19.06.2004 Feature Article

Brain Drain - Killing Ghana Softly

Brain Drain - Killing Ghana Softly
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GHANA HAS been complaining for a very long time about the massive brain drain that is afflicting almost all professions. So pervasive has this problem been that, it has now reached the point where it is disrupting the normal running of the institutions of the country and her very future.

Many reasons have been offered for the continuing phenomenon - from poor remuneration to lack of infrastructure and modern tools for work. All the reasons, however, never explain well enough the fact that scarce national resources are used to train our professionals and for them to literally abandon the nation when their services are needed most, is not really a plus for their patriotism and nationalism, nor does it speak well for our humanity.

The point many apologists make, however, is that man is not place - bound, like a tree without the ability to move where he or she wants.

Since mobility is part of our humanity, mankind should be able to pick and choose where to live and work. Indeed, without this ability, very little progress would be made in the cross-fertilisation of cultures that has enriched humanity since life began on earth.

In our case, the situation is critical simply because there is so much deprivation and want in the system that the loss of one doctor or nurse can affect the lives of so many people. But then again, can one deny that professional his/her right to seek better economic returns for the investment made to learn a profession?

And so this thorny and seemingly intractable problem of the brain drain has now reached alarming proportions. From teachers to doctors, from technicians to nurses, more and more of our able professionals are leaving for so-called greener pastures. And past experience seems to buttress the arguments of those who decide to leave: a few years outside and they have made enough to come back to set up shops on their own or materialize their dream to build a house or establish a business.

When their contemporaries, who for one reason or the other, did not travel out see these economic benefits, there will be no earthly reason why they will not feel shortchanged by our current system. The huge shortfalls in the number of qualified professionals in all sectors: lawyers at the Attorney-General's Department, doctors and nurses in our hospitals, lecturers in the tertiary institutions and many more, should make the government look at this grave problem with all the urgency and seriousness required.

With the decentralization of local government, we see no reason why the huge resources now available to district assemblies should not be used to improve infrastructure that could attract the professional into the hinterland where their services are needed most.

Again, we believe that in the matter of pay and other incentives, improvements could be made to make working in the rural areas particularly more attractive. For example, significant tax breaks should be given to professionals who opt to work outside the comforts of the urban centers.

The Chronicle believes that the time has come for all stakeholders and indeed, parliament, to take a very critical look at the problem of brain drain and seek practical ways of at least ameliorating it.

Until this is done, we shall continue to waffle about how to treat this serious aberration that is threatening the very survival and future prosperity of our dear nation. We think we have the resources to help keep our own within our shores, if EQUITY is taken care of in our society.

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