International -- Readers Report
UNHAPPY MEALS AT McDONALD'S (int'l edition)
From 1956-62, I lived in the U.S. and loved milk, hot dogs, and Mighty Mo's (a kind of Big Mac made by Hot Shoppe, which surely inspired [McDonald's founder] Ray Kroc). In 1972, caught by a blizzard in Pittsburgh, all I could get to eat was Hilton's restaurant food or McDonald's fare ("McDonald's: Can it regain its golden touch?" Corporation, Mar. 9). I loved Big Macs and McDonald's fries at first bite. At that time, they were juicy and crispy as no others were. After that, I became a McDonald's addict. Now, the burgers and fries are made well in advance, are served cold, and taste like paper.
Just go back to the basics of fast food: Make it as close to delivery time as possible.
Antonio C. Montenegro
Sao PauloReturn to top
MISPLACING THE BLAME FOR JAPAN'S PROBLEMS (int'l edition)
In your article "Japan needs to face the music--now" (Editorial, Mar. 9), it seems that you unquestioningly accept the "veritable chorus of top Asian, European, and American officials" who want Tokyo to increase fiscal expenditures to boost domestic demand, as if their prescriptions were purely objective and uninfluenced by any political considerations.
The crisis in Asia has been caused by what Alan Greenspan has finally admitted: inadequate risk management in the massive short-term bank-to-bank international capital movements. Otherwise fiscally prudent and burgeoning economies have seen gross overshooting in the devaluation of their currencies by the markets. The dominant refuge has been the dollar--yet you are intent on blaming the yen for not being the dollar.
The main problem in Japan has been an inability to deal with the financial-sector problems quickly and efficiently. The rest is effect, not cause.
Australia-Japan Economic Institute
SydneyReturn to top
ENCRYPTION ISN'T READY FOR PRIME TIME (int'l edition)
In your article about encryption control ("The great debate," American News, Mar. 9), it sounded as if the existing, freely available encryption technology from the U.S. is good enough for most purposes. Since I am responsible for the establishment of a national certification authority for Switzerland, I must disagree. Encryption will be first and mostly used in commercial applications and E-commerce (home banking over the Internet being a good early example).
The success of E-commerce will largely depend on good security. The currently available technology (e.g., international versions of U.S. browsers) is not considered safe enough for serious business. Better local technology is available and will be used. For now, commercial users are not willing to depend on weak and unpredictable U.S. technology and will use alternatives.
ZurichReturn to top
FREEDOM, NOT CORRUPTION, CAUSED ASIA'S DOWNTURN (int'l edition)
Your editorial "We don't need controls on global capital" (Mar. 2) typifies the U.S. perception of foreign countries. Your assertion that Asia's economies "came to a halt...because the corrupt hierarchical economies could no longer efficiently allocate capital" is misleading. In the past 15 years or so, Asia's economies boomed because of hard work, thrift, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Whatever corruption and hierarchical deficiency that existed was there before and did not impede earlier economic growth. Your attempt to link sociopolitical ills with economic growth is naive.
Asia's dramatic reversal of fortune has much more to do with the lack of fiscal prudence and failure of controls than anything else. Putting funds in ill-timed and financially unfeasible ventures, coupled with excessive borrowing, was the main reason why these economies went belly up. More importantly, the business cycle for the Asian economies peaked sometime in 1995, so there was nothing unusual about a downturn.
The magnitude of the downturn caught everyone by surprise because most people do not realize that today's global economy is much more integrated than ever before. Who would have thought 10 years ago that a drop in the Hang Seng would cause the largest one-day drop in the Dow Jones? In fact, it is the freedom of capital and currency movement in Asia that caused irrational volatility in the markets rather than government authoritarianism. The emergence of massive hedge funds meant that markets with thin trading volumes could be easily moved.
Ironically, the reason China is immune to this volatility is because its markets are closed to foreign funds. China is Asia's most hierarchical, centrally managed, and inefficient economy, and yet it has been posting excellent economic results. How do you reconcile that?
Corruption is a serious impediment to an efficient economy, but viewed carefully, it is never a reason for economic downturn. Of course, a top-down management style--of a country or a corporation--will fail at some point.
Wai Lun Ng
ShanghaiReturn to top