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Monday, Feb. 16, 2009 at 8:39 AM
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The global economic crisis heightens the potential for social unrest in Asia, where millions of people suddenly out of work will demand governments take swift and decisive action, analysts said.In the Philippines, of the country’s 36 million labor force, an estimated 40,000 to 200,000 workers are expected to lose their jobs this year, the National Economic and Development Authority said.
AJLPP UpdateFebruary 15, 2009
Crisis raises risk of social unrest in Asia
SINGAPORE — The global economic crisis heightens the potential for social unrest in Asia, where millions of people suddenly out of work will demand governments take swift and decisive action, analysts said.
In the Philippines, of the country’s 36 million labor force, an estimated 40,000 to 200,000 workers are expected to lose their jobs this year, the National Economic and Development Authority said.
And while the prospect of regimes being overthrown is remote at the moment, analysts added, it will depend also on how long and how deep the financial turmoil goes, in a region not unfamiliar with major political upheaval.
“It’s impossible to predict at the moment but the historical record suggests that serious and protracted economic crises may have, in some cases, serious political impact,” Tim Huxley said.
The executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Asia cited Europe’s experience during the Great Depression in the 1930s which fuelled the rise of far-right political movements in the run-up to World War II.
“At the moment there’s no reason to think that the present crisis will lead to major instability in any Southeast Asian country but it is simply too early to say,” Huxley noted.
US intelligence chief Dennis Blair last week warned that the current crisis — the worst since the Great Depression — could lead to “regime-threatening instability” worldwide.
John Harrison, a security analyst at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said that how citizens perceive the effectiveness of government responses to the meltdown is crucial.
“If the public perceives that the government response is reasonable, then they may be less likely to pursue violent means. But the opposite could also be true,” he added.
Extremist groups in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia could attempt to ride on social discontent spawned by the crisis to pursue their political agenda, he added.
Political analysts in Indonesia said the world’s fourth-largest population will be vulnerable to social unrest ahead of and during parliamentary elections in April and presidential polls in July.
“If the country’s economic fundamental weakens, social problems cannot be avoided especially when the crisis continues to force more companies to lay off their employees,” Bantarto Bandoro, from the University of Indonesia, said.
Kusnanto Anggoro, of the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said some groups could exploit economic conditions to mobilize “massive demonstrations that will cause social unrest.”
Riots, triggered in part by an Asian financial crisis, led to the downfall of then-president Suharto in 1998.
In China, where the government grapples with thousands of violent protests annually, focus is on instability that could arise after millions of migrant workers who have lost their jobs in the cities return to their rural hometowns.
Beijing, always fearful of social unrest, said at least 20 million migrant workers had been left jobless so far, indicating the figure could be even higher.The Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said a top national public security committee had identified jobless migrants as a key area of concern.“The flood of unemployed migrants poses big challenges to social stability in the countryside,” said Professor Ren Yuan, a labour, migration and population studies expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University.“If they cannot find work in rural areas the situation in the countryside will further deteriorate.”Of particular concern are large numbers of younger migrants whose connection to rural lifestyles has been severed, Ren said.
“If the second generation loses jobs in the city and can’t find work in rural areas, and can’t or don’t want to become farmers, then they are left idle, which certainly increases social instability in rural areas.”
In Bangladesh, analysts differed on whether the global economic crisis is a security threat.Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said Bangladesh’s vital garment exports have remained robust despite the global downturn.
He said Islamic militancy has been the country’s major security problem over the last few years, but the militants’ influence is on the wane.
“Massive job losses in the coming months or years would not lead to their resurgence as the Islamic militancy in Bangladesh is the direct result of inner struggle within Islam, not any other reasons,” Ahmed said.-- AFP
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