Malaysia losing out talents due to policies, unresponsive attitude

The nation needs a fresh look at some of its inimical policies and change its invalidating mindset to retain talents and remain competitive

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

LACK of supportive government policies and an unresponsive attitude towards new ideas have caused Malaysia to lose out on local talents to its regional peers such as Singapore, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking (picture; second from right).

Speaking at the Economist Corporate Network’s Economic Outlook 2020 event in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Darell said Malaysia needed a fresh look at some of its inimical policies and change its invalidating mindset to retain talents and remain competitive.

“The culture that we had, at one point, was there was a lot of resistance from the government, so we missed out on private sectors which were creative on its own. We missed out on a lot of great companies and ideas that went to Singapore.

“So, when you talk about competitiveness, we need to pick up the pieces and sort out a lot of policies that are not helpful to our private and public sectors,” the minister said.

Last September, The Malaysian Reserve reported a shift among local tech talents who were moving to Singapore in search of better opportunities. Industry experts cited Singapore’s incentives and willingness to adopt new technologies as reasons for the switch.

Malaysia, and many others in the region, have instead opted for a wait-and-see approach which hinders the early progress for many tech firms. In 2018, there were less than 20 published investments in the start-up sector in Malaysia compared to Singapore which sealed over 90 deals.

Among the notable names who had shifted their operations to Singapore in recent years include Anthony Tan, a Malaysian-born who founded e-hailing firm Grab. Singapore’s property technology company, Ohmyhome, was also founded by Malaysian sisters, Race and Rhonda Wong.

Apart from high-tech sectors, Malaysia must also pay attention to talents and development in the agriculture sector, which Darell described as a core area of growth for the country.

“Agriculture is another thing we cannot miss,” he stressed.

Darell said Malaysia’s heavy reliance on food imports, which has hit RM50 billion per annum, underlined an urgency to develop the industry.

He said Qatar’s transformation into an exporter of dairy milk meant that the country can now produce between 35-40 litres of milk per cow per day.

To compare, Malaysia produces only 15-20 litres of milk per cow per day.

“Technology has helped Qatar, and things like this are always good. Malaysia has to start thinking this way as well. We have to think that, whatever the opportunity is, another country has as much chance to benefit from it as we do.

“So, we need to make sure that our policies are good, but also, I think this is something that the government has to do, we must support them with incentives to make sure our research and development grows, and that we become producers of stuff and a conducive country to invest in,” Darell said.