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Brain drain from lost generations responsible for slow growth and marginalization of poor Malaysians

Media Statement
by Dr. Chen Man Hin


(Seremban, Friday): In a World Bank report on 'Knowledge for development' a chart graphically demonstrated a slow growth of the national GDP/capita income of the average income per year.

In 1965 Malaysia had a GDP/capita income of US$800 and over the years there was sluggish growth and in 2006 the GDP/capita was US 5718.

As for Singapore in 1965 the GDP/capita was US$1600 but the economic growth followed a steep climb all the way to year 2006 when its GDP/capita reached US$ 32,867.

Malaysia replete with natural resources of land, oil, gas, rubber, tin and oil palm could only manage to achieve a small GDP/capita of US5718!

Whereas, Singapore with no natural resources could earn nearly US$33,000. Why?

The answer lies in Singapore making full use of its only resource - human resources, but Malaysia does not.

Malaysia's lost generations caused the economy to slow and grow only at a snail's pace.

In 1971 when English medium schools were abolished by the Ministry of Education, the educational system began to produce students and graduates who were not literate in English. As result, they could not be employed as corporations and businesses wanted English speaking employees to run the offices and organizations. This was the lost generation of non-English speaking youths.

Islamic fundamentalism became the vogue in the country due to the world wide influence of Iran's charismatic Khomeini. Anything considered western was decadent, and so Islamic students avoided learning science, technology and IT, religious schools and Madrasahs became very popular. Islamic state was the issue of the seventies, eighties and nineties. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir also declared Malaysia to be an Islamic state.

The cold water on western education, science, technology and IT has a negative effect, and the country lost young people who could have become engineers, technicians and it professionals. Because of the shortage of these professionals, the growth corridors like the Klang Valley MSC could not take off and become a silicon valley.

An excellent example is the Indian Silicon Valley in Bangalore, which succeeded because there was an army of English speaking professionals and engineers.

The biggest brain drain from lost generations occurred with the implementation of the bumiputra policy in 1966 and the NEP of 1971. Thousands of Malaysians immigrated to countries which did not classify its citizens as bumiputras and non--bumiputras nor do they have economic policies that are racial and repressive to economic freedom, such as the NEP.

Hundreds of thousands of professionals, engineers, doctors, scientists, business entrepreneurs and IT workers have opted to work in foreign countries like Singapore, Australia, U.S.A., UK, Canada and others.

Business entrepreneurs prefer to invest in foreign countries where do not have to conform to a 30% quota burden. Business slows down and economic growth is slowed.

Foreign direct investments into Malaysia slowed down considerably to 3.9 billion in 2006, compared with Thailand 7.9 billion, Singapore 31.9 billion, Hong Kong 41.4 billion, India 5.5 billion and China 70 billion. With a low FDI into Malaysia, growth is affected and the GDP goes down.

The dependency on natural resources for growth is short sighted as resources like tin, timber and oil are depleting. In ten years time Malaysia will be a net importer of oil.

It is therefore imperative that there be a reappraisal of the present policies of bumiputraism, quotas and the NEP and institute new strategies and policies, if Malaysia wants to avoid being a mediocre second rate country.

Fairness, justice and equality to all citizens are the right way to make full use of the country's human resources and join the ranks of first class developed countries.


*Dr. Chen Man Hin, DAP Life Advisor.

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