CARICOM members at odds over accepting buyers of citizenship

CARICOM members at odds over accepting buyers of citizenship
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Jamaica Gleaner – A legal opinion that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states without a citizenship by investment programme (CIP) are bound to accept, as CARICOM nationals, people accorded such citizenship by territories with the policy has caused a major rift among leaders, which is expected to drag on.

Leaders discussed the contentious issue in caucuses at the 37th annual conference of CARICOM heads of government, which ended in Guyana last night.

CARICOM’s Office of the General Counsel submitted an opinion in February, recommending that a person to whom a CARICOM country grants citizenship must be recognised by other CARICOM states as a national and given the same rights as persons who get their citizenship through birth or naturalisation.

Under international law, the opinion said “the prerogative for the grant of citizenship” rests with individual states.

Accordingly, it is submitted that a “citizen by investment” or an “economic citizen” of a CARICOM member state is included in the definition of “national” in the Revised Treaty, and is, therefore, entitled to the benefits of CARICOM nationals set out in or derived from the Revised Treaty”.

Article 22 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas states that a national is a person who is a citizen of a member state or “has a connection with that state of a kind which entitles him to be regarded as belonging to or, if it is so expressed, as being a native or resident of the State”.

However, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is insisting that his country does not agree with the opinion and will not be acknowledging its recommendations.

Respect The Treaty

But Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, insisted that regional countries must respect the provisions of the treaty.

“The CIP provides different pathways to citizenship. You can become a citizen by birth, by descent, by naturalisation, and the CIP is one such pathway. When you become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, a CIP citizen, you’re regarded as a citizen.The treaty is very clear that a citizen of a member state is certainly a member of CARICOM and should be accorded the rights of CARICOM. Until I see any legal opinion to the contrary, that opinion stands,” he argued.

“They (opposing countries) have not produced any legal opinion to the contrary.”

Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia are the CARICOM nations that have enacted legislation providing for the acquisition of citizenship by investment.

Last year, Jamaica’s main investment agency, JAMPRO, said discussions regarding a residence by investment programme were well advanced.

Late yesterday, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted during a press conference that Jamaica does not have a CIP and gave no indication whether one would be pursued by his administration.

Holness however said he hoped that investors would choose to seek Jamaican citizenship.

Allen Chastanet, the prime minister of St Lucia, told The Gleaner that the issue is a problem that would not have been resolved at the Guyana meeting.

“We’re to continue discussions. They’re trying to map out a way forward in terms of resolving whatever the differences are.”

Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM secretary general, refused to answer questions put to him by The Gleaner about the divisions among leaders over the economic citizenship opinion.

Push For Distinction

Meanwhile, the legal opinion, seen by The Gleaner, has also come down against a reported push by some leaders for a distinction between citizens.

“It is further submitted that it does not appear to be permissible to establish categories of CARICOM nationals which make distinctions between citizens of a member state, whether such citizenship is derived from birth, descent, or registration, including economic citizens.

CIP supporters argue that the programmes allow for the creation of new revenue streams. They also argue that richer countries such as the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Australia have adopted various forms of investor citizenship programmes.

But some CARICOM members have argued that there could be security issues as citizenship could be granted to the wrong persons, who could use the ‘right’ to engage in criminality.

“It has been argued that the grant of citizenship without any significant residence requirements or proper due diligence could facilitate criminality, money laundering or, at worst, terrorism and result in damage to the international reputation of the region,” the legal opinion stated.

The International Monetary Fund has also warned that revenues from the CIP “are inherently volatile and carry risks of a sudden stop”.

The concerns come as the region tries to respond to the threat of losing banking relationships with larger institutions in North America and Europe over those banks’ fears that the region is being used to facilitate financial crimes.

Dominica, by requiring investments at a minimum of US$100,000, has one of the cheapest citizenships on sale. It is estimated that people spend about US$1 billion on CIP.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I see that many people are of the opinion that Caricom is the problem but I don't think it is. There are several advantages to be gained from such a union. We must not let the way that politicians behave affect our abilities to see an opportunity for growth. Unification does give us international leverage and none of the Caribbean nations which have gone alone have succeeded economically. It is therefore imperative that we start causing politicians to be accountable not only locally but hold their feet to the fire when it comes to regional representation and this process should be initiated even before they are elected.

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  2. I believe that CARICOM has only served the larger islands who dump their labour in us. Look at Sandals, almost every manager us a Foreigner, look at the banking system almost every manager is foreign so this thing has not worked for us. Slexit I support. OECS should pull out of CARICOM. ECEXIT

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  3. Freedom of movement is the sole reason the Brexit was successful. No one wants a none nation to benefit from their country while they suffer in silence. The purpose of the free movement is to facilitate the free movement of the factors of production to achieve economic objective. That means land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship being the main. The true intention was never to facilitate freedom of migration in a general sense. We will soon have this conversation about exiting this sham called Caricom and entrance into the CCJ. Caricom members are now trying to defeat their our organization by fueling self centered issues of selling passports instead of focusing on improving the factors of production.

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    • Great comment! Sound and solid. But I don't get it. Suddenly, Saint Lucians to me are sounding more intelligent since the passing of the SLP. LOL!!!

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  4. That is why we must recognize the importance of a no nonsense PM like Allen Chastanet who not going to fool around with any unproductive and shady CARICOM business.
    See he Already put CARICOM and LIAT on notice.
    That is the new type of no wasting time leAdership we need. Even CARICOM too.

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  5. Lol, Lol. Isn't that what I said even before the implementation of CIP? That i saw advantage in implementing a singular program if all other people given citizenship by other countries had the same rights of citizenship that all other people within the Union had. What kills me inside is that all these PhDs especially Dr Anthony and Hilaire were familiar or could have forsaw such an issue so why did they keep such an important point from the public? I also emailed a local talk show and my email was never read. It also emphasizes the fact that we should take the opinions of the public seriously and not rely soley on the opinions of the Earl Huntleys, Vaughn Lewises and the Tennyson Josephs because even them are hindered and influenced by their affiliations to political parties.

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    • Great insights here. We must make the difference between PhDs with ideas and those with just hot air. SLP made it very uncomfortable for those with ideas to stick around. The SLP has been shedding talent since dog-in-the-manger changed the rules regarding term limits. Only the Kool Aid drinkers were too punch-drunk to see the dismantling of the SLP. Oh yes. The yes men, they all remained. Even some self-confessing stooges offered themselves as sacrificial lambs to the High Priest on the alter of complete SLP stupidity.

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  6. It is unfair to islands without the program to accept citizens of the CIP. They would be forced to accept those CIP citizens of other islands without the investments. This is just the beginning of things to come. We need to get out of this program, as quickly as we can.

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    • Out of CARICOM you mean. No?. The Bahamas went no further. They refused to sign the amended and Second Treaty of Chagaramus. We can go back like them to the first treaty too. The Bahamians are not complaining about being left out of the second round. Have you heard any complaints since?

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  7. Antigua reportedly had a 30-second advertisement on Bloomberg radio international, that their CIP opens citizenship TO ALL THE OTHER ISLANDS! Inward-looking and backward unthinking politicians in the SLP particular are pathetically clueless. They think and behave as though the rural underdeveloped and unsophisticated areas that they represent or come from, are at the centre of the universe! Morons!

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  8. There is the serious international risks like terrorism. Other countries have more deep-thought organized systems, rather than the quick fix the GDP model we have at present. And they are born-nationals oriented in terms of sensitivity. There are direct long-term benefits for the country and not the under-the-table model that Kenny dragged in.
    We have a a BREXIT issue here of willy-nilly immigration of corruption. See the level of SLP spending on the last elections? Where did all this money come from when the country was in recession? Where from?

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  9. These Caicom ppl so foolish.. EU try that on England telling them they should allow many foreigners in their country. Look how fast they lobby for Brit exit. Allen St Lucia exit from caricom is needed.

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