Greg Lindsay is Director of Applied Research at NewCities.
The last year has been clarifying in terms of global governance. The nation presumably best prepared for a pandemic, for instance, was first hobbled by its leaders’ criminal negligence, then humbled by people’s casual disregard for their neighbors’ health and safety. For those seeking safe havens, America’s apparent indifference to saving its citizens’ lives caused all of its material advantages to crumble — along with the strength of its passport once nations recognized its threat to their desperate efforts at containment.
It’s no coincidence the first nation to pre-emptively close its border with the US a year ago tops this assessment. True to form, Canada’s quiet competency, deference to authority, and historical “garrison mentality” — as seen in five provinces walling themselves off from the rest of the country to great success — culminated in the best overall score.
South of the (indefinitely-closed) border, the less said about the Trump administration’s pandemic non-response, the better. President Biden set the tone of his presidency early with the repeal of his predecessor’s “Muslim ban”, legislation to create a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, and an aggressive timetable for inoculations. But even he cannot reverse the political polarization hampering federal efforts — as seen in Texas’s unilateral decision to lift restrictions — nor can he easily repair the institutional vandalism that was initiated on Trump’s watch.
From a purely residence- and citizenship-by-investment (RCBI) perspective, it’s the Caribbean nations of St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia that offer the most post-pandemic value, both having leveraged their island status to mount effective quarantine measures while offering some of the world’s most affordable CBI programs. The region has also become a hotbed of innovation around “nomad visas”, with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands all having launched tax-free short-term residency schemes to attract remote workers in lieu of tourists.
But given the catchphrase of politics is “what have you done for me lately?”, the Trudeau government’s early pandemic successes may soon be forgotten if it cannot rescue itsflailing vaccination program. Meanwhile, Americans are looking forward to a “normal” summer while Caribbean nations look to India and China for help instead. The standing at the end in 2021 may look very different indeed.
The classic example of a most valuable player who does many things well without superlatives in any of them, Canada tops this global benchmark despite never wrestling the virus into submission (unlike runner-up New Zealand), nor having an especially distinguished RCBI program (unlike clear winner Austria). Instead, it simply persevered, with a death rate that’s middling globally but is less than half of that of its larger neighbor. In its favor: a functioning political system in which even populist politicians such as Ontario premier Doug Ford has dismissed anti-mask groups as “a bunch of yahoos”. As Covid variants appeared, the country tightened its travel restrictions further, inspiring a culture of shaming. Until last November, Canadians united behind the government’s pandemic response, as seen in the willingness of Quebec and Ontario residents to endure a return to soft lockdown. Canada isn’t perfect, and the majority of its citizens aren’t likely to be vaccinated soon, but as a redoubt against the world it’s everything you need it to be.
Where to begin? During the Trump administration, America’s ranking in “government efficiency” landed somewhere between Thailand and Cambodia — which is not a knock on either country, but one should expect more from the superpower whose absolute and per capita healthcare expenditures far outstrip those of every other country on Earth. While its hospitals proved more resilient than anyone could have hoped in the grim first wave of the pandemic, the lack of social cohesion compared to its northern neighbor means common sense is commonly discarded in favor of the culture wars. While the Biden administration gathers steam behind rising vaccination rates and a USD 1.9 trillion stimulus package, visa applicants aren’t likely to forget how quickly their fortunes might turn again in the 2024 presidential elections.
Perhaps the region’s biggest winner — from a purely CBI standpoint, at least — is St. Kitts and Nevis, which outshone its regional neighbors in several respects, with quarantines, monitoring, and detection chief among them. While the Caribbean nations on this list trail far behind the healthcare capabilities of much larger competitors, they hold their own from a governance standpoint. As just one example, the St. Lucia Citizenship by Investment Unit has made a firm commitment to governance and transparency. And given how quickly governance is evolving in the region — even in the absence of vaccines — the Caribbean is well-positioned to be the sandbox for evolving notions of citizenship going forward.
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