Shaukat Ali's dismissal of all immigrants is self-centred and dangerous. It is heartening to note that most readers either advocate immigration or point out the risks but only a fringe minority like Shaukat blithely brushes aside the negative consequences on Malaysia. I can only hope his views do not reflect the silent majority.
How do we know immigration is good for a country? Simple - the number of white countries doing it. In spite of what Hollywood spin masters tell you, white countries or even America for that matter, are not ultra-liberal, colour-blind paradises.
And yet countries like the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Australia accept millions of new immigrants every year. At the same time, their unemployment/under-employment rate is high and definitely higher than Malaysia's. So, what gives? Why do they take in more people than they need?
It's not how many they take in, but who they take in. As I pointed out in an earlier letter, immigrants to these countries are bi-modal they are either highly trained, highly productive or totally unskilled and looking for a lucky break.
The first type is highly desirable they bring in some financial capital, lots of human capital, do professional jobs and pay taxes (unlike the restaurant or laundromat owner), are 20-40 something and hence need neither Social Security nor medical insurance, and in fact will subsidise the locals.
And let's look at the economics on the labour market itself. These immigrants keep cost of trained labour low, which in turn attracts investment in these profitable, clean industries think of IT, healthcare, media etc. Hey, why not just keep those polluting smokestacks in Guangzhou or Penang?
On the demand side, having a critical mass of such smart people will in turn attract other smart people from all over the world to want to work there as well. The best example would be Silicon Valley. No wonder the Multimedia Super Corridor hasn't taken off.
Why would the 'best and brightest' want to collaborate with 'not quite the best and brightest'? Don't forget in industries of the future, it's usually 'winner take all a.k.a. the bandwagon effect for those wannabe economists out there. There is no room for 'not quite the best and brightest'.
With all these benefits, no wonder some foreign governments are falling all over themselves to attract trained immigrants. Notice those ads that Singapore have been putting out for five years now touting just how wonderful the country is for trained professionals?
Shaukat, the economy is not a zero-sum game, no matter what the NEP teaches you. Wake up - it's 2004 and Malaysia isn't competing based on rubber and tin ore prices anymore.
Just because an 'unpatriotic' non-bumi vacated a job and left for Australia, it doesn't mean that anyone else can step in and take over. This is not a racist statement the best example would be a highly-trained medical specialist.
And let's not talk about the jobs and industries that could have been created had there been a preservation of the immigration talent pool in Malaysia to begin with. If that bumi and non-bumi both stayed at home, not only would have that job been preserved, others would have been created too.
Think about the kind of foreign investors that would have come had they known that there was this group of skilled people in Malaysia. Why would they want to pay extra for them elsewhere? Look at the success of the Bangalore model in pulling in software investment as an example.
And my favorite part? Taxes. In a white country, an immigrant has to pay off the government a 40-50 percent share of his pay before he takes it home every month. Think about how many extra bumi students the Malaysian government could have sponsored to university had only those immigrants stayed home and paid their taxes.
King Kong (remember him?) did get one thing right immigrants do slave away for their new 'masters', but he didn't mention it was also for themselves as well. Both parties are better off surprise, surprise.
My dear Shaukat, when the Mainlanders come knocking on your door one day to sell you cars in exchange for palm oil, I hope you never have to say this 'You know what those immigrants might have been sonabitches but at least they were our sonabitches .'(with apologies to President Roosevelt).