Pondering Malaysia’s Socio-economic Pessimism


The world Malaysia exists in today is unlike the one it was founded in. Yet, a common understanding of how the country has been reacting to changes over the decades is missing.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is supposed to be a joyous celebration, a return to family and one’s roots. This year however, it was strangely sombre. Karim Raslan, commentator and columnist, for example, noted a puzzling “optimism deficit” among his peers, saying that “I am sure numbers can be pulled out that will show that things are better than they seem. But things don’t FEEL better and at the end of the day, that counts.”

The numbers are positive. Malaysians are better off than their predecessors. Last year, Khazanah Research Institute put out the first nationwide longitudinal study on socio-economic mobility which posited that in the last 30 years, Malaysians were upwardly mobile, even outperforming developed countries in certain metrics.

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