Diaspora bonds: Reactions from the UK

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THE 2014 budget acknowledged the role played by the Diaspora in sending cash remittances to Zimbabwe, which boosts the country’s economy, and many people in the Diaspora were pleased by the acknowledgement.
However, the issue of Diaspora bonds proposed by Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa has received mixed reactions from people in the Diaspora.
Soon after the announcement in December last year, the negative media and opposition activists quickly rubbished the idea of Diaspora bonds as desperation by the government, with some journalists reporting that the negative reaction was a rejection of ZANU PF (Alex Bell: ‘Zimbabwe: Diaspora Bond Rejection a Sign of ZANU PF ‘Distrust’).
However, while many people were quick to respond negatively, there are very few people who took time to find out more about these bonds, and how as Zimbabweans living abroad we can help to re-build our country.
Many people I spoke to about the Diaspora bonds had no clue what they mean, or what they are about, yet the majority were quick to criticise because the media had done so!
Many people are eagerly praying for the country (and economy) to suffer to legitimise regime change.
In his so-called ‘state of the nation address’ at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harare on January 24 2014, Morgan Tsvangirai forgot his role in bringing the current economic crisis down, notably through lobbying the West to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
He conveniently forgot his contribution to the current state of affairs when he said: “While the MDC and I have done our national duty of forming a coalition government to save the people and got betrayed in the process, it is my sincere belief that the political dialogue will assist in developing national consensus on how to move the country forward.
“Faced with a similar crisis in 2008, we engaged in dialogue and we carved out a home-grown solution to the problems bedevilling our country.
“There is no substitute for dialogue…”
While some people in the Diaspora are registering genuine concerns about the Diaspora bonds, it is not fair to dismiss this proposal as an outright ‘non-starter’.
The bonds are a noble idea as this will allow the government to tap into its three million citizens living outside Zimbabwe.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB 2012), a Diaspora bond is “issued by a country to its own Diaspora to tap into their assets in the destination country,” and they provide, “an alternative to borrowing from the international capital market, multilateral financial institutions or bilaterally from governments.”
Diaspora bonds will enable us to demonstrate our patriotism rather than playing the blame game.
In Africa they have been issued in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya.
On January 22, the Nigerian President appealed to the Senate to increase the Diaspora Bond from US$100 million to US$300 million due to increased demand on the bonds.
In Ethiopia too they have been used to raise money to build a power-station along the Nile River.
Israel has been issuing Diaspora Bonds since 1951 (and raised more than US$25 billion since).
India issued bonds to its Diaspora in times of crises (1991, 1998 and 2000) and raised more than US$11,3 billion.
We should embrace the idea and help rebuild the country.
I spoke to a few people in the UK about their views on Diaspora bonds; I got mixed reactions.
Tino Chinyoka (Lawyer, Leeds): “Idea yemabonds is a very good one, but it should come with an incentive, for example, the right to vote.
“People assume wrongly that ZANU PF would lose (an election) in the UK, which is not true.
“There are many people who are now pro-ZANU PF.
“The Diaspora bonds have to be attractive.
“The government should give people access to land, access to stands so that we do not buy stands from private developers.
“People will participate in the scheme because they love their countries. “Anyone who buys bonds sold by a ZANU PF government would certainly vote a ZANU PF government in 2018 so that they don’t lose their bonds.
“Personally I will buy the Diaspora bonds because I love my country.
“The Diaspora has a duty to play in the future of Zimbabwe.
“They should participate in national development.”
Dr Collin Zhuwao (Coventry): “I personally think it is a very noble idea.
“It is time people inject money directly into the country (government coffers). “The Government should have done that a long time ago. Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have been sending goods (consumables), gadgets and clothes to Zimbabwe and as a result ruining our own manufacturing industry.
“I agree with cash remittances and bonds.
“There are many things that the Government must do, for example, our diamonds have created more than 600 000 jobs in India where the diamonds are polished.
“That is not fair.
“This is not the time to criticise each other, but time to build our country just like what others are doing to their countries.”
Josh Chigwanga (Business Analyst, Hertfordshire): “I think there is a rift between the Government and the Diaspora, which must be healed.
“For example, the issue of Home-link is still fresh in the minds of many people. “People in the Diaspora were made to believe that there was Government backing on that scheme, and people were made to pay the loans they acquired from the Reserve Bank (for property development in Zimbabwe) in US$ yet the Reserve Bank paid developers in Zimbabwean dollars.
“As a result, some people in the Diaspora lost properties that were seized and auctioned by the developers.
“I personally think Dr Gideon Gono let down the Diasporas participating in the Home-link scheme.
“I also do not think that the Diaspora bonds should be used as a package to generate money for the government, but a way of engaging its citizens in the Diaspora to take part in development at home.
“The government should also feel the duty to protect its citizens outside the country, for example, muBritish akanzi abatwa kuCambodia or Somalia panoita nyaya.
“Hurumende yemuno inomira-mira.
“There are many challenges faced by Zimbabweans abroad and the Government does not do much for us.
“South Africa is sending ballot papers to its citizens abroad to vote.
“We should also be allowed to vote.
“I understand that the issue of sanctions imposed on the country makes it harder for such kind of a relationship between our government and us, and complicates voting outside the country.
“Sanctions must be removed.
“I think the Government should give us a holistic package.
“I personally will buy the bonds.
“I have no problems with that.”
Fadzi Ndlovu (Social Worker): “My view on this one is that we must meet half way with the government.
“We have been called names; that we will come to nothing yet when things were tough we sent some remittances to our families and relatives and sustained the country.
“Things could have been worse.
“The government needs to embrace us, to view us in a positive way like what other countries do to their Diaspora.
“Most people in the government today (in Zimbabwe) were once Diasporans, but isu vanotiita kunge vanhu vasina maturo.
“I don’t mind buying the bonds as long as pasingazoite change of mind within a few months or years.”

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