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The Brain Regain

The “brain drain” that has afflicted developing countries for decades is now going into reverse in some countries. But success requires more than plugging a leak; economic development requires countries to make active efforts to attract talent.

DUBAI – In 1968, while studying at the Mons Officer Cadet School in the United Kingdom, I needed to visit a hospital. There I met a doctor who, to my surprise, spoke fluent Arabic. I learned that he was new to the UK, so I asked if he intended to stay long or return home. He replied with an Arabic saying that translates as: “My home is where I can eat.”

That doctor’s words stayed with me for many years, because they underscored the contradiction between our idealized view of “home” and the harsh realities of life that push talented people to leave their homes.

The doctor was a classic case of the “brain drain” phenomenon that has afflicted developing countries for decades. These countries spend scarce resources educating doctors, engineers, and scientists, in the hope that they will become engines of prosperity. Then we watch with dismay as they migrate to the West, taking with them the promise of their talent.

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