In Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State, Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak covers some 150 years of the country’s progress with a scholar’s devotion to accuracy.
The Perak Ruler, who is the Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong, displays the consciousness of a national thinker in the scope and treatment of the subject matter, which spans the establishment of the British colonial administration to the creation of an ethnically diverse nation and through to the economic development of the post-Independence decades.
Striving for Inclusive Development therefore lends itself to the role of a timely vision statement for the next stage of Malaysia’s growth, particularly in its concluding chapter, which outlines five major challenges the nation must surmount in the years ahead. (See sidebar — “Chapter 10: Working Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Future”.)
This vast landscape is covered in five parts that take up a substantial 560 pages, including an ample number of figures, tables and explanatory boxes to complement and support the thematic essays.
As the author explains in the preface, Striving for Inclusive Development grew out of his continuing research into the country’s economic history that took shape first as Charting the Economy: Early 20th Century Malaya and Contemporary Malaysian Contrasts, published in 2017.
In that volume, Sultan Nazrin presented new estimates of Malaya’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first four decades of the 20th century, when the country was under the British colonial administration.
The work was part of the author’s thesis for his PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard. The research continues through his Economic History of Malaya project, which can be viewed at www.ehm.my.
Sultan Nazrin is the Chancellor of Universiti Malaya, and Honorary Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford and of Magdalene College and St Edmund’s College, both Cambridge.
Here is a lightly edited synopsis of the chapters in Striving for Inclusive Development, which will be launched on July 14.
Part 1: Forming a Nation and a Mosaic Population
The two introductory chapters focus on how Malaysia and its institutions were formed and how its population grew.
Chapter 1: From British Intervention to Independence
The first chapter describes the institutions that the British progressively established during their lengthy rule, primarily — if not exclusively — in order to consolidate their economic and strategic interests. These included political and administrative structures, a legal and security system, and economic policies intended to facilitate investment, trade and fiscal stability.
Following World War Two, a proposal to create a Malayan Union with centralised government control and common citizenship aroused widespread opposition among the Malays and led to an upsurge in nationalism.
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