Economic citizenship and possible effects on free movement

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Much has been made of the impact of economic citizenship on Antigua & Barbuda, however, an equally pertinent question is: “Would the region’s move towards the initiative complicate the OECS free-movement mandate?”

According to OECS Commissioner, Ambassador Colin Murdoch, there is a “very simple” answer to the query: “A citizen is a citizen is a citizen, no matter how you acquire the citizenship.

“Once a person is a citizen of the OECS (he or she is) entitled to all the benefits of the OECS economic union, including free movement and all the other things,” the ambassador said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.

When the nation’s citizenship by investment programme goes to Parliament on November 15, the country would join the ranks of other OECS member states that have similar programmes, including Dominica, St Kitts & Nevis and Grenada.

“It is clear that many of the OECS countries are moving toward economic citizenship and a way will have to be found to accommodate this within the OECS economic union,” Murdoch said.

He noted that, in fact, the heads of the OECS deliberated on the matter in June at what he described as a “long and strong” heads of the OECS meeting in St Vincent & the Grenadines.

Murdoch revealed that at the conclusion of the meeting, a study was commissioned to examine the “legal issues” surrounding economic citizenship and OECS regional integration.

However, he seemed confident that the results of the study – that would be discussed at the next regional heads meeting – would reveal there are no legal encumbrances to any OECS member embarking on such a programme.

The ambassador said that during his stint at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Antigua & Barbuda granted citizenship to people born in 88 countries.

“We don’t have class A and class B citizens, and restriction on certain types of citizenship. Once you have acquired the citizenship, that is the end of the story.”

Currently, there are four means one can obtain an Antiguan & Barbudan passport; by birth, descent, marriage, naturalisation – and after the second and third readings are had at Parliament, the fifth would be by economic citizenship.

The latter would grant Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship to foreign investors that either acquire US $400,000 in property, contribute US $250,000 to the National Development Fund, donate US $250,000 to an approved charitable organisation or invest in a business starting at US $1.5 million.

Government is expected to gross EC $550 million dollars by the end of the third year of operation.