Stagnating Yields, Unyielding Profits: The Political Economy of Malaysia’s Rice Sector



About the Seminar

Since the 2008 rice crisis, Malaysia’s rice policies have been caught between government efforts to raise production and its support of the country’s monopoly rice importer (Bernas). This talk argues that when the politics behind the country’s policies are revealed, the paradox is more apparent than real. Principal policy components — 1) gratifying National Front coalition partners in East Malaysia by expanding the acreage devoted to rice; 2) buttressing the rural Malay economy by providing subsidies through a yield enhancing program; and 3) relying on big business for financial support as Bernas’s new owner is one of Malaysia’s richest businessmen — have aimed to serve the same end: to perpetuate the political power of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) amid an environment of increasing electoral competitiveness. This talk will also consider how Malaysia’s rice policies will change now that UMNO has been voted out of power, and also place the successes and challenges of Malaysia’s rice sector in comparative perspective.

About the Speaker

Jamie S. Davidson has been Associate Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore since 2010. Author of three books on Indonesia, his latest is entitled Indonesia: Twenty Years of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2018). He also has published several articles based on his current research project that compares the politics of rice policy among Southeast Asia’s three great rice importers: Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Previously A/P Davidson wrote on a diverse range of topics from ethnic violence, indigenous peoples’ movements, and infrastructure development to the politics of governance reform in Southeast Asia.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 24 September 2018.


Sep 25 2018


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2