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Malaysia: Life after the dragon attack

Malaysia has emerged from the Asian crisis to find itself occupying a lower place in the regional pecking order. From being one of the must-have equity markets for foreign investors, it has become an also-ran. Domestic equity demand is also depressed and it’s likely that in the near future bond markets will offer more interest.

Sing Nien Kuai Le - the traditional greeting as the Chinese enter the new year - literally means "surviving the attack of the dragon". The sentiment is apt, says David Chua, group managing director at HLG Capital, describing the mood in Malaysia as it grapples with recovery. Sitting in his Kuala Lumpur office in sight of the Petronas Twin Towers, Chua is in thoughtful mood. "There's a new order in the world and all of us are trying to see what is the appropriate role we can play in this new world order. We have all been used to growth. You live a lifestyle which is supported by long-term growth and then all of a sudden you have to start managing your expectations."

Chua describes recovery from the economic crisis as like an earthquake, from which everyone emerges preoccupied with being grateful to be alive. But after the initial relief comes the realization of what has been lost. "You have to start dealing with your inner self," he says. "If you look at Asia - it's not just Malaysia - we survived 1997 but all of us were in denial because it was something we never dreamt of."

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