Foreign business people may soon be able to “buy” Barbadian citizenship.
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart announced this morning, his Administration was considering the provision of citizenship through investment.
“The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Darcy Boyce and myself and the chief immigration office, have been talking this issue through,” Stuart told reporters during a tour of the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, St. James.
He suggested though, that such a form of citizenship, had to be carefully examined. “It is not something into which we can rush headlong; we have to look at all the implications. But obviously the world is changing very quickly; we are in a competitive global environment and we have to make sure that we always have a competitive edge, if we are to be ahead of the game, as it were, and therefore that matter is receiving our attention as well,” he added.
In response, newly-elected President of the Economic Society of Barbados, Jeremy Stephen, told Barbados TODAY the organisation was very encouraged by the Government’s efforts to consider alternative and creative means of foreign direct investment through economic citizenship.
Stephen noted that while the framework for such an arrangement was discussed at the Budget during the past two years by way of incentives to lure offshore businesses, the society was unsure as how it would be implemented.
“This (economic citizenship) is a step in the right direction,” the economist added.
However, he asked Government to be aware of certain challenges posed by the measure, for which it should put plans in place to mitigate against them. Diversification was one challenge. Stephen drew example to the successful programme of economic citizenship introduced years ago by Antigua and Barbuda, which attracted such wealthy people like Allan Stanford.
“But we know how that ended,” he noted.
His suggestion was that the Government should ensure it drew from as wide a cross section of super wealthy individuals from around the world and that these become a part of the society, rather than just investing in businesses.
Another issue which the society’s president wanted the Freundel Stuart Administration to consider, was the need to ensure these ultra wealthy transfer their skills to Barbadians.
He also cited the possible negative impact which could result in such citizenship as in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis. He said even though that country had a successful programme it ran up a very high debt bill in the vicinity of 200 per cent of GDP.
“Government should bear in mind that the proceeds (of these wealthy persons) can help go to the productive sector to turn around the deficit,” Stephen noted.
Yet another aspect he wanted Government to examine was the great benefits of the absorbing of high skill labour.
“We have to attract wealthy persons of note to start up industries we are not known for, such as hedge funds and research scientific manufacturing companies,” the Economic Society leader suggested.
Stuart also gave the assurance that his ruling Democratic Labour Party regime was doing everything possible to make investment in Barbados hassle-free to international upscale business brands like those linked to Limegrove. As a result, he noted that government was placing priority on a proposed Facilitation Action Plan.
“Over the last few months we have been having consultations with people in the private sector to get a sense of where they see the bottlenecks occurring in our investment architecture. And we’ve committed ourselves to removing those bottlenecks — removing all those obstacles to easy investment in Barbados,” he stated.
“Because quite frankly, it is on investment that we depend. Without investment, Barbados could not be the show piece it is today. And therefore no Government of Barbados, and certainly none presided over by me, has any interest in making it difficult for investors to invest here,” the government leader assured.
“So, the action team which I set up in February 2012 to make sure that we get things done a little more quickly; the working group dealing with efficiency, which is chaired by Senator Darcy Boyce, is paying very special attention to ensuring that the facilitation of business is a top priority in Barbados,” added the Prime Minister.
The Limegrove Lifestyle Centre comprises high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Mont Blanc, Michael Kors and EyeQ Stylist Optical, as well as a cinema, a court yard, restaurants and a roof deck for the staging of social and cultural events. (EJ)