MPs refuse to consider bill offering citizenship in return for dollars

Seventy MPs have announced their outright rejection of a bill submitted to parliament by MP Mahmoud Attia granting Egyptian nationality to foreigners who deposit US$5 million or more in an Egyptian bank.

The 70 MPs submitted a request the speaker of parliament for the bill to be dismissed without even the normal reading given to draft laws.

According to the bill, any foreigner who deposits $5 million in an Egyptian bank would be granted a temporary residence permit in Egypt for years in the first instance. At the end of five years, depending on a legal review, they may be granted Egyptian nationality as a second step.

The bill is partly intended to bring in much-needed foreign currency to Egypt, helping to alleviate the currency crisis that has been hampering business activitity.

However, the 70 MPs claim that it represents an "illegal trade in Egyptian nationality", saying there are alternative ways of increasing foreign currency reserves.

They warned, meanwhile, that such a law could be exploited by foreign nations, such as Israel, as a means of increasing their espionage activities in Egypt.

MP Mostafa Bakry described the bill as "very dangerous for national security".

"The difficult economic conditions should not be a reason to abandon the fundamentals of national security, especially since private investment by proxy has become commonplace in the world to achieve hostile political goals," he said.

Bakry rejected the idea of the bill completely, describing it as unacceptable.

MP Abdel Moneim al-Aleimy also rejected the bill, saying a nation's nationality is "sacred" and should not be up for sale.

"Egypt is not for sale," said MP Bedeir Abdel Aziz.

An increasing number of countries are offering citizenship in return for investment, seeking a "win-win" proposition in an attempt to boost the nation's economic situation.

High-net-worth individuals perceive purchasing citizenship or residency rights as a legitimate privilage of wealth, along with greater global mobility (visa-free travel in many countries), tax planning and family security.

Meanwhile, those nations granting citizenship to the rich reap the rewards in terms of increased cash-flow.     

According to the IMFdirect blog, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United States, France, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, Australia, Hungary and Bulgaria are among the 23 countries around the globe that offer the so-called citizenship-by-investment.

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