Selling Citizenship a Gateway to Investment Opportunities?

National Planning and Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam recently suggested selling citizenship to foreigners, as there are many wealthy foreigners interested in becoming permanent residents of Maldives. He elaborated, saying that his idea of selling citizenship was aimed towards bringing in wealthy foreign investors to the country, prompting several other political figures to weigh in with their views on the matter.

Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam

MDP Parliament Group Leader Ali Azim supported the suggestion, saying that there are foreign nationals who have been living in Maldives for more than 30 years, and that he believes that it’s a good idea to give them citizenship.

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Former Defence Minister and Parliament member Adam Shareef disagreed, saying that selling citizenship might lead to different religions and beliefs spreading in the country and will result in loss of identity for actual Maldivians.

Parliament Member Adam Shareef

According to one of the world’s biggest players in citizenship investment market, Swiss lawyer Christian Kalin said that selling citizenship and citizenship-through-investments programmes are now a global industry worth $25 billion a year.

Citizenship market is a rapidly growing market for investors having the prospect of visa free travel, and the security of a second citizenship is a huge deciding factor in choosing countries to invest in. In countries such as the island nation of Vanuatu, passport sales account for more than 30% of the country’s revenue. 

In Singapore, one of the most popular destinations for immigrants, new citizenships remain important to augment the population quantitively and qualitatively.

Singapore passport

Hence, citizenship will bring investors and foreign currency in to the economy and enhance the population of Maldives quantitively and qualitatively.

An Ambassador to Maldives with decades of experience in the tourism industry has supported the permanent residency concept but within a criteria that will benefit and not burden our socio-economic structure.

Malaysia has introduced a “Malaysia My Second Home” (MM2H) programme, which ensures maximum 10 years of residency in the country. MM2H programme contributes billions of Ringgits to the economy especially from applicants who choose set up home here.

Infographics of a survey of people with a Malaysia My Second Home Visa

On the other hand, selling citizenship has led to corruption and political influences linked to citizenship investments. In countries such as Vanuatu, citizenship is sold to improve the state of the economy. However, according to locals, communities aren’t seeing the money from the passport sales despite promises that the scheme would rebuild infrastructure and homes. This is due to political influences and corruption, they believe.

According to a pioneer in the industry, there are both sides to it; advantages and disadvantages. However, advantages are more than disadvantages.

Several countries which fought for their independence often question the morality of selling their hard-won sovereignty to the highest bidder. Selling citizenship will bring more investors to the economy but it will also bring foreign culture and influences to the economy.

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