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Internet Revolution

Is the rush for Internet stocks the key to the next Asian economic miracle or another stock-market fad? ["Key To Reform," EDITORIALS, March 3]. Before the 1997 financial crisis, we thought the stock market had defeated gravity. Now we see companies with doubtful credentials entering tech ventures for the sake of attracting investment. They're joining the bandwagon at an alarming rate. The participation of companies with traditional strengths, like property or construction, puts their life span on the line.

There is no question that the Internet and e-commerce will revolutionize our lives and constitute the next economic powerhouse. But it is still a concept, not a valid reason to override real business decisions. Most Internet ventures are in the development stage. Piracy and imitation of technology are rampant. Ventures become obsolete by the day. Perhaps only a few players can survive. It is common sense that the Internet is only a service provider. We still need real items for trading. We cannot convert everything electronically and transmit them through the Internet, can we? We still need substantial investment in real things.
Jamil Din
Kuala Lumpur

The Internet revolution certainly will bring sweeping changes in Asian business. While many agree with the benefits brought by the Internet, some may question the horrors accompanying it, which you ignore in "Key to Reform." Your discourse tries to foster the belief that the Internet is only positive, which is quite contrary to the reality. For instance, some observers see the availability of pornographic material on the Internet as partly responsible for many societies' moral decadence. Teenagers are particularly susceptible. Furthermore, people may be exposed to crime-related materials that could pose another serious threat to society. Highly advanced criminal techniques are likely to be imitated. It is very important for societies to be aware of these and other negative effects of the Internet.
Raphael Lengesa Nombo

Pacific Internet and Parent
Thank you for your interest in Pacific Internet's business and its growth opportunities in the region. I appreciate your efforts in writing about a side of the Pacific Internet story that has, until now, not been told ["When Old Virtues Go Unrewarded," BUSINESS, March 31]. However, I would like to bring to your attention a published comment attributed to me: "Sembcorp is a good parent . . . Since it is a government-linked company, we will never go bankrupt." This statement was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. However, as it has been printed I must clarify for the record what I said.

As a Nasdaq-listed company, Pacific Internet adheres to a strict commercial discipline. No shareholder would support us if they felt the business was non-viable.

SembCorp Industries is indeed a good corporate parent but also a strict one. While they provide us with guidance on the general direction Pacific Internet should take, they give our management full autonomy to carry out our business plans. But they set strict financial performance benchmarks for all their constituent companies, and they have been shown to be prepared to divest or close companies that did not meet their various financial and operating criteria.

Although being a company in which the Singapore government has a major stake (a government-linked company, or GLC, by definition), SembCorp Industries will not automatically bail out failing companies in its stable. It is simply not its policy to do so. Proper business processes and priorities are always observed and where investments or companies cease to be viable, they are divested or closed down. The idea that being part of the SembCorp Industries group means we, or any other SembCorp company, will "never (be allowed to) go bankrupt" is therefore simply not true.
Nicholas Lee
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Internet

Estrada Ratings
There was much ado recently over approval ratings for Philippine President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. In mid-March, a cabinet member showed Asiaweek the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) telephone survey in Metro Manila, conducted in early March and commissioned by Malacaņang Palace. It showed a -32% net approval rating for Estrada, down from -13% in early February. At the end of March, SWS released the results of another survey using both phone and face-to-face interviews. It contained a net approval rating of +1% for Estrada in Metro Manila in early March. Our cabinet source tells us that both phone-survey and phone-and-face-to-face data are correct, though not comparable. But that hasn't stopped one daily newspaper and some officials trumpeting the +1% as proof that the earlier negative ratings were wrong. They weren't.
The Editors

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From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

COVER: When Phone Calls Are Free
International telephone calls are migrating to the Internet - where they are becoming too cheap to meter. Can a telecommunications industry bloodbath be far behind?
The Future of Phones: An Asiaweek Roundtable on how the Internet is changing - and challenging - the industry
Go Wild . . . for Free: Stop me before I call again

KOREA: Summit Stakes
Kim Dae Jung and Kim Jong Il surprise the world by agreeing to meet

INDONESIA: Rocks in the Road
The leaders are still acting like oppositionists

TAIWAN: The Trouble with Annette
Why the vice president-elect is under fire

PHILIPPINES: Unheard on the Street
Despite dissent, Estrada still has mass support

VIETNAM: Land Where Caution Rules
Behind a stalled trade accord with the U.S.

SINGAPORE: Running to (Always) Win
The PAP must evolve to maintain its record

NEPAL: Cockpit of Intrigue
Why Kathmandu is now labeled the subcontinent's "Casablanca"

The Spy of the Century?
Accused of mishandling classified material, Taiwan-born Wen-ho Lee is in jail, shackled and isolated. His family fights on; the scientific community asks questions
Fear, Loathing in the Labs: Was one scientist fired because he is Chinese?

Coming Together: South China could be an economic powerhouse. But progress is slow
'In Search of Money: Cash-starved mainland tech firms try IPOs

Down to Earth: The dotcom stock plunge gives a timely warning: Beware excesses
'Speed' in Thailand: Yangon must get serious about stopping the flow of amphetamines

Is the Internet all good?

This week's news round-up by country

Cutting Edge
Authors talk back
more Technology

Liberalization, Part Two
Finally, the Philippines is opening up again

As the Cycle Turns
Semiconductor firms avoid adding capacity

Hotel service: world class and Asian too

Unafraid to Face Investors
This Japanese Internet mall expects a windfall

Business Buzz
Singtel Throws Time A Line

Asian Film Gets a Rush
Youth themes fire up regional productions at Hong Kong's cinematic festival
Independent Views: There's life after Jackie Chan

The Silent Timebomb
Diabetes is rising at alarming rates, particularly in youngsters

Tibet Beyond the Propaganda
Unflinching history takes all sides to task

Thailand's twin sensations on the green

Pakistan's A List

The Case for Earnings
Believe in the tech revolution, not Internet stocks

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies, now online
Monitor: Maybe not such great news

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