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Asian Banks Stable Says Report


More people are getting jobs in Hong Kong. The latest government figures show the unemployment rate in the three months ending in October dropped to 6.7 percent - a 32-month low.

Financial Secretary Henry Tang said the improvement is largely due to a pick up in tourism. "In these few months we have experienced a fairly drastic increase in the number of tourists, as well as domestic generated consumption. So the industries that have been hiring people are those in the services industry," he said.

Hong Kong had been experiencing slow economic growth because of prolonged deflation and last year's outbreak of the potentially deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The international ratings agency, Standard and Poor's, says banking reforms done after the 1997 financial crisis - which left banks with millions of unpaid debt - have paid off. In a recent report, the agency says better economic conditions and aggressive measures to tackle bad debts have improved capitalization in the banking industry. S&P says this leaves the region's banks in a better position to weather similar crises.

Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, has joined forces with Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho to develop gambling businesses in China and the rest of Asia. Mr. Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting Limited will invest $163 million in the joint venture. The business is expected to challenge American (Las Vegas) gambling operators - who recently set up interests in Asia's gambling haven. Macau's gambling market was liberalized two years ago, ending Mr. Ho's monopoly.

The World Bank has granted a $40 million loan to Cambodia to bring electricity to rural areas. Only 15 percent of Cambodia's 13 million people have access to electricity and the rates are expensive. The project aims to power 50,000 rural homes.

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