KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Malaysia could see a bigger brain drain to Australia next year unless Putrajaya enacts a full meritocracy policy, the DAP’s Lim Guan Eng warned today.
The opposition leader was referring to news reports that Canberra is relaxing its visa policy to allow Australia’s massive 220,000 foreign student graduates to stay on and work in the country for up to four years after graduation.
“This would potentially allow all 220,000 foreign university students in Australia to work in any job once they graduate,” the DAP secretary-general said in a statement today.
Lim estimated there are some 20,000 to 30,000 Malaysian students in Australia and added that they will be more tempted to stay on and seek employment as they could potentially draw higher salaries, and enjoy greater freedom and a better life and better career prospects.
Australia is among the top higher education destinations for Malaysians to study abroad, besides the UK and the US.
“Why is it that the Australian government is able to be so proactive and quick to grab opportunities while our own government is so lackadaisical and merely standing by as droves and droves of Malaysian talent continue to leak out of the country?” Lim asked.
The Bagan MP pointed out that Talent Corporation, the state agency set up to resolve the brain drain problem, has managed to woo home only 680 professionals from abroad since it was formed last year and another 400 professionals in the first quarter of this year.
Lim questioned whether the paltry number of returnees could compare to the “tens of thousands” who are likely to make Australia their home after completing their studies, especially with the national deficit for 2012 likely to hike up to RM59.7 billion following the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s increased Budget for next year.
The fact is that until and unless we shatter the glass ceiling … we will never be able to attain the fabled high-income status that the prime minister is shouting about. — Lim Guan Eng
“The fact is that until and unless we shatter the glass ceiling by addressing the fundamental flaws in our country with regards to its failed policies of rewarding mediocrity over meritocracy, we will never be able to attain the fabled high-income status that the prime minister is shouting about,” Lim, who is also Penang Chief Minister, said.
A brain drain is depriving Malaysia of talent, and accounts for a third of the country’s million-strong diaspora, according to the World Bank Economic Monitor.
Singapore alone has absorbed 57 per cent of these departing educated workers.
Only 23 per cent of Malaysia’s current workforce is highly skilled and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said this number must rise to 37 per cent by 2015 if it is to become a developed nation by 2020.
Malaysia’s slowing economy, which recorded a third consecutive quarterly dip in growth to 4.7 per cent in the first three months of the year, has raised questions of whether the federal government can keep spending in check.
Analysts have warned Malaysia to brace for a significant slowdown here due to rising linkages with top trade partners including China, the world’s second-largest market which economists say is headed for a sixth consecutive quarterly drop in growth with worse to come.
A Greek exit from the euro zone would cause a second recession in as little as four years in Malaysia as the knock-on damage to Europe poses a threat to the global economy, Bloomberg reported analysts and economists as saying recently.
The World Bank has also urged Malaysia to expedite reforms such as subsidy cuts and broadening the tax base, key initiatives that have stalled ahead of an impending federal election, if it wants to achieve Putrajaya’s target of being a high-income economy by 2020.