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Economic citizenship is a legal means of providing citizenship of an individual to a sovereign state. Economic citizenship grants an individual access to political and legal rights and in providing citizenship to that person, offers them the same sense of belonging that other individuals feel towards their given country. In short, citizenship is expressed as a personal relationship that a person shares with a country in identifying himself as a product of its culture, national identity and society.
Very often, the terms ‘citizen’ and ‘national’ tend to be applied interchangeably despite the fact their meanings may differ from each other based on a given context. In essence, although citizens are nationals of a country, there are nationals who are not necessarily citizens but are identified accordingly due to the fact that they are protected by the state. Such as in the case of permanent residents in a country who are called nationals but are required to meet specific juridical and residential prerequisites in order to become citizens.
Economic citizenship provides individuals with the right to be a citizen of two countries and is dependent on the combined application of the citizenship laws of two countries. What this means is that dual citizenship cannot take effect, if a given country requires its citizens to renounce its citizenship in order to acquire another or vice versa. The possibility of taking up economic citizenship in several countries and being the citizen of all those countries also exists. In this case an individual acquires what is referred to as “multiple citizenship”.
The concept of Economic Citizenship has extended to encapsulate different trends of thought on the subject and resultantly has been interpreted differently by various authors. In a study on Economic Citizenship as it relates to state and society, social policy and gender, Alice Kessler-Harris identifies Economic Citizenship as “the privileges and opportunities necessary for men and women to achieve economic autonomy and independence”.
If we were to regard Economic Citizenship programmes in this context, they would be applauded for providing individuals and families with the opportunity of receiving the privilege of obtaining the economic autonomy and independence that Harris speaks about. In addition Economic Citizenship also offers the opportunity for successful applicants to reside in a country where they are protected from economic tribulation, social upheavals and political disturbances.
Economic Citizenship Programmes were established to provide a means whereby people wishing to make valuable investments and eventually settle in a country could become citizens of that country without having to undergo permanent residency for a number of years, while creating a source of income for the country. However, as history has demonstrated to us, good intentions are sometimes not good enough and can create grounds for foul play, a fact to which Economic Citizenship Programmes throughout the world became no strangers. Many claims were made against governments for providing terrorists of all sorts access to countries to which they would not under normal circumstances have gained entry with their original passports and citizenship. In an attempt to clamp down and eliminate terrorist activities, severe measures were implemented by international organizations that eventually lead to the postponement and termination of most Economic Citizenship Programmes.
Currently, only three countries worldwide offer Economic Citizenship Programmes; Dominica, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and Austria. In both Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis, prospective applicants for Economic Citizenship are required to comply with stiff due-diligence procedures which are performed by an internationally licensed agency. By making applicants incumbent to these strict background checks, the respective governments ensure that the Economic Citizenship Programmes comply with internationally required KYC compliance mandate.
Besides the direct financial benefits derived from Economic Citizenship Programmes, the host countries also benefit through networks developed between them and the new citizens even if they opt to remain abroad. The possibility of developing epistemic networks is one of the far reaching impacts in stimulating economic growth that can be achieved by conferring either, Dominican or Kittitian citizenship to highly skilled and trained individuals.
Understanding the importance of citizenship bestows a greater sense of duty, obligation and responsibility which is similar to the blood relation that confers a sense of belonging to one’s family. In identifying the importance of reinforcing the fundamentals of citizenship, various organizations have engaged themselves in educating young adults and children about the economic responsibilities of citizenship by instilling in them the principles that would enable them to identify themselves as having an important role in society as an integral part of the whole. From this point of view, Economic Citizenship implicates moral, economic and social responsibility and knowing what type of behavior is acceptable or not based on social norms and juridical standards. Many authors suggest that the sense of patriotism that was once attached to the notion of citizenship has been lost as a result of circumscription and the ubiquity of mass culture, which intensifies the degree and ways in which cultures are imported and replace the traditional norms and customs of smaller countries.
Even in the face of this globalization of culture, the concept of citizenship remains an important one for every nation. Citizenship Programmes implemented throughout the United Kingdom, for example, have become an integral part of political literacy. These programmes are channeled through the school curriculum at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels and cover topics such as government spending, democracy, the functioning and management of the economy, pensions, taxation, the Commonwealth, the role of businesses and financial institutions and courts. Such programs on citizenship seek to teach citizens of a country about their role in society so that they are able to identify themselves as being indispensable to the country’s social, economic and political framework so that they foster to make meaningful contributions.
Without a doubt, viewing citizenship from this stand point makes it difficult for many to visualize being granted the citizenship of a country without being born there or after having resided there for a number of years, as in the case of economic citizenship. But identifying the importance of Economic Citizenship Programmes as provided by respective governments can only be done by identifying the need and significance of the privilege of obtaining a second citizenship as security in the event of economic distress and religious warfare and social inequalities.
Economic Citizenship Programmes may present the sole disadvantage of being available only to the people who are able to afford them because of the large sums of contributions that are required from governments and costly due diligence checks that are conducted before qualifying as an applicant to the program. Economic Citizenship does represent a significant investment but the rewards are plentiful from increased travel and business opportunities to a more secure environment for family members and material assets.
In light of the current global financial situation the Economic Citizenship Programmes offered in Dominica and St Kitts & Nevis are a potential lifeline to many and interested persons are urged to make the necessary enquiries whilst these programmes are still in existence. Any application must be made through a registered and government approved agency and Caribbean Land and Property Financial Services are your trusted providers to facilitate the process of gaining a second passport and obtaining security for your present and future.
(c) Caribbean Land and Property December 2008 to 2011