Colciencias thinks so, and that's why they're starting a program called Es Tiempo de Volver (It's Time to Return) to draw educated professional back home. Colombia has certainly experienced a huge brain drain over recent decades, as many of its most educated people migrated to the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe in pursuit of interesting and well-paying professional employment that's scarce at home. According to Wikipedia, 5.6 million Colombians - more than 10% of the population - live outside the country, and half of Colombia's trained medical doctors are in the U.S.
Perhaps it's understandable. After all, Colombia has relatively few jobs for the highly educated, and they pay poorly compared to similar jobs in rich nations. And, until recently, Colombia's violence drove many wealthy and educated people out of the country.
But the emigration of Colombia's best and brightest carries a huge cost for Colombian society in terms of the wealth and ideas they might have generated at home, as well as the money Colombia invested in educating professionals, who then put that knowledge to use somewhere else.
So now, Colombia is offering expatriate Colombians with PhDs benefits including salaries, housing subsidies and good positions in universities and scientific institutions for returning to La Madre Patria to live and work for at least two years. The first year, Colciencias plans on creating 200 positions.
I wonder how many professors, doctors, scientists and others will be willing to drop their lives and return home. The most likely, I suspect, will be people nearing retirement, nostalgic for Colombia and no longer very interested in career advancement.
Such people certainly can contribute ideas to Colombia. But, is this investment contribute more to Colombia than would spending the money on, say, preschools or high school textbooks?
And I can't help thinking about those Colombian academics who stayed loyal to their country and resisted juicy job offers in North America or Europe. What will they think when their colleagues who weren't so loyal to their homeland get all these benefits for returning home?
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours