Leaves of Economic Grass is right in that those who dismiss immigrants do so at their own peril.
Immigrant flows, like capital flows, are signals of economic weaknesses and strengths. As Leaves of Economic Grass points out, those countries with strongest economic fundamentals attract the best while those with the weakest lose (probably their best as well as their worst).
From a Malaysian point of view, we have attracted low-cost immigrants from neighbouring countries, whilst we are losing our best and brightest, particularly non-bumiputeras.
On the surface, we may still be doing fine if we can attract a high number of immigrants from neighbouring countries. However, we have a significant poverty percentage, a severe income disparity among bumiputeras, and high graduate unemployment also among bumiputeras
The conflicting signals tells us that our economy is based on weak labour fundamentals. Simply put, for the vast middle-income and lower-income earners, their labour is simply not competitive.
These are the people with the biggest incentive to migrate because they are losing their competitiveness. However, the people that are most able to migrate are the wealthiest and brightest.
This is where the NEP is self-defeating. By raising the income of the bumiputeras while not increasing their competitiveness, it provides the means as well as the incentive for them to migrate eventually.
I know, I know. Why would those bumiputeras who have it so much easier here want to migrate? After all, we do not see a lot of them migrating overseas.
The answer is that mass migration of bumiputeras is only a matter of time if the NEP is not removed. Previously, for the select best and brightest bumiputeras, there was no incentive to migrate because of the extraordinary opportunities to get rich easily was too tempting. The rest of the bumiputeras, without basic education, did not have the means to migrate.
As the opportunity to get rich disappears and assistance to the average bumiputera decreases, then both the means and incentive to migrate increases. All it takes is another economic crisis and one more generation of education to result in mass migration of bumiputeras to other countries with more competitive economies.
But wouldn't the bumiputeras feel more at home in Malaysia? Wouldn't they feel a sense of attachment to this country and discrimination in other lands?
The short answer is: some will, but most will not. The truth is that while there are racial problems and cultural disorientation in the west, the legal and constitutional fundamentals do not support it. In other words, contrary to what people claim, it's not a big problem to be a Muslim Malaysian in the west.
What about patriotism? While I do not discount its importance, one must wonder how much patriotism there is among bumiputeras who feel it is their right to receive government assistance?
Evidence also suggests that migrants do not view themselves as unpatriotic. Rather they feel betrayed by their government and society who cannot fulfil their needs and ambition.
The evidence already exists. Go to Perth, California and London and you will see very bright bumiputeras who choose to be remain there despite knowing they can do very well and probably better in Malaysia.
In fact, I know personally of relatives of our ministers, senior civil servants and politicians who chose to walk away from tempting offers from the government and their own relatives.
As it gets harder to continue the NEP and there are fewer extraordinary opportunities available, Malaysia will not only lose more non-bumiputeras but will also lose a very significant number of bumiputeras too.
It would not surprise me if the numbers of bumiputeras who migrate exceeds those of the non-bumiputeras one day.