Signs of the Times: A prime minister's pay cut; lost boats

Wed Apr 8, 2009 1:10am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The global recession manifests itself in big and small ways, most gloomy, some quirky and often reflecting the inventive human spirit. Here is a look at some signs of the times.

* The global economic downturn has hit tourism and countries that rely on the industry are feeling the pinch. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has pledged to take a 15 percent pay cut as result of the hard economic times and urged parliamentarians to follow his lead. "Those who are leaders must lead by example," he said.

* The staggering U.S. economy is creating a flotilla of forsaken boats, according to The New York Times. A growing number of abandoned boats are the clogging the waters in states like Florida. Officials say many of the craft are paid for, but the owners can't sell them and can't afford mooring and maintenance costs. They also lack the money to dispose of them properly. One investigator says some people are trying to cash in by making their boats disappear and getting an insurance payment that more than covers the debt.

* When the going gets tough, some of the tough get going -- to the plastic surgeon's office, that is. The recession took a bite out of plastic surgery in 2008 with U.S. operations down 9 percent, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said. But there is rising interest in plastic surgery among people who want younger and "fresher" look for the competitive job market. "We're not having a good year and I know I'll soon have to interview," said Jeff Grabow, a music marketing executive in Los Angeles who spent $17,000 on a face-lift. "The surgery made sense for me. I look at least 10 to 15 years younger and I have more confidence."

* An offer of a year's supply of free milk at a new grocery store in the affluent town of Plano, Texas, near Dallas, drew a larger-than-expected crowd, according to the Dallas Morning News. The store offered vouchers to the first 100 shoppers who showed up at its grand opening, giving them a free gallon of milk a week for 52 weeks. The store opened its doors at 7 a.m., but people started lining up the night before, bundled up in blankets and sleeping bags. Cynthia Salinas, who spent the night outside the store, told the newspaper: "Hey, it's free milk for the year. The economy is bad, and milk is only going to go up."

* A Japanese precision-equipment manufacturer has cooked up a novel way of making use of its idled production lines and highly skilled staff -- baking cakes, according to the Sankei daily. An electronics parts maker based in the rural area of Shimane began baking tarts and cakes this February after orders fell because of the recession. The high cleanliness standard required for electronics work meant the company was able to get certification from the health bureau. The baked goods are on sale in local shops.

* A 60-year-old Taipei man who was unable to find a job came up with a different way to earn a living. Luo Mao-sheng, who has a foot injury from 20 years ago, built a coffee stand on his small cart similar to a motorized wheelchair. He brews and serves coffee from the cart on Taipei streets, moving around as police make him clear out for lack of permits. "If the economy wasn't so bad, I wouldn't have come up with this idea," said Luo.

* Growing numbers of Americans are getting government help to buy food. A record 32.2 million people -- one in 10 Americans -- received food stamps, according to official figures. Food stamps, the major U.S. anti-hunger program, help poor people buy groceries.

(Compiled by Will Dunham; Editing by Chris Wilson; Reporting by Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo, Sue Zeidler in Los Angeles, Horace Helps in Kingston, Ralph Jennings in Taipei, Ed Stoddard in Dallas, Charles Abbott, Xavier Briand and Jackie Frank in Washington)

 
<p>Orette Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica, addresses the 63rd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>