Commentary: In defence of Caribbean citizenship by investment programs
By Nuri Katz, Caribbean News Now
Early this month Henley and Partners published their annual rating of citizenship by investment programs. Henley then proceeded to execute a huge public relations offensive to promote their index, flawed as it may be, which generated worldwide coverage of the report.
Many international publications published this index as if it was actually one that is meaningful and done as a result of some sort of scientific study. Admittedly, I read the information about the index only because Henley is a competitor of Apex Capital Partners, so I was curious about their findings.
Knowing the citizenship by investment industry for over 25 years, a quick glance at this index showed me how inaccurate it is, and why it’s more of a self-serving brochure more than anything else. Obviously, as the Maltese people are paying tens of millions of euros to Henley every year, Henley returned the favour and claimed that Malta’s individual investor programme (IIP) is the best CIP.
Interestingly if you go down the index, it is clear that Henley rates programs likely based on how much money they (Henley) make in each country, with Dominica rated last. Why would Dominica rank as last? Easy – the Dominican government will not authorize Henley to work there. In reality, Dominica’s program is one of the most advantageous programs of its kind – with the minimum investment starting at US$100,000. The program also allows visa-free travel to over 128 countries, including the Schengen Area.
The country’s vast beauty and peaceful culture is the cherry on top. This is not even speaking of how important the program is to Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Taking the above facts into consideration, I was particularly intrigued by the claim that the Malta IIP is the top program in the world. Unfortunately, the program as designed, and as managed, is actually one that is being criticized over and over by the European Union. I believe that this Henley-managed program is actually hurting the reputation of Malta and the CIP industry within the EU and beyond.
The tragic events following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia last month brought the Malta IIP back into the view of the European Parliament front and centre. This month the European Parliament passed with a vast majority a resolution on the “rule of law” in Malta, addressing claims of corruption within the country. Reading this resolution one is truly saddened by the need for it.
However, for me it is interesting that, among all the issues brought up by the European Parliament in its resolution, again, is the management of the CIP. This being the second resolution by the European Parliament within only three years that specifically calls out the Malta CIP and the problems associated with it. This unfortunately brings upon Malta’s IIP the distinction of being the only CIP that has been criticized by the European Parliament not once, but twice.
So it is with surprise and sadness that we continue to watch attacks on Caribbean countries and the CIP programs used to help them flourish. After all, it was less than a year ago when CBS News’ 60 Minutes ran what I consider to be a hit piece on Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis, among other Caribbean countries. The Caribbean CIP programs are criticized while the Malta CIP was barely mentioned despite all the issues raised twice by none other than the European Parliament.
Considering the above, I would argue that the Henley index of citizenship by investment programs is simply not an accurate one. I also can only hope that the Maltese government will heed the advice of many, learn from this second motion of the European Parliament, and make the changes needed in order to safeguard the CIP for Maltese citizens and for the safety of Europe and for the well-being of the much needed CIP in the Caribbean.