ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Finance Minister Harold Lovell is admitting that the EC $32 million budgeted as expected revenue in 2013 from the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) won’t be achieved.
Delays meant the Citizenship by Investment Unit only opened in October with Don Myatt as the CEO.
“The budget projection was based on it getting off the ground somewhere around the end of the first quarter of this year, so clearly we would not be expecting to receive any significant resources from the CIP unit,” said Lovell.
The finance minister did not reveal how the government plans to make up for the EC $32 million shortfall.
Lovell, however, remains optimistic for the long term prospects of the programme, noting St Kitts & Nevis recently announced it has recieved over EC $162 million since the start of its CIP programme in 1984.
“This is very important because we are talking about non-tax revenue,” said Lovell, adding, “In Antigua & Barbuda without our CIP programme our revenues would almost exclusively be tax revenues,” Lovell said.
The finance minister said offering citizenship in exchange for large investment or direct contributions would help to ease the tax burden on citizens while helping create a bigger, more powerful government.
“It can bring beneficial results to Antigua & Barbuda and at the same time take strain from the consolidated fund … and provide another source of revenues for the government which we need,” he said.
Lovell also suggested that through the CIP the government has been able to entice investors into discussion on projects for Half Moon Bay and Guiana Island.
“We are at a point now where we have two very interested players at the table (on Half Moon Bay) and there is one in particular that the Cabinet looked at and believes they have the capacity,” said Lovell.
“The second person who was at the table we have been able to guide to the Stanford properties out at Guiana Island; that particular project is also likely to come under development very shortly.”
And the finance minister urged people to be understanding in giving up some of Antigua & Barbuda’s favoured spots to be shared with investors and tourists, in order that more jobs can be created.
“If we are to create wealth for our people and we are to utilise the resources that we have; primarily our beach resources, it’s going to mean negotiating a compromise,” said Lovell. “People are crying out that they need employment so we have to find a compromise.”
The finance minister also revealed the first details on the Bio Antigua project which he said is designed to be a hotel that caters to the tourists seeking a different experience.
“It is intended to appeal to those persons who love nature who love to eat natural foods and who will be staying in a resort that is based on the natural surroundings of the land; the fruits and vegetables,” said Lovell.
Lovell would not reveal the identity of the investors, except that they are Italian, and a groundbreaking is expected shortly.
And while he noted it was not the CIP programme that attracted the investors he noted “it is possible that the owners may have an interest in the CIP and some other project may come out of it.”
The investors are being provided with 100 acres of land in Bethesda with the “possibility for expansion provided there is performance on this 100 acres.”