Thatcher sees reform as global task Ex-prime minister predicts Asia century if changes are made

The economy

December 12, 1997|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Securing shaky economic systems, especially in Asia, will be the global task at hand in the next century, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told more than 1,100 businesswomen and businessmen yesterday in Baltimore.

The 21st century will be the "century of Asia," Thatcher said. Asian countries are "enterprising and talented. They are good at encouraging people to pour in investments. But their banks aren't properly supervised and they have corruption and cronyism," she said.

"The tragedy is it's affecting everyone because we all trade with them," said Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister. "I think we can pull them out of [their troubled economies], but not without making changes."

Thatcher, who stepped down as prime minister in 1990 after 11 years as the Conservative Party's leader, spoke at a luncheon sponsored by Network 2000, a nonprofit group of local women executives.

During her talk, Thatcher recalled her dealings with world leaders such as Ronald Reagan, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, and Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Boris N. Yeltsin, who presided over the demise of communism in the Soviet Union.

Communism lacks integrity and liberty, and democracy is successful only because there's rule of law, she said.

"What enables a country to build prosperity is the kind of government and liberty under which its people live," said Thatcher. "That's the difference a free society can make to the wealth of a nation.

"Countries that dwarf, crush, manipulate or ignore cannot advance."

Aside from global economics and politics, Thatcher also discussed the professional advances of women, who made up about 95 percent of the audience.

"The changes that have come about in all our lives this century is greater than any other period in history," Thatcher said. "More and more this century, women are getting jobs on merit and suitability.

"One thing the age of technology has done is transform the lives of women," said Thatcher, who was a chemist and a lawyer before entering politics.

Deborah Jennings, president of Network 2000, said the group invites keynote speakers of both national and international acclaim, not just business leaders.

"Margaret Thatcher is an extraordinary woman," Jennings said. "Her life demonstrates what women can achieve."

At the conclusion of her talk, Thatcher advised young women to "work hard. Live honorably. Do your part in your community. Feel more at peace with yourself."

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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