Punishment for Survival?

ONCE again, Caribbean states are ‘Blacklisted’ by yet another powerful European entity, this time warning that the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) schemes operated in named Caribbean states are in some way a threat to the financial and economic stability or security of Europe.

Naturally, the latest report by the powerful Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has set alarm bells tolling in the related capitals; and Governments of the named states will understandably be concerned about the potential impact this report may have on their continuing efforts to make their CIPs work.

But while concern and caution are not to be thrown to the wind, there may not be that much need for the Caribbean to be so worried about punishing consequences. After all, the report covered over 100 countries, of which this region accounts for less than five percent. The numbers of Caribbean CIP passports sold altogether also pale into comparative statistical insignificance.

Not that the Europeans should not be concerned about potential misuse of second-passport opportunities by now-multinational continental citizens. But the same concern should also apply to the similar schemes being operated by leading EU states — like the United Kingdom itself – that also offer like opportunities to gain citizenship through sizeable investment.

Fact is, the UK and the USA are competing across the Atlantic to see which can outdo the other to attract Chinese millionaires and billionaires to purchase economic citizenship in their respective competing shores.

Like the UK and the USA, China is equally concerned about its nationals misusing dual-citizenship. But does China consider the American and European Passports-for-Sale schemes a potential threat to its present or future financial or economic survival?

When Caribbean states entered the CIP business years ago, it was already well-established in over a dozen OECS and other developed countries.

These schemes developed as only one of several forcibly adopted by the Caribbean states involved following their loss of developmental aid and financial and economic assistance from their former colonial ‘Mother Countries’ in Europe, as well as the increasing ‘graduation’ of Caribbean states out of qualification for international assistance on the bases of statistical measurement of their annual economic growth.

Interestingly the UK itself recognizes and accepts the existence of similar schemes within its own remaining Caribbean colonial jurisdictions offering even easier ways of hiding money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But while individual cases may attract international attention following exposure, never has London said or done anything near amounting to categorizing off-shore schemes in the British Virgin Islands, for instance, or the Turks and Caicos Islands, for that matter, as even ‘potential’ threats to the UK’s financial security.

The Caribbean CIP schemes are not without their own grave problems, among them competition for the same market and the painstaking process of getting it right. Due diligence factors and similar fears of potential abuse also reside across the region.

Opposition parties naturally have their own versions of how local schemes should operate, but even Governments are known to have their own concerns about how the CIPs operate and their implications for the region’s own future. The Grenada Prime Minister, for instance, has called for a regional CARICOM review of existing CIPs.

Our problems also include levels of transparency and accountability. But that’s our business – and it’s our duty to either find solutions or come up with alternatives.

In the meantime, it’s simply good that the OECD is just a think tank and not the policy and decision-making European Union (EU) or the European Commission (EC), where such opinions really matter.

When we should worry is if and when the EU decides to start punishing former European colonies in the Caribbean for trying to survive in an increasingly hostile world economic environment created in the main by the increasingly inward-looking policies of the Developed Countries.

But, thank our lucky stars, we aren’t there yet!

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