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Flag of Malaysia
Map of Malaysia
Introduction Malaysia
Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a federation of the former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the federation in 1965.
Geography Malaysia
Southeastern Asia, peninsula and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates:
2 30 N, 112 30 E
Map references:
Southeast Asia
total: 329,750 sq km
water: 1,200 sq km
land: 328,550 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries:
total: 2,669 km
border countries: Brunei 381 km, Indonesia 1,782 km, Thailand 506 km
4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons
coastal plains rising to hills and mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunung Kinabalu 4,100 m
Natural resources:
tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite
Land use:
arable land: 5.54%
permanent crops: 17.61%
other: 76.85% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
3,650 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
flooding, landslides, forest fires
Environment - current issues:
air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea
People Malaysia
23,092,940 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 33.7% (male 4,001,507; female 3,777,896)
15-64 years: 61.9% (male 7,163,252; female 7,131,745)
65 years and over: 4.4% (male 447,230; female 571,310) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 23.6 years
male: 23 years
female: 24.3 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
1.86% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
23.7 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
5.12 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: does not reflect net flow of an unknown number of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 19 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 21.97 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.67 years
male: 69.01 years
female: 74.51 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.13 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.4% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
42,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
2,500 (2001 est.)
noun: Malaysian(s)
adjective: Malaysian
Ethnic groups:
Malay and other indigenous 58%, Chinese 24%, Indian 8%, others 10% (2000)
Muslim, Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh; note - in addition, Shamanism is practiced in East Malaysia
Bahasa Melayu (official), English, Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note - in addition, in East Malaysia several indigenous languages are spoken, the largest are Iban and Kadazan
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88.9%
male: 92.4%
female: 85.4% (2003 est.)
Government Malaysia
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Malaysia
former: Federation of Malaysia
Government type:
constitutional monarchy
note: Malaya (what is now Peninsular Malaysia) formed 31 August 1957; Federation of Malaysia (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore) formed 9 July 1963 (Singapore left the federation on 9 August 1965); nominally headed by the paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; Peninsular Malaysian states - hereditary rulers in all but Melaka, George Town (Penang), Sabah, and Sarawak, where governors are appointed by the Malaysian Government; powers of state governments are limited by the federal constitution; under terms of the federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., the right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah - holds 20 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government; Sarawak - holds 28 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government
Kuala Lumpur
Administrative divisions:
13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) and 3 federal territories* (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan, singular - wilayah persekutuan); Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Labuan*, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Putrajaya*, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu, Wilayah Persekutuan*
note: the city of Kuala Lumpur is within the federal territory of Wilayah Persekutuan; the terms therefore are not interchangeable;
31 August 1957 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day/Malaysia Day, 31 August (1957)
31 August 1957, amended 16 September 1963
Legal system:
based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
21 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Paramount Ruler Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, the Raja of Perlis (since 12 December 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi (since 31 October 2003); Deputy Prime Minister NA (since 31 October 2003)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the paramount ruler
election results: Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail elected paramount ruler
elections: paramount ruler elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; election last held 12 December 2001 (next to be held NA 2006); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins a plurality of seats in the House of Representatives becomes prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of the Senate or Dewan Negara (69 seats; 43 appointed by the paramount ruler, 26 appointed by the state legislatures) and the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (193 seats; members elected by popular vote weighted toward the rural Malay population to serve five-year terms)
election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - BN 56%, other 44%; seats by party - BN 148, PAS 27, DAP 10, Keadilan 5, PBS 3
elections: House of Representatives - last held 29 November 1999 (next must be held by November 2004)
Judicial branch:
Federal Court (judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister)
Political parties and leaders:
ruling coalition parties: Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia Party or PGRM [LIM Kheng Yaik]; Liberal Democratic Party (Parti Liberal Demokratik - Sabah) or LDP [CHONG Kah Kiat]; Malaysian Chinese Association (Persatuan China Malaysia) or MCA [LING Ong Ka Ting]; Malaysian Indian Congress (Kongresi India Malaysia) or MIC [S. Samy VELLU]; Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak or PBDS [Leo MOGGIE]; Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS [Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan]; Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu or PBB [Patinggi Haji Abdul TAIB Mahmud]; Sabah Progressive Party (Parti Progresif Sabah) or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee]; Sarawak United People's Party (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sarawak) or SUPP [WONG Soon Kah]; United Malays National Organization or UMNO [ABDULLAH Ahmad Badawi]; United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organization (Pertubuhan Pasko Momogun Kadazan Dusun Bersatu) or UPKO [leader NA]; opposition parties: Democratic Action Party (Parti Tindakan Demokratik) or DAP [KERK Kim Hock]; Islamic Party of Malaysia (Parti Islam se Malaysia) or PAS [Abdul HADI Awang]; National Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Nasional) or Keadilan [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismael]; National Front (Barisan Nasional) or BN (the ruling coalition dominated by the UMNO and includes MCA, MIC, PGRM, PBDS, SUPP, PBB, PBS, LDP, SAPP, UPKO) [ABDULLAH Ahmad Badawi]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador GHAZZALI bin Sheikh Abdul Khalid
chancery: 3516 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 572-9882
telephone: [1] (202) 572-9700
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Marie T. HUHTALA
embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
mailing address: P. O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; American Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152
telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000
FAX: [60] (3) 2142-2207
Flag description:
14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow fourteen-pointed star; the crescent and the star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the flag of the US
Economy Malaysia
Economy - overview:
Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth was almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics - and, as a result Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the Information Technology (IT) sector in 2001. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.5% due to an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package mitigated the worst of the recession and the economy rebounded in 2002. Healthy foreign exchange reserves and relatively small external debt make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a crisis similar to the one in 1997, but the economy remains vulnerable to a more protracted slowdown in Japan and the US, top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.
purchasing power parity - $198.4 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4.1% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $8,800 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 12%
industry: 40%
services: 48% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
8% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.7%
highest 10%: 38.4% (1997 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
49.2 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.9% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
9.9 million (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
local trade and tourism 28%, manufacturing 27%, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 16%, services 10%, government 10%, construction 9% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate:
3.8% (2002 est.)
revenues: $20.3 billion
expenditures: $27.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $9.4 billion (2001 est.)
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing industry, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging and processing timber; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging
Industrial production growth rate:
5% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
68.34 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 89.5%
hydro: 10.5%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
63.48 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
75 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
729,200 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
472,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA (2001)
Oil - proved reserves:
3.729 billion bbl (37257)
Natural gas - production:
53.66 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
31.25 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
22.41 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
2.23 trillion cu m (37257)
Agriculture - products:
Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, rubber, timber, coconuts, rice; Sarawak - rubber, pepper; timber
$95.2 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals (2000)
Exports - partners:
US 21%, Singapore 17.4%, Japan 10.9%, China 6.5%, Hong Kong 5%, Thailand 4% (2002)
$76.8 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel products, chemicals (2000)
Imports - partners:
Japan 16.9%, Singapore 15.9%, US 15.5%, China 7.3%, South Korea 5%, Taiwan 4.7% (2002)
Debt - external:
$47.5 billion (2002 est.)
ringgit (MYR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
ringgits per US dollar - 3.8 (2002), 3.8 (2001), 3.8 (2000), 3.8 (1999), 3.92 (1998)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Malaysia
Telephones - main lines in use:
4.6 million (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
5 million (2000)
Telephone system:
general assessment: modern system; international service excellent
domestic: good intercity service provided on Peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay; adequate intercity microwave radio relay network between Sabah and Sarawak via Brunei; domestic satellite system with 2 earth stations
international: submarine cables to India, Hong Kong, and Singapore; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean) (2001)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 35, FM 391, shortwave 15 (2001)
10.9 million (1999)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (plus 15 high-power repeaters) (2001)
10.8 million (1999)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
7 (2000)
Internet users:
5.7 million (2002)
Transportation Malaysia
total: 2,418 km
standard gauge: 57 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 2,361 km 1.000-m gauge (150 km electrified) (2002)
total: 65,877 km
paved: 49,935 km (including 1,192 km of expressways)
unpaved: 15,942 km (1999)
7,296 km
note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,209 km, Sabah 1,569 km, Sarawak 2,518 km
condensate 279 km; gas 5,047 km; oil 1,841 km; refined products 114 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Bintulu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuantan, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lumut, Miri, Pasir Gudang, George Town (Penang), Port Dickson, Port Kelang, Sandakan, Sibu, Tanjung Berhala, Tanjung Kidurong, Tawau
Merchant marine:
total: 366 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 5,111,476 GRT/7,242,323 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Australia 1, China 1, Germany 2, Hong Kong 15, Indonesia 3, Japan 4, Monaco 1, Philippines 2, Singapore 78, South Korea 2, Vietnam 1 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 62, cargo 103, chemical tanker 37, container 69, liquefied gas 23, livestock carrier 1, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 55, roll on/roll off 5, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 8
114 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 35
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 7 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 11
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 79
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 72 (2002)
1 (2002)
Military Malaysia
Military branches:
Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Police Field Force, Marine Police, Sarawak Border Scouts
Military manpower - military age:
21 years of age (2003 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 6,067,155 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 3,672,517 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 218,216 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$1.69 billion (FY00 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.03% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Malaysia
Disputes - international:
involved in complex dispute over Spratly Islands with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and possibly Brunei; claimants in November 2002 signed the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," a mechanism to ease tension but which fell short of a legally binding "code of conduct"; disputes over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation on Johor, maritime boundaries, and Singapore-occupied Pedra Branca Island/Pulau Batu Putih persist - parties agree to ICJ arbitration on island dispute within three years; ICJ awarded Ligitan and Sipadan islands off the coast of Sabah, also claimed by Indonesia and Philippines, to Malaysia; a small section of the Malaysia-Thailand boundary in the Kolok River remains in dispute
Illicit drugs:
transit point for some illicit drugs; drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously and carries severe penalties

This page was last updated on 18 December, 2003