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