The consultant spoke with passion, and at times disgust, when he made his remarks at a media event organized by the “sister” organization, the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, SIDF, at the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel on Wednesday morning, (29th May, 2012).
It was Ballantyne’s position, that “The reality of having the very best Citizenship by Investment Program in the world scares us profusely. As a result, we do not know quite how to appreciate it, so we do everything humanly possible to bring it to a level, in keeping with our own low expectations.”
The consultant had strong words for the local media and commentators charging them for facilitating most of the inaccuracies that have been paraded for public consumption. But Ballantyne was even more dismissive for those whom he referred to as “uninformed individuals”
“I am here this morning to debunk that myth, provide you with the facts to instil confidence in your achievements, and to challenge all who claim to have knowledge, whether first hand or hearsay, of any iota of the alleged corruption or wrong doing being levelled at this rebranded program.”
What Ballantyne did not acknowledge however or perhaps was not aware of, was that many attempts have indeed been made by the media to get the true facts about the program but found on many occasions unwillingness by some officials to share critical details that were being requested. The CIP consultant however stated that no one has ever sought an interview with him, to learn the true facts.
The barrister at law shocked the audience, (made up of media representatives, senior public officers, government ministers, opposition parliamentarians and private sector leaders), when he proclaimed, “Let me say it here and now, if this Citizenship by Investment Program is corrupt, then ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the face or listening to the voice of that corruption.” He obviously was being sarcastic, perhaps to make his point.
For Dr. Ballantyne, the CIP is driven by the three pillars of integrity, independence and trust. However what was missing from these pillars, (though perhaps implied in the pillar of integrity), was the commitment to transparency, which has been the hallmark of public protests and media coverage, influenced by an apparent unwillingness, at times, to provide direct answers to questions posed by the media and public.
One such question, to which, a clear answer still was not provided, (despite weeks of enquiries), is that of “how many applications have been approved by the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program?” Even after today’s SIDF launch, the answer to this question remained unanswered, with officials claiming that such information is not important, implying that what is important is the program’s integrity.
When asked at the press conference following this morning’s media launch, neither the CEO of the SIDF, Terrence Crossman nor Dr. Ballantyne, provided a straight answer, suggesting instead that such information is best sourced from the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Denzil Douglas, or the Manager of the Citizen by Investment Unit, CIU; the office that manages the day to day affairs. Though reporters at the press conference tried in many ways to style the question from varied angles and with attempts from at least three different journalists, the consultant informed the media that “only the Prime Minister and CIU manager are aware of the number of approved applications.”
However, this admission is in stark contrast to what the Prime Minister recently said in parliament, when he indicated that though he is aware that there has been some 300 applications, he is not sure of exactly how many have been approved. The same question arose, this time, four hours after the SIDF launch, when journalists met with the Prime Minister for his monthly press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
On this occasion the Prime Minister somewhat re-styled his previous answer, to imply that he may be able to extract that information, but that he really cannot recall, at the moment, because the figures are not readily available to his memory. Instead he suggested that the Manager of the CIU might be in a better position to provide such figures.
For Dr. Ballantyne however, when it comes to administering this program, the second pillar of integrity is just as important, if not more so as the first, which is independence, because both the integrity of the program and that of the staff is called into question. Both however, opined Ballantyne, cannot be questioned.
He said that since the rebranding of the program the government took a decision that there would be absolutely no political interference with the work of the Citizen by Investment Unit. “Not from the Prime Minister, not from any minister of government, not from any senior government official, not from any agent, nor from any applicant, and not from any developer,” outlined Ballantyne, in making his point about the CIP’s independence. He said that when he assumed responsibilities for the program seven years ago, he asked the Prime Minister which government official he would be expected to report to, and he was told by the Prime Minister, “no one.”
Ballantyne said the Prime Minister responded by saying, “The process starts with you and it ends with you. If you approve an application, it is approved, if you reject an application, it is rejected. I only want to see the files and certificates at the time to sign.” Ballantyne said since giving that assurance, there has been no interference by the Prime Minister.
In his closing comments Ballantyne assured his audience that the Citizen by Investment Unit, must be responsive and accountable to the government and the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis. The CIU said Ballantyne cannot operate like the average government office or department, and it never does. It operates above partisanship and above politics and above pettiness. The CIU, continued the consultant, acts to protect the interest of the country and they recognize that the international community must have complete trust in the CIU, so that under no circumstance can persons who would eventually hold citizenship and passports of St. Kitts and Nevis pose a threat to their country or its citizens, either as terrorists, criminals, or money launderers, because this could cause Kittitians and Nevisians to be branded likewise.
To the ordinary Kittitians and Nevisians, it is difficult to understand the difference between the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, (SIDF) and the St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program, (CIP). Thus this has helped to fuel the current controversial debate in the country.
Whereas the Citizenship by Invest Program was established since 1984, under the former Administration of the People’s Action Movement, PAM, the SIDF was created in 2006, following the closure of the sugar industry in St. Kitts. While the SIDF is headed by Mr. Terrence Crossman, the CIP has benefited from the lead consultancy services of Dr. Ken Ballantyne with the chief administrative responsibilities being that of Mrs. Cheryleann Pemberton.