime. More narrow financial sanctions that target the money used to reward regime insiders with perks, like bottles of Hennessy cognac and Mercedes cars, won’t have much impact. Most of the North Korean elite believe that regime stability is a basic condition for their survival. No doubt, they would be willing to put up with locally produced liquor and used Toyotas if the alternative was being strung from the lampposts.
From time to time, newspapers shower readers with predictions of a looming mass starvation in North Korea, usually in springtime. In March 2011, the New York Times wrote: “North Korea: 6 Million Are Hungry.” One year earlier, in March 2010, the Times of London warned: “Catastrophe in North Korea; China must pressure Pyongyang to allow food aid to millions threatened by famine.” In March 2009, a Washington Post headline read: “At the Heart of North Korea’s Troubles, an Intractable Hunger Crisis.”