Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State, by Sultan Nazrin Shah.

AuthorAun, Lee Hwok

Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State, by Sultan Nazrin Shah. Malaysia: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. 560.

Striving for Inclusive Development: From Pangkor to a Modern Malaysian State, as the title indicates, chronicles both a nation's formation and its enduring socio-economic quest. Author Sultan Nazrin Shah, already distinguished for his contributions to Malaysia's historical economic growth, from colonial times to the present, widens the scope of inquiry. This richly informative and deeply thoughtful book is about Malaysia's development path across multiple dimensions.

The chapters follow a thematic outline, with chronological exploration within each theme. The 1874 Pangkor Agreement, which marked the start of organized and formalized indirect British rule in Malaya, coincides with the book's timeframe of 150 years and is assuredly of special significance to the author's home state of Perak. The colonial government imposed political structures and pursued economic interests in ways that left legacies of inequality and exclusion as well as various administrative institutions--notably, the legal system, civil service and a federal structure.

Various communities had long established a presence in present-day Malaysia, but the land also experienced rapid immigration. This book decidedly and positively frames its overview of these processes through the lens of inclusiveness, emphasizing the continuous multicultural, multilingual and multireligious composition over centuries. The author also helpfully avoids homogenization, notably by highlighting Javanese immigration as one subgroup within the Malay populace.

The book also commendably devotes the following section to Malaysia's record in enhancing well-being, which precedes the chapters on growth. This is in line with the multi-dimensionality of inclusive development and may intentionally, if subtly, send a message that the human dimensions ultimately matter more than economic production and material prosperity. The overarching story is one of steady progress in education and health, although challenges persist in terms of quality of education and the amount of healthcare expenditures and of equity in access to higher education, especially among different ethnic groups.

However, while articulating well-being in this expansive manner, the analysis is rather narrowly limited to physical health. Some attention to other factors, including personal...

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