01/28/2009, 00.00
SINGAPORE
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To combat economic crisis, government suggests less meat, shorter showers

It is the Asian country hardest hit by the global crisis. Unemployment and inflation are on the rise. The prime minister announces plan to draw on foreign currency reserves.

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Eat more vegetables and less meat, preferably frozen, take shorter showers, and use energy-efficient light bulbs. The anti-crisis strategy of Singapore includes these tips, which the government is repeating to the population with speeches, pamphlets, and advertisements. The message: spend less, and try to save.

Vegetables and frozen meat cost less, they are the least expensive of the imported products; 90% of the republic's water comes from Malaysia, at an elevated price; the same is true for energy, which the territory cannot produce for itself and must bring in from abroad.

The government's campaign is based on the consideration that under the current economic circumstances, the slightly more than 3 million inhabitants of Singapore must take on a new standard of living in order to overcome the crisis, and not be a burden on state finances, already stretched thin by the recent global financial dislocations.

Singapore also depends on international commerce for 20% of its GDP, coming from its financial market and its production of advanced technology, both sectors hit hard by the global recession.

According to the World Bank, the city-state of the Malay Peninsula will be the country in East Asia hardest hit by the crisis. In 2008, it finished with a growth rate of 1.5%, much lower than the expected 2.5%, and lower still compared to the 7.7% in 2007 and the 8.2% in 2006.

The figures for the new year also show a rise in unemployment: from 2.2% in September of 2008, to 5%. Forecasts are for a loss of 30,000 jobs, after about 400,000 new jobs were created over the previous two years.

With the end of 2008, inflation hit a 26-year record of 7.5%, with immediate repercussions on the most widely consumed food products, including rice and oil.

On Monday the 26th, in the traditional message for the beginning of the Chinese new year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the authorities "are for the first time seeking the President’s approval to draw on our [foreign exchange] reserves … a key asset for Singapore."

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