Malaysia will be stuck with ‘middle-income’ trap if brain drain issue not addressed: Academic

International Science Council foundation fellow Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid also said the current education system has to take into account the fourth industrial revolution and advanced technology, which is considered a lucrative field.


February 9, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – The worsening brain drain issue that is plaguing the country should be addressed by Putrajaya, says an academic.

International Science Council foundation fellow Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid said otherwise, Malaysians will be stuck in a “middle-income” trap.

Zakri said that in 2000, Malaysia’s gross national income per capita was about US$900 and in 2021, it stood at about US$11,200.

“Then, we stopped (increasing). A high-income country should have about a gross national income per capita of US$15,000.

“We cannot progress because there is a brain drain and this needs to be taken care of by our political leaders,” said Zakri on the sidelines of the Global Leadership Foundation (GLF) Asia-Pacific Leaders Dialogue at a hotel near KLCC on Wednesday (Feb 8).

The GLF Asia-Pacific Leaders Dialogue was organised by the Institute of Strategy and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

Zakri also said the current education system has to take into account the fourth industrial revolution and advanced technology, which is considered a lucrative field.

“So, this has to be reviewed so we can overcome this so-called threat (of middle-income trap),” added Zakir.

He also said it is important to have in place coordinating mechanisms to ensure that all ministerial programmes are streamlined.

“Sometimes, government agencies do not receive adequate allocations. The government has to look into this,” added Zakri.

Zakri also said that Malaysia has to seize the opportunity to become global leaders in sustainable development.

“In 1992, during the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil, Malaysians played a good role and we want that to be revived,” added Zakri.

Meanwhile, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, when met on the sidelines of the event, emphasised on the importance of having in place strong transparency measures in the country.

“But, someone has to act on the information that’s revealed. It is important to strengthen existing institutions such as audit institutions so that reports produced through transparency processes will be picked up and they can act on it.

“This information (from transparency measures) should also be available for those pursuing possible prosecutions and investigations.

“So, it is a question of building awareness on what transparency is disclosing and ensuring that the appropriate authorities can act on it,” said Clark.

Clark also said the GLF Asia Pacific Leaders Dialogue was useful, as it is an opportunity to discuss sustainable development goals and the roles of an effective and clean government in pushing beneficial agendas forward.

“Our afternoon discussion also involved us being able to talk about the role of Asean, how it could be maximised, and the role of little powers like Malaysia, not hard powers but with significant influence, if they invest time and effort into picking issues and making their voice heard,” added Clark.

Clark was the former New Zealand prime minister from 1999 to 2008.

ISIS Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid also said it was important to resolve long-standing societal issues highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, in case another global black swan event recurs.

“Lest we forget, we are still with that (Covid-19 pandemic) although we have learned to adapt thanks to modern healthcare and science.

“How can we manage multiple challenges from the pandemic? The answer, I suspect you’ll agree with me, leaves much to desire,” added Munir.

“The results are there for us to see and unless we address them together, they will only worsen, leaving another global black swan event,” added Munir.

Munir also said ensuring an effective government and international cooperation will be crucial for long-term sustainable engagement in resolving such issues.

“They (issues) are both national and transnational, requiring deft diplomacy and difficult consensus-based decision-making to address,” added Munir.

The GLF Asia-Pacific Dialogue was held from 9am to 4pm, and the chatham house rule was observed, where participants are free to use information during the forum, but are not allowed to reveal who made any particular comment.

Media personnel were allowed to interview speakers on the sidelines of the forum.

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