Asset bubbles can push millions into poverty: Zoellick

Asset bubbles can push millions into poverty: Zoellick

Singapore: The post-crisis world economy faces new risks from investment bubbles that risk plunging millions back into poverty, according to World Bank chief Robert Zoellick.

While unprecedented fiscal and monetary actions by the United States and the rest of the world have rescued the global economy from a deep recession, these have inevitably created risks, he said.

Signs of inflated asset prices are especially evident in Asia, including in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, where property prices and stocks have surged this year, Zoellick wrote in a Financial Times article published on Wednesday.

“Asset bubbles could be the next fragility as the world recovers, threatening again to destroy livelihoods and trap millions more in poverty," he said.

He urged central banks and policymakers to deal with the issue quickly or else the unprecedented policies that have steered the global economy to recovery would soon backfire.

“Waiting for bubbles to burst and then cleaning up the aftermath is now a new lesson of what not to do," said Zoellick.

The G-20 had better put asset price bubbles and new growth strategies on its agenda.

“Otherwise, the solutions of 2008-09 could plant the seeds of trouble in 2010 and beyond."

Adopting a tighter monetary policy when the recovery is still fragile, especially in the US, may derail the upturn and may not necessary be the answer to addressing asset bubbles, said Zoellick.

He pointed out that Asian policymakers have embarked on alternatives to deal with asset bubbles in their own backyards.

In the case of Singapore, where property prices rose 16% in the third quarter, authorities have resorted to release more land for residential projects and stop buyers from deferring payments until construction is completed.

Zoellick warned earlier this month that Asia’s rapid economic recovery carried new risks of overheating and urged governments to carefully unwind their huge stimulus injections.