Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has defended changes to the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) at a news conference Thursday evening.
Chastanet was asked specifically what the rationale was for revoking the need for CIP applicants to declare their net worth.
He explained that the information that was coming in was too difficult, onerous and unconvincing as to whether an individual was worth $3M or more.
“The fundamental part is that people are buying citizenship in other destinations for less and it was an added burden that was being put on that was making us uncompetitive ,” the Prime Minister told the news conference.
Chastanet said people were encountering difficulty and raising questions about what information to present to prove that that they are worth three million dollars.
“Then how do you determine the veracity of that information?” He stated.
Chastanet told reporters that the most important part of the CIP is the background checks which are ‘very much’ in place.
He declared that the authorities will be as stringent as possible.
“Even take for example – we have had some people that have been declined and those people are entitled to appeal,” Chastanet disclosed.
He asserted that under the legislation, the appeal is made to the Minister.
“I have felt that is wrong and that is what I have done, I have actually put together a panel of three independent people to be able to make that assessment,” Chastanet observed.
“Also we go through the Regional Security Force to determine further veracity,” the PM noted, adding that the authorities are taking the issues of due diligence and background checks ‘extremely seriously.’
He said he recognizes that Saint Lucia is the ‘border’ for England, France, Canada and the United States.
“We have to take that responsibility very seriously, so that is the most important part of the Citizenship by Investment Programme,” Chastanet said.
He defended the reduction by half of the $200,000 threshold.
“You are not selling at 200. So in fact even the other countries are offering either discounts and incentives off of the 200,000 or for instance, one of the countries made themselves cheaper in selling to families and when you look at the number of programmes that are being sold on an annual basis, Dominica by far is the biggest seller so Dominica is about 1500 a year; the closest Island to them is around 400,” Chastanet noted.
“What is interesting is that when St Kitts was in this programme by itself they were selling around 2,200 to 2,500 at its peak. Now that you have five countries coming in to be part of the programme, you would have thought that extra activity would have created an increase in the demand and we would have seen that number grow.In fact it hasn’t. So in essence we are really just dividing the 2,200 or 2,500 among ourselves. So you tell me how do you think that we can go and sell a programme in which we are offering the exact same passport in terms of where it can access, for twice the price?”