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PRESS RELEASE – Last night the Prime Minister, in a hastily called Press Conference , sought to respond to some of the issues which the Saint Lucia Labour Party explained in its Press Conference yesterday.
The Responses from the Prime Minister presents a comical view of the Office of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is operating as a vy ki vy Prime Minister. As Prime Minister there is a higher standard of accountability which is expected from the Office that is held, so information provided must be accurate and truthful. Let us examine some of the responses given by the Prime Minister.
1. In relation to the rationale for removing the US$3M net worth to qualify for citizenship, the Prime Minister responded that it was necessary because ` What information do I send to prove that I am worth $3 Million and then how do you determine the veracity of that information?`
Well Prime Minister, the CIP Regulation No 89 of 2015, Regulation 7 (3) indicates what you have to send. Have you read the Regulations?
Can I ask all Saint Lucians, if you apply for a visa or a mortgage and you are asked to present prove that you have a certain amount of money, what do you send? A Bank Reference, right. And how does the Bank proof it is valid. They can examine the document to show that it is valid or they can call the Bank or financial institution to ask if it was issued.
What the Prime Minister did not say was that the CIP also has an arrangement with a financial due diligence firm called Wealth X and you may google it, to undertake financial due diligence on any applicant to prove that information provided is accurate. This Prime Minister is in keeping with Regulation 3.
2. When asked about the concern with the introduction of a Regulation for the CIP Board to retain 20% of donations to the National Economic Fund, when there are marketing agencies which get a 10% to do marketing and promotions the Prime Minister explains ` The 20% has nothing to do with the 10%. The 20% is because government now is the one funding the cost of the CIP.`
The Amendment to Regulation 9, which was signed by the Prime Minister, says `The Board shall retain twenty percent of each monetary contribution to the Saint Lucia National Economic Fund for the marketing and promotion of the Citizenship by Investment Programme.’
This is crystal clear. But let us co-operate with the Prime Minister and say that the CIP does need money for its operations and salaries. Why did the new Regulation just say so! That the twenty percent is for operations!
We don’t think it is legal for the Regulations to decide how the monies deposited in the National Economic Fund is to be used, only Parliament can approve the use. So why didn’t the Prime Minister, at the last sitting of Parliament, present the Report and ask Parliament to approve 20% of funds collected to be used for operational cost of the Unit.
But the Prime Minister says that he did not submit a Report because there is not much to say!!! Prime Minister, you asked for transparency and accountability, the provision that provides for such must be respected.
The Report will inform Saint Lucians who have been granted citizenship, how much money has been collected and what will the money be used for. If for no other reason, that had been done there would be no need for a new Regulation which you now accept is an incorrect Regulation.
The explanation that there is little to say cannot be accepted. I must ask the Prime Minister, if a company makes a small profit or even a loss, does that mean they do not have to file annual returns?
Then the Prime Minister says that we only learnt of the marketing agencies when one had to make a payment for lobbying. Again Prime Minister, read Regulation 5. The marketing agencies were chosen and announced at the local Launch of the CIP on December 29, 2015 and the public was informed by a Press Release on January 18, 2016. Here is a copy of the Press Release which can also be found on the CIP website.
1. The Prime Minister states that revoking Regulation 7 (7) was an error made by the Printery. A Statutory Instrument is prepared by the Attorney General Chambers in accordance with a set format to allow printing. It is then sent to the Minister responsible for signing, then sent to the Printery.
Before it is distributed, it is sent back to the responsible Ministry. Then it is distributed to the public. How does the Printery make the error? The Printery prints what is signed and sent to it for printing. Why does the Prime Minister not just admit I made a grave error and it will be corrected? Why blame the public servants? That says a lot.
The Prime Minister tried very hard to assure Saint Lucians that the CIP continues to have the same level of due diligence and security concerns that it had when set up by the SLP. There are two obvious reasons to question that the robust and rigid system will still be effective:
(a) The DSH Agreement provides a guarantee that all applicants which they bring must be approved within 35 days. That is compromising the Programme as each applicant must be thoroughly assessed on its own merit REGARDLESS of how long it takes. No one because of the developer should be accelerated; and
(b) To remove the restriction that ONLY high net worth of more than US$3M can qualify, means persons who are not investment inclined may see the Programme as a prime target as they don’t have such a difficult condition to satisfy.
The Prime Minister has sold Saint Lucia as a cheapest option on the market. A destination once sold as premium, as valued, as a choice destination is now being boasted as ‘Simply Cheap’.
There is no need for the CIP to be disgraced and shamed only to make as much money as possible. The CIP has not had a fair chance to operate. When set up it was bitterly criticised by the Prime Minister and Henley. Then there was elections. Then post-election the Prime Minister has created more uncertainty about the Programme.
The incoherent explanations provided by the Prime Minister and increasing uncertainty over the Programme will only hurt Saint Lucia. It is the actions and policies of the UWP Administration, first with DSH and now with the CIP which is raising a red flag over Saint Lucia as a destination for reputable and preferred investors.