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    Sri Lanka and Taiwan Face Slower Economic Growth

    Kate Pound DawsonMegan Larson

    Sri Lanka has reported slower gross domestic product growth for the first three months of 2005 following December's tsunami, and Taiwan's economy also continues to move sluggishly.

    Sri Lanka's Central Bank says the country's economy grew at a slower rate of 4.8 percent in the first quarter of the year. That was the quarter following December's Indian Ocean tsunami, which in Sri Lanka killed 31,000 people and devastated long stretches of coastline. Growth was down from 6.4 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2004.

    The agriculture sector was hit particularly hard by the tsunami. Fishing revenue plummeted 77 percent, and plantation crops, including rubber, tea and coconut also suffered.

    Despite the slow start to the year, the bank expects total 2005 economic growth to be nearly even with 2004's 5.5 percent expansion.

    In Taiwan, an index of leading economic indicators rose eight-tenths of one percent in May following a drop of about one and a half percent in April. Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, which compiles the index, says the slight rise indicates the island's economy continues to shift to slower growth.

    Thomas Yeh, vice chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, says the high price of oil has contributed to weak exports and an overall softening of the economy. He says the government is taking steps to stimulate growth.

    "We need to take some action to boost the economy by increasing infrastructure investment. I think the second half of the year we will put all of our efforts to implement all kinds of the budget(s) and to boost domestic demand," Mr. Yeh says.

    Government plans to boost the economy include a $30 dollar investment in new construction, $6 billion in small-business loans and preferential mortgages for first-time homebuyers.

    McDonald's has some new competition in China. Burger King, another U.S. hamburger chain, has opened its first outlet in mainland China. In addition to its regular menu of burgers and French fries, the Shanghai Burger King also will offer burgers seasoned with a spicy sauce that is a specialty of southwestern China.

    However, Burger King has some catching up to do. McDonald's has more than six hundred restaurants in China, and has plans for more

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