The floodgates on offshore investment in Vanuatu remains open as foreign investors take advantage of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) requirements which hasn’t been reviewed or modified since 1998.
Acting CEO of VIPA Raymond Vuti explained: “The act that we have now was developed in 1998 and since that time the business environment has changed dramatically and we can say that it is not so strong and it will definitely be needed for the Act to be reviewed.”
According to Mr Vuti efforts to have the Act reviewed in the past have been futile – “Our Act has already been reviewed in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but it has never reached the parliament for discussion and approval.
“We were for the review to be done but what we don’t have a say on is why it wasn’t reviewed and why it wasn’t brought to parliament,” he said.
With an outdated criteria to attain a certificate to invest in the country the number of foreign investors have increased in the last 5 years from 108 in 2011 — 137 last year.
This has also opened a window for false investors who are believed to buy off a mass amount of land and then sell it back to the country in smaller blocks.
Manager of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Alick Berry mentioned that a Draft Sub-Division Policy provided by the government is currently being reviewed to prevent such activities.
“What we are working on now, the government came up with a Draft Sub-Division Policy and they gave that document to us and we are now reviewing it to put some private sector inputs in it because the government have seen a trend of people coming into Vanuatu, pretending to be investors and they buy land and then sub-divide it into blocks and then selling off the pieces of land and then go,” Mr Berry stated.
However Mr Berry further stated that if the VIPA legislation remains unchanged it will only invite more false inventors into the country: “So what they are doing now is making Vanuatu like a play-ground. The VIPA legislation has been going on for far too long now and it has to be reviewed.”
The Draft Sub-Division Policy will be finalized on the 23rd of this month at the VCCI headquarters.