The population (21,410,000 residents According to an estimate of 1998), with very high annual growth rate (8. 800. 000 children under 18 years in 1995), presents a wide variety of ethnic groups and cultures.
The 62 % (the Bumiputra) is of Malaysian origin and practice Islam, while the rest are of Chinese origin (29 %, of the Buddhist religion) and India (8 %, of Hindu religion) and other minor ethnic groups (in Borneo the most important ethnic groups are those of the Bidhayu and Iban). The official language is Bahasa Malaysia, a simplified form of Malay, but the educated population also speaks English; common in their respective ethnic groups are Mandarin Chinese, Tamil and other languages.
According to Itypeusa.com, Malaysia has had an extraordinary development since the nineties, when it adopted a new economic line based on the reduction of taxes and customs tariffs, on the privatization of productive activities and on the freedom of private initiative.
Also for Malaysia there was talk of an ‘Asian economic miracle’ as the transition from an economy based on colonial plantations (rubber) and traditional agriculture (associated with coastal fishing) to a modern economy, heavily dependent on investments esters, it was very rapid (with an average annual growth of GDP equal to 5, 8 % in the range 1990-97) and unexpected. Currently Malaysia appears as a modern country, with a high level of education, efficient social structures and a medium-high standard of living; however, starting in 1997 problems arising from too rapid and uncontrolled growth have emerged and the economy has lost its momentum, leading to new social problems such as unemployment.
Agriculture is no longer the main activity and employs just over 15 % of the active population: the main products are palm oil and rice, which, however, is still unable to meet internal needs, despite the improvements introduced with the adoption of selected seeds and the greater use of fertilizers; the cultivation of Hevea, the gum plant of which Malaysia was the first world producer, is in slight decline and raw rubber contributes only to 1, 9% of exports. Other important products are tea, coconut, cocoa, pepper and semi-finished timber: the exploitation of the forests is, however, held back by specific protective regulations of the natural environment, severely compromised by the intensive exploitation practiced in the first years of independence. also in order to obtain space for oil palm plantations. In October 1997, a series of fires devastated some of the existing forest resources.
Extractive activities, which together with transformation activities contribute to the production of GDP for 47.6 %, mainly concern hydrocarbons, which have exceeded tin in importance; other minerals extracted are those of iron and copper and bauxite. The manufacturing industries (which in 1997 occupied 27.7% of the workforce, with wages much lower than those in Europe or North America) contribute to the greater part of exports; the main sectors are those of radio and television equipment, electronic material, food, chemicals, hydrocarbon refining and rubber processing. In some highly specialized sectors, such as electronics and basic chemistry, Malaysia has placed itself above the world average level, placing itself at the top in the export of semiconductors and many electromechanical products. The electronics industry, which takes advantage of consolidated relational networks for the exchange of technological knowledge between local groups and with Singapore companies, presented in 1995 an annual increase in production of 30 about%: this same segment occupies the 12, 5 % of the manufacturing labor, accounting for 60 % to industry exports.
The country is almost self-sufficient for energy production; the project for the construction of a large hydroelectric power plant in Bakum, Sarawak has raised many problems due to the strong environmental concerns it has created. Tourism is another major source of expanding wealth. Foreign trade relations see Japan in first place for imports, followed by the United States, Taiwan and Singapore; exports are mainly directed to the United States.
Malaysia is expanding its commercial relations mainly within the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the free market zone established in January 1992 by the members of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).