According to a recent World Bank study, the Asian crisis led to a significant rise in poverty and sharp declines in middle-class living standards in the countries most affected. Real public spending on health and education fell, with poor households experiencing the largest declines in access to these services. The impact of decreased investment in human capital will have consequences for individuals and whole societies for years to come. Because these external shocks occurred very shortly after these countries had liberalized their capital markets, they have engendered a growing distrust of globalization in many parts of the world. We owe it to the people of the developing countries, as well as to ourselves, to consider how institutional or policy changes could moderate such setbacks in the future. For all these reasons, this conference seemed a good time to pause and consider the implications of recent events, institutional changes, and new research for the evolution of the international monetary system.
Representing frontline countries and frontline instititutions, many of the conference participants had struggled firsthand with the dilemmas posed by the recent crises. Thus, they brought unique perspectives on the issues and offered thoughtful observations and useful ideas that could improve the workings of the international monetary system. It is our hope that this publication of their views will stimulate further discussion, research and, more than partial implementation.