JANUARY 25, 2004
Politics in Malaysia and the Grand Prix
Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad handed over power in October to his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Very quickly Abdullah began to distance himself from some of Mahathir's policies particularly his expensive commitment to what he called "mega-projects" such as the Petronas Towers, the new administrative capital city, the new international airport and the Formula 1 racing circuit. In December Abdullah shelved a $3.8bn project to build a 400-mile electrified double-track railway aimed at linking the country to the developing Asian rail network and he has ordered a review of a number of other big infrastructure projects, saying that he wants to spend more money on improving education and agriculture in the country.
There are fears that the Grand Prix could become a victim of the changes in the political system if it was judged not to be delivering for the tourist industry, particularly now that Formula 1 has a foothold in China.
Abdullah faces an election before June and hopes that he can lead the National Front coalition government to success by moving away from some of Mahathir's most controversial projects.
Abdullah is also moving against corruption, dramatically increasing the pay in the police force and investigating a number of government departments.
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