FORMER UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once compared arguing against globalization to arguing against the laws of gravity. For good or bad, globalization has become an undeniable reality, and one which every developing country has to grapple with on its development path. One of the main features of globalization is cross-country movement of people, especially the youth, who travel far and wide in search of plum job and education opportunities. Among the great mass of Nepali youth that leaves the country to study and work abroad each year are thousands of home-grown medical doctors and engineers, thereby leaving the country desperately short of qualified manpower in these vital areas. As a result Nepal’s doctor to people ratio is the worst in Asia: just two doctors for 10,000 people. A recent survey showed that out of 179 primary health care centers, a third were without doctors. The country, likewise, faces an acute shortage of engineers, although it churns out over 4,000 every year. Only a tiny fraction of them stay in the country, nearly not enough to meet the country’s growing needs. Nepal will need an additional 39,000 engineers if the government’s future development plans are to see fruition.
In this gloomy state, the initiative of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) to mobilize 500 engineering students every year to work as interns in the development projects under its watch comes as a breath of fresh air. The aim is to inject new energy into development projects that are now plagued by inefficiency and corruption. According to the agreement, the interns will have to work for six months after their graduation before they are eligible for their certificates. A similar approach has been in place for medical students for a long time. But the sad fact is that hundreds of doctors who won scholarships under various government schemes have disregarded the provision of two year of compulsory service in rural areas, choosing instead to go oversees for higher education or employ their skills in private hospitals.
The reason for such large-scale flight of capable technical manpower is obvious. The developed world is desperately short in qualified manpower in technical fields as most local students are increasingly attracted to non-technical fields like humanities and social sciences. Thus to retain them, the country will have to devise a system that provides enough incentives for the trained manpower to stay put. A few things will have to happen for this. First, it goes without saying that if there is greater political stability, the country’s economic prospects are likely to improve, which in turn will mean high pay and perks for qualified manpower. Second, cost-effective yet at the same time lucrative packages will have to be devised to keep them interested in working here, through greater non-financial facilities for instance. Third, the field work of new pass-outs has to be tied to their career development plans, through measures like tie up of post graduate studies to the amount of field work in rural areas. Much like MoFALD’s latest plan, the need of the hour is out of the box thinking.