Mahathir Mohamad is one of the Grand Old Men of the Asian political establishment. He was Malaysian premier from 1981 – 2003, and led its rapid modernisation and economic growth. Over the period, which included the Asian financial crisis, the former colony’s economy grew four-fold in real terms, and it is now the 37th largest in the world.
His comments from an Asian viewpoint to the BBC on the problems facing Europe are thus well worth noting. He suggests that:
“Europe must face up to the new economic reality. Europe… has lost a lot of money and therefore you must be poor now relative to the past. In Asia we live within our means. So when we are poor, we live as poor people. I think that is a lesson that Europe can learn from Asia.”
“You refuse to acknowledge you have lost money and (that) therefore you are poor. And you can’t remedy that by printing money. Money is not something you just print. It must be backed by something, either good economy or gold. I think you should go back to doing what I call real business – producing goods, providing services, trading – not just moving figures in bank books, which is what you are doing.”Mahathir agreed “with a laugh” with the BBC, this was a tough message:
“We used to get tough messages from you before, remember? And now, what is the result? Sometimes you undermined our currency and we became very poor. Well, we learn from each other. We were Euro-centric before. I think it should be a little bit Asia-centric now.”