Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Malaysians Leave and What will bring them back

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child. Sending them to the best schools, private tuition, sending them for music lessons, taking them for sport coaching and then sending them to overseas universities. The kids grow up to become upstanding members of society, but not in our country. In the US, UK or Australia. When asked about coming back, it is shrugged off as a nonsensical suggestion.

Just a few days ago, the MCA shot a question back to the DAP, "What has the DAP done to attract back foreign talent?". That is a good question. As I mentioned before, Talent Corp headed by Dato' Seri Idris Jala is supposed to attract our talented Malaysians abroad to come back home. They are supposed to do so by cutting their income tax by 1% and giving them a discount on their first two cars. I do not know if entering the government makes you more stupid, but surely these are completely nonsensical and trivial issues which Malaysians abroad would pay no attention to.

So why don't they want to come back? My father helped to shed some light on this issue. Coming back on a flight from England, he met many Malaysians who are returning home to visit their families. They are young, budding professionals slogging it out hard in the UK.

In reality their lives are not as rosy as people make it out to be. Yes they earn £5000 a month, which translated to Malaysian Ringgit is RM25,000 which is a lot of money, but rental is high, groceries are expensive, and the general cost of living is high as well, not to mention tax.

They walk to work, take public transport everywhere, they don't own a car, they work hard and stay at home on the weekends because it's too expensive to go out. How are they happy with this reality? They confess to my father that actually Malaysia is a great country and they would like to come back, if not for the government.

This was a rather sweeping statement so my Dad asked for more clarification. They put down several points:

1. The system isn't fair. They feel that they could work hard in Malaysia, but they would never be treated because race is more important than ability, whether it is in a bumi or non-bumi company.

2. The potential to grow is not there. Companies which are favoured by the government are molly-coddled which prevents healthy competition from taking place. This stifles the ability of any company to enter the market without an endorsement from the government.

3. Lack of international confidence. Foreign companies do not see Malaysia as a competitive market place, and they are not confident to invest because of the limited opportunities presented by a biased system.

4. Judicial incompetence. Our judiciary do whatever the ruling party tells them to do. There is no confidence that the Opposition won't do the same to manipulate the system as BN has done if they go into the government. Reform has to happen and happen quickly.

5. Widespread corruption. For many, people accept corruption as a part of their lives. For those collecting bribes, it is a part of their income in which to reject it would deprive themselves and their families of the lifestyles they want to enjoy. For the large scale corruption, it is because of favourable government contracts to certain companies and individuals, and political legacies which have benefited from the system to the tune of millions of dollars.

6. Mentality. In general, people in Malaysia do not seem to be so progressive minded and show a reluctance to modernise. A society should be progressive in order for the country to progress.

7. Lack of infrastructure. Despite all the mega-projects which is going on, the government seems more interested to build highways rather than workable, functional, affordable public transport systems. Access in Kuala Lumpur equates to a good hour and a half stuck in a traffic jam. The monorail is good, but it really is for tourists. We need to have a proper integrated public transport system.

8. Rising crime rates. Nothing puts off Malaysians coming home more than stories that crime is on the rise. We can walk around London, Melbourne and New York feeling safe, but the moment we are back in KL, it is all about security guards, possessions under lock-and-key, gated communities and the like. It is atrocious that we feel so unsafe walking around our own country!

9. Racism. In a modern society, racism has not part in it. In England, it doesn't matter if you are black, white, asian, middle eastern, Indian or Pakistani. If you were born in England, you are English. The same with America and the same with Australia. In Malaysia, we use race prefixes ie. I'm Chinese Malaysian. That technically doesn't make any sense as the proper term would be "Chinese descent". It is the political parties like UMNO, MIC and MCA which have done nothing but elevate the racial argument even further. It's not about who is Malay, Chinese or Indian but the fact we are all Malaysian. Unfortunately, we are lacking this identity because of racial politics. Because of this division, so many are willing to give up their citizenship of Malaysia to become part of a country that will treat them with respect as individuals, not because of the colour of their skin.

10. Oppression. There is no freedom to fight for what you think is right because it is in violation of national security. National security is defined as according to what the Barisan Nasional government wants, which ultimately translates to whatever is best for the party. We cannot trust their ability to manipulate elections, redraw constituencies requiring opposition MPs to have 70,000 votes to win while the BN MP only needs 5,000. Criticizing your government should be your right and duty of being a citizen, but instead we are told to sit down and shut up like little kids.

These are just a couple of points, but the list probably could go on. The BN government has to realise that dangling carrots in front of the Malaysians abroad will not bring them home. So just to answer the MCA, the DAP is doing a lot more than the MCA has ever done for this country. If the MCA want to take the myopic point of view that scholarships would garner loyalty, that would just lead to their own demise.

The DAP and our Pakatan Rakyat partners wants a Competent, Accountable and Transparent government, an overhaul of the judicial system, stamping out graft and corruption and a cleaner and safer Malaysia. The DAP is setting an example in Penang, and the results are there for all to see. Once the system has changed, we wouldn't have to worry about Malaysians abroad coming home. They would come back anyway.


  1. Hi Douglas,
    Saw this post as your letter on Malaysiakini. It did hit home with me, as I've been an expat in Switzerland since 1988, and also, if you'll forgive me, reproduced it on my blog. I found it concise and well written, and the arguments were developed intelligently.
    A Scotttish friend of mine read it there and dropped the following comment, which I thought that may interest you:
    Interesting article but his description of the UK is slightly awry.
    The suggestion that someone in the UK earning £60K a year and not being able to afford to go out at the weekend is ridiculous.
    Point 9 is also a bit hard to believe.

    P.S. I'm a "Melayu" but my sympathies lie with DAP. :-)

  2. Thanks for the high praise mate! I shall be writing more in future so stay tuned.

    We are all Anak Malaysia my friend! There should be no more distinction based on such an archaic notion of ethnic race. Hope you will return for the elections while we attempt to salvage the damage BN has done to us!

  3. Totally agree that Anak Malaysia's the way to go (that's also why i put "Malay" in quotes in the comment above). The "race" box that has to be ticked on nearly every single form in Malaysia has always p*ssed me off. My list of pet peeves include BN's blatant wastage of public funds, how all the politicians somehow become filthy rich, the bloated civil service, the little napoleons, the police and the list goes on and on ;-)

    I signed up as a voter the last time I was in KL, managed to confirm online that I was on the EC roll and hope to be able to travel back in order to vote in the next elections.