Malaysia is a country that consists of thirteen states and three federal territories located in Southeast Asia. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur , and Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 27 million. The country is separated into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo by the South China Sea. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. The country is located near the equator and experiences a tropical climate.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King). Kings are elected for 5-year terms from among the nine sultans of the peninsular Malaysian states. The king also is the leader of the Islamic faith in Malaysia. Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the Prime Minister ; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of Parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of parliament and is responsible to that body. The Malays form the majority of the population and there are sizable Chinese and Indian communities. Islam is the largest as well as the official religion of the federation. The Malay language is the official language.
The Malaysian legal system is based on English common law. The Federal Court reviews decisions referred from the Court of Appeal; it has original jurisdiction in constitutional matters and in disputes between states or between the federal government and a state. Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak each have a high court.
The federal government has authority over external affairs, defense, internal security, justice (except civil law cases among Malays or other Muslims and other indigenous peoples, adjudicated under Islamic and traditional law), federal citizenship, finance, commerce, industry, communications, transportation, and other matters.
Since it became independent, Malaysia's economic record has been one of Asia's best. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average of 6.5% per year from 1957 to 2007. Performance peaked in the early 1980s through the mid-1990s, as the economy experienced sustained rapid growth averaging almost 8% annually. High levels of foreign and domestic investment played a significant role as the economy diversified and modernized. Once heavily dependent on primary products such as rubber and tin, Malaysia today is a middle-income country with a multi-sector economy based on services and manufacturing. Malaysia is one of the world's largest exporters of semiconductor devices, electrical goods, and information and communication technology (ICT) products.
The government has taken an active role in guiding the nation's economic development. Malaysia's New Economic Policy (NEP), first established in 1971, sought to eradicate poverty and to enhance the economic standing. In June 1991, after the NEP expired, the government unveiled its National Development Policy, which contained many of the NEP's goals. In April 2001, the government released a new plan, the "National Vision Policy," to guide development over the period 2001-2010. The National Vision Policy targets education for budget increases and seeks to refocus the economy toward higher-technology production. The stated goal is for Malaysia to be a fully developed economy by 2020.
Regional cooperation is a cornerstone of Malaysia's foreign policy. It was a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and served as the group's chair most recently in 2005-2006. Malaysia is an active member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) , the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the United Nations .
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