The Kansai region in Japan is famous for its standup 'Manzai' jokes delivered by a pair of comedians. One partner talks 'common sense' while the other partner deliberately dabbles in saying and doing the most outrageous of things. Together, the Manzai performers make the audiences roar and weep with laughter.
Some time ago, Malaysian officials planned to review the incentive scheme to attract 30,000 Malaysian scientists working abroad to return home. Among the options were a review of salary and the assurance that research and development facilities in Malaysia are of world standards.
Additionally, they tried to set up an agency to help foreign spouses find jobs. They also asked universities to lease R&D facilities to foreign-based Malaysian researchers, hoping that they can return home for at least two or three months a year to conduct research.
Did the plan succeed?
According to figures released by Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, between 1995 and 2000, the scheme attracted 94 scientists, including 24 Malaysians in the fields of pharmacology, medicine, semi-conductor technology and engineering, but by today, all but one has left Malaysia.
Then in March 2000, the then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced a new 'brain gain' policy to target an annual infusion of 5,000 extraordinary world talents, which include both Malaysians currently abroad as well as foreigners.
Again, my 'clansman' Kit Siang... as of October 2003, only 587 professionals had applied to serve in Malaysia in the past four years. Out of this figure, 218 approvals had been given, but only 126 professionals have returned. This number does not even constitute one per cent of the target of 20,000 in the past four years.
The officials, instead of beating around the bush and kicking the wrong cuckoo, may benefit from this hint by a Malaysiakini letter writer on the whys of moving out. From the several ex-Malaysians he talked to in his travels to Australia and Canada, this is what he said.
'Practically everyone gave almost the same answer - fair treatment by the government of their adopted country. No discrimination in education intake. No special colleges for any race. All their children sit for the same exam. No such thing as one race monopolizing the government jobs.'
Now the Cabinet has sprang into action once again.
As just reported by Sin Chew Daily, the officials have decided to set a special 'simplified' Bahasa Malaysia examination paper for Malaysian professionals abroad with the aim of encouraging them to work in the country.
Huh? Special... Simplified... Bahasa Malaysia examination?
Any takers, goondoos?
While all this is going on, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was reported to say that the government would increase efforts to attract Malaysian professionals abroad. He said more would be done to make sure that Malaysia's best and other countries did not poach brightest in foreign universities.
And, Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister, reportedly said that developed countries should not be allowed to poach Malaysian talent for free. He said those wanting the services of Malaysian overseas graduates should be made to pay for them. He said graduates should be categorized as intellectual property as the government had spent a huge sum of money providing them with education.
Audiences are more likely to weep rather than howl with gusto at this wry brand of Manzai.
Meantime, I have a bunch of buddies who have established roots in many a developed country. Among these 'no-good-runaways' are IT experts, senior managers, and engineers...
I'm all ready to see how Malaysia goes about charging those sly developed countries for stealing her brains.