By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) — Prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has reiterated his disdain for the economic citizenship programmes being operated by some member states of the OECS.
Gonsalves in his latest comment on the matter emphasized that his country’s citizenship is not for sale.
“The highest office in the land is that of citizen, higher than prime minister, higher than governor general. It is not a commodity for sale. The passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship and that too is not for sale,” he said.
However former prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas denies that the CIP represents the selling of citizenship.
“The country’s citizenship for St Kitts and Nevis definitely is not for sale. As we continue to say to my former colleague, the St Kitts programme was an economic development programme. It was an investment programme that invited persons to invest in the country; no one was really selling the passport. I know of course it is interpreted in layman’s language to be the selling of the passport but one needs to look at the economic development benefits that have been derived from the programme at this time and one would understand clearly that it is an economic development strategy, it is an investment programme that allows the investor to be incentivized to become a citizen of a country that you have invested significant amounts,” Douglas said.
Gonsalves is not buying that explanation.
He contends that citizenship is too precious to be used as a bargaining tool.
“When people tell me I can make a lot of money from it, there are lots of things you can make money from which you would not necessarily get engaged in. But as I say, I am not criticizing any of my brothers in the other countries who want to go there, that is their right, we agree to disagree in this one,” he emphasised.
However regional broadcaster, Vincentian Jerry George, told WINN FM that Gonsalves’ position on the matter is hypocritical.
“You cannot have it both ways and that is the problem I have in our region. The people get up on one stand and make these statements and then you see what they are doing. There is no official programme in St Vincent of citizenship by investment but the prime minister (Gonsalves) feels he has a right to give passports to whom he wants to give passports to. How different is that? In fact because of that approach we don’t have a clue as to who has Vincentian passports. So yes, you go out front and say officially I have a problem with it, but you do it covertly. Does it make it any difference?” George asked.
George is supportive of regional states having economic citizenship programmes.
“The idea of citizenship by investment is a very good idea. It’s a difficult business to manage I would say, that because most of our Caribbean countries do not have the resources, especially to do due diligence but the idea is a good one. That is why countries like Malta and other countries recognized it and ran with it, it’s good. When some people come across by thinking that simply because a citizenship by investment programme means that it’s either illegal or flawed, no, it has to be managed properly,” he continued.
The CIP programmes of St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica were criticized in a recent edition of CBS’ 60 Minutes as not being transparent enough, and not paying enough attention to the due diligence aspects of the programmes.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network