EDITORIAL - Citizenship on sale
Five months ago when the works minister, Omar Davies, suggested that Jamaica would be inclined to offer economic citizenship, this newspaper urged the administration to go full speed ahead. Unfortunately, it seems, this is not a matter, unlike enabling arrangements for the island's economic support agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), demanding of great urgency.
If that is indeed the case, the administration is wrong. For the flip side of the fiscal adjustment that is the centrepiece of the IMF agreement is economic growth. For growth requires investments, and that is the most vulnerable element of the reform programme. Under the IMF programme, the Government projects growth, over the medium term, at a modest two per cent a year. That is not a rate that this newspaper believes will generate the number of jobs and lift living standards at a pace that will maintain confidence in the programme for the longer haul.
The Government, in that context, needs to be creative, using all available options to encourage people, domestic and foreign, to put their capital in this economy, especially against the backdrop of the relatively slow recovery of foreign direct investment (FDI) from its collapse since the fast growth in the first decade of the 2000s. Tying an offer of citizenship to investment is one potential option.
This would not be something unique to Jamaica. For instance, at their annual summit last month, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders gave the nod to St Kitts & Nevis to employ such a strategy, their only proviso being that Basseterre take care that shady types not get through its vetting process.
But it is not only developing countries that compete for foreign capital with economic citizenship. As we have noted before, the United States, Canada, Britain and several European countries have similar arrangements. Jamaica has talked about introducing its own scheme since the 1980s. We had hoped the matter would be fast-tracked when Dr Davies announced in March that the laws and policy relating to the issue would be reviewed in the context of the proposed Chinese-financed logistics operations at Goat Islands and the possibility that some investors in the project might seek citizenship.
But even ahead of the logistics project, we would suggest that JAMPRO, the investment promotions agency, should have afforded a citizens-for-investment scheme that it can shop to high net-worth individuals around the world. Russia, we suggest, should be high on the agenda. Some of its billionaire oligarchs might find Jamaica a worthwhile place to park some of their capital, while providing them with a tropical retreat and another offshore base for their operations.
That, however, is if the Government still has the project on its agenda.
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