Talent drain

The entrepreneur pioneers of Hong Kong and Taiwan sent their children to study in the US and UK in the 1970s. Upon finishing their studies, many stayed behind to work in MNCs to gain international experience and exposure to modern business practices. When these children finally returned home, they helped modernise and internationalise their parents’ businesses giving rise to many of today’s large corporations in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

We should never take a shortsighted view of Singaporeans venturing abroad to explore new opportunities. It is because those opportunities are not available here that they have to be sought elsewhere. To clip their wings is to deny their growth potential. To view their departure as a loss would be to ignore the future benefits they can bring when they return with greater wealth of experience and exposure. They are the ambassadors that can help connect Singapore to other cosmopolitan cities.

But what about those who never return? Before we label them as quitters or ingrates, should we not ask ourselves what is it that these top 20 or 30 percent yearn for that they cannot find here? Does it mean that the bottom 80 or 70 percent are happy to stay behind or do they long just as much to escape from the clutches of our system?

We are already the capital of human talent for the Malay Peninsula. What makes Malaysian Chinese come to us? It is the fact that the Malaysian government does not treat its Chinese citizens as fairly as it treats its Malay citizens. What makes Singaporeans migrate to Australia or US? Is it because Singaporeans are not being treated fairly? Alternatively we can also say that Malaysian Chinese come to Singapore because Singapore does not deny them rights that they are denied in Malaysia. Similarly, we might say that Singaporeans go to Australia / US because Australia / US does not deny Singaporeans rights that we are denied here.

The greatest difference between Singapore and the other cosmopolitan cities is our stiffling lack of democracy. The main tenets of democracy are equal opportunities for all and the freedom to pursue ones’ own happiness. These are quite absent here because the economy and by extension the lives of Singaporeans are tightly controlled by the government. We do not have the freedom to own taxis but must instead slave for taxi companies that truly suck blood out of us. The elites are protected and given the best that Singapore has to offer while the non-elites are treated as economic digits to be milked dry. The price of public housing, goods and services, even salaries are largely determined by the government that ensures that the average citizen has little left over to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

If the government still doesn’t understand why people are dying to leave this place then perhaps what they need is to have a taste of the ordinary folk’s life.

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