Opposition Leader Dr. Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)

One year after becoming Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Godwin Friday has restated his party’s support for a citizenship by investment programme (CIP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He dismissed the characterisation of the programme as the selling of passports and said it would not be done on the whim of any minister or based on connections.

At the NDP’s National Youth Dialogue in Kingstown on Thursday, a member of the audience said that other Caribbean nations are using CIPs to attract investors and enhance their economy.

The speaker encouraged the forum to research about how well these countries are doing and the improvements they are making to their infrastructure and private sectors.

He said he would like to know what the NDP plans to do with the private sector “because I know this current government has no interest in pushing that (CIP).

“I think that is something where we are losing a lot of opportunities and everyone else is moving ahead while we are falling behind.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has dismissed the possibility of a CIP in St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s, saying it amount to the selling of passports.

He has said that the passport is “the outward sign of the inward grace called citizenship” and is not a sellable commodity.

Friday told the forum that the NDP remains committed to implementing a CIP in SVG and dismissed the characterisation of the programme as the selling of passports.

“The point of the matter is, it’s not a matter of just simply giving somebody a passport. The idea is to attract investment into the country and to use the privilege that comes with getting citizenship, residency here as part of what attracts the investment.”

He noted that even developed countries have CIPs.

The opposition leader said that in Canada, he worked as a lawyer advising the ministry of citizenship and immigration and he knows that they had a programme where persons making certain investments were allowed to immigrate to Canada.

“And these are big, developed countries. But it is not just something you go and you wing it. It has to have certain criteria for due diligence, meaning you have to examine who the people are, you have to have a framework in which it is done, not just simply on the whim of a particular minister or connection to a particular person.

“It’s a programme that has to be done, executed according to international standards that are acceptable and so if that is being done, it can attract investment to us here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, then we will do so,” Friday said.

The National Youth Dialogue, said to be the first of its kind in SVG, saw young professionals, youth organisations and youth leaders throughout the country sharing ideas and challenging the opposition leader on national issues.