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Malaysian problems?

THE Malaysian Grand Prix may again be in trouble following moves last week by the country's Prime Minister Dr.ÊMahathirÊMuhammad to isolate the Malaysian economy from the rest of the world. In recent years Mahathir has been an advocate of the free economy but the recent economic turmoil in Asia has been a big blow to his plans and in an effort to stop external interference in the country's currency - the ringgit - he has declared that Malaysia is withdrawing from the world's currency markets; that all ringgit outside Malaysia will be illegal in a month and that all foreigners with investments in Malaysia cannot take their money out of the country for at least a year. In addition Mahathir has fired his deputy Prime Minister and finance minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The freezing of the Malaysian economy is going to make it very difficult for Formula 1 to operate in the country, although the race may well end up being paid for entirely by the state oil and gas company Petronas, which deals exclusively in dollars - the currency of the world's energy markets.

Petronas is currently keeping several ailing Malaysian businesses afloat and is expanding all the time in Africa. Last week Petronas bid to buy South Africa's oil group Engen. In addition to its involvement with Sauber in Grand Prix racing, Petronas is also deeply involved in South African motorsport.

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