TALENT Corporation highlights a major problem in public governance. There are a plethora of agencies with some role in the project to bring back the Malaysian diaspora to fuel the innovation driven economy.
These agencies have not worked or worked in unison to make any significant achievement as Malaysia continues to witness talent haemorrhage.
It is not clear at this stage whether Talent Corporation will assume all powers scattered among the many agencies. Is it a one-stop agency to deal with the return of Malaysians working abroad or will it become the latest combatant in the bureaucratic battle to bring back Malaysians?
Since its announcement, many parties have tried to shape the mission of Talent Corporation. It now appears that it will carry a very limited mission in seeking to lure Malaysians working abroad to return and serve Malaysia.
As has been commented by many, this is a limited mission which, by all accounts, is not going to be fruitful. To have even a small chance of getting a significant section of the Malaysia diaspora to return, one must truly understand their reasons for going abroad and it is not always about better salary.
It is better working environment, better opportunities for professional development, non-discriminatory policies, transparent and accountable bureaucracy, a liberal and tolerant social atmosphere, high quality of education and generally, better standard of living.
The social disruptions are not a major issue with increasing ease of travel and almost costless communication with the folks back home. Unless the Talent Corporation can or is empowered to tackle all or some of these issues, it will not be able to make any dent in this outflow.
Even if it is empowered to deal with all issues, it is a long-term project whose success will depend on overall policies, politics and development in Malaysia. Besides, the borderless world will continue to draw talent from everywhere, including Malaysia. This global gravitational force can only be checked by exerting a positive pull ourselves.
Talent Corporation could take on a broader mission of ensuring Malaysia attracts, utilises, develops and retains valuable talent in our key economic sectors. Good planning requires reliable information on talent needs but strange as it may seem, we do not have reliable and current data on talent needs in the various economic sectors.
The numbers that we have are best guesses and scenario-based data. Starved of good data, talent planning at national level is weak in specifics and projection. This has implications for resource allocation for talent production.
Talent Corporation can be the epi-centre of talent data collection, collation, analysis and dissemination for use by government agencies, universities and industries.
This data could also include quality of talent development (upskilling), talent gain (inpatriation) and talent depletion (working abroad and also emigration). This broader mission could provide Talent Corporation with a platform to succeed even if it fails to reverse the brain drain.
PROF HAMZAH SHAH ABDULLAH,
Member, Governance, Law and Public Management Cluster,
National Professorial Council.