Saan Pupulutin Ang Pilipinas Kung Wala Nang Industriya?

Regulate the Exodus of Skills and Talents!
Keep the Best and the Brightest at Home!

Overseas employment, the nation’s economic lifeline, is turning into its gravedigger.

While the remittances of over 5 million Filipino migrant workers and over 3 million Filipino immigrants directly support the needs of one-fourth of the population, the unchecked and unregulated outflow of skills and talents is threatening to decimate the few but vital industries that we still have. Ironically, the main justification for the ‘temporary policy’ of manpower export dating back to the Marcos regime is that this is a ‘stop-gap’ transition measure ‘needed’ while waiting for the IMF-WB agro-industrial policies to bear fruit. Sa halip, nagbagsakan isa-isa ang negosyo, saka at trabaho nitong nakaraang tatlong dekada, at ang manpower export ay naging ‘permanently temporary’!

Today, almost everyone is leaving the country – from entertainers and domestic helps, to those with engineering and managerial talents. This is the easy way for the government to generate its target of one million jobs, as unemployment and poverty continue to swell given the continuous erosion of the country’s agro-industrial base.

And now, a great national tragedy is shaping up as even the basic industries that we still have are collapsing with the massive foreign poaching of the skilled and professional personnel who keep these industries humming. Even the delivery of basic social services such as health and education is being threatened.

Can our hospitals treat patients without doctors and nurses or can learning take place without teachers? Can our planes fly without pilots, aircraft mechanics and air comptrollers? Can wireless text messaging and communication happen without radio frequency engineers? Can electricity reach our homes without the linemen? Can ships sail without any guidance from the first mates? Can our steel, petrochemical and other remaining factories operate without any plant engineers?

The depletion of mission-critical skills has never been so severe as it is. In the health sector alone, over 100 hospitals have closed down and the ratio of nurses-to-patients in many hospitals is at an alarming and unsustainable 1:60.

But the most serious situation is in the aviation industry. From ATO’s list of 3,548 commercial pilots, only 700 have remained with the local aviation industry. The number of aviation mechanics still in the country is down to 1,500, from a previous high of 14,684. ATO’s own personnel complement of 2000 has been reduced by foreign poaching to only 700. Weekly, poachers from Singapore, China, India, Middle East, North America and other countries, without clearance from the POEA, are enticing our pilots and aircraft mechanics with all kinds of incentives, some imaginary, in order to abandon the local aviation industry – without resignation notices, without waiting for replacements, and without giving the industry time to recover its investments on training and experiential learning (amounting to at least P1 million a year per pilot and close to half a million a year for an aviation mechanic).

Can an archipelagic Philippines afford to lose its aviation industry? Should the country wait — passively and helplessly — for the total collapse of the health sector, education sector, telecommunications sector, domestic shipping industry, petrochemical industry, steel industry, power industry, accountancy and other critical industries?

We, in the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) say NO.

While we welcome POEA’s recent move to require six-month’s notice for mission-critical personnel and professionals, this is not enough. The crisis is not a normal, transient phenomenon. There are grave social, economic and national security implications which demand bolder policy responses. We demand the following*:

Stricter regulation of the outflow of critical skills and talents in crucial and strategic industries. Sections 5 and 31 of the Migrant Workers Act of l995 empower the State to suspend or ban the deployment of migrant workers ‘in pursuit of national interest or when public welfare so requires’ and ‘to secure’ the services of ‘professionals and other highly-skilled Filipinos’ the government should:

  • Develop and disseminate to recruitment agencies, overseas diplomatic posts the BID, in consultation with affected industries, a list of endangered mission-critical personnel and professionals;
  • Suspend the processing of passport and travel documents of mission-critical personnel and professionals in such endangered industries;
  • De-list and suspend the licenses of recruitment agencies which persist in poaching, recruiting and deploying mission-critical personnel and professionals despite the POEA advisory listing; and

Relatedly, the government should pass a National Service Act requiring the mission-critical personnel and professionals to render a minimum number of years as national service in the home country calculated on the basis of the investment on the education and training made by the school system and industry as determined by an appropriate authority created for this purpose.

On the other hand, the government should immediately upgrade the salaries of mission-critical personnel in the public service such as nurses in government hospitals, teachers in public schools and air controllers; at the same time, it should call for industry-government consultation on how industry can provide globally-competitive compensation and working conditions to keep the best and the brightest at home.

Finally, government, industry, labor and other concerned sectors should come together to develop an integrated human resource development program simultaneous to or accompanying the development of a reinvigorated and integrated agro-industrial development program for the country. The permanently ‘temporary’ policy of labor migration should be reviewed, and so is the failure of the existing agro-industrial policies as formulated by the IMF-WB group and as implemented by a succession of economic technocrats, from the Marcos regime to the present Administration.

———————————
*From the resolutions of participants (industry, labor, academe and civil society) in the Forum-Dialogue on the ‘Exodus of Mission-Critical Personnel and Professionals’: Saan Tayo Tutungo’ organized by the Fair Trade Alliance and the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations, held at Diliman, Quezon City, March 4, 2006.

———————————
Published on page A19 of the March 23, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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  1. Raul Pangalangan

    Passion For Reason : Why restrict the overseas Filipino professional?

    First posted 03:07am (Mla time) Mar 24, 2006
    By Raul Pangalangan
    Inquirer

    Editor’s Note: Published on Page A12 of the March 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

    “REGULATE the exodus of skills and talents! Keep the best and the brightest at home!” screamed the banner of a full-page, paid ad that appeared in the Inquirer the other day.

    That call was issued by a group calling itself the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA). It asks that we regulate the migration of Filipino professionals and highly skilled workers.

    I share their concerns, but not their conclusion. You can only control people’s dreams at your own peril. Fair trade means that traders must be free to compete in the open market, and workers should be just as free to seek the highest value for their labor, locally or abroad. What is sauce for the capitalist goose should be sauce for the proletarian gander, even those whose labors are mental and not menial.

    “Overseas employment, the nation’s economic lifeline, is turning into its gravedigger.” The figures indeed are staggering: 5 million overseas migrant workers and 3 million immigrants, sending remittances to support one-fourth of the population. The FTA warns that the continued outflow of talent has begun to “decimate [our] few but vital industries” and jeopardize basic services like health and education. The depletion of “mission-critical skills” has imperiled our hospitals, with a low nurse-to-patient ratio. And, most critical of all (and which may explain the full-page ad), our aviation industry has suffered from “foreign poaching” of trained pilots and aviation mechanics, and, in terms of investments in “experiential learning,” the FTA estimates losses of P1 million for each pirated Filipino pilot and around P500, 000 for each purloined mechanic.

    The portents are scary indeed, but the remedies are just as worrisome. The FTA proposes the “stricter regulation of the outflow of critical skills and talents in crucial and strategic industries.” That is technocrat talk for “Catch them at the airport.” A National Service Act will restrict the migration of “mission-critical professionals,” and require them to render some sort of compulsory community service for a few years.

    There is, to start with, a minor hitch known as the Bill of Rights, which ensures every Filipino’s “right to travel.” International human rights treaties speak of it as the “right to leave and to return,” and the Supreme Court held that since the Constitution merely said “to travel,” that excluded the “to return” part. Well anyway, that’s what it took to bar Ferdinand Marcos from returning to the Philippines. By whatever interpretation, the right “to travel” still includes the right “to leave,” and that is the only part of the Bill of Rights that any aspiring Filipino illegal alien cares about right now.

    At best, then, any return-service requirement needs to be custom-tailored to the nation’s needs. The period of compulsory service should be fixed and limited, and the covered professions must be confined solely to those truly in crisis.

    However, if the problem is the drying up of the supply of professionals, then by all means let us increase the supply. If there is a shortage of nurses, let us open more nursing schools and train more nurses. After all, there are 84 million Filipinos; if even just 5 percent of us are of trainable age and competence, that’s already 4 million skilled brains. And if there is real demand overseas for their God-given talents, let them go where those talents are justly remunerated.

    Perhaps the real problem is our schools, and our attitude toward diplomas and degrees. Students learn fancy skills for non-existent jobs, and end up jobless or underemployed. They learn Shakespeare in the land of Pepe and Pilar. Either we match our schools’ supply with the job market’s demand, or we accept it as perfectly legitimate — as indeed it is — that college students learn Shakespeare and then affect a Midwestern American accent in a call center.

    I think the real fear is that to increase the supply of skilled brainworkers, we must settle for the lesser brained, and that the only way to maintain quality control is to limit access to the professions. I firmly believe that we can democratize admissions without diluting academic standards. Having been a teacher for more than 20 years, I have no illusions about Filipino students. But I have no illusions, either, about admissions tests: Maybe Albert Einstein might have flunked the UPCAT or NMAT admission tests — after all, he said that “imagination is more important than knowledge.”

    The FTA is correct that a return-service requirement should cover the societal investment in their education, but to enforce it by law would only create a class of bright but frustrated Filipinos chafing at their chains and hating the world, a perfect recruiting pool for terrorists and coup plotters.

    But there is nothing to stop us from enforcing a return-service obligation, not by law, but by voluntary contract. For example, professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) who are sent abroad on fellowships at the university’s expense are tied down to a return-service requirement. By and large, professors have honored this obligation. There are some “Reneging Fellows,” as they are officially called, but I trust that the university’s lawyers diligently check on these deadbeat academics that have in effect run away with taxpayers’ money.

    This system of voluntary contracts must extend to UP’s own graduates. Their education is heavily subsidized, but that subsidy is invisible. It leads to a sense of entitlement by the beneficiaries (indeed, a Darwinian sense of achievement that they beat others to the subsidy), and a lack of appreciation for the taxpayers who shouldered the true cost of their education.

    It takes a village to raise a child. Then let the child know how much thanks he owes the village.

  2. Marina Durano

    Re-thinking the brain drain

    Marina Durano*
    IGTN-Asia

    A timely public debate

    A recent newspaper ad from the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) called for the suspension or the banning of the deployment of highly skilled Filipino workers and professionals, especially those with “critical skills and talents in crucial and strategic industries.” This proposal is more of a problem than the one that it is supposed to address. Raul Pangalanan argued against the proposal from the viewpoint of the “right to travel”. This and other rights are intrinsic to our humanity and the guarantee of human rights acknowledges that a minimum standard is required to live a life with dignity. When choices are taken away, particularly in a socio-economic setting where there are few choices, somehow the standard of humanity is diminished.

    This exchange of views came at an opportune moment.

    We are in the midst of discussions over constitutional reform that is centred on political reforms. We should not forget that the constitutional provisions relevant to Philippine development require just as much attention. The issue of the brain drain provides us with a pretext to begin discussions on clarifying alternative visions of Philippine development. In my view, the migration of skilled workers and professionals is serious symptom of our decades-old development problem.

    Legal approaches versus policy responses

    Pangalanan prefers a programmatic response than legal recourse as an approach to solving the issue of the brain drain. His alternative proposal is a voluntary contract of return service that is based on inculcating a sense of obligation on the part of the beneficiary of the educational and training subsidy. This may be argued for those who enjoyed the benefits of public education and training (in government service) but it does not apply to all workers and professionals who have left or intend to leave the Philippines. Many Filipinos pay for their education from their own pockets (and their relations pockets too) and many educational establishments operate on a for-profit basis charging students what they calculate to be appropriate tuition fees that will cover costs of operation and then some. I do not see why the “school system and industry” be given further powers over the future of students through a national service contract enforced by law. Indeed, the professions that the FTA has highlighted in their ad are more likely to be educated and trained by private institutions and that is probably why industry is crying for help. Ask yourself who in the Philippines has the capacity to train pilots and aircraft mechanics? I remember on a flight to Fiji how the island’s flag carrier boasted in their in-flight magazine that one of their pilots has recently joined a global carrier serving proof of the world-class quality of their personnel. Note the contrast in perspective.

    The behaviour of private industry must be questioned when we all know that they have an army of lawyers capable of enslaving their trainees through private service contracts. I hear that some call centres require a minimum length of service in exchange for the training that would-be employees will receive. The FTA rejoinder to Pangalanan claimed that voluntary service contracts were ineffective in restraining the potential migrant. Should they not be asking themselves why the contracts are unenforceable before they use the immigration bureaucracy for their own ends? Karl Marx himself considered it a virtue of capitalism that workers were free to change employers, which is an advantage not found in the feudal bond between a serf and his landlord.

    The airline industry is one of the most capital-intensive industries and yet somehow the FTA rejoinder implies that the domestic aviation industry will collapse with the flight of a segment of their labour force. The FTA rejoinder says, “…the local employer is the one who assiduously takes care of the necessary upgrading and who allocates the supplementary training fund, as part, of course, of their own business plan.” I can understand the employer’s concern. When your business in engaged in the production of eggs, you as the chicken farmer must provide the hens some minimum amount of feeds and shelter. It will certainly be upsetting if a fox or two stealthily enters the cages (assuming you are not in the niche market of free-range chicken and eggs) to snatch up a hen or two and to make matters hurt more, the hens and the foxes are holding hands while walking out the door. It is understandable that the chicken farmer would want to get the most eggs out of every hen. The natural response of the chicken farmer would be to tighten security.

    To pursue my line of thinking on tightening security, the FTA rejoinder seemingly holds up the US Homeland Security Act as an example, and goddesses forbid, a model for regulating the outflow of critical skills. The same US Homeland Security Act happens to be the scourge of foreigners and other suspicious characters and not in the least is a brazen attempt, along with the US Patriot Act, to curtail civil liberties. Several migrants organizations have pointed to the increased repression of foreigners in various countries since the declaration of the war against terrorism and the FTA appears to laud this development. I sincerely hope that I have taken their statement out of context.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the colour of an airline’s bottom line is dependent on somewhat more complex arrangements than that described in the egg-laying business and it likely involves the combination of price structure and revenue generation strategies, the use of government subsidy, and the management of operational costs. Somewhere in this complexity (for I am merely an economist ignorant of such details) we will find the contribution of training costs to the income statement as well as the balance sheet. Only after a proper analysis of these items for the entire industry can we claim or proclaim industry collapse due to labour loss. At this point, it seems that a financial consultant will be more useful than a national service law. (The empirical questions raised by the FTA should be taken seriously. Many of the concerns raised so far can be quantified and no doubt the analysis will be enriched if private industry is willing to share much-needed information.)

    I get the sense that many Filipinos working abroad want to come home or to find ways to help their kababayan. Not only can we conceive of voluntary contracts but we can also conceive of sharing and collaborative arrangements. There was a UNDP program called TOKTEN or Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals that allowed Filipino scientists and scholars to come home for a short period in various consultancy arrangements. This volunteer mechanism only pays for roundtrip airfare and a daily subsistence allowance. I understand that the Department of Science and Technology is looking to revive or revamp a similar program to increase the number of volunteers. I know that groups of Filipino doctors mostly based in the USA arrange medical missions to underserved areas of the Philippines. The volunteer capacity of Filipinos to help—ang bayanihan—does not appear to decline upon departing the country. What may be lacking is an informed and coordinated effort to bridge domestic needs and requirements with the talent and skills of the migrant workers. Several migrant organizations are also interested in developing return-migrant programs for those whose contracts are not renewed or will take some time to renew.

    Pangalanan also argued in terms of the market’s demand and supply. If there is foreign demand then, by all means, let us meet the supply by educating more and training more workers and professionals. This has certainly become the case for the nursing and care-giving professions as well as seafaring men and women. Many educational establishments found this out early on and have increased their capacity to produce certificates and diplomas as well as provide auxiliary services such as board exam review courses and recruitment and placement links. These are well-established supply chains.

    Furthermore, developments in international trade appear to provide institutional support for this type of supply chain to continue. As developed countries begin to realize that some of their services sectors can no longer be sustained without foreign workers, immigration laws are slowly being relaxed to accommodate the perceived shortage. The WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services supports discussions on the mutual recognition of qualifications among member countries, for example. Unilateral moves are also being taken by some countries to accommodate highly skilled foreign workers, of which the United Kingdom’s Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP) is notable. (By the way, the UK has developed a code of conduct for the recruitment of health personnel from countries experiencing acute shortages due to migration.) Thus, a Philippine policy supporting the global supply chain of service workers will be congruent with developments in international trade. Certainly, if the Philippines wishes to continue its liberalization policies, then re-structuring the educational system to serve the global demand for labour is a logical step (especially so if the Philippine government sees migration only as an issue of unemployment).

    The problem of matching skills to domestic labour demand is more complex but it takes us to the heart of the problem—the brain drain. Pangalanan’s observation that Shakespearean expertise is being parlayed into call centre responses echoes the very young British jazz artist Jamie Cullum’s lament in his song Twentysomething. It is not a problem that is unique to the Philippines. Be that as it may, this mismatch is my own understanding of the brain drain. The FTA discusses the brain drain as a loss to another country of coveted skills. But I think that there is also a brain drain when local talent is left idle or skill unpractised. Talent is still lost despite never having left the country. The brain atrophies from disuse. (De-skilling is a similar term and has been used largely in reference to doctors re-training to become nurses in order to get jobs in other countries. Additionally, it has long been noted that the Philippines has been losing public school teachers because they migrate to become domestic workers in other countries.) There are many reasons why this might happen but I would highlight the lack of complementary technology and infrastructure—and I use these terms broadly—that prevent talent and skill from fulfilling their potential. Only this week did Conrado de Quiros talk about a decreasing number of venues where talented Filipino jazz artists can perform. I suspect that this inability to attain potential is more frustrating to the talented and the skilled than any legal enforcement of a return-service requirement could ever be. Add on low wages, contractual arrangements, and little or no social security and surely we will witness the demise of potential. Bring on the FTA’s proposals and we would have the dead in shackles.

    The Philippines has a history of citizens going to other countries to study and to work. The ilustrados were children of the elite and the middle class who went to Spain. Later versions of this class went to the United States to receive their training. To this day, the elite families of the Philippines send their children to the best schools in the US and Europe to train in business and management with expectations that their children will take over the helm of family-owned and controlled enterprises and conglomerates. But the Philippine elite is no longer what it once was. Those who gained wealth from industry can no longer maintain their upper-crust status and advise their children to seek greener pastures elsewhere with a boost from the remaining money in the ever-shrinking trust fund. Migration in the Philippines is an old story that cuts through income classes and individual circumstance. Each circumstance has its own story and each class its own perspective. The Philippine government sees migration as an issue of unemployment. Philippine business and industry sees migration as an issue of competitiveness. For the ordinary citizen, it is an issue of a search for a better life—a life that she has reason to value. These diverse interests arise from decades of economic underdevelopment and political neglect that resulted in the rigidities and asymmetries that we now find ourselves inextricably bound. But whose interest is critical regardless of whether the economy is doing well or not? Certainly, it must be that of the ordinary citizen!

    The ‘disembodied’ brain

    I may be overstretching the argument a bit by claiming a parallel with debates around intellectual property rights but I think that it may be worthwhile to digress. Skilled personnel and professionals embody a valuable knowledge set that is expensive and difficult to transfer to others. In certain cases, knowledge can be privatized if a tangible equivalent can be found, for example, music CDs, books, training manuals or software. For these tangible equivalents, an intellectual property rights regime can protect the accrual of benefits in favour of the knowledge-producers or their third-party managers/owners. However, there will always remain that piece of knowledge that is absorbed and distilled within the knowledge-holder such that “instinct” is developed. It is a challenge, therefore, to find ways to gain from that highly developed instinct if it cannot be disembodied from the person who has it. Slavery seems to be the only possibility since lobotomy is not good enough. Given the wording of the US Copyright Act, writers and creative persons are advised to avoid the “work-for-hire” contract because it is a blanket claim by employers over all rights associated with works of their employees. When implemented judiciously, creative persons can have difficulty moving on to other employers or accepting other contracts. The FTA is looking for a similar arrangement to be applied to “mission-critical” personnel. It is looking for ways for the private sector to gain monopoly rights over knowledge embodied in “mission-critical” personnel. The justification is their spending on salaries and training costs but the employers forget that the human beings also took pains to socially reproduce themselves in order for the training to achieve productive value.

    Symptom and disease: searching for a cure

    It is only in the final two paragraphs of the ad that the FTA could redeem itself. Unfortunately, its vague wording stands in sharp contrast with the specificity of the legal proposals such that the difference emphasizes the restrictions. I will stand with John Maynard Keynes for a looser government budget, especially for “mission-critical” personnel, however defined. We know, of course, that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not wish to be caught by the Fund doing so. It would be especially important to see greater public spending on health and education not simply to prevent skilled personnel from leaving but primarily to improve general levels of well-being (that leads to an indirect but valuable effect on productivity, if that is how one wishes to account for national welfare).

    I am less inclined to find virtue in an “industry-government consultation” since the obvious answer will be that my bottom line is more important than your compensation. In addition, in certain circles “globally-competitive compensation and working conditions” means exactly the opposite of what I think the FTA desires. I am also concerned that the FTA did not include “mission-critical” personnel and migrants organizations in their proposal for a consultation since they are most likely to feel the impact of the FTA proposals.

    Perhaps, we will all be better off if we addressed the vagueness in the final paragraph of the FTA ad in the first instance. If we concentrate our efforts—combined with our geniuses, talents and skills—on specifying the elements and contents of the FTA’s proposed programs on “human resource development” and on a “reinvigorated and integrated agro-industrial development program” then our nation will surely reap large benefits, hopefully without having to hold back potential, restrict choice sets, and limit anyone’s capability set. Without any working specification of an “integrated economic blueprint”, we will not know which industry is vital to Philippine development. Until the time when specifics are identified, all industries can claim to be vital and seek to regulate their own set of “mission-critical” personnel. Herein lies the danger of the FTA proposal for its limits are indeterminate.

    The aforementioned programs are the ones that we hope will provide the framework for development out of which programs, projects and legal solutions can follow assuming that these programs are fashioned in a manner that is “deliberate, aggressive and informed by national development goals” to borrow the words of economists Ha-Joon Chang and Ilene Grabel. Having seen the previous work of the FTA, there is no doubt in my mind that they agree with the likes of Alice Amsden, Sanjaya Lall, and Dani Rodrik, among others in seeing the benefits of a well-specified trade and industrialization program led by a strong state (i.e., having characteristics opposite to the current administration and its policies). Moreover, human resource development is valuable not only in the obvious terms of raising productivity that is essential for the generation of value-added and income growth. Its greater value is found in generating capabilities for critical thinking useful in public reasoning, which in turn is a necessary requirement for a functioning democracy.

    ———————————

    * The author is a POEA-registered OFW who was deployed in November 2005. She is an economist working in upstate New York. She listens to the Eraserheads while driving to work and reads Conrado de Quiros in between writing statistical programs.

  3. Rene Ofreneo, Ph.D.

    Dear Marina,

    Hi. Many thanks for taking the time to reflect on our ad and our reply to Raul P.

    The problem with many of the points you raised is that they are quite logical and correct. You should write more PolEcon pieces, esp. on the movement of professionals and workers under GATS.

    Let me just clarify that what we are really discussing here is the problem related to the massive and unchecked poaching of a special group of professionals (not skilled professionals in general), that is, those responsible for key production/business operations and whose absence can shut down biz operations, for example, there was an attempt to poach 2-3 mission-critical engineers two years ago in one steel company and the result would be the closure of the said company in Laguna and the idling of almost 1,000 workers, including other plant engineers and professionals. These mission-critical personnel are the object of expensive training investments by the hiring industry and thus, they are required to sign a minimum number of years to serve the company (at UP, a scholar abroad is required to serve UP 3 years for every 6 months or so of scholarship). The problem is that, while workers, when terminated legally or illegally, can easily file for illegal dismissal, professionals who are poached for overseas work simply ignore the terms of their contracts. On the other hand, industries usually do not bother to file legal cases for breach of contracts because the process is expensive (on an individual basis), takes several years and it is a losing proposition to file cases against people already based overseas (this is also a dilemma at UP).

    What we want is for POEA and the government in general to come up with a list of these mission-critical skills and talents (now they are waking up to the problem), review government-industry training coordination, watch out for the activities of foreign poachers (who do not bother to register with the concerned agencies), require the local recruitment agency to observe ethics in recruitment (under the policy of deregulation, recruitment industry is supposed to do self-regulation and follow a code of ethics), etc. And yes, we need an integrated HRD and an integrated agro-industrial development program.

    On the larger issue of migration, the ideal, as articulated by Manolo Abella and others, is for the Philippines, after decades of sending brains, brawns and beauties overseas, will experience a ‘turning point’ in its economic development (using the remittances and learnings from abroad) and that the country will become a labor-receiving one, as what happened in S Korea, Taiwan and other countries. But at the rate things are happening, this scenario is unlikely. The government does not even have a clear program of maximizing gains from remittances, e.g., mobilizing savings for productive purposes.

    Now back to the critical-mission personnel issue, the proposal of some industries is for a ban, as provided for by Sec. 5 of the l995 Migrant Workers Law and as what is practised by some countries, both developed and developing. We said we are against a ban; however, it is clear that we need some regulation and above all, some overall development strategizing, especially against the arrogant Singaporean poachers. Otherwise, we shall be a very weak state indeed.

    Am sure, this piece will not be the end of the discussion. But as Gigi said, it is healthy indeed to debate, especially among friends of the IGTN.

    Cheers.

    Rene O.




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