…The vast withdrawal of capital from emerging markets makes it all the more imperative for Asia’s finance ministers to pursue good governance, sensible structural reform, and sound finances.
Unfortunately, the overall quality of the governments we cover has mostly deteriorated, led by the lowest ranked minister in our study. Take a bow …
Ranked No12: Najib Razak, Malaysia
Last year was a very challenging year for the Malaysian economy. The country suffered a double whammy of political scandal that enveloped state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Prime Minister Najib Razak, who also happens to be Malaysia’s finance minister. 1MDB first started to attract unwelcome attention in early 2015 after struggling to settle a RM2 billion ($563 million) bridge loan. The funding crunch was an embarrassment for Najib, who chairs the fund’s advisory board and expanded its remit on coming to office in 2009, to help turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub.
Then The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million had been transferred to the prime minister’s personal bank account from the Saudi Arabian royal family, prompting a series of investigations. The identity of the donor and the reason for the donation was never disclosed, but it triggered demands for Najib to step down and cast doubts over about the country’s commitment to good governance. After seven months, investigators said in January that they had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Najib.
The long-running political crisis has taken up time that could have been better spent addressing the country’s acute economic troubles and made Malaysia appear even less attractive as an investment destination. According to Moody’s, foreign investors withdrew approximately RM24.5 billion ($5.83 billion) from the country in the third quarter of 2015. The ringgit also depreciated by 19% last year to its lowest level since 1997.