Suah Jing Lian studied BSc Economics at the London School of Economics. He completed his A-Levels at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar and graduated in 2018.
My interest in economics stems from growing up in Malaysia. Living in Kuala Lumpur, the financial capital, it surprised me that the most expensive real estate is mostly inhabited by the Chinese while the Indians and Malays dominate the less developed suburbs. I wondered how such racially polarised, economic disparity exists in my country, even with affirmative action such as low-interest business loans and race-specific quotas for shareholding in place to correct it. I believe that economics holds the key to unraveling developmental questions for countries like mine. With a scholarship from the Central Bank of Malaysia, I hope that studying economics at a UK university will give me a broader, better-informed, understanding.
I was interested by Partha Dasgupta’s “Economics: A Very Short Introduction”, which offered a more detailed perspective on situations like that of Malaysia. Dasgupta illustrates multifaceted economic problems such as differing market opportunities for individuals due to their socio-economic status. For instance, underdeveloped healthcare, low literacy and high fertility rate make it difficult for individuals from poorer countries to progress out of communal or subsistence economies, trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty. This made me think that it might be more effective if humanitarian or developmental aid were targeted at improving healthcare and education infrastructure in less developed countries, instead of targeting individuals alone.
This interest in the differing developmental levels and market opportunities of communities within nations led me to read Acemoglu and Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail”, which places the dichotomy of extractive and inclusive economic institutions at the heart of phenomena such as growth and developmental disparity in populations. This seems very similar to slow developing, impoverished present day nations such as Togo and Laos, whose economic institutions are extractive. This raised a key question for me regarding Malaysia: can economic institutions be extractive or inclusive exclusively to different social groups within the same country?
While studying for my A levels, I took up competitive British Parliamentary Debating, which offered a platform both to learn and apply economic issues and concepts. Competing frequently against university debaters, I was a 5-time national open quarterfinalist as well as the president of my school’s debating union. Topics ranging from the relevance of trade unions in developing nations, to more contemporary ones such as the 2008 Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis, further emphasised the depth and breadth of economics as a subject. For one, I proposed that while trade unions may hinder crucial growth for developing nations, they protect the welfare and security of wage earners, leading to a more inclusive and sustainable growth rather than one that reflects vast wealth disparity.
Studying in the sixth form showed me that mathematics is used frequently when learning economics, such as in modelling consumer behaviour and the effects of monetary policies. I am convinced that my strong mathematical background will be useful at university. Studying the Game Theory in Further Maths showed me the applicability of mathematics to the social sciences, highlighting its versatility in economics. In addition to completing A-level Maths in my first year of study, I was also a silver medalist in the UKMT Senior Maths Challenge.
I am a member of Mensa and also a school prefect, responsible for encouraging good behaviour amongst students, organising school campaigns and contributing to school policies such as pre-examination regulations, which I succeeded in amending. I was also, at my previous school, part of the Board of Directors, where I learned how to run and manage societies.
I am very much looking forward to studying Economics at a UK university, where I hope to find diverse culture and broader, more global perspectives.
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