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East Asian Crisis

East Asian Crisis

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Published by: Gurpreet Singh GarEy on Dec 27, 2010
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05/12/2014

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East Asian Crisis
The
Asian Financial Crisis
or East Asian Crisis was a period of financialcrisis that gripped much of Asia beginning in July 1997, and raised fears of aworldwide economic meltdown due to financial contagion.The crisis started in Thailand with the financial collapse of the Thai baht caused bythe decision of the Thai government to float the baht, cutting its peg to the USD,after exhaustive efforts to support it in the face of a severe financial over extensionthat was in part real estate driven. At the time, Thailand had acquired a burdenof foreign debt that made the country effectively bankrupt even before the collapseof its currency. As the crisis spread, most of Southeast Asia and Japan sawslumping currencies, devalued stock markets and other asset prices, and a precipitous rise in private debt.Though there has been general agreement on the existence of a crisis and itsconsequences, what is less clear are the causes of the crisis, as well as its scope andresolution.
Two factors that were identified as villain of the piece were veryhigh current account deficit, financed by capital inflow and the problem of crony capitalism, meaning reckless bank loans to friends and relatives of themen in power.
High current account deficit triggered the change in belief thatthese economies were not as sound as it was thought to be.
Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand were the countries most affected by thecrisis. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Laos and the Philippines
 
were also hurt by theslump.
China, India, Taiwan, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam were less affected,although all suffered from a loss of demand and confidence throughout the region.
Foreign debt-to-GDP ratios rose from 100% to 167%
in the four large ASEAN economies in 1993±96, then shot up beyond 180% during the worst
 
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of the crisis. In South Korea, the ratios rose from 13 to 21% and then as high as40%, while the other northern newly industrialized countries fared much better.Only in Thailand and South Korea did debt service-to-exports ratios rise.Although most of the governments of Asia had seemingly sound fiscal policies,the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in to initiate a $40 billion programto stabilize the currencies of South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia, economies particularly hard hit by the crisis. The efforts to stem a global economic crisis didlittle to stabilize the domestic situation in Indonesia, however.
After 30 years inpower, President Suharto was forced to step down
on 21 May 1998 in the wakeof widespread rioting that followed sharp price increases caused by a drasticdevaluation of the rupiah. The effects of the crisis lingered through 1998. In thePhilippines growth dropped to virtually zero in 1998. Only Singapore and Taiwan proved relatively insulated from the shock, but both suffered serious hits in passing, the former more so due to its size and geographical location betweenMalaysia and Indonesia. By 1999, however, analysts saw signs that the economiesof Asia were beginning to recover 
International investment
 In 1996 international investors poured perhaps $100 billion into East Asia. EastAsian economies were the darlings of the world capital market: it seemed as if everyone who wanted to lay claim to any financial sophistication was diversifyinginto these fast-growing economies. In 1998 and 1999 these countries would belucky if the balance of capital flows is zero: if money flowing into East Asia fromthe world economy's industrial core matches money flowing out of it. Now things could be worse. Among the countries hit by crisis, South Korean andThai economies appear to be relatively stable, with low inflation rates, interest
 
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rates at normal levels, and good prospects for renewed growth in the near future:the low level to which their exchange rates have been pushed by the crisis makestheir exports extremely competitive on the world market. But things could be better: the Indonesian and Malaysian economies and polities remain unstable, to put it politely. The crisis has developed a second epicenter as reform in Russia begins a downward spiral. And investors all over the globe are fleeing from "risky"assets--
driving the interest rates on assets like U.S. Treasury bonds
way down, but
diminishing business access to capital, bankrupting the stray highly-leveraged hedge fund, and placing economic growth in countries like Brazil
atgrave risk.
In East Asia the sudden shift in international capital flow means that $100billion a year that had financed investment in East Asia will no longer bethere
. That $100 billion had financed the employment of 20 million peopleworking in investment industries, who dug sewer lines, built roads, erected buildings, and installed machines as both domestic and foreign investors bet thatthere was lots of money to be made in East Asia's industrial revolution. Now that$100 billion a year is gone. And with it the jobs of those 20 million people will gotoo. They will have to find new jobs. As their jobs vanish, while they search for new jobs, and even after they find new jobs they will be very annoyed: we will see just how stable and "harmonious" East Asian political systems truly are.
Financial collapse
 But this sudden shift in investment flows has more important consequences thanthe forthcoming economic migration of 20 million East Asian workers out of investment industries.
In order to pay for the investments they had undertaken,international investors traded dollars for local currencies: baht, ringgit,

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