State can turn costs of emigration into benefits, says expert

Published: July 10, 2012

Low-income countries (LICs) suffer a substantial pain due to emigration of educated people to high-income countries.

ISLAMABAD: 

Low-income countries (LICs) suffer a substantial pain due to emigration of educated people to high-income countries. This pain, however, can be converted into a gain if the state plays a proactive role to tap the potential of educated people abroad.

These views were expressed by Dr Shahrukh Rafi Khan, a visiting professor of economics from Mount Holyoke College, USA.

He was speaking at a lecture on “Highly Educated Emigration from Low-income Countries: Turning Pain into Gain” held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.

Referring to the aid agencies’ claims of low capacity in LICs, he said tapping expatriates can be a cheap and efficient way to build capacity due to their spirit of volunteerism and aspirations to serve their country.

Dr Khan, who is also a former executive director of SDPI, proposed alternate approaches to turn social costs of emigration into benefits through market-based, non-profit and multilateral mechanisms.

“The gains can be based on flow of knowledge and technical expertise or through increase in trade by expatriates,” said Khan.

He also suggested imposing a tax on educated emigrants and called for foreign direct investment or portfolio investment by expatriates for economic development.

Khan stressed on the need to introduce educational programmes similar to the US Fulbright programme and scale-up initiatives such as UNDP’s TOKTEN programme which encourage expatriates to volunteer in their country of origin.

“Voluntary short-term or long-term returns could transfer knowledge and technology and contribute to a social transformation of society,” he added.

Catering to the needs of expatriates, Khan said, can result in higher exports and possibly an increase in tourism from expatriates visiting their home country.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012. 

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