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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Thailand: The Currency Crisis

Signs for Coke and Tango in Thai
The cash crisis made drinks like Tango and Coke extremely cheap for visitors, but at a huge cost to the locals

We entered Thailand on Friday 19th December, heading for some Christmas cheer on the islands off the southern coast. Not only does it sound like a good spot – many travellers congregate in this area for Christmas, and it's never nice to be alone in the festive season – but the Thai currency crisis means my dollars can buy a lot more festive spirit. Listen to this for a story of mismanagement and corruption with a distinctly Southeast Asian flavour.

1 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the sister agency to the World Bank; the former helps out developing countries whose economies have gone disastrously wrong, while the latter funds development projects in the Third World. Here are a few figures to put things in perspective: Thailand is getting US$17 billion from the IMF; Indonesia about US$23 billion; South Korea maybe as much as US$60 to US$100 billion; by comparison, Mexico's bailout three years ago cost US$48 billion. The hope is that stalling the ASEAN crisis and that in South Korea (the world's 11th largest economy) will stop the crisis moving to Japan, which is having economic problems of its own. A Japanese crisis would hit the USA, which could trigger a global collapse, and that's the last thing we all need. It's all quite ironic when you consider that in 1963/64 the USA borrowed US$600 million from the IMF to bolster its own diving currency and restore investor confidence; the USA is now the largest contributor to the IMF's funds, having donated 18 per cent of the US$200 billion reserve the IMF has to throw around. History is circular, after all.