Asian Financial Crisis (1997-98)

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AsianFinancial Crisis (1997-98)

TheAsian financialcrisisdefinesthefinancialcrisisthat grippedtheEast Asia startingtheJuly of 1997. Thecrisisbeganin Thailand after theeconomiccollapsethecountry’scurrency,after thelackof foreigncurrencyto supporttheexchangerate.Thisforcedthegovernmentto floatthecurrency,a movethat triggered a financialandeconomiccollapsethat spreadto neighboringcountries,among them, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Philippines. Thecollapseledto a precipitouscontractionof GDP among theEast Asian economies,bankrupting companiesafter theoverexposure to foreigncurrencyrisks.ThecrisisultimatelynecessitatedtheIMF-led bailouts by theworsthiteconomies.Theprogressionof thecrisisledto its spill over to European andAmerican countries,owingto effectsof financialcontagion(Khatkhate 963). TheAsian financialcrisiswasa confluenceof variousconditionsthat ledto financialandeconomicturbulencethat greatlymagnifiedits devastatingimpacts.Central to a lucidunderstandingof therootsof theAsian conflictis themultifaceted evidenceof thestructuresof incentivesthatthefinancialsectorsandbusinessesin theregionoperated.Initialwarningsof thecrisisweresoundedby themounting pressureof theThailand exchangeratetowardstheendof 1996. However,thefirstspeculativeattackof theAsian financialDebacle tookplaceat thefirstquarterof 1997 (Khatkhate 963).

Amongthefactorsthat ledto thespeculativeattackon theThai baht includethehighandrisingdeficitsof thecurrentaccounts,thepursuitof thefixedexchangerateparityandthebursting of theasset pricebubble.Like manyeconomiesin theregion,Thailand hadan exchangeratethat waspeggedto theUS dollar.Assuch,thedollarprovidedan anchorforthecountryfirstnon-inflationary monetarypolicies.However,thelargecurrentaccountdeficitwasnot a newphenomenonin thecountry.Its re-occurrence in 1996, coupledwith theincreasedexportgrowthrateopeneda doorforhugearbitrage profitsfrom thespeculationof thecurrency.Thisspilledover to otherAsian countries,culminatingin theinfamousAsian financialcrisisof 1997(Hunter, George &amp Thomas 23). Thispaperexemplifiesthecausesof theAsian financialcrisesof 1997. Additionally, thepaperwill outlinethevariousimpactsof thecriseson Asian economies.

Causesof theAsian Financial conflict

TheAsian financialcrisisbegandue to themounting pressuresof theThailand exchangeratein thelastquarterof 1996. Thesemounting pressuresarosefrom theincreaseof thealreadyhighcurrentaccountdeficitsthat engulfedthecountryat thetime.Additionally, there wasthebursting of theof theasset pricein thecountryandthepursuitof a fixedexchangeratein thecountrythat aggravatedthesituation.Additionally, thecurrencyexperienceda hugeparitywith thedollar,thecurrencythatitwaspegged,leadingto hugespeculationsabout thecurrency,resultingin hugearbitrage profits.Thai authoritiestriedto fendoff thecrisisbefore itcould spillover to othercountries.Theofficialsemployedthespotandforwardexchangeratesinterventions,buttheshortageliquidity wasnot resolvedhencethesuccesswasephemeral(Jao 45). Fewmonthslaterduring, between May andJuly, theThailand foreignexchangewasstruckby a secondspeculativeattackoverwhelmingtheearlierinstitutedmeasuresto solvethecrisis.Theeffectsof thespeculativeattackspreadto othercountriessuchas Indonesian, Malaysia, Korea, Philippines, SingaporeandHong Kong thoughthefinancialcontagioneffects.Conversely, thecurrenciesof thesestatesplummetedas comparedto thedollar(Jao47).

Thereexistcontroversieson themaincausesof theAsian conflict,with someanalystarguingthatthecrisiswascausedby themacroeconomic factors.Others arguethatit wasthestructuralweaknessesof Eastern Asia economiesthat predisposedtheEast Asian economiesto theAsian Economic crisis.However,theunderlying proximate causesof thecrisisdifferwith eachcountry,with largestportionof theblamebeingdished out to thegreedof theinternationalspeculators(Radelet et al. 2). Theheavy-handedUS to opentheAsian marketto tradewith theUS, theill-timeddevaluation of theChinese yenandtheJapanese failureto gettheir financialhousein order.Accordingto theWorld Economic Outlook, there werefour setsof factorsthat explaintheEast Asian financialcrisis.Theseincludethesuccessof theseeconomiespriorto thecrisis,factorswithin theinternationalfinancialenvironment,thegrowingcurrentaccountsdeficitsandthestructuralweaknessesof thefinancialsectorswithin theseeconomies(Khatkhate 964).

Priorto thecrisis,theEast Asian countriesenjoyedincreasedgrowththrough increasedsavingsandinvestmentsby theprivatesector.Thoughtheratesof privatedomesticsavingswereslowlyrising,theyweresurpassedby theincreasedhugely increasedratesofprivatedomesticinvestmentsthat werefurthersupportedby thehugeforeigncapitalinflow. Thiscreateda currentaccountdeficit,wheretherateof domesticinvestmentssurpassedtheratesof domesticsavings(Radelet et al. 2). However,thecurrentaccountsdeficitswerein theprivatesectorbutnot in thepublicsector.Thecapitalinflow ledto theproblemof deployingthem in themostefficientsector,as wellas thediscreetintermediation through thefinancialsystemwhichwerenot fullydevelopedin theseeconomies.Thiswasexacerbatedby theshort-term capitalflow,which would be reversedat theslightestlikelihoodof troubleswithin themacroeconomic sector,inappropriatepoliciesgoverningtheexchangerateorinconsistenciesorthevulnerability of thefinancialsector.Thiswasthecaseduring the1997 crisistheinvestors reversedtheir shortercapitalflows,followingthecollapseof theThai baht, which signaleda possibilityof a financialcrisis,therebyworsening thesituation(Khatkhate 963).

Thesecondsetof factorsthat propelledthecrisiswererooted in theinternationalenvironment,countrieswithin theregionhadexperiencedweakeconomicperformancesin thefirsthalfof 1990s. Theweakeconomynecessitatedlowreturnson assets andlow-interest rates,makinginvestors turnto thelucrativeeconomiesin searchof higherreturnson their investments.Themovementof fundscreatesa naturaltendencyto reversesuchinvestmentsin caseprospectsof returnsprovelowthan expected((Hunter, George &amp Thomas 75). Thiswasthecaseprecedingthe1997 Asian financialcrisis,with therisein short-term interestsin theUS, thesustaineddevelopmentof theUS dollarandthecontinuationof growthin Japan andEurope. Thisledto theerosionof exportcompetitiveness of theAsian region.Thereducedexportcompetitiveness ledto foreignexchangeinequalities,leadingto theAsian Financial crisisin 1997 (Khatkhate 964).

Additionally,thefinancial crisiswasheraldedby thecurrentaccountdeficitsandhigherinflationratesthantheneighboringcountries,which ledto highpricesof assets. Economiessuchas theKorean, thequasi-fiscal andextra-budgetary operationshidtherealeconomicsituation,makingthetruefiscaldeficitappeartightthan itwason thesurface.In addition,thecreditto theprivatesectorhadbeenacceleratedbetween 1992 and1995, adverselyaffectingmostof theEast Asian economies(Radelet et al. 3). Thesituationwasmoretroublesomein economieswheretheincreasedcreditinghadbeenfinancedby thebanksthat wereincurringforeignexchangeliabilities.Further,themajorityof East Asian economieswerecrippledbyvariousstructuralweaknessesandfinancialsectorweaknesses,which mademoresusceptibleto theadversedevelopmentsin theinternationaleconomicenvironment(Khatkhate 964). Thestructuralweaknessesandtheweaknessesof thefinancialsectorallowedthecorporate sectorborrowhugeamountscreditsloweringthevalueof investments,exposingtheseeconomiesto adverseeconomicdevelopments.Thesestructuralweaknessesin thefinancialsectorincludedtheuseofpoliticalratherthan economiccriteriainallocatingloansandotherresourcesin Thailand andIndonesia. Further,theover-expansion of themanufacturingcapacityas wellas theover-reliance on thethinprofitmarginsin economiessuchas SouthKorea contributedto theseverityof thecrisis.Countriessuchas Malaysia andIndonesia lackedefficientfinancialstructuresto supervisefinancialsystemsandinstitutionsandallowingmega projectsto be valuedat above-market prices(Radelet et al. 6)

However,thesetheoriesdonot givea preciseexplanationof theimmediatecauseof theAsian conflictof 1997. An in-depth scrutinyof theAsian economiesrevealsthattheseeconomieshadsteeredthrough thesefactorsformorethan ten years.Iftheseweretheimmediatecausesof thecrisis,itwould havestruckearlierthan 1997. Accordingto Bridges (1999, p 458), theincreasedforeignover-borrowing by individuals,corporate andthecommercialbankson a short-term basis,wastheprincipalfactorthat heraldedtheAsian financialcrisisof 1997. Theincreasedborrowingon a short-term basismadethecommercialbanksof theregionsiton hugeamountsof nonperforming loans,leadingto thecrisis.Theimmediatecausesof theconflictvariedfrom stateto state.In Thailand, theimmediatecausesof theAsian crisiswerethedevaluation of theThai baht andtheincreasedburdensof theforeigndebt.Thesesurpassedthelevels heldby thecountryas foreignreserves.Despite theincreasedlossof valueof theThai baht, theThailand Government refusedto devaluethecurrencyleadingto increaseduncertaintiesamong theinvestors. Additionally,thestockmarketdroppedby morethan seventy-five percent (Bridges 459). Theincreaseduncertaintiesamong investors markedthestartof thecrisisin Thailand, as investors reversedtheir investmentsto investin otherlucrativeeconomies.Thefinancialcrisisof South East Asia andJapan washeraldedby theslumping of thenationalcurrencies,devaluation of thestockmarketandthesteepriseof theprivatedebt(Jao 67). TheJapanese governmenthadallowedan increasein thenumberoffinancialinstitutionsthat wereengagedin foreigncurrency,includingthecommercialandmerchants’banks.TheseMerchant banksborrowedshort-term Japanese fundsfrom Hong Kong to financelong-term investmentprojects.On theotherhand,thecommercialbanksborrowedmoreforeignfundsto competewith theincreasedinvestmentsby themerchants’bank.At theendof 1997, Japan hadmarshaledmorethan 63.8 billion US dollarin theformof short-term externaldebts.Thissurpassedthe9.1 billion US dollarsthatthecountryheldas foreignreserves(Hunter, George &amp Thomas 127). Thesituationincreasedfinancialrisks,promptingtheforeigninvestors to pullout their resourcesandinvestin morelucrativeeconomies,predisposingthecountryto thefinancialcrisis.InIndonesia, thecrisiswasheraldedby thefloating of theadoptionof thefreefloatingforeignexchangesystem,which madethevalueof thenationalcurrency,therupiah, to dropto unprecedentedvalues(Miller et al. 47).

ThoughthecrisisaffectedalmostallEast Asian countries,itwasKorea andIndonesia that facedthebrunt of thecrisis.Philippines andMalaysia floatedtheir currencieswith Malaysia suspendingmajorityof its runningmega projectsto cutexpenditureandreduceimportstoaccommodatethem within theavailableforeignresources(Berg 6). Malaysian bank,thoughfacingsimilarproblemsas theThailand bankingsystemhadbetterandmoreprudentbankingcontrolstrategies,thuswasableto minimizetheadversitiesof thecrisisin theeconomy.On its part,Philippines hadrestructured its bankingsystemduring themid-1980s financialcrisishencewasunscathedby theAsian Financial crisis.Additionally, thecorporate andfinancialsectorof Philippines wasrelativelyhealthy,andthecountryhada relativelyhighandrisingrateof theexchangerate.Thesefactorsprovedaptin reducingtheadversitiesof thecrisisin thecountry(Radeletet al. 6).

KoreaandIndonesia are thetwo maincountriesthat weredevastatedby theAsian financialcrisismainlydue to their weakbankingsystems.Thecrisiscontributedto thedeclinein thevalueof their currencyas comparedto thedollar.Thedeclineof thecurrenciesledto lossesin thefinancialandcorporate sectors,with lendersandborrowers makingoperatinglosses(Berg 9). Forinstance,theKorean bankalreadyhadhighproportionsof non-performing assets heldas collaterals,accountingformorethan ten percent of totalbankcredit.Theratioof non-performing assets to thetotalbankcreditincreasedas corporate increasedtheir liabilitiesto theforeignersin termsof domesticcurrency,resultingin thedepreciationof thedomesticcurrency.Theeffectsof thecrisisweremoredevastatingin Indonesia due to thepoliticaluncertainties,heraldedby themanagementof theeconomyusingpoliticalratherthan economicpoliciesby theSuharto regime(Haggard 63).

Resolvingtheconflict

TheAsian financialconflictof 1997 caughtallandsundryunawareandhadsevereandpervasive impactsontheinternationaleconomy.Theturmoilspreadunexpectedlyto Europe, buttheinternationalcommunitystillviewedthecrisisas a distancefirethat requiredlocalresolutionmeasures.ItwastheSouth Korean crisison theNovember of 1997 that promptedtheinternationalcommunityto takean internationalcooperationstrategyto endthecrisis.Evenwith thenoteworthysocio-economic disordersin Indonesia, theinternationalcommunitywasnot fullyconvincedthatthecrisisrequiredinternationalassistance(Haggard 56). TheEU commissionarguedthatthere wasnoneedforglobal interventionby theEU since thecrisiswould onlyhavea minimalimpacton thegrowthof theEuropean economies.However,as thecrisisunfolded,there increasedwaysin which thecrisiswasaffectingEurope, andtheEuropean businessdealings with theEast Asian region,promptinginternationalaction.In fact,itwasfour of theG-7 membersthat offeredhelpto Korea to raiseitfrom theeconomiccrisisaheadoftheUS andJapan. Thissignaledthestartof internationalcooperation,which wasledby theIMF, aimedat riddingtheAsian Pacific regionof thecrisis(Bridges 458).

Thailand,Indonesia andlaterSouth Korea turnedto IMF andotherfinancialinstitutionsforfinancialassistanceto cushion them from thecrisis.In response,theIMF assignedprimaryresponsibilityto theEast Asian capitalismandespeciallythefinancialmarkets.Among thestepstakenby theIMF wasoverhaulingthefinancialsystemsof thehardest hiteconomies,Korea, Indonesia, andThailand. Thediagnosticmeasureswerepeggedon theideathattheEast Asian economieshadexposedthemselves to thisfinancialchaos.Amongthem includedtheweakcorporate governance, corruption,andinsider dealings, which ledto inefficienciesinvestmentsthat destabilized thebankingsystemsof respectivecountries.TheIMF adoptedstrategiesthat aimedat restoringtheconfidenceof thebankingsystem,alltailored to tackletheparticularchallengesof eachcountry(Khatkhate966).

TheIMF supportedvariousfinancialprogramswhichweremeantto counter thecrisisdirectly,among them financingthevariouscountriesthat hadbeendevastatedby thecrisis.TheIMF remittedan impressivethirty-six billion dollarsforIndonesia, fifty-eight billion dollarsforKorea andseventeen billion dollarsforThailand. Bytheendof thecrisis,theIMF hadutilizedmorethan a hundred andtwenty US Dollars in a bidto indemnifytheworstcountriesbackto their financialpositionpriorto thecrisis(Haggard77).In additionto thesefinancialprograms,theIMF tookconcertedactionsat differentstagesof theafter thestartof thefinancialprogramsto curbthecapitaloutflows.However,thesefinancialaidscould not matchtheextensiveprivatecapitalflowsof respectivecountriesandthemoneywasnot readilyavailabletocounter themarketpressures.Thesefinancialprogramswereissuedin cooperationwith theUS, theEU, andtheEast Asian countries,as a firstresortto theworsthiteconomies.Thesefundswerepeggedon theideathatfollowingappropriatepolicies,thefundwould helptheborrowingcountryto turnbacktofinancialindependencethoughat a reducedpace.Thiswouldin turnattracttheprivateinvestors to reassess risksinvolvedin investingin thesecountries,andinvestupon realizingthatinvestingwaslessriskyandmoreprofitable.Thus,thefinancialprogramsweredesignedto eliminatetheprimarycauseof thecrisisthat hadmadetheinvestors reversetheir investmentsandinvestin otherpresumablymoreprofitableeconomies(Khatkhate966).

TheIMF promptedtheaffectedcountriesto adoptstringentmonetarypoliciesthat would resistthemassivedepreciationof respectivecurrencies.Thedamaging consequencesof themonetarypolicieswerenotdirectedto thedomesticinflationbutalsoto thebalancesheetsof thedomesticnonfinancialenterprises andfinancialcorporationswith hugeexposureto theforeigncurrency.Themonetarypoliciesweremeantto resolvethefundamentalpolicyweakness,therebyrestoringconfidenceinthefinancialmarket.Thesestrategiesprovedaptin loweringtheratesof interestsleadingto increasedinvestments,since thecrisisthecenterof thecrisiswastheshrinkageof investmentandconsumption.Eachcountryaffectedby thecrisiswassupposedto evaluatetheextentat which its financialsectorwassubjectedto excess capacitiesbefore thecrisis.Thepracticewasto be carriedin collaboration withtheIMF andmakeappropriatechangesthat would restoretheeconomyto similarconditionspriorto thecrisis(Khatkhate 966). Followingthereevaluation, Indonesia andKorea werecompelledtofirmlyholdtheir fiscalpolicies,whereas,Thai tightened itsfiscalpolicyto reversetheincreaseddeficitsin theyearprecedingthecrisis.Further,thesecountrieswerecompelledmakenecessarychangesto their monetarypoliciesto preventthefuturecollapseof their economies,therebypreventinga futurefinancialcrisis.TheIMF encouragedcountriesto increasetheinterestratestodiscouragethespeculationof currencieswhichhadledto arbitrage profitsthat heraldedthecrisis.Further,theexchangeratewould curbtheincreasingdepreciationof thecurrency,stabilizetheexchangerateandultimatelycontainthehugeinflationthat grippedEastAsian Economies (Mera &amp Bertrand 59).

Countrieswhosefinancialcrisisarosefrom publicsectordeficitwereforcedto designpoliciesthat would streamline onlythepublicsector.Among theproposedstrategiesincludedretrenchingthepublicsectorexpenditurethrough suchmeansas abandoningsomemega projects.Additionally, theseeconomieswerecompelledto consolidatetheir fiscalpoliciesandincreasetheir interestrates.Thesecountrieswerecompelledto takeappropriatestructuralmeasures,among them weeding out theweakestbanksas wellas restructuring thesalvageable banksto makethem moreresilientto withstandfuturefinancialcrises.Theaffectedcountrieswerecompelledto revamptheircorporatestructureandimprovetheprudential controlsof allsectorsinadditiontoremovingtheresiduepricecontrol(Muchhala 16).

Korea,Indonesia, andThailand werecompelledto undertakevariousstructuralreformstoalleviatethesocialconsequencesheraldedby thecrisis.Otherstructuralreformswereintendedto addressthesignificantweaknessesin thecorporate andfinancialsectorsthat hadledto the1997 financialcrisis(Mera &amp Bertrand 66). Thesemacroeconomic projectionswerepredicatedon theperceptionthatconfidencein theprogramwould be restoredtroughpresentinga convincingpolicyframeworkwith adequatefinancialpackages,assumingthatthegrowthwould be slowbutremainpositive.Assuch,theIMF didnot foreseethelikelihoodof a recessionowingto theimplementedpolicies.Asa result,Thailand GDP droppedby six percent in 1998, Koreas by seven percent andIndonesia by fourteen percent (Miller et al. 77).

Despitetheimplementation of theestablishedcontrolmeasures,thecrisisprogressedunabated in Both Korea andThailand, with thefinancialandcorporate sectorscascading into insolvencychallengeswith everyfallof their currencies.Thispromptedthesetwo economiesto negotiatewith theprivatecreditorsamong them thecommercialbanksto offershort-term creditextendingfora periodof three months,endingon theMarch of 1998. Thecreditwasfurtherconvertedinto a medium-term bondandprovedaptin taming thecrisis.In Indonesia, thecurrencywastameddifferently,owingto thebackingof theeconomyon localcurrencyas wellas on theUS andEU currency.TheSuharto regimefloatedall thecurrenciesconsequently solvingthefinancialcrisis(Muchhala 29).

Thecountriesworsthitby thecrisissuchas Korea andThailand appreciatedthebailout packagesbutresentedtheapparentinfluenceof theUDS on their economies.Theon its part,China denouncedtheseUS interventionmeasuresarguingthattheUS wasusingthecrisisto advanceitseconomicandpoliticalideologiesin theEast Asian region.Otherthan acceptingtheIMF-led recommendations,China eased theexportcreditsby encouragingthecommercialbanksto makeloansto theexport-oriented companiesto increasethelevels of export.Theincreasedlevels of exports helpedin normalizing tradedeficits.Additionally, thecountrymadereformsin thefinancialsector,leadingto thedevelopmentof thebondmarket.Otherstrategiesincludedthecorporate hedging strategiessuchas theforwardswaps andotherderivativeinstruments(Mera &amp Bertrand 66).

Conclusion

Fromtheaforestated, theAsian financialconflictwasthefinancialcrisisthat grippedAsian economiesfrom 1997, affectingcountriessuchas Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines among others. Thecrisiswassignaledby thecollapseof theThailand baht, owingto theincreasedcurrentaccountsdeficitsandtheincreasedburdenof theforeigndebt,as financialinstitutionsandindividualsborrowedmoreforeignrevenuesthan theforeignreservewould support.Mostof theseloanswereshort-term, hencewould easilytransferto lucrativeeconomiesat theslightesthintof economicslumping. In Southeast Asia andJapan, thecrisiswasheraldedby theincreasednumberof commercialandmerchantbankswhichcompetedin borrowingforeigncurrencies,leadingto a steeprisein theprivatedebt.Additionally there wastheslumping of thecurrenciesof respectivecurrenciesandthedevaluation of thestockmarket.Thecrisishadincreaseddevastatingimpactsnot onlyon theAsian economiesbutalsoin theEU andtheUS, compelling internationalcooperationin resolvingthepredicament.Theresolutionstrategieswereledby theIMF in collaboration with theUS andtheEU andaimedat combatingthecausative agentsthat hadledto thecrisis.Assuch,theresolutionstrategieswerecustommadeaccordingto theneedsof eachcountry.TheIMF-led resolutionmeasuresstartedin theformo financialaidto countriessuchas Thailand, South Korea, andlaterIndonesia. Amongtherequirementsforthefinancialassistanceincludedoverhaulingthefinancialsystemsof theworsthiteconomiesandtakingappropriatemeasuresto increasetheresiliency of thesalvageable banks.Additionally, theworsthiteconomieswerecompelledto takeappropriatemonetaryandfiscalpoliciesto avoidthere-occurrence of thefinancialcrisis,among them increasingtheratesof interests.Theincreasedinterestrateswould reducefinancialspeculationthat hadcontributedto arbitrage profitsover thecurrencyleadingto thecrisis.Theincreasedinterestrateswould be aptin curbingtheincreaseddepreciationof currenciesin theregion,stabilizetherateof exchangeandcontaintheincreasedrateof inflation.Somecountriessuchas Korea andThailand combinedtheIMF-led policieswith internalpoliciessuchas compellingthecommercialbanksto extendshort-term loansin formmediumtermbondto attractforeigninvestors. Chinacompelledthecommercialbanksto extendcreditstheexport-oriented industriestherebystabilizingtradedeficits.Acombinationof thesestrategiesprovedaptin theendingtheAsian crisisin thelastquarterof 1997.

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