From Beijing to Bangkok, vouchers force Asians to spend

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Taiwan is trying to spend its way out of the global recession with a $2.5 billion program that gives each of its 23 million residents a $108 voucher that must be spent by the end of the year.

In a society where people traditionally save money, the habit of keeping their bank accounts fat is hurting the economy and the government is trying to turn things around by giving people money to spend, according to a BusinessWeek story.

The vouchers sound like a great way to encourage spending. Who wouldn't want a free ticket to add to the economy?

The BusinessWeek story points out that cities in China are handing out coupons worth up to $30 for locals to spend in restaurants and hotels. Thailand is sending checks worth $58 to more than $10 million low-income workers, and Japan is giving $130 to $200 to every citizen -- $20 billion in all.

Japan's cash payments can be put in the bank or under the couch, but Taiwan's vouchers must be spent. Some retailers offer additional discounts to people paying with vouchers, offering another incentive to spend.

While it's only a short-term solution, a free meal, shirt or whatever else a voucher can buy is a good kickstart.

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