Pensioners- A Pool Of Talent And Expertise

by Hatta Solhi, 8/2/21

As a pensioner, I frequent the golf clubs, not only in Kuching but also Miri, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. I must also admit that I do frequent the kopitiam and eateries within Kuching city to meet up with friends as well as to discuss activities of a few NGOs in which I am involved. During these outings, I often met friends, former civil servants and academicians, who had retired from their respective Government agencies and universities. After exchanging the normal greetings, I normally asked them what they had been doing since retirement. The majority would say they were not doing anything special, except doing some gardening around the house, golfing and other forms of exercise, reading books and sending grandchildren to school. Some lucky ones had their services extended for two to four years in various Government agencies or private sectors; of course, not to forget, many muslim retirees spend more time in the surau and mosques to enhance their knowledge about the religion and thus preparing for the afterlife.

Recently, I was playing golf with a man in his early sixties with an engineering qualification from an Autralian University. He had just retired from an international oil and gas company, and before that was with Petronas in Miri and Bintulu. I also had coffee with two senior Professors who had just retired from a local University. All the three of them had nothing specific to do, and are willing to contribute something useful to the State and society, if their services and expertise are needed, even with a small remuneration or none at all. I said to myself, what a waste of all the talents and expertise?

For one thing, I know that most of these retired senior Govt officers and academicians are very well qualified; the academicians, especially have PhD degree from good universities in the UK, USA, Australia New Zealand and of course from local Universities. Most of the Senior Civil servants in the State service have got a Master degree; some of them had attended advanced executive training courses at Harvard University or other institutions of learning overseas or in the country. They had been sponsored by the government or its agencies under the various scholarship and short-termed training programs. Besides that, they had vast experience and knowledge after serving some thirty years or more in various capacities, including as directors, managers, educators and researchers in their fields of specialization. I strongly believe there is a lot of talent and experience out there that should be harnessed to enhance the talent pool and capability of both the public and private agencies in the State as well as national level. Thus the government and private sectors should find ways on how they couldencourage these retired people to contribute to society in their areas of expertise, especially in  policy analysis and impact assessment, research (both in physical and social sciences) and in the area of critical and creative thinking skills.

In developed countries, most of these experienced people are still contributing and productive until they are in their eighties; they are engaged as advisors, policy and financial analysts, research fellows, Adjunct professors, commentators on TV or as volunteers in hospitals or welfare homes. Let take for example, the recently appointed US Cabinet to start with. Most of the members have well passed their 60s, and some are in their 70s. Many of them are former ambassadors, experienced administrators, former Captains of industries and retired army general. The president himself is 78 years old, and so too, is John Kerry, the Climate Change Secretary. The Secretary of the Treasury, formerly with the US Central Bank is 73 years, and the Secretary of Defence, a retired four stars general, is over 65 years old. On top of that, there is the ever-green and articulate Nancy Palosi, The Majority House Leader, and Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical advisor to the President , both of them are 80 years of age; they are still very articulate and contributing to the nation. I believe more than half of the people appointed into the cabinet by President Biden recently are above 65years old, and many had left their previous appointment before they got appointed. Despite their age, They all seem to be highly energetic and enthusiastic about their new appointment. By the way, the majority of winners of the Noble prizes in Science, medicine and economics were well into their sixties and seventies when they were received the awards.

Apart from getting appointed or reappointed into public offices, I also noted that many analysts and commentators appearing on CCN, BBC and AlJazeera TV news are retired people, either from the Diplomatic service, armed forces or big corporation. In most cases, they are employed, most probably on part-time basis, as Research fellows, political or financial analysts by reputable NGOs and think-tanks in the USA or UK. These NGOs recognized the depth of knowledge and experience possessed by these retired people. They are normally being invited by the big international media to give their views on important events happening around the world, especially in countries where they had served. CNA of Singapore is also doing the same, but our TV stations do not seem to be in the habit of doing that yet, unless the pensioners join politics or get reappointed in the government service.

I strongly believe the government and private sector, including NGOs, should harness the wealth of experience and skills available with these recent retirees, many of whom are still in their early or mid sixties. They still have many more fruitful years to contribute to society. One condition is, of course, they are healthy both physically and mentally and still willing to contribute. I am not proposing that they be reappointed full-time in the service or in private corporation, as this may be seen as depriving the younger people of job opportunities. It is supposed that they could be appointed as advisors, Sernior Research Fellows/fellows or analysts to fill up the gap not readily available or to supplement existing talent in the organization in which they are going to be placed. They could be appointed on a part-time basis or on specific assignment basis, and be given a small allowance which could be negotiated. Their terms and condition must be worked out properly for a win-win situation. Some of the tasks that could be assigned to them include undertaking scientific research on specific topics of interest to government agencies, policy review and impact assessment of certain projects, lecturing and mentoring and even to assist in reviewing consultant reports of the numerous studies commissioned and financed by the Government.

To start the ball-rolling, MASA could act as the secretariat for this project. It could start an inventory which would list down the names of the retirees who are interested, their addresses, contact numbers and their areas of expertise. MASA could act as a match-maker between government agencies and corporations, on one hand and the retirees, on the other. Your comments are most welcome.