Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the most common objections people bring to me about doing business in emerging economies is that they’re afraid of not having the same protection by the government as they would in the West and that they’ve heard stories of property being seized and having no recourse as a foreigner in the country.
In this humorous piece by John Oliver, I’m reminded once again why, despite long held perceptions, life in United States and many other developed — yet bankrupt — countries is becoming less free and much more dangerous for anyone who values their property.
At the time John Oliver made this video in 2014, police had taken over $2.5 billion through 61,998 cash seizures from people who weren’t charged with committing any crimes since 9/11.
In states where local law enforcement authorities were allowed to keep 100% of the proceeds from these “civil forfeitures”, police departments had used the money to buy Zambonis, kegs of beer, margarita machines, and bottles of Crown Royal.
In Philadelphia — a city that has become the poster child for big government taking away peoples’ freedom — law enforcement had seized over 1,000 houses, 3,300 vehicles and $44 million in cash over the last 10 years in civil forfeitures. An egregious example that Oliver outlines is the city seizing the house of a couple whose son had been caught with $40 worth of drugs inside.
My question for you is, would you rather do business in a broke country that’s now openly taking money to meet budgets or move operations to a growing economy doing everything they can to attract ambitious business people and bring capital into the country?
From innovative frontier markets in places like Georgia and Rwanda, to much more developed world leaders like Hong Kong and Singapore, smart money is flowing to places where people are treated best.
As billionaire investor Jim Rogers has been known to say: if you were smart in 1807 you would move to London, in 1907 you would move to New York, and in 2007 you would move to Asia.
The global economy is shifting east and I, along with many others, are taking our money to places where we can invest it rather than worry about it being taken by some bureaucrat who wants to use it to buy a new margarita machine.
Here is my list of the best countries in the world for doing business from a perspective of low taxes and strong, business-friendly laws.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lithuania has gone through a process of market liberalization and modernization and has experienced sustained growth over the last decade. The country’s well-educated and highly skilled workforce is attractive for business owners looking for talent at lower rates, as is its low tax rates.
The largest of the Baltic states, in Lithuania you’ll have access to Europe and Russia. Plus, Lithuania offers second residency to those interested in starting a business in the country.
While the rest of Europe is falling behind with increasing regulation and debt, Ireland’s economy is growing astonishingly with a low-tax, business friendly environment.
Secondly, Ireland is a great place to consider for a second residency, especially for people with Irish heritage or anyone willing to spend $500,000 Euros on real estate in the country.
While I’d recommend New Zealand for people starting SMEs, I’d recommend Ireland for larger corporations.
3. New Zealand
New Zealand has now become the easiest country in the world in which to start a business. In fact, incorporating can be done online and with no paid-in minimum capital. With a high standard of living and strong court system, New Zealand would be a great option for someone looking to start a small enterprise in a new country.
While the country may not have the strong financial systems of the first two listed, it’s certainly a great option for someone who wants to be in a Westernized country, yet be in close proximity to Asia’s booming economies.
It’s important to remember that ease of starting a business and ease of doing business do not always mean the same thing.
2. Hong Kong
Often paired with Singapore — the other Asian Tiger city-state — Hong Kong is quickly becoming the global center for wealth. There’s really no clear cut answer to whether Singapore or Hong Kong is a better jurisdiction to do business, as it really depends on what your needs are. But what is clear, is that the two are tops in the world.
Both countries are English speaking and have the world’s best airports, best tax, banking and business laws and, unlike small banana republics, are well respected internationally.
Choosing the right country between Hong Kong and Singapore really depends on your lifestyle preferences and business needs.
The city is the easiest in the world to do business by almost every metric. It only takes a day to incorporate in the city and it’s one of the least corrupt countries on the planet. Billionaires like Rogers, Eduardo Saverin of Facebook and many others are relocating to the city-state in large part due to its attractive banks and tax rates.