Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State
Speech by Dr Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge
14 July 2019 | The St Regis Hotel
His Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to give this short speech about this magnificent book.

Professor Drake has already told you how scholarly and substantial this book is, but I strongly recommend that you read this book.

Malaysia has achieved quite a lot since its independence starting with a very balanced economy based on colonial extraction, based on tin and rubber and quite a complicated political setup. And there were unfortunate incidents, setbacks, and crises, but the country has transformed itself into a diversified economy and even leads the world in certain areas like palm oil and so on.

But the book shows why the country should be proud of its achievements. Reading it I would say there are three lessons from the past that I would extract.

The first is the importance of pragmatism—what made Malaysia successful was its pragmatic responses not bound by any strong ideology, or doctrine, to various challenges that small economies meet all the time.

The second is that the country was willing to challenge some conventional wisdom in implementing its affirmative action policies. It defied the conventional wisdom in introducing capital controls after the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s.

Third, the book very much emphasises that institutions and policies, design and implementation matter. In terms of future lessons, the most important thing that is emphasised is that institutions and policies need to change according to changes in circumstances. For example, the book emphasises affirmative action policies in the beginning made very positive contributions, but later the impact became more complicated in some aspects because new needs arose.
The recognition that institutions and policies could change according to time is central to the message of the book. It articulates the need to reform affirmative action, improve education, and improve the business environment. These are fundamental foundations that the country needs more proactive policies to upgrade its economy.

Frankly, in the last 10 to 15 years, the country has been somewhat stuck in some of the things that had succeeded in the past but are now far less relevant.

There are great challenges—the rise of China, climate change, new technologies—and the country really needs to think very hard as to its future direction. This book will be a great guide in that process. 

c/o Asia-Europe Institute
University of Malaya,
50603 Kuala Lumpur

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