(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): "Stop the rogues or quit, PM tells govts" is the catching front-page headline of the Business Times on the speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday.
Mahathir said that governments which harbour currency traders and claim that they cannot control them should resign or be removed.
The first reaction of Malaysians to the news today must be one of "Bravo Mahathir!" - that we have a Prime Minister who have the guts to call on the governments of the world to quit or to be overthrown if they could not stop the "rogues" in their country.
However, this sensation is short-lived when reason and sobriety set in with other thoughts:
Should Mahathir resign or be overthrown when he could not stop the "rogues" in Malaysia, whether those guilty of causing Anwar’s "black eye" while under policy custody or the practitioners of corruption, nepotism, cryonism?
While Mahathir’s strictures against currency speculators are valid and legitimate, wasn’t Bank Negara, with the full approval of Mahathir, one of the currency speculators in the international financial markets until it got burnt and caused the country to lose some RM30 billion in the early nineties?
Even more serious, Mahathir seems to be advocating world revolution when he virtually called for the overthrow of all Western governments and in fact almost all governments in the world, except Malaysia and those with capital controls.
This is testified by the headlines of other Malaysian newspapers: "Singkir pemimpin sokong spekulator: PM" (Berita Harian); "Governments which harbour speculators: Quit!" (Nanyang Siang Pao) and "Mahathir: Overthrow Govts which harbour speculators" (Sin Chew Jit Poh).
Has it now become the new foreign policy of the Malaysian Government to advocate world revolution and the overthrow of all governments which do not accept his prescription to resolve the international financial crisis?
Malaysians and foreign investors were hoping that Mahathir would use his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to announce the easing of the five-month-old capital controls, such as the introduction of an exit tax to replace the rule that bars foreign firms from taking the principal of their portfolio investments out of the country before September 1, 1999, or 12 months from the date of investment, whichever comes later.
During my speech on the 1999 Budget in Parliament last October, I had proposed a form of exit tax which is graduated, with a higher rate being applied to short-term investments.
However, instead of such an announcement at the WEF in Davos, we have suddenly the Malaysian Prime Minister making a clarion call to arms for a world revolution!
Will the new Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar be tasked with the responsibility to promote a world revolution to preach the overthrow of most governments in the world?