Selling Caribbean Citizenship – by David Jessop

Selling Caribbean Citizenship –  By David Jessop

News Americas, LONDON, England, Mon. Jan. 6, 2014: Governments in North America and Europe are beginning to look more closely at citizenship for investment schemes, after a small but growing number of incidents have raised concerns about who passports are being issued to. Although much of the media have confused the illegal issue of diplomatic or regular passports with those provided under legal citizenship by investment programs that many nations operate, it is clear that the whole question of being able, in one or another way, to offer citizenship without a residence requirement is coming under increasing international scrutiny; with the real danger being that ordinary citizens may come to face blanket requirements for visas where none previously existed.  

Citizenship for investment schemes, of which there are globally very many on offer, provide passports in return for payments or investments of between US$0.1m and US$1m and requirements that range from the challenging to the simple or non-existent regarding residence. Among those most interested in such provisions are newly wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs whose interest in holding alternative citizenship, or residing elsewhere, relates to unspoken concerns about their Government’s anti-corruption drive, personal freedom, or seeking a location that provides an international education for their children. Wealthy Russians too have an interest in relocating as do a growing number of wealthy citizens from the Middle East, the former Soviet Republics and Africa unsettled by instability and war, and US entrepreneurs who want to escape the US’s ever widening tax net. The problem is that such schemes, the nature of the due diligence undertaken in granting citizenship, and in some cases those who are appointed to sell such schemes globally, have become controversial.

The latest nation to attract attention is Malta, a full member of European Union where its government recently announced a scheme that in effect sells citizenship of the EU in the form of a Maltese passport. Government there had proposed that citizenship would be available for US$890,000 (€650,000) without any residency or investment requirement and without the names of those granted citizenship being published. However, the proposal, which the Maltese government had predicted would bring in US$ 41m (€30m) resulted in a domestic political storm. It also resulted in concern being expressed by other EU member states as the effect would have been to offer entrance and residency into the other 27 EU member states. The result was the temporary suspension of the program, a debate in the European Parliament next month, and pressure from a number of member states for consistency across the EU. In the Caribbean, the revenue raising potential such schemes have understandably become of particular interest to some of the region’s smaller heavily indebted nations.

Earlier this month, Grenada became the latest Government to announce a citizenship program as one of a number of decisions to try to put the nation’s fiscal house in order. In his budget address the Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, announced that he will bring before parliament in early 2014 a new citizenship by investment program tailored to Grenada’s needs, which will, he said, take great care to attract clean and credible investors. This program will be under the control of a Committee led by the Attorney General which will receive and determine applications for a program conservatively estimated to bring in US$10m (EC$27m) in 2014. Antigua has a similar a scheme, as do Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis which offer investment variations on citizenship without a residency requirement. More recently, British overseas territories have been told by London they may only consider programs for residence as long as there is no guarantee of citizenship.

In contrast, St Vincent has said that it will not follow other OECS nations. Speaking about this in August, the islands’ Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said, “I know what the downsides are, and I insist that the highest office in the land is that of citizen and it is not for sale…. the passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship and it is not for sale either”. Mr Gonsalves said that instead he preferred to see citizenship garmented to those who “come in and they invest and later on” [become citizens]. Citizenship programs are extraterritorial in their effect, so the offer of an OECS passport potentially provides any new citizen with the ability to move freely within the region and in some cases beyond, to the Schengen area, to Canada, or to other parts of the world that do not as yet require visas from citizens of certain Caribbean nations.

Not only is this creating unease within some CARICOM countries and the suggestion that there is a need to examine the implications in relation to free movement and national security, but it is also clear that traditional partners are watching closely the development of such programs. Recent private research also suggests that concern among Caribbean citizens has been growing. Among the doubts listed about economic citizenship programs are: a country being associated with criminals; being inundated with foreigners; funding being given by foreigners to political parties or individuals rather than the state; damage to international reputation; and visa restrictions being applied to all nationals by other states. Assuring the Caribbean people that they will not suffer visa restrictions from other nations as a result of an economic citizenship program is an issue that has domestic political implications.

It requires any Government envisaging such programs to ensure that they communicate their plans to those countries that its citizens most frequently travel to and develop clear procedures in relation to security and the administration of their scheme. As international views on monitoring money laundering and transparency evolve, it is possible that economic citizenship could at some point become the subject of more intense scrutiny by external governments and international institutions. In its desire to create new sources of income, Caribbean nations and the region should consider carefully the implications and reputational risks. If economic citizenship, without any significant residence requirement or the most detailed and exhaustive of checks, were to be proved to have facilitated criminality or terrorism, the measure will not only have become self-defeating for the country concerned, but also potentially damaging to the region as a whole.

David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted atdavid.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Tara  On 01/19/2014 at 11:36 pm

    Many years ago, this kind of open-door policy was a great investment boost for developing nations, who rolled out the welcoming mat to do business. However, today the world has changed and doing any kind of business has become much more complex since September 11, 2001. What we do not know, is exactly how many of these so called “investment ventures” are truly what they say they are and not a terrorist haven or a bedrock for money laundering network.

    What we know for sure is that as America was busy dealing with the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Chinese in particular has been steadfastly making tremendous economic inroads into Africa, The Caribbean, South and Central America at break-neck speed. Many of these investers have been very successful in their persuasion to aid many struggling nations into business ventures that included the building of many infractures.

    But how can a nation attract clean and credible investor? We saw what happened in Antigua with Sandford. This modern day Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor. He was an American who appeared very clean and did wonderful things for Antiguans but his investment ventures devasted the tiny island economically.

    This investigation could not have come at a better time as Guyana’s courtship with the Chinese is somewhat very scary. I believer that one day Guyanese will wake up and find themselves displace from the land they now call home. I just don’t trust these people.

  • Walter  On 01/20/2014 at 12:49 am

    tara is corect. Short time ago, this would have been considered racist.The Chinese have no concept of participaion, their agenda is, and has always been total control. With a tendency to stick together, countries fighting among themselves, make it easier for them to move their agenda forward. They are the experts at manipulating politians, so they can have control without responsibility. The promise of large voting blocks is hard for Canadian politicians to pass up, and in third world countries, just cash. I came to this conclusion, after coming up against the Chinese, in Television, Business, and now table tennis.I see the same results, throughout the world today.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/20/2014 at 4:18 am

    “….. countries fighting among themselves, make it easier for them to move their agenda forward.” – Rather than focus on racist, anti-Chinese rants, I would rather we focus on fixing the neglected, divided house we keep within Guyana and the Caribbean. What are we doing about that? After 50-years of independence, don’t you think it is about time …?

    • Walter  On 01/20/2014 at 3:23 pm

      Wo Nellie, have no Idea how to fix Guyana or any other country ,for that matter. Racist anti chinese rants, just personal experience, a great fan of their ability to stick to plan. Competed in the automotive aftermarket against them, they constantly garner information, with the intention of starting or expanding their business, using your suppliers. This was nothing compared to working with them as executives on the board of then Canada’s largest table tennis club. They used all offered training courses, gained experience in the running of a large non profit organisation. Eventually, branched out into many smaller clubs taking the majority of the(chinese) membership. ‘Chinese backers,’, realised that money can be made from Table Tennis, stepped in, today the largest and best clubs in North America are in Toronto, featuring some of the worlds best players, giving exhibitions,etc .Oh, in all of these clubs, most of the executives, came from our club.Racist,anti chinese rants, no, reluctant admirer.yes.

  • william wallace  On 01/20/2014 at 7:20 am

    At present most promising investment (uncontaminated land) &
    land not at risk from flooding due to Climate Change. The USA
    via Climate Change & land contamination from GM CROPS is in
    need of land which can then guarantee needs for their people’s.

    Climate Change combined with the disaster of GM crops has but
    brought a dire situation…MONSANTO did no long term tests upon
    their products they simply used Americans as the people of other
    nations as guinea pigs. WHY ? did a USA Govt allow MONSANTO
    the complete freedom to take proven sound safe plants / that fed
    the nation / to such production of plants that are killing the nation.

    The answer /greed and stupidity / funding to the political parties
    funding of $millions blinded) thus stupidity believing MONSANTO
    when told by MONSANTO Via GM (GENETIC MODIFICATION) it
    claimed by MONSANTO they could grow bumper crops no matter
    weather conditions /of course all their claims complete nonsense
    by a MONSANTO staff whom live in theTwilight Zone (not reality).

    Thus the tables have turned as the saying goes / it’s not a case
    of America attracting the wealthy / it’s now other nations in being
    a attraction unto wealthy Americans thus the offer of Citizenship.

    Via pollitical corruption and military madness the USA be as the
    TITANIC heading toward ICEBERG financial as a moral decline
    of the nation has brought the nation to it’s knees / criminal acts
    committed by corrupt USA politicians and Military madness has
    brought great destruction worldwide where millions slaughtered
    brutality / torture/ where man / woman / child / shown no mercy.

  • Tara  On 01/22/2014 at 2:23 am

    Guys!!!!!! I hope you can all remember Jim Jones and his followers who cast a negative light upon Guyana. This man wanted a paradise here on earth and he found it in Guyana but at the cost of hundreds of innocent lives. Guyana should not be selling citizenship to any foreigner with ulterior motives.Every effort should be made to prevent those who are looking for a tax loop-hole haven and also to escape their criminal past, using economic investment as a guise.

    Unfortunately, we don’t know who these people are because many times some do have criminal background and are looking for some place to call home and sometimes a language barrier is the “hindrance” to getting to the core of such scrutiny. Also, the Guyana government should be wary of any homogeneous groups with a language barrier because such is a recipe for grave injustice. Sadly, most of those workers are paid almost nothing because all or most of what is earned is deducted for board and travel expences to Guyana. This pattern of behavior is notorious and should not be tolerated in any society.

    Moreover, with all its natural resources Guyana should be looking to Brazil, a economic powerhouse in the region for direction. We should not be selling citizenship to any foreigner with ulterior motives. Instead, our focus should be on education and the empowering of our youths because these are the future of tomorrow. Sadly, what is seen today in all of Guyana are gun violence, sucides, murders, domestic violence, pedophilia, rape/sexual assalts to name a few of the horrific crimes against humanity. The discipline we admire in the Chinese is all part of China’s investment in its youth. Guyana has turned its back on the one thing that made us stand out among the rest of the Caribbean, and that is EDUCATION. We made Guyana proud in every discipline but all that is lost in today’s generation.

  • Walter  On 01/22/2014 at 3:20 pm

    What Tara said,maybe it is because I am typing from a beach in Nicaragua,I failed to mention the obvious,Tara said it better,thanks

  • Clyde Duncan  On 02/26/2014 at 9:03 am

    – Another argument against Selling Caribbean ‘Economic’ Citizenship: http://deadspin.com/dominicas-fake-ski-team-scammed-the-olympics-and-the-p-1529973935

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s