Malaysia: Time Could Sap Mahathir's Strength

In the 14 months since Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad first shielded his economy with currency controls, he has engineered what few of his critics had expected: economic recovery. Malaysia is expected to grow more than 4% this year, inflation and interest rates remain low, and the Finance Ministry is forecasting the highest trade surplus in all of Southeast Asia. Adding to the feel-good factor, Mahathir is busy doling out income tax cuts, civil servant pay raises, and farm subsidies--all ahead of an election he is required to call within nine months. "If we held the election today, we would win," Mahathir said proudly as he held court in the foyer of Parliament in Kuala Lumpur.

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