Opposition Leader Godwin Friday of the New Democratic Party (NDP) has announced his support for a Citizenship by Investment program in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The rather fiery announcement came last week at the NDP’s People’s Budget in Kingstown.
Friday and other NDP members believe a golden visa program would be a boon to the Vincentian economy, citing other Caribbean nations’ programs as an example. Meanwhile, the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) strongly objected to such a program, stating vehemently that a Vincentian passport should not have a price tag.
The former president of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace, also championed a Vincentian CBI program, invoking St Kitts’ program as a shining example of what such a program could do for the islands:
“Our capital budget to do our projects for 2018 is EC$216 million. And here is St. Kitts earning EC$767 million from that CBI programme. So they could have pay for our whole capital budget and have plenty money left over. But we don’t want to do that but we want to tax $8 per night for hotel rooms. That is nothing to finance when you’re dealing with programmes like this.”
Friday countered the ULP’s objections to “selling passports” by bringing up the shady circumstances under which property mogul David Ames obtained his own Vincentian passport and the hypocrisy of not opening a more transparent program for other foreign nationals.
“The point that I am saying is David Ames got citizenship in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Remember? And the reason was that they had made significant investment in the country. So here you have the programme working there for him. So it is not transparent. Nobody knows how much he paid, if anything other than the investment.”
Friday and other NDP officials reiterated the due diligence behind the CBI programs of other CARICOM nations and how similar extreme vetting would prevent persona non grata from obtaining Vincentian citizenship.
The People’s Budget, where NDP President Friday voiced his enthusiasm for a CBI program, was held in protest of the ULP’s new EC$993 million budget, which was approved in the absence of opposition legislators.