Dr Friday makes another pitch for Citizenship by Investment during 2019 Budget debate
A Citizen By Investment (CBI) programme in St Vincent and the Grenadines can fund several major projects without adding to the country’s debt.
This is the view expressed by Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday on Tuesday, during his presentation on the 2019 Budget.
Friday made reference to the geothermal project here, and said that the government was a minority shareholder. But in Dominica, the project there is run by the Dominica Geothermal Company, which is a fully government owned entity.
He further said that Dominica’s project was partly funded by the CBI programme and with additional funds coming from the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
“I spoke just now about the geothermal project, but to show how the Citizen by Investment programme basically can be used to fund serious infrastructural projects that will have great spin-off for the economy of countries in which it is implemented. It is disappointing for me to see that this government still is not seeing this about the CBI programme,” Friday said.
During the presentation of the Budget, finance minister Camillo Gonsalves said that some members of Parliament advocated the sale of passports as a means of development.
“We chose instead to believe, as Malcolm X once said, that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” As we continue on our developmental journey, the passport of education is the one on which we chose to invest,” Gonsalves said.
But the opposition leader said that under a CBI programme, not only education, but infrastructure, sporting facilities and other major projects can benefit as well.
He further stressed that there are major benefits to be derived from the programme if it were implemented in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said that other countries, including some in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have adopted a CBI programme and have garnered several economic benefits.
Friday said that St Kitts and Nevis generated a revenue of $767.9 million in 2014, Dominica generated $507 million in 2017 and Grenada generated $140 million in 2017 from their CBI programme alone.
And the opposition leader said that due diligence and security mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the strength and security of the programme.
“These are things Mr Speaker that you can’t just deal with in a vacuum and say we don’t want this programme because we’re not selling our patrimony. Who’s selling patrimony? There are alternative ways to finance the geothermal project where we will retain control of it; to finance the Mt Wynne project, and the Diamond hotel,” he said. “We’re not saying there aren’t disadvantages, but the benefits will outweigh the disadvantages because there are so many things we can do without having to go and add to the 1.61 billion dollar debt…”