By A Concerned Citizen
Citizenship by investment is not a bad idea once done correctly.
In fact, if the motive is to get a few development partners to achieve specific goals and in return, grant them citizenship, then that’s workable, so long as people are properly vetted.
What is wrong, however, is a program that allows people to obtain passports of small island developing states, without having to live in the country or having any meaningful ties to the country. What compounds this is that a lot of the passport buyers are people looking to have extra passports because their freedom to travel on their country’s passport might be restricted for security or other reasons.
Small island developing states are often cash-strapped, vulnerable to external shocks and incapable of producing self-sustaining growth.
But, throughout the years, we have found creative ways around this that don’t involve structured and dedicated programs of selling citizenship.
Some of us have invested in creating industries, others have turned to sourcing healthy partners to help develop tourism, others have forged partnerships with richer countries for technical assistance and employment opportunities for our people. We have employed measures that provided us with resources while keeping our dignity and our sovereignty intact.
A passport selling CBI model is a callous and lazy-minded approach to development.
You are literally giving a chance to anyone with money to come in and out of your body as they please and they can do the same with any other women (countries) they have a passport for.
You’d be selling yourself out when there is an ocean of possibilities right in front of you to be creative and draw resources from without putting your dignity on the line and exposing yourself to criminal and other infections.
If the average cost of a passport is $100,000 US dollars, how many passports would you need to sell to raise a substantial amount of money to meaningfully pursue projects?
A flood of passport sales to many people, some who don’t care to settle in St. Vincent and would gladly use its name if they get into trouble?
CBI programs for small island developing states with rough colonial pasts are not the same for richer countries.
Land ownership is important and there is a nexus between CBI and land ownership. Not all citizenship buyers just want the passport. Some want business opportunities for their companies and their people. To seize those opportunities in any meaningful way, they need real estate.
For countries that have worked so hard to wrestle lands away from colonialists, why would we set ourselves up to give citizenship to many people to be able to buy out and control the little land we have? Especially to people with self-centered development models.
Look around the Caribbean for these models in action. Roads owned by foreigners, prime lands in capital cities, ports of entry being targeted for ownership, etcetera.
The thing is, there are better development models. Think about what we have been able to accomplish without CBI and how we’ve kept our sovereignty and dignity intact.
Think about the protections we’ve had of not having people who don’t know our country well, using our passport to represent themselves to others, criminally or otherwise.
Think about issues such as beach access, if prime beachfront lands are to be bought by these investors. Recent examples are in Grenada and St. Lucia.
Think about how these passport buyers see us as persons from developing countries: banana republics that they can just wave money and get their way.
I am sure you can add to this list as well.
If we are to pursue any CBI program, we must have a cap on the number of people we allow and tie investments to specific goals/projects.
We must also not sell citizenship to persons who just need our passports as an escape and can commit crimes in our country’s name when we don’t even know who they are.
We must put safeguards in against government corruption. Let us know who is finding what and who promised what in return.
St. Vincent must not be sold out. This country belongs to Vincentians and we must stay true to the line of our national anthem that pledges to keep this country “ever free”.