Commentary Politics

Never an Asian Tiger and other pants caught on fire

The narrative of Malaysia being one of the four Asian Tigers economy was first mentioned by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after the political pact he led won the May 9, 2018 national poll.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

A commentary by Zaidi Azmi

July 31, 2019

MALAYSIA will once again become an Asian Tiger was – still is – the constant maxim that Malaysians have been fed with ever since Pakatan Harapan (PH) won last year’s national poll.

The latest to utter it was Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Azmin Ali on Monday when he seconded the opposition’s call for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to stay as PM for a full term.

“I believe that political stability will build up the country’s fundamentals and integrity including the concept of ‘shared prosperity’ that will bring Malaysia back to being an Asian Tiger,” said Azmin.

One can quibble Azmin’s motive in making the remark but the narrative that Malaysia’s economy was once regarded as one of the Asian Tiger economies was most peculiar simply because we were not.

The said four economies that underwent and maintained exceptionally high growth rates between the early 1960s and 1990s were that of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

So if these are the real four Asian Tigers then did PH politicians lie when saying that they want to make Malaysia into ? Yes? No? Actually, it’s a bit of both.

While Malaysia’s economy was never considered as an Asian Tiger, it was however, regarded as the Tiger Cub Economies along with Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

See, PH leaders weren’t spewing a barefaced lie to Malaysians because tiger cubs are essentially tigers too.

But to persistently suggest that Malaysia was something that it wasn’t is downright misleading. Gone were the days when a repeatedly told lie will eventually beget believers.

The Asian Tiger narrative however, was not PH’s only attempt in misleading the public. An infamous example of their fib was the RM1 trillion national debt that they claimed was amassed by the previous government.

The propaganda worked for a few months but when people started noticing that the said figure did not tally with that of Bank Negara Malaysia’s, the plan sort of back-fired.

Since then, the word “liabilities” was added into the mix which made Malaysia the only country in the world to factor in liabilities in calculating its national debt.

And what continues to be even more interesting is the sheer audacity of some PH leaders to spew fibs in Parliament which is a big-no-no in any democratic country.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was recently proven to have misled parliament when he announced – with utmost gusto, last year – that the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government had “robbed billions of GST refund funds.”

His bluff was debunked last month after the Public Accounts Committee stated that the money was actually transferred into the government’s consolidated revenue account and that it will only be wired into the refund account when needed.

That’s not all. Last week, Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong was caught lying in the Senate, when he said that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had already closed a corruption case implicating a minister’s political aide.

Liew claimed that the MACC found that the aide was innocent. The MACC however, strongly denied such a thing on the same day, adding that the case is still being probed. Naturally, Liew retorted that the media misquoted him.


But honestly, lying politicians are not mutually exclusive to PH. BN too has a fat share of rotten apples in it, but some find it a tad unacceptable for PH politicians to do so given the moral high ground that they used to stand on when they were the opposition.

Then again what can one expect from a motley crew who thought that it was okay to take a cue from Joseph Goebbels’ big lie tactic.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at