Oct 13, 2006

Tun Mahathir Says Abdullah Is Endangering Malaysian Economic Growth

Mahathir Says Abdullah Is Endangering Malaysian Economic Growth

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, three years in office this month, is jeopardizing economic growth and confidence in his administration is waning, said former leader Mahathir Mohamad.

Abdullah should increase spending on technology rather than boosting agricultural production or signing questionable trade accords, Mahathir, 80, said in an interview. The medical doctor, who led the nation for 22 years until 2003, said he's being sidelined in the media and in Malaysia's ruling party.

"I don't see any new projects coming in which would boost the economy," the former premier said in his office in Putrajaya, south of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. "The last few years, I don't see any change for the better. It is affecting the nation and the growth of the country. It is not personal."

Mahathir, who transformed Malaysia from a tin and rubber exporter into an industrialized manufacturer, is unable to stay out of politics. He's extending a feud that started after Abdullah reversed high-profile investment decisions made under Mahathir in favor of plowing funds into education and health care.

``The fundamental problem with Dr. M. is he feels that what he has done has a right to be continued perpetually,'' said Abdul Razak Baginda, executive director of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre. ``That's a fallacy for any leader. The current prime minister has a different philosophy. He's concerned with a more balanced development.''

Azhar Osman, Abdullah's press secretary, said by phone that the prime minister wouldn't respond to any comments made by Mahathir in the Oct. 9 interview.

Vision 2020

In 1991, Mahathir laid out a 30-year plan known as Vision 2020 that aimed to win Malaysia developed-nation status by that date. He accelerated growth by wooing foreign manufacturers, created a technology hub in Cyberjaya, south of Kuala Lumpur, and championed the cause of ethnic Malays. He assured them easier access to housing, education and jobs.

Abdullah announced in March that he plans to increase public development spending 18 percent to 200 billion ringgit ($54 billion) from 2006 to 2010 compared with the previous five years. He allocated a fifth of total spending to education and training, and plans to raise palm-oil output 31 percent by 2010.

Asked if he was optimistic of meeting Vision 2020's objective, Mahathir said, ``right now, I am not.'' He declined to say whether he regretted picking Abdullah as leader.

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