A senior member of the ruling New National Party (NNP) wants his colleagues to treat cautiously with new legislation before Parliament on the sale of Grenada’s citizenship to foreigners in order to raise money for the cash-strapped island.
Parliamentary Representative for St George North-East, Tobias Clement expressed his concerns in his contribution to the debate on the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, 2013 at the last sitting of Parliament on Friday.
The legislation seeks to make provisions for persons looking to acquire residence and citizenship of Grenada through an investment project in Grenada.
Clement told the House of Representatives that while he supports the draft legislation, he is still cautious with it.
“Mr. Speaker, I too rise to give support to the Bill as presented by the Minister of Finance, but I approach cautiously, I should say cautiously optimistic. (The) Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, very important Bill I would say in my mind”, he told legislators..
Clement, one of three MP’s who are not working directly with government, said that he studied the Bill and listened the contributions of his colleagues and is deeply concerned with the prospect of millionaires swarming the shores of Grenada.
He said: “The member from St David’s (Oliver Joseph) was talking about the amount of millionaires and Billionaires in our world today and probably we want to get Grenada into the mix to help bring in some of these people, but my question is at what pace? And how fast?’
“Now if I say to you that when this thing is open and for the fist year we have about 50 millionaires or 100 billionaires coming here, Grenada would get awfully hot. Do we have any mechanism for cooling it off?
“My question is Mr. Speaker, my question is – if too many millionaires come into Grenada and they want to invest in properties in Grenada as the Minister of Finance said … what would happen to our little people here in Grenada who are not millionaires?
“You would see the price of properties going up, … How many of these people would we tolerate at one particular point in time in Grenada?”
Clement, a lecturer at St George’s University, said that he is aware that similar Citizenship by investment programmes exist throughout the world but is equally concerned about the investment challenges these foreign people can create for local small businesses.
He suggested that government should seek to get the expatriates into various areas of the economy and keep them away from those activities that are already undertaken by locals.
The St. George South-east MP also recommended the formation of a panel, which includes an attorney-at-law with at least 10 years of practical experience to review applications that were denied.
Clement wants an assurance that the lawyer selected would recluse him or herself from the deliberations when it involves one of his personal client and suggested that the attorney-at-law be replaced by a judge or a magistrate to ensure transparency in the process.
In concluding the debate on the Bill, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell addressed Clement’s concerns saying that the possibility of several billionaires flocking the country at one particular time is highly unlikely and that the programme as outlined through the establishment of a special fund would instead save struggling small businesses and help to create jobs.
He added that investments would have to be first approved by government after consultations with the established committee and stakeholders.
A previous sale of passports programme under a former Mitchell-led NNP administration was halted after several questionable characters ended up with Grenadian passports.
Two of the infamous characters were Ambassador Eric Resteiner who was accused of paying Dr. Mitchell one million U.S dollars in the form of a bribe to land a diplomatic posting, as well as Viktor Kozeny, known as the Pirate of Prague who was turned down by the British as a diplomat to the Grenada High Commission in London.