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Mahathir slams rich nations' dominance

23 May 2000

Renewing his attack on globalisation, Malaysian PM says 'new capitalists' in the West are growing more powerful and less considerate

KUALA LUMPUR -- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday renewed his attack on unfettered globalisation, saying the rich West was ganging up to dominate the developing world.

Opening a three-day Asia-Africa forum, Dr Mahathir told developing nations that they risked being recolonised if they failed to cooperate to ward off the dangers of uncontrolled globalisation.

The premier said "new capitalists" in the West were growing more powerful and less considerate.

"Where once Western governments used to abhor monopolies, they are now encouraging the formation of cartels and oligopolies to dominate the world.

Each one of their mega-entities is bigger in terms of capital than any of us developing countries," he said.

"The rich countries of the north are ganging up ... We on the other hand, are greatly divided partly because we don't seem to know how to work together but mostly because the superpowers are actively preventing us from cooperating."

For example, Dr Mahathir said his proposed East Asia Economic Cooperation had failed to get off the ground due to the United States' disapproval.

"Now the US is even opposing the setting up of an Asian Monetary Fund for fear it might undermine the IMF and therefore US hegemony," he said.

"We now have to prepare ourselves to face and deal with challenges and dangers arising from new ideas about the structure of the world's economy, trade and finance.

"Most of all, we have to deal with the self-declared right of some countries to interfere in the affairs of others."

The premier said the gap between rich and poor was unprecedentedly large.

"Some 80 per cent of the world's gross national product was concentrated in industrialised countries while the poorest 20 per cent only have a share of 1.4 per cent," he said.

"It was reported that the richest 2 per cent of the world's population, which in 1960 were 30 times better off than the poorest 20 per cent, are today 61 times better off."

The Malaysian leader called for globalisation to be regulated to ensure it was "socially accountable" and wealth was more fairly shared.

He said the process would force poor countries to open up to foreign imports and finance, which can displace local enterprises and businesses.

"Unless the interpretations of globalisation and liberalisation are changed, we think the poor will not only lose more but they would virtually be colonised again," he added.

Dr Mahathir, who wants international financial reforms to rein in currency speculators, said Asian governments should not take all the blame for the 1997/98 economic crisis.

Mr Yasuaki Nogawa, deputy director-general of the Middle East and Africa bureau in Japan's Foreign Ministry, described the Asian crisis as an "example of difficulties derived from globalisation".

While globalisation has speeded up trade and investment and the development of information and communication technologies, the "negative side of globalisation has become more and more distinct", he added. -- AFP

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