Press Secretary, Media Representative, Lesroy Williams, Director-General SKNIS.
We are afforded another opportunity to demonstrate our abiding commitment to the beloved people of St Kitts and Nevis and to give account of our stewardship. The Team Unity administration appreciates the constructive role of the responsible media in insisting on and facilitating such accountability.
Citizens are aware that the Team Unity administration inherited a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) bedeviled with problems – organizational and structural in nature. The programme had lost confidence and support of the citizens of the country who had become intolerant with the scandal plagued programme, and repulsed by the incompetence and dishonesty of the last administration which led to open condemnation of the programme by USA (May 2014 FINCEN Advisory) and Canada’s withdrawal of our visa free access.
Symptomatic of things falling apart, weaknesses were discovered in the quality assurance mechanism for the real estate market, and the escrow management system begged for a legislative response. Service providers, developers and agents knew that what pertained was not sustainable. Change had to come. Change came February 16, 2015. To God be the Glory.
Fresh Start to Our CBI
In the last eight months, while undertaking the challenging task of transition and consolidation of the people’s government, we have quietly but positively made tremendous progress in giving a fresh start to our CBI programme. We are rebuilding confidence anew to the market that was rocked by scandals, advisories and visa withdrawal. The past is our predecessors curse. Only the future is left to us to consecrate. The consecration of the future is a duty to which I am fully committed. I do my duty in the name and for the benefit of the thousands of people all over Nevis and St Kitts who appreciated that our country needed a fresh start, a new modus operandi, real progress, and a fair share for all.
Our scorecard of achievements and progress can be proudly enumerated and we do so now.
1. New ethos has evolved. We are in the business of development. We are global in outlook. We aim to be the best managed and most prosperous small island state. It is an honour and a privilege that we accord to others by allowing them to acquire our citizenship. They must respect themselves, respect our country and do nothing to sully our country’s good name or to compromise the benefits which our country and people enjoy. We want a discerning investor, informed enough to appreciate that we are the “gem in the region” and they should have an enduring interest in preserving this gem.
In sum, the citizens who come by way of our CBI programme must add value to St Kitts and Nevis. Ours must be a discerning cadre of people with an enduring interest in making our country the best.
This is the message that I have been articulating at home and abroad. It is also the essence of the message that the majority got as we promoted the Citizenship by Investment programme in London, Miami, Singapore and Hong Kong in recent time. I thank C S Global for being a wonderful host last week to us in Singapore, Hong Kong, and before that, in London. I am indebted to our Attorney General for his unswerving outstanding support at our debut promotion in London and our last two events in Singapore and Hong Kong. Permanent Secretary, Osbert DeSuza accompanied me to the Henley and Partners Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in Miami. I thank Henley and Partners for inviting me and the courtesies extended to my delegation.
We met with service providers, developers, agents past and present. My delegation left Asia, confident that our CBI programme is better and stronger for the reformswhich we made. We can now face the future with confidence.
The progress attained so far is the result of a collaborative effort. Let me thank those who have been at the forefront of the progress, the Cabinet including the Cabinet Secretary, who presided over our orderly manpower management at CBI unit, IPSA International for diligently working on the reform agenda, the Technical Committee, the government of the USA, UK, EU, and Canada for their helpful support, the staff at CBI Unit, agents, developers, and service providers in both St Kitts and Nevis. Rupert Wright and Derrick Greene guided us well on messaging.
2. We aim to diversify and reposition the economy so that its economic fortunes are not overly reliant on the citizenship programme. We will welcome FDI in other areas such as to diversify our tourism plant, to establish a viable medical tourism infrastructure, to introduce ICT entities to St Kitts and Nevis, and in giving our country a fresh start in food production. Our tax incentives will be revisited to give support to pioneering economic activity in new industries such as geothermal energy. Hon Ian Patches Liburd has been working sensibly and diligently to bring geothermal into realization in St Kitts and Nevis.
Since assuming office, the Team Unity administration has been working on an agenda of reform. The substantive reforms include:
a) Organizational Reforms at our CBI Unit. These reforms have resulted in a Unit better suited to fulfilling its mandate. New members of staff have been judiciously selected to enhance the capacity and capability of the Unit to deliver excellent service, i.e services competently and professionally delivered, not some times but all the time.
A new management cadre is identifiable for the first time. Skills set in immigration, finance, international banking, customer service, taxation, and anti-money laundering, are now at the Unit’s command. A new sense of focus and confidence has emerged.
Ongoing training is now being imbedded in the culture at CBIUnit.
Case management system which puts us above all other programmes with its capacity for service providers to interact with our Unit 24 hours/7 days per week. This system was unveiled and formally presented to interested parties at a meeting at the Marriott Hotel on Friday, October, 16, 2015.
Substantial progress on institutional strengthening through action to date on 19 of the 20 IPSA recommendations.
A Technical Committee has now been established to address issues of denial. The Committee meets regularly. It comprises: Mr Osbert DeSuza, Ms Karen Hughes, Ms Tevince Coker, Mrs Cecile Jeffers, Mr Michael Penny, and Mr Orin Roberts. All members have been oriented and are working free of cost.
b) Legislative Actions Taken
The St Christopher and Nevis Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: was amended to allow our Country to prohibit from participating in our programme entities from nations designated as engaging in terrorism and other criminal acts related thereto. Given the amorphous nature of terrorist entities further refinement of this legislation is to occur.
Escrow Accounts: We have had a first reading of the St Christopher and Nevis Citizenship (CBI Escrow Accounts) Bill which is intended to ensure that the resources committed to real estate purchases are all used only for intended purposes. We have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the programme. We have received feedback from service providers, developers, and legal association and persons. We propose a meeting to listen and address all concerns, thus providing an opportunity for stakeholders to be a part of the process of positive change at the Citizenship by Investment Programme.
c) Recalibrating Our Relations with the UK, USA, EU and Canada is a work in progress. We shall always cooperate with our allies in our national interest and in furtherance of our broader commitment to global security, peace and prosperity. Our continuing participation in the Global Forum, the passage of FATCA and our insistence that we want only legitimate businesses, and our insistence on the best due diligence practices, all help to renew confidence of our allies and our citizens in our programme and Country. We are pursuing quiet diplomacy to resolve issues to mutual satisfaction whenever issues arise.
d) We are pioneers in what is a global industry. We must restore the legacy of leadership and prestige by our ability to attract only the best for St Kitts and Nevis.
We hosted inaugural regional CBI Conferences, and in so doing, have provided leadership in the establishment of the industry’s standards, codes of practices, and the avoidance of bastardization of the industry. We are concerned about a march to the bottom if competitors do not accept standards. We refuse to be a part of that march.
We shall not be timid in asking our allies for their advice and support. No island stands alone. No country is too strong to warrant the support of another. We shall be open, transparent with our citizens and allies, bearing the broader national interest in mind.
We have rescued our CBI programme from the valley of dry bones. We are regaining the confidence of the world and though not fully out of the woods, we can breathe easy again. Our Programme is doing legitimate business. We are still the largest processor of applications in the region.
Sugar Workers Restoration Fund
We turn quickly to the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund. To date, we have paid out EC $9.3 million to 1560 beneficiaries. Of this amount, cheques totalling $703,971.00 were delivered to 43 shut-ins. There were 46 third Party claims for overseas residents totaling $297,007.00
With respect to claims on behalf of the deceased, the statistics reveal:
Deceased persons: Small Estate Claims under $5,000 = 35 processed ($98,484.00)
Large Estate Claims over $5,000. 55 processed ($774,013)
Fresh start at Development Bank
With respect to Fresh Start Loan Programme at Development Bank, I am able to report as at October 30, 2015, the Development Bank approved 92 applications, 21 from Nevis and 71 from St Kitts. EC $8.2 million has been disbursed. Successful applicants have used these funds for a variety of business endeavours including but not limited to:
• Start-up of professional practices,
• purchase of vehicles for taxi operations,
• business expansion,
• catering services,
• farming and fishing operations,
• equipment purchase,
• production of poultry and eggs
Such diversity is welcomed. Our ordinary people, thanks to Team Unity are now being given a Fair Share and a Fresh Start at prosperity.
Upcoming National Events
Finally I turn attention to some important upcoming National Events
Remembrance Day Service at the War Memorial, Sunday, November 08thLaunch of the Criminal Justice Strategic Board on Wednesday, November 11th
Recognition of 25 Most Remarkable Teens for 2015 on Thursday, November 12th
National Assembly to meet on Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I encourage the national community to render support to the foregoing events.