The year 2016 has been one of the most unpredictable, volatile and rich of emotions years that recent history has seen. It will by all means stay in history as the year when the UK people chose to leave the European Union and the American people chose Donald Trump for their President. None of these were foreseen by the majority of political observers and commentators, where most of the political elite was preparing for the opposite outcomes. The level of surprise, outright shock and disengagement was high and is already shaping the reality that 2017 will bring along. What will this be? We can say, with considerable certainty, that no one knows. Below are some of the highlights of the past year.
Despite the shortfalls that 2016 brought about, it had a very fresh start by welcoming Saint Lucia as an honored member of the global citizenship movement. After announcing its intention to commence a citizenship by investment program during the Global Citizen Forum in Monaco last October, the island nation began the operation working of the program in January 2016. The program is proving very popular among immigrant investors, being the preferred option thanks to the global mobility and simplicity of the process. Even though one of the investment options, namely the government bonds, was temporarily abolished, the program has performed well in its first year of existence and has done a significant step in improving the country’s popularity among HNWIs and international investors.
The year 2016 has been one of consolidation for the Caribbean region and in particular for the Citizenship by Investment programs all five islands are running. We have seen a series of improvements and upgrades, with the most recent one shooting Dominica to the top position of the Arton Index with a total score of 75 points. The leader in the ranking is followed by Grenada with only one point difference, stemming from a slightly more demanding cost structure. The region has also worked on converging in its policies and approached to the industry. They have worked on pulling together their efforts under the Citizenship by Investment Programs Association (CIPA) where common matters related to the industry and its main challenges are discussed. The most recent meeting held in Dominica will look into the matter of self-regulation and will have international bodies such as the Global Investor Immigration Council to present their mission and objectives for the year ahead.
A lot of big decisions marked 2016, some were less favorable than others, but the choice of the new Secretary General of the UN will remain as one of the positive developments the past year brought about. In October this year, the General Assembly reached the decision to appoint the former Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres as the successor of Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Guterres, 67, was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. After having been sworn in December, he will become the world’s top diplomat on 1 January 2017, and will hold that post for the next five years.
“The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process, more on people and less on bureaucracy.”, said Guterres during the swearing ceremony. He also said he would send a clear signal that gender parity “from top to bottom” within the organization would be among his first priorities. The swearing-in came after the 193 General Assembly members paid tribute to Ban, ending with a standing ovation for the native South Korean.
The international community is very hopeful that Mr. Guterres will be able to address all of the pressing issues that United Nations has been facing as an organization. There are a number of humanitarian, political and economic challenges that need immediate attention, where it is certain that his rich professional background will help pinpoint the right approach and address issues effectively.
The European Union was put under tremendous pressure in the past year. Having just recovered from a dire financial and currency crisis, the Union had to face an unprecedented wave of migrants coming from the MENA region, a departing Great Britain, and a stronger than ever populist far-right consolidation. The vote for Brexit undoubtedly marks one of the milestones in the development of the Union, putting pressure on its building pillars, such as freedom of movement, labor, goods and open borders.
As much as critics like to treat this as the end of an era, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Europe will come out stronger from this identity struggle it is going through. The recent presidential vote in Austria is only one example of the way Europeans treat recent events – they consolidate to protect what has been achieved and to work for stronger political union within the continent.
In most countries, the majority supports membership of the EU and its currency. According to an EU survey, 54% of Italians, 69% of Austrians and 73% of Germans want to keep the euro, with one in three supporting a positive image of the EU.
The string of elections in 2017 will test whether the populist forces can beat mainstream politicians. A political revolt against Europe’s status quo that began in Greece and the U.K. will come to a head in France, Germany, the Netherlands and maybe even Italy. The outcome will determine the future of the EU where the peoples of Europe’s core will finally have their say.