Sharing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s concerns over capitalism, Japan’s vice finance minister for international affairs supported Malaysia’s foreign exchange controls Tuesday.At a Tokyo symposium, Eisuke Sakakibara said global capitalism backed by “market fundamentalism,” or the belief that free market mechanisms must be maintained at any cost, is facing a crisis.The “global and virtual system,” in which vast amounts of capital move instantaneously, is extremely unstable, he said, referring to speculative hedge funds and their impact on fragile emerging market economies.In the same meeting, Mahathir repeated blame on hedge funds for destabilizing his country’s pursuit of profits. He added that Malaysia’s currency controls have worked so far to stabilize the local economy and his government will keep the ringgit pegged to the dollar “as long as possible.”Mahathir said Malaysia would rather be a “heretic” by severing itself from the free market than being “colonized” for those who believe in greed. But Sakakibara said Mahathir’s way of thinking shows fewer signs of heresy as the world financial situation changes.Later, at a symposium in Tokyo, Mahathir criticized the U.S. media for spreading what he insists are exaggerated images related to the arrest of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and street riots in his country.”Do not trust CNN or CNBC,” Mahathir said, naming two American cable television news networks. “They have a different agenda and they tell lies in order to promote their agenda. They too are motivated by greed and the power they wield has corrupted them absolutely.”CNN broadcasts one riot “15 times a day,” just the way it showed U.S. President Bill Clinton kissing White House intern Monica Lewinsky “2,000 times,” Mahathir said.As for criticism from neighboring countries over the treatment of Anwar, Mahathir said, “they can express their own opinions.”Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and his Philippine counterpart, Joseph Estrada, expressed concern in a recent meeting over the dismissal and arrest of their good friend, Anwar.Thailand first to benefit from Miyazawa aid planFinance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa on Tuesday said he will send a mission to Thailand early next month to identify local needs in order to organize an aid scheme for the country under his $30 billion package for Asia.Miyazawa expressed his firm commitment to renew support to Thailand in a joint statement with his counterpart, Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda. Tarrin met Miyazawa Tuesday at the Finance Ministry in Tokyo.Thailand will be the first country in Asia to host a Japanese aid team under the new initiative announced by Miyazawa earlier this month in Washington D.C. The package is intended to help five economically battered Southeast Asian countries and South Korea.During the 30-minute talks, Tarrin said Thailand’s economy is improving with stabilized local currency and better balance of payments, but it still needs to stimulate demand, sort out banking-sector problems and arrange a social safety net, according to a ministry official.No specific amount of aid for Thailand was discussed, the official said.
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