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: 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: France Strikes and Demonstrations

My social unrest post of Jan 27 mentioned that  France, Germany and United Kingdom had avoided demonstrations but my commentary was a tad premature.

It turns out that Jan 29 was a day of mass demonstrations and strikes in France with a 2.5 million turnout in a country of a mere 65 million population (almost 4% of the population was simultaneously out on the streets!). An excerpt from one article states:

Thursday’s day of action throughout France in defence of jobs, the purchasing power of wages and social services, called by the eight major trade union federations, brought an estimated 2.5 million workers and youth onto the streets of some 200 cities and towns. Some small towns reported the largest demonstrations in many years. Workers went on strike in great numbers, as did high school and university students.

Not surprisingly, the French economic stimulus of 26 billion euros ($33.1 billion) was released 3 days later. On the pro side, the stimulus package has been introduced before the country has officially entered a recession; on the con side the size of the package is generally considered insufficient to reverse the general trends. 

Small-scale union supported strikes are also starting in Scotland against hiring of foreign workers.  And most unexpected of all, Obama openly stated that more banks are expected to fail. Such bluntness is not customary for US presidents as they tend to sugarcoat the truth. Or perhaps he is sugarcoating?

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Social Unrest in China

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

– Macbeth, Shakespeare

Chinese factories are laying off people as their exports have slowed down. The numbers reported today are 20 million unemployed or about 15% of their workforce. With fewer orders being placed by other countries not as many workers are needed. Chinese cities are seeing reverse migration patterns as unemployed people are returning to villages. Unofficial reports suggest that there are daily demonstrations taking place in the country against the police and government officials as more and more people have fewer and fewer options available.

The government has been offering new graduates civil service jobs in remote areas to reduce unemployment however it is for college graduates and does not address the rural migrant workers.

How long can this continue before the situation will fester into something large and ugly? Without any intervention by the Chinese government the cauldron will bubble over before the second quarter of this year is out

2009 Gloom & Doom Update: Outlook Playing Out- Iceland Govt Collapse

Remember my previous post on what 2009 will look like?  One of the things I had mentioned was growing unrest in Europe.

Yesterday, Iceland’s government collapsed and there are demonstrations across Europe. Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia and Iceland have all seen protests. France, Germany and United Kingdom have been spared the demonstrations- they are also countries that have invested the most in stimulus packages.

As a reminder of what I had said:

2009 will be a year of despair for many.

The upcoming year is going to be hard on many people. The global financial situation is going to get worse before it gets better. SAVE! SAVE! SAVE! Everything you save will be needed later. If you have a miserable job, don’t quit yet. If you do not have a job, grab what you can. It will be worse than many of us remember. None of the indicators are pointing towards anything good.

Expect an escalation in crimes like theft. Expect an increase in riots and protests in various Asian hotspots. Expect growing unrest in Europe. North American social welfare systems will get taxed to their breaking point.

Cracks will emerge that will over the next 5 years result in the changing of some national boundaries.

More of these will be playing out as the year progresses.