Opposition Leader Warming Up To Economic Citizenship

30th August 2012, St. John’s Antigua- Former Prime Minister Lester Bird has seemingly had a change of heart when it comes to economic citizenship, warming to the prospect of the initiative for Antigua & Barbuda.

In an impassioned diatribe on ZDK yesterday, the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) leader railed against one of the station’s commentators, Tanny Rose, whom Bird said, “turned around and twisted” his recent statements seemingly flip-flopping and endorsing the foreign direct investment scheme.

However, Bird seemed to be warming to economic citizenship, or at least prepared to explore the possibility further, saying that he is willing to “think outside of the box.”

“I recognise that there is a positive side to this thing and we have to make a decision as to whether or not we are going to go that route,” Bird said.

In that effort, Bird said an ALP meeting to discuss the proposal further is in the pipeline. This would be the second such meeting called by the party, the first having been held in early April. At that meeting the ALP solidified its party stance, which was against the initiative being pushed by the Baldwin Spencer administration.

At that time, Bird said to OBSERVER Media that the party had taken the stance because it had not been officially provided with the requisite details from the current government on how the initiative would be applied to Antigua & Barbuda. He also said that many of his supporters were wary of government “selling” Antiguan & Barbudan passports.

However, Bird did confirm that the ALP itself had “absolutely” enacted a similar initiative during its regime.

“There is a residency act which permits them to come in, any expatriate, if they invest US $200,000 they would be entitled to have permanent residency.”

The opposition leader noted, however, that in the ALP version, Antiguan & Barbudan passports would not be furnished. He also conceded that his party’s economic citizenship programme had “not worked as well as we would have liked.”

This confirms claims lobbed at Bird in April by Chairman of the ALP Gaston Browne, who said that the ALP government, in the past, had also intended to introduce its version of economic citizenship.

At that time, the former prime minister chastised Browne who had refused to fall in line with the party stance against economic citizenship, fuelling speculations of a developing rift in the party.

More cracks in the ALP foundation have been unveiled over the last few weeks when ALP affiliates were calling for Bird to step down as leader of the opposition. Bird released a press release addressing the claims, saying that no such discussion had been had with him and he would not step down from the position he has held for the better part of…years.

If Bird did not hear the cry then, it seems he certainly has now, insinuating that there was a play for power brewing in the ALP, saying, “In any political party everybody is entitled to try and achieve the leadership or any other position.”

He added, “The reality is that is what is transpiring and they’re aspirants and they are fighting, in a sense, to get upward mobility positions.”

The former prime minister said that although he is not suggesting he would continue at “infinitum like my father”, he believed that he was still able to lead the party and would step down if he found he was unfit to lead.

In March the OBSERVER Media obtained then unreleased document that unveiled government’s intentions to initiate a Citizenship by Investment Programme and had already compiled a taskforce in that effort.

Government said that the initiative would bring US 100 million in investment dollars into the country.

In May Prime Minister Spencer said that a vetting process would be taking place after the first reading of the bill at parliament.