‘Brain Drain is brain theft’

By Emmanuel Narokobi

http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:C1gMpvLNCFD8YM:http://www.acpsec.org/en/sg/sgface.jpgSir John Kaputin, ACP Head and Secretary General when addressing the Australian National University recently stated that, “There is an urgent need to look at the positive aspects of migration, and to address the negative consequences, such as the phenomenon of brain drain and the migration to developed countries of highly skilled and much needed professionals educated and trained at great expense in ACP states. In recent times some ACP states including my country of origin – Papua New Guinea  have lost so many doctors, nurses and teachers to developed countries that ethically, it is no longer brain drain but brain theft”

Okay so is he a bit soft in the head or what? Oh now you and every other politician wants to call it ‘brain theft’. So what, are you saying that the developed countries are stealing our brain power?

That’s a bit rich! I’ll tell you why our educated professionals are leaving PNG to work in the outbacks of Australia. THEY DONT GET PAID WHAT THEY ARE WORTH HERE IN PNG!!!!!!! Its as simple as that.

What’s ‘ethically wrong’ is how our government loves to spend money on everything else from NRL teams to jet planes, but when it comes to looking after our teachers and doctors, well that can wait for AUSAID to cover….

[NB: You can read his full speech here]


4 thoughts on “‘Brain Drain is brain theft’

  1. “THEY DONT GET PAID WHAT THEY ARE WORTH HERE IN PNG!!!!!!! Its as simple as that.

    What’s ‘ethically wrong’ is how our government loves to spend money on everything else from NRL teams to jet planes”


  2. E & illaine,

    I think you need to take an holistic approach to what Kaputin said – if you read the excerpted paragraph within the context of the speech’s entirety, you can see that the “brain drain/theft” Kaputin alluded to is one example of what the ACP is trying to address in an effort to maximise the economic sustainability of its member states.

    International migration is a major contributor of the instability of many developing countries, including PNG. The way I see it, it’s a two-way highway: highly skilled PNG citizens will leave PNG due to better opportunities internationally, however, if PNG wants to progress, we need those same working people home – where else will we source them from?. As Kaputin said, currently the deficit arrow is pointing to developing states – we considerably lose more out of the “brain drain” than developed states do to the same phenomenon.

    I do agree with Kaputin that there is a need to scrutinise the “brain drain” phenomenon and to garner substantive conclusions that can lessen the negative impact of skilled-worker migration. Those conclusions are dependent on both the developed country and the developing, again the two-way highway. The developing country needs to offer its skilled-worker greater incentives to remain at home, and I do believe that it can be argued that the developed country may have an ethical responsibility to not suck out all the talent from developing states.

    However, skilled-worker migration is only a reflection of capitalism in motion – it’s all about the opportunities available, that is the nature of the global market today. You can not blame the PNG citizen for looking for opportunities outside of PNG (Kaputin himself is an example), and I have no qualms with our people overseas making the most of their opportunities.

    In saying that, I do hold those educated PNGeans who choose to remain in PNG to work and contribute to the country in great steed. These are the gems of our nation and they are the ones that the government needs to ensure remain within the country.

    I think it is highly unlikely that any nation will seriously spend time and money addressing Kaputin’s concerns, after all, those developed countries the ACP is lobbying are also competing amongst themselves to attract the cream of the developing world’s professionals. Most developed states today are dependent on skilled-worker migration, and to stop it will mean their own demise.

    What the ACP should focus on is ensuring that any aid/investment deployed to ACP member states is focused on developing their economic sustainability AND that the member states are working towards the internal environment where they no longer lose skilled-workers, but are actually attracting them.

    Just imagine that – the day PNG will be the country attracting professionals and not losing them. Aiyo, maus em wok lo wara stap. That is the ultimate goal!

    And yes, of course, lavish spending by the PNG Government on a jet plane doesn’t help either (although I do think the NRL team-bid may actually be worthwhile, in more areas than just economical – I may have to explain my position on that one later).


  3. Thanks T for that. Yes the NRL bid has wider social consequences, so perhaps I should not use that example. The new up coming NRL Reality show should help allot in boosting that effort.

    But back to ‘brain draining’, the government has to be competitive. If they want the best managers and the best workers then they have to step up with their entire approach to recruitment and remuneration. Issues like the Peter Principle are severely handicapping the public services progress so you end up with highly educated people being ignored. I wrote about it here, https://masalai.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/a-matter-of-principle/

    Maybe when the gas projects are in full swing everyone will come home to work, but in the meantime I was just annoyed at the term ‘brain theft’ which makes it seem as though we are sitting here blaming the globalised world for our current situation when the answers to compete against a globalised workplace are right in our own hands.

  4. The answer is simple.

    Get rid of the stupid colonialistic labour laws that continue to impose two remuneration scales: an expatriate rate and a local rate. This was created for an era that is well and trully behind us now. I can understand the wisdom of this law in the context of that era.

    But today? Pay me my salt’s worth regardless of where I come from and I’ll stay back in PNG. Else, I’ll go somewhere where my remuneration refelcts my skills, expertise and contributions.

    It’s quite simple really.

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