Opinion and Editorial

Mideast brain drain

Filed on February 4, 2007

WITH civil wars, bitter infighting, sectarian strife and political chaos raging across the Middle East, it comes across as little surprise that regional economies are facing collapse one after the other. What is more, the skilled manpower needed, now more than ever, to steer them to safe zones is packing bags and making for greener pastures at an unprecedented rate.

Reports coming from Lebanon are indicative of the trend across much of the troubled region. Apparently, there was hope in exiled and expat Lebanese at the end of the 15-year civil war to ‘come home’ and help with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their homeland. But just as the country was getting back on its feet and stood ready to record a bumper tourist season, last summer’s 34-day war with Israel ‘wrecked it’ again. Along with parts of Lebanon, it also reduced much of the turn-around to rubble. Of course, that the West-backed government and Hezbollah backed opposition wasted little time in reverting to a situation reminiscent of the civil war has played a decisive role in further hurting the economy and disillusioning the public.

It takes little to realise that modern day realpolitik places primary importance with a country’s economic strength, which in turn translates into social vibrancy and political/military clout. And whenever there is domestic political uncertainty, the economy suffers. Also, the worse the level of uncertainty, the worse the economy’s compounded problems.

In situations like the street violence in Lebanon, the hell-breaking-loose civil war in Iraq, and armed Hamas-Fatah battles in Palestinian territories, respective economies are shattered beyond short-term remedy and the trained, skilled labour force invariably takes off for more secure surroundings. While Arabs rightly take pride in their nationalistic tendencies, they cannot be faulted for being fed up with aspiring leaders’ disregard for common man and country. Having lived through chaotic situations most of their lives, why should they not want a better future for their children? But if these countries are to snap out of the present malaise, they will need a wide human resource base. Going by on-ground reality, materialising that seems easier said than done. The leaders would have to make firm commitments and show by meaningful example that, in the interest of all concerned, the violence will cease and doors to progress opened. Nothing less will check the Mideast brain drain.

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