It is only normal to expect that government bodies would work for the country and its people. Yet, the federal government’s Overseas Employment Corporation appears to be doing just the opposite by encouraging highly qualified persons, who are needed desperately in the country, to leave it. The body is currently facilitating a team from the health and defence ministries in Saudi Arabia to recruit doctors to be employed at hospitals and other medical centres in that country. Specialists in various fields are being sought and, quite naturally, the Saudis will be looking for the most highly skilled practitioners.
As is already happening because of the ongoing brain drain, Pakistanis are being deprived of the expertise of these skilled individuals. The same process is, of course, taking place in other fields as well. Nurses, scientists, teachers and others are all leaving the country. The very last thing we need is for an official body to encourage them to leave. While senior doctors have expressed concern over the situation, younger doctors say they are eager to work in Saudi Arabia and other countries because of the better salaries and working conditions there. They can, of course, like other professionals hardly be faulted for such sentiments. But at the same time we need to find ways to persuade people — especially in critical fields such as medicine — to stay in Pakistan.
This can only be done by improving salary structures and working conditions. Nurses and young doctors have both been demanding this over recent months. The drifting away of talent is an area we need to give more attention to; ways need to be found to curb this detrimental practice. Certainly, a government body should not be working to send doctors abroad, but perhaps focusing its efforts on the unskilled and semi-skilled labourers, who are perhaps in more dire need for such help. The body ought to assist these people so that a better future can be built for their families so that they may have a chance of escaping the poverty trap as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.
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