Prime Minister Harris told the audience that while he was aware of the concerns expressed over delays in processing, he implied the situation required proper conduct of the review. He said, “It was judged to be more important to be right and transparent than to be fast. Now we are working to do both.”
In further response to complaints of delays, Harris told the audience that it was necessary to restore the integrity of the programme, which became exposed to criticisms of lax controls and abuses 30 years after its roll out in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“My government regrets this (delays), but a review and recalibration of the programme were absolutely necessary in order to enhance and preserve the integrity of the programme,” Harris stated. He continued, “We could not continue as if all were well, burying our heads in the sand. We paused, we took stock and we are now moving ahead.”
According to Dr. Harris, the government is committed to ensuring a strong program that would enhance the level of satisfaction of clients, but which requires all players to do their part effectively.
“I am committed to the credibility of our programme. But I know that credibility also means ensuring that people have the confidence that when we say we will deliver in a certain period, we deliver every single time,” Prime Minister Harris said, adding, “For us to deliver on time, service providers must do their work diligently, paying attention to detail and the requirements of the law and good practice and to answer all queries on time.”
Some of the reforms being undertaken will impact regulations, the use of escrow accounts and the “periodic reviews of approved applicants”.
Looking ahead, the prime minister told the conference that the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment programme is one that will be based on trust and transparency.
He said, “I am sure you will appreciate why these steps are important. They are important because our programmes deal in trust. Their endurance and viability rise and fall on trust. But trust takes time to build. Yet, it can be lost in an instant. When trust is squandered or eroded, regaining it can be hard.”
The prime minister also informed the gathering that legislative and administrative redress are in the works and that the government is collaborating with regional and international stakeholders to ensure a citizenship program that is transparent, accountable and sustainable.