Million-Malaysian brain-drain – a national disaster

Million-Malaysian Brain-Drain - A National Disaster

I have quoted extensively because the brain drain in the past four decades of over a million talented, creative and enterprising people — although there are those who would say it is double this figure — must be regarded as a national disaster and not just a personal or family tragedy.

The world has moved into the knowledge economy where the foundation of a nation’s power are more likely to rest on brains rather than brawn, on the creativity, energy and talent of its people rather than on the size of its population and the extent of its territory.

I submit that it is the brain drain of Malaysia’s precious human capital in the past four decades which had been the principal reason why the nation had failed to achieve the full potential of our excellent economic advantages and rich resource endowments at Independence.

Malaysia achieved independence in 1957 at the same time as Ghana, when both countries were almost on par economically. Both countries are celebrating their golden jubilee of national independence this year, but Ghana is a failure in economic development, with its per capita income only about one-tenth that of Malaysia.

Should Malaysia feel proud that we are now ten times better off than Ghana, as had been suggested by a Barisan Nasional MP in the last parliamentary meeting?

This depends on whether we want to compare with the best or with the worst. There is no point in talking about”excellence, glory and distinction” if we are only proud to be compared with failed states and not prepared to compete with our equals.

Malaysia was No. 2 in Asia after Japan in terms of prosperity and income when it achieved independence in 1957, despite having a per capita income of only US$200 per year. However, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have caught up with us and gone ahead.

Although during independence Malaysia led the other Asian nations, apart from Japan, in per capita GNP, it had started trailing behind Hong Kong and Singapore in the first decade of nationhood. This trailing behind multiplied many-fold after the launching of the New Economic Policy in 1970.

Although Malaysia’s per capita GNP had started to trail behind Hong Kong and Singapore in the first decade after independence, we were still ahead of South Korea and Taiwan. Malaysia’s per capita GNP in 1967 stood at US$290 as compared to Taiwan’s US$250 and South Korea’s US$160.

In 1967, Singapore’s per capita GNP was US$600 while Hong Kong US$620.

In 38 years from 1967, Singapore and and Hong Kong have shot to register a 2005 per capita income of US$26,836 and US$25,493 respectively, South Korea to US$16,308 and Taiwan US$15,203, as compared to Malaysia’s US$5,042.

In the past four decades, South Korea’s per capita income multiplied about a hundred-fold, Taiwan by some 60-fold, Singapore by 45-fold, Hong Kong by some 40-fold with Malaysia lagging with an increase of only some 17 fold.

The brain drain of over a million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians in the past four decades must bear primary responsibility for Malaysia trailing so behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

I am not interested in any finger-pointing exercise. Let us own up to our mistakes and have the courage to correct them in the best interests of the nation and future generations.

[Speech (5) on Royal Address debate in Parliament 21.3.07]

  1. #1 by grace on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 - 8:38 pm

    They would reply by saying that our talents are gaining overseas experience and would benefit the nation in the long run.

    I believe the brain drain is a serious problem facing our nation. In my circle of friends, practically every one of them has children who have already emigrated or planning to migrate.

  2. #2 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 - 9:46 pm

    I see a ‘parallel’ in the policies of the U.S. Department of State (DHS) and our Immigration Department as regards illegal immigrants with one caveat i.e. in Malaysia, natural born citizens are being treated like illegal immigrants. And like what is happening in the U.S. today to deport illegal immigrants (some 12 million by one estimate) is not realistic but through a ‘policy of attrition’ (denying them jobs, housing and education) they hope to solve the problem over time.

  3. #3 by smeagroo on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 - 11:15 pm

    the fewer smart fellas around, the lesser the chances are for them to scrutinise the govt policies closely and meticulously. If left only the dumbos behind one day it will be easier for these goons to rob the next generation with ease. The next gen will always be the “slaves” and will hv to work 3 jobs to make ends meet bcos of rising costs bcos no smart fellas are here to create wealth for the nation. The continuance of sucking n plundering will ensure only the connected will be in power n be the towering ppl amongst the lowly. It doesnt matter if our GDP remains the lowest for they are not here to create wealth for everyone.

  4. #4 by pwcheng on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 12:20 am

    Dear brother Kit, the brain drain is only part of the reasons that contributed to countries like Singapore, Hong Hong, Taiwan and South Korea overtaking us by many folds in our per capita GNP.

    They obviously had done a good job for that and as though not enough they are coming with more and more discriminatory policies to choke us economically and loose our morale, indirectly pushing more of us to flee the country. You cannot blame us and tell that we are not patriotic or loyal because even animals have the same instinct. It you destroy their habitat and deprive them of food
    they will naturally move to another place.

    Just for refreshment this is my little joke on MCA. How many of you know how MCA got its name? Back then in the forties the Chinese were economically powerful and the Chinese thought that the Malays are stupid and of no concern because they are nobody and have no money and so they just signed blindly what is given to them but unfortunately the so called clever Chinamen of the forties misjudged the Malays and today they are making use of these blind signature to control us; Soon the Chinese will be nobody and no money. The Chinese learned a bitter lesson by allowing MCA to block their mindset. The Chinese mistook that (MCA) “Money Controls All”. So think twice if you want to vote for MCA, for this time it will be “Malays Chop All”.

  5. #5 by MY VIEW on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:16 am

    The non Bumiputra is so much more worried than the majority bumiputra about the economic deterioration of Malaysia. Why is that? I thought Malaysia is doing so well. People are so proud of the prime minister of 22 years. Malaysia today has one of the tallest building, the Petronas Twin Tower, the Penang Bridge, the Sepang F1 circuit, the Putrajaya, the Multi Media Supercorridor, just to name a few. Oh forgot, we nearly owned a crooked bridge at the south. Who cares about the GNP per capita? What’s that? People are richer now. We have people who can pay millions of ringgit for divorced settlement. We have billions of ringgit in the EPF and Petronas. What else Malaysia don’t have?

  6. #6 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:16 am

    Chop all as in keris chop all or rubber chopping??

  7. #7 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:21 am

    “In the past four decades, South Korea’s per capita income multiplied about a hundred-fold, Taiwan by some 60-fold, Singapore by 45-fold, Hong Kong by some 40-fold with Malaysia lagging with an increase of only some 17 fold.”

    But this is only in ‘nominal’ terms. What is the picture like in inflation adjusted ‘real’ terms

  8. #8 by MY VIEW on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:23 am

    To DarkHorse, most likely it is the keris chop. Unless all Malaysians are recognised as bumiputra, then it is rubber chop.

  9. #9 by MY VIEW on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:27 am

    Malaysia’s per capita income increased by 17 fold is quite good already. Could have been worsed if more left the country.

  10. #10 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 8:24 am

    There is already two million Malaysian abroad if you include the children of those who first migrated. My family was one of the first to do so and our children are growing up. Already some of them are entering universities – almost all of them have done really well compared to the children of those who stayed behind. I would even say that the children have done better than their parents. These second generation children are more creative, focus and believe in great ideals. Most of us have managed to impart a sense of where they come from thanks to frequent travel to visit their grandparents and the internet. My nieces and nephews video-conference on the internet on a global scale and share their growing up experiences. They don’t put up with crap from anyone – not their teachers, their government or even their parents.

    Thank god for the internet.

  11. #11 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 8:37 am

    There is another way to look at the PerCapita income comparison. If you compare Rural and urban income of Developed countries, generally, the rural income is NO LESS THAN ONE THIRD(1/3) of urban ones.

    Now note that Malaysian per capita is half of Singapore in 1967 making it like a suburban income. Today we are only 1/5 of Singapore. Now keep in mind the same thing hold true if compared with South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan etc..

    In other words, we went from being a suburb of Singapore to not even qualified to be a rural area of Singapore. So basically Lee Kuan Yew has the last laugh.

    Does anyone now really think we are catching up with the world? For those who believe that it will just take more time, all they need to do is compared the growth rate of the last five and ten years and they will see that the same trend is still going on.

  12. #12 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 10:47 am

    I don’t think LKY is laughing at our plight but of course he has regrets that Singapore could not be part of a GREAT Malaysia.
    But GREAT is something we have foregone with racist and religious policies.

    If we had accepted his wisdom in the concept of a MALAYSIAN Malaysia the country would have prospered more from the meritocratic principles for many years and we would have probably evolved into a 2-party system.

    Now most of the wealth is from under the sea at $45b and that may not last another 20 years.

    Just one prominent example of a lost Malaysian – Hyflux’s founder is an ex(?)-Malaysian. Brought up by a grandma, she was definitely from a poor family but her teacher encouraged her to move to study in Singapore and today the company is worth a few hundred million with global projects.

    But we should not despair if more talents leave – I consider them global citizens. That is the upbringing my wife and I have given to our 4 children – one in Singapore, one in Canada, one in the UK and the youngest is studying in the UK.

    Will they ever work in Malaysia? They will make their own life decisions.

  13. #13 by Kingkong on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 12:03 pm

    //” I would even say that the children have done better than their parents. These second generation children are more creative, focus and believe in great ideals “ //–Bigjoe

    I can agree to that point. Thanks to the migration program. Being trained young from the first word, they acquire the modern methodology coupled with their original inborn talents of business acuteness and entrepreneurship under parasites-free environment. They are indeed doing very well.

    Some of the parents sacrificed a lot in uprooting the whole family initially from Malaysia, giving up good job, career, or a lucrative business, but at the end of the day, all sacrifice is worthy.

  14. #14 by xaviers on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 1:43 pm

    Personally, I don’t think the government cares. If they are worried about a brain drain they would have reacted to the rising figures.

    The percentage of those leaving are non-bumi’s…hmm maybe that’s why they don’t care

  15. #15 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 4:25 pm

    As one Deputy Minister said, If you don’t like it here, you could pack up and go to wherever you like or feel comfortable.

    Looks like the ‘loss’ is not really felt nor are they concerned about it. In fact its looked at positively as those that remain are docile and would be obedient servants.

    Bolehland will move according to its own drumbeat and standards and to heck with all you complainers.

  16. #16 by democrate on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 4:46 pm

    Xaviers is 100% right. the more brain drain the better will be to the Umno. They are racists so, why do they feel the pinch. in fact if u recall the Umno General Meeting for the last few years they had brought up so many issues that threaten the non Malays by doing that it is very clear that they are discourage us to stay and encourage us to leave the country as well. Do not fall into the Stupid Umno DIRTY TRICKS let us live on the land where we were born and die and bury on the land where we were born. We shall fight for our right thru the constitution and always remember to those who can’t afford to migrate they might be your relatives and good friends.

  17. #17 by DiaperHead on Thursday, 22 March 2007 - 9:10 pm

    “In fact its looked at positively as those that remain are docile and would be obedient servants.” sheriff singh

    So you’re docile and obedient??

    “As one Deputy Minister said, If you don’t like it here, you could pack up and go to wherever you like or feel comfortable.”

    Freedom of speech and association – both guaranteed by our Constitution.

  18. #18 by jlingp10 on Friday, 23 March 2007 - 12:01 am

    YB Kit, your blog has improved tremendously in term of creativity and design. Of course the contents/ your posting are superb. I enjoy much in your postings and your parliament’s video clips.
    I admire and give you great respect for your sacrifices and your commitment to make Malaysia
    better. Thank you YB

  19. #19 by bukanbumi on Friday, 23 March 2007 - 11:13 pm

    Why should UMNO be concerned about non bumi leaving the country?
    they will be much happier since most of the opposition votes came from non bumis. At the same time they are importing their brothers from neighbouring country never mind if some of them come and rob and rape some of our women.

  20. #20 by menarambo on Saturday, 24 March 2007 - 4:51 am

    This is so true. So many example that we can see, but nobody can do anything about it. Take Proton for example, how many years Malaysia has been ‘making’ cars. Until now, we still don’t know how to make a car. Why? How many Malaysians working at Detroit helping the US car company do R&D and create new cars? I am sure all of those Malaysians working in Detroit are to go home, they sure can make a car from scratch….. but does the govt willing to do that? (welcome them home with open arms and no hidden agenda with full transparency + equal opportunity). I am sure those Malaysians abroad in their heart want to produce a true Malaysian car instead of working for somebody else! All Malaysians abroad still loves Malaysia in some way!

You must be logged in to post a comment.