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Thailand’s lessons for the west

The country restructured its financial system after the Asian crisis, and so it might have lessons to offer the world. But its recent self-inflicted economic woes are urgent and less worthy of emulation. Eric Ellis reports from Bangkok.

Abhisit puts stability and order first

Instability: Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at parliament in Bangkok on March 19. The main opposition party began a censure debate against Abhisit and other ministers, knowing it would not win but hoping its allegations would stick with the public

Instability: Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at parliament in Bangkok on March 19. The main opposition party began a censure debate against Abhisit and other ministers, knowing it would not win but hoping its allegations would stick with the public

THAILAND, A VOLATILE nation where foreign investors know too well that economic turmoil is no novelty, finds itself at an interesting juncture: one that perhaps offers lessons for the financial conflagration that has engulfed the rest of the world. Like much of the world economy, it has plunged into a deep recession. Its banks, again like so many of their counterparts abroad, are loth to lend, even to sound businesses. There is a sclerosis in the economy and the financial sector, much as there is in the west, whose systems and strategies developing countries have long been urged to ape by institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.

But as the country’s new finance minister, Korn Chatikavanij, likes to point out, there is a crucial reason why Thailand should be assessed differently.