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Prospective Deficits and the Asian Currency Crisis

  • Craig Burnside
  • Martin Eichenbaum
  • Sergio Rebelo

This paper argues that the recent Southeast Asian currency crisis was caused by large prospective deficits associated with implicit bailout guarantees to failing banking systems. We articulate this view using a simple dynamic general equilibrium model whose key feature is that a speculative attack is inevitable once the present value of future government deficits rises. This is true regardless of the government's foreign reserve position or the initial level of its debt. While the government cannot prevent a speculative attack, it can affect its timing. The longer the delay, the higher inflation will be under flexible exchange rates. We present empirical evidence in support of the three key assumptions in our model: (i) foreign reserves did not play a special role in the timing of the attack, (ii) large losses in the banking sector were associated with large increases in governments' prospective deficits, and (iii) the public knew that banks were in trouble before the currency crisis.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6758.

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Date of creation: Oct 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Burnside, Craig, Martin Eichenbaum and Sergio Rebelo. "Prospective Deficits And The Asian Currency Crisis," Journal of Political Economy, 2001, v109(6,Dec), 1155-1197.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6758
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  1. Corsetti, G. & Pesenti, P. & Roubini, N., 1998. "What Caused the Asian Currency and Financial Crisis?," Papers 343, Banca Italia - Servizio di Studi.
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  20. Maurice Obstfeld, 1984. "Rational and Self-Fulfilling Balance-of-Payments Crises," NBER Working Papers 1486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Steven Radelet & Jeffrey Sachs, 1998. "The Onset of the East Asian Financial Crisis," NBER Working Papers 6680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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