Some numbers to help illustrate the point:
Policy debates in international development frequently forget to acknowledge that the actions of individual citizens are often as least as important as the large development interventions. In Haiti, benefits from remittances sent home by migrants equal nearly 20% of GDP – more than twice the earnings from the country’s exports. Similarly, the reduction of income poverty in Nepal from 42% to 26% in 15 years was not mainly due to foreign direct investments, nor due to Official Development Assistance, but rather due to outward labour migration and remittances.
Brain drain as a problem is a stubborn mesofact. Such a worldview is ignorant. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talking about impeding migration (thereby undermining economic development in Haiti):
Clinton said the United States was working to help Haiti’s youth to stay in their country and change what she called “the leading country in the world for brain drain.”
More Haitian college graduates have left Haiti per capita than any other country in the world, she said.
“When you think of the talent that Haiti has produced that benefits us and others, what we want to do is make it possible for any bright, young, ambitious Haitian to stay home and to build his or her country,” she said. “And we are excited by the progress we’re making.”
The best thing going for Haiti right is the brain drain. Clinton wants to put a stop to it. I'm sure she means well. She doesn't understand the relationship between migration and economic development. US policy is rotten from the start.
Meanwhile, international economic development experts are trying to catalyze Haitian migration. The gap between actual research and political rhetoric is huge. The narratives are polarized. But the discourse is changing, for the better. That's why I'm disappointed in Secretary Clinton's position on Haiti.