Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram (born 11 December 1952), better known as Jomo KS, is a prominent Malaysian economist, who is currently serving as the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). He was also the founder chair of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAs), and sat on the Board of the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva. Jomo is a leading scholar and expert on the political economy of development, especially in Southeast Asia, who has authored over 35 monographs, edited over 50 books and translated 11 volumes besides writing many academic papers and articles for the media.

Jomo is widely perceived to be an outspoken intellectual, with unorthodox non-partisan views. During the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, Jomo was one of the earliest advocates of capital control measures, which then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad eventually introduced to curb excessive currency speculation. However, when then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim was imprisoned without trial under the Internal Security Act, Jomo publicly condemned the repression. In late 1998, he was sued for defamation for 250 million ringgit by Vincent Tan, a Mahathir era billionaire.


Named after two African nationalist leaders, Jomo was born in Penang, Malaysia, soon after Jomo Kenyatta was incarcerated in late 1952. He spent his early years studying at Westlands Primary School (1959-63) and later at Penang Free School (1964-66). He later won a scholarship to the Royal Military College (1967-70) where he was selected as Malaysia’s delegate to the World Youth Forum in 1970. He later attended Yale College (1970-73) on a full scholarship. After graduating "cum laude" from Yale with a degree in economics, Jomo went on to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard to obtain his MPA in 1974. He lost his father in early 1974 and returned to teach at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in mid-1974, before beginning work on his Ph.D. at Harvard which he completed in late 1977 while teaching at Yale after earlier teaching stints at Harvard while working on his doctorate. The title of his Ph.D. dissertation is Class Formation in Malaya: Capital, the State, and Uneven Development (1978).

Jomo returned to Malaysia to research his thesis in 1976 before joining the economics faculty of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in early 1977. Five years later, he moved to the University of Malaya, where he remained for more than 22 years. During this period, Jomo was British Academy Visiting Professor and later Visiting Fellow at Cambridge (1987-88, 1991-92), Fulbright Visiting Professor at Cornell University (1993) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He was also founder director of the independent Institute of Social Analysis (INSAN) until late 2004, President of the Malaysian Social Science Association (1996-2000) and Convenor of the first and second International Malaysian Studies Conventions (1997, 1999). In January 2005, Jomo moved to New York City as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development after retiring from the University of Malaya in 2004.

Jomo’s extensive writings have covered industrial policy, privatization, rent-seeking, cronyism, financial liberalization, macroeconomic policy impacts, economic distribution, ethnic relations, Islam and Malaysian history. His better known recent books include "Privatizing Malaysia" (Westview, 1995), "Southeast Asia’s Misunderstood Miracle" (Westview, 1997), "Tigers in Trouble" (Zed, 1998), "Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits" (Cambridge University Press, 1999), "Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development" (Cambridge University Press, 2000), "Malaysian Eclipse" (Zed, 2000) and "The New Development Economics" (Zed, 2005).

Personal Information

Jomo is married to Noelle Rodriguez, has three children, Nadia (born 1987), Emil (born 1989) and Leal (born 1990), and lives with his mother, who was denied the same visa status for ‘not being a close family member’.


*"The truth may hurt and offend, but I don't deliberately go around trying to offend people." (The Star interview)

*"We all talk about globalisation but … there is almost the assumption that somehow or other, greater international economic integration will somehow magically achieve growth and justice. There is very little evidence that this has happened, and there's no reason to assume that this is going to happen." (Sun interview)

*"Previously, … many people were resigned to what is called TINA, there is no alternative. And people had sort of given up, thrown up their hands in despair. But now, I think there is recognition that … there are [better] alternatives and we must seriously explore those alternatives." (Sun interview)

*"Mahathir was … articulate and … carved a certain niche for himself... Unfortunately, he was sullied by the cronies and sycophants around him and …for Malaysians, who were much more aware of this, there was a great deal of resentment. But I think we would be throwing the baby out with the bath water if we did not recognise his positive contributions." (Sun interview)



*"Development and Population: Critique of Existing Theories". (1982)
*"Early Labour: Children at Work on Malaysian Plantations". (with Josie Zaini, P. Ramasamy and Sumathy Suppiah) (1984)
*"A Question of Class: Capital, the State and Uneven Development in Malaya". (1988)
*"Development Policies and Income Inequality in Peninsular Malaysia. (with Ishak Shari) (1986)
*"Mahathir’s Economic Policies". (with others) (1989)
*"Beyond 1990: Considerations for a New National Development Strategy". (1989)
*"Beyond the New Economic Policy? Malaysia in the Nineties". (1990)
*"Growth and Structural Change in the Malaysian" Economy. (1990)
*"The Way Forward? The Political Economy of Development Policy Reform in Malaysia". (1993)
*"Trade Unions and the State in Peninsular Malaysia". (with Patricia Todd) (1994)
*"U-Turn? Malaysian Economic Development Policies After 1990". (1994)
*"Southeast Asia’s Misunderstood Miracle: Industrial Policy and Economic Development in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia". (with others) (1997)
*"Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits". (with E.T. Gomez) (1999)
*"Economic Considerations for a Renewed Nationalism". (1998)
*"Economic Diversification and Primary Commodity Processing in the Second-tier Southeast Asian Newly Industrializing Countries". (with Michael Rock) (1998)
*"Growth After The Asian Crisis: What Remains Of The East Asian Model"? (2001)
*"Globalization, Liberalization and Equitable Development: Lessons from East Asia". (2003)
*"Deforesting Malaysia: The Political Economy and Social Ecology of Agricultural Expansion and Commercial Logging". (with Chang Y. T. , Khoo K. J. and others) (2004)
*"M Way: Mahathir’s Economic Legacy". (2004)
* "Bail-Outs? Capital Controls, Restructuring & Recovery in Malaysia". (with Wong Sook Ching and Chin Kok Fay) (2005)"

Edited volumes

*"Development in the Eighties". (with H. Osman Rani and Ishak Shari) (1981)
*"The Malaysian Economy and Finance". (with Sritua Arief) (1983)
*"ASEAN Economies: Crisis and Response". (1985)
*"Crisis and Response in the Malaysian Economy". (1987)
*"The Origins and Development of Islam", by Asghar Ali Engineer, Ikraq. (1990)
*"Child Labour in Malaysia". (1992)
*"Islamic Economic Alternatives: Critical Perspectives and New Directions". (1992)
*"Industrialising Malaysia: Performance, Problems, Prospects". (1993)
*"Privatizing Malaysia: Rents, Rhetoric, Realities". (1995)
*"Malaysia’s Economic Development: Policy & Reform". (with Ng Suew Kiat) (1996)
*"Capital, the State and Late Industrialization in East Asia". (with John Borrego and Alejandro Alvarez Bejar) (1996)
*"Tigers in Trouble: Financial Governance, Liberalisation and Crises in East Asia". (1998)
*"Industrial Policy in East Asia". (with Tan Kock Wah) (1999)
*"Technology, Competitiveness and the State: Malaysia’s Industrial Technology Policies". (with Greg Felker) (1999)
*"Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development: Theory and the Asian Evidence". (with Mushtaq Khan) (2000)
*"Malaysian Eclipse: Economic Crisis and Recovery". (2001)
*"Reinventing Malaysia: Reflections on Its Past and Future". (2001)
*"Globalization Versus Development: Heterodox Perspectives". (with Shyamala Nagaraj) (2001)
*"Southeast Asia’s Industrialization: Industrial Policy, Capabilities and Sustainability". (2001)
*"Ugly Malaysians? South-South Investments Abused". (2002)
*"Southeast Asia’s Paper Tigers: From Miracle To Debacle And Beyond". (2003)
*"Manufacturing Miracles: How Internationally Competitive National Firms And Industries Developed In East Asia". (2003)
*"Globalisation And Its Discontents, Revisited". (with K. J. Khoo) (2003)
*"Ethnic Business? Chinese Capitalism in Southeast Asia". (with Brian Folk) (2003)
*"After The Storm: Crisis, Recovery and Sustaining Development in East Asia". (2004)
*"The New Development Economics". (with Ben Fine) (2005)
*"The Origins of Development Economics". (with Erik Reinert) (2005)
*"Pioneers of Development Economics". (2005)"

External links

* [ KS Jomo's website]

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