“We are looking for high net worth individuals. We already have a lot of interest from Saudi Arabia,” Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Arab News in an interview during Arton Capital’s 2017 Global Citizen Forum in Sveti Stefan this week.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme – which in 2015 contributed a quarter of all government revenue – has seen application volumes crater in recent months as investors flowed to cheaper alternatives elsewhere in the region. Speaking to Parliament last week, the Prime Minister lamented that, while other Caribbean CIPs were thriving, Antigua’s program had received merely two applications in the last three months, bringing in only US$ 600,000.
The collapse in CBI revenue could not have come at a more inopportune moment; Having suffered crippling infrastructure and property damage after Hurricane Irma last month, the government estimates it will need several hundred million for reconstruction in Barbuda, where some 1,600 inhabitants were left homeless.
Send in the Brownes
Strapped for cash just when it’s most needed, the Antiguan government has quickly taken a pro-active approach to fund-raising. Last week, the Browne administration announced a 50% price cut to the CIP’s contribution option, fuelling the already prevalent regional concerns of a CIP price war and a “race to the bottom”.
Not long after, PM Browne went on the offensive in Washington DC, where he chided rich countries for “undermining development” in smaller countries by so-called de-risking and cutting off correspondent banking ties.
Now, in his latest public offensive to revive foreign investment in Antigua & Barbuda, Browne offers to bring Halal standards to islands in a bid to attract more Saudi interest in the country’s economic citizenship program.
“I want to encourage Saudis to invest in our safe, vibrant country. We are open arms to all cultures and want to please. We are open to suggestions and would look to build halal restaurants or hotels if that’s what Muslims want or need,” Browne told Arab News.
Image credit: Caribbean News Service