Experiences With Current Account Deficits in Southeast Asia
In the 1990s, Southeast Asia experienced very rapid growth along with large and persistent current account deficits. The episode lasted from 1990 to around 1996, ending up with the outbreak of the Asian crisis in 1997–98. The current account reversals to surpluses were associated with sudden stops in capital inflows. These inflows significantly exceeded current account deficits in the first half of the 1990s; however they had not yet recovered their pre-crisis levels by 2006. The Southeast Asian sudden stop episode was also associated to sharp contractions in output that were unprecedented in Asia over the sample period. These declines in output were followed by relatively quick recoveries but permanently lower growth rates. This paper documents and analyzes the historical experience of Southeast Asian countries regarding their current account deficits. This experience illustrates how high growth rates can be associated with significant external and domestic vulnerabilities. It is suggested that for these countries’ experience, high rates of investment spending driving the current account cycle and increasing financial fragility were key determining factors.
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