Emerging-market debt crises are as predictable as spring rain. They happen every 15–20 years, with a few variations and exceptions.
In recent decades, the first crisis in this series was the Latin American debt crisis of 1982–85. The combination of inflation and a commodity price boom in the late 1970s had given a huge boost to economies such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and many others, including countries in Africa.
This commodity boom enabled these emerging-market (EM) economies to earn dollar reserves for their exports. (By the way, we didn’t call them “emerging markets” in the 1980s; they were the “Third World” after the Western world and the communist world.)
These dollar reserves were soon supplemented with dollar loans from U.S. banks looking to “recycle” petrodollars that the OPEC countries were putting on deposit after the oil price explosion of the 1970s.
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