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Who pays the price for Nepal's brain drain?


Shilu Manandhar

KATHMANDU: Every year 250,000 youth are reported to leave the country for various reasons. They seek opportunities in its various manifestation — higher living standards, employment, better income, education, a luring western lifestyle, stability and security. The list entails everything our country is incapable of providing to the youth for the obvious reasons. Hence, it comes as no surprise that 556 youth leave the country to go overseas in a given day. How many of them return to their homeland? The inflow number is almost negligible and the inflow and outflow ratio of youth in Nepal is very discouraging.

Reverse brain drain in China and India have been creating headlines, making us wonder why the same is not happening in our country. A recent research stated that out of 100 people who returned to China, 84 returned because of more opportunities in China. Similarly, 72 people returned to India due to its increasing opportunities. Thus it is not people’s sentiments but opportunities that play a significant role for reverse brain drain.

“There is a shortage of doctors in America and the gap is filled by other countries like China, India, and Nepal and so on,” says Gagan Thapa, youth leader in the Nepali Congress Party. Similarly there is demand for nurses abroad and many Nepali nurses’ head to the West for attractive salaries. Hence, the western countries are benefiting without foundation investment in doctors, nurses and other professionals while our country is thinning out on experts and professionals. “There are not only Nepali manual labourers working in the Qatar but approximately 200 to 300 Nepali engineers working on massive infrastructure there,” informs Thapa. Many IT professionals head South as IT industries are booming in India.

Nepal lacks basic infrastructure, technology, knowledge, science and expertise. “There is no professional development environment and opportunity exploration in Nepal,” opines

Thapa. Economic growth and empowerment is stagnant in Nepal. This vicious cycle can be broken only with a stable and accountable government. Some form of stability will automatically stir the falling economy. Nepal is a potential market and investment will flow in with a steady government.

“University opportunities are limited in Nepal. We have to develop our educational system and make it qualitative and research oriented,” opines Lekha Nath Poudel, under secretary, at the Ministry of Education. Many youth choose to go overseas as it provides more educational opportunities. One can choose from a number of subjects that are lacking in the universities of Nepal. Kaushal Silwal chose to study in America in the discipline of chemical and bio-technical engineering. “There is a demand for pharmaceutical companies and opportunities can be created here,” informs Silwal. He wishes to establish a bio-tech firm which focuses on gene therapy in Nepal. However, he is sceptical as he sees better opportunities in the west. “Politics in Nepal is in a state of limbo making the country detrimental. Realistically no one is willing to return if the country’s situation is such,” opines Silwal.

In 2006, the political situation was heading towards a positive road. “During my interactions with Nepalis abroad, many were optimistic about returning to Nepal,” informs Thapa. Many social campaigns were initiated to encourage Nepalis to head home during the time. However, as soon as the political situation took a negative turn, so did the decisions. “At the end of the day it is all about seeking opportunities,” reflects Thapa. “If and when foreign countries face political turmoil or economic problems, Nepalis living abroad will instantly head home,” says Thapa.

Nepal is losing its young people and the government has done absolutely nothing about it. There has been no investment in the youth. “The government should start a

system that tracks Nepalis abroad, list their professions and expertise. They should then initiate and generate opportunities which will create an environment for reverse brain drain,” opines Thapa. On the other hand Poudel says, “More than a system, creating an environment and awareness is of utmost importance.” But thats easier said than done because in Nepal every issue is politicised and nothing really gets done. “The first priority is to get our own house in order politically and then economically. The political parties do not seem to understand the needs and feelings of the people.

Political leaders are dancing to their own tune . We badly need statesmen not politicians,” says Padma Jyoti noted industralist and chairman of Jyoti Group of Companies.

Many Nepalis living abroad would want to return to Nepal if there is political stability and economic development. “The lack of political stability and the law and order situation are the main reasons. If Nepal cannot provide such an environment, Nepalis — 

especially the youth — will look for it elsewhere,” opines Jyoti.

The  numbers are rising

Number of students who went to 45 different countries between

 January 15 to September 16, 2010.

Months/Dates                                No of students

January 15 to February 12              723   

February 13 to March 13                  594   

March 14 to April 13                           701   

April 14 to May 14                                568   

May 15 to June 14                                961   

June 15 to July 16                                890   

July 17 to August 16                          1,171   

August 17 to September 16             1,340   

Total                   6,948

(Source: Ministry of Education)


Such a rubbish stats, students leaving the county will be more in fall followed by the ones living during dec - jan time. Anonymous, California, US

prajwal khanal's ideology is one sided. Its true that the individual prospers in his chosen field but what about the country that has breed-ed him, nurtured him and more than anything given him an identity. So don't we have our individual duties to fulfill in return? Shouldn't we aid the nation so that the dream shared by all Nepalese is achieved ? Sarthak byanjankar, Balkumari, Lalitpur

In my point of view, brain drain is not entirely bad, provided it can be converted into brain sharing and brain circulation. However, I strongly believe all of this roots back into the educational system of our country that is badly in need of dynamic change . When is the big change taking place ? : ( R Lamichhane, Pokhara

To tell the truth, Nepal will function perfectly without political parties. It should be managed and governed by a corporate system. I do agree with Gagan Thapa's view that Nepal lacks basic infrastructure, technology but strongly disagree that there is lack of knowledge, science and expertise. He has not explored the private intiative that has been undertaken in the field of Information technology . Political parties have not been able to agree on some of the basic issues which are good for the country. Hence, it is useless for Gagan Thapa to pretend that he is a leader who can contribute to Nepal's economic progress. He should now create platform to people who can do things better than he can. All must know that it is the economic vision that a country needs and not a political sloganeering. Nepal needs a good visionary statesman and leader like a great CEO of a functioning corporate. But the change must come from people and the their demand, otherwise these politicians will continue to fool the people. smtuladhar, kathmandu

I think the brain drain is a good thing rather than frustrated geniuses looking for solution to the current predicament. Its better that they are there than here frustrated like ticking time-bombs. Thank God there is Europe and America. prajwal khanal, Kalanki

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