SA immigration waivers a two-way street for Eswatini- Economist
While Eswatini celebrations waivers of a number of immigration restrictions with neighbouring South Africa especially affidavits for under age children, the economic impacts could have both negative and positive spinoffs, says local economist Sanele Sibiya. He was responding to request for a breakdown of the overall economic implications to the country, whether South Africa was only being generous or it was announcing a calculated programme of long term benefits for itself.
South Africa announced it would ease some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries, in an effort to boost investment and tourism, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.
The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by that country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa a fortnight ago where he said he sought torescue his country out of recession.
Gigaba said negotiations were being finalised to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.
He added that much-criticised rules on traveling minors would be simplified. In June 2015 new rules required parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not travelling.
The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba’s previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.
South Africa says it plays a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors annually, which includes tourists, business travelers, investors and neighbours. Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travelers. Gigaba further said by allowing inward migration of skilled workers such as investors, doctors, researchers and others through the visa and permit regime would boost national development.[www.iol.co.za]
He, however, warned that his department was committed to finding and implementing innovative immigration management solutions to positively impact on tourism and economic development.
On the other hand Sibiya noted that with regards to movement, as much as the country encouraged integration which allows for best economic best practices, South Africa, as the major producer would reduce cost per unit which eventually makes the products cheaper, there is the flipside in that the infant industry at home would need protection.
He further clarified that as much as brain drain did happen, people would still remit money derived as incomes from South Africa to support their families in Eswatini and often this money is substantial given the employment situation of Eswatini. Sibiya agreed that there is a highly skilled workforce in the market that remains unemployed and if this were to secure employment in South Africa they would generate huge incomes given the remuneration regime of the neighbouring country compared to Eswatini.
“But if these people do not return back home that is a different ball game altogether.” In that and other scenario the country must therefore consider a strategy of how much tax must these people pay back to the country.
He observes that the waivers, given the economic situation obtaining in Eswatini, could be a quick win but “if not careful it may result in brain drain because of the wage differentials.” Ideally, he says, the wage must stabiles but this takes time, giving the example whereby nurses left the country enmasse for Europe where they got better wages thus affecting the whole structure of basic skills locally.
“We only need strategies to balance these discrepancies as wages are higher in South Africa and basic skilled workeres will be attracted to that labour market and there would be no way to attract rightly skilled people to return.
New visa rules as of October 2014, required visitors to apply for visas in person at South African embassies to record biometric information.
There was also a rule for children under 18 years old travelling in and out of South Africa to produce an unabridged birth certificate at entry ports, which included detailed particulars of the mother and the father of the child.
While these requirements were necessary to safeguard the best interests of children and prevent child trafficking, an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Immigration made several recommendations to deal with the security consideration and the unintended consequences of the regulations on various sectors, including tourism and investment.
The amended allowances required South African children travelling through South African borders to have their parents’ identification and citizenship details printed in their passports, doing away with the requirement to carry unabridged birth certificates on entry or exit.
For school tours and other group tours including under-age children, entry and exit regulations only required confirmation letters from the school principals or a similar authority, along with the amended passport requirements.
This authority was also extended to include registered sports bodies on tour.