DAP calls for the
waiver of the three-year compulsory national service requirement for
Malaysian medical specialists who have been out of the country for 15 years
after acquiring their medical qualifications as powerful incentive to
attract a "reverse brain drain" of skilled Malaysians overseas to return
dinner of house-buyers of five Malacca abandoned projects
by Lim Kit Siang
The sorry tale of five abandoned housing projects in Malacca and over 500
abandoned housing projects in the country is testimony of the "First World
Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" Malaysian malaise which had been so
brilliantly diagnosed by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his first major
speech as Acting Prime Minister early this month as the major disease and
impediment to Malaysia's development efforts to take her place as one of the
advanced nations in the world.
We have "First World Infrastructures" like the billion-ringgit Putrajaya,
world's tallest twin towers (KLCC) and the Kuala Lumpur International
Airport but "Third World Mentality" which produces Third World Ministers in
allowing "Third World" problems to fester and multiply in the country, like
the abandoned housing projects causing hardships and sufferings to hundreds
of thousands of Malaysians without effective government intervention to
resolve these protracted outstanding issues.
In fact, we see almost daily examples of the Malaysian malaise of "First
World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" in the country, which has
become so chronic that it should be elevated as Public Enemy No. 1 and be
the target of a special campaign in a joint operation by the government and
people to identify and eliminate the bane of Malaysian development and
One recent example of the "First World Infrastructure, Third World
Mentality" disease in Malaysia was the infamous Palm Court incident, where
Indian IT professionals were mistreated by the police in Brickfields, Kuala
Lumpur, sparking a national and international furore and plunging
Malaysia-India relations to an all-time low.
Although the diplomatic row between Malaysia and India had ended with the
statesmanlike intervention of Abdullah and an apology from the Malaysian
government to India, the government including Ministers and Deputy Ministers
have not fully realized the far-reaching longer-term harm of the Palm Court
Incident to Malaysia's international competitiveness and national ambition
to become an IT power.
the government and police are continuing to undo Malaysia's apology to India
on the directive of Abdullah with most insensitive and offensive statements
and actions. A typical example of such an myopic attitude is the Deputy Home
Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin who continues to taunt the Indian IT
professionals who had returned to India after the Palm Court Incident as
"ungrateful", "good riddance" and "no loss" to the country. (Malaysiakini
Zainal Abidin told Malaysiakini that the departure of some Indian IT
professionals will not affect the country as there are still 500 more of
them here and said: "They are given privileges working in this country. Why
don't they know how to appreciate this chance? If they want to go back, go
back lah, we still have 500 over Indian professionals."
It is most tragic and unfortunate that in manifesting the "First World
Infrastructure, Third World Mentality", government leaders like Zainal
Abidin do not realize that they are in fact sabotaging the nation's
development plans and efforts.
It is no wonder that with such entrenched "First World Infrastructure, Third
World Mentality" attitudes among top government leaders, including Ministers
and Deputy Ministers, the government's "Reverse Brain Drain" project in the
past three years had been such a failure.
After the 1999 general election, the government had announced an ambitious
"reverse brain drain project" as the country is short of 35,000 skilled
workers under the Eighth Malaysia Plan till 2005, especially in the key
fields of information and communications technology, science and technology,
manufacturing industries, finance and medicine, to propel Malaysia to
transform itself into a K-economy and Information Society through a
two-prong strategy, viz:
"brain gain" of 5,000 "extraordinary world citizens of extraordinary talent"
to "lure the best brains regardless of race and nationality, from Bangalore
500 skilled Malaysians overseas every year to return home with their
expertise, with the 2001 Budget in October 2000 giving incentives of quick
approval of permanent resident status for foreign spouses within six months,
two-year income tax exemption for income remitted to Malaysia and tax
exemption for all personal effects brought into Malaysia, including two
government has however very little to show for the "Reverse Brain Drain"
programme in the past three years, whether to attract the 5,000 of the
world's "men and women of extraordinary talent" to come to Malaysia every
year or to annually repatriate 500 successful Malaysian professionals who
have made the grade internationally.
In fact, I do not think we have succeeded in attracting 200 Malaysian
professionals overseas to return home in the past three years - and the Palm
Court Incident and the government insensitivities to such incidents like the
sentiments of Zainal despite Malaysia's apology to India must rank among the
chief causes for the failure of the two-prong strategy of the "Reverse Brain
Drain" policy to attract the world's "extraordinary talents" to Malaysia and
to repatriate Malaysian professionals overseas home.
The Cabinet Committee on Competitiveness, headed by Abdullah, should convene
an emergency meeting to confront this "First World Infrastructure, Third
World Mentality" Malaysian malaise and set higher standards of merit,
transparency and competitiveness so that Malaysia will not be left behind in
the face of challenges of globalisation, liberalization and information and
There should be a review to identify the reasons for the failure of the
two-prong "Reverse Brain Drain" strategy - as for instance, to find out why
six years after the launching of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), all
echelons of the government leadership, including Ministers and Deputy
Ministers, still cannot understand the far-reaching impact and adverse
repercussions of the Palm Court Incident to Malaysia's K-Economy and
Information Society objective.
Furthermore, there should be a recognition that tax exemptions for two motor
cars and all personal effects brought into Malaysia are not meaningful
incentives by themselves to encourage skilled Malaysians overseas to return
and bring their expertise home - as there are more important factors and
considerations such as the work culture; national environment in respect of
just and fair treatment for all citizens; respect for human rights; job
satisfaction from a system of meritocracy untainted by discriminatory
practices, etc. in the decision-making process.
There should also be more pragmatic, imaginative and creative approaches in
pursuing the two-prong "Reverse Brain Drain" strategy to ensure that it is
not smothered by the deadly bureaucratic red tape of the Malaysian civil
I will give one example. There are many Malaysians overseas who have become
internationally-recognised top-flight medical experts and specialists in
fields which are in short supply in Malaysia and who will be national assets
if they could be lured to return and bring their expertise home.
Tax exemption for bringing two motor cars home to Malaysia will not be very
attractive incentives, when issues which concern them most are not
of them, who would have acquired their first medical qualifications overseas
followed by work experience and the acquisition of specialist qualifications
and skills and international fame in their respective fields in foreign
lands, their biggest obstacle to be repatriated home would be the compulsory
three-year national service for all Malaysian medical professionals.
The very prospect of having to come back to Malaysia to join the lowly rungs
of the government service for three years, which would be a great come-down
from their top-flight specialist positions outside the country, would be
enough to turn them off from any thought of returning to bring their
DAP calls for the waiver of the three-year compulsory national service
requirement for Malaysian medical specialists who have been out of the
country for 15 years after acquiring their medical qualifications as a
powerful incentive for them to return and bring back their skills to
Malaysia - especially as they had acquired all their medical and specialist
qualifications and skills outside the country.
The Cabinet Committee for Competitiveness, or better still the Cabinet on
Wednesday, should cut through all the nonsense of the bureaucratic red tape
to announce such a waiver of three-year compulsory national service for
Malaysian medical specialists overseas who have been out of the country for
15 years after acquiring their medical qualifications - which would have an
electrifying effect of signaling to Malaysians and the world that we are
serious in wanting to eradicate the "First World Infrastructure, Third World
Mentality" Malaysian malaise and to introduce "First World Infrastructure,
First World Mentality" national culture and work ethics.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National