All’s not well in citizensville!

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The cartoon in yesterday’s DAILY OBSERVER and the editorial, HALLOWEEN COME EARLY, from that same issue, said it all: a down-and-dirty race to the very bottom by the various prime ministers overseeing the prices of their Citizenship by Investment programmes. In other words, with the CIP well drying up, especially in light of the Canadian visa requirement for Antiguan passport holders, (visa-free access to Canada no longer a selling point) our government appears desperate to keep the spigot flowing. St. Kitts and Nevis had already slashed its prices, ostensibly to fund a recovery effort in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria, never mind that that twin-island state had largely escaped both hurricanes unscathed. At the rate that our CIP-addicted governments are going, it appears as though we are in for a full-blown price war, and it will not be long before they give the CIP passports away for free. Or well, with a kiss, a handshake and a promise!
Of course, we are being facetious, but by any measure, there seems to be cause for real concern with the various CIP programmes. Here in Antigua, our prime minister expressed his disappointment at the recent dwindling applications. This came out of last Thursday’s cabinet meeting. Also, last week, political leader of the United Progressive Party, Harold Lovell, again called for the programme to go on a hiatus and then return, after much careful recalibration, as a new, improved and rebranded product. Attorney-at-law, and former parliamentarian, Colin Derrick, called for a complete end to the programme. And so it went! What was once dismissed as a mountain out of a molehill  – the end of our visa-free access to Canada, is now seen as anything but . . .
The question on everyone’s minds is: “Where do we go from here?”  After all, if present trends continue, the cash-cow that was once milked with reckless abandon, will soon die a rather ignominious death. And then what? A reinstatement of personal income tax? Higher and more onerous fees and taxes on businesses? A tightening on the concessions granted to foreign hoteliers? Unless you were away on Mars, you would know that nothing gets our prime minister’s undies in a twist like the increasing, and unreasonable, we might add, concessions demanded by hoteliers on the government and people of Antigua. According to the prime minister, they practically do not want to pay for anything, and they demand subsidies on everything. It is quite distressing, really!
Clearly, our government will have to come up with new and creative ways to generate revenue. And we submit that it ought not to be done on the backs of the poor! Poor Antiguans and Barbudans are already struggling with low wages and high food prices. Indeed, high everything else –  fuel prices, utility bills, medical bills and so on and so forth. It does not bode well for the future, especially when we consider that the CIP programme has been the safety net for our government – paying a goodly portion of our monthly recurring bills. Talk about putting all our eggs in one basket! And the bottom of that basket may very well soon fall! The economists and financial wizards in the Ministry of Finance must engineer a solid plan to lessen our inevitable pain. Again, for those who were on Mars, we all know what happened here in Antigua and Barbuda the last time that the bottom fell from the basket in which we’d foolishly placed all our eggs. We’re talking about the end of the Stanford gravy train! There was much pain all around.
Planning for a future without the CIP programme appears to be the prudent thing to do, because we see a handwriting on the wall. The CIP programme has been “weighed in the balance,” and its returns and benefits have been “found wanting.” There were only three filings to the tune of U.S. $600,000 in this last report period, and with the continuing devaluation of the prices, it speaks to a watering down of our self-respect, self-worth and patrimony. Talk about the selling of our birthright for a mess of pottage! We have been forewarned; let us be forearmed! All’s not well in Citizensville!

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