Many prefer to leave

Over the past half a century, Malaysia has been locking itself inside a huge courtyard house, distributing its wealth as per its antiquated ways and exhausting its rich social resources, forcing its best talents to look elsewhere.

By TAY TIAN YAN, Sin Chew Daily

Perhaps, like me, you will discover that friends and relatives around you are getting fewer and fewer.

We used to have tight schedules for all sorts of new year gatherings in the past, but things seem to quiet down a lot this year.

Even on a normal day phone calls are rare, and there ain’t too many people for us to meet up nowadays.

Perhaps everyone is engrossed with his own stuff, or people are beginning to adopt the “homeward” lifestyle and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.

Not quite!

Many of my old friends and relatives are no longer around. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very much alive and kicking, only they have chosen to leave this land.

John has set up a factory in mainland China; Peter has quit his rewarding engineering job to run a tiny food stall in Australia; Robert quits local university to lecture in Hong Kong; Dave is in Taiwan to explore his career while some others have gone to the States, UK, and… Oh yes, Indonesia…

I used to think this is nothing more than an isolated case. I slowly discover that such thing happens to other people around me as well.

By no means this is an isolated case, but a ubiquitous social phenomenon.

It involves not just a handful of people, but quite a multitude of them.

Some recent statistics revealed by the foreign ministry have testified the fact that such a phenomenon has been very real and close to our hearts.

From last March to this September, around 300,000 Malaysians looked for greener pastures beyond our own shores, two thirds of them doing so in the first eight months of this year alone.

The cumulative number of emigrating Malaysians has now past the two-million mark, approaching the number of Indonesian workers in this country!

The different thing is: those who have left are mostly middle-class professionals.

They have a host of reasons to stay away from this country: to pursue further career advancements, to seek brigter future for their kids, to get more freedom… In short, they have all grown frustrated with Malaysia.

50 years ago, everyone said Malaysia was the best, even better than Hong Kong and Japan.

30 years ago, they said Malaysia was not that bad, at least we were as good as Korea and Taiwan (they no longer mentioned Hong Kong and Japan).

20 years ago, they said Malaysia was quite okay after all, at least we were better off compared to China and Thailand (Taiwan and Korea were no longer in the same league).

10 years ago, they said Malaysia could never be like Vietnam or Indonesia no matter how bad it could be (China was not in the same category any more).

Today, Vietnam and Indonesia have far outpaced Malaysia in economic development, and the gap is fast closing in.

What to worry? We still have Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar!

An economist who recently visited the Philippines said Malaysia could as well overtake her neighbour as the prime exporter of domestic maids in 20 years’ time!

Over the past half a century, Malaysia has been locking itself inside a huge courtyard house, distributing its wealth as per its antiquated ways and exhausting its rich social resources, forcing its best talents to look elsewhere.

The country shuns competitiveness, ignores productivity and ahbors meritocracy.

When the regional financial crisis struck, we locked ourselves in and escaped the destructive consequences. Some people have taken great pride in that, thinking we were all geniuses.

But when the other countries walked out of the crisis, they implemented substantial reforms and made bold advances ahead while we stay largely stagnant.

It’s time to wake up, Malaysia. (Translated by DOMINIC LOH)

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