Liberia has a free market system and the government welcomes foreign investment, despite structural challenges. The economy primarily relies on the export of commodities such as gold, iron ore, and rubber as major sources of foreign exchange earnings. The economy is further supported by foreign aid, foreign investment, and remittances from Liberians living abroad. There is a free-floating exchange regime with both the Liberian and United States dollar used as legal tender. In 2018, real GDP growth was estimated at 1.2 percent led by the mining sector, as well as the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Average inflation was recorded at 28 percent, and the relative value of the Liberian dollar against the United States dollar decreased by 26 percent. A commodities-based economy, Liberia still relies on imports for more than half of its cereal needs, including rice, Liberia’s most important staple food. Liberia recorded USD 1 billion in import payments versus USD 490 million in export earnings in 2018. Its major trading partners are Europe (mainly Switzerland), North America and the Caribbean (mainly the United States), and Asia (especially Middle Eastern countries). In 2018, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) recorded USD 65 million in imports from the United States. In 2017, U.S. direct investment in Liberia was USD 874 million and Liberia’s direct investment in the United States stood at USD 448 million, https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=420.
Key legal and regulatory instruments governing foreign direct investment in Liberia include the 2010 Investment Act, the Revenue Code, the Public Procurement and Concessions Act, and the National Competitive Bidding Regulations. The Investment Act gives foreign investors the right to transfer profits outside Liberia and provides protection against expropriation, unlawful seizure, and nationalization. The National Investment Commission (NIC) is responsible for spearheading foreign investment promotion and negotiations. In 2018, the government launched a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) involving the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as some business representatives to explore prospects and challenges in the business environment. In an effort to improve the business climate, the BCWG held a March 2019 forum with the cross section of local business representatives entitled “Resolving Constraints to Trading across Borders,” which pertained to one of the World Bank’s ten doing business indicators. An outcome of the forum was the removal of the Import Permit Declaration (IPD) as a requirement for importers. In 2018, Liberia passed into law the long-awaited Land Rights Act, the implementation of which will clarify land tenure and enhance community land rights.
In Liberia, the business climate remains very challenging; corruption is endemic and a hindrance to investment. Liberia lags in important measures such as contract enforcement. After what can be lengthy negotiations with the government, investors seeking long-term agreements or concessions frequently face resistance from local communities which claim that the government did not consult them before finalizing agreements. Concessionaires and other private investors are often expected to provide employees and surrounding communities with a wide range of basic services not provided by the government, including education, healthcare, and housing. In 2018, a number of large foreign investors were subject to a high level of public criticism and review by the Legislature. Despite systemic challenges, the government continues to expand and increase access to electricity throughout Liberia. They have achieved this through use of power supplied to the national grid from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, the West Africa Power Pool’s cross border electrification projects, and other internationally-supported energy projects.
Key sectors that have historically attracted significant investment include mining, agriculture, forestry (timber), and financial services. Key issues to watch for include opaque procedures for obtaining clear title to property, lack of adequate legal protection for contracts, a rise in single-source contracts in violation of procurement laws, limited awareness of intellectual property rights (IPR), corruption, poor physical infrastructure, and a weak and overburdened judicial system.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||120 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||174 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||N/A||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$874||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$630||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Generally, the government supports foreign investment. In 2018, Liberia established a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) to develop plans and strategies to improve the business environment. However, progress in creating an attractive business-friendly climate is hampered by a weak legal and regulatory framework, corruption and lack of transparency in contract award processes, poor infrastructure, and low capacity of the private sector. Clauses in the 2010 Investment Act prohibit and restrict market access for foreign investors, including U.S. investors, in certain economic sectors or industries. On January 30, 2019, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) announced a ban, which it has yet to implement, on the importation of certain commodities including nails, biscuits, and flour in an effort to protect domestic production of these items. The National Investment Commission (NIC) is the investment promotion agency that creates investment strategies, designs investment policies, and executes investment programs including attracting foreign investment and negotiating investment contracts or concessions. The NIC, in collaboration with the BCWG, facilitates dialogue through formal business roundtables on investment climate issues. Some private sector groups, such as the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), regularly meet with investors and government officials to discuss and suggest solutions to critical policy issues. However, in 2018, some business leaders in the LCC and other groups reported difficulties in obtaining meetings with government representatives to discuss policy changes that were perceived to negatively affect the business climate.
In April 2019, the President of Liberia issued Executive Order #96 to stimulate economic growth. The order includes a provision that extends residence and work permits from one year to up to five years. It also exempts commercial importers from seeking import permits and filing import permit declarations.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in various forms of remunerative activity. In the Investment Act and Revenue Code, foreign investors have similar rights and are subject to similar duties and obligations as those that apply to domestic investors, with several notable exceptions. The exceptions include clauses in the Investment Act that impose statutory limits on foreign ownership of, or entry into, 16 business activities/enterprises, and set minimum foreign capital investment thresholds in 12 others. This law restricts ownership of the following business activities or enterprises exclusively for Liberians: (1) Supply of sand, (2) Block making, (3) Peddling, (4) Travel agencies, (5) Retail sale of rice and cement, (6) Ice making and sale of ice, (7) Tire repair shops, (8) Auto repair shops with investment of less than USD 550,000, (9) Shoe repair shops, (10) Retail sale of timber and planks, (11) Operation of gas stations, (12) Video clubs, (13) Operation of taxis, (14) Importation or sale of second-hand or used clothing, (15) Distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products, and (16) Importation and sale of used cars (except authorized dealerships, which may deal in certified used vehicles of their make). It also sets minimum capital investment thresholds for foreign investors in twelve other business activities, industries and enterprises. The Act further stipulates that, for enterprises owned exclusively by non-Liberians, the total capital invested shall not be less than USD 500,000; and for enterprises owned in partnership with Liberians, the aggregate shareholding of the Liberian partners must be at least 25 percent, and the total capital invested shall not be less than USD 300,000. In 2018, the legislature discussed but did not pass a draft “Business and Economic Empowerment Act,” which aimed to expand these requirements to additional sectors of the economy, increase the minimum capital threshold to USD 2 million, and require that Liberians hold at least 30 percent of senior management positions.
While the Liberian constitution restricts land ownership to citizens, land acquisition by non-Liberians is possible through leasehold. Foreign companies seeking to lease land have the option to lease privately or publicly held land. Frequently, foreign companies seeking to acquire land leases do so through direct negotiations with the relevant landlords/owners. In September 2018, Liberia passed into law the long-awaited Land Rights Act which categorizes land ownership into public land, which is owned, but currently not used by the government; government land, which is used by government agencies (for office buildings or other purposes); customary land, on which the livelihoods of most rural communities depend; and private land, which is owned by private citizens. In addition to strongly protecting community land rights, the new law ensures consistent land governance as well as legal certainty for every category of land ownership. The law is designed to resolve historical land problems that have caused conflicts and communal strife in the past. For the first time in history, the customary rights of Liberia’s village communities are protected by formal legislation. Implementation, which is currently underway, should result in significantly improved investment opportunities.
The government does not maintain investment screening mechanisms for inbound foreign investment. There are no laws especially intended to disadvantage U.S. investors or single them out; generally, Liberians welcome U.S. investment as well as American products, which they consider to be of exceptional quality.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Neither the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) nor the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has conducted an investment policy review for Liberia in the past three years. In 2016, Liberia became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but the WTO has not yet conducted Liberia’s Trade Policy Review (TPR).
Link to a list of countries for which OECD, WTO (in context of a trade policy), and UNCTAD have conducted investment or trade policy reviews: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tpr_e.htm , http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/Investment percent20Policy percent20Reviews/Investment-Policy-Reviews.aspx
All businesses are required to register with, and obtain authorization from, the Liberia Business Registry (LBR) to conduct business or provide services in Liberia. LBR services are available to local and foreign companies at its head office in Monrovia. It does not provide an online registration platform and its website does not currently function. According to the World Bank, it takes five procedures and 18 days to establish a business in Liberia, http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/liberia#DB_sb . Foreign companies must obtain investment approval from the National Investment Commission (NIC) if they would like to benefit from investment incentives. Foreign companies must use local counsel when establishing a subsidiary and must provide notarized documents of the parent company. If a subsidiary is engaged in manufacturing and international trade, then it must obtain a trade license from the LBR, a process that can take an average of three days.
Liberia is one of the few countries surveyed by the World Bank’s Investing Across Borders that does not make its commercial laws and regulations publicly available online. There is no minimum paid-in capital requirement, except in regulated industries related to financial institutions, such as banking and insurance. More detailed information is available on the World Bank’s Investing Across Borders website: http://iab.worldbank.org/Data/ExploreEconomies/liberia#starting-a-foreign-business . The registration procedures and standards are the same for Liberian and foreign investors.
For long-term investment contracts, such as concessions, the National Investment Commission (NIC) is the statutory chair of an ad hoc cabinet-level Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) that convenes often-lengthy bidding and negotiation processes. Concessions are approved when ratified by the national legislature, signed by the President of Liberia, and printed into handbills by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) handles tax payment processes and administration. Social security issues are handled by the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP). Websites for these agencies are found at: https://lra.gov.lr/ and http://www.nasscorp.org.lr/ .
- National Investment Commission (NIC), http://investliberia.gov.lr/new/
- Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), https://lra.gov.lr/
- National Social Security and Welfares Corporation (NASSCORP), http://www.nasscorp.org.lr/
- http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/Publications/Details/148 provides an outline of investment facilitation proposals.
- http://iab.worldbank.org provides quantitative indicators on economies’ laws, regulations and practices affecting how foreign companies invest across sectors, start businesses, access industrial land, and arbitrate disputes.
- http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploretopics/starting-a-business#close provides indicators from economies on the ease of starting a limited liability company.
- www.GER.co provides links to business registration sites worldwide.
The National Investment Commission (NIC) does not have a systematic, active mechanism or program to promote or incentivize outward investment. There is no known restriction or policy limiting or preventing domestic investors from investing abroad. See the NIC’s website, http://investliberia.gov.lr/new/
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Liberia has Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with the following countries:
BLEU (Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union), France, Germany, and Switzerland (http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/118#iiaInnerMenu ). It also has the following Treaties with Investment Provisions (TIPs): Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Investment, Liberia-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, ECOWAS Energy Protocol, Cotonou Agreement, Revised ECOWAS Treaty, AU Treaty, and ECOWAS Protocol on Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment. In March 2018, Liberia signed on to the African Continental Free Trade Area and associated Protocol on the Free Movement of People (http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryOtherIias/118#iiaInnerMenu ). Liberia also enjoys preferential access to the U.S. market under special access and duty reduction programs such as the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Liberia is a signatory to several investment-related instruments (IRIs), such as the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention), New York Convention, UN Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO Tripartite Declarations on Multinational Enterprises, World Bank Investment Guidelines, New International Economic Order UN Resolution, Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU, Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, and Permanent Sovereignty UN Resolution.
BITs with third countries are available at the following link: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/IiasByCountry#iiaInnerMenu
A list of all countries with which the U.S. currently has BITs is available at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/ifd/bit/117402.htm and FTAs at http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements . (The NAFTA and all U.S. FTAs (except Bahrain) entered into since 2002 contain investment chapters.)
Liberia does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. Liberia has BITs with taxation components with Switzerland, and the European Union, in the framework of ECOWAS’s Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU.
A list of all countries with which the U.S. has bilateral income tax treaties is available at: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/International-Businesses/United-States-Income-Tax-Treaties—A-to-Z
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Although Liberia has a Competition Law, Foreign Trade Law, Intellectual Property Act, Public Procurement and Concessions Act, Insolvency and Restructuring Act (Chapter 8 of Commercial Code), and Commercial Code, the government does not always effectively implement these laws. It frequently does not follow transparent policies to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis, or establish “clear rules of the game.” Generally, legal and regulatory procedures in Liberia fall below international norms in terms of transparency, application, and consistency. The Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) maintains relevant resources on African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) regulatory processes. It assists importers in processing import documents in compliance with AGOA procedures and Liberian customs regulations. The Liberia Legal Information Institute maintains an online repository to access legal documents including legislative acts (http://www.liberlii.org ); however, this site has not been updated. Also regularly available are press releases, newspaper articles, radio talk-shows, and handouts that enable public discussions of proposed new laws or draft bills that may have a significant impact.
In Liberia, both foreign and locally-registered companies are required to adhere to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) consistent with international norms. There are no systemic oversight or enforcement mechanisms to ensure that government authorities follow administrative processes. Government ministries and agencies often have overlapping responsibilities, which can result in inconsistent application of law. Some officials can be arbitrary when resolving conflicting regulatory issues. Regulatory agencies include the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), which regulates issues arising in the forestry sector; the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which regulates aviation businesses; the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), which regulates telecommunications activities; the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), which regulates issues arising in the maritime sector; the National Port Authority (NPA), which regulates and largely owns port infrastructure; the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), which administers tax collections, tariffs and customs, and provides tax or customs related services; the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI), which monitors, reconciles, and reports on payments made by extractive companies to the government and to local communities; and the Liberia Land Authority (LAA), which has a mandate for land policy, land administration, and oversight of land management regulation and use functions. However, there is no legal obligation for ministries or regulatory agencies to publish the text or summary of proposed regulations before their enactment. Ministries or regulatory agencies are not required by law to develop regulatory plans that would be adopted or implemented within a specified timeframe. Although partially captured in national budgets, public finances and debt obligations, including explicit and contingent liabilities, are not generally transparent. Budget documents and information on debt obligations are accessible to the general public, largely online.
(http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/ ) provides data for 185 economies on whether governments publish or consult with public about proposed regulations).
International Regulatory Considerations
Liberia is a member of two regional economic blocks, the Mano River Union (MRU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The government has committed to and is working on laws and regulations that would align its economic and commercial relationships with those of its regional counterparts. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) continues to standardize and harmonize the country’s customs and tariff systems with the ECOWAS External Tariff (CET). Judgments of foreign courts are recognized and enforceable under the Liberian courts, and foreign investment disputes are handled under Liberian legal jurisdictions. Liberia is a member of the WTO, and the government acceded to the terms and conditions of the WTO arrangements including Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Liberia has three independent branches of government. The Judicial Branch of government is vested in the Supreme Court, subordinate magistrates, and county courts. The legal system is based on Anglo-American Common Law, and although still referred to as a common law system, cannot be truly characterized as such. The system is supposed to operate in parallel with local customary law based on unwritten, indigenous practices, culture, and traditions, but the delineation between formal and traditional laws is ambiguous. All courts are sanctioned to apply both statutory and customary laws; there is a system of customary law recognized in the court system by the Judiciary Law of 1972. There is also a traditional court system in rural areas that is governed by the 2001 Revised Rules and Regulation Governing the Hinterland of Liberia (https://www.documents.clientearth.org/library/download-info/regulation-2001-revised-rules-and-regulations-governing-the-hinterland-of-liberia/ ). These competing and disharmonized legal systems often lead to conflicts between Monrovia-based entities and communities outside of Monrovia, and within individual communities themselves. Contracts are legally enforced by the executive branch. The judicial system has no courts of appeal, and appeal cases from county courts go directly to the Supreme Court, placing a tremendous burden on the Supreme Court’s panel of five judges. The current judicial system suffers from inadequately trained and poorly compensated judicial officers that can result in flawed proceedings. The Commercial Law sets out provisions for sales, leases, financial leases, mortgages, secured transactions, and commercial arbitration. The law is backed by a Commercial Court consisting of a panel of judges that was established to resolve commercial transactions and contractual issues. The court hears commercial disputes including debt disputes of USD 15,000 and above. The court does not have a mandate to hear Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) claims. There is a commission that hears claims of unfair labor practices. In theory, the court presides over all financial, contractual, and commercial disputes, serving as an additional avenue to expedite commercial and contractual cases. In practice, weak capacity and a lack of adequate regulatory frameworks limit its effectiveness.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
To obtain a new concession agreement or long-term investment contract, potential investors engage in lengthy bidding and negotiation processes. Other legal instruments relating to foreign investments include the Revenue Code, Public Procurement and Concessions Act, Competition Law, Commercial Code, Financial Institution Act (Banking Law), Foreign Trade Law of Liberia, Association Law, Special Economic Zone Act, and Liberia Intellectual Property Act. No judicial decisions pertaining to foreign direct investment were announced in the past year.
According to the Public Procurement and Concessions Act, if an entity proposes to grant a concession to investors, it first must request a “Certificate of Concession” from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). Upon receipt of the certificate, the President of Liberia will constitute an ad hoc Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC). The National Investment Commission (NIC) chairs the IMCC with statutory members including the Ministers of Justice, Finance and Development Planning, Labor, and Internal Affairs, as well as the concession-granting entity. The IMCC reviews, evaluates, negotiates, and awards a concession agreement. It then submits the concession agreement to the President of Liberia for onward submission to the Legislature for ratification/approval. A ratified concession becomes law after it is signed by the President and printed into handbills. Depending on contract clauses and stipulations, a re-negotiation and subsequent round of ratification may be necessary in certain cases, such as ownership transfers.
There is no primary “one-stop-shop” website for investment or website for investment laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. However, the NIC can provide sector-specific investment counseling and/or advisory services at investors’ request. The following list of websites may help foreign investors to navigate the information, laws, rules, and reporting requirements:
- National Investment Commission (NIC) http://investliberia.gov.lr/new/ ;
- Public Procurement & Concessions Commission (PPCC) prepares, monitors, and guides public procurement policies, procedures, and guidelines for awarding concessions, http://www.ppcc.gov.lr/ ;
- Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) collects all lawful revenues due the government, and is the custodian of the 2000 Revenue Code, http://www.lra.gov.lr/ ;
- Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) is responsible for the country’s fiscal policies, and is the custodian of the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, http://www.mfdp.gov.lr/ ; and
- Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) advises the government and designs policies and programs for the development and promotion of trade, commerce, and industry, http://www.moci.gov.lr/
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) is responsible for inspecting and reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns, whether domestic or international in nature. In collaboration with the MOCI, the LIPO administers, investigates, and enforces competition-related issues in line with the Competition Law. This law incorporates WTO requirements to encourage a free market economy by promoting fair competition. Liberia does not have anti-trust laws. There were no significant competition cases that involved foreign investment over the past year.
Expropriation and Compensation
The 2010 Investment Act guarantees and protects foreign enterprises against expropriation or nationalization by government “unless the expropriation is in the national interest for a public purpose, is the least burdensome available means to satisfy that overriding public purpose, and is made on a non-discriminatory basis in accordance with due process of law.” Liberia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention that guarantees the protection of foreign investments. The U.S. Embassy is aware of an expropriation case (METCO vs. NPA, 2002-2015) in which the U.S.-based claimant (METCO) was compensated in 2015 following years of legal proceeding and negotiations; the compensation amount was in a freely transferrable currency, but did not represent a fair market value at the time of the expropriation. In January 2018, Mount Bele Resources (MBR) Liberia Ltd (MBR) filed an application with the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS seeking redress for what it termed the “arbitrary revocation of [MBR’s] Mineral Exploration License without due process resulting [in the] denial of its proprietary rights over same and the loss of USD 21 million investment in the mining industry.” In recent years there have not been any government actions or shifts in policy that would indicate possible expropriations in the foreseeable future. Currently, there are no high-risk sectors in the economy that are prone to expropriation actions and there is no indirect expropriation, such as confiscatory tax regimes or regulatory actions, that could deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments. Historically, the government has favored signing non-exclusive concession agreements with major investors. This practice allows the government to sign overlapping concession agreements for different resources. For example, the government may sign an agricultural concession agreement, but also allow itself flexibility to sign a mineral and/or timber concession in the same area. As multinational investors develop concession areas, some foreign businesses buy risk insurance to mitigate against the possibility of operational disruption caused by land expropriation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Liberia is a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) – also known as the Washington Convention – and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards – also known as the New York Arbitration Convention. The Commercial Code is the specific domestic legislation which provides for enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention and/or under the ICSID Convention. The Investment Act provides that “the courts of Liberia shall have jurisdiction over the resolution of business disputes, parties to an investment disputes may however specify any arbitration or other dispute resolution procedure upon which they may agree.”
See list of members of the ICSID convention at: https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Pages/about/Database-of-Member-States.aspx . See list of members of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards at: http://www.newyorkconvention.org/contracting-states/list-of-contracting-states .
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Liberia is a member of the ICSID Convention and a signatory to the MIGA Convention that guarantees the protection of foreign investments. The Civil Procedure Law governs both domestic and international arbitrations taking place in Liberia, but there is no stand-alone arbitration law. It may take several years to enforce both foreign and domestic arbitration awards, from filing an application to the court of first instance to obtaining a writ of execution, with provision for an appeal. The administration of investment disputes or commercial arbitration, as well as enforcement proceedings, take place in the Commercial Court and Civil Law Court with appeal directly to the Supreme Court. Liberia does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter with the United States. As a member of both the ICSID and the New York Arbitration Convention, Liberian courts are bound to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. Liberia is also a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty containing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. There is no recent history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors in Liberia. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Embassy is aware of two investment disputes or expropriation cases involving U.S. firms: one, METCO vs. NPA, which was resolved in 2015 after the claimant received compensation following years of legal proceeding and negotiations, and another, involving Mount Bele Resources, which continues in the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Investment Act provides for settlement of trade disputes through the judicial system or via alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms for disputes between two private parties. The act states, “the courts of Liberia shall have jurisdiction over the resolution of business disputes. Parties to an investment dispute may however specify any arbitration or other dispute resolution procedure upon which they may agree.” Private entities entering into investment contracts with the Liberian government frequently include arbitration clauses specifying dispute settlement outside of Liberia. There are other codes, statutes, and legislative provisions – including the Liberian Civil Procedure Law – governing commercial arbitration and recognizing arbitration as a means of resolution between private parties in commercial transactions, based on the model of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law). However, given the general weakness of the judiciary, current judicial processes are not always procedurally competent, fair, and reliable. Judgments of foreign courts are recognized and enforceable under the courts, and problems with foreign investments are handled under the same legal jurisdictions. There is no available record of investment disputes involving state owned enterprises (SOEs) and foreign investors.
Liberia does not have a bankruptcy law in place and there is no specialized court to protect the rights of creditors, equity holders, and holders of other financial contracts except the Commercial Court, which is limited in handling such specialized instruments.
4. Industrial Policies
The Revenue Code and the Investment Act provide different forms of investment incentives to foreign investors. The National Investment Commission (NIC) and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) are the authorities which provide investment incentives. Foreign investors who meet the statutory eligibility criteria for incentives must apply to the MFDP. The Revenue Code specifies that the investment activity must be in one of the several specified sectors in order to qualify for incentives. One may obtain the list of those sectors from the NIC, http://investliberia.gov.lr/new/ .
The investment incentives specified for these sectors include tax deductions for equipment, machinery, cost of buildings and fixtures used in manufacturing, as well as import duties, and goods and services tax exemptions. Tax incentives are subject to legislative approval as stated in the Revenue Code: “for investments exceeding USD 10 million and subject to approval by the President and the Legislature, the tax incentives permitted by this section may be allowed for a period of up to fifteen (15) years; no tax incentive under this subsection shall be valid or enforceable without legislative approval.” The law also allows exemptions from import duty of up to 100 percent of their dutiable value for capital assets and other goods to be used in the project. Note that a Customs user fee of 1.5 percent plus ECOWAS trade levy of 0.5 percent is currently applicable. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning can grant additional incentives based on the capital invested, economic zones, or geographic areas as well as the employment creation potential that could promote economic growth. The government does not have a practice of issuing guarantees or jointly financing foreign direct investment projects. See the NIC website for more information on special investment incentives: http://investliberia.gov.lr/new/ .
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Currently, there are no functional designated free trade zones or special economic zones in Liberia. However, the 2017 Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act authorizes the establishment of the Liberia Special Economic Zone Authority (LSEZA). The government has established the legal basis for the LSEZA but has not yet designated industries or physical areas as SEZs, in line with the law. The law combines the Liberia Industrial Free Zone Authority (LIFZA) and Monrovia Industrial Park (MIP), and allows the LSEZA to set aside exclusive areas for industrial production, and processing for domestic and export markets. According to the law, the LSEZA is responsible for proposing, regulating, supervising, and monitoring all areas or sites it may earmark as SEZs. The law mandates the LSEZA to coordinate with relevant agencies such as the National Investment Commission (NIC), the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to issue applicable licenses, permits, certificates, and other required authorizations. The law provides that “national tax and incentive regimes designated by applicable law shall not apply in the SEZs; an entire SEZ or any part thereof would constitute a customs-controlled area.” In April 2019, the President of Liberia established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Steering Committee, “to create, drive, guide, enhance, coordinate and manage single, multiple and mixed-use [SEZs] in Liberia.”
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government, through the Decent Work Act, mandates local employment, particularly at senior management level, including the boards of directors. The Act gives preference to employing Liberians and many investment contracts specify that a certain percentage of Liberians be hired in senior positions. The act stipulates “the Ministry [of Labor] shall not issue a permit to work in Liberia unless it is satisfied that: i) there is no suitably qualified Liberian available to carry out the work required by the employer; and ii) the applicant satisfies the requirements for foreign residence in Liberia.” However, the Investment Act eliminates an earlier mandate that foreign companies must employ qualified Liberians “at all levels.” Liberian immigration law (An Act Adopting New Aliens and Nationality Law) requires all non-Liberian citizens entering the country to hold an entry visa, except for ECOWAS citizens who require valid passports or laissez-passers. There are no excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements that inhibit mobility of foreign investors and their employees, with the exception of the government requiring that residence/work permits be renewed annually with a renewal fee. Long-term investors have found this unfavorable to the terms of their investment or residency. In April 2019, the President of Liberia issued Executive Order #96 to stimulate economic growth and included a provision that extends residence and work permits from one year to up to five years. The Order also exempts commercial importers from seeking import permits and filing import permit declarations.
The NIC includes a “local content” policy in certain major investment contracts that mandates the use of domestic content, goods, or raw materials. The NIC has not followed “forced localization” policies that would compel foreign investors to use domestic content, and there are no enforcement procedures for performance requirements. There are no legal requirements for foreign information technology investors to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. There are no mechanisms that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside Liberia, and there are no local data storage requirements for foreign companies operating in Liberia. The government does not use any systematic mechanisms to enforce any rules on local data storage within the economy.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests are legally protected under Liberian law; however, enforcement mechanisms are weak. The Liberia Bank for Development and Investment is the only bank currently lending for “long-term” (up to ten years) ventures in housing, including mortgage finance. Land ownership in Liberia is restricted to Liberian citizens. Chapter III, Article 22, of the Liberian Constitution states: “Every person shall have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others, provided that only Liberian citizens shall have the right to own real property within the Republic. Private property rights, however, shall not extend to any mineral resources on or beneath any land or to any lands under the seas and waterways of the Republic.” Acquisition of land by foreign and/or non-resident investors is only possible through rent or leasehold. Leases ordinarily run for 25-50 years, but exceptions are permitted under the law. Land ownership, lease, and use are governed by both statutory and customary laws. Rights to land ownership and use of resources such as minerals and timber have become increasingly critical issues in recent years, fueled by increased foreign investor interest and clashes between traditional and statutory land uses.
Although the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs as part of its land governance and land administration functions. The LLA estimates that less than 20 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered, conflicting land ownership records are common, and it is difficult to determine who may own real property. The U.S. Embassy is aware of unresolved concessions-related land disputes. As firms commence operations, local communities may fear that their lands are being encroached upon, which can lead to disputes, strikes, and sometimes violence. In the interest of minimizing lost productivity and in the absence of government adjudication, companies often make additional community-level payments or agreements to resolve competing land claims. The future enforceability of such agreements is unclear. Prospective investors should not underestimate the potential for costly and complex land dispute issues to arise even after concluding agreements with the government.
In September 2018, the government passed into law the land reform bill, the Land Rights Act, which classified land into four categorizes, namely: Public Land (owned but not currently used by the government), Government Land (used by state agencies for office buildings, etc.), Customary Land ( owned and used by rural communities for their livelihoods), and Private Land (owned by a private citizen). The act protects communities in many ways including formally recognizing that rural communities own their land under customary law; it gives them legal standing to consent to awarding new contracts, empowering them to make decisions about how their land should be used. For the first time in Liberian history, the law guarantees legal certainty for every category of land ownership and provides the legal basis for resolving historical land problems that have caused conflicts over the years. In the law, a community’s claim of ownership to customary land will be established by evidence including oral testimonies of community members, maps, signed agreements between neighboring localities and any other confirming documents.
Reference analysis from the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, including its country/economy’s ranking for ease of “registering property” (rankings available at: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings ).
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
Liberia’s IPR legal structure, regulatory environment, and protection and enforcement processes are weak. IPR law enforcement is poor and rights infringements are common. The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers such areas as domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, and patents/copyrights, etc. The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) operates as a semi-autonomous agency functioning under the administrative oversight of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI). It lacks the capacity to address IPR infringements. During the past year the government has not put in place new IPR-related laws or regulations. It does not have a system in place to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods, figures or statistics on counterfeit good seizures are not available, and the government does not prosecute IPR violations. The majority of Liberians are unfamiliar with IPR, and IP and industrial property rights infringement is prevalent, including unauthorized duplication of movies, music, and books. Counterfeit drugs, apparel, cosmetics, mobile phones, computer software, and hardware are sold openly. Liberia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report. Neither is Liberia listed in the notorious market report (see 2016 listings at: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2016-Out-of-Cycle-Review-Notorious-Markets.pdf ). For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The government does not have foreign portfolio investments abroad and there is no domestic capital market or portfolio investment option, such as a stock market. Private sector investors have limited credit and investment options. The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) uses financial instruments such as Treasury bills (T-bills) in an effort to develop a capital market. In 2018, the CBL made a CBL Bill available for purchase and started to develop regulatory guidance for the issuance of corporate bonds, commercial papers (CP), and bankers’ acceptance (BA) letters in the money market. It also facilitated nine repurchase transactions between seven commercial banks as part of its inter-bank market development. The CBL continues to promote an interbank market, money market, secondary market, and investor’s education as well as public awareness. The CBL respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from implementing restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Many foreign investors prefer to obtain credit from and retain profits in foreign banking institutions.
Money and Banking System
Banking services within Liberia are provided by nine commercial banks, branch outlets including payment windows/annexes, a development finance company, and a deposit-taking microfinance institution. Eight of the commercial banks are foreign banks. There are numerous intermediate financial services providers across the country, such as licensed foreign exchange bureaus, microfinance institutions, credit unions, rural community finance institutions, and village savings and loan associations. The CBL reported growth in the commercial banks’ balance sheets in 2018. According to the CBL, total assets, total loans and advances, total deposit, and capital increased by 44 percent, 39 percent, 38 percent, and 44 percent, respectively. The industry’s liquidity ratio was recorded at 40 percent, and all commercial banks recorded liquidity ratios above the 15 percent regulatory minimum requirement in 2018. However, these increases are partly attributed to the conversion effect of the U.S. dollar into Liberian dollars, which is the reporting currency. The CBL Annual Report 2018 can be found at: https://www.cbl.org.lr/ . Although not addressed in the CBL’s report, commercial banks and businesses reported considerable difficulty in accessing Liberian dollars during the second quarter in 2018, including those saved by private individuals at commercial banks and by commercial banks at the CBL. From August 2018 through late February 2019, the CBL directed banks to limit Liberian dollar withdrawals to no more than LRD 250,000 (about USD 1,500) per day per customer, including large businesses. Some commercial banks lowered their Liberian dollar deposits at the CBL by keeping more cash on hand to service customers.
The issue of non-performing loans (NPLs) remained a major challenge in the banking sector and continued to negatively impact profitability. In 2018, the ratio of NPLs to total loans stood at 13.8 percent. Commercial banks face persistent challenges in profit generation and loan repayment. There are no known restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account, and there is no currency control or restriction as to how much a customer can transfer out of Liberia through the banking system. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in Liberia, and are subject to prudential measures or other regulations set out by the CBL.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Foreign Exchange Policies
There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment (e.g., remittances of investment capital, earnings, loans, lease payments, and royalties). Liberian law allows for the transfer of dividends and net profits after tax to investors’ home countries. The Investment Act permits the unrestricted transfer of capital, profits, and dividends “through any authorized dealer bank in a freely convertible currency.” Therefore, funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency. The CBL’s regulation concerning transfers of foreign currency stipulates that every business, entity, or individual wishing to make a foreign transfer of funds may do so without limitation of amount to be transferred. However, the amount to be transferred must have been in an entity’s bank account for no less than three banking days prior to the transfer. Liberia has a floating exchange rate system with both LRD, known as “Liberty” notes, and USD used as legal tender. The exchange rate is determined by market supply and demand. The CBL displays and requires commercial banks to display indicative market exchange rates of the LRD vs. USD, and the rates largely fluctuate based on demand and supply. The USD can be freely exchanged for LRD in commercial banks, licensed foreign exchange bureaus, petrol stations, and large supermarkets. It is advisable for foreign investors to conduct foreign exchange operations with commercial banks or established licensed forex bureaus. Unlicensed forex bureaus may not provide customers with a rate equal to that of the CBL.
Transfers of currency are protected by Article VII of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Articles of Agreement (http://www.imf.org/External/Pubs/FT/AA/index.htm#art7 ).
There are no recent changes to Liberia’s investment remittance policies to affect access to foreign exchange. Generally, there are no legal time limitations on remittances or on the inflows or outflows of funds for remittances of profits or revenue. Correspondent banking relationships are limited, and bank fees related to currency exchange and wire transfers can be high. In general, corporations can remit up to USD 1 million through commercial banks. Transferring banks are required to file normal cash transaction reports with the CBL. Depending on the amount to remit and the bank(s), the wait-period to remit investment revenues ranges from a few hours to three business days. However, individuals without a bank account are limited to two over-the-counter transfers of up to USD 5,000 within a 30-day period. The CBL has instituted thresholds for suspicious transactions for which banks must exercise customer due diligence and know your customer (KYC) rules. The thresholds are USD 25,000 and above for individuals, and USD 40,000 and above for corporations. The channels through which remittances are sent in Liberia are Western Union, Money Gram, RIA Money Transfer, and wire transfer.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The government does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or other similar entity.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Wholly-government-owned, semi-autonomous state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are governed by President of Liberia-appointed boards of directors. SOE financial management is guided by the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act, and SOEs are required to submit periodic financial statements to their boards. SOEs employ more than 10,000 people and operate in several sectors including port services (seaports, airports), electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture and forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage, and information and communication technology (ICT) services. See SOE Annual Financial Performance Report 2016-17, https://www.mfdp.gov.lr/index.php/131-new-reports/513-state-owned-enterprises-fy2016-2017-consolidated-annual-financial-performance-report .
https://resourcegovernance.org/: the underlying country fact sheets provide information on competition from state-owned enterprises in the oil, gas and mining sectors for over 50 countries.
Information on SOEs in OECD and partner countries: http://www.oecd.org/daf/ca/soemarket.htm .
There are no established programs or policies for privatization.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Liberians are not generally aware of standards for responsible business conduct (RBC). Local communities where foreign companies and concessionaires operate often are not aware of the roles of investors, their own roles, or those of the government in terms of environmental, social, and governance issues. Generally, the government expects foreign investors to offer social services to local communities in which they operate and contribute to the county social development fund. The government’s intention is to support development activities in communities adjacent to concessions; however, communities complain that these funds do not reach them. The government frequently includes clauses in concession agreements that oblige investors to provide social services such as educational facilities, health care, and other essential amenities. Even after a concession has been ratified by the Legislature, most investors find that communities are unaware of the concessionaire’s rights, including the right to use land. The communities generally expect investors to negotiate separately with community leaders for the provision of additional social services and use of land. This negotiation process can be cumbersome, leading to delays and increased operational costs. The new Land Rights Act passed in September 2018 recognized four categories of land ownerships including customary (community) land owned and used by rural communities for their sustenance and livelihoods. Recognizing community’s claim of ownership to customary land, the act provides legal basis for resolving historical land-related issues that have plagued rural communities and potential investors over the years. It formally guarantees rural communities the legal standing to consent to awarding new contracts, empowering them to make decisions about how their land should be used.
Liberia is currently a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); however, in 2018, Liberia was suspended after it missed a mandatory reporting deadline following the removal of the head of LEITI and the appointment of a new head in a manner that did not comply with LEITI rules and procedures. The National Bureau of Concessions monitors and evaluates concession company compliance with concession agreements, but it does not design policies to promote and encourage RBC.
Liberian authorities do not clearly define RBC, and do not have policies or a national action plan to promote or encourage it. The government does not factor RBC policies or practices into its procurement decisions. It does not effectively and fairly enforce domestic laws regarding human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. This is due to a number of systemic weaknesses, including political will, a weak judicial system, limited human and institutional capacities, logistical constraints facing the enforcement agencies, and a general lack of awareness on the part of officials. Foreign companies are encouraged, but not required, to publicly disclose their policies, procedures, and practices to highlight their RBC environment. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and workers organizations/unions promote or monitor RBC of foreign companies in certain sectors; however, NGOs and CSOs monitoring or advocating for RBC do not conduct their activities in a structured and coordinated manner. The government does not maintain a National Contact Point (NCP) for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) multinational enterprises guidelines.
The law does not provide explicit criminal penalties for official corruption, although criminal penalties exist for economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts. Corruption is both a real and perceived problem in Liberia’s public and private sectors. There are laws, regulations, and institutions to counter public sector corruption, including conflict-of-interest in awarding government procurement contracts. The laws do not extend to family members of officials or to their political parties. The general weakness of the judicial system hinders effective implementation of the laws and regulations. Some officials engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Low pay for civil servants, minimal job training, and little judicial accountability exacerbated official corruption and contributed to a culture of impunity. In 2018, Transparency International ranked Liberia 120 out of 180 countries in its corruption perception index, with a score of 32/100 (https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018 ). The government does not have a system or program that encourages or requires private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials. Although the government has anti-graft institutions and laws, corruption remains endemic in the Liberian social fabric. In terms of international commitments, Liberia is a signatory to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Fight against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). There are no explicit laws that provide protection to NGOs that investigate corruption. U.S. firms and other foreign investors have identified corruption as an obstacle to new investment. Foreign investors generally report that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, contract and concession awards, customs and taxation systems, regulatory systems, performance requirements, and government payments systems. Multinational firms often report having to pay fees to agencies that were not stipulated in investment agreements.
Lack of training, inadequate salaries, and a culture of impunity have undermined the judicial and regulatory systems, which in turn has discouraged investment. The U.S. government seeks to level the global playing field for U.S. businesses by encouraging other countries to take steps to criminalize their own companies’ acts of corruption, including bribery of foreign public officials, and requiring them to uphold their obligations under relevant international conventions. If a U.S. firm believes a competitor is seeking to bribe a foreign public official to secure a contract, this information should come to the attention of appropriate U.S. agencies.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contacts at government agencies responsible for combating corruption:
Baba Borkai, Chief Investigator
Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Monrovia, http://lacc.gov.lr/
Tel: (+231) 777-313131
Contact at a “watchdog” organization (local or nongovernmental organization operating in Liberia that monitors corruption):
Anderson Miamen, Executive Director
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Tel: (+231) 886-818855
10. Political and Security Environment
In January 2018, George Manneh Weah was inaugurated as President of Liberia following elections in 2017. Weah’s inauguration marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically-elected president to another since 1944. Increasing freedom of speech for Liberians as well as the relatively free media landscape in the country has led to vigorous pursuit of civil liberties, which resulted in active, often acrimonious political debates and organized, non-violent demonstrations. In February 2019, the government signed into law an important press freedom act (Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom) to strengthen its commitment to several legal instruments it previously signed, such as the Freedom of Information Act, and the Table Mountain Declaration. There are numerous radio stations and newspapers in the country. The government has identified land disputes, and high rates of youth and urban unemployment as potential threats to security, peace, and political stability.
The Government of Liberia has shouldered national security responsibility since the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) officially withdrew from the country in March 2018. Other special security entities include the Executive Protection Service (EPS), Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), and National Security Agency (NSA). There has not been any major security incident to cause damage to projects/or installations since the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) assumed state security responsibility in 2018. The United States and other international donors continue to assist in training the AFL and law enforcement agencies.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Much of the Liberian labor force is unskilled and illiterate. Most Liberians, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic vocational or computer skills. Liberia does not have reliable or official data on labor force statistics, such as unemployment rates. Liberia’s domestic market is too small to support high volume (cost-effective) production for many manufactured products. The majority of formally employed Liberians work for the government. According to the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES 2016), Liberia has a low unemployment rate (3.9 percent) in the formal sector. However, this masks the fact that four out of five Liberian workers (80 percent) are estimated to be engaged in “vulnerable” and/or “informal” employment. Unemployment is particularly high among youth; young women also have a harder time finding employment than young men. The International Labor Organization (ILO)’s most recent (2016) statistics indicate Liberia’s total unemployment rate stands at 3.1 percent; unemployment is higher among males (3.8 percent) than females (2.4 percent). See, https://www.ilo.org/ilostatcp/CPDesktop/?list=true&lang=en&country=LBR . The informal and vulnerable employment sectors are characterized by inadequate earnings as well as difficult and/or dangerous conditions that undermine workers’ basic rights. Migrant workers are employed throughout the country, particularly in the services sector and at artisanal diamond and gold mines. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) largely attributes high levels of vulnerable and informal employment to the private sector’s inability to create employment. The manufacturing sector is weak, due to high production costs driven by limited financing opportunities for the private sector and poor infrastructure, including limited access to electricity. There is an acute shortage of specialized labor skills, particularly in medicine, information and communication technology (ICT), and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The labor law gives preference to employing Liberian citizens and most investment contracts require companies to employ a defined percentage of Liberians, including in top management positions. Foreign companies often report difficulty finding skilled labor as their most significant operational hindrance. Child labor remains a problem, particularly in the agriculture and mining sectors. The Decent Work Act guarantees freedom of association, and employees have the right to establish and become members of organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization, with the exception of civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises. The law allows workers’ unions to conduct activities without interference by employers. The law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of membership in a labor organization. Unions are independent from the government and political parties. Employees, through their associations or unions, often demand and sometimes strike for compensation. When company ownership changes, workers sometimes seek payment of obligations owed by previous owners or employers. The labor law provides that labor organizations, including trade or employees’ associations, have the right to draw up constitutions and rules with regard to electing representatives, organizing activities, and formulating programs. The laws specify that no industrial labor union or organization shall exercise any privilege or function for agricultural workers. Similarly, no agricultural labor union or organization shall exercise any privilege or function for industrial workers, nor can agricultural workers join industrial workers’ unions. Over the years, agricultural labor unions have been relatively active in negotiating collective bargaining agreements (CBA) intended to improve the social and economic conditions of their members. Workers, except civil servants, have the right to strike provided that the MOL is notified of their intent to do so. While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed because of union activities, it allows for dismissal without cause provided the company pays statutory severance packages. The law sets out fundamental rights of workers and contains provisions on employment and termination of employment, minimum conditions of work, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, industrial relations, and employment agencies. It also provides for periodic reviews of the labor market as well as adjustments in wages as the labor conditions dictate. The MOL does not have an adequate or effective inspection system to identify and remedy labor violations and hold violators accountable. It lacks the capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or dismissal of union members or instances of forced and/or child labor. The MOL conducts regular joint nationwide labor inspection exercises to check if employers do regularize the status of their employees in line with the Decent Work Act. There were no new labor-related laws or regulations enacted during the last year, and there are no pending draft bills.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
There is potential for the operation of Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) programs in project financing for the energy, road construction, agricultural value addition, healthcare delivery system, education, banking and financial services, and water and sanitation sectors. Generally, the government finances large-scale projects through international bilateral and multilateral donors, including the United States, the EU, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the IMF. There is an existing OPIC agreement between Liberia and the United States to provide coverage for expropriation and political risk insurance for U.S. investors. Eligible American businesses, investors, lenders, contractors and exporters can seek OPIC support to take advantage of commercially attractive opportunities in the country. There is an OPIC agreement with International Bank Liberia (IBL) for a USD 20 million direct loan to support longer-term lending to the Liberian private sector in construction, services, manufacturing, agribusiness, hospitality, and transportation sectors.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
|Host Country Statistical Source||USG or International Statistical Source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD )
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical Source||USG or International Statistical Source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in Liberia (M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2017||$874||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=420|
in the United States (M USD, stock positions)
|N/A||N/A||2017||$448||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=420|
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % Liberia GDP (net inflows)||N/A||N/A||2017||7.54%||https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/BX.KLT.DINV.WD.GD.ZS?locations=LR|
* Source for Host Country Data: 2018 Annual Report, Central Bank of Liberia https://cbl.org.lr/2content.php?sub=155&related=29&third=155&pg=sp&pt=CBL Annual Reports
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey data are not available for Liberia.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Series data are not available for Liberia.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information