Sunday, September 25, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 39: Two-Cent Economics

Countering the Contagious Western Economic Illness

Here, Mohamed El-Erian says it exactly like it is:
The very fact that we are posing this question is novel and notable it its own right. You can add this to the list of previously unthinkable things that we have witnessed lately. That list includes, just in the last few weeks, America’s loss of its sacred AAA rating; its political flirtation with a debt default; mounting concern about debt restructurings in peripheral European economies and talk about a possible eurozone breakup; and Switzerland’s dramatic steps to reduce (yes, reduce) its safe-haven status. 
The answer to the emerging markets’ question would have been straightforward a few years ago. It is not today. 
In the world of old, the West’s economic malaise already would have pulled the rug from beneath most emerging-market countries. Indeed, the conventional wisdom – supported by many painful experiences – was that when the industrial countries sneezed, the emerging world caught a cold. 
Today, however, several (though not all) emerging-market countries are benefiting from years of considerable efforts to reduce their financial vulnerability by accumulating huge amounts of international reserves. They have also paid back a significant share of external debt and converted much of what remains into more manageable local-currency liabilities. 
This sharp balance-sheet improvement has been instrumental in enabling emerging countries to bounce back strongly from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, whereas the West continues to hobble along. Indeed, until the recent renewed downturn in America and Europe, the emerging world’s major policy concern was too much growth, mounting inflationary pressure, and economic overheating. 
Today’s emerging countries have considerable policy flexibility and much greater latitude to act than they had in the past. Accordingly, faced with a weakening global economy, they confront two basic policy choices.

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