The cash-strapped Keith Mitchell government in St. George’s says it is returning to the sale of passports under a citizenship programme aimed at bolstering the island’s economy.
In delivering the Throne speech last week Wednesday to a new sitting of Parliament, the New National Party (NNP) administration announced plans to return to its “Citizenship by Investment Programme” after suspending a similar Economic Citizenship programme before it lost power in 2008.
The new programme was one of several outlined by Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean as he delivered the speech to mark the official opening of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament at the Grenada Trade Centre.
“Government will soon introduce a Citizenship By Investment Programme. Such programmes have existed for a long time in many developed and developing countries”, he told Parliamentarians.
The programme will allow investors from throughout the world to buy their citizenship as part of the Government’s plans to build a New Economy, which the administration says need both local and foreign direct investment.
The NNP was forced to abandon its first controversial Economic Citizenship programme in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States.
The programme was suspended due to fear that local passports could mistakenly be sold to terrorists.
The programme, which saw the selling of Grenadian passports between 1997 and 2001, resulted in Canada imposing visa restrictions on Grenadian nationals and subsequently the country being internationally blacklisted until 2002.
Under the previous Economic Citizenship programme, full Grenadian citizenship for a family of five (spouses, plus 3 children under 25) could be gotten for a sum of US$50,000, of which US$39,060 went to the Grenadian government and US$11,000 to an agent handling processing and administrative work.
There were no residency requirements, except the need to reside in Grenada for six years to be eligible to vote and hold office.
The Mitchell-led party when in opposition constantly criticised the NDC administration of Tillman Thomas during its 2008-2013 rule of being responsible for foreign investors turning away from Grenada.
Dr. Mitchell gave assurances that his administration would lure genuine investors back to the island.
“In respect of foreign investors, Grenada wishes to attract clean and credible investors. In that regard, my Government will move swiftly to remove barriers to investment by boosting investor confidence in the management of the economy; further streamlining the investment facilitation process at the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation; and implementing Grenada’s Treaty Obligations in respect of the Aliens Landholding License,” Sir Carlyle read out in the Throne Speech.
“My Government will establish a committee to identify best practices for such programmes, review proposals from interested firms and make recommendations to Cabinet. This programme will require new legislation and my Government is committed to bring appropriate legislation to Parliament for this Programme within its first year in office”, he added.
The new Mitchell government identified a number of potential investment areas for the country such as roads, airports and ports, Agribusiness, Tourism, Energy sector (renewable and non-renewable), ICT and youth development.
The NNP government also disclosed its intention relating to casino gambling on the island as part of its commitment to build a new economy.
“My Government will give due consideration to the issue of casino gambling for visitors only as it considers how it can attract new and modern tourism developments to Grenada thereby providing much needed jobs,” said Sir Carlyle/
According to the Throne Speech, the new Government identified its priority as the building of a new economy that must provide jobs for those who wish to work, as well as provide business opportunities for those who choose to invest, opportunities for wealth creation and prosperity for those prepared to sacrifice and play by the rules and social justice for all who believe in equality and human rights.
Sir Carlyle went on to say that “in the immediate future, my Government will seek to reduce unemployment by implementing stimulus programmes for Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing, ICT and Financial Services. In the short term, particular emphasis will be placed on starting long delayed public sector projects such as the Agricultural Feeder Roads Phase II and the long promised House of Parliament”.
He said that special attention would be given to the small and micro-business sector including financing and business support services for entrepreneurs.
The Governor General stressed that the New Economy envisions a world-class tourism product.
“My Government will facilitate major private sector development projects in the Tourism and Hospitality sector. Furthermore, it will set up (a) Fund for Distressed Hotel Assets to help protect the investment of local entrepreneurs and stem the loss of jobs from the hotel industry”, he said.
“There will be more targeted and aggressive marketing of our destination in concert with the private sector. Government will also review and rationalise its current airlift arrangements to ensure their cost-effectiveness and optimal impact”, he added.