Bahamas Losing 2/3 Of 'Best And Brightest'


Tribune Business Editor


Almost two-thirds of college and university-educated Bahamians have moved abroad to seek jobs in developed countries, costing this nation a sum equivalent to 4.4 per cent of annual gross domestic product (GDP).

The so-called ‘brain drain’ was highlighted in a newly-released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, which noted that 61 per cent of tertiary-educated Bahamians had left this nation for jobs in Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member countries.

The study, ‘Is there a Caribbean Sclerosis’, which attempts to determine why economic growth in the Bahamas and five other regional nations has been stagnating, effectively suggests this nation is losing its ‘best and brightest’ minds to other economies.

This, in turn, has major implications for the productivity, innovation and creativity of Bahamian firms and the wider economy, all areas where it is suggested this nation is not as competitive as it might be.

The IDB report’s authors, Inder Ruprah, Karl Melgarejo, and Ricardo Sierra, summed it up thus: “The Caribbean countries have lost more than 70 per cent of their labour force with more than 12 years of schooling through emigration.

“This is worrisome because one of the few non-controversial stylised facts in economic growth literature is the positive contribution of education to economic growth. Thus, migration affects the Caribbean countries’ ability to generate economic growth and jobs.”

The IDB study pegs the combined impact of this ‘brain drain’, plus the money spent on these Bahamians’ education, at 4.4 per cent of GDP. With Bahamian GDP currently estimated at around $8 billion, the ‘dollar value’ of that 4.4 per cent is around $350 million.

The Bahamas, though, is far from alone in the ‘brain drain’ problem. And, in comparison to regional peers, it is among those that suffers the least loss, only Surinam (at 48 per cent) losing fewer of its tertiary-educated workers.

In contrast, Jamaica and Guyana both see more than 85 per cent of their college/university graduates migrate abroad for work. And the Bahamas also suffers the least loss in terms of GDP impact and the number of secondary school graduates (10 per cent) who head abroad seeking work.

The IDB study gives no explanation as to why 61 per cent of Bahamian tertiary graduates head abroad, although the likely reasons include the fact many of them stay overseas when their college degrees are completed; the narrowness of the Bahamian economy and opportunities at home; and a lack of information about openings in the Bahamas.

Still, the findings have worrying implications for the Bahamas, as they indicate an entire generation of entrepreneurs and top-level managers may be heading abroad, never to return. And with Baha Mar set to create 5,000 extra jobs, and other major investment projects coming on stream, this nation needs all the top-quality labour it can get.

To reinvigorate Caribbean economies, the ID study suggested they “reorient trade in goods and services towards growing niches”, namely faster-growing countries with rapidly expanding middle classes.

Taking Brazil as an example, the authors suggested that had it been the Bahamas’ main trading partner during the 2008-2012 recession, this nation would have seen a 4.5 percentage point difference in its annual growth level.

“The average increase in annual growth during the Great Recession would have been 2.1 per cent for the Bahamas,” the IDB study said. “Over the next six years, the simulation exercise shows that the increase could reach 0.8 per cent for the Bahamas.”

The Bahamas is currently targeting Brazil for increased financial services, trade and tourism business, and the IDB study suggested that instead of an average 0.4 per cent GDP contraction in 2008-2012, this nation could have enjoyed a 1.68 per cent growth rate had the Latin American state - not the US - been its main trading partner.

And, in the same scenario for 2013-2018, the authors project that the Bahamas would enjoy a 2.88 per cent average GDP growth rate instead of 2.3 per cent. Per capita would also be slightly higher by around $200 per person.

Noting just how badly the Bahamas was impacted by the 2008 recession, the IDB study said this nation collectively lost 40 per cent of its GDP between 2008-2012, based on 2007 growth levels. Only Trinidad fared worse.

And the authors also added their voices to those expressing uncertainty over whether Baha Mar would grow or split the high-end visitor market with Atlantis come 2015.

“The total investment in Baha Mar is estimated to be about US$3.5 billion, and the hotels in the development are expected to increase the number of available hotel rooms by 2,000,” the IDB study said.

“However, being successful will require a substantial increase in the airlift to the island, plus a policy of diversification of tourist source countries such that the Baha Mar represents additional tourism rather than a diversion from the existing hotel complex, Atlantis.”

The IDB report also warned that economic growth and competitiveness in the Bahamas and wider Caribbean was being undermined by “special interest groups”, who were using “rent seeking” and other tactics to redistribute social wealth.

“By enlarging their slice of the pie (real GDP), these interest groups reduce the enlargement (economic growth) of the total pie, which in turn reduces total social gains,” the IDB study said. “This happens by influencing policy.”

Small, stable Caribbean societies such as the Bahamas fostered the creation and embedding of these “growth-retarding special interest groups”, it argued.

As a result, there is “a lower level of public trust of politicians, more unproductive rent-seeking, and a greater degree of wastefulness in government spending.

“Government officials engage in more diversion of public funds, show greater favouritism, and Caribbean businesspersons make more irregular payments and bribes. The only area where Caribbean tourism-based countries are at the same level as their [small island states]counterparts is judicial independence,” the IDB study said.

“Thus, the very feature that the Caribbean is proud of - political stability -may have created the conditions for and sustained an alliance against growth. In other words, Caribbean states are good for (some) businesspersons but not necessarily good for business.

“Thus, the difference in growth between Caribbean countries and other small economies could be due to Caribbean governments not being as good for business.”


Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 8 months ago

We've been attracting the lowest class of illegal immigrants from the Caribbean for years with no successful growth in our economy......now they say we should strive to attract a lower class of tourist from Latin America....presumably because the high class ones from North America and Europe have difficulty with our very high level of crime. Oh well, we can at least claim much success in sinking deeper and deeper in that squalid pit of poverty that Hubert and Perry have taken us to.


The_Oracle 5 years, 8 months ago

Of course they stay away, what is there here for them to return to? Bahamians educated abroad have been exposed to the possible, the rewards of investing themselves in ventures designed to succeed! Where does that occur here? We have a stagnant mentality, a stagnant economy, stagnant politicians, stagnant wealth. We have developed nothing, eroded everything, our youth especially.


B_I_D___ 5 years, 8 months ago

Yeap...if I was able to roll the clock back a couple decades to where I was just coming out of University now...nope...wouldn't be returning to Nassau...better prospects elsewhere.


TheMadHatter 5 years, 8 months ago

Between the unions and the department of public service together -they have ensure there is no opportunity the nation's youth.


John 5 years, 8 months ago

UNLIKE THE BAHAMAS AND MANY CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES, the UNITED STATES knows the value of bringing healthy and educated people into its economy. So while many bright and highly intelligent persons are bred and raised in the Bahamas and other countries, they are welcomed into the US with open arms when they are in their most productive years. The US gets their productivity for free. It was once said that Jamaicans have more nationals living abroad than they have living in Jamaica No Doubt many of our people are discouraged from returning home for political reasons (the less number of educated people that return, the better the chances for aspiring politicians as it will be easier to manipulate the populace) and by those who do not see the social, economic and long term effect of draining the country of its best and brightest minds. SELFISH!


SP 5 years, 8 months ago

My nephews and nieces were sucked up by the U.S. before they even finished college! They were tops in college and were all offered great jobs with all the perks and now earn top dollars.

Come back here for what? Top government postsare loaded with old party line idiots, many of whom couldn't spell cat for all the under the table money, political brown nosing, and pimping in the Bahamas.

Hubert Ingraham unquestionably proved that he was way out of his depth. Even a dumb "D" average high school graduate knows better than to sell majority shares of a communications strategic state asset like BTC.

Yet this idiot was Prime Minister AND "Minister of Finance" ??????????????????????????

"Taking Brazil as an example, the authors suggested that had it been the Bahamas’ main trading partner during the 2008-2012 recession, this nation would have seen a 4.5 percentage point difference in its annual growth level."

Is ANYONE really surprised that a well known uncouth person like Hubert Ingraham couldn't figure out the Brazil thing?

Way...way...way... past time to get rid of the political dinosaurs....Remove the ignorant deadwood political appointees in government corporations and get this country MOVING FORWARD with new, educated, young, innovative blood.


banker 5 years, 8 months ago

Hubert Ingraham was the most enlightened Prime Minister that the Bahamas ever had. BTC was a regressive, colonial company full of corruption and inefficiencies. Privatising it to a subject matter expert was the correct move. Bahamians couldn't run a snotty nose with a bad cold if their lives depended on it. Case in point, BEC, Water & Sewerage, Hotel Corporation .... shall I continue? The majority of the debt with nothing to show for it has been added by the PLP. At least with the FNM we have new roads and infrastructure. I pray that you will get some intellectual enlightenment and economic knowledge before you make ignorant remarks like the above again.


sheeprunner12 5 years, 8 months ago

SP vs banker .......... General gatta be the referee on dis one!!!!!!!!!!


sheeprunner12 5 years, 8 months ago

Perry just brought back 7 Bahamians with PhDs to run BAMSI in Andros........ talk dat


Millennial242 2 years, 8 months ago

Hmmmm....I think international exposure immediately after university is a plus. I wonder if this study took into account those Bahamians that return years after working abroad. There are quite a few (and there is a trend of this now), that work abroad immediately after college/university and do not return back home right away. However, there's a chunk of them that do return a few years later (those in late 20s and early 30s).


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