St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Common concerns and matters of mutual interest in relation to their Citizenship by Investment programmes were discussed by several OECS Heads of government who met on Friday (March 3) as part of the OECS Authority meeting in St Kitts and Nevis.
About five or six of the OECS countries operate CBIs.
Their programmes came under sharp scrutiny at the start of the year in a CBS 60 Minutes expose, with Dominica’s programme in particular heavily criticized for allegedly selling diplomatic passports to people of ill repute.
Authority Chairman Timothy Harris told reporters Friday that the Caribbean countries with economic citizenship programmes met in caucus this past week.
“We have set up a mechanism which will have greater participation and involvement of the OECS Secretariat in relation to that matter. That is a matter that will be with us for some time in the future. There are significant issues arising globally and internationally and as we attempt to harmonize and coordinate our responses and approaches to this particular programme, we thought that it would be a good time as any to have a body that will be looking at a distance if you will, with respect to the evolution of factors impacting upon our CBI programmes within the region. That programme in terms of its attractiveness to other countries as part of their strategy for development as part of their strategy to get financial space, that programme has taken on greater importance and so it now has to find its way not only within the realm of the work of the Central Bank but more importantly within the commission that is more strategically placed and has treaty responsibility for the macro-economic picture of our country whereas the Central Bank deals with the financial arm.”
WINN FM asked the PM Harris what measures were taken on security concerns as it pertains to de-risking, money laundering, terrorism financing and concerns from the US.
“That matter observed our attention and what we attempting to do is have a regional response that can withstand the test of time and can bring assurances not just to us within but the external partners, the US, Europe, whoever is interested that our system is strong and is operating at the best possible standards and in that regard we looking to bring on board the involvement of critical entities, IMPACS for example, the IMF has done a lot of work in terms of the macro-economic picture and the relevance of CBI programmes. So we are looking at bringing all those critical entities together not just to look at the financial architecture but also the security architecture, because yes, some countries have concerns about the possibility that illicit actors, to use the terminology from the FINCEN Report of May 2014, may be participating in CBI programmes. So we want it as sure proof as we can to ensure that those developments could not happen.”
The OECS countries with CBI programmes include St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia and Grenada.
Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell tells WINN FM that the leaders are convinced that through a collective approach they can overcome the problems linked to the Citizenship by Investment Programmes.
“We’re coming up with some recommendations to ensure to give comfort to those who may have concerns, so we recognize that concerns are being raised and we believe it’s a useful programme that help the economies of those countries and in this difficult period that we face we have to look for innovative ways to increase the economic conditions of our country and meet the expectations of our people. The same time we are living in a community that is very concerned about the question of security so we’re tightening every aspect of this. We believe we have a pretty tight programme already, but we are prepared to listen to our friends regionally and internationally and whatever improvements we can make we are prepared to do so collectively and that’s the way to go.”
WINN FM asked PM Mitchell how concerned is he about the suggestion that the CBI could contribute to the de-risking trend that’s taking place.
“We’re saying we are looking at aspects of the programme, we have to confront all these challenges. We do believe that the banks will get sufficient comfort but we believe it is a broader issue. It’s not just a financial issue, the financial aspect is very important, but the issue of security and that is tied, they are correlated. So that’s why we believe that working more as a unit, doing everything possible to be transparent with all the programmes as a collective body and ensuring our friends regionally and internationally that we will do nothing, as we believe that they understand, but nothing is perfect in life, and we will continue to do everything we can. So the banks will listen to the policy makers in their individual countries, so our getting comfort from the policymakers and assuring them that we are moving to become even more transparent than we have will certainly bring the banks along and bring more comfort because if we cannot have financial transaction the programme is dead.”