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Crises as Opportunities to Consolidate Reforms: The 1997 Financial Crisis and Banking Policy Reform in Malaysia and the Philippines

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Looking at crisis responses in the Philippines and Malaysia, this paper will analyse how state-based banking policy elites in both states used the 1997–2000 crisis to radically accelerate pre-crisis policy directions that were opposed by local banking institutions and their peak associations. Drawing on empirical evidence and policy reform theory, the paper will detail how these elites used both their ability to define the nature of the 1997–2000 crisis and the appropriate responses, and their control of the executive to accelerate these directions and minimize the voice of local banking players. In the case of Malaysia, the banking policy direction to be analyzed will be banking sector consolidation, while for the Philippines it will be foreign entry and equity participation in the local banking sector. Moving away from the singular domestic focus of much policy reform literature, this paper will attempt to develop a two-level model for these crisis-driven policy accelerations. To do this, it will look at the use by these state elites of their relationships with the IMF and their banking policy obligations of the GATS as the rationale for acceleration and as the rationale for their overriding of local banking interests. This incorporation of external actors and changes to the international political economy should allow for a more nuanced and well-rounded understanding of these specific elements of the 1997–2000 crisis response, as well as the political economy of policy reform in general for both Malaysia and the Philippines.


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