THE BIG GAM­BLE: RES­I­DENCY BY IN­VEST­MENT OR CIT­I­ZEN­SHIP BY IN­VEST­MENT?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By David Prescod

It is wor­ry­ing that pub­lic com­ment on this ven­ture is in­creas­ingly cen­tred on the pos­si­bil­i­ties for cor­rup­tion in the man­age­ment of this scheme, the like­li­hood that un­savoury char­ac­ters will be­come one of us, as well as on the steps in place to pro­vide as­sur­ance to other coun­tries of the bona fides of our scheme. Whether by de­sign or oth­er­wise, our fo­cus has shifted from the na­ture of what we are propos­ing to the me­chan­ics by which it may be done, pro­vid­ing tacit ap­proval for the in­de­fen­si­ble.

Be­fore go­ing fur­ther, al­low me to point out to those who are only able to see is­sues through the red or yel­low lens of their party of af­fil­i­a­tion, that this pro­posed sale of our na­tion­al­ity has the sup­port of both par­ties in the House of As­sem­bly. That sup­port, how­ever, does noth­ing to san­i­tize the scheme. Our democ­racy re­quires the rais­ing of dis­sent­ing voices.

It was not too long ago that this na­tion was torn over the is­sue of the in­tro­duc­tion of le­gal­ized gam­bling. Twenty years ago, we were ex­tremely con­cerned about the moral de­cay which this rep­re­sented, and dis­cus­sion and dis­agree­ment con­tin­ued for quite a while af­ter that. To­day, we seem to be much more “de­vel­oped” and our in­creased “so­phis­ti­ca­tion” al­lows us to look past those things which de­fine us and hold us to­gether as we main­tain an un­re­lent­ing fo­cus on the dol­lar sign. There is, how­ever, a price to be paid, and it is really un­for­tu­nate that the full im­pact of the de­ci­sions which we are tak­ing to­day will be felt not only by us, but also by gen­er­a­tions to come.

Even with the pas­sage of the leg­is­la­tion, there is lit­tle in the press to in­form us pre­cisely of what is be­ing pro­posed, other than the Prime Min­is­ter’s re­cent state­ment that no more than 500 pass­ports will be sold, and that pur­chasers must have a net worth in ex­cess of US$3 mil­lion.

How­ever, an in­ter­net search pro­duces sites on which both the gov­ern­ing act and the reg­u­la­tions can be found. The reg­u­la­tions in­di­cate that cit­i­zen­ship can be ob­tained by in­vest­ment of US$200,000 into the Saint Lucia Na­tional Fund, with ad­di­tional op­tions for in­vest­ment in an ap­proved real es­tate project, in an ap­proved en­ter­prise project, and for the pur­chase of 5-year non-in­ter­est bear­ing gov­ern­ment bonds. None of th­ese op­tions has a re­quire­ment for res­i­dency; you pay your money and you get your pass­port.

There is a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween the Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme, now law, and the Res­i­dency by In­vest­ment Pro­grammes of­fered by de­vel­oped coun­tries, fur­ther to which pe­riod of res­i­dency cit­i­zen­ship can be at­tained. Were Saint Lucia to of­fer a Res­i­dency by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme, it would im­ply as­sim­i­la­tion into our cul­ture and a con­tri­bu­tion to our so­cial fab­ric by the prospec­tive ap­pli­cant, a process con­sis­tent with our re­cent laws re­gard­ing cit­i­zen­ship. Our di­ver­sity con­firms this. But this is not what has been es­tab­lished.

The only re­quire­ment of the Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Reg­u­la­tions is that a suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cant must show up in Saint Lucia or at any Saint Lu­cian Em­bassy, High Com­mis­sion or Con­sulate to take an oath of af­fir­ma­tion or al­le­giance. What does it mean when a rich Pak­istani or Afghan na­tional liv­ing in Dubai buys a Saint Lu­cian pass­port, os­ten­si­bly be­cause it fa­cil­i­tates his travel to Hong Kong, and shows up at an air­port in the UK or the US claim­ing to be a Saint Lu­cian cit­i­zen but has never been here and prob­a­bly has no idea where to find us on a world map? Is this per­son really a cit­i­zen? And what hap­pens when the rest of us show up at th­ese air­ports?

For those who may think that the moral­ity is­sue is be­ing over-em­pha­sized, an ar­ti­cle ap­pear­ing in the Bloomberg press on March 11 of this year en­ti­tled “Pass­port King Chris­tian Kalin Helps Na­tions Sell Cit­i­zen­ship,” pro­vides back­ground to the de­vel­op­ment of this prac­tice in the Caribbean. The ar­ti­cle quotes An­tigua and Bar­buda’s Prime Min­is­ter Gas­ton Browne, com­ment­ing on his gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to re­duce the res­i­dency re­quire­ment in An­tigua from thirty-five days in five years to just five days over the same pe­riod. Re­port­edly Browne said this was a com­pro­mise “so there will be some fa­mil­iar­ity with the des­ti­na­tion. We don’t want it to look as just a vul­gar sale of pass­ports.” Saint Lucia has no res­i­dency re­quire­ment. The rest of this ar­ti­cle, de­tail­ing

the au­thor’s fur­ther ob­jec­tions to the cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme, will be con­tin­ued in next week’s edi­tion of the STAR.

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony speak­ing at the Global Cit­i­zen Fo­rum in Monaco where Saint Lucia launched

its Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme.

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