Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Brain Drain Myth

You often hear of 3rd world countries that have a "brain drain" where their best and brightest leave for the United States or other rich nations. I argue that if a country is thinking in its best interest it should let (and even encourage) its best and brightest to leave the country. Why do I think this? Lets go through it.

In many cases a person can immigrate to the US and still be able to send more money home then they could if they lived and worked in their home country. By immigrating to the US they are more able to take advantage of their skills and education with the better working environment in the US. The world is best off when people are in situations where they are able to maximize their contributions. A person living in a 3rd world country that doesn't have the ability to do this.

I read the following in an article a while back though I don't remember who wrote it:

In 2002 the US gave $12.9 billion in foreign aid. Foreign workers on the other hand earned at least $20 billion in US that they took back to their homeland in private remittances. For some countries this is larger than their exports and tourism trade. This private "aid" bypasses the sticky fingers of corrupt government and banking officials.
So the workers in the US are still contributing to their mother country.

Most people would still rather live in their country of birth (unless of course you are a Democrat) so if opportunities appear they will want to move back.

In an article in the Washington Post you see this scenario playing out in Ethiopia.
Among Ethiopians, however, many young emigres from the business and professional set are looking to return. This unique situation can be attributed in part to the financial success of Ethiopians in the United States, and in part to a campaign by the government to woo them back.

Last year, Ethiopians in the United States sent home $6 million in remittance money, eclipsing coffee, the country's biggest export, which earned $4 million.

"There is the sentimental pull of home and at the same time a thriving business atmosphere," Kinfe said. "Successful people feel they owe something back to their country. Ethiopians love their culture. They want to come back. They just want to know they can also support their families here."

But officials hope that after the first investors come, doctors, lawyers, educators and other professionals will follow. The government is especially eager to attract those in the medical profession. At present, there are more Ethiopian doctors living in the United States than in Ethiopia.
My 3rd world development plan:

Step 1: Let your best and brightest leave for the US, Europe and developed Asia.

Step 2: Collect remittances from these workers and use the money to improve your country. Meanwhile your best and brightest are working with the world's best and brightest learning the ways of the best companies and academic institutions in the world.

Step 3: Your best and brightest see that their home country has made changes and is committed to progress. The best and brightest determine that they can have a larger impact in their home country (and quite possibly live better) than in the US. They return bringing with them the tricks of the trade that they picked up in the US.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

assuming the best and brightest will find a good job in this new country - which only happens a few times.

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