Since the summer of 1997, the East Asian "tiger" nations have suffered an unprecedented bout of weakness, plunging what had been vigorously expanding economies into a deep crisis. A number of domestic economic problems joined forces with turbulence on the foreign exchanges to generate a crisis of confidence on a grand scale. The crisis was triggered off by fundamental imbalances, with a key role being played by the "moral hazard" effect: domestic enterprises had been backed by implicit state guarantees, and it was always assumed that the IMF would assist if necessary. Then a destabilizing wave of speculation ran through the financial markets, pushing even countries with sound economic structures into difficulties. This article highlights the sequence of developments in the East Asian crisis, providing an economic explanation of the phenomenon.
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