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Economy

Asian financial crisis exposed limits of neoliberalism

Vulnerabilities remain 20 years on, despite West facing similar challenges

| South Korea
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A poorly anchored exchange rate left the Indonesian rupiah open to violent fluctuations.   © Reuters

July marks the 20th anniversary of the float of the Thai baht, the opening signal of the Asian financial crisis. None of the central bankers and global officials who watched the crisis unfold realized at the time that it marked the end of the "Asian miracle" for the countries involved. None of the so-called Asian tigers subsequently returned to the spectacular growth rates achieved in the decades leading up to 1997.

As deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, I had watched these countries turn earlier crises into opportunities for reform. Surely, I thought, they would do this again. But by the time global financial officials met in Tokyo in mid-August of that year to cobble together enough bilateral funds to supplement the International Monetary Fund's inadequate assistance package for Thailand, we understood that this was the end of an era. By then the contagion had spread to Indonesia, and concerns about South Korea were growing.

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