Syrian conflict expected to increase ‘passport sales’

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Syrian conflict is expected to boost government’s coffers through increased demand in the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), according to Dominican political analyst McCarthy Marie.


“We could see more demands for citizenship through the economic citizenship programme because there are millions that are displaced,” said Marie, whose home country also offers a similar citizenship programme.


“Each time they have had the disturbances, whether it was the civil war in Lebanon or whatever, we had an influx of people,” he added. The UN estimated that over 1.7 million people have left Syria since the conflict began.


Antigua & Barbuda’s former ambassador the United Nations (UN) Lionel “Max” Hurst, who is aligned with the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP), also suggested the conflict could cause a CIP “windfall.”


“Given the number of wealthy Syrian citizens, the peacefulness of Antigua & Barbuda, the fact there exists a population of almost 3,000 Middle Easterners here … that could be a very likely outcome,” said Hurst.


“It is the opportunity to commercialise a refugee programme in that you’re only accepting very wealthy people,” he added.


The former ambassador said a boost to the CIP would also have other benefits including boosting the offshore banking services as wealthy applicants move their wealth to Antigua & Barbuda.


Last week, former Canadian diplomat Don Myatt was named as CEO of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), which opened its office in the ABI Financial Center on Monday, August 26.


The government of Antigua & Barbuda hopes, within three years, to attract 1,800 new citizens or 450 families and generate US $550 million by offering citizenship in return for investment or a direct financial contribution.


Marie, meanwhile, warned that the conflict in Syria is already having a negative impact on the Caribbean.


“Tourism depends on energy and the price of fuel is already rising as a direct consequence of the conflict,” said Marie, who noted gas prices rose by 75 cents in Dominica last week.


In recent days, the international price of oil has surged to a six-month high. A barrel of Brent crude jumped 6 per cent to US $117 last week, compared to less than US $100 a barrel as recently as June.


(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)