CHAPTER 107 We Still Don’t Get It1

The Great Recession started in the United States in late 2007. It brought in its wake the biggest bubble since the Great Depression, 1929 to 1932. The past two years were difficult. I have been in the business of government and of private entrepreneurship for a total of almost 50 years—never saw anything quite like it. World recovery still has a soft belly. In the United States and eurozone, the rebound is uneven, even anemic. We are now in 2010. When I last checked, doubts still encircle the vigor and rhythm of this nascent global recovery. But one thing is certain, the world has changed. So much so that we don’t know what’s normal anymore. Indeed, it is now cool to talk about the “new normal”—views differ on what this really means. For us in Malaysia, much appears to have changed over the past 25 months—in partisan politics, investor behavior, business perception, economic outlook, even the art scene. Or, has it?

On the heels of the most harrowing period for exporters in particular, there was a convergence of resolve: never again! I well remember a senior multinational enterprise executive yelling his head off at the golf club on his unexpected new experience in late 2008—the “waterfall” drop in demand for what he produces and exports: Today it’s here, tomorrow it’s gone! For politicians, businessmen, and investors, the talk was for review, restructure, and reform in a fundamental way. Often enough, we hear senior government officials remark: ...

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