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Corporate and Financial Sector Reform in the Wake of the Asian Crisis: Malaysia and Thailand

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

After decades of exceptional economic success and rapid growth, the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis revealed the presence of structural weaknesses and institutional inefficiencies in the financial and corporate sectors of most countries in the region. When the economic crisis deepened, governments within the region adopted a strategy of restructuring their corporate and financial sectors, with the aim of reducing the burden of bad debts on the economy and reactivating a fundamental engine of growth. When analysing restructuring efforts in a comparative perspective, the cases of Malaysia and Thailand appear as particularly interesting. Malaysia declined an IMF rescue plan, opting for capital controls, and closed no financial institutions. Thailand, on the other hand, turned to the IMF for financial support, closed virtually all its finance companies, and subsequently adopted a more gradual, market-based approach to restructuring. However, even if the details have varied among crisis countries, the broad principles of financial and corporate restructuring have been similar, inspired by the need to increase government ownership commensurate with bank recapitalisation, maximise the participation of the private sector and ensure a comprehensive restructuring process. Malaysia and Thailand, like most of the crisis countries, have made significant progress toward financial and corporate reform. However, a number of fundamental tasks still remain on the crisis countries' reform agenda, both in the short term, such as strengthening ongoing reforms and improving the governance process, and in the longer term, such as reducing fiscal imbalances and developing financial markets.


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