|Biographical detail : ||He proved with example to show that it was possible for a poor Muslim country to progress without sacrificing its identity and cultural values.
Dr Mahathir Muhammad when he became Malaysia’s Prime Minister in 1981 his world’s view was conditioned by the complex racial politics of multi-ethnic Malaysia that he successfully mastered during his terms in office. Dr Mahathir was known as, a “Malay ultra”, and a strong proponent of the rights of the ethnic Malay-Muslim majority, who were much poorer than the ethnic Chinese minority that dominated the economy.
Dr Mahathir sought to promote the economic interests of the Malays, what was called the new economic policy, by granting them special business privileges under a programme of affirmative action. Thus poverty among Malays has since fallen from 35 per cent to 5 per cent, while Malaysia’s income per head has risen from $2,320 when he took office to $8,920 when he stepped down. The economic progress has also consolidated economic and political stability in a country that was marred by race riots before he came to power.
Dr Mahathir rejected an austerity programme proposed by the International Monetary Fund, when Malaysia was threatened by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s instead he imposed capital controls and reflated the economy, moves that led to a quick recovery.
Dr Mahathir practised as a doctor during 1959 – 64 before he was elected in 1981 and re-elected in 1982, 1986 and 1990 as prime minister of Malaysia.
Mahathir Muhammad who “conducted his diplomacy with a heady mixture of high profile and plain speaking, of lofty principles and crude provocation” finally stepped down from his position as Malaysia’s prime minister, after 22 years, in October 2003.