Belize Trying to Address Issue of Nationals Not Returning After Studying Abroad
This week we told you of the 66 Belizeans who received scholarships via the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Over the past years, hundreds of Belizeans have been given the opportunity to study in Taiwan, but on many occasions, those Belizeans choose to remain abroad instead of coming home to lend to Belize’s development. It is a phenomenon, much like the brain drain in the nursing sector. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eamon Courtenay has conceded that it is an issue and concern which they are currently trying to address.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The issue you are raising is something that we have been discussing with the Government of Taiwan. We have noticed a trend that students get the scholarship, they qualify and remain in Taiwan. Now, these scholarships, the students are not bonded. That’s the first point. Secondly for us we would prefer if they come back but it is their right to remain there. Some of them get scholarships to do more studies, some of them get married or have relationships and remain there. And then of course, and this is the bigger problem for us, those who get jobs. When I say it’s a problem, it’s a problem because these are the best and brightest of Belize. These are people who are getting a first class university degree and we really need every Belizean to come home and to build Belize. Now, I have spoken to some of the students or some of the graduates and they say but there are no jobs in Belize for me at the salary that I can get in Taiwan. That’s true but if they don’t come back, if they don’t come and help to develop, then the next generation will have the same argument. You know, when I came back many years ago the amount of money, the quality of law that was practiced was at a certain level. But by every year, more and more lawyers coming back the whole business and the profession improves. So the general concern of the government is to cooperate with the Government of Taiwan to ensure that even if a Belizean wants to stay in Taiwan for example because they got a job that a limited time is allowed for them to stay so that they come back to Belize and contribute to the development. Let me just close off by saying this. There is no intention of the Government of Belize to force anybody to come back. You got a scholarship, you earned that, and if the circumstances of your particular case is that you stay there, we respect that, but we are making an appeal to Belizeans, particularly those who go to Taiwan because it’s a program that is promoted by the government to come back and help us build Belize.”
Minister Courtenay goes on to note that they cannot and will not force any Belizean to return home. Rather, the best they can do is appeal to them, and see what systems can be worked out to have Belize benefit in the longer run.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “I don’t think anybody is escaping Belize. We have hundreds, if not thousands of students going to the United States, going to the University of the West Indies, going to universities all over the world and many of them return. They go to the United Kingdom under the Chevening program and they return and contribute to Belize. Many stay. So what I’m saying is that it’s a phenomenon that exists, it’s a phenomenon that happens not only in Taiwan but in this particular case, this is a government scholarship program and so we are trying to work with Taiwan to see if we can address the issue that has arisen. They are educating our Belizeans and allowing them to stay there, allowing them to get jobs, to build their country and that’s not really the objective of the program. The program is to make a scholarship available to a Belizean who will hopefully come back. I want to stress, we understand this phenomenon. It happens not only in Taiwan but because this is a government promoted scholarship program we are trying to see what we can do to encourage more Beliezens to come home.”