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British Business and Post-Colonial Malaysia, 1957-70: by Nicholas White

By Nicholas White

This e-book explores the bounds of the belief of 'neo-colonialism' - the concept that within the interval instantly after independence Malaya/Malaysia loved just a 'pseudo-independence', mostly a result of entrenched and dominant place of British enterprise pursuits allied to indigenous elites. the writer argues that, even supposing British enterprise did certainly have a robust place in Malaysia during this interval, Malaysian politicians and directors have been capable of utilise British enterprise, which used to be really susceptible vis-a-vis the Malaysian kingdom, for his or her personal ends, whilst indigenous companies and international, non-British rivals have been collecting power. furthermore, regardless of the dedication of either Conservative and Labour governments within the united kingdom to holding British impact around the world in the course of the Commonwealth courting, British companies in Malaysia got merely constrained aid from the British post-imperial country.

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14 UK financial interests had indeed been alarmed during 1960 and 1961 by the possibility that the Federation would ditch the agreement (dating from 1952), which, despite merdeka and the creation of a central bank, continued to permit the operation of a common currency throughout Malaya, Singapore and the Borneo territories. 15 Yet the principal economic attraction of ‘Greater Malaysia’ for the British agency houses lay in the prospects for the expansion of secondary industry. During 1962 and 1963, the SCC viewed ‘the economic benefits of Malaysia’ as being primarily in the development of a ‘common market’.

76 Through the use of a wide range of recently opened qualitative business and government records, particularly the correspondence of key players (both British and Malaysian), it reassesses the ‘neo-colonialism’ and ‘disengagement’ paradigms. This interrogation surrounds five major issues—three largely political, two concerned with economic development: • the degree to which the creation of Malaysia reflected the needs of British business interests; • the role of expatriate enterprise in the post-colonial political machine and how economic nationalism affected British business operations; • the ways in which the security (or, more correctly, the insecurity) environment —both domestic and regional—impacted upon and was perceived by British firms in Malaysia; • the influence of the British agency houses and mining groups on the development of, and international markets for, Malaysia’s two staple primary industries, rubber and tin; and • the role of British capital in the diversification of the post-colonial economy— both into oil palms and secondary industry.

67 Sir Edward Reid, a senior partner in Barings and a Bank of England director, additionally served on the London Committee of the HSBC. By the mid-1960s, meanwhile, Tom Barlow was a director of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) as well as a number of insurance companies in the City. This all points to the tendency for the UK’s business leaders in Malaysia to become more ‘gentlemanly’, more integrated with the British financial and political establishment as empire ended. The gentrification process is best illustrated in the case of two of the largest Anglo-Malaysian groups, BCL and Guthries.

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