Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians (2017, 2018, New and Expanded Edition) by Anas Alam Faizli
The title of this book says it all. “Malaysia’s socio-economic structure can be summed up in four words: ‘Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians.’ Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources, with petroleum being the most precious,” writes Anas in Chapter 9 Malaysia: High Income Nation, Low Income Rakyat. “Land, resources, a large youthful population - Malaysia has all the essential ingredients to flourish. How did this small countries of 30 million people manage to gain the unsolicited title of being among the region’s most unequal nations of rich and poor? What happened?” As of this writing, by the end of 2020, the population in Malaysia is expected to reach 33.1 million. Everything mention in this book is still happening - even worst. So, what happened?
Maybe I’m too pessimistic and over-simplistic. As I finished reading these 34 essays on “Malaysia’s problems,” the impression that I get can be boiled down in one word: Corruption. Corruption to the core. There are three key issues that Anas tackles in this book, namely - Energy (or Resources), Education and Economy - to borrow Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz’s 3E in the foreword of this book. The first part about Malaysia’s petroleum resources hit hard on me as Sarawakian, especially in Chapter 5 Higher Royalty Versus State Ownership of Petronas, which is an issue that we still fight until today. Yes, rich Sarawak, poor Sarawakians. In the second part, Anas highlights socio-economic issues such as education, health care, inequality, foreign workers, poverty, welfare, women’s empowerment, environment, Islam, etc. To me, his insight on education is very interesting and persuasive. While I do not totally agree with all of Anas’ analysis (as with some other subjects too), I wholeheartedly believe that “education is one of, if not the most, important solutions to all the problems that we are facing today.” In parts three and four, he expands on the previous subjects and added some other issues.
This book ends with a positive note. In fact, every chapter ends with some potential solutions and proposals for a betterment. There are “endless possibilities,” said Anas. “Nothing is impossible, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. Always remember that the sun only comes out after the darkest point of the night. The same goes for Malaysia.” To be honest, I’m almost giving up on Malaysia. But books like this, by caring fellow Malaysian, never fail to rekindle my fire and hope for Malaysia. Read it! Thank you Anas Alam Faizli. May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you.
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