NDP VIEW: Economic Citizenship A Game Changer For SVG

Economic citizenship is offered when an individual completes the legal process to acquire citizenship in a second country on account of the individual’s financial investment into that country’s economy. St. Vincent and the Grenadines can benefit tremendously from such a programme. The New Democratic Party will implement the Citizenship by Investment Programme which will assist to improve the economic situation.

The following Caribbean countries have legislation authorizing the procurement of citizenship after making a substantial investment: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and St. Lucia.  Antigua Citizenship by Investment Programme was launched in 2012; Dominica started their programme in 1993; Grenada commenced theirs in 2013; St. Lucia in 2015; and St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programme was launched in 1984. And all these islands economies are performing well.

Furthermore, the richest country in the world, the United States of America (USA), allows foreign citizens to obtain green cards.  The USA allows foreigners to obtain their green cards under EB-5 Visa once they meet the requirement of investing $500,000 in a specified employment area and can create a number of jobs.  Although there is an annual cap of 10,000 with regards to the issuing of passports, the EB 5 programme alone has seen over $6.8bn invested into the US over the past years.  It is of interest to note that in recent years the USA reached its maximum of 10,000 immigrant investor visas before the end of its fiscal year. The IMF has stated that it is the wealthy, private investors from the emerging market economies that are driving the trend.

The Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes are appealing as the countries are all politically stable with Westminster-style democracies and well established legal and regulatory frameworks. Also, they have stable currencies back by the US dollar, and they are all located near major markets with daily direct flights to and from Europe, Canada, and the United States. Furthermore, the process is expedited. Via one of the Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programmes, a second passport can be secured in three to four months after undergoing due diligence background checks and making a minimum investment of US$200,000 not including government processing and due diligence fees.

St. Kitts and Nevis had the vision of introducing the Citizenship by investment Programme just over one year after gaining political independence in 1983. The primary objective was to increase their revenue after attaining independence from Britain. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that in 2014 the Citizenship by Investment Programme amounted to 14% of St. Kitts GDP and account for a substantial amount of the government’s revenue in recent years.  This is significant and has a positive impact on the economy and citizens of that country.  Moreover ,St. Kitts has reduced its debt to GDP ratio to 60 % in 2018 from a high of 78% in 2014, and the government has been able to pay its public sector workers double salary for the month of December for the past three years; a sign of a blooming economy.

Grenada too is benefitting immensely from their citizenship by investment programme. The island boasts of attracting investors of outstanding calibre and great wealth. For instance in 2017, the Grenadian government cited fourteen (14) projects directly related to the Citizenship by Investment programme.  The tourism sector has benefited tremendously, with a significant increase in hotel rooms. In fact, there have been more than ten (10) hotel projects in Grenada as a result of the citizen by investment programme. St Lucia, Antigua and Dominica are all benefitting greatly from the programme.

In Grenada, under the CBI Programme there are two options for the grant of citizenship: a US$200,000 donation to the National Transformation Fund or a US$350,000 investment into an Approved Project. The prices are for a family of four as Grenada’s CBI Programme is family focused. All persons granted citizenship under the Programme enjoy the same rights as born Grenadians.

The Programme is run by a Committee of seven persons with an administrative and operations unit. All approvals for the grant of citizenship are made by the Cabinet. In 2017 Grenada’s Programme was highly successful with a 108% increase in received applications over 2016. 375 applications were received. Total receipts from the Programme were in excess of EC$140,000,000.

Over the life of the Programme some EC$150,000,000 has been invested into the Approved Projects which are categorized as real estate in the tourism sector and agribusiness and aquaculture projects. Through the Approved Projects, thousands of jobs have been created and opportunities have arisen for service providers and suppliers. The projects provide investment in key sectors which lead to economic growth and development. Developers of Approved Projects are both Grenadian and foreign nationals.

 In one year, a total of EC$82,000,000 was deposited into the National Transformation Fund and used for social programmes, special projects, educational programmes, special needs programmes, infrastructure and payment of sovereign debt. Grenada has in place rigorous due diligence and security vetting measures to ensure the strength and integrity of the Programme which has been lauded by the IMF as being the gold standard for transparency and strong legislative framework in the region.

The benefits of the programme to St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be incredible. We will see an increase in foreign direct investment; an increase in government’s revenue and most importantly it will reduce the tax burden of Vincentians; thus, fuelling economic growth and development which will ultimately benefit the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our leader, Dr. Friday, had this to say on the subject; “I think this is something where we are losing a lot of opportunities and everyone else is moving ahead when we are falling behind.”

The New Democratic Party continues to express its commitment to implementing the Citizen by Investment Programme which will bring economic growth and development to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.