On Tuesday, January 4th 2022, in an article on Dominica News Online, you delivered a scathing rebuke to comments I made on ‘Talk on the Block’ on December 30th 2021. You described as egregious my assertion that it is taxpayers’ money that is being used to build a portion of the villas at Secret Bay. You also described my comments as “absolutely false and highly inflammatory”.
Here’s my response to the issues you raised.
Taxpayers’ money funding construction of villas
Let me first respond to the issue that has deeply upset you, my position that it is Dominican taxpayers’ money that is being expended to build some of the villas at Secret Bay. I am very clear that it is the incentive of the granting of Dominican citizenship and ultimately a Dominican passport, that attracts people around the world to invest in Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI).
Let me explain the reasoning behind my firmly held belief. The Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica is in the business of selling citizenship in exchange for money. The Government of Dominica, “the State”, acting on behalf of the citizens, the taxpayers of Dominica, has agreed to give up this right of citizenship in exchange for the investment of money in Dominica. All monies generated through the CBI have come into Dominica because of the Dominican taxpayers’ agreement to offer citizenship in exchange for investment.
Gregor, you give the public the impression that at Secret Bay, your company is engaged solely in private financial transactions for the sale of villas. Your argument is that you are not building villas with taxpayers’ money that you, as a private investor, are merely selling an interest in land to other private investors. The question is: Are CBI investors actually buying an interest in land or are they buying “citizenship ?. I would argue that, but for the right to Dominican citizenship and to obtain a Dominican passport, these investors would not buy a square foot of land or property at Secret Bay. These monies would not have come into Dominica – and by extension Secret Bay- if the taxpayer/citizen of Dominica had not sold that right of citizenship in exchange for cash.
Absence of full disclosure and lack of regular updates can affect accuracy of reporting
On my programme, ‘Talk on the Block’ I stated that Secret Bay had plans to build “an extra forty-two (42) villas. I also said I understood that the villas were going at US$7 million per villa. In your response, you referred to an agreement in 2019 between the Government of Dominica and your company to build 42 villas.
You further stated that it works out at US$1.75 million per villa and clarified that these villas are not part of the CBI programme. I now understand that the villas currently being built are part of the total of 42. I humbly accept that the information I gave on the “extra 42 villas” as well as the projected sale price per villa was not accurate.
But if the contract between the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Secret Bay Residences had been made public as well as the publication of regular project updates, there would have been no ambiguity or uncertainty about the number of villas completed, those under construction and those in the pipeline. A contract involving the Government of Dominica and a private sector entity like Secret Bay is a matter of public concern.
You disputed my claim that the cost of the 42 villas is $60 million. But you have not made public the projected cost. In the interest of transparency and in defence of the public’s desire for greater openness, I urge you, Gregor, to publish the true figure.
I hold strong to the view that money collected through the CBI programme is taxpayers’ money.
Citizenship is a very special right and privilege. The Governments of Barbados and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to name just two in our region, have taken the principled position that their citizenship is not for sale.
The Government of Dominica has taken a different position. As our Government is in the citizenship/ passport trade on our behalf, it is an inescapable reality that monies received under the programme ultimately belong to the citizens/taxpayers of Dominica. The Government, on our behalf, directs how that money is spent. It is a fact that the developers must always be aware of and conscious of.
The CBI programme has been a lifeline to the Dominican economy for more than a decade. But there are inherent dangers in the programme. Over the last three decades thousands of Dominican passports have been sold. The selling of our citizenship, given our small population resident here, threatens the future political, social and economic stability of this small island. We ought now to put a ceiling on the number of passports we sell.
The world is increasingly becoming more unpredictable. The Covid-19 pandemic and with rising geopolitical tensions in certain parts of the world, coupled with the negative impacts of climate change, Dominica may be one of the few places in the world to seek refuge.
Can Dominica absorb within the next decade thousands of economic citizens? I think the time has come for the people of this country to decide, through a referendum, whether they want the CBI programme to continue in its current form. If we continue selling passports at this rate, we could lose Dominica.
Sean R Douglas
Host- Talk on the Block Q 95 FM.
February 14th 2022