Any serious consideration of the present should recognise its roots in the past. For living generations of Malaysians, growth has always been export-led. Yet the openness of the Malaysian economy — very open even by Third World standards — is not a natural condition, but rather a feature of the structural transformation it has undergone, especially since the British colonial period. Like that of many other ex-colonies, contemporary Malaysian history has also been complicated by developments of the colonial era; in a very profound sense, the Malaysian nation is a child, albeit a stepchild, of imperialism. And of course the shaping and reshaping of the Malaysian economy did not stop with Independence, but continues. Hence, the basic perspective in this volume views the present — including the recent past — as history in the making. It is always useful to begin considering contemporary issues from a historical perspective. To put the Malaysian economy in the 1980s in the proper light, it is worthwhile to review its formation.
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