Health Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen says the implementation of the controversial Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, 2013 is all about helping to pay off the national debt, as well as salaries and creating job opportunities through a number of programmes.
The senior government minister made the statement at the last sitting of Parliament in which she made a contribution to the Bill which seeks to make provisions for persons looking to acquire residence and citizenship of Grenada by registration through an investment in Grenada.
In voicing strong support for the bill, she described as “a very wise move” the decision of the ruling New National Party (NNP) under Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to implement legislation to enable the sale of Grenada’s passports to raise revenue for the island.
Modeste-Curwen admitted that there were problems with the previous economic citizenship programme of a previous NNP administration of Dr. Mitchell between 1997 and 2001, but it had brought some positive benefits for some individuals and the country.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell tabled the Bill saying the draft legislation is an extremely important one for the government and people of Grenada.
He was confident that it will protect Grenada’s good name and provide tremendous job opportunities for Grenadians who, he said for years, have not been able to get a chance to “earn a bread.”
A confirmed figure for the cost of obtaining citizenship in Grenada is yet to be ascertained but the Prime Minister said that $1 million has been banded about.
The NNP was forced to abandon its controversial Economic Citizenship programme in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States out of fears that local passports could end up in the hands of terrorists.
As regards the previous programme, Prime Minister Mitchell acknowledged that it was affected by a lack of mechanisms for due-diligence and that some people took advantage of its administrative weaknesses, which caused a lot of pain to him personally, as well as the government itself.
“It is well known that the persons who abused the programme the most, were the ones who came out swinging against the government and against myself”, he said.
“Those who made millions, and I remember telling them Mr. Speaker, you, who are benefiting from the programme the most … and encouraged the problems in the system are the ones making the most noise”, he added.
According to Dr. Mitchell, he warned back then “those of you who are doing everything to cause the programme to be cancelled would be the ones that in fact would loose out the most”.
The Prime Minister gave assurances that the new programme to sell Grenadian passports would be properly scrutinised and when established, would create economic opportunities, as well as protect Grenada’s good name, provide jobs in the public and private sectors and create opportunities for citizens.
Speaking in support of the programme, Education Minister Anthony Boatswain pointed out that the sale of Grenadian citizenship is not about promoting the sale of passports but rather the sale of economic opportunities in Grenada.
“We are not promoting the sale of passport. That’s not what the programme is about. We are promoting the sale of economic opportunities in our country, that’s the essence of the programme,” he said.
Boatswain noted that other countries in the region such as St Kitts and Dominica have citizen investment programmes in place but the difference with the one being introduced by the NNP administration is Grenada’s insistence about residency.
He said: “In all of those countries they do not insist on a residency requirement, but here in Grenada, because we are so concerned about the protection of the image of our country, we have gone the extra mile to insist that those who apply for permanent residence should reside in our country”.
The education minister recalled that the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas had attempted to implement a citizenship programme in its dying days leading up to the February 19 General Election and as such has no legitimate or moral authority to attack the NNP Bill.
Minister Boatswain is convinced that the implementation of the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, 2013 would create long-term growth and sustainability for the economy.
He said the current government would not be sidetracked by any negative interventions of those people (NDC) and shy away from implementing the sale of passports programme.
“The aim of the programme is to raise the necessary capital for either private investment or public-private partnership in order to create long-term jobs for our people,” Boatswain said.
The Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, 2013 was approved with amendments and went to the Senate on Wednesday for approval.