Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned of the danger of a common currency in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. It is a reminder that needs not a resounding. The horror of Europe is enough to make one thinks twice of a currency union. The talks of Greek exit can potential become the end of the European dream.
The European crisis is a challenge to me partly because I am supportive of a currency union for Southeast Asia. Sometimes in the past, I contended to be associated with the term Aseanist.
More importantly, I am supportive of a currency union because of my free trade tendency: a union boosts trade because it reduces trade barrier significantly.
To be fair to myself, I support a union across similar economies and not wholly across the diverse Southeast Asia economies from the financially sophisticated Singapore to the tiny backwater East Timor.
Really, the lesson of Europe is not that monetary union does not work. The lesson is that monetary union works best for similar economies: the economic cycles mostly coincide, the structures are about the same, the culture of societies in it are not so different, etc.
I think I have made the case for a currency union for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei for a start. In fact, Singapore and Brunei are already on a currency board, which effectively means de facto currency union. Malaysia is the natural extension of the Brunei-Singapore union because of its proximity and the massive interlinking between the three economies.
Then, there is perhaps historical hangover on my part, given how the original Malaysian proposal was a 15-state federation, with both Brunei and Singapore in it. Indeed, prior to 1973, all three currencies were interchangeable freely. Even before that between 1953 and 1967, all three countries used the same currency.
One issue with the Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei currency union is that the Singaporean economy tends to be more volatile than Malaysia. Nevertheless, I think in many ways, the direction of both economies are more or less the same. In that sense, the challenge of a monetary authority is to be more flexible and responsive to a more dynamic economy.