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Asia’s View of the Greek Crisis

Asians have been watching the Greek debt crisis unfold with a mixture of envy and schadenfreude. When they experienced their own financial crisis in 1997, they were offered far less external aid and far harsher conditions to receive it, though they recovered much more strongly.

SEOUL – Asian countries have been watching the Greek crisis unfold with a mixture of envy and schadenfreude. When they experienced their own financial crisis in 1997, they received far less aid, with far harsher conditions. But they also recovered much more strongly, suggesting that ever-growing bailouts may not be the best prescription for recovery.

Since the onset of the crisis, Greece has received massive financing from the so-called “troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. It received bailout packages in 2010 and 2012 totaling €240 billion ($266 billion), including €30 billion from the IMF, more than triple Greece’s cumulative limit for IMF borrowing. The latest deal promises up to another €86 billion.

By contrast, South Korea’s 1997 bailout package – which was larger than those received by Indonesia, Thailand, or the Philippines – totaled $57 billion, with $21 billion coming from the IMF. At the time, South Korea’s annual GDP was $560 billion; in 2014, Greek GDP amounted to less than $240 billion.

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