East Asia Thrives a Decade after Crisis

Article excerpt

TOKYO, Apr. 5 (Reuters) -- A decade after Asia's financial crisis rocked the region in 1997/98, East Asian economies are much wealthier and have a larger global role than ever before, the World Bank said in a semi-annual report on Thursday.

After marking a decade-high expansion of 8.1 percent in 2006, economic growth in Emerging East Asia -- or East Asia excluding Japan -- will likely slow to 7.3 percent in 2007 on slower export growth and an emerging US downturn, the World Bank said.

For 2008, it estimated the region's growth at 7.0 percent.

Despite the projected slowdown, the World Bank generally painted a rosy picture of the region's economy.

"Ten years ago, when the crisis was occurring, a lot of people felt that this showed deep weaknesses in East Asia and perhaps the region would suffer the same fate as Latin America and they might lose a decade of growth," said Milan Brahmbhatt, lead economist for the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Region.

"Instead, the region has come back powerfully," Brahmbhatt, the report's principal author, told Reuters in an interview.

Despite some views 10 years ago that too much globalisation was partly to blame for the financial turmoil, the region kept seeking deeper integration with global trade and finance and this has made a difference in its rebound, he said.

The report said the region has grappled with and overcome the crisis and returned to solid growth, doubling the dollar value of regional output from precrisis levels to more than $5 trillion, halving poverty rates and accumulating more than $2 trillion in foreign reserves.

The Washington-based development bank in 1993 issued a landmark report called the "East Asian Miracle", which hailed the region's strong economic performance. …