How Malaysia is finding its way out of the middle-income trap

KUALA LUMPUR — Asia’s megacities often undergo surprising metamorphoses in short amounts of time. Kuala Lumpur is one such example. When I visited the city in late October, I was amazed at how much it had modernized since I visited nine years ago.

Urban rail lines now crisscross the city, with new shopping malls sprouting everywhere. Particularly eye-catching was Merdeka 118, a 118-story skyscraper completed earlier this year. The 678-meter tower — the world’s second-tallest after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai — is a symbol of the country’s growing affluence. Its spire was designed to evoke the image of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister, raising his hand as he proclaimed national independence in 1957.

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