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BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand’s influential astrologers say their crystal balls and tarot cards confirm what financial analysts have learned from spreadsheets and graphs — the economy is in for a tough time in 2001. Hopes that Thailand could shake off the legacy of the 1997 economic crisis in the New Year will be dashed, as the forces of nature forecast the country will slip towards recession, according to the soothsayers. “The economic situation from January until mid-year 2001 will not improve. It will remain in a downturn,” prominent astrologer Kengkaj Jongjaipra says. Jupiter, the star representing the United States, indicates that the US will experience economic problems early in 2001, “which will hurt Thailand, since our economy depends largely on the situation in the US,” he said. The United States absorbs roughly 20 percent of Thailand’s total exports, and more than 50 percent of exports of electronic components. “But after the middle of next year, the economy may pick up again, since the orbit of Jupiter will change, so the situation in the US may change and Thailand’s economy might do better,” Kengkaj said. Umawati Siriaksan, another famous Thai astrologer, made an even gloomier assessment. “I read five tarot cards and together they told me that the economic situation in Thailand will be seriously troubled for 2001, and perhaps for as long as five years,” Umawati said. However, the astrologers disagreed on whether politicians would be able to overcome the weight of fate and resuscitate Thailand’s sluggish economy, which slowed alarmingly towards the end of 2000. Both parties have devised schemes for reviving the economy, which is in danger of being suffocated by massive non-performing loans in the banking sector, an anemic stock market, and low rates of foreign investment. “I don’t think any of the candidates in the election can change what is already fated for the economy,” Umawati said. “Everybody says they can change the economy, but they’re just dreaming … I don’t think any of them can do it.” However, Kengkaj said the stars favour plans set out by Thai Rak Thai, which is also tipped for victory in the opinion polls. “The economy depends on which parties form the new government, and Thai Rak Thai’s ideas for economic administration will be better than those of the democrats,” he said.