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On the front of burner

[ 2011-02-24 09:02]     字号 [] [] []  
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On the front of burner

Reader's question:  

Global imbalances are back. Large and volatile capital flows, exchange rate pressures, rapidly growing excess reserves... all this is on the front burner once again. And I do believe that the left unresolved, these problems could even sow the seeds for the next crisis.

Could you explain "on the front of burner"?

My comments:

This phrase is created from the kitchen and is easier understood together with the more popular phrase of "back burner".

An efficient cook, you see, works with two or more burners at once. The burner that's currently being used (usually to its maximum capacity) is the front burner; others, on which small fires are needed, are called the back burners.

In stewing a pot of pork ribs, for instance, the cook turns on the fire to get the soup to boiling point, at which time he moves the pot to the back burner, underneath which he lights a small fire – to keep the soup stewing. And he leaves it there and goes on to prepare other dishes. An hour later, when everything's done with the front burner, the pork ribs on the back burner will also be done.

Hence the ideas of front burner and back burner. What you have on the back burner you don't have to mind for the time being.

What you have on the front burner, on the other hand, needs your constant and unwavering attention.

And so figuratively speaking, in the top example, when large and volatile capital flows, exchange rate pressures, rapidly growing excess reserves are all "on the front burner", it simply means that all of these issues demand immediate attention.

In other words, they must be dealt with now and cannot be put off for later.


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Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin(张欣) has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.