An opinion piece came out last week in another periodical arguing that our concern about “brain drain” is misplaced and that global cosmopolitanism is a forgivable choice of professionals looking for opportunities to improve themselves and their economic well being. Arguing that millions more of other professionals stay otherwise, the article instead points out that we have an over-supply rather than a lack of experts in the country.
The exodus of experts such Dr. Nathaniel Servando from the weather agency has brought to focus the lack of opportunities in the country today for many of our people as it was before. In 1970s, this was already a problem as an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists written by Dr. Amador Muriel, then a research associate at the Institute of Space Studies in NASA, noted that the opportunities in the country are not at all that attractive for people to stay and “as in all other professions, the chief motive for emigration is poor working conditions bred by government apathy and corruption.”
Even one PhD lost would hurt the country as according to the UNESCO Science Report 2010, there is only one researcher active for 12,345 of our population as of 2009. Other advanced countries such as the US, Japan and Singapore have one per 216, 180, and 182 respectively. According a study by the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, the number of emigrating science workers increased more than two and a half times to 24,502 as compared to 9,877 in 1998. One fifth of these are engineers while more than half are health professionals. This exodus leads to the Philippines being ranked 91 out of 144 countries in terms of availability of scientists and engineers in the 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum.
Yet this lost talent is not only true for professionals but is much worse for others such as our skilled, semi-skilled and service workers. This reflects the general lack of employment opportunities in the country as well as the government push to drive our countrymen to go abroad in its labor export policy.
This lack of jobs is just a reflection of the country remaining an exporter of cheap agricultural products and minerals but continuing to import expensive finished products that it needs for daily activities and industry. The general lack of industrial production of even the simplest everyday goods is a product of the long time economic polices of different administrations of letting our economy remain export-oriented, and heavily reliant on imports.
Such policy slows down our domestic industrialization, and governments, even the current one, would tend to depend on foreign investments to build infrastructure projects for us.
The current policy is to engage in public-private partnerships in privatizing our basic utilities and even public health institutions. This leaves our people holding the bag in paying higher rates for services such as water and electricity.
The effect to our people would not only be in the ever-increasing utility prices but in the chronic lack of employment. Instead of strengthening local production of tools and machineries for agriculture and other equally important aspects of the economy, the Aquino government merely continues the tradition of previous administrations by toeing the line of foreign big business and international lending institutions: do away with ambitions of building strong domestic industries and just serve foreign monopolies with cheap English-speaking workforce.
We have advanced testing facilities being built primarily for the needs of foreign electronics firms. Even local universities have to shoulder the high costs of using these facilities as it was designed to help these firms first rather than boost local capacity to produce these electronics on our own.
The same should be true to other facets of our economy. The government should implement comprehensive and thorough-going reforms to build domestic industries.
These programs should support and prioritize agricultural modernization under a genuine land distribution program to ensure food security and self-sufficiency. With the development of our country’s agricultural lands primarily for domestic food production, the foundations of national industrial development would be ensured. The government should also provide the necessary support and infrastructure to harness the capacity of world-class local scientists to address local problems and mobilize our people to contribute to domestic industrialization.
As long as the neocolonial pattern of production, investments and trade remain, the push to build local industries will not be there and the drain on our talent, skills and resources would continue. As it is literally our future that is being taken away from us, all of those who desire real development, we should all be more than proactive not only in seeking individual security but join the rest of the people in demanding a clear domestic industrial policy as opposed to continuing globalization’s failed programs of privatization and liberalization in the country.