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Jun 2, 2008

In Malaysia, Signs of Government Reform

malay-badawi4asiasentinel - [...] Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, under increasing attack from his predecessor for his handling of politically disastrous elections in March and other issues, has nonetheless been compiling an impressive record through his appointments of top officials in the civil service and government-linked companies (GLCs) such as the national air carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

Today, Badawi’s hold on power is increasingly tenuous after the cabinet kicked off a rebellion by agreeing to investigate former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on charges of having fixed judicial appointments during his 22-year tenure. In response, Mahathir angrily resigned from the United Malays National Organisation and is seeking to dethrone Badawi. Although so far he has officially lured few UMNO members away from the party, he retains strong support within it.

Nonetheless, the prime minister’s record as a government administrator stands in vivid contrast to Mahathir’s. In the two decades of Mahathir’s rule, one financial scandal after another beset the country. The Bumiputra Malaysia Finance affair in the early 1980s saw US$1 billion (RM3.2 billion in 2008 ringgit) go down the drain. An attempt to corner the world tin market in the 1980s is believed to have cost some US$500 million. Betting in foreign exchange futures cost Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, another RM30 billion in the 1990s.

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