Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Sunday, March 29, 2015

DID ANTIGUA VIOLATE THE PUBLIC TRUST IN ITS ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM ?


The primary objective of any country's economic citizenship/economic passport program is to drive local economic development. Unfortunately,  a major aspect of the program being offered to wealthy foreign nationals, by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, may have violated that prime directive. It may also have, unwittingly, facilitated access, by criminal elements, to a passport from a Commonwealth of Nations jurisdiction, with all the privileges appurtenant thereto.

There's a reason that economic citizenship programs require applicants to purchase, and establish, a residence in the country they are seeking a passport from: those new properties must be built, by local labor, using materials obtained from local businesses, and subsequently maintained by locals. Taxes must, eventually, be incurred, and paid, by the property owner. All this creates local jobs, adds to the tax base, and develops the economy.

Antigua's Citizenship by Investment Program has chosen to allow applicants for its economic passport program to qualify, not be purchasing a residence in Antigua or Barbuda, but overseas, in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, through what must be a lucrative arrangement with local builders in the UAE. Both the Antiguan Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister, have visited the Ajman headquarters of UAE-based Sweet Homes, who is building the structures that qualify investors to apply for the A & B Citizenship by Investment project.

These new residences, not being located in Antigua, neither benefit the Antiguan construction work force, nor its local businesses and suppliers of construction materials. I fail to see how any direct payments to Government will be an adequate substitute for the purchase of land from the public, the creation of new local jobs, both during constriction, and post-completion infrastructure/vendors/ service suppliers, and the purchase of construction materials by the developers & builders.

Furthermore,  the Antiguan economy still has not fully recovered from the imprisonment of its formerly largest employer, Ponzi schemer Allan Stanford. Its working class needs as much in the way of new job opportunities as the government can furnish, and by participating in a scheme where only funding ( which could be diverted through corruption) direct to government occurs, there will most likely be little, or none, in the way of trickle-down, to its blue-collar majority. Are the people being cheated ?

Also, how many of these Middle Eastern nationals, who are purchasers in Ajman, and that therefore will be awarded Antiguan passports in the program, will be from countries where broad-based international sanctions are in place, or who are of dodgy backgrounds, but are passed nevertheless ?

Whether Antiguan economic passports will become, like those issued in St. Kitts & Nevis, suspect by definition, and therefore not qualified for a waiver on visas, remains to be seen, but you can be sure that  the Government of Canada will take a hard look at the identities of the holders when they travel, especially if they are Iranian- or Afghan-born. Some immigration authorities may agree, conclude that Antigua has sunk to a new low, and act accordingly, to restrict the entry of these new passport holders. American Customs & Immigration could follow suit, and who could fault such an action ? The granting of economic passports raises risk levels for compliance officers; any country that is playing fast & loose with the process could find itself with clients whose passports are more of a problem than they bargained for.


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