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EDITORIAL: High cost of brain drain


EDITORIAL: High cost of brain drain

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ONCE AGAIN and possibly at the worst of all times, the question of this country’s brain drain has reared its inconvenient head, with the recent Front Page story that Barbados is losing a staggering two-thirds of its tertiary-level-educated students to 15 of the world’s most developed countries. What is particularly disturbing is that these countries are getting our brightest and our best. 

This is not the kind of news that will sit well with our political, social and economic aspirations for future development. It is a matter which demands our urgent attention. There is no point spending large chunks of our finance equipping our young people for the tasks of future nation building, in all of its facets, only to see that high quality education being applied elsewhere.

The problem is not confined to Barbados but affects the entire Caribbean and in this respect, as in many other matters, we are all in the same boat. Yet, we have always recognised that although this country, unlike some of its neighbours, has no natural resources; its people constitute its best and most valuable resource.

So that a headline which says that this country is suffering from a major brain drain will be very uncomfortable news, more so, in a global environment in which knowledge and the use of knowledge has become a key economic component.

The source of this information is a report from the latest Inter-American Development Bank quarterly report, and we may therefore regard it as authoritative. Our country’s private sector institutions, we are told, are now facing a challenge sourcing top-notch talent for management opportunities.

Obviously, the talent available for public sector management is also being deprived of a larger pool of high quality personnel, whereas in times past, our public administrators were drawn from the cream of the crop of a large pool of high quality talent that enabled this country to punch above its weight.

Small in size as we are, we cannot afford this significant loss of talent, and a national effort must be made to redress the situation since the report makes the startling revelation that the brain drain constrains the size of the labour force and comes with an economic cost which is greater than the remittances inflows.

It is true that remittances from those who have migrated help to soften the impact of the brain drain, since these inflows make a beneficial impact on the social welfare and political stability, and the levels of poverty and crime would be worse than it is but for these contributions.

But even so, we cannot be spending large sums of money educating our young citizens only to see them snapped up by developed countries when we need them to help make our businesses more profitable and public sector more productive.

We have to face facts. We cannot completely stop the tide of migration, but we must offer more attractive private sector opportunities at home for the high fliers among our people who are determined to make their mark in this world.

Caribbean governments also have a high duty to so manage their national economies that our young people feel confident that there is hope for future careers at home when they graduate. The world has changed and the hunt for high quality talent knows no national boundaries. Remittances may matter but keeping high quality talent at home could mean even greater national economic benefit.