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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    THU, 06 JAN 1994 12:37:28 GMT

    Brain Drain from Montenegro

    THE JOURNEY WITH A ONE-WAY TICKET

    Summary: It is assumed that in the past two years at least three thousand young educated people have left Montenegro, which is 0.5 per cent of the population. The results of a poll carried out on a sample of 100 young experts show that up to 92 per cent of them wish to go abroad. The causes of such a state of mind are in the economic and political crisis, no prospects, complete degradation of intellectual and creative work. In view of the present situation here, some experts think, these departures should not be observed too pesimistically, under the condition that these young people will return to their fatherland, after specializations in the countries where this is possible. The experience from the 1960s and the 1970s, however, shows that only few have ever returned.

    Text:

    The most creative and the most active portion of the population is leaving Montenegro, writing in this way the heaviest bill of indictment ever written against all those who have brought this country to its moral, economic and political collapse (the order is not randomly chosen). It is difficult to evaluate with precision the scope of this "natural catastrophe" from the perspective of Montenegro, since no institution is professionally concerned with "brain drain", nor is anyone systematically monitoring this phenomenon. A recent gathering in Podgorica devoted to this subject, was poorly attended by a few who could illuminate it from various aspects. Yet, the well-informed claim that with the departure of young manpower, surely and almost irretrievably the biological substance is lost, which cannot be persuaded to return by any political moves and proclamations.

    It is assumed that in the last year or two, at least three thousand young educated people have left Montenegro (which is over 0.5 per cent of the population), and suitcases are still rapidly packed by all those who have the slightest chance to reach Canada, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand - which is at the moment the most attractive destination of this journey of no return.

    Downfall of the system of values

    The dimensions of the problem are illustrated by the results of a recent poll carried out by the Social Democratic Party on a sample of a 100 experts who are below 30. The sample consisted of 40 engineers, 20 lawyers, 30 economists, and 10 experts of various profiles. It is indicative that all the subjects have no housing of their own, that their average salaries in the last three months amounted to 25 German marks, and that only 11 per cent of them had some type of professional specialization. Whole 92 per cent of them declared that they intended to go abroad, and 85 have already made steps in this sense. They said that they intended to stay abroad for seven or more years on the average, and the reason for this is the conviction of 86 per cent of them that the situation in Montenegro will not improve in near future.

    - Going across the border is the general topic of all our conversations. We want to live, and not to subsist - a student from Podgorica says with resignation, who is waiting together with others of his age for the first opportunity to go abroad.

    Obviously, the difficult economic and political crisis with unforeseable duration and absolute lack of prospects for the future significantly contribute to total degradation of creative intellectual work, bringing it into a submissive position of a beggar in relation to the newly formed class of the neauveux riches - war profiteers and criminals. Regardless of how difficult the economic and the political crisis is, however, the profound crisis of morality has the most destructive effect on the position of the experts, because it threatens to tear the system of values carefully built by generations down to its foundations.

    - It is not difficult to imagine the degree of disappointment of a young engineer who completed his studies in four years with the average mark 9.80 out of 10, when he receives a salary amounting to 14 German marks which can buy him a kilogram of meat! How can we talk of a scientist in our circumstances, when he is forced to queue for petrol, to carry sacks of flour at the University, or give private math lessons to sons of rich fathers, in order to feed his family? Can we speak of a computer expert if he has to go twice a week to Novi Pazar to buy, say, shoes because in Podgorica they cost two of his monthly salaries! And not to mention specializations, books, magazines, international exchange of experts, symposiums, laboratory research - Nebojssa Medojevicc, a counsellor in the Agency for Restructuring of the Economy of Montenegro, says quickly, in a single breath.

    Flee from anxiety

    In strategic objectives of developemnt of Montenegro and in the programs of most of the political parties, the role of domestic expert manpower is especially stressed. It is acknowledged that without engagement of experts, there are no possibilities for economic and moral revival of the Reopublic. To be precise, there can be no property and ownership transforamtion of enterprises, banks, tax and education system, establishment of stock-markets, transfer of new technology, foreign investments...

    The assessment of Milan Popovicc, from Podgorica Law School also goes along these lines: "We should be concerned more about the qualification structure of those who will remain here, than of those who are going abroad".

    Certain additional data are also alarming. The active population of Montenegro forms less than a half of the total number (613,000), meaning that more than a half of the inhabitants fall into the category of "the sustained". The average number years of service of the employed is 15 years, and less than 10 per cent of the total income of the population comes from work, and more than 90 per cent of the income is spent on basic sustenance!

    This sad mosaic should be supplemented with the rapid decline of the standard of living, the shortages of commodities at the market, the hopeless position of major Montenegrin enterprises (the Aluminium Complex in Podgorica, the Iron and Steel Works, the Port of Bar...), the slowed down process of social ownership transformation, legal and other barriers to expansion of private enterpreneurship...

    When all that is confronted with the "brain drain", the prospects of Montenegro become even gloomier. Young people who are seeking their place under the sun somewhere abroad, are, of course, aware of that. This is the reason why even the slightest dilemma whether to leave or not is easily resolved in favour of leaving the country where, as Medojevicc claims, knowledge was never treated as an essential factor of development and where the existing know-how is almost useless because of the low level of technology and an interrupted transfer of new technology.

    Bozzidar Ssissevicc, however, believes that the departure of experts should not be observed with such pesimism, considering the possibilities of their employment and professional training in Montenegro. Under the condition, of course, that some day they will return, after they have acquired new, most recent knowledge abroad. "Indeed, it would be good if Montenegro helped young people of certain professions to find employed abroad. Because they will not only enrich their knowledge there, but when they return, they will enable healthy competition with multiple positive effects."

    But, the experience of the 1960s and the 1970s, however, when people also went abroad in large numbers, although without university degrees, shows that only few have returned. Therefore, it is hard to believe that the emigrants who are leaving now will even consider the return ticket in near future.

    Veseljko KOPRIVICA