Malaysia becomes rich ‘Tiger Cub’, but still intolerant

Malaysia’s ranking was dragged down by its personal freedom and social capital scores. — File picMalaysia’s ranking was dragged down by its personal freedom and social capital scores. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 ― Malaysia has been singled out together with Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia as “Tiger Cub” countries fast catching up with regional leaders on a list of the most prosperous economies in the world, but was also named as among the worst countries for promoting personal freedom of its citizens.

Malaysia was ranked as the 45th most prosperous nation, trailing behind Singapore at 19th and with Indonesia fast catching up at 63rd position, on the Legatum Prosperity Index.

The London-based think-tank Legatum’s Prosperity Index assesses 142 countries based on performance in eight areas such as economy, personal freedom, health and social capital.

This year, Norway again topped the list of 142 countries, followed by Denmark, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. The United States, the United Kingdom and Germany came in at 12th, 13th and 14th spots, respectively.

The Central African Republic propped up the list.

The Legatum Institute, which publishes the index, noted that “a new generation of Asian ‘Tiger Cub’ countries has emerged, according to the latest findings from the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index, with Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia all appearing in top half of the worldwide rankings this year.”

Said Jeffrey Gedmin, president and CEO of the Legatum Institute: “The Legatum  Prosperity Index allows us to paint a comprehensive picture of what makes a country truly successful, encompassing traditional measures of material wealth, as well as capturing citizens’ sense of wellbeing ― from how safe they feel, to their perceived personal freedom.

“It is encouraging to see a new generation of promising economies come to the fore in this year’s Index. However, GDP alone can never offer a complete view of prosperity.

“In order for these Tiger Cubs to fulfil their full potential and continue to scale the global prosperity rankings, leaders in these countries must overcome the barriers that remain ― encouraging tolerance, providing top quality education and distributing wealth more equally amongst citizens.”

For the first time, Malaysia was ranked among the top 15 countries in the world in the economy sub-sector of the index, together with five other Asian powerhouses Singapore (3rd), Taiwan (7th), Hong Kong ((9th), China (11th) and Japan (12th). Malaysia propped up the top 15 countries while Switzerland was the top economy.

The index noted that one metric capable of shedding light on the rise of the Asian “Tiger Cubs” nations was the level of FDI flowing into each country.

“This is because FDI, when managed appropriately, can be a source of economic growth...the ‘Tiger Cubs’, Thailand and Indonesia are the biggest recipients of FDI. In terms of FDI as a share  of GDP, however, Vietnam outperforms the other ‘Tiger Cubs’ as FDI net inflows constitute almost 8 per cent of its GDP.

“However...tertiary education enrolment rates among the ‘Tiger Cubs’ are much lower than OECD standards. To meet the need of the increasingly globalised economy, the ‘Tiger Cubs’ must encourage further education so as to produce the skills necessary to increase productivity.”

However, Malaysia was let down by personal freedom — its worst-performing indicator — ranking only 111th in the sub-index. For social capital, Malaysia also scored poorly at 100th position.

The Personal Freedom sub-index captures the effects of freedom of choice, expression, movement, and belief, on a country’s per capita GDP and the subjective wellbeing of its citizens. It also assesses how levels of tolerance of ethnic minorities and immigrants impact countries’ economic growth and citizens’ life satisfaction.

Societies that foster strong civil rights and freedoms have been shown to enjoy increases in levels of satisfaction among their citizens. When citizens’ personal liberties are protected, a country benefits from higher levels of national income.

This social capital sub-index evaluates how factors such as volunteering, helping strangers, and donating to charitable organisations impact economic performance and life satisfaction. It also measures levels of trust, whether citizens believe they can rely on others, and assesses how marriage and religious attendance provide support networks beneficial to wellbeing.

Noting the need for balance, the institute said the high-growth markets of China, Malaysia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam scored well in the economy sub-index but rank amongst the worst countries for promoting and safeguarding the “personal freedom” of their citizens.


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