An Interview with Steve Horsford, Executive Director of the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program
Executive Director of the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program Steve Horsford has described the CBI Program as an extremely important economic tool for Grenada to diversity its economy especially considering the reduced global significance of small countries and the difficulties of accessing developmental funds from friendly Governments and International Agencies.
Horsford told Business Focus OECS that the entire concept of the Economic Citizenship Program was a very good financial tool for the economy, labeling it as nothing short of good and sound judgement on the part of its architects.
Grenada had initially introduced the Economic Citizenship Program in 1999 but this was repealed in 2001. It was reintroduced by an Act of Parliament in August 2013.
Business Focus OECS engaged in an exclusive interview with the CBI Director…
BF: How do you attract investors to your CBI Program?
SH: Advertising is the strongest tool for attracting investors. We have employed a few marketing agents who understand the Grenadian economy, culture and possibilities that exist here and the type of investments that are possible… We also appointed an advertising promotional firm to assist in that regard. A government Minister has also been appointed to assist with the promotion of the CBI Program. In addition there are several industry conferences around the world which we attend to expose and advertise ourselves. It isn’t just a CBI thing. It affects tourism and many other sections of our economy.
BF: How would you profile an ideal investor?
SH: An ideal investor would be a very high net worth individual with a clean character and whose source of wealth we must be able to verify. Such a person, where we have a source of wealth that is impeccable, and who has an interest in investing. That is an ideal investor and we have been able to attract a number of them to invest in Grenada.
BF: Why should an investor consider Grenada as opposed to another destination?
SH: We are not competing with any other state. Grenada has some attributes that are unique and investors follow that which they think is important. Our relationship with some countries that allows a Grenadian citizen access to benefits that are unparalleled in terms of visas, like being eligible to travel and establish businesses in the United States [and] live and work there under the UB2 program. We also have a visa free access to the People’s Republic of China which is something that is envied by a lot of countries. We also have a well regulated jurisdiction to prevent people of the wrong caliber getting into our country. It all comes down to the things that are unique to Grenada and the opportunities to invest in our country.
BF: How successful is the CBI Program based on your corporate targets?
SH: The corporate targets were never an issue but yes we do have projections. We don’t always make these projections because of our emphasis on what we value most – the security and integrity of the process. Whereas we have several applications coming in, we have turned down very many because our due diligence and the integrity of the jurisdiction take precedence over anything else. These decisions of course negatively affect the financial results and indeed the projections.
This year, 2016, we have met our financial target for the first time. And we did it without the element of competition and without circumventing any processes. Suddenly, well intentioned, high-impact people are getting the word about Grenada and notwithstanding the low prices of other countries, they are beginning to gravitate towards Grenada and we have seen quite an increase in the last few months.
BF: What national programs and projects have benefitted and/or been implemented since the launch of the CBI Program?
SH: The Grenada Government has established the Transformational Fund. There are many initiatives that are deemed transformational in nature by the government of Grenada. Infrastructure, education, health, social security – those types of things are deemed transformational in nature. Monies from the Transformational Fund go directly into a special account which is managed by a select committee that is established by law. They determine how the fund is managed. Tourism is one of the areas that some of the funds have been channeled to.
BF: In your experience in dealing with the investors that have come through the system to date, what are the major industries of attraction?
SH: Tourism is the major investment sector, because our room stock is climbing very well. People don’t know it but Silver Sands Hotel is a CBI project. There are about 10-15 other 5-Star hotel projects that are taking place. We lost some due to flaws found in the compliance process and sometimes this does not auger well with the public. They read into it what they choose to, but the Government makes those decisions based on what is presented. It causes the new investors to be cautious with the kinds of promises they make.
Other major sectors of investment interest include Agriculture and Fisheries, with the former poised to received tremendous capital injection over the coming years. At least one Fisheries project is already in the pipeline.
BF: Is Green Energy an area available under the CBI development profile?
SH: Green energy is very much a part of our CBI development profile. As a matter of fact, one of our already licensed CBI programs relates to Solar Energy. The difficulty we have had with that program is due to a law that required GRENLEC’s approval, but this has since changed. With our marketing efforts over the past few months, we have been getting quite a bit of interest in this and other sectors.
BF: What is your vision for the CBI Program for the next ten years? How do you see it moving forward?
SH: My vision for the program is tied to that of the Parliament of Grenada, which is to stimulate the economy. That is the vision and purpose of it. To say that I think anything different would be deviating from what the dictates of the country is. It is my intention to focus on the integrity of the program because I believe, by any large, that is going to be the success of it. I believe this is something that is sustainable. Freedom is something that people need and what wealth does is give you freedom and as long as there are wealthy people in the world, that program is going to be part of it. On the other hand, as long as there are problematic regions in the world, the people with the means to find a safer haven will keep the project alive for years to come.
BF: How much of a campaign have you executed to sensitize the Grenadian people of the benefits of the CBI Program?
SH: I believe the public is ready to accept that this project is a way of financing some of government’s initiatives. My not going upfront and making statements about it is deliberate. I have a role to play and it cannot be seen by anyone as being tainted – for that reason I have stayed out of it and allowed people who have the mandate to publicize it to do their job.
BF: How has the leadership of the CBI Programme changed the life of SH?
SH: I have learned an awful lot about people and I have also learnt to remove myself from situations. I have learnt and understood the whole issue of collective responsibility. Being able to contribute to a country in a way that a CBI Director can, it gives you a chance to understand what can be accomplished with the proper safeguards. I have got an education of the political element, understanding of the regulatory aspects of things, and the opportunity to see how I can better serve people by what I do.
BF: What legacy would you like to leave behind, having been the face of this CBI Program since its recent relaunch?
SH: The integrity of the programme. Even if we don’t make the money, the programme has to remain untainted. It is what the political directorate and the electorate would want. It is what I subscribe to. And if I’m able to put the structures and systems in place to diffuse any of the things that would bring the program into disrepute, I think I would be doing quite well. The integrity of this program and of this office is important to me and our country.
(First Published – Business Focus OECS, December 2016)