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ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP ISSUES

Dwyer Astaphan40The young Team Unity Government has declared its intention to clean up the country’s Economic Citizenship Program. In this regard, it engaged IPSA International’s services and thus far, IPSA has provided 20 recommendations.

 

It’d be good if the Government can publish the entire list. This would assist the public in our discussion of the recently introduced Parliamentary Bill to amend the Citizenship Act. It’d also assist the public in getting a better understanding of the ills and the remedies, and generally of the entire picture, regarding the Economic Citizenship Program.
Of course, it’d also fit right into the Government’s declared intention to engage and involve the public in its legislative and other activities.
So that you’ll know, the amendment seeks to give effect to the proviso in Section 92(1) in enabling the Government  to refuse the citizenship application of certain persons if there are reasonable grounds to do so in the interest of defence, public safety or public order, or if various nationals of their country have been engaged in activities prohibited under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Anti-terrorism Act and other Acts, Regulations, Codes or Guidelines relating to terrorism, money laundering or the financing of terrorism.
Good move. But this took long, eh! Why didn’t the previous Government do it, especially given the fact that the Constitution leaves this to the Parliament to decide.
Did we, or some of us, miss out on the importance of it? Or did we, or some of us, not want it? Were we inattentive, or lax, or reckless? Or were we being deliberate?
Yet as much as I applaud the move, I must also say that it doesn’t go far enough.
Section 8 of the Citizenship Act provides for the revocation of citizenship that has been obtained by registration if the registration was obtained by false representation, fraud or wilful concealment of material facts, or if the person has been convicted of treason or sedition in St. Kitts & Nevis.
I’d like to see the amendment include a provision that the citizenship of a person who acquires citizenship by registration can be revoked if, note well, after he or she has become a citizen, it is proven that he or she has become engaged in any prohibited activities under the Anti-money laundering, Anti-terrorism, and Proceeds of Crime Laws of our country.
This would enable the Government to clean up some of the human mess that has come to us via our Economic Citizenship Program.
Additionally, it seems that there is no unanimity on the interpretation of Section 3(5) of the Citizenship Act which states that the recipient of economic citizenship gets no voting rights save under and in accordance with the provisions of any law governing qualification of voters.
My recommendation is that the Amendment deal definitively with that matter also, and exclude economic citizens from voting period.
And I would go further. Citizenships granted under the Economic Citizenship Program would be specific to holder(s), so that citizenship through marriage and descent would not flow through the channels of our economic citizenship.
For example, Mr. and Mrs. ‘X’ and their two children apply for and receive citizenship under the program. They and they alone get, and are entitled to get, the citizenship. And if more children of that couple come along within, say, five years of their grant, then the new addition(s) can become citizens upon appropriate application and registration. But no grandchildren, no spouses of children, etc. etc.
We need to narrow the net. It’s too wide.
There are also other restrictions that ought to be applied to holders of economic citizenship. They should not be allowed to work as service providers in the Citizenship Program. Indeed, this area of work should be reserved strictly for Kittitians and Nevisians by birth or descent. Not even CARICOM and OECS citizens.
The economic citizens should also be provided with specified areas of work and investment in which they would be allowed to engage.
These are just a few thoughts on the proposed Amendment and related matters.
But there’s more.
The relevant Regulations speak to investments in real estate, the SIDF and companies (in the last-named case, it’s stipulated that the applicant should be the sole owner of the company).
Clearly, the stipulation with regard to sole ownership of a company is silly. Rather than on single ownership, the salient consideration should be with the size of the investment and the value to our nation, so that, for example, ten owners of a company who’ve invested, say, US$1 million each, should be as eligible to apply for economic citizenship as any individual who invests the same in a company by himself or herself, or in real estate, etc.
Meanwhile, some of the devices that have been introduced so as to qualify persons for application are, for me, ridiculous. First, a single unit can, depending on the degree of insanity that infests one’s mind as to true value, be priced at US$4 million, and the unit ownership is then fractionalized into ten parts with each part being usable to purchase citizenship at the minimum investment level of US$400,000. Convenient.
I’m not sure if this is allowed under the relevant Law or Regulations. Or if it is at all right and proper and in the best interests of our country. But it happens
It seems to me that such an arrangement acts as a disincentive to further construction, job creation and economic activity. It’s bad enough local contractors and workmen are being pushed to the margins in some of these projects, worse yet to have arrangements which discourage ongoing development (managed with love and care for our people and our natural resources as  we would want that to be).
I say that it’s a disincentive because one unit can produce so many passports, and then again five years later have the same cycle repeating itself, that while developers/property managers and lawyers may make an ongoing killing, the macro-economic and other vital interests of the country suffer.
There’s also another scheme in which people are being allowed to get citizenship by purchasing preference shares which are guaranteed redeemable in five years. I don’t know which part of the Law or Regulations allows this.
Is the Government addressing any of these matters?
Meanwhile, what about the illicit and other actors to whom the United States and Canadian Governments referred? Are they still in the game?
If the Team Unity Government is serious about transparency and accountability, will we have to wait much longer to get a full report on the number of passports issued under the Economic Citizenship Program, a detailed list of diplomatic passports and their holders, etc?
This thing has to be fixed. Not two steps forward, and three backward.
And now.

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