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Who's doing what in Asian bonds


The kingdom of Thailand leads the way on the Asian bond market initiative, with prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowing to make Asia the master of its own destiny. Thaksin sees himself as the new hard man of the region, having taken up the mantle from Malaysia's retired prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Thaksin is also out to boost Thailand's own image in south-east Asia and beyond. For example, he effectively closed down Bangkok last month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting - in a bid to show that his country was the safest, most efficient haven in the region.

In September, the finance ministry announced the abolition of the 15% withholding tax, and at Apec Thaksin called on other countries to follow suit.

The Bank of Thailand is probably the most active central bank in the region, having established the first Asian bond fund in June.

Thailand's financial disintegration following the devaluation of the baht on July 2 1997 sullied the previously vaunted reputation of the institution. The bank is using its high profile to reposition itself as the guardian of the nation. It has proposed an Asian financial institute - and Bangkok is surely the prime contender to host it.

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