ASEAN claims crisis needs more attention

Dec 15, 1997 01:00 AM

Southeast Asian leaders have said that bailout packages had failed to halt a regional financial crisis and called on the United States, European Union and Japan to face up to the global dimension of the turmoil.
Leaders of the nine-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) released a joint statement in the Malaysian capital saying rescue packages led by the IMF had not ended damaging currency upheaval.
But it stopped short of saying what type of further aid outside powers should provide, amid disagreement over the role of the IMF in trying to stem the crisis which Malaysia's leader said had set back the region's hopes of catching up with developing countries.
"It is ... urgent that global efforts be undertaken, including the central role of the IMF, to arrest the currency slide and restore stability to the currency markets," the leaders said in a joint statement on the second day of their annual summit.
They called for "greater national, regional and international efforts, including by the major economies such as the European Union, Japan and the United States, and international financial institutions, to overcome this situation as soon as possible."
ASEAN comprises Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines, Burma and Laos.
The three-day summit included the leaders of the three Asian countries that have turned to the IMF for emergency aid - Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea - as well as China and Japan.
"An extra effort has to be made," according to senior Philippine official Rodolfo Severino, due to become ASEAN secretary-general in January.
"I have been informed of the serious situation in Asia through the various (past) meetings, but the situation is more severe than that," Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said.
Japan announced it was providing a $150 million loan to Indonesia to help with the restructuring of its financial sector. China was considering providing aid to Indonesia under its IMF package, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.
A Thai minister said Bangkok was seeking an urgent meeting of the G7 industrialised states so it could ask them to increase credit lines available to the IMF and prevent attacks on Asian currencies.
Thai deputy premier of economic affairs Supachai Panitchpakdi said developed nations should convince their banks and their private sector to keep liquidity lines open to Southeast Asia.
"Japan is trying to put in more liquidity into ASEAN, but it seems that the rest of the world is doing not much, nothing," he said.
Hashimoto said Japan was in no position now to increase imports from ASEAN but was taking steps to boost personal consumption which could lead to increased trade.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Southeast Asian nations were not turning to the rich countries for money, only for help in drafting new solutions to the persistent problem.
"It is a global problem. Being a global problem, all the countries of the world should pay attention and try to solve the problem," Mahathir said.
A Japanese official quoted Chinese President Jiang Zemin as telling the summit that China was not necessarily immune to currency instability but the country had cautiously opened its economy and had plenty of foreign reserves.

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