Monday, 23 April 2012 02:29
By Rawlston Pompey
When conventional economic avenues seemed to have outlived productivity, revenues dwindled. Hence, out of necessity and/or expediency, governments across the globe had been impelled to do the unthinkable.
Thus, in their quest for financial resources, necessity appeared not to know existing laws, purpose and/or their applicability. Similarly, when economic crunch is felt, creativity dictates disregard for national pride, symbolism, and/or principle. Though not in the same context or for the same reasons, the Scriptures taught that JESUS had "...miraculously turned water into wine," hence "...creativity" had long been part of man's existence.ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA - PERSPECTIVE
Invariably, creativity, known to have been a way out of tricky situations, often becomes one of the critical factors for human survivability, and by extension governance. Consequently, many governments had been forced into embarking upon “…creative initiatives,” using unconventional or non-traditional methods for the generation of revenues in keeping ships of state from perilously submerging.
In recent times, adverse economic conditions appear to have forced many wealthy and impoverished nations into economic and financial despair. Undoubtedly, this situation necessitated economic remedies through consensual and judicious functional approaches. Consequently, national governments, including Antigua & Barbuda, had been driven by urgent necessity into implementing austerity measures either for additional revenue generation from optional revenue streams, or in controlling and/or eliminating waste and ill-advised expenditure.OIL PRESSURE RUNNING LOW
Through a cultural/social expression, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s renowned commentators and Member of Parliament WINSTON "…Gypsy" PETERS, when that nation’s economy appeared to have been slowing down, he felt the “…Oil pressure” on the economic ship of State “…was running precariously low.” Explaining what engineers were supposed to be shouting, he touted “…Captain the ship is sinking.”
Clearly, Finance Minister HAROLD LOVELL appeared to have taken the position that during the “…Economic Turbulence, saving the “…Economic Ship of State” from peril, it was going to be “…Any port for a storm.” Hence, when the Finance Minister recently spoke to the media, it was clear that the Ministry of Finance was embarking upon “…An Economic Citizenship programme”. Observers believed that such programme may either be modeled off that of “…ST KITTS/NEVIS or the COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA.”ENTREPRENEURIAL/NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES
Seemingly entertaining no timidity and even at the risk of being censored for being controversial, speaking and writing passionately from both “…entrepreneurial and national economic perspectives guided by "...entrepreneurial ingenuity and business skills", opponent Member of the House of Representatives GASTON BROWNE, an experienced former banker and current businessman, of seemingly high repute, impeccable character and national standing, taking no adversarial view or antagonistic position, viewed the initiative as worth pursuing in the national economic interest.
This situation had been the concerns of the citizens of the three regional countries that had earlier embarked upon such programme. Though overshadowed by accusations of inappropriate behaviour by public officials in some quarters and besetted by controversy and misgivings, compounded by internal and international pressures, those countries seemed to have persevered and prevailed to be internationally recognised.HAPLESS/HELPLESS- HOPELESS/PENNILESS
Given the current economic downturn, “…ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP” appeared to have been in the forefront of this nation as a viable economic option. Notwithstanding the noble intentions, it was to be expected that the initiative may have sparked controversy and objections by the citizenry, equally as much as it had done when opponent Member of Parliament Honourable GASTON BROWNE made public his “…individual advocacy” of the initiative previously presented as a suggestion through Parliament. Seemingly, viewing the initiative from an economic standpoint, he was adamant equally as much as he appeared optimistic that the initiative may be a viable option in helping to drive the national economy, thereby avoiding further strangulation by direct and/or indirect taxation on the clueless and hapless, helpless, hopeless and penniless citizens.ECONOMIC CONVENIENCES-NATIONAL FLAG
This may be seen as similar to the use of the “…NATIONAL FLAG” for maritime purposes. Despite its invariable attraction of adventurism from “…SOMALI PIRATES,” (though not for the flags) as they are seen for its marine and international significance adorning many foreign ships' masts sailing the high seas, presenting picturesque sights, flying flutteringly and majestically as they cross international frontiers. Hence, apart from flags, such economic initiative may see another “…NATIONAL SYMBOL - PASSPORTS” travelling across the globe in the hands of society’s wealthy for “…ECONOMIC CONVENIENCES”.NATIONAL SYMBOLS
Though some critics have argued that as opposed to total reliance upon the conventional methods of taxation, governments across the globe had to be creative in finding and pursuing ways and means in the quest of economic remedies and/or stimulants to ailing, depress or stagnant economies.
Consequently, this may bring respite to their respective citizenry. Seemingly prompted by the depressive state of the economy, compounded by the current world economic situation, inability in attracting foreign direct investments, these may have been among the core reasons, (logical or illogical) that the “BALDWIN SPENCER ADMINISTRATION” had contemplated the embarkation on the particular initiative.TARGET-THE SUPER RICH
In the wider society, as the debates continued, they were rife with speculations over the economic programme intended to generate millions in additional revenues. It was to be understood that the declared initiative was said to be geared at attracting, not necessarily those with checkered history and lifestyles akin to skullduggery and/or criminality. Though no system is fool-proof, it was said that target was the rich and famous, but primarily, the “…Super rich” who may be qualified and possess the necessary financial wherewithal to purchase for themselves at a hefty price and conditionalities “…NATIONAL CITIZENSHIP.” There were no details as to how the economic initiative would be approached, implemented and/or managed. Other than revelations that legislative framework was being considered, no explanation was readily available for enlightenment and/or entailment of the concept.THE PUBLIC WRATH
Situations like these had often provoked suspicions; led to misunderstandings and misgivings; …stimulated intense discussions, thereby invoking patriotic and non-patriotic responses among the primary stakeholders- the citizenry. Consequently, these have often played on the imagination; …heightening tension, fears, uncertainties and anxieties in the citizenry, thereby spurring emotions into public and media frenzy. Then ultimately, the public wrath is descended upon those who, with miscalculation and/or valor, “…tread where angels fear.” Frequently, this had been the result of the lack of discussions and/or plausible explanations necessary to provide understanding and winning citizen’s support and consensus. This had often been found to be counter-productive.ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP CONCEPT
Unlike most other nations, the United States had placed no reliance upon such programme in stimulating economic activity and growth. From a global perspective it was defined as a “…Legal means of providing citizenship to an eligible person of a foreign State.” The accordance of such status is contingent upon certain qualifying factors, including significant financial considerations and/or investments in the national economy of the particular State. For instance, St. Kits/Nevis, one of three nations (others Commonwealth of Dominica and Austria) currently with functional programmes, that had embarked upon “…ECONOMIC CITIZENSHIP” in 1984.REASONS FOR CITIZENSHIP
People were known to have traversed the globe far and wide for numerous reasons. Most notable seeking “…citizenship; …economic migration that allows for the right to own property, reside, work, vote, tax haven.” Some had done so to “…escape national turmoil and war; …for avoiding persecution or ethnic cleansing; …for safety and security; …quietude and peace of mind; … legitimate capital investment; while others for sinister or obscure reasons.” Those of obscurity, no matter how wealthy or have the potential to providing national economic benefits, may be prudently avoided. The economic initiative, though not widely practiced, is an international concept of varying forms. Within the international community it may be referred to as “…Economic Citizenship or Capital Investment Programme.” The United States has referred to it as “…Immigrant Investor Programme.” NATIONAL PRIDE OR PATRIOTISM
Since the revelations appeared void of in depth information, concerns were triggered among the citizenry. Debates on the contentious issue intensified and from public squabbling by identifiable interest groups, reasonable inferences may have been drawn, suggestive of variance and/or lack of consensus among themselves. Thus, had there been opposition to the initiative, such may have been prompted by, among other considerations, “…national pride and patriotism.” Such initiative was said to be fundamental to the effective performance of governmental functions, including “…provision for recurrent and other expenditure; …debt servicing; …infrastructural developments; …education, health and medical care and other social and/or essential services. While such economic adventurism necessarily involved conferment of “…Citizenship” on the successful applicants at significant costs, none may deny the resultant financial and/or economic benefits that may be derived to the nation. Thus, while the initiative may be legislatively approved to facilitate formalization for the issuance of the “…Symbolic National Passports,” critical considerations may be given to several citizen’s and possible international concerns.ECONOMIC MEANS TO END
There was no doubt that current economic conditions may lead other regional governments to pursue similar initiative. As opposed to the imposition of direct taxation, such nonetheless, may be seen as a “…AN ECONOMIC MEANS TO A REVENUE END,” While other national leaders frowned and expressed abhorrence over the sale of their national pride, some countries was said to be reaping substantial economic benefits” Incidentally, such adventurism involved the sale of a national pride, symbol and status, that of “...Passports and Citizenship.”NOTHING RULED IN/OUT
Noting similar characteristic responses to Prime Minister SPENCER, Finance Minister HAROLD LOVELL with his own expressions, appeared to have possessed an acute intuitive sense of anticipation and timing. Conscious of public consternation, dissent and rejection of sensitive fiscal measures, in attempting to lessen the impact of negativity, he may simply say “…Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out.” Perspectively viewed, if “…additional ingredients” were to be placed in a pot and the ingredients already in it will not be taken out,” logic dictates that only that which was contained therein may be cooked. In the context of the economic initiative involving the issuance of passports and conferment of “…CITIZENSHIP STATUS” upon those of affluence for the purposes intended, if the expression was synonymous with its connotation, then logic further dictates that only that which had been contemplated or under consideration may be officially pursued.COUNTRIES WITH PROGRAMMES
Online research showed that only small vulnerable, economically depressed, under developed or developing States had established such programme. Among the countries listed with internationally recognized programmes were “…Montenegro, Commonwealth of Dominica and St. Kitts/Nevis.” Grenada, the other regional State had pursued similar programme, but suspended its operations following the September 11, 2001 deadly Terrorists attacks on the US Twin Towers. The other industrialized, developed and wealthy nations that offer an almost similar programme to that of the United States were “…Canada, Australia, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.” The conditionalities include in progressive order; “…Capital Investment; …Residency and eventually CITIZENSHIP.” In other words, applicants are required to invest first and dependent upon the investments economic viability and sustainability, after a period of operation, they may be favoured with residency and ultimately citizenship.