Recent changes to regulations of Saint Lucia’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) will make it more competitive, says Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
The prime minister was responding to questions posed to him by members of the local media on Thursday evening during a live press conference, explaining the reasons for these changes.
Chastanet, who is the minister responsible for the CIP, said that Saint Lucia was selling citizenship for US$200,000, when Dominica already offers the programme at US$100,000.
“I heard this idea that we are selling ourselves cheap, but the fact is, when people are buying a citizenship programme, they are buying it because it has a value. And unfortunately, we don’t necessarily like to hear that, but the value is not necessarily the country, the value is what access the citizenship gives you,” he explained.
Another interesting fact he pointed out is that Saint Lucia was indirectly in the “citizenship business,” mainly due to the fact that if a person purchased a passport from Dominica, Antigua, St Kitts or Grenada, they had full rights in Saint Lucia.
This is one of the reasons why Chastanet said he will support the idea for the CIP to be an OECS programme, as he believes the programme could be better managed at the regional level.
While shifting back the prime minister’s attention to the reduction in the price for a passport through CIP, reporters asked him if it was justifiable. Chastanet responded in the affirmative, again defending the reasons for the change.
He explained that other countries are offering discounts or incentives off each US$200,000 for every citizenship except Dominica, which is by far the biggest seller in the Caribbean with an almost 1,500 annual limit of passport sales.
“What’s interesting is when Saint Kitts was the only country, they had 22-2500 at peak. Now, 5 countries are offering the same programme, and in fact the demand hasn’t grown…We are now sharing that number in the Caribbean. So you tell me, how is it we can offer the same programme, selling the same passport, in terms of where I can get access, for twice the price?”
The prime minister also pointed to the growing interest in the United States where persons are looking to own an additional passport mainly because of threat of terrorism in that country. He explained, that is one of the legitimate reasons why people want to have a second passport.
Chastanet who took the reigns of leadership in June of 2016 after an election victory, said his government plans to make good use of the monies that are obtained through the CIP.
He said his administration will set up a sovereign fund and an announcement will be made soon, as to how it will be regulated and who will manage it.
“It will not be government, but completely independent. It will be assets of the state. And it could be used to lend money to projects in Saint Lucia, buy bonds and interact with other countries. We will try to sell as many CIP as we can in the shortest period of time, in order to get that money to be able to feed the sovereign fund.”
Further, the government will also be introducing a new component of the CIP programme called the “residency programme.”
This programme has two options: permanent and temporary residency. The temporary residency aspect will be used to attract high-end foreign nationals who are willing to invest in real estate.