Australia’s latest prime minister must make some tough decisions. Plus: Vietnam’s property boom.
The country dubbed an “oasis of democracy” by US secretary of state John Kerry will choose a new president in 2017; incumbent Tsakhiagiin Elbegdori, the horse-riding, orphan-adopting head of state, can’t run for a third term. The opposition Mongolian People’s party will be hoping to take advantage of a sluggish economy.
The region’s youngest nation elects a president and parliament in 2017. Its democracy has, so far, proved more durable than some feared; last time around, for instance, the incumbent was beaten. Current president Taur Matan Ruak (his name means “two sharp eyes”) is a former commander of the country’s military. He is yet to announce if he’ll run again.
Labor should pick up more seats after a poor showing in 2013 but it may not be enough to wrest control of the state from the ruling Liberal party. The Liberals will run a campaign focused on regional issues.
Those lamenting smoggy skies in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are finding breathing space in the coastal city of Da Nang. Thousands of high-end residential units are being built to meet demand thanks to an influx of buyers from Hanoi and other northern cities; Da Nang is also well positioned to take advantage of a rule change in 2015 that means expat visa-holders can now invest in the domestic property market. Just a one-hour flight from Hanoi (and not much more from Hong Kong), the breezy home to one million people hosts the annual meeting of Apec in 2017.
The next 12 months will be an important time for Malcolm Turnbull. As Australia’s fifth prime minister since 2010 he has to work quickly and convincingly to restore an atmosphere of stability within the country’s political system. His success will rely heavily on how he and his government choose to negotiate a few key challenges in 2017.
Australia is the only developed English-speaking nation where same-sex couples cannot marry. Opinion polls show that two thirds of the country want to change the law but Turnbull knows that doing so will be complicated. His plan to hold a national plebiscite on the issue has been widely criticised on the grounds that it could cause lasting divisions and will cost au$160m (€110m). LGBT advocates are also worried: they think the result will not be binding.
Following 25 years of uninterrupted growth, Australia’s economy is in good shape – but the government can’t afford to be complacent. A dip in commodity prices has hurt the nation’s mining industry and underpinned the need for economic diversification. To safeguard future prosperity, Australia must make innovation a priority, along with strengthening trade relationships throughout Asia. More also has to be done to address the issue of housing affordability in capital cities.
The effects of climate change are increasingly visible in Australia: farmers contend with a lack of rainfall; extreme weather events have become more commonplace; and parts of the Great Barrier Reef are turning ghostly white from bleaching. So far the government has been slow to respond but it has announced that there will be a review of climate-change policy at some stage in 2017. One of the most pressing questions will be whether Turnbull intends to reduce the country’s dependence on coal-fired power stations.
Outgoing UN secretary-generals tend to retire to a life of foundations, consulting and a lucrative speaking circuit. Ban Ki-moon, however, may be returning to politics: South Korea’s ruling Saenuri party is courting him to be its nominee come the December 2017 presidential election.
President Park Geun-hye is poised to end her single term in office as a divisive figure – and she is constitutionally barred from standing again. Opinion polls show Ban with a strong lead over other potential candidates, including software developer turned politician Ahn Cheol-soo and former opposition leader Moon Jae-in. Ban has, so far, remained coy about his political ambitions but South Korea’s political analysts expect him to announce his intentions once his tenure at the UN is over.
Changi Airport lands a fourth terminal in 2017 as an additional 16 million visitors are expected to glide through the bustling hub. New facial-recognition technology should make for seamless check-ins.