By - Kiraithe Daniel Mutemi
While there is no universal definition of an immigrants, it is generally accepted that an immigrant is a person who changes his/her country of usual residence for various reasons. Some of them are professionals, semiskilled or even unskilled workers. They are mainly educated and trained elsewhere hence they bring with them the diversity of language, culture, working experience, entrepreneurial skills, economic and political ideologies among other issues. All these diverse issues are strengths to them and an opportunity to the host nation. Such opportunities include an immense contribution towards the innovation space, entrepreneurial aggressiveness and political influence they command.
Countries that support migrants benefit from their workforce who alters income distribution and inequalities in the country as well as investment priorities. Immigrant students together with their families increase knowledge sharing and diffusion. Therefore, they benefit the host nation as much they benefit their home countries. Majority of entrepreneurs who come as immigrants invest in the host nation and create jobs, capital and advance technology as they pay taxes and save in the economy. Immigrants also are a significant source of market for products produced by their countries of residence, forming an essential part of the consumer group. Their presence does not threaten the locals but helps them create sustainable economies.
However, there is a growing negative perception towards immigrants and foreign worker. Such attitudes are outweighing the positive economic impact they have. The US began implementing strict rules and regulations regarding immigrants that sparked diplomatic dissonance between her and Mexico since President Donald Trump took power. It has since been difficult for people of colour, especially black Africans, to acquire US citizenship. Therefore, they remain illegal immigrants and become targets of the government. South Africa has also recently joined the nations unleashing terror to foreigners in what they claim is foreigners taking their jobs.
Immigrants socially and economically built the majority of economically prosperous countries in the world. For example, the US industrial and economic space has been shaped mainly by immigrants with open economic policies encouraging industrialisation. Through the availability of both skilled and unskilled labour mostly from immigrants, industries thrived, and exports increased. Goldin (2018) reported that in the UK, immigrants are two times as likely as native-born citizens to start their own business. Similarly, nearly a third or 30 per cent of companies in the US are immigrant-founded.
Migrants also tend to be more successful in their endeavours both in political and economic space.
On the other hand, those countries that practised protectionism have not made significant economic progress compared to their counterparts that are economically liberalised, whether in the same region or different locations. The pointing case of Hungary and Poland elucidates listianism, which is a protectionist economic model supported by closed border policies is not a sustainable one.
Hungary and Poland Economic Models
Hungary has a less progressive economy argued to be originating from listianism economic policies adopted for decades. These policies were advancing individual interests while injuring the nations’ economic progress. Her political economics have been characterised by protectionism, which is not progressive for a country due to reduced competition and diversity. “List” made a contrast of individual economic behaviour to that of an entire nation concluding that individuals advance personal interests at the expense of the nation’s interests. According to “listianism” economics, society’s beneficial economic activities may likewise cause harm to a few individuals’ business activities.
While the interests of the country should come first to make a nation an economic powerhouse, there should be a balance to avoid destabilising the very economy by hurting the foreigners and their legitimate businesses. Hungary has however seen major economic reforms since the election of Viktor Orban as a prime minister in 2010.
The country’s economic policies focused on paying substantial foreign debts and rebalancing ratio of capital between foreigners and Hungary. Interest on foreign capital, pension contribution reforms as well as mega-taxes policies adopted by Hungary had the interest of the country precede those of individual investors. “List” cautioned against the overzealous implementation of projects that are aimed at restoring economic power to the nation as they may scare away investors and adversely affect the economic progress of the country.
Poland, on the other hand, adopted a liberalised economic system and has not witnessed any recession since 1989. Even the great 2008 financial crisis did not affect Poland due to her strong economic policies. The open border policy has created a vibrant, diverse economy made of foreigners mainly. Poland is the European Union’s economic powerhouse due to liberalisation. Listianism has no place in current liberalised Poland. While Hungary is employing punitive economic measures to foreigners, Poland on the hand has for decades embraced immigrants who have built her economy largely. With high levels of employment, controlled inflation and political stability, Poland does not need to apply “listianism” approach to secure economic power. Currently, the sixth-largest economy in Europe, Poland is economically robust and a significant determiner of the region’s financial performance.
The shift of focus to countries of settlement by African immigrants has since been witnessed. According to Afrobarometer Survey (2019) titled “In search of opportunity: Young and educated Africans most likely to consider moving abroad”, majority of Africans immigrants(36 per cent) prefer moving to an African country than to any other continent. The report indicates that more people move from the north and West Africa to South Africa instead of entering Europe to the north.
South Africa is one of the economic engines of the African continent. Her previously comprehensive policies and open border policies have for decades, supported immigrants and foreigners. They have contributed immensely to her industrialisation and education advancement. The economic prosperity of this nation is threatened by the recent attacks targeting foreigners within her borders in xenophobic acts. These barbaric acts cannot be justified to build an economy or sovereignty.
The real GDP is likely to shrink, and economic sanctions may be imposed on South African as a result of intolerance to entrepreneurs building the South African economy away from their homes. The universities in South African are set to receive fewer international learners and teachers, as well as her industries relying on foreign inputs and consumers, are likely to suffer adversely.
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