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Counting the Cost

Bursting Asia's economic bubble?

Many Asian nations are outperforming the global economy, but we look at whether this could be coming to a jarring end.

Last Modified: 11 May 2013 14:55
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Many Asian nations are outperforming the global economy, but are we witnessing the emergence of a 1997-style financial crisis as property prices and stock prices boom?

Central banks from the US, Britain and Japan are flooding the world with cheap money, trying to revive and sustain growth, but that is not necessarily good for everyone.

And with memories of the 1997 Asian financial crisis still raw, Asian leaders are bracing themselves for the consequences of all this cash.

The consequences are real and could already be materialising in booming property prices, currency and stock markets across the Asia region. At particular risk are the ASEAN nations - among them Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

There have already been signs of a possible bubble, among them, that the money pouring into emerging markets globally rose 42 percent to $64bn in the first four months of this year.

Asia's central banks are then diverting the money into foreign currency reserves - about $120bn according to the World Bank.

And debt is a problem too. Household debt in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore now exceeds 65 percent of gross domestic product. By comparison, US household debt is more than 80 percent at about $13tn.

Powerful, power-less Pakistan

Meanwhile in Pakistan, whoever wins the country's election has an uphill task in reviving a badly under-performing economy. In fact, it could be knocking at the International Monetary Fund's door asking for more money. That figure has been reported to be at least $5bn - as Pakistan only has enough money to pay for about two months of imports.

The economy is expected to expand at 3.2 percent this year; but it faces a serious threat from the continuous electricity shortages, which could actually slash growth by four percentage points.

The shortages are so severe that businesses and households can be without power for up to 20 hours a day.

Economies in sub-Saharan Africa have also been growing at a rapid rate of about five percent on average through the global slowdown. But unemployment is also a huge problem. In South Africa, nearly five million people are still without work. Unemployment in the country is running at more than 25 percent, with youth unemployment at about 50 percent.

Finally this week, something which may initially confuse - if only because of its name - is the Raspberry Pi. The spelling, without the last 'e', makes it not so much a baked treat, but a computer that will not break the bank.

Costing just $25, it was developed by a Cambridge University professor who found his students were turning up to study computer science with little or no programming skills.

But the original idea has moved beyond Britain and has burst into full economic bloom, shipping just over a million units in a year.

 
Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Click here for more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali @abidoliverali

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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