Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FROM BRAIN DRAIN TO BRAIN GAIN? NAH!


It's easy to see why our country is suffering an acute haemorrhaging of young and talented professionals. From early 2008 to August 2009, more than 300,000 Malaysians have emigrated, with 40% opting for greener pastures in Singapore. This outflow is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

In recent years, the government has introduced several measures to lure these professionals home. You might recall the “Returning Scientist Programme” launched in 1995 and abandoned three years later. It attracted only 93 researchers, scientists and engineers, 70 of whom were foreigners and only 23 were Malaysians.

This was followed by the “Returning Expert Programme” in 2001 which has attracted less than 600 returnees to date. Then there is the "Malaysia My Second Home" launched in 2004 as part of a brain-gain effort to attract foreign talents and high net worth individuals into the country.

All these initiatives have either flopped miserably or met with very limited success.


The latest is the Talent Corporation that is scheduled to begin operations in January 2011. A look at the incentives offered will give us an idea whether this progamme will work or will end up by the wayside like all its predecessors.

I quote from the New Straits Times 5 Oct.

  • Talent Corp will provide an integrated skilled human capital blueprint with the cooperation of the public and private sectors. 
  • It will be a one-stop centre to coordinate with relevant government agencies, including immigration matters, for the entry of skilled workers into the country. 
  • Open-ended visas will be issued to foreign workers earning more than RM8,000 a month and ease restrictions, allowing them to buy cheaper homes costing RM250,000 and above.
  • They will also have the flexibility to change jobs in Malaysia. 
  • They will be allowed to bring in foreign maids. 
  • Their spouses will be allowed to work.
These incentives may attract foreigners, but certainly not Malaysians residing overseas. There are currently about 700,000 of them working abroad. The government hopes to attract at least 70,000 of them to return from overseas over the next 10 years.

Will it succeed? I honestly have my doubts. As long as the real causes for the diaspora are not addressed, there is little hope of welcoming home many of our lost talents. Our loss is another country's gain, especially Singapore's.


These young people, many of whom have spent years studying and working abroad, are reluctant to return because they see no future for them in their country of birth. They are aware they won't be the first in line for promotions or post-graduate scholarships because these are not based on meritocracy but on the government's race-based affirmative action policies.

At the same time, better career opportunities and higher earnings overseas are magnets attracting our best brains to seek employment elsewhere and eventually to settle in their adopted country.

With both the pull factors and the push factors at work, it is hard to see how the government can succeed in their brain-gain efforts. Malaysians, especially the Chinese, will continue to leave in droves unless the government takes some bold steps to address the root causes, starting with the dismantling of race discrimination policies in awarding contracts, scholarships and promotions.



Each time someone raises this matter, interest groups immediately lodge protests over their 'special rights' being threatened. The PM is then forced to retreat and withdraw his grand plans for the country's economic and industrial development. We have seen this drama being played so many times that many of us have given up hope of seeing a real transformation in our country during our lifetime.

The government's current Transformation Programme will remain nothing more than an expensive multi-million ringgit PR campaign as long as pressure groups continue to hold the government to ransom, and minority groups are treated as second-class citizens.

5 comments:

Antares said...

The reek of low-grade politics permeates everything in this country. I notice that even people who aren't normally interested in politics inevitably get drawn into political action - even if it's just registering to vote in the coming election!

ty said...

You hit the nail on its head.
But will the politicians take heed? My four children, all professionals in their chosen field, are not convinced that there is a future in their country of birth. Is Talent Corp another white elephant?

pinsysu said...

and najib pls appoint ibrahim ali ceo of talent corpn ... am sure he'll do a wonderful job!!

Anonymous said...

the only talent they succeed to brought back to malaysia is Lynas! *claps for government*

Anonymous said...

For sure those are standing over there entered the Uitm by quota system with some VVip's recommendation not the real qualifier's.
Lets see what is edu min going to do.