Brain drain—the migration of talent across borders—has an impact on Malaysia’s aspiration to become a high-income nation. Human capital is the bedrock of the high-income economy. Sustained and skill-intensive growth will require talent going forward. For Malaysia to be successful in its journey to high income, it will need to develop, attract and retain talent. Brain drain does not appear to square with this objective: Malaysia needs talent, but talent seems to be leaving.
|Quality Control Inspector Jiang Peng walks on scaffolding along the foundation of the water treatment facility.|
While traveling through China recently, I had an opportunity to visit the Shanghai Urban Environment project in the emergent suburban district of Qingpu and spoke to a number of workers responsible for the implementation and completion of the project.
As with many infrastructure and urban development projects in China, the speed and magnitude can be astonishing, with hundreds of employees working around the clock to ensure timely completion. Work on the facility runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with construction workers from all over China contracted to work and live onsite until its completion in 2011. Once finished, it will improve water service, coverage, and waste water management in the region which will be essential for sustaining the increasing population and living standards.
A few weeks ago, the World Bank’s migration and remittances team released its latest forecast of global remittance flows, indicating that even fewer migrants from developing East Asian and Pacific countries may be sending home money this year than they predicted in an earlier report. Remittances flowing to countries in the region are now forecast to fall by 5.7-8.8 percent in 2009, according to the report (pdf). Revised 2008 data show China, the Philippines and Vietnam are in the top 10 recipients of remittances among developing countries.
Interestingly, despite indicating falling remittance flows to the East Asia and Pacific region, the outlook states that South and East Asian countries have been relatively strong. There is, of course, a risk of a further slowing down. For example, remittance money flowing to the Philippines appears to still be growing this year. But such positive flows went from 14 percent year-on-year growth in 2007-08 to just 3 percent growth so far in 2009, according to the report.
The report’s authors write that there may be key risks that further threatening global remittance flows to developing countries – including a longer-than-projected financial crisis threatening jobs and income for immigrants in developed countries. However, they write, recovery may come by next year: “We expect that remittance flows to developing countries could decline by 7-10 percent in 2009, with a possible recovery in 2010 and 2011.”
What’s the significance of remittances? One notable example came from blogger Eric Le Borgne last April. Eric pointed out that remittances are a key factor to the economic health of the Philippines, as well as the country’s resilience so far during the global financial crisis.
In the World Bank's latest semi-annual economic update for the East Asia and Pacific region, titled "Battling the Forces of Global Recession" and released today, we mentioned the Philippine economy's resilience, both in absolute and relative terms.
|Declining revenue of tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia shows even the informal sector isn't insulated.|
The World Bank today launches its projection of a 1 percent contraction of the Cambodian economy. This is based on an analysis of available statistics and feedback from a range of economic actors. Yet, to most of my Cambodian friends, it remains hard to conceive.
It is true that "seeing" such a contraction will be difficult. Basically, what it means is that economic activity in 2009 will be pretty much the same as in 2008. So the fact that we continue to have traffic jams in Phnom Penh, see tourists at the Royal Palace, and hear construction machines in many residential areas is consistent with such a projection. What will change, though, is that incomes will not increase this year as fast as past years and it will also become more difficult for the 250,000 young people leaving school each year to find their first job. What also will be different is that with no growth in aggregate, there will be a proportion of those with a livelihood at the end of the year worse than at the beginning.
As jobs become fewer and income harder to come by for immigrants in developed countries, the amount of money they send back home, known as remittances, is expected to fall this year more than previously expected. The Bank's Migration and Remittances team announced the latest outlook last week on its People Move blog: "We now expect a sharper decline of 5-8 percent in 2009 ... compared to our earlier projections," wrote economist Dilip Ratha, who leads the team.
While the steepest drops in remittances are expected for Europe and Central Asia – down 10-12 percent – countries in the East Asia and Pacific region are also forecasted to fall by 4-7.5 percent in 2009. Two of the world's biggest recipients of remittances are China, which received $34 billion in 2008, and the Philippines, which saw $18 billion last year. Other big receipients in East Asia include Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, according to the Bank's Migration & Remittances Factbook 2008.
|"The glacier at Karo-la pass covered the whole rock face when our Tibetan guide began leading tours in 1996."|
The melting of the glaciers has accelerated dramatically in recent years. This is one of the most profound effects of global warming. The glaciers have shrunk 20% over the past 50 years, with much of that in the past decade. Our Tibetan guide took us to a number of different glaciers and showed us how they had receded since he starting taking tours around in 1996. At Karo-la pass we stood on hard, dry ground that had been covered by the glacier just 12 years ago. Climate scientists project that the glaciers will be 80% gone by 2035.
When we visited a poor village in Qingxing county of north Guangdong a few weeks ago to work on a study of inequality, I was struck by the severity of poverty in places only a few hours away from the most dynamic and prosperous Pearl River Delta. One family that we visited had almost no furniture. Another only lived on 90 yuan (US$13) per month from the social assistance program.