Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 31st 2015 Contents BG16 REGIONAL
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt DECEMBER 31 • 2015
Several countries in the Caribbean
now operate a Citizenship by
Investment Programme (CIP)
under which high-worth foreign-
ers can obtain citizenship and
passports of these countries.
The CIP has detractors both domestically and
internationally, but is their derision fully justifiable,
or do the benefits outweigh the unease?
Citizenship is a jealously guarded entitlement.
Individuals born into a country in which they
also grow-up naturally feel a strong bond with
it. Their personal identity is defined by their
birth, their culture, their values and traditions.
The inclination to preserve the sanctity of cit-
izenship and the standing of their passports are
understandably important to them. Therefore,
the idea that these birth rights of citizenship and
passports could be purchased somehow devalues
them. It is this perceived devaluation of birth
rights that most informs the resistance of native-
born individuals to CIPs.
Additionally, there is a worry among native
born citizens that the strength of their passports
could be degraded if they fall into the hands of
internationally undesirable persons. In turn, native
born persons could be subjected to higher levels
of scrutiny or may even be denied visa-free entry
into other countries if their country s passports
fall under suspicion.
Certainly, there is evidence to support the
latter concern. For instance, Canadian authorities
imposed visa requirements on all citizens of St
Kitts-Nevis when that country s passport was
abused for an attempted entry into Canada by
The people of St Kitts/Nevis must now be in
possession of a visa before they can enter Canada;
a restriction that native born Kittians and
Nevisians resent and for which they blame their
government s CIP.
The international community---particularly the
developed countries of North America and West-
ern Europe---are also concerned about CIPs. Their
concern relates to security principally, although
some of them that also operate CIPs might fear
Countries such as Canada and the United
States could decide that the most effective and
cheapest way to eliminate the security risk would
be to apply visa requirements on all passport
holders of CIP countries, as happened in the
case of Canada with St Kitts-Nevis.
Apart from the political disenchantment that
the need for a visa to travel to Canada causes
among the people of St Kitts/Nevis, the desir-
ability of its citizenship and passport under the
investment programme is diminished by the
elimination of Canada from the number of coun-
tries for which entry does not require a visa.
These are very strong reasons why the CIPs
have to be managed at a very high standard and
with the most thorough investigation of the per-
sons who apply for citizenship and passports.
Governments that fail to enforce high standards
that satisfy the border authorities of North Amer-
ican and Western European countries will face
visa restrictions, the erosion of their CIPs and
the embitterment of their electorates. In other
words, they would lose all round.
The terms of the CIP differ from country to
country but the underlying basis is the same---
citizenship and passports are granted in exchange
for a significant financial investment.
In Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada,
St Kitts/Nevis and (recently) St Lucia, there are
two options: either a large contribution to a
national development fund or a prescribed invest-
ment in real estate. Typically, the latter means
buying land and building homes.
Some countries have been criticised for not
requiring residence by successful citizenship by
investment applicants. However, contributions
to a national development fund, as distinct from
buying land and building personal houses, main-
tain land for ownership by native born citizens
and eliminates negative repercussions such as
pushing up land and construction prices.
In St Kitts/Nevis, where the programme has
been operational since 1984, considerable sums
have been earned and the country has undoubt-
edly been saved from collapse by it. The CIP in
Antigua and Barbuda, which started in 2013, has
also helped to avert an economic meltdown, par-
ticularly over the last 18 months when the present
government streamlined the programme, launched
an aggressive and high-level marketing campaign,
and enhanced the quality of its investigations
into citizenship applicants.
All of the Caribbean countries involved with
citizenship by investment programmes have come
to them by necessity.
Poor terms of trade, vulnerability to financial
down turns in North America and Europe from
where most of their tourists come, declining aid,
persistent natural disasters and no access to con-
cessional financing from international financial
institutions, have forced them to be creative in
raising revenues. They are all faced with fiscal
deficits, high debt and an international environ-
ment that is unresponsive to their predicament.
Only China and Venezuela offered them con-
There is an argument that the CIPs will be
short-lived. It is dependent on wealthy individuals
seeking an alternative to insecurities in their
homelands caused by wars, internal strife and
government disregard for human rights. Therefore,
it is suggested that countries should place the
proceeds into a sovereign wealth fund or some
other sort of savings.
Ordinarily, that proposal would make sense,
but not in countries with fiscal deficits, high
debt and high unemployment. The revenues from
the CIPs have to be used for financial and social
stability now. Saving makes little sense if provision
is not made for preserving and enhancing the
capacity of the country to survive. No point in
saving for tomorrow and starving today.
The CIPs should serve Caribbean countries
well for a few years to come, unless the developed
countries, which themselves run citizenship pro-
grammes, feel sufficiently threatened to want to
close out the competition. In one way or another,
Citizenship by Investment programmes are oper-
ated by European Union countries such as Britain,
France, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain as
well as by the United States, Switzerland, New
Zealand and Australia amongst others.
To maintain their share of the benefits of CIPs,
Caribbean countries have to administer their
programmes at a high standard; a point frequently
made by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister
So far, the CIPs have provided governments
passports to save their economies.
(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda's ambas-
sador to the United States and a senior fellow
at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the
University of London and Massey College in the
University of Toronto. The views expressed are
Irwin LaRocque has sin-
gled out unity, commit-
ment and innovative ideas among the
features that helped to fashion a ful-
filling 2015 in the region.
"This past year has been a most
fulfilling one for us in the Caribbean
Community. The value of our inte-
gration movement proved itself at
home and abroad as we continued
our efforts to provide an improved
standard of living for all our citizens.
The progress that we have made on
many fronts has been due to our act-
ing in concert to secure the best
option for our community," he said
in an end of year message.
The secretary-general said he was
confident that with initiatives under-
way, bolstered by the "tangible evi-
dence of what our unity" could
achieve, the region would provide
"the safe, secure and viable society
that will make us all proud to be cit-
izens of Caricom".
LaRocque added that sustained
economic growth will create the jobs
necessary for maintaining a decent
quality of life and Caricom countries
were working towards achieving that
"Many of our member states are
facing financial and economic chal-
lenges, including high debt and being
graduated out of access to financing
at concessional rates. We are making
strides in addressing these issues,
particularly with respect to changing
the criteria for access to concessional
financing. Also, interesting and inno-
vative ideas have been put forward
to alleviate the debt burden. The
achievement of our goals in those two
areas will greatly assist in the efforts
to encourage growth," he said.
Recalling Caricom s progress over
the year, he noted that its attempts
to influence the international com-
munity to support positions which
advance the region s interests also
met with some success at major global
conferences held this year to deal
comprehensively with the challenges
of developing countries.
"For us in the Caribbean Commu-
nity, the outcome of these global dis-
cussions, particularly on the issue of
climate change, bore significant rel-
evance as we continued to seek to
build our economic and environmen-
tal resilience both of which are pri-
orities in the community s strategic
plan. We did ourselves proud at each
of the events with our unified
approach resulting in favourable out-
He stressed that to fulfil the poten-
tial of the decisions taken at these
conferences will require the region to
continue to strengthen the co-ordi-
nation of foreign policy.
says 2015 a
for the region
A passport to
save the economy
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