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Pui Yi Wong on the role of the state, market and society in developing ikat textile value chains in Sarawak, Malaysia

WIDER Seminar Series

On 14 November Pui Yi Wong, PhD Candidate, University of Malaysia will present her research. 

Abstract - The role of the state, market and society in developing ikat textile value chains in Sarawak, Malaysia

The ideal role of the state in facilitating rapid economic growth and development is an on-going debate. After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the East Asian economies has evolved from the narrowly-defined structures which characterised them as interventionist developmental states. Meanwhile the 2008 global economic crisis highlighted the unstable nature of neoliberal economies. As it became evident that no one country subscribes exclusively to either model, alternative approaches has emerged to conceptualise economic development, among them the global value chain approach. This approach introduces value chains as a unit of analysis in understanding economic organisation, but its application by developmental organisations and the market-centric focus on private sector development have invited criticisms of a resurgence of neoliberalism. Developmentalism and neoliberalism are two of the most influential paradigms of political economy in the 21st century. This paper proposes that the developmentalist and value chain literatures can be combined to generate greater understanding of the nature of state-led and market-led development.

Studies on the political economy of Malaysia and the relationships between the state and the market have thus far focused on large family-owned businesses. This study explores a different perspective from the level of micro businesses among grassroots communities. This focus is chosen with the aim to examine the impact of macro development models on the policies to nurture niche, rural micro-enterprises which directly affect poor communities.

Rural sector development is a core concern for Sarawak as its weak infrastructure make rural areas extremely remote and rural dwellers find it difficult to gain access to economic opportunities. The case of handwoven ikat textiles in Sarawak is examined as it provides a fascinating study on how traditional knowledge uniquely held by poor communities could be cultivated as a source of income in the modern economy. The knowledge of creating natural dyes and weaving are skills passed down over several generations by the indigenous Iban community, the largest ethnic group in Sarawak which also makes up the largest proportion of families living under the national poverty line.

Framing this study with the discourse on developmental models and value chains enables an analysis of the intertwined relationships between the state, market and society in enterprise development, which shed light on why certain initiatives have failed the further develop the cottage industry. The value chain literature also provides insights on the potential of value chain upgrading for this niche textile product; however, findings indicate that strong collaborative efforts by all actors is crucial.

To register your attendance email Ruby Richardson

WIDER Seminar Series

The WIDER Seminar Series showcases recent and ongoing work on key topics in development economics. The weekly sessions held in Helsinki are open to local and visiting researchers, students, policy makers, and others interested in development topics. Click here to learn more.