Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EDITORIAL: Consider immigration investment programme


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AMONG THE THINGS Prime Minister Freundel Stuart abhors is the way several of our CARICOM neighbours are selling their birthright, their citizenship and passports.

“A race to the bottom,” was the way he aptly described the atmosphere in which Caribbean states, most notably St Kitts-Nevis, Antigua Barbuda, Dominica and Grenada, are fighting each other for cash for their passports.

That’s a tragic turn of events triggered by anaemic economic growth, poor management of national affairs, the provision of vital but costly social services, and extravagance of people at all levels of society.

And even though the Prime Minister said “Barbados is not going in that direction” – meaning selling its citizenship and its passports for, as in the case of Dominica, US$100 000 each – the truth is that we are not far behind our neighbours when it comes to the forces that drive “citizenship by investment programmes”.

We should recognise the Caribbean isn’t alone. Australia, Austria, Singapore, the US, Britain, France, New Zealand, Canada, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and Switzerland have some type of citizenship programme.

Where some of our island nations are debasing their passports is by granting them immediately to foreigners who can’t find the country on a map, have never set foot on the soil and are not subject to strict background checks. That’s a form of citizenship prostitution which Barbados must avoid like the plague.

While there isn’t anything inherently odious about giving investors the privilege of residence in our country if they are creating jobs, paying taxes, financing enterprises and being law-abiding souls, we shouldn’t just hand out passports willy nilly as happens in some countries in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Mr Stuart was right to warn against thumping our bosoms while saying “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other” people. We have tumbled so far down the economic and social ladder in recent years that we are just as badly off as many of our neighbours.

Our failure to meet our financial obligations to the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies, uncollected garbage, the debacle at the Central Bank, water shortages, and potholes in our roads suggest that we may have to embrace an immigration-linked investment programme.

Just last year, an international citizenship and planning firm rated our passport as being among the most powerful and respected across the globe. It was measured by the number of countries which accept a passport without the need for a visa. We were ranked 26th out of 177 nations and territories.

Barbados must endeavour to keep it that way while recognising this is an ever-changing world. Economic programmes allowing foreigners to acquire citizenship or a residency permit in return for substantial investment are commonplace.

But Barbados must draw the line at giving unknown foreigners the right almost immediately to hold our passports, travel the world and call themselves Bajans.





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