Britain’s proposal for a migrant bond has been dismissed by Nigeria as a “blunt instrument” that will damage commercial ties.
Lagos has threatened to impose similar barriers to Britons entering Nigeria, should it be enforced, according to the Financial Times of London.
A pilot scheme, announced over the weekend by Theresa May, the UK home secretary, would levy a £3,000 bond on short-term visitors from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana, as part of Conservative efforts to bring down UK net migration to 100,000 by the next election.
After confusion over how the bond would work, the Home Office confirmed on Tuesday that it would not apply to all visitors from the selected countries, but just a few considered to be at particularly high risk of breaching their visas.
The scheme, which would involve forfeiture of the deposit, in the event of visitors overstaying, has run into fierce opposition from the countries targeted, amid signs the UK government is already thinking again.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s economy and finance minister and a former managing director of the World Bank, said the proposals were anathema to the spirit of agreements between the two countries, aimed at boosting trade and investment.
“Frankly we are baffled by the whole thing. This is a very blunt instrument. It sends all the wrong signals about Britain’s openness for trade and tourism,” she told the Financial Times, saying she was sure every country targeted, had the “principles of reciprocity” in mind.
Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer and with 160m people, its most populous nation. Its fast-growing economy has drawn foreign investors, while wealthy Nigerians have become some of the highest spending consumers among visitors to the UK.
More than 180,000 Nigerians apply for UK visas every year and about 70 per cent of applications are successful, the British High Commission in Abuja said.
Olugbenga Ashiru, Nigeria’s foreign minister, summoned Andrew Pocock, the high commissioner, to a meeting on Tuesday. In a statement afterwards, Ashiru said: “The proposed policy would definitely negate the joint commitment by Prime Minister David Cameron and President Goodluck Jonathan to double the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries by 2014.”
Pocock said that no decision had yet been taken on the pilot scheme, and that its impact would be limited if it went ahead.
According to UK Trade and Investment, Nigeria is the UK’s second largest market for goods in Africa, and the 33rd largest overseas market.
Exports of goods and services to Nigeria were worth about £2.5bn ($3.84bn) in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available. Exports from Nigeria to the UK totalled $9.2bn last year, most of it oil, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria.
Okonjo-Iweala said richer Nigerians would be able to factor in the cost of the bond, while the measures would hit tourists and other Nigerians who would simply go elsewhere. “Britain loses but would not gain,” she said.
The African backlash against the proposals follows anger over the scheme in India.
Allies of David Cameron said on Tuesday that the prime minister had “not signed off” on details of the policy – trailed in Sunday newspapers.
Cameron has told May that he will not sanction any policy that undermines his growth agenda or the “open for business” message he delivered on a recent trip to India, they said.
Ghana has been slower to react officially to the proposals. But civil society organisations have been vocal.
“In an era where citizens and governments are forging various forms of partnerships . . . the implementation of this ridiculous scheme will not only have an adverse effect on our longstanding trade relationship with Britain, but will also place enormous burden on prospective visitors,” the Accra-based Alliance for Accountable Government said.
Source: Citi Bsiness Desk
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