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News 28 Sep 17

Moldova Offers Passports to Cash-Rich Foreigners

Moldova is to offer citizenship to foreigners who invest significant sums in the country, in a bid to boost the weak levels of investment that the country has seen in recent years. 

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Chisinau city centre. Photo: Clay Gilliland/Flikr

Moldova’s pro-European government on Wednesday adopted new regulations on granting citizenship to foreigners who invest significant sums in the country.

According to the government website, any foreigner who invests at least 250,000 euros for five years into real estate or government bonds or lends at least 100,000 euros to the country's public investment fund is eligible for citizenship.

However, the new regulations say the foreign investor has to prove he knows the Moldovan constitution, will abide by its provisions, have a good financial reputation and should not pose a risk to state security.

Moldova's trade register says that out of over 160,000 companies registered in the country, only about 5.5 per cent are foreign.

Most foreign companies that invest in Moldova come from Turkey, Italy, Romania, Russia and Ukraine. But foreign investments have dropped, year on year, the Trade Register noted.

World Bank data shows that foreign direct investment, FDI, in Moldova reached an all-time high of 244.77 million US dollars in the third quarter of 2008 but hit a record low of -8.98 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The US State Department Investment Climate report for 2016 describes the business climate in Moldova as challenging.

“Although the many under-developed sectors offer opportunities, investors should proceed with caution,” the report says.

Some large foreign companies have taken advantage of tax breaks in the country’s free economic zones, but FDI remains weak.

“The major investment climate concerns in 2016 include political uncertainties related to presidential elections scheduled for October 30, the lack of public trust in the government as well as public and private institutions, the economic downturn resulting from Moldova’s 2014 banking crisis, continuing fragility of the banking sector, and instability in the wider region,” the report said.

Moldova’s government adopted a roadmap in June 2017, vowing to boost foreign investment. Among the objectives announced by the government was better legislation to regulate investment and a better dialogue with the business community. 

Critics say the offer of citizenship for cash will entice "dirty money" into the country.

The initiative has also been the subject of much debate by Moldovan politicians for the past year and a half as a result of which the bill has taken several forms.

In March 2017, Moldova's pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, drew criticism after he told businessmen in Russia that by investing in Moldova and obtaining citizenship, they would be able to travel freely in the European Union.

Moldovan citizens have been able to travel to the EU without a visa since April 2014. 

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