International -- Readers Report
Austrians Needn't Sacrifice Luxury Goods for Safe Food (int'l edition)
In "As big farmers long for freedom..." (Spotlight, Mar. 29), you succeeded in telling in a few words more than I have found in Austrian newspapers for years. Politicians and the media here are reluctant to give any information on the future of small farms, which represent a big majority. From an economic point of view, it might be sensible to restructure European agriculture to be more "efficient," but we should also look at how this process influences the high standard of food we enjoy in Europe and especially in Austria.
We all know that the well-informed consumer buying expensive, high-quality food for health reasons is nothing more than fiction. Do you study each label carefully in the supermarket? When you hurry to buy your food in the late evening after a stressful day, on which desire would you put your emphasis if you have to choose between high-quality food and the opportunity to save money for the next holiday trip, a new car, or bigger apartment? Of course, health is important to me, but unless I am really ill--no question--I'd take the holiday trip like many others.
We shouldn't be forced to choose between healthy and environmentally friendly produced food and luxury goods. We need and want both.
ViennaReturn to top
"Saving Just for the Sake of Saving Is Foolish" (int'l edition)
I don't think state governments are fat and foolish ("Are the states fat and foolish?" Economic Trends, Mar. 29). Rainy-day funds are for rainy days. And if, after serious studies and analysis, the states do not expect an economic storm in the near future, they have every right to maintain the current level of reserves.
Putting money aside for a rainy day is indeed a good habit, but it can also be strategic. A government saves more when it foresees the need, but if the economy is as healthy as statistics have been suggesting, it should spend more to improve its service levels. (This is, after all, one of a state government's responsibilities.) Saving just for the sake of saving is foolish. A responsible state government should be forward-thinking and use taxpayers' money in the most efficient ways.
Hong KongReturn to top
Why China Is a Long Way from Warp Speed on the Net (int'l edition)
After reading "What every CEO should know about electronic business" (Cover Story, Mar. 22), I thought about the present situation in China and how far away we are from E-commerce. Although the data show favorable prospects for China, the total population on the Internet won't reach 30 million until 2002. But now even for me, a man who surfs the Internet one or two hours a day to contact friends, get information, and maintain my home page, I don't feel the low-cost environment of E-commerce.
There are three main obstacles to more Chinese shopping on the Internet. The basic one is electronic currency. Almost everyone has a credit card, but most people here prefer to use cash, which they consider more convenient and safe. So we should first promote the use of credit cards.
The second is the high cost. Aside from the purchase of a computer, fees for using the Internet can eat up 20% of people's income. So they hesitate.
The last is the shortage of information technology professionals. If one day the fee is cut down and the credit card is widely used, we will face the need for skills to make Web sites and protect the security of business on the Internet.
Procter & Gamble Co. has penetrated the lives of almost all Chinese, but we have lagged behind again in information technology. Still, I have confidence in China's ability to catch up. I do not want to see that we will one day live without America Online Inc. or Amazon.com Inc.
Hangzhou, ChinaReturn to top