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Capital Markets

Central banks cultivate Asian bond markets

Modest initial proposals for a $1 billion Asian bond fund to be invested in by regional central banks are blossoming into more ambitious attempts to develop regional financial markets.

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ASIAN SAVINGS FOR Asian investments is the battle cry around the region. Boosting national Asian bond markets - and even creating a pan-Asian bond market - is the goal. At least that's the line the region's central bankers are pushing.

Talk of regional cooperation in Asia is hardly new, nor is the concept of an Asian bond market. Up until now achievements have been sparse and private-sector bankers bemoan the relatively weak regional financial infrastructure.

Yet Asian central bankers are now blazing the trail. They are sitting on $1.3 trillion of the world's foreign exchange reserves - of which more than half is invested in US treasuries and European government bonds. Their ambitious plans focus on keeping more of this money in the region.

What would this mean? For Asia, greater financial integration would make the region more self-sufficient and channel funds into much-needed infrastructure projects. Ultimately, if successful, the plan would enable Asia to shake off its dependence on foreign capital, ensure that boom is not jeopardized by a return to financial crisis, and boost further the already dynamic trade flows within the region.

Crucially, the central bankers have commandeered some weighty political support - in the form of Thailand's dynamic prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

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