Under Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris the country's appeal is increasing as more people consider a second citizenship.
The picturesque Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis is garnering global attention for its innovative Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme that was launched more than three decades ago.
Under Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris the country's appeal is increasing as more people consider a second citizenship and safe avenues for investment in a secure and democratic country. PM Harris is a consensus-builder who takes a long-term view of the situation and the opportunities that present themselves. The coronavirus pandemic may have impacted world tourism but St Kitts and Nevis has managed to contain cases quickly and is now ready to receive both visitors and economic investors with open arms.
Dr Harris heads a unity government in St Kitts and Nevis that seeks to take all stakeholders along on the path to development. In a recent interview with Khaleej Times, he said the CBI programme has helped the country build infrastructure rapidly after it emerged as an independent nation from Britain.
A commitment to be self-reliant has helped the country weather social and economic challenges over the decades. Dr Harris takes pride in country's achievements in such a short span of time while also giving credit to the founding fathers of the island nation who saw the potential of the CBI scheme way back in the eighties.
"We became an independent nation (in 1983), and therefore we had to face all the challenges of development, basically using our own ingenuity, industry and resources," the PM said.
"Developing a small state is never easy, because you start with the restriction in size - size of population, physical geography...All those things can strain the level and pace of development. So when we engineered the Citizenship by Investment Programme, it was intended to create an alternative pathway for growth and development."
The PM is clear that sustainable and eco-friendly growth is the way forward for his nation and said St Kitts and Nevis offers a platinum CBI programme that is a cut above the rest. The scheme has not only succeeded in drawing investment to his country but has also garnered goodwill. Globally, the CBI programme has enhanced the country's stature. An annual tourist spot for vacationers, St Kitts and Nevis is also now being viewed as a family-friendly destination. Famed for its natural beauty, the country is a major draw for tourists who like the serenity and the hospitable people.
A St Kitts and Nevis passport is not just a route to a economic citizenship. Citizens can literally go places with the passports without pre-approved visas to over 150 countries. The Caribbean nation introduced the programme back in 1984, a year after gaining independence from Britain and Dr Harris is keen to taking it to a new level and expedite projects that ensure citizens welfare.
The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed CBI-sponsored initiatives, the PM said. Even sports projects are being fast-tracked, like the international athletic track on the island of Nevis. Dr Harris said his government sees great potential from tourism projects. A second cruise pier was completed using CBI funds. Both the public and private sectors benefit from the programme, he said.
"If we were to look at sports development - and sports development is critical to us within the region - we have invested, for example, in the international athletic track in the sister island of Nevis," Dr Harris said. "We have invested in health services and expanded delivery of healthcare in the sister island of Nevis, and certainly on St Kitts too.. We have been able to support training programmes to prepare thousands of our people for real work opportunities when they would arise," he added.
When asked if economic citizens have the same rights as those born in St Kitts and Nevis, he relplied: "Economic citizens are part of our citizenry and enjoy the same rights. In St Kitts and Nevis, the constitution does not discriminate among citizens - those born here, those who become citizens by marriage or those who have been granted economic citizenship."
According to estimates, 35 per cent of government revenue comes from the CBI programme. Those seeking citizenship need not reside in the country but must pass some of the toughest due diligence checks. "A strict internal and external vetting process ensures only deserving and talented aspirants are granted economic citizenship," the PM said.
Once their application is cleared by authorities, they can contribute to a government fund which remains the fastest and safest route to second citizenship. "This gives them lifetime rights to live, work and study in the country, and access to high-quality healthcare and education," said Dr Harris.
The country's Sustainable Growth Fund benefits from the CBI programme and has been earmarked for education, healthcare, alternative energy and heritage.