Minimising Brain Drain | Daily News

Minimising Brain Drain

President Maithripala Sirisena, addressing a gathering in Colombo on Monday, made a very pertinent observation: The shortage of local engineers and technologists has hampered the Government’s national development programme.

Indeed, the exodus of intellectuals, professionals and other learned people for lucrative jobs abroad has created a lacuna locally which cannot be filled easily. This outward flow of local talent has affected the country’s development drive for several decades. As the President pointed out, such individuals need to have a proper understanding about their duties and responsibilities towards the Motherland.

They cannot deny the fact that the State has given them free education from Grade 1 all the way to university, apart from free healthcare and myriad other facilities. The Sri Lankan public through their direct and indirect tax payments has funded the education of all individuals who had gone in search of greener pastures.

However, it is not too late for them to make amends, if they are already not remitting funds back home or contributing to the local economy in some other way. There are several ways through which they can step in to make a positive contribution to the country’s development drive. They can obtain dual citizenship, settle down back home, invest in a local project or send funds for a development/welfare programme.

The resumption of the Dual Citizenship Programme, stopped arbitrarily by the previous administration for undisclosed reasons, has been a great success with the Immigration and Emigration Department inundated with thousands of applications from Sri Lankans domiciled abroad. This gives them a renewed sense of belonging to the Motherland. All Sri Lankans living abroad who had relinquished citizenship must be encouraged to regain their Sri Lankan citizenship. This Government has created the necessary conditions for expatriates and Diaspora members to return - speaking at a separate function in Welisara later, the President noted that democracy, rule of law and freedom had been restored by the present Government and everyone can live without fear and suspicion. If anyone wishing to return had harboured fears on this count, there is no need to do so anymore.

There is also an increasing trend of “reverse migration” whereby Lankans who had been living abroad for a long time are coming back to settle down here for good. Many of them have started enterprises that benefit their native areas and contribute to the development drive in a positive way. While most of them are middle-aged individuals whose sons and daughters had reached good positions in their adopted countries, some younger migrants are also coming back, disillusioned with the lack of opportunities in some of the countries.

The State should provide special concessions and incentives for such individuals. We should take a cue from India, where “Non Resident Indians (NRIs)” get many perks back home. Many Sri Lankans domiciled abroad permanently have also chosen to assist ongoing development and welfare projects in their native villages and towns. There are many expatriates who remit funds to their family members, which boost the local economy.

For professionals and others living in Sri Lanka, it is not easy to ignore the pull of better salaries and lifestyles abroad. Some see the success of their friends and relatives who have “made it big” overseas and want to emulate them. Unfortunately, some people go to extreme lengths to realise this goal and hence, migration can be both legal and illegal.

In the former category are people from developing countries with skills and professional qualifications who legally obtain permanent residency and citizenship in countries such as Australia and Canada with generally low populations. Many advanced and dynamic economies need migrant workers to fill jobs that cannot be outsourced and they cannot find local workers willing to take them at going wages. By performing tasks that either would go undone or cost more, migrants allow citizens to perform other, more productive and better-paid jobs. There are also instances where people who go to other countries for work or studies are offered permanent residency in order to retain their expertise and knowledge for the betterment of the host country’s economy. This means that even if there is no original intention on the part of a migrant of staying back in a host country, the perks they offer are too good to ignore.

Developing countries such as Sri Lanka must do more to create opportunities for professionals and youth within their boundaries which will dampen the enthusiasm to migrate. The authorities have to create the right mindset and conditions to retain the expertise and knowledge of professionals. For some professionals earnings and opportunities are so good here that they do not even think about migrating. But this does not happen across all categories. Thus more opportunities should be created for all professionals to serve their Motherland, with remuneration that at least comes close to those offered abroad. The Government should appoint a high-powered think tank tasked with formulating policies and programmes in this regard so that the brain drain can be minimized and the full participation of professionals in the development drive can be ensured.


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Make it compulsory higher education profession training taxpayer must be compensated. Labour career to serve for minimum 20 years in the country if in hurry replace tax payers money. Be honest to the society yourself. Freedom cannot be curtailed society expect return for dupport givens or others to continue


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