Media statement by Lim Guan Eng in DAP Penang Headquarters in Penang on Wednesday, 20th October 2010:
Failure of Talent Corporation to entice top Cambridge University law student Tan Zhongshan back to Malaysia a consequence of failed economic policies that stresses 100-storey Warisan Merdeka over human capital formation
DAP wishes to extend our congratulations on behalf of Malaysians to Ipoh-born Tan Zhongshan for his outstanding achievement in becoming the top law student in the prestigious Cambridge University. However our pride at Tan's success is tempered by the failure of our government to engage his services resulting in Tan heading to Singapore to join its Legal Service commission.
Tan's departure from Malaysia is not surprising as he is part of the alarming brain drain that has swelled to almost tsunami levels. The number of Malaysian migrants rose by more than 100-fold in a 45-year period, from 9,576 Malaysians in 1960 to 1,489,168 Malaysians in 2005, according to the World Bank, which warned that a lack of human capital is a "critical constraint in Malaysia¡¯s ambition to become a high-income economy."
Deputy Foreign Minister Senator A. Kohilan Pillay also said recently that 304,358 Malaysians had migrated from March 2008 till August 2009 compared with 139,696 Malaysians in 2007. In other words 1,942,798 mostly bright and talented Malaysians have left over the past 50 years since 1960 until August 2009.
The prime minister told Parliament this month that less than one per cent of 784,900 Malaysians working overseas have returned to the country during the past nine years with Singapore having the highest number of Malaysians with 303,828 people, followed by Australia with 78,858.
No longer are only non-Malays leaving the country for better employment opportunities, even Malays are doing the same. When I went to Dubai nearly 2 years ago, I was surprised to learn there were thousands of Malay professionals there who left Malaysia due to lack of promotional opportunities as they were not politically connected to top UMNO leaders.
In an effort to stop the hollowing out of Malaysia's economy and lure back talents, the Najib administration has established the Talent Corporation (Talentcorp). Unfortunately, the failure of Talent Corporation to entice top Malaysian talents like Tan back to work in Malaysia is a consequence of failed economic policies that stresses 100-storey Warisan Merdeka over human capital formation.
Human talents is the new oil of the 21st century. The country that succeeds in training, retraining, retaining and attracting human talent will not just enjoy economic prosperity but be a world power. In this new paradigm, innovation is king.
Clearly stressing other considerations such as race or political connections over merits and needs not only drives away top talents, but also depresses standards and encourages a culture of mediocrity over excellence. The Malaysian government must also be bold in setting ability as the key ingredient for promotion and reward.
DAP does not see how Malaysia's Talent Corporation will be able to succeed in attracting back 750,000 Malaysians working overseas, where only 1% has returned, if the federal government is more concerned about spending tens of billions on mega-projects that does not build human capital.
*Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary General & MP for Bagan