THE opening up of the pre-independence tax haven in Vanuatu did not, of itself, bring in the large numbers of Chinese immigrants the country hosts today. As one of Vanuatu’s two colonial masters, the British promoted the tax haven in the Condominium in the ‘Seventies, as it also did in certain Caribbean island colonies with no immediate exportable wealth and an undeveloped education sector. By the mid-nineties, the tax haven was producing 15 per cent of the country’s GDP. But Chinese immigration had not markedly increased at that time. Three Cantonese hong controlled the Chinese coming to Vanuatu and their presence here was often just as an extension of a family business. However, Vanuatu people until independence lived without any citizenship. The coming of a nationality gave a whole new meaning to the tax haven. And Cantonese and other Chinese people – even Singapore businesses – sought the advantages a new tax-free state might bring them. Seeing the possible national and even personal financial benefits, Vanuatu’s politicians quickly entered the industry. Australia not being far away also made a difference. A recent advertisement on Hong Kong television for a migration services company showed a little boy in a “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” sequence deciding he wanted to come to Vanuatu when seeing where it lies on the map. The tax haven has jealously guarded….
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