Troubled Tigers Look to IMF

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VANCOUVER: The symbolism was almost too heavy: Dressed in blue denim shirts and brown leather aviator jackets like the Flying Tigers of a previous era, the leaders of Pacific Rim countries today hammered out the details of an IMF-led bailout plan for the economies of the ailing Asian Tigers.

“The message from APEC is that there is a serious crisis in Asia, but if everybody takes the necessary, and in some cases painful, steps, there won’t be an Asian meltdown,” says TIME White House Correspondent Jay Branegan. “They’re saying ‘The Asian miracle is not over, the Asian miracle is taking a breather,’ and they hope it’ll be a relatively short breather, because the economic fundamentals remain sound.”

The IMF will demand stronger fiscal discipline and less state investment — economic medicine which may be hard to swallow. “There is likely to be a long period of political turmoil in Asia as the IMF’s measures take effect,” says Branegan, noting early signs of resistance in Thailand, Indonesia and Korea. Some of those men in aviator jackets may yet pay the ultimate political price for taking the tigers by the tail.