Malaysia’s return to 1998 is as sudden as it is predictable. This economic bookend is making headlines as Covid-19 fallout drives Malaysian gross domestic product down 17.1% in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

It’s not enough, though, to point out that this is the worst gross domestic product (GDP) contraction in 22 years. It’s vital to explore why one of Southeast Asia’s most event-rich economies is cratering.

The coronavirus may be doing the pushing here, but it’s a political crisis dating back to 1998 that best explains why Malaysia is, by some metrics, dropping faster than peers.

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