The Caribbean state of St Lucia is now all set to offer citizenship in exchange for financial investment. Addressing an elite gathering in Monaco, Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony said he was convinced that citizenship-by-investment program would help him reverse the country’s economic fortunes.
He said that he too is “a jealous guardian of Saint Lucian citizenship but the time has arrived to think beyond the traditional approaches to deal with the myriad problems facing small states.”
Offering citizenship is becoming a common way of luring investment in many Caribbean states. St. Kitts and Nevis began offering citizenship way back in 1984. Dominica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Turks and Caicos later joined them.
Reports say lawmakers in St Lucia have already approved the plan and the program will come into effect on 1 January 2016. But an independent board to supervise the program is yet to be set up and the government is yet to disclose the minimum investment threshold for investors seeking citizenship.
“Saint Lucia will not just be offering citizenship but also an identity,” prime minister said in a statement, adding that offering citizenship is “a viable alternative” to lure investment. He stressed that new citizens must enhance Saint Lucia’s global standing and ensure that the country’s proud heritage endures.
Critics say the program would undermine the value of passports and pose security concerns, but the government says it has run out of most other options to revive the flagging economy amidst growing unemployment and public debt.
The decision comes a year after a task force assigned to analyze economic activities concluded in its report that only citizenship-by-investment program could help St Lucia enjoy sustainable economic growth.
Although citizenship-by-investment is not a new even in wealthy countries such as the United States and Britain, some Caribbean countries offer cheaper and almost immediate routes to full citizenship in exchange for a one-off investment.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, for example, the entire process, including background checks, takes as little as 90 days.