Members of the United Progressive Party (UPP) will hit the road in the coming weeks in a series of meetings to explain the plan for the economic citizenship programme to residents.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer made the announcement on Tuesday night, at a town hall meeting at Princess Margaret School (PMS).
“We will go through the length and breadth of the country to ensure that the people understand and appreciate exactly what we intend to do,” the Prime Minister said.
Addressing the main concern raised each time the plan is mooted, Spencer promised stringent due diligence on applicants to protect the country’s integrity.
The question of why an economic citizenship programme was addressed by the prime minister, who was candid in his explanation.
He said the once thriving offshore gaming sector, which has been strangled by a years-old row with the United States, “is not an endangered species; it is gone.”
“It’s actually gone and we have to find ways and means to deal with that,” Spencer told his audience.
He also referenced the global economic climate and its impact on the tourism-dependent country, and said policymakers must act with haste.
The Prime Minister said the programme would ensure employment, generate revenue, and it would attract investment. “We must utilize the mechanism to our benefit,” he said.
A taskforce assigned to study the Citizenship by Investment Programme, which would grant citizenship or residency to qualified foreign investors, recommended implementation.
The taskforce suggested a cap of 200 passports annually, which would constitute a 2 percent increase in the population over a five-year period.
The feasibility study indicated that government could generate, per annum, US $100 million in investment and US $5.5 million in fees.
The main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) is split on the issue. While Political Leader Lester Bird opposes it, his deputy and party chairman, Gaston Browne, endorses economic citizenship.
Antigua & Barbuda would join regional neighbours Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis if the programme is instituted.