Tuesday 31 March, 2020

PM Chastanet reacts to low ranking: 'I'm very proud of St Lucia's CIP'

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is very proud of St Lucia's Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).

A study by website Best Citizenship ranked St Lucia's CIP as the weakest option available in the world today out of 11 countries earlier this week.

Loop News spoke with the prime minister on the subject of CIP ahead of a session of parliament today, December 10, 2019.

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“I think that Saint Lucia has done a great job. I’m very proud of our CIP program. Is our CIP program as successful as many of the other ones? Certainly not in terms of number of passports we’re selling but I believe we have one of the highest, if not the highest, standard of integrity in this region when it comes to the CIP.”

“My government is very proud of the fact that we continue to run this program in a very transparent and accountable manner.”

Best Citizenships scored St Lucia very well in terms of due dilligence, awarding a 9 out of 10 points but gave a low score for transparency. They said of their due diligence grade that "background screening and enhanced due diligence checks applied by CBI (CIP) countries are an important indicator for the reputation of the CBI schemes."

For transparency they looked for governments to publish annual reports showing investment raised, applications received, passports issued, nationality of investors etc and found that St Lucia only partially fulfilled their criteria.

Loop News also asked Ernest Hilaire, the SLP spokesman on CIP and a former CIP chairman, if the Labour Party felt vindicated over the assessment of St Lucia’s CIP as lacking in comparison to other options.

“We are never happy if St Lucia is ranked worst in anything, so as the Labour Party we find no comfort in that. In some ways, it’s a reflection of what we’ve been saying in terms of how the program has been structured and how it presently is being managed. We certainly want the program to be better managed and to be better structured and hopefully, it will be ranked higher and bring more returns to the country," said Hilaire.

The prime minister spoke in detail about why he was highly satisfied with the transparency of our CIP.

He spoke to leadership saying that the chairman of the program is well established in the business world with experience in compliance and good governance and that the CEO is trained in compliance, works with the FIA office, and was head of compliance at the Bank of St Lucia.

He highlighted independence noting that the approvals and the vetting is all done by the CIP unit, with the minister’s office only signing off on certificates.

The relevant act currently calls for the appeals to be directly made to the minister. The prime minister says that he has appointed an independent group of people, with legislation being passed to formalize it, to handle the appeals process.

The prime minister noted the former government formed an economic council but never created the applicable regulations, resulting in the body not being able to function. He says he indicated to the public that while this was being resolved that monies would go into the consolidated fund, where the only way that money can be spent is through the approval of the appropriations bill. This, he says, means that there is full accountability in how the money is being earned and that there is parliamentary approval for how government would spend the money.

On transparency, the prime minister said that the government has always brought the annual CIP reports to the house and that the house is also provided with all the names of the people who have been approved. “We know how much money we’ve earned, we know how many passports we’ve sold, we know the name of the people who have had passports and all of these issues have been brought to parliament."

Prime Minister Chastanet noted that the economic fund now acts as a wealth fund for St Lucia and that the fund can lend money to the government to be able to do capital projects or to reduce the debt of the nation.

As an example, a deposit could be made into the St Lucia Development Bank, where the asset value of the wealth fund remains intact and that the development bank can use those monies to lend to the public of St Lucia.

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