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Lessons from Malaysia

Sep 07,2015 - Last updated at Sep 07,2015

Malaysia’s efforts to modernise were not easy; they met resistance and obstacles, but with determination and the cooperation of all segments of society, including ethnic groups that were at loggerheads almost half a century ago, this Southeast Asian country managed to achieve great successes.

The country’s experience was shared by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad during meetings in Amman with intellectuals, political leaders, entrepreneurs and representatives of various sectors, hosted and organised by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Mahathir, who is credited with leading his country to the economic prosperity it now enjoys, had a lot to say about his government’s work, achievements and hardships over two decades, starting with his election as the country’s fourth preimer in 1981, a post that he occupied until 2003.

For Jordan and the Arab region there are lessons to be learned from Malaysia’s experience, which is a constitutional monarchy  consisting of 13 states and three federal territories with a mostly Malay Muslim population living peacefully alongside other ethnic groups that include Chinese and Indians.

The country, which was suffering from severe unemployment some decades ago, managed to create more jobs than it needs. It industrialised to a degree that the country, with a population of 30 million, now has 7 million foreign labourers, the former prime minister said in Amman.

The task of privitising and industrialising the economy was not easy, so Malaysia started to seek the help of foreign companies, the official said.

This was met with resistance, but his government worked to convince the people of the need for foreign expertise and of the importance of privitising companies.

“The government is not good at making money. The private sector is much better at that job,” the former premier said at one of the meetings, noting that success by the private sector was a boon for the economy as it generated tax money for the authorities, helped employ many people and drove services and development projects to many parts of the country.

People were educated on the importance of the privatisation process; there were efforts to convince them that they were the main beneficiaries of its fruits to minimise resistance to it.

Meanwhile, there was also focus on upgrading the educational process, both to improve its output and to serve the development process.

The focus was on subjects like science and math; later on, English language gained importance because Mahathir’s government was aware of its importance in learning sciences, which were advancing at a fast pace in Western countries.

For Mahathir, improving the economy and involving all segments of the Malaysian society in the political, economic and social processes was the key to resolving differences and creating harmony among the components of Malaysian society who, until the late 1960s, were attacking each other’s neighbourhoods and burning each other’s cars.

Now Malaysia is also helping its neighbours to improve their economy, thus contributing to creating a peaceful region.

Mahathir said his country’s motto now is: “Prosper thy neighbour. Help them start industries and improve their economy.”

The Arab region, which has been witnessing political upheavals, can learn a lot from Malaysia’s experience.

The country managed to transcend differences among its various demographic segments and focus on means to build a modern country and economy.


Malaysia’s is a success story by a Muslim country that others in our region can emulate and learn from.

1 user has voted.


What human right?irony the bilionnaires in malaysia are the ethnic who re denied tbeir human right?...

Malaysia may well have successfully built its economy, but let's not overlook the social tensions and abuse of human rights that accompanied this 'progress'.

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