According to CANA a senior official of the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) in St. Lucia is urging the man opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) here to reverse a decision taken by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government of not getting involved in the controversial citizenship by investment programme (CBI).
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the only independent country within the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that is not party to the CBI that allows for foreign investors to make significant contributions to the socio-economic development of the individual countries in return for acquiring citizenship.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said on numerous occasions that his ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) would not be party to the CBI programme, and Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves has said he will maintain the policy.
“I think that to reduce citizenship to this crass trading arrangement does a disservice to citizens who have lived and died and fought in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he has said.
But the NDP has said if it wins the next general election, constitutionally due by March 2021, it would introduce the CBI to the country.
Addressing the NDP’s 41st convention rally over the last weekend, UWP deputy chair, Nancy Charles, said St. Lucia is benefitting tremendously from its CBI programme.
“I have been hearing a lot of rumours and myths and misconceptions about the citizen by investment programme. I have never heard so much nonsense in my life; that people want you to believe that people will just go and your leaders will just go and take your passport and just sell it to people. Rubbish!” she said.
Charles, who is also director of implementation in the office of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, encouraged NDP supporters to embrace CBI.
“Because we cannot continue to do things the same way that we have been doing it over and over again and expect a different result. Change is here, my people.”
She said that, in St. Lucia, the then ruling Labour Party administration implemented the CBI programme in 2015 but was unable to attract a single investor.
“But as it is with Labour, the only thing they can be is be pregnant. They cannot deliver, they’re always in labour pain,” she said, adding that the former Labour administration was unable to attract any investor because of a lack of confidence in the government.
“In 2016, they called the election and they still did not get one investor. But when we came into government in 2017, we generated EC$27 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents). That is money that we couldn’t account for but [which] came into the economy, EC$27 million in 2017; EC$67 in 2018, and for this year, we are projecting another EC$65 million.”
Charles said that the St. Lucia government used the money for the commencement of a new national hospital, marketing St. Lucia as a tourism destination, and the national apprenticeship programme that trains young people and gives them a skill so that they can help themselves.
“We use the money for the rehabilitation of our roads and our schools; that is what we can use the money for. And we also used the money for water projects and to help our banana industry.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, can you imagine that income stream that your government can generate and the amount of things that can happen for the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
“And so I can assure you and I can guarantee you, your new government, when they come into office, they can learn from us, we can give them the help and the assistance. Whatever mistakes we may have made, they can learn from us so that they can better their programme and they can tailor it to suit St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Charles said that a CBI programme could make St. Vincent and the Grenadines more attractive to investors.
“Where is the new development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Where are the new investors? How do you expect them to come? You must have something that attracts them and so your government will never ever go out there and have a shop or boutique and sell passports,” she said.
“Your government will ensure that reputable, credible people who have money and they want to invest can come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They will have a stake in your country, they will put their money where their mouth is, and they can become citizens of your great country and, in the end, you will benefit from the jobs and investment that the citizens by investment programme can bring to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Charles said.