When I read the passage in the NEAC's New Economic Model for Malaysia Part I, "We are not developing talent and what we have is leaving", I was immediately reminded of the attention-grabbing title to David Halberstam's book (1972). The book is about aspects of the Kennedy Administration's foreign policies and how it evolved into the U.S. quagmire in Vietnam. So, forget about the book which has no relevance to the NEM. I just thought the title was appropriate.
The title is also apposite for an emphatic point made by Dr Ram Charan at the Sime Lecture Series last night.
Dr Charan, being a renown Harvard Business School alumnus and, someone who has worked behind the scenes with top executives at some of the world's most successful companies, including GE, Verizon, Novartis, Dupont, Thomson Corporation, Honeywell, KLM and, Bank of America, has limitless pearls of wisdom to impart.
The point he made, that is apposite here, is his observation of the South Korean white goods behemoth, LG. In the typical Harvard case-study method, Dr Charan observed that when LG's leaders decided on a course of global domination and competitiveness, they cast their net in search of the best and the brightest managerial and marketing talent far, far beyond the shores of the Korean Peninsular. It was a global talent hunt.
LG was mindful that to secure such world-class talent it needed to be ready to pay top salaries and remuneration packages. And so, it came to pass that LG was able to ratchet up its white goods business to a global consumer base and, in the process, committed large resources into global brand-building.
The same must surely be applied towards meeting the aspirations and strategic goals expressed in the NEM. For, how can Malaysia evolve into a higher-income economy without shedding the proverbial tempurung of looking inward at indigent local management and technological leaders when there may be better leaders elsewhere? We need to open our minds and, very likely, open our wallets, to attract the best and the brightest to bring the NEM to fruition. In the process, we have to understand that only when we get the best, can we learn from the best. It is, in this sense, a prudent and an astute human capital and knowledge capital investment decision.
I must thank the wonderful people at Sime Darby for having bestowed upon me the privilege of attending Dr Charan's insightful lecture.
On the matter of the NEM, specifically the issue of brain drain and possible brain gain strategies, some serious thought has to be given to the fostering of a more positive approach to the granting of Permanent Residency to foreign talents.
And, even more serious measures must be taken to heed the NEAC's observation that "Malaysia must revert to sustained and systematic programmes to give Malaysian students the high level of English proficiency required to compete in the global market."
Before I sign off, I feel compelled to make this observation.
During the Q&A with Dr Charan, a hand was raised by a man dressed inn a Batik shirt at one of the VIP tables. He was seated next to Simes' Chief Executive, Datuk Seri Zubir. It was Datuk Panglima Andrew Sheng.
Andrew Sheng is a member of the NEAC that has produced the NEM Part I.
His question to Dr Charan was quite telling about the challenges that Malaysia will face in the coming months and years in the context of our collective economic well-being and, the fulfillment of the aspirational strategic goals as set out in the NEM Part I.
He asked Dr Charan to elucidate on how to transform strategic goals into effective implementation.
I believe Andrew Sheng's question will be occupying the consciousness of all non-indolent Malaysians in the coming months and years.
As I said, in reply to a dinner companion who asked about the NEM, "The devil is in the details".