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Mahathir Bin Mohamad served as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 - 2003 and oversaw his country's transition to an industrialized nation.


The son of a schoolmaster, Mahathir was educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College and the University of Malaya (King Edward VII College of Medicine) in Singapore, where he studied medicine. After graduating in 1953 he worked as a government medical officer until 1957 when he set up his own private practice in Alor Setar, Kedah. Dr. Mahathir has been active in politics since 1945. He has been a member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) since its inception in 1946. He was first elected to Parliament in 1964 as a member of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant party within the ruling governmental coalition. In 1969, however, Mahathir was expelled from the UMNO after his forceful advocacy of ethnic Malay nationalism brought him into conflict with Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. (Though politically dominant, Malaysia's ethnic Malay majority was much poorer than the ethnic Chinese minority, which dominated the economy.) The New Economic Policy that the government adopted in 1971 to improve the economic situation of Malays embodied many of the ideas Mahathir had advocated.


Owing to his keen interest in the country's education, he was appointed Chairman of the first Higher Education Council in 1968, Member of the Higher Education Advisory Council in 1972, Member of the University Court and University of Malaya Council, and Chairman of the National University Council in 1974. After Tun Abdul Razak became prime minister in 1970, Mahathir rejoined UMNO and was reelected to its Supreme Council in 1972. In 1973, Dr. Mahathir was appointed a Senator, a post he relinquished in order to contest in the 1974 General Elections. He was reelected to Parliament unopposed in 1974 and was then appointed Minister of Education. When Datuk Hussein bin Onn became prime minister in 1976, he made Mahathir his Deputy Prime Minister in addition to being Minister of Education. In a Cabinet reshuffle two years later, he relinquished the Education portfolio for that of Trade and Industry. As Minister of Trade and Industry, he led several investment promotion missions overseas.


Dr. Mahathir was elected as one of the three Vice Presidents of UMNO in 1975. In 1978, he won the Deputy President seat. In June 1981, soon after Datuk Hussein had announced his retirement, Mahathir was elected president of the UMNO, which ensured his succession as the Fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia on 16 July 1981. He was the first commoner to hold that office. He was returned unopposed as President in 1984. In the 1987 party elections, Dr. Mahathir defeated his challenger to retain the Presidency and in 1990 and 1993, he was again returned unopposed as party President. Under his leadership, the ruling party Barisan Nasional (National Front) won landslide victories in the 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995 and 1999 General Elections.


Mahathir weathered several challenges to his leadership from within the UMNO, which won four general elections under his leadership in the period from 1982 to 1995. His long prime ministry gave Malaysia the political stability it needed to pursue policies that would foster sustained economic growth. The government welcomed foreign investment, reformed the tax structure, reduced trade tariffs, and privatized numerous state-owned enterprises. Mahathir sought to bridge Malaysia's remaining ethnic divisions by increasing general prosperity. In this regard, the New Economic Policy, which had encouraged Malay economic success, was replaced in 1991 by the New Development Policy, which emphasized general economic growth and the elimination of poverty. Under Mahathir's leadership, Malaysia acquired one of the most prosperous and dynamic economies in Southeast Asia, with a burgeoning manufacturing sector, an expanding middle class, rising literacy rates, and increased life expectancies

Mahathir bin Mohamad

Speaker Categories :

  • Strategy

  • Leadership

  • Globalisation

  • Future

  • Management

  • India & China

  • Former Malaysian Prime Minister

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