Thursday, March 8, 2012

Selling passports version 2.0

IN A VERY quick stop-over in Grenada last weekend – I had the pleasure or mishap – to run into Chris De Riggs who was complaining bitterly about an article I did not write.

Through further inquiry, he was apparently referring to an article about the newly proposed Grenada Economic Citizenship Programme that was published on some website called Caribbean News Now.

Now this site has nothing to do with me, or me with it – and I don’t even have a clue who they are and where they operate from.

The truth is I have not commented on this so-called Grenada Individual Investor Programme (GIIP) – because in spite popular belief – Grenadian affairs are about 10 percent of what occupies my time – and I have been just too busy on other more pleasant beats lately.

I will reserve substantial comment on the proposed programme for those reasons, except to say that in principle, I don’t have a problem with the concept.

Now the devil in many of those things will, of course, be in the detail of its execution.

The other challenge this government will face on this matter is one of a public perception of hypocrisy – given the stance the National Democratic Congress took while in opposition on the NNP version.

To spin that one now, will require some skill.

Given the context, I understand the unease of many people inside the government, who are normally very supportive of the Finance Minister, about the proposed programme.

Though, however, all of this might be mute, given the fact that cabinet eventually rejected the idea floated by Finance Minister Nazim Burke.

Now Glen Noel was all over the media on Wednesday denying that the whole idea was rejected – saying they had just paused for consultation.

All of this is spin – though some people might have a harsher term for it with a word that starts with "L''.

In Burke’s presentation, and in two public utterances, he had expected the programme to start in April – after the passing of the budget.

Now it is not a measure in tomorrow’s budget – and it won’t come into effect in April.

And here is some other news --- it won’t be in next year’s either.

Let Noel call it what he wants – but this is the end result of what this Tillman Thomas administration has decided on this issue; that (a) they won’t promote the idea; not between now and next year’s election because it will be a tough sell politically, and (b) the math and projection about how much money the proposal will bring was in their view, in the first case, faulty.

Having subsequently spoken to some technocrats in the Ministry of Finance, I am leaning towards the view that the math was not just faulty, but perhaps deliberately misleading.

When we hear tomorrow about what the budgetary shortfall is, be prepared to take out the "M'' word again. (Here is a clue – whatever figure said– the real total figure is closer to 180 million; the overdraft and unpaid claims alone are near $120 million. And, that’s not even counting the Taiwan loan – which is another headache in itself).

On another note, the other thing that piqued my interest about the management of the now “rejected” GIIP economic citizenship programme, is/was the firm earmarked to manage the scheme.

The legal firm Henley and Partners is also run by the same people who manage SLC.

For the unsuspecting Grenadians, SLC would not ring a bell. But what they are is a campaign finance-raising and election campaign management outfit.

They worked in the last election cycle for the United Workers Party – the opposition in Dominica; as well as the New Democratic Party in St Vincent to help defeat the Ralph Gonsalves referendum and on the NDP’s last unsuccessful general election campaign there.

They have also worked in St Kitts – where I had the opportunity to watch them up close and personal – but for confidentiality reasons, not at liberty to discuss.

But SLC helps raise millions for campaigns – which for them is like an investment because of the potential for “business” on the other end of the campaign.

They have ties with some deep-pocket right wingers in the United States and have consistently raised funds against any party their interests deemed as “progressives”. They also worked for the United Workers Party in St Lucia and lost against Kenny Anthony’s St Lucia Labour Party.

I have not had the time to dig deeper because of my schedule – but I just have a sneaky feeling in my bones – that this new proposed “engagement” in Grenada is not coincidental to the fact that general elections there are about a year away.

And, one final thing, for those promoting Henley and Partners, as a good yardstick for management of such a programme.

Before going out on such a limb –ask your friends in St Kitts some pertinent questions.

Here are a few to start with: (a) Why has the St Kitts programme in recent months come under such international scrutiny? (b) What is the issue about the funds that have been collected re the sale of the passports and (c) Why is the ST Kitts government now trying to get out of the deal?

I agree that a well managed Economic Citizenship Programme could be a good thing.

But given where we have come from, this could just end up being an updated version of the old discredited NNP programme.

1 comment:

  1. great analogical piece. keep it up bro