Roosevelt Skerrit has said there is “no race to the bottom” when it comes to citizenship by investment programmes in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The Prime Minister of Dominica, who is also the current chain of the ECCB Monetary Council, made the claims at an OECS head of government meeting, where leaders moved to finalise a memorandum of understanding to ensure cooperation between citizenship schemes.
A number of Caribbean islands rely on their citizenship by investment schemes to boost state coffers.
“We’ve been discussing the issue of the CBI among ourselves as heads of government and also at the level of the heads of the various units, and there was a first meeting,” Skerrit said.
“There’s a draft MOU, which all of us have agreed to in principle that’s being discussed among our technical people.
“We’re hoping that we can have a meeting on the margins of the CARICOM meeting in Haiti this month to finalise the MOU that would speak to a number of areas of standardisation and ensuring that there is a greater sharing of information.”
Dominica’s PM added that that the heads of government of the OECS territories with CBI programmes – St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica – “were mindful of the issues and it is something that we have to address collectively and to see where we can have some uniformity in our approach—on application forms, our sharing of information, our legislation and what have you.”
“I must say all of the countries, which have the CBI programmes are very keen on this collaboration and this cooperation; it’s a matter for us to meet and to finalise it and to have it ratified and implemented.”
‘Know the facts’
Skerrit said that people need to be properly educated about the CBI programmes to mitigate against the “misinformation and malicious information out there on our programmes and how these programmes are managed without due diligence.
“In all of our countries, there are several layers of due diligence that take place and we utilise the same agencies which the developed countries use to conduct due diligence,” he said, while highlighting that “our programmes are well managed” and “not averse to receiving criticism.”
The Dominican prime minister said that every country with CBI programmes has different realities that it has to treat with as time goes by.
“We in Dominica have no issue with St. Kitts and Nevis reducing its price. St Kitts and Nevis has to deal with certain realities and as a government, it has to take decisions in the interests of its citizens,” a reference to the recent move by St Kitts and Nevis to institute a temporary Hurricane Relief Fund (HRF) contribution under the real estate option to assist government with repairs to public infrastructure and private property damaged during the 2017 hurricane season.
Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Timothy Harris, speaking at the ECCB headquarters media engagement, said that all CBI programmes are priced differently.
“Sometimes, the language gets emotive in terms of a race to the bottom and I don’t think if that in fact could be justified,” he said.
“When we look at the CBI programmes, not just in the Caribbean region but elsewhere, they’ve always been priced differently.”
The St Kitts and Nevis prime minister underscored how critically important the CBI programmes are.
“The programmes continue to be of critical importance to the fiscal stability of the region and I think that we will work carefully and thoughtfully to both protect them as long as it is in our power to do so and to ensure that our island states are not disadvantaged.”
St Kitts and Nevis has the oldest existing CBI programme in the world, established in 1984.