A Postcard From Malaysia

Eventually, the massive 1MDB corruption debacle led to rallies calling for Najib's resignation, spearheaded by the grassroots movement Bersih. Following his release in 2004, Anwar Ibrahim became the leading figure in the opposition and helped coalesce the opposition parties into the Pakatan Rakyat, which contested the 2008 and 2013 general elections.

These protests culminated in the Malaysian Citizens' Declaration by Mahathir, the rise of Pakatan Harapan and NGOs to oust Najib. The 2018 election triumph paved the way to Mahathir to become the world's oldest elected leader at 93. He said his coalition would not seek revenge but would "restore the rule of law".

Recently, Anwar Ibrahim seconded those views. He said Malaysia “will not compromise” in its talks with Goldman Sachs over the 1MDB corruption scandal, and the bank “must bear responsibility.” The nation has a responsibility to uncover any crimes the investment bank may have committed.

Fiscal consolidation

Between 1974 and 2004, Mahathir’s Malaysia experienced a period of rapid modernization and economic growth, as his government initiated a series of bold infrastructure projects. During his reign, Malaysia was transformed into an ASEAN tiger. Politically, Mahathir was dominant, winning five consecutive general elections and fending off a series of rivals for the leadership of UMNO.

The final test came with the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1998. While much of Asia succumbed to IMF-imposed austerity, Malaysia did not. Instead, Mahathir pursued a heterodox model of economic policies, including currency and capital controls, while deterring George Soros's speculative efforts to derail the economy.

In the West, Mahathir was demonized as an authoritarian dictator who was intent on undermining his own economy. In reality, his mix of policies ultimately helped Malaysia endure a shallower GDP loss than crisis-afflicted Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand.

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Disclaimer: Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world and the founder of Difference Group. He has served at the India, China and America Institute ...

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