Malaysia risks losing out on reinvestments by American electronics firms here unless a concerted effort is made by the government in waging the current “talent war.” Pix courtesy of

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia risks losing out on reinvestments by American electronics firms here unless a concerted effort is made by the government in waging the current “talent war.”

Penang members of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham Malaysia) want the government to devise strategies in 2020 Budget to counter the “poaching” of local talent.

“Everyone seems to be poaching our talent from a very young age like those even in Standard 6 by offering them scholarships such as the Asean scholarship to study in neighbouring countries.

“Malaysia must counter this through a holistic strategy to retain talent or risk losing out on reinvestments to neighbouring countries,”

Amcham's Malaysian American Electronics Industry (MAEI) chairman Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai told the New Straits Times.

He said local undergraduates opting for science and engineering degrees now stood at 20 per cent compared to some 60 per cent three decades ago.

“This is resulting in companies now looking to options like Thailand and Vietnam when they plan to expand their operations,” he added.

MAEI's members include United States-based technology firms operating in Malaysia such as Intel, AMD, Western Digital, Texas Instruments and Agilent Technologies.

Wong, who is also AMCHAM governor, was speaking after the Penang AMCHAM Dialogue with Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, which was attended by US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel here.

“Malaysia,” he noted, “needs to find ways to go into the high-value and innovative economy and our members hope that sufficient provision is made in the upcoming budget to provide for a holistic manpower strategy.”

Wong said the quality of local science and engineering graduates was also an area for which allocations need to be given in Budget 2020.

He also said that other items on the budget “wish list” was for more allocations to be made in upgrading and maintaining infrastructure like the Penang International Airport.

Earlier in his speech, Chow said from 2009 to the first half of 2019, the foreign direct investments from US companies amounted to RM21 million, representing 37 per cent of Penang’s total FDI.

“Notable reinvestments,” he said included those from Jabil, Plexus and Intel while the key new investments included those from Micron Technology and Advanced Energy Industries.

“Without a doubt,” Chow said, “the reinvestments from the US companies are evidence of Penang’s strong competitive edge in meeting investors’ stringent requirements in the areas of highly-skilled talents, a robust supply chain, infrastructure and government support.

“Over the past two decades, US companies have continued to expand their capacity and operation activities in Penang.”

Chow said in the first half of 2019, Penang recorded RM9.2 billion of approved manufacturing investments, out of which, 93 per cent came from the electrical and electronics-related sector.

“Penang contributed 35 per cent of Malaysia’s total manufacturing FDI in the first half of 2019, which is the highest among the states and it has already surpassed 2018’s FDI of RM3.7 billion,” he added.