(L-R): Chairman of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne; Timothy Antoine, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank; and St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris
By LK Hewlett
BASSETERRE, St Kitts and Nevis (WINN) -- Chairman of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, speaking to how critical funds from citizenship by investment (CBI) programs are to the ECCU countries, said, “If we did not have our citizenship by investment program, we would have certainly defaulted on a number of important loans.”
Five of the ECCU’s eight member countries run CBI programs, and at least three of these programs have been the subject of international controversy. Regional governments whose countries run CBI programs are overhauling them to make security and other improvements in order to keep them viable, against the backdrop of scandals and increased competition.
Browne said in many of the countries CBI receipts only account for one fifth of the islands’ annual revenue, however losing that financial inflow would be detrimental to the regional economies.
“The CIP/CBI programs are very important to the countries of the OECS sub-region; I think barring one country we all offer CBI programs and we’ve been able to attract a significant amount of investment; so as a result we’ve been able to create additional fiscal space and service a number of obligations including our debts.
“The CBI programs, though important, they do not contribute as much as 50%, in fact, in the case of Antigua and Barbuda the revenue intake from our CBI program is in the region of about 22%, which is still significant. Certainly within the respective countries we would want the programs to continue for some time, because if we were to lose 22% of current revenue, that would certainly create some fundamental pressures and would certainly cause us to default on a number of obligations.”
St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris explained that the monies generated by the CBI programs have contributed significantly to the ECCU governments’ ability to engage in capital projects and finance other aspects of economic development, thus freeing up other revenue for important sectors such as health, education and national security.
Anything that seriously impacts in a negative way any of the regional economies would be detrimental to the ECCU’s financial stability, he said.
“Anything that would negative the fiscal health of any of these member states will not redound to the benefit of the currency union and the financial stability of the region as a whole.
“Governments, on behalf of the people, are attempting to give themselves some fiscal cushioning to be able to deal with the development imperatives.”
Timothy Antoine, governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), said CBI receipts, combined with other factors such as improved tax collection, played a key role in the region seeing an overall fiscal surplus in 2016, coming off a deficit in 2015.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network