Returning Malaysians: 2,105. Price: RM65m. Minister: Money well spent

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The government spent RM65 million to entice a total of 2,105 Malaysian “experts” to return to the country since 2011, which works out to RM30,879 each, Parliament was told today.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar said that Talent Corp’s Returning Expert Programme (REP) had brought back 680 experts in 2011, 923 in 2012 and 502 from January to June this year.

The majority of the returnees were Chinese Malaysian men.

”Generally, it’s money well-spent,” Abdul Wahid told Parliament here today.

Abdul Wahid said that the REP received grants of RM30 million in 2011, RM20 million in 2012 and RM15 million this year.

He added that all of the returnees are aged above 30 years, while 75 per cent of them are men. Chinese make up 60 per cent, Bumiputeras 30 per cent, and Indians and others 10 per cent.

Abdul Wahid said that the returnees are required to serve in Malaysia for at least five years and have come back from Singapore, the United Kingdom, China, Australia, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Ireland.

Business daily The Edge reported Talent Corp CEO Johan Mahmood last March as saying that 1,200 Malaysians are targeted to return this year, despite falling short of the same target last year.

The Economic Transformation Programme 2012 annual report was quoted as calling Talent Corp a “victim of its own success” as the pool of eligible candidates is shrinking.

Talent Corp announced in 2011 that Malaysian professionals working abroad who came back to Malaysia would only need to pay a flat income tax of 15 per cent for five years under the REP.

Economists, however, have said that a greater measure of meritocracy in the education and employment sectors is crucial to plug the country’s brain drain problem.

The World Bank’s “Malaysia Economic Monitor: Brain Drain” 2011 report noted that about one million Malaysians live and work overseas, mostly in Singapore and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Responding later this evening, Talent Corp issued a statement that the RM65 million sum covered the entirety of its programmes that it said extended to both Malaysians here and abroad, and insisted the amount should not be apportioned solely across its REP numbers.

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