Malaysia Overview – 1985

This post is an amalgam of passages from my journal and Letter No.7 to Son No.1.

Malaysia is a fast ‘developing’ nation. The national plan envisages a population growth from 15 million to 70 million by the year 2010, but this is a fantasy.1

The wealth of the nation is in three commodities, tin, rubber and palm oil. There is also land aplenty: 70% is virgin tropical rainforest. 2

This year has seen the collapse in price of all three commodities, and in the case of tin the temporary ceasing of trading on the London Tin Exchange. I read of the intervention of Mrs. Thatcher and the big banks, but one must conjecture that they will force the price down further in order to control the futures market.

Being dependent on market forces controlled by multinationals does not augur well for the future prosperity of an independent Malaysia.  The country is a so-called ‘developed’ country. Big Banks put up big buildings in urban areas. The roads are for vehicular traffic which leave little space for pedestrians, cyclists and rickshaws. Small businesses therefore lose passing trade and are forced into shopping centres where they can’t afford the rent. The ‘prosperous’ businesses are franchise operations such as MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Rat.

And so the seeds of an incipient recession already exist. There are half-finished, or barely started, speculative housing complexes succumbing to the jungle’s rapid return. In the capital city, shopping precincts remain untenanted and under-visited. As concrete structures need regular maintenance, the Malaysian peninsula could be very interesting to visit in, say, twenty years. Will the forces of nature have re-asserted themselves?

Within recent history, ‘communist insurgents’ (CPM) were finally disposed of with British military help.3  An incipient economic collapse can only lead to a fairly extreme political opposition. After all, if you are lead to believe, through parental and school conditioning, that material prosperity is available through hard work, and that prosperity is snatched from you when seemingly in reach, then frustrations can only be exorcised through explosive anger, jingoism or religious fervour.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Footnotes
1 In 2010 it was ‘only’ 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living in Peninsular Malaysia. In 2014, the year I am placing this online, it is 30,267,367.
2 In 1991, this had shrunk to 59.1%. By 2010, this has further declined to 50.5%, and in 2013 it was announced that 80% of Malaysian Borneo’s rainforests had been destroyed by logging.)
3 Actually, it wasn’t until four years later, on 2nd December 1989, that the CPM agreed to end its armed struggle and signed separate formal peace treaties with the Malaysian Government and Thailand’s southern military command.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Tye Ann Hotel
Georgetown, Penang
Sunday 24.11.85. 5pm

Final notes as I pack prior to catching tomorrow’s early morning train to Bangkok.
Signs seen and blinked at
KING KEE SEA FOOD
FLEXIBLE PRODUCTS CO.
MORAL UPLIFT SOCIETIES
BUDDHIST REALIST CENTRE
CHINESE PHYSICIAN OF PILES

Advertisements

About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
This entry was posted in Malaysia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s