Sunday, April 14, 2013
Letter from Butiama: Dual Citizenship is a weak proposition
This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 1st October 2006.
*************************************************A few years ago I posted a comment on a web site with a forum on dual citizenship in Tanzania saying I did not see its merits, that it will provide no significant benefits to the country, and that the single group of beneficiaries will be those who have to pay a $US50 dollar visa fee to travel to Tanzania.
A foreigner staying in Tanzania on a tourist visa can pay over $US2,000 annually in visa fees. An investor pays an average of $US800 per year for a residence permit.
I received such a lashing from someone abroad that I refrained from making further comments against dual citizenship.
In its “Final Report on the Introduction of Dual Citizenship” the Law Reform Commission has recommended that Tanzania amend the current laws to permit dual citizenship.
I have not been able to obtain a copy of that report, so some of the doubts I have about dual citizenship may have been answered in that report.
Although I do not believe that dual citizenship poses the national security concerns raised by some, I fail to see its significant advantages.
The basic argument for the introduction of dual citizenship has been economic, specifically, how much the Tanzania economy stands to gain financially from dual citizenship. It is argued that once the system takes off, there should be a rise in investments from former Tanzanian nationals. I do not see how that would happen.
First, the maximum savings enjoyed by an individual holding two passports will be $2,000 dollars each year. An investor with two thousand dollars will be lucky to get an appointment with the Director of Tanzanian Investment Center (TIC) where the minimum amount that qualifies a Tanzanian investor to receive a Certificate of Investment is $US100,000 in a new, rehabilitation, or an expansion project.
One can argue that it is easier to access investment funds abroad, so an individual does not necessarily have to invest from personal savings. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand how a person with $US100,000 to invest would have a problem raising $800 annually for his residence permit.
Anyone with that kind of money would probably see Tanzania as one of many other investment options competing with other investment opportunities worldwide. This talk about affection for one’s country of birth is more theoretical than near to the truth. Patriotism is a concept of the sixties and seventies, although I am not saying that there are no patriotic Tanzanians today, here and abroad.
My point is that individuals who seek a good return on their investment will not invest in Tanzania because they hold dual nationality, but rather because, after considering the risks involved, Tanzania provides a good return on their investment compared to other places. Patriotism is not necessarily compatible with making money.
In fact last year I heard a Tanzania was in Iraq seeking business opportunities. That is more characteristic of individuals looking for a good return on their investments. No amount of citizenships would have forced that man to invest in Tanzania.
Perhaps what should be done is that parallel with the campaign to attract foreign investments to Tanzania there should be a special drive to attract Tanzanians abroad to invest in Tanzania. It is easier to attract this group than individuals who do not even know the difference between Tanzania and Tasmania.
What can be argued in favour of dual citizenship is that many of those abroad cannot invest large sums but, given the possible savings from visa and residence permit fees, these individuals may be able to set aside some money for smaller investments either for themselves or members of their families in Tanzania. Or they could increase the amounts remitted annually to family members in Tanzania. Though these amounts may not produce a significant growth to the economy, they remain important to the individual beneficiaries.
It has also been argued that Tanzania should not be left behind because many countries have adopted the system and many will soon. This is a weak argument. President Kikwete recently revealed in a speech that he declined the offer from his hosts in a European country to join them in a sauna because he felt it was not right. I do not believe he would have changed his mind even if the entire world population went to saunas.
Let us adopt these changes if they are right but not because everyone else is doing it. Whatever is decided, I doubt whether the increase in foreign investments will be significant.
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