CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW – Like several other countries in the Caribbean, Dominica, an independent island-state with just 72,000 inhabitants, runs an economic citizenship programme enabling foreigners to acquire citizenship of the island and the passport to go with it by paying money into a state fund or making a sizeable real estate investment.
The country’s passport policies have in the past occasionally raised eyebrows abroad – and are currently a hot topic in Dominica’s highly polarized domestic politics.
In an in-depth interview, two senior Dominican officials provide a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the programme. Vince Henderson is Dominica’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Emmanuel Nanthan heads the country’s Citizenship by Investment Unit. They reveal how the programme works in practice, and discuss its potential contribution to the broader economic development of the island.
Note that I did not fact check any claims made by the interviewees; all facts and opinions reproduced here are their own.
Q: What is the scale and scope of Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme?
VH: After Tropical Storm Erika [which wiped out an estimated 90% of Dominica’s GDP in August 2015] the citizenship by investment programme was a lifeline. It’s a major source of state revenue. We have managed the program in a manner that is responsible and this is why the program is so successful. The investment option [in addition to payments into the state budget] was introduced in 2014 as an incentive to attract foreign direct investment into Dominica. Since then, it’s been the main source of foreign direct investment into the country. We also use the programme to finance domestic investment.
Q: Under the investment option, which projects have been approved to date?
VH: We have approved the Kempinsky and the Hilton. The Hilton project is led by a Dominican-owned company. We are now also in the process of approving Silver Beach and Bois Collette.
Q: What are the approval criteria?
VH: We have a very rigorous process of approval. We learned from the experiments of other neighbours, and also from our own, including the Layou River hotel project [a high profile citizenship investment project spanning several administrations during the 1990s and 2000s that ended in failure].