The Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah is more wrong than right when he criticized Malaysians who have emigrated, saying it was “wrong” and insinuating that they were betraying the sacrifices of their forefathers.
I agree that there is basis for Husni’s criticism of increasing numbers of Malaysians uprooting themselves and emigrating overseas to enlarge the Malaysian diaspora which could easily be in the two-million figure but Umno/Barisan Nasional leaders are even more wrong in driving out Malaysian talents and funds continuing apace after March 8, 2008 political tsunami.
I first raised the national problem of brain drain of Malaysians in Parliament in the seventies but invariably the Barisan Nasional Ministers would turn a deaf ear, either dismissing it as “Good riddance to bad rubbish” or denying the existence of the problem, although in some Malaysian towns at the time, “more than 50% of the medical practitioners have packed up their bags and emigrated” – as I said in my speech in Parliament in March 1978 when cited the case of a “doctor-brother of the Deputy Education Minister” who had joined in the emigration.
Since then, what started as a river of migration in the seventies have turned into a tide so to create a Malaysian diaspora of some two million strong in the world – and the loss to Malaysia is so overwhelming in all aspects that they defy proper computation!
The present migration of talented Malaysians to enlarge the Malaysian diaspora today are different from previous decades in two important aspects:
Firstly, unlike the early decades of seventies and eighties when Malaysians who emigrated abroad are predominantly Malaysian Chinese and Indians, today it is multi-ethnic including significant numbers of Malays.
Secondly, in the seventies and until the nineties, Malaysians parents who sent their children overseas for higher education denied them in the country, want their children to return to home after their graduation. But today, a substantial number of parents not only approve but even encourage their children studying overseas to stay back and emigrate instead of coming home as they see no hope of change for the better for the country and their children.
In the 18 months from March 2008 to August 2009, 300,000 Malaysians emigrated for better education, career and business prospects, working out to a loss of some 630 talented Malaysians a day.
Had the Cabinet, whether under former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi or the current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak ever had a special meeting or brain-storming session to stop the brain drain of Malaysian talents and to work out a strategy of brain gain, not only to retain Malaysians talents presently in the country, but also attract the best talents and brains from the Malaysian diaspora and the world to come to Malaysia to develop and prosper the country?
Are Najib and his Cabinet prepared to stake their political reputation on their ability to staunch the brain-drain of Malaysians as well as to successfully implement a brain-gain programme not only to get the “best and the brightest” from the two-million strong Malaysian diaspora to return to serve the country, but also to attract the service of the “best and brightest” in the world?
Najib is to launch the Tenth Malaysia Plan in the June meeting of Parliament. But what has happened to the ambitious “brain gain” programme of the Eighth Malaysia Plan ten years ago to “reverse brain drain”, especially in the fields of information and communications technology, science and technology, manufacturing industries, finance and medicine, to transform Malaysia into a K-economy and Information Society through a two-prong strategy, viz:
An annual “brain gain” of 5,000 “extraordinary world citizens of extraordinary talent” to “lure the best brains regardless of race and nationality, from Bangalore to California”’;
Encourage 500 skilled Malaysians overseas every year to return home with their expertise, starting from 2001.
Parliament will meet again on March 15 and I will ask Najib to report on annual results in the past 10 years to recruit (i) “extraordinary world citizens of extraordinary talent” and (ii) skilled Malaysians from the Malaysian diaspora to return to Malaysia to serve the country.
Husni and Najib should know that the government mishandling of the “Allah” controversy has further undermined national and international confidence, driving more Malaysians to think seriously about emigrating to enlarge the Malaysian diaspora. This is why the “Allah” controversy must be resolved without any further delay.