Dec 11, 2008

Tun Mahathir thinks Vision 2020 not likely to happen

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 11 - Will Malaysia achieve its target of becoming a developed country by 2020?

Unlikely, says the architect of that vision.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad blamed the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, the current global economic turmoil and policies of the Abdullah administration for his stark assessment.

He made this observation during a question and answer session at a forum on the current market volatility in Putrajaya today.

Dr Mahathir noted that during the last crisis in 1997, the government had twin objectives: to ensure economic growth but at the same time protect social cohesion. That is why the government rejected the remedies suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would have included liberalizing the economy.

This strategy has not been followed by the present administration which was weak.

"For 50 years political stability was what attracted investors. Now a weak government has tried to regain popularity by pandering to the demands of extremists. The floodgates are open and all kinds of sensitive issues are being debated. The result is the resurgence of racism on the part of all ethnic groups, " he said.

In such a climate of instability, it will be difficult for the government to tackle the economic downturn.

"The fear of political repercussions will prevent the government from seeking decisive or unpopular measures, " said Dr Mahathir, who has slammed the Hindu Rights Action Force for making excessive demands and non-Malay politicians for revisiting the social contract issue.

The country has been in a state of flux since March 8 when the Pakatan Rakyat shocked Barisan Nasional by denying the ruling coalition their customary two-thirds majority in Parliament and taking control of five states. Dr Mahathir has blamed the weak leadership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for BN's poor performance and campaigned for his resignation.

Dr Mahathir yesterday dismissed the government's RM7 billion stimulus package, saying that spreading a few billion ringgit would not be effective in heading off the economic slowdown.

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