Q&A with St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris: “We want to be a model for others and … take our country to the next level”

By Marie Ekberg Padilla 

The Caribbean islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, is gearing up to celebrate its citizenship-by-investment program’s 35th anniversary in September. Despite its small size, the islands launched the world’s first economic citizenship program in 1984. Since then, they been able to reap the benefits of using the investment funds for restructuring and improving life on the islands.   

It has played an important part in restructuring our economy,” said Prime Minister Timothy Harris in an interview with Uglobal Immigration Magazine. Our program has been an innovator of CBI programs. We are proud what the program has provided for the other programs around the world, and how it continues to perform. 

St. Kitts and Nevis offers two investment options: putting $150,000 into a sustainable growth fund, which will benefit the islands’ education, infrastructure, health care, and rebuilding from natural disasters and the environment; or investing $200,000 into a pre-approved real estate project. 

Harris, who earned a doctorate in administration from Concordia University in Canada, has served on the islands’ parliament for more than 25 years. He held several cabinet posts in the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party before forming a new political party, the People's Labour Party, in 2013. In 2015, he won the prime minister seat.  

“We hope to transform the country and create a more beautiful and prosperous country. That’s our agenda,” Harris said. 

What is unique about St. Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship-by-investment program? 

 We have the largest number of applicants in the Caribbean, with more than 16,000 approved citizens in the last 10 years. However, the majority don’t live on the island. But we want them to come back and invest. These are skilled people who would add value to our economy. That would be even better for us. We need engineers, construction workers and other skilled people. We are looking for people who want to be part of a success story. 

What changes in the program can we expect to see? What’s the future? 

We want to keep ahead of the curve. We are trying to get a sense of where the market is headed, adjust it and adapt to it. It’s a question of sustainable future and how to set that up. We have created sustainable growth fund, the first in the world. The funds will be used for basic health care and education with offshore universities. The critical pillars are to build up everything around the climate and environment, to recover from frequent hurricanes, build out public infrastructure, health care and education. 

As a prime minister, what do you hope to achieve with your islands’ CBI program? 

I really want to set the platform for our CBI program to achieve a unique status of being one of the best-run CBI programs in the world. We want to be a model for others and want our program to take our country to the next level. We want to take people to a higher quality of living. We want a better life for our children. In 1984, one year after our independence from the United Kingdomwe created the idea of investment immigration to the world. We are the longest running program. We were trying to figure out how to take control of our destiny. Investment by invitation was a win-win situation. 

What do you think is driving the CBI program and what kind of impact does it have on the world? 

Mobility of people is a critical part. The ease of movement that CBI programs offer is attractive to many. Human nature in the end is to want peace. People want safety, so the insurance factor of the CBI program is a factor when people need to leave conflict zones. This is the notion of we are global citizens. People don’t want to be confined. Now they have options with globalization. They have a bigger playing field, which allows them to be citizens of the world. 

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