SINGAPORE — Two of the world’s most open and successful economies face tough times as the global downturn marks the end of one era and opens a new period of peril and possibility for both. Singapore and Ireland have staked their fortunes on being small, export-oriented, investor-friendly dynamos. Singapore was one of the original Asian Tiger economies, and the label passed to the Atlantic nation in the 1990s, as 15 years of 5 percent average growth earned Ireland its “Celtic Tiger” reputation. But as Kishore Mahbubani, a former Singapore diplomat and author of The New Asian Hemisphere – The Irresistible Shift of Power to the East, told The Washington Times, “being globalized has its downside – when the world economy stutters, the more open economies feel the pain first.” Both Singapore and Ireland are officially in recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Last week, U.S. computer giant Dell Inc. culled 2,000 jobs at its plant in Limerick in the west of Ireland, while Singapore’s Trade Ministry stated Jan. 2 that it expected the economy to contract 2 percent in 2009, the worst predicted performance of any Asian economy for the coming year.
DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia — When drought and food shortages hit, it is the very young who suffer first, and most. Weighing only 10 pounds, Ayaan is among nearly 100,000 Ethiopian children whose lives are at risk. Just four days before her first birthday, she is lighter than an average 3-month-old baby. A clinic at Kersi, about 15 miles outside Ethiopia’s second city Dire Dawa, has seen an increasing number of such cases in recent weeks, as have locations across the south and west of the country. Much of the land is used to grow the cash-crop narcotic known as khat. In more than a dozen villages outside the city, this reporter witnessed groups of mainly young men, but also some women, getting high in the shade on the chewed leaves. Khat is an appetite suppressant, and local culture means that children often eat only after adults. As the doctor at the Kersi clinic told The Washington Times, “if parents are on khat, the whole family goes hungry.”