MALAYSIA faces a dichotomy of incoming foreign workers and outgoing professionals. While the former is to be encouraged, ways must be found to discourage the latter.

For many years now, Malaysia has been a haven for foreign maids and plantation and construction workers from certain countries while other countries have been attracting our healthcare and oil and gas professionals, among other workers.

It has been reported that University of Malaya has been losing 30 of its brightest medical graduates to Singapore every year. While the reasons for this seeming contradiction between attracting foreign labour and losing our home-grown experts are quite obvious, we must find ways to plug the brain drain.

Where doctors are concerned, it has been suggested that their terms of employment and specialist training opportunities, among others, be improved. It has also been reported that there must be a fairer system of postings nationwide.

Of course, there is no guarantee that with these improvements and changes, doctors and nurses will not migrate because we may not be able to match the remuneration they can get in Singapore and some Middle East countries. But we can at least reduce the numbers seeking greener pastures.

While some issues pertaining to service matters can be handled at the administrative level, other questions should be addressed by a task force set up expressly to look into the holistic question of brain drain, which also affects other sectors.

Hitherto, Talent Corps, which was set up in 2011 as a government agency to attract and retain our homegrown talent, has had some degree of success. Perhaps, it can do more.

It has been estimated that there are currently two million Malaysians working abroad. This could lead to a situation where we may lose our competitive edge due to the outflow of our productive and intellectual resources.

In the long run, this may lead to a slowing down of our development, industrialisation and our ability to attract foreign direct investment. So, let us act now and stem the flow.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye

Kuala Lumpur