Financial Meltdown Decolonising Asian Minds

Published on IPSnews, by Kalinga Seneviratne, December 31, 2008.

SINGAPORE, Dec 31 (IPS) – The year 2008 may well go down in history as a watershed in which the global financial crisis, precipitated by the collapse of Western economic models, ‘decolonised’ Asians minds, say observers.

“In the past, Asian governments expected Western counterparts to be role models of good governance,’’ observed well-known Singaporean diplomat and author Kishore Mahbubani in a recent commentary published in London’s ‘Financial Times.’

Pointing to how major United States and European financial institutions have fallen like packs of cards, due mainly to the failure of financial regulators in their respective countries, Mahbubani argues that Asian governments’ belief in good governance and regulation may serve as a real asset in the storm …

… Ajay Chhibber, director of the U.N. Development Programme’s regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific, agrees that Asia needs to build on the currency swap arrangements put into place during the peak of the Asian financial crisis a decade ago.

In addition, says Chhibber, there should be greater coordination in the region to increase intra-Asia trade, and also strengthen programmes to help the poorest and neediest.

In a commentary in the ‘Business Week,’ Chibber welcomed China’s 580 million dollar economic stimulation package as a good move and Singapore’s blanket guarantees on deposits which has led to Malaysia following suit.

If India can also encourage the already strong domestic demand, he believes that inter-Asian trade could help to boost the economies of countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Vietnam, which are heavily dependent on western markets.

Even China may quietly move to demand changes to the IMF. Fan Gang, professor of economics at Peking University, believes that China is now in a position to increase its voice on a long-standing concern of theirs – the U.S. dollar’s status as global reserve currency. He says that China would like to see an amendment to IMF’s mandate so that they could “discipline America’s money supply and debt accumulation”.

Thus, though not making a big noise in the international scene yet, Asian countries and their policymakers are slowly but surely decolonising their minds of the idea that economic expertise comes purely from the West.

“If Asian countries can work together, the region can not only deal with the financial tsunami, but lay the ground for a powerful future, one in which greater coordination prepares the path for the eagerly awaited Asian century,” predicts Chhibber. (full text).


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