St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The government is getting support for its plans to eventually exit the Citizenship by Investment programme after first strengthening other economic pillars of the economy in a bid to rely less on the CBI.
CBI agent of Apex Capital Partners Nuri Katz says going that route is not surprising.
“These programmes are never meant to be permanent, for example in the United States it’s a temporary programme, in Canada the programme ended, the Investor Immigration programme ended as well. So these programmes were never meant to be forever so it’s not surprising that the Prime Minister acknowledges that the CIP is not going to last forever. It’s a very good way to supplement the income of the country but we understand and everybody has always understood that it’s not the kind of income that a country can count on forever. It’s not like regular taxation or other kinds of industries, so it’s not surprising that he would say such a thing he’s obviously not giving it a date he’s just saying that at some date in the future the programme most likely will be phased out.”
The prime minister at his recent press conference indicated that his administration wants to eventually exit the programme after strengthening the tourism, agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
“And certainly I hope that the time will come in the not too distant future, where we can as a people reach that level of development that we can easily exit from this programme, because although it has brought significant benefits, certainly the evolving market place shows that there are significant downside risks to this programme.”
That announced strategy has found favour with regional broadcaster, Vincentian-based Jerry George.
“Smart, visionary, fast forward thinking. Why? The Citizenship by Investment Programme is a programme that exists literally at the pleasure of the big countries. We saw the same thing happen when the OECD challenged offshore banking. Do we want to wait until it is decimated? And in fact, the regions has done some very foolish things I would say chief of which has been the questions that have come out of Dominica and the way they have approached their own CBI programme. We now recognize that especially with this US administration, you don’t know what will happen next, so it’s a smart move for the Prime Minister to be looking towards phasing out the programme.”
However the federation’s parliamentary opposition is sharply criticizing Prime Minister Timothy Harris’ statement on the exiting of the CBI “in the not too distant future”.
“No consultation with the people, no consultation with the stakeholders – this was not something in their manifesto or that they campaigned on, that they would bring CBI to an end, and now we are hearing in very Trump-like fashion, Timothy Harris goes out there and just puts that out there. I would like to hear from some members of his own Cabinet because we are hearing that some of them didn’t even know about this public pronouncement. So I would like to hear from people like Mark Brantley, Lindsay Grant, and Vincent Byron about this – what are their views on this announcement of bringing the CBI to an end, because this is a critical matter because it underpins our economy. The recent IMF report revealed that without the CBI, it actually said that in the report, the country would be in deficit - that’s in the very recent last Article IV IMF report. So even though we are earning less under the CBI the IMF is saying that without it the country would be in deficit. When you end it, what are you going to replace it with?”
Labour Party Chairperson and parliamentarian Marcella Liburd.
Her comment was made on Freedom FM.
However both Nuri Katz and Jerry George support the articulated position of Prime Minister Harris on the future of the Citizenship By Investment Programme.
“Well I think that that’s the intention of the Prime Minister is to go on for as long as possible, but with the understanding that these programmes don’t last forever. I’m sure the Prime Minister would not phase it out as long as it is producing income for the country and doing well for the country.” Katz said.
“I have to give the Prime Minister of St Kitts kudos for looking ahead. You see it is easy when you have something that is making money to think that it will continue to always make money and as I’ve said St Kitts is the first one to start this category, they were smart to recognize it coming in and I think they would be very smart to recognize when they should leave” George said.
George is a known critic of the region’s economic citizenship programmes;
Katz is a promoter and agent of the St Kitts and Nevis CBI.