As Vincentians go to the polls on Thursday, they are effectively casting a vote for or against citizenship by investment.
The United Labour Party’s (ULP) Ralph Gonsalves has been Prime Minister of Saint Vincent & The Grenadines for nearly two decades. The longest consecutively-serving head of government in the Americas (16th globally) has steadfastly refused to consider opening a citizenship by investment program in the Caribbean country, a practice he considers antithetical to the very notion of nationality and one which he believes, in any case, could not feasibly be undertaken with an adequate degree of due diligence by a small country with limited vetting capacity.
“Everybody can go about selling passports if they want and selling citizenship. The government that I head will never do it,” PM Gonsalves said last year.
Reiterating his stance in statements made on the occasion of Independence Day celebrations last week, the PM told supporters that “we recommit ourselves to defending our national identity, defending our passports, defending our land, and defending what it means to be Vincentian. On November 5th, we will decide whether we should sell out our identity, our passports, and our land, or if we will defend the nation. The choice is yours.”
By contrast, Gonsalves’ chief rival for the Prime Minister’s seat, Dr. Godwin Friday, head of the New Democratic Party (NDP), has repeatedly urged Gonsalves to consider a CIP and promised to introduce one should he win the election because, he said last year, a CIP “can be used to fund serious infrastructural projects that will have great spin-off for the economy of countries in which it is implemented.”
The ULP edged out the NDP by seven seats to eight in both the 2010 and 2015 elections, margins the NDP are hoping will turn to their favor under the new leadership of Dr. Friday.
On November the 5th, Vincentians will either choose to grant PM Gonsalves a fifth consecutive term or end his tenure in favor of Dr. Friday and the NDP. Though the question of citizenship by investment may not feature foremost among the political priorities of voters, the outcome of the election will, effectively, also determine whether we’ll see a 6th Caribbean CIP.
Though opposed to the introduction of a CIP in his own country, Gonsalves has, on several occasions, defended the sovereign right of other Caribbean countries to do so in the face of what he has termed EU “bullying”.
Addressing Parliament last year, PM Gonsalves said “although I do not support, on the grounds of principle and practicality, the matter of citizenship by investment — selling of passports and citizenship, and I am not making a partisan political point here — I have made the point publicly that the manner in which the European Union is going about addressing countries with that question is also one of bullying. We can have our argument internally but I am raising the larger question on which we must all be united in this honourable house and in this nation and in the Caribbean.”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.