Friday, May 06, 2011

Equal Opportunity Commission to Reverse Brain Drain?

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has set the lofty goal of becoming a high-income nation earning US$15,000 per capita which all Malaysians must support.

However, the recent World Bank Malaysia Economic Monitor Report on “Brain Drain” serves up a stark reminder to Najib that such goals will be nothing but pipe dreams if critical reforms are not instituted. The Report said that “Malaysia seems stuck in a middle-income trap, the predicament that prevents middle-income countries from fulfilling the next step in their development path towards high income.”

It added that our “growing inability to remain competitive as a high-volume, low-cost producer coupled with the difficulty to break into fast-growing markets for knowledge- and innovation-based products and services.”

As a result, we are failing to achieve our income potential and it cited the damning but instructive example of South Korea where “four decades ago South Korea was markedly poorer than Malaysia, South Korea’s per capita income is now three times higher than Malaysia’s.”

To break out of the middle-income trap and to fulfil our growth and income potentials, the World Bank report had confirmed what many had already knew, that Malaysia must stem and reverse the acute brain drain faced by this country, where 2 out of every 10 tertiary educated leaves.

In fact, the World Bank survey has found that an overwhelming 87% of respondents suggested that a "paradigm shift away from race-based towards needs-based affirmative action" may entice a migrant to return to Malaysia. What’s more, the survey had indicated that 60% of respondents cited "social injustice" as a key reason for their leaving the country.

Hence as an immediate measure to demonstrate Najib’s commitment towards achieving a high-income nation status, he must reinstate the “Equal Opportunity Commission” (EOC) which was proposed in the New Economic Model (NEM) Part 1, but was subsequently inconspicuously dropped due to strong protests from within UMNO and from right-wing Malay rights groups such as Perkasa.

The EOC was proposed in the original NEM to “cover discriminatory and unfair practices” in both the public and private sectors, not only to promote “economic efficiency through competition”, but more critically, to ensure “inclusive growth”.

The late Datuk Zainal Aznam, who was the Deputy Director at Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) and Malaysian Institute for Economic Research (MIER), who had spent 20 years with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), was a key member of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) who delivered the NEM.

Datuk Zainal Aznam was highly critical of the Government’s decision to drop the proposed EOC where he said “after more than 50 years of independent growth, we are no closer to being racially blind… Current and future conflicts in Malaysia will be fuelled more by an outraged sense of inequality and unfairness in economic opportunities…”

At a forum organised by think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in February this year, Datuk Zainal Aznam had revealed that reforms such as the EOC were “lambasted and strangled by right wing groups led by Perkasa. They wanted to burn part one (of the NEM)”

He lamented that “there is political will, but it is insufficient, like (what happened with) the Equal Opportunities Commission,” and added that he had “serious doubts (about) how far the BN government is willing to go.”

As a tribute most befitting to Datuk Zainal Aznam who had passed away on last week, Najib should immediately announce the reinstatement of the proposed EOC, and introduce the necessary legislations in the coming parliamentary sitting commencing on 13th June. The measure will contribute positively towards helping Najib’s Talent Corporation succeed in convincing migrants to return, and curb the excessive drain on the country’s talent, so critical in achieving Malaysian’s high income nation target.


Anonymous said...

Its incredible how intellectually bad the debate is on this. For all practical purpose, if you get rid of the NEP, some sort of anti-discrimination process need to be put in place eventually.

The problem with anti-discrimination laws such as Equal Opportunity laws, its often difficult to determine because its so subtle and can be abuse easily. The idea that the laws and commission can be perfect just like that the affirmative action or the NEP which is clearly is not could succeed as envisioned is plainly ridiculous. Its simply not logical for such perfection of govt policies.

The purpose of such laws is to set up general direction, to temper the obvious failures of self-societies not to be perfect solution. It create debates of societies of our values and human failures.

That said, we are a society generally tolerant with no great history of friction even if there is divide until the last 40 years of NEP. The last 40 years can easily be forgiven if the system does not worsen. But if worsen than it may not be.

If the NEP is eliminated and some EO laws put in place, then it cannot be expected to be perfect either. Like it or not, a socialist system need to be put in place. The lower rung of our society need to be extra taken care off in terms of govt attention even as the challenge of larger economics naturally take priorities. The only way forward is to afford opportunities of dynamism for the lowest rung of society equal to elite class - rural schools and teachers need to be paid far far more, subsidies of rural economics, subsidies for industries to relocate to rural areas including subsidies transport, subsidised utilities in rural area including communication and ICT etc, income based elite scholarship prgrams etc.

Like it or not creating rural and lower dynamism for at least a generation 20-40 years is the only real way to truly deal with the racial problem with our society.

CITIZEN said...

This EOC(to solve the brain drain)is to tell Najib to appoint more non-malays into high positions in GLC,govt agencies and the public sector.So you think he will do that at the expense of the malays and the bombarbment by PERKASA(which is an indirect arm of UMNO).
So Najib will play safe by taking the middle path(that is why we are stuck in the middle income gruop).
Malaysia will be far far from achieving high income status if different races are of different intellectual capabilities and when one race will use religion as a political tool to justify their means.