Help­ing re­turnees as­sim­i­late

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FOCUS - By Wong LiZa

VAR­I­OUS is­sues cited as rea­sons why top brains and tal­ents from Malaysia choose to work abroad in­clude a trans­par­ent bureau­cratic sys­tem, non-dis­crim­i­na­tory poli­cies, mer­i­toc­racy, op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing work­ing en­vi­ron­ment and af­ford­able qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren.

Dr Meera Shah, 30, chief res­i­dent at Chicago’s Cook County Hos­pi­tal in the United States, feels that at­tract­ing tal­ents back to Malaysia takes a lot more than just of­fer­ing bet­ter salary and work op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“There is one as­pect of be­ing glob­ally com­pet­i­tive that in­volves busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and wages but it goes be­yond that for a lot of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly if you’re try­ing to at­tract an in­tel­lec­tual class,” she said via e-mail.

Dr Meera, whose hus­band is a Bri­tish-born In­dian, ap­pre­ci­ates the train­ing and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment she is cur­rently in.

“In terms of aca­demic medicine, the US has a mer­i­to­cratic sys­tem which has been in place for sev­eral decades and is very struc­tured. Train­ing is stan­dard­ised, there’s qual­ity con­trol, and train­ing in­sti­tu­tions are in com­pe­ti­tion to at­tract the best peo­ple. Em­pha­sis and money are put on re­search, men­tors are plen­ti­ful, and new ideas are al­ways brought for­ward. It is this kind of en­vi­ron­ment that stim­u­lates real think­ing.”

Nev­er­the­less, she has con­tem­plated re­turn­ing to Malaysia to work.

“But I hear true ac­counts of bla­tant dis­crim­i­na­tion re­gard­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for fur­ther train­ing and aca­demic po­si­tions. That put me off,” said Dr Meera, who also ques­tions the cal­i­bre of some govern­ment schol­ars who are cho­sen to study medicine abroad.

“Pro­fes­sion­ally, if I know I would be on an equal plat­form with ev­ery­one else, it would be much more at­trac­tive for me to re­turn. Our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is also in tat­ters. I would not want my child to be learn­ing his­tory from books which have been rewrit­ten to suit its au­thors,” said the mother of one.

Land­scape ar­chi­tect Au­gus­tine Wong, based in North Carolina, the Saba­han Au­gus­tine Wong, a land­scape ar­chi­tect based in North Carolina, the United States, with his Amer­i­can wife Ju­dith Marie Rohrs, a home­maker. He lauds the Govern­ment’s move to bring back tal­ented Malaysians from abroad. United States, said the Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion is a good idea.

“It is about time the Govern­ment looked at bring­ing back tal­ented Malaysians abroad,” said Wong, 49, via e-mail.

Wong has his own con­sul­tancy that pro­vides land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture, ur­ban de­sign and civil en­gi­neer­ing ser­vices.

He was re­cently ap­pointed by the US Trans­porta­tion Re­search Board in Washington DC to serve on the Land­scape and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign Com­mit­tee.

A fa­ther of four, Wong is keen to con­trib­ute his ex­per­tise to Malaysia. One of his aims is to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee of sus­tain­abil­ity ex­perts in­volv­ing other Malaysian pro­fes­sion­als to pro­tect Malaysia’s and the re­gion’s sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

“I think most Malaysians would like to work in both coun­tries – Malaysia and the adopted coun­try. This way, it helps both coun­tries in many ar­eas.”

How­ever, he would like to see a level play­ing field for all re­gard­less of race and re­li­gion, equal fund­ing sources for en­trepreneurs, and in­cen­tives and op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­no­va­tors and in­ven­tors.

“To make this hap­pen, the Govern­ment should con­duct a work ses­sion with Malaysians abroad. This will pro­vide a frame­work for the Govern­ment on how the plan should be for­mu­lated, de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented. With­out in­put from Malaysians abroad, it will be a one-sided govern­ment view which might not be ac­cepted by re­turn­ing Malaysians.

“Keep in mind that Malaysian pro­fes­sion­als abroad are used to work­ing in di­verse en­vi­ron­ments with a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and qual­ity of life. As a re­sult, there is a need to ‘as­sim­i­late’ them into the Malaysian en­vi­ron­ment, oth­er­wise there would be con­flict­ing goals, vi­sion or pas­sion,” said Wong, whose Amer­i­can wife, Ju­dith Marie Rohrs, is a home­maker.

If Wong were to re­turn to Malaysia, he in­tends to set up his own con­sul­tancy firm, so a com­pa­ra­ble salary will not be an is­sue for him.

“I think ev­ery Malaysian should be given the op­por­tu­nity to be what they want to be so they can be good, con­tribut­ing and re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens (to their coun­try), re­gard­less of race or re­li­gion.”

A Malaysian who has re­turned home is en­gi­neer Dr Nu­rul Muiz Mu­rad, who came back from Aus­tralia in June last year. Be­fore he re­turned, he worked as an en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able de­sign con­sul­tant with a pri­vate com­pany in Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria.

He is cur­rently the prin­ci­pal and tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of his own con­sul­tancy which spe­cialises in green technology.

“Any move by the Govern­ment to woo back tal­ents to Malaysia should be ap­plauded. From my point of view, the main prob­lem in Malaysia at the moment is the lack of lo­cal ex­per­tise to im­ple­ment govern­ment poli­cies through ac­tion plans,” said Muiz, 34.

Be­fore re­turn­ing to Malaysia, he spent two years do­ing his own re­search and talk­ing to peo­ple to get a clear pic­ture of what to ex­pect.

“That put things in per­spec­tive and eased me through the as­sim­i­la­tion to Malaysian life. I am lucky that things have been quite easy for me to adapt to ever since I came back.

“I be­lieve that Malaysia is a gold mine. There are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided you know what you want and where to look. Like ev­ery other coun­try, Malaysia is unique in how things are be­ing run over here, so there is no point in be­ing too ide­al­is­tic.

“Be street-smart and think out­side the box – that’s the key to be­ing suc­cess­ful in Malaysia for those who wish to re­turn home from abroad,” he said.

He feels that Malaysia needs more lo­cal tal­ents over­seas to re­turn and set up busi­nesses to drive the econ­omy fur­ther.

“Those who have come back and set up their own busi­nesses need to em­ploy lo­cal Malaysian tal­ent so that the knowl­edge and ex­per­tise is passed down and re­tained,” said Muiz.

There are three things that he hopes the Govern­ment will do for Malaysians who re­turn. The first is to set up more spe­cial funds ei­ther through grants or soft loans ex­clu­sively for Malaysians re­turn­ing from abroad so that it will be eas­ier for them to start up their own busi­nesses.

“At the moment, start-up loans avail­able are through small-medium en­ter­prise banks in the form of soft loans. I think more is needed.”

He said the Govern­ment should Be­fore he re­turned to Malaysia, Dr Nu­rul Muiz Mu­rad talked to peo­ple to get a clearer pic­ture of what to ex­pect. For him, the as­sim­i­la­tion process was smooth. also set up brief­ing ses­sions for Malaysians re­turn­ing from abroad so that they know ex­actly who to ap­proach and where to look for in­for­ma­tion.

“Set up a spe­cial direc­tory or data­base for re­turn­ing Malaysians and make it avail­able on­line so that any­one who re­quires a spe­cific skill can look up the data­base,” he said. –

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