Y2K bug sinks Third World trade

Islamic calendar may be solution

Call it foresight or fundamentalism -- Iran has stored its Y2K problem for another 580 years by using the Islamic calendar in all its computer systems. Third world countries that think they are in the twentieth century are not so fortunate. They face a disastrous shortfall in customs duties next year, because their computer systems are not Y2K compliant. And they only have themselves to blame. Third World complacency could result in a collapse of customs operations at the end of the year, the United Nations warns. Forty of the seventy-five developing countries that use United Nations- built software for processing trade, have a high risk of "succumbing" to the Millennium Bug. Even if their customs software is compliant, their hardware may be unable to cope with the date change Unctad, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, reckons the price for installing Y2K-compliant hardware and operating systems in the 60 countries that need it is -- $11 million. Which seems a piffling amount to head off a crisis in Third World trade. ® Surcharge imposed on Y2K hoarders

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