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SKN Prime Minister addresses future of CBI Program; says the program cannot remain our economic mainstay

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by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): In a recent interview, the Federation’s Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew said there is a great need for proper diversification of St. Kitts and Nevis’ economy to reduce the dependency on the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.

Leading up to the August 5 Federal Election in St. Kitts and Nevis, the CBI program was a point of contention between the political parties – from Nevis’ Premier, Hon. Mark Brantley requested a fair share of the tax revenues from the program to the Nevis Reformation Party, calling for the resignation of Hon Spencer Brand for his involvement in a CBI program and the new prison to be built in Estridge Estate, which commenced construction in June under the Dr. Timothy Harris-led Cabinet.

The future of the Citizenship by Investment Program in the Caribbean is also in question. The global community, including the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), took steps to limit access to their countries by Russians who carry passports obtained by economically investing in another country, internationally known as “golden passports”, after Russia began their invasion of Ukraine.

The US and EU are pressuring countries that issued passports to stop the programs; the EU has given some OECS countries until 2025 to abolish the CBI programs or risk losing visa-free access to the EU.

Antigua and Barbuda, among other Caribbean countries, are fighting against this move by the US and the EU.

On September 30, Russia annexed four Ukrainian regions and requested Ukraine to stop military action and return to the negotiating table.

The United Nations have condemned the annexation calling it “illegal”, while Russia says it was the “will of the people”.

How this new development in the Russia/Ukraine conflict may affect the EU’s approach to CBI programs is left to be seen as the situation continues to unfold.

On the home front, Prime Minister Drew, while understanding the benefits our Federation has reaped from the program, has expressed that it cannot be our primary source of revenue.

“We need, as a country, to understand where we are with the CBI programme and to make meaningful decisions so that we can still benefit from it. However, we cannot allow it to continue to be the mainstay of our revenue generation,”

The Prime Minister admitted that the program has had its challenges and requires work to be stabilised.

“In general, there is some work to be done to make sure that we keep it stable. For example, when I got in, there was information on my desk that we needed to communicate with the Europeans; I had to quickly pull the team together to make sure that we met deadlines and so forth. So that is why I’m saying that the CBI program has been working, there are issues there, and the issues are the market. So I will have to take an opportunity to explain to people how the market is affecting the CBI program, [because] sometimes we might say that if you do the CBI program, the contribution might be maybe $200,000 and then the market is not dictating that you can get that $200,000.”

What is the future of the CBI program in St. Kitts and Nevis?

The Prime Minister said the government is planning on diverting where the funds are invested to impact the country’s development more.

“Going forward with the CBI program, we are now saying that the programme will now be used to deliver what we need in this country. Our electricity generation is in shambles right now. You saw that we had to do some load shedding because the generators [were] old; they had not been replaced for many years. We had to quickly get in there, and we had to buy some new generators… so that we can stabilise that situation. So we are looking at electricity generation, and we want to move to renewables such as solar and other types of natural gas, and so that is going in a good direction so far. We also have to invest in water [and] these are basic things we have to invest in because the country moved ahead with housing and so forth, but electricity generation and water were left behind,”

The government has already put together an Economic Council that will overlook and guide the country’s development process, including the way the CBI program is run.

“As I told you, I met some documentation on my desk in terms of responding to the Europeans, which we did; I brought a committee together. And that committee would have put, with the CIU, that information together so that we can get it to the Europeans. So we’re going to keep that committee in place [to overlook] the CBI and to make sure that we do all that we can to keep it afloat.”

The strength of the Federation’s passport is another reason to properly regulate the CBI program, especially as it relates to maintaining visa-free access to the 190 countries with whom we have that privilege.

“About the visa-free access… we don’t want to compromise that as well. So we think that there is a middle ground in all of this, and we have to strike it so that the CBI can still be viable for us while we do what is necessary to protect our name as a country and so forth and the strength of our passport. So we are making sure that we do what we have to do and stay in contact with who we have to stay in contact with to ensure that.”

The Prime Minister made those remarks in an interview with SKN Newsline’s Andre Huie.

MAKANA FERRY SCHEDULE

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