(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Following the 50 per cent reduction in processing fees for investment options in the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), the leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is calling for an explanation.
“It heightens suspicion as to why the government operates the CIP programme with so much secrecy…that is eventually exposed,” said leader of the DNA, Joanne Massiah.
As a result of the reduction, which came into effect on August 1, a family of four will now pay a processing fee US $25, 000 instead of the previous processing fee of US $50, 000 if they choose the National Development Fund(NDF) US $200,000 investment option.
Although the processing fees for the NDF and other CIP options have been reduced, the investment amount still remains the same.
“The CIU is saying that it consulted with Cabinet in July and approval was granted to reduce the fees in August,” said Massiah. “Why is it that the government didn’t deem it necessary to alert the public to the fact that this decision had been made and give the reasons for that decision?”
According to the CIU, the reason for the reduction in the processing fees was to increase Antigua & Barbuda’s competitiveness in the Caribbean region now that the country no longer has visa-free access to Canada.
Massiah attempted to dispel this notion and questioned the possibility of a loss of visa-free access to other countries.
“Given their argument that the fees have always not been competitive and unless the persons are exclusively interested in going to Canada why is it that we’ve had to reduce the fees? We have visa free access to Europe, England and other places that are being used to market the programme,” Massiah said.
The DNA leader also called for more transparency around the fee reduction.
“I believe that the CIU needs to come clean with the public. We need to understand the impact that the dropping of fees will have on the operation of the programme,” she said.
Massiah said that the DNA was assured that due diligence would not be affected by the fee reduction, as they are to cover operational costs. However, she said that the programme will still be affected.
“If the fees are used to pay salaries or as a part of marketing, then clearly the programme is going to be impacted in a significant way,” said Massiah. “Who then are we targeting to sell our passports to?”
Massiah also told OBSERVER media that the DNA has penned a letter to the government questioning the CIP since July 13 and was given an unfavourable response. She said she will be making the letter public shortly.