Opinion

E.D, why not tax Zimbabweans in the Diaspora?

By Bothwell Riside

Zimbabweans in London protest outside the Zimbabwe Embassy on The Strand.

Dear President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Your Excellency, Zimbabwe invested heavily in education and it is one of the few countries that made education very much affordable to its citizenry. The rapid expansion and liberalisation of the education sector has made our country, despite its economic woos, continue to score much high in terms of education.

Regardless of so many variables emanating from the impact of our education Your Excellency, the country has all potential to be the epitome of educational success in Africa.

Is the channelling of taxpayer’s money towards the education of the citizens justified? What are the significant gains derived from such?

Human capital flight

The economic problems being experienced by Zimbabwe have always been a push factor to both skilled and unskilled labour in our country.

According to World atlas data, Zimbabwe’s net migration rate was at -9.4 migrants per thousand people by 2010 and now has reached almost -13.

This figure is reached out after subtracting the emigrants from immigrants. This is an indication that more and more people are leaving Zimbabwe to go and settle somewhere else. The ratio was at its peak around 2005 and eased in years around 2010. It has since gone up to around -13 these past few years.

A sad scenario of “wasted” resources

When a country invests heavily in the education of its citizens, it will be expecting a return in its investments. Why?

This is because the government uses less and more resources for its citizens who would have reached primary and tertiary education respectively. Human resources play a critical role in being part of the national resources.

Countries are exporting goods due to the fact that their human resources would have been trained very well to produce certain products. With lack of employment in the country, Zimbabwe is literally educating its citizens to make other countries enjoy its subsidised education.

Until the year 2000, Zimbabwe’s higher education was literally for free. The government educated all its tertiary students in State institutions for free, and in fact it was well known for giving a vocational training loan to students. While people may argue that they may have returned the money, very few managed to do that. Tertiary education was for free.

Even today, in all State institutions of higher learning, education is highly subsidised because the fees being collected are only going towards some costs of running the institutions and the government is still paying lecturers and some workers. Your Excellency, it’s sad to see that after all this a graduate will leave and work in another country.

The primary and secondary education is also heavily subsided by the government. Teachers and all administration staff are paid by the government. Government schools have been paying a “useless” tuition fee while council and missionary schools never paid anything to the government. Until 2016, all private schools in Zimbabwe that were legally registered had their teachers paid by the government.

Some may argue that private schools’ teachers were not being paid by the government. No they were all on government payroll. The government provided teachers according to the enrolment figures and then private schools would employ extra teachers to meet their needs. Some would choose never to request for a teacher from the government.

Budget allocations on education

The Dakar Declaration stipulates that educational allocations must be above 20 per cent in African governments. Zimbabwe has been allocating less than this in 2018, 2019 and 2020 budgets. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is getting a lion’s share in the budgetary allocations and, it’s a fact. Unfortunately, Your Excellency, most of the money is going towards salaries. With its quasi socialist ideology on education, Zimbabwe has made education very affordable for many of its citizens.

The existence of BEAM, presidential scholarships, grants, loans and so many facilities is a clear testimony. A snap survey on council, missionary and government-run schools in Zimbabwe will show that the country’s schools’ levies are not benefitting the fiscus but are meant to run the institutions.

Let’s not forget that when the privatisation gained momentum in the 1990s, government was literally running all government institutions, even paying for the man picking papers at the school or university.

Tax for Zimbabweans in the diaspora

Zimbabwe is making sure that her people are educated and after amassing literacy, diplomas and degrees, her people cross the Limpopo or fly out of the country to benefit other nations.

They become taxpayers there but there will not be any direct benefit to the country.

I submit Your Excellency that Zimbabweans in the diaspora must also contribute a nominal figure to the fiscus and this will bring much relief to our dire need for foreign currency.

Countries like the United States despite them being the largest economies are doing that. What is needed is only the modalities that plug loopholes for corruption and barriers to efficient and effective collection.

Yes, Your Excellency, labour must be an export that is taxed too. Imagine the over three million Zimbabweans in the diaspora and each contributing an average of US$100 a year, then that will be US$300 million into the national coffers.

There must be a way of collecting this tax. This will enable the country to enjoy the returns to investments in education directly. – NewsDay.

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