Graphs of The Economist 2: Passport Costs

In Facty facts, Politics, Random fun stuff, The Economist on Sunday 6th August, 2006 by Guy

You were craving the next installment in this most timorously-coloured of series, I know it. So I tease you no more (and also take my finger out of the dyke, as the Dutch people once put it, but possibly don’t any more, and almost certainly not in English, at least initially) and present to you the second Excellent Graph of The Economist Newspaper:

Passport costs

[from Passport costs at]

As they put it:

While immigration policies attract a lot of attention, emigration policies receive little. But it is hard and costly to leave some places, according to a study of 127 countries by David McKenzie at the World Bank. Obtaining a passport costs 10% or more of annual income per head in 14 countries, including Nepal, Laos, Tajikistan and 11 African states. In absolute terms, Turks pay the most: $334 for a five-year passport.

The staff writer behind this compact summary neglected to mention what I would consider the two most striking figures: that Armenians get free passports for some inscrutable reason, and that the poor (in terms of money and luck) Congolese had to pay more than the average year’s wages for one of their country’s passports. Why a passport should cost more than a day’s wages in any country is baffling, and the Armenians, assuming they haven’t changed their system, seem to have it the fairest way. If one is a citizen of a state, then surely one is entitled to a passport of that state, assuming one is entitled to emigrate [this issue will be passed over here]? This entitlement should not depend on ability to stump up an arbitrary figure, just as it should not be based on political belief, or colour of hair, say. (I could see why mullet-bearing plebs might be denied one, come to that, but that’s an anomaly. They should be shot in the first instance anyway so that one doesn’t need to, erm, mull over this question. Sorry. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me).

The argument that passports should be sold at least “at cost”, i.e. such that the producers of the passport break even, is specious. The “consumers” of the passport don’t have a choice over who to purchase their passport from, so that the cost of production is entirely at the discretion of the monopoly passport producer — invariably some Government department or quango. Witness how standard 32-page passports in the UK cost £42 in October 2005, the date of reference of the graph’s data, and now cost £51, and will soon cost £66, apparently in order to combat fraud or somesuch nonsense. If the Goverment wants to “upgrade” passports, it should do so with the taxes we already pay, or at least offer its citizens a choice of how ‘secure’ they wish their passports to be (for everyone knows these ‘security features’ are not worth the ink required to write about them, even if no ink is used).

If I insist on not having the courtesy to structure my diatribes properly I should at least make them funnier. Apologies.


One Response to “Graphs of The Economist 2: Passport Costs”

  1. Hello


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