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Submitted by Fahem on

Very good article that raises several points, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, by many policymakers in various fields.  Here are my views on a number of points raised:

  1. The brain drain.  As you note, instead of viewing the brain drain as a problem that dogs poor countries, the focus should be on better managing brainpower for the good of humankind. We should not limit ourselves to the portrayal of the problem by the media and politicians.  In discussing the “brain drain,” some policymakers overlook the fact that most of these people (departing intellectuals) only became “brain” after the “drain.” The reasoning of some Third World politicians can be distilled as follows: “The West exploits the Third World; to reduce this exploitation, we must stem the brain drain that makes the West even more powerful and deprives us of some of the resources needed for development. 

To address this situation from a practical and moral standpoint, we need to do the following:

• Fund a large-scale program for the flow of skills in the opposite direction—introduce a system of mobility and part-time assignments that allows renowned scientists to travel to poor countries (for one or two months per year) in order to improve the quality of university teaching (instruction, training, etc.)

• Fund programs similar in scope for the mobility of prominent specialists in such areas as health and engineering in order to provide assistance, training, etc.  Adequate funding for these activities (based on sound studies and rigorous monitoring) will facilitate the free movement of scientific expertise, with the attendant benefits in the area of development.

2. The free movement of semi-skilled and unskilled workers.  In this regard, I would like to make two brief points:

• In the context of economic relations, agreements are often proposed (or imposed) to ensure the free movement of goods, with virtually no quantitative or qualitative restrictions. One of the most basic human rights is perhaps the right to be considered a good.   It is difficult for some people to understand why products can move freely while the movement of producers is restricted.

• The standard response to the point above is that the free movement of persons creates security and social and cultural cohesion problems for the receiving countries.  Persons who are used to providing such a response must know that the free movement of goods also creates security and social and cultural cohesion problems for poor countries (unemployment and, as a result, security problems resulting owing to the importation of low-cost agricultural products; cultural cohesion problems linked to the free movement of cultural products, etc.).  In conclusion, free trade is more beneficial and negative effects are more evenly distributed if it is expanded to include the free movement of persons.

3. Why ignore the contribution made by the migration of unskilled labor?   Unskilled labor offers receiving countries a number of advantages:

• It reduces the need for the complete relocation of production and thus saves jobs.

• In general, any kind of relocation increases the environmental damage associated with industrial activity.  Why not impose a higher tax on the industries that relocate so as to circumvent environmental protection rules (what global benefits does free trade offer under such circumstances)?  This taxation can also serve as a kind of incentive to acquiescing to immigration.