Malaysia has had a bad case of brain drain over the years.
Droves of skilled minds were leaving the country, emigrating in search of greener pastures.
Just two years ago, a report showed that almost half of all Chinese Malaysians wanted to leave the country.
At the same time, Malaysia has been trying to put a plug on the brain drain with various projects and initiatives tasked to retain and bring home expert talent overseas.
But with one of the main reasons for leaving the country being discrimination and unfair treatment based on race, no amounts of financial benefits seemed to be attractive enough to staunch the flow.
Yet, it might be tempting to think the recent general election in 2018 has fixed things.
Two years back, less than 400 Malaysians applied to return via the Returning Expert Programme (REP).
But last year, that number has increased by 20 per cent and is attributed to the change in government, according to Human Resource Ministry M. Kulasegaran,
The number of Malaysians expected to return this year is estimated to be around a thousand, Talentcorp deputy chief executive officer N. Sivakumaren says.
It seems that the new government has given Malaysians newfound confidence in the political and economic stability of the nation. But are they misled?
New government, same old rules?
Not long after Pakatan Harapan’s win, the coalition has already backed out of key political and social reforms. These include:
The promise of a 30 per cent women representation in parliament, the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the repeal of the sedition act and detention without trial, and many more.
Gripes notwithstanding, the issues above pales in comparison to the elephant in the room and the true crux of the problem: Bumiputera privileges.
The racial makeup of overseas Malaysian does not reflect the demographics of Malaysia. Chinese and Indians are over-represented by over 90 per cent.
Everyone who is not Malay is put into a literal box called “others”; the former receives privileges in the form of quotas in education, politics, and the economy as designed in the NEP at the expense of the latter.
No amount of ‘employment packages’ can fix that mess.
Human rights activist Kua Kia Soong believes the Pakatan Harapan government is the same old government in new clothing, reluctant to let go of racial politics in favour of maintaining the Malay majority vote.
Right now, the government needs to realise it cannot have its cake and eat it too.
But it wants, it still can enjoy the meagre gains of 1000 Malaysians returning home at the expense of 150,000 highly educated Malaysians in countries such as Europe and Canada who refuse to do so until the current state of affairs changes.