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Straight talk: The issue of dual citizenship

Sajjad Zohir |

The Business Standard | Panorama |
25 March, 2023 |

The economic, legislative, and regulatory environment of the home country, as well as the quality of governance, have strong influences on individual decisions on using or misusing the instrument of dual citizenship

We expect one’s professional positioning to remain unbiased by their personal identity. However, the latter may shape the kind of questions they raise. Thus, someone, voluntarily or involuntarily, stuck with a Bangladeshi passport only may be concerned with their livelihoods at home due to the introduction of dual citizenship.

On the contrary, someone seeking citizenship in another country, for financial, professional or political reasons, may find the instrument (of dual citizenship) facilitating their desire to pay back the country that groomed them to achieve personal prosperity.

It is also possible that there are others in the group who misuse that very instrument and continue to extract and transfer resources from the root to the land of a new settlement.

Whether one uses the instrument for the benefit of or against their home country depends on the inherent personal traits of an individual. However, the economic, legislative, and regulatory environment of the home country, as well as the quality of governance, have strong influences on individual decisions on using or misusing the instrument. The ability to misuse the instrument of dual citizenship in relocating resources is relatively easy in an environment of weak governance.

It is therefore no wonder that there will be attempts to rationalise the instrument with no serious attempt to understand what dual citizenship means and what the adverse implications of such an instrument are.

Birupaksha Paul’s attempt to glorify dual citizenship’s image by posing the question, “Is dual citizenship to blame for money laundering?” in an article on The Daily Star on 9 March 2023, is an example in hand. Paul took a cue from a court order that mentioned Bangladeshis buying properties abroad, with hints that tied property-buying with “looting the banks” and transferring the money abroad.

But Paul chose to pose a question that, I believe, he knows does not have a clear answer. Clearly, the causes of “bank looting” lies in many factors, including poor management of banks, that he must have experienced as a chief economist at the Bangladesh Bank during 2015 and 2016.

Money may or may not be laundered across borders even when it is looted from banks. Thus, a relevant question could be, is bank looting or money laundering facilitated by the presence of dual citizenship?

Or, one could question my narrative published on this paper on 26 August last year and verify if the presence of dual citizens increases volatility in the forex market once a moving out of the historical exchange rate path occurs. Rather than raising some such questions, Paul prefers to glorify dual citizenship, suggesting that the dual citizens of North America are bringing great benefits to Bangladesh, and the expansion of the net to 101 countries should be appreciated.

I do understand that many of the readers I am addressing are dual citizens (or have the legal options, on the side of Bangladesh, to be dual citizens). Yet, I am hoping that they will appreciate the importance of having a sovereign home state back home for a healthy and safe existence in the land of their new settlement.

I have had my interest in this emerging social group, primarily for the purposes of insightful political economy analyses. In an earlier article titled, “Difficulties in defining public needs and aspirations,” (published on Prothom Alo on 30 January 2019, an important function of dual citizens were articulated without mentioning the term.

“In the more recent past, there has emerged a new element in the post-neocolonial ‘masnadi’ culture of political governance across the globe. It is the rise of a new group of people who, voluntarily or involuntarily, declared loyalty to an advanced country without losing touch with their roots. It also includes people, small in numbers but globally vocal, who worked for supra-national agencies and look for meaningful engagement after retirement,” the article reads.

“Combinedly, the group has increased in size and proves to be a worthy partner to the strategists located in advanced countries and who operate globally. Due to their practical exposure to a wide range of global transactions and familiarity with technology, they also have the potential to contribute towards the enhancement of their countries of origin.

“Inclusion of this group in the analysis and their ‘interests’ in the root possibly allows one to better comprehend the new forms (and instruments) of control that the traditional western powers may potentially exert upon the developing countries. Bangladesh is no exception — rather, it appears to be a major test case of a new form of governance.”

That paper also noted, “segments of foreign citizens of Bangladeshi origin (FCBOs) with multi-cultural identity and having social and economic networks extending across the globe, may contribute as well. But the right policies and regulations to screen the selection should be in place.”

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