Immigration law will stifle growth: CDE - Jan 26 2011 15:43 I-Net Bridge

Cape Town - Parliament should reject the immigration amendment bill as it will lead to an even more restrictive migration regime and inhibit the country's economic growth, according to the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE).

The immigration amendment bill is due to come before the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs during the first quarter of the year.

In its written submission to the committee, the CDE says the bill seeks to abolish the scarce skills quota system, which severely restricts skilled immigration.

"However, in its stead it gives the minister and director general extensive discretionary powers to determine key aspects of migration policy and strategy with no guidelines as to how they might implement the new regulations," the submission said.

Ann Bernstien, CDE executive director, said: "This is vital if the country is to achieve the president's stated goal of achieving economic growth of 7% per annum for a sustained period."

Bernstein said the ministers of home affairs and finance have stated publicly that skilled immigration is essential for economic growth.

"Whether the amendment bill would result in a more open migration regime would depend on how the discretionary powers given in the new bill to the minister and director general were exercised. However, indications are that the bill would result in a more restrictive regime," she said.

Areas of concern in the proposed legislation highlighted by the CDE submission are:

- The introduction of the term "critical skills" in the place of "exceptional skills", which suggests higher qualifying standards;

- The requirement that applications for "critical skills" permits be treated on a case by case basis, with no indication that people who possess the skills in question will in fact be granted permits;

- Issuing business permits only to businesses deemed by the director general to be in the "national interest"; and

- Restricting applications for corporate permits to businesses in certain economic sectors to be prescribed by the director general, rather than making them available to businesses across the economy.

The CDE argues that it is undesirable in principle for parliament to delegate such extensive policy-making authority to the minister and director-general.

"No one knows what the next minister and director general might decide to do with these extensive powers," Bernstein said.