Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 19, 2018 (SKNIS): In giving his input on The Appropriation (2019) Bill, 2018, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Foreign Affairs said “it is therefore no meagre exploit that a small country such as ours is punching well above its weight in so far as diplomacy is concerned.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis diplomat highlighted a number of areas where the twin-island Federation is making progress in expanding its diplomatic footprint regionally and internationally.

Minister Brantley said that the Government of National Unity has embarked on a journey to repair damaged relationships with countries that were hurt under the former Dr. Douglas-led Administration.

He said that when the government assumed office in 2015, the relationship with the United States was at its “lowest ebb” because the former administration had “squandered” an excellent relationship, and that the reputation of St. Kitts and Nevis was at “an all-time low”.

Minister Brantley mentioned the FinCEN Advisory from the United States Treasury, issued on May 20, 2014, that stated that under the former Dr. Douglas-led Administration there was abuse of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme and that passports obtained through the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI programme were used to facilitate financial crimes.

Part of the FinCEN Advisory read: “While many countries offer programs similar to the SKN Citizenship-by-Investment program, the SKN program is attractive to illicit actors because the program, as administered, maintains lax controls as to who may be granted citizenship. While the SKN government has publicly pledged to improve these controls, FinCEN believes that they remain ineffective. For example, in 2013 the SKN government announced that all Iranian nationals were suspended from participating in the SKN Citizenship-by-Investment program. Despite this public assurance, FinCEN believes that Iranian nationals continue to obtain passports issued through the program. As a result of these lax controls, illicit actors, including individuals intending to use the secondary citizenship to evade sanctions, can obtain an SKN passport with relative ease.”

Minister Bradley also mentioned that for the very same issue of lax controls as to who may be granted citizenship, Canada removed its visa waiver for St. Kitts and Nevis. However, the Foreign Minister said that the Federation is re-engaging with Canada in a “meaningful way” and that the Team Unity Administration has restored the integrity of the CBI programme, which now has “one of the most robust due due-diligence of any CBI programme in the world.”

The top diplomat lauded the value of the St. Kitts and Nevis passport, saying that it was one of the most respected in the world.

“I am pleased to report that in an index of the rankings of passports done by Henley and Partners passport index, ranking all passports of the world according to passport holders and the number of the countries they can travel to visa free using data collected from IATA (International Air Transport Association), Henley and Partners in October put the St. Kitts and Nevis passport as 26th in the World. They said we were 3rd in the Caribbean behind Barbados and the Bahamas,” Minister Brantley said. “At the time, they said we had visa-free access to 151 countries but that is not the good news. The good news is that since Henley and Partners has published, we have signed visa-waiver with The Gambia, we have signed visa-waiver with Togo, we have signed visa-waiver with Ghana, and shortly we will be signing visa waiver with a number of additional countries.” St. Kitts and Nevis has also signed visa-waiver with Kosovo, Belarus, Rwanda, Moldovia, Republic of Indonesia, Russia and Ukraine.

“I am prepared to go on record in this honourable House to say to the House and the people of this country that if God spares life by the first half of next year, the St. Kitts and Nevis passport will be the most powerful passport in all of the Caribbean and Latin America.”

Since taking office in February of 2015, the Government of National Unity has established diplomatic relations with 32 countries, of which 12 of them were established in 2018. These countries include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe, Dominican Republic, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, Gabonese Republic, Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Republic of Albania, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Kosovo, Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Maldives, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, Republic of Mozambique, Republic of San Marino, Republic of Senegal, Republic of Serbia, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Togo, State of Qatar, and Ukraine.