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The Political Dimensions of the Asian Crisis

February 1, 2000.

Edited by Uwe Johannen, Jürgen Rudolp and James Gomez.
Published by Select Books, ISBN 981-4022-10-1, pp 273, S$29.

THIS book is the fruit of a conference organised by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats.

The contributions of participants who are politicians, political scientists and well-known journalists from Asia have been brought together in this book.

Singapore's contribution comes from political scientist Hussin Mutalib, an associate professor from the department of Political Science, National University of Singapore.

The Political Dimensions of the Asian Crisis covers new ground by focusing on the politics of what has generally been taken as an economic crisis. Rising above a strictly academic interpretation, politicians, academics and NGO professionals lend their voices in this first critical and insider scrutiny of the political aspects of the Asian crisis.

This book re-examines the setbacks of the Asian economic miracle and argues that, in addition to economic and financial factors, there were also political causes. Corruption, electoral irregularities, a dependent judiciary, unfree media and an underdeveloped civil society characterised less than democratic polities. It is argued that these features, which are shared by most of the crisis economies, constituted political causes which contributed significantly to the crash and the ensuing "contagion" and have prolonged the crisis.

Due to the interlinkage of politics and the economy, transparency and accountability are not only fundamental requirements for a consolidated democracy, but they also form the essence for the competitive functioning of national economies.

The prospects for democracy are assessed by asking a series of pertinent questions. Will the separation of business from politics be the key to resolving the corruption in countries such as Indonesia and South Korea? Or will fundamental constitutional reform also be required to ensure further democratisation and political stability, as with Thailand's new constitution?

Or will the push for reform by civil society actors be crucial for Malaysia's development? Will Indonesia disintegrate and ASEAN follow suit? What are the regional and international implications? Is democratic reform crucial for the region's sustainable recovery? How have efforts fared to date?

The verdict: democracy has made some gains in the region. Far from posing a hurdle to economic development, democratisation and economic progress can go hand in hand.

For further information contact: Select Books Pte Ltd, Singapore.

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