BASSETERRE, St Kitts (SKNIS) -- The St Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) has released audited financial statements for 2012 and 2013.
The audited financial statements of the SIDF had become a controversial issue under the former Dr Denzil Douglas-led administration, when it was accused of a lack of transparency and good governance in failing to publish the audited accounts for years. The last audited financial statements of the SIDF to be made public under the previous administration were in 2011.
Under the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programme, in order to qualify for economic citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis under the SIDF, the government requires non-refundable contributions into the SIDF of US$250,000 for a single applicant; US$300,000 for applicant with up to three family members (one spouse and two children below the age of 18); US$350,000 for applicant with up to five family members (one spouse and four children below the age of 18); and US$450,000 is required for applicant with up to seven family members.
Under the real estate option of the CBI programme, the government requires an investment in designated real estate with a value of at least US$400,000.
The new government of national unity promised to provide a full account of the financial management of the SIDF in its policy of transparency, accountability and good governance to the electorate. Since taking office in February 2015, Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris disclosed in the National Assembly that “as of the 31st of December, 2015, there were 10, 777 primary passports issued under the CBI programme.”
In what he described as “an onerous task” in obtaining the information of the issuance of passports under the programme before 2005, Harris reported that, in 2005, six passports were issued; in 2006, there were 19 issued; 2007 saw the issue of 75, while in 2008 there were 202 passports; in 2009, there were 292 passports issued; in 2010, 664 were issued; in 2011, there were 1092; 1,758 passports were issued in 2012; 2,044 in 2013; in 2014, there were 2,329; and 2015, 2,296.
Figures with respect to how many persons have become economic citizens under the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI programme had been veiled in secrecy under the Douglas-led regime for over 20 years, despite requests by the media and others for that information.
Also, the CBI programme came in for scathing criticism from countries such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for bad management under the former administration, which resulted in the removal of the Canadian visa waiver, as well as the issue of an advisory by the US Treasury.
Additionally, a prominent attorney in St Kitts and Nevis charged that the former Douglas administration set up and operated the SIDF in breach of section 69 of the St Kitts and Nevis Constitution.
Charles Wilkin QC, speaking at the 2015 National Consultation on the Economy on October 22 under the theme “Changing Lives – A Fresh Start Towards Sustainable Development, Growth and Prosperity”, said that he hoped that the new government will abide by the constitution with respect to the SIDF.
A recent report from Henley & Partners, a citizenship-by-investment international planning firm, has ranked the St Kitts and Nevis passport as fourth among the Caribbean’s Top Ten Most Powerful Passports according to a visa restriction index. St Kitts and Nevis passport ranked 32 globally and gives visa-free entry to 132 countries.
The citizenship-by-investment international planning firm also praised the new Harris-led government, saying that a change in the administration in St Kitts-Nevis has resulted in a positive change for the St Kitts-Nevis passport in terms of its powerful ranking.
The St Kitts and Nevis CBI programme has been undergoing several reforms since the government of national unity assumed office on February 16, 2015. Some of these reforms include bolstering the management of the Citizenship-by-Investment-Unit by adding professional and expert staff and making organizational changes that allow for a more client-focused team, the introduction of a new citizen case management system, the first of its kind in the Caribbean that will allow for faster processing of applications and the commissioning of a Technical Committee, which institutes a more formal and documented process over the denial of applications.
Harris said that he is confident that these changes will assist in launching the programme into a progressive and prosperous future.