By Moustafa Daly
St. Kitts and Nevis’s prime minister, Terrance Drew, has announced that his government has replaced the longtime CEO of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), Les Khan, with Michael Martin, the CEO of St. Kitts-based Caribbean Commerce Ltd.
“He is a national of St. Kitts and Nevis who has served in top managerial positions in a number of companies, including National Caribbean Insurance Company, National Bank Trust Company, and Sagicor Life Inc. He is a past Director of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean, Honorary Secretary of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society Council of Management and a Director of First Federal Cooperative Credit Union,” read the prime minister’s statement on the matter.
The news was announced as the prime minister paid a visit to the CIU on Tuesday, and comes on the heels of several statements he made on the future strategy of the CIU at an exclusive Dubai event last week.
“We need to make sure that our valuable Citizenship by Investment Program is good for everyone involved, including the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, the investors, the developers, the local service providers, and the international marketing agents,” said Drew at the event as per media reports.
Professionals in the industry reacted to the development.
“It is big news in the industry but not unexpected. With a change of government, you often see such changes, as was the case recently in St Lucia. Les (Khan) is highly regarded in the industry and I am sure we will see him again,” said Christopher Willis, managing director of Latitude. “Martin is inheriting a well-run and organized Unit and I am hopeful he will manage this efficiently and not allow service standards to be affected.”
In a bid to assure potential investors, Drew stressed that the CIU will be subject to closer oversight on its operations, and that policies and procedures will be put in place to ensure the unit’s efficient management. “[We will be] making sure that application processing is done as quickly as possible within the time frames advertised without compromising the integrity of the programme,” he elaborated.
“The CBI industry in St Kitts & Nevis is a significant driver of FDIs in the country and represents a substantial percentage of its GDP, so for this reason alone it is critical that they manage the program and the unit correctly. Any changes must be carefully considered and not introduced just for the sake of change,” said Willis.
St. Kitts and Nevis planning to pay dividends to citizens from CBI earnings
St. Kitts and Nevis government has also recently announced that citizens of the dual-island nation will be receiving dividends from earnings attained through the CBI program.
“The CBI dividend will be facilitated through the Saint Christopher and Nevis Social Security and will be distributed in two tiers or categories. The first category is the pensionable and pensioners and the second category is classified as those who are not yet pensionable,” read the government’s statement.
The government announced that $23 million have been allocated for the first dividend payout.
“It’s an interesting initiative and no doubt will be popular with the electorate as we approach the holiday season. It does, however, set a precedent and nationals may expect and rely on this in the future,” predicts Willis, managing director of Latitude.
According to media reports, this has long been a campaign promise by Drew, who was elected prime minister in August promising fairer distribution of CBI earnings among citizens and residents – accusing the previous administration of abusing the CBI program.
“Hundreds of millions of the Citizenship by Investment funds were abused by the previous administration, hence the profit margin that could have been is significantly reduced,” he previously said according to the St. Kitts official information publication.
“Portions of that profit [will now be] allocated to the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. Portions of the profit are also assigned to capital investment for the general good of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis collectively,” he said.
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