March 29, 2004

The Asian Financial Crisis in Retrospect: What Happened? What Can We Conclude?

This memorandum provides an overview of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. It reviews its evolution, causes, and consequences and examines the reaction by (inter)national policymakers.

Macroeconomic indicators were deteriorating before the crisis, but it is debatable whether that alone can explain the severity and spread of the crisis. One group of observers have argued that the root of the crisis lies in fundamental economic weaknesses; others have claimed that East Asia fell prey to a sudden shift in investor confidence.

The effects of the Asian crisis have not been limited to East Asia: the crisis has had farreaching consequences, particularly for some other emerging market economies. The advanced economies and China, in contrast, have weathered the crisis quite well. While the IMF has been criticised for its heavy-handed and intrusive response, recovery was fairly rapid in most cases. Yet, although the most-heavily affected countries have made progress with financial and corporate reforms, much remains to be done before this process is complete. Like the crises that preceded and followed the Asian financial crisis, the events in Asia demonstrate the need to strengthen the international financial architecture. Download PDF-file (302 Kbytes)


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