St. Kitts and Nevis’ CBI program enjoys resurgent reputation
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – When the government of National Unity led by the prime minister, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, commemorates the halfway point of its five-year contract with the people of St. Kitts and Nevis next month, he claims there will be a lot to celebrate.
As proof, he points to the prominence among the government’s notable achievements of the dramatic improvements made to the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Program. In short, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment Program has experienced a resurgent reputation locally, regionally and internationally since the Team Unity administration entered office in February 2015.
Harris said the reputation of the program had reached an embarrassing nadir under the Dr. Denzil Douglas-led regime for an array of reasons, one of which he claimed was the snail-like pace of the processing of applications at the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU).
The CIU had amassed a backlog of more than 1,500 citizenship applications by the time the Team Unity government entered office.
“When the government got into office in February 2015, the Citizenship by Investment Unit had applications in excess of 18 months, averaging 12 months; there was a massive bottleneck at the unit,” said the attorney general, the Hon. Vincent Byron, Jr., said April 28, 2016, when Harris and members of his cabinet met at government headquarters with officials from the St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The meeting took the form of a roundtable discussion on the economy and other matters of national interest.
Byron continued: “The Moghadam issue, the FinCEN advisory, and the [St. Kitts-Nevis] visa-free status being revoked by Canada [all of which occurred under the Denzil Douglas regime] are what have dominated the airwaves, but [also dominating the concerns on the ground was that] service providers had lost confidence and felt that they could not get their applications addressed.”
A skilled management team guided by the CIU’s new CEO, Les Khan, has since handled the backlog. Confidence in the program was further improved with the introduction of a 24-7 case management system, which allows service providers to digitally access information on the status of their applications at any time.
Importantly, too, the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Index – which was launched this month by Professional Wealth Management, a publication of The Financial Times – acknowledges St. Kitts and Nevis’ CBI Program as an industry leader. Compared with 11 other countries that populate the CBI industry, St. Kitts and Nevis finished on top of the CBI Index in the due diligence component, as well as in speed and ease of processing applications, and mandatory travel or residence requirements.
Furthermore, the IMF mission staff who recently visited St. Kitts and Nevis wrote in their concluding statement on May 12, 2017, that “The authorities made significant efforts to strengthen the CBI program, given risks to CBI revenues in a challenging regional and global environment.”
The IMF staff added: “They [the St. Kitts-Nevis authorities] have strengthened the due-diligence process with dedicated resources and global collaboration, as this is essential to reduce integrity and security risks, preserve the program’s credibility, and avoid a race-to-the-bottom.”
Also in the month of May, Harris detailed the painstaking efforts that the government of National Unity has engaged in to turn around the program.
“We (a) met with international partners, (b) hired the international due diligence firm IPSA to do an intensive review and a ‘look back’ at thousands of citizenship applications previously granted – some have been found to be problematic, and corrective action was taken; we have comprehensively implemented the reforms suggested by IPSA, (c) hired new, additional due diligence firms of high international repute, (d) increased partnerships with friendly governments such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, and (e) commanded high praise from the IMF, CDB, ECCB, and other international partners,” the prime minister said.
“We believe that we have one of the best programs in the world today, which remains the Rolls-Royce of the global industry,” Harris added.