Epilogue: After 1959
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 November 2020
Undeterred by such complicating factors, the UMNO-dominated Alliance government decided that the basis for creating a future citizenry would be Malaya's traditional culture and heritage, meaning Malay language and culture. Non-Malays, however, argued that a more appropriate path was to work towards a Malaysian identity that would reflect the country's multi-ethnic background.—Barbara and Leonard Andaya
In July 1959, just before elections took place, it was announced by the respected New York publication Pick's Currency Year that Malaya was Asia's wealthiest nation. That conclusion was drawn based on “circulation of currency per head of population”. Coming at 24th spot after 23 western countries, Malaya was classed as “moderately wealthy”, just a nose ahead of Hong Kong, and far ahead of Japan, Siam and Ceylon. While such a ranking may not say very much about the socioeconomic situation experienced by the population at large, it does commend Malaya's new government for carrying out a smooth transition in the finances of the country.
Much credit should be given to its finance minister for the achievement. In fact, for this and other contributions to the new nation, Hau-Shik was granted the KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) in 1957, for which he was entitled to use “Sir” before his name, and then at the second anniversary of Merdeka, in 1959, just before he left politics, he was awarded the SMN (Sri Maharaja Mangku Negara), which carried the title of “Tun”. Indeed, one could say that the conferment of the latter title signalled the end of his career as a politician, a career he was drawn into more by circumstances than by choice.
The ranking by Pick's also suggests that Malaya was in a healthy enough economic state as it entered the turbulent 1960s, although the election results of 1959 did show that there was much unrest and that the Alliance did not stand on as solid foundations as might have been assumed by the British.
But then, despite the political rhetoric, the founding of Malaya should not be seen as an endgame, neither for the retreating colonialist nor for the leaders of the new nation. The problem of Singapore and the northern Borneo territories still had to be solved, and any solution would require the Federation of Malaya to function as a pillar for it.
- As Empires FellThe Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya, pp. 200 - 206Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak InstitutePrint publication year: 2020