Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Brain Drain

The future trends explain that the nanotechnology will elongate life spans and thus the West and the Japan is going to have enlarged older population and diminishing youth. To fill in the demographic gap those countries will hire skilled youth from Asia. This will intensify the stream of brain drain from Pakistan. This calls for use of strategic human management and economic reasons as key actions needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The term brain drain was popularized in the 1960s with the loss of skilled labor-power from a number of poor countries, notably India. Of particular concern was the emigration of those with scarce professional skills, like doctors, engineers and management scientists, who had been trained at considerable expense by means of taxpayers' subsidies to higher education.

UNESCO defines the brain drain as an odd form of scientific exchange among states because a movement in one direction that inevitably flows to developed countries characterizes it.

Pakistan is suffering from two main problems, one is poverty, which is increasing day by day and the other is increasing rate of crime. Both are result of unemployment. The wrong distribution of wealth due to wrong policies and over-population has made the situation even worst. This paved a way for skilled citizens to go abroad especially, the educated youth.

Other reasons include: they feel that they have a better future, a greater security; will be better off financially, and they feel that they and their children will get better education.

The receiving countries are the winners while the sending countries are the losers. The receiving countries include the US, England, Australia and West Germany. The sending countries include beside others, Pakistan. The rulers of Pakistan who remain indifferent to prevailing problems, and fail to respond to the employment problem creatively, contributes to brain drain.

Pakistanis who completed their studies in Europe and the US are not returning to Pakistan. Since one in three Pakistani professionals will like to live outside Pakistan, Pakistani universities are actually training one third of their graduates for export to the developed nations. We are thus operating one third of Pakistani universities to satisfy the manpower needs of Great Britain and the United States. Stated differently, the Pakistani education budget is nothing but a supplement to the American or British education budgets. In essence, Pakistan is giving developmental assistance to the wealthier western nations, which makes the rich nations richer and the poor nations poorer.

It is the best and brightest that can emigrate, leaving behind the weak and less imaginative. We cannot achieve long-term economic growth by exporting our human resource. In the new world order, people with knowledge drive economic growth. We talk a lot of poverty alleviation in Pakistan. But who is going to alleviate the poverty? Or the uncreative bureaucracy that created poverty? Hypothetically, the most talented should lead the people, create wealth and eradicate poverty and corruption.

In theory, overseas Pakistanis are morally obliged to return back home. In truth, it is unrealistic thinking that that a Pakistani professional will resign from his $60,000 a year job to accept a $3,000 a year job in Pakistan. A more meaningful question will be to ask: What measures can be taken to entice Pakistanis leaving abroad to return home and what can be done to discourage those professionals in Pakistan to remain in Pakistan?

The brain-drain seriously affects the quality and delivery of public and private services there are two obvious solutions (a) make it worthwhile for highly-trained professionals to stay and (b) replace them with competent locals at a rate as fast or faster than their departure brain train.

Another solution is to devise strategies of brain gain. These can take the development of a brain gain network. Pakistan is not effectively encouraging the use of its diaspora in contributing to development at home (e.g., 80 per cent of recent foreign investment in the People's Republic of China came from overseas Chinese). The brain gain network can help in the promotion of joint research and teaching posts, the use of medical specialists in periodic return visits, short-term training assignments and even systematic professional and research collaboration on electronic networks. These could be effective ways of harnessing the skills of some of the distinguished scientists, medics, artists and educators with Pakistani origins living abroad.

With good employers, attractive working conditions, improved telecommunications and the entrepreneurial climate in India today, young professionals are moving back and strengthening the economic sector. Then IT professionals in India are quite often paid in foreign currency at international rates to prevent brain drain and hence exports of Indian software industry is now in the range of $10 billion.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies and frustrating professional fragmentation also pushed people away. Pakistan is a mess, a haze of over-regulated and overcomplicated bureaucracy smothering the rare flames of true entrepreneurial brilliance.

Lack of opportunities compelled me to leave Pakistan in early 80s. Since then I acquired not just high education from prestigious universities of Europe and America, my practice also earned global recognition with rain of medals and achievement awards. Now that I have voluntarily come back, rather timorous of my credentials, government officials are keeping me at bay. The President House vainly tried to get me Consulting jobs at two federal departments. It failed for I was undesirable most probably due to my high credentials. Government managers who have utterly unsuccessful in planning for even paltry matters such as payment of utility bills only creates road blocks for such Pakistanis who want to come back. Thus in a society comprising sycophants and greedy relatives, I am twiddling with no job in hand. Rhetoric aside, one question dominates my mind: does Pakistan have any repatriation policy for such Pakistanis who are globally recognized and who are capable of offering prescriptions for prevailing ills? (