That had to be the opening line of this article. Make no illusions. Having a bank account in the destination country is essential. In Mauritius, the bank account is crucial not only for practical reasons but because it stands as a pre-requisite for all residency permit schemes (except the employment / Professional Occupation Permit). Opening a bank account has proven to be more tedious, complex and ‘mission impossible’ type of assignment.

In fact, all permit schemes require that the applicant shows, at some point, the transfer of a minimum sum of money from their account in country of origin (or residence) to their bank account in Mauritius. The minimum transfer amounts are as follows:

Investor Permit : USD50,000
Self-employed Permit : USD35,000
Retired Permit : USD1,500
Banks do not really seem to have understood the whole system. They simply are not coherent with the general strategy and system implemented by the Government through the Economic Development Board (EDB). Some banks are still asking the reason to open a account while having at hand all proof that applications for permits are being processed at EDB level. Still questioning the reasons for a bank account? Some banks require that the permit be produced to open an account… while the permit is issued after the applicant has transferred his funds to the account. The banks seem to have created a problem on their own just to complicate matters, out of the blue.

I do understand that banks are primarily driven by the avoidance of ‘risk’ (unless you have a certain name or rank, or notoriety). I still do need someone to tell where the risk factor is, in a simple bank opening operation? While banks are reasonable, procedure wise, their fees and conditions are ridiculously high. So, the concept, as I see, is that everything is possible, but at the right price. The list of documents to be provided for the process is not the problem as we all understand that there are procedures and due diligence standards that should be rigorously followed.

What bothers me, and this has always been the case, are the silly questions which are totally out of place in a country which has set, as primary economic objective, to attract foreign capital and expertise. It is nonsensical! I would never have thought that operators, in a commercial / retail environment, would at some point overtake civil service in the silly questions race. What makes me frown is that while there seem to be a difference among banks, they all claim they are acting under the regulations of the Banking Act. It looks like each of them have a different version of that Act.

Where it stands today, the hardest obstacle one faces during a relocation process is opening a bank account. The experience is at the other extreme of Doing Business in Mauritius.

I do reckon that banks had to align themselves with international norms, more so when Mauritius has been on various black, grey and red (sorry, I don’t know the other colors) lists because of so many incentives and opacity granted to (dubious) businesses operating in the Global Business sector – what we call offshore sector. Make no mistake, we all know that those who want to benefit from secrecy, confidentiality and anonymity in their businesses have something to hide. Banks have been enjoying good times under this environment, and still do. Domestic (real, visible and tangible) businesses are paying the price, a kind of collateral damage which is necessary to prove that opening a bank account on the island is not a fancy thing. This sweet little maneuver is a love letter to international regulatory authorities (OECD, World Bank, etc.). The stakes are high, there’s just so much money in that offshore environment. We have football business, cricket business (India), fine-art, property, music / show-biz, air crafts, Yatchs, … almost everything in our jurisdiction.

Inflicting hardships on local (domestic) businesses is of no harm to bankers. They show their seriousness to international authorities while keeping a soothing hand on the thighs of offshore operators, or rather should I say ‘sharks’. I am not, in this article, even talking about financing, loans and other sweet little favors. I will not even bother writing on this subject. It will be like the National Geographic doing a series on Rainbow-colored Unicorns in the Wildlife, it will not make any sense to the common mortals among us.

The guy having a shop down the road has far more difficulties in getting a bank account than someone who has an invisible business and who has never been to Mauritius. This is the hard reality.

All this to say that opening is a bank account is, by far, the most difficult thing you can expect in your relocation process. I might sound to be a bit sour on this, but I’m not a fan of all-glossy when it comes to promoting Mauritius as a serious relocation contender, for business, employment or retirement.

Were you thinking to get a bank loan, credit facilities or financing ? Think thrice !

The destination keeps all its features but still it is good to draw attention to what’s not really working. May be that could help in improvements and efforts.