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NO NEED TO GET WORKED UP ABOUT ASIA (int'l edition)

Why are we obsessed with Asia's economic woes (''Asia: The global impact,'' Special Report, June 1)? Using any rational economic or strategic measure, all of the countries of Asia, except for China and Japan, are irrelevant to our economy. Do we need to put up with moralistic preaching when things go well and with racist whining when things go badly?

We have vastly more important areas of the world to pay attention to. South of us is a vast continent that can benefit from our help, provided we offer the help in a more intelligent and sensitive manner than has historically been the case. Why are we so excited about the growth of the middle class in Asia when there are still huge numbers of people living in shantytowns in South American cities?

Why are we not doing more to help Russia help itself? Despite many ideological differences (first as an empire, and then as a communist state), Russia has been America's ally in two world wars and has contributed to the survival of the Western democracies by making unbelievable sacrifices. And if area is taken into account, Russia is one of the biggest Asian countries of all. Given time and intelligently applied help, Russia can become a far bigger U.S. trading partner and offer larger and safer investment opportunities than all those countries that occupy our attention today.

Let us set our priorities straight. It is in our national interest to work with South America, with China, and with Russia. It is in the interest of multinationals and a few investment banks to pay so much attention to the poorly managed, philosophically alien regimes of Southeast Asia.

Irving I. Goldmacher
Stony Brook, N.Y.


What has fueled the crises in Asian countries is a combination of nepotism, cronyism, and a lack a competition, openness, and accountability. Asia, as more established economies have done in the past, is going through a period of transition and renewal. Unfortunately, as often is the case, it takes a big crisis to highlight and overcome inadequacies.

No doubt the West bears much of the responsibility for Asia's predicament. The lure of economic development has been, to be sure, the only convincing way of bringing Asia into the democratic capitalism fold. Now that Asia has taken the bait, there is no turning back. Yet, for its part, the West must and will share in the pain for winning Asia as a member of its economic family.

David Airth
Toronto


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Updated June 11, 1998 by bwwebmaster
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