Brain drain Editorial
Stabroek News
February 21, 2002

Senior executives of leading businesses have been complaining about the loss of middle management and technical staff to Canada. As we have noted before, the new Canadian immigration regulations make it easy for such persons to emigrate to Canada on their own steam and without sponsorship from relatives already there. Canada needs these people and they are making it easy for them to go there. They have what has been called a positive but selective immigration policy, encouraging people to fill gaps in the Canadian economy.

More recently, an American recruitment team has come looking for teachers. There is a severe shortage of teachers in the USA which is likely to continue for some time.

In other words, the developed countries are taking valuable human resources from Guyana and other developing countries on an ongoing basis. If one were to quantify, even conservatively, the investment in educational resources and other social infrastructure that a junior manager or technician or school teacher represents there can be no doubt that the developed countries are extracting far more by these means than they are giving in aid.

Can anything be done to stop this? Almost certainly not. People in an open democratic society have a constitutional right to travel and to emigrate if they can gain admission to live in another country. Any effort to stop that would be both unconstitutional and undesirable. Ultimately, the only solution to this problem is to make one's own country a place where bright young people want to stay and to make their lives and, in some cases, to get involved in the political, social and economic development of the society. Essentially this means that there must be a credible prospect for a settled and prosperous future where people are not continually fighting each other and there is a reasonable expectation for a decent education for one's children, basic health facilities and jobs.

Ideally, too, people should develop some sort of nationalistic relationship to and love of their own country. In the case of Guyana, because of the past of slavery and indenture there has been an ambivalent attitude to our homeland and even talk in the past of returning to our 'mother countries', however unrealistic that might be in practice.

The corollary to this right to leave is that we have to accept as an important part of our mindset for the future the need to make do with what we have, both the human talent and the physical resources. It is a most debilitating exercise to be continually looking backwards and groaning about our past and those who have left or to make futile comparisons with developed societies. They didn't get there overnight. If we can look, unblinkingly, at our own situation and strip away the useless recrimination it will help us to think more clearly.

People will continue to leave for what they believe to be greener pastures unless they see a future of hope. They leave other countries for the same reason, in the most desperate cases on boats and by other unlawful means. Those who are here and intend to remain must face the reality of that situation with courage and determination. If Guyanese abroad see that there is a serious effort at progress and development they will start to return. In addition, we should ourselves consider implementing a positive immigration policy to attract certain skills.