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.
“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?