…PM promises to ensure all projects are completed
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - PRIME MINISTER Dr. Terrance Drew is reassuring the nation that his administration would work to put measures in place to protect the Federation’s Citizenship By Investment programme, while also working to ensure all projects are completed.
The integrity of CBI programmes has been thrust into the spotlight, as pressures were placed on territories around the world offering such services by the European Union (EU) to get their acts together or have their visa-free access to member states withdrawn.
Dr. Drew, during a Post Cabinet press briefing, insisted that his Government is working to ensure that the programme remains the leader across the world and that could only be done by having it strengthened.
The SKNLP administration promised, during the elections campaign, that it is one of the areas that needed strengthening, and during Tuesday’s (Nov. 15) press conference, Dr. Drew noted that his Government’s vision is “to use Citizenship By Investment to attract international investment”.
But while the programme has been successful for the Federation, the Prime Minister admitted that over the years “the programme has not been mutually beneficial for all stakeholders – especially our people who should always be at the forefront of the benefits from programmes”.
“Your Government has been committed to working tirelessly to strengthen and improve our CBI programme for enhanced sustainability within a framework of integrity,” the Prime Minister told reporters.
Proceeds from the CBI programme has been a significant part of the Federation’s, especially since the onset of the pandemic.
In 2020, the Auditor-General noted in her report that it was responsible for approximately 40 percent of the country’s revenue.
In his 2022 Budget, then Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris disclosed that the Federation had raked in $500 million under the programme. However, proceeds from the programme came under the microscope because of a perceived lack of proper revenue sharing between St. Kitts and Nevis.
Because of the importance of the ;programme to the local economy, Dr. Drew noted: “There will be much stronger oversight and leadership in the CBI Unit. Your Government is implementing strengthened legislative and administrative structures to ensure that real estate projects funded by the CBI programme are completed. To this end, we are seeking trusted investors who see the potential of our nation to put capital behind creative and strong projects that will enhance our offering.”
Just recently, Attorney-General Garth Wilkin disclosed that the Federation agreed to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Risk Trends and Methods on money laundering in connection with the citizenship.
That initiative will aid in strengthening the programme while also seeking to fill gaps within the system locally.
“Under new leadership, the CBI programme will be administered in such a way that all stakeholders can have an equal opportunity to benefit, and priority needs will be addressed. For example, we need housing for our people here in St. Kitts and Nevis,” noted Dr. Drew.
His comments came against the backdrop of new details emerging that the Government would not seek to quash the prison project. But the Prime Minister noted that doing so could jeopardize the image of the programme internationally.
“We were therefore purposeful in our engagements and the newly-evolved programme must prosper each and everyone of us here in St. Kitts and Nevis. The changes we intend to make will ensure that we maintain a progressive and sustainable programme,” Drew added.