Remarks by Dr. The Honorable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister St Kitts and Nevis At The National Conference of Service Providers and Developers For the Citizenship by Investment Program “St Kitts & Nevis Redefining Global Citizenship, Leading the Way Again! Monday 12 September 2016 The Royal St Kitts Hotel
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to welcome you to this National Conference of Service Providers and Developers for the Citizenship by Investment Program.
This forum represents the third significant national effort in engaging our stakeholders in what is happening with our CBI Program. We have deliberately done this because we believe in transparency, accountability and openness. Equally important, we have done this because we value constructive partnerships with all stakeholders of which our service providers and developers are the most important. So let me bid a very special welcome to our developers and service providers today.
Thank you for your contribution to date. We hope that as we re-calibrate and re-position our program, making it the best of the very best, that your actions are in sync with ours, that you too will only offer the very best of service, and that you too will seek to attract only the very best of clients. This is what the platinum standard requires.
Today I can announce that the St. Kitts & Nevis CBI program is alive and well. We are open for legitimate business. We have been moving in a deliberate and progressive manner since February 2015, carefully looking at the CIU in terms of internal operations and efficiencies, our international brand positioning, and all relationships that presently make up and contribute to CBI is an important driver of our GDP.
As the pioneer of citizenship by investment programs, we hold the distinction of a nation with vision, capable of developing economic programs, which the world values, and that other nations over time, have emulated. We confidently announce today that we are continuing in this proud legacy.
St. Kitts and Nevis has long been recognized as a leader and pioneer in programs that provide substantial value to international markets and individuals of high net worth. We hold this distinction: that of attracting and adding value to investors worldwide. These high-net value individuals and institutions must have confidence in the fidelity and integrity of the stewards in which they entrust their investments. Communicating trust and value are of paramount importance.
Building trust and communicating value and innovation is our primary focus today.
Last 18 months
Over the last 18 months, my government has been focused on redeeming the CBI program. Our strategy has had several elements:
To recalibrate our relationship with the European Union, the United States of America and Canada.
- To implement well needed reforms
- To develop a marketing strategy to inform the sustainability of our program.
Today I can report that we have made wonderful progress. Over the last 18 months our government has normalized our relationship with the EU, USA and Canada. Today these relationships are at an all-time high thanks to proactive engagement and enhanced information sharing by my Government with our allies.
As a result of a progressive Parliamentary agenda, we have through legislation demonstrated to the world that we will be a responsible member of the international community and our actions will never compromise the security of our allies. We will be transparent with our allies, we will collaborate and cooperate with them, we will have honest discussions, and we will listen to sage advice and accept support in our national interest. As a consequence of this approach, we have regained the trust that the former administration regrettably lost.
We are grateful to IPSA, that international risk management and due diligence firm, for undertaking a comprehensive reform of our CBI Unit. These reforms have strengthened operational controls and enhanced organizational efficiency and efficacy.
Over the last 18 months we have used the time wisely in creating the right frameworks to ensure our competitiveness and sustainability
What have we done?
After the FINCEN Advisory of May 2014 and the revocation of our visa free access to Canada, it was clear that the international community had lost confidence and trust in the former administration. We were now on the pariah’s list. As a result of this my administration left no stone unturned in our efforts to regain the trust and confidence of our international allies, agents, service providers and developers and other stakeholders in our program.
We have focused on ensuring that our brand has value and that the integrity of our program is kept at its highest level. Only applicants of the highest caliber are being welcomed by St. Kitts and Nevis. We will not indulge in a race to the bottom. And again, we will not compromise the security of our country and nor that of our allies.
We focused on ensuring that the Platinum Standard was intact, that we were not engaging in a race to the bottom.
We ensured that our systems were upgraded such that we could process applications consistently within the established time frames while meeting the most robust due diligence tests.
Appointment of new head of CIU
There are several initiatives that I am confident will reignite participation in our CBI product, positioning St. Kitts and Nevis as the clear and obvious destination for global citizenship.
- First, I am pleased to announce that after extensive consideration, the government has appointed a new head of the CIU, Mr. Les Khan. You all know him as the consultant who has led the restructuring of the CIU over the last 18 months or so. The changes that the majority of you have complimented have been as a result of his guidance. The fact that the engagement model has changed within the unit for the better is further evidence of his ability to lead the program going forward.
With the appointment of the new head of the unit, the reforms undertaken and our new marketing strategy, we are now in a position to implement our rebranding effort. We will now be more aggressive in our rebranding and are prepared to tell the story of change in a more interactive and personal manner. We will enter the roadshow circuit; we will participate in selective conferences to shore up market demand whilst we look to explore more market opportunities.
Les will be leading a well-disciplined local team with a broad cross section of skills to strengthen our resource capabilities in order to deliver a platinum service. We have people with high-level expertise in marketing, immigration, international banking, anti-money laundering and administration.
It should be noted that after receiving advice and consultation with a number of you, we have agreed that our brand is perceived as one of distinct quality. St Kitts and Nevis is recognized as one of the best performing economies in the world and our investors chose our program because of the quality of our product. When you buy a Rolls Royce or Rolex, you expect to pay for quality.
We also asked for your feedback with regards to fees, and the overwhelming majority of responses indicated that we should stay with our current fee structure. We know that any reduction in our price, either in fees or in investment options will make it difficult for us to market a distinctive product and will dilute the image of our brand as one of distinct quality, one to be aspired to and one that delivers the best results.
We have established a unique case management system that allows us and service providers to enter applications 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This is efficiency at its best. The success of these reforms can be proved by our ability to process applications within 45 days. A tremendous time saving from the 6-month wait and more, under the previous administration. I am proud to say that St Kitts and Nevis now boasts the best delivery time and within one of the most robust due diligence regimes in the world.
We are in the process of rebuilding our website to allow for a more interactive experience when an individual enters our portal. Using new tools and diagnostics, we will be able to capture information that will help us identify potential markets, in addition to being able to provide state of the art media information. To this end, Les will be working closely with our Public Relations and Marketing Company to develop a site that not only sets us above our competition, but one that sustains our vision of nation building.
We have listened closely to those involved in the development, marketing and promotion of our CBI program. We have listened to our developers; service providers, agents and we have listened also to our clients, the new group of citizens. We hear quite clearly that we should re-examine or offer alternative investment options. I can report that the Cabinet will consider the following options:
Growth and resilience fund
We are open to other ideas as to how we can add value and complementarity to our CBI program.
We have also heard from a number of persons that incentives should be provided to those who bring applicants to the CIU who have successfully passed the due diligence test. This is before cabinet for a decision.
Delivering a Platinum service means that what we are providing is not just good but outstanding. In order to continue to deliver excellence we have implemented a number of quality assurance frameworks to continually consolidate this position.
Our quality processes
The government has implemented a number of supporting quality assurance initiatives. These include the following:
A Technical Committee was set up to ensure projects are approved that meet the very high standards that attract our discerning investors. This is what the platinum standard requires. It is about creating the right framework that delivers outstanding quality.
We have hired an experienced engineer and quantity surveyor who will ensure that projects are adhering to approved construction plans and that the high quality is not compromised. Through regular inspections the government will be updated on the state of the projects, inclusive of the labor force mix i.e. the number of local vs foreign workers.
We are pleased to report that the majority of projects are progressing nicely and over 1000 locals have gained employment on these construction projects. Our workers are gaining invaluable experience in delivering high quality projects. A number of our trades men and contractors can now add this experience to their employment profile.
Because quality is of critical importance, we have spent time revisiting some previously approved projects and in some cases have asked developers to make modifications to spatial and aesthetic features, which would ensure that the standards and premium quality are being maintained. We are grateful to the Service Providers and Developers who have graciously cooperated with us to effect those changes.
In addition, through this government’s involvement, projects that have been inactive are being rejuvenated and investor confidence is returning. We are pleased to see the following projects being reactivated after a period of dormancy and so we are pleased to welcome back T-Loft, Star Board, University Garden and all others. Additionally a number of developers have become active in the promotion of their projects. This tells a good story and demonstrates that the government has been proactive in facilitating these developments and in ensuring that they come to fruition.
In summary then, it is appropriate that this month when we celebrate 33 years of Independence that we note that a year after independence the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Program was established (1984). It is timely therefore that we have reviewed our CBI program to ensure that it meets the values, needs and expectations of a new generation.
In its most recent history the CBI program has made a significant contribution to the country’s development.
The IMF reports that since 2011 the contribution to GDP by CBI program rose from just under 5% to a high of 14 % and its contribution to Government’s revenue rose from about 16% to approximately 40% for the same period.
This is a significant contribution and we must be mindful not to become over reliant on the CBI program. We are aware of the sensitive security situation globally, the increasing competition regionally and beyond and the potential reputational risks. That is why we have taken every precaution. We are judicious in the countries that are allowed to participate in our program. We have a solid, robust due diligence and framework in place to mitigate against illicit actors participating in our program, and we appeal to agents to ensure that only the best and most discerning individuals are welcomed to participate in our CBI program. This is what defines the platinum standard.
The government intends to be fiscally responsible in the use of all of its inflows (CBI and non CBI alike). This will bring dividends to our country. We will prepare for a rainy day and we will vigorously pursue other areas of economic engagement broadening, for example, our involvement in tourism to include medical tourism, sports, education and heritage and tourism. We must capitalize on the potential benefits of Nevis being the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton who rose to high service in the United States of America; Nevis also boasts of a Jewish Cemetery going back to 1679, the Bath Hotel of 1778 and Fort Charles of 1628. All these must be promoted for their historical and iconic heritage value. Charlestown the capital city of Nevis could very well be the next UNESCO World Heritage site.
Our agricultural sector will be given special emphasis to ensure it grows in tandem with tourism and that it satisfies the needs of the country for food and contributes to the health of the nation.
I need not remind you that citizenship is a special connection between a person and a country. As a proud people we cherish our citizenship. We want those who are fortunate and privileged to obtain our citizenship to have an enduring, productive and positive relationship with St. Kitts and Nevis. We invite them to help us make our beautiful country a prosperous country, which has now become theirs also by bringing new skills and further investments, and they must be of good character and repute.
We aim high and we want the most discerning citizens to help us reinforce the platinum standards.