Under the CIP foreign investors are afforded citizenship in returning for making substantial investments in the socio-economic development of the country.
But in recent months, the programme has come under severe criticism mainly from the opposition that claims it is riddled with corruption.
In his address to the consultation, Prime Minister Skerrit said the reality is that inflows of foreign direct investment into the Caribbean are declining and “we need therefore, as a nation, to sit and analyze what is possible and what is practical, within the constraints of our small population base and very limited resources.
“We need to know what we can commit to, over a 12 month, three year, five year or 10 year period, based on guaranteed supply,” Skerrit said, quoting from a 2016 publication by the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on the world economy that warned persistent weakness of aggregate demand in the advanced economies continues to depress global growth; at the same time, low commodity prices and growing fiscal and current account balances as well as the tightening of fiscal and monetary policies, have further dimmed the outlook for developing countries.
Skerrit said the pace at which “we are able to develop and grow has a direct correlation to the financial resources available to us and the human resource capacity of our society.
“Very often, we tend to become entrapped by the terminology of national independence and sovereignty, and overlook the crucial consideration of capacity. In the final analysis, Dominica is but a nation of 72,000 souls, residing on land mass of 290 Square miles. Whatever we seek and aspire to achieve, must be within the capacity and capability of that 72, 000 population to sponsor and sustain.”
The one-day consultation which has brought together representatives from the private and public sectors, trade unions, non-government organisers as well financial experts from various national and regional institutions including the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), is being held under the theme “Development Prospects for Dominica within the context of the Citizenship by Investment Programme as a platform for raising the funds necessary to finance development activities”.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has boycotted the event.
Prime Minister Skerrit said that the CIP is a “a trusted but yet vulnerable source of funding for the country” and warned that its continued growth is dependent on the image that it enjoys in the marketplace.
“Any sustained attack on the programme, for whatever reason, will eventually adversely impact its performance and ultimately could bring about its demise. We all need to know and understand this, as Dominicans.
“The competition in this sphere of economic activity is too great, for a small nation like Dominica to emerge unscathed from constant and prolonged criticism of and controversy surrounding its programme. In the final analysis, what a prospective candidate for citizenship will hear from those who unjustifiably criticize the Program is that this program is questionable. That it should be avoided in preference for another. That is all he or she will pay heed to….whether we wish to believe it or not.”
He told the delegates that if questions continue to be raised about the suitability of a product “after a while we will grow tired of the controversy, skepticism and doubt, and look elsewhere for an identical or comparable product”.
Skerrit said that the same applies to programmes such as the CIP.
“They cannot withstand the type of constant battering to which Dominica is being subjected, over and over. Eventually, something will give, and I fear, one day, it could be our programme, if the constant badgering does not stop.”
He said the meeting allows for Dominicans to avail themselves of the opportunity to draw on the knowledge and expertise to bring and provide objective input and analysis on the health and workings of the Dominican economy.
“I know there are scores of special interest groups that would wish for their particular and peculiar needs to be addressed and met as a matter of urgency. The role of each sectoral leader is to secure the very best for those whose interest he or she represents, but, it is the duty of government to approach and set this against the wider and overarching need and desire to guarantee all 72,000 inhabitants of this fair land, a reasonable and deserving existence.”.
Skerrit warned that his administration would not engage in a policy of spending money that it has not secured, saying “simply put, a basic rule of thumb in the world of business is that you should not spend more than you are likely, or, even more prudently, what you are guaranteed, to earn. To do otherwise, is to court serious danger.
“This same practice, Ladies and Gentlemen, applies to the management of the national economy. However, for the State, it becomes even more complicated when the variable of social responsibility, which does not apply to the private sector, is factored into the equation. For, whether earnings are up to par or not, there are social obligations that a country has to its citizens and from which it cannot escape, irrespective of budgetary constraints or realities.”
He said two years ago when Dominica was adversely impacted by Tropical Storm Erika, national productivity and earnings fell to frighteningly low levels, but the government still had an obligation to provide health, education, security as well as other social services to the population.
“None of these undertakings was revenue generating, but, they had to be provided, because of the social responsibility that government and by extension the country has to its people.”
He said capital expenditures “are those projects we enter into from time to time, for which a clear source of funding has been identified and can be relied upon. As a small developing nation, there is no shortage of project ideas which we can all create and put on the table, but the question of where the monies shall come from, will sooner or later taper expectations to reality.
“What we must ensure as a people is that projected revenues are not undermined by actions and utterances of our own making. In other words, we should do nothing as a people to undermine our own economic survival,” Skerrit told the consultation.
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