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Asia Business Week Preview - 2002-02-18

The International Monetary Fund advises the government of Indonesia to resolve a politically sensitive debt deal involving former bank owners, and Manila extends share trading hours.

The International Monetary Fund says Jakarta needs a clear strategy, so that the fund's $5 billion loan program can proceed. The comment came as part of a review of Indonesia's economic reform program, in which the IMF praised Jakarta for making significant progress in improving the nation's economy.

David Nellor is an IMF spokesman based in Indonesia. He says the key issue to be resolved concerns debt repayment from banking tycoons who breached lending laws during the Asian financial crisis of 1997. "These bank owners have entered agreements with the government, which committed them to make various payments of assets," he says. "That is an important element of debt recovery for the government, but it has not been effective to date. The government is looking at ways to strengthen collections from this area. They are still developing a strategy, and we are waiting to hear from them."

Outstanding debt from the emergency loans totals $13 billion.

In the Philippines, new equity trading hours go into effect Wednesday. The trading day will be extended by 90 minutes. Manila's stock exchange currently has one of the shortest sessions in Asia -- just two-and-one-half hours. Analysts say the move could increase daily volume by up to 10 percent.

Singaporean developer CapitaLand has posted an annual loss for the second year in a row. However the largest property group in Southeast Asia says that its loss narrowed five percent to $150 million. The company says a one-time charge for local residential and other projects kept it from turning a profit.