BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: AUGUST 9, 1999 ISSUE

Int'l Readers Report

Lifetime Employment Was Never the Japanese Norm (int'l edition)

When Ezra Vogel was asked how serious the erosion was of lifetime employment and seniority in companies ('''Japan will remain a terribly important economy,''' Asian Business, July 19), he responded that, even though the formal contract may be ending, he believes that the basic understanding in Japan is that when university graduates go to sizable firms for regular jobs, they will still be looked after, and that overall he thinks the social contract is still remarkably in place.

The obvious contradiction regarding formal/social contract aside, and despite some careful choosing of words, he fails to point out that lifetime employment was never the Japanese norm: Even at its height, it applied to only about one- quarter of the total workforce. The majority, working for small and medium-size companies, never deluded themselves, since even if they did, the bankruptcy rates were there for all to see. Those on part-time work never had a good deal. By not spelling this out, [Vogel's] response would leave those unaware still in the dark.

Ali M. El-Agraa
Professor of International Economics
Fukuoka University
Fukuoka, Japan



Gene Therapy Offers Hope for Orphan Diseases (int'l edition)

Your story sheds light on an often unaddressed situation: Thousands of children die of benign neglect simply because they were born with diseases too rare to capture research dollars and public attention (''Gene therapy,'' Special Report, July 19). The recent advances in medical science, however--particularly in the field of gene therapy--offer a new spectrum of alternatives that allow us to prevent or address these health problems.

No child should be allowed to die in the dawn of life simply because the disease is demographically insignificant. Gene-therapy treatment should take us one step closer to offering hope to these children.

Arthur W. Nienbuis, M.D.
Director
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Memphis



Coke's Boss Doesn't Get It (int'l edition)

You quote Coca-Cola Chairman M. Douglas Ivester as saying: ''We'll spend whatever is necessary to regain the confidence of Belgian consumers'' ('''The name Coke now scares people,''' American News, July 5).

He just doesn't get it. He should have the philosophy that ''we'll do whatever is necessary to regain the confidence of Belgian consumers.'' No wonder he mismanaged the whole affair.

Charles B. Kitz
West Bloomfield, Mich.



Let's Not Waste Millions on Spoiled Athletes (int'l edition)

First it was Coke, then McDonald's. Why do we need to have NBA-style arenas and teams around the globe (''The NBA needs to do some globetrotting,'' Economic Viewpoint, July 19)?

I want to go to China and know I am in China. I want to go to Europe and know I am there. I should not have to wonder if I am still in Dayton or Peoria. Yes, the world outside the U.S. likes basketball and the NBA. But they certainly do not need those millions of dollars being wasted on a bunch of spoiled athletes.

It would have been better if Jeffrey E. Garten had proposed that the NBA and players fund more scholarships and aspiring entrepreneurs in America's inner cities and around the world. And how about NBA.com or ESPN bringing cricket to the U.S. audience? Does everything have to be mined for maximum profit? If, so then the world would be much uglier and boring.

Raymond Byfield
Bloomfield, N.J.



Different Take on Debt Forgiveness (int'l edition)

I read with great surprise the views of professor Robert J. Barro (''My luncheon with Bono,'' Economic Viewpoint, July 12) on debt forgiveness to poor countries and the Jubilee 2000 project. Barro finishes by asking what could be more important than being a hero for his kids. This question is easy to answer. Being a bit more responsible when the lives of tens of millions of other kids are affected by your opinions is actually much more important.

From the ivory towers of the academy, perspectives tend to be bent. From where I stand--as a businessperson working, investing, and creating thousands of jobs in Africa--a different sense of reality emerges. What I see bares little resemblance to the reality claimed by Mr. Barro to justify his case.

Barro uses two types of arguments: moral and economic. Moral judgment first: Mr. Barro talks about his fatherhood. Being a father myself, I have learned the value, as well as the limited effect, of punishment. You can ground your kid once if he does something wrong. Making it a habit might have much worse effects. Unless a kid feels there is a chance for a fresh start, there is no incentive to improve.

Most modern African nations are very young; they accumulated their debt mainly during the cold war period. Is there any doubt that creating the debt and dependency was in the interest of the then-superpowers? How long does Mr. Barro thinks those young nations with very young population should be punished? Where is the incentive he would give his kids to improve, and why are Africans not worthy of it?

The ''money for nothing'' issue has an additional angle to it. There is a lot of money for nothing in the world. Subsidies to European and U.S. farmers, protective duties, entitlements of all sorts. Arms trading was probably the largest export from the U.S., Europe, and the Soviet Union to Africa during the cold war. Can't arms trading be viewed as ''money for nothing'' as well?

Mr. Barro does not need to be reminded that the right of property is a basic element of what we call freedom. When a nation is on the verge of default, its people are as well. I'm not sure modern slavery is what Mr. Barro wants, but that is the effect of this debt.

Dekel Golan
Harare, Zimbabwe





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LETTERS:
Lifetime Employment Was Never the Japanese Norm (int'l edition)

Gene Therapy Offers Hope for Orphan Diseases (int'l edition)

Coke's Boss Doesn't Get It (int'l edition)

Let's Not Waste Millions on Spoiled Athletes (int'l edition)

Different Take on Debt Forgiveness (int'l edition)

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