Citizenship scheme changes may accelerate ‘race to bottom’

8 December 2017

Reported remarks made at recent international seminars attended by senior figures from OECS governments suggest that further changes to Citizenship by Investment programmes being contemplated may exacerbate concerns about ‘a race to the bottom’.

Reports in the Caribbean media suggest that Grenada will shortly join other OECS nations in reducing fees to try to better compete with neighbours that have recently announced price cuts. Speaking at the 11th Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in Hong Kong on November 14, the Chair of Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment Committee, Kaisha Ince, was reported to have said that that the country intends lowering the contribution requirement for a single applicant from US$0.2m to US$0.15m. The reports said that the Grenada Cabinet had approved the change, which will come into effect once the necessary amendment is gazetted before year’s end.

If confirmed, Grenada will be the latest OECS nations to reduce its basic fee. St Kitts reduced its basic and other fees in September following the passage of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, with Antigua following suit shortly afterwards. Dominica is believed to be rethinking its pricing structure, while St Lucia had already reduced its basic fees earlier this year. Grenada is also changing the educational requirement for dependent children up to 30 and for dependent parents above the age of 55, who are expected in both cases to have their additional contribution requirement waived.

In addition, in an interview with Investment Migration Insider at the Hong Kong event, which was organised by citizenship promoters Henley and Partners, St Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, said that the country would in future be accepting other currencies in payment for citizenship, starting with Euros, Yen and Bitcoin. St Lucia is also exploring the possibility that the Bank of St Lucia might open a branch in Dubai.

Amid concerns, Caribbean leaders make incipient moves towards harmonisation

In a sign of growing concern about the implications for OECS economies of the price based competition Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has responded by proposing an initiative to harmonise the regional citizenship by investment programmes.

“I have been an advocate for harmonisation and better coordination and cooperation among member states of the OECS that offer citizenship by investment programmes. It’s the right thing to do; it’s the sensible thing to do to protect the integrity of our respective programmes. We don’t want to have a situation where there is a race to the bottom,” he recently told Caribbean News Now. At the time, Mr Browne said that he had written to his fellow heads of government requesting a forum to decide on harmonisation in terms of fees and due diligence standards.

His view appears to be backed by the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, who at the Immigration Summit in Hong Kong, when asked about price reductions said that he would like to see a “gentleman’s agreement” for there to be a base price for all the categories of citizenship that would not go below an agreed price point.

Some reports suggest that a preliminary meeting on the subject took place between OECS Heads of government on the subject in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, but this has not been confirmed.

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