Image credit: Vanuatu Daily Post
The newly appointed Chairman of Vanuatu’s Citizenship Commission is a political heavy-weight and was, until Vanuatu’s March 2020 General Election, Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
A former Justice Minister, Ronald Warsal was appointed by the incoming Prime Minister Hon. Bob Loughman MP on the 4th of May in a nomination that signals recognition of the importance in securing both domestic and international approval and support for the continuation of Vanuatu’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).
In the face of dual emergencies, pragmatism trumps dogma
The General Election swept Bob Loughman, leader of the Vanua’aku Political Party, to power in a last-minute coalition deal centered around a group of independent MPs.
Although the Vanua’aku Party and other elements of the Coalition campaigned, in part, on an anti-CIP platform, the practical realities that the new Administration faces of managing the fallout from Covid-19, as well as the recent devastation caused in the north of the country by Tropical Cyclone Harold, render the Citizenship by Investment Program, for the time being, indispensable in supporting the country through these twin crises
Shaking things up
The acknowledgment of the CIP’s utility, however, will not stop the new government from asserting itself in establishing improved governance of the program – and in particular addressing the idiosyncrasy of parallel, twin-operating sets of programs – labeled as the Development Support Program (DSP) and Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP) – which has for so long raised questions both in Vanuatu and, globally, in the wider investment migration industry.
As reported in Vanuatu’s Daily Post, Government Public Relations Officer, Fred Vurobaravu was quoted as saying that Prime Minister Loughman wants to see more transparency within the program and has asked the incoming Chairman to conduct a program review.
The new Chairman inherits a program that has seen a dramatic increase in global popularity during the past 12-18 months but also one bedeviled by pricing disparities and, with the existence of two side-by-side programs, inconsistent distribution management.
For the time being, there is a broad consensus among government representatives in Vanuatu regarding the instrumentality of the CIP’s role as a revenue-generator in time of need. Although the government will be pursuing an active agenda of developing alternative ways to generate income, the DSP, in particular, will remain a bedrock of national development for some time to come.
The program is unlikely to ever be warmly embraced by the electorate and, so, to the government, the PR battle is largely a domestic one – with the need to demonstrate to ordinary Vanuatu Citizens the value that investor citizens bring, in such basic ways as local job creation.
Along with the desire expressed by the Prime Minister for greater transparency, a plan for tapping into the economic and financial resources of investor citizens will be crucial for revenue diversification and reduction of reliance on the DSP (and VCP). Winning at least a level of tolerance amongst the domestic audience will require the demonstration of a firm hand on the citizenship program.
Under the new government, Vanuatu’s program has everything to prove, both domestically and internationally. The appointment of Mr. Warsal launches that effort with a plausible statement of intent, to be followed up with some meaningful actions to press home the opportunities presented by a completely fresh mandate.
Want to know more about the Vanuatu CIP? To see recent statistics, official links, FAQs, and more, please visit its Program Page. To see which firms can assist with applications to the program, please visit the Residence & Citizenship by Investment Company Directory.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.