Friday, February 2, 2007

Dual citizenship: A win-win proposition

The Nepalis are not far behind when it comes to trotting the globe and exploring opportunities. Though they can be found in every corner of the world, in some countries there are many, whereas in others, a handful. However, no matter where they are and in what conditions they are living, they share one common characteristic-undiminished love for their country.

Every single Nepali citizen, who is living abroad, has either been contributing, or possesses the desire to contribute in some form. Whether it is by remitting money or by doing philanthropic work, the Nepali Diaspora is trying to keep the linkage with Nepal alive.

There are many expatriates who have spent their youth gaining valuable experience and making fortune in the West. These Nepalis now want to contribute towards the development of Nepal and upliftment of Nepalis languishing at the bottom of the pyramid.

However, this is only possible if the government provides a conducive environment.

One way of tapping this vast potential is by providing Nepali diaspora, who are living in foreign shores, their desired right to possess dual citizenship. In an era where the movement of educated manpower is no more considered brain drain but brain circulation, Nepal can tremendously benefit from opening the gate for Nepali diaspora through the provision of dual citizenship.

We live in a world whereby the concept of cultural retention has lost its relevance, and globalization has become a modern day cult. Emergence of multiple identities that did not exist before is now being welcomed. Thus, dual citizenship should not be considered antithetical to the ideal of loyalty to one's homeland.

India's former prime minister Moraji Desai's famous anti-dual-citizenship quip, that "no man can serve two masters," has no buyer in today's modern India.

The number of countries joining the bandwagon of dual citizenship policy is increasing at a rapid pace. Countries such as Mexico, the Philippines, India, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana and the Dominican Republic have a huge number of Diaspora living abroad. Each of these countries has allowed their citizens to possess dual citizenship, while recognizing that it has the advantages of broadening a country's economic base, fostering trade and investment, and an enhanced availability of skilled manpower.

The value of Dual Citizenship increasingly becomes a necessity as society becomes more global and integrated. Many countries around the globe have recognized the possible contribution of a diaspora to the development of their country, and these countries have made an effort to attract it.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has developed a program called Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA). This program aims at the transfer of vital skills and resources present in the African diaspora to priority sectors back home. It also aims at matching the profiles of migrants with the demand from African countries. MIDA is meant to channel the available skills, namely financial skills and other available resources of a Diaspora, to support development projects.

Over time, arguments against dual citizenship are becoming less compelling, while arguments in favor of dual citizenship are gaining grounds. With an ongoing rapid globalization, the political reasons that were once used to reject the idea of dual citizenship have lost their significance. Today economic and cultural arguments in favor of dual citizenship have more buyers than they previously did in the twentieth century.

When the developed countries such Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are liberalizing their immigration policy to attract skilled workers, we are happy with meager remittances. The successive governments, after the restoration of democracy in 1990, failed to acknowledge the need of contribution of Nepali diaspora in enhancing economic growth and development.

The government pays millions of rupees annually to foreign-born consultants to work in Nepal; however it fails to pay a comparable amount to the similarly qualified Nepali professional who is living abroad and willing to work in Nepal. In terms of employment opportunities, these Nepali professionals are discriminated against the Westerners in their own country.

Nepal stands at a crossroads, and the need to change is apparent. In fact, the need to seek individuals with expertise and experiences that are helpful in developing the country is greater now than at any other time in the history of Nepal as a sovereign nation. Thus, the call for a sustained economic development should not be dwarfed by the sheer jingoism of individuals who think that dual citizenship is antithetical to the ideal of loyalty to one's homeland.

Dual citizenship is a progressive action, and Nepal would do well in taking advantage of it. Through dual citizenship the growing numbers of Nepali Diaspora can benefit from opportunities overseas, while maintaining their cultural and economic links with Nepal. In addition, they can bring back to the Nepali community their valuable expertise, knowledge, and funds needed to foster economic prosperity and sustained development.

Nepal can learn from an Indian experience; for India's acknowledgement of contribution of Diaspora is clearly reflected in its recent steps to appease Indian Diaspora. India in 2003 founded the Ministry of Overseas Indians to deal with issues and policies related to Diaspora. It introduced a dual citizenship system in order to facilitate investment and prioritize the transfer of technical know-how from the Diaspora to India.

Another example of current dual citizenship laws is in Ireland. Ireland is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and has tremendously benefited from "citizenship by descent" laws.

Many Nepalis settled abroad may want to return in a late-inning of their life, because in Nepal they can become "big fish in a small pond". There exists distinctive opportunities to make an impact. In addition, there are some opportunities that are distinct and unique, and which cannot be duplicated in the West. Many Nepali expatriates long to return to Nepal, not because they have failed, but because they are successful in their country of residence. It is their desire to contribute to their country of origin that lures them to take the reverse route.

Dual citizenship will provide expatriates to return and invest in Nepal, entice foreign investors, and enhance cross-border cooperation. Dual citizenship will facilitate the freedom of movement of Nepali settled abroad, allowing skills to move as opportunities arise in Nepal. It will permit an opportunity to well-educated children of Nepali diaspora born abroad, but want to contribute towards Nepal's development.

In addition, Nepal can benefit from the political and economic clout that Nepali diaspora possess, and which can be used in favor of their country of descent. Investments from Nepali diaspora can make our path towards sustainable development less bumpy. In a country like Nepal, where domestic sources of capital are scarce, investment and expertise of expatriates can be of tremendous help.

In addition to the economy, dual citizenship will help democratize the Nepali society. There are several thousand Nepalis. These people have lived and practiced democracy in countries where democracy is more institutionalized. These expatriates, and their siblings with their dual nationalities and exposure, could be of tremendous help when it comes to consolidation of democracy. They could provide a helping hand when it comes to navigating democratic Nepal through the twenty-first century.

Dual citizenship will enhance Nepali expatriates' ability to transact and move freely, especially in and out of Nepal; and this would be a prerequisite for fostering trade and investment. In order to build a prosperous and democratized society we need to be forthcoming in employing enlightened, reasoning, and dynamic imagination.

1 comment:

kittitianhill said...

There are just three countries in the world that offer Economic Citizenship programs: the Caribbean nation of St Nevis as well as the Commonwealth of Dominica. Other countries that offer these programs, although slightly more difficult to receive are: Austria, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay that will give you citizenship after residing there via a naturalization program.