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Oleh/By		: 	DATO' SERI DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD 
Tempat/Venue 	: 	PUTRA WORLD TRADE CENTER (PWTC), 
			KUALA LUMPUR (K.L) 
Tarikh/Date 	: 	09/10/91 
Tajuk/Title  	: 	THE OPENING OF THE COMMONWEALTH 
			FINANCE MINISTERS 




      Firstly  I  would like to welcome the Finance Ministers
of the Commonwealth to Malaysia.  We in Malaysia  are  still
basking  in the glow of the privilege and honour to host the
meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments  two  years
ago.    We believe that the meeting had been very beneficial
to us and hopefully to the Commonwealth.
2.   Your meeting, following  soon  after  the  Commonwealth
Heads  of  Governments'  meeting  in Malaysia will, we hope,
contribute further to the meaning and value of  the  Common-
wealth  as  the  Heads  of  Governments meeting in 1989 did.
Very soon the Heads of Governments of the Commonwealth  will
be  meeting again in Harare, a meeting that will be historic
not only because of the things that are happening  in  South
Africa,  a former Dominion and member of the Commonwealth, a
meeting that will be attended for the first time by Namibia,
only recently freed from white supremacist South Africa, but
also because the Commonwealth will be deciding  on  the  new
role it will play in the future.  That meeting  will discuss
the findings and recommendations of the High Level Appraisal
Group, commissioned by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments
Meeting (CHOGM) of 1989 in Malaysia.
3.   It  is the common practice now  for  the  Ministers  of
Finance of the Commonwealth to meet before going on to  meet
the  Ministers of Finance of all the countries of the world,
along with the Central Bankers  and  others  at  the  Annual
Meeting  of  the  World  Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. This year you will meet in Bangkok, only 1  1/2  hours
flight from Kuala Lumpur.
4.   I  hope that your meeting here is not because of logis-
tical convenience alone.  I hope that you will hold substan-
tive discussions which  will  help  you  to  appreciate  the
financial and other problems of the countries of the Common-
wealth,  to understand  each  other,  to  formulate  certain
common stands which will be beneficial to the members  as  a
whole.
5.   Meetings  of world bodies should be attended by all the
countries of the world.  But there is such a great disparity
between the powers wielded by the members of world fora that
a small little country is often completely lost,  its  voice
completely  ignored  and  its  interests  relegated  to  the
back-ground.
6.   However if the Commonwealth countries work in  concert,
decide  on common stands after the meetings of their Finance
Ministers, meetings during which the weak members  had  made
their  voices heard, then it may be possible for the Common-
wealth as a group or for the stronger members of the Common-
wealth to lend weight to the  arguments  and  pleas  of  the
weak.
7.   The  need  for the weak to be heard is much more urgent
now for we hear talks of linking aid and trade to democracy,
to human rights, to workers rights and to the environment.
8.   Let me make it clear that Malaysia is  all  for  democ-
racy,  for  the protection of human rights and the rights of
workers, for press freedom and for keeping  the  environment
unpolluted.  Malaysia practises democracy, upholds human and
workers  rights and strives with all its limited capacity to
protect the environment.  But acceptance of all these  noble
principles  cannot always guarantee the well-being and pros-
perity of peoples and nations.
9.   We are seeing today a most glorious counter-revolution.
We see the death of Communism and the birth of Democracy and
the adoption of the free market system all over  the  world.
But  it would be naive of us to fail to see that the initial
fruits of the espousal of democracy and the free market  are
not  the expected wealth and prosperity or even of stability
and freedom from fear.   In many of  the  countries  of  the
Soviet  Union  and  Eastern  Europe we are seeing increasing
poverty and economic chaos, political instability and  civil
wars, death and destruction.
10.  We must not be disheartened by these things, of course,
but we should acknowledge them and be more cautious and cir-
cumspect  before we link aid and trade, we twist arms in or-
der to force democracy and all the  other  noble  ideas  and
concepts down everyone's throats.
11.  Democracy  is great.   It is the least imperfect of the
systems of government devised by man. But please  note  that
it  is not absolutely perfect.  To work, democracy cannot be
just adopted as a system.  To work, the people  as  a  whole
must understand how it works, how to make it work, how to be
wary of its imperfections and how to handle them.  It is not
just  governments which must practise democracy.  The people
as a whole, the political parties, the oppositions, the NGOs
and the pressure groups --  they  must  all  understand  the
workings and the limitations of democracy.  And the same ap-
plies  to  human rights, to workers rights, to press freedom
and to environmental protection.
12.  Let us not concentrate only on how successful the oper-
ation is and care not whether the patient dies or not.    Mr
Gorbachev  almost  died because he thought that the mere es-
pousal of democracy and the free market would solve all  the
problems of the Soviet Union.  Clearly for the Soviet Union,
there  is  yet  no  tangible  dividends  from  glasnost  and
perestroika.  The end of the Cold War has so far  benefitted
only the other party to that war.
13.  We  should  use whatever leverage we have to spread the
gospel of democracy, human rights, etc.  But we must be very
careful, lest in our missionary zeal  we  destroy  the  very
people  we wish to help.  On the other hand, we cannot stand
by and watch as dictatorships violate the  rights  of  their
people  to  free  choice, to freedom from oppression, and to
sustaining human dignity.
14.  The Minister of Finance in any country has an  enormous
responsibility.   Whether the people or the country prospers
or not depends very much on the skills of  the  Minister  of
Finance,  on  the  power and influence he wields.  It is not
just having money that counts.   It is  how  that  money  is
spent  and  invested that will determine whether the country
will develop and grow or regress and wither away. Of course,
if the Minister of Finance has no money  at  all,  there  is
precious little that he can do.
15.  Aid  and  trade  are  two  things  that concern all the
Ministers of Finance.   But even the  rich  countries  which
need  no  aid  has to manage their finances well if they are
going to remain prosperous.  So let us not be too  ready  to
condemn  failure  and to apply sanctions, but instead let us
help each other first.
16.  Some of us are successful and some of us  fail  in  the
management  of  our  finances. Malaysia believes in learning
from others.  We devised the Look East Policy not because we
want to be a colony of Japan, but because  we  feel  we  can
learn   from  how  Japan  managed  to  emerge  from  a  most
devastating  war,  including  the destruction by atom bombs,
to become the greatest economic power.
17.  Perhaps the Ministers of Finance  of  the  Commonwealth
and  other  economic ministers  can  help  their  colleagues
upgrade their skills and learn  of  the  approaches  towards
a more sound management of financial performance.
18.  Next  to attitude, we in Malaysia think skills are very
important.  Wealth can be dissipated in no time.  But skills
can sustain wealth and make it grow more.
19.  We have a problem in Malaysia.  We have  a  multiracial
population  separated  not  just  by the fact of race but by
economic roles and performance.  Even in a homogeneous soci-
ety, extreme differences in wealth among its members tend to
arouse envy, antagonism and conflict.  The basis of the Com-
munist and Socialist ideologies is the unequal  distribution
of  wealth  and the wide gaps between the rich and the poor.
If in addition the rich and the poor are also  separated  by
ethnic  origins,  then  the  potential  for conflict is even
greater.
20.  Malaysia has that potential.  The peoples  of  Malaysia
are separated not just by race but also by their wealth.  We
have all the ingredients for social conflicts and violence.
21.  The  simplistic  approach is  to  give  everyone  equal
opportunities and let them achieve their own levels. This is
very democratic.  But we know and you know that equal oppor-
tunities  do not give equal results.  Indeed they are likely
to enhance the differences.   Asking a lame  man  to  sprint
with an athlete from the same starting point will not result
in their reaching the winning post together.  The likelihood
is that they will be much further apart.  Similarly even the
most  egalitarian  democrats subscribe to taxing the rich to
provide for the poor.  A handicap is not undemocratic.    It
is  very  egalitarian.    Again, to draw the same analogy, a
successful operation is not good enough.   The patient  must
survive and get well.
22.  And so in a  world  so  enamoured  with  democracy  and
equality,  let  us  remember  that  handicaps  i.e. positive
discrimination  or  affirmative  action  are still necessary
in order to be equal.
23.  The  Commonwealth  Ministers  of  Finance will be going
from here to Bangkok for the World  Bank  and  International
Monetary Fund conference.  As a group they should understand
the  problems  faced  by their weakest members and help fend
off the more extreme demands that will be made upon them.
24.  The  World   Bank   is   about   to   insist   on   new
conditionalities for aid and loans.  The Commonwealth should
not just go along with the World  Bank.   The  Ministers  of
Finance  of   the   Commonwealth   should   appreciate   the
difficulties of the weak,  the  recipients of  aid  and  the
debtors.
25.  We   should  not   protect   the  profligate   and  the
irresponsible. But punishment by deprivation is not the only
means  of correcting aberration.  Indeed it  may not correct
anything at all.  Understanding and the upgrading of  skills
in financial management are also methods of corrections.
26.  The  debtors  and  the  recipients of aid must also ac-
knowledge their need to accept reasonable actions.   No  one
will  help  if that help is going to be frittered away or to
be used to oppress or to sustain authoritarian rule.
27.  The restructuring of debts cannot be resolved by merely
asking the debtors to practise thrift and cut back on devel-
opment.  The lenders and the agencies must actively  provide
guidance  and help.   The debtors for their part must accept
guidance and direct help.
28.  It is acknowledged that there may be political  reasons
for  recalcitrance  on the part of debtors.  This should not
be simply condemned.  They should be studied  and  solutions
found.
29.  The same applies to aid.  Do not just hold back aid be-
cause  of  alleged breaches of human rights or whatever. The
donor and the recipient and possibly a  third  party  should
study  how  best  to  continue  to  give aid but control the
breaches of human rights.
30.  The Ministers of Finance of the  Commonwealth  must  be
committed  to  free  trade.   Where there are no breaches of
freedom,  democracy,  human  rights,  workers  rights,  free
speech,  environmental pollution, etc. , there should not be
protectionism and regulated trade.  GSP status should not be
reviewed merely to slow down the growth of developing  coun-
tries which conform to all the conditions.
31.  There  should  not  be a continuous effort to erect new
conditionalities for trade.   We have now  the  intellectual
properties  and  the  Watch  List.   Already some vulnerable
countries are feeling that they are being put under surveil-
lance like criminals.  But there is now a new twist  to  the
environmental conditions.  Goods must be recyclable.
32.  This  will affect the manufactured products exported by
the poorer countries which use borrowed technology and  have
limited capacities to innovate and adjust to new conditions.
At  the same time since the poor countries are also the pro-
ducers of the raw material for manufactured goods, recycling
will reduce the demand for the raw materials involved,  thus
making the poor countries even poorer.
33.  The  linkages between trade and aid with the democratic
practices of a country should not be selective.  Friends  or
foes should not count.  It would be a mockery and a farce if
friends  can  get  away  with  dictatorships and oppressions
while those who are not friendly and given to plain speaking
are subjected to the proposed pressures.
34.  I would like to think that whatever we expect a country
to do within its boundaries, we should also be  able  to  do
outside  our  boundaries i.e.   between peoples and nations.
If we say that there should be freedom of  speech  within  a
country  then  we  should  also allow a country to speak its
mind without punitive action being taken against  it  if  it
does.
35.  It  would be difficult for international conferences to
be held if we fear punitive actions for what  we  say.    We
would  then  be  less than frank and we would not be able to
contribute positively towards the solution of problems.
36.  I should hope that this Commonwealth Ministers  of  Fi-
nance meeting in Kuala Lumpur will be characterised by frank
and  constructive  discussions.   I would hope that the same
frankness should also characterise the World  Bank  and  the
International  Monetary  Fund  meeting in Bangkok.  Then and
only then can we hear the truth and find solutions.
37.  With this hope I now have much  pleasure  in  declaring
open the Commonwealth Ministers of Finance meeting.

 
 



 
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