The Panelists:
Yonden Lhatoo (Chief News Editor, SCMP)
Andy Mukherjee (Bloomberg Opinion)
Robert Koepp (Chief Economist, The Economist Corporate Network)
Umesh Desai (Financial Market Expert)
[Moderated by FIPHK Member Gautam Bardoloi]

Thank you to those who made it to our event on 12-May at the HKCC. Behind the Headlines, was exactly that.  To go behind the headlines.  We understand with the advent of social media, the line between traditional “Fourth Estate” one way news and opinions and 2-way discussions gets so blurred we lose the distinction between Facts and Alternative Facts. Fake news has become part of our everyday vocabulary. Given all that is happening around us, we at FIPHK wanted to hold an open town hall with representatives from Media to discuss what headlines and what behind the headlines.  Media, along the spectrum of liberal to conservative, hold opinion polls that are someone’s predilection and worse those predictions become our choices.

To discuss these and many more in a townhall format we invited Yandon Lhatoo from SCMP, Robert Koepp from The Economist Corporate United, Andy Mukherjee from Bloomberg Opinion and Umesh Desai, Financial Market Expert and ex Reuters Regional Debt Expert.

Needless to say, it was a charged environment with a very engaging discussion.  The questions and discussions veered towards Geo-politics and rightly so since as professionals we all understand that after all Economic development and its roadmap is but an implication of geopolitical decisions and interplay.

If I were to summarise that night as the moderator, 4 themes emerge from all the discussions and questions.  US reneging on its commitment on the Iran Nuclear deal, what it would mean to upcoming discussion with North Korea (on June 12), the world at crossroads with a heightened Middle East (ME) crisis (a possibly nuclear Iran and Syrian conflict in its 8th year) and an unknown Korean peninsula and where does Russia and China play a role in global stage with US increasing taking a back stage.  The discussions went from cautious optimism (on Korea) to dark pessimism on ME.  The panel and audience didn’t spare an opportunity to cross tab each other on how Nationalism (or jingoism) would impact globalisation and thereby Global economy as we know it today.

I will be amiss not to mention that one thing emerged from all the discussions and cross-questioning, is where the world will stand 6 months from today and will any of these predictions/outcomes hold true.  What can be considered disturbing or more aptly thought-provoking is how our current world has changed.  When in the past we discussed Geo-politics and its impact to the economy and thereby professionals like ourselves we had a 3-5 years horizon.  Now we talk in 6 months timespan!!

Lastly, the townhall ended on a lighter moment with each panelist asked to pick their choice of world leaders (from among Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin) who will hold world stage, it was a fragmented decision with Donald Trump and Putin getting a vote each and Xi Jinping being the favorite with 2 votes.