Duterte urges reversal of 'brain drain' in poorer countries

He also calls on blocs like Apec and Asean to help those 'left behind' by globalisation

Globalisation has brought its share of benefits to the world economy but also caused problems for less developed countries, said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday.

In a speech to corporate executives and top government officials at a conference, Mr Duterte made the point that poorer nations are finding it tough to move up the value chain because of the mass migration of their skilled workers.

"Globalisation has pressed the brightest workers from poor Southeast Asian countries to move overseas in a 'brain drain' that must be reversed if real development is to be achieved," he said on the second day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit. He cited his own country as an example, with many young and talented Filipinos packing their bags, especially for countries where the economy is thriving.

In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr Duterte was asked how Apec should react to the rise in anti-globalisation and anti-free trade sentiments in developed countries.

Mr Duterte responded by describing the United States as the "first victim" of globalisation, adding that scores of US companies have moved their manufacturing operations to cheaper countries such as China and taken away jobs from American workers. He urged blocs such as Apec and Asean to do more to help those "left behind" by globalisation.

Mr Duterte also called on Asean to speed up economic integration to enable the region to move up the manufacturing chain and retain its skilled workers. "We need to have integration, cohesiveness, and we must act as one," he said, making the point that Asean could follow in the footsteps of the European Union when it comes to achieving regional integration. "If Europe can do it with its Union and America is starting to revive its industries, why can't Asean do it too?"

He also spoke of the role the business community could play to ensure all firms, especially much smaller ones, can progress together and gain from globalisation. "As CEOs of big businesses, you are in a unique position to effect change, to the extent that you can involve as many MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) in your own supply chains," he said.

"Through this, not only do you integrate them in the way you do business, you also unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our people."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump, and Chinese President Xi Jinping are among those slated to speak at the CEO summit today, ahead of the Apec leaders' meeting.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte urges reversal of 'brain drain' in poorer countries'. Subscribe