Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Value of a stint overseas – no longer a frog in a well



There has been some debate in my blog from comments I have received on the benefit or not to Sri Lanka of our citizens going overseas. I am all for it and am not in any way attempting to curtail one’s movements. Very few of the readers will remember that we had to get an exit permit to leave this country during the rule of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranayake’s 1970-1977 Prime Ministership.

No wonder a whole heap of people left the country permanently on the day the election results were announced. It was incredible that though she won overwhelmingly reducing the UNP to next to nothing, the UNP actually polled more votes than her party in that self same election, a point few people realize and which also led to the outcome of the PR system which we are now grappling with.

I digress from the point of this blog, in that we have around 20,000 leaving each year for tertiary education overseas hopefully for most to return, and we have around 40,000 leaving each year for permanent settlement in host countries, usually of the Western kind, and we have a further 250,000 (new) leaving each year for temporary work stints in countries namely of the Middle East.

Those who return, bring with them their earnings as well as their experiences working in a different country. They can then compare the systems and hopefully improve the local conditions to that of the rest of the world. Take what is best overseas and try and introduce it here. There are many who find it hard, get frustrated on their return, leave never to return, finding the culture too stifling and oppressive for their liberal, free market, productive and over enthusiastic minds.

In the end it is the benefit of the earnings of Sri Lankans in other countries that are remitted back, that make a big difference in the quality of life of each and every Sri Lankan living here. It is that which contributes to the growth within the country. Most of the money goes to the provinces where the workers families live and therefore is circulated more speedily towards the multiplier effect that assists in the growth. I hate to imagine what Sri Lanka would be had we not benefited from this windfall. The flip side of this rapid growth, is the resultant import demand, that has meant that our fuel import bill alone amounts to over half of the value of foreign remittances. The increased traffic and volume of vehicles on the road has contributed to this need for fuel, all of which is imported. This need is permanent and the traffic jams we see daily also take its toll, both on wasted fuel, but also the need to import many spare parts for the vehicles resulting in further related imports. We must bear this in mind when making policy decisions in the interests of the future of the Country. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

overseas experience is important for the reasons that you stated, but in all honesty, do you think those overseas students are coming back? overseas studies, as you will see in the colombo newspapers constantly, is a pathway towards overseas migration, plain and simple. They make no qualms about it when they're soliciting students for such study. Those students along with the adults that have chosen to practice their professions abroad are the very ones the country needs to come back in order to successfully advance into the next stage of development. if we hold our breath waiting for them to return, as part of a patriotic duty, i don't think we'll last long. the point is how to stem the tide and get people to go overseas truly for experience which they will bring back to SL rather than for experience which allows them to migrate to other countries!

the overseas workers get experience living in the houses of rich people, not so much with the societies. what do they learn? consume, consume, consume. and what do their remittances go towards? massive amounts of consumption of largely imported goods and then buying some land for their children to live off of (who themselves have already migrated to the cities unlikely to return to the rural life)

Interestingly, now we're planning to send our skilled workers to develop afghanistan (at least they won't be likely to stay there -- although likely use the experience to be working forever abroad), and colombo has been identified as a new world hotspot for recruiting IT talent. As we've seen earlier from your blog, Australia has a new policy document to recruit skilled laborers from SL for their country's development, and in the meanwhile there supposedly is a lack of skilled and unskilled labor in SL!!! The tide of skilled labor outward movement is at an epidemic proportion as everyone identifies SL as easy pickings!!!

Anonymous said...

the perfect scenario is that we send our skilled laborers out to get more skills through their experiences and study, but IN THE MEANWHILE we also try to attract foreign investors and expatriate skilled labor (skilled laborers from other countries-- not necessarily lankans) to Sri Lanka to build the country up since our people are looking to build others up.

how can we do that? we've already got the outward flow sorted. For the inward flow, we need to make investment opportunities more attractive for Singaporeans, Koreans, Japanese, etc. Let us study how to do this, or else we must put a cap on our outward flow in order to develop the country.

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