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Financial crisis: World round-up

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A look at the regions of the world most affected by the financial crisis, and what governments are doing to try to alleviate the financial turmoil.



Background: Rich in resources with a well-educated workforce and one of South America's largest economies, but it has also fallen prey to a boom and bust cycle.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $6,050 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government has nationalised the country's 10 private pension funds, putting it in control of almost $30bn (18bn) of investments. Shares slumped in response to the move, which the government said was aimed at protecting the funds from global market turmoil.


Background: Natural resources, particularly iron ore, are highly prized by major manufacturing nations. Has become self-sufficient in oil, ending decades of dependence on foreign producers. Has had to be bailed out in times of economic crisis, but reforms in the 1990s, including privatisations, brought some financial stability. There is a wide gap between rich and poor.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $5,910 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 22 October, Brazil announced a plan to allow government-controlled Banco do Brasil and Caixa Economica Federal to purchase shares in private financial institutions. It hopes that the measure will shore up the market, but shares fall 10% and trading is suspended for the fifth time in recent weeks. On 23 October, the government abandons its tax on foreign investments and announces plans to sell up to $50bn in dollar swap futures contracts to try to stop its currency falling.


Background: One of the world's richest nations - thanks partly to immigration. The North American Free Trade Agreement, involving Canada, the US and Mexico, has brought a trade boom. Has been asserting sovereignty in the Arctic with the possible bounty from previously-untapped reserves of oil and gas at stake.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $39,420 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate by a quarter point, to 2.25%, on 21 October.

This is the second cut this month - the bank cut the rate by half a percentage point on 8 October in a co-ordinated effort with other central banks.

On 10 October, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty attempted to ease the credit crunch by announcing CAN$25bn ($21bn) of asset-swaps between the country's major banks and the government-owned Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The Bank of Canada said three days later it would provide exceptional liquidity to the financial system "as long as conditions warrant".


Background: Major oil producer and exporter. Nearly one-third of government revenue comes from the industry. Much bought by the US. Prosperity remains a dream for most Mexicans. Rural areas are often neglected and huge shanty towns ring the cities. Many poor Mexicans try to cross the 3,000-km border with the US in search of a job.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $8,340 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 21 October, the Mexican government said it would offer $3.92bn in loan guarantees to help local firms refinance debt maturing in 2008. This is in addition to President Felipe Calderon's proposal to spend $4.4bn on infrastructure and energy projects to boost the economy.

Earlier in October, the central bank sold a combined $8.9bn in foreign currency reserves in a week to prop up the falling peso, which recovered somewhat on 13 October after falling to an all-time low against the US dollar.


Background: The world's foremost economic and military power. Despite relative prosperity in recent years, the gap between rich and poor is a major challenge. More than 30 million Americans live below the official poverty line, with a disproportionate percentage of these being African-Americans and Hispanics.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $46,040 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate from 1.5% to 1%, to boost the economy.

The Treasury has said it wants to implement its $700bn financial bail-out plan quickly. It also announced plans to inject $250bn into many of the nation's banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and the Bank of New York Mellon Corp.




Background: In the past 20 years has made its near neighbours a priority in foreign policy and its economy is geared towards Asia. Migration continues to shape Australia.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $35,960 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Australia's central bank intervened to support its currency on 24 October and then again on 27 October.

It had last intervened more than a year ago and before that had not done so since 2001.

On 7 October, Australia's central bank cut its key interest rate from 7% to 6% - a much larger-than-expected reduction. The government later announced it would guarantee all bank deposits with financial institutions over the next three years.


Background: After stagnating for more than two decades under the rigid authoritarianism of early communist rule China now has the world's fastest-growing economy and is undergoing what has been described as a second industrial revolution. Relations with trading partners have been strained over China's huge trade surplus and the piracy of goods

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $2,360 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 29 October, China's central bank cut the country's interest rate by 0.27%, from 6.93% to 6.66%. This is the third time that the bank has cut rates in the past six weeks.


Background: The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Governed under the principle of "one country, two systems", under which China has agreed to give the region a high degree of autonomy and to preserve its economic and social systems for 50 years from the date of the handover.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $31,610 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The central banks joined the growing number of countries to cut their interest rates. Has promised to guarantee all bank deposits until 2010.


Background: The world's second-biggest economy, achieving an economic miracle in the second half of the 20th century that was the envy of the rest of the world.

Key data: Gross National Income per capita: $37,670 (World Bank, 2006)

Latest: On 31 October, the Bank of Japan reduced interest rates for the first time in seven years from 0.5% to 0.3%.

The previous day, the lower house of parliament approved a 1.8 trillion yen ($18bn) stimulus plan and the Bank of Japan put 4.5 trillion yen ($45.5bn) into the banking system.


Background: Malaysia is one of the world's largest producers of computer disk drives, palm oil, rubber and timber.

Exports are a key part of the economy, but the government has been trying to increase domestic demand.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $6,540 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government has offered to guarantee all local and foreign currency deposits up until the end of 2010.


Background: Agriculture is the economic mainstay, but manufacturing and tourism are important and there is a fledgling film industry. New Zealand has diversified its export markets and has developed strong trade links with Australia, the US, Japan, and China.

Key data: Gross national income per capita: $28,780 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government is planning to guarantee retail deposits, initially for two years.


Background: Singapore is south-east Asia's hi-tech, wealthy city state. A former colonial outpost of Britain, Singapore has become one of the world's most prosperous regions - with a thriving port, and skyscrapers.

It is often referred to as one of Asia's economic "tigers". Singapore's economy has been driven by electronics manufacturing as well as financial services.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $32,470 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government has offered to guarantee all local and foreign currency deposits up until the end of 2010.


Background: South Korea is one of Asia's wealthiest countries. It enjoys major export success in a number of manufacturing industries, but especially shipbuilding, car-making, and electronics.

Key data: Gross national income per capita: $28,780 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 3 November, South Korea announced an economic package worth about 14 trillion won ($10.9bn; 6.6bn) to boost the economy and help avert a recession.

South Korea's central bank cut its key interest rate from 5% to 4.25% on 27 October.

A week earlier, on 19 October, the government pledged to guarantee foreign-currency borrowing by the country's banks to help stabilise financial markets. About $100bn of borrowed funds are covered by the deal, and the government will also provide $30bn of liquidity to banks.




Background: One of the eurozone's strongest economies which has grown faster than average for the last four years. It exports products such as vehicles and luxury commodities to other European nations and increasingly to newer EU member states such as Hungary.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $42,700 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said on 13 October that his government would provide up to 85bn euros ($114bn) in interbank loan guarantees and up to 15bn euros ($20bn) in equity to support the country's banking sector. The government had already announced a guarantee for all personal bank savings, applicable from 1 October.


Background: The country became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Much of its growth in recent years has stemmed from its access to relatively cheap Russian gas and oil, which it has been able to sell on the international market at a higher price.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $4,220 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Belarus has been in talks with the International Monetary Fund to obtain funding in the wake of the recent financial turmoil.


Background: With few natural resources, Belgium is reliant on imported raw materials and so is vulnerable to rising commodity prices. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries; Germany, Netherlands and France are its biggest trading partners.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $40,710 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government agreed to guarantee bank deposits of up to 100,000 euros ($136,000) - an increase of 80,000 euros.

The country's largest banking group, Fortis, needed the intervention of the Belgian and Dutch governments and the sale of some of its assets to French giant BNP Paribas, to stay alive after getting into difficulty over the purchase of Dutch bank ABN Amro.


Background: Danes enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world thanks to successful exports and extensive government welfare measures. It opted out of the European Economic and Monetary Union but its currency, the krona, is pegged to the euro.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $54,910 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Danish parliament approved a government-backed crisis plan, which includes an unlimited guarantee on savings deposits. The central bank has raised its key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points to 5.5%.


Background: Estonia regained its independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and since then has established one of the strongest economies in Central Europe. Its electronics and communications sectors are particularly strong. It joined the EU in 2004 and its currency is pegged to the euro.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $13,200 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government more than doubled its bank deposit guarantee to 50,000 euros ($68,000), in line with other European Union member states.


Background: Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President in 2007 promising sweeping economic and social reforms to tackle sluggish economic growth and high unemployment. He aims to cut taxes, make employment rules more flexible and rein in powerful trades unions. According to French finance minister Christine Lagarde, the country looks to be heading for recession.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $38,500 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The chairman of French savings bank Caisse d'Epargne has quit over the loss of 600m euros (466m) in a "trading incident" amid global market chaos.

Charles Milhaud said he accepted full responsibility for the lost cash and is expected to leave without a pay-off.


Background: Once celebrated as Europe's economic powerhouse, recent falling export orders and rising costs have pushed Germany to the brink of recession. The cost of incorporating the German Democratic Republic is also still being felt.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $38,860 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 17 October the German parliament overwhelmingly approved a 500 billion euro ($675bn) financial rescue package. The plan includes a fund to provide up to 400bn euros in interbank loan guarantees and 80bn euros ($109bn) to acquire stakes in troubled banks.

The government stepped in on 6 October to avoid the collapse of Germany's second-biggest commercial property lender, Hypo Real Estate. In an attempt to prevent a subsequent run on banks, the government announced it would guarantee all personal bank deposits in the country.


Background: Greece saw rapid economic change after World War II, thanks largely to the success of tourism and shipping. The country is one of the poorest in the eurozone and the public sector accounts for 40% of GDP.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $29,630 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Greek government said on 3 October it would fully guarantee all bank deposits of citizens, but an official added that this was a "political commitment" and the banking system was not at risk.


Background: Hungary's transition from a planned to a free market economy was smoother than for many of its former Soviet neighbours. By 1998 it was attracting nearly half of all foreign investment in the region, much of it from Germany. It has struggled with a low employment rate and a large budget deficit.

Data: Gross national income per capita: US $11,570 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 28 October it emerged that Hungary has been granted a rescue package by the IMF, the EU and the World Bank worth $25bn (15.6bn).

Hungary's central bank raised interest rates by three percentage points on 22 October to counter a sharp fall in the value of its currency, the forint. The emergency move took bank rates to 11.5%. The currency has suffered as investors have pulled out of forint assets amid worries about its banking system.


Background: After gaining independence in 1944, Iceland become one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Its prosperity initially rested on the fishing industry, but amid the gradual contraction of this sector, the financial sector expanded dramatically overseas. Before the global credit crunch took hold, Icelandic banks had foreign assets worth about 10 times the country's GDP, with debts to match.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $54,100 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Iceland's central bank increased its key interest rate from 12% to 18% on 28 October, saying it was part of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to borrow $2.1bn.

On the same day, Iceland's prime minister said the country needed to borrow about $4bn on top of the IMF loan and had approached the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve as well as its nordic neighbours for help.

On 24 October it became the first Western nation to go to the IMF for support since 1976. Negotiations with Russia for a big loan to support the country's banking system had earlier collapsed.

Iceland got in financial difficulties after it took over its three biggest banks: Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir.


Background: Since joining the European Community in 1973, rapid growth has transformed Ireland from a largely agricultural society into a modern, hi-tech economy. Its rapid growth, fuelled by foreign investment and a construction boom, saw it dubbed the Celtic Tiger. This year however, it became one of the first eurozone countries to slide into recession.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $48,140 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Ireland was the first government to come to the rescue of its citizens' savings, promising on 30 September to guarantee all deposits, bonds and debts in its six main banks for two years.

The move initially prompted consternation among some European partners, but other countries have since followed suit.


Background: One of the largest European economies, Italy's major industries - including motor vehicles and fashion - enjoy international success. Its rate of economic growth, however, has lagged behind the European average with high rates of unemployment, particularly in the south.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $33,540 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said on 13 October that the government would spend "as much as necessary" to support his country's financial institutions. The governor of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, meanwhile announced it would temporarily swap up to 40bn euros ($54bn) of bonds for Italian bank debt.

On 8 October, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the government was prepared to buy stakes in failing banks while waiving voting rights in an effort to guarantee stability. It would also step in to back deposits up to the current insured level of 103,000 euros ($141,000) if necessary, he said.


Background: The Netherlands is one of the world's biggest exporters of food products thanks to its highly mechanised agricultural sector. After two decades of strong growth and low unemployment, the economy ran into more troubled waters as global trade slowed in the early years of the new millennium.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $45,820 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Dutch government provided a 3bn euro ($3.8bn; 2.4bn) cash injection to the insurer Aegon on 28 October.

Previously it had given ING a 10bn euro ($13.4bn; 7.7bn) cash injection.

The government is also offering a 200bn euro package of loan guarantees to Dutch banks.


Background: Norway enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, in large part due to the discovery in the late 1960s of offshore oil and gas deposits. It is among the world's largest exporters of fuels and fuel products. Some of the considerable surplus revenue is in a fund, which has been valued at $250bn, which is invested abroad.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $76,450 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 29 October, Norway's central bank cut interest rates by 0.5%, to 4.75%. It also revised down its forecast for economic growth for 2008, from 3.25% to 2.5%.


Background: In 1989, the year communist rule ended, Poland was struggling with massive foreign debt and on the verge of economic collapse. After a difficult period of economic liberalisation, it enjoyed fast economic growth - expanding by 6.5% in 2007. Membership of the EU in 2004 saw funds flow in to the country and workers flow out to other member states.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $9,840 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government has been meeting to assess the eurozone financial rescue agreement, while the central bank has been preparing a package to help build confidence in the Polish banking sector.


Background: Portugal is continuing the process of liberalising its sluggish economy. Jose Socrates' Socialist Party, elected in 2005 after promising to revive the country's fortunes, has sharply cut spending by reducing pensions, raising the retirement age and withdrawing civil service benefits in an attempt to reduce one of Europe's biggest budget deficits.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $18,950 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The government said it would guarantee bank deposits and offer a financing line worth 20bn euros ($27.5bn) to guarantee the liquidity of its banks.


Background: Russia is a country of massive natural resources. High commodity prices and an expanding banking sector have helped it develop into a fast-growing economy and to accumulate large foreign reserves. It has expanded by an average of 7% a year since the financial crisis of 1998.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $7,560 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, passed a law on 13 October giving the state-run Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Activities (Vnesheconombank) 1.3 trillion roubles ($50bn) to pay off or service Russian banks' foreign loans. It came after President Dmitry Medvedev announced 950bn roubles ($36.4bn) of long-term help for banks at an emergency Kremlin meeting on 7 October.


Background: Spain grew quickly in the decades following the death of dictator General Franco in 1975 as its economy was transformed. After the Europe-wide recession in the 1990s, Spain enjoyed relatively strong growth thanks to further liberalisation and by a construction boom which is cooling rapidly. The government has managed to bring down Spain's stubbornly high unemployment rate in recent years.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $29,450 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced on 13 October that his government would set aside a maximum of 100bn euros ($134bn) to guarantee interbank loans for the remainder of 2008. But Mr Zapatero said the government would not, for now, take steps to recapitalise Spanish banks, because "we do not have solvency problems".

On 10 October, the government announced the creation of a 30bn euro ($40bn) fund to buy assets from Spanish financial institutions to help stabilise them and unfreeze credit. Three days earlier, it had increased bank deposit guarantees to 100,000 euros ($136,000) from the current 20,000 euros.


Background: Sweden survived its own credit crunch in the 1990s when house prices slumped and unemployment and bankruptcies rose rapidly. The government injected capital into failing banks and guaranteed depositors and creditors of stricken banks. Most of the money was regained as the economy recovered.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $46,060 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: The Swedish central bank cut interest rates by half a percentage point to 3.75% on 23 October, its second reduction in just over two weeks, and said it planned further cuts within six months.

Sweden has guaranteed new medium-term liabilities of banks up to a level of 1.5 trillion crowns (117.2bn; $205bn). It is also putting 15bn crowns into a fund that will be used in case a bank needs emergency capital.


Background: Its financial sector has helped it become one of the world's wealthiest countries. It manages a third of the world's offshore funds and has been ranked the second most competitive economy by the World Economic Forum.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $59,880 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Switzerland takes steps to strengthen its largest bank, UBS, by giving it 6bn Swiss francs ($5.3bn; 3.1bn) in exchange for a 9.3% stake. The bank will also be able to transfer up to $60bn of toxic assets to a fund supported by the Swiss central bank. Credit Suisse was also offered government assistance but was instead able to raise 10bn Swiss francs from global investors to shore up its position.


Background: Europe's second biggest economy after Germany is dominated by its service sector. London is the largest financial centre in the world. After a period of strong growth spurred by a consumer boom fuelled by credit and a soaring housing market, it is on the brink of a recession after Office for National Statistics' figures showed economic output fell by 0.5% in the third quarter.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $42,740 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: Following negotiations, the government announced on 13 October that it would inject 37bn ($64bn) of taxpayers' money into three major banks. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is to receive 20bn, a further 17bn will be injected into HBOS and Lloyds TSB "upon successful merger", while Barclays said it would seek an alternative source for 6.5bn ($11bn).


Background: Following the 2004 Orange Revolution, which established a pro-Western leadership, Ukraine was considered to be a bright star in the Eastern European area. But several years of in-fighting have meant the government has now reached an impasse on various issues. Steel is Ukraine's main export and the country's economy recently enjoyed a boom fuelled by high steel prices. However, the ongoing credit crisis has hit the country hard.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $6,810 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: A loan from the IMF was announced on 26 October. But the $16.5bn (10.6bn) loan is dependent on the bitterly divided parliament giving the green light to several anti-crisis laws, including the establishment of a fund to bail out the country's banks.



Latest: On 31 October, a group of Middle Eastern investors announced they would put up to 7.3bn ($11.8bn) into the UK bank Barclays.

The Qatar Investment Authority, the Challenger investment vehicle led by the Qatari royal family and Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi royal family, will own almost 32% of Barclays if the deal is completed as expected.

Kuwait said on 26 October it would introduce legislation to guarantee bank deposits - after losses were reported at Gulf Bank.

Saudi Arabia also said it would make 10bn riyals ($2.7bn; 1.7bn) available to help-low income citizens in the financial downturn.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) cut its benchmark interest rate on 12 October for the first time in almost two years.

On the same day, the United Arab Emirates promised to protect national banks and guarantee deposits, and Qatar launched a $5.3bn plan to buy bank shares.




Background: Economic reforms initiated from 1991 have helped transform India into the world's second-fastest growing economy, with manufacturing and information technology central to the boom.

India has benefitted from significant foreign investment and outsourcing by international companies. Economic growth of 7.9% in August was the slowest for three years, but is still strong by international standards. Substantial poverty remains, however, and per capita income is low.

Data: Gross national income per capita: $950 (World Bank, 2007)

Latest: On 1 November, India's central bank cut its main short-term lending rate, the repo rate, by half a percentage-point to 7.5%. It is the latest in a series of cuts by the Reserve Bank of India, which has brought the rate down from 9%.

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