We’d heard of the many foreign nationals who’d been taking advantage of the Welcome Stamp Visa program in Barbados. It was encouraging news. That program offered non-nationals whose work was not tethered to the brick-and-mortar offices in North America and Europe, the opportunity to live and work in Barbados for up to one year. At the apogee of the Covid crisis, when all hell was breaking loose last year, the lure of working on a white-sand beach in the warmth of Bimshire, away from the raging infections, and the hustle and bustle of the metropoles, was irresistible. According to the Bajans, their program, begun in July, 2020, was a smashing initiative, with 362 successful British applicants out of a total of 433 in just 8 months. Remember, those numbers represent only the British applicants.
Actually, a later report on the success of the Barbados program read, “Barbados was first out the gate, launching their Barbados Welcome Stamp in July 2020. Already, the Barbados digital nomad visa program has attracted about 2000 applicants, with 1200 coming from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. At US$2000 per applicant, that’s US $4 million in revenue for the government of Barbados. Then you factor in housing, utilities, transportation, food etc. from the 2000 nomads now living in Barbados for 12 months, with the opportunity to extend this, it is a much more sustainable and profitable revenue stream than regular tourists who typically spend less than the digital nomad application fee on vacation . . .” [CARIBBEAN &CO, Nine Caribbean Digital Nomad Visa Programs For Remote Workers]
Of course, the geniuses in our administration immediately shoved their hands up in the air and shouted, ”Me too!” shortly after the Bajan initiative was announced. Some of those in high places here waxed lyrical about the many wondrous benefits to be derived from living and working in Antigua for up to two years. They spoke of the great nomad boost to our economy in these troubled times. Our offering was called the Nomad Digital Residence Visa Program. All well and good! You will get no argument from us on the fact that Antigua and Barbuda is nothing short of paradise on earth. We are persuaded that Antigua is one of the loveliest islands in the Caribbean. To be able to live and work here from the shores of Morris Bay or Galleon Beach or Pigeon Point or Palmetto Point or Fort James is a special treat and privilege.
But alas! Those geniuses in high places here in this ‘jokey’ administration forgot one important aspect of the nomad programs, to wit, that those who wish to reside here and work, also want to know that they will have instant, real time access to their head offices abroad. They do not want to be sitting around and twiddling their thumbs while our slow and unreliable internet buffers and buffers ad infinitum. Time is money, and these people do not have time to waste.
Furthermore, they want to know that they have a reliable uninterrupted source of electricity. The ‘iffy’ shaky electricity situation here in our fair State certainly was not going to suffice. Neither would the absolutely horrendous roads. Or the disgraceful water situation. In other words, if someone was pondering a relocation to a Caribbean country, he or she would certainly do the due diligence, looking into the political climate, the cost of living, the crime rate, infrastructure, and so on and so forth. Those small details escaped our geniuses as they prattled on in hyperbolic terms about our Nomad Digital Residence Visa.
By the end of last year, many us began asking questions as to the success, or lack thereof, of that program, and we were treated to sweet-sounding spin that there had been a number of inquiries. A few months later, the question was again asked of those in high places, and again we were treated to the happy-talk spiel – that a goodly number of people had expressed an interest; that the response was encouraging. Whatever that means.
Anyway, a few days ago, this administration – an administration that has made a virtue out of obfuscation and secrecy, finally admitted that which many discerning persons had already suspected – that our Nomad Digital Residence Visa Program was a near-total flop! Good grief! Everybody wuz so shame! How could a naturally beautiful country such as ours, blessed with the nicest and most welcoming people in the world, be shunned by work-abroad nomads? We all know the answer. Potential nomads were taken by Antigua and Barbuda’s natural beauty, and our warmth and hospitality, but . . .
It saddens us. After all, How many times have we sung, our chests swelling with pride, Dame Yvonne Maginley’s, WHERE LAND AND SEA MAKE BEAUTY: “Where land and sea make beauty / At the rainbow’s very end /
The island of Antigua wants to know what you intend / If you’ll be another lover / To be lured to her shore / The promises she’ll give to you / Will be yours forever more / Celestial loveliness that canopies the land / Is inspired artistry from a Master painter’s hand / Seductive shade awaits you ‘neath scarlet flowered trees / And the gentle warmth of summer will be tempered by the breeze . . .” Sigh! Talk about unrequited love!
They rejected our overtures. The nomads did. They had their reasons. They said, “Thanks, but no thanks!”
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