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Malaysia is a resource-rich peninsula bordering Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei, and is known for its attractive beaches, tropical islands, rainforests and mountain regions. The Federation of Malaysia achieved independence from Britain in 1957 and has had one of the highest performing economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism.

Malaysia is a multinational and multicultural country with a very diverse population of 28 million people. Malays and several indigenous groups make up half of the population. Ethnic Chinese, the second-largest ethnic group, make up 25% percent of the population. They have been dominant in trade and business since the 20th century. Indians make up 7% and various other groups account for the remaining 9%.

Malaysia has reduced poverty substantially (from 15% in 1989 to just under 4% in 2009) but been less successful in reducing income inequality, which fell steadily for two decades since 1970 but has stagnated at high levels ever since. The level of poverty within a particular community is typically influenced by factors such as the type of work, which sector of the economy people work in, whether they live in urban or rural areas and their level of education.

Sources: World Bank,, Malaysian Department of Statistics,

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