Statement by the United Progressive Party on Canada’s Imposition of a Visa Requirement
Given the action taken by the Government of Canada this morning, June 27, 2017, the United Progressive Party (UPP) is convinced that the Citizenship by Investment Programme, as it is being promoted and managed by the Gaston Browne-led Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party, is no longer viable for Antigua & Barbuda.
Accordingly, we call on the Government to suspend the approval of any further applications, pending the convening and outcomes of a forensic audit – to include the administration and operations of the Programme– before it does further and irreparable harm to this country and its people.
The UPP also pledges that, once returned to political office, it will carry out a referendum on the Citizen by Investment programme and allow the citizenry to determine whether it should continue.
Unlike some who are treating the decision in a cavalier manner, the UPP recognizes and is saddened by the loss of our distinct privilege of visa-free access to Canada. We are troubled, as well, by the financial hardship the new requirement will impose on those who must now go through the process of application and possible costly travel to Trinidad (airfare, accommodation, transportation) with no guarantee of being granted a visa.
Our university students and our people, in general, including our naturalized citizens, do not deserve to be punished in this way by the recklessness of a government elected to serve them.
The new restriction also is a challenge to our diaspora, those who are Green Card holders only and, hence, still hold passports of Antigua & Barbuda. It is unfair to nationals who, while on vacation, routinely drive from the United States into Canada to visit relatives. It is equally unfair to parents whose children are studying in the various and sometimes distant Canadian provinces and who would wish to be able to fly out immediately in the case of an emergency.
… It is well known and documented that the United Progressive Party introduced the CIP as a means of inviting and encouraging investment in Antigua & Barbuda. This was at a time when we were recovering from the global economic downturn and from significant local dislocation brought about by the dismantling of the Stanford empire.
The UPP version of the programme was well thought out, with rigorous vetting and safety measures entrenched, because we were very much aware of the delicate balance between economic need and the need for international good relations. And, in its second presentation to the Parliament, we ensured that the legislation was even more stringent than the first.
The ABLP subsequently derided the UPP for being too slow to act and for managing to attract only a dozen economic citizens in the programme’s first six months. But we knew that caution and thoroughness were critical to the longevity of the CIP initiative.
By contrast, we saw and heard Prime Minister Browne proceed recklessly, grabbing even at the most dubious dollar, and putting the nation at risk as he did so. He set about, systematically, weakening the programme in the following ways:
- Reduction of the Residency Requirement, changing the focus from cultivating an investment climate into naked passport sales.
- Cheapening the Value of the Passport with tasteless hawking of our travel document in places like the Sweet Homes housing project in Asman, where eligibility for our passport was linked to the purchase of units in the failed condominium project. Here, at home, advertisements in the airport boldly proclaimed: “Come as a visitor (tourist), leave as a citizen.” Further, our passports were used as a bargaining tool in inexplicable wholesale deals with Yida Zhang and WIOC/Fancy Bridge, for example, and have been implicated – by a former ambassador – in the notorious Odebrecht Bribery Scandal.
- Lack of Transparency whereby the Parliamentary- and Gazette-reporting requirements were either ignored or shortchanged, thus keeping the public in the dark regarding the names and nationalities of successful applicants.
- Ignoring Local and International Cautions and Advisories regarding access to the programme by high-risk nationalities, including Iraqis and admittedly compromised Chinese nationals.
- Removal of the Governing Board, which would have provided objective and professional oversight, and replacement with the subjective and partisan Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda.
- Failure to accept the guidance and recommendations of successive heads of the CIP Unit and the open and disrespectful criticisms of these professionals by the Prime Minister.
Given the steady weakening of the programme’s appeal and respectability, as reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes” and other financial publications, it is no wonder that Canada, our longstanding ally and friend, has been forced to take self-protective measures.
Altogether, Canada’s action has served to underscore that the integrity of the Antigua & Barbuda passport has been compromised and that our country, once again, has become a shadowy player on the international and diplomatic stage.
Accordingly, the UPP further pledges to do every honourable thing in its power to repair the damage done to our relationship with Canada, and to restore the good name of Antigua & Barbuda before the world. We did it before, and we can do it again….
May God redeem and bless the nation and people of Antigua & Barbuda.