International -- Readers Report
A GOOD LEGAL SYSTEM IS KEY TO KAZAKHSTAN'S SUCCESS (int'l edition)
Having personally negotiated transactions involving more than $20 billion in potential investments in the past five years in the Republic of Kazakhstan, I found your "Spotlight on Kazakhstan" (Jan. 12) inaccurate and unfair.
Amoco Corp. has not "quit" Kazakhstan. In fact, it is a participant in a joint venture with Turkish Petroleum AO that our firm assisted in negotiating in October. In addition, Amoco is in discussions regarding further investments in Kazakhstan.
To be sure, several companies that have demonstrated an unmistakable air of condescension in their dealings with the Kazakhstan government have had difficulty. Conversely, those companies that have treated the Kazakhs with respect and have an understanding of the challenges inherent in such a difficult transition have had success. The proof is in the rate of foreign investment--among the highest in the former-communist sector.
This success results from the fact that Kazakhstan has developed the most comprehensive legal system in the former Soviet Union. It is by no means perfect, but it is already workable and improving steadily. Further, the central bank has shown exemplary discipline that has stabilized the currency for more than two years. The fact is that in Kazakhstan, as in the most other civilized places in the world, one can fully expect to reap what one sows.
Curtis M. Coward
McGuire Woods Battle
& Boothe LLP
McLean, Va.Return to top
MAYBE MAHATHIR WASN'T SO FAR OFF COURSE AFTER ALL (int'l edition)
I applaud BUSINESS WEEK's commitment to presenting diverse opinions. In the past six months, however, jingoism and banality from instant Asian experts have gotten more space in the Western financial media than they deserve ("What's the weakest link in the world economy? Japan," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 12).
Rudi Dornbusch would do well to read Robert Kuttner ("Whistling past the graveyard in Asia," Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 15). In the rush to portray Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (or Japanese or Korean or Indonesian leaders) as being "in denial," the instant experts seem to take at face value the idea that the global currency regime emerged as a perfect market. Never mind that the International Monetary Fund now considers the Asian currencies grossly undervalued, or that some very concerned people in the West, including George Soros, are now taking Mahathir's arguments about currency markets seriously.
More important, Mr. Dornbusch's "let foreigners clean up the mess" rant only increases the perception in Asia that the IMF is a tool of U.S. trade policy--jingoism breeds jingoism. Japan's current malaise is the result of zigzagging exchange rates--caused in large part by repeated competitive devaluations by the U.S. in pursuit of its trade objectives, or so many Japanese analysts will tell you.
And in case Mr. Dornbusch hasn't noticed, most of those brilliant foreigners operating in Asia are much too busy cleaning up their own messes or lobbying the IMF to tell the Koreans, the Japanese, or anyone else how to run a company, a bank, or an economy.
Mark A. Harbison
Hong KongReturn to top
INDONESIANS' PATIENCE SHOULD SEE THEM THROUGH THE CRISIS (int'l edition)
After reading Michael Shari's "A regime on the ropes" (Cover Story, Jan. 26), followed by his interview with Muchtar Pakpahan, I was ready to jump on the next plane out of Indonesia. The impression readers are left with is that the entire country of Indonesia is on the brink of chaos.
Once I took the time to speak to several Indonesians about the situation, my fears were calmed. I found people to have a striking placidity about the circumstances. As a foreigner living in Surabaya, I have watched the reactions of the people here as the Indonesian rupiah has depreciated to all-time lows. I have witnessed the pain in their eyes. But I have also found that Indonesians' greatest asset is their ability to be patient in everyday situations. In the midst of economic crisis and political uncertainty, some social unrest is inevitable. But today's Indonesians have enjoyed years of economic growth, and I do not think they are prepared to lose everything by regressing to complete anarchy.
Surabaya, IndonesiaReturn to top