A Visit to Rebel – Held Area in Asia

We started our journey towards Kilinochchi and reached the Omanthai Military Check Point, the Northernmost Frontier of the Sri Lanka Army in the mainland and stopped for clearance.

Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene spoke to the Military Officials and we were cleared after a few procedures and set on our journey towards North. In a few minutes’ time by passing the No Man Zone, we reached the LTTE Check Point. I spoke to an LTTE member who questioned me about our mission. I explained our mission and introduced the German team and others there. I told we had already informed the Political wing of the LTTE about our mission.

They were highly concerned about our mission as we were about to visit the Mulaitivu region which is an LTTE stronghold. The German Television crew had come with satellite equipment for direct transmission of disaster immediately from the spot. We thought whether we would be facing any difficulties because of the security issues. But we had been cleared and were on our way to Kilinochchi.

While we were traveling we found both sides of the highway were a blend of dense forests and the paddy lands created a lot of excitement within me. Peacocks were everywhere, busily foraging in the paddy lands.

After two hours of our journey we reached Murukandy, a stopover for passengers where a small Hindu temple is found. It has become a tradition for passengers to stop there and worship the God, which was enshrined in that small temple especially if they were Hindus. Others too used to stop there as a pastime and buy a variety of foodstuff available there. We too stopped for a while but not very long, as we were already late according to our schedule to reach Kilinochchi. We had to arrange accommodation for more than twenty-five persons. I was highly worried as there were fifteen German nationals, and they would expect reasonable accommodation for the night. When we reached Kilinochchi it was early night.

We went to meet LTTE’s media spokesman who was coordinating our mission in the LTTE-controlled areas. He was startled at the number of people on our mission. He asked his subordinates to look around for places to accommodate us. Visiting NGO members and the media people had already occupied the available places. We were stalled for a couple of hours.

The German T.V. crew and the German Praktikum (Internship) students were in their vans for hours and it was sad to see their situation. Some of the youths who came with us from a local T.V. channel started to scold me, as I was the coordinator in those areas. But I had to pacify them saying after all it’s a relief mission, and we were prepared to bear the hardships.

Some how or other the LTTE’s Political Wing found accommodation and I had to take some of the German students to the lodgings, which had been arranged for them. My responsibility had been narrowed down. The German Television crew had also been assigned a place.

Some of the students were asking whether their rooms were equipped with mosquito nets. I had to find rooms with mosquito nets for them. But one room with nets, I had to reserve for a Sinhalese couple as promised. I had taken some extra care that they should not feel that they had been discriminated in a Tamil area. I had told the students I had to keep that room for the couple. All the students got rooms with mosquito nets in that complex except two students. Then I went to the LTTE’s Political Wing office to check what was happening there.

AGSEP’s Director Dietmar Doering said he would be staying where the female students and some of the AGSEP staff were staying for their safety and went with them. The young Sinhalese couple got a room at the LTTE’s Political Wing office. The incident might be as surprising as an Israelit couple taking night shelter at the office of the Palestinian rebels.

I returned to one of the lodgings, where the students were staying and got into the room, which had a mosquito net, which became available, as the couple had found room at the Political Wing. I was a little worried staying in my room because of my German friends. Would they have any misgivings about me? So, I knocked at their room doors, but got no response from them.

The exhausting day-long journey had overcome them with deep slumber.

Inflation and Growth in Asia Pacific – The Myth of Economic Decoupling

Currently central banks around Asia Pacific region have to worry of two pronged worries; inflation which is fueled by fuel price and economic growth which is adversely affected by global slowdown.  The usual weapon employed, and recently advocated by policy makers, is tight monetary policies, which means squeezing liquidity out from the market through higher interest rate.  However, this time the freedom to use is limited by possible drop in demand both domestically and internationally.

Internationally, export growth around the region has been supported by foreign markets, mainly developed nations. Although US may not be the biggest trade partner in terms of export for some of the countries, its thirst for goods from other nations which has been purchasing in large number from the region indirectly affects the export growth.  And high dependence on export to fuel the domestic growth adversely affects the growth prospect.  

Propelled by low interest rate before the mortgage crisis, demands in US were factored by loans and debts from around the world; China, Japan, Middle East, which hold large US government debts.  The liquidity created has been channeled to pop up demands for toys from China, Oil from Middle East and manufacturing products from India and Japan.  Some of these countries, such as China and India, and also some of the emerging countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, are main players in regional trade. For example, China has been main buyer of intermediate manufacturing goods, besides producing large quantities of finished goods to be sold in the region and US.  Vietnam and Indonesia, are fast becoming investment destinations due to their low labor cost.  The network of regional trade has one common destination and hope; the large market in Europe and US.  Thus, any hiccup occurs to US economy, the whole network is affected.  

When the oil price escalated, many countries in the region have started to cut subsidies, as the burden of USD140 per barrel is unbearable. Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and China, the saved subsidies, are said to be re-channeled for other developmental policies.  However, this unpopular move has negatively affected the low and middle income groups in the countries.  Higher portion of income is now allocated and spent on fuel and food.  The spillover can be felt in price increase in bread, rice, vegetables, milk and frequency in eating outside is cut and purchase of fuel efficient automobiles has increased.  The signs around is bleak; the domestic demand and consumer sentiment has dropped.

Against these backdrops, the stage is now set to promote higher interest rate, tighter loan expansion to lower consumption.  But at the same time, the worry that tighter loan growth and consequently lower consumption hampers economic growth which is already under stress looms.  More importantly, the tighter monetary policy could appreciate countries’ currencies and cause products to be less competitive.  Since US currency is weak now due to low interest rate and other worries of economic recession, any appreciation of regional currencies will not help the export growth which the region depends so much.  But inflation worry starts to pop up in the central banks’ radar screen, workers are now asking for higher wages to compensate the higher cost of living.  If the price wage effect spirals out of control, it may warrant intervention, provided it does not negatively affect the production sector.  

It is really a stressful period, as both inflation and economic slow down could trigger regional stagflation, or if the inflation is tackled, economic slow down.  There is never decoupling of Asian economy from US economy in this globalized world.  

Why Sports Marketing and Sponsorship Is Becoming Popular in Asia

Asia has no doubt now become a marketing playground for multinational brands and businesses to expand their niche beyond normal reach. Many companies have recognized that sports have an incredible potential to be turned into an influential and lucrative marketing tool for any brand’s growth and it certainly outshines traditional marketing efforts by reaching a mass which far outnumbers those of any other channels.

Brands are able to capture an unbridled passion with sports which it could not achieve through other platforms. A sports sponsorship can reach large numbers of people by bridging the divide between label and consumer, allowing people to engage with the sport or its star players on a more personal and emotional level. It is no longer an advertisement waiting to be skipped; it becomes the energy that ignites the sport. The brand will be seizing the prospect of lifetime loyalty with their consumers by investing in relationships rather than advertising which prove to be a more economical and cohesive approach to marketing.

For example, 192 million people tuned in to their television sets to watch Southeast Asia’s national football competition the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, and a total of 15 million people watched the two final leg games in record breaking numbers. The enormous viewership clutches the attention of millions of fans across the region, not to mention the sell-out crowd at the stadium, followers on social networking sites and many more viewers of its online broadcasts. A survey has shown that traditional above-the-line advertising at such level would cost significantly more while yielding smaller impressions and revenues.

Sponsorship opportunities will affect a company’s market segment by offering them the chance to develop awareness and devotion to the brand. The passion derived from the target market is what the brand relies on to achieve a positive sponsorship. By putting together their own brand values with that of the sport, companies are able to uphold its brand trust, effect buyers’ spending trends and better capitalize on customer relationship.

A compatible sponsorship will leave a strong impact on an audience and will likely rouse a surge in sales and profitability. Therefore, it isn’t all just about jumping on the bandwagon like everyone else but a careful selection process needs to take place beforehand to maximize the brand’s visibility and exposure in line with its core values and objectives. Sports marketing have revolutionized the way brands are being depicted to consumers. It pervades more advertising channels and cuts your costs, targets a broader and more focused group, and is definitely more effective than traditional marketing activities.