The big gam­ble: Res­i­dency by In­vest­ment or Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment?

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

David Prescod

There are three fur­ther grounds for ob­jec­tion to this cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment scheme: What mes­sage are we send­ing to our youth, 40% of whom are cur­rently un­em­ployed—with a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber re­port­edly un­em­ploy­able—when the gov­ern­ment en­gages in this type of get-rich-quick scheme? How can we ex­pect them to be­come hard-work­ing, up­right cit­i­zens con­tribut­ing to so­ci­ety? We are cre­at­ing the so­cial con­di­tions that in the fu­ture will make our cur­rent crime con­cerns seem like child’s play.

Se­condly, if the path to cit­i­zen­ship is by way of in­vest­ment in the Na­tional Eco­nomic Fund, how are those wind­fall funds to be used to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment? Will gov­ern­ment in­vest in those ar­eas in which the pri­vate sec­tor does not now have the con­fi­dence to par­tic­i­pate, or are we to see an ex­pan­sion of the wel­fare pro­grammes like STEP and NICE with the at­ten­dant prob­lems for pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ment? If cit­i­zen­ship is to be by in­vest­ment in real es­tate, with em­ploy­ment to be pro­vided through con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity, how are we to cope with the ex­pected es­ca­la­tion in the price of land and in the cost of con­struc­tion? Will the av­er­age Saint Lu­cian be able to af­ford a home then, when its nearly im­pos­si­ble now?

Thirdly, if the sug­ges­tion is that the funds gen­er­ated are to used by gov­ern­ment to pro­vide ser­vices and ad­dress our fis­cal is­sues, is there any­one who really be­lieves that this or suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments can be re­lied on to be pru­dent? At the same time that we are propos­ing des­per­ate mea­sures for rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, we are also plan­ning the ex­pen­di­ture of $156 mil­lion for ex­pan­sion of the Choc to Gros Islet high­way. Other than the small jump in GDP dur­ing the con­struc­tion pe­riod, this ex­pan­sion will have no last­ing im­pact on eco­nomic growth. Yet our over­all debt will have in­creased by an amount in ex­cess of 5%.

As an al­ter­na­tive, traf­fic con­ges­tion can be re­duced by man­ag­ing the hours dur­ing which heavy-duty, slow-mov­ing ve­hi­cles are on the roads; by up­grad­ing bot­tle­neck junc­tions; and by the pos­si­ble adop­tion of schemes charg­ing fees for use dur­ing peak hours. We need to reach the point where we can man­age our con­ve­nience is­sues from our in­ter­nal re­sources, al­low­ing the $150 mil­lion type ex­pen­di­tures to be di­rected to projects such as the new route from Gros Islet to Den­nery.

But the prime min­is­ter has the fi­nal word on ev­ery­thing. In his ad­dress in Monaco, where he in­tro­duced the Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme, he had this to say in part: “Truth be told, I firmly be­lieve that cit­i­zen­ship should al­ways be a state­ment of na­tional pride and an ex­pres­sion of na­tional sovereignty.”

That is the sen­ti­ment and mes­sage that we ex­pect from the prime min­is­ter. He would have served us bet­ter, how­ever, had he stuck to his con­vic­tion rather than al­low­ing his gov­ern­ment to be rail­roaded into the cur­rent po­si­tion. Res­i­dency by In­vest­ment is a sen­si­ble op­tion. Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment is just the crass sale of our na­tion­al­ity.

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