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South Korean Economy Picking Up


South Korea may be poised for an economic recovery. Finance and Economy Minister Lee Hun-jai said he expects economic indicators due out in March to reflect a sharp improvement over last year. Mr. Lee said South Korea is showing many typical signs of an economic turnaround. In January, the consumer confidence index rose from a four-year low of 85.1 to a seven-month high of 90.3. However, despite the rise, the index scores of below 100 suggest some remaining uncertainty on the part of Korean consumers.

Construction and rent prices are on the rise in Seoul, but Mr. Lee says the government will intervene if real estate speculators attempt to overheat the market. He also says the strong South Korean currency, the won, is expected to stabilize this year. The won's recent rise against a weakening dollar has hurt South Korean exports.

In Malaysia, the government says it does not expect to change the currency's peg to the dollar anytime soon. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the ringgit-to-dollar peg provides stability and competitiveness for Malaysian exports.

Malaysia introduced the peg in 1998 to stabilize the currency during the Asian financial crisis.

Indian economic growth may be poised to overtake that of China, according to a U.S. policy group. The National Intelligence Council, or NIC, compiles research for U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA.

A new NIC report says both India and China will continue to benefit from global outsourcing. However, India may have a competitive edge in the future due to its continued population growth. China's workforce is expected to decrease because of the one-child policy for most Chinese families.

The NIC report also gives credit to India's democratic institutions, which it says preserve social stability, while China has still to reconcile deep social divides within a mainly authoritarian framework.

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