Citing the ‘desecration’ of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) by the current government, the leader of the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip J. Pierre, has accused the administration of attempting to turn the measure into a ‘cash cow’.
Addressing a news conference Thursday morning, Pierre stated that the announcement that the United Workers Party (UWP) Administration has changed the regulations effective January 1st, 2017, has effectively damaged the reputation and image of the CIP.
“ The intention of the UWP government is to turn the CIP into a cash cow with little regard for the consequences to Saint Lucia or the programme,” Pierre declared.
He asserted that the unrealistic election promises must now be funded by whatever means necessary.
The SLP leader made it clear that his party is opposed to the changes being made and will seek a debate in the Parliament of Saint Lucia to ensure that the changes and their possible consequences are fully explained to the people of Saint Lucia.
“We will also at that time make a definitive statement on the future of the CIP in an SLP administration,” Pierre told Thursday’s news conference.
He recalled that on assumption of office in 2011, the SLP Administration was aware that the UWP Government was in discussion with a foreign owned agency on the introduction of a citizenship by investment programme in Saint Lucia.
Pierre said despite the severe economic situation, the SLP Administration did not think the CIP was a priority at the time.
He observed that four years later, the SLP Administration after intensive debate, dialogue and consultation, introduced a CIP as a means of increasing investment.
“We spent many months studying the industry, noting the challenges, evaluating the potential and consulting various concerned parties,” the SLP leader noted.
He recalled that a Task Force headed by Professor Vaughan Lewis and comprising a wide section of the social and economic sectors including the then opposition UWP was set up to discuss the introduction of a CIP programme in Saint Lucia.
Pierre told the news conference that the report of the task force was widely circulated to the public on the instructions of the cabinet of ministers.
He explained that there were some notable concerns raised by the public.
Pierre outlined those as including concerns that any CIP in Saint Lucia must limit the number of persons becoming citizens, ensure that only reputable and high worth individuals are granted Saint Lucian citizenship, have a robust due diligence framework to ensure unworthy persons do not become citizens and ensure transparency and accountability.
He recalled that the parliament later approved the legislation establishing the CIP with every member expressing support for the programme, including the then Leader of the Opposition, Doctor Gale Rigobert.
He said that on the matter of establishing the CIP, the SLP was very clear on its objectives.
The opposition leader said they included that the measure would be a tool aimed primarily at attracting foreign direct investment in high end hotel and real estate products and employment generating business enterprises
Pierre declared that accountability and transparency were not options.
He also said annual reports would have had to be submitted to Parliament, indicating the individuals who were granted Saint Lucian citizenship, how much income was collected and how that revenue was utilized.
The SLP leader observed that his party did not see Saint Lucia as being offered as the cheapest option and required that the the due diligence process be very robust.
He said the CIP was not seen as a measure to merely sell passports.
Pierre disclosed that the intention was to offer Saint Lucia as an option for selected high worth individuals with a propensity to invest.
“ Therefore we limited the number of applications to 500 annually and required a minimum net worth of US$3m.,” he told Thursday’s news conference.