Reversing the Brain Drain
To regain the Lebanon we want, a sovereign and independent Lebanon where families live in dignity, where diversities are celebrated, where corruption is addressed, and justice is served, a major economic restructuring should take place, right now, under the supervision of international audit firms.
When a country-level governance is not reliable enough, a global emergency response is required. In this case, international monitoring bodies should be solicited to collaborate with local organizations on the ground with a goal of redressing the current situation and relaunching an economic and social reform program.
The main target of the reform program on a social level should be the curbing of the youth’s out-migration (by creating job opportunities for them), developing rural areas, and establishing a safety net for the elderly.
- 1-Creating job opportunities for youth
An effective rebooting plan for the economy is one that addresses the right gaps in the right sectors. In the case of Lebanon, strengthening the country’s strategic assets, particularly agro-farming, technology, and tourism, will help in enhancing the country’s position in the region, creating job opportunities for Lebanese and a demand-driven supply chain that paves the way towards lifting the economy.
Knowing that Lebanon’s food industry employs 25% of the population, efforts should be focused to revolutionize our agro-farming sector to meet the highest standards, empowering the competitiveness of Lebanon in the export of high-end products. On another hand, Lebanese should bank on their strong competitive communication and technical skills – the majority of the labour force is trilingual – to create various opportunities for spearheading the development of the technology sector, particularly the telecom and teletrading services. Last but not least, all endeavours should be aimed at putting Lebanon on the international map of rural, environmental, culinary and religious tourism. The country’s unique biodiversity, rural traditions, and pivotal role in the region’s religious history offer great job opportunities in the tourism sector.
- 2-Developing rural areas
With 87% of the Lebanese population living in cities, urban density has become one of the major obstacles to job availability in cities. Developing rural areas by enhancing their infrastructure, factories, and agriculture techniques, will not only further endorse the agro-farming sector, but also allow to create the indispensable link between producers and manufacturers.
- 3-Creating a safety net for the elderly
Knowing that Lebanon is one of only 16 countries in the world with no pension scheme for private sector workers, and the fastest ageing population in the Middle East and North Africa - due to low fertility rates, high life expectancy, and very high out-migration rates - establishing an end-of-service indemnity scheme is more than pressing. By shifting the responsibility of the elderly’s welfare to the government, the young generations can focus on moving forward and investing in a bright future in their country, instead of investing all their income on their elders. This cannot happen without a proper education system, empowered in both its public and private institutions, and redirected solely to the interest of students.
Finally, owing to its small size and the proactiveness of its people, Lebanon is an easy-to-reform model, provided its reigning feudal-inspired mentality is dismantled, and provided the overall mentality changes from within, acknowledging that the dollarization of our debt 30 years ago created an economic bubble that just burst. Now is the time to build the Lebanese economy on new grounds, and change the unrealistic and non-viable socio-economic habits that brought us to our knees.
If the right reform measures are taken to restore proper governance, solutions will stop relying on the diaspora and come from the inside. The overall impact of the mentioned solutions should eventually lead to the reverse of the brain drain. Just like it did before.
*Founder and CEO of Beit el Baraka.