Archive for April 7th, 2008

Abdullah fires back at his nemeses

Pak Lah has finally retaliated – firing back at his chief and unexpected nemesis, his predecessor Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on all fours.

In his broadsides, the Prime Minister and Umno President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also did not spare his other nemeses – Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

However, one snippet of news about yesterday’s “open war” by Abdullah deserves greater attention.

Abdullah announced that Datuk Seri Najib Razak is the natural successor to the Umno presidency, saying: “ I assure you there are no problems between us, and he is the one who will be succeeding me.”

What should pique interest is not the omission by Abdullah as to when such handing over of power will take place, but Najib’s uncharacteristic silence in declining any comment on Abdullah’s assurance when approached by the media after the closed-door briefing for Umno grassroots leaders yesterday.

Does this connote another shifting of power equation in Umno?


Flat Earthers Versus Bad Samaritans

by M. Bakri Musa

It must be frustrating to be a leader of a developing country. Just as you are becoming convinced on the virtues of free trade and globalization, there emerges a countervailing viewpoint suggesting that those are nothing more than attempts by the developed world to maintain their economic dominance.

To me, the differences between the two viewpoints are more apparent than real. To former Prime Minister Mahathir however, this merely vindicates his conviction all along. And the man can speak with considerable authority.

He defied the then prevailing economic thinking – the so-called Washington consensus – and successfully steered Malaysia out of the treacherous 1997 Asian economic contagion. Mahathir made those brilliant economists at the IMF and US Treasury Department eat more than their share of humble pie with the success of his unique if unorthodox initiatives that were at variance to the accepted wisdom.

The surprise is that Mahathir’s remarkable achievement is not more analyzed or appreciated. The 1997 economic crisis and Mahathir’s bold and contrary approaches to solving it provided one of the rare “experiments of nature” in economics.

It is interesting that with America currently experiencing severe economic squeeze as a result of its sub-prime mortgage mess, many of the solutions adopted by the champions of free market in the Bush Administration bear remarkable resemblance to the methods of Mahathir. These include the government’s prompt and unhesitating “rescue” of a major Wall Street firm (Bear Stearns), the lowering of interest rates (with scant regards to its negative impact on the dollar), and the priming of the economic pump with generous tax rebates.

When Mahathir did similar “rescues,” he was accused of bailing out his cronies. Nobody would dare suggest that Treasury Secretary Paulson, a former major Wall Street figure, of doing the same thing. As for the decline of the dollar, the direct consequence of lower interest rates, it is deemed acceptable to avoid recession and unemployment! Exactly what Mahathir had uttered then!

Malaysia came out of the 1997 economic crisis much faster and with fewer scars than countries like Indonesia that followed the “severe but necessary” prescription of the Washington consensus. Mahathir was right then; I hope that Paulson would also be right. Read the rest of this entry »