Daim Zainuddin First Minister, Finance, Federation of Malaysia, Executive Director, Malaysian National Economic Action Council Age: 61 Education: University of California, Barrister-at-Law, Lincoln's Inn
Daim Zainuddin, brought back by Mahathir Mohamad as Finance Minister to pull the country from the brink of economic ruin, has seemingly achieved just that, even without IMF help. Malaysia's economy is now tipped to expand by as much as 5.2 per cent this year, mostly due to massive levels of government spending.
Daim had been Finance Minister from 1984 to 1991 and holds enormous clout thanks to his dose ties with the dominant UMNO party.
Rafidah Seri Aziz Trade and Industry Minister Age: 55 Education: University of Malaya; Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
Rafidah certainly can't be accused of being softly spoken. The feisty Trade Minister of 12 years is influential not just in Malaysia, but throughout the region. She will take on anyone: witness her row over human rights with Madelaine Albright in front of the world media in Kuala Lumpur, and more recently her attack on Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile. A long-time UMNO heavyweight, Rafidah's list of firsts is impressive. She was the first Malay woman (1970) to obtain a Master of Economics, and in 1987 became the first female Trade Minister.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister Age: 59 Education: University of Malaya
Stepping into Anwar Ibrahim's shoes was always going to create publicity. Abdullah, a quiet achiever, is known for his honesty. He's now likely to succeed Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister. His influence was shown in directing UMNO to victory in crucial Sabah elections recently.
Robert Kuok Founder, Kerry Group, Kuok Bros Age: 75 Education: Raffles College, Singapore
Kuok is a legend in Asian business circles. Known as the "Sugar King", Kuok's business arms also control the Shangri-La hotel chain. He's also an advisor to the Chinese government.
ON THE RISE: WAN AZIZAH WAN ISMAIL
President, National Justice Party Age: 46 Education: Royal College of Surgeons (Ireland)
Thrust into the limelight following the controversial jailing of her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, she has surprised many with her strength. Wan Azizah is now a key opposition leader and, dearly, the focal point of pro-Anwar initiatives. An eye doctor, she recently launched the Parti Keadilan Nasional, or Nasional Justice Party, and as such has become a rallying point for the women's movement. Wan Azizah is an unlikely hero: she speaks so softly that her audiences often can't hear her. However, given that women make up 54 per cent of Malaysia's 9.7 million registered voters, it might be a voice we hear more of.
Shahril Shamsuddin, president and CEO of Sapura Group.
MALAYSIA: AT A GLANCE Capital: Kuala Lumpur Surface area: 330,000 sq km Population: 22.2 million (1998) GDP: US$70.8bn (1998) GDP per capita: US$3,200 (1998) Exports of goods and services: US$92.8bn imports of goods and services: US$91.3bn