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Re-defining the concept of ‘brain drain’

8/1/2012

THERE is a call to revise the way in which we conceptualise “brain drain” in the region.

This, from Director of the Shridath Ramphal for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, Dr. Keith Nurse.

In an interview with the Barbados Advocate at yesterday’s “University in the Community” lunchtime lecture held at the Frank Collymore Hall, Dr. Nurse expressed that his research on the Diaspora had shown that the term commonly referred to as “brain drain” was in fact more of a form of “brain circulation.”

He said, “Our biggest endowment is our people, and that is also the biggest thing which we have exported. The general argument has been that it has been defined as ‘brain drain’ and we are showing from our research that a lot of that ‘brain’ is actually circulating. There is therefore a key opportunity for us to leverage the markets associated with that.”

He continued, “It is not just that we want persons to return to the region, which would be useful in many respects, but also we want them to be able to provide their services,” he contended.

“We also want them to offer mentorship opportunities for persons living in the region, particularly to young people. We also want to offer them the opportunity to leverage their intellectual property whether they are scientists or artistes and really help to diversify the Caribbean economy in terms of the goods and services that we offer, but also the intellectual property that we have in the marketplace.”

This approach, the academic argued, was multifaceted in nature, describing it as a “transversal type economic framework”. He added that for far too long the traditional approach to organising the economy was too heavily focused on particular silos without implementing a more integrated approach to economic planning and development.

“So a country will have a Ministry of Tourism, and one responsible for health and one for finance and agriculture and so on and never the two will met. In many cases, there is competition amongst the various ministries without an appreciation of how the country on a whole can exploit resources and capabilities in a transversal way,” he argued.

He however contended that the diasporic market and diasporic investment were requiring the region to “think outside of box” in ways that had not been traditionally done.

“So that is one of the advantages of focusing on the diasporic economy and its market. It really forces us to front-load and fast-track the diversification process in our economy,” he held. (JM)

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