Malaysia's Goal of Industrialisation

By Salloum, Habeeb | Contemporary Review, May 1994 | Go to article overview

Malaysia's Goal of Industrialisation

Salloum, Habeeb, Contemporary Review

'OUR prime minister has set the goal. By the year 2020 Malaysia will be a member of the industrialized world.' The tourist guide appeared proud as he talked about the transformation of his country -- and he is not a lone voice. Every government official, bank and hotel employee, taxi driver and merchant with whom I talked had the same message, 'Malaysia is on the roll, galloping fast into the league of advanced nations'. Apparently, the objective of the year 2020 has been imprinted on everyone's mind.

Nevertheless, the speedy evolvement of the country is not just talk and drawn up plans. It is a fact. Everywhere we travelled from south to north and from east to west, construction of roads, factories, homes and tourist facilities are going on at a dizzying rate. It is as if a genie is at work, night and day, building a new and affluent Malaysia.

A fine example of the country's transformation is the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Its array of historic buildings with their distinctive Moorish style architecture are edged by well-kept gardens and parks. In between, towering 20th century eye-catching edifices overshadow this greenery and the structures from the bygone ages. It is an attractive mingle of the East and West, giving colour and allurement to one of the Orient's most livable cities -- seducing expatriates and visitors alike.

Here, the images of tropical jungles, with which many associate Malaysia, are not to be found. Rather, Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan city of two million, filled with arabesque arches, minarets and Chinese architecture, embellished with a splash of Indian colour and British inherited order.

The buildings are a conglomeration of traditional Malay, Chinese, Moorish, colonial and modern architecture. Skyscrapers -- an 88-storey building, the highest in Asia, is under construction -- look down on finely-worked minarets while nearby other magnificent Moorish-Indian structures overshadow dainty indigenous erections. It is a fairytale scene, seemingly out of an Oriental fantasy land. The greenery and flowers one sees are a profusion of tropical plants, blooming in a riot of colours -- all created by the hands of man.

Today, Kuala Lumpur is the vibrant centre of the country's commercial and political life, surrounded by super highways which connect with other towns and neighbouring countries. Along with its busy Subang Airport, these roads make the city accessible to businessmen and tourists from all parts of the world.

Most of the know-how in the transformation of the country has been home-developed, aided by foreign experts and some transfer of technology from the West, but much more is needed. Western business is constantly being courted. However, according to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his speech at the conference on 'Asia in the 21st Century' held in Kuala Lumpur on 24 January 1994, the West will only allow underdeveloped countries to grow to a certain point, as long as they do not threaten western control and dominance.

Like a number of other countries in Asia, Malaysia, with a population of nineteen million which the government hopes will reach seventy million during the next century, is developing an excellent infrastructure and a pool of skilled manpower. Science and technology in education is being emphasized.

The urge to develop is so strong that great efforts are made to give students access to the most up-to-date world knowledge available. There is talk that English is to be made the language of instruction in universities for subjects dealing with sciences instead of Bahasa Malaysia, the national language. Yet, Malaysia's current educational system has served the country well. The desire to change the language of instruction could be a leftover of the inferiority complex felt in colonial days when the educated classes believed that the British way of life was superior to their own. The outspoken Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. …

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