The continued exodus overseas of skilled Fiji people of all races is a dangerous trend which will have a devastating effect on national development, Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry warned.
If the trend continued, Fiji would be left with a large pool of poorly educated, unskilled work force with disastrous consequences on our social and economic infrastructure, and levels of investment, he said.
The adverse effects of the brain drain that began with the 1987 coups, is seen in the decline of the sugar industry, falling standards of education, the appalling state of our health facilities, the incompetence and inefficiency of the civil service as well as a general decline in professional standards everywhere.
Mr. Chaudhry warned that the vacuum created by this out-migration, would be filled by undesirable elements leading to an increase in crime rates, drugs, money laundering etc.
The Opposition Leader was commenting on a paper by USP academic Robbie Robertson that by next year the Indian population would be down to 37% of the total demographic set up, as a result of accelerated out-migration. He forecast that under the present trend, the Fiji Indian population would be reduced to 20% by the year 2022.
But Mr. Chaudhry said while Indians were the major component of those leaving our shores to settle overseas, there was also a significant number of educated Fijians and those from other minority communities who were also leaving.
Another worrying trend was the new category of migrant workers leaving to take up security jobs in Iraq and Kuwait. Some 26,000 Fijian workers have applied for these risky jobs, citing lack of opportunities here.
All these are indications of a growing feeling of insecurity, frustration and disaffection among people of all races at the direction in which Fiji appears to be headed.
“A lack of good governance – political instability, declining law and order situation, racial discrimination and lack of opportunities are the major reasons driving people away from Fiji.
It is obvious that a stagnating economy cannot provide jobs for the 6000 people who join the jobs market each year, a growing number of them university graduates with degrees.
“People want a better life for themselves and a more secure future and equal opportunities for their children,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
The only way we can reverse this trend, and save Fiji now, is to choose a government that will bring in stability, provide investor confidence and initiate policies that will create new job opportunities and improve standards of living, he said.