By Amanda Yeo Yan Yi. First published in Malaymail Online 19 April 2016
I would like to address an ongoing problem for Malaysia: brain drain. As our economic growth slows down, it is challenging to stem the brain drain as local talents seek better remuneration and opportunities abroad.
Even though TalentCorp Malaysia was subsequently established, the messy socio-political situation such as the weak and until recently sliding ringgit, together with the recent bad press for Malaysia, have resulted in more young Malaysians studying or living abroad. Stories of bureaucratic difficulties faced during reintegration and increased public insecurity (eg kidnappings and armed robberies) appear to be widely shared in the diaspora community and form a narrative justifying the decision to remain abroad.
Factors such as unequal access to scholarship and higher education seem to be of significant concern, particularly to individuals without Bumiputera status. There are quotas which work against other ethnic groups such as the Chinese and Indians for enrolment in local universities.
Racial disparity has actually increased as a result of the lopsided New Economic Policy (NEP), favouring the Malay majority and the Bumiputera statues in housing, finance and education prospects.
The Malaysian state still uses racism to divide and rule the status quo. The lack of meritocracy in the Malaysian education system is an issue which today creates more disparity between various ethnic groups. Even school textbooks have been criticised as being racist in content especially from Chinese and Indian type schools who adopted learning methods from their mainland country. These developments raise serious questions about the efficacy of Malaysia’s policies. Parents find it necessary to send their children abroad or even migrate with the hope of a better future elsewhere.
In its 2014 Malaysia report, the World Bank stated that “approximately half of more than 300,000 Malaysians living in OECD countries in 2010 had completed tertiary education or a higher level of study.” What’s more alarming is the report said that this trend is increasing, that the number of skilled Malaysians living abroad rose 300 per cent in the last two decades, with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for either OECD countries or Singapore. In fact, public sentiments show it could have intensified although no statistics are available for the 2014 to 2015 period yet.
In conclusion, the Economic Transformation Program launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in October 2011 could have been better implemented, in order to work towards developed nation status by 2020. The government should persuade Malaysians abroad to return home by providing favourable fresh graduate programmes with higher and better starting salaries and good working prospects.
An inward movement of foreign corporations with practices of good governance, accountability and meritocracy would attract more Malaysians back to their homeland.