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Report on Zimbabwe Reconstruction Proposes Expatriate Tax With Ballot Tradeoff

A report introduced at a conference in Manchester, England, by Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the 3 million Zimbabweans living outside the country with large numbers in South Africa and the United Kingdom could help the country fund operations and raise capital

A report by a British institute presented in Manchester, England, recently by Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti says expatriate nationals should be prepared to pay an annual tax to retain their Zimbabwean citizenship which would include the right to cast absentee ballots.

The proposal is included in a report on Zimbabwean reconstruction entitled, "Moving Forward in Zimbabwe - Reducing Poverty and Promoting Growth." It was prepared by the Brooks World Poverty Institute with the participation of 13 experts, among them government officials including the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion.

It said the 3 million Zimbabweans living outside the country in South Africa and the United Kingdom in particular could help the country raise scarce capital. It added that expatriates should feel the government values them, so it proposes “confidence-building” steps including dual citizenship and absentee ballots.

The report says that "migrants need to feel that the inclusive government
values them as citizens and does not view them as having divided loyalties. Confidence-boosting measures would include allowing dual nationality, restoring voting rights for migrants who hold Zimbabwean citizenship and creating mechanisms for them to be heard. In exchange, migrants should be prepared to pay an annual tax for retaining Zimbabwean nationality. Clearly this would
be controversial but it could be a way for migrants to contribute
directly to the state budget."

The report also addressed the longstanding problem of brain-drain, noting that many in the diaspora are professionals whose skills are needed at home. "The inclusive government will need to find ways to lure them back (even for short periods) to share their skills and knowledge," said the report.

"It is probably in these non-pecuniary remittances that Zimbabwe could gain the most," it continued. "The health and education sectors should be targeted most as these were the areas hardest hit by the brain drain."

Economist Luxon Zembe commented that such a tax would be unfair.

Zimbabwean emigré Tendai Mutyambizi said in an interview from Leicester, England, that it is early days for Harare to propose a diaspora tax.

Note: This report incorporates a clarification that the tax proposal was not made by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, but was contained in a report prepared by the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester, England, and introduced by Biti at a conference there.

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