ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada (AP) — Grenada announced Wednesday that it intends to revive a program that will essentially allow investors from across the globe to buy citizenship on the sparsely-populated Caribbean island known for its beaches and spice-scented forests.
The strategy is part of a growing trend in the Caribbean to drum up much-needed revenue on tiny islands struggling with massive public debt. The nearby islands of Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis allow investors to secure local citizenship in return for a healthy contribution or real estate investment. Cash-strapped Antigua & Barbuda is planning on launching its own program this year.
The Grenada "government will soon introduce a citizenship-by-investment program. Such programs have existed for a long time in many developed and developing countries," said Governor General Carlyle Glean during his ceremonial speech at the Wednesday opening of Parliament.
"Investor visa" or citizenship programs are offered by many nations, including the U.S. and Britain. But the Caribbean countries offer a very fast path to citizenship at a very low cost and the whole process, including background checks, can take as little as 90 days in St. Kitts. Plus, there's no need to ever live on the islands, or even visit.
Grenada's program will require approval by the legislature, which is controlled by the ruling New National Party of newly re-elected Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. Glean said the government is "committed to bring appropriate legislation to Parliament for this program within its first year in office." In the meantime, officials will review other nations' citizenship-by-investment programs and decide the best way forward.
Mitchell, whose party won all of the island's 15 constituencies after trouncing the former ruling party in February elections, had previously hinted that he planned to revive a citizenship-for-cash program that was suspended after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks due to fears that local passports could mistakenly be sold to terrorists.
For about three years before it was suspended in October 2001, Grenada sold passports to investors for roughly $40,000. But Grenadian authorities quickly said the practice was too risky after the deadly attacks in the U.S. At that time, Grenada had also been placed on an international blacklist of countries considered uncooperative in fighting money laundering. It was removed from the blacklist in 2002.