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Micronesia

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There were no stock or commodities exchanges in the FSM.

Money and Banking System

The two commercial banks operating in the country, the Bank of Guam and the Bank of the FSM, could only make small, short-term unsecured loans because of the prohibition of using land or business as collateral, difficulties inherent in collecting debts, and identifying collateral that could be attached and sold in the event of default. There were no Credit Bureaus.  The Bank of FSM was prohibited by its charter from investing in any securities not insured by the U.S. government, so the bulk of its holdings were U.S. Treasury bonds. The Bank of Guam operated as a deposit collector in the FSM, with most of its loans made in Guam.

The Bank of FSM was protected from takeover by a trigger from FDIC that will cancel their insurance status if foreign ownership exceeded 30 percent.  Foreigners were not allowed to open accounts with the bank unless they could provide proof of local residence and work permits and fulfill U.S. Treasury “know thy customer” requirements.

Money Exchange companies such as Western Union operated within FSM and handled the majority of remittances.

Since most businesses were family owned, there were no shares that could be acquired for mergers, acquisitions, or hostile takeovers. The FSM enacted a secured transaction law in 2005 and established a filing office in October 2006 primarily to serve the foreign corporate registration market.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The currency of the FSM remained the U.S. dollar.  The only two commercial banks operating in the country at present were the Bank of Guam and the Bank of the FSM, both of which were Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured.

Remittance Policies

There were no specific restrictions on repatriating profits from a business, except in the state of Chuuk, where an amount greater than USD50,000 requires state approval.

Statistics on family-level and personal remittances were difficult to obtain, with various studies reporting figures ranging from USD3 to USD14 million per year entering the FSM.  However, remittances travel into and out of the country. Micronesians working abroad and in the U.S. sent money to their families in the FSM, while Filipino professionals and laborers working in FSM sent money to their families in the Philippines.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The FSM had no sovereign wealth fund, but the government established a national trust fund modeled on the Compact Trust Fund to provide additional government income after 2023.  That fund was managed by a U.S. based commercial fund manager.

Samoa

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The capital market is regulated by the Central Bank of Samoa. Since January 1998, the Central Bank has implemented monetary policy by issuing its own securities using market-based techniques – commonly known as Open Market Operations (OMO). CBS Securities are the predominant monetary policy instrument, which is issued to influence the amount of liquidity in the financial system.

Capital Markets in Samoa are in their infancy with the Unit Trust of Samoa (UTOS) domestic market established in 2010, and no international stock exchange. More information on UTOS can be found in section 10.

Samoa has accepted the obligations of IMF Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4, and maintains an exchange system that is free of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

Samoa is well-served with banking and finance infrastructure. It has four commercial banks, complimented by a dynamic development bank. The sector is ably regulated by the Central Bank of Samoa. The largest banks are regional operators ANZ and BSP, which offer a wide range of services based upon electronic banking platforms. Although they service all markets, they tend to dominate the top-end, encompassing corporate, government and high net worth individuals. Samoa is still a cash-based society, however, and this has enabled two locally owned entrants, the National Bank of Samoa and Samoa Commercial Bank, to each garner double-digit market share, despite entering the market quite recently.

The banking sector appears healthy, although recent reports have indicated the state-owned development bank is carrying a significant amount of bad debt of over 20% of its loan portfolio. The government also interfered with the bank’s attempts to foreclose on non-performing assets.

With its International Finance Centre (SIFA)—the first Pacific center to be white-listed by the OECD—and a well-structured financial services sector, Samoa is well placed to service the needs of both local and offshore businesses.

The Government, through the Central Bank, has been largely resistant to block chain technologies. Their skepticism is somewhat warranted with the discovery of several cryptocurrency schemes operating in the country widely believed internationally to be scams.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Central Bank of Samoa (CBS) controls all foreign exchange transactions as well as matters relating to monetary stability and supply of money within the country. This includes international transactions, overseas transfer of funds and funding of imports, and registration of insurance companies. Repatriation of overseas capital and profits is normally permitted provided the original investment entered Samoa through the banking system or in an otherwise formally approved manner. Investors also have the freedom to repay principle and interest on foreign loans raised for the purpose of the investment and the freedom to pay fees to foreign parties for the use of intellectual property rights.

Remittance Policies

Repatriation of capital and profit remittances on foreign capital is permitted, although it must be approved by the CBS based on submission of necessary documents, such as the following: a) Application letter explaining the request;

a) Application letter explaining the request;

b) Audited accounts relating to the profit remittance year(s) requested;

c) A copy of the Authorized Directors’ Resolution approving the specified dividend payment; and

d) A tax clearance certificate from the Ministry for Revenue.

Samoa’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the Central Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade do issue and provide to all financial institutions governed under the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2007.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

There is no sovereign wealth fund or asset management bureau in Samoa. The country has the Samoa National Provident Fund which manages and invests members’ savings for their retirement.

Vietnam

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Vietnamese government generally encourages foreign portfolio investment. The country has two stock markets – the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, which lists publicly traded companies, and the Hanoi Stock Exchange, which lists bonds and derivatives. Vietnam also has a market for unlisted public companies (UPCOM) at the Hanoi Securities Center.

Although Vietnam welcomes portfolio investment, the country sometimes has difficulty in attracting such investment. Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) classifies Vietnam as a Frontier Market, which precludes some of the world’s biggest asset managers from investing in its stock markets. Vietnam is improving its legal framework to reach its goal of meeting the “emerging market” criteria in 2020 and attracting more foreign capital. However, exogenous events may make this difficult: in the first quarter of 2020, foreign investors withdrew USD 500 million in portfolio assets from Vietnam due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and maintain sizable positions. Combined market capitalization at the end of 2019 was approximately USD 189 billion, equal to 73 percent of Vietnam’s GDP, with the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange accounting for USD 141 billion, the Hanoi Exchange USD 8 billion, and the UPCOM USD 40 billion. Bond market capitalization reached over USD 50 billion in 2019, the majority of which were government bonds, largely held by domestic commercial banks.

Vietnam complies with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article VIII. The government notified the IMF that it accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4, effective November 8, 2005.

Local banks generally allocate credit on market terms, but the banking sector is not as sophisticated or capitalized as those in advanced economies. Foreign investors can acquire credit in the local market, but both foreign and domestic firms often seek foreign financing since Vietnamese banks do not have sufficient capital at appropriate interest rate levels for a significant number of FDI projects.

Money and Banking System

Vietnam’s banking sector has been stable since recovering from the 2008 global recession. Nevertheless, the SBV estimated in 2018 that half of Vietnam’s population is underbanked or lacks bank accounts due to a preference for cash, distrust in commercial banking, limited geographical distribution of banks, and a lack of financial acumen. The World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2017 (the most recent available) estimated that only 31 percent of Vietnamese over the age of 15 had an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider.

Although the banking sector was stable during 2019, COVID-19 may challenge the sector. Ratings agency Moody’s reported, on April 7, 2020, that “the consumer finance industry in Vietnam is vulnerable to disruptions given its risky borrower profile,” and noted that layoffs, underemployment, and business closures resulting from COVID-19 further decrease the creditworthiness of borrowers. At the end of 2019, the SBV reported that the percentage of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the banking sector was 1.9 percent, a significant improvement from the 2.4 percent at the end of 2018.

The banking sector’s estimated total assets stood at USD 519 billion, of which USD 222 billion belonged to seven state-owned and majority state-owned commercial banks – accounting for 42 percent of total assets. Though classified as joint-stock (private) commercial banks, the Bank of Investment and Development Bank (BIDV), Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (VietinBank), and Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) all are majority-owned by SBV. In addition, the SBV holds 100 percent of Agribank, Global Petro Commercial Bank (GPBank), Construction Bank (CBBank), and Oceanbank.

The U.S. Mission in Vietnam did not find any evidence that a Vietnamese bank had lost a correspondent banking relationship in the past three years; there is also no evidence that a correspondent banking relationship is currently in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no legal restrictions on foreign investors converting and repatriating earnings or investment capital from Vietnam. A foreign investor can convert and repatriate earnings provided the investor has the supporting documents required by law and has applied to remit money. The SBV sets the interbank lending rate and announces a daily interbank reference exchange rate. SBV determines the latter based on the previous day’s average interbank exchange rates, while considering movements in the currencies of Vietnam’s major trading and investment partners. The Vietnamese government generally keeps the exchange rate at a stable level compared to major world currencies.

Remittance Policies

Vietnam mandates that in-country transactions must be made in the local currency – Vietnamese dong (VND). The government allows foreign businesses to remit lawful profits, capital contributions, and other legal investment earnings via authorized institutions that handle foreign currency transactions. Although foreign companies can remit profits legally, sometimes these companies find difficulties bureaucratically, as they are required to provide supporting documentation (audited financial statements, import/foreign-service procurement contracts, proof of tax obligation fulfillment, etc.). SBV also requires foreign investors to submit notification of profit remittance abroad to tax authorities at least seven working days prior to the remittance; otherwise there is no waiting period to remit an investment return.

The inflow of foreign currency into Vietnam is less constrained. There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Vietnam does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Investment Climate Statements
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future