Monday, July 02, 2007

The Asian Financial Crisis - 10 Years On...

Remember 1997? Soros? Anwar? IMF? Well, it's been a decade.

To refresh your memory, from Wikipedia:

The East Asian Financial Crisis was a period of economic unrest that started in July 1997 in Thailand and South Korea with the financial collapse of Kia, and affected currencies, stock markets, and other asset prices in several Asian countries, many considered Four Asian Tigers. It is also commonly referred to as the East Asian currency crisis or locally as the IMF crisis although the latter is somewhat controversial. There is consensus on the existence of a crisis and its consequences, but what is less clear are the causes of the crisis, its scope and resolution. Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand were the countries most affected by the crisis. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Laos and the Philippines were also hit by the slump. Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam were relatively unaffected. Japan was not affected much by this crisis but was going through its own long-term economic difficulties. However, all nations mentioned above saw their currencies dip significantly relative to the US dollar, though the harder hit nations saw extended currency losses. Out of all the countries affected, South Korea was hit hardest.

Some news from Reuters:

Asia marks crisis with confidence and ambition
By Carmel Crimmins

MANILA (Reuters) - Asian countries put the humiliation of the 1997 financial crisis behind them on Monday, arguing they were in a better position to deal with the sort of meltdown that crippled the region a decade ago.

Regional economic chiefs warned against complacency but nevertheless struck a defiant note at a forum in Manila to mark the 10th anniversary of a crisis that saw currency and asset prices plummet, governments topple and millions fall into poverty as investors withdrew capital at lightning speed.

Taking a swipe against the powerful Western-dominated global lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, Thailand's finance minister called for Asia to take more control of its economic destiny by setting up a monetary fund to promote exchange rate stability.

Since the crisis, Asian central banks have built up trillions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves, much of which is invested in Western assets such as U.S. government debt, putting it in pole position to lead the international financial community, Chalongphob Sussangkarn said.

"It's important that we make sure that we do not become overconfident that a crisis can never happen," Chalongphob said.

But he added: "Looking ahead, we need to take responsibility. Asia now needs to be the one to manage the global financial system.

"We cannot let debtor nations manage the global financial system. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is more like a debtor monetary organisation, we need a creditor monetary organisation."

On July 2, 1997, Thailand gave up the fight to defend the baht after years of current account deficits and announced a managed float, triggering massive capital flight.

The contagion spread rapidly around the region and the erstwhile Asian "Tiger Economies" were forced to go cap in hand to the IMF, whose harsh prescriptions generated anti-Western sentiment and political turmoil.

The Beebs have a news on how Thailand recovers from the crisis.

Next 10-years-on events:

1. Princess Di's death.
2. Anwar's sacking.
3. KL Commonwealth Games.

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