Sunday, 1 May 2011

What brain drain? Use Google Translate to arrest this problem, lah!

A significant statement by the World Bank a few days ago said that more than a million Malaysians live abroad and that policies favouring Malays are holding back the economy, thus causing a brain drain that is limiting foreign investments into the country.

In a Bloomberg news service report, World Bank senior economist Philip Schellekens was also quoted as saying that foreign investment could be five times the current levels if the country had Singapore’s talent base. “Migration is very much an ethnic phenomenon in Malaysia, mostly Chinese but also Indian,” Schellekens told Bloomberg. Governance issues and lack of meritocracy are “fundamental constraints” to Malaysia’s expansion because “competition is what drives innovation.”

Schellekens painted a gloomy picture by saying that the Malaysian brain drain situation is likely to intensify and it would further erode the country’s already narrow skills base.The number of skilled Malaysians living abroad tripled in the last 20 years with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for either OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries or Singapore. “Brain drain from Malaysia," he said in a World Bank report titled “Malaysia Economic Monitor: Brain Drain”, "is likely to intensify in the absence of mitigating actions.” The report defined brain drain as the outflow of those with tertiary-level education.

Naturally, the prime minister made a swift denial. The brain drain did not lead to a fall in foreign investments, he said. Actually, he limply pointed out, capital inflows increased from RM1.4 billion in 2009 to RM9 billion in 2010. That's six-fold, he claimed. But he did acknowledge that the exodus of skilled Malaysians to Singapore and other advanced countries was a problem that “must be resolved.”

Of course, we then have the mother of all racists remarked that the World Bank was “useless” as it was politically motivated for wanting to put their good friend to become prime minister.” Yes, instead of giving facts and figures to counter the report, Mahathir Mohamad in his very predictable way chose to play up personal attacks. He's totally deviod of ideas!

(Pic by Goh Seng Chong, my former colleague at The Straits Echo in the 1970s)

But all these defensive statements made me think. If there's no really brain drain, then who was the numbskull that came up with this, I am told, superbly nonsensical translation?

I've been hearing derisive howls that the translation from Bahasa Malaysia into Mandarin came out directly from Google Translate as no one in the Prime Minister's Department bothered or was competent enough to check up on whether the Chinese translation was correct. It was an official visit by the Chinese prime minister and I sure he noticed it too, but I think he was too diplomatic to comment anything when he was here. Leave it to the locals to point this out. This stupid mistake would not have occurred if there had been no contributory brain drain, isn't it?

With this lack of competency, with this brain drain, is it any wonder that Teoh Beng Hock's little piece of scrap paper to his employer Ean Yong was mistranslated and gladly suggested as a suicide note? That's all the competency that the federal government needs, really!

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