Cabinet ministers are actively considering alternatives to the country’s lucrative Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) should the European Union follow through with threats to remove visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen Area from countries that currently have CIPs.
Yesterday’s Cabinet notes revealed that talks were held with an expert in the industry during Wednesday’s sitting.
The Cabinet believes that Antigua and Barbuda’s digital nomad programme is one alternative that could be fully exploited, since it does not involve alleviating tax burdens which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) deems to be unfair competition.
“We are certainly gonna look at strengthening that and to see whether it will offer us another leg to stand on should there be any precipitous decline in our particular CIP programmes,” Information Minister Melford Nicholas said at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
The government is also considering the creation of a regional CIP regulatory commission “that can give those persons in the OECD countries and the European Union who would want to inspect our processes … the comfort that we are putting the necessary mechanisms in place that will not undermine the integrity or security of those countries who would receive some of our CIP citizens who are passing through,” Nicholas explained.
The head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit and the unnamed CIP expert, who is said to have over 30 years’ experience of trading in the citizenship programmes of several countries, are expected to return to Cabinet in three weeks with a plan aimed at overcoming the OECD’s concerns.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne previously wrote to decision makers in Europe to outline the severe impact to Caribbean economies if CIPs come to a screeching halt.
CIP has been a significant source of income in Antigua and Barbuda, adding more than EC$123 million to public coffers in 2021 and EC$115 million the year before.