IMF Debt and Capital Control

In the mid-1990s, a collapse of Thai Baht precipitated a cascade of currency collapses, culminating in a full-blown economic crisis in the South-East and East Asian regions. Ever since, this crisis has remained significant for academics and policymakers owing to its sudden trigger, rapid percolation, and varied consequences. For economists concentrating on crises, the 1997 crisis also serves as an epicenter for tracking crisis management schemes and recovery trajectories. In this regard, two economies—Malaysia and Korea—stand out as candidates for deeper investigation due to disparate recovery paths undertaken. The former imposed hard capital controls, while the latter acceded to IMF bail-out and restructuring. Since then, both economies performed impressively. As a ripple effect of the crisis, some countries embraced protectionist measures to safeguard stability of own currency. Malaysia, for example, opted for capital controls, whereas Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia underwent governmental and economic policy overhaul at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This brings us to the issue of capital control; a means of regulating the flow of money in and out of domestic economy. Economists’ views on it are multifarious. While some extol its ability to facilitate free movement of capital across economies, others castigate its straitening effects on growth, productivity and mobility. Induced by factors such as globalization and financial market integration, lately most advanced economies have adopted a more liberal approach when it comes to capital control. Developing nations, however, remain sporadic exponents of stricter controls as their typically low reserves make them vulnerable to volatility. It is noteworthy that despite generally open approach to capital control measures, most advanced economies still have ad hoc contingency plans in place to forestall sudden mass capital exit or to deter speculative attack on domestic currency.

My co-authors and I have undertaken several research projects revisiting the aftermath and dynamics of the divergent paths taken by Malaysia and South Korea in pursuit of an economic recovery since the late 1990s. Links to the papers are available to the left.

The papers’ full versions are available at the publishers’ site. Author versions are available at