As published on antiguaobserver.com, Thursday 8 April, 2021.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has slammed the United States, asking that country to stop all efforts to “kill” the Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIP) in the Caribbean.
“It seems as though they don’t want us to operate the CIP, so they want to kill it” Browne said.
His comment comes on the heels of a report last week, where the US government cited the CIP in three Caribbean countries for “lack of transparency.”
“I want to tell them if they kill it, it might not be as bad for Antigua and Barbuda because the CIP did not contribute any more than 10 percent of our total revenue prior to Covid,” Browne said.
Browne told Observer yesterday that thousands of people will be plunged into abject poverty and “they will destabilise an otherwise stable region.”
This destabilisation, according to the prime minister will bring with it, socio-economic consequences including increased drug-trafficking, money laundering, people trafficking and economic refugees who will find their way to the US and other wealthy countries.
In the ‘Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government,’ section, the 2020 report identifies the CIP programs in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis as citizen concerns on oversight and corruption due to a lack of openness.
In Antigua and Barbuda, the US pointed to reports of government corruption by the media and private citizens including “The September 2020 clash of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and a prominent member of his political party, who traded public and specific accusations of corruption in government procurements and other areas that neither person refuted.”
But Browne accused the US of using hearsay to come to their conclusions. “It is an uninformed, knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat that does not rise to the level of undermining or destroying the programs,” he added.
In Dominica, the US report pointed to local media and opposition leadership, that continue to raise allegations of corruption within the government, including in the Citizenship by Investment Program and pointed to the fact that while the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials … “the government implemented the law inconsistently.”
And in St. Kitts and Nevis, the US report pointed to media and private citizens reporting on government corruption “occasionally” even as citizens “expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight of revenues generated by the Citizenship by Investment Program.”
“They attacked St Kitts and Dominica too. And they do that so often I don’t even know what to say. But anytime they kill it, countries like Dominica and St Kitts, their economies will be decimated and they will plunge tens of thousands of people into poverty and then you end up with so many social ills,” he added.
Browne said that instead of using information to disparage these countries, the United States should instead work with these small island developing states.
“Let us work together and strengthen the relations with the United States, Dominica, St Kitts…. I mean trying to use this information to disparage us is unhelpful. If it was truthful, I would understand,” he said.
The CIP Programs in the Eastern Caribbean countries have been a source of continued criticism by the US and many nationals locally who question the use of “donation” funds that are part of the attractive offer for a second passport in these jurisdictions and visa free travel to between 152 and 162 countries.
Five Caribbean countries offer the CIP programs, but neither Grenada nor St. Lucia were cited for lack of transparency in the report.