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PM – Economic citizenship and citizenship granted under general law are different

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The difference between economic citizenship and citizenship bestowed on persons under the Unity Labour Party administration is clear.{{more}}

So says Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as he differentiated between the Economic Citizenship program of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and citizenship issued under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, last week in a press conference, questioned Gonsalves as to the difference between the Economic Citizenship programme of the New Democratic Party, and the means by which Harlequin CEO Dave Ames became a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“They introduced that in the 1990s,” Dr Gonsalves explained.

“The essence of the program is that you will pay a sum of money, I think it was fifty thousand dollars, for a passport, and you invest in something else up to the tune of fifty or seventy-five thousand dollars,” he said.

“We repealed that when we came to office, because I repeat, citizenship is the highest office of this land… and the passport, which is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship… that passport is not a commodity to be used in a transaction of sale.”

Dr Gonsalves, in contrast, said that persons who obtained citizenship, but not under economic citizenship, had come to the country to either reside or visit, and had made various investments.

“After the passage of a number of years, they say ‘we would like to be citizens,’ because they have put down a certain amount of resources here, or in some cases they have lived here a number of years.

“Then that application, made in the normal manner, is considered by the minister responsible for citizenship, who is the prime minister.”

Ames, the CEO and Chairman of Harlequin, the developers of the $400 million Buccament Bay Resort, revealed in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT two weeks ago that he is now a citizen of this country.

The Prime Minister pointed out that not all applications for citizenship will be approved, and that a foreigner living here for a number of years is not automatically guaranteed citizenship.

According to the Prime Minister, other ways that a person may become citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines include birth, descent, marriage, naturalization, residence plus contribution.

He said that persons have been granted legitimate citizenship by his administration over the years, as well as during the NDP administration.

“Anybody who can’t see the difference between citizenship granted under the general law and an economic citizenship, where you actually pay up front…. This is not a basis of anybody paying up front for anything; this is a basis of somebody making an important contribution in the country.

“And if Mr Eustace cannot see a difference between economic citizenship and that, well I really sorry for him, because the thing to me is so elementary.”(JJ)