Malaysia celebrates the 50th anniversary of independence on August 31 this year. Over 50 years we have built a country that has survived difficult times to become a nation that is ready to embrace its destiny.

We did not start with the promising chance of survival. Malaysia was poor, with an economy almost wholly reliant on tin and rubber and an income per capita of $300. Our population was multiracial with little sense of a uniting identity. We were facing a communist insurrection.

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Today, we are a stable and modern nation with our sights set firmly on becoming a developed country by the year 2020. We have enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 6.5%. Poverty is down to 5.7%, from more than 50% at independence – making Malaysia one of the world’s most remarkable success stories in terms of poverty eradication.

We are also a country that is fully plugged in to the global economy. Total trade is more than double our GDP and our foreign reserves are well over $95bn. In terms of business competitiveness the World Economic Forum ranks Malaysia fourth in Asia, after Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

These achievements have been built on solid foundations. Malaysia spends more than 20% of its development expenditure annually on education. Over the past two decades we have invested in infrastructure that compares with the best in the world. We have made political and economic stability the hallmarks of Malaysian governance. Taken together, these important enablers have facilitated the rapid growth of Malaysia into what it is today: a nation that looks to the future with hope and optimism.

There is much that needs to be done if we are to progress to the next phase of our journey. Over the past few years, we have assiduously begun to lay the foundations for future growth. We are now investing in new growth sectors, including information and communications technology (ICT) and biotechnology. We are also investing in new technologies and processes to transform agriculture into a new engine of growth for the country. In the services sector, we are beginning to witness the fruits of our efforts in areas ranging from Islamic finance to tourism and logistics. More recently, we have created a new growth corridor: the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in the southern state of Johor, which borders Singapore. The IDR will be the leading edge of a new phase of economic growth for Malaysia, as we seek to build a thriving regional economic hub for south-east Asia.

There is a palpable air of excitement in Malaysia. As we celebrate our golden anniversary, we invite you to take a closer look at Malaysia, and to participate in our growth story. We think the best is yet to come.

Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi

August 2007