VANUATU: “THE LAND OF CONTRASTS”

Vanuatu is a land of contrasts, where the 21st Century melds comfortably with the 19th Century. Located in the South Pacific, it is often referred to as the Isles of Contrast and the Paradise Islands. With its sub-tropical climate, carefree attitude and an easy going lifestyle, it has been voted the “Happiest Place on Earth” twice in recent years.

Vanuatu is situated in a South Pacific location which is about 3 hours flight from Sydney or Brisbane, almost 3 hours from Auckland, 1.5 hours from Fiji, 1.5 hours from Honiara and 1 hour from New Caledonia. From these destinations, one can connect pretty much to anywhere around the globe.

The country has a population of around 270,000 and its indigenous inhabitants speak over 170 different languages and dialects making it per capita - the most ethnically diverse country population on the planet.

The peoples’ historical origins are predominantly Melanesian intermixed with Polynesian and also include the famed Lapita People who sailed across the Pacific from Asia almost sixteen hundred years B.C.

The country still retains a mix of its historical colonial past in being a condominium – a colony of both England and France with a comfortable intermixing of ethnic varieties on top of its already diverse indigenous population into a peaceful relaxed easy going lifestyle.

The official languages are Bislama which is a type of lingua franca spoken by all as well as English and French. The languages used in the Education system are English and French with state schools teaching the locally developed curriculum and private schools teaching Australian or French curriculum. Most students come out of the country’s Secondary education system being able to speak English and French on top of Bislama and their native indigenous language.

Medical services are available from the State run Health services and expatriate and local foreign trained private medical specialists dispensing such services. There is also ready access to modern medicinal drugs and remedies from commercial chemists.

The political system is a democratic Westminster system of government with a Parliament elected by universal suffrage every 4 years and a President as the Head of State. The executive arm of the State is a democratically elected government headed by a Prime Minister elected by Parliament on that basis of majority rule. The nature of the people is such that despite irregular changes in the country’s dynamic democratic political environment, peaceful transition has always been the norm.

In recent years the country has amended its laws to allow for dual citizenship and several types of citizenship classes exist from naturalized citizenship, citizenship by virtue of marriage, citizenship by entitlement, citizenship by investment and the VERP fast-track citizenship. Further information on types of citizenship, processes, requirements and procedures is available on: www.vancitizenship.gov.vu

The economy is dominated by Tourism and however there is an agricultural industry and just as important is the country’s Offshore Finance Centre. More information on the nation’s economic and social parameters can be obtained from: www.vnso.gov.vu .

Vanuatu has a very well developed international communications system with the development of a submarine cable now connecting Vanuatu to the world global communication network as well as two major domestic telecommunications companies in Telecom Vanuatu Limited being a subsidiary of Mauritius Telecom, and Digicel (Vanuatu).

Vanuatu has a very well developed Offshore Finance Center, which has been operating since 1971 with confidentiality provisions, excellent communication systems and experienced professional service providers. Vanuatu is in a uniquely advantageous time zone for the location of a Financial Center.

The Vanuatu International Finance Center has been established since 1972 and its members have in-depth financial, investment, banking, accounting and legal expertise. Its members facilitate the formation of international and local companies, the formation of trusts and foundations, and provide full international banking and insurance services as well as provision of access to international investments and share trading in international markets. For more information please visit FCA’s website at: www.fca.vu/fca.

There are no income taxes, withholding taxes, capital gains taxes, gift, death, estate or succession duties applying to companies, trusts or individuals. There are also no tax treaties with other countries however there are now a dozen Tax Information Exchange Agreements with foreign governments. Under the Vanuatu International Companies Act, companies have a 20-year guarantee against taxes, duties and exchange controls.

The Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority is a one stop shop for interested investors wishing to invest in Vanuatu’s myriad of potential opportunities with Tourism and Agriculture featuring prominently as well as the Finance Centre activities for those who want to take advantage of Vanuatu’s tax haven privileges. More information on potential opportunities can be obtained from: www.investvanuatu.org.

The Vanuatu Financial Services Commission is responsible for the regulation and supervision of investment business and trust and company service providers. The Commissioner is also the Registrar of Companies, Charitable Organizations, Credit Unions, Trade Unions, Personal Property Securities and Controller of Stamp Duties. The Commission has additional responsibilities including the development of the financial services industry in Vanuatu.

While keen to promote the financial centre facilities, the Commission has an unwavering commitment to ensure that the reputation and integrity of the Centre is maintained. Accordingly, laws have been updated and international standards and best practices have been adopted. A current overhaul of the Finance Centre’s legislative framework which will enhance both the reputation of Vanuatu as an international finance centre and promote investor confidence is being finalized and latest developments include a user friendly system of company registration which can be done via the internet. More information on the types of commercial structures available and on the registration processes of different commercial structures including international companies and international banks can be obtained from: www.vfsc.vu.

The Republic of Vanuatu is especially unique in the Pacific not only because of its indigenous and traditional ethnic diversity but also its colonial heritage which has resulted in a melting pot of diverse origins coming together in a peaceful and relaxed living environment. It is a country where from a tropical environment surrounded by ocean, customs and tradition, one can still access the world at large. It is also a country which has been traditionally politically independent choosing to walk the middle line in global politics based on its conscience more than foreign influences.

It is a country where in one day, one can visit traditional villages and see lifestyles unchanged over centuries, look into the world’s most accessible volcano, dive on one of the world’s largest most accessible shipwrecks, and yet be back to being a part of a dynamic and ever-changing modern world. It is truly a “Land of Contrasts”.