Vanuatu daily news digest | Christopher Turner CBE

Chris Turner died after a long battle with leukemia on 29 October.

He was Chief Secretary in the British Residency (and Deputy Resident Commissioner) at the time of Independence in 1980. Chris Turner’s service in the New Hebrides was from 1970 until the birth of Vanuatu after long years of service in Tanganyika (which became Tanzania). He was subsequently Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (which had been a dependency of Jamaica) from 1982 to 1987 and of Montserrat from 1987 to 1990.

Chris Turner was instrumental in developing the Vanuatu finance centre or tax haven.

Decolonization, and the obligations it brought, greatly affected the British Empire after the Second World War. The process of decolonization was difficult for small tropical island countries lacking substantial mineral or agricultural wealth and where educational services had not been greatly developed. Tax havens as a means of gaining a national income in such environments had been pioneered in the Caribbean, the Turks and Caicos, where Chris Turner subsequently served as Governor, being one such place.

One of the most spectacular tax haven successes was the British Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. It became a British overseas territory in 1962. Financial services were encouraged because people "can’t just live off bananas," as one commentator had it. In 2008, Cayman Islands was the fourth largest financial centre in the world.

A tax haven for the New Hebrides seemed a good idea from the end of the ‘Sixties, bringing money in from overseas investors or their companies, simply wanting registration and/or residence (for which they paid a fee) in a tax-free jurisdiction. The only local tax could be a sales tax such as a GST, or VAT (introduced after Independence here), and the new resident identities were able to avoid the tax of their own original countries on their businesses there.

In 1973 Chris Turner (who had been British District Agent at Santo for 3 years after his 1970 arrival here) was created Development Secretary. He was subsequently appointed to the post of Financial Secretary. It was in these posts he built up the New Hebrides finance centre and tax haven which has since enjoyed a good international reputation.

Chris and his wife will be well remembered by older members of the Port Vila Anglican community. He is survived by Irene, of Goan origins, whom he met and married in East Africa, and his two daughters, Eva and Camilla. He was pre-deceased by his son Paul.

In retirement the Turners lived in Winchester in the south of England.