Flat Earth

Never say Soros

Poor little Malaysia seems to attract an awful lot of powerful enemies, according to its motormouth Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

Take George Soros: not content with forcing the Malaysians to devalue the ringgit last month, the international financier is now driving down Kuala Lumpur's stock market as well in search of a quick buck, or so the PM says. Both men will be in Hong Kong next month for the annual IMF/World Bank meeting, but Mahathir turned down a face-to-face encounter, calling the Hungarian-American a "moron". Golly, just think of the damage Soros could do if he were intelligent.

The fact that Malaysia's economic boom is based on exports to the West does not stop Mahathir from accusing developed countries of plotting to undermine his nation's success. It reminds me of P J O'Rourke's remark that the Third World behaves towards the US like an adolescent boy trying to attract the attention of a beautiful woman: the more she ignores him, the stupider the things he does to try and be noticed.

Western governments have learned to put up with this sort of thing - only last week Robin Cook had to smile politely while being told that his ideas on human rights had no relevance to Malaysia - but post-colonial guilt is not widespread in Western financial institutions.

Hard-nosed moneymen, called "wild beasts in a borderless jungle" by Mahathir yesterday, see no reason to humour him. "We can't do business this way," said one London-based portfolio manager after the Malaysian authorities imposed a ban on short selling of leading shares, prompting a stampede for the exit by foreign investors.

For these people it is Mahathir who is the problem, refusing to tackle the country's economic difficulties and blaming everyone else. The Prime Minister at last admitted yesterday that Malaysia was going to grow more slowly, but of course this was purely the fault of the speculators.

The trouble is that all this is beginning to have an economic cost. Ranting about "Asian values" is one thing, but it is now a case of Malaysia's intemperate premier putting his mouth where his money is.

Sac of ecole

IT MAY no longer be true that the French minister of education can look at his watch and know exactly what every schoolchild in the country is studying at that particular moment, but one thing he does know is that they are loaded down like pack-horses. Doctors regularly denounce the weight of the school bags - known aptly as cartables - strapped to the backs of even the tiniest pupils.

This being France, the ministry has now sent schools a series of guidelines to cut the loads, including the provision of lockers, authorisation of smaller writing pads - yes, it needs a central directive from Paris - and allowing students to share books in class. Since pupils have to buy their own textbooks, their parents often insist that they lug them around to avoid the possibility of theft.

Primary schoolkids regularly carry nine to 13lbs, while their seniors typically have 22lbs on their backs, even though doctors say they should carry no more than 10 per cent of their body weight. The private sector is coming to the rescue, though: one supplier is marketing a full line of school bags equipped with wheels, no doubt copied from British high streets.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran