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Perspective: Eyes Abroad

Saturday, November 12, 2016 0:46
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BE is in Malaysia on holiday. A quick post reflecting the UK’s standing in the world, seen from further away than normal.. 

Plenty of Brits like to say that the UK is a basket case. I do not deny our many problems but the UK is still, after all this time, one of the leading economies. Despite the Asian Tiger era and the self-reflection at that time in the UK about “Asian values” (remember that?) the UK is still miles ahead on all sorts of measures. Malaysia is not a poor country: there is apparently a large and prosperous middle class, the infrastructure is good – albeit not to a European standard by any means, and the economy has been growing at a healthy clip for decades.

But the Malaysians still seem to look West for inspiration. A stupid example of this is that Sports Direct is a premium store here, to be found in the more up-market malls. In the really premium malls you can find M&S. Of course, Starbucks and its clones are everywhere. Coffee is of course pretty well indigenous, but the European cakes to go with it? Not so much. There are fake Hackett shirts and a huge number of people have tshirts and polos bearing the Union flag and/or the word London. Many seem to support English football teams, some more than one. I have just seen a G4S cash delivery man – with a large gun!

The lingua franca seems to be English, despite the official language (and presumably most people’s first language)  being Malay. I have overheard Malaysians of different backgrounds communicating in English. There is of course a certain jingoistic joy in hearing tourists of many nationalities having to use their English to get by.

All of this suggests that there is plenty of trade being done by Brits, and plenty of opportunity for more. They could use some of our architects and town-planners, just to start.

We could learn some things too. There are shopping malls everywhere, but a lot of the shops are clearly independent traders. There must be enough capacity to allow relatively low rents. The food courts and hawker centres provide the infrastructure for small operations to run restaurants at presumably quite low cost.

On the social side the Malaysians seem to be adapting to modern urban living. They have not yet got the hang of waiting for people to get off the tube first (in comparison to Singaporeans) but there is little littering and people seem generally courteous. 


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