Leader of the opposition, Lennox Linton is of the view that the public has a right to know the legal authority under which revenue raised or received by Dominica, through the Citizenship by Investment program, is kept out of the Consolidated Fund.
Generally, in the Westminster system of government, a Consolidated Fund is often described as the main bank account of the government.
“The public has a right to know the legal authority under which money raised or received by Dominica is kept out of the Consolidated Fund…,” he said in his response of the National Budget on Wednesday. “I am not saying there is no legal authority; I am just saying that I have not seen it. We have not seen it, you know it, you may have passed it, tell us the legal authority under which monies in this case, in the tune of $146-million, is being kept out of the Consolidated Fund of the fancy and whim of government’s functionaries.”
According to statistics released in the National Budget on Wednesday, over $99-million ($99,047,300), from the Citizenship by Investment Program was placed in the Consolidated Fund.
In his budget presentation, Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said his administration has “increased our revenue earnings to over $200-million in the last financial year.”
Linton stated that this year, there is a major shift in revenue focus, from taxes to the sale of citizenship but there is no economic activity.
“Throughout the period Dominica has seen a steady growth in the number of citizens, but no investment in economic activity to secure sustainable jobs and national income,” Linton stated.
Furthermore, he argued that there has been “no transparency, no accountability, no idea how much money Dominica was raising from the sale of citizenship until this year’s budget statement.”
He explained that other OECS countries in the citizenship business have been reporting fully on their economic citizenship revenues and expenditure.
He added that there has been growing pressure on the government to account to the people, “and we finally have some accounting.”
“But I want to tell this House the numbers disclosed give us grave cause for concern,” he noted.
Linton explained that two years ago in 2014-2015 the government “picked up” $23-million through economic citizenship which represented a shortfall of the projected $55-million in the budget for that financial year.
“We asked for an explanation. There was no explanation for this massive shortfall in projected economic citizenship revenue,” he argued. “Yet without explanation, the 2015-2016 estimate of non-tax revenue from the economic citizenship programme went up to $70 million, even though it was only $23-million in the previous year. One year later the government reports economic citizenship programme revenues of $99-million…$76-million over the prior year and $29-million above the budget.”
In fact, Linton said, according to a statement issued on Tuesday in the National Budget, the actual amount received from economic citizenship in $2015-2016 was $279.8-million.
“What this means, Madam Speaker, is that the economic citizenship revenue of the Commonwealth of Dominica was underreported in the official estimates that this Parliament is now being asked to approve – the underreporting was in the tune of $180.8-million,” he explained. “The estimates that the Commonwealth of Dominica parliament is being asked to approve is not approving $279.8million which came in last year, it is approving $99-million, which is $180-million short.”
Linton questioned the cost of the citizenship program.
“We are selling citizenship but at what cost?” he asked. “We are making money from it at what cost? Are we prepared to make money from this source of revenue while we condemn natural born Dominicans to second-class citizenship in their own country?”
In terms of job creation, Linton asked, “what have we been doing with this economic citizenship monies over the years?”
“It is a question you must answer,” he stated.
He indicated that in August 2016 Dominica will celebrate 25 years the “silver jubilee” of economic citizenship.