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Malaysia's PM blasts hedge-fund operators again

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June 17, 2000 


KUALA LUMPUR,(AP) - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday singled out hedge-fund operators as the main culprits who took advantage of globalization to enrich themselves by speculating on the weak currencies.


Mahathir, 74, said that the destructive aspects of globalization could be averted if these financiers were identified by name and banned from using huge amounts of capital to manipulate the currencies of poor countries, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Economic turmoil could be prevented if "we are prepared to recognize the culprits and regulate their activities," Mahathir told a conference of business leaders in Kuala Lumpur.


Mahathir has repeatedly attacked currency traders since the Asian financial crisis. He criticized U.S. financier George Soros in 1997, calling him a "moron" and blaming his "Jewish agenda" for the slide in Malaysia's fortunes. Mahathir denied his remarks were anti-Semitic.


On Friday, Mahathir said that globalization was not inherently destructive but added that a system which promoted rapid flows of capital across borders made poorer countries vulnerable.


"The only people profiting from this particular manifestation of globalization were the currency manipulators while millions of people lost their jobs and billions of dollars of hard-earned wealth," he said.


Mahathir also accused developed nations of not heeding his call to target hedge-fund operators. This, he said, had forced his Southeast Asian nation to resort to "homegrown" measures to protect its economy.


Mahathir has often claimed that Malaysia's decision to reject policy prescriptions from the International Monetary Fund was instrumental in rejuvenating its economy.


Malaysia fixed its currency, the ringgit, at 3.8 to the dollar in September 1998 to insulate it from fluctuations and imposed sweeping exchange controls. The economy has steadily recovered since then.


"The question that begs to be asked is whether globalization must result in periodical massive economic turmoil for the whole world," he said.


"Cannot the rich further enrich themselves without causing economic turmoil and impoverishing the countries targeted?" Mahathir asked.


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