Both Malaysia and Penang needs to urgently double our talent pool. For us to succeed, we must restructure and revamp our entire education structure.

Remarks Made By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng During His Meeting With Malaysian Professionals In The San Francisco City Bay Area On 12 December 2009.

San Francisco is renowned world-wide as a high-technology (techie) area and the area hosts the Silicon Vallley where many of the most successful, innovative, creative and largest techie companies are located. What continues to surprise me is to continuously see the involvement and active participation of so many bright and young Malaysians in these companies, not only here but also in Austin, another booming techie location in Texas which I had also visited.

There are many reasons for the success of what was once a quiet and undeveloped region in San Francisco Bay area or town in Austin. I would point to the single-minded focus on development of human talent as the critical success factor to their transformation as a booming high-income and high-tech economy.

The only path for Penang to move up as a high-income economy is to develop into a knowledge-based and knowledge-intensive ecoomy. Penang and Malaysia should learn from these success models with particular and singular focus on education to develop and enlarge our talent pool. Whilst the Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak is correct in stating that Malaysia has to move out of the middle-income trap by focusing on high-tech, innovation and knowledge-intensive economy, his Federal government has not addressed the critical success factor- the need to double our present talent pool of professionals and highly skilled labour force.

Unless and until we recognise that the biggest constraint is brain drain and not enough brain gain as seen by so many of our best and brightest overseas not only here but also in Middle-East, Europe, Asia Pacific and Singapore, we are condemned to repeating traditional methods to deal with new challenges. We would do well to remember Albet Einstein’s advice that applying the same solutions over and over again and expecting different results is no different from insanity.

Both Malaysia and Penang needs to urgently double our talent pool. For us to succeed, we must restructure and revamp our entire education structure. Merit and excellence must be the center and core objective or our educational system. Whilst equal opportunities should be offered to all, especially for disadvantaged groups and those in the rural areas, standards and quality can never be compromised.

A mere belief that merit is desirable is not enough to see the achievement of excellence. We must take concrete measures that ensures not only the system encourages excellence but also employ and promote the best teachers. Only when we choose the best can we be on top of the best.

We should learn the lessons of how Malaysia was left lagging behind by other countries once behind us such as Korea and Taiwan. Korea and Taiwan managed to leap-frog us because of their single-minded devotion to promoting education for all with the highest emphasis and priority on education. Korea per capita GDP was only USD 150 in the 60s as compared to Malaysia’s USD 350 but is now USD 19,905 compared to USD 7,000 for Malaysia in 2008. Without any natural resources, these two countries demonstrated what an economy could achieve by having faith and trusting in its people abilities and capabilities.

The time has come for Malaysia to double our talent pool by focusing on excellence in education. Penang will do our part by expanding the Penang Skills Development Corporation and establishing the 200 acre Educational Hub of Excellence in Balik Pulau.

Penang hopes to attract educational insitutions as well as leverage on the inputs provided by all the electrical and electronic Multi-National Corporations in Penang to help Penang train and retrain talent as well attract new talent from outside Malaysia.

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