by ArabianBusiness.com staff writer Sunday, 16 November 2008
Known as a luxury holiday destination famed for its turquoise waters and palm-fringed beaches, Mauritius is now looking to attract a new wave of property investor with its Integrated Resort Scheme.
Here Phil Agius, Managing Director of PURE International - the independent sales and marketing company specialising in homes within unique environments - explains how the new system operates, and looks at the real estate opportunities on offer in this Indian Ocean paradise.
The most accessible of the Indian Ocean islands, Mauritius lies almost 1,000 km east of Madagascar. Providing a welcome like no other, it embraces its African, Indian, British and French influences to create a unique and captivating personality that has resulted in its position as one of the world's leading luxury travel destinations.
But the island offers much more than an average holiday destination. Mauritius is politically and economically stable, and its government has edged ahead of the competition as a result of sound and strategic planning that has raised GDP, lowered unemployment and attracted not just holiday makers and hotel operators, but financial institutions and commercial operations.
Last month, The Economist referred to Mauritius as an "isolated island that continues to reinvent itself and confound the sceptics," praising its economic foresight, highlighting its continued rise in GDP, and spotlighting its global ranking in the World Bank's ease of doing business ratings. At 24th, it forges ahead of Germany, France and every other African nation by some considerable margin.
This success has been earned. The past decade witnessed a decline of the Mauritian sugar and textile industries due to the relaxing of European Union quotas and competition from emerging markets, in particular China and the Far East.
To counter this, the Mauritian Government introduced a number of strategic policy interventions to support the sustainable growth and contribution to GDP of developing sectors such as tourism, financial and professional services.
One such measure is the recently introduced Integrated Resorts Scheme (IRS), which for the first time allows foreigners to acquire full freehold ownership of luxury villas in approved IRS projects. By investing money offshore into the strongly emerging property market through IRS luxury developments, Gulf investors can enjoy a number of benefits. In addition to the wonderful tropical lifestyle, there are taxation advantages and favourable double taxation agreements.
There is a buoyant financial community with over 400 established banking and financial services providers, which explains the need for the excellent communications facilities that exist there, providing rapid connections with the rest of the world. This will also undoubtedly assist those home- owners who wish to operate in a global business environment.
Furthermore, with handsome investment returns anticipated from both rental yields and capital growth, the IRS scheme delivers a truly attractive way for investors to really enjoy their money with total peace of mind. For example, the bank through which the buyer's mortgage bond is financed will guarantee completion of the villa in the unlikely event that the development company is unable to complete construction.
The IRS project approval and ongoing monitoring process is vigorous to ensure villas sold to the foreign investment fraternity are built to satisfy the international standards, with world-class amenities and facilities.
The acquisition of a residential villa by an overseas purchaser under the IRS will allow the foreigner and their family to reside in Mauritius for as long as they retain ownership. A minimum investment US$500,000 is required for the acquisition of freehold immovable property, inclusive of land and the maximum extent of the land is limited to 0.5276 hectares. Villas can be acquired either off-plan or during the construction phase.
Under the IRS regulations, any of the following will qualify to acquire property:
A non-citizen of Mauritius (including his or her spouse and dependants.)
A foreign company registered under the Companies Act of 2001.
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