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Addressing the brain drain

03 Jun 2011 at 14:38hrs | Views
A SUBSTANTIVE recovery of Zimbabwe's greatly emaciated economy is contingent upon innumerable positive and constructive actions.  They include radical political transformation to absolute democracy, respect for the Constitution and law, and total compliance therewith, concomitantly with unmitigated respect for human and property rights.

Measures for a successful transition to a comprehensively viable economy also include motivation and facilitation of both foreign direct, and domestic, investment.  Also required is transformation of parastatals, local authorities, and other utility providers to ensure consistently reliable service delivery.  An economically conducive taxation regime is yet another prerequisite of revival of the economy. These are but a few of the very immense number of critically necessary  measures necessary for the wellbeing of the economy to be  restored.

Key to almost all of those measures being effectively pursued, over and above the need for the political will to do so, is that the requisite skills be available.  Tragically however, Zimbabwe's skills' resources have been grossly depleted over the last decade.  As the economy declined, and as the political environment made life in Zimbabwe more and more untenable for countless Zimbabweans departed the country to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

No authoritative statistics exist as to the exact numbers of Zimbabweans who have fled to what were perceived to be more conducive economies, but credible estimates place the number at between three and four million, resulting in a probable reduction of the resident population by approximately 25%.  Although not all of the emigrants were vested with significant skills, many of them were.

Those who left Zimbabwe included a myriad of healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists, and others), accountants, engineers, managers, technically skilled, and many, many others.  Although Zimbabwe is not devoid of the knowledgeable, proficient and able, the numbers with those attributes have markedly reduced, and are far below that required to meet the economy's needs.  The insufficiency of the skilled is a major constraint upon the operations of commerce and industry, the financial, tourism, mining, and other sectors, and upon those of government, parastatals, local authorities, and other entities engaged in, or critical to, the economy.

There is a widely-held belief that if and when there is a substantial and ongoing economic revival, the Zimbabweans in the diaspora will flood back to their home country.  Sadly, that is improbable in the extreme.  Indisputably, almost without exception those that left the country did so with every intent to return once the economy was such that it could fully support them.  Virtually all who departed Zimbabwe were solely motivated to do so in order to generate sufficiency of income to meet their needs and to support their extended families and dependants back home.  In addition, some had relocated in order to assure their families of access to educational and health services, which services had progressively deteriorated in Zimbabwe.  But they were determined that their absence from their homeland would only be transitional, intending to return when the Zimbabwean conditions improved.

However, for many of them, their circumstances have considerably changed.  They have experienced career development and promotion, acquired investments, in many instances married non-Zimbabweans, made countless new friends, and much else.  As a result, their original intents of an eventual return to Zimbabwe have changed.  Whilst they still have a deep-seated love for their mother country, their new roots are of such a magnitude that instead of eventually resuming living in Zimbabwe, they now intend to only periodically visit it, to see their Zimbabwean-resident relations and friends.

Therefore, if the gargantuan brain drain is to be reversed, which is economically very necessary, Zimbabwe will need to develop a new pool of skills.  Not only will doing so take time, but diverse methods will have to be resorted to if there is to be a wholly adequate, economically-facilitative skills resource base.  First and foremost, Zimbabwe will have to resort extensively to the services of expatriates for a transitional period of time.  Those expatriates are critically needed in order to provide in-house training to personnel of existing, skills-depleted enterprises and to assure the continuance and development of those enterprises.  They are also most importantly necessary to fill the numerous voids that have developed in Zimbabwe's tertiary education institutions (universities, technical colleges, and the like).  However, if an adequacy of expatriates is to be sourced, Zimbabwe has to offer credible assurances of security, adherence to law, minimal bureaucracy in enabling entrance to the country, fair
and reasonable taxation of remuneration, assured remittance of that remuneration to the expatriates' countries of origin and availability of satisfactory accommodation and of all supporting utilities, services and amenities.

Concurrently with restoring Zimbabwe's secondary and tertiary education to previously pertaining high levels, it is also of utmost and urgent necessity to motivate and incentivize those completing their education to remain in Zimbabwe and apply their acquired knowledge and skills to the development of the economy and to imparting the knowledge they have gained to others.  That requires regionally and internationally compatible or competitive emoluments from employment, non-onerous, non-oppressive taxation (direct and indirect), and congenial living conditions through reasonable and realistic availability of utilities and the like.

All private sector enterprises must also be motivated to provide ongoing, quality in-house training and personnel development, as well as supporting the employees access external skills development through participation in training workshops and seminars, and supplementary advanced, part-time education.  The motivation to do so should be driven by both medium and long-term benefits accruing to the enterprises, and by government providing taxation incentives in respect  of the employer-sustained cost of providing or facilitating the skills development.

Zimbabwe must also do whatsoever is possible to induce Zimbabweans abroad to return, notwithstanding the many reasons why they are motivated to stay in their new countries of abode.  If they would be subject to lesser taxation in Zimbabwe than abroad, were imbued with a sense of security of continuing economic recovery and growth, and as a result security of ongoing employment or alternative economic advancement, and with assured utility service delivery, health and education facilities, many will seriously consider returning home.  The return would be a major stimulant to the country's economic soundness.  It would be a partial reversal of the brain drain, reinforced by the internal national redevelopment of a brain's pool.

Source - Erich Bloch
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