I’m in KL on a job for a few days, which is why things have been fairly slow around here.

It’s always good to get out for a few days for a reminder that there are always differing ways to do the same thing. I can’t really say why I am here, so I will just give a few impressions. Sorry for the vaguely twitterish post, but it’s all I can do at the moment.

It is almost 30 years since I was last in Malaysia other than on transit through the airport, so the first thing that hit me here was the sheer number of freeways everywhere. They are not only normal freeways, but most of them are that most expensive way of building them – elevated. Once I got to breakfast I was reminded of one of the more annoying things.

A lot of the time we whinge about the press in Australia. Other than the AFR, the press is pretty ordinary, with the proprietor’s views being over-represented. It is annoying, but there are normally dissenting views around.

Picking up the paper in the morning to read over breakfast I was reminded of how bad a government controlled press can be. Both of the major papers gave exactly the same priorities to exactly the same stories – and all of those were to pillory the opposition (always referred to as the opposition, even in those states where they are in government), explain why any opposition attacks were wrong or to glorify the BN government. It took about 20 pages to get through to any international news. Incidentally, almost all criminal acts reported in the papers were attributed to “foreigners” (read as Indonesians). Really annoying.

That said, they are better than the paper I remember from Indonesia when I was living there before the fall of Suharto in that they mention the opposition, but they are not that much better.

To me, that sort of reporting does tend to increase country risk as it allows the government to get away with some sillier actions without any real threat of domestic criticism. It also increases the power of rumour as people tend to believe the rumour rather than the papers.

That said – there is a lot to like here. There is substantially more wealth here than 30 years ago – the widespread poverty has now been reduced (but not eliminated) and I can go for a walk much more confidently than I remember doing a long time ago. That or the absence of my parents who may have been a little over protective.

The other thing to note is the expansion of the Shari’a compliant financial system. The advertising is everywhere and there is clearly some serious business being done in it. It may not meet the more narrow interpretation being used in the Gulf of what is Sharia compliant, but they are plainly turning a lot over.

Back to more normal service (including an update on the Australian Pillar 3 repor

ts) next week.