DAP joins call for equality panel to reverse brain drain

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — The DAP has joined the chorus to revive the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) along with laws to stem Malaysia’s brain drain problem that it says has caused two million people to leave the country.

Secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said that Malaysia cannot become a high-income economy if “the New Economic Model (NEM) is determined not by learned economists but by ignorant racists such as Perkasa.”

The idea of the EOC had disappeared from the NEM, launched last year, leading to claims that Putrajaya had pandered to Malay groups who lobbied against the softening of pro-Malay policies recommended by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC).

Some Malay rights groups have opposed the EOC by claiming that the concept of equal opportunity for all races went against Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which touches on the special position of the Malays and other Bumiputeras.

The issue was reignited this week following complaints from Datuk Zainal Aznam Mohd Yusof, one of the authors of the NEM, that the proposed EOC was “lambasted and strangled” by Perkasa.

Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance president Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas was reported to have said that an Equal Opportunity Act would allow equal chances to all and develop sustainable economic policies.

Lim (picture) today said the EOC along with the force of a legal act would “allow us to maximise human talent and stop the flow of two million Malaysians who have left the country since Merdeka in 1957.”

Describing the federal government as “caving in to extremist groups such as Perkasa,” the Penang chief minister pointed out that “increasingly many Malays are also leaving, just look at Dubai.”

“The terrible cost we are paying can be seen by the failure to realise our full economic potential, causing Malaysia to lose out to other countries that were far behind us previously,” he said, referring to countries like South Korea and Singapore.

According to Lim, the gross national income (GNI) per capita of South Korea in 1970 was below that of Malaysia (US$260 (RM800) and US$380 respectively), but by 2009, South Korea’s was three times larger than Malaysia’s (US$21,530 versus US$6,760).

“By 2020, Malaysia’s targeted GNI per capita of US$15,000 would not even exceed South Korea’s GNI per capita now,” he said of the government-defined valuation of a high-income economy.

Lim added that although Malaysia’s land mass is 478 times the size of Singapore with a population, at 27 million, nearly six times that of the island republic’s 4.8 million, it had overtaken Malaysia in terms of gross domestic product.

In 2010, Singapore overtook Malaysia as Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, after Indonesia and Thailand. Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 was US$210 billion compared to Malaysia’s US$205 billion.