By Juerg Steffen
With Asian countries rapidly expanding their global influence and reach, building networks and connections across Europe and beyond, definitions of “East meets West” are changing and evolving. Where once the term referred to interactions between Asian countries and 20th century superpowers such as the US and the UK, it now has a much wider and more expansive definition. For instance, as Chinese and other Asian corporations have become global market leaders, especially in the technology space, development and growth have flourished across Eastern Europe as countries in the region build stronger ties with Asia. This formerly underdeveloped part of the world is now home to some of the most dynamic and fastest-growing markets on the world stage, with Moldova exemplifying this trend.
MOLDOVA EMBRACING INVESTMENT IMMIGRATION
Moldova’s ambitious development strategy and robust economic growth has recently prompted it to join hands with China as part of the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the largest infrastructure project in history. The Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) program – one of the new investment migration opportunities in Europe – is another example of the forward-looking changes taking place in the country, as it adopts a policy that has dramatically benefited states from the Caribbean to Europe. Like many modern sovereign states, it is embracing investment migration as a cutting-edge alternative to taking on more sovereign debt.
As the most affordable citizenship-by-investment program in Europe, MCBI allows successful applicants to invest 100,000 euros in a Pubic Investment Fund and acquire Moldovan citizenship after about three months. The program, which was developed by the Government of Moldova in partnership with its service provider Henley & Partners and the Moldovan Investment Company, gives citizenship to the main investor and his dependent family, including spouse, children up to 29 years and parents from 55 years old.
BENEFITS OF INVESTMENT MIGRATION
Investment migration is the mechanism by which high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) make a sizeable economic contribution to a host country in exchange for full residence or full citizenship rights. The benefits of investment migration for individuals are well established: more freedom, the peace of mind that comes with having an alternative place of residence in an increasingly volatile world, and greater access to business, education, and travel opportunities. However, investment migration does not just offer benefits to HNWIs. Foreign direct investment (FDI) increases the value of the receiving state, bringing in capital to both the public sector — in the form of donations to the government, tax payments, or treasury bond investments — and the private sector — in the form of investments in businesses, start-ups, or real estate.
Around the world, states are learning that prudently managed residence and citizenship programs with proper due diligence on applicants and clear, transparent structures are able to drive investment that meets the needs of countries, without adding to the burden of debt. Increased investment drives employment opportunities for citizens at all levels, from architects and construction workers, to manufacturing and technology companies, and to the tourism sector and other service industries.
A recent report estimated that investment migration has brought approximately 25 billion euros in FDI into EU countries since 2010, and it is widely understood that residence- and citizenship-by-investment have been fundamental to these countries’ economic recovery following both the global financial crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis.
Take Malta as an example: Just years after the launch of Individual Investor Program in 2014, the country has one of the highest growth rates and one of the lowest unemployment levels of any European Union member state. It is now the best performing economy in the European Union by almost any measure. It is no surprise, then, that Moldova has adopted a form of inbound investment that has already had such markedly positive effects for dozens of sovereign states around the world.
IN A WORLD OF GLOBAL MOBILITY
For investors, the attractiveness of the MCBI program lies in the country’s unique geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and its robust passport strength, combined with the affordability and accessibility of the program. Offering a gateway to Russia and the European Union, as well as being a final key stage on China’s BRI, the country offers opportunities for investors in today’s global economic climate.
The MCBI program requires applicants to make a defined economic contribution to the country through its Public Investment Fund. In exchange, and subject to a stringent vetting and a four-tier due diligence process, applicants and their families are granted full citizenship rights that are transferrable without restrictions to future generations. In a world where global mobility has become synonymous with success, being able to move effortlessly across borders represents the ultimate competitive advantage, and successful applicants also acquire a passport that facilitates visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 121 destinations around the world, including Russia, Turkey, and the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area. The Moldovan passport is in fact one of the highest historical climbers on the Henley Passport Index, having ascended 20 places since 2008.
Other key benefits of the MCBI program include citizenship in a European country with an open culture, a continental climate, and a charming landscape — and citizenship in a state that has entered into an association agreement with the EU and is aiming to become a candidate country for EU membership.
From participation in the BRI to the launching of a CBI program set to change Europe’s investment landscape, Moldova is an attractive market for investors, and a prime example of what might be termed “the new East meets West.”
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