Don’t turn talent outflow into brain drain

By Lim Mun Fah
June 04, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 4 — The world is fighting for talents. We can hardly find another country having a messy overseas scholarship system and yet blames the media for causing chaos, like Malaysia.

I have a book entitled “The Talent War” on my bookshelf. It wrote: “Talent outflow in European countries has made the United States the first country to successfully detonate atomic and hydrogen bombs, as well as send satellites into space and astronauts to land on the moon. Meanwhile, talent outflow in China and India has created Silicon Valley, a home to many of the world’s largest technology corporations, in the US. Talents are more important to a country compared to oil, financial streets and nuclear weapons.”

I agree with the argument. In fact, strategies of how to cultivate and attract talents have become one of the most important policies in many countries.

However, it is frustrating that many developing countries, including Malaysia, have been sending a large number of students to study abroad but still facing the problem of brain drain.

According to “The Talent War”, it said that in today’s world, more than half of highly-educated immigrants have been absorbed by the US. A quarter of them were post-graduate students and half of them chose to stay in the US after completing their doctoral degrees, making the US a unique superpower.

However, the US is not the country attracting most Malaysian talents. According to the Malaysia Economic Monitor report released by the World Bank, Singapore has attracted most Malaysian talents (54 per cent), followed by Australia (15 per cent) and the US (10 per cent).

It is not a surprising phenomenon. In fact, it is entirely consistent with the world trend of talent flow, namely talents from developed countries flow to the most developed country while talents from developing countries flow to developed countries and talents from backward countries flow to developing countries. Of course, there are also some exceptional cases.

To effectively cultivate talents, it is essential to develop a fairer scholarship system and not to give up making changes for fear of triggering some minor issues.

I do not agree with the saying of making potential talents studying in local universities means retaining talents. Instead, I agree with “The Talent War” that talent outflow is not equivalent to brain drain. Studying, working and developing careers abroad are regarded as talent outflow and they might return and contribute to their motherland one day. As for brain drain, it is referring to those who have given up their original nationality, become citizens of the countries they are staying and would never come back.

Obviously, the transnational flow of talents is an unstoppable trend. The most important thing is whether we can stop domestic talents from becoming drained talents and prevent talent outflow from turning into brain drain? —

  1. #1 by Birch Lagi Baru on Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 11:12 am

    Malaysia is attracting lots of talents: skilled housemaids, skilled cooks for hawkers, skilled waiters, skilled labourers, skilled rubber tappers, skilled oil palm workers, multi-talented odd job workers … and the list goes on. Who says we’re not attracting talent?

  2. #2 by tak tahan on Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 11:32 am

    “What is so great about your ‘Talent War book’?” said Najis.”Malaysia’ Talent War book lagi terror lor.Got pembela lembu,Perkosa the jihadist,special team,Rela mati katak,hulubalang keris,badut-badut dan kangaroos.Inilah talent team yang aku mau”

  3. #3 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 1:39 pm

    All the talents flew into developed countries except our racist political talents. why? because they could not find a place to survive

  4. #4 by Birch Lagi Baru on Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 5:34 pm

    It’s not brain drain. Malaysia is a HUB, a TRANSIT POINT for anyone with brains. After coming to Malaysia to become a bumiputera, the transients send their children overseas on scholarships funded by Malaysians. Then these people stash their money and ill-gotten gains from their Monopolistic businesses and WARRIOR battles in countries like Asutralia, UK and NZ.

  5. #5 by Loh on Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 7:08 pm

    ///Talents are more important to a country compared to oil, financial streets and nuclear weapons.”///–

    Talents is easily linked to race and that cause jealousy. The entire NEP programmes aim at preventing jealousy and so brain drain serves as pressure valve, so thought Abdul Razak who said good riddance to Malaysians who had the foresight and emigrated in 1970s.

    UMNO was created to serve the interest of Malays. But the son of an Indian from Calicut, Kerela India claims to be Malay who succeeded in dethroning all but one UMNO past Presidents. He even changed UMNO to NewUMNO. That Calicut descendant cultivated sadistic mindset among the Malays in 1950, which sent Dato Onn to his resignation. His sadistic instinct inspired government policies which resulted in mass exodus of non-Malays thereby causing their parents to lead a lonely life at old age. He must be smiling at the results of the so-called brain drain.

  6. #6 by digibee on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 2:21 am

    i have to disagree here. Brain drain is brain drain.. when some talent who is leaving the country and work @ other more developed countries, it is brain drain. They are working, contributing, inventing, paying tax, buying property @ foreign countries. All these are economic activities.

    When someone return to their country of origin @ 50, they are not contributing to the economy as much as when they are in their prime age of 22-45.

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