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Thursday, January 8, 1998 Published at 16:24 GMT

Malaysia: attacks speculators

Kuala Lumpur city centre

The Malaysian ringgit started to devalue after the Thai baht came under attack from currency speculators in July 1997. At the end of the month it hit a 38-month low against the dollar.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mohamad Mahathir, a vocal opponent of "rogue" currency speculators, called for them to be outlawed.

At this time he made a personal attack on the currency speculator George Soros, who later in January 1998 offered to help bail out the ailing South Korean economy.

The IMF has backed Malaysian action so far, but said that trade deficit was still too high, and that bank lending was growing too rapidly.

In September, the Malaysian government delayed several multi-billion dollar construction projects.

The ringgit has fallen by nearly a third against the US dollar since early July, and the Malaysian stock market by nearly 60% since its peak in 1997.


The peso came under pressure from early summer, and the central bank announced it was going to let it float in a wider band against the dollar.

In July the IMF announced an aid package of almost $1.1 billion. In September the peso fell to a record low.

Michel Camdessus, IMF managing director, said the Philippines had been less damaged than other south-east Asian countries but would need to continue strengthening its financial sector to avoid further difficulties.

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In this section

The downward spiral of the Asian tigers

Thailand: origin of the crisis

South Korea: economic reforms run into difficulty

Underlying economic weaknesses exposed

Malaysia: attacks speculators