Dual citizenship would boost Zim forex inflows

ZIMBABWE, facing dwindling foreign direct investment, should allow dual citizenship and postal voting to incentivise foreign currency remittances from Zimbabweans living outside the country, a working paper commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recommended.

According to the paper, the coalition government should introduce a raft of measures to attract more foreign currency remittances from Zimbabweans who feel excluded by strict immigration and voting laws.
Zimbabwe’s economy is struggling to take off, and industries that showed signs of recovery after the formation of the coalition government last year have stagnated because of liquidity problems.

Zimbabwe has to rely on foreign money to engineer recovery and the UNDP says diaspora money could salvage the situation if government introduces friendly policies.

Over three million Zimbabweans are estimated to be living outside the country, mainly in South Africa and the United Kingdom, after fleeing decade-long political and economic turmoil.

“In order to effectively tap the developmental potential of the diaspora, laws need to be amended to allow for dual citizenship so that the attachment of the diaspora to the homeland becomes a permanent one,” reads the paper titled “The Potential Contribution of the Zimbabwe Diaspora to Economic Recovery”.

Godfrey Kanyenze, the director of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe and Daniel Makina, a professor of finance at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, compiled the report.

“Furthermore, Zimbabwean migrants do not enjoy political (voting) rights by virtue of not being in the country. Restoration of these rights would go a long way towards fostering attachment to the country and a desire to participate in its development,” according to recommendations contained in the 52-page document.

Zimbabweans who acquire citizenship of another country or stay outside the country for seven consecutive years automatically lose their Zimbabwean citizenship, according to immigration and citizenship laws.

The UNDP cited the example of the Philippines, whose 2003 restoration of dual citizenship resulted in increased economic and governance participation by that country’s citizens in the diaspora.

Zimbabwe’s official figures show that foreign currency remitted through enhanced money transfer agencies by exiled Zimbabweans rose to US$190,5 million in 2009, representing a 142,6% increase from the previous year.

The paper said Zimbabwe could raise more money from the diaspora if the coalition government built confidence and trust among citizens by applying “internationally accepted democratic reforms”.

The UN agency said government should restore confidence in the banking sector to improve remittances through the formal banking sector.

Banking is one of the sectors still affected by lack of confidence following years of hyperinflation and policy inconsistency and uncertainty.

“Once confidence and trust are restored in the way the state does business, the government might then consider issuing bonds in foreign currency for its nationals in the diaspora at a competitive interest rate and thus create a more attractive instrument for channelling remittances,” the UNDP said.

India, according to the paper, successfully raised US$11,7 billion in three separate bonds issued between 1991 and 2000.

Dual citizenship and postal voting are some of the contentious issues that the constitution-making process should resolve and clarify the status of exiled Zimbabweans.

Zanu PF, which has taken a tough line on these two issues, is reportedly split over whether to allow dual citizenship or not. Some Zanu PF members are vigorously arguing that it would be unfair to disenfranchise millions of Zimbabweans who were forced to leave the country by economic and political circumstances.

Bernard Mpofu

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