Local Government of Malaysia

Ministry: Housing and Local Government

Association: Malaysian Association of Local Governments

The Federation of Malaysia comprises three federal territories and 13 states. The federal parliament is responsible for external affairs; defence; internal security; civil and criminal law; citizenship; finance; commerce and industry; shipping; education; health and labour. Each of the 13 states has its own constitution which must be compatible with the federal constitution. The federal parliament may make laws to promote uniformity of the laws of two or more states and it may legislate on any subject at the request of a state legislative assembly.

Malaysia’s three spheres of government – federal, state and local – are enshrined in the federal constitution. The three federal territories are governed by the federal government. Each state has an executive council, which deals with non-federal matters under a menteri besar (chief minister), answerable to elected state assemblies. Local government is provided for by the Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171; for Peninsular Malaysia); the Local Authorities Ordinance 1996 (for Sabah) and Local Government Ordinance 1961 (for Sarawak). The Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Federal Territory and Urban Well-Being are responsible for local government, which comprises 14 city councils (including two corporations); 39 municipal councils; and 98 district councils, none of which is elected.

The local authorities have revenue-raising powers, raising the bulk of their revenue from self-assessed income tax but also collect licence fees and fines. All authorities are responsible for public utilities and basic infrastructure, while urban authorities generally also provide services such as public health, waste management and urban planning, and city councils further provide law enforcement.