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by LK Hewlett,
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Mark Brantley says the less than two-month old Unity Government continues to work on assessing and revamping the Citizenship By Investment program to ensure transparency and legitimacy.
Under the Douglas-led Labour government the CBI program’s credibility was called into question with the visa restriction imposed by Canada on St. Kitts-Nevis nationals and the FinCEN advisory against SKN CBI passport holders.
“We are working assiduously to guarantee our populace, our investors and or regional and international friends that our program is transparent, well managed and a legitimate effort to attract foreign direct investment,” he told The Observer.
British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Victoria Dean told this media house that the UK government had security concerns with the program.
She met with members of the new government during a recent courtesy call to the Federation and says she looks forward to partnering with them in executing their commitment to “clean up” the CBI program.
“What we want to be able to do is work very very closely with those administering the scheme to look at the kind of security checks to investigate deeply, to understand people’s motivation for coming and that is something we were unable to do with the previous administration.”
Dean made it clear the UK is not concerned with only the Federation’s CBI program.
“It’s not just yours; it’s Citizenship By Investment programs in the region and elsewhere that worry us. We understand why countries have them and that as special economic vehicles they make a lot of sense and they bring investment into the country.”
She said the UK’s own Citizenship By Investment program is run quite differently and has a residency requirement.
The Commissioner says the UK would want to bring its CBI technical experts to St. Kitts-Nevis to work with those who run the scheme. She acknowledged that the Federation has its limitations not having access to an enormous intelligence database and the resources to do the kind of due diligence checks that larger countries like the UK and US could.
“I entirely understand and respect that, but what we have to do therefore is find some sort of space between the level of checks that have been required until now and the level we would hope a larger country would do. I know that can’t be done entirely on your own but we need to have that reassurance about due diligence.”
The Commissioner is satisfied that the new government is taking the UK’s concerns very seriously.
“They’ve made clear to us that it’s very much on their priority list to clean up the Citizenship By Investment program. We’ve discussed it on a number of occasions and I think they are at the moment investing a lot of time and effort into looking at how it can be run properly and what kind of help and assistance they will need.”
Brantley said the government will continue to give every assurance to its friends and allies that it shall work closely with them “to ensure that our program remains the Rolls Royce of the industry”.
“We take great pride in knowing that most of the world’s leading countries and many of our Caribbean allies have some iteration of a CBI program and that many look to us as the oldest and most respected program globally for guidance and for best practices.
“This Unity Government is committed to ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders and with our regional and international partners to ensure that our program continues to prosper and bring much needed economic relief to our citizenry.”