Why emerging markets should look within

That is the title of my latest New York Times column, here is one excerpt:

In recent weeks, Argentina, Turkey, Ukraine and Thailand have endured plunging currencies, capital flight and political disruptions in varying combinations. While they have all been affected by global economic tides, these nations are facing crises because of problems in their national governance. And if we look elsewhere around the world, we find that governance has been re-emerging as a major factor behind success or failure in many emerging nations.

It’s not that macroeconomic quandaries have gone away in all of those countries. There are still many such issues: how to deal with current account deficits, for example, or how to face the consequences of tighter monetary policy in the United States. But these concerns were foreseeable, and some countries have been meeting them, if imperfectly, while others are letting these problems push them over the precipice. In this context, good governance means directing political energies at strengthening the economy rather than trying to cement power and keep down the opposition.

This new world contrasts with two earlier waves of change. The first started in the 1990s, when a rising China bought and invested in raw materials at an unheard-of pace. That flow of purchasing power was so strong that it brought better times to other emerging nations, including many in South America and Africa, regardless of whether the individual countries had good governance in place.

The second major wave was the recent global recession, which damaged the commercial prospects of many nations. For instance, in the first quarter of 2009, the gross domestic product of Singapore fell at an annualized rate of 8.9 percent. That wasn’t because Singapore had bad economic policy, but because exports were hit by a global downturn beyond the country’s control.

The two waves have had such noticeable effects that we’ve become unaccustomed to evaluating political fundamentals in individual nations. But these waves, though not quite over, have slowed.

Some of the likely losers are Argentina, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.  Chile, Malaysia, and Mexico are likely to come out of the turmoil in OK shape, to cite some examples on the other side.  As for China…?

Do read the whole thing.


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