September 29, 2016

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Efforts needed to encourage a reverse brain drain

During her visit to the United States, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi encouraged Myanmar citizens living and working there to lend a helping hand in the development of their motherland. Her idea to invite the people trained overseas to return is welcomed because these people can contribute substantially to the economic growth and development of Myanmar.
In this regard, China’s effort to encourage a reverse brain drain is worth studying. While the central government of China sets broad guidelines for policy and moulds the overall socio-economic and political climate, many institutions have been actively engaged in generation of a return wave. Besides, the different levels of governments and organisations have, during the past 20 years, changed the way they view and recruit the returnees largely due to their diversified interests. Nevertheless, the central government had to go through a serious learning process, where it recognised the best way to improve science and technology in China was by letting people go abroad freely, and then compete for them in the international marketplace by creating a domestic environment that could attract them back. And while leaders of academic, scientific and business institutions initially may
have harboured serious concerns about the returnees, because their knowledge threatened those who did not go overseas, China’s internationalised economic, scientific and educational system has led most institutions to value, if not overvalue, the contributions that the returnees can make.
In Myanmar’s case, the successive governments have relaxed policies regarding letting people go abroad since early 1990s. However, they had no plans to create equal job opportunities offered to Myanmar citizens abroad with the result that Myanmar academics, scientists and economists were not motivated to return to their motherland and lead a lower quality of life.
Such being the case, it is the time now for the policy makers to formulate the national-level policies and programmes to change the environment for returnees by which Myanmar experts abroad can be pulled back home.


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