Antigua and Barbuda’s Pursuit of National Transformation through its Citizenship by Investment Programme
The article was written by Charmaine Quinland-Donovan
Charmaine Quinland-Donovan outlines the economic and societal value of Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship-by-investment programme.
It is now universally agreed that Residence- and Citizenship-by-Investment Programmes offer incalculable benefits to both the investor citizen or resident, as well as to the countries which operate these programmes. While mobility has been a key driver behind the rapid growth in the industry, portfolio diversification, second home ownership, as well as safety and security concerns have also served as motivating factors for the increasing number of individuals who apply to these programmes. For governments, the value of these programmes is evident, as they provide an ability to mobilise inward investment flows to meet ever-increasing fiscal demands.
Governments, particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDs) are continuously required to find sources of revenue for the provision of social services, infrastructure development, debt repayment, disaster mitigation and recovery, and more recently, fortification of the health care infrastructure and provision of social safety nets in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Citizenship-by- Investment programmes (CIP) have provided nations with the ability to draw on a sustained revenue stream without increasing the tax burden to their citizens or creating a legacy of debt for the most vulnerable of their populations. While many Caribbean island states have attained political independence, these nations continue to be challenged with achieving meaningful sovereignty and economic self-determination. Antigua and Barbuda itself celebrated 40 years of political independence on 1st November, 2021. As a country committed to making its mark throughout the western hemisphere and on the wider global stage, the management of our CIP is critical to the country’s development thrust. Through our CIP, we have leveraged critical inflows from Foreign Direct Investment to chart a future of prosperity, growth in national wealth, reduction in national indebtedness, bolstering of public finances and the creation of an economic ecosystem which is poised to organically create rewarding, long-term employment thereby delivering parity to all our citizens and residents. More specifically, CIP revenues have supported the domestic Social Security system, financed infrastructural projects, funded sovereign debt repayment, facilitated the acquisition of critical health services and equipment, expanded and upgraded the tourism room stock, and subsidized educational and training initiatives. Most recently, the nation’s strident and successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic was financed in part by revenues generated by the programme through valued investments made by our newest citizens. The investment options under the Antigua and Barbuda CIP are well known to the market. In the tradition of investment migration schemes, the programme offers a donation option; the opportunity to purchase approved real estate; and avenues for investment in approved businesses. It is the fourth option however, which most distinguishes the jurisdiction’s posture towards the transformative intent of the programme from most other countries. The University of the West Indies (UWI) option affords applicants the opportunity to truly partner in the development of the country. Established as the most recent of the UWI’s landed campuses in 2019, Five Islands places access to tertiary level education squarely within the reach of the country and the region’s citizens. Additionally, families which select the option can enroll one universityaged dependent, tuition free, in the university for one year, thereby creating avenues for citizens who reside permanently in Antigua and Barbuda, and those who have chosen the country through CIP, to engage in the shared experience of tertiary education and create global networks which will ultimately redound to the nation’s benefit.
The pedigree of the University of the West Indies is remarkable. In operation for more than 70 years, it is currently ranked in the top 4% of universities worldwide, the top 2% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the top 1% of the Golden Age University Rankings. The latest Impact Rankings in 2021 has positioned the UWI in the top 2.5% of universities globally and the number 1 university in the Caribbean.
The Government’s inclusion of the University of the West Indies option in the CIP signals its commitment to ensuring that revenues from this stream sustain this transformative institution. And its success is already evident. The University has graduated its first cohort of undergraduate students this October 2021. With its Schools of Humanities and Education, Health and Behavioural Sciences, Business Management, and Computing and Artificial Intelligence, this institution, supported in part by the CIP, is poised to ensure the empowerment and credentialing of its citizens, thereby enhancing the human resource capacity of the country. The potential for national transformation goes well beyond the UWI’s inclusion in the list of CIP investment options. In partnership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the University of the West Indies, the Five Islands Campus will be the site for a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy. The intent is to “advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy”. Areas of focus will be aquaculture, marine renewable energy, biotechnology and sea vegetable farming. These focal points are a natural outgrowth of the historical, cultural and economic legacy of these islands and signal a pivot towards harnessing the vast resources available in the country’s exclusive economic zone. The importance of the blue economy is evident as the islands are surrounded, defined and impacted by the ocean. Ocean based economic activities are said to have generated well in excess of US$400 billion in revenues across the Caribbean. While traditional maritime sectors such as shipping and port management, fisheries and tourism will continue to be significant contributors to economic development in the region and to Antigua and Barbuda, our strategic utilization of the oceans and coasts to support sustainable national prosperity will reframe our growth potential and advance our progress to a more equitable society.
The success of these endeavors, indeed the country’s success and evolution, will be sustained in part by the important investment inflows generated through the Citizenship by Investment Programme.