Former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, who was the keynote speaker at HT Leadership Summit 2011 on Friday, said India could be China in terms of development if it was “less democratic”.
Mohamad, who transformed Malaysia from being a small rubber exporter to one of Asia’s “tiger economies”, said India needed a much stronger central government and a powerful federal structure, but less powerful provincial governments to be able to make rapid economic progress.
The comments cut at the core of India’s current logjam and resistance to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing.
“Democracy does not always ensure stability and prosperity. He said that though democracy is the best form of government, it is not the easiest because people do not understand the limitations of democracy,” Mohamad.
Mohamad, who towered over his country’s politics for over two decades, is remembered for his colourful personality, frequent barbs at the West, and the authoritarian manner in which he implemented his pro-market reforms that saw Malaysia’s rise as an economic power.
“It is important for the world to understand the limitations of democracy,” he said. “Too much democracy, without understanding the responsibilities, can obstruct decision-making,” he said, later during an exclusive multimedia interview for hindustantimes.com.
A keen observer of Asian politics, Mohamad cited the example of Singapore, which had done very well economically because of limited democracy.
“Sometimes democracy can paralyse decision-making,” he said to a round of applause since it resonated with the audience, especially in view of the current deadlock in Parliament over allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.
Asked if he had any suggestion to make to the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, Mahathir said he ought firmly sell his policies he believed in.
‘Govt must convince people on FDI’
Known for pushing tough economic policies, Mahathir said the UPA government should hardsell its plan to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.
“If the Indian government thinks it (FDI) is good for the country, then it should publicise it well and launch an outreach plan to tell that it is good,” the former Malaysian PM said.
“The government should explain that FDI in multi-brand retail is good for the people, not the government,” he said, adding that decision-making is often a casualty in coalition governments.Watch video | See special