Malaysia’s Ex-PM Condemns West’s Globalizing

Former Malaysian Prime Minis­ter Mahathir Mohamad, known as much for his inflammatory comments as for his transformation of Mal­aysia’s economy into a regional powerhouse, largely set aside anti-West­ern rhetoric to discuss economic development on Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

Speaking before Prime Minister Hun Sen, top government officials and businessmen at the inauguration of the Cambodia-Japan Cooper­ation Center at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Mahathir outlined how he successfully implemented a “Look East Policy” that converted Malaysia from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

“When I became prime minister in 1981, I thought, instead of just looking at the West…we should also look at the East, where there were sev­eral countries developing at that time, at a very fast rate,” Mahathir ex­plained.

During his 22 years in office, he said, he learned to use privatization to the government’s advantage, of­fer­ing subsidies and support for in­fra­structure projects like highways that the government could not af­ford to undertake, thereby fostering an economic boom and increasing tax revenues.

Mahathir became animated when an audience member brought up the topic of globalization, which the octogenarian referred to as “gobble-ization.”

“They gobble us up,” he said, warning Cambodians to shield themselves from Western giants.

“They want us to dismantle our borders, they want us to open our mar­ket, they want us to dismantle our market. They want us to allow them to come in and out, and they want to do this without any restriction,” Mahathir said. “We have to protect ourselves, but they say protection is wrong.”

Following Mahathir’s speech, Hun Sen spoke about how the “Look East” policy would be applied in Cambodia, noting that regional coop­eration could ease Cambodia’s entrance into the world market.

He said that within Asean and the Great­er Mekong Subregion, plans to link tourist areas and the service sector, to create joint industrial and pro­duction zones and distribution net­works and to connect infrastructure could catapult Cambodia forward.

“Japan’s success in the modernization of its economy and society has given [developing nations] hope that underdevelopment is not a ‘disease’ without cure,” Hun Sen said.

“‘Look East’ policy is gathering momentum and is rapidly evolving as a comprehensive umbrella for regional cooperation, for promoting development in the region.”

 

 

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