Thursday, December 18, 2008




Human capital is an important resource that must be valued and managed effectively as a means to lift the Malaysian economy to the next level of development in order for the country to achieve the vision and aspirations of a fully developed nation. Hence, it is imperative to prevent the loss of this crucial factor of production and focus on how to attract and hold onto skilled labour.

It cannot be denied that a large amount of this human capital has been lost through brain-drain. It is estimated that there are about 900, 000 Malaysians working overseas.


According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in Malaysia, the constraint is as much quantity as quality. The report also noted that Malaysian graduates tend to have weak skills in precisely those areas most needed by the type of knowledge-based economy to which Malaysia is directing its efforts to becoming.

The importance attached to human capital development by the Malaysian Government is shown in its 2009 budget which allocated a total of RM47.7 billion or about 23% of the total budget for education and training. In 2008 alone, the government sponsored 17,000 students in universities overseas. Government programmes are also complemented by the private sector.


There is a global competition for talent and human capital. Hence, efforts must be made to retain Malaysians with skills and expertise and those who are working overseas must be encouraged to return.

There is no systematic human capital retention programmes in terms of job placement and career development. Very often these students, including post-graduate students at the masters and doctoral degree levels, feel frustrated and disappointed with their job-postings. Such frustrations and disappointments are driving factors for brain drain. These policies and programmes must be based on rational criteria.

There must be clarity in the formulation of human resource policies. Implementation must be consistent with the spirit and intentions of policies. Many government-sponsored overseas students are allowed to work overseas upon graduation. The longer they stay overseas, the less likely for them to return. In some cases, the spouse, who is a professional is posted away from where the family is residing. Apathy among desk officers to the problems faced by the returning expert and his family may give a negative impression.

The converse phenomenon is Brain Gain. Although no data exist on brain gain, it may be deduced that Malaysia has not attracted any significant number of foreign experts.

Therefore, the Malaysian Government must take a serious look at its current policies and programmes for bringing back Malaysians as well as retaining those with the skills and knowledge that are needed by the country.

Current Repatriation Programmes:

Currently, there are two main programmes targeting the repatriation of human capital.

1) Program to Encourage Malaysian Citizens with Expertise Residing Overseas to Return to Malaysia:

Currently, the Ministry of Human Resources administers a repatriation programme under its “Program to Encourage Malaysian Citizens with Expertise Residing Overseas to Return to Malaysia” (refer to Appendix). This is a broad-based programme which covers a wide spectrum of expertise, targeting Malaysians all over the world. The programme offers three main incentives to encourage Malaysian citizens with certain expertise residing overseas to return home to Malaysia, that is, (i) tax exemption for personal effects, (ii) tax exemption for two cars, and (iii) permanent residence for non-Malaysian spouse and children. As of the beginning of 2007, there were only 985 applications, of which 485 were approved. Of the 485 approvals, 330 have returned.[1] The statistics indicated that only, on average, each year about 50 Malaysians have returned to work in Malaysia. The effectiveness of the programme is hampered by some observed weaknesses:

  • The programme does not address the fundamental reasons that cause these workers not to return. Tax exemption for personal effects and cars, may not be strong enough an attraction for repatriation;

  • The package of incentives must focus not only on the worker but also on his family as well. It must be realised that Malaysians working overseas may have families. The decision to return involves the family as well. If the family’s needs are not met, the worker will not return. Family needs, among other things include residential location, employment opportunities for working spouses, and schooling for children;

  • The current programme does not provide a special ‘green lane’ for the passage of repatriation. The successful applicants have to go through the normal bureaucratic procedures to apply for tax exemption and permanent residence for their non-Malaysian spouse and children. The process can take longer than six months;

  • Under the current programme, the worker and his family bear all the risks.

2) MOSTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation)’S BRAIN GAIN PROGRAMME:

Among the goals of MOSTI is to increase the critical mass of researchers, scientist and engineers (RSE) in the country to achieve a ratio of 50 RSE:10,000 labour force of priority areas by 2010. In this context MOSTI launched its Brain Gain Malaysia (BGM) programme in December 2006. Nevertheless, this programme suffered from similar weaknesses as mentioned above.

  • Malaysian scientists working in developed countries expected salaries five times the pay here. Such expectations should be expected, taking into account the differential salary and remuneration systems as well as the foreign exchange factor. It is understandable for the returning Malaysian scientist or expert to want to at least maintain his standard of living and quality of life.

  • There is a lack of sophisticated scientific facilities in Malaysia. Highly skilled scientists and researchers will be attracted to the availability of state-of-the-art equipment,, laboratories and facilities.

  • Bureaucratic problems such as delays in obtaining immigration clearance.


1) No Job Satisfaction:

Determining factors for human capital retention are related to opportunities for career advancement, intellectual fulfilment in the generation of knowledge and skills sophistication. The programmes for retention of skilled people must address both economic and non-economic factors.

2) More Economic Liberalisation:

An open economy with investor and business-friendly policies are more likely to attract the return of migrants.

3) Work with the Malaysian Diaspora:

Efforts should be made to tap the Malaysian academic and scientific Diaspora and entrepreneur networks to capture benefits and know-how from emigrants overseas through legislative and tax rules that encourage remittances and investment from Malaysians abroad.

4) Establish World-class Research Centres/Universities Free of Bureaucratic Controls:

The research and scientific professionals must be separated from the public service remuneration and scheme of service and be allowed to work based on a culture of knowledge creation and invention.

5) Administrative and Bureaucratic Commitment:

Very often, good ideas and plans are rendered ineffective because of poor implementation. The following administrative and bureaucratic measures are necessary:

a. Increase the salaries of post-doctorates and increase funding for the hiring of university professors to retain talent.

b. The procedures and process must be simplified in order to break down bureaucratic delays.

6) A Distinct Holistic and Attractive Package of Incentives:

Instead of just targeting the worker, the package of incentives must target the worker and his family. The incentives must be attractive enough. In this respect, it may be worthwhile to make benchmark comparisons with the kind of incentives provided by other countries. The package of incentives should also provide assistance:

c. For job-search

d. For business start-ups

e. For family re-location

Malaysia is a resource-rich country, nevertheless, countries that are poor in such resources such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and smaller economies like Singapore and Hong Kong have shown that a rational and effective utilisation of their human resources can achieve economic development and join the family of developed nations. In fact, people make the difference. Therefore, Malaysia cannot afford to continue to waste and lose the precious human capital that we have. Promotion should be based on merit. There should be no political inteference. Skills and talents are coloured blind.

[1] These figures were announced by the then Deputy Minister of Human resources, YB Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar (NST, 8/2/2007)



1. 鼓励海外的大马专才回流计划
i) 海外携带回国的个人资产免税
ii) 豁免两辆由国外运回国汽车的入口税
iii) 非大马公民的伴侣和孩子可成为大马永久居民

  • 当局不了解有关计划失败的真正原因。税务优惠已经缺乏吸引力

  • 有关奖掖不仅要照顾申请者,也要照顾申请者家人的需求,包括居所、伴侣的就业机会及孩子的教育。

  • 此计划没有提供特别管道处理相关的事项。当申请者回国后,他们必须经过一般的程序处理免税和永久居民证的申请,面对繁文缛节这些申请可能耗时长达6个月。

  • 申请者和家人须自行承担这项计划的风险。申请者取得人力资源部的批准,一切后续工作皆由本身处理。当局并没有引导申请者寻找工作或安排就业,也没有提供任何援助。严格来说,申请者回国后久完全不受理了。

2. 科学、技术及革兴部(MOSTI)吸引外国专才计划

  • 在进步国家工作的大马科学家,期望回国后能获得5倍的工资。这种期望是可预料的,因为我们必须考虑不同国家的工资、薪酬制度和外汇因素。回流的专才和科学家都希望返回大马后能维持生活的素质。

  • 大马严缺尖端科学设施。高级科学家和研究员无不对有先进科研器材、实验室和设施的国家趋之若骛。

  • 官僚作风,如延误发出移民准政等。


1. 工作成就感

2. 开方经济政策

3. 结合及善用国内外大马学术和科研家的网络,获取如何通过立法和税规资讯,来鼓励和增进海外的大马移民在我国的投资。

4. 设立非官方控制的世界级的研究中心/大学

5. 行政和官方承诺
i) 调涨博士级专才的薪酬,同时增加对大学聘请教授的赞助金,这样不仅可留住现有人才,也可吸引国外的大马教授回国
ii) 简化所有相关程序和手续

6. 采取更具吸引力的奖掖配套



artic turban said...

This is a total waste of time, what the Malaysian govt wants and what it actually does is 2 totally diferent agendas, It wants Malaysians with skills and knowledge to come back and work as cheap labour, in the name of partriotism, well sir I am one of those professionals who came back with his scandinavian spouce and 2 EU pasport Children, LIES LIES AND GOVT LIES is what I say, the amount of maney, time, effort wasted.
, and in the end IF YOU'RE Lucky because you know some one high up there in the clouds of putrajaya, don't hopee for a P.R. for your spouse for the next 15-20 years, and what is a P.R. - RED I.C., your children green ic, if you are lucky.
Lets put it this way, we were not the right colour nor race. What ministers say in Press confrencesses and what actually happens on the ground is total apathy, typically umno style of governing, why? well For the first 4 years, my wife, a professional was unable to work, A chicken and egg situation, get your employer to apply for work-permit, employers answer, why should I? Than the hospital charges for your children and spouse- double what you as a malaysian pays, But the most important thing is the yearly visits to the imigresion dept, and the days you have to take off and sit there, the same forms you have to fill yearly, the money you have to pay, yep folks all that claptrap that if your children are below 5 years old when they reach malaysian shores and are exempted are just that ,claptrap, I had to apply individual pasports for my children or malaysian govt will not process your documents, than there is the time for the period of 1 year where I had to visit the immigration dept monthly to get a monthly pass for my daughter, and pay RM50/ monthly X12 = rm600.00, btw the yearly pass is RM90.
and this is for one child, try this with 2 kids.
did I forget to mention the security deposit you have to pay the govt and the surat sumpahs and what not, well folks its a preety good scam they have going here, IT WORKS LIKE THIS, THE SECURITY bond you have to pay for your wife will be RM 1,500, PER CHILD- RM1,500. AND WILL BE KEPT FREE OF CHARGE BY THE GOVT, till the day your family leaves, of which you can than claim, with their claim of 'IT IS A SIMPLE PROCESS- SCAM' well your family has to leave the country, so therefore you have to stay back and handle the paperwork, than we 'akan bagi keputusan dalam waktu sengkat shj' 2 YEARS LATER WHILE PAYING FOR EXPENSIVE CALLS TO the imigration dept whlist being passed from one officer to another, 2 and half years later the money is still not in your bank account, 'Sudaah hantar check dengan poss kepada alamat anda' are the latest con I've heard,

John said...

SL, listen to what 'artic turban' said in his comments and consider his position. You have given a lengthly write out on almost all the factors contributing to the brain-drain and highlighted some constructive proposals to attract and retain the brain-drain, yet the govt. will not heed good advice. In the past years the govt. came up with some proposals, but they fell short of expectation and never seriously encouraged overseas people to return. Those who returned earlier were grossly disappointed and after a short stay, left again.The statistics of those who returned tells a sad story.
You can come up with all sorts of proposals and advice, but sad to say that if the present govt. is not sincere and possess a lukewarm attitude to this brain-drain issue, then we are back to square one. Forget about Vision 2020 and the objective to be an industrialized country by that decade if the attitude of the govt. does not change. I do believe the govt. has other agenda such as retaining the so called 'ketuanan melayu' which is their priority and not other more important issues.
Take a look across the Causeway, the attraction of 'brains' is a success, be humble and learn from them.

呉 和豪 said...

Dato Dr.Chua Soi Lek

Generally the suggestion and information given by Dato Seri overhere are very useful and informative.
However I just want to add a few points.

1)We should intensify our cooperation with India on the aspect of education and technical cooperation. I suggest India because
i)India is very advance in Science and Technology today ,they can launch rocket ,satelite ,made what ever minute electronic components they needed , without having to import from other countries.They are also advance in IT ,biotechnology and Medicine
ii) English is widely used in India

iii) Cost of living in India is lower , instead of sending student
to other USA or Europe , we can use the same amount of money to send more students to India to get more benefit
iv)India is a multiethnic , multicultural ,multireligion country ,there are a lot of mosque and muslim there, is not difficult for students of Islamic faith to adapt themselve to live over there.

2) Men of Senior age are also treasures to us , every effort should be intensify to make Malaysia MY Second Home and Health Tourism Programes sucess in Malaysia, because this is also a way to us to achieve BRAIN GAIN.

呉 和豪 said...

Dato Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek

1)Allocation given to Tunku Abdul Rahman to acquire equipment and to upgrade lab facilities not sufficient under Malaysian Plan.
This college is set up to carter for the need of Rakyat of all walks of life.
2)Academic staff and technical supporting staff need to be trained from time to time and have exposure to latest technology

artic turban said...

tHAT WAS MY RANT ABOUT THE PAPERWORK your family has to face. but what about the jobs market, the malaysian beureaucrats don't want to entertain you, and if they do they belittle you, it is a culture of pettyiness and fiefdom control, give us your proposal, you take the next few month writing a thesis on your proposal, and when you hand it in they will tell you we will get back to you, well another scam here, a year later after numerous calls to the govt dept head in putrajaya, you get the familliar answer, right - tada budget, kementerian ak lulus, epu tak setuju. you go away with your tail between your legs and walla you wake up reading a bumi company has been awarded a contract to do exactly what you proposed, and since the proposal is so bloody good, it will be federally funded, ITS NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT WHO. IDEAS, PROPOSALS, WORKING PAPERS GET STOLEN AND ARE PASSED ON TO CRONIES OF politicians or the well connected. thats not the problem though, what you get is people who don't have the expertise, who take your proposal, make it their own, bring in some highly paid big flatullance 'expert' and watch them screw up your proposal till its untenable, and the whole project is a loss due to zero expertise and no-knowhow, a kung-fu master is not going to put on paper the pitfalls and solutions, that is for fools to find out for themselves, than you receive a phone call to come and 'consult' for the specialist company who stle your idea in the first place, well I did go,tansri aso aso very well connected, and looked over the company and laughed at his face and told him yes the problem can be fixed, but I won't fix it, its your problem now and walked away laughing. that is Malaysia for you, thieves of ideas, jacked up prices, money making schemes. I ask you a simple question has any govt project been costed to its actual value, out of a 100 projects, 90 are money making schemes with losses to taxpayers, but do these connected people get blacklisted? the sheer waste.I have met many highly trained Malaysians overseas but there is something very strange, out of 100, 99 do not have a bin/binti to their names, and of these 99, 98 would have been self sponsored. Other nations will offer you housing, lucrative paychecks, schooling for your children and even recomendations for jobs for your spouse,perfect working permits very little red tape, whereas here in Malaysia you are told you are pendatang, go to the immigression and find out what piece of S**T you are off the sole of the immegresion officers, govt officials who want to cover their turf, so you get pushed into a hidden corner, only brought out when needed for ideas. I know of Malaysians who have flown out, driven to singapore and thailand to abscond the clutches of their bonds, its either that or commit suicide. WHY?

yakuzanam said...

dr. chua,

yes, everyone posted so far, particularly, artic turban has hit on the nail !!!

the proposal or write-up done by you looked promising and really enjoyed reading it with high admiration and fascination.

however, on the ground and i am personally uncertain how mca or dr. chua can really push forward all these proposal and make it to be heard AND IMPLEMENTED by the government.
guess what ? in my batch during uni days, more than 90% of my malaysian friends stayed back in aussie. to note, most of them are non-malays.

the favourite term used by them was, "we non-malays love our country but country doesnt love and appreciate you."

i was just talking to one of my colleague few weeks ago, upon seeing some political hoo-haa. he (a non-malay) told me that he is planning for a mega-migration with his whole family to either singapore or australia. he was telling me that he could not imagine how malaysia's going to be in 5 or 10 years down the road.

besides government policies, the rakyats themselves are to be blamed.

dr. chua, i'm not trying to raise any racial dispute but the fact is, there are really unfairnessES when we talk about opportunities for us as professionals.

really do hope you and mca can really do something about it before we lose out more people to our 'neighbouring' countries because to some extent, they have showed that they can appreciate MALAYSIAN employees more than the Malaysian Government themselves. Shame shame ...

hope to see some glimpse of hopes from you and mca.

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