Urban Service Provision in a Plural Society: Approaches in Malaysia

  • Lim Hong Hai


The plural nature of Malaysian society has exercised a strong and enduring influence on the country’s politics and development policies since national independence in 1957. According to the 1980 Census, Malaysia has a total population of about 11.4 million, of which about 53 per cent are Malays, 35 per cent are Chinese and 11 per cent are Indians.1 Priority has been given by the Malay-dominated independent government to improving the economic position of Malays who are generally poorer and more rural than the country’s other major racial group, the Chinese. Before 1970, the government’s major strategy to achieve this objective was rural development; which sought to bring about ‘a massive redistribution of income from the non-Malay modern economy to the (Malay) rural economy’.2 This strategy has been criticised not only for its failure to improve rural incomes but also for keeping Malays in the low-productivity traditional primary sector and perpetuating the spatial separation of the races and the identification of occupation with race. Following the 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur (which, in the government’s view, were caused by the persistent economic disparities between the races), the so-called New Economic Policy was formulated and launched in the Second Malaysia Plan, 1971–1975.


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© The United Nations 1988

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  • Lim Hong Hai

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