February 2, 2010

Marketing migration to St. Vincent...

In defence of Vincentian citizenship


Published on: 2/2/2010 in the Barbados Nation newspaper


THE FIRM declaration this past weekend by Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves against bartering his country's passport under a so-called "economic citizenship" scheme to attract foreign investment, deserves commendation.

As he told the St Vincent and Grenadines parliament last Friday, his administration had set its face against continuation of any such scheme and urged the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) to also make abundantly clear its stand against the sale of Vincentian passports as a form of economic citizenship.

At this period of quite challenging financial and economic problems for countries of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it is very important that strenuous efforts be made to guard against any kind of bartering with external forces and elements that could prove injurious to national sovereignty and dignity.

Starting in the decade of the 1980s a number of CARICOM countries located within the subregion of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) had become susceptible to an externally-influenced programme of awarding citizenship and passports to foreigners in exchange for economic investment.

As it was, at the outset, so was it to largely prove - a project of doubtful value as a means of attracting serious investment for meaningful economic development in ANY country of this region.

That so-called "economic citizenship" programme had coincided, in some Eastern Caribbean islands, with increasing activities by Taiwan - the breakaway island of the People's Republic of China - to win "recognition" support among political parties that, in turn, became beneficiaries of funding from Taipei, particularly at times of national elections.

However, with passing years the bartering of "citizenship" for "investment" were to significantly diminish and, separately, Taiwan kept losing to China as a preferred partner by countries in this region, with St Lucia to prove a strange case of ditching Beijing for a return to Taipei, and currently the focus of national controversy over recurring instances of chronicled distasteful diplomatic behaviour by its resident representative.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines both Gonsalves' governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) and Arnhim Eustace's NDP (which he inherited from Sir James Mitchell), are known to have close ties with Taiwan.

But though not linked, the economic citizenship programme was suspended by Gonsalves as relations with Taipei continued. He has now disclosed to his parliament receipt of a letter from an unnamed company, dated December 14, 2009, involved in marketing a migration programme representing some 3 500 persons and involving an investment of US$313.8 million (BDS$626.6 million)

Prime Minister Gonsalves has revealed that his written response to the company's offer was that "the highest office in our land is that of citizen and it is NOT for SALE . . .".

A commendable stand, indeed, in defence of the meaning citizenship and sovereignty - a definition that should be applicable not ONLY for Vincentians.

1 comment:

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