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Tonga's most abundant resource going to waste

Auckland, New Zealand

Dear Editor

Although once touted as the country having the most PhD graduates/tertiary graduates per capita in the world, it remains puzzling how the Kingdom of Tonga has been lagging behind in so many aspects of government, society, law, business, religion and economics etc., for so long now.

It is puzzling why those in authority still...are ignoring our most plentiful and precious natural

resource staring us in the face every day, i.e. our graduates and their educational skills and talents.

It is criminal, having so many educated people sitting around, not utilizing their talents and expertise, while the government is constantly plagued by problems in the very same areas we already have an abundance of graduates in.

These graduates...eventually pack up their bags, shattered ambitions and tattered egos and head off overseas to find a real career, joining the brain drain.

Over the years, there has been a noticeable unwillingness by those in authority to acknowledge and utilize especially the highly trained graduates that have returned back to Tonga.

Why educate so many people through scholarships schemes etc., yet fail and blatantly refuse to change the governmental system into one that accommodates those graduates when they return home to stem the brain drain that is happening?

Athough there have been some very valuable candidates voted into Parliament (e.g. Akilisi, Fred Sevele and Isileli Pulu), also coming through have been many clowns as well who continue to dismantle any progress forward that is made, with their childish antics. It is impossible to move forward in any system (or achieve anything worthwhile) as a dismantled pack of self-serving candidates with their own mini-agenda list. I do not agree with people being against candidates voted in that are also in business. We need more such people who have proven their worth and success in their own lives first before coming into parliament.

What the country needs are visionary leaders, with a good moral base, brains and an unselfish passion to help formulate such a system of government.

Tonga has a wealth of graduates and business people (within and abroad) to choose from. The government needs to go do some home-work and researching since all things precious are always well hidden from common awareness, if it really is serious about changing the current system into a better one that accommodates its most valuable resources -its highly skilled graduates. Not maintain and perpetuate an archaic system of government that numbs any mental capability out of those highly skilled graduates.

Yours sincerely

Kitione Fale

Ed.: Abridged for length


Brain Drain and Brain Wash - Edgar Cocker:

I refer to an excellent comment made by Kitione Fale regarding the issue of the brain drain. This matter has practically influenced Tonga since the early 70s and will continue to do so unless there is a major modification in the nation wide system. One can say that it happens because of superior windows of opportunities elsewhere outside of Tonga. That is right, but why is brain drain far greater in Tonga and Samoa than anywhere else in the Pacific region. We can argue that the brain drain in Cook Islands, Niue, American Samoa, Noumea, Wallis and Futuna, and Tahiti is essential because of sovereignty status and easy access to colonial influence, but why is it so hefty in Tonga and Samoa?

There is no doubt that brain drain has a considerable positive impact in shaping Tonga'’s economy, that is through remittances and the increasing level of dollar flowing in. Perhaps the transition and transformation of traditional values and mixed with new values do reflect a positive impact on Tongans from overseas. Our access to open and liberated socio-economic systems has allowed us to compare notes with the intact conservative system in Tonga. That is great, but isn'’t that a short to medium term strategy. Do we always have to rely on remittances from our relatives overseas? Or are we being socially penalized because the system is exaggerating the poverty line to its historical adversity.

On the other hand, wouldn'’t it be possible for the same qualified Tongan to return to Tonga and develop new industries and services that can boost up the economy. That is the long-term solution we all hope to see. Unfortunately, there is frustration, job dissatisfaction, lack of appropriate human resource policies, lack of incentives to encourage the Tongans to stay behind and invest their time and expertise. There is the issue of low salary, there is low annual increments, the prices of goods and services have skyrocketed, the cost of living has sharply elevated, and the list goes on and on.

Had it not been the land, ocean and the soil, Tonga would be in real jeopardy. It would be nice to see a large % of all qualified Tongans return back, "but to do what?" There is also the young generation who has recently graduated from High School and Colleges, "where would they go?". The problem of brain drain is a serious issue that the government should not underestimate. It needs an urgent attention, and it requires careful assessment.

There are two main difficulties; firstly, the powerhouse may feel uncomfortable with qualified brain, a real threat. The second set back, is the fact that a qualified brain may not support the ego and the territory of the powerhouse. The powerhouse needs his own territorial turf to veto the national collective decision process.

On brain wash. I am tempted to comment on Lavulavu'’s Ph.D degree. While Lia and Fei did their search in UK, I did mine in USA, New England area where some of us (Pita Kupu, Lipoi Finau Ph.D., Dr. Mohenoa Puloka, myself and others) froze our seat belts to educate in the hard way- the real life way. There is no Eden Vale University except for an Eden Vale cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire. However, we should be kind and give credit to Lavulavu for his doctorate in “dealership”. This is a new mode of leadership, study on-line, focusing on backyard gardening. That is Brain Wash.

Thank you, Edgar Cocker, Saipan