The general consensus in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the Caribbean region concerning the St Kitts-Nevis citizenship by investment (CBI) programme is that the country’s Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris has caused the programme to be severely devalued both in price and reputation because he personally, is no longer a credible and trustworthy source of information and guarantees regarding the programme.
Prior his election to public office, Dr Harris spoke out long and loud against the CBI and the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF), labelling it a “slush fund” of the then Labour Party administration. His words evidently resonated globally and the result is a programme that since February 2015, has undergone numerous changes and so-called improvements in an effort to restore it to its former profitable glory due to the irreversible damage his allegations inflicted.
Since the election of his coalition administration to office in February 2015, Dr Harris has instituted a series of contradictory changes and potentially devastating adjustments to SKN’s CBI in addition to making a number of equally contradictory statements regionally regarding the programme.
One such brow-raising change was Dr Harris’ decision to close the St Kitts-Nevis Consulate in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates for several months after he was elected in 2015. Not only did this send a strong negative message to potential investors in the UAE, it left a bad taste in the mouths of current investors and created a serious problem for many of them as citizens of SKN resident in Dubai with pressing passport-related matters.
Shortly after the Dubai Consulate’s reopening in November 2015, it was announced to the Kittitian and Nevisian public that the Federal government had enlisted the services of United States lobbyist, Lanny Davis, of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, LLC to promote the CBI within spheres of influence in Washington D.C. At the time, Dr Harris had stated that Davis’ services came “at no cost to the people of St Kitts-Nevis.” It was however later revealed in late 2017 by way of the annual report published by the US Attorney General under the umbra of the United States’ Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) that Davis received two separate payments from the Office of the Prime Minister of St Kitts-Nevis, the first totalling US$52,752.30 and the other which was paid to Davis via another company, Levick Strategic Communications, LP, totalling US$43,301.08.
In total, Dr Harris approved a government payout to Lanny Davis of just over US$96,000 to promote the SKN CBI programme in conversations with wealthy and influential people in the US capital.
Having registered Davis’ efforts as largely unsuccessful, Dr Harris embarked on a regional campaign of sorts in what appeared to be an effort to assist other Caribbean islands with CBI programmes in improving their programmes’ viability and due diligence vetting processes. During this campaign, officials from within Antigua and Barbuda’s CBI programme even visited St Kitts for a seminar geared towards the aforementioned campaign’s purpose. The general consensus was that the Caribbean islands with CBIs (Grenada, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts-Nevis) were a part of a regional market and would have been best off working somewhat in tandem towards the common goal of economic stability and sustainable development.
The passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017 seems to have brought a one hundred and eighty-degree change in Dr Harris’ stance of regional cohesiveness. In October 2017 while Dominica and Barbuda were still very much up to their necks in debris and widespread destruction, he introduced a new CBI investment option – the Hurricane Relief Fund (HRF). According to the criteria laid out on the SKN CBI’s website, www.ciu.gov.kn, the HRF allowed for four people (a main applicant plus three dependants) to purchase an SKN citizenship for US$150,000. This was a fifty percent slash in the cost laid out under the SIDF investment option (main applicant: US$250,000; main applicant plus three dependants: US$300,000). At the time, this made the SKN CBI programme the cheapest in the world.
Shortly after the other Caribbean islands learnt of Dr Harris’ price slash, Antigua and Dominica followed suit and lowered their citizenship prices. This resulted in Dr Harris being rightly identified as having started what has been internationally dubbed “the race to the bottom.”
In SKN, Dr Harris’ declarations and statements concerning the programme have been equally contradictory and unreliable, particularly regarding the revenue collection within the CBI. For example, to date, his declaration of placing the SIDF into the Consolidated Fund has not materialised. Additionally, he has constantly ensured the twin-island nation that the SKN CBI programme is still a highly attractive programme that is pulling in large sums of revenue. However, not only does the establishment of the HRF discounted investment option contradict this statement, the introduction of the Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF) directly at the end of the six-month-long HRF option is beyond telling.
The Sustainable Growth Fund (SGF), as stated in an SKN government press release on April 9th, 2018, has slashed the Real Estate Investment option amount by more than fifty percent. Whereas the above-mentioned option requires the main applicant to make a US$400,000 investment to the real estate market in SKN and pay an additional US$35,047 for any other dependant, the SGF will allow for a single applicant to make a real estate investment costing US$150,000, inclusive of Government processing fees, and pay a total of US $195,000 for any three other dependants (a family of up to four). This represents the most drastic CBI price slash yet by Dr Harris. Contrary to his guarantee of the HRF being for just six months (October 2017 to March 2018), Dr Harris appears to have devised a clever way to continue the CBI’s highly cheapened rates in an effort to attract investors from far and wide.
To date, nothing has been said regarding the SIDF and the programme has not returned to its original price bracket as he had assured the populations of St Kitts-Nevis in October 2017. Instead, Dr Harris has fostered an anti-investment environment by engendering the instantaneous value reduction of the investments made by CBI real estate option investors over the past few years, particularly those who had opted for the five-year resell option for increased returns on their investment. With the real estate investment amount now reduced to US$150,000, those already invested stand to lose millions of dollars in returns.
In the minds of financially savvy potential investors and businessmen and women worldwide, Dr Harris’ constant flip-flopping and his tendency to institute these drastic negative changes to the St Kitts-Nevis CBI programme have caused the programme to sport a “BUYER BEWARE” sign around its neck. It has been labelled an untrustworthy and unreliable programme that is more of a liability than an asset to anyone who dares become involved.