Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy consisting of thirteen states and three federal territories, with a total landmass of 329,845 square kilometres and a population of over 28 million. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajava is the seat of the federal government.
Malaysia's head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, an elected monarch, and the head of government is the Prime Minister. The government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule. Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by a multi-party coalition known as the Barisan Nasional (formerly known as the Alliance Party). Malaysia maintains a delicate ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.
Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations. As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and is a member of the Developing 8 Countries. Malaysia has diplomatic relations with many countries around the world.
Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth and modern development under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad. The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. With Japanese investment, heavy industries flourished and in a matter of years, Malaysian exports became the country's primary growth engine. Malaysia consistently achieved more than 7% GDP growth along with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s. In the late 1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis but refused economic aid packages from the IMF and the World Bank. Today, Malaysia is one of the world's largest computer hard disk manufacturing sites, as well as one of the region's top education and healthcare destinations. In 2008, Malaysia GDP per capita is second in Southeast Asia after Singapore.
The country borders the Strait of Malacca, an important international shipping crossroad, and international trade is integral to its economy. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia has changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects. The most notable of these projects are the Petronas Twin Towers (at the time the tallest building in the world, and still retains its status as the tallest twin building), KL International Airport (KLIA), North South Expressway, the Sepang International Circuit, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajava, the new federal administrative capital.