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Looming threat

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by R. Andrew Cummings 11.JAN.08

For several generations West Indians have migrated to different parts of the world in search of better opportunities than exist at home. During the last 60 years or so large numbers have gone mainly to the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada. They have made worthwhile contributions in every field of human endeavour especially in transportation, nursing, manufacturing and providing general manual labour. Today, the exodus has been arrested as the metropolitan countries have clamped down on migration for a variety of domestic reasons.{{more}}

Highly Skilled Labour

Just recently, however, the European Economic Commission has invited its 27 member countries, especially those of Western Europe, to cater for 20 million highly skilled migrant workers over the next 20 years from the Third World. This has become necessary in order to compete and remain at the cutting edge of science, technology and industry in face of the growing economic strength and power of China, India, Singapore and the Pacific Basin.

What About Us Small Island Developing States?

What will be the impact on our economies when our highly skilled workers leave for greener pastures? It was President John F. Kennedy who said, “Our progress as a nation cannot be swifter than our progress in education”. The brain drain of our highly skilled workers in science, technology and informatics will consign us to be forever “drawers of water and hewers of wood”.

Safety Valve

There are those who argue that emigration is a safety valve for over population and to boot, encourages remittances to boost local economic growth. But then, what of the received wisdom which posits, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and feed him for life”. I am sure that our education oriented Prime Minister would agree with the late great William Demas once our foremost economist when he said, “We must devise measures to retain the highly trained and the highly skilled for work in the Caribbean. That is the only way our societies will advance. If not, we shall remain distant outposts of the economic empires of the metropolitan countries. It is the avenue to emerge from persistent dependency”.

Which is the way? Retention of our highly skilled especially in science and technology or their migration to the already developed First World? The choice is ours.

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