Saint Lucia
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Reflections on the CBI

About 5 years ago, I did something that made me very uncomfortable for some time afterwards.

Sitting next to me on an American Airlines flight from the Caribbean to Washington, D.C., was an unhappy white American male. Spotting my Saint Lucia passport, he asked if I had any Government contacts at home. He revealed that he was a Citizen-by-Investment (CBI) investor-broker and had traveled from San Francisco for discussions with the government of the Caribbean country we were leaving. He was quite upset with government officials there who “didn’t seem to know what they are about.” He was prepared to take his business elsewhere and asked if a trip to Saint Lucia would be worth his while. I hesitated before responding and with good reason. I didn’t know the gentleman and aside from PM Chastanet, I didn’t know the officials in charge of our CBI. But the main reason for my hesitancy was/is because as I’ve stated elsewhere, while I am conscious of the vital revenue it generates, I am not a fan of the CBI. Nevertheless, I promised to put him in touch with the PM and/or other CBI officials in Saint Lucia. On arriving “home” I did some online research on the investor and finding nothing untoward, I put him in contact with local CBI officials. Still, I wondered whether I was being true to myself, feeling as strongly as I do about CBI programmes. Eventually, I reasoned that I should not allow my personal feelings to stand in the way of a possible investment opportunity that may generate social and economic benefits for my country and people.

The Roots of My Discomfort

My unease over the sale of our passports is rooted in an overpowering sense of nationalism. I can find no valid reason for a country to sell its citizenship without any naturalization requirement. For me, my passport is more than a national identity document; it’s also a short form of my birth certificate. It’s one piece of evidence of my uniqueness as an individual. It says that I am one of about 200,000 people born in one of the most beautiful, enchanting, and unique countries in the world. It would be as impossible for me to sell my passport as it would be to sell my birth certificate. But my discomfort with CBIs has another dimension. I feel we are selling the privilege of visa-free access given to us by other countries. I don’t know if at the outset of their respective schemes, Eastern Caribbean countries sought the EU’s permission to do so. But it was always clear to me that we could not use this privilege as we pleased and that it could be taken away at any time.

Memories of the Hassle

I remember as a teenager, the hassle involved in getting a visa to enter nearby Martinique. Before Schengen visa-free access was granted to Saint Lucia and other Caribbean countries, applicants had to provide proof of health status, insurance coverage, adequate financial support, invitation letter, return air ticket etc.; and wait for between 3-5 days for a response. Imagine my joy therefore, when in 2015, Schengen States allowed Caribbean countries visa-free access. I was able to present my passport to an immigration officer in Berlin, have it stamped liketty-split and go about my business. Moreover, with that stamp of approval, I was able to travel hassle-free to other Schengen States while on that same trip. This why I became quite concerned when the UK withdrew visa-free access to Dominica passport holders, due to issues with its CBI programme. While the UK has never been part of the Schengen system, I thought its action on Dominica was a signal of possible similar action by the EU on Saint Lucia and other CBI states.

Reason for Hope

It’s reported that in March 2023, the PMs of CBI-countries -Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia-met with a team of US officials led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Department, to discuss changes to their CBIs. These changes (principles) seemed obvious and justified. They include: (1) agreement on “treatment of denials” meaning that if an applicant is denied by one country, he/she should not be able to apply in another Caribbean jurisdiction and that details of denials must be shared among Caribbean CBI countries; (2) face-to-face interviews and additional financial “due diligence” for every CBI applicant, to combat money laundering; (3) passports be recovered from anyone whose citizenship is revoked by any of the Caribbean countries; and (4) processing of applications by Russians and Belarusians be stopped.

I found these requirements quite intriguing. The fact that they were insisted upon by the US implied that they were not being implemented by one or more countries. After the meeting with the US, PM Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbados acknowledged the obvious: that Caribbean CBI countries had “little choice but to cooperate and collaborate with the US.” Still, the good news coming out of that meeting was that the US recognised the economic benefits of CBIs to the Caribbean and promised to facilitate a similar agreement with the EU and the UK to keep the CBI programs alive. For me, that was a “big deal.”

Hope Under Threat

Now, six months later, the CBI is yet again facing the gauntlet. On October 18, 2023, the EU Commission issued a troubling report documenting its concerns regarding the management of the CBIs of five Eastern Caribbean CBI countries. The cited concerns include: (i) The high number of passports issued relative to the population of the countries; (ii) an “extremely low rejection rate” of applications, ranging between 3% and 6%; (iii) short processing times (as little as 2-months in some cases) “which raises questions as regards the thoroughness of security screening”; (iv) the absence of a systematic exchange of information between CBI countries and an applicant’s country of origin; (v) the use of private companies throughout the application and screening process–for in-person checks and verification of documents- “which raises doubts as regards access to law enforcement and judicial authorities information in the applicant’s  country of origin or main past residence”; and (vi) the ability afforded to applicants to change their identities after obtaining CBI status.

The report ends on a hopeful note. It says that while bilateral consultations are ongoing -presumably with Schengen countries- the Commission will continue to work in close collaboration with third countries once it has completed its assessment.” Still, in the report, the Commission shares its displeasure over the fact that passports are being issued to citizens of countries that would ordinarily require visas to enter the EU. The Commission makes no bones about the fact that it is opposed to CBI schemes “that are commercially promoted as providing visa-free access to the EU.” Chillingly, page 36 of the report categorically states:

“The purpose of visa waiver agreements is to facilitate people-to-people contacts between the EU and a third country NOT TO ENABLE NATIONALS OF VISA-REQUIRED THIRD COUNTRIES TO CIRCUMVENT THE EU’S SHORT-TERM VISA PROCEDURE THROUGH THE ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP. (Emphasis is mine)


What’s clear is that the EU is holding all the cards on the CBI. Caribbean CBI countries will have to ensure they fall in lockstep with the EU. They may even have to fall in line with the EU’s foreign policies as well. The EU is massaging our backs on the CBI, and we must have our massage oils on hand in case we are asked to return the favour.

As I said, I’m not a fan of CBIs. Still, it’s my sincere hope that Lucia and other OECS countries can continue to raise much-needed revenue from their respective programmes in a manner that satisfies the EU.