A nation with no leadership cannot attract diaspora to come home

Thursday, 10 April 2014

It harks of a time when Malaysia was a country set to flourish with plenty of opportunities to boost the economy, but sadly hampered by the greed and political ambitions of individuals who seek benefits only for their group of elites, and try to cling to power at all costs.


Brain drain -- the two words that hang on the corner of every Malaysian's lips, depicting bright or skilled citizens who have decided not to return for good after venturing out of the country to seek their fortune.

Indeed, these are the two words that bring dread to those hoping for a better Malaysia. Why not? They must wonder whether the future in Malaysia is so bleak that their fellow citizens have decided to move abroad.

To the Malaysians who had the chance of being abroad, their reported success overseas and their ramblings of the less-than-ideal situation at home often brought about gripes from the locals, reminding them of an increasingly dismal political condition that will not change overnight.

It reminded them of the disadvantages Malaysians often faced if they were standing at the wrong side of the political spectrum, facing bureaucratic inconveniences when applying for licences, or favouritism when it comes to the awarding of projects, all of which prompted many Malaysians to look for greener pastures elsewhere.

It harks of a time when Malaysia was a country set to flourish with plenty of opportunities to boost the economy, but sadly hampered by the greed and political ambitions of individuals who seek benefits only for their group of elites, and try to cling to power at all costs.

Although Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration launched several programmes to woo talents back to the country, Malaysians are still not convinced to stay put despite the accompanying pledges of reforms.

The recent rounds of collective sighs can be heard when economist Prof Woo Wing Thye cited a recent World Bank survey that as many as 20% of Malaysians that attended local universities migrated out of the country, with the majority residing in Singapore.

He said a national development agenda that is inclusive to all should be mooted in order to convince talents to stay put. Many professionals with technical skills have taken flight because they felt that they were missing opportunities due to the country’s race-based policies.

It is also the idea behind the formation of TalentCorp, an agency under the Prime Minister's Department aimed at developing, nurturing locals as well as attracting professionals to return to Malaysia and foreign talents to come here and hone their skills.

The key to ensuring the success of implementing a national development agenda lies in the ability to concoct an element of "connection" between ordinary Malaysians that they are working for a common cause in making this country better.

Perception-wise, Malaysians have long felt that they were detached from the ruling government, as their cries for reforms and a better government have long been drowned out by the current administration.

They want to feel connected. They want to ensure that the talents they have are put to good use and they want to have freedom and access to the facilities available to create good products that are not just the pride of the nation, but are equally marketable overseas.

For that to happen, there is need for a government dedicated to development and growth of its talents, and to cultivate a competitive environment, coupled with the necessary security in terms of finances and wellbeing that guarantee them a good quality of life.

And that means having leaders that can stand their ground and be decisive in policies and carrying out initiatives without waiting for the approval from their political parties or warlords.

However, reports of financial abuse, misappropriation of funds, corruption and cronyism, and the repeated chest-thumping by extremist groups in race and religion had people convinced that Malaysia will not change for the better in the near future.

Malaysia provides a tolerable quality of life if the consumers don't overspend, but they cannot remain comfortable for long because the next few years will see an increase in costs of living and the implementation of the goods and services tax.

An increasingly polarised society, where members of different racial groups cannot see eye to eye in certain issues, complete with authorities that do not have the will power to resolve the problems before they get worse, is not the ideal condition to start the ball rolling on an inclusive national development agenda.

Therefore, before Malaysians can go on talking about inclusiveness in national development as a possible policy, there must be indication that the country has the leadership that is prepared to execute that plan.

Unfortunately, a national development agenda cannot be carried out until we have good leadership.

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