Interview: Chiril Gaburici
His Excellency the Minister of Economy and Infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova Chiril Gaburici talks to Global Citizenship Review about the Republic of Moldova’s recently launched citizenship-by-investment program.
Global Citizenship Review (GCR): Minister, congratulations on the launch of the Moldova Citizenship-by- Investment (MCBI) program. Perhaps you can begin by outlining what value the MCBI program promises to bring to your country and its people?
Minister: Thank you. Citizenship-by-investment (CBI) programs are generally attractive to host nations because they allow the national treasury to raise significant and much-needed funds in a short amount of time. In addition to boosting fiscal health and economic growth, this enhanced liquidity enables countries to be more globally competitive and sustainable, which, especially for smaller sovereign states, provides them with geopolitical autonomy. Ultimately, this means less dependence on foreign lending institutions and a greater ability to drive national resources to where they are needed most: civic initiatives, social services, and so on. These are some of the factors that drew the Moldovan government to the concept of CBI, as part of our quest to create greater value for our people. With the MCBI program, Moldova will gain a new source of debt-free revenue that can be directly translated into projects and services that will improve the lives of ordinary Moldovan people. Infrastructure and education are among the sectors earmarked as recipients of the incoming funds.
Quite apart from the economic gains associated with CBI, successful applicants also bring intangible benefits to receiving countries, such as scarce skills and rich global networks. In addition to adding diversity, they uplift host nations through their demands for improved and novel services, which can create new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. This is part of the vision we have for the Moldova program: that it will create a larger, stronger, and richer community of Moldovan citizens. The special value of the CBI model is that those granted citizenship through investment and those who are already citizens are both equal beneficiaries of the exchange.
GCR: What inspired the Moldovan government to launch the program this year?
Minister: As I’ve touched on already, the main reason for the launch of the MCBI program was that it represents the next step in Moldova’s national long-term foreign direct investment (FDI) strategy and a way to access additional sources of revenue.
Our decision to launch now rather than, say, five years ago was also determined by wanting to launch the right kind of program with the right strategic partners, whom we have gratefully now found. We hope that by introducing a CBI program in Moldova, the country will experience considerable macroeconomic benefits through the flow of capital to the public sector. The overall goal is to attract EUR 1.3 billion through the program over the next five years.
GCR: How important was the question of quality when it came to deciding how the MCBI program would be set up?
Minister: It goes without saying that establishing a quality program for Moldova was critically important for all stakeholders, not simply in terms of the success and sustainability of the MCBI program but also in terms of the reputation of the Moldovan nation. Therefore, it was essential that the tender to design and implement the program was awarded to the most experienced and globally credible partners we could identify. In choosing to partner with the consortium encompassing the Dubai-based Moldovan Investment Company (MIC) and the Europe-based Henley & Partners, we have taken every measure to ensure that the MCBI program can stand alongside the most attractive and prestigious CBI options in the world.
The consortium will bear the economic risks associated with the program and will be responsible for its technical design, implementation, and international promotion, as well as for the necessary advisory work and training. In addition, the MIC is developing a best-in-class FDI strategy, while Henley & Partners will provide optimal due diligence and know-your-client procedures.
GCR: With internal transparency and accountability key to the success of the program, how will the government manage due diligence proceedings for potential investors?
Minister: The success or failure of the MCBI program no doubt depends on how well it screens its applicants — this type of program is only as reputable as its last client. Accordingly, we have put significant energy and resources into ensuring that our program will be extremely well-regulated. Having enlisted the help of Henley & Partners, industry leaders in this regard, the Moldovan government has already sent a very strong statement that we are taking our due diligence proceedings seriously.
As an example of the level of security we are committed to, all applicants will be required to provide a significant amount of information about themselves, their real and financial assets, and any companies they may own. If a client has lived in different parts of the world, they will undergo multiple police clearance and other checks from each jurisdiction in which they have lived. Moreover, applicants will be subject to a four-stage verification of their economic and financial reputation, including checks by Interpol, the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service, the Interior Ministry, the National Anti-corruption Centre, and international diligence companies, which will go through applicants’ case history and validate the information contained in their application forms.
GCR: We understand that investments into the MCBI program will be held in the Public Investment Fund. Could you please explain to us the purpose of this fund?
Minister: This is correct — all contributions from the MCBI program will go into the country’s Public Investment Fund. This fund is a public enterprise that has been in existence for more than two years. Everything about it is transparent, ensuring that investors have total peace of mind that their money is being used carefully and responsibly. Norway’s highly successful sovereign wealth fund, which translates oil revenues into public benefits, will be one of the models for this vehicle — albeit at a lower level of monetary value. As already mentioned, we intend for incoming funds to be channeled into critical sectors such as education, infrastructure development, and social services, and we will remain accountable to the people of Moldova in ensuring that the funds are used as envisioned.
GCR: How is the MCBI program favorably positioned against other similar offerings currently dominating the CBI market?
Minister: First of all, Moldova occupies a unique position between Europe and Russia and offers applicants an attractive geopolitical and business environment that is safe, secure, and good value for money. Second, citizens of Moldova benefit from visa-free access to 121 destinations around the world, including Russia, Turkey, and the Schengen Area. The government is committed to enhancing the level of visa-free access enjoyed by its citizens — and we have already signed a number of new visa-waiver agreements with key destinations this year — which means the power of the Moldovan passport is only going to grow. Third, the program aims to be especially economically viable for families. In fact, it will be the most cost efficient citizenship-by-investment option worldwide for family citizenship. Finally, Moldova has entered into an association agreement with the EU and is aiming to become a candidate country for EU membership in the future. In short, the program offers myriad travel, business, and investment opportunities for investors, especially those with families, within a highly competitive pricing structure