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The "Tom Yam" effect (Currency turmoil currently occurring in most parts of Asia) is very much worst than the “Tequila effect" happened in Mexico in 1993/4 and may spread like a virus to other continents as well. Dow Jones did had a choke when the attack on the Hong Kong currency began, the war is brutal - both offensive and defensively.

How is it affecting photographers like us ?

Basically, anything that is not made in South East Asia will be affected. Generally, majority of Asia and the rest of the world could be affected as well. Worst hit was the exporting countries on photographic equipment: why ?

Asia, in particular South East Asia and the northern Asian countries are one of the "engine rooms" in world economy, it has been enjoying tremendous economic success close to a decade.

My country, Malaysia has been enjoying an average of 8% GNP growth since 1988. The exchange rate was all the while being stabilized at around US$1-00 to RM2.50 until early July 1997. Today, it stands at US$1-00 to RM3.60 - a whopping 40% down !

Countries that went for financial aids from IMF (International Monetary Funds - primarily US backed) were Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and the latest being South Korea (This is a surprised one!).

I am not going to illustrate more on this subject (Though it is not a very nice feeling to realize your purchasing power is shrinking...). As a photographer, this mean from the basic essentials like films, photographic papers, emulsion etc.. to photographic equipment like cameras, lenses, accessories etc. - ALL those things (and raw materials) that are not made locally will experienced a huge and drastic price-hike!

Spared those manufacturers that have relocated their manufacturing plants to South East Asia. (Nikon has their optical manufacturing plant in Thailand, that's where your standard and selective zoom lenses are came from, Canon and Minolta have some manual and AF bodies made in Malaysia, so do some top notch compact bodies of different brands, Nikon has their FM2 made in South Korea).

Whereas, Malaysia, Singapore have always maintaining within the world's top 15 photographic equipment importers (Not thoroughly for local consumption, countries in South East Asia has always been hot spot for tourists).

All the years, we have been enjoying these kind of "benefits". To give you a rough indication, a 36 exposures Kodak 100 was retailed at RM6.50 while Hong Kong is retailed at HK$30 (A visit last week by a friend), that is equivalent to RM14.35 (RM1.00 to HK$2.09). Prices now after the hike is around RM8.00 locally (This is strange...though I expect after Chinese New Year there will be further "adjustment"..).

IF you want some advises from me:

For Locals and those residence in SEA: Fill your essential lens/camera pouch in your camera bag before end of this year of 1997 - those hardware of which you think can't live without in the next few years; build a mini stockpile of films (Domestic version - but not professional films) for a year and keep in your refrigerator); sell your spare cameras or collection of collectibles when currency rate is “favorable”; look only at used market for a temporarily model to bridge through this period.

For photographers in US and the continental Europe:
Utilize your appreciation of the value of your currencies to
BUY whatever you need from made-in-Asia - while it is still there !

I am not being pessimistic. But the depreciation of the major currencies in Asia will made Asian's output even more competitive in the international markets - and this will slowly developing into some pressure for developed countries and I am sure they will react later to equalizes The only logical path (Take note: most politicians and policy makers are not economists and might not buy the idea of smart healthy global trade) is "shortcuts " (Sorry Microsoft...) after they reached their objective of forcing some identified specific markets in the East to open up. The total reduction of the purchasing power in the region will have a long lasting effect and will definitely causing some sluggish growth in consumable worldwide (Except US) - Asian still leads in optical products output.

: Recent development and financial reforms in Japan may lead to the floodgate open, hope the Japanese knows there is a big trap in the Dow Jones Index. If they never realize that, it is not surprising to see the DJ to break the 10,000 marks and the follow throughout effect may even break 11,000.

Well, one of the Asian many good values is we always "save some while you made" (Malaysian saving rate is 37%). Photography is, for the majority of all of us, a medium occasionally, stimulate and exercising the right side of our brains. When times where it matters most and need to be sensible a little - tighten the waist belt and just have to say sorry to Kodak, Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Minolta etc...for a while.

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