18 June, 2018

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Colonial Legacy, Dependency & Brain Drain From The Global South

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

From the colonial days, colonised countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America established contacts with imperial centres of the global north under the latter’s control, initiative and supervision. Though these countries have had international contacts of various sorts before colonisation as sovereign countries, the nature of international contacts differed significantly. One defining feature of colonial relations was the fact that substantially more benefits going to imperial centres and their masters in comparison to those going to colonised countries. However, a small but influential group of local elite families in such countries received disproportionate advantages from the colonial masters in return for their loyalty. 

Commerce and trade thrived. Imports from imperial centres increased often replacing local alternatives. We are familiar with the story of how tea replaced a range of indigenous herbal drinks in Ceylon. A dependency was created not only in economic relations but also in the political and governance spheres. Education was converted in favour of Western education. A supposedly superior culture and way of living were implanted along with the English language and Christianity (in other parts of the colonised world, French, Spanish etc. were implanted instead of English). Colonised subjects started to look to the West for material, educational, spiritual and cultural upliftment. Societies started to fragment along those who were sympathetic to modernisation and development which were labelled as progress and those who adhered to tradition and traditional ways. 

After the political independence of such colonised countries, the international relations continued with some modifications, mostly cosmetic. However, the dependencies established during the colonial era continued as the structures and practices in place in various fields such as governance, trade, economy, law, education, diplomacy, religion did not change significantly.

By now governance has changed to suit the needs of national parties and leaders in the colonised countries. Some have acquired hybrid characteristics. Governments however are beset with problems of high foreign debt, corruption and waste, increasing costs of living, law and order, etc. Countries are also connected to the global economy, Western capitals plus emerging economies in the name of free trade, open borders, globalisation, and more. Facilitation of capital and labour movement across national boundaries has become faster and smoother. Borrowings by debt ridden countries from multilateral lending agencies and countries like China have become commonplace. Foreign investments are encouraged. Diaspora groups have spread across the globe.  Amidst all these new developments after gaining independence, the dependencies of formerly colonised countries have not decreased. In fact, they have increased. Writers such as Samir Amin have explained how such dependencies continue in the name of Neo colonialism or lately Neo liberalism.

How does the global economy shaped by powerful governments and multinational corporations in the global North and now China and India as well make a presence in formerly colonised countries and maintain the unequal economic, political and social order today? Such corporations are constantly looking for new markets for their products and services in the emerging economies in order to make profits for their shareholders as well as to expand corporation activities. The profits they can make in domestic economies are limited due to high wages and high input costs as well as due to high income taxes in some developed countries. Environmental regulations also make their operations expensive. Alert customers take them to task when there are breaches of consumer law. Thus, such corporations look for new places to operate their manufacturing plants, service outlets etc. where they can obtain tax and other advantages such as low labour costs and low infrastructure costs. What they pay for utilities is much less in emerging economies compared to what they have to pay in developed economies.

Such corporations thus establish manufacturing plant, export and trade points and offices in countries of the global south as well as less developed countries of the global North such as Romania and Poland.  Locals who acquire skills to work in such operations with sufficient language knowledge and educational qualifications find employment. After working for some years, some are able to move across national boundaries to other countries for better pay and work conditions. Though such workers are able to earn a higher wage in their own countries in comparison to those who work in the state sector, their wages are much less in comparison to those in similar positions in developed countries. 

To facilitate sections of formerly colonised countries to work for multinational corporations, developed countries of the West including USA have expanded their education and training operations to the developing countries. Thus, there are higher education programs and institutions from USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand providing degree courses for a substantial fee. These countries have made it easier for prospective students from the developing countries to gain admission to courses in the West plus Australia and New Zealand through a network of local agents. Migration and settlement opportunities in such countries have also been relaxed by allowing graduates to obtain temporary work visas. 

All this means that there is a heavy brain drain from the developing countries to the developed world. This is appreciated by leaders of developed countries of the global north as they need the new talent to augment their corporations, research centres, universities and fill vacancies for various jobs in rural and regional areas. Their gain is the loss for developing countries such as Sri Lanka. Yet such a loss is even not noted in the current context where international education is being pushed as the way forward by economically emerging countries and indeed those that are caught up in the debt trap even to the quality-wise neglect of state funded institutions.

Once a person or his /her family arrives in a developed country, they immediately become consumers. They have to pay rent, buy food, furniture and electronics, see medical practitioners, send children to school and pay for transport and communication. In a sense, for their whole life they become bonded to the tax system plus the suppliers of goods and services while paying a goods and services tax also (GST or VAT). The income they receive is to be spent on various necessities. If they buy a house by borrowing from a bank, they have to pay the loan and interest for 20-30 years. The same applies to those who work for multinational corporations in their own countries. This is good business for companies. The more a migrant earn, the more he/she has to pay taxes. It is good for the governments also.  Moreover, when such migrants live in developed countries for 20-30 years, many detach themselves from their original culture, language, religion and way of life. In their place, they embrace the modern, consumerisit culture, way of life and its trappings. In other words, they become strangers to their mother countries and even to parts of the diaspora that try to maintain elements of original culture and identity.

One question is whether there are other ways for formerly colonised, developing countries to prosper in economic, political and cultural terms?  Irrespective of the nationalistic and patriotic rhetoric adopted by political leaders, they have been unable to explore alternatives to the existing neo colonial-neoliberal economic paradigm dictated by powerful countries and agencies with the backing of their multinational corporations. They embrace expanding foreign education in their countries knowing that this leads to brain drain. State supported higher education sectors have not been able to free from inherited disciplinary knowledge, especially in social sciences and humanities during the colonial days. Instead of looking after the national interest or undertaking nation building projects and truly liberating, the political leadership seems to be following a path for creating further dependencies on countries tied to the globally dominant players. Foreign investments, some with dubious national benefits, are encouraged by mortgaging national assets on long term basis. Little they realise that national sovereignty is under threat not necessarily from minorities but from this expanding multinational operations or those coming from countries with one party rule. There are vested interests within governments that promote connections with the global economy on unequal terms.  There is little hope that such vested interests that cut across party lines will change the course in the foreseeable future. It is now up to the civil society organisations to invest time to search and push for alternative paradigms in the economy, governance, higher education, international relations and other fields. Substantial reforms are also required in fields such as law and governance.

Among others, alternative development models include sustainable development projects with community ownership and management, corporative models, Social Enterprises (popular in South East Asian Countries), indigenous development, models initiated, funded and managed by NGOs, farmer organisations selling products direct to the consumer, organic farming and marketing. These can be implemented in a range of areas including industry, business, trade, transport, communications, agriculture, tourism, education and health.  In such enterprises, pooling resources to achieve growth on the basis of sharing the results in an environmentally conscious way is defining feature. Profit alone does not drive them.  Social responsibility is paramount. Community empowerment through engagements in such enterprises is also a main flank. This is not only theory. There are examples of such models and enterprises from countries of the global south that can be useful for understanding their scope and benefits as well as the potential to steer countries away from the dependencies being created by the neo colonial-neoliberal economic model and its advocates.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    Although we like to vilify the ‘Colonial Masters’, I believe the Country was better and more efficiently Run under their System!
    As it is Now, Politics in Sri Lanka, has become a Platform for Hangers On, with no Other Qualifications than Greed , to Line their Own Pockets.

    • 1
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      We want those colonials back to put the country right and jail the crooks and I could see the future where thousands of crooked politicians and officials spending their lives in Jail. It’s coming I say.This can’t go on for ever. Already Argentinians are protesting in the streets to stop their politicians borrowing money for various projects from the IMF.It another type of colonization and exploitation of the humble people and the tax payers and this must stop.

      • 1
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        “How does the global economy shaped by powerful governments and multinational corporations in the global North and now China and India as well make a presence in formerly colonised countries and maintain the unequal economic, political and social order today?”

        Leave aside other countries ………….. American citizens themselves …… are victims of their corporations.

        In recent times two gigantic monsters that held/hold people in bondage did emerge; the Soviet “communist” system and the American “corporate” system. Most citizens are small cogs in the well-oiled monsters. Their wellbeing/survival depends on how well they perform their task in propelling the monsters.

        No individual can challenge the monster ………… for foolishly challenging the monster for change, Nikita Khrushchev ended up switching off lights in a factory after the workers have finished. Leonid Brezhnev was no such fool, a cunning fox, who knew exactly what the monster wanted of him.

        No individual cog can challenge, until a cataclysmic event takes place and many of the cogs can “come out” and slay the monster.

        If you travel through small-town USA by road, you will encounter modern-day slavery irrespective of the hue; black, white, brown or striped. How “corporate” America has reduced workers to battery-hens; systematically stripped of everything and given just enough sustenance to come back to work the next day. In the “Land of the Free” where people whose souls have been sucked out, struggling without proper remunerations/benefits for their labour striving to first find economic-freedom to enjoy the distant mirage of other “freedoms.”

        Self-interest propels human-activity ………. the good and the bad………… that’s how man survives among other man-animals ……….

        These are the times we live in ………….

        Social-Evolution at work. ………………. I wished my ancestors had refused when asked to join the first group of hunter-gatherers ………

  • 1
    1

    This is so called modern colonization. They have this logics. Mighty is always right .
    So we can not win.

  • 2
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    Worthless to read. The Old Wine in the new bottle. No new light or solution other than an attempt to revive the failed communism.

    Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea El al all are colonies. Now, West is scared of these Tigers. Vietnam is coming up. Bangladesh may show its magic, soon. India’s recovery is slow but coming up.

    Interesting part is North and South Koreas both were colonies. What a difference between them? East Germany made a stunning change after merging with West Germany.

    No Buddhist country is doing well in economy. That is why Eastern Tigers ignore the religion and they are partly atheistic.

    All Lankan experts’ all time theories are, while accusing Tamils of corporate with Whites against them, they never did invent anything useful, other than finding lame excuses of somebody had revenged them for something.

    It is the Sinhalese who played traitor role to all three kingdoms got captured by Whites. They never ever willing to look back that traitorous immoral behavior and self-criticize it.

    Ceylon was growing fast under the management of Tamils while big numbers of Ceylon Tamils were migrating to Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Rangoon…….. There were still abundant of brain of Tamils were left in so that to Tamils man 75% of the government jobs. TN Tamils also were hired all over the world for their preparedness to work any hard work. Portuguese, Dutch and English brought heavy numbers of labor into Lankawe. That time the talk of Ceylon Tamils’ brain drain was not in the talk in any corner of Ceylon.

    20,000 old style bold head graduates are now in the country. Other than draining out country’s scarce resources to drive on Benz and drink champagne and inducing the political corruption with high authority, can Prof. Siri Gamage point out one single use of this lazy life?

    These types of essays are never going to guide the Modayas Mass beyond the Arrack and Biryani and eagerly wait for the next election, for their share with the goon 8th graders.

    • 1
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      Totally brainless reasoning.

  • 2
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    Yes Siri:
    ….However, a small but influential group of local elite families in such countries received disproportionate advantages from the colonial masters in return for their loyalty……

    The moment I read this my thoughts went to Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike KCMG JP
    Solomon Dias Bandaranaike (1862-1946).Maha Mudaliyar of Ceylon. He, and several others delivered a quiescent people to the colonial master. A thefamily benefited very nicely, thank you.

    Anyway Siri, the thing is that we have all the answers to counter the brain drain, but we the people have elected a bunch of incompetent idiots, thugs and self -servers to power and they only act for themselves. The people are lucky to get the crumbs that fall from the table of the master.

    No wonder, anybody who wants to get ahead will get up and go at the first opportunity.They will overcome all obstacles to succeed in the land of their choice, in preference to staying in our island paradise only to be ruled by the aforesaid ne’er-do-wells.

  • 3
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    This is gem of a piece. I hope and trust this article will revolutionise Sri Lanka’s education system and stop brain drain

  • 3
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    The maestro has dropped a bombshell this time, well done and said bro

  • 4
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    Siri Gamage one of the top most article writers of our times has written an important article that deserves intellectual discussion without mud slinging please.

    • 1
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      English is the Language for Intellectual Discussion! Sinhala and Tamil have to Resort to ‘Mud Slinging’!

  • 2
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    gee… this siri guy can write. others please note form, grammar, style and quality, and then learn

  • 1
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    siri you are a legend. I have changed my mind – I am going to send my daughter to New England University NSW for her bachelors ‘cos you are there like a rock and tower to serve sri lankans in australia

  • 1
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    Dear Siri

    I’ve heard you are currently shortlisted for ‘Australian of the Year 2018’. We are eagerly waiting for the Governor General’s announcement.

    Given that you are such a beautiful person I sincerely ask you to consider running for New England seat at 2019 election, especially given that Barnaby Joyce is more or less completely gone.

    We Sri Lankans from Sydney will hire a train and come in droves to help you at, as you are the best.

  • 2
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    Beautiful man, beautiful soul – Siri Gamage

  • 1
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    Shyamon Jayasinghe it’s your turn now to match this top most quality

  • 1
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    Some of Siri Gamage’s submissions are valid but very much re-re-recycled.
    Migration contributed to human advancement ever since humans started using two legs for mobility. A comparative recent migration was the Europeans sailing in droves to Americas. Need we talk about the contribution of these migrants to science, commerce and world economy?
    Yes, the migration from the ‘Global South’ to ‘Global North’ is comparatively recent. Often labelled ‘brain drain’ but was it? The ‘brains’ left behind reverted to the primitive instinct and started exploiting fellow humans.
    The ‘North’ did and continue to inflict some of the miseries of the ‘South’. Did our primitive ‘get-rich’ syndrome exacerbate the slide? In our case how the hell can we slow the slide when we are left with two baddys to choose from?

  • 0
    1

    How about under colonial LEgacy, Western LAw firms engaging in corruptions in Sri lanka. IT says WALT AND RAW, must be an expanding LAW FIRM from the west, is responsible distributing profit sharing cheques from bond scam for every politician. Why the govt is silent. IS the embassy behind protecting those.

  • 0
    1

    How can the Sri lankan govt do anything. The present govt can not solve the SAITM issue. Mahinda Rajapakse govt is responsible for legislating it. Now, the JAckal Oppostion led by Mahinda Rajapakse, JVP are all agaisnt it. Maithripals sirisena is silent. West is successful. They exploit the world for their benefit. the west has two classes of citizens. the second class citizens of Migretns keep their economies alive. the gov tknows it. They mistreate migrents silently saying one day when everything start working we will treat them the same way. On the otherhand, Even China, RUssia, Europe have the brain drain from their countries. But, when you consider among the developed or those european countries they have agreements to support each others immigrents. So, it is more than what you think. One well know scientisit Michi KAku, I thin, says, USA’s 50% of the educated professioanls coem from overseas countries. Indiana dn china dominates those countries. so, think about the money lost by those countreis. Even Sri lanka may had had got AIDS. but how about the supply of educated lbarouers to those countries to maek their ma ufacturing plants to be very efficiently producing.

  • 0
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    MUltinational corporations are in Sri lanka and they are thriving too. The worst is the OIL and Pahrmaceutical corporations. Politicians and officials, doctorsa re part of the scandle. The reason they get rewards, scholarships, short training and annaul celebration at seven star, five star hotels, and overseas trips to families. So, Sri lanka is relatively poor, at least these individuals cam from poor backgrounds. So, indisciplined society can easily get into these. Govt has now laws or enforcing the legislations as everything is politicized.

  • 0
    0

    Excellent article! Now more than ever, do we need to oust China’s unascertained and shaky economic structure for Sri Lanka which is actually an express copy of what the West did to us for over 400 years. The only place that can help up develop our land in our own Lankan autonomous way (as in Gamage’s last paragraph), is America. They will pay us well to be non-threatening towards them, over China’s attempts to take over their global networking strategies. US has finally realized that their global networking strategies were never very sustainable. They have finally realized the value of building up their capitalistic structure within their own borders, rather than forcing others to feed their system for them. The Trumpian strategy is for America to build up the monetary system within the network they have already. Countries going back to non-threatening traditional socialism will suit them just fine.

  • 2
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    It is baseless to condemn the west for our own folly of blunders. The major reason for the brain drain is the deterioration of the currency and education system from Independence. We miserably failed to continue from where the British left behind. The result is strikes and protests are the order of the day. All political parties played petty games for their own survival. In today’s context all those who left our country are doing pretty well and for them, no regrets what so ever. Even all Sri Lankans are longing to get away from this country for greener pastures as no one could able to visualize bright future in Sri Lanka.

  • 0
    0

    I heard there is human migration from Europe to Sri lanka. they want to start tourist BED and breakfast motels. some others are willing to upgrade everything we have for a fee. So, the migrations happened even during the ancient times. that is why Africans are said to begin the civilizations all over the world. Chinese have moved to and via North america to South America. The problem is when the rich govts exploit that for their benefit and they do it.

  • 0
    0

    For a moment I do not doubt Siri Gamage’s integrity, but, if he is going to replace Barneby Joyce in New England (as enunciated by a writer here), Siri has to join the Nationals. Being a strong Liberal, whether or not Siri would take that stance, the whole world will watch (it’s a bit like UNPer joining SLFP).

    If Siri joins Nationals he will win with a thumping majority also given the Asian vote in that electorate.

  • 0
    0

    Yamuna

    If Siri is to win New England the Asian vote is insufficient,. MY3 and Ranil will have to support the man, they must personally talk to Turnbull and ask for funds, how to vote cards and white votes for Siri.

    We will organise a train full of Lankans from Sydney to New England. Minolika Rathwatte is already drawing plans I’ve heard, with a big barbecue at the NE Uni. We can surely raise $15000 there.

    • 0
      0

      Tony Windsor,former independent MP is the man for New England. He will most certainly contest next election from there. I supported him last time and will do so next time.In the New England electorate, especially in Armidale, Tamworth etc.there are vibrant civil society organisations that support Tony at election time. He has a voter base among those fighting for protecting farms, wagers table, environment in the face of coal seam gas mining in Liverpool plains. He is a good human being with fine manner and easy to interact at personal level. You can Google and see his profile.

      As for the talk about being nominated for Australian of the Year: No chance. Don’t even think about it…One has to do considerable community service to be nominated and be successful for this award. It is not awarded on loyalty to a party or personal influence.

      What should Asian immigrants in SYDNEY etc. do is to start contesting Local Government elections first and get some experience and name recognition. Then go for State elections etc. I am glad to see some Indian -Australians are already doing this in areas like Parramatta. Immigrants have to get involved in the political process here-not be voters only.

  • 1
    0

    People must be day dreaming of Siri Gamage becoming New England MP. he he he he he

    He has no chance, 3rd or 4th. Will certainly keep the deposit. But if he wins ‘Australian of the Year’ award as much anticipated, the tables will turn for good. I live in Melbourne Australia

  • 2
    0

    Siri needs funds for his campaign, must raise 100 laksh dollars for him

  • 0
    0

    A good article for the new generation to ask the question why Lankans who left the country are not coming back to Nation Build?
    Specially after the war has ended and in 2015 GOSL open invitation for all to come back home? Is the ambiance not good? Do not feel safe in their mother land? tired with the politics and feel nothing changed? having family overseas and do not want to affect the family life? or simply could not be asked? Not getting GOSL personal invitation for the honour? if they are Tamils then feel the war end is unjustified and feel retribution needed?
    Myself for example got my nationality back in 2016 but could not gather enough to return as I have no where to live too and would not know where to start at an age of 50 something? Should GOSL do more to facilitate the people back to serve the nation by approaching them all individually to discuss opportunities in identified sectors?

    How about the skilled workers in Middle-east/Korea etc….is their foreign currency more important vs they are given openings/opportunities home and lead a more normal life specially now we are talking about need of foreign workers?

    A big maybe that we are all being collectively “man power resource managed” as a nation and is beyond our help?? only think we can do is to kill each other to “sustain” what the author called the brain drain so we are always on the run to sustain this miserable life?? How come we have brains to work for others elsewhere and when this involves taking care of each other our Brians turn into killing machines?

  • 0
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