Commentary: Economic citizenship in the Caribbean: A threat to Western security?
By Rebecca Theodore
As cash strapped Caribbean nations continue to hunt for ways of raising revenues amidst the turmoil of the economic crisis facing the world at large, economic citizenship presents an interesting portrait. Deemed controversial from its inception into the Caribbean domain, it now seems that this concept of providing a legal means of individual citizenship to a sovereign state is now anchoring another heated debate in international debates and dialogue.
While many contend that economic citizenship will create a new revenue stream for government and inward investment in the islands, critics are pessimistic about the low tax rates that economic citizenship offers to investors and its appeal to international criminals to evade taxes.
Many findings suggest that economic citizenship in the Caribbean can be a manipulative system and a national security risk that enable capital to be moved around freely especially at a time when industrialized nations like the United States and Canada are fastening down on so called tax havens in the Caribbean.
Despite the fact that economic citizenship evokes many nationalistic sentiments and abridges different inclinations as "the sale of land and passports to expatriates and terrorists," economic studies indicate that a high end economic citizen program will assist in attracting foreign direct investments and a larger skills pool to the Caribbean.
According to press reports, the Caribbean islands of Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis are the fastest emerging popular immigration destinations for recipients of economic citizenship in the Caribbean.
But while economic citizenship have eased the economic sufferings of many Kittitians by having a functional well respected international citizenship by investment program for more than 28 years, thus acquiescing profits and investments that include the EC billion-dollar Marriott resort, the Caribbean island of Dominica on the other hand presents a completely different picture.
The dispute over the cheap, dishonest sale of Dominica passports continues to be entangled in many claims in Washington that the island of Dominica is rapidly becoming a gateway for terrorists and can become a threat to the national security of the United States and Canada.
The continual mismanagement of passports by the Dominica government are a strong confirmation that this is not the purpose of economic citizenship, but the incompetency of corrupt officials that will in time become an insult to national security in the region and the world.
Arguably enough, it is also the contention of many that "it is impossible for economic citizenship to bring economic relief to citizens and government." However, with the ravaging effects of crime and illiteracy in the Caribbean, the returns from economic citizenship can be used to educate people on the destructive effects of crime and revolution, and also as the new advertising model to attract investors to the Caribbean.
Moreover, if all the profits from economic citizenship are used sensibly, then it can be an incentive to improve the living standards of people in the Caribbean as well.
If many Caribbean governments abstain from their fraudulent and avaricious ways, then economic citizenship can be combined and structured with tourism, investment, offshore financial services and diplomacy with Washington to achieve its desired goals of allowing successful applicants the opportunity to reside in a country where they can be protected from economic suffering, social confusions and political instabilities.
In this way, economic citizenship will stimulate economic growth and become an essential constituent of political literacy to citizens and foreigners alike.
In fairness, the development of the Caribbean depends on economic citizenship. It is now time for Caribbean governments to begin to reap the profits of economic citizenship by operating the program in a translucent manner with a bi-partisan parliamentary oversight committee with direct communication to Washington via their respective consulates in the United States.
At that juncture, economic citizenship will be the rudder to propel the Caribbean forward in the coming years
Rebecca Theodore is a syndicated columnist based in Washington DC. She writes on issues of national security, politics, human rights and climate change.