Professor Pepinsky on Financial Scandals in Malaysia

By: Tom Pepinsky,  New Mandala
Thu, 08/06/2015

Malaysia is once again in the midst of a serious political scandal, with the allegation that the government-run investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has been used to funnel approximately US$ 700 million to a personal account of Prime Minister Najb Razak, writes Tom Pepinsky, associate professor of government, in this piece.

Media commentary on the scandal is full of superlatives, with Financial Times deeming it “biggest financial scandal in [Malaysia’s] modern history.” Danny Quah, writing for the Malaysian Insider, evokes 1MDB as evidence of a Malaysian political system that has lost its moorings after decades of success.

The political firestorm of the 1MDB scandal is real, and has the potential to become one of the most serious threats that the Barisan Nasional regime has ever faced.

But corporate and financial scandals like 1MDB are nothing new in Malaysia’s political economy. Observers of Malaysian politics should take note of the many historical antecedents of today’s scandal, many of which happened during an era described by Quah and others as an era of dynamism, optimism, and economic and political success.

(Photo is a cover image from PM Najib Razak’s manifesto and is from Wikimedia commons.)