PM Harris defends hurricane relief fund

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Basseterre, St. Kitts-Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris has issued a stout defence to the government’s decision to establish a Hurricane Relief Fund in the Citizenship By Investment Unit despite Opposition objection.

The Prime Minister at his monthly press conference stated that the federation suffered significant damages from the hurricanes nearing $150m and the government is trying to restore normalcy as soon as possible.

“Hundreds of homes still carry tarpaulins, farmers’ feeder roads are still impassable in some areas. Our fisheries sector particularly in Dieppe Bay and Old Road received some significant structural damages so too did the education sector, as did sports and national security.”

He added that these are all unbudgeted expenditure for which they must find the resources to satisfy them.

“Relying on our own ingenuity and industry the cabinet accepted a proposal from Les Khan CEO of our Citizenship by Investment Unit to introduce the Hurricane relief fund as a third new offering under our Citizenship by Investment programme at a price pegged at USD $150,000. This offer is for a limited time of six months.”

Dr. Harris also rubbished claims that the new price point would undercut the CBI in Dominica who was more seriously impacted by Hurricane Maria.

“This price point is 50% higher than the $100,000 set by Dominica and St. Lucia for their donation option. That recommendation which came after the first hurricane struck us was delayed until we had the second battering by Maria on September 19 and 20 in which the damages sustained were even more severe   and in fact more significantly higher on Nevis than was reported after Irma.

He added that the Federal Cabinet unanimously approved the recommendation and reaffirmed that there has not been no reduction in prices.

“To repeat what is the situation now St. Kitts and Nevis now has three products offer under its CBI programme. A real estate option priced at USD $400,000 no change no reduction, an SIDF option priced at USD $250,000 no change no reduction and a hurricane relief fund at USD 150,000 which is a new unique product not offered by any other country.”

He continued, “Rumours about reduction and price undercutting is purely opposition manufactured mischief. The facts are there, there has been no alteration and any of the products that were introduced by our CIU when we engaged with the hurricane relief fund. None of them has been withdrawn so the two that were there before are also in the market place at the same price.”

Dr. Harris further stated that the “hysteria” from the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Denzil Douglas about undermining Dominica’s recovery is not rooted in truth nor truism

“Dominica has its own product offerings which it has always priced below ours.  Its donation option for example has been for some period of time pegged at $100,000.”

Dr. Harris noted that the fund represents a forward thinking move by the Cabinet in response to the extraordinary occasion of being hit by two category five storms in the space of two weeks.

“It represents in our view a proactive response by the Cabinet to the extraordinary circumstances of our country being visited by the rare occurrences of two category five hurricanes that has left us with public sector damages that are accumulated to $150m.

“My cabinet’s responsibility is to first and foremost look after the interest of the people of the federation and we are and will always be fulfilling this most sacred responsibility. The hurricane relief fund is now fully operational with the proper constitutional and legal framework. Always we will act in the ambit of the law and restrict our actions of what is permissible and available in the four walls of the constitution.”

He indicated that the hurricane relief fund is ready for legitimate business and the government will not relax with their due diligence programme with this offering.

“Should the fund be successful we have already said we are prepared to provide additional monetary support to our neighbours,” Dr. Harris added.

The Prime Minister reminded that the Federation pioneered the CBI programme in 1984 and every other country that joined the market took the sovereign a decision to enter at price points lower than St. Kitts and Nevis.

“That is their sovereign right to do. We never condemned anyone for doing what they considered necessary for their country of for seeking to consolidate their position in the market.

“To be clear St. Kitts and Nevis beckons a future of greater harmonizing and commonality across the CBI programmes. We held the first OECS conference to work towards this goal as far back as 2015 as one of the first outreach by this government to reposition, restructure and reorganize a CBI programme that we inherited that had lost the trust of the international community. And we said let us do it together.”

He explained that all three of the CBI options will coexist and have their own market appeal based on the investors market preferences.

“There are some people who will want to go for the contribution option and there are some people who have different expectations regarding their investment and for them the real estate option makes more sense.

“They have their distinct market appeal, every buyer will make their choice that best suits their particular preferences at the moment in time.”

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