Describing Malaysia

Malaysia was created in 1963 after peninsular Malaya was granted autonomy by Britain in 1957. After the resolution of an communist armed conflict Malaysia was created comprising of peninsular Malaya, Singapore and the north of Borneo except for the enclave of Brunei. In 1965 Singapore left Malaysia. Malaysia then, as now, consists of the mainland of what was Malaya and the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo. Malaysia remains a member of the British Commonwealth although the Queen is not the head of state. The official language of the country is Bahasa Malaysia (or Bahasa Melayu as it is called in Singapore and Brunei) but English is widely used and understood particularly in business dealings.

Malaysia lies between the latitudes of 2˚ north and 7˚ north and from 100˚ east to 118˚ east. It is located entirely in the tropics and is part of Southeast Asia. The northern border is with Thailand and the southern, on the island of Borneo, is with Indonesia. The only other land border is with the enclave of Brunei which is surrounded by the province of Sarawak.The coastline is predominantly with the South China Sea. The northern part of East Malaysia, Sabah Province, faces also the Pacific Ocean and the Sula Sea. The west coast of peninsular or West Malaysia is along the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea opposite the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Strait of Johor separates Malaysia from Singapore to the south. The total area of Malaysia is about 330,000 square kilometres or slightly larger than the State of New Mexico. Just over a third of this area is West Malaysia which extends south from Thailand for approximately 750 kilometres and is almost 330 kilometres wide. East Malaysia is almost 1100 kilometres long and the same as West Malaysia at its widest. The Spratly Island group in the South China Sea, where oil is suspected, is disputed territory with Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam all claiming sovereignty.

Tourism is part of the country’s diversification effort so far as foreign exchange earning is concerned. It accounts for over 7% of the economy and Malaysia was recently the ninth most visited country in the world.Agriculture contributes some 12% of the Nation’s GDP and employs a sixth of the workforce.

Tin was formerly the major mining export but as this has production fallen petrol and natural gas have become the second top export commodities. This production is mostly from the Sabah and Sarawak provinces.

Manufacturing output provides about 40% of the GDP of Malaysia and 90% of its export value. Electrical and electronic manufactures contribute over a half of this output. Other production ranges from scientific instruments to motor cars. The government has been a leading partner in many ventures.

It also introduced an affirmative action policy to bring more indigenous Malays into the developing economy. At independence the Chinese and Indian populations dominated everything other than small agriculture and cottage industries. This preference for local Malays is known as the Bumiputera policy and it extends to many areas of economic activity from employment to investment loans.

Kuala Lumpur is the federal capital of Malaysia. It is a small city of 240 square kilometres and a population of just over 1.5 million. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, has over 7 million inhabitants and is the fastest growing region in the country both economically and in terms of population. It is also the cultural and financial centre of the country. Kuala Lumpur is a Federal Territory and is an enclave within the state of Selangor on the west coast.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with the head of state elected for a term of five years by the Conference of Rulers. Members of the Conference are the nine rulers of the states of Malaysia and the govenors of the other four. In brief Malaysia is has a bicameral parliament, is a multi party democracy and, in broad terms, a secular state. The basic law derives from British common law. State legislatures may make laws relevant to the states themselves although federal law predominates in the cases of international matters and in any inconsistencies. The government is operated by the executive branch consisting of the prime minister and a cabinet. The Judicial branch is headed by the Federal Court which is the independent third arm of government.

Tourist publicity both government and private is a good way to gain an initial impression of the country. Malaysia takes tourism very seriously as the Government web site proves. It is very comprehensive and visually attractive. Less picturesque but packed with detail about the country is the Wikipedia site “Tourism in Malaysia”. The Malaysia Budget Hotel website provides a wealth of information. Especially interesting and encouraging is the page dealing with dangers in Malaysia, which is empty! For those who like unusual trivia the “Think & Create” site provides 48 curious facts as well as some video of the rail and monorail systems in Kuala Lumpur. A very good site for comprehensive information on many aspects of Malaysia is the @llo’ Expat Malaysia site. The cost of living, the flora and fauna and a wide range of sporting activities combine to make Malaysia a very attractive place in which to live.

The links at the "Resources" tab of this site and the book "How to Retire in Malaysia" by Les Johns afford the opportunity for easily accessible research. Reference to these sources of information will save intending retirees much time.

Other Considerations

If you like what you have read and seen so far then Malaysia could be a good choice. Retirement visa options are different from most countries so the "Malaysia My Second Home" program should be well studied. An easy-going life style in a tropical paradise is a distinct possibility here depending upon just how many "first-world" developed-nation habits you are prepared to forego. As in many countries facilities diminish as the distance from main centres increases.It must be stated immediately that the good visiting periods that are given to tourists make the application of the “Golden Rule" - visit before settling - very easy.

The above matters are all considered in the links at the "Resources" tab on this site and in the book "How to Retire in Malaysia" by Les Johns which is available from this site.