It will be difficult for the East African Community (EAC) to prosper if we continue to dwell on micro issues under the pretext of possible revenue loss, among other excuses.
Human resource is an important component for any prosperous and vibrant economy. It will be very unfortunate if we continue to free fear movement of people within the common market framework or restrict the possibility of optimising the use of skills and capital of our people by imposing prohibitive fees to EAC citizens.
Imagine a primary teacher whose salary is relatively low and is needed in a partner state that imposes US$3,000 for a work permit. Yet the cost of losing a teacher is more expensive than the fee itself.
We find ourselves in a situation where some partner states are wary of Kenyans taking all the jobs once they open up yet Kenya is only reaping the fruits of opening up their education system to teachers from other countries.
It is important to decide, based on current data, how much money does one country get out of work permit fees from citizens from the other EAC partner states. I suspect it is too low that foregoing it for the sake of deepening the EAC integration is the right decision. This has even resulted in some EAC citizens to illegally enter and stay in other partner states.
If we use an example where a country is said to have used billions to evict so-called illegal immigrants (from other EAC states) in three weeks, I believe this amount could be ten times the revenue collected in the permit fees from EAC citizens.
I also believe that fees as one of tariff barriers will not only impend freedom of movement of labour and capital but equally serve as an avenue for corruption among the officers in charge hence undermining good governance.
It is about time the rest of EAC partner states reconsider their position and go the way Kenya and Rwanda have gone by waiving fees for the benefit of our people and the Community.
Long live EAC!
It is morally wrong and makes no economic sense for EAC partner states to continue charging work permit fees on citizens from other partner states while one country (Rwanda) has waived the fee. Rwanda has consistently been proactive in setting pace towards a vibrant economic block.
Tom Okulla, Kigali
Reaction to the story, “EAC: To waive or not to waive work permit fees, that is the question”, (The New Times, October 2)