PETALING JAYA: Malaysia needs to focus on bringing local talent back to the country to help meet its lack of skilled workers, a business leader said.
Lingesh Lechamanan, CEO of training and consultancy firm Asia Retail Academy Sdn Bhd, said a large number of Malaysians overseas were already recognised for their skills and talent.
“The challenge for the country is not how to attract foreign talent but how to get our own homegrown, highly skilled talent who are overseas back to Malaysia.
“Malaysia’s strategy to bring in highly skilled foreign talent should only be a stop-gap measure, while we continue efforts to upskill local talent and entice more Malaysian talent to return home,” he told FMT.
Lingesh said reduced personal income tax or other monetary incentives should be offered to lure Malaysian talent currently abroad.
In the long term, he said, the economy could be largely driven by these people, which would make for a more sustainable workforce.
Thailand was recently reported to have decided to introduce a 10-year visa from next month to attract skilled workers and investors, targeting one million people from Japan and other advanced economies over the next five years.
The long-term visa is designed to make key sectors like automobile, electronics and biotechnology more competitive.
Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said Malaysia need not follow suit as it did not need such a large number of foreign expertise.
Rather, foreign talent should be used to help develop and “polish” local talent in high-value fields, he told FMT.
“We need catalysts for services in retail, accommodation, hospitality and wholesale as well as in institutions that promote the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0),” he said.
Barjoyai said five years would be sufficient for the government to produce skilled local talent capable of generating other economic activities.
Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology said Malaysia had been attractive to foreign talent for many years, to the extent that they outnumbered local talent in some sectors.
However, he said, all sectors needed foreign talent to encourage innovation. Coupled with the local talent pool, this would expand the scope for ideas, options and opportunities.
Williams said Malaysia already had a 10-year pass similar to Thailand’s new initiative, describing the Residence Pass-Talent as an excellent scheme.
“Still, the 10-year pass should be broadened to include all foreign workers to liberalise the recruitment system at every level by removing (employment) agents and allowing them to switch employers without restrictions.
“Otherwise, we get abusive practices which could lead to worker freezes and this will damage Malaysia’s reputation as well as its economy,” he said.