Interview with Harvesh Seegolam -Chief Executive FSPA
CEO Insight: What informs the move to transition Mauritius into a front-office focused IFC, to what extent has this ambition been realised to date?
Mauritius has over 2 decades of experience as a centre facilitating cross border investments in key regional markets. Our focus is to further build on this experience and move towards high-value added activities in our financial sector, thus graduating Mauritius into a front-office focused International Financial Centre (IFC).
This is also reflected in the new segments of activities that are being encouraged in our IFC through the introduction of a whole new suite of bespoke financial products targeting multinational corporations and global firms, international insurance operators, private banks, investment banks, fund and asset managers, international law firms, FINTECH companies, market makers and High Net Worth Individuals.
At the level of the Financial Services Promotion Agency (FSPA), as the Government body responsible for the development and promotion of Mauritius as an IFC of choice, we are seeing growing interests of a number international operators in the financial services and related activities space. These operators are looking at establishing in the Mauritius IFC to service the regional markets, including Africa and many parts of Asia.
CEO Insight: What part does the Financial Services Institute have to play in consolidating Mauritius’ status as an IFC of International renown?
The Financial Services Institute (FSI) operates as the training and capacity building arm of FSPA. In line with the strategy of the FSPA, the FSI is working closely with forthcoming, new and existing operators in the sector to identify areas where our young graduates and professionals need to be trained in line with the expectations of the operators. This allows us to bridge the existing gap in terms of specific and technical skills shortage in our sector and make our young professionals desk ready for our IFC.
CEO Insight: What would you describe as the most striking recent forthcoming developments in respect of Mauritius’ portfolio of products and services?
A number new products, together with relevant incentive packages, have been introduced to further consolidate the product offering of Mauritius as an IFC of choice. Our target is to grow activities in the fields of asset and wealth management, corporate finance and investment banking, international legal services, capital markets as well as insurance and reinsurance. The recently introduced Overseas Family Office Licence and Investment Banking Licence, as well as the revamped Global Headquartering Licence are all set to boost activities and give a new dynamism to our IFC.
CEO Insight: To what extent can Mauritius claim to be the “IFC of Africa”?
First and foremost, Mauritius is very much part of Africa. We are an active member of all major regional trading blocs and associations including the AU, the SADC and the COMESA amongst many others. As an African jurisdiction of substance, the Mauritius IFC has been, and continues to be instrumental in driving quality investments in Africa, leading to sustained growth, prosperity and poverty alleviation across the continent.
It is equally important to understand that investors normally look for a number of factors when making key investment decisions. These factors include, amongst others, political, social and economic stability, a business-friendly environment, world class service providers, a sound and trusted banking system, ease of exiting investments, free repatriation of profits and dividends, free movement of capital, a competitive and simple fiscal regime, and a pool of highly capable and qualified professionals who understand the dynamics of investing in target markets.
As an internationally recognised investment centre that adheres to international best practices and norms, Mauritius has, and continues to provide, a platform that offers all these factors as key benefits and one from which international investors can operate and invest from.
It is also noteworthy that some of the most active social impact investors, investment funds as well as philanthropic foundations have chosen Mauritius as their financial centre, as the country boasts a friendly and conducive environment to do business. Mauritius tops a number of rankings in Africa including the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index; the African Index on Economic Transformation; the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance; the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report and the Fraser Institute on Economic Freedom of the World Ranking, amongst others. These therefore position Mauritius as the natural IFC of Africa. 5) In light of the release of the “Panama Papers” and the recent “Tax Battles” report by “Oxfam”, what reassurance can you provide that Mauritius constitutes a clean, transparent and responsible jurisdiction?
Mauritius is a fully collaborative and responsible IFC. The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes has rated Mauritius as a “Largely Compliant” jurisdiction – a rating which equals that obtained by developed economies such as the USA, the UK and Germany. This bears testimony to the good standing of our jurisdiction in so far as transparency and exchange of information is concerned. The Mauritius IFC also has the required exchange of information mechanisms in place through its bilateral treaties and Tax Information and Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) that it has signed.
Moreover, Mauritius has also signed the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, developed by the OECD and is a member of the Early Adopters Group committed to the early implementation of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) on the automatic exchange of financial account information. Mauritius is also the first African country to have signed up to the Intergovernmental Agreement with the United States for the implementation of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). As such, I would say that the perceptions on the Mauritius IFC in certain quarters are largely unfounded. We remain a credible and trusted IFC of choice.