This paper was initially meant to be a presentation in an event hosted by the American Political Science Association. The association commissioned the study and it owns the copyright to this research. The paper is a study focusing on the impressive growth of the Malaysian economy and its origin. The presentation is titled “The Politics of Equitable Development in Malaysia” and it was first presented in 2002.
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The presentation covers various political and economic activities in Malaysia beginning from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. The article pays special attention to Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1969. The paper’s main argument is that “the pursuit and achievement of equitable development is largely a function of political dynamics”1.
The article begins by noting that Malaysia has had an impressive rate of progression. This progression has led to a stable economic growth. According to the article, this growth is as a result of both social and economic policies that specifically target the poor in Malaysia. In addition, it is noted that the New Economic Policy is at the centre of the integration between social and economic policies.
The article continues by noting the two goals of the NEP that were spelt out in the Second Malaysian Plan. The mode of inequality eradication in Malaysia is compared to that of China. The paper states that unlike in China, poverty eradication did not focus on a single policy. It is noted that among the policies initiated through the NEP include social spending, rural development, industrial restructuring, and human capital2.
The article then continues to explore each of these policies independently. The presentation’s main goal is to investigate the role of political dynamics when Malaysia was pursuing equitable development. The article lists the records of economic growth in Malaysia from 1971 to 2000. The incidences of poverty in Malaysia between 1970 and 1993 are also listed.
The list indicates declining incidences of poverty and a sustained economic growth. The study then explores the structure of the NEP. According to the paper, the NEP was initially meant to steer the country’s economy and reduce incidences of poverty across Malaysia irrespective of race or ethnicity. The NEP was representative of both the interests of the poor and the capitalistic class.
The article then discusses the rural development policy. It is noted that rural development in Malaysia mostly focuses on the agricultural sector but also spreads to healthcare and institutional support. The taxation and public expenditure policy is also addressed in this presentation. This policy is said to have been successful in redistributing wealth.
The article goes on to explore the role of health and educational policies as tools of poverty eradication. By formulating effective educational and health policies, the Malaysian government was able to demonstrate an equitable redistribution of resources.
The article concludes by restating the main argument and listing the challenges associated with the Malaysian political and economic actions. The ignored areas of growth are also listed in this presentation. The strong points of the implemented policies are then restated.
One of the elements that I found to be of importance in this presentation is the multi-layered policy implementation by the Malaysian government. Most countries always tend to rely on a single policy to effect significant economic, political, and social change. This presentation details an ensemble of policies that were used in countering inequality and poverty in Malaysia.
This means that this “East Asia economic miracle” did not depend on a single enforcer or policy but it was a collective effort3. Most of the other countries that have successfully dealt with the inequality issue have had to rely on communistic policies. For example, the Communist Party in China reformed the land policy in order to deal with the issue of inequality once and for all.
Although this policy was largely successful, it undermined the spirit of capitalism. However, none of the Malaysian-based policies directly undermines capitalism. This makes the Malaysian case to stand out from most of the other recorded economic turnarounds.
Some policies such as institutional support and capital grants are always employed in communist economies. However, they are mostly structured in such a manner that they support communism. This was not the case in Malaysia because even capitalists benefited from the NEP.
The political aspect of the battle against inequality and poverty in Malaysia presents an interesting angle to this paper. This is because the marriage between effective economic and political policies is rarely witnessed. In Malaysia’s case, the dominant political party had a substantial capitalist representation. This group would have wanted the status quo to remain in order to safe guard its capitalistic interests.
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This is why the effectiveness of the NEP is often referred to as an Eastern Asia Miracle. There are those who argue that the success of the NEP was occasioned by the 1969 ethnic riots. This group argues that the government was hard pressed by the unfolding events and something drastic had to be done.
However, the sustainment of these economic policies refutes such claims because the government could have undermined the policies after the situation reverted to normal. The “miracle” element of this economic turnaround is also highlighted by the economic situations in other developing countries.
Over half of the developing countries in Asia and Africa have at one time or another attempted to undertake an economic policy similar to the Malaysian NEP. Many of these policies fail due to lack of political will and the fact that most politicians are the main beneficiaries of social inequality.
It is also important to note that in the course of over four decades that the Malaysian economy has flourished, the country’s economic policies have not received any major threats from the political class. All these facts make this Asian economic miracle seem more impressive.
The manner in which this presentation is structured leaves little room for errors. However, the presentation should have compared the developments of the Malaysian economy to other economies outside the Asian continent. This is because some economies in South America and Africa bear striking resemblances to the Malaysian economy.
Comparing Malaysia with China and India is somehow out of line because of the obvious differences in population and GDP. On the other hand, several countries in South America and Africa resemble Malaysia in terms of population, GDP, reliance in Agriculture, and low industrial development.
The researchers should have been able to make this connection. In addition, most of these countries have used Malaysia as the case study for formulating their own economic policies.
This article offers an insightful presentation on the role played by politics in effective implementation of economic policies in Malaysia. The presentation offers a detailed account of the events that have transpired over the course of four decades since the NEP was formulated.
American Political Science Association. “The Politics of Equitable Development in
Malaysia.” Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, August 28-31, 2002.
1 American Political Science Association. “The Politics of Equitable Development in Malaysia” (Presentation, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, August 28-31, 2002).
2 American Political Science Association. “The Politics of Equitable Development in Malaysia” (Presentation, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, August 28-31, 2002).
3 American Political Science Association. “The Politics of Equitable Development in Malaysia” (Presentation, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, August 28-31, 2002).