Zambia and Malaysia

1 February 2002 | FROM JCTR BULLETIN NO.48*

Human Development: Zambia and Malaysia

Michael Soko, UNDP assistant resident representative in Zambia held a seminar on “Some reflections on Human Development” at Nkhruma Teachers’ Training College on 9 March 2001 in Kabwe.

Malaysia and Zambia were approximately at the same level of development 35 years ago but now they differ considerably. Here are some socio-economic indicators for 1999:

Country Under 5 mortality Life expectancy Below poverty line GNP US$ Annual growth Inflation
Malaysia 0.9% 72 years 4% of population 3400 4.2% 5%
Zambia 20.2% 37 years 73% of population 320 -0.9% 64%

Cf. UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2001

Why is nowadays Malaysia much more developed and still developing much faster than Zambia?

Why do we go on telling the whole world that we are poor and need some more money?

The problem is not that we lack talent, knowledge, natural resources or money. The problem is with our mind-set.

*JCTR is the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, Zambia. The above was published in their Bulletin No.48, Second Quarter 2001

27 June 2002
There has been no comment on this interesting comparison in JCTR bulletins since it was published. The low life expectancy rate in Zambia is mainly due to AIDS. Without AIDS Zambia’s life expectancy would be over 60 years.

In June 2005, the BBC compared Malaysia with Ghana. According to the BBC, when they became independent in 1957 they were about equal in wealth. Now the difference is quite dramatic – Kuala Lumpur with the world’s highest building, a monorail service, world-class hospitals etc, etc The only explanation offered was that Ghana had had frequent coups whilst Malaysia had been well governed. (A second possible explanation is that Ghana had many years of socialism under Nkrumah, whilst Malaysia has been capitalist once the communist insurgence was defeated.)

Gerry Danaher would be glad to receive any views as to why Zambia and Malaysia have such different rates of development.