Abdullah’s maiden UMNO Presidential speech –will there be a clear and
unmistakable message that Malaysia’s greatest challenge in the era of
globalization is the competition between Malaysians and the rest of the
world and not between bumiputras and non-bumiputras or Malays and non-Malays
and the orientation of all policies in this direction
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Tuesday): One current hot question is whether the maiden UMNO Presidential speech of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday will send out a clear and unmistakable message that Malaysia’s greatest challenge in the era of globalization is the competition between Malaysians and the rest of the world and not between bumiputras and non-bumiputras or between Malays and non-Malays, and to re-orient all government policies and measures in this new direction.
The shocking revelation by the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis in Parliament yesterday about the failure of the government’s “brain gain” scheme should highlight both the urgency and gravity of nation’s weaknesses in the league of global competitiveness.
Jamaluddin said that between 1995 and 2000, the scheme attracted 94 scientists, including 24 Malaysians in the fields of pharmacology, medicine, semi-conductor technology and engineering, but by today, all but one has left Malaysia.
The government’s failure in its “brain gain” programme is actually more colossal than that disclosed by Jamaluddin.
In March 2000, the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad announced a new “brain gain”policy targeting an annual infusion of 5,000 “extraordinary world talents”, both Malaysians currently abroad as well as foreigners.
If this new policy of annual “brain gain infusion” of 5,000 extraordinary world talents had been successful in the past four years, Malaysia would have gained an infusion of at least 20,000 “extraordinary world citizens of extraordinary talent, extraordinary creativity, extraordinary knowledge, extraordinary skill and extraordinary networking and other capabilities” to enhance Malaysia’s global competitiveness.
Jamaluddin should not hide the even greater failure of the new “brain gain” policy of annual infusion of 5,000 “extraordinary world talents” in the past four years, as of October 2003, only 587 professionals had applied to serve in Malaysia, out of which approvals for 218 had been given, but only 126 have returned – which does not even constitute one per cent of the target of 20,000 in the past four years.
What are the reasons for the abysmal failures of the government’s “brain gain” policy whether of 1995 or the later 2000 version for an annual infusion of 5,000 “extraordinary world talents”?
Incentives to transform the Malaysian “brain drain” into a “brain gain”, such as income tax exemption, import duty and sales tax exemption for two cars, personal belongings tax exemption, car import licence and permanent resident status for the spouse and children of the returning Malaysian to be granted within six months of arrival of Malaysia, all proved to be of no avail - as the larger issues of meritocracy and discriminatory policies from the lack of a level playing field, whether in the working environment of the professionals or the educational opportunities for their children, have not been boldly addressed.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman