KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 ― It will be harder to convince Malaysians abroad to return to the country due to the current economic and political climate here, TalentCorp Malaysia chief executive officer Johan Mahmood Merican has said.
“Malaysians abroad at this juncture would need more persuasion to return home given the current economic and political climate,” he told news website Astro Awani in an exclusive interview published today.
While the report did not elaborate on the political and economic climate that Johan was referring to, commodity-reliant Malaysia’s currency value has recently hit a 17-year-low and the country has been facing political turbulence with calls for the prime minister to resign over financial controversies including a RM2.6 billion donation and state-owned firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Johan was reported admitting that Talentcorp needs to do more to persuade a majority of the Malaysians now abroad to return home.
According to Astro Awani, there are around 300,000 Malaysians abroad, with 5,600 having applied to return through TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme (REP) and an estimated 3,600 returning through this scheme in the last four years.
But Johan reportedly disagreed that the REP had performed poorly despite the number of approved applicants under the scheme appearing to be “a drop in the ocean”.
“Previously we only had 1,000,” he was quoted saying in comparing the more than three-fold increase in Malaysians on the REP.
He pointed out that the REP is not aimed to attract “anyone and everyone” and targets those abroad with “valuable international experience to give back to our nation”, adding that TalentCorp will take into account the World Bank’s recommendations in its 2015 report.
“We have noted the recommendations from the 2015 World Bank report and will continue to address the main reasons Malaysians choose to live abroad including salary concerns, opportunity for career growth and livability of our country,” he was quoted saying.
He added that the World Bank had said the REP is most effective in luring Malaysian talents back when a job offer is tied to the scheme.
“We are now working closely with our partners to identify jobs available for professionals overseas. We know that the offer must be attractive enough for them to once again join Malaysia’s workforce,” he said, also saying that there is potential for growth of key industry sectors such as oil and gas, finance, electronics and healthcare.
Under the REP scheme, Malaysians who return can take up the optional offer of a 15 per cent tax rate on their wages for five years and receive a maximum RM150,000 tax exemption for a car, while foreign spouses and children will be eligible for Permanent Resident (PR) status within six months of the PR application.
Johan said Malaysians abroad are either those who will never return and those who will come back anyway, with TalentCorp to focus on those who are in between these two groups and are interested in returning and named the oil and gas, finance, electronics and private healthcare sectors as having the biggest potential for growth.
But he also predicted that the numbers of young Malaysians working abroad will not rise sharply in the years ahead, suggesting that they will be forced to return here due to low employment rates in countries under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
*NOTE: A previous version of the article contained an error picked up from the original source of the story. They have since corrected the error, as have we.