Aug 18, 2006

Bloomberg : Mahathir Puts Malaysia Back on the (Wrong) Map

A foreigner's perspective of the current situation between Tun Mahathir and PM Abdullah Badawi. Mostly focus on the impact towards the economy of Malaysia.

** Link : "It Doesnt Matter to Me" - Anwar Ibrahim

Excerpt from Bloomberg

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Journalists in Asia have missed Mahathir Mohamad.

The region has been pretty colorless -- leader-wise, that is -- since Malaysia's firebrand prime minister stepped down in 2003. His successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is the anti-Mahathir: press-shy, affable, soft-spoken and diplomatic.

Mahathir, 80, has returned with a passion to criticize his handpicked successor, and it's tantalizing this nation of 27 million people. Mahathir's gripe: Abdullah is reversing some of his decisions, including a massive project to build a bridge to neighboring Singapore.

"I gave him time," Mahathir said this month. "I didn't say anything for two years. I was quiet. I observed his promises. I had high expectations. I expected his view to be different from me, but I don't see the government doing what it promises to do."

And so Mahathir's rebukes of the prime minister are unsettling Malaysia's markets, too. ``It seems now to be having some effect on a domestic economy which is already slowing,'' Gerald Ambrose, managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management's Malaysian business, said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

Whether it's wounded pride, an attempt to look out for associates hoping to profit from his mega-projects, or anger at the release from prison of his former rival, Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir is back with a vengeance.

Mahathir has a point on at least one thing: Abdullah can be painfully indecisive. Many Malaysians are disappointed by how timidly Abdullah has attacked corruption and policies giving preferential treatment to the ethnic Malay majority. Abdullah also should go further to convince Malaysians his family hasn't benefited from government contracts, as Mahathir has alleged.

Even if Mahathir's concerns are legitimate -- and one certainly meets businesspeople who share them -- he needs to learn to bite his tongue for the good of Malaysia's economy.

Fair or not, Malaysia still has a lot of work to do on its public relations. The economy deserves more attention from international investors than it receives. It won't get much -- at least not the kind it wants -- with its present and former leaders trading barbs.


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