(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 20 Nov 2005)
An article from the November 3 issue of the Economist entitled, “Fruit that falls far from the tree,” stated that 89 percent of Guyana 's graduate population live and work in the 30 relatively rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).In case you were wondering, Guyana is not one of these countries.
If 89 percent of this country's most educated citizens are living in all of these other countries, this means Guyana is left with a meagre 11 percent on which to build its own country.
Even if all of this 11 percent were to give their all for the cause, Guyana would still be enormously deficient in brain power.
What is a third world country to do these days when most of its intellectuals decide to expend their brain power in countries that can justly reward their education and drive with money and high living standards?
According to this Economist article, we should turn “brain drain” into “brain gain.”
The article maintained that as more people in the poorer countries seek to follow in the steps of the Diaspora, they acquire an education with the hopes of also acquiring a ticket out of a poverty-stricken country.
Some of these now educated hopefuls are disallowed entry into the country of their choice and left with no other choice than to remain in their home country.
After working so hard with the hope of migrating to another country, the graduates are often disappointed at this bad news.
However, this is very good news for the poor countries because they then have the pleasure of retaining a portion of their educated population, even if it is just a small amount.
“The prospect of securing a visa to America or Australia should tempt more people in poor countries to invest in education,” the article said and called this process “brain gain.”
These economists believe “if the temptation is strong enough, and the chances of landing a visa are low enough, the poor county could even come out ahead: it might gain more qualified (if disappointed) doctors and engineers than it loses.”
The article attempted to prove that little by little the number of leftover educated citizens grows and thus results in a brain gain.
This might be true for a country like India that only lost 4.3 percent of its citizens with an education past secondary school.
But how does this formula work for Guyana ?
Regarding Guyana 's astounding 89 percent figure of educated émigrés, the article stated, “This is not a stimulative leeching of talent; it is a haemorrhage.”
Which begs the question of whether the leftover effect from those rejected entry into other countries can produce enough extra intellectual capital to create a booming brain gain? Not likely.
A slow trickle of intellectual capacity, similar to that of India , could have the “brain gain” effect, but educated Guyanese pour out of the country in throngs, leaving the nation with barely a shell of brain power with which to function.
Further, this study assumes that a solid portion of the population can afford to pay the tuition costs that accompany a higher education. Again we are forced to ask how practical this line of thinking is for Guyana . How much of this nation's population can afford to seek a degree from a University?
At first glance, it would seem that the reality of Guyana frustrates the theories of even the most brilliant economists because its intellectual drain far exceeds the tepid 4.3 percent of India - and of those who are left here to fend off poverty, very few can actually afford the costs associated with acquiring an education.
However, this article aside, there is another way to create a substantial brain gain for Guyana – simply put, it needs to bring the Diaspora back home.
A simple invitation will not suffice.
These smart Guyanese are looking for policy and procedural changes to guarantee the cooperation of the government.
According to the OECD's Website, this organisation, “Brings together countries sharing the principles of the market economy, pluralist democracy and respect for human rights.”
Maybe this is where Guyana is missing the boat. If all of the intellects are heading for these OECD countries, perhaps Guyana should consider creating a similar environment with these traits.
Guyana can plead for the return of their Diaspora, but first it needs to be able to offer them a solid assurance of a friendly investment climate that will at least provide a real opportunity for success.
This needs to happen soon too, the baby-boom generation is poised to retire very soon and the experts are already predicting a vacuum effect that will leave the US with millions of unfilled job positions.
American companies will no doubt seek to fill this considerable void as quickly as possible and the government will want to halt the vacuum effect that will naturally suck the income tax dollars as well.
Therefore, we can expect this host country to craft even more lenient rules than already exist to maintain an educated workforce.
As such, there is no time to lose if Guyana wants to woo its Diaspora back home.
If it can be done, this nation could be the one reaping the benefits of their brainpower and income tax dollars.
Perhaps there is a way to finagle this brain gain theory into something workable for Guyana by reversing the causes that make the intellectuals run for the border as soon as they graduate and by creating policies that will entice its countrymen and women to spend their intellectual capital in their own homeland.