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Asean F.M. Worry About Weaker Yen (Bloomberg)
By David DeRosa

13/4/2001 7:37 pm Fri

[Lagi satu catatan menarik oleh DeRosa mengenai cadangan tukar-tukar rezab bank pusat untuk menghadapi krisis matawang.

Yen kini sedang melemah dan mungkin makin merosot lagi kerana polisi baru 'pelegaan kuantitatif' oleh Bank of Japan (BOJ) untuk membaiki ekonomi Jepun. Ini bermakna ia akan memberi fokus kepada wang asal lebih dari faktor makro ekonomi lain. Negara Asean tidak akan mampu berbuat apa-apa mengenainya melainkan melopong sahaja kerana yen lebih berbisa.

Tetapi negara Asean cuba merangka program menukar rezab asing bank pusat atau ala mini IMF pula. Tapi tanpa penglibatan Cina dan Jepun ini amat merbahaya (kerana mereka rakan dagang penting untuk semua) Menurut DeRosa, masalah sebenar krisis matawang bukan kerana pasaran FOREX tetapi kerana kelemahan kerajaan tempatan masing-masing dalam menguruskan ekonomi domestik. Negara tidak akan terjun ke kancah ini jika ekonomi diurus baik dan cekap dan semua penyangak dalaman diserkap.

Menukar rezab negara nampak menarik tetapi jika satu lingkup yang lain pun akan tersadai juga. Balik-balik sendiri juga. - Editor] touch=1&s1=blk&tp=ad_topright_bbco& s2=blk&bt=blk&s=AOs.n5hVjQXNlYW4g

2001/04/08 00:24

Asean Finance Ministers Worry About Weaker Yen

By David DeRosa

New Canaan, Connecticut, April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Finance ministers of Southeast Asian nations are meeting this weekend in Malaysia to discuss their region's economic slump. They have indicated they also will discus the Japanese yen as well as a controversial agreement under which their nations can swap central bank reserves to ward off currency crises.

What worries the ministers is that the yen is at risk of serious depreciation against the dollar and the euro. That would put Southeast Asian countries in a jam because yen-denominated exports would become relatively cheaper in the U.S. and Europe, leaving Southeast Asian exports at a competitive disadvantage.

The ministers of the regional group Asean, or Association of South East Asian Nations, may have better luck changing the weather than changing the yen's course. A weaker yen may be inevitable.

It is no secret that the Japanese economy is going backwards. If that isn't bad enough for the yen, consider that the Bank of Japan last month instituted a major change in its framework for monetary policy that is destined to be yen- negative. Under that plan, the BOJ began to institute a modest program of so-called quantitative easing.

Quantitative easing means the central bank focuses on the base money supply as its primary target as opposed to other macroeconomic variables, such as short-term interest rates. The specific monetary target that the BOJ picked was what it calls ``current account balances,'' something known in other major economies as the total of commercial bank reserve deposits held at the central bank.

Lower Yen

If the BOJ persists in this policy, it is likely that the yen will weaken. It stands to reason that the increased supply of yen from the quantitative easing will soon manifest itself in higher Japanese consumer prices (or at least go a long way toward eradicating the current deflation in consumer prices being experienced in Japan). More money chasing the same quantity of goods in an economy eventually must show up in higher prices.

Parenthetically, there is a counterargument: some people think the BOJ may end up strengthening the yen. If the new monetary policy turns out to be a big success, the economy would rebound and foreign investors might become interested in Japan again. To buy Japanese stocks, one has to also buy yen.

But I think this is probably a second-order effect because Japan's recovery is years away. Meantime, the BOJ is likely to weaken the yen, though it will deny so vigorously. So Southeast Asia does have a weak yen problem. And there is not a darn thing the ministers can do about it.

Swap Lines

I note with some amusement that the latest anti-foreign exchange market gambit to come out of Asia is an agreement under which certain central banks would be able to swap each other's foreign reserves in the event of a currency crisis. One could suppose that some people in Asia envision this as a first step in the creation of an Asian Monetary Authority.

As I mentioned above, this is on the Asean finance ministers' agenda for discussion. It is thought that China, Japan and South Korea look favorably on the reserve-swapping plan.

This is a dangerous idea. For one thing, I don't believe currency crises are manufactured in the foreign exchange market. Rather, they are the product of faulty domestic financial policy decisions, like the installation of loosely pegged exchange-rate regimes. If the domestic economy is well run, there won't be a currency crisis, and new arrangements like the reserve-swapping idea won't be necessary.

Things Happen for a Reason

Over the years, I have become convinced there is really no such thing as spontaneous financial contagion. What appears to be contagion really derives from a set of common economic conditions that are predisposed to crisis.

But the reserve-swapping agreement could actually add a new meaning to so-called contagion theory. One central bank could tap into another's reserves to support its currency. It sounds good, because what could be wrong with having central banks band together to help one another in a crisis?

Then you think about it some more. Under this scheme, a central bank might be able to materially drain the balance sheets of other regional central banks because it could go through its own reserves and then dip into the others' reserves. One goes down, the rest get pulled down. Any design that could lead to a systemic weakening of central bank balance sheets in a region is a sure path to crisis.