KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The government’s failure to see through announced reforms were partly to blame for the country’s chronic brain-drain problem, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers claimed today
Opposition leaders today said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s inability to deliver on promises of equality and a “needs-based” economic model, coupled with his “conceding” to ultra-Malay voices within his own party will only result in Malaysia being mired in the middle-income trap.
“Najib is not addressing the critical issues affecting talent in leaving the country... His message of inclusiveness is lost in translation as existing policies are discriminatory against the non-Malays in the country.
“This has been verified by the proportion leaving the country,” DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua said today.
According to a World Bank report yesterday, more than one million Malaysians currently live abroad.
The report stated that policies favouring the majority Malays were contributing to the country’s brain-drain while holding back its economy and limiting foreign investment.
Today, Pua said Najib’s “U-turn” over his heavily-publicised New Economic Model (NEM) has left little room in the country’s competition for talent.
“The fact is these policies do not encourage competition and a poor economy will deter prospective talents from staying.
“He has failed in an attempt from moving from a race-based culture to a needs-based,” Pua told The Malaysian Insider.
In a Bloomberg news service report, World Bank senior economist Philip Schellekens was also quoted as saying that foreign investment could be five times the current levels if the country had Singapore’s talent base.
“Migration is very much an ethnic phenomenon in Malaysia, mostly Chinese but also Indian,” Schellekens told Bloomberg in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
Governance issues and lack of meritocracy are “fundamental constraints” to Malaysia’s expansion because “competition is what drives innovation,” he said.
Malaysia’s growth fell to an average 4.6 per cent a year in the past decade, from 7.2 per cent the previous period.
Singapore, expelled from Malaysia in 1965, expanded 5.7 per cent in the past decade and has attracted more than half of its neighbour’s overseas citizens, according to the World Bank.
Malaysia has in recent years unveiled plans to improve skills and attract higher value-added industries.
The World Bank conducted an online survey in February of 200 Malaysians living abroad in conjunction with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
They cited better career prospects, social injustice and higher wages as their main reasons for leaving, the Washington-based lender said in the Bloomberg report.
“He is saying some of the right things, but he is not delivering his message... I think his policies are doomed for failure,” Pua said bluntly.
PAS MP Khalid Samad echoed his PR colleague’s views, and said that Najib’s “silent elegance” on an increasingly ultra-Malay Umno would lead to even more talent among non-Malays leaving the country.
“He’s not addressing the real problems of racism breeding within his own Umno... how do you expect people to stay in a hostile environment when policies as well as the attitude of a ruling party treat non-Malays as second-class citizens?
“Race-based parties will go back to racial slants in times of trouble... He is saying one thing thing but his men are doing another thing,” said Khalid in reference to Umno leaders as well as Malay-language newspaper’s call for a “1 Melayu, 1 Bumi” movement to “combat” the growing “political influence” of the Chinese community.
The Shah Alam MP stressed that the only way to keep talent in the country was to build a competitive culture where policies are no longer race-based.
Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia has urged the party to spearhead a “1 Melayu, 1 Bumi” movement to protect Malay unity.
It claimed that DAP was intent on unseating the country’s Malay political leadership.
Malay rights group Perkasa said it will fly the banner for the movement and launch a 1 Bumiputera campaign this weekend.
Analysts have said the Umno paper’s increasingly strident, pro-Malay tone is a sign the ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) senior party has written off support from the Chinese community and is banking on Malay votes to win in the coming 13th general election.
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said proper political reforms were the only way to address the worsening brain drain in the country
“Without political reforms such as revoking all emergency laws, ensuring free and fair elections and having a free media, then our nation is doomed to not only be trapped in a middle-income economy but also trapped in a political fossil of a police state,” she told The Malaysian Insider.
A competitive Malaysia, according to the Lembah Pantai MP, could only exist in an environment where transparency and accountability was the rule of the day.
“Lest we forget, the report reminds [of] Malaysia’s need for more broad based productivity and investment climate enhancements, which can be realised if the government steers clear from political patronage and using business to fulfil personal interests,” she added.