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St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The suggestion that the country’s Citizenship By Investment programme will eventually be phased out is being criticized by the opposition St Kitts Nevis Labour Party.

At his May 10 press conference, Prime Minister Timothy Harris explained that the Team Unity administration wanted to, over time, strengthen the other revenue-generating pillars of the economy, after which the CBI would be phased out.

Opposition MP and Chairperson of the Labour Party, Marcella Liburd has blasted Prime Minister Harris’ eventual phasing out statement.

“No consultation with the stakeholders – this was not something in their manifesto or that they campaigned on, that they would bring CBI to an end, and now we are hearing in very Trump-like fashion, Timothy Harris goes out there and just puts that out there. I would like to hear from some members of his own Cabinet because we are hearing that some of them didn’t even know about this public pronouncement. So I would like to hear from people like Mark Brantley, Lindsay Grant, and Vincent Byron about this – what are their views on this announcement of bringing the CBI to an end, because this is a critical matter because it underpins our economy.”

As Winn FM has been reporting, the government is hoping it will be able to strengthen other pillars of the economy significantly enough over a period of time to be able to end its reliance on the CBI.

“So it is a complex business really. There are attendant risks, and we want to resolve them, and certainly I hope that the time will come in the not too distant future... where we can, as a people, reach that level of development where we can easily exit from this program because although it has brought significant benefits, certainly the evolving marketplace shows there are significant downside risks to this program. We have to go back again to strengthen then our tourism sector, our agricultural sector, our manufacturing sector, our education sector in terms of our ability to bring more of the kinds of institutions that we have here, some call them offshore educational facilities, but if we can improve upon that, if we can achieve a level of self-sufficiency.” 

However MP Marcella Liburd argues that the CBI is much too important to the economy to be given a death sentence whether now or in the distant future. 

She quotes too, International Monetary Fund comments on the programme.

“The recent IMF report revealed that without the CBI, it actually said that in the report, the country would be in deficit - that’s in the very recent last Article IV IMF report. So even though we are earning less under the CBI the IMF is saying that without it the country would be in deficit. When you end it, what are you going to replace it with?”

An IMF 2016 report said that although St. Kitts and Nevis continued to enjoy strong macroeconomic performance in recent years, the outlook is highly dependent on developments in the CBI program. 

It said too that a multi-pronged strategy is needed to preserve macro-financial stability and hard-earned gains in debt sustainability. 

The elements of such a strategy include, the FUND said, strengthening the fiscal framework to reduce reliance on CBI inflows, while preserving the accumulated savings from the CBI program and further improving public financial management.

While critics appear to be of the view, following Prime Minister Harris’ press conference statement last week, that the programme will end sooner rather than later, Dr Harris did not give the impression that the citizenship by investment programme would be ended in the immediate near future.

In recently concluded talks with the government, IMF officials welcomed Cabinet’s consideration of CBI options beyond real estate.

The options are said to include alternative energy, entertainment, entrepreneurship, heritage and infrastructure, as well as investment in a growth and resilience fund.

 

Ken Richards
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