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Hong Kong Reports More Investments in 2004

Hong Kong says it is attracting more foreign investment, while the Philippines has reported record inflation.

Foreign investment coming into Hong Kong reached nearly $25 billion in the first nine months of last year, more than double the amount in all of 2003.

Mike Rowse, head of the city's investment promotion department, InvestHK, says 17 percent of the new investments came from mainland China.

"I wouldn't be surprised if, as the years go by, the proportion of mainland companies in our total customer base goes over 20 percent and could conceivably reach 25 percent or even more," he predicted.

In another development, Hong Kong has once again earned the distinction of being the "world's freest economy", a title given by the conservative U.S. policy group, the Heritage Foundation.

Among the factors that earned the city the ranking for the 11th consecutive year are low government intervention in the economy and few barriers to trade.

In the Philippines, rate of increase in the prices of goods and services have surged to a six-year high. The inflation rate for 2004 averaged six percent, while in December alone it rose to 7.9 percent from a year earlier.

The inflation rate was driven up by higher crude oil, water and electricity prices. Farm damage from a series of typhoons last year drove up food prices.

South Korea's exports jumped more than 31 percent last year to %254 billion compared with a year ago. Strong demand for semiconductors, cars, mobile-phone handsets and ships fueled the country's trade performance.

In Indonesia, the national carrier, Garuda, says it expects revenue to rise as much as 15 percent this year as it begins operating new air routes in Asia. These routes will be to cities in India, China and Vietnam, while additional flights are planned for Japan and South Korea.