"The present crop of Caribbean leaders is among the most unimaginative group of leaders in the world," Wiltshire said Wednesday. "What they are doing with these citizenship programs at the moment is going to prepare the ground for great problems later on with our larger, powerful neighbors. And this is apart from the fact they are endangering, in my view, the long-term security and safety of the Caribbean islands."
Various critics say the revenue-boosting programs have security risks. While there are no known cases of terrorists using the islands' programs, experts say that's a possibility with many visa arrangements anywhere.
James Smith, an economist who is researching immigration issues for the nonprofit RAND Corporation, said the Caribbean programs may eventually undermine the integrity of national passports if there are significant problems.
"I suspect that one unintended consequence to the Caribbean countries down the line if there is trouble is that the Caribbean passports would get devalued in the sense that visa requirements for all those who hold the passports would become more stringent," he said in an email.
St. Kitts & Nevis' citizenship-by-investment program has been operational since 1984 and a national passport provides visa-free travel to 139 countries, including all of the European Union. A foreigner can qualify with a $250,000 donation or with a real estate investment of $400,000. Antigua is hoping to emulate St. Kitts' flourishing program. Meanwhile, Dominica's passport offers travel without a visa to more than 50 countries and costs $100,000.
Linda Straker reported from St. George's, Grenada; David McFadden reported from Kingston, Jamaica.