The fourth annual Caribbean Investment Summit began here on Thursday with Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris calling for “open and frank” discussions with international partners on issues relating to the controversial Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.
Harris said that while none of the countries in the Caribbean involved in the CBI, has been placed on the European Union blacklist of tax havens, it was imperative for the region to be able to callable even much more to deal with future risks that require a firm resolve from the Caribbean.
“Focused and coordinated leadership is needed. We cannot shy away from this responsibility. We must continue to make use of lobbying and negotiating machinery, as well as our diplomatic good offices, to have open and frank discussions with our international partners on matters pertaining to our CBI jurisdictions.
“It is our duty to ensure that decision-makers elsewhere fully appreciate the impact of their decisions and policies in our region and for our CBI jurisdictions, and we must make the case strongly and boldly so that as a region we continue to attract high net worth individuals,’ he said, thanking the accounting firm, Ernst & Young “for its work on CBI and its findings that our regional CIPs are not avenues for tax evasion”.
Several Caribbean countries have implemented CBIs as a means of attracting foreign investments. Under the programme, foreign investors are provided with citizenship in return for making a substantial investment in the socio-economic development of the islands.
Harris told the estimated 400 delegates attending the four-day summit that St. Kitts-Nevis, which pioneered the CBI initiative 35 years ago, believes that it is imperative that there should be forward-looking leadership “to make clear that citizenship is an honour, a privilege and package of legal rights and obligations bequeathed to the economic citizen, and, for this, we expect of citizens by their conduct to add value to our nations and people.
“It is on the firm grounds of ethical leadership that we should pronounce clearly that as a region, we will always maintain the strongest and most robust due diligence programme in the world, we will cooperate with all nations and entities, in particular the United States, Canada, the EU, Interpol, etc and we will never condone wrong or become a haven to illicit actors.
“We want persons not just of high net worth but of high integrity and excellent character to become part of our citizenry,’ Harris said, adding that having led the innovation of this niche industry back in 1984, and having made significant and pioneering contributions to citizenship by investment as we have come to know it, our region is uniquely and ideally positioned to lead the advances in this industry in the coming three decades of Caribbean CBI.”.
He said he remains confident that “this new wave of vision, innovation and leadership will enable our region, small as we are, to carry this booming industry to even greater success”.
The conference here coincides with the 35th anniversary of the CIP here and is being held under the theme “The Caribbean Advantage”.