Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia

His vision in advocating equitable growth and his foresight in championing the socio-economic rights of the poor and the marginalised have brought significant benefits to the people of Malaysia.
Tan Sri Razak Ramli
Member of the Nomination Committee
Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia


Tan Sri Just Faaland was born in Oslo on January 25, 1922. He received his education at the University of Oslo and Oxford University in Mathematics and Economics. Tan Sri Faaland was mentored by Professor Ragnar Frisch, who was a joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1969 with Jan Tinbergen.

He first came to Malaysia in 1969 while he was serving as Director of the Harvard University Malaysia Advisory Group, to advise the Government of Malaysia in the area of socio-economic planning.

Having just received his Panglima Setia Mahkota order, which carries the title Tan Sri.

He has held various leadership positions in international organisations including President of the OECD Development Centre in Paris, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington, World Bank's Representative in Bangladesh and Economic Consultant to the United Nations and its agencies.

Currently, he is a Senior Consultant with the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) Norway, an independent centre for research on international development and policy. He has written and published numerous books and articles, reports and papers, including a selection of papers in recent years on policies in Malaysia.

"Life is full of surprises and the human condition is in frequent change. It is a privilege to be an observer also at this late stage in life," he said.

Tan Sri Faaland received the honorary Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) in 2002. He was inducted in 1982 into the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav by the Norwegian Government. He has been honoured with many awards including an honorary doctorate by the University of Malaya.

Equitable Growth
Tan Sri Faaland has always advocated equitable growth and the socio-economic rights of the poor. In Malaysia, he promoted those principles through the formulation of the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1970.

"When I went to Oxford for graduate studies in economics just after the Second World War, what we now associate with development studies was just in its infancy. My particular field of study was the interrelation between international trade and employment. When later I came to focus on developing countries, this gave me a good start. I realised the importance of seeing employment not only as a source of income, but also as a major component in the set of ways in which people are active participants in the economy and the wider society," he said. "Participation and inclusion are concepts that go beyond employment to wider issues of the control of economic destiny of self, of group and of nation."

The purpose of the NEP was to eradicate poverty and foster national unity by enabling the ethnic groups in Malaysia to participate more equitably in the economy, without depriving any ethnic group of its social and economic rights.

Tan Sri Faaland first came to Malaysia before the May 13, 1969 racial riots as head of a team of international experts as the Director of the Harvard University Malaysia Advisory Group. The group was attached to the Economic Planning Unit to advise the country on economic matters.

Tan Sri Faaland enjoys the outdoors. Sailing in the Fjords near Bergen, Norway.

After the May 13 incident, Tan Sri Faaland assisted the National Operations Council, led by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and worked closely with the Malaysian Government and the Economic Planning Unit, to elevate the living standards of the poor and marginalised.

"What little I knew related to Malaya rather than the whole country. I was aware of the main phases of wartime happenings and of the great importance of Malayan tin and rubber exports for the health of the economy. I had some acknowledge of the massive scale of the immigration of Chinese and South Asian labour. On arrival in KL in July 1968 I had a lot of catching up to do. I was fortunate to be placed in the EPU where also most of my colleagues in the Harvard Advisory Group were present," he said.

The socio-economic climate in Malaysia in 1969 and 1970 gave rise to the need for better social equity and participation by all citizens for the country to progress.

"It called for a new approach. The persistent, even increasing gap between rich and poor, had the political effect of pushing many intellectuals and politicians towards advocacy of radical solutions. There was a clear need for a new alliance of moderate elements," he said.

The NEP was not unanimously agreed upon when it was mooted, and not by all members of the Harvard University Malaysia Advisory Group. Tan Sri Faaland managed to convince them that it was the best way forward.

"Two major schools of thought emerged on how to react to the political and social upheaval. One emphasised economic growth over other priorities. Proponents of the NEP interpreted the challenge of development differently. To them there was clear evidence of a growing structural defect in the country which had to be rectified urgently. Large segments of the population remained ill-prepared to participate in the modern economy and key policies and major institutional, social and cultural obstacles prevented effective participation of segments of the population. These imbalances had to be addressed directly, not just as elements of a growth strategy," he said.

The success of the NEP in achieving its objectives has been a subject of debate since its inception but Tan Sri Faaland is pleased overall with how the country has progressed since the policy was implemented.

Co-authored a book which seeks to draw a comprehensive picture of Malaysia's New Economic Policy.

"Malaysia has come a long way in its pursuit of the NEP objectives. Its experience of success is an inspiration and a model for other countries with multi-ethnic populations. Yet, much remains to be done to build a One Malaysia (united Malaysia), both in economic life and in the wider search for common identity and national ideals," he added.

Tan Sri Faaland had a good working relationship with the Government, at the time led by Tun Abdul Razak.

"While the advisors could contribute from the basis of analytical expertise and experience, there were capable Malaysians in charge who could ensure that priorities and positions of their respective institutions would prevail. The best traditions of proper and effective Civil Service ruled. The link between the foreign advisors and the political decision makers typically went through the leading civil servants," he said.

A core group of civil servants was trained to carry out the work of the NEP, and the training of Malaysian civil servants was an important part of the project, he said.

As a recipient of the Merdeka Award for Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia, Tan Sri Faaland accepts this latest accolade as recognition of the efforts of the Government and leaders of this nation in propelling the country forward.

"I accept the 2010 Merdeka Award with a sense of wonder as well as gratitude. I'd like to take the Award as recognition of the formulation of the NEP as an important part of the work of Tun Razak in the history of the nation, and of the many dedicated civil servants, politicians and others who, under shifting circumstances over the decades, have sought to realise Tun Razak's (vision) for the nation," he added.

In1985, Tan Sri Faaland received his doctorate at the University of Bergen. He is photographed here with his son Jon and colleagues.

Concluding Remarks

Tan Sri Faaland has played an instrumental role in finding a balance between economic prosperity, social equity and inclusive growth in Malaysia, eschewing the threat of social disharmony and disintegration, and paving the way for economic growth and prosperity that the country continues to enjoy.

We use cookies to enhance your browsing experience and for analytical purposes. By continuing to browse, you are deemed to accept our use of cookies. Learn more about disabling cookies and our Privacy Statement here.