There has been some interesting moves over on the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) front. Cabinet announced that a new option will be introduced to fund Antigua and Barbuda’s proposed university at Five Islands and according to coinbase.com and coingeek.com, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) will now be accepted for a specific CIP offering.
Let’s start with the new U.S.$150,000 offering. According to the Cabinet notes, “Cabinet decided to create a fourth option under the CIP for the sum of U.S.$150,000 per file. The innovative legislative change to the CIP law will be used to fund Antigua’s university at Five Islands.” Now that we have that out of the way, we have to wonder who will pay U.S.$50,000 more for the University option, when they can contribute just U.S.$100,000 for the National Development Fund (NDF) option? If the answer is, ‘just because’ then we have a hard time accepting that.
To make sure we were not going crazy, we visited U.S. CIP website, cip.gov.ag, and clicked on the “Schedule of Fees” link. Sure enough, the National Development Fund (NDF) option is a one-time payment of U.S.$100,000 plus all the associated fees. The new university option is U.S.$150,000 but we do note a difference in terminology. The NDF is per “application” while the university option is per “file.” Unfortunately, our investigations have not yielded a definitive answer as to whether the terminology makes a difference and if so, what that difference may be. The people we expected to be ‘in the know’ were not, or gave conflicting (and unofficial) responses.
That lack of success has caused us to pose the question here so that hopefully, it will invoke a response that will explain the different terminology and the differences in the two options. As well, maybe we can learn the logic behind the offering and the reason why it is believed that interested parties will pay the premium just to ensure that the money goes to the university.
This ‘University option’ also raises another question. If the university is to be a full University of the West Indies (UWI) campus, would they have to give permission for the UWI brand to be associated with the selling of citizenship/passports? Maybe UWI does not want the brand leveraged in this manner. It could be a case where the UWI scholars fundamentally disagree with CIP. Unfortunately, the inquiry sent to the university did not receive a response in time to report.
The next very interesting thing in the world of CIP surrounded the announcement that “specific Citizenship by Investment Program has been devised by Calvin Ayre, the Bitcoin Envoy for Antigua and Barbuda,” and “These CIP units can only be paid for in Bitcoin Cash (BCH).” Wait, if that is not interesting enough, the release states that the government of Antigua and Barbuda recognises Bitcoin Cash as “the only real Bitcoin and the world’s most scalable and flexible cryptocurrency.”
Oh boy, do we have a lot of questions on this one. Too many for this piece, but we will start with the obvious ones. What is the “specific” CIP programme that has been developed by Calvin Ayre? How does it differ? If it is simply a payment method then why not just make it a payment option? By accepting Bitcoin Cash, isn’t the government opening itself to significant exchange risks because of the cryptocurrency’s volatility? What will the government do with the Bitcoin Cash it receives? If it is an immediate conversion, then what is the point of the exercise beyond a payment option – why make something “specific?”
Here is a biggie. What is the forecasted response of other nations, which are weary of our current due diligence process, when we add anonymous cryptocurrency to the mix? Doesn’t this increase our risk of losing visa-free status in some countries? Have we discussed this new CIP programme with any of those we might deem ‘high risk’ of visa-free revocation?
Last but not least (for now), what analysis contributed to the proclamation that the government of Antigua and Barbuda recognises Bitcoin Cash as “the only real Bitcoin and the world’s most scalable and flexible cryptocurrency?” A minor point, but doesn’t the original Bitcoin hold claim to being the “real” Bitcoin? More importantly, how does a cryptocurrency that is not even a year old garner that kind of endorsement from our government?
To understand our concerns, realise that Bitcoin Cash is a relatively new cryptocurrency. It was developed by interests that wanted a change to the Bitcoin code and made what is called a hard fork. On August 1, 2017, the cryptocurrency went live and POOF! everyone with Bitcoin had the same amount of coin in Bitcoin Cash. That is the kind of thing that makes it hard for the average person to understand how cryptocurrency works. Not only that, at launch, Bitcoin Cash was worth under U.S.$300, just before Christmas it was over U.S.$3,200, early April it was trading just over U.S.$600 and now it is about U.S.$1,400.
We are not attempting to fear-monger regarding cryptocurrency, but we need more information. CIP and cryptocurrency are complex enough on their own. Put them together and some may say that you are creating the perfect storm.