Birthright for Sale

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

“I am a jeal­ous guardian of Saint Lu­cian cit­i­zen­ship. Notwith­stand­ing, I have ac­cepted the need to move be­yond the con­straints of my sen­ti­men­tal­ity to ap­prove the es­tab­lish­ment of a pro­gramme and to be here to­day to an­nounce that Saint Lucia is im­ple­ment­ing a Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment,” so said Kenny An­thony in Monaco. As re­ported, ear­lier that night guests, in­clud­ing a swathe of elite lawyers and pro­fes­sion­als from Saint Lucia, had been soothed by the mu­si­cal skills of Ron­ald ‘Boo' Hink­son who played var­i­ous tra­di­tional Saint Lu­cian songs as an ap­pe­tizer. Then came the main course, an ad­dress by Saint Lucia's Kenny D. An­thony, fol­lowed by a dessert per­for­mance from Boo and Haitian su­per­star Wy­clef Jean at the in­vi­ta­tion of the Prime Min­is­ter him­self. It's not ev­ery lawyer, politi­cian or pro­fes­sional that gets in­vited to din­ner by the Chief, es­pe­cially when the restau­rant hap­pens to be some 7,217 kilo­me­tres away as the crow flies – by com­mer­cial air­line it is con­sid­er­ably longer.

Of course, it's not ev­ery day a prime min­is­ter gets to sell off a coun­try's birthright for a pit­tance ei­ther. But al­low me to ex­plain. For a reg­u­lar wage earner, any­one with USD 300,000 to in­vest will ap­pear wealthy, per­haps even rich, but to the wealthy, any­one with only USD 300,000 will not de­serve a sec­ond glance. In to­day's world of in­flated val­ues, USD 300,000 will hardly buy you a fairly spa­cious home at Cap Es­tate. It's peanuts, pocket change.

An apart­ment at The Land­ings on the Rod­ney Bay Cause­way will knock you back any­thing be­tween one and two mil­lion United States dol­lars, and there are sev­eral Saint Lu­cians liv­ing there al­ready. Be­lieve it or not, there are even some politi­cians, or for­mer politi­cians, who own apart­ments there, or so I am told. It's amaz­ing how they fru­gally man­age to stretch out their mea­gre earn­ings!

Any­one ar­riv­ing on th­ese shores in­tent on build­ing a fam­ily home in a pres­ti­gious area of the coun­try must reckon on spend­ing, or as the P.M. puts it “in­vest­ing”, at least USD 400,000, and th­ese peo­ple do it, and have been do­ing it for years, on a reg­u­lar ba­sis with­out the need of a “cit­i­zen­ship bonus”. In fact, many ex­pats have for decades had to en­dure the hu­mil­i­a­tion of hav­ing to ap­ply for tem­po­rary res­i­dency each time they stay in their own houses for more than a few months. And now the prime min­is­ter is invit­ing ev­ery sort of riff-raff with a few dol­lars to spare to be­come cit­i­zens of Saint Lucia.

Th­ese are the terms un­der which a for­eign na­tional can buy a cit­i­zen­ship: a non-re­fund­able min­i­mum in­vest­ment of USD 300,000 in an ap­proved real es­tate project (hope­fully, “ap­proved”, given all the ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rupt prac­tice in the House, will not be syn­ony­mous with “owned by a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter”), and an ad­di­tional ap­pli­ca­tion fee of ap­prox­i­mately USD 168,500 for a fam­ily of four per­sons. Pre­sum­ably, the USD 300,000 will go to the cost of making the in­vest­ment – ma­te­ri­als, con­trac­tors, etc. – so all that is left for gov­ern­ment is USD 168,500.

Ap­pli­cants must demon­strate USD three mil­lion in fi­nan­cial re­sources but there is no re­quire­ment for th­ese re­sources to be in­vested in Saint Lucia. Nei­ther is there a re­quire­ment that the new cit­i­zens re­side in Saint Lucia; they are free to con­tinue en­joy­ing the sweet life of Monaco. Their chil­dren will, of course, au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for cit­i­zen­ship. 500 ap­pli­cants will be ac­cepted an­nu­ally. Amaz­ingly, this is a one-time pay­ment; af­ter the first year they never pay an­other cent and can enjoy the le­git­i­mate and even du­bi­ous ben­e­fits of their off­shore cit­i­zen­ship!

Dear reader, spend a lit­tle time to work it out. There are 365 days in a year and let's say it costs about 1,500,000,000 to run the coun­try an­nu­ally; well, it would work out at about 4 mil­lion dol­lars plus per day. If Dr. An­thony were able to se­duce 24 cit­i­zen-by-in­vest­ment ap­pli­cants, their ap­pli­ca­tion fees of USD 168,500 each would cover just one day. All else be­ing equal, 500 ap­pli­cants would keep the coun­try afloat for a mere 20 days in their first year! Af­ter that – noth­ing! He is sell­ing his birthright for a pit­tance!

So, not only will the cit­i­zen­ship-by­in­vest­ment pro­gramme run the risk of be­ing a stu­pen­dous fi­asco – I have not made men­tion of the costs of ad­min­is­ter­ing such a pro­gramme – it is dan­ger­ously close to at­tract­ing the “wrong” sort of in­vestors. Really rich peo­ple flock to­gether, they stick to their own kind. For Saint Lucia to have a chance to suc­ceed, she would have to pro­vide the pro­tec­tion and ameni­ties sought af­ter by the really stink­ing rich or the se­crecy and pro­tec­tion re­quired by the se­ri­ously crim­i­nal. Sadly, just as Saint Lucia has moved into the high-end mass tourism sec­tor – San­dals, af­ter all, is a classy or­ga­ni­za­tion where hol­i­days do not come cheap – and away from the bucket-and-spade brigades that pop­u­late the beaches of the Mediter­ranean and Ca­nary Is­lands, the gov­ern­ment has seen fit to turn its at­ten­tion to­wards low-level in­vestors. The really rich do not need cheap, off-the-shelf so­lu­tions for their in­vest­ments. I fear that what this pro­gramme will at­tract are not the hon­est hard-work­ing re­tirees or busi­ness peo­ple who want a place in the sun to spend their leisure time, but in­stead we will be­come a money-laun­der­ing de­pos­i­tory that will at­tract even more at­ten­tion from pow­er­ful, dom­i­neer­ing neigh­bours. The US Trea­sury has al­ready warned: “il­licit ac­tors are abus­ing such pro­grammes for evad­ing US or in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions or en­gag­ing in other fi­nan­cial crime.” Is the P.M. de­lib­er­ately pulling Amer­ica's chain? And who will in­vest in a coun­try black­listed by Amer­ica?

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