LATELY, I’ve discovered that my pool of friends have been diminishing. Well, actually not lately; more like over time. It’s sad. They’re very talented, smart, capable people. And they’ve all gone to seek their fortunes and offer their talents elsewhere.
I know at least 30 people living and working abroad (that’s not a lot compared to some of you, I’m sure, but we’re talking know as opposed to know of). I know more who will be leaving within the next two years. A former classmate is flying the coop to Germany come March this year; two more have plans to start afresh in Singapore and two more will be heading to Australia next year.
Sure, there are some who leave to follow their partners, but a very large segment of this exodus is fuelled by frustration with what’s offered here. Various blogs have touched on this subject: Anak Bangsa Malaysia quotes a recent parliamentary report stating that 140,000 left the country in 2007. “The number more than doubled to 305,000 between March 2008 and August 2009, presumably because of rising crime rate, tainted judiciary, human rights abuses, an outmoded education system and other concerns,” says the writer (read article here). I’d throw in racism and corrupt, incapable leadership, too, based on what’s been happening lately.
Columnist Tan Siok Choo cites in her article in Sun2Surf (read article here) that of the 784,900 Malaysians working overseas, less than 1% returned to the country in the past nine years. Of the 94 scientists from overseas — including Malaysians living abroad — who agreed to work in Malaysia between 1995 and 2000, all but one have left the country.
I agree with some who say it’s the Malaysian Chinese and Indians who are leading this brain drain partly out of frustration from being called ‘pendatang’ by shallow bigmouths, but there are also a lot of very smart, capable Malays that have left for greener pastures. Simply because they know they need not rely on skin colour, connections or money to excel. Simply because they know what they’re truly worth which is, unfortunately, not recognised here.
This is not a new phenomenon — not, in my opinion, even as recent as 10 years ago. Many of my relatives emigrated when I was just knee-high. Even my dad has told us to leave while we can.
I tell my friends it’s great here in Malaysia. We have much to be thankful for and if you look at things in perspective, you realise it could be a lot worse. But I’ve come to also realise that not everyone can be satisfied with the status quo and the unfair distribution of power and income, or promotions/appointments that are race- or connection-driven. I’ve come to realise that , unfortunately, it is the extremely talented ones that make up a majority of this segment. Personally, I know only one person who made the decision to come back from abroad because he’s convinced he can make a small difference.
Let’s hope Johan Mahmood Merican and and his band of merry men can fulfil Talent Corp’s mandate to attract, motivate and retain skilled human resources in Malaysia. Because, aside from loving my country, aside from hoping we’re not left with a mere handful of brains (yours truly included, heh heh) and a lorry load of corrupt, basket-case politicians, I really dont want to lose any more friends. I dont want to leave my country either, and count it my duty as a Malaysian to remain and contribute. I just wonder how long my ideals will hold out.