The exodus of Ghanaians to other countries still remains very pertinent and crucial in all aspects of development discourse of the country. The second half of the twentieth century has been referred to as “the age of migration” considering the unprecedented number of people who have moved from country to country.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the issue of migration has been the sword of Damocles hanging around the neck of the country regardless of government that comes to power. And as such formulating pragmatic measures to tackle this dilemma has been the bane of successive governments.
The lives of Ghanaians are easily lost in the deserts in North Africa and in the Mediterranean Sea. The states of education and health sector have been rendered desolate with the emigration of limited skilled labour to seek better life elsewhere. The ordinary Ghanaian is prepared to take the risk of whatever form whether better life in foreign countries is a myth or reality.
The needed attention and due consideration should be given to the manner this issue has gained unenviable foothold in the country. In the same vein, migration is deemed legitimate considering the important benefits it presents to majority of people. Nonetheless, the issue of dealing with migration has become more urgent with the release of the report on “Migration profile of Ghana” by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). According to IOM, 56 per cent of doctors and 24 per cent of nurses trained in Ghana are now working abroad, while in the education sector, more than 60 per cent of faculty positions at Polytechnics and 40 per cent at Public Universities are vacant. IOM, therefore, indicates that the health sector is the most affected.
Though for recent times migration has been seen as a normal phenomenon, there is no issue of greater importance than to ideally reconsider the state of an economy that is losing vast numbers of its already limited skilled labour force. Nonetheless, it is striking to know that there has been an increase in the flow of remittances into the country. The burning question that remains unanswered is that “is migration in the country a blessing or curse?”
Setting the Agenda
The report by IOM clearly indicates that skilled migration, especially to developed countries in the West has been on the ascendancy since 1990 with Ghana bagging the highest emigration rates (46 per cent) for highly skilled people in West Africa. This is exacerbating labour shortages in critical sectors such as health and education. This reveals how underdeveloped country like Ghana is losing or wasting its funds that are used to nurture and develop health and education personnel. However, it is significant to stress that the mushrooming of the significance of remittance flows to the ordinary Ghanaian and to the benefit of the economy have served to downplay the urgency of devising measures to clamp down on the movement (legal ad illegal) of Ghanaians to foreign lands.
Blessing or Curse The question is that should the ruling government formulate migration policies considering the pros and cons of the issue? In considering the benefits of migration, the increasing role of remittances to poverty reduction and economic growth has presented a case where it is difficult to regard migration as incongruous.
According to the International Labour Organization, the significance of remittances for international development finance and income distribution which has mushroomed as global remittances have grown to US$167.250 billion annually (ILO, 2006) The Bank of Ghana also estimates that remittances increased from US$476 million in 1999 to US$1.9 billion in 2008. The importance of remittances towards livelihood improvement of most people in the country can be said to have made a clear case for the emigration of the youth and professionals to seek greener pastures.
Purportedly, remittances that go directly to the poor are toward basic human security needs such as food, education, housing and the development of small businesses and microenterprises. It is also studied that remittances go towards meeting community needs such as schools and health facilities. Indeed, the fact that countless Ghanaians are benefiting from money sent down by their pals and relatives in “shadowlands”, the significance of migration can never be underestimated.
Nonetheless, the case of the vast loss of professionals and exuberant youth as a result of migration remains very bleak and disastrous. This is because the loss of the youth and skilled professionals cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Apart from the fact that state funds are wasted on training these skilled personnel, the available few professional and other health and education personnel poses serious risk to sustaining the livelihoods of Ghanaians. The cheap and easy loss of lives as a result of limited medical doctors and nurses or unattractive economy would serve to practically imperil the set progress of the economy. Our youth who could work to sustain the local capacity of the economy are struggling to make better life elsewhere. What then becomes of the fate of this country, if this dreadful situation should continue grow to an uncontrolled dimension?
In all, the progress of the economy would stagnate if the health conditions of the people are neglected and students not getting good and adequate teachers to enhance the acquisition of knowledge. It can be said that our aspirations to achieving the Millennium Development Goals hang in the balance. Though migration provides its portion of benefits, it goes without saying that the curse far outweighs the blessings involved. The country is losing a lot of potential human resources.
These call for the government and all people to stand up to this situation before we lose a great number of our youth to the Mediterranean Sea and the developed economies. Despite the fact that controlling migration is virtually the most difficult decision to take, the formulation of a migration policy and better still practical youth policy would be a step in the right direction. One cannot help but to blame the unsupportive nature of the Ghanaian economy where the welfare of the youth and skilled labour are left to the lap of the gods. The salaries of teachers are just inadequate to motivate them to offer their best.
Teachers reward should be packaged to provide grounds for a meaningful formal education. The health professionals feel cheated when their salaries are not commensurate with work output. But what shall we do then when Ghana is still not self-sufficient but listens to the directions of bilateral/multilateral donors and other international donor agencies for her own development priorities. The only excuse would be that the country does not have the adequate funds to cater for their growing demands. Can Ghana keep these disenchanted professionals and energetic youths?
What is grievously missing in the issue of migration is lack of political will. Nothing seems to have been done by successive governments, not even with illegal migration. It could be anticipated that migration would continue to be a headache to the country. It is about time the country formulated all-encompassing strategies to make the economy attractive to the youth and the skilled labour force. We cannot indeed measure in monetary terms lives that are easily annihilated or of those imprisoned in foreign lands. The mass exodus of the professionals is definitely a curse than a blessing. We must contain the indispensable services of our professionals and the youth for a better Ghana tomorrow.
The author Stephen Yeboah is at the Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi-Ghana. [[email protected]]
Source: Stephen Yeboah [[email protected]]
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