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'Social contract': A class perspective (Pt 2)

After Independence in 1957, the Malayan economy was largely unchanged from its colonial pattern showing a great regional disparity - an urbanised largely non-Malay west coast and a neglected Malay peasant economy along the east coast.

Agriculture took up almost 50 per cent of the GDP and 60 per cent of the labour force, predominantly Malay were concentrated in the agricultural sector. Poverty was blamed on the Chinese middlemen rather than the structure of neo-colonial exploitation and the exploitation by large landowners and the feudal aristocracy.

The Tunku’s government did implement import-substitution industries which included production of food, beverages, tobacco, rubber and chemical products, cosmetics, toiletries and paints to cater for the growing middle-class home market. Most of these industries were foreign owned which came to take advantage of the comparatively lower local wages.

Thus, post-colonial developments were leading to discontent among not only farmers but also workers and the middle class.

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