Good Trade in Bad Times for Fortune Tellers
Virkven Sargu's phone has been ringing all afternoon as anxious Singaporeans ask him to forecast when the city state's recession will end.But with a vermilion caste mark on his forehead and head-to-toe robes in white, Sargu isn't an economist or a banker —— and his predictions aren't limited to the markets.He's a fortune-teller or, as he likes to put it, an astropalmist.
Business has been booming in recent months, with more and more people seeking his words of wisdom as they struggle with an economic downturn that the government says will leave as many as 25,000 workers out of a job by the end of this year.
“Nowadays in Singapore, so many people are worried about the economy. It was like this when the economy became sick five or so years ago,”Sargu said at his office and home in the city's Little India district, stroking a long, white beard that belies his 44 years.“They're very confused these days and I just try to tell them what to expect,”he said.Bad times have been good to Sargu, even if he's a bit hazy on the numbers.“Sometimes three appointments in an afternoon，Sometimes 10 or more appointments.”Sargu is not the only fortune-teller in Singapore to see people queuing for more arcane ways of predicting their prospects after fund managers may have failed them.
Demand is stronger in other Asian countries as well.A recent report by Thai Farmers Research showed Bangkok residents lining up to consult fortune-tellers, with nearly 81 percent of those polled saying they have visited one. The average was two readings a year since the Asian financial crisis began in 1997.