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Vol 38 No 20

Published 10th October 1997

Asian tigers, African lions

African finance ministers are looking more carefully at Asia's economic models, mired in currency and environmental crises

African finance ministers making the pilgrimage to Hong Kong for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (23-25 September) were treated to a bizarre contest between competing pugilists, representing Western capitalism and Asian tigers. There was a set-piece confrontation between global currency speculator George Soros and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. In the Eastern corner, Mahathir argued that currency trading was 'unnecessary, unproductive and totally immoral' and should be 'made illegal'. In the Western corner, Soros asserted that Mahathir was 'a loose cannon' and 'a menace to his own country'. However much of a caricature of the East-West economic argument the confrontation may have been, it reminded African governments of just how far the ground had shifted in Asia's favour.

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