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Nov 21, 2008

In Malaysia, bailouts are old hat

malaysiainsider | If there's any consolation for enduring the post-Mahathir era hangover, it is that bailouts seem to be a thing of the past. Or are they?

The looming bankruptcy of America's Big Three car makers is a reminder of a time when Malaysia was littered with mega projects that bled red ink and cronyism begat bailout after bailout amid the Asian financial crisis.

Even national car maker Proton Bhd is in much better shape today than, say, three years ago when Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Tahir first took over. It has slowly but steadily improved — albeit helped by burdensome tariffs slapped on other makes — and is producing cars that Malaysians don't actually mind buying.

Malaysia Airlines too has cut the fat and turned around, despite the difficult operating conditions brought on by the high fuel prices earlier this year.

So it's comforting to have to think quite hard to identify a likely candidate for a bailout today.

It's not to say that Malaysian companies are not struggling with large debt burdens, or suffering from sliding revenues. Air Asia, for instance, has debts of more than RM5 billion, which is four times more than its cash and deposits.

It's not to say government business or hard-to-get licences have not been awarded to favoured firms or businessmen.

It's just that the country's top leaders do not have that rock-hard determination to have their own way that former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad did.... selanjutnya.


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