Vol. 4 Num 218 Mon. January 05, 2004  

Migration, money and management

Professor Abdul Bayes is a pleasure to read. I find him truthful, non-ideological and scientific. Not many economists of the day offer land related studies with a view to overcoming economic ills and poverty. Having failed in solving the poverty from various prescriptions, we are now even going to ICT as our next resort! Bayes does not write on such ephemeral issues and cosmetic solutions. His basic theorisation for the cause of poverty in Bangladesh relates to the patterns of land ownership, production and distribution system. Professor Bayes seems untiring to stress the importance of land and necessity of land reforms to revitalise our economy.

Now that Professor Bayes has picked up the issue of migration and economy (Tuesday, Dec 9), and promised further articles on this, I eagerly await to read the rest. At the same time, I feel some light thrown on what has already been published might bring further attention to his writings.

Management of the remittance of the migrants is an economic issue and I am sure a better system than our present one can be devised, particularly if our policy makers show some respect to and recognition of the theoretical issues in which academics like Professor Bayes et al are all the time crying in the wilderness. I am overjoyed to record that Bayes has dismissed push-pull, a popular theory of migration. I would like him to announce this dismissal loudly to the academic world as well as to the organisations dealing with migration. Please allow me to add that along with push-pull paradigm, surplus labour-shortage of labour paradigm, chain theory have all been labeled as classical and well rejected by modern migration research. Not only that they are ahistorical and that they belong to the marginalist school of economics, they are not, by the definition of 'theory', theories at all. At best, they can be called descriptions of migration trends at certain junctures of history.

Surprisingly, these theories are still oft quoted and reverently alluded to and these serve the purposes of the dominant powers to present migrants as lowly, poor and carpetbaggers etc etc so that discriminatory treatments and marginalisation of the migrants can be rationalised. Of course, the same early migration studies would extol the virtues of European migration (basically colonial occupation en masse) to non-European lands as spreading of civilisation to the backward lands. So, the ideology was intended to derogate the migrants from non-dominant countries totally ignoring the fact that their movements to the developed countries were for helping the economy of the host countries, and that the decision to migrate might have been personal, but it would not have taken place without the inducement that the host countries had offered. In recent studies that concentrate on the voluntary nature of the modern migration (short or permanent), it is well proven that the present labour migration is not so voluntary and that it is a continuation of the system of importing labour either by force (slave trade), or by coercion (indentured labour), or as now by inducing individuals of specific countries (lottery for US).

True that the people wish to travel seeking adventure (wanderlust), or in search of jobs for overcoming poverty. Professor Bayes has pointed out that the poor do not migrate as the better offs do. There are very large number of first time Bangladeshi migrants all over the world (unscientific estimate puts it to 10 million, including short term ones), and they earn foreign exchange for Bangladesh. We must know whether their hard earned and remitted foreign exchange will make any real economic improvement in Bangladesh. The reality is that if the foreign exchange is used to import luxury goods and pay for the foreign travels and expenses of the business people and of course of the government officials, real economic improvement will be thawarted. So, improving the FE earning by remittance does not serve the masses of Bangladeshi people, but it assists to maintain high life-styles of the privileged class, including the government officials, parliamentarians, politicians and business people, in our poverty stricken country. Whichsoever way we manage to improve our foreign exchange earnings, we shall not progress towards solving our economic problems if we do not adopt policies to make the best use of that money for improving the lot of the common people.