A Global Retreat As Economies Dry Up

 

An article in the Washington Post on Singapore as a window into the reversal of the forces that

brought unprecedented global mobility to goods, services, investment and labor. 

Thousands of foreign workers, including London School of Economics graduates with six-digit salaries and desperately poor Bangladeshi factory workers, are streaming home as the economy here suffers the worst of the recessions in Southeast Asia. Singapore is an epicenter of what analysts call a new flow of reverse migration away from hard-hit, globalized economies, including Dubai and Britain, that were once beacons for foreign labor. Economists from Credit Suisse predict an exodus of 200,000 foreigners — or one in every 15 workers here — by the end of 2010.

Singapore’s exports collapsed by a stunning 35 percent in January, mirroring much of the rest of Asia. The export boom here was tied to credit-fueled buying sprees in the United States that stopped abruptly and may take years to return, if ever. Manufacturers are grasping for a Plan B. But none of the options — mining domestic markets, or trying to tap consumers in still-growing China and India — offers a truly viable solution. Adding to fears of a years-long depression for exports is a rising tide of trade protectionism in countries including neighboring Indonesia.

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