Economic Affairs

A Turkish canary in the coalmine?

History suggests that Turkey's crisis may not be an isolated episode.

When the Thai baht was devalued on July 2, 1997, people's immediate reaction was to focus on Thailand's economic mismanagement. In The Business Times newsroom in Singapore, brokers' offices and the bars along Boat Quay where bankers and financial analysts gathered, the conversation was all about how Thailand had messed up - its excessive investments and soaring debt, Bangkok's crazy property bubble, the no-brainer arbitrage that was offered through higher domestic interest rates relative to the US, combined with a fixed exchange rate, and the Bangkok International Banking Facility, which was supposed to turn the Thai capital into a regional financial centre but actually proved to be a conduit for offshore funds to be speculatively deployed onshore.

Throughout the first half of July, nobody anticipated that the Thai crisis would spread, as it soon did, to South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Latin America. Thailand turned out to be the canary in the coalmine, the trigger of a bigger crisis that engulfed much of Asia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2018, with the headline 'A Turkish canary in the coalmine?'. Print Edition | Subscribe