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Global Insights: In Conversation with Martin Wolf

Is the Crisis over?
Date/Time: Dec 09, 2009 / 5.30pmto7.45pm

Global Insights Series acts as a bridge, featuring world-renowned, innovative and macro thinkers. This will primarily focus on finance and economics whilst also exploring other dimensions of the economic crisis in politics, civil society, human morality and sustainable development.

This series is envisaged to focus on vital issues of our day and also on trends we believe may be  emerging in Asia and the world in an age of globalization during a time of unprecedented global economic change.


The financial crisis is not a transitory event, but the end of an era. It was not caused by a failure of regulation in a few advanced countries, but by powerful forces in the world economy: overconfidence, due to a false in belief in "the great moderation"; global imbalances, rooted in failures of the global monetary system, the savings glut, particularly China's, and an over-reliance on export-led growth in Asia; a mistaken monetary policy doctrine; a reach for yield in the context of low returns on safe investment; sins of regulatory commission and omission; risky financial innovation; and a breakdown in risk management.

The world is far from recovery. Policy-makers have done what was needed to stop a depression. Massive changes will be needed in the relationship between demand and potential supply across the globe, as well as far-reaching reforms at the global and national levels. If these are not made, the next stage is likely to be a crisis in the dollar and public debt in a number of advanced countries, particularly the US. That could even mean the end of this era of globalization. 

Programme Schedule: 

5.30 pm  Registration

6.00 pm  Welcome Remarks by Assoc. Prof. Simon Tay,
Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Schwartz, Fellow, The Asia Society

6.10 pm  In Conversation with Martin Wolf, Financial Times
Moderated by Assoc. Prof. Simon Tay,
Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Schwartz, Fellow, The Asia Society and Lin Xue Ling, Presenter/Producer, English Current Affairs, Channel NewsAsia

6.55 pm Q & A

7.10 pm  Cocktail Reception

7.45 pm  End of event


Martin Wolf is Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times, London. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000 for services to financial journalism. Mr Wolf has been a forum fellow at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, since 1999. He was made a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Nottingham University in July 2006. He was made a Doctor of Science (Econ), honoris causa, by the London School of Economics in December 2006. He was made a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by Warwick University, in July 2009.

Mr Wolf was joint winner of the Wincott Foundation senior prize for excellence in financial journalism for 1989 and 1997. He won the RTZ David Watt memorial prize for 1994. He won the “Accenture Decade of Excellence” at the Business Journalist of the Year Awards of 2003. He won the “Ludwig-Erhard-Preis für Wirtschaftspublizistik” (“Ludwig Erhard Prize for economic commentary”) from the Ludwig Erhard Stiftung (Foundation) for 2009. He won “Commentariat of the Year 2009” at the Comment Awards, sponsored by Editorial Intelligence.

His most recent publications are Why Globalization Works (Yale University Press, 2004) and Fixing Global Finance (Washington D.C: Johns Hopkins University Press, and London: Yale University Press, 2008).

Event Report: 

Over the course of a 75-minute dialogue, Mr. Martin Wolf, Associate Editor & Chief Economics Commentator of The Financial Times shared his insights and views on the global economic crisis and how it has changed the world. Mr. Wolf spoke frankly  with moderators Ms. Lin Xue Ling of Channel NewsAsia and Assoc. Prof. Simon Tay of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, as well as with members of the audience.

Mr. Wolf’s views centred around three key themes: that the world has not yet emerged from crisis, that Asia will continue to lead the recovery, and that there will be a “tricky transition” as the global economy rebalances.

In examining the current state of the global economy, Mr. Wolf began by pointing out that some aspects of recovery are already evident. The near total breakdown of the credit markets is clearly over, and there is renewed capitalization of the global banking system.

Yet although some stabilization is evident, Mr. Wolf said that the world economy is still immensely far from any sort of state of operations that resembles pre-crisis norms. He pointed out that this is the greatest fiscal stimulus that has ever been employed, and it has resulted in levels of deficit comparably only to those found during war. Despite low interest rates, he cautioned that there has  yet to be a strong private-sector led return of demand. His guess is that such demand is still years away.

Mr. Wolf cited Dubai as an example of problems endemic to the global economic system that extend beyond the “subprime-related” structural problems. He likens to the recent Dubai crisis to a big commercial real estate project plagued by bad debt. Mr. Wolf feels that, similar to Dubai, there is a large amount of as yet unrecognized bad debt in the world, and that the frequency defaults will increase.

On the subject of stimulus withdrawal, Mr. Wolf cautioned that there is a huge danger of creating bubbles if governments withdraw stimulus too late, but that there is an equal danger of an early withdrawal sending economies straight back into recession.

Regardless of government policy, Mr. Wolf stressed his belief that the greatest opportunities for future growth lie in Asian economies. Among them, he said, China has emerged as a relative winner from the financial crisis. However, he cautioned that to avoid the stagnant growth that befell Japan in the 1990s, China must remove bad debt, decrease “mythical” production and inventory accumulation, and shift its economy more towards stimulating domestic demand.

Mr. Wolf clarified a consequence of China’s rise: he predicts a small trans-Pacific trade skirmish. If the domestic situation in the US doesn’t improve and high unemployment rates persist while China continues to flourish with a high trade surplus, US protectionist pressures will emerge. Mr. Wolf stressed he does not wish this to happen, but if America wishes to reduce its budget deficit, it’s unavoidable that curbing trade with China will be a part of it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Wolf called it “inevitable” that the Asian economies would collectively soon be the world’s largest. However, he pointed to the longstanding differences between Asian countries as a reason why there will not be a unified “Asian” century- only perhaps a “Chinese” one. Managing such differences, he said, would be crucial.

The global economic crisis has highlighted many challenges: not only must developed economies restart their economies, they must also accommodate the rise of emerging economies, especially those in Asia. Meanwhile, inflation, regulation, currency exchange and other macroeconomic policy questions continue to complicate. In pointing out these difficulties, Mr. Wolf said that he was “not a pessimist, but a realist.” Nonetheless, he predicted enormous opportunities for Asia, and said that “there is no reason why living standards [in Asia] shouldn’t be completely unrecognizable ten, twenty years from now.”

Still, he cautioned the audience. “We’ve postponed Armageddon,” said Wolf, but “the story isn’t over”.

“It will be a tricky transition.”


Event Photographs: 
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About Singapore Exchange Ltd

Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) was inaugurated on 1 December 1999, following the merger of two established and well-respected financial institutions - the Stock Exchange of Singapore (SES) and the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX). SGX is Asia-Pacific's first demutualised and integrated securities and derivatives exchange and is listed on its own bourse. The exchange's stock is a component of benchmark indices such as the MSCI Singapore's Free Index and the Straits Times Index (STI).

SGX aims to offer a highly trusted, comprehensive and efficient securities and derivatives marketplace for raising capital, risk transfer, trading, clearing and settlement. SGX facilitates the trading and clearing of commodity futures and over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives such as forward freight agreements and oil swaps. Through strategic alliances and partnerships with other exchanges around the world, SGX is firmly positioned as an Asian Gateway.

For more information, please visit SGX website: www.sgx.com


About Bain & Company

Bain & Company, a leading global business consulting firm, serves clients on issues of strategy, operations, technology, organization and mergers and acquisitions.  The firm was founded in 1973 on the principle that Bain consultants must measure their success by their clients' financial results.  Bain clients have out performed the stock market 4 to 1.  With offices in all major cities, Bain has worked with over 4,150 major multinational, private equity and other corporations across every economic sector.  For more information visit: www.bain.com.


About LGT Bank in Liechtenstein (Singapore) Ltd 

The LGT Group is the largest private wealth and asset management group in Europe to be fully operated as a family business.   Owned by The Princely House of Liechtenstein for over 80 years, LGT Group  offers clients specific and unique advantages, such as a long-term approach, stability and independence. This clear and stable ownership structure allows for rapid decision-making processes, while upholding the virtues of reliability, privacy and discretion.  .
As part of the LGT Group, LGT Bank in Liechtenstein is one of the few international private banks to allow its creditworthiness to be evaluated by renowned independent rating agencies. LGT has consistently been awarded very high ratings among comparable institutions (Moody’s: Aa3; Standard & Poor's: A+). Underlying this strength is  a consistently high Tier 1 ratio, making LGT one of the most capitalized financial groups in the world today.
In Asia, LGT has been established in major business centers such as Hong Kong (1986), Singapore (2001) and Tokyo (1996) for over twenty years.  It has consistently served its discerning Asian clients, by being nothing less than a leading provider of international wealth management services to individuals who value discreet and sophisticated investment advice.

In addition to wealth management services, LGT also offers the services of both LGT Capital Management and LGT Capital Partners.  Capital Management is a specialist in the allocation of assets, the global selection of investment managers and behavioral finance. Capital Partners offer expert advise on alternative asset management.

With an established global network of leading investment managers and over 1.700 employees at 29 locations in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, LGT fosters a global perspective, while maintaining a local presence to specifically meet individual needs.  


About Rolls-Royce Singapore Pte Ltd

Rolls-Royce is a global business providing advanced, integrated power systems for use on land, at sea and in the air. Synonymous with integrity, reliability and innovation, the Group has leading positions in the civil aerospace, defence aerospace, marine, and energy markets, with manufacturing and service facilities in 50 countries serving customers in over 150 countries. Rolls-Royce employs 39,000 people worldwide and has businesses headquartered in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Scandinavia, Singapore and China.

Singapore is a strategic business hub for Rolls-Royce. All four major business sectors – civil and defence aerospace, marine and energy – are strongly represented. The Group has had presence in Singapore since the 1950s and has grown significantly in recent years.

Rolls-Royce recently established its global headquarters for its Marine business in Singapore. The shift from London brings the Group closer to the customer base in Asia, the Middle East and Australia, and recognises the increasing importance to Rolls-Royce of Asia-Pacific markets, where a significant proportion of global commercial shipping activity takes places.

In 2007, Rolls-Royce announced a new facility, the ‘Facility of the Future’, which will be built in Singapore to assemble and test new Trent aero engines. In 2009, the Group announced plans to build a new wide chord fan blade (WCFB) factory in Singapore alongside the formerly announced Trent test and assembly facility. The new factory will be the first outside the UK to manufacture Rolls-Royce hollow titanium WCFBs, a technology which has played a key role in the success of the Trent engine family. Together, both facilities, along with a Regional Training Centre and the Advanced Technology Centre and office, will comprise the Rolls-Royce Seletar Campus.

The regional headquarters of the Rolls-Royce energy business is also located in Singapore, and covers all Asia Pacific countries from Australia to China to India.

At the 2009 British Business Awards, Rolls-Royce won the UK TI Innovation award for its contribution to driving innovative technology, products and services in Singapore. Rolls-Royce also won a British Business Award in Education and Training.


About Singapore Airlines Limited

Singapore Airlines has evolved into one of the most respected travel brands around the world. We have one of the world's youngest fleet in the air, a network spanning five continents, and the Singapore Girl as our symbol of quality customer care and service. Customers, investors, partners, and staff — everyone expects excellence of us. And so, in our lounges, our conferences, working relationships, and in the smallest details of flight, we rise to each occasion and deliver the Singapore Airlines experience.


About Sincere Watch Limited

Sincere Watch Limited, the watch specialist, is one of Singapore’s oldest and most established retailers of brand-name luxury watches. The Group began as a sole proprietorship in 1954 with a single shop along Singapore’s North Bridge Road and was listed on the Singapore Exchange in 1993.  From a chain of just four boutiques during its pre-listing days, the Group has grown rapidly and today, it operates 31 boutiques with a distribution network spanning 10 countries – Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand. The Group is renowned for delivering a comprehensive range of high-quality timepieces. With its innovative and creative spirit, Sincere Watch strives to constantly introduce new and unique retail concepts as well as exclusive product offerings throughout the region.

Upholding the highest level of integrity and excellence, it has built strong partnerships with its brand owners and customers. The Group now carries a portfolio of over 40 internationally acclaimed brands and enjoys exclusive agency rights for more than 10 brands, such as Franck Muller, de GRISOGONO, CVSTOS, Ebel, and F.P. Journe. It is also a member of the most prestigious, internationally recognized trade and professional organizations in the watch industry, the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP).


About St. Regis Singapore

Welcome to the address where unsurpassed luxury resides. Superbly located in the heart of prestigious downtown, the St. Regis is Singapore's most eminent address just minutes from the glamorous Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanical Gardens and National Museums.

The fine art of elegance is perfected in our 299 richly appointed rooms and suites with plush furniture and modern conveniences meticulously selected to create exquisite ambiance for the modern connoisseur. Experience legendary bespoke service provided by St. Regis butlers for the ultimate privilege of luxurious living.

Guests are welcomed to unwind at the award-winning Remède Spa, recline by the outdoor swimming pool, or workout in style at the fitness centre. In the evening, sip and swirl fine wines at Decanter during St. Regis' daily wine appreciation for all hotel guests.

The acclaimed St. Regis restaurants provide the opportunity for guests to savour exquisite gastronomic experiences, from award winning Cantonese cuisine to Mediterranean fare.

The hotel's commitment to delivering the finest services has been recognised with more than 20 international and local prestigious accolades awarded over the past 20 months since its launch in December 2007.


Photographs and images used are obtained from publicly-accessible resources. No copyright infringement is intended.

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