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About Royal Prof. Ungku Aziz


Background to Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair

The Cabinet of the Malaysian government on 12 July 2006 agreed to establish the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya. In conjunction with the establishment of the Chair, a Centre for Poverty and Development Studies was also to be set up at the Faculty. The establishment of the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair is to honor the contributions of Professor Ungku Aziz in the field of education and economic development especially rural development and poverty. It was launched in 2007 with the appointment of Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs (Director of The Earth Institute, University of Columbia) for a period of two years (2007 - 2009).

Royal Professor Ungku Aziz seminal contributions to the field of poverty ranges from his computation of the "Sarong" Index to his theory of the M-M system. In his early work on poverty, Royal Professor Ungku Aziz devised a "sarong" Index of poverty. He postulated that a per capita "sarong" index provides a useful measure of the extent of poverty in Malay villages, the index derived by dividing the total number of "sarongs" in a household by the number of persons above the age of one living in the household. The ratio of "sarongs" per capita thus obtained can be used to measure poverty and the impact of rural development programmes in the particular villages.

Royal Professor Ungku Aziz also hypothesised that the root cause of rural poverty was linked to low productivity which in turn was due to the problem of exploitation. The Colonial government through its various activities facilitated the emergence of a new type of trader for whom a permanent role was created in the economy. these traders attempted to increase their influence by gaining sole control of whole areas in the rural produce. When same trader has a monopoly and a monopsony where the real weapons for exploitation is ownership and control of the capital it is calles M-M system.

Royal Professor Ungku Aziz also led a major study commissioned by the Malaysian government on the sub division of rubber estates that followed Independence. This study is a valuable contribution to the understanding of the breakdown of the plantation system in post Colonial Malaysia and the emergence of rubber smallholdings in Malaysia both of which have significant ramifications for poverty in the country.

The establishment of the Chair and the Centre avows Malaysia's continuing commitment to poverty eradication. Malaysia is often showcased as a country that has been successful in attaining its development objectives. Malaysia has through the auspices of the Malaysian Technical Development Programme provided a platform for sharing its development experience with other developing countries. The Malaysian experience can provide useful lessons for other developing countries in policy and programme formulation for poverty alleviation. At the same time the Chair and the Centre will increase accessibility to information and facilitate the dissemination of this information amongst various stakeholders.

In this respect the setting up a Centre for Poverty and Development Studies (CPDS) is timely and it is envisaged that the Centre would become a critical reference point for academic work, research and consultancy for poverty and rural development serving the academic community, the general public, policy makers and the international community. The Centre will also help develop new approaches and methodologies in the study of poverty as well provide consultancies and technical assistance in improving the understanding of life in the rural areas and amongst poverty groups. The centre will also help increase accessibility to and dissemination of information pertaining to rural communities and poverty groups through the creation of data bases, publications, seminars, and conferences, as well as through the internet and the media. The Centre will also contribute towards capacity building in the rural areas especially amongst the poor encouraging the incorporation of local and indigenous knowledge in the development process.
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