Political Corruption in
William A. Callahan
'Our crisis is not only economic but also political and psychological. People are fed up with the same government that is corrupt, nepotistic and full of cronies.' 1
Amien Rais, Indonesian opposition leader
Enormous changes have been taking place in Southeast Asia in the 1990s, particularly towards the end of the decade. First there was a pattern of equitable economic growth that was striking enough to be characterized by the World Bank as a 'miracle', and hailed by professional and pop economists alike as a new capitalist utopia. On 2 July 1997 all of this started to unravel in a financial crisis which in less than one year had radically devalued currencies in Thailand (by 32 per cent), Indonesia (71 per cent), Malaysia (31 per cent), the Philippines (29 per cent) and South Korea (35 per cent). 2 Suddenly what had seemed to be a miracle actually turned out to be a curse that the region will have to bear for the remainder of the 1990s, and probably into the next millennium.
As Amien Rais tells us above, the crisis has not just been financial. It has also been political and cultural. Since July 1997 there have been changes of government in Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. What used to be called 'Asian Values' is now called 'crony capitalism' — often by the same analysts and critics. 3 In Asia, there has been a backlash which has traced the origin of the financial crisis to the door of racist and envious political-economic elites in the West — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's charge in August