Asia Over Economic Hump: Mahathir

June 3, 1999

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Asia has put the worst behind it and is now on an economic recovery track, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday at a conference sponsored by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc.

On the opening day of The Future of Asia conference, speakers discussed economic rehabilitation strategies and Asia in the 21st century. The two-day meeting opened earlier in the day.

"The worst is over," Mahathir said. "For almost all of us, the road to recovery has been taken and is now being firmly traveled." He added, however, that "we all still have a long way to go."

Mahathir said Malaysia will fight to wipe out cronyism and improve transparency. But he criticized the International Monetary Fund formula, under which Malaysia raised interest rates when corporations were, as he put it, "dying of thirst." Even as investments and consumption were "falling through the floor, and despite many years of budgetary surpluses, we cut down government expenditure by more than 20%," he said.

Myanmar's foreign affairs minister, U Win Aung, said "insurgencies" have hampered that country's economic growth. "National unity is the most important fundamental problem for us, and it is the first obstacle to overcome," the minister said.

Vietnamese First Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung emphasized that "cooperation and coordination at the national, regional and global levels are required to be undertaken to prevent and deal with uncertainties, especially those arising from the currency markets."

(The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Friday morning edition)

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.