(OUR SAINT LUCIA) – Nestor Alfred has served as Director of the Citizen by Investment Unit (CIU) of Saint Lucia since August 8, 2017.
While the Unit has noted significant improvements since inception, Alfred still anticipates more tweaks and changes in the policy direction of the programme in the weeks and months to come.
How does one measure the successes and improvements of the CIP programme?
A: We are a unit that is involved in the processing of applications, and one can always relate the improvements of the program in regard to the numbers of applications it has received over a period of time.
Since the program has been initiated up until now, the numbers have increased significantly. When compared to other islands the number is a far cry from where it should be, but the numbers have increased from the inception of the programme, up until now.
For example, for 2017-2018, we had about 279 applications, and we granted about 78 citizenships — that was a far cry from where it was in the previous year, 2016-2017.
In regards to the marketing of the program, the legislation provides for the licensing of authorized agents, and that’s the channel by which all applications go through, before being submitted to us.
There’s another arm to the marketing side of it, which are the licensed promoters, and they are the ones out there around the world, who interact with various individuals who may be interested in seeking a second citizenship. In most cases, those licensed promoters are actually immigration companies who have been involved in immigration, vis a vis, the issuance of second citizenship or residencies for countries around the world. Those persons are active players in our marketing efforts to bring business to Saint Lucia.
There are now discussions from a policy perspective on how we can harness the efforts of all of the agencies involved in attracting foreign direct investments. There is the creation of a brand, and that has been started off with the tourism authority. Individual agencies which are involved in attracting foreign direct investment are now trying to see how that branding which has been created for the tourism authority can fit in with their own vision.
What are some of the misconceptions about the programme in the public domain?
A: Some of the greatest misconceptions of the programme exist because persons do not understand what CIP is all about. They simply see it as the sale of passports, and therefore, what we have done over a period of time is to have townhall meetings.
We meet with various agencies — more so the chambers of commerce. We had discussions last year, and we’re doing it again this year, both with the Castries Chambers of Commerce, and the Southern Cham-bers of Commerce. Our goal is to provide accurate information on what the programme is, and what the benefits are.
There is also the misconception and concern that with the Citizenship by Investment programme, and the end result of issuing citizenship to individuals from far and wide, that all of these persons will eventually end up in Saint Lucia.
The truth is, this is far from reality. If you look at countries in the OECS who have been involved in this programme for a number of years, Saint Kitts for example.
Saint Kitts has been involved with citizenship by investment for 30 years, and is one of the oldest jurisdictions in the world that has been involved in CIP. We have yet to see any significant increase in St Kitts’ population, notwithstanding that Saint Kitts has provided citizen-ship to thousand of persons.
One of the primary reasons that persons choose to obtain second citizenship is simply because they want that freedom of mobility that Saint Lucia and the rest of the islands in the OECS have given the number of islands and jurisdictions in which they have visa free status.
In Saint Lucia’s case we have visa free entry in some-where around 124-135 countries.
What sort of feedback have you been getting about the CIP programme on the international scene in recent times?
A: There is a general consensus that Saint Lucia is the ideal space or jurisdiction for one to be offered citizenship.
There is also a general consensus that post citizenship Saint Lucia presents a better land-scape by which new citizens can participate in a more active way within the financial services sector. There is, however, a concern by the wider international sector or market that our turnaround time in grant-ing citizenship is a bit lengthy, compared to that of some of the other islands in the OECS.
Saint Lucia will never, under any circumstance, grant citizenship unless it has obtained the vetting conclusion of the Intelligence Community.
There is the due diligence process, which includes the hiring of third party due diligence firms who go out there and get to know who those people are, where they work, who they associate with, etc. Another component is that those names are sent to a regional body who undertakes the intelligence gathering of those individuals.
What can you share about the most recent regional CIP conference? What were some of the areas of focus?
A: The most recent CIP conference was one that was held in Saint Kitts. It was hosted in Saint Kitts, but is really owned by the CIP Association, which is essentially the various heads of CIP in the OECS region.
Out of this programme, the focus was to find out whether there is any scope to create some sort of unity, some sort of collaboration between the various programmes or units within the region. There were various proposals put on the table in relation to creating that kind of unity.
The prime minister of Antigua, and the prime minister of Saint Kitts, both agreed publicly there was a need for some kind of collaboration, whether in regard to the due diligence process that we undertake, whether in regard to the application process… and there have been even greater voices in terms of whether there should be one unified CIP Unit to coordinate the processing and granting of citizenship for all five islands.