A coming together of the region’s Citizenship by Investment programmes is needed. This was the plea by the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine at a recent press briefing here. Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia all operate CBI programmes. There are, however, many differences separating the countries. For instance, the minimum investment required for one applicant in Saint Lucia, Antigua and Dominica is US$100,000, while in Grenada and St. Kitts, it’s US$150,000. Under the real estate option, Antigua’s minimum investment is US$400,000; Grenada, $350,000; Saint Lucia, $300,000; Dominica and St. Kitts, $200,000.
Antoine stated that the ECCB’s view is that the region is seen as one despite what individual countries do. The Caribbean, he says, is a brand, and if there is an adverse development in one island it affects all the others. “So our view is that we have to come together. We believe that the coming together will help all of our CBI programmes. Set the same standards, ensure that if you get denied in country A, you cannot get accepted in country B, because it’s a single space. Set the price reasonable, but not too low. We don’t want to sell ourselves short.”
Anthony noted that the CBI programmes are important to countries in the region and a main source of foreign direct investment. Therefore, Antoine said, the bank has an interest in the industry from a position of financial stability, fiscal and debt sustainability, as well as growth. The ECCB Governor lamented that as a result of competition the price keeps dropping lower and lower.
“We believe that what we have to offer in this region is valuable, is precious, and should be more highly valued. But the only way you can raise the price, and sustain the price for the benefit of all, is if they come together,” said Antoine. When asked to suggest a price, Antoine said he was “not prepared to go that far”. However, he advised it should reflect the exclusiveness of the region, but not be so high as would price countries out of the market.
On Monday and Tuesday, heads of CBI programmes within the region met in Saint Lucia. Nestor Alfred, the CEO of Saint Lucia’s Citizenship by Investment Unit, told the STAR the meeting was convened to discuss matters relevant to the industry. Alfred, who also serves as the chairman of Citizenship by Investment Program Association, said the two-day meeting was productive, with frank discussions. He noted that individual countries can remain competitive but there are many avenues where collaboration can be achieved; for example, in the areas of exchange of information, and bringing harmonization to application forms.
“If rain falls on the roof on one OECS island,” he said, “it will invariably fall on the roof of every other island. So it’s really important that we do this. And because of the common space that we share, it’s even more important. There are some things that we have agreed on, which I can’t share just now, because each of us has to go back to our islands to make that communication.”