The Tempinis diaries

July 13, 2008

Tapping into Malaysian Diaspora: Datukship for Danny Quah?

Filed under: education, malaysia, politics — toru @ 5:35 am

With all eyes on the political drama playing out between Anwar and Najib, I guess the government is not doing much nowadays, at least in the Higher Education sector.

I have previously written about the brain drain issue from Malaysia here, here and here. Now that the brain drain has happened, we should do something positive about this situation i.e. tapping into these Malaysians’ talent. Unfortunately, Malaysia is doing a terrible job at tapping into the talent and energy of its diaspora. Take Malaysian born Danny Quah of LSE for example. He is a world-renowned economist who is now Head of Department at the LSE Economics Department. Why has the Malaysian government not tapped into his expertise in a formal manner? From the Bernama article below, he seems to have been consulted by the World Bank and governments such as the United Kingdom and Singapore but not Malaysia. Also, why is it that the local Malaysian varsities have not approached him for a joint professorial appointment? If a joint professorial appointment is possible for a Mat Salleh like Jeffrey Sachs, why not Danny Quah? And why has he not been bestowed a Datukship? If we can give Datukships to entertainers like Siti Nurhaliza & Michaell Yeoh, fashion icon like Jimmy Choo and sports personalities like Nichol David, why not confer the title on an academic who has distinguished himself globally?

These are some small but concrete steps in luring back talented Malaysian diaspora to collaborate with our universities and government agencies for the betterment of the country.

May 26, 2008 20:24 PM
Dismantle Fuel Subsidy System, Says Economic Professor

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 (Bernama) — The subsidy system, especially for fuel, should be dismantled as Malaysia is capable of absorbing the consequences, according to a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

“It could well be tolerated by reducing it by 20 percent or if not higher in very short term or in six months,” said Prof Danny Quah at a public lecture on “The Rise and Fall of Subsidies” organised by the LSE Alumni Society of Malaysia here Monday.

The government has allocated about RM56 billion for fuel subsidy alone, “making it the bulk of a huge looming deficit for the country,” said Quah, who is also head of the Department of Economics at the LSE.

“The system could stand that (dismantling the subsidies), that won’t be a problem. There will be not be much effect on inflation as we have to very quickly put in place a system that compensates the people,” he said.

“Nothing dramatic will happen to inflation,” he added.

Quah said when Malaysians felt they could be compensated, “we will be in a win-win situation and we will reduce the inefficiency due to the subsidy system”.

However, he recommended that the subsidy system be dismantled in stages so that people could get used to the idea.

“Get people to get used to the idea that they are going to be compensated by the transfer of other kinds of direct payment once the subsidies come off,” he said.

Originally from Penang, Quah is now an eminent economist in Britain, credited with originating the concept of the “weightless economy” and his research interests include inflation and economic growth. He has been a consultant to the Bank of England, the World Bank and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

According to Quah, the government needs more accurate information on the distribution of income in order to finetune policies to help the poor.

“We will have people coming in to say they need subsidies because they are in such an income group. Right now the country has 27 million people and about half or 14 million are in the workforce but only one million pay income tax,” he said.

“It can’t be 13 million people are below income threshold. We have to get better tax records, better information on income statistics,” he added.

During his visit here, Quah met Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad.

Quah said he had given his views on different aspects of inflation, the problem of subsidies and poverty reduction.

“These are research interests of mine. I happen to be here to give a talk on this and the government officials called to have discussions with them,” he said when asked about the topics of discussions during his meetings with the ministers.

Quah said the measures currently being discussed “are all really sensible”. “We have variants of the same idea that we need to think hard about dismantling the current system of fuel subsidy,” he said.

Asked what would be the best level of inflation for Malaysia if the subsidy system was dismantled in the short term, Quah said two percent would be the optimal rate.

“In the short term, the government understands that shock can hit the system. The removal of subsidies for that year could raise inflation to five or six percent but it would not be an ongoing inflation,” he said.

“It is reasonable for inflation to hover around two percent a year. Not much higher than that and not much lower than that,” he said.


  1. I guess after being colonized for so many years, we have yet able to change our mindset completely. We still have the mentality that in some areas, the foreigners has the expertise. We have had so many professional appointments and partnerships but we are still not moving forward. Dependency is still at large. Agree with you that we are not doing our best in tapping or retaining our own “genius” talents. What we loss is anyone’s gain.

    Comment by royzjeff — July 13, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  2. I agree with the post. THe Malaysian Goverment keeps hyping about students going overseas but not coming back, but does not provide good incentives for the same students to comeback. Compare that to the Singapore Goverment which has a very highly paid civil service system which encourages their students to both stay back as well as comeback if they go overseas.

    Comment by R.Murali — September 4, 2010 @ 12:47 am

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