DATUK Seri Idris Jala, the chief executive officer of Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) said Malaysia must offer better jobs, higher salaries and a better standard of living to our professionals to retain and attract Malaysians from overseas.
But this is far from the reality on the ground. Having been involved in the construction industry for awhile, and now being involved in the academic world, I can understand why our top talents are leaving. Long hours and a stressful environment make us feel that the money is not worth the effort.
In fact, one research said Malaysians were too hard working and 32 per cent of Malaysian workers worked between nine and 11 hours a day.
Coincidentally, I am doing a research on talent loss among Malaysian professionals in the construction sector and my data affirms Idris' suggestions.
Not surprisingly, the best way to stop the brain drain is to offer higher salaries.
A majority of them are willing to come back and contribute to the country's development if they are offered a competitive salary.
Not all of them are happy being overseas, but because of financial commitments, such as repay-ing huge study loans and supporting a family, they have to stay abroad.
From my data, 89 per cent of the respondents will come back if employers in Malaysia offer them a higher salary.
Consideration in this matter should be given, as they have to make a lot of sacrifices in leaving behind their lives to start all over again.
We all know that Talent Corporation has conducted many talks and road shows overseas and reviewed the Return Expert Programme to entice our talents to come back.
Nevertheless, these efforts would be futile if the key element, a higher salary, is disregarded, especially in the private sector.
It seems ironic that in our journey to become a high-income nation, the main element, that is, income, is still considered an unimportant criterion.