The Unity Labour Party government will not re-introduce an economic citizenship programme here regardless of how much money it brings in to other countries, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.
Under economic citizenship programmes, also known as citizenship by investment programmes (CIPs), foreigners can become citizens of a country after making a predetermined level of investment, sometimes in addition to meeting other criteria.
Gonsalves restated his government’s position on Tuesday, one day after Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace called for the reintroduction of the programme, which was revolved after the ULP came to office here in 2001.
Eustace had noted that Grenada has become the fourth Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) nation to launch an economic citizenship programme.
He added that St. Kitts and Nevis has made more than EC$50 million through the programme in one year.
“You can tell me that St. Kitts earning millions or whoever earning millions. I know what the downsides are. I know what the downsides are, and I insist that the highest office in the land is that of citizen and it is not for sale and the passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship and it is not for sale either,” Gonsalves said on radio.
“You can twist it and call it citizenship by investment. Already, the law provides for persons who invest to get their citizenship but they don’t pay the money upfront. People come in and they invest and later on [they become citizens],” Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for citizenship matters further stated.
He noted that former prime minister Sir James Mitchell gave Vincentian citizenship to Antonio Saladino, an investor in Canouan, after he had invested millions here and had shown himself to be law abiding and not involved in anything untoward.
Gonsalves said that similarly, the ULP government made Dave Ames, of Buccament Bay Resort, a citizen after he had linked with the country in excess of five years.
“That is a different thing than paying money upfront. You will get it by investing money but first of all you have to pay, if is US$200,000 for it. How you going to make the money upfront unless you pay for it? You’re selling it,” Gonsalves said.
“The talk of the investment to follow, where has it materialised? Look at the extent of investment in St. Vincent last year or the year before or the year before that in St. Kitts. And you will see that despite the citizenship by investment programme, though St. Kitts and Nevis is significant, that it does not outstrip ours.
“And we have the highest in the region, in the sub region, in foreign direct investment, without the citizenship by investment programme. I only allow the fact to talk,” said Gonsalves, who also has ministerial responsibilities for economic development.
“In any event, on a matter of principle, I am not involving myself in the selling of passports. But very interestingly, when Dave Ames got his citizenship, you notice how they get on, criticising.
“This is a man who got citizenship after investing millions, you know and after five years being around — more than five years. But they would rather sell somebody for money upfront. And about how they go do due diligence and so on. How is it that they did due diligence on several people when they were in office and ended us up in a lot of problems?” Gonsalves said.
Eustace had urged that due diligence can be conducted to ensure that criminals are not accepted as citizens under and investment programme.