HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah: Understand Malaysia better through its History

February 14, 2017

HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah:  Understand Malaysia better through its History

COMMENT: HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Oxford and Harvard-educated political economist, is to be congratulated for publishing a monumental book on Malaysia’s economic history.

One cannot dispute His Royal Highness’ view that understanding the country’s economic, political and socio-cultural history is important since it enables us to appreciate the progress we have achieved since Independence in 1957 due to the contributions of our diverse communities, and learn from our policy failures, and follies and frailties of our past leaders and administrators.

Our achievements have been spectacular by any measure  to earn the respect of the world. The developing world used to look up to us for our economic success. But in recent years, while we enjoy continued economic growth (in GDP terms), albeit modest by comparison with our past attainments, the management of our economy has been increasingly disappointing and depressing. The level of corruption is now the worst I have ever witnessed in my nearly 45 years of public, corporate, academic and civil society life.

Image result for din merican

It is obvious to me at least that our present generation of UMNO-BN leaders have not learned the lessons of history especially why nations can and have failed because of corruption, abuse of power and sheer incompetence. HRH Sultan of Perak would, therefore, be well advised to remind Prime Minister Najib Razak of the consequences of poor governance. Preaching to the converted like me and others is inconsequential since we are not in power.

Finally, I must add my disappointment with this piece by Hanis Zainal. While publicizing HRH Sultan Nazrin’s book, she chose not acknowledge that scholars and academics like James Puthucheary, Agoes Salim, Lin See Yan, Rais Saniman, Junid Saham, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Edmund Terrence Gomez, Mohamed Ariff (formally with MIER),Kamal Salih (USM), Lim Teck Ghee, Johan  Saravanamuttu have contributed immensely to our understanding of Malaysia’s political economy and history. They have, in fact, preceded HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah.–Din Merican

by Hanis

The key to understanding a country better is through its history, so it is logical to assume the key to studying a country’s economy is through studying its econo­mic history.

This was what Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah set out to achieve in Charting the Economy: Early 20th Century Malaya and Contemporary Malaysian Contrasts which was launched yesterday.

The book charts the country’s economic activities under colonial rule and contrasts it with the economic growth and development in contemporary Malaysia.

During the launch at a hotel here, Sultan Nazrin said that lessons learned from history carry “great relevance” for overcoming the economic challenges of modern-era Malaysia.

 “To better understand contemporary economic performance, it is necessary for us to go back into history to understand long-term trends,” he said.

In his book, Sultan Nazrin charts the changes – from an economy based largely on agriculture and mining in the past to one that is more diversified and broad today.

One of the most important lessons he learned in his study was of people’s contributions to the economy, said Sultan Nazrin.

“The truly remarkable economic and social transformation that Malaysia has experienced is due to the outstanding contributions made by all of our diverse communities working together.”

Quoting novelist Henri Fauconnier, who wrote the Soul of Malaya, Sultan Nazrin said the soul of Malaysia “is found in the country’s diverse people”.

 Image result for charting the economy sultan nazrin

In his address, Harvard University’s Professor of Political Economy Prof Dwight Perkins noted the book’s importance to the economic literature of Malaysia.

Charting the Economy is published by Oxford University Press and retails at RM99 at all major bookshops in Malaysia.


13 thoughts on “HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah: Understand Malaysia better through its History

  1. His Royal Highness is simply Brilliant….looking forward to reading this Book….should be insightful for a lay person like me….

  2. Wonder what the view would be from a discrepit pondok in a village outside Gerik as opposed to one from the opulent Istana Bukit Chandan. Or one from the seat of a Honda Cub versus the backseat of a chauferred Bentley.

  3. Thanks Din. I see I am in good company. I have crossed swords with Rais Saniman on the NEP.

    See below this excerpt in Opinion Asia “Continuing Furore over Malaysia’s Racial Policies”

    Lim Teck Ghee | 03 Jul 2007

    Writing in the “Letters to the Editor” column of the New Straits Times, the writer, Rais Saniman, unsurprisingly omitted mention of how the policy has spawned a class of privileged Malays who have taken advantage of their racial identification to profit from the racial quota system imposed in the country’s economy after 1970.

    In 1983, Rais Saniman was one of four Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Limited officials who, together with George Tan of the Carrian Group, were ultimately convicted for conspiracy to defraud BMF in what was then the biggest financial scandal to rock the country and which cost the Government an estimated M$2.5 billion in lost monies. A noted political scientist, Prof. R.S. Milne, writing of the scandal noted that “Bank Bumiputra was not just any bank, it was government-owned, the largest in the country…. and under the New Economic Policy, a spearhead for the economic advancement of the Malays, invested with immense symbolic value”. Owing to his role in what was described by then Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, as “a heinous crime”, Rais Saniman was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.

    Since then, Rais Saniman has not only been politically rehabilitated but he has also made a comeback in the Malaysian political scene by playing up Malay fears over the possible dismantling of the NEP in favor of less ethnically-biased national policies. Teaming up with a prominent Norwegian consultant, Just Faaland of the Chr. Michelson Institute of Norway, the convicted ex-banker is one of the more visible UMNO backroom gurus spewing out propagandistic briefs over the past 15 years extolling the merits of the NEP and justifying its continuation ad infinitum.

    In his letter to the NST on 28 June 2007, Rais Saniman described Rommel’s speech as “loose coffee shop talk about the NEP”. Listing various achievements of the NEP, he defended the legal and moral foundations of the policy and stated that it was “consistent with the Federal Constitution… the UN Charter, Human Rights, Democracy, Free Trade and Enterprise, Rule [of] Law and Civil Society.” The letter ended by claiming that similar policies (to the NEP) were now “a standard policy prescription by the United Nations…. and in the EU itself.”

    These unsubstantiated claims not only strike the average well-informed reader as bizarre and self-deceiving, but they also draw attention to various unsavory facts, including that Malaysia has consistently refused to sign the UN Convention on Elimination of Ethnic Discrimination (CERD) and various other key human rights conventions.
    Dr Rais Saniman was my Bank Negara colleague and a fellow alum of The George Washington University. For all his faults, he is a good friend of my mine. He and Just Faaland had a huge influence on Tun Razak with regard to economic and social policy. Thanks for your comments.–Din Merican

  4. A leading light of diminished value. A diamond of immense potential yet to contribute substantially to the cause of public interests.

    A corrupt leader of insatiable greed cannot change and will not change. What is in the blood stream needs surgical treatment. Will the council of rulers set the ground and pace to perform the surgery?

  5. If , among the profoundest things that could be quoted from this book are trite statements like “lessons learnt from history have great relevance today” or the princeling “learnt of the contributions of the people through this study” etc etc, then my apologies, I’ll give this book a pass.

    Even ghost writers would find it difficult to resurrect any semblance of intellectuality in a book where the title is so bland it has to be decorated with sen coins to represent what, eyes?

    Economics is already considered a dismal science. Let not books like this reinforce that perception.

  6. Its good that you brought out scholars like jomo sundram etc. Prof arif is another. Recognition or partisanship in recognising is a problem in msia.

  7. To the dim kleptocrats in the foggy midst, an appropriate Irish quote comes to mind 😆

    “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

  8. Since this book, presumably, gives so many lessons from history which have great relevance today, it should be compulsory bed time reading for all public servants from the PM down to the freshest government graduate recruit joining our one over million strong civil service, assuming it is translated into Bahasa, as well as Chinese, Russian, French, German, Japanese, Swahili, Urdu, etc?

    It should be an international best seller. These days how many royalty you know could do this?

    It should also be a case where a royalty receives royalties?

    It goes without saying that HRH would donate part of the royalties to charities in Perak at least.

  9. I’ve read his work (which was part of a economic history project led by Professor Tan Eu Chye (from Faculty of Economics and Administration at University Malaya). The work certain is rigorous. The question is what do we learn from these collective works (of not only Nazrin but many more path breaking work). One view is that the present and past administration has done well (I think that is what Nazrin is saying); but another view suggests that the wealth has been accrued to a concentrated few. I think it’s somewhere in between but with signs that a concentrated group is moving to control the wealth of the country.

  10. Lest we forget that his family own a significant stake in GAMUDA which in turn runs the notorious LDP which would gladly take money (toll) from long suffering motorists for the privilege to crawl on that highway. Also using the lopsided toll concessionaire agreement to extract money out the of the Government’s coffers.

    Nuff said …

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