Lim Teck Ghee

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Lim Teck Ghee
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Lim Teck Ghee (1943), Malacca
Academic background
Alma materAustralian National University
ThesisPeasants and their Agricultural Economy in Colonial Malaya
Academic work
Main interests
  • Poverty reduction
  • social-economic disparities
  • marginalised communities
Notable worksChallenging Malaysia’s Status Quo, 2017
Notable ideasColonial policy and practice; postcolonialism state reform; and identity discourses

Lim Teck Ghee PhD (born 1943) is a Malaysian economic historian, author and public intellectual, whose career has straddled academia, civil society organisations and international development agencies.

This has been written of his early academic work - “His scholarship is informed by a deep sensitivity to the problems of rural society in a rapidly changing world, and tempered by the rigours of social science. His work demonstrates an admirable ability to balance fact and interpretation, and an objectivity that resists transforming human beings into statistics and data. He has broken important new ground, and has contributed substantially to the study of Southeast Asia.”.[1]

His subsequent policy reform work has attracted international attention for his criticism of Malaysia’s socio-economic development and racial policies.


Starting off as a history major, Lim received his Master's degree from University of Malaya in 1968. On completion of his Ph.D studies at the Australian National University in 1971, Lim was an associate professor at Universiti Pulau Pinang (subsequently renamed Universiti Sains Malaysia) from 1971 to 1986; professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Malaya from 1987 to 1994; and a professorial fellow at UCSI University from 2007 to 2012.

He has been a visiting fellow or professor at the following universities: the Australian National University, the Max Planck Institute, Griffith University, Yale University, Cornell University, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.



In Malaysia's 3rd General Elections of 1969, Lim worked on Dr Tan Chee Khoon's successful election campaign for the Batu parliamentary seat.

Public service

Lim played a key leadership role in the development of the Consumers Association of Penang, serving as Honorary Secretary from 1971 to 1984; and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, serving as Vice President from 1975 to 1984. He was one of the founding members of the Asian Cultural Forum on Development. He has been active in civil society work for several decades, and is recognised for his leadership of non-governmental organisations working for equitable development. He was a member of various national and regional consultative bodies. He played a key role in the National Economic Consultative Council, a 150-member body established to formulate a new national socio-economic policy in Malaysia to replace the National Economic Policy.

Lim was the project leader of the highly controversial Center for Public Policy Studies’ report submission to the Government of Malaysia on proposals for the Ninth Malaysia Plan in 2006. The chapter, “Corporate Equity Distribution: Past Trends and Future Policy”[2] contended that the National Economic Policy (and it’s extension, the National Development Policy) — while necessary when introduced in 1970 to rectify economic disparities — no longer played a role in promoting economic development or national unity. The report further questioned the use of corporate equity figures as a measure of inter-ethnic wealth distribution.

According to the report’s study, bumiputera equity ownership in Malaysia has significantly exceeded the 30% target set by the Government for the New Economic Policy. The finding directly contradicted the Government's claim in the 9th Malaysia Plan that bumiputera equity has stagnated at 18.9%.

News reports on the study resulted in a national furore on the corporate equity issue as well as highlighted the larger New Economic Policy subject matter. Leading members of the government and the ruling party, United Malays National Organisation, as well as members of the Malay business community defended the continuation of the New Economic Policy, denied the report’s findings and were highly critical of the data and methodology used.[3]

Lim’s refusal to retract the report resulted in his decision to resign as director of the CPPS.[4] His press statement announcing his resignation was widely carried in the national media It stated that he chose to resign “because of the need to defend the position and integrity of independent and non-partisan scholarship”[5]. He noted that “(i)t is the fundamental right of the Malaysian public to question all government statistics and policies, more so when these are not transparent or defensible.”[6]

Leaders of Malaysian civil society organisations, social commentators, journalists, politicians and graduate students expressed their support for Lim and the study’s findings. Expressions of respect for his stand also appeared as advertisements in the national media.[7]

In May 2011, Lim — together with a small group of concerned citizens — launched a civil society movement whose main objective is to contribute towards a well-balanced, truthful and accurate depiction of Malaysian and world history. The movement, going by the name of Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar (KemSMS) or Campaign for a True Malaysian History, mobilised academicians, professionals, and concerned parents, as well as non-governmental organisations seeking reform towards a liberal and progressive history syllabus and textbooks.[8]

Lim was also the project leader of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) report in 2013, titled “Transforming the Nation: A 20-Year Plan of Action”[9]

He is currently advisor to these civil society organisations: Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (MAJU)[10] and Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM).

International development

Lim was Regional Advisor on Poverty and Social Development with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (1994-1999) and Senior Social Scientist at the World Bank, Washington DC (1999-2005).

He was founding Director of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Center for Public Policy Studies, a regional think tank based in Kuala Lumpur (2005-2006).

Notable works

Lim’s most recent book is Challenging Malaysia’s Status Quo, published in 2017. It consists of a series of critical articles and commentaries that examine a wide range of issues confronting contemporary Malaysia and its future as a viable and democratic multi-ethnic society. Other notable works include:

  • Origins of a Colonial Economy: Land and Agriculture in Perak 1874-1897. Universiti Sains Malaysia. 1976
  • Peasants and Their Agricultural Economy in Colonial Malaya, 1874-1941 (East Asian Historical Monographs) Hardcover – January 1, 1978 ISBN-10 – 0195803388. ISBN-13: 978-019803389
  • ‘Fishermen’s Struggle for Land in Malaysia: A Case Study of Kampung Batu’, in Md. Anisur Rahman, (ed) Grassroots Participation and Self-Reliance: Experiences in South and Southeast Asia, New Delhi: Oxford and IBH Publishing, 1984.
  • ‘The Growth of the Worker Class and Its Implications for Social Relations’, in S. Husin Ali (ed.) Ethnicity, Class and Development, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Malaysian Social Science Association, 1984.
  • Reflections on Development in Southeast Asia (editor), Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1988.
  • Towards a Liberating Peace (joint author with Rajni Kothari, et al.), Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1989.
  • Agrarian Transformations: Local Processes and the State in Southeast Asia (joint editor), University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989.
  • Conflict over Natural Resources in Asia and the Pacific (senior editor), Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1990.
  • Tribal Peoples and Development in Southeast Asia, Special issue of Manusia dan Masyarakat, edited by Lim Teck Ghee and Alberto Gomes, Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya, Department of Anthropology and Sociology. 1990.
  • Social cohesion and conflict prevention in Asia: managing diversity through development (English). Conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction series Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group. Colletta,Nat J.; Teck Ghee Lim; Kelles-Vii, Anita.1999. ISBN 0821348744
  • Asian Interfaith Dialogue: Perspectives on Religion, Education and Social Cohesion. Washington DC, 2003. ISBN 981-04-9475-0
  • Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, and Future. Teck Ghee Lim, Alberto G. Gomes, Azly Rahman. Malaysian Institute of Development and Asian Studies. 2009. ISBN 9789833782819 9833782817 9789833782789 9833782787
  • Challenging Malaysia’s Status Quo. Strategic Info Research Development. 2017. ISBN 9789670960920
  • Anatomy of An Electoral Tsunami. Strategic Info Research Development. 2018. ISBN 9789672165347
  • Colonial Elites in Malaya: Perspectives on Race, Identity and Social Order (forthcoming) Lim Teck Ghee and Charles Brophy. ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
  • A Journey with Gungwu and History in Danny Wong Tse Ken and Lee Kam Hing, eds., Wang Gungwu and Malaysia (forthcoming) Lim Teck Ghee. University of Malaya Press, Kuala Lumpur

He has authored and/or edited over 80 books and articles on economic history, developmental issues and challenges in Malaysia and Southeast Asia published by Oxford University Press, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Press, United Nations University Press, Heinemann Educational Press, University of California Press, Routledge, and others.

Awards and honours

Lim has received a number of academic awards including the Harry J. Benda Prize[11] in Southeast Asian Studies; the Fulbright Fellowship Award; Rockefeller Foundation “Reflections on Development” Fellowship Award; East West Center Visiting Fellowship; Australian National University Visiting Fellowship; Jackson Memorial Fellowship, Griffith University; University of Toronto Visiting Chair in ASEAN Studies; and Kyoto University Asian Public Intellectual Senior Fellowship award.


  1. Xiamen University. (2010) AAS SEAC Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.
  2. Corporate Equity Distribution: Past Trends and Future Policy”. Center for Public Policy Studies. 2006
  3. "Government stands by accuracy of EPU data". The Star. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  4. "Lim quits over Asli's report retraction". Malaysiakini. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  5. ASLI director quits over controversial findings” The Star Online. 11 October 2006.
  6. Lim free to resign based on principle, says Mirzan”. The Star Online. 12 October 2006.
  7. 18.9% or 45%? More support for Dr Lim Teck Ghee — Media Statement by Ronnie Liu Tian Kiew”. DAP Malaysia. 15 October 2006.
  8. Press Statement on URGENT NEED FOR HISTORY EDUCATION REFORM dated 19th January 2012 by Kempen Sejarah Malaysia Sebenar,
  9. “Transforming the Nation – A 20 Year Plan of Action” report published by Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong).
  10. "About Us". Malaysian Action For Justice And Unity. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  11. Benda Prize.

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