In the past few days, I have noticed that TalentCorp’s plan of attracting back Malaysians and expatriates to our country has gained some speed, or at least some media coverage.
The government has proposed a flat rate of 15 per cent tax for five years for the ‘returning expert Malaysians’. It is meant to be an incentive for them by choosing to return home but I have also noticed a number of comments on Facebook and Twitter asking “what about those ‘loyal experts’ who chose to stay?”
And I agree with that question – what about those who had chosen to stay? Do they now have to absorb the costs of attracting ‘expert Malaysians’ back?
As a Malaysian student studying overseas, I cannot help but wonder if coming home is going to be the right thing for me to do once I graduate.
For one thing, our country’s political stability is no better than what is going on in the Middle East. With the next General Elections coming up sooner or later, our country’s political state is hanging in the balance. Allow me to pose two scenarios which may potentially happen:
In the first scenario, let’s say hypothetically that the Opposition takes over Putrajaya. Will the proposed plan still be in place? Or does the Opposition have a better plan to attract Malaysian talents back? More importantly do they even care? Will TalentCorp still be around to begin with?
The second scenario would be the current Federal Government winning the next General Elections. This should mean that TalentCorp’s plan is still intact. In that case, is the 15 per cent flat rate tax the only benefit that returning Malaysians will receive? What about a promise of career progression? Higher starting salaries?
Of course, I do not expect miracles to happen overnight but as I survey potential jobs in Australia, I cannot help but notice the much higher salaries as well as superannuation (their version of EPF).
I am currently paying approximately RM60, 000 a year just for school fees for a three-year degree course. If I do choose to come back home to begin my career (which I currently am inclining to), will I be able to earn back the amount I invested on my education?
In Melbourne, the minimum wage for a part-time job is A$15 an hour and as a international student, I will be entitled to work up to 20 hours a week during schooling days and as many hours as I wish during holidays. By my calculation, if I work the maximum 20 hours a week, I should be able to earn up to A$1,200 in one month before tax, which is approximately RM3,600 at the current exchange rate.
I personally know of many local students, who work slightly above 20 hours per week and are able to pay their own tuition fees. Of course they are charged much cheaper but if I were studying back home, would I be able to do the same?
Can our government match that salary? Even disregarding the exchange rate and we measure it dollar for ringgit, I have doubts that our Malaysian salary per hour is anywhere close to what is being offered on the table in Melbourne.
So before we look at attracting Malaysians back, we should also look into certain policies such as implementing a minimum wage policy. It does not have to be A$15 an hour but it certainly needs to be at a competitive rate. It is simple policies like that which will keep our talents to begin with.
So with the General Elections just around the corner, these are questions that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat need to start addressing if their plan is really to recruit “expert Malaysians” back or more fundamentally, keeping their current talents.
Wong Chee Mun is a student at RMIT University who hopes for a better Malaysia when he graduates in 2012.