Asia’s revenge

“Things that can’t go on forever, don’t.” – Herbert Stein, former chairman of the US presidential Council of Economic Advisers

What confronts the world can be seen as the latest in a succession of financial crises that have struck periodically over the last 30 years. The current financial turmoil in the US and Europe affects economies that account for at least half of world output, making this upheaval more significant than all the others. Yet it is also depressingly similar, both in its origins and its results, to earlier shocks.

To trace the parallels – and help in understanding how the present pressing problems can be addressed – one needs to look back to the late 1970s. Petrodollars, the foreign exchange earned by oil exporting countries amid sharp jumps in the crude price, were recycled via western banks to less wealthy emerging economies, principally in Latin America.

This resulted in the first of the big crises of modern times, when Mexico’s 1982 announcement of its inability to service its debt brought the money-centre banks of New York and London to their knees.

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