Opposition leader, Philip J Pierre
By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Opposition leader, Philip J Pierre, has described recent changes to Saint Lucia’s citizenship by investment programme (CIP) by the current United Workers Party (UWP) government as a “desecration” of the programme.
The CIP programme was launched in January 2016 by the then St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government and, according to Pierre, the SLP Administration after intensive debate, dialogue and consultation introduced it as a means of increasing investment.
“We spent many months studying the industry, noting the challenges, evaluating the potential and consulting various concerned parties,” Pierre said.
First, a task force headed by Professor Vaughan Lewis and comprising a wide section of the social and economic sectors including the then opposition UWP was set up to discuss the introduction of a CIP programme in Saint Lucia.
The report of the task force was widely circulated to the public on the instructions of the cabinet of ministers. There were some notable concerns raised by the public for example:
1. That any CIP in Saint Lucia must ensure that only reputable and high worth individuals are granted Saint Lucian citizenship
2. There must be a robust due diligence framework to ensure unworthy persons do not become citizens
3. There must be a limit to the number of persons becoming citizens
4. There must be accountability and transparency.
These and other concerns were reflected in the legislation considered by Cabinet.
The Saint Lucia parliament later approved the legislation establishing the CIP with every member expressing support for the programme, including all opposition members.
In establishing the CIP, the SLP was very clear on its objectives, Pierre said:
1. It was a tool aimed primarily at attracting foreign direct investment in high end hotel and real estate products and employment generating business enterprises
2. Accountability and transparency was not an option. An annual report would have to be submitted to Parliament indicating the individuals who were granted Saint Lucian citizenship, how much income was collected and how was that revenue utilised
3. That Saint Lucia’s programme would not be positioned just as selling passports. “We were introducing global citizenship as a lifestyle and creating incentives to make the island a choice destination for investment. In this regard, we placed Saint Lucia on the higher end of the scale of options. We did not see Saint Lucia as being offered as the cheapest option,” Pierre noted.
4. That the due diligence process would be very robust and was expanded the due diligence process to include legally enforceable assessments.
5. That Saint Lucia would be offered as an option for selected high worth individuals with a propensity to invest, therefore the number of applications was limited to 500 annually, and required a minimum net worth of US$3 million.
However, apparently abandoning its initial up-market approach to its citizenship programme, namely, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, last month issued an amendment to the citizenship by investment regulations, removing the cap on annual applications, reducing the amount of qualifying contributions and dispensing with the requirement of financial resources of a minimum of US$3 million.
“The announcement that the UWP administration has changed the regulations effective January 1, 2017, has effectively damaged the reputation and image of the CIP. The intention of the UWP government is to turn the CIP into a cash cow with little regard for the consequences to Saint Lucia or the programme. The unrealistic election promises must now be funded by whatever means necessary,” Pierre said.
The SLP said it is opposed to the changes being made and will seek a debate in the Parliament to ensure that the changes and their possible consequences are fully explained to the people of Saint Lucia.
We will also at that time make a definitive statement on the future of the CIP in an SLP administration.
St Lucia goes cheap