Why is Malaysia so Poor?
Note: The following has been adapted from a post to the malaysia-today.net May 2005 debate.
There are extremists who argue that Malaysia is a third world nation. But with a little logic, it's easy to see that comparing to Malaysia to Iran or Zimbabwe is just stupid. That said, we're definitely nowhere near reaching first world level.
I would say that we really have no excuse for not being a first world country. The Middle Eastern nations have fundamentalist Islam, which is somewhat limiting in personal freedoms. Indonesia has a third world population growth rate, so their economy cannot keep pace with the population.
Malaysia, on the other hand, has plenty of natural resources such as oil. There is no reason why we cannot be half as good as Singapore. Of course given the size of our country, we cannot expect to reach their standard; but even so, kampungs remain kampungs here.
There is little modernisation in the rural areas; all development is concentrated on the major cities. By contrast, Japan, the UK, US and practically any developed nation do have rural villages, but these are very well developed. You can be just as comfortable living there as you can be in any developed country's city.
And even in Malaysian cities, the standard of living is abysmally low. We still harbour squatter villages; from where I type, I can look out the window and see houses with corrugated steel roofs right next to luxurious bungalows.
The water from our taps is unpotable; it's so dangerous to be around at night, we need to hire security guards; our roads are hardly ever paved except around election time. The list goes on and on.
Even so, we are still not anywhere near the level of Iran or Afghanistan. But in the first place, we shouldn't even have the opportunity to compare ourselves to them without looking like a fool. We have oil; we have universities; we have a good basic infrastructure. So why the hell are we not even close to Singapore in terms of development?