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The dangers of a brain drain

Published: Sep 11, 2013

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Dear Editor,

I was recently shocked to read an article in Caribbean News Now called “Bahamian students invigorated by U.S. visit” that reported on Zhivargo Laing’s recent trip to Atlanta, Georgia with a group of Bahamian high school students.

Laing, the former minister of state for finance in the Free National Movement government, and his wife have set up the Bahamas Institute for Youth Leadership Development (BIYLD) which was responsible for organizing the trip.  Laing was quoted as saying, “The students came to appreciate just how diverse career opportunities are when your vision is global.”

According to the article, Laing further said, “Coming to Atlanta and visiting companies with massive global reach like CNN and Coca-Cola, and talking to their managers, widened options for our students by helping them realize these career opportunities are real.”

I am very disappointed that Laing is going to such lengths to expose students to opportunities in another country.  It has been shown and proven that one of the difficulties third world countries have had over the past century is retaining their best and brightest.  Instead of returning to their countries and creating opportunities at home, many professionals from lower-income countries have sought jobs in wealthier countries.  As a result, the poor economic conditions in many developing countries continue or have been exacerbated because of the loss of valuable human capital.

While this has not been a serious problem in The Bahamas, it appears Laing is seeking to create one.  He seems to be single-handedly installing the plumbing for a brain drain to occur.  This is certainly a sad state of affairs.  Someone who was previously entrusted at the highest level to help develop our country is instead directing our young people elsewhere.  While individuals should be free to choose a career path wherever they find most beneficial, I do not think someone who was previously responsible for economic planning in this country should advise students to look at careers in Atlanta.

Laing ought to be commended for his youth leadership program.  However, it is my belief that someone of Laing’s standing in our country should gear his efforts toward inspiring young Bahamians to explore untapped opportunities in this country.  He should advise those with aspirations of becoming journalists to dream of being the best journalist in the world while working at ZNS or Jones Communications instead of CNN in Atlanta.

Those individuals who are interested in drink production should be guided to promote Bahamian beverages rather than Coca Cola.  I think it is important for people like Laing to demonstrate that they believe in The Bahamas before we could expect youth to take our country to the next level in the future.

– Don Dames

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