Prime Minister Gaston Browne is seeking to harmonise the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) with other regional territories, to prevent the “race to the bottom” – lowering of fees to attract clients – which has developed across territories.
PM Browne said he is hoping that a consensus on the price point for the National Development Fund (NDF) can be reached on a regional level. He said that the harmonisation of the programme would ensure that investors who are denied citizenship in one island are not able to fly under the radar and obtain it in another country.
The prime minister said he has written to his regional counterparts requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.
“We are not seeking to have a race to the bottom. In fact, we have been advocating for harmonisation, and recently I wrote to all of the prime ministers in the region asking them to join us for us to come together to make a determination as to the price point at which we will set the NDF for all of the countries, and at the same time to ensure that there is proper coordination and cooperation on the issue of due diligence, so that an investor can’t come to one country and get denied and then go to another country and get approved,” Browne said.
Browne continued, “So far I have had a response from the Prime Minister of Dominica, the honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, and I am hoping the others will respond soon so at least we can start the discussions or at least advance the discussions at the level of the heads (of government), and that we can move to some level of harmonisation pretty soon…”
Browne views the Citizenship by Investment Programme as an industry similar to tourism. He revealed that the programme contributes about 15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which could rise to 20 per cent depending on how successful the country’s efforts are in pushing the programme.
According to the prime minister, barring tourism, there is hardly any “other section that contributes more than 20 per cent of GDP annually, and we should see it as an industry, one in which we are literally supplementing tax revenues, because truth be told if we did not have the CIP revenues for the almost three and a half years we would have had significant difficulties in this country.”
Revenues from CIP have been utilised to reduce the IMF loan, which has been reduced from $320 million down to about $32 million, a 90 per cent reduction in 3 1/2 years, boasts the PM. Also, on a monthly basis the Social Security Scheme receives a $3 million cheque that goes towards paying pensioners.
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