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Thread: Are we talking up the recession?

  1. #1
    mr funny is offline Any complaints please PM me
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Are we talking up the recession?

    January 10, 2009 Saturday

    Are we talking up the recession?

    Yes, we're in for a rocky period, but let's not make bad times worse

    By Lee Siew Hua, Senior Political Correspondent

    THE human spirit is willing to accept only so much recession gloom.

    So there are signs here and there that people seek a more uplifting narrative of the downturn - and that they are unconvinced there is little light left in the economy.

    I sense this in several questions I am hearing in conversation or reading in commentaries.

    Are we talking up the recession, a number of professionals have asked me.

    What about turning a layoff into lemonade, a Newsweek article asked.

    And why not count the reasons for optimism or be alert to opportunities, commentators in this newspaper have also counselled.

    These are contrarian responses to the recession. Realistic or Pollyanna-ish? Who can really tell in these yet nascent days of the global recession?

    For the full magnitude of the global woes will be visible only in retrospect, when we are able to view what is happening today from the rear-view mirror of history.

    But I believe that the hopeful streak here and elsewhere shows that people are often more resilient than they think, and we are designed with an innate refusal to go down fast.

    This kind of inner bounce will do us good in the next few rocky quarters, so don't outlaw the optimists.

    In reverse, maybe we should have listened harder to a different set of contrarians a year or two ago.

    It was easy then for most people to go with the flow, and imagine the party would never end. But there were warnings that the sub-prime delinquencies looked like the tip of a treacherous iceberg.

    We have now hit the iceberg. But are we doomed?

    Let us return to that intriguing poser: Are we talking up the recession?

    The implication here is that we may be making the bad times worse by fixating on the dark side. There is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Squelch confidence enough and banks, businesses and consumers will turn too conservative.

    Of course, the dark side is real and we would be silly to whitewash or wish it away. The Government has downgraded its forecast for this year's growth to the admittedly bleak range of -2 to 1 per cent. Home prices continue to fall. Workers hope to hang on to their jobs.

    But we can always choose to view this shadowy side with a sense of proportion.

    For this economic slide comes after several fat years. There was a good stretch of sparkling economic performance, rich gains in property, decent bonuses. It was boom time, and wondrous while it lasted.

    Booms and busts are in the nature of a free market economy and a financial crisis is not the end of the world, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew said last September, at the height of the turmoil unleashed by the Lehman collapse.

    'Let's say there is a complete collapse,' he said. 'Does that mean the end of the world...the free market economy? No.'

    What is important in a meltdown is to restore confidence, said the Minister Mentor during a dialogue at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    We will find sufficient cause for confidence if we look. There is still good news amid the bad.

    Scan the headlines these days and you will read about plans to open new restaurants and businesses despite the recession.

    Jobs in sectors like education and health care are still abundant. The Education Ministry has just announced that it will hire 7,500 teachers and support staff this year. The recruitment drive takes advantage of the downturn.

    On a broader landscape, Institute of Policy Studies chairman Professor Tommy Koh named eight reasons for optimism in his Think-Tank column in The Straits Times this week. He believes the crisis will not derail Asia's rise, for instance, and that tension in the Taiwan Strait is dissipating.

    'As a contrarian, I believe that, when faced with adversity, one should remain calm, have a sense of balance, be aware of the challenges but also of the positives,' he wrote. That is thinking like an anchored optimist, not a wild-eyed idealist.

    Two big events just days away should also blow off a few more storm clouds.

    The Singapore Government will unveil on Jan 22 a Budget to help companies and households cope better with the recession.

    And on Jan 20, Mr Barack Obama will be inaugurated as President of the United States. The hope is that the man who campaigned on change will indeed bring that into his governance, revive the US economy, and spread some of the good abroad.

    Meanwhile, I also like the lively story in this paper on how any 'recessionista' can shop well. For it looks like we are still determined to be a nation of shoppers. And I like to think that we are resourceful in a crunch, in or out of a mall.

    I was also struck by a notably upbeat interview with Mr Marc Freedman, 50, who is here for the Reinventing Retirement Asia conference. The founder and chief executive officer of Civic Ventures, a San Francisco advocacy group, encourages older people to embark on 'encore careers'.

    These can be socially purposeful jobs in education, health or the environment. They bring new meaning and money to people in the second half of their lives - and present a tremendous payoff to society.

    Now, it is never happy timing if someone enters retirement in a recession. But men like Mr Freedman demonstrate the power of picturing the possible.

    Maybe we are not all miserable yet and are still living off the fat of the last financial year. Perhaps we are still in the light-hearted festive season, and the mood may flip after Chinese New Year.

    And possibly we are still standing up because the real economy has not been savaged yet.

    But we can decide to make this a good downturn, even if it turns out to be of epic proportions.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    "We have now hit the iceberg. But are we doomed?"

    Even on the ill fated Titanic there were survivors...albeit a few only lah. So for those who survived, not doomed. For those who didn't..i guess doomed la.

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