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The Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment Program Is Officially Open To Applicants

The MCBI program, with its highly competitive pricing structure, will appeal to those who are not necessarily looking to relocate but who would like to secure a ‘plan B’ or expanded traveling access for themselves and their families.

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The Moldova Citizenship-by-Investment (MCBI) program — the latest and most exciting new investment migration opportunity in Europe — has been officially launched and is now accepting applications. Henley & Partners, global leaders in residence and citizenship planning – in partnership with its consortium partner, the Moldovan Investment Company – are assisting the Government of the Republic of Moldova in designing, implementing, and internationally promoting the much-anticipated MCBI program.

Amanda Smit, Director, Head of Henley & Partners Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, says of the Moldova program: “The launch of this prestigious new European program is momentous in the investment migration community as it boosts the industry’s relevance and value. The MCBI program offers investors a foothold in Europe and access to one of the fastest growing commercial hubs in the region, while also giving Moldova the chance to attract much-needed foreign direct investment and a set of highly qualified and carefully vetted new citizens.”

His Excellency Chiril Gaburici, the Minister of Economy and Infrastructure for the Government of Moldova, provides insight into the program’s origins: “The MCBI program has been specifically developed with the Moldovan people in mind. Our country has come a very long way over the past few years, and many of our most important industries are today thriving and growing. Now, in order to take the next step forward in our economic development, and also support the social wellbeing of all Moldovans, we need to welcome innovative new ways of generating capital. The MCBI program is part of this future-focused approach.”

Related: Enterprise Development Programmes For Black Entrepreneurs

The MCBI program requires applicants to make a defined economic contribution to the country through its Public Investment Fund. In exchange, and subject to a stringent vetting and due diligence process, applicants and their families are granted full citizenship rights that are transferrable without restrictions to future generations. They also gain a passport that facilitates travel access to 122 destinations around the world, including Russia, Turkey, and the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area.

The Moldovan passport is in fact one of the highest historical climbers on the Henley Passport Index, having ascended an impressive 20 places since 2008. The Moldovan Government is working hard to continue this upward trend and has already signed several visa-waiver agreements with foreign countries this year, further boosting the power of the Moldovan passport.

Smit elaborates on the program offering: “The attractiveness of the MCBI program lies in the country’s unique geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and its robust passport strength, combined with the genuine affordability and accessibility of the program. Moldova is a high-growth, high-potential European country, with strong economic and diplomatic ties with the EU, and many individuals around the world want to be part of its current and future successes. Certainly, Henley & Partners is proud to be a partner to this remarkable nation, whose citizenship-by-investment program is set to redefine the European investment migration landscape.”

Henley & Partners has recently recorded an upsurge of 229% year-on-year in South Africans applying for alternative citizenship, mostly looking into European states such as Malta and Cyprus. South Africa is currently ranked 52nd on the Henley Passport Index, with visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 102 destinations. This marked increase in applications can be attributed to a growing recognition of the need for global mobility. The MCBI program, with its highly competitive pricing structure, will appeal to those who are not necessarily looking to relocate but who would like to secure a ‘plan B’ or expanded traveling access for themselves and their families.

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What Franchises Need To Lookout For From Budget Speech

Franchise business owners are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the 2019 National Budget Speech to be delivered by Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, as they seek more opportunities to increase their contribution to GDP.

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Morne Cronje, FNB Head of Franchising, says the Budget Speech is an important economic indicator that franchises can use to gain insight on the government’s plans on spending and economic growth for the year ahead.

He highlights potential National Budget Speech outcomes that could boost confidence of franchises:

Relief

Any form of relief that is likely to bring positive change, rebuild confidence and address some of the key challenges impacting consumers will be welcome by franchises.

Cronje says consumer spending contributes a significant portion to the profit margins of franchises especially in the food sector.

Economic growth

Rating agencies are keeping a close watch on South Africa’s performance and prospects for growth, which will impact our Sovereign ratings for the rest of the year.

Measures that the government puts in place to promote economic growth this year will be of interest to franchises.

Regulation

Franchise owners will be looking to benefit from regulatory changes that aim to improve growth, operating environment and enhance participation in all facets of the formal economy.

Tax

Based on the Mid-Term Budget Review in October 2018, there’s likely to be no major shake up from a business tax perspective. The anticipated relief in tax will go a long way to boost the profit margins of franchisees.

Infrastructure investment

Spending on infrastructure creates vast opportunities for franchise business owners, as well as job creation in the country. The government has signalled an intention to partner with the private sector to develop an infrastructure fund to increase investment in public infrastructure.

“Franchises that operate in South Africa should prioritise the National Budget Speech as key decisions announced by the minister have a direct impact on their growth,” concludes Cronje.

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5 Businesses You Should Start in 2019

Here’s the lowdown on consumer and technology opportunities in 2019 and beyond.

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Savvy entrepreneurs should keep a close watch on consumer and technology trends in 2019. This, according to Silvertree Internet Holdings Co-founder and MD, Manuel Koser. Having invested in and grown a number of highly successful South African brands (among them Faithful-to-Nature.co.za, UCOOK.co.za, Pricecheck.co.za, CompareGuru.co.za, Petheaven.co.za, Cybercellar.com, and CarZar.co.za). Silvertree’s management team sees several business opportunities set to grow exponentially over the coming decade.

Here’s the lowdown on consumer and technology opportunities in 2019 and beyond.

1. Indigenous and ethical: Personal and home care products

2019 Sees growing potential for personal care products – ‘Those with local and indigenous ingredients, ethical sourcing which is kind to nature and the body,’ Koser explains. ‘There is a lot of room to play in the African haircare market particularly, as it’s often overlooked by the major FMCG companies.’

The Silvertree MD also sees increasing room for innovative natural home cleaners as consumers become increasingly environmentally conscious. ‘Until now, it was all about the well-known cleaning products the major chemical manufacturers put on the shelves. Now, there’s increasing space for new, exciting entrants.’

2. New beverages

‘Locally-sourced ingredients and an earth-first mindset will also play an increasing role in the consumer beverage market. Add to this the fact that major soft drink manufacturers will struggle to produce drinks for increasingly health-conscious consumers. They’re often just not quick enough to adjust to changing consumer tastes – particularly the tastes of millennials. Think less about a standard fizzy drink, but rather one that’s kind to the body, with natural ingredients. Non-alcoholic: water plus, say, cucumber, or another indigenous ingredient. The market for this will grow.’

3. Ethical snacking

Plant-based, vegan, ancient grains, ethical, protein-rich snacks – these are just some of the trends Koser sees dominating in the snack segment in 2019 and beyond. It’s about unique, tasty, functional foods that cater to the modern, time-starved consumer, Koser explains.

4. Buy, sell and compare online

In the technology space, marketplaces, e-commerce sites and classifieds will all gain momentum in 2019 and beyond. This encompasses aggregators as well as more unusual online businesses, which are increasingly able to find and reach consumers interested in niche products and services.

‘Consider an online ice-cream business. Once, something like that would have been unthinkable,’ Koser explains. ‘But as consumers demand greater choice, room for niche products like this grows.’

Yet, dabble online and seamless execution and delivery become make-or-break factors. ‘Many South African consumers use services such as Google, Amazon, Uber and Spotify daily – world-class products that function on a global scale. You can call an Uber and wait for just two minutes before getting a ride,’ Koser explains. ‘It’s quick and totally seamless. Consumers have come to expect that level of service across the board. Aligned to this is the fact that the millennial wave is currently hitting Cape Town right now, and Joburg secondarily, meaning a number of opportunities are opening up. Go after products and services in the right space and consumers will follow.’

5. Reinvent the wheel – and make it better

The final type of business entrepreneurs should keep an eye on is those that currently have low Net Promoter Scores. ‘This means that very few people like them, or the services they provide are of very poor quality,’ Koser explains. ‘Think of postal service providers or telecoms companies. With any monopolistic or oligopolistic structures, the service is often terrible because the heavyweights hold so much power. There’s a huge gap here.’

An allied approach for entrepreneurs is to assess opportunities for automation, or cutting out the middleman with technology. ‘Once, many markets – such as real estate were opaque, meaning you needed a middleman to help you transact. However, as the capabilities of technology have grown, markets have become far more transparent – making it easier for buyers to match with sellers safely. Today, a lot of this is easy to automate services – think about connecting a homeowner to a prospective renter through a digital solution where renters can be qualified, for example, in terms of their finances, personal information and criminal records. Quick and simple. And no middleman.’

The biggest opportunities here centre around where consumers spend the greatest amounts of time and money, Koser notes. ‘Housing and rent are always major costs. In terms of where consumers spend their time, on the other hand, much of it is, on a mobile phone, or PC.’

However, entrepreneurial success is never down to any one magic formula, Koser emphasises. Nor does Silvertree invest in prospective entrepreneurs solely on the basis of the product or service they offer. ‘It’s about passion, perseverance and tenacity as much as it is about the quality of the product.’

Silvertree Internet Holdings is an investment growth partner who aims to understand, grow and scale business, consumer and digital brands to unlock the brands’ exponential growth.

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What To Watch For In Tito Mboweni’s First Budget Speech

By Rob Cooper, tax expert at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa.

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Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, delivers his first Budget Speech on 20 February at a difficult time for the South African economy. Even though President Cyril Ramaphosa has done much to restore business confidence in his first year in office, GDP growth remains weak, government finances are in relatively poor shape, and renewed load shedding is hurting business confidence.

Judging from his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in October last year, I expect Minister Mboweni — backed by the team in the National Treasury—to deliver a relatively cautious budget. Much of the focus will be on refinancing the state-owned enterprises and putting them back on to a sustainable footing.

We probably won’t see much in the way of radical thinking since the room for manoeuvre is so limited. Click each header below for an indepth video on the upcoming topics.

National Health Insurance (NHI)

Renewal of the country’s public healthcare system with a mandatory health insurance fund and free healthcare at the point of need has been the ANC government’s policy for years, but progress has been slow to date. There isn’t much money in the country’s coffers to fund something as ambitious as NHI, yet the government will want to show that it is advancing the concept ahead of the elections.

With an NHI bill to be tabled in Parliament soon, we could learn more about how NHI will be funded in this year’s Budget Speech — it’s still not clear whether we will pay for it through payroll taxes, VAT increases or other fundraising measures. As an initial step, we could see medical aid tax credits reduced (or at least not adjusted for inflation) to free up some funding for the NHI.

The Employment Tax Incentive (ETI)

The ETI Act came into effect on 1 January 2014; as a fan of this incentive, I was delighted that President Ramaphosa announced that it will be extended for 10 years another decade in his state of the nation address. However, I have also long argued that the scheme is not performing to its true potential because it is so complex for payroll managers to administer.

The introduction of the national minimum wage adds even more complexity— until and unless the ETI Act is amended, SARS is of the opinion that the National Minimum Wage will not qualify as a “wage regulating measure”. I hope the Budget Speech will announce steps to align the ETI with the national minimum wage and take other measures to simplify administration.

Tax hikes

I don’t expect any major increases to corporate or personal income tax this year since the taxpayer doesn’t have much more to give. I think the top 45% rate will remain unchanged, while tax bracket creep relief (to compensate for inflation) will be limited to lower income earners. It seems unlikely that the Minister will increase VAT again this year, given last year’s increase.

That means the Minister is likely to look at ‘moral’ taxes (sin and sugar taxes) to raise more money; we can expect another steep increase in the fuel levy. Perhaps we’ll also hear about efforts to improve SARS’ revenue collection after several years of under-performance. The agency seems ripe for a turnaround strategy, with high-powered team looking for a permanent chief to take the reins at SARS.

Follow us on @SageGroupZA on 20 February 2019 for LIVE expert insights from the annual Budget Speech.

For more information about Sage’s annual tax seminars, please visit: https://get.sage.com/PRL_19Q1_C4L_ZA_EVCU_NPS_AnnualPayrollTaxSeminar2019

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