Malaysia’s economic development has for the most part been one of Southeast Asia’s development miracles. Over a period of 40-50 years, Malaysia has become an upper middle-income country, and is likely to be a fully industrialised country before the end of the decade.
How did this happen? It has been a slow and steady process that has involved the diversification of the economy away from subsistence agriculture and export agriculture into value-added processing, manufacturing and services.
But the basis of this – and what has set Malaysia apart from many other countries that were, and still are, reliant upon plantation-based agriculture – has been the growing involvement of smallholders.
They have been granted land with access to transportation links or which is close to urban areas. The farmers have been able to use their land as collateral, grow cash crops and pass wealth to the next generation.
There are parts of Malaysia — particularly in Sabah and Sarawak – where this development story is still unfolding. But the importance of this story remains lost on many, particularly in the West.
By Dr Yusof Basiron, CEO of MPOC