Leaving Bangladesh dry

by Mehrab Jamal

an01It seems as though the people of Bangladesh are great disciples of the popular adage ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. More and more people, most of whom are highly qualified, literally flee the country in the hopes of attaining a better education, and better careers for better lives.
Brain drain, by definition, is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with significant technical skills or knowledge from one country to another, usually in hopes of better pay or living conditions. Such groups may consist of a blend of doctors, engineers, economists and lawyers too. Brain drain is also occasionally referred to as ‘Human Capital Flight’ and thus, this highly unwelcome phenomenon eventually results in the depletion of the intellectual or professional resources of a nation.
The term ‘brain drain’ was coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of ‘scientists and technologists’ to North America from post-war Europe. Another source indicates that this term was first used in the United Kingdom to describe the influx of Indian scientist and engineers.
Although the term originally referred to technology-workers leaving a nation, the meaning has broadened into: ‘the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another.’
The phenomenon is usually regarded as an economic cost, since emigrants usually take with them the lessons and ‘human capital’ that training sponsored by the national government or other organisations had instilled in them. The converse phenomenon is ‘brain gain’, which occurs when there is a large-scale immigration of technically-qualified persons. Brain drain is common amongst developing nations, such as Bangladesh, Mexico, Pakistan and India too.
As mentioned earlier, a more common standpoint amidst Bangladeshis is that they would prefer to strive to make a living in any of the developed nations rather than contribute to their national economy and play a significant role in its development. Recent statistics show that approximately 70 per cent of the newly graduated medical students, or doctors if you will, in Bangladesh make all-out efforts to practice abroad. What needs no mentioning is that there are hundreds of thousands of people, in our country, dying of untreated diseases and also that many hospitals across the nation are undermanned and where there are sufficient doctors and nurses, there are actually only a handful that are skillful enough. The rich can be quickly flown to Singapore or India for complex operations but the have-nots are compelled to suffer helplessly or what is even more miserable is that they are swindled out of the little money they have by inexperienced or under-skilled doctors.
Brain drain is perceived to be a global issue as well. It is quite obvious: while the political and economic powerhouses of this global village supposedly leave no stones unturned in trying to reduce the incessantly widening gap between the rich and the poor, the developed and the under-developed nations, this ceaseless phenomenon of intellect and knowledge being transported continues to remain an impediment for the growth of developing countries. Take the USA for instance, it is the world’s largest economy and recent studies state that immigrants in the country actually contribute a net fiscal benefit to the United States of approximately $10 billion annually. A National Research Council study projected that immigration raised US GDP, the value of all goods and services produced, a tenth of 1 per cent in 1996, increasing that year’s GDP of $8 trillion by up to $8 billion. The U.S. GDP was $15 trillion in 2010, suggesting that immigration contributed up to $15 billion.
The trend is stimulated by the lack of an up-to-the-mark educational system aimed at fulfilling the needs of the community of our young students as well as the absence of a pragmatic manpower policy in most of the under developed countries, thereby hindering the optimised use of those qualified as well as those having greater potential. Further more, there are higher living standards and better research and working opportunities in the more developed countries, which provide thousands of possibilities for developing one’s competence. In addition to these factors, brain drain is also stimulated by the actually realised intention of the developed countries to acquire intellectual capital free and as quickly as possible. A lustrous example would be the myriad scholarship programmes for international students hosted by some of the top US universities: these scholarships can only be obtained by the very best of the meritorious students who, safe to say, are rarely willing to return to their homeland once they get there.
As for Bangladeshi workers, the obvious notion is that ‘money matters’. Here in our country, it is very hard to find a job obviously because there are too few jobs for too many people. Overpopulation in the country, according to recent surveys, has said to force approximately 2.5 million job-seeking Bangladeshis to remain unemployed every year. Also, if you do, by chance, get a job, it is highly unlikely that the pay-level is going to keep you content because most of the times, it is too low to help you support your family. So how many times have we heard that people have had to work abroad, stay away from loved ones at home, just to be able to send an adequate sum back to them to make ends meet?
It is a formidable characteristic of brain drain that the more underdeveloped a country is economically, the higher its’ losses due to brain drain while only the developed countries profit from the entire process. Individual potential and talent play important roles in helping a country develop. The economy of a country that has a large number of world-class scientists and technicians can be more innovative than the others that do not. It is essential to formulate policies to compensate poor countries and encourage highly-educated immigrants or students to return to their respective homelands. In Bangladesh, the most badly affected sector due to brain drain, I would say, is the health care system, so various measures should be laid down to try and minimise, if not completely halt, the migration of health workers to rich countries.
The younger generation of this country, the foundation of this nation’s future, who are expected to play imperative roles in the sustainable development of Bangladesh as an economy and a nation, fancy leaving the country for moving to say, the USA or the UK, for higher-education and better job opportunities. Our nation’s young guns hanker after foreign education and jobs in the more developed countries, thereby firing blanks for their homeland. Bangladesh is thus, running out of its chattels for tomorrow. We are certain that brain drain poses a real threat to our nation, but not completely certain as to who is to blame and what can be done to combat it. Food for thought, I guess. The government and large organisations need to chalk out plans, taking into account any and all recommendations suggested by the think-tanks, to be able to mitigate the crisis at hand because like the maxim goes: ‘Morning shows the day’ and the future does not seem too bright for us.
The author is an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney

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