Antigua St. John’s – Government has kick-started public consultations on the proposed Citizenship by Investment Programme with the prime minister giving assurances that the initiative should in no way jeopardize the integrity of the Antigua & Barbuda passport.
The first of five consultations that will be held over the next two weeks took place yesterday with representatives of the media at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Members of the task force established in June 2011 to look into the feasibility of the programme did a powerpoint presentation on the initiative to explain information contained in a white paper that has been presented to media houses.
“We have structured the Citizenship by Investment Programme to meet the most incisive scrutiny and to deliver the most rigorous review of the applications received by the Citizenship by Investment Unit,” he said.
The programme allows an investor to apply for citizenship through four mechanisms including real estate, which allows him/her to purchase property here with a minimum value of US$400,000 in a designated resort zone, plus make a contribution of minimum US$250,000 to a National Development Fund.
The other categories are a contribution of minimum US$250,000 to a charitable fund and a business investment of US$1.5 Million.
The passports must be renewed every five years and investors can only vote if they satisfy the requirements in the Representation of the People Amendment Act.
The programme has drawn strong reaction by citizens, some of whom said they are fearful the country’s reputation would be sullied if the passport falls into the hands of questionable individuals.
The prime minister said applications from convicted people will not be entertained and “on all other candidates, we will conduct the highest level of investigative review.”
PM Spencer said the Citizen by Investment Unit (CIU) that will be directly responsible for the programme will be independent of political interference.
Final and independent decisions on applications will be made by the unit, he explained.
“The CIU will not report to any Ministry or Department of Government. Two oversight committees will monitor and regulate its processes – a Management Oversight Committee and a Parliamentary Oversight Committee,” he told the media.
“The Management Oversight Committee will review the CIU’s daily operations as well as its relationships with outside contractors and service providers. The CIU will also report to a Parliamentary Oversight Committee comprising representatives of both the Government and the Opposition.”
The country’s leader said the government is not putting the Antigua & Barbuda passport on the market for sale.
He said all reasoned and thoughtful comments would be taken into account during the consultations, stating what is being presented is not set in concrete.
The act that will govern the programme has already had its first reading it parliament and is expected to be debated before the end of this month.
Consultations have begun and will continue with the Antigua Labour Party, the media was told.
The remaining consultations are scheduled for October 11 at the Multi Purpose Cultural Centre, October 16 at the Cedar Grove Primary, and October 17 at All Saints Primary. All are slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.
On October 18, there will be a live interactive broadcast on ABS TV and Radio at 8:30 pm.
It is estimated that the programme will lead to gross investment in excess of US$205 million (EC$550 million) by the end of the third year, and income of more than US$220 Million (EC$594 million) annually thereafter.