Moving!!

Dear readers,

After 1 year and 17391 visits, “Life thru Dusty Lenses has moved to it’s new home: KhanSerai-a rest stop for netravelers (http://serai.strategicsynapse.com). The blog will change from being focused solely on life in and around Saudi Arabia, to a more global nature.

Since centuries past, travelers have rested at serais to break their journey. These were places of rest, water, shelter and trade. People from all over broke their journeys and stories were exchanged.

KhanSerai is a 21st century version of the same, a brief respite in our collective journeys.

All old posts and comments have been moved and archived at the new location. Please change your bookmarks and rss readers to point to KhanSerai.

2009 Doom & Gloom Update: Protests in Singapore

Singapore is famous for its efficiency (thus the nickname Singapore, Inc) and infamous for its harsh penal codes for seemingly minor infractions like littering and spitting. Like any other country it has been shaped by the circumstances under which it was created, and the environment in which it has survived since then.

This “red dot in a sea of green” faced race riots in the 1960s that left several people dead. Neighbors turned on neighbors and most Singaporeans in their late 40s and older remember the time vividly. In the words of many, they would rather live in a controlled but safe country than have more freedom but face uncertainty. This mind-set drives the laws of the country where people are not allowed to congregate in groups larger than 3-4 people without explicit permission. Peaceful protestors like the Fallun Gong have been known to be arrested or removed.

With this backdrop it is shocking to hear that there were protests in Singapore by around 100 unemployed Bangladeshi migrant workers in front of the Ministry of Labor. An indication of the desperation of the workers in the recession plagued economy, Singapore is gearing up for an increase in what it calls “recession crimes“. Several other ASEAN countries like Thailand and Indonesia are also expecting an increase in violence as a result of economic malaise.

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Protests in Germany and Bosnia

As the situation gets worse in Europe, with unemployment rates reaching new highs, the social unrest (see previous posts) is spreading. Germany is the latest in the string of countries that is seeing protests show up. This is important to note as Germany was one of the first countries that had been working on a stimulus plan and has tried hard to off-set the anticipated problems.

Problems in Bosnia are less surprising as this was not a strong economy to start off with. Given their political precariousness (two regional, uncoordinated governments), this is a country that is possibly in line for a change in administration in the style of Iceland or Latvia.

What to watch out for in the upcoming weeks: collapse of airlines. Several airlines are already facing problems as fewer people are flying (Singapore Air, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines etc)- let us see when some of the weaker players are pushed out of the market or will need to be bailed out.

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Suicide Rates on the Rise

One of the side effects of the worsening global economy and unemployment is the increase in suicides and suicide attempts. The numbers of cases (high profile and of “normal people“) being reported has increased significantly.

Asian economies like South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong have all reported increases and are planning for more. South Korea and Japan are installing blockades for railway tracks so people do not jump in front of trains. Hong Kong has increased the numbers of operators for its suicide hotlines.

The US is also experiencing an increase in calls to suicide hotlines in places like New YorkTampa, Dallas, Washington DC metro area and California. What is far more worrying is the increase in suicide attempts at universities like the University of California, Santa Barbara. Europe is not spared either with countries like Serbia reporting the highest suicide rates in Europe and 55% of the population shows signs of depression.

The global economy is going to get worse over the upcoming months. If anyone you know is showing signs of depression make sure they get help.

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Protests in Ireland & Latvian Govt Collapse

A few weeks ago, there were reports of protests in Latvia, amongst several other countries (see previous post). Now, the Latvian government has resigned. That makes two governments that have collapsed so far, directly attributable to the economy.

There are now protests in Dublin, Ireland about the economy, and strikes are expected soon.

Let’s see how far the ongoing protests in various countries will go. It is a matter of time before people acknowledge that the recession (2 quarters of negative growth or unemployment increase by 1.5% in 12 months) is actually a depression (GDP declines by more than 10%) in certain countries.

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Economy Takes a Bite Out of Your Lunch!

2009 gloom and doom update

Like all other sectors of the economy, the food and beverage sector is also facing a crunch. The cost of food supplies has risen globally, as have costs associated with packaging and distribution. All large and small suppliers, manufacturers and vendors are facing the same issue.

At the end of the day, all costs will be transferred to the customer- the question is simply: how? The supply side faces two simple choices: increase the price or reduce the size?

In the case of restaurants and prepared food vendors, it is often easier to reduce portion size rather than increase prices. From Dubai eateries to Girl scout cookies in the US, all are becoming smaller.

In the case of basic food, global food prices have been SOARING and the news has been littered with stories of global food crisis for months. You name the country and there is a report about it. Here is a sample across the continents: South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia.

This has been an ongoing problem which attracted major attention last year- it’s just that we forgot about it amidst all the recent sobbing over economic woes. It is also a problem that is not going away and will be (along with the financial side) the reason for upcoming political instability in several emerging markets.

People are not interested in moral high ground and democracy mantras when they are starving and burying their children!

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Overspending and the Global Financial Crisis

There have been lots of articles on what has caused the problem and how it can be solved. An article in the NY Times addresses one part of the cause: over-spending. This excerpt summarizes it brilliantly:

In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.

My advice to individuals out there is simple: get rid of your debt before you start to spend on new things. You’re not helping the economy at all if you add to your debt, in fact, you’re making it worse.

The retail sector wants you to spend so that it helps them. That does not mean it helps you!