The green, green grass of home

Malaysians must believe in Malaysia and believe in the very best Malaysia can be.

GREEN, green grass of home, a famous tune by British crooner Tom Jones, is one of my favourite songs.

Recently, as I was perusing an online news portal, I came across an article about withdrawals from the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) by Malaysians who have left home, ostensibly for greener pastures.

As I was reading the article, I was perturbed by the hysteria gripping such individuals who have resorted to extreme steps such as giving up their citizenship and withdrawing their EPF savings.

Emigration is the direct result of greater economic mobility and openness. According the report, World Migration in Figures: A joint contribution by UN-DESA and the OECD to the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development 2013, it was estimated that there are 232 million international migrants globally.

The report also noted that during the period 2000-10, the global migrant stock grew twice as fast than during the previous decade.

During the 1990s, the global migrant stock grew at an average of about two million migrants per year.

During the decade 2000-10, the growth in the migrant stock accelerated to about 4.6 million migrants annually. But this slowed down after 2010 due to economic difficulties in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. The economic problems and the migrant crisis provided fewer opportunities for migrants.

Another interesting fact in report is that the proportion of highly educated immigrants in OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries is rising sharply. The number of tertiary educated immigrants in OECD countries showed an unprecedented increase in the past decade (+70%), reaching 27.3 million in 2010/11.

About 4.7 million, or 17%, of them arrived in the past five years. This trend is mostly driven by Asian migration as more than two million tertiary educated migrants originating from this region arrived in the OECD in the past five years.

Emigration is not something that is confined to Malaysia.

In fact, a developed country like Britain saw emigration of an estimated 323,000 people in 2014.

In Singapore, to a survey conducted in 2012 by Mindshare 56% of the 2,000-odd polled agreed or strongly agreed that, “given a choice, I would like to migrate”.

Thus, emigration happens in poor, developing and even developed countries because it is a natural human instinct to seek better economic opportunities.

I do not, however, believe that emigration, in most developed countries, has been politicised the way it has been in Malaysia.

Most of those who emigrate do so for economic reasons but critics of the Government have sought to add a political dimension by claiming Malaysia is a failed state. 

But is the grass actually greener on the other side?

Malaysians who have the necessary academic qualifications will indeed find it easier to find employment as skilled migrants but unskilled migrants are the ones that will suffer from the twin effects of a slowing economy and growing intolerance in Europe and the US. 

I also believe that some Malaysians have been conditioned to see the very worst in Malaysia as they have bought in to the divisive and destructive rhetoric of Opposition parties who have painted Malaysia in the worst light possible because they believe they can only achieve political power if they convince Malaysians that we are a failed state. 

I believe Malaysians must evaluate matters for themselves.

We have problems and I will be first to admit that.

But Spain is facing a secessionist movement, neo-Nazi parties are on the rise in Germany and Australia has had four prime ministers the last two-and-a-half years.

Every country faces its fair share of problems.

Malaysia’s economy is weathering the economic storm the best it can.

Our economic fundamentals remain strong and our banks are well capitalised to sustain market gyrations and withdrawal of foreign capital. Domestic direct investment remains robust and we are on track to achieve high-income status in 2020.

Malaysians must believe in Malaysia and believe in the very best Malaysia can be. It is important to get involved and be the change one wishes to see.

It is easy to criticise. I can do that every day. But I chose from the outset to be part of the solution and not the problem. 

For me home will always be Malaysia and as the song goes, “It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.”

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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