Bangladesh is the most densely populated non-city-state country in the world, with the eighth largest population (over 165 million) within a territory the size of Iowa. Bangladesh is situated in the northeastern corner of the Indian subcontinent, sharing a 4,100 km border with India and a 247-kilometer border with Burma. With sustained economic growth over the past decade, a large, young, and hard-working workforce, strategic location between the large South and Southeast Asian markets, and vibrant private sector, Bangladesh will likely continue to attract increasing investment, despite severe economic headwinds created by the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Buoyed by a young workforce and a growing consumer base, Bangladesh has enjoyed consistent annual GDP growth of more than six percent over the past decade, with the exception of the COVID-induced economic slowdown in 2020. Much of this growth continues to be driven by the ready-made garment (RMG) industry, which exported $35.81 billion of apparel products in fiscal year (FY) 2021, second only to China, and continued remittance inflows, reaching a record $24.77 billion in FY 2021. (Note: The Bangladeshi fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30; fiscal year 2021 ended on June 30, 2021.) The country’s RMG exports increased more than 30 percent year-over-year in FY 2021 as the global demand for apparel products accelerated after the COVID shock.
The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) actively seeks foreign investment. Sectors with active investments from overseas include agribusiness, garment/textiles, leather/leather goods, light manufacturing, power and energy, electronics, light engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), plastic, healthcare, medical equipment, pharmaceutical, ship building, and infrastructure. The GOB offers a range of investment incentives under its industrial policy and export-oriented growth strategy with few formal distinctions between foreign and domestic private investors.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock was $20.87 billion through the end of September 2021, with the United States being the top investing country with $4.1 billion in accumulated investments. Bangladesh received $2.56 billion FDI in 2020, according to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The rate of FDI inflows was only 0.77 percent of GDP, one of the lowest of rates in Asia.
Bangladesh has made gradual progress in reducing some constraints on investment, including taking steps to better ensure reliable electricity, but inadequate infrastructure, limited financing instruments, bureaucratic delays, lax enforcement of labor laws, and corruption continue to hinder foreign investment. Government efforts to improve the business environment in recent years show promise but implementation has yet to materialize. Slow adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and sluggish judicial processes impede the enforcement of contracts and the resolution of business disputes.
As a traditionally moderate, secular, peaceful, and stable country, Bangladesh experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in recent years, accompanied by an increase in terrorism-related investigations and arrests following the Holey Artisan Bakery terrorist attack in 2016. A December 2018 national election marred by irregularities, violence, and intimidation consolidated the power of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling party, the Awami League. This allowed the government to adopt legislation and policies diminishing space for the political opposition, undermining judicial independence, and threatening freedom of the media and NGOs. Bangladesh continues to host one of the world’s largest refugee populations. According to UN High Commission for Refugees, more than 923,000 Rohingya from Burma were in Bangladesh as of February 2022. This humanitarian crisis will likely require notable financial and political support until a return to Burma in a voluntary and sustainable manner is possible. International retail brands selling Bangladesh-made products and the international community continue to press the Government of Bangladesh to meaningfully address worker rights and factory safety problems in Bangladesh. With unprecedented support from the international community and the private sector, the Bangladesh garment sector has made significant progress on fire and structural safety. Critical work remains on safeguarding workers’ rights to freely associate and bargain collectively, including in Export Processing Zones (EPZs).
The Bangladeshi government has limited resources devoted to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and counterfeit goods are readily available in Bangladesh. Government policies in the ICT sector are still under development. Current policies grant the government broad powers to intervene in that sector.
Capital markets in Bangladesh are still developing, and the financial sector is still highly dependent on banks.
Since 1989, the government has gradually moved to decrease regulatory obstruction of private business. Various chambers of commerce have called for privatization and for a greater voice for the private sector in government decisions, but at the same time many chambers support protectionism and subsidies for their own industries. The result is policy and regulations which are often unclear, inconsistent, or little publicized. Registration and regulatory processes are frequently alleged by businesses to be used as rent-seeking opportunities. The major rule-making and regulatory authority exists at the national level under each Ministry with many final decisions being made at the top-most levels, including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The PMO is actively engaged in directing policies, as well as foreign investment in government-controlled projects.
Bangladesh has made incremental progress in using information technology both to improve the transparency and efficiency of some government services and develop independent agencies to regulate the energy and telecommunicationsectors. Some investors cited government laws, regulations, and lack of implementation as impediments to investment. The government has historically limited opportunities for the private sector to comment on proposed regulations. In 2009, Bangladesh adopted the Right to Information Act providing for multilevel stakeholder consultations through workshops or media outreach. Although the consultation process exists, it is still weak and in need of further improvement.
The Environment Conservation Act 1995 (ECA ’95) as amended in 2010 and the Biodiversity Act of 2018 are the main acts governing environmental protection in Bangladesh. The ECA ’95 replaced the earlier environment pollution control ordinance of 1992 and provides the legal basis for Environment Conservation Rules, 1997 (ECR’97). The objective of the Biodiversity Act is equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources. The main objectives of ECA’95 are conservation of the natural environment, improvement of environmental standards, and control and mitigation of environmental pollution. According to the act, all industrial projects require before being undertaken an Environmental Clearance Certificate from the Director General. In issuing the certificate, the projects are classified into the following four categories – Green, Orange-A, Orange-B, and Red.
Environmental Clearance for the Green category is through a comparatively simple procedure. In the case of Orange-A, Orange-B and Red Categories, site clearance is mandatory at the beginning, then Environmental Impact Assessment approval and finally Environmental Clearance is issued. The Environment Clearance is to be renewed after three years for the Green category and one year for Orange-A, Orange-B and Red categories. Red Category projects require an Environmental Impact Statement prior to approval.
Ministries and regulatory agencies do not generally publish or solicit comments on draft proposed legislation or regulations. However, several government organizations, including the Bangladesh Bank (the central bank), Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, BIDA, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission have occasionally posted draft legislation and regulations online and solicited feedback from the business community. In some instances, parliamentary committees have also reached out to relevant stakeholders for input on draft legislation. The media continues to be the main information source for the public on many draft proposals. There is also no legal obligation to publish proposed regulations, consider alternatives to proposed regulation, or solicit comments from the general public.
The government printing office, The Bangladesh Government Press (http://www.dpp.gov.bd/bgpress/), publishes the “Bangladesh Gazette” every Thursday and Extraordinary Gazettes as and when needed. The Gazette provides official notice of government actions, including issuance of government rules and regulations and the transfer and promotion of government employees. Laws can also be accessed at http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/.
Bangladesh passed the Financial Reporting Act of 2015 which created the Financial Reporting Council in 2016 aimed at establishing transparency and accountability in the accounting and auditing system. The country follows Bangladesh Accounting Standards and Bangladesh Financial Reporting Standards, which are largely derived from International Accounting Standards and International Financial Reporting Standards. However, the quality of reporting varies widely. Internationally known firms have begun establishing local offices in Bangladesh and their presence is positively influencing the accounting norms in the country. Some firms can provide financial reports audited to international standards while others maintain unreliable (or multiple) sets of accounting records. Regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessments for proposed regulations; consequently, regulations are often not reviewed based on data-driven assessments. Not all national budget documents are prepared according to internationally accepted standards.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) aims to integrate regional regulatory systems among Bangladesh, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan. However, efforts to advance regional cooperation measures have stalled in recent years and regulatory systems remain uncoordinated.
Local laws are based on the English common law system but most fall short of international standards. The country’s regulatory system remains weak and many of the laws and regulations are not enforced and standards are not maintained.
Bangladesh has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995. WTO requires all signatories to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) to establish a National Inquiry Point and Notification Authority to gather and efficiently distribute trade-related regulatory, standards, and conformity assessment information to the WTO Member community. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI) has been working as the National Enquiry Point for the WTO-TBT Agreement since 2002. There is an internal committee on WTO affairs in BSTI and it participates in notifying WTO activities through the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Industries.
Focal Point for TBT:
Mr. Md. Golam Baki,Deputy Director (Certification Marks), BSTI
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTel: +88-02-48116665Cell: +8801799828826, +8801712240702
Focal Point for other WTO related matters, except sanitary and phytosanitary systems:
Mr. Md. Hafizur Rahman,Director General, WTO Cell, Ministry of Commerce
Email: email@example.comTel: +880-2-9545383Cell: +88 0171 1861056
Mr. Mohammad Ileas Mia,Director-1, WTO Cell, Ministry of Commerce
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTel: +880-2-9540580Cell: +88 01786698321
Bangladesh is a common law-based jurisdiction. Many of the basic laws, such as the penal code, civil and criminal procedural codes, contract law, and company law are influenced by English common law. However, family laws, such as laws relating to marriage, dissolution of marriage, and inheritance are based on religious scripts and therefore differ among religious communities. The Bangladeshi legal system is based on a written constitution and the laws often take statutory forms that are enacted by the legislature and interpreted by the higher courts. Ordinarily, executive authorities and statutory corporations cannot make any law, but can make by-laws to the extent authorized by the legislature. Such subordinate legislation is known as rules or regulations and is also enforceable by the courts. However, as a common law system, the statutes are short and set out basic rights and responsibilities but are elaborated by the courts in the application and interpretation of those laws. The Bangladeshi judiciary acts through: (1) The Superior Judiciary, having appellate, revision, and original jurisdiction; and (2) The Sub-Ordinate Judiciary, having original jurisdiction.
Since 1971, Bangladesh has updated its legal system concerning company, banking, bankruptcy, and money loan court laws, and other commercial laws. An important impediment to investment in Bangladesh is its weak and slow legal system in which the enforceability of contracts is uncertain. The judicial system does not provide for interest to be charged in tort judgments, which means procedural delays carry no penalties. Bangladesh does not have a separate court or court division dedicated solely to commercial cases. The Joint District Judge court (a civil court) is responsible for enforcing contracts.
Some notable commercial laws include:
The Contract Act, 1872 (Act No. IX of 1930).
The Sale of Goods Act, 1930 (Act No. III of 1930).
The Partnership Act, 1932 (Act No. IX of 1932).
The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (Act No. XXVI of 1881).
The Bankruptcy Act, 1997 (Act No. X of 1997).
The Arbitration Act, 2001 (Act No. I of 2001).
The judicial system of Bangladesh has never been completely independent from interference by the executive branch of the government. In a significant milestone, the government in 2007 separated the country’s judiciary from the executive but the executive retains strong influence over the judiciary through control of judicial appointments. Other pillars of the justice system, including the police, courts, and legal profession, are also closely aligned with the executive branch. In lower courts, corruption is widely perceived as a serious problem. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable under the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
Major laws affecting foreign investment include: the Foreign Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act of 1980, the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority Act of 1980, the Companies Act of 1994, the Telecommunications Act of 2001, and the Bangladesh Economic Zones Act of 2010.
Bangladesh industrial policy offers incentives for “green” (environmental) high-tech or “transformative” industries. It allows foreigners who invest $1 million or transfer $2 million to a recognized financial institution to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship. The GOB will provide financial and policy support for high-priority industries (those creating large-scale employment and earning substantial export revenue) and creative industries – architecture, arts and antiques, fashion design, film and video, interactive laser software, software, and computer and media programming. Specific importance is given to agriculture and food processing, RMG, ICT and software, pharmaceuticals, leather and leather products, and jute and jute goods.
In addition, Petrobangla, the state-owned oil and gas company, has modified its production sharing agreement contract for offshore gas exploration to include an option to export gas. In 2019, Parliament approved the Bangladesh Flag Vessels (Protection) Act 2019 with a provision to ensure Bangladeshi flagged vessels carry at least 50 percent of foreign cargo, up from 40 percent. In 2020, the Ministry of Commerce amended the digital commerce policy to allow fully foreign-owned e-commerce companies in Bangladesh and remove a previous joint venture requirement.
The One Stop Service (OSS) Act of 2018 mandated the four IPAs to provide OSS to local and foreign investors in their respective jurisdictions. The move aims to facilitate business services on behalf of multiple government agencies to improve ease of doing business. In 2020, BIDA issued time-bound rules to implement the Act of 2018. Although the IPAs have started to offer a few services under the OSS, corruption and excessive bureaucracy have held back the complete and effective roll out of the OSS. BIDA has a “one-stop” website that provides information on relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors at: http://www.bida.gov.bd/.
Aside from information on relevant business laws and licenses, the website includes information on Bangladesh’s investment climate, opportunities for businesses, potential sectors, and how to do business in Bangladesh. The website also has an eService Portal for Investors which provides services such as visa recommendations for foreign investors, approval/extension of work permits for expatriates, approval of foreign borrowing, and approval/renewal of branch/liaison and representative offices.
Bangladesh formed an independent agency in 2011 called the “Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC)” under the Ministry of Commerce. Parliament then passed the Competition Act in 2012. However, the BCC has not received sufficient resources to operate effectively.
In 2018, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) finalized Significant Market Power (SMP) regulations to promote competition in the industry. In 2019, BTRC declared the country’s largest telecom operator, Grameenphone (GP), the first SMP based on its revenue share of more than 50 percent and customer shares of about 47 percent. Since the declaration, the BTRC has attempted to impose restrictions on GP’s operations, which GP has challenged in the judicial system.
Since the Foreign Investment Act of 1980 banned nationalization or expropriation without adequate compensation, Bangladesh has not nationalized or expropriated property from foreign investors. In the years immediately following independence in 1971, widespread nationalization resulted in government ownership of more than 90 percent of fixed assets in the modern manufacturing sector, including the textile, jute and sugar industries and all banking and insurance interests, except those in foreign (but non-Pakistani) hands. However, the government has taken steps to privatize many of these industries since the late 1970s and the private sector has developed into a main driver of the country’s sustained economic growth.
Many laws affecting investment in Bangladesh are outdated. Bankruptcy laws, which apply mainly to individual insolvency, are sometimes disregarded in business cases because of the numerous falsified assets and uncollectible cross-indebtedness supporting insolvent banks and companies. A Bankruptcy Act was passed by Parliament in 1997 but has been ineffective in addressing these issues. Some bankruptcy cases fall under the Money Loan Court Act-2003 which has more stringent and timely procedures.
Corruption remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in Bangladesh. While the government has established legislation to combat bribery, embezzlement, and other forms of corruption, enforcement is inconsistent. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the main institutional anti-corruption watchdog. With amendments to the Money Laundering Prevention Act, the ACC is no longer the sole authority to probe money-laundering offenses. Although it still has primary authority for bribery and corruption, other agencies will now investigate related offenses, including:
The Bangladesh Police (Criminal Investigation Department) – Most predicate offenses.
The National Board of Revenue – VAT, taxation, and customs offenses.
The Department of Narcotics Control – drug related offenses.
The current Awami League-led government has publicly underscored its commitment to fighting corruption and reaffirmed the need for a strong ACC, but opposition parties claim the ACC is used by the government to harass political opponents. Efforts to ease public procurement rules and a recent constitutional amendment diminishing the independence of the ACC may undermine institutional safeguards against corruption. Bangladesh is a party to the UN Anticorruption Convention but has not joined the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Public Officials. Corruption is common in public procurement, tax and customs collection, and among regulatory authorities. Corruption, including bribery, raises the costs and risks of doing business. By some estimates, off-the-record payments by firms may result in an annual reduction of two to three percent of GDP. Corruption has a corrosive impact on the broader business climate market and opportunities for U.S. companies in Bangladesh. It also deters investment, stifles economic growth and development, distorts prices, and undermines the rule of law.
Mohammad Moinuddin AbdullahChairmanAnti-Corruption Commission, Bangladesh1, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka email@example.com
Prime Minister Hasina’s ruling Awami League party won 289 parliamentary seats out of 300 in a December 30, 2018 election marred by wide-spread vote-rigging, ballot-box stuffing and intimidation. Intimidation, harassment, and violence during the pre-election period made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, and/or campaign freely. The clashes between rival political parties and general strikes that previously characterized the political environment in Bangladesh have become far less frequent in the wake of the Awami League’s increasing dominance and crackdown on dissent. Many civil society groups have expressed concern about the trend toward a one-party state and the marginalization of all political opposition groups.
According to its most recent report, the Belgian central bank expects gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 2.6% in 2022 despite economic headwinds linked to global supply chain bottlenecks, spiking energy costs, and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Experts project that Belgium’s growth rate will slow but remain above potential, dipping slightly to 2.4% in 2023 and further to 1.6% in 2024. The labor market remains strong as overall job numbers continue to increase, and analysts anticipate that the unemployment rate will decline steadily to 5.7% by 2024. The inflation rate will likely continue to increase, largely driven by rising energy prices. The Belgian central bank expects the rate to peak in 2022 at 4.9% and then decline as energy markets stabilize. Belgium’s budget deficit is projected to reach 6.3% of GDP for 2021 – down from a high of 9.1% in 2020 – and will likely remain above 4% of GDP through 2024. The level of government debt will hold steady, with most experts projecting 108.9% of GDP in 2021, 106.3% in 2022 and 107.5% in 2023.
Belgium is a major logistical hub and gateway to Europe, a position that helps drives its economic growth. Since June 2015, the Belgian government has undertaken a series of measures to reduce the tax burden on labor and to increase Belgium’s economic competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign investment. A July 2017 decision to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% further improved the investment climate. The current coalition government has not signaled any intention to revise this tax rate.
Belgium boasts an open market well connected to the major economies of the world. As a logistical gateway to Europe, host to major EU institutions, and a central location closely tied to the major European economies, Belgium is an attractive market and location for U.S. investors. Belgium is a highly developed, long-time economic partner of the United States that benefits from an extremely well-educated workforce, world-renowned research centers, and the infrastructure to support a broad range of economic activities
Belgium has a dynamic economy and attracts significant levels of investment in chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; health technologies; information and communication; and textiles, apparel and sporting goods, among other sectors. In 2021, Belgian exports to the U.S. market totaled $27.7 billion, registering the United States as Belgium’s fourth largest export destination. Key exports included chemicals (37.6%), machinery and equipment (10.9%), and precious metals and stones (5.9%). In terms of imports, the United States ranked as Belgium’s fourth largest supplier of imports, with the value of imported goods totaling $27.6 billion in 2021. Key imports from the United States included chemicals (38.8%), machinery and equipment (11%), and plastics (10.7%).
The Belgian government has adopted a generally transparent competition policy. The government has implemented tax, labor, health, safety, and other laws and policies to avoid distortions or impediments to the efficient mobilization and allocation of investment, comparable to those in other EU member states. While U.S. companies continue to play key and long-standing roles in the development of the Belgian economy, a major U.S.-based multinational firm operating in the chemical cluster near the Port of Antwerp has raised concerns that Flemish government officials have unfairly regulated the company and subjected it to strict limitations not applied to other companies operating in the same sector and space. The firm and the Flemish government remain in regular contact to seek a fair and equitable solution; however, the perceived lack of regulatory certainty could lead to a reduction of industry investment and operations in Belgium if unresolved.
Political competences in Belgium are shared between the federal government, the three regions – Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels-Capital – and the French and German linguistic communities. (Note. Flanders merged the Flemish linguistic community into its regional government. End Note.) Notwithstanding the fact that the regions in Belgium are responsible for attracting foreign investors, most regulations impacting the business environment (taxes, labor market, energy) are controlled at the federal level. In contrast, environmental regulations are developed mostly at the regional level. A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) is mandatory for all primary and some subordinate legislation submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers at the federal level and is usually shared with social partners as a basis for consultation. Belgium publishes all its relevant legislation and administrative guidelines in an official Gazette, called Het Staatsblad/Le Moniteur Belge (https://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi/welcome.pl).
Recognizing the need to streamline administrative procedures in many areas, in 2015 the federal government set up a special task force to simplify official procedures. Traditionally, scientific studies or quantitative analysis conducted on the impact of regulations are made publicly available for comment. However, not all stakeholder comments received by regulators are made public.
Accounting standards are regulated by the Belgian law of January 30, 2001, and balance sheet and profit and loss statements are in line with international accounting norms. Cash flow positions and reporting changes in non-borrowed capital formation are not required. However, contrary to IAS/IFRS standards, Belgian accounting rules do require an extensive annual policy report.
Regarding Environmental, Social and Governance Impacts reporting (ESG), the EU’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) was transposed into Belgian law in 2017. The NFRD requires very large public interest entities (PIEs) to report environmental, social and employee, human rights, anti-bribery, and corruption information on an annual basis. On April 21, 2021, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which will update the NFRD. The CSRD aims to be applicable as of fiscal year 2023 and will significantly extend the scope of reporting requirements to all large companies and all companies listed on regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises).
Regarding oversight or enforcement mechanisms to ensure governments follow administrative processes, local courts are expected to enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. Recourse to the courts is available if necessary.
Public finances and debt obligations are generally transparent. Details on government budgets are available online, and the debt agency (https://www.debtagency.be/en) publishes all relevant data concerning government debt.
Belgium is a founding member of the EU, whose directives and regulations are enforced. On May 25, 2018, Belgium implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679, an EU regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.
Through the European Union, Belgium is a member of the WTO, and notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Belgium does not maintain any measures that are inconsistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) obligations.
Belgium’s (civil) legal system is independent of the government and is a means for resolving commercial disputes or protecting property rights. Belgium has a wide-ranging codified law system since 1830. There are specialized commercial courts which apply the existing commercial and contractual laws. As in many countries, the Belgian courts labor under a growing caseload and ongoing budget cuts causing backlogs and delays. There are several levels of appeal.
Payments and transfers within Belgium and with foreign countries require no prior authorization. Transactions may be executed in euros as well as in other currencies.
Belgium has no debt-to-equity requirements. Dividends may be remitted freely except in cases in which distribution would reduce net assets to less than paid-up capital. No further withholding tax or other tax is due on repatriation of the original investment or on the profits of a branch, either during active operations or upon the closing of the branch.
Belgian authorities are currently developing a national security-based investment screening law that will likely establish certain restrictions based on national security concerns. The law likely will not be finalized and delivered to Parliament for a vote before the end of 2022.
There are three different regional Investment Authorities:
EU member states are responsible for competition and anti-trust regulations if there are cross-border dimensions. If cross-border effects are present, EU law applies, and European institutions are competent.
There are no outstanding expropriation or nationalization cases in Belgium with U.S. investors. There is no pattern of discrimination against foreign investment in Belgium.
When the Belgian government uses its eminent domain powers to acquire property compulsorily for a public purpose, current market value is paid to the property owners. Recourse to the courts is available if necessary. The only expropriations that occurred during the last decade were related to infrastructure projects such as port expansions, roads, and railroads.
Belgian bankruptcy law falls is under the jurisdiction of the commercial courts. The commercial court appoints a judge-auditor to preside over the bankruptcy proceeding and whose primary task is to supervise the management and liquidation of the bankrupt estate, in particular with respect to the claims of the employees. Belgian bankruptcy law recognizes several classes of preferred or secured creditors. A person who has been declared bankrupt may subsequently start a new business unless the person is found guilty of certain criminal offences that are directly related to the bankruptcy. The Business Continuity Act of 2009 provides the possibility for companies in financial difficulty to enter into a judicial reorganization. These proceedings are to some extent similar to Chapter 11 as the aim is to facilitate business recovery. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index, Belgium ranks number 9 (out of 190) for the ease of resolving insolvency.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Belgium has around 80,000 employees working in SOEs, mainly in the railways, telecoms and general utility sectors. There are also several regional-owned enterprises where the regions often have a controlling majority. Private enterprises are allowed to compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions, but since the EU started to liberalize network industries such as electricity, gas, water, telecoms and railways, there have been regular complaints in Belgium about unfair competition from the former state monopolists. Complaints have ranged from lower salaries (railways) to lower VAT rates (gas and electricity) to regulators with a conflict of interest (telecom). Although these complaints have now largely subsided, many of these former monopolies are now market leaders in their sector, due mainly to their ability to charge high access costs to legacy networks that were fully amortized years ago.
Belgium currently has no scheduled privatizations. There are no indications that foreign investors would be excluded from eventual privatizations.
Belgian has extensive anti-bribery laws in place. Bribing foreign officials is a criminal offense in Belgium. Belgium has been a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and is a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.
Anti-bribery legislation provides for jurisdiction in certain cases over persons (foreign as well as Belgian nationals) who commit bribery offenses outside the territory of Belgium. Various limitations apply, however. For example, if the bribe recipient exercises a public function in an EU member state, Belgian prosecution may not proceed without the formal consent of the other state.
Under Belgian law bribery is considered passive if a government official or employer requests or accepts a benefit for him or herself or for somebody else in exchange for behaving in a certain way. Active bribery is defined as the proposal of a promise or benefit in exchange for undertaking a specific action.
Corruption by public officials carries heavy fines and/or imprisonment between 5 (five) and 10 years. Private individuals face similar fines and slightly shorter prison terms (between six months and two years). The current law not only holds individuals accountable, but also the company for which they work. Recent court cases in Belgium suggest that corruption is most prevalent in government procurement and public works contracting. American companies have not, however, identified corruption as a barrier to investment.
The responsibility for enforcing corruption laws is shared by the Ministry of Justice through investigating magistrates of the courts, and the Ministry of the Interior through the Belgian federal police, which has jurisdiction over all criminal cases. A special unit, the Central Service for Combating Corruption, has been created for enforcement purposes but continues to lack the necessary staff. Belgium is also an active participant in the Global Forum on Asset Recovery.
The Belgian Employers Federation encourages its members to establish internal codes of conduct aimed at prohibiting bribery. To date, U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Office of the Federal Prosecutor of Belgium
Transparency International Belgium
Resources to Report Corruption
Wolstraat 66-1 – 1000 Brussels
T 02 55 777 64
F 02 55 777 94
Nijverheidsstraat 10, 1000 Brussels
tel: +32 (0)2 893 2584
NOTE TO DRAFTER: In preparation of this section, drafters should consult with the Post Human Rights Reporting Officer, to ensure consistency with the Corruption section and other sections of the Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
10. Political and Security Environment
Belgium is a peaceful, democratic nation comprised of federal, regional, and municipal political units: the Belgian federal government, the regional governments of Flanders, Wallonia, the Brussels-Capital region, and communes (municipalities). Political divisions do exist between the Flemish and the Walloons, but they are addressed in democratic institutions and generally resolved through compromise. The Federal Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister, remains in office as long as it retains the confidence of the lower house (Chamber of Representatives) of the bicameral parliament.
In 2021, a seven-year-long investigation into an attempted sabotage of the Doel nuclear power plant – perpetrated in 2014 – ended inconclusively in 2021. Investigators concluded that the incident was likely carried out by a plant employee or subcontractor who had a legitimate reason to be in the area where the sabotage occurred.
Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere behind the United States, and the twelfth largest economy in the world (in nominal terms) according to the World Bank. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named Brazil the seventh largest destination for global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2021 with inflows of $58 billion, an increase of 133percent in comparison to 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels (in 2019, inflows totaled $65.8 billion). In recent years, Brazil has received more than half of South America’s total amount of incoming FDI, and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. According to Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) measurements, U.S. stock was 24 percent ($123.9 billion) of all FDI in Brazil as of the end of 2020, the largest single-country stock by ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), while International Monetary Fund (IMF) measurements assessed the United States had the second largest single-country stock of FDI by UBO, representing 18.7 percent of all FDI in Brazil ($105 billion) and second only to the Netherlands’ 19.9 percent ($112.5 billion). The Government of Brazil (GoB) prioritized attracting private investment in its infrastructure and energy sectors during 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 delayed planned privatization efforts and despite government efforts to resume in 2021, economic and political conditions hampered the process.
The Brazilian economy resumed growth in 2017, ending the deepest and longest recession in Brazil’s modern history. However, after three years of modest recovery, Brazil entered a recession following the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent in 2021, in comparison to a 4.1 percent contraction in 2020. As of February 2022, analysts had forecasted 0.3 percent 2022 GDP growth. The unemployment rate was 11.1 percent at the end of 2021, with over one-quarter of the labor force unemployed or underutilized. The nominal budget deficit stood at 4.4 percent of GDP ($72.4 billion) in 2021, and is projected to rise to 6.8 percent by the end of 2022 according to Brazilian government estimates. Brazil’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 89.4 percent in 2020 and fell to around 82 percent by the end of 2021. The National Treasury projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 86.7 percent by the end of 2022, while the Independent Financial Institution (IFI) of Brazil’s Senate projects an 84.8 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. The BCB increased its target for the benchmark Selic interest rate from 2 percent at the end of 2020 to 9.25 percent at the end of 2021, and 11.75 percent in March 2022. The BCB’s Monetary Committee (COPOM) anticipates raising the Selic rate to 12.25 percent before the end of 2022.
President Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019, and in that same year signed a much-needed pension system reform into law and made additional economic reforms a top priority. Bolsonaro and his economic team outlined an agenda of further reforms to simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and complicated code of labor laws in the country, but the legislative agenda in 2020 was largely consumed by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Brazilian government passed a major forex regulatory framework and strengthened the Central Bank’s autonomy in executing its mandate. The government also passed a variety of new regulatory frameworks in transportation and energy sectors, including a major reform of the natural gas market. In addition, the government passed a law seeking to improve the ease of doing business as well as advance the privatization of its major state-owned enterprise Electrobras.
Brazil’s official investment promotion strategy prioritizes the automobile manufacturing, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors. Foreign investors in Brazil receive the same legal treatment as local investors in most economic sectors; however, there are foreign investment restrictions in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, and maritime sectors. The Brazilian congress is considering legislation to liberalize restrictions on foreign ownership of rural property.
Analysts contend that high transportation and labor costs, low domestic productivity, and ongoing political uncertainties hamper investment in Brazil. Foreign investors also cite concerns over poor existing infrastructure, rigid labor laws, and complex tax, local content, and regulatory requirements; all part of the extra costs of doing business in Brazil.
According to the World Bank, it takes approximately 17 days to start a business in Brazil. Brazil is seeking to streamline the process and decrease the amount of time it takes to open a small- or medium-sized enterprise (SME) to only five days through its RedeSimples Program. Similarly, the government has reduced regulatory compliance burdens for SMEs through the continued use of the SIMPLES program, which simplifies the collection of up to eight federal, state, and municipal-level taxes into one single payment. The Doing Business law (14.195/2021) included provisions to streamline the process, such as unifying federal, state and municipal registrations and eliminating requirements such as address analysis and pre-checking business names.
In 2020, the World Bank noted that Brazil’s lowest-ranked component in its Ease of Doing Business score was the annual administrative burden for a medium-sized business to comply with Brazilian tax codes with an average of 1,501 hours per year, a significant improvement from 2019’s 1,958 hour average but still much higher than the 160.7 hour average of OECD high-income countries. The total tax rate for a medium-sized business in Brazil is 65.1 percent of profits, compared to the average of 40.1 percent in OECD high-income countries. Business managers often complain of not being able to understand complex and sometimes contradictory tax regulations, despite having large local tax and accounting departments in their companies.
Tax regulations, while burdensome and numerous, do not generally differentiate between foreign and domestic firms. However, some investors complain that in certain instances the processing of rebates for exported goods of the value-added tax collected by individual states (ICMS) favors local companies. Exporters in many states report difficulty receiving their ICMS rebates when their goods are exported. Taxes on commercial and financial transactions are particularly burdensome, and businesses complain that these taxes hinder the international competitiveness of Brazilian-made products.
Of Brazil’s ten federal regulatory agencies, the most prominent include:
ANVISA, the Brazilian counterpart to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over the production and marketing of food, drugs, and medical devices
ANATEL, the country’s telecommunications regulatory agency, which handles telecommunications as well as the licensing and assigning of radio spectrum bandwidth (the Brazilian FCC counterpart)
ANP, the National Petroleum Agency, which regulates oil and gas contracts and oversees auctions for oil and natural gas exploration and production
ANAC, Brazil’s civil aviation agency
IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental licensing and enforcement agency
ANEEL, Brazil’s electricity regulator that regulates Brazil’s power sector and oversees auctions for electricity transmission, generation, and distribution contracts
In addition to these federal regulatory agencies, Brazil has dozens of state- and municipal-level regulatory agencies.
The United States and Brazil conduct regular discussions on customs and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, standards and conformity assessment, digital issues, and intellectual property protection. Discussions in all these areas occurred during the 19th plenary of the Commercial Dialogue which took place virtually in October 2021, and continue through ongoing regular exchanges at the working level between the U.S. Department of Commerce, Brazil’s Ministry of Economy, and other agencies and regulators throughout the year.
Regulatory agencies complete Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) on a voluntary basis. The Brazilian congress passed Law 13.848 in June 2019 on Governance and Accountability (PLS 52/2013 in the Senate, and PL 6621/2016 in the Chamber). Among other provisions, the law makes RIAs mandatory for regulations that affect “the general interest.”
The Chamber of Deputies, the Federal Senate, and the Office of the Presidency maintain websites providing public access to both approved and proposed federal legislation. Brazil is seeking to improve its public comment and stakeholder input process. In 2004, the GoB opened an online “Transparency Portal” with data on funds transferred to and from federal, state, and city governments, as well as to and from foreign countries. It also includes information on civil servant salaries.
In December 2021, Brazil’s Securities and Exchange Commision (CMV) issued Resolution 59/2021, establishing the first transparency mechanism for environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) practices in the country. The goal of the change was to provide more comprehensive information to potential investors, therefore allowing the market environment to drive changes in business behavior. According to the resolution, starting in January 2023, listed companies will be required to inform the CVM whether they disclose information on ESG indicators and provide details on their reports, such as existence of independent audits, which indicators were used, and if UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been considered. The new requirement will also include questions regarding the companies’ consideration of the Task Force on Climate Change-Related Financial Disclosures or other recognized entities’ recommendations, the existence of a gas emission inventory, and the role of management bodies in assessing climate-related risks. Regarding diversity issues, companies will be required to disclose information showing the diversity of the body of administrators and employees as well as salary disparities between executives and staff.
In 2022, the Department of State concluded in its annual 2021 Fiscal Transparency Report that Brazil had met minimum fiscal transparency requirements. The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Index ranked Brazil slightly ahead of the United States in terms of budget transparency in its most recent (2019) index. The Brazilian government demonstrates adequate fiscal transparency in managing its federal accounts, although there is room for improvement in terms of completeness of federal budget documentation. Brazil’s budget documents are publicly available, widely accessible, and sufficiently detailed. They provide a relatively full picture of the GoB’s planned expenditures and revenue streams. The information in publicly available budget documents is considered credible and reasonably accurate.
Brazil is a member of Mercosul – a South American trade bloc whose full members include Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Brazil routinely implements Mercosul common regulations.
Brazil is a member of the WTO and the government regularly notifies draft technical regulations, such as potential agricultural trade barriers, to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Brazil has a civil legal system with state and federal courts. Investors can seek to enforce contracts through the court system or via mediation, although both processes can be lengthy. The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ) must accept foreign contract enforcement rulings for the rulings to be considered valid in Brazil. Among other considerations, the foreign judgment must not contradict any prior decisions by a Brazilian court in the same dispute. The Brazilian Civil Code regulates commercial disputes, although commercial cases involving maritime law follow an older Commercial Code which has been otherwise largely superseded. Federal judges hear most disputes in which one of the parties is the Brazilian State, and also, rule on lawsuits between a foreign state or international organization and a municipality or a person residing in Brazil.
The judicial system is generally independent. The Supreme Federal Court (STF), charged with constitutional cases, frequently rules on politically sensitive issues. State court judges and federal level judges below the STF are career officials selected through a meritocratic examination process. The judicial system is backlogged, and disputes or trials frequently take several years to arrive at a final resolution, including all available appeals. Regulations and enforcement actions can be litigated in the court system, which contains mechanisms for appeal depending upon the level at which the case is filed. The STF is the ultimate court of appeal on constitutional grounds; the STJ is the ultimate court of appeal for cases not involving constitutional issues.
In 2019, Brazil established a “one-stop shop” for international investors. The one-stop shop, the Direct Investments Ombudsman (DIO), is a ‘single window’ for investors provided by the Executive Secretariat of CAMEX. It is responsible for receiving requests and inquiries about investments, to be answered jointly with the public agency responsible for the matter (at the federal, state and municipal levels) involved in each case (the Network of Focal Points). This new structure allows for supporting the investor via a single governmental body in charge of responding to investor requests within a short time. Private investors have noted the single window is better than the previous system, but does not yet provide all the services of a true “one-stop shop” to facilitate international investment. The DIO’s website in English is: http://oid.economia.gov.br/en/menus/8
The Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for enforcing competition laws, consumer protection, and carrying out regulatory reviews of proposed mergers and acquisitions. CADE was reorganized in 2011 through Law 12529, combining the antitrust functions of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance. The law brought Brazil in line with U.S. and European merger review practices and allows CADE to perform pre-merger reviews, in contrast to the prior legal framework that directed the government to review mergers after they had already been completed. In October 2012, CADE performed Brazil’s first pre-merger review.
In 2021, CADE conducted 611 total formal investigations. It approved 165 merger and/or acquisition requests and did not reject any requests.
Article 5 of the Brazilian Constitution assures property rights of both Brazilians and foreigners that own property in Brazil. The Constitution does not address nationalization or expropriation. Decree-Law 3365 allows the government to exercise eminent domain under certain criteria that include, but are not limited to, national security, public transportation, safety, health, and urbanization projects. In cases of eminent domain, the government compensates owners at fair market value.
There are no signs that the current federal government is contemplating expropriation actions in Brazil against foreign interests. Brazilian courts have previously ruled in U.S. citizens’ favor for some claims regarding state-level land expropriations. However, as states have filed appeals of these decisions, the compensation process for foreign entities can be lengthy and have uncertain final outcomes.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
In 2002, Brazil ratified the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards. Brazil is not a member of the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Brazil joined the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in 2010, and its membership will expire in 2022.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Article 34 of the 1996 Brazilian Arbitration Act (Law 9307) defines a foreign arbitration judgment as any judgment rendered outside of the national territory. The law established that the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) must ratify foreign arbitration awards. Law 9307, updated by Law 13129/2015, also stipulates that a foreign arbitration award will be recognized or executed in Brazil in conformity with the international agreements ratified by the country and, in their absence, with domestic law. A 2001 Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) ruling established that the 1996 Brazilian Arbitration Act, permitting international arbitration subject to STJ ratification of arbitration decisions, does not violate the federal constitution’s provision that “the law shall not exclude any injury or threat to a right from the consideration of the Judicial Power.”
Contract disputes in Brazil can be lengthy and complex. Brazil has both a federal and a state court system, and jurisprudence is based on civil code and contract law. Federal judges hear most disputes in which one of the parties is the State and rule on lawsuits between a foreign State or international organization and a municipality or a person residing in Brazil. Five regional federal courts hear appeals of federal judges’ decisions.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Brazil ratified the 1975 Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention) and the 1979 Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitration Awards (Montevideo Convention). Law 9307/1996 amplifies Brazilian law on arbitration and provides guidance on governing principles and rights of participating parties. Brazil developed a new Cooperation and Facilitation Investment Agreement (CFIA) model in 2015 (https://concordia.itamaraty.gov.br/ ), but it does not include ISDS mechanisms. (See sections on bilateral investment agreements and responsible business conduct.)
Brazil’s commercial code governs most aspects of commercial association, while the civil code governs professional services corporations. In December 2020, Brazil approved a new bankruptcy law (Law 14.112) which largely models the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and addresses criticisms that its previous bankruptcy legislation favored holders of equity over holders of debt. The new law facilitates the judicial and extrajudicial resolution process between debtors and creditors and accelerates reorganization and liquidation processes. Both debtors and creditors are allowed to provide reorganization plans that would eliminate non-performing activities and sell-off assets, thus avoiding bankruptcy. The new law also establishes a framework for cross-border insolvencies that recognizes legal proceedings outside of Brazil.
Brazil has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, but enforcement activities against corruption are inconsistent. Several bills to revise the country’s regulation of the lobbying/government relations industry have been pending before Congress for years. Bribery is illegal, and a bribe by a Brazilian-based company to a foreign government official can result in criminal penalties for individuals and administrative penalties for companies, including fines and potential disqualification from government contracts. A company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from its taxes. While federal government authorities generally investigate allegations of corruption, there are inconsistencies in the level of enforcement among individual states. Corruption is problematic in business dealings with some authorities, particularly at the municipal level. U.S. companies operating in Brazil are subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Brazil signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003 and ratified it in 2005. Brazil is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. It was one of the founders, along with the United States, of the intergovernmental Open Government Partnership, which seeks to help governments increase transparency.
In 1996, Brazil signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (IACAC), developed within the Organization of American States (OAS). It was incorporated in Brazil by Legislative Decree 152 and went into force in 2002.
From 2014-2021, the complex federal criminal investigation known as Operação Lava Jato(Operation Carwash) investigated and prosecuted a complex web of public sector corruption, contract fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion stemming from systematic overcharging for government contracts, particularly at parastatal oil company Petrobras. The investigation led to the arrests and convictions of Petrobras executives, oil industry suppliers, executives from Brazil’s largest construction companies, money launderers, former politicians, and political party operators. Appeals of convictions and sentences continue to work their way through the Brazilian court system. On December 25, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a packet of anti-crime legislation into law, which included several anti-corruption measures. The new measures include regulation of immunity agreements – information provided by a subject in exchange for reduced sentence – which were widely used during Operation Carwash. The legislation also strengthens Brazil’s whistleblower mechanisms, permitting anonymous information about crimes against the public administration and related offenses. Operation Carwash was dissolved in February 2021. In March 2021, the OECD established a working group to monitor anticorruption efforts in Brazil.
In December 2016, Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht and its chemical manufacturing arm Braskem agreed to pay the largest FCPA penalty in U.S. history and plead guilty to charges filed in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland that alleged the companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world. The U.S. Department of Justice case stemmed directly from the Lava Jato investigation and focused on violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Details on the case can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/odebrecht-and-braskem-plead-guilty-and-agree-pay-least-35-billion-global-penalties-resolve
In January 2018, Petrobras settled a class-action lawsuit with investors in U.S. federal court for $3 billion, which was one of the largest securities class action settlements in U.S. history. The investors alleged that Petrobras officials accepted bribes and made decisions that had a negative impact on Petrobras’ share value. In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Petrobras would pay a fine of $853.2 million to settle charges that former executives and directors violated the FCPA through fraudulent accounting used to conceal bribe payments from investors and regulators.
In October 2020, Brazilian meatpacking and animal protein company JBS reached two settlements in the United States to pay fines to settle charges of corruption. The company is part of the J&F Group, which was also a part of the settlements. The group agreed to pay over $155 million in fines for violations of U.S. laws due to misconduct by J&F and failure to maintain accounting records by JBS. Lava Jato investigations also resulted in the arrest of several JBS executives who also signed plea bargains in the 2020 settlements.
Resources to Report Corruption
Secretaria de Cooperação Internacional – Ministério Público Federal
SAF Sul Quadra 04 Conjunto C Bloco “B” Sala 509/512
Strikes and demonstrations occasionally occur in urban areas and may cause temporary disruption to public transportation. Brazil has over 41,000 murders annually, with low rates of murder investigation case completions and convictions.
Non-violent pro- and anti-government demonstrations have occurred periodically in recent years.
Although U.S. citizens usually are not targeted during such events, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Brazil are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. For the latest U.S. State Department guidance on travel in Brazil, please consult www.travel.state.gov.
In 2021, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was the number two global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination, behind the United States. As the world’s second-largest economy, with a large consumer base and integrated supply chains, China’s economic recovery following COVID-19 reassured investors and contributed to high FDI and portfolio investments. The PRC implemented major legislation in 2021, including the Data Security Law in September and the Personal Information Protection Law in November.
China remains a relatively restrictive investment environment for foreign investors due to restrictions in key sectors and regulatory uncertainties. Obstacles include ownership caps and requirements to form joint venture (JV) partnerships with local firms, industrial policies to develop indigenous capacity or technological self-sufficiency, and pressures to transfer technology as a prerequisite to gaining market access. New data and financial rules announced in 2021 also created significant uncertainty surrounding the financial regulatory environment. The PRC’s pandemic-related visa and travel restrictions significantly affected foreign businesses operations, increasing labor and input costs. An assertive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and emphasis on national companies and self-reliance has heightened foreign investors’ concerns about the pace of economic reforms.
Key developments in 2021 included:
The Rules for Security Reviews on Foreign Investments came into effect January 18, expanding PRC vetting of foreign investment that may affect national security.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law on June 10.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) issued draft revisions to its Cybersecurity Review Measures to broaden PRC approval authority over PRC companies’ overseas listings on July 10.
China formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on September 16.
On November 1, the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) went into effect and China formally applied to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).
On December 23, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The law prohibits importing goods into the United States that are mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the PRC, especially from Xinjiang.
On December 27, the National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) updated its foreign FDI investment “negative lists.”
While PRC pronouncements of greater market access and fair treatment of foreign investment are welcome, details and effective implementation are needed to ensure equitable treatment.
One of China’s WTO accession commitments was to establish an official journal dedicated to the publication of laws, regulations, and other measures pertaining to or affecting trade in goods, services, trade related aspects of IPR (TRIPS), and the control of foreign exchange. Despite mandatory 30-day public comment periods, PRC ministries continue to post only some draft administrative regulations and departmental rules online, often with a public comment period of less than 30 days. As part of the Phase One Agreement, China committed to providing at least 45 days for public comment on all proposed laws, regulations, and other measures implementing the Phase One Agreement. While China has made some progress, U.S. businesses operating in China consistently cite arbitrary legal enforcement and the lack of regulatory transparency among the top challenges of doing business in China.
In China’s state-dominated economic system, the relationships between the CCP, the PRC government, PRC business (state- and private-owned), and other PRC stakeholders are blurred. Foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) perceive that China prioritizes political goals, industrial policies, and a desire to protect social stability at the expense of foreign investors, fairness, and the rule of law. The World BankGlobal Indicators of Regulatory Governancegave China a composite score of 1.75 out 5 points, attributing China’s relatively low score to stakeholders not having easily accessible and updated laws and regulations; the lack of impact assessments conducted prior to issuing new laws; and other concerns about transparency.
For accounting standards, PRC companies use the Chinese Accounting Standards for Business Enterprises (ASBE) for all financial reporting within mainland China. Companies listed overseas or in Hong Kong may choose to use ASBE, the International Financial Reporting Standards, or Hong Kong Financial Reporting Standards.
While the government of China made many policy announcements in 2021 that will provide impetus to ESG reporting, stock exchanges on mainland China (not including Hong Kong) have not made ESG reporting mandatory. For instance, currently eighteen PRC companies are signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. While the PRC government did announce its green finance taxonomy known as China’s “Catalogue of Green Bond Supported Projects”, experts cited the taxonomy lacks mandatory reporting and verification. On November 4, the People’s Bank of China and the European Commission also jointly launched a sustainable finance taxonomy to create comparable standards on green finance products. Mainland ESG efforts were also primarily focused on environmental and social impact-related, and less so on governance-related reporting. China’s goal to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060 will drive reporting on decarbonization plans and targets and could increase alignment with international standards such as those outlined in the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations. The PRC government also incorporated non-mandatory ESG-like principles into overseas development initiatives such as its signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) via its Guiding Opinions on Promoting Green Belt and Road Construction. For instance, the PRC adopted the Green Investment Principles (GIP) for greening investment for BRI projects; under this initiative members – including major PRC policy banks funding BRI projects – are expected to provide their first TCFD disclosure by 2023. Obstacles contacts cited include a shortage of quality data and ESG professionals, such as third-party auditors which are required to support evidence based ESG reporting.
In December, MEE issued new disclosure rules requiring five types of domestic entities to disclose environmental information on an annual basis, effective February 8, 2022. The rules will apply only to listed companies and bond issuers that were subject to environmental penalties the previous year and other MEE-identified entities, including those that discharged high levels of pollutants. Entities must disclose information on environmental management, pollution generation, carbon emissions, and contingency planning for environmental emergencies. These same companies and bond issuers must also disclose climate change and environmental protection information related to investment and financing transactions.
On June 28, the CSRC issued final amendments requiring listed companies disclose environmental penalties and encouraging carbon emissions disclosures. It also issued guidelines on the format and content of annual reports and half-year reports of listed companies, requiring them to set up a separate “Section 5 Environmental and Social Responsibility” to encourage carbon emission reduction related disclosure. In May, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) issued a plan for strengthening environmental disclosure requirements by 2025. Most contacts assessed investors are the key drivers of increased ESG disclosures.
As part of its WTO accession agreement, China agreed to notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. However, China continues to issue draft technical regulations without proper notification to the TBT Committee.
The PRC is also a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which entered into force on January 1, 2022. Although RCEP has some elements of a regional economic bloc, many of its regulatory provisions (for example on data flow) are weakened by national security exemptions.
On September 16, China submitted a written application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to New Zealand (the depositary of the agreement). The PRC would face challenges in addressing obligations related to SOEs, labor rights, digital trade, and increased transparency.
China’s legal system borrows heavily from continental European legal systems, but with “Chinese characteristics.” The rules governing commercial activities are found in various laws, regulations, departmental rules, and Supreme People’s Court (SPC) judicial interpretations, among other sources. While China does not have specialized commercial courts, it has created specialized courts and tribunals for the hearing of intellectual property disputes (IP), including in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hainan. The PRC’s constitution and laws are clear that PRC courts cannot exercise power independent of the Party. Further, in practice, influential businesses, local governments, and regulators routinely influence courts. Outside of the IP space, U.S. companies often hesitate in challenging administrative decisions or bringing commercial disputes before local courts due to perceptions of futility or fear of government retaliation.
The PRC’s new foreign investment law, the FIL, came into force on January 1, 2020, replacing the previous foreign investment framework. The FIL provides a five-year transition period for foreign enterprises established under previous foreign investment laws, after which all foreign enterprises will be subject to the same domestic laws as PRC companies, such as the Company Law. The FIL standardized the regulatory regimes for foreign investment by including the negative list management system, a foreign investment information reporting system, and a foreign investment security review system all under one document. The FIL also seeks to address foreign investors complaints by explicitly banning forced technology transfers, promising better IPR, and the establishment of a complaint mechanism for investors to report administrative abuses. However, foreign investors remain concerned that the FIL and its implementing regulations provide PRC ministries and local officials significant regulatory discretion, including the ability to retaliate against foreign companies.
The December 2020 revised investment screening mechanism under the Measures on Security Reviews on Foreign Investments (briefly discussed above) came into effect January 18 without any period for public comment or prior consultation with the business community. Foreign investors complained China’s new rules on investment screening were expansive in scope, lacked an investment threshold to trigger a review, and included green field investments – unlike most other countries. Moreover, new guidance on Neutralizing Extra-Territorial Application of Unjustified Foreign Legislation Measures, a measure often compared to“blocking statutes” from other markets, added to foreign investors’ concerns over the legal challenges they would face in trying to abide by both their host-country’s regulations and China’s. Foreign investors complained that market access in China was increasingly undermined by national security-related legislation. While not comprehensive, a list of official PRC laws and regulations is here.
On June 10, the Standing Committee of the NPC adopted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Countering Foreign Sanctions (“Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law” or AFSL). The AFSL gives the government explicit authority to impose countermeasures related to visas, deportation, and asset freezing against individuals or organizations that broadly endanger China’s “sovereignty, security, or development interests.” The law also calls for Chinese citizens and organizations harmed by foreign “sanctions” to pursue damages via PRC civil courts.
On October 13, MOF issued a circular prohibiting discrimination against foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) in government procurement for products “produced in China.” The circular required that suppliers not be restricted based on ownership, organization, equity structure, investor country, or product brand, to ensure fair competition between domestic and foreign companies. The circular also required the abolition of regulations and practices violating the circular by the end of November, including the establishment of alternative databases and qualification databases. This circular may have been intended to address the issuance of Document No. 551 in May by MOF and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) (without publishing on official websites), titled “Auditing guidelines for government procurement of imported products,” outlining local content requirements for hundreds of items, many of which are medical devices, including X-ray machines and magnetic resonance imaging equipment. It is unclear whether Document 551 will be rescinded or revised based on this circular. Additionally, the circular applies only to FIEs and does not provide fair treatment for imported products from companies overseas. While the circular does state FIEs should be afforded equal treatment, the circular does not address concerns about localization pressures created by Document 551. Further, the circular provides no guidance on what constitutes a “domestic product” and does not address treatment of products manufactured in China that incorporate content from other jurisdictions, key concerns for a wide range of U.S. firms.
In November 2021, the PRC government announced transformation of the Anti-Monopoly Bureau of the SAMR, renaming it the National Anti-Monopoly Bureau, adding three new departments, and doubled staffing. The National Anti-Monopoly Bureau enforces China’s Anti-Monopoly Law (AML) and oversees competition issues at the central and provincial levels. The bureau reviews mergers and acquisitions, and investigates cartel and other anticompetitive agreements, abuse of a dominant market positions, including those related to IP, and abuse of administrative powers by government agencies. The bureau also oversees the Fair Competition Review System (FCRS), which requires government agencies to conduct a review prior to issuing new and revising administrative regulations, rules, and guidelines to ensure such measures do not inhibit competition. SAMR issues implementation guidelines to fill in gaps in the AML, address new trends in China’s market, and help foster transparency in enforcement. Generally, SAMR has sought public comment on proposed measures, although comment periods are sometimes less than 30 days.
In October 2021, SAMR issued draft amendments to the AML for public comment. Revisions to the AML are expected to be finalized in 2022 and likely will include changes such as stepped-up fines for AML violations and specification of the factors to consider in determining whether an undertaking in the internet sector has abused a dominant market position. In February 2021, SAMR published (after public comment) the “Antitrust Guidelines for the Platform Economy.” The Guidelines address monopolistic behaviors of online platforms operating in China.
Foreign companies have long expressed concern that the government uses AML enforcement in support of China’s industrial policies, such as promoting national champions, particularly for companies operating in strategic sectors. The AML explicitly protects the lawful operations of government authorized monopolies in industries that affect the national economy or national security. U.S. companies expressed concerns that in SAMR’s consultations with other PRC agencies when reviewing M&A transactions, those agencies raise concerns not related to competition concerns to block, delay, or force transacting parties to comply with preconditions – including technology transfer – to receive approval.
China’s law prohibits nationalization of FIEs, except under vaguely specified “special circumstances” where there is a national security or public interest need. PRC law requires fair compensation for an expropriated foreign investment but does not detail the method used to assess the value of the investment. The Department of State is not aware of any cases since 1979 in which China has expropriated a U.S. investment, although the Department has notified Congress through the annual 527 Investment Dispute Report of several cases of concern.
The PRC introduced bankruptcy laws in 2007, under the Enterprise Bankruptcy Law(EBL), which applies to all companies incorporated under PRC laws and subject to PRC regulations. In May 2020, the PRC released the Civil Code, contract and property rights rules. Despite the NPC listing amendments to the EBL as a top work priority for 2021, the NPC has not released the amendments to the public. Court-appointed administrators – law firms and accounting firms that help verify claims, organize creditors’ meetings, list, and sell assets online – look to handle more cases and process them faster. As of 2021 official statements cited 5,060 institutional administrators and 703 individual administrators.
On August 18, the Law Enforcement Inspection Team of the Standing Committee of the NPC was submitted its report on the enforcement of enterprise bankruptcy to the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Thirteenth NPC for deliberation. While the report is unavailable publicly, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) website issued a press release noting the report found that from 2007 to 2020, courts at all levels nationwide accepted 59,604 bankruptcy cases, and concluded 48,045 bankruptcy cases (in 2020 there were 24,438 liquidation and bankruptcy cases). Of the total liquidation and bankruptcy cases recorded in that same period, 90 percent involved private enterprises. The announcement also cited the allocation of additional resources, including future establishment of at least 14 bankruptcy tribunals and 100 Liquidation & Bankruptcy Divisions and specialized collegial panels to handle bankruptcy cases. As of August 2021, bankruptcy cases are handled by 417 bankruptcy judges, 28 high people’s courts, and 284 intermediate people’s courts.
In 2021 the government added a new court in Haikou. National data is unavailable for 2021, but local courts have released some information that suggest a nearly 10 percent increase in liquidation and bankruptcy cases in Jiangxi province and about a 66 percent increase in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province. While PRC authorities are taking steps to address corporate debt and are gradually allowing some companies to fail, companies generally avoid pursing bankruptcy because of the potential for local government interference and fear of losing control over the outcome. According to the SPC, 2.899 million enterprises closed business in 2020, of which only 0.1 percent or 3,908 closed because of bankruptcy.
In August 2020, Shenzhen released the Personal Bankruptcy Regulations of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, to take effect on March 1, 2021. This is the PRC’s first regulation on personal bankruptcy. On July 19, the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court of Guangdong Province, China served a ruling on Liang Wenjin approving his personal bankruptcy reorganization plan. This was the first personal bankruptcy case closed by Shenzhen Court since the implementation of the Personal Bankruptcy Regulations of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and is the first personal bankruptcy reorganization case in China.
The Personal Bankruptcy Regulations is China’s first set of rules on personal bankruptcy, which formally establishes the personal bankruptcy system in China for the first time. At present, the Personal Bankruptcy Regulations is only applicable in Shenzhen. Numerous other localities have also begun experimenting with legal remedies for personal insolvency, in part to deter debtors from taking extreme measures to address debt.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
China has approximately 150,000 wholly-owned SOEs, of which 50,000 are owned by the central government, and the remainder by local or provincial governments. SOEs account for 30 to 40 percent of total gross domestic product (GDP) and about 20 percent of China’s total employment. Non-financial SOE assets totaled roughly USD 30 trillion. SOEs can be found in all sectors of the economy, from tourism to heavy industries. State funds are spread throughout the economy and the state may also be the majority or controlling shareholder in an ostensibly private enterprise. China’s leading SOEs benefit from preferential government policies aimed at developing bigger and stronger “national champions.” SOEs enjoy preferential access to essential economic inputs (land, hydrocarbons, finance, telecoms, and electricity) and exercise considerable power in markets like steel and minerals. SOEs also have long enjoyed preferential access to credit and the ability to issue publicly traded equity and debt. A comprehensive, published list of all PRC SOEs does not exist.
PRC officials have indicated China intends to utilize OECD guidelines to improve the SOEs independence and professionalism, including relying on Boards of Directors that are free from political influence. However, analysts believe minor reforms will be ineffective if SOE administration and government policy remain intertwined, and PRC officials make minimal progress in primarily changing the regulation and business conduct of SOEs. SOEs continue to hold dominant shares in their respective industries, regardless of whether they are strategic, which may further restrain private investment in the economy. Among central SOEs managed by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), senior management positions are mainly filled by senior party members who report directly to the CCP, and double as the company’s party secretary. SOE executives often outrank regulators in the CCP rank structure, which minimizes the effectiveness of regulators in implementing reforms. While SOEs typically pursue commercial objectives, the lack of management independence and the controlling ownership interest of the state make SOEs de facto arms of the government, subject to government direction and interference. SOEs are rarely the defendant in legal disputes, and when they are, they almost always prevail. U.S. companies often complain about the lack of transparency and objectivity in commercial disputes with SOEs.
Since 2013, the PRC government has periodically announced reforms to SOEs that included selling SOE shares to outside investors or a mixed ownership model, in which private companies invest in SOEs and outside managers are hired. The government has tried these approaches to improve SOE management structures, emphasize the use of financial benchmarks, and gradually infuse private capital into some sectors traditionally monopolized by SOEs like energy, finance, and telecommunications. For instance, during an August 25 press conference, State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) officials announced that in the second half of the year central SOE reform would focus on the advanced manufacturing and technology innovation sectors. As part of these efforts, they claimed SASAC would ensure mergers and acquisitions removed redundancies, stabilize industrial supply chains, withdraw from non-competitive businesses, and streamline management structures. In practice, however, reforms have been gradual, as the PRC government has struggled to implement its SOE reform vision and often preferred to utilize a SOE consolidation approach. Recently, Xi and other senior leaders have increasingly focused reform efforts on strengthening the role of the state as an investor or owner of capital, instead of the old SOE model in which the state was more directly involved in managing operations.
SASAC issued a circular on November 20, 2020, directing tighter control over central SOEs overseas properties held by individuals on behalf of SOEs. The circular aims to prevent leakage of SOE assets held by individuals and SOE overseas variable interest entities (VIEs). According to the circular, properties held by individuals should be approved by central SOEs and filed with SASAC.
In Northeast China, privatization efforts at provincial and municipal SEOs remains low, as private capital makes cautious decisions in making investment to local debt-ridden and inefficient SOEs. On the other hand, local SOEs prefer to pursue mergers and acquisitions with central SOEs to avoid being accused of losing state assets. There is no available information on whether foreign investors could participate in privatization programs.
Since 2012, China has undergone a large-scale anti-corruption campaign, with investigations reaching into all sectors of the government, military, and economy. CCP General Secretary Xi labeled endemic corruption an “existential threat” to the very survival of the Party. In 2018, the CCP restructured its Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) to become a state organ, calling the new body the National Supervisory Commission-Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (NSC-CCDI). The NSC-CCDI wields the power to investigate any public official. From 2012 to 2021, the NSC-CCDI claimed it investigated roughly four million cases. In the first three quarters of 2021, the NSC-CCDI investigated 470,000 cases and disciplined 414,000 individuals, of whom 22 were at or above the provincial or ministerial level. Since 2014, the PRC’s overseas fugitive-hunting campaign, called “Operation Skynet,” has led to the capture of more than 9,500 fugitives suspected of corruption who were living in other countries, including over 2,200 CCP members and government employees. In most cases, the PRC did not notify host countries of these operations. In 2021, the government reported apprehending 1,273 alleged fugitives and recovering approximately USD 2.64 billion through this program.
In March 2021, the CCP Amendment 11 to the Criminal Law, which increased the maximum punishment for acts of corruption committed by private entities to life imprisonment, from the previous maximum of 15-year imprisonment, took effect. In June 2020 the CCP passed a law on Administrative Discipline for Public Officials, continuing efforts to strengthen supervision over individuals working in the public sector. The law enumerates targeted illicit activities such as bribery and misuse of public funds or assets for personal gain. Anecdotal information suggests anti-corruption measures are applied inconsistently and discretionarily. For example, to fight commercial corruption in the medical sector, the health authorities issued “blacklists” of firms and agents involved in commercial bribery, including several foreign companies. While central government leadership has welcomed increased public participation in reporting suspected corruption at lower levels, direct criticism of central leadership or policies remains off-limits and is seen as an existential threat to China’s political and social stability. China ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005 and participates in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and OECD anti-corruption initiatives. China has not signed the OECDConventionon Combating Bribery, although PRC officials have expressed interest in participating in the OECD Working Group on Bribery as an observer. Corruption Investigations are led by government entities, and civil society has a limited scope in investigating corruption beyond reporting suspected corruption to central authorities.
Liaoning set up a provincial watchdog, known as the “Liaoning Business Environment Development Department” to inspect government disciplines and provide a mechanism for the public to report corruption and misbehaviors through a “government service platform.” In 2021, Liaoning reported handling 8,091 cases and recovering approximately USD 290 million in ill-gotten gains by government agencies and SOEs through this program.
The following government organization receives public reports of corruption:
Anti-Corruption Reporting Center of the CCP Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision, Telephone Number: +86 10 12388.
10. Political and Security Environment
Foreign companies operating in China face a growing risk of political violence, most recently due to U.S.-China political tensions. PRC authorities have broad authority to prohibit travelers from leaving China and have imposed “exit bans” to compel U.S. citizens to resolve business disputes, force settlement of court orders, or facilitate PRC investigations. U.S. citizens, including children, not directly involved in legal proceedings or wrongdoing have also been subject to lengthy exit bans to compel family members or colleagues to cooperate with Chinese courts or investigations. Exit bans are often issued without notification to the foreign citizen or without clear legal recourse to appeal the exit ban decision. A 2020 independent report presented evidence that since 2018, more than 570,000 Uyghurs were implicated in forced labor picking cotton. There was also reporting that Xinjiang’s polysilicon and solar panel industries are connected to forced labor. In 2021, PRC citizens, with the encouragement of the PRC government, boycotted companies that put out statements on social media affirming they do not use Xinjiang cotton in their supply chain. Some landlords forced companies to close retail outlets during this boycott due to fears of being associated with boycotted companies. The ongoing PRC crackdown on virtually all opposition voices in Hong Kong and continued attempts by PRC organs to intimidate Hong Kong’s judges threatens the judicial independence of Hong Kong’s courts – a fundamental pillar for Hong Kong’s status as an international hub for investment into and out of China. Apart from Hong Kong, the PRC government has also previously encouraged protests or boycotts of products from countries like the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan, Norway, Canada, and the Philippines, in retaliation for unrelated policy decisions such as the boycott campaigns against Korean retailer Lotte in 2016 and 2017 in response to the ROK government’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD); and the PRC’s retaliation against Canadian companies and citizens for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.
Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) offers a welcoming environment for U.S. investment. The Ivoirian government wants to deepen commercial cooperation with the U.S. The Ivoirian and foreign business community in CDI considers the 2018 investment code generous with welcome incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors. Côte d’Ivoire’s resiliency to the COVID-19 crisis led to quick economic recovery. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth stayed positive at two percent in 2020 and rebounded to 6.5 percent in 2021, with government of CDI projecting average growth at 7.65 percent during the period 2021-2025. International credit rating agency Fitch upgraded the country’s political risk rating in July 2021 from B+ to BB-, while the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) assessment confirms CDI’s economic resilience, despite the Omicron variant of COVID. However, possible repetition of 2021 energy shortages, poor transparency, and delays in reforms could dampen confidence.
U.S. businesses operate successfully in several Ivoirian sectors including oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; the digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure. The competitiveness of U.S. companies in IT services is exemplified by one company that altered the local payment system by introducing a digital payment system that rapidly increased its market share, forcing competitors to lower prices.
Côte d’Ivoire is well poised to attract increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) based on the government’s strong response to the pandemic, the buoyancy of the economy, high-level support for private sector investment, and clear priorities set forth in the new 2021-2025 National Development Plan (PND – Plan National de Développement). An important factor is Côte d’Ivoire’s resurgence as a regional economic and transportation hub. Government authorities are continuing to implement structural reforms to improve the business environment, modernize public administration, increase human capital, and boost productivity and private sector development. However, this will not come without challenges and uncertainties in the medium term, particularly regarding the evolution of the pandemic and global recovery as well as regulatory and transparency concerns. Government authorities underscore their commitment to strengthening peace and security systems in the northern zone of the country, while striving for inclusive growth in the context of post-pandemic recovery. Finally, recent political instability in northern and western neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, could impede investor confidence in the region, especially when it comes to security.
Doing business with the Ivoirian government remains a significant challenge in some areas such as procurement, taxation, and regulatory processes. Some new public procurement procedures adopted in 2019 were only implemented in 2021, including implementation of an e-procurement module, and improved evaluation, prioritization, selection, and monitoring procedures. This is a work in process, and concerns remain that these procedures are not consistently and transparently applied. Similar concerns circulate about tax procedures, especially retroactive assessments based on changes in tax formulas. An overly complicated tax system and slow, opaque government decision-making processes hinder investment. Government has identified VAT (Value Added Tax), mining, digitalization, and property taxes as key areas for broadening the tax base and improving state revenues. Other challenges include low levels of literacy and income, weak access to credit for small businesses, corruption, and the need to broaden the tax base to relieve some of the tax-paying burden on businesses.
The government aims for transparency in law and policy to foster competition and provide clear rules of the game and a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors. However, at the operational level, lack of regulatory transparency is a concern. Publication of draft legislation and regulations is not required. Foreign and Ivoirian companies complain that new regulations are issued with little warning and without a period for public comment. For instance, new duties and taxes on products are generally reported in the fiscal annexes towards the end of the year and take immediate effect at the beginning of the next year. The Ministry of Commerce supports introducing a period for public comment on new regulations and changes in regulation before they are implemented, and government often holds ad hoc public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations. Further work in this area would boost investor confidence.
Regulatory actions, once adopted, are published on the government website at enforcement stage. They are also published in the Official Journal of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Journal Officiel de la République de Côte d’Ivoire) , which is available for purchase at newsstands and by subscription on the Journal’s website http://www.sgg.gouv.ci/jo.php and at https://abidjan.net/.
The National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement (ANRMP – Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics) polices transparency in public procurement and private sector compliance with public procurement rules. Consumers, trade associations, private companies, and individuals have the right to file complaints with ANRMP to hold the government to its own administrative processes. Since 2019, public tenders’ audits have not been published on the ANRMP official website.
Regulatory bodies regularly publish and promote access to their data for the business community and development partners, allowing for scientific and data-driven reviews and assessments. Quantitative analysis and public comments are made available.
Regulatory authority and decision-making exist only at the national level. Sub-national jurisdictions do not regulate business. For most industries or sectors, regulations are developed through the ministry responsible for that sector. In the telecommunications, electricity, cocoa, coffee, cotton, and cashew sectors, the government has established control boards or independent agencies to regulate the sector and pricing. Companies have complained that rules for buying prices determined by the agriculture commodity regulatory agencies tend to be opaque and local prices are set arbitrarily without reference to world prices.
Côte d’Ivoire’s agency regulating cocoa and coffee (CCC – Conseil Café et Cacao) has identified the need for a single mechanism to control traceability to prevent child labor and deforestation. The private sector and non-governmental stakeholders agree on the need for increased accountability and traceability, but generally prefer a multi-prong approach which incorporates the work already being done in this area outside of government. Growing international awareness of child labor and environmental challenges in CDI, and the possibility that this could impact exports, are catalysts for action.
The government publishes tender notices in the local press and sometimes in international magazines and newspapers. On occasion, there is a charge for the bidding documents. Côte d’Ivoire has a generally decentralized government procurement system, with most ministries undertaking their own procurements. The National Bureau of Technical and Development Studies, the government’s technical and investment planning agency and think tank, occasionally serves as an executing agency in major projects to be financed by international institutions.
The Public Procurement Department is a centralized office of public tenders in the Ministry of Finance tasked with ensuring compliance with international bidding practices. Côte d’Ivoire’s update to its public procurement code in 2019 introduced electronic procurement bidding, provisions for sustainable public procurement, and promotion of socially responsible vendors as a bidding qualification. While the public procurement process is open by law, in practice it is often opaque and government contracts are occasionally awarded outside of public tenders. During negotiations on a tender, the Ivorian Government at times imposes local content requirements on foreign companies. There are specific regulations governing the government’s use of sole source procurements and the government has awarded sole source bids without tenders, citing the high technical capacity of a firm or a declared emergency. Many firms continue to cite corruption as an obstacle to a transparent understanding of procurement decisions.
The National Authority for Regulation of Public Procurement (ANRMP) regulates public procurement with a view to improving governance and transparency. It has the authority to audit and sanction private-sector entities that do not comply with public-procurement regulations, and to provide recommendations to ministries to address irregularities.
Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though both foreign and Ivoirian businesses often complain about the government’s poor communication. Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA), which is common to 16 countries and adheres to the WAEMU accounting system. In accounting, companies use the WAEMU system, which complies with international norms and is a source of economic and financial data.
Banking regulation follows the Central Bank (BCEAO) monetary policy covering the eight countries of WAEMU. Ivoirian authorities have limited power to conduct monetary policy. The Central Bank regulates interest rates to control the money supply. IMF assessments confirm CDI’s creditworthiness, with strong financial oversight. The Ivoirian government promotes transparency of public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) with the publication of this information through the following websites:
The Ivoirian government incorporates WAEMU directives into its public procurement bidding policy, processes, and auditing. This includes separating auditing and regulatory functions and increasing advance payment for the initial procurement of goods and services from 25 to 30 percent.
Côte d’Ivoire is part of the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), whose mandate is to protect economies, reinforce cooperation among member states, harmonize measures, and evaluate current strategies against money laundering and terrorism financing. The government hopes to adopt the draft national strategy to combat money laundering and terrorism financing in 2022. Once adopted, this strategy will put in place regulations and institutions that protect the Ivoirian financial system against money laundering and the financing of terrorism . CDI’s National Financial Information Processing Unit (CENTIF – Cellule nationale de Traitement des Informations financières) analyzes, processes, exploits, and circulates information from atypical financial transactions transmitted by professions subject to the law, in the form of “suspicious transaction reports.”
Ivoirian laws, codes, professional-association standards, and regional-body membership obligations are incorporated in the country’s regulatory system. The private sector often follows European norms to take advantage of the Ivoirian trade agreement with the EU – CDI’slargest market.
Côte d’Ivoire has been a WTO member since 1995 but has not notified all the draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Côte d’Ivoire signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2013 and ratified it in December 2015. The National TFA Committee (NTFC) coordinates TFA implementation. Consistent with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Côte d’Ivoire applies a Common External Tariff (CET) on goods importations.
The Ivoirian legal system is based on the French civil-law model. The law guarantees to all the right to own and transfer private property. Rural land, however, is governed by a separate set of laws, which makes ownership and transfer very difficult. The court system enforces contracts.
The Commercial Court of Abidjan adjudicates corporate law cases and contract disputes. Mediation is also available through the Ivoirian legal framework in addition to the Commercial Court and the Arbitration Tribunal. The Commercial Court of Abidjan retains jurisdiction for the entire country.
The Ivoirian judicial system is ostensibly independent, but magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence. Judges sometimes fail to prove that their decisions are based on the legal or contractual merits of a case and often rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. A frequent complaint from investors is the slow dispute-resolution process. Cases are often postponed or appealed without a reasonable explanation, moving from court to court for years or even decades. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated through the national court system.
The 2018 Investment Code is the primary governing authority for investment conduct. The Code does not restrict foreign investment or the repatriation of funds. The Code offers a mixture of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration, patents and licenses contribution and tax credits to encourage investment. The government also offers incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurs, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development. Concessionary agreements that exempt investors from tax payments require the additional approval of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The clearance procedure for planned investments, if the investor seeks tax breaks, is time consuming and confusing. Even when companies have complied fully with the requirements, the Tax Office sometimes denies tax exemptions with little explanation, giving rise to accusations of favoritism.
Some sectors have additional laws that govern investment activity in those sectors. In mining, for example, the Mining Code allows for a ten-year holding period for permits with an option to extend for an two additional years on a limited permit area of 400 square kilometers. The government drafted not yet passed in the National Assembly that would impose local-content requirements in the oil and gas sector such as the requirement that companies hire locals, finance personnel training, and support local SMEs.
The government is actively seeking to increase the share of local processing of raw agricultural commodities for export from 10 percent to 50 percent by 2025 and is looking for private investments to help reach this goal.
Côte d’Ivoire was once a net energy exporter and it is making investments to retake that position as the sub-region’s energy hub. According to 2020 data, the country produces 38,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of oil from four blocks and 213 million cubic-feet-per-day of gas. The country has divided its offshore Exclusive Economic Zone into 51 hydrocarbons blocks, of which 18 blocks remain available for bid. Currently, the production of gas is entirely used for electricity production. The government seeks to attract more foreign companies to invest in the oil and gas sector. In 2021, the large Italian oil company ENI discovered oil and gas at an offshore well site called “Baleine.”
The CEPICI provides a one-stop shop website to assist investors. More information on Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements can be found at:
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Small Business Promotion, through the Commission on Anti-Competition Practices, is responsible for reviewing competition–related concerns under the 1991 competition law, which was updated in 2013. ANRMP is responsible for reviewing the awarding of contracts.
No significant competition cases were reported over the past year.
The Ivoirian constitution guarantees the right to own property and freedom from expropriation without compensation. The government may expropriate property with due compensation (fair market value) at the time of expropriation in the case of “public interest.” Perceived corruption and weak judicial and security capacity, however, have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, particularly when the entity in question is foreign and the plaintiff is Ivoirian or a long-established foreign resident.
Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 85 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. As a member of OHADA, CDI has both commercial and bankruptcy laws that address the liquidation of business liabilities. OHADA is a regional system of uniform laws on bankruptcy, debt collection, and rules governing business transactions. OHADA permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation: an ordered suspension of payment to permit a negotiated settlement; an ordered suspension of payment to permit restructuring of the company, like Chapter 11; and the complete liquidation of assets, similar to Chapter 7. Creditors’ rights, irrespective of nationality, are protected equally by the Act. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. Court-ordered monetary settlements resulting from declarations of bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency.
The joint venture Credit Info – Volo West Africa manages regional credit bureaus in WAEMU.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Companies owned or controlled by the state are subject to national laws and the tax code. The Ivoirian government still holds substantial interests in many firms, including the refinery SIR (49 percent), the public transport firm (60 percent), the national television station RTI (98 percent), the national lottery (80 percent), the national airline Air Côte d’Ivoire (58 percent), and the land management agency Agence de Gestion Foncière AGEF (35 percent). Total assets of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were $796 million and total net income of SOEs was $116 million in 2018 (latest figures). Of the 82 SOEs, 28 are wholly government-owned and 12 are majority government-owned, the government owns a blocking minority in seven and holds minority shares in 35. Each SOE has an independent board. The government has begun the process of divestiture for some SOEs (see next section). There are active SOEs in the banking, agri-business, mining, and telecom industries.
SOEs competing in the domestic market do not receive non-market-based advantages from the government. They are subject to the same tax burdens and policies as private companies.
Côte d’Ivoire does not adhere to OECD guidelines for SOE corporate governance (it is not a member of OECD).
In 2021, audits of several SOEs highlighted serious irregularities (alleged embezzlement estimated at several tens or even hundreds of billions of FCFA, i.e. up to hundreds of millions of dollars. The SOEs include FER, FDFP, ARTCI, and ANSUT, whose leaders have been removed and replaced.
The government has been pursuing SOE privatization for decades the most recent of which was in 2018. That year, the government sold 51 percent of the Housing Bank of Côte d’Ivoire (BHCI – Banque d’Habitat de Côte d’Ivoire). See previous Investment Climate Statements for past privatization efforts.
Contracts for participation in SOE privatization are competed through a French-language public tendering process, for which foreign investors are encouraged to submit bids. The Privatization Committee, which reports to the Prime Minister, maintains a website. The 2019 (latest) report is available at: http://privatisation.gouv.ci.
Many companies cite corruption as the most significant obstacle to investment. Corruption in many forms is deeply ingrained in public- and private-sector practices and remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in CDI. It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues. Lack of transparency and the government’s failure to follow its own tendering procedures in the awarding of contracts lead businesses to conclude bribery was involved. Businesses have reported encountering corruption at every level of the civil service, with some judges appearing to base their decisions on bribes. Clearance of goods at the ports often requires substantial “commissions.” The demand for bribes can mean that containers stay at the Port of Abidjan for months, incurring substantial demurrage charges, despite companies having the proper paperwork.
In 2013, the Ivoirian government issued Executive Order number 2013-660 related to preventing and combatting corruption. The High Authority for Good Governance serves as the government’s anti-corruption authority. Its mandate includes raising awareness about corruption, investigating corruption in the public and private sectors, and collecting mandated asset disclosures from certain public officials (e.g., the president, ministers, and mayors) upon entering and leaving office. The High Authority for Good Governance, however, does not have a mandate to prosecute; it must refer cases to the Attorney General who decides whether to take up those cases. The country’s financial intelligence office, CENTIF, has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials.
Despite the establishment of these bodies and credible allegations of widespread corruption, there have been few charges filed, and few prosecutions and judgments against prominent people for corruption. The domestic business community generally assesses that these watchdog agencies lack the power and/or will to combat corruption effectively. In April 2021, the government formally added Good Governance and Anti-Corruption to the title and portfolio of the Ministry of Capacity Building.
Côte d’Ivoire ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, but the country is not a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (which is open to non-OECD members). In 2016, Côte d’Ivoire joined the Partnership on Illicit Finance, which obliges it to develop an action plan to combat corruption.
Under the Ivoirian Penal Code, a bribe by a local company to a foreign official is a criminal act. Some private companies use compliance programs or measures to prevent bribery of government officials. U.S. firms underscore to their Ivoirian counterparts that they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to political parties. The country’s Code of Public Procurement No. 259 and the associated WAEMU directives cover conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
There are no special protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption. Whistleblower protections are also weak.
High Authority for Good Governance (Haute Autorité pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
Mr. N’Golo Coulibaly
TELEPHONE: +225 272 2479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261 https://habg.ci/
Police Anti-Racketeering Unit (Unité de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
Mr. Alain Oura
TELEPHONE: +225 272 244 9256 firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Justice (Initiative pour la Justice Sociale, la Transparence et la Bonne Gouvernance en Côte d’Ivoire)
Ananeraie face pharmacie Mamie Adjoua
TELEPHONE: +225 272 177 6373 email@example.com
10. Political and Security Environment
Following peaceful and inclusive legislative elections in March 2021, CDI entered a period of stability. Major opposition parties participated and won a meaningful number of seats in elections internationally deemed credible. The political leadership clearly recognizes that internal and regional security are prerequisites for sustained economic growth and longer-term stability. All political parties participated in a structured Political Dialogue aimed at fostering reconciliation and strengthening democratic institutions, including dispute resolution mechanisms. The fifth round of the Political Dialogue concluded in March 2022 and produced a consensus list of tangible recommendations to the President of the Republic. The next presidential election is not due until 2025, so there is now a window of opportunity for the country’s political leaders to focus on difficult reforms.
The Ivoirian government has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing insecurity in the region by strengthening its capacity to counter terrorism, strengthen social resilience, professionalize law enforcement, strengthen its justice system, and improve border security. In June 2021, CDI and France inaugurated the International Academy for the Fight Against Terrorism (AILCT) near Jacqueville, west of Abidjan. The aim of this academy is to train relevant cadres (e.g., prosecutors, forensic investigators) and security forces from the African continent to strengthen capacity to prevail against self-styled jihadists within respect for law and human rights, thereby reinforcing ties between the population and the state. This comes at a time of increased security challenges emanating from the Sahel and spilling over into CDI’s northern region.
France and Monaco
France welcomes foreign investment and has a stable business climate that attracts investors from around the world. The French government devotes significant resources to attracting foreign investment through policy incentives, marketing, overseas trade promotion offices, and investor support mechanisms. France has an educated population, first-rate universities, and a talented workforce. It has a modern business culture, sophisticated financial markets, a strong intellectual property rights regime, and innovative business leaders. The country is known for its world-class infrastructure, including high-speed passenger rail, maritime ports, extensive roadway networks, a dense network of public transportation, and efficient intermodal connections. High-speed (3G/4G) telephony is nearly ubiquitous, and France has begun its 5G roll-out in key metropolitan cities.
In 2021, the United States was the leading foreign investor in France in terms of new jobs created (10,118) and second in terms of new projects invested (247). The total stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in France reached $91 billion. More than 4,500 U.S. firms operate in France, supporting over 500,000 jobs, making the United States the top foreign investor overall in terms of job creation.
Following the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, the French government implemented significant labor market and tax reforms. By relaxing the rules on companies to hire and fire employees, the government cut production taxes by 15 percent in 2021, and corporate tax will fall to 25 percent in 2022. Surveys of U.S. investors in 2021 showed the greatest optimism about the business operating environment in France since 2008. Macron’s reform agenda for pensions was derailed in 2018, however, when France’s Yellow Vest protests—a populist, grassroots movement for economic justice—rekindled class warfare and highlighted wealth and, to a lesser extent, income inequality.
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 shifted Macron’s focus to mitigating France’s most severe economic crisis in the post-war era. The economy shrank 8.3 percent in 2020 compared to the year prior, but with the help of unprecedented government support for businesses and households, economic growth reached seven percent in 2021. The government’s centerpiece fiscal package was the €100 billion ($110 billion) France Relance plan, of which over half was dedicated to supporting businesses. Most of the support was accessible to U.S. firms operating in France as well. The government launched a follow-on investment package in late 2021 called “France 2030” to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity, and accelerate the ecological transition.
Also in 2020, France increased its protection against foreign direct investment that poses a threat to national security. In the wake of the health crisis, France’s investment screening body expanded the scope of sensitive sectors to include biotechnology companies and lowered the threshold to review an acquisition from a 25 percent ownership stake by the acquiring firm to 10 percent, a temporary provision set to expire at the end of 2022. In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction, which included the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector. In early 2021, the French government threated to block the acquisition of French supermarket chain Carrefour by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard, which eventually scuttled the deal.
Key issues to watch in 2022 are: 1) the impact of the war in Ukraine and measures by the EU and French government to mitigate the fallout; 2) the degree to which COVID-19 and resulting supply chain disruptions continue to agitate the macroeconomic environment in France and across Europe, and the extent of the government’s continued support for the economic recovery; and 3) the creation of winners and losers resulting from the green transition, the degree to which will be largely determined by firms’ operating models and exposure to fossil fuels.
The French government has made considerable progress in the last decade on the transparency and accessibility of its regulatory system. The government generally engages in industry and public consultation before drafting legislation or rulemaking through a regular but variable process directed by the relevant ministry. However, the text of draft legislation is not always publicly available before parliamentary approval. U.S. firms may also find it useful to become members of industry associations, which can play an influential role in developing government policies. Even “observer” status can offer insight into new investment opportunities and greater access to government-sponsored projects.
To increase transparency in the legislative process, all ministries are required to attach an impact assessment to their draft bills. The Prime Minister’s Secretariat General (SGG for Secretariat General du Gouvernement) is responsible for ensuring that impact studies are undertaken in the early stages of the drafting process. The State Council (Conseil d’Etat), which must be consulted on all draft laws and regulations, may reject a draft bill if the impact assessment is inadequate.
After experimenting with new online consultations, the Macron Administration is regularly using this means to achieve consensus on its major reform bills. These consultations are often open to professionals as well as citizens at large. Another innovation is to impose regular impact assessments after a bill has been implemented to ensure its maximum efficiency, revising, as necessary, provisions that do not work in favor of those that do.
Over past decades, major reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. On April 11, 2019, France implemented the European Competition Network (ECN) Directive, which widens the powers of all European national competition authorities to impose larger fines and temporary measures. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance, and government ministers, companies, consumer organizations, and trade associations now have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices. While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs. The Competition Authority continues to simplify takeover and merger notifications with online procedures via a dedicated platform in 2020 and updated guidelines in English released on January 11, 2021. Since January 2021, the Competition Authority has a new President, Benoît Cœuré, who intends to focus on the impact of the Cloud on all sectors of the French economy.
France’s budget documents are comprehensive and cover all expenditures of the central government. An annex to the budget also provides estimates of cost sharing contributions, though these are not included in the budget estimates. Last September, the French government published its first “Green Budget,” as an annex to the 2021 Finance Bill. This event attests to France’s strong commitment, notably under the OECD-led “Paris Collaborative on Green Budgeting” (which France joined in December 2017), to integrate “green” tools into the budget process. In its spring report each year, the National Economic Commission outlines the deficits for the two previous years, the current year, and the year ahead, including consolidated figures on taxes, debt, and expenditures. Since 1999, the budget accounts have also included contingent liabilities from government guarantees and pension liabilities. The government publishes its debt data promptly on the French Treasury’s website and in other documents. Data on nonnegotiable debt is available 15 days after the end of the month, and data on negotiable debt is available 35 days after the end of the month. Annual data on debt guaranteed by the state is published in summary in the CGAF Report and in detail in the Compte de la dettepublique. More information can be found at: https://www.imf.org/external/np/rosc/fra/fiscal.htm
France was the first country to include extra-financial reporting in its 2001 New Economic Regulations Law. To encourage companies to develop a social responsibility strategy and limit the negative externalities of globalized trade, the law requires French companies with more than 500 employees and annual revenues above €100 million ($106 million) to report on the social and environmental consequences of their activities and include them in their annual management report. A 2012 decree on corporate social and environmental transparency obligations requires portfolio management companies to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria in their investment process.
France’s 2015 Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth strengthened mandatory carbon disclosure requirements for listed companies and introduced carbon reporting for institutional investors. It requires investors (defined as asset owners and investment managers) to disclose in their annual investor’s report and on their website how they factor ESG criteria and carbon-related considerations into their investment policies. The regulation concerns all asset classes: listed assets, venture capital, bonds, physical assets, etc.
France is a founding member of the European Union, created in 1957. As such, France incorporates EU laws and regulatory norms into its domestic law. France has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and a member of GATT since 1948. While developing new draft regulations, the French government submits a copy to the WTO for review to ensure the prospective legislation is consistent with its WTO obligations. France ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in October 2015 and has implemented all of its TFA commitments.
French law is codified into what is sometimes referred to as the Napoleonic Code, but is officially the Code Civil des Français, or French Civil Code. Private law governs interactions between individuals (e.g., civil, commercial, and employment law) and public law governs the relationship between the government and the people (e.g., criminal, administrative, and constitutional law).
France has an administrative court system to challenge a decision by local governments and the national government; the State Council (Conseil d’Etat) is the appellate court. France enforces foreign legal decisions such as judgments, rulings, and arbitral awards through the procedure of exequatur introduced before the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI), which is the court of original jurisdiction in the French legal system.
France’s Commercial Tribunal (Tribunal de Commerce or TDC) specializes in commercial litigation. Magistrates of the commercial tribunals are lay judges, who are well known in the business community and have experience in the sectors they represent. Decisions by the commercial courts can be appealed before the Court of Appeals. France’s judicial system is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable and is independent of the government.
The judiciary – although its members are state employees – is independent of the executive branch. The judicial process in France is known to be competent, fair, thorough, and time-consuming. There is a right of appeal. The Appellate Court (courd’appel) re-examines judgments rendered in civil, commercial, employment or criminal law cases. It re-examines the legal basis of judgments, checking for errors in due process and reexamines case facts. It may either confirm or set aside the judgment of the lower court, in whole or in part. Decisions of the Appellate Court may be appealed to the Highest Court in France (cour de cassation).
The French Financial Prosecution Office (Parquet National Financier, or PNF), specialized in serious economic and financial crimes, was set up by a December 6, 2013 law and began its activities on February 1, 2014.
Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all sorts of remunerative activities. U.S. investment in France is subject to the provisions of the Convention of Establishment between the United States of America and France, which was signed in 1959 and remains in force. The rights it provides U.S. nationals and companies include: rights equivalent to those of French nationals in all commercial activities (excluding communications, air transportation, water transportation, banking, the exploitation of natural resources, the production of electricity, and professions of a scientific, literary, artistic, and educational nature, as well as certain regulated professions like doctors and lawyers). Treatment equivalent to that of French or third-country nationals is provided with respect to transfer of funds between France and the United States. Property is protected from expropriation except for public purposes; in that case it is accompanied by payment that is just, realizable and prompt.
Major reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. France implemented the European Competition Network, or ECN Directive, on April 11, 2019, allowing the French Competition Authority to impose heftier fines (above €3 million / $3.3 million) and temporary measures to prevent an infringement that may cause harm. The Authority issues decisions and opinions mostly on antitrust issues, but its influence on competition issues is growing. For example, following a complaint in November 2019 by several French, European, and international associations of press publishers against Google over the use of their content online without compensation, the Authority ordered the U.S. company to start negotiating in good faith with news publishers over the use of their content online. On December 20, 2019, Google was fined €150 million ($177 million) for abuse of dominant position. Following an in-depth review of the online ad sector, the Competition Authority found Google Ads to be “opaque and difficult to understand” and applied in “an unfair and random manner.” On November 17, 2021, the Competition Authority brokered a “pioneering” five-year deal between the CEOs of Google and French news agency Agence France-Presse for the search giant to pay for the French news agency’s content. The deal covers the entirety of the EU and follows 18 months of negotiations. It is the first such deal by a news agency under Article 15 of the 2019 European directive creating a neighboring right for the benefit of press agencies and press publishers when online services reproduce press publications in search engine results. France was the first EU member state to implement Article 15 through its July 24, 2019 law, which came into force on October 24, 2019.
Additional U.S. firms also continue to fall under review of the Competition Authority. For example, it fined Apple $1.3 billion on March 16, 2020, for antitrust infringements involving the restriction of intra-brand competition and the rarely used French law concept of “abuse of economic dependency.”
The Competition Authority launches regular in-depth investigations into various sectors of the economy, which may lead to formal investigations and fines. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance. Government ministers, companies, consumer organizations and trade associations have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices. While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs.
A new law on Economic Growth, Activity and Equal Opportunities (known as the “Macron Law”), adopted in August 2016, vested the Competition Authority with the power to review mergers and alliances between retailers ex-ante (beforehand). The law provides that all contracts binding a retail business to a distribution network shall expire at the same time. This enables the retailer to switch to another distribution network more easily. Furthermore, distributors are prohibited from restricting a retailer’s commercial activity via post-contract terms. The civil fine incurred for restrictive practices can now amount to up to five percent of the business’s revenue earned in France.
In accordance with international law, the national or local governments cannot legally expropriate property to build public infrastructure without fair market compensation. There have been no expropriations of note during the reporting period.
France has extensive and detailed bankruptcy laws and regulations. Any creditor, regardless of the amount owed, may file suit in bankruptcy court against a debtor. Foreign creditors, equity shareholders and foreign contract holders have the same rights as their French counterparts. Monetary judgments by French courts on firms established in France are generally made in euros. Not bankruptcy itself, but bankruptcy fraud – the misstatement by a debtor of his financial position in the context of a bankruptcy – is criminalized. Under France’s bankruptcy code managers and other entities responsible for the bankruptcy of a French company are prevented from escaping liability by shielding their assets (Law 2012-346). France has adopted a law that enables debtors to implement a restructuring plan with financial creditors only, without affecting trade creditors. France’s Commercial Code incorporates European Directive 2014/59/EU establishing a framework for the recovery and resolution of claims on insolvent credit institutions and investment firms. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index, France ranked 32nd of 190 countries on ease of resolving insolvency.
The Bank of France, the country’s only credit monitor, maintains files on persons having written unfunded checks, having declared bankruptcy, or having participated in fraudulent activities. Commercial credit reporting agencies do not exist in France.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The 11 listed entities in which the French State maintains stakes at the federal level are Aeroports de Paris (50.63 percent); Airbus Group (10.92 percent); Air France-KLM (28.6 percent); EDF (83.88 percent), ENGIE (23.64 percent), Eramet (27.13 percent), La Française des Jeux (FDJ) (20.46 percent), Orange (a direct 13.39 percent stake and a 9.60 percent stake through Bpifrance), Renault (15.01 percent), Safran (11.23 percent), and Thales (25.67 percent). Unlisted companies owned by the State include SNCF (rail), RATP (public transport), CDC (Caisse des depots et consignations) and La Banque Postale (bank). In all, the government maintains majority and minority stakes in 88 firms in a variety of sectors.
Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including from state-owned banks or other state-owned investment vehicles. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. SOEs may get subsidies and other financial resources from the government.
France, as a member of the European Union, is party to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization. Companies owned or controlled by the state behave largely like other companies in France and are subject to the same laws and tax code. The Boards of SOEs operate according to accepted French corporate governance principles as set out in the (private sector) AFEP-MEDEF Code of Corporate Governance. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report, and the French Court of Audit conducts financial audits on all entities in which the state holds a majority interest. The French government appoints representatives to the Boards of Directors of all companies in which it holds significant numbers of shares, and manages its portfolio through a special unit attached to the Ministry for the Economy and Finance Ministry, the shareholding agency APE (Agence de Participations de l’Etat). The State as a shareholder must set an example in terms of respect for the environment, gender equality and social responsibility. The report also highlighted that the State must protect its strategic assets and remain a shareholder in areas where the general interest is at stake.
In 2021, the French Government increased to 29.9 percent its existing 14.3 percent stake in the Air France-KLM group in a deal that injected €4 billion ($4.5 billion) into Air France and its Holding Company under the European State aid Temporary Framework. This recapitalization, through a mix of new shares and hybrid debt, constrains the group from taking more than a 10 percent stake in any competitor until three-quarters of that aid is repaid. It follows a €7 billion ($7.7 billion) bailout the government provided earlier in 2020. The French Government has pledged to reduce its stake to the pre-crisis level of 14.3 percent by the end of 2026.
The government was due to privatize many large companies in 2019, including ADP and ENGIE in order to create a €10 billion ($11 billion) fund for innovation and research. However, the program was delayed because of political opposition to the privatization of airport manager ADP, regarded as a strategic asset to be protected from foreign shareholders. The government succeeded in selling in November 2019 a 52 percent stake in gambling firm FDJ. The government continues to maintain a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries.
In line with President Macron’s campaign promise to clean up French politics, the French parliament adopted in September 2017 the law on “Restoring Confidence in Public Life.” The new law bans elected officials from employing family members, or working as a lobbyist or consultant while in office. It also bans lobbyists from paying parliamentary, ministerial, or presidential staff and requires parliamentarians to submit receipts for expenses.
France’s “Transparency, Anti-corruption, and Economic Modernization Law,” also known as the “Loi Sapin II,” came into effect on June 1, 2017. It brought France’s legislation in line with European and international standards. Key aspects of the law include: creating a new anti-corruption agency; establishing “deferred prosecution” for defendants in corruption cases and prosecuting companies (French or foreign) suspected of bribing foreign public officials abroad; requiring lobbyists to register with national institutions; and expanding legal protections for whistleblowers. The Sapin II law also established a High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). The HATVP promotes transparency in public life by publishing the declarations of assets and interests it is legally authorized to share publicly. After review, declarations of assets and statements of interests of members of the government are published on the High Authority’s website under open license. The declarations of interests of members of Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet.
France is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition in France in recent years. France ranked 22rd of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) 2021 corruption perceptions index. See https://www.transparency.org/country/FRA.
The Central Office for the Prevention of Corruption (Service Central de Prevention de la Corruption or SCPC) was replaced in 2017 by the new national anti-corruption agency – the Agence Francaise Anticorruption (AFA). The AFA is charged with preventing corruption by establishing anti-corruption programs, making recommendations, and centralizing and disseminating information to prevent and detect corrupt officials and company executives. The French anti-corruption agency guidelines can be found here: https://www.agence-francaise-anticorruption.gouv.fr/files/2021-03/French%20AC%20Agency%20Guidelines%20.pdf. The AFA will also administrative authority to review the anticorruption compliance mechanisms in the private sector, in local authorities and in other government agencies.
Contact information for Agence Française Anti-corruption (AFA):
Director: Charles Duchaine
23 avenue d’Italie
Tel : (+33) 1 44 87 21 14
Contact information for Transparency International’s French affiliate:
Transparency International France
14, passage Dubail
Tel: (+33) 1 84 16 95 65;
10. Political and Security Environment
France is a politically stable country. Large demonstrations and protests occur regularly (sometimes organized to occur simultaneously in multiple French cities); these can result in violence. When faced with imminent business closures, on rare occasions French trade unions have resorted to confrontational techniques such as setting plants on fire, planting bombs, or kidnapping executives or managers.
From mid-November 2018 through 2019, Paris and other cities in France faced regular protests and disruptions, including “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) demonstrations that turned violent, initiated by discontent over high cost of living, gas, taxes, and social exclusion. In the second half of 2019, most demonstrations were in response to President Macron’s proposed unemployment and pension reform. Authorities permitted peaceful protests. During some demonstrations, damage to property, including looting and arson, in popular tourist areas occurred with reckless disregard for public safety. Police response included water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Between 2012 and 2021, 271 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in France, including the January 2015 assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 coordinated attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, national stadium, and streets of Paris, and the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. While the terrorist threat remains high, the threat is lower than its peak in 2015. Terrorist attacks have since been smaller in scale. Security services remained concerned with lone-wolf attacks, carried out by individuals already in France, inspired by or affiliated with ISIS. French security agencies continue to disrupt plots and cells effectively. Despite the spate of recent small-scale attacks, France remains a strong, stable, democratic country with a vibrant economy and culture. Americans and investors from all over the world continue to invest heavily in France.
As Europe’s largest economy, Germany is a major destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and has accumulated a vast stock of FDI over time. Germany is consistently ranked as one of the most attractive investment destinations based on its stable legal environment, reliable infrastructure, highly skilled workforce, and world-class research and development.
An EU member state with a well-developed financial sector, Germany welcomes foreign portfolio investment and has an effective regulatory system. Capital markets and portfolio investments operate freely with no discrimination between German and foreign firms. Germany has a very open economy, routinely ranking among the top countries in the world for exports and inward and outward foreign direct investment.
Foreign investment in Germany mainly originates from other European countries, the United States, and Japan, although FDI from emerging economies (and China) has grown in recent years. The United States is the leading source of non-European FDI in Germany. In 2020, total U.S. FDI in Germany was $162 billion. The key U.S. FDI sectors include chemicals ($8.7 billion), machinery ($6.5 billion), finance ($13.2 billion), and professional, scientific, and technical services ($10.1 billion). From 2019 to 2020, the industry sector “chemicals” grew significantly from $4.8 billion to $8.7 billion. Historically, machinery, information technology, finance, holding companies (nonbank), and professional, scientific, and technical services have dominated U.S. FDI in Germany.
German legal, regulatory, and accounting systems can be complex but are generally transparent and consistent with developed-market norms. Businesses operate within a well-regulated, albeit relatively high-cost, environment. Foreign and domestic investors are treated equally when it comes to investment incentives or the establishment and protection of real and intellectual property. Germany’s well-established enforcement laws and official enforcement services ensure investors can assert their rights. German courts are fully available to foreign investors in an investment dispute. New investors should ensure they have the necessary legal expertise, either in-house or outside counsel, to meet all national and EU regulations.
The German government continues to strengthen provisions for national security screening of inward investment in reaction to an increasing number of high-risk acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors, particularly from China, in recent years. German authorities screen acquisitions by foreign entities acquiring more than 10 percent of voting rights of German companies in critical sectors, including health care, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, specialized robots, semiconductors, additive manufacturing, and quantum technology, among others. Foreign investors who seek to acquire at least 10 percent of voting rights of a German company in one of those fields are required to notify the government and potentially become subject to an investment review. Furthermore, acquisitions by foreign government-owned or -funded entities will now trigger a review.
German authorities are committed to fighting money laundering and corruption. The government promotes responsible business conduct and German SMEs are aware of the need for due diligence.
Germany has transparent and effective laws and policies to promote competition, including antitrust laws. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are complex but transparent and consistent with international norms.
Public consultation by federal authorities is regulated by the Joint Rules of Procedure, which specify that ministries must consult early and extensively with a range of stakeholders on all new legislative proposals. In practice, laws and regulations in Germany are routinely published in draft form for public comment. According to the Joint Rules of Procedure, ministries should consult the concerned industries’ associations, consumer organizations, environmental, and other NGOs. The consultation period generally takes two to eight weeks.
The German Institute for Standardization (DIN), Germany’s independent and sole national standards body representing Germany in non-governmental international standards organizations, is open to German subsidiaries of foreign companies.
As a member of the European Union, Germany must observe and implement directives and regulations adopted by the EU. EU regulations are binding and enter into force as immediately applicable law. Directives, on the other hand, constitute a type of framework law that Member States transpose via their respective legislative processes. Germany regularly adheres to this process.
EU Member States must transpose directives within a specified time period. Should a deadline not be met, the Member State may suffer the initiation of an “infringement procedure,” which could result in steep fines. Germany has a set of rules that prescribe how to break down any payment of fines devolving to the Federal Government and the federal states (Länder). Both bear part of the costs. Payment requirements by the individual states depend on the size of their population and the respective part they played in non-compliance. In 2020, the Commission opened 28 new infringement cases against Germany; at year-end, 79 total infringement cases remained open against Germany.
In accordance with WTO membership requirements, the Federal Government notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) through the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.
German law is stable and predictable. Companies can effectively enforce property and contractual rights. Germany’s well-established enforcement laws and official enforcement services ensure investors can assert their rights. German courts are fully available to foreign investors in an investment dispute.
The judicial system is independent, and the government does not interfere in the court system. The legislature sets the systemic and structural parameters, while lawyers and civil law notaries use the law to shape and organize specific situations. Judges are highly competent and impartial. International studies and empirical data have attested that Germany offers an effective court system committed to due process and the rule of law.
In Germany, most important legal issues and matters are governed by comprehensive legislation in the form of statutes, codes, and regulations. Primary legislation in the area of business law includes:
the Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, abbreviated as BGB), which contains general rules on the formation, performance, and enforcement of contracts and on the basic types of contractual agreements for legal transactions between private entities;
the Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch, abbreviated as HGB), which contains special rules concerning transactions among businesses and commercial partnerships;
the Private Limited Companies Act (GmbH-Gesetz) and the Public Limited Companies Act (Aktiengesetz), covering the two most common corporate structures in Germany – the ‘GmbH’ and the ‘Aktiengesellschaft’; and
the Act on Unfair Competition (Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb, abbreviated as UWG), which prohibits misleading advertising and unfair business practices.
Apart from the regular courts, which hear civil and criminal cases, Germany has specialized courts for administrative law, labor law, social law, and finance and tax law. Many civil regional courts have specialized chambers for commercial matters. In 2018, the first German regional courts for civil matters (in Frankfurt and Hamburg) established Chambers for International Commercial Disputes, introducing the possibility to hear international trade disputes in English. Other federal states are currently discussing plans to introduce these specialized chambers as well. In November 2020, Baden-Wuerttemberg opened the first commercial court in Germany with locations in Stuttgart and Mannheim, with the option to choose English– language proceedings.
The Federal Patent Court hears cases on patents, trademarks, and utility rights related to decisions by the German Patent and Trademarks Office. Both the German Patent Office (Deutsches Patentamt) and the European Patent Office are headquartered in Munich.
In the case of acquisitions of critical infrastructure and companies in sensitive sectors, the threshold for triggering an investment review by the government is 10 percent. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action may review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers, regardless of national security concerns, where investors seek to acquire at least 25 percent of the voting rights to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 2021, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action screened 306 foreign acquisitions and prohibited none. MEC officials told Post the mere prospect of rejection has caused foreign investors to pull out of prospective deals in sensitive sectors in the past. All national security decisions by the Ministry can be appealed in administrative courts.
There is no general requirement for investors to obtain approval for any acquisition unless the target company poses a potential national security risk, such as operating or providing services relating to critical infrastructure, is a media company, or operates in the health sector. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action may launch a review within three months after obtaining knowledge of the acquisition; the review must be concluded within four months after receipt of the full set of relevant documents. An investor may also request a binding certificate of non-objection from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action in advance of the planned acquisition to obtain legal certainty at an early stage.
If the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action does not open an in-depth review within two months from the receipt of the request the certificate is deemed as granted. During the review, MEC may ask to submit further documents. The acquisition may be restricted or prohibited within three months after the full set of documents has been submitted.
The German government has continuously amended domestic investment screening provisions in recent years to transpose the relevant EU framework and address evolving security risks. An amendment in June 2017 clarified the scope for review and gave the government more time to conduct reviews, in reaction to an increasing number of acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors with apparent ties to national governments. The amended provisions provide a clearer definition of sectors in which foreign investment can pose a threat to public order and security, including operators of critical infrastructure, developers of software to run critical infrastructure, telecommunications operators or companies involved in telecom surveillance, cloud computing network operators and service providers, and telematics companies, and which are subject to notification requirements. The new rules also extended the time to assess a cross-sector foreign investment from two to four months, and for investments in sensitive sectors, from one to three months, and introduced the possibility of retroactively initiating assessments for a period of five years after the conclusion of an acquisition. Indirect acquisitions such as those through a Germany- or EU-based affiliate company are now also explicitly subject to the new rules.
With further amendments in 2020, Germany implemented the 2019 EU Screening Regulation.
The amendments a) introduced a more pro-active screening based on “prospective impairment” of public order or security by an acquisition, rather than a de facto threat, b) consider the impact on other EU member states, and c) formally suspend transactions during the screening process.
Furthermore, acquisitions by foreign government-owned or -funded entities now trigger a review, and the healthcare industry is now considered a sensitive sector to which the stricter 10% threshold applies. In May 2021, a further amendment entered into force, which introduced a list of sensitive sectors and technologies (like the current list of critical infrastructures), including artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, specialized robots, semiconductors, additive manufacturing, and quantum technology. Foreign investors who seek to acquire at least 10% of ownership rights of a German company in one those fields must notify the government and potentially become subject to an investment review. The screening can now also consider “stockpiling acquisitions” by the same investor, “atypical control investments” where an investor seeks additional influence in company operations via side contractual agreements, or combined acquisitions by multiple investors, if all are controlled by one foreign government.
The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action provides comprehensive information on Germany’s investment screening regime on its website in English:
The German government ensures competition on a level playing field based on two main legal codes:
The Law against Limiting Competition (GesetzgegenWettbewerbsbeschränkungen– GWB) is the legal basis for limiting cartels, merger control, and monitoring abuse. State and Federal cartel authorities are in charge of enforcing anti-trust law. In exceptional cases, the Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action can provide a permit under specific conditions.
A June 2017 amendment to the GWB expanded the reach of the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) to include internet and data-based business models; the FCO has shown an interest in investigating large internet firms. A February 2019 FCO investigation found that Facebook had abused its dominant position in social media to harvest user data. Facebook challenged the FCO’s decision in court, but in June 2020, Germany’s highest court upheld the FCO’s action. In March 2021, the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf referred the case to the European Court of Justice for guidance. The FCO has continued to challenge the conduct of large tech platforms, particularly with regard to the use of user data. Another FCO case against Facebook, initiated in December 2020, regards the integration of the company’s Oculus virtual reality platform into its broader platform, creating mandatory registration of Facebook accounts for all Oculus users.
In 2021, a further amendment to the GWB, known as the Digitalization Act, entered into force codifying tools that allow greater scrutiny of digital platforms by the FCO, in order to “better counteract abusive behavior by companies with paramount cross-market significance for competition.” The law aims to prohibit large platforms from taking certain actions that put competitors at a disadvantage, including in markets for related services or up and down the supply chain – even before the large platform becomes dominant in those secondary markets. To achieve this goal, the amendments expand the powers of the FCO to act earlier and more broadly. Due to the relatively modest number of German platforms, the amendments will primarily affect U.S. companies. The Cartel Office commenced investigations against four U.S. platforms – Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Meta/Facebook and Apple – in 2021 to assess whether they fall under the scope of the new legislation. In January 2022, the competition authority determined Alphabet/Google will be subject to abuse control measures under the scope of the new law but has not yet announced remedies. The three other investigations are still ongoing.
While the focus of the GWB is to preserve market access, the Law against Unfair Competition seeks to protect competitors, consumers, and other market participants against unfair competitive behavior by companies. This law is primarily invoked in regional courts by private claimants rather than by the FCO.
German law provides that private property can be expropriated for public purposes only in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of constitutional and international law. There is due process and transparency of purpose, and investors in and lenders to expropriated entities are entitled to receive prompt, adequate, and effective compensation.
The Berlin state government is currently reviewing a petition for a referendum submitted by a citizens’ initiative calling for the expropriation of residential apartments owned by large corporations. At least one party in the governing coalition officially supports the proposal. Certain long-running expropriation cases date back to the Nazi and communist regimes.
German insolvency law, as enshrined in the Insolvency Code, supports and promotes restructuring. If a business or the owner of a business becomes insolvent, or a business is over-indebted, insolvency proceedings can be initiated by filing for insolvency; legal persons are obliged to do so. Insolvency itself is not a crime, but deliberately filing late for insolvency is.
Under a regular insolvency procedure, the insolvent business is generally broken up in order to recover assets through the sale of individual items or rights or parts of the company. Proceeds can then be paid out to creditors in the insolvency proceedings. The distribution of monies to creditors follows detailed instructions in the Insolvency Code.
Equal treatment of creditors is enshrined in the Insolvency Code. Some creditors have the right to claim property back. Post-adjudication preferred creditors are served out of insolvency assets during the insolvency procedure. Ordinary creditors are served on the basis of quotas from the remaining insolvency assets. Secondary creditors, including shareholder loans, are only served if insolvency assets remain after all others have been served. Germany ranks fourth in the global ranking of “Resolving Insolvency” in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, with a recovery rate of 79.8 cents on the dollar.
In December 2020, the Bundestag passed legislation implementing the EU Restructuring Directive to modernize and make German restructuring and insolvency law more effective.
The Bundestag also passed legislation granting temporary relief to companies facing insolvency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including temporary suspensions from the obligation to file for insolvency under strict requirements. This suspension expired in May 2021.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The formal term for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Germany translates as “public funds, institutions, or companies,” and refers to entities whose budget and administration are separate from those of the government, but in which the government has more than 50 percent of the capital shares or voting rights. Appropriations for SOEs are included in public budgets, and SOEs can take two forms, either public or private law entities. Public law entities are recognized as legal personalities whose goal, tasks, and organization are established and defined via specific acts of legislation, with the best-known example being the publicly-owned promotional bank KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau). KfW’s mandate is to promote global development. The government can also resort to ownership or participation in an entity governed by private law if the following conditions are met: doing so fulfills an important state interest, there is no better or more economical alternative, the financial responsibility of the federal government is limited, the government has appropriate supervisory influence, and yearly reports are published.
Government oversight of SOEs is decentralized and handled by the ministry with the appropriate technical area of expertise. The primary goal of such involvement is promoting public interests rather than generating profits. The government is required to close its ownership stake in a private entity if tasks change or technological progress provides more effective alternatives, though certain areas, particularly science and culture, remain permanent core government obligations. German SOEs are subject to the same taxes and the same value added tax rebate policies as their private- sector competitors. There are no laws or rules that seek to ensure a primary or leading role for SOEs in certain sectors or industries. Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including access to state-owned banks such as KfW.
The Federal Statistics Office maintains a database of SOEs from all three levels of government (federal, state, and municipal) listing a total of 19,009 entities for 2019, or 0.58 percent of the total 3.35 million companies in Germany. SOEs in 2019 had €646 billion in revenue and €632 billion in expenditures. Forty-one percent of SOEs’ revenue was generated by water and energy suppliers, 12 percent by health and social services, and 11 percent by transportation-related entities. Measured by number of companies rather than size, 88 percent of SOEs are owned by municipalities, 10 percent are owned by Germany’s 16 states, and two percent are owned by the federal government.
The Federal Ministry of Finance is required to publish a detailed annual report on public funds, institutions, and companies in which the federal government has direct participation (including a minority share) or an indirect participation greater than 25 percent and with a nominal capital share worth more than €50,000. The federal government held a direct participation in 106 companies and an indirect participation in 401 companies at the end of 2019 (per the Ministry’s April 2021 publication of full-year 2019 figures), most prominently Deutsche Bahn (100 percent share), Deutsche Telekom (32 percent share), and Deutsche Post (21 percent share). Federal government ownership is concentrated in the areas of infrastructure, economic development, science, administration/increasing efficiency, defense, development policy, and culture. As the result of federal financial assistance packages from the federally-controlled Financial Market Stability Fund during the global financial crisis of 2008/9, the federal government still has a partial stake in several commercial banks, including a 15.6 percent share in Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest commercial bank. In 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the German government acquired shares of several large German companies, including CureVac, TUI, and Lufthansa in an attempt to prevent companies from filing for insolvency or, in the case of CureVac, to support vaccine research in Germany.
The 2021 annual report (with 2019 data) can be found here:
Publicly-owned banks constitute one of the three pillars of Germany’s banking system (cooperative and commercial banks are the other two). Germany’s savings banks are mainly owned by the municipalities, while the so-called Landesbanken are typically owned by regional savings bank associations and the state governments. Given their joint market share, about 40 percent of the German banking sector is thus publicly owned. There are also many state-owned promotional/development banks which have taken on larger governmental roles in financing infrastructure. This increased role removes expenditures from public budgets, particularly helpful considering Germany’s balanced budget rules, which took effect for the states in 2020.
Germany does not have any privatization programs currently. German authorities treat foreigners equally in privatizations of state-owned enterprises.
Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks 10th out of 180, according to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. Some sectors including the automotive industry, construction sector, and public contracting, exert political influence and political party finance remains only partially transparent. Nevertheless, U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an impediment to investment in Germany. Germany is a signatory of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.
Over the last two decades, Germany has increased penalties for the bribery of German officials, corrupt practices between companies, and price-fixing by companies competing for public contracts. It has also strengthened anti-corruption provisions on financial support extended by the official export credit agency and has tightened the rules for public tenders. Government officials are forbidden from accepting gifts linked to their jobs. Most state governments and local authorities have contact points for whistleblowing and provisions for rotating personnel in areas prone to corruption. There are serious penalties for bribing officials and price fixing by companies competing for public contracts.
To prevent corruption, Germany relies on the existing legal and regulatory framework consisting of various provisions under criminal law, public service law, and other rules for the administration at both federal and state levels. The framework covers internal corruption prevention, accounting standards, capital market disclosure requirements, and transparency rules, among other measures.
According to the Federal Criminal Office, in 2020, 50.6 percent of all corruption cases were directed towards the public administration (down from 73 percent in 2018), 33.2 percent towards the business sector (down from 39 percent in 2019), 13.4 percent towards law enforcement and judicial authorities (up from 9 percent in 2019), and 2 percent to political officials (unchanged compared to 2018).
Parliamentarians are subject to financial disclosure laws that require them to publish earnings from outside employment. Disclosures are available to the public via the Bundestag website (next to the parliamentarians’ biographies) and in the Official Handbook of the Bundestag. Penalties for noncompliance can range from an administrative fine to as much as half of a parliamentarian’s annual salary. In early 2021, several parliamentarians stepped down due to inappropriate financial gains made through personal relationships to businesses involved in the procurement of face masks during the initial stages of the pandemic.
Donations by private persons or entities to political parties are legally permitted. However, if they exceed €50,000, they must be reported to the President of the Bundestag, who is required to immediately publish the name of the party, the amount of the donation, the name of the donor, the date of the donation, and the date the recipient reported the donation. Donations of €10,000 or more must be included in the party’s annual accountability report to the President of the Bundestag.
State prosecutors are generally responsible for investigating corruption cases, but not all state governments have prosecutors specializing in corruption. Germany has successfully prosecuted hundreds of domestic corruption cases over the years, including large– scale cases against major companies.
Media reports in past years about bribery investigations against Siemens, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, and Ferrostaal have increased awareness of the problem of corruption. As a result, listed companies and multinationals have expanded compliance departments, tightened internal codes of conduct, and offered more training to employees.
Germany was a signatory to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention in 2003. The Bundestag ratified the Convention in November 2014.
Germany adheres to and actively enforces the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which criminalizes bribery of foreign public officials by German citizens and firms. The necessary tax reform legislation ending the tax write-off for bribes in Germany and abroad became law in 1999.
Germany participates in the relevant EU anti-corruption measures and signed two EU conventions against corruption. However, while Germany ratified the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2017, it has not yet ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption.
There is no central government anti-corruption agency in Germany. Federal states are responsible for fighting corruption.
Due to Germany’s federal state structure, original responsibility in the area of anti-corruption lies with the individual federal states. Further information, in particular contact persons for corruption prevention, can be found on the websites of state level law enforcement (police) or the ombudsmen of the cities, districts and municipalities.
These offices, special telephone numbers or web-based contact options also offer whistleblowers or interested citizens the opportunity to contact them anonymously in individual federal states.
(The Federal Ministry of the Interior’s website provides further information on corruption prevention regulations and integrity regulations at the federal level.)
Claimants can contact “watchdog” organizations such as Transparency International for more information:
Hartmut Bäumer, Chair
Transparency International Germany
Alte Schönhauser Str. 44, 10119 Berlin
+49 30 549 898 0
The Federal Criminal Office publishes an annual report on corruption: “Bundeslagebild Korruption” – the latest one covers 2020.
Overall, political acts of violence against either foreign or domestic business enterprises are extremely rare. Most protests and demonstrations, whether political acts of violence against either foreign or domestic business enterprises or any other cause or focus, remain peaceful. However, minor attacks by left-wing extremists on commercial enterprises occur. These extremists justify their attacks as a means to combat the “capitalist system” as the “source of all evil.” In the foreground, however, concrete connections such as “anti-militarism” (in the case of armament companies), “anti-repression” (in the case of companies for prison logistics or surveillance technology), or the supposed commitment to climate protection (companies from the raw materials and energy sector) are usually cited. In several key instances in larger cities with a strained housing market (low availability of affordable housing options), left-wing extremists target real estate companies in connection with the defense of autonomous “free spaces” and the fight against “anti-social urban structures.” Isolated cases of violence directed at certain minorities and asylum seekers have not targeted U.S. investments or investors.
The Government of India continued to actively court foreign investment. In the wake of COVID-19, India enacted ambitious structural economic reforms that should help attract private and foreign direct investment (FDI). In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced plans to raise $2.4 billion though an ambitious privatization program that would dramatically reduce the government’s role in the economy. In March 2021, parliament further liberalized India’s insurance sector, increasing FDI limits to 74 percent from 49 percent, though still requiring a majority of the Board of Directors and management personnel to be Indian nationals.
Parliament passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill on August 6, 2021, repealing a law adopted by the Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh in 2012 that taxed companies retroactively. The Finance Minister also said the Indian government will refund disputed amounts from outstanding cases under the old law. While Prime Minister Modi’s government had pledged never to impose retroactive taxes, prior outstanding claims and litigation led to huge penalties for Cairn Energy and telecom operator Vodafone. Both Indian and U.S. business have long advocated for the formal repeal of the 2012 legislation to improve certainty over taxation policy and liabilities.
India continued to increase and enhance implementation of the roughly $2 trillion in proposed infrastructure projects catalogued, for the first time, in the 2019-2024 National Infrastructure Pipeline. The government’s FY 2021-22 budget included a 35 percent increase in spending on infrastructure projects. In November 2021, Prime Minister Modi launched the “Gati Shakti” (“Speed Power”) initiative to overcome India’s siloed approach to infrastructure planning, which Indian officials argue has historically resulted in inefficacies, wasteful expenditures, and stalled projects. India’s infrastructure gaps are blamed for higher operational costs, especially for manufacturing, that hinder investment.
Despite this progress, India remains a challenging place to do business. New protectionist measures, including strict enforcement and potential expansion of data localization measures, increased tariffs, sanitary and phytosanitary measures not based on science, and Indian-specific standards not aligned with international standards effectively closed off producers from global supply chains and restricted the expansion in bilateral trade and investment.
The U.S. government continued to urge the Government of India to foster an attractive and reliable investment climate by reducing barriers to investment and minimizing bureaucratic hurdles for businesses.
Policies pertaining to foreign investments are framed by the DPIIT, and implementation is undertaken by lead federal ministries and sub-national counterparts. Some government policies are written in a way that can be discriminatory to foreign investors or favor domestic industry. For example, India bars foreign investors from engaging in multi-brand retail, which also limits foreign e-Commerce investors to a “market-place model.” On most occasions major rules are framed after thorough discussions by government authorities and require the approval of the cabinet and, in some cases, the Parliament as well. However, in some instances the rules have been enacted without any consultative process.
The Indian Accounting Standards were issued under the supervision and control of the Accounting Standards Board, a committee under the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), and has government, academic, and professional representatives. The Indian Accounting Standards are named and numbered in the same way as the corresponding International Financial Reporting Standards. The National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards recommends these standards to the MCA, which all listed companies must then adopt. These can be accessed at: https://www.mca.gov.in/content/mca/global/en/acts-rules/ebooks/accounting-standards.html
India is a member of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an eight- member regional block in South Asia. India’s regulatory systems are aligned with SAARC’s economic agreements, visa regimes, and investment rules. Dispute resolution in India has been through tribunals, which are quasi-judicial bodies. India has been a member of the WTO since 1995, and generally notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade; however, at times there are delays in publishing the notifications. The Governments of India and the United States cooperate in areas such as standards, trade facilitation, competition, and antidumping practices.
India adopted its legal system from English law and the basic principles of the Common Law as applied in the UK are largely prevalent in India. However, foreign companies need to adjust for Indian law when negotiating and drafting contracts in India to ensure adequate protection in case of breach of contract. The Indian judiciary provides for an integrated system of courts to administer both central and state laws. The judicial system includes the Supreme Court as the highest national court, as well as a High Court in each state or a group of states which covers a hierarchy of subordinate courts. Article 141 of the Constitution of India provides that a decision declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India. Apart from courts, tribunals are also vested with judicial or quasi-judicial powers by special statutes to decide controversies or disputes relating to specified areas.
Courts have maintained that the independence of the judiciary is a basic feature of the Constitution, which provides the judiciary institutional independence from the executive and legislative branches.
The government has a policy framework on FDI, which is updated every year and formally notified as the Consolidated FDI Policy (https://dpiit.gov.in/foreign-direct-investment/foreign-direct-investment-policy). The DPIIT issues policy pronouncements on FDI through the Consolidated FDI Policy Circular, Press Notes, and press releases that are also notified by the Ministry of Finance as amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-Debt Instruments) Rules, 2019 under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999. These notifications take effect from the date of issuance of the Press Notes/Press Releases, unless specified otherwise therein. In case of any conflict, the relevant Notification under the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-Debt Instruments) Rules, 2019 will prevail. The payment of inward remittance and reporting requirements are stipulated under the Foreign Exchange Management (Mode of Payment and Reporting of Non-Debt Instruments) Regulations, 2019 issued by the RBI.
The government has introduced “Make in India” and “Self-Reliant India” programs that include investment policies designed to promote domestic manufacturing and attract foreign investment. The “Digital India” program aims to open new avenues for the growth of the information technology sector. The “Start-up India” program creates incentives to enable start-ups to become commercially viable and grow. The “Smart Cities” program creates new avenues for industrial technological investment opportunities in select urban areas.
The central government has successfully established independent and effective regulators in telecommunications, banking, securities, insurance, and pensions. India’s antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) reviews cases against cartelization and abuse of dominance and is a well-regarded regulator. The CCI’s investigations wing is required to seek the approval of the local chief metropolitan magistrate for any search and seizure operations. The CCI conducts capacity-building programs for government officials and businesses.
Tax experts confirm that India does not have domestic expropriation laws in place. The Indian Parliament on August 6, 2021, repealed a 2012 law that authorized retroactive taxation. In first proposing the repeal on August 5, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman committed the government to refund the disputed amounts from outstanding cases under the old law. The Indian government has been divesting from state owned enterprises (SOEs) since 1991. In February 2021, the Finance Minister detailed an ambitious program to privatize roughly $24 billion in state owned enterprises as part of the FY 2021-22 (March 31-April 1) budget.
India made resolving contract disputes and insolvency easier with the enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in 2016. The World Bank noted that the IBC introduced the option of insolvency resolution for commercial entities as an alternative to liquidation or other mechanisms of debt enforcement, reshaping the way insolvent companies can restore their financial well-being or are liquidated. The IBC created effective tools for creditors to successfully negotiate and receive payments. As a result, the overall recovery rate for creditors jumped from 26.5 to 71.6 cents on the dollar, and the time required for resolving insolvency also was reduced from 4.3 years to 1.6 years. India is now, by far, one of the best performers in South Asia in resolving insolvency and does better than the average for OECD high-income economies in terms of the recovery rate, time taken, and cost of proceedings.
India enacted the Arbitration and Conciliation Act in 1996, based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model to align its adjudication of commercial contract dispute resolution mechanisms with global standards. The government established the International Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Law and Justice to promote the settlement of domestic and international disputes through alternate dispute resolution. The World Bank has also funded ICADR to conduct training for mediators in commercial dispute settlement.
Judgments of foreign courts have been enforced under multilateral conventions, including the Geneva Convention. India is a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). However, Indian firms are known to file lawsuits in domestic courts to delay paying an arbitral award. Several cases are currently pending, the oldest of which dates to 1983. In 2021, Amazon received an interim award against Future Retail from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. However, Future Retail has refused to accept the findings and initiated litigation in Indian courts. India is not a member state to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague and the Indian Law Ministry agreed in 2007 to establish a regional PCA office in New Delhi, although this remains pending. The office would provide an arbitration forum to match the facilities offered at The Hague but at a lower cost.
In November 2009, the Department of Revenue’s Central Board of Direct Taxes established eight dispute resolution panels across the country to settle the transfer-pricing tax disputes of domestic and foreign companies. In 2016 the government approved amendments that would allow Commercial Courts, Commercial Divisions, and Commercial Appellate Divisions of the High Courts Act to establish specialized commercial divisions within domestic courts to settle long-pending commercial disputes.
Since formal dispute resolution is expensive and time consuming, many businesses choose methods, including ADR, for resolving disputes. The most used ADRs are arbitration and mediation. India has enacted the Arbitration and Conciliation Act based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. In cases that involve constitutional or criminal law, traditional litigation remains necessary.
The introduction and implementation of the IBC in 2016 overhauled of the previous framework for insolvency with much-needed reforms. The IBC created a uniform and comprehensive creditor-driven insolvency resolution process that encompasses all companies, partnerships, and individuals (other than financial firms). According to the World Bank, the time required for resolving insolvency was reduced significantly from 4.3 years to 1.6 years after implementation of the IBC. The law, however, does not provide for U.S. style Chapter 11 bankruptcy provisions.
In August 2016, the Indian Parliament passed amendments to the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, and the Debt Recovery Tribunals Act. These amendments targeted helping banks and financial institutions recover loans more effectively, encouraging the establishment of more asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), and revamping debt recovery tribunals. The Finance Minister announced in her February 2021 budget speech to Parliament plans to establish the National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited (NARCL), or “bad bank” to resolve large cases of corporate stress. In October 2021, the RBI approved the license to set up the NARCL.
On May 10, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) issued a circular to introduce new environment, social, and governance (ESG) reporting requirements for the top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalization. According to this circular, new disclosure will be made in the format of the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR), which is a notable departure from SEBI’s existing Business Responsibility Report and a significant step toward bringing sustainability reporting up to existing financial reporting standards. BRSR reporting will be voluntary for FY 2021-22 and mandatory from FY 2022-23 for the top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalization. This is to provide companies subject to these requirements with sufficient time to adapt to the new requirements.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The government owns or controls interests in key sectors with significant economic impact, including infrastructure, oil, gas, mining, and manufacturing. The Department of Public Enterprises (http://dpe.gov.in) controls and formulates all the policies pertaining to SOEs, and is headed by a minister to whom the senior management reports. The Comptroller and Auditor General audits the SOEs. The government has taken several steps to improve the performance of SOEs, also called Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), including improvements to corporate governance. This was necessary as the government planned to disinvest its stake from these entities.
According to the Public Enterprise Survey 2019-20, as of March 2020 there were 366 CPSEs, of which 256 are operational with a total turnover of $328 billion. The report revealed that 96 CPSEs were incurring losses and 14 units are under liquidation.
Foreign investment is allowed in CPSEs in all sectors. The Master List of CPSEs can be accessed at http://www.bsepsu.com/list-cpse.asp. While the CPSEs face the same tax burden as the private sector, they receive streamlined licensing that private sector enterprises do not on issues such as procurement of land.
The government has not generally privatized its assets but instead adopted a gradual disinvestment policy that dilutes government stakes in SOEs without sacrificing control. However as announced in the FY 2021-22 budget, the government has recommitted to the process of privatization of loss-making SOEs with an ambitious disinvestment target of $24 billion. In addition to completing the privatization of national carrier Air India in early 2022, the government has prioritized privatizing the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and reducing its shares in the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). Details about the privatization program can be accessed at the Ministry of Finance site for Disinvestment (https://dipam.gov.in/).
FIIs can participate in these disinvestment programs. Earlier limits for foreign investors were 24 percent of the paid-up capital of the Indian company and 10 percent for non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin. The limit is 20 percent of the paid-up capital in the case of public sector banks. There is no bidding process. The shares of the SOEs being disinvested are sold in the open market.
India is a signatory to the United Nation’s Conventions Against Corruption and is a member of the G20 Working Group against corruption. India, with a score of 40, ranked 86 among 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.
Corruption is addressed by the following laws: The Companies Act, 2013; the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002; the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988; the Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973; the Indian Contract Act, 1872; and the Indian Penal Code of 1860. Anti- corruption laws amended since 2004 have granted additional powers to vigilance departments in government ministries at the central and state levels and elevated the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to be a statutory body. In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General is charged with performing audits on public-private-partnership contracts in the infrastructure sector based on allegations of revenue loss to the exchequer.
Other statutes approved by parliament to tackle corruption include:
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act of 2016
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, enacted in 2017
The Whistleblower Protection Act, 2011 was passed in 2014 but has yet to be operationalized
The Companies Act, 2013 established rules related to corruption in the private sector by mandating mechanisms for the protection of whistleblowers, industry codes of conduct, and the appointment of independent directors to company boards. However, the government has not established any monitoring mechanism, and it is unclear the extent to which these protections have been instituted. No legislation focuses particularly on the protection of NGOs working on corruption issues, though the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 may afford some protection once implemented.
In 2013, Parliament enacted the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, which created a national anti- corruption ombudsman and required states to create state-level ombudsmen within one year of the law’s passage. A national ombudsman was appointed in March 2019.
India is a signatory to the United Nations Conventions against Corruption and is a member of the G20 Working Group against Corruption. India is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
The Indian chapter of Transparency International was closed in 2019.
Economic Growth Unit Chief
U.S. Embassy New Delhi
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri New Delhi
+91 11 2419 8000 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Suresh Patel
Central Vigilance Commissioner
Satarkta Bhavan , Block-A
GPO Complex, INA New Delhi – 110 023
Ph: +91-11- 24651020 www.cvc.gov.in
10. Political and Security Environment
India is a multiparty, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The president, elected by an electoral college composed of the state assemblies and parliament, is the head of state, and the prime minister is the head of government. National parliamentary elections are held every five years. Under the constitution, the country’s 28 states and eight union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. Electors chose President Ram Nath Kovind in 2017 to serve a five-year term. Following the May 2019 national elections, Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) received a larger majority in the lower house of Parliament, or Lok Sabha, than it had won in the 2014 elections and returned Modi for a second term as prime minister. Observers considered the parliamentary elections, which included more than 600 million voters, to be free and fair, although there were reports of isolated instances of violence.
Indonesia’s 274 million population, USD 1 trillion economy, growing middle class, abundant natural resources, and stable economy are attractive features to U.S. investors; however, investing in Indonesia remains challenging. President Joko (“Jokowi”) Widodo, now in his second five-year term, has prioritized pandemic recovery, infrastructure investment, and human capital development. The government’s marquee reform effort — the 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation (Omnibus Law) — was temporarily suspended by a constitutional court ruling, but if fully implemented, is touted by business to improve competitiveness by lowering corporate taxes, reforming labor laws, and reducing bureaucratic and regulatory barriers. The United States does not have a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Indonesia.
In February 2021, Indonesia replaced its 2016 Negative Investment List, liberalizing nearly all sectors to foreign investment, except for seven “strategic” sectors reserved for central government oversight. In 2021, the government established the Risk-Based Online Single Submission System (OSS), to streamline the business license and import permit process. Indonesia established a sovereign wealth fund (Indonesian Investment Authority, i.e., INA) in 2021 that has a goal to attract foreign investment for government infrastructure projects in sectors such as transportation, oil and gas, health, tourism, and digital technologies.
Yet, restrictive regulations, legal and regulatory uncertainty, economic nationalism, trade protectionism, and vested interests complicate the investment climate. Foreign investors may be expected to partner with Indonesian companies and to manufacture or purchase goods and services locally. Labor unions have protested new labor policies under the Omnibus Law that they note have weakened labor rights. Restrictions imposed on the authority of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) led to a significant decline in investigations and prosecutions. Investors cite corruption as an obstacle to pursuing opportunities in Indonesia.
Other barriers include bureaucratic inefficiency, delays in land acquisition for infrastructure projects, weak enforcement of contracts, and delays in receiving refunds for advance corporate tax overpayments. Investors worry that new regulations are sometimes imprecise and lack stakeholder consultation. Companies report that the energy and mining sectors still face significant foreign investment barriers, and all sectors have a lack of adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, and restrictions on cross border data flows.
Nonetheless, Indonesia continues to attract significant foreign investment. According to the 2020 IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey, Singapore, the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, and China were among the top foreign investment sources (latest available full-year data). Private consumption drives the Indonesian economy that is the largest in ASEAN, making it a promising destination for a wide range of companies, ranging from consumer products and financial services to digital start-ups and e-commerce. Indonesia has ambitious plans to expand access to renewable energy, build mining and mineral downstream industries, improve agriculture production, and enhance infrastructure, including building roads, ports, railways, and airports, as well as telecommunications and broadband networks. Indonesia continues to attract American digital technology companies, financial technology start-ups, franchises, health services producers and consumer product manufacturers.
Indonesia launched the National Women’s Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2020, which aims to empower women through greater access to financial resources and digital skills and to increase financial and investor support for women-owned businesses.
Indonesia continues to bring its legal, regulatory, and accounting systems into compliance with international norms and agreements, but foreign investors have indicated they still encounter challenges in comparison to domestic investors and have criticized the current regulatory system for its failure to establish clear and transparent rules for all actors. Certain laws and policies establish sectors that are either fully off-limits to foreign investors or are subject to substantive conditions. To improve the investment climate and create jobs, Indonesia overhauled more than 70 laws and thousands of regulations through the enactment of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation. In November 2021, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled the Omnibus Law on Job Creation was conditionally unconstitutional due to its non-alignment with the standard formulation of laws and regulations, specifically that the law did not have the appropriate public participation during its formulation and deliberation process. The court ordered government officials to amend the procedural flaws in the law within two years and that no new implementing regulations for the Omnibus Law should be issued, although implementing regulations that had already been issued up to the date of the court ruling remain in force.
U.S. businesses cite regulatory uncertainty and a lack of transparency as two significant factors hindering operations. U.S. companies note that regulatory consultation in Indonesia is inconsistent, despite the existence of Law No. 12/2011 on the Development of Laws and Regulations and implementation of Government Regulation No. 87/204, which states that the community is entitled to provide oral or written input into draft laws and regulations. The law also sets out procedures for revoking regulations and introduces requirements for academic studies as a basis for formulating laws and regulations. Nevertheless, the absence of a formal consultation mechanism has been reported to lead to different interpretations among policy makers of what is required. Laws and regulations are often vague and require substantial interpretation by the implementers, leading to business uncertainty and rent-seeking opportunities.
Decentralization has introduced another layer of bureaucracy and red tape for firms to navigate. In 2016, the Jokowi administration repealed 3,143 regional bylaws that overlapped with other regulations and impeded the ease of doing business. However, a 2017 Constitutional Court ruling limited the Ministry of Home Affairs’ authority to revoke local regulations and allowed local governments to appeal the central government’s decision. The Ministry continues to play a consultative function in the regulation drafting stage, providing input to standardize regional bylaws with national laws. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation provided a legal framework to streamline regulations. It establishes the norms, standards, procedures, criteria (NSPK) and performance requirements in administering government affairs for both the central and local governments. Law No. 11/2020 aims to harmonize licensing requirements at the central and regional levels. Under that law and its implementing regulations, the central government has the authority to take over regional business licensing if local governments do not meet performance requirements. Local governments must also obtain recommendations from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance prior to implementing local tax regulations.
In 2017, Presidential Instruction No. 7/2017 was enacted to improve coordination among ministries in the policy-making process. The regulation requires lead ministries to coordinate with their respective coordinating ministry before issuing a regulation. The regulation also requires ministries to conduct a regulatory impact analysis and provide an opportunity for public consultation. The presidential instruction did not address the frequent lack of coordination between the central and local governments. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation enhanced the predictability of trade policy by moving the authority to issue trade regulations from the ministry-level (Ministry of Trade regulation) to the cabinet-level (government regulation).
Indonesia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2014 and the 2015 Paring Agreement in 2019 and issued Presidential Regulation 59/2017 on the implementation of the SDGs to support reforms in tackling issued related environment, social, and governance, and climate changes. The government made reforms to attract green investment, among others, through the issuance of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation. The Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) has been actively promoting sustainable financing by developing a sustainable finance roadmap, establishing a task force for sustainable finance in financial sectors, and developing green bonds regulations. The Minister of Finance issued the first green sukuk (Islamic bonds) in February 2018.
As an ASEAN member, Indonesia has successfully implemented regional initiatives, including the real-time movement of electronic import documents through the ASEAN Single Window, which reduces shipping costs, speeds customs clearance, and limits corruption opportunities. Indonesia has also ratified the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS), and the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement and committed to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Notwithstanding the progress made in certain areas, the often-lengthy process of aligning national legislation has caused delays in implementation. The complexity of interagency coordination and/or a shortage of technical capacity are among the challenges being reported.
Indonesia joined the WTO in 1995. Indonesia’s National Standards Body (BSN) is the primary government agency to notify draft regulations to the WTO concerning technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS); however, in practice, notification is inconsistent. In December 2017, Indonesia ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Indonesia has met 88.7 percent of its commitments to the TFA provisions to date, including publication of information, consultations, advance rulings, detention and test procedures, goods clearance, import/export formalities, and goods transit.
Indonesia is a Contracting Party to the Aircraft Protocol to the Convention of International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention). However, foreign investors bringing aircraft to Indonesia to serve the general aviation sector have faced difficulty utilizing Cape Town Convention provisions to recover aircraft leased to Indonesian companies. Foreign owners of leased aircraft that have become the subject of contractual lease disputes with Indonesian lessees have been unable to recover their aircraft in certain circumstances.
Indonesia’s legal system is based on civil law. The court system consists of District Courts (primary courts of original jurisdiction), High Courts (courts of appeal), and the Supreme Court (the court of last resort). Indonesia also has a Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has the same legal standing as the Supreme Court, and its role is to review the constitutionality of legislation. Both the Supreme and Constitutional Courts have authority to conduct judicial review.
Corruption continues to plague Indonesia’s judiciary, with graft investigations involving senior judges and court staff. Many businesses note that the judiciary is susceptible to influence from outside parties. Certain companies have claimed that the court system often does not provide the necessary recourse for resolving property and contractual disputes and that cases that would be adjudicated in civil courts in other jurisdictions sometimes result in criminal charges in Indonesia.
Judges are not bound by precedent and many laws are open to various interpretations. A lack of clear land titles has plagued Indonesia for decades, although land acquisition law No. 2/2012 includes legal mechanisms designed to resolve some past land ownership issues. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation also created a land bank to facilitate land acquisition for priority investment projects. In January 2022, President Jokowi established a task force to formulate land use policy and conduct mapping of land use on mining, plantation, and forestry activities, and provide recommendations to the Ministry of Investment on revocation of land permits that are not being utilized. Government Regulation No. 27/2017 provided incentives for upstream energy development and regulates recoverable costs from production sharing contracts. Indonesia has also required mining companies to renegotiate their contracts of work to include higher royalties, more divestment to local partners, more local content, and domestic processing of mineral ore.
Indonesia’s commercial code, grounded in colonial Dutch law, has been updated to include provisions on bankruptcy, intellectual property rights, incorporation and dissolution of businesses, banking, and capital markets. Application of the commercial code, including the bankruptcy provisions, remains uneven, in large part due to corruption and training deficits for judges and lawyers.
FDI in Indonesia is regulated by Law No. 25/2007 (the Investment Law) which was amended by the Omnibus Law of Job Creation. Under the law, any form of FDI in Indonesia must be in the form of a limited liability company with minimum capital of IDR 10 billion (USD 700,000), excluding land and building and with the foreign investor holding shares in the company. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation allows foreign investors to invest below IDR 10 billion in technology-based startups in special economic zones. The Law also introduces several provisions to simplify business licensing requirements, reforms rigid labor laws, introduces tax reforms to support ease of doing business, and establishes the Indonesian Investment Authority (INA) to facilitate direct investment. In addition, the government repealed the 2016 Negative Investment List through the issuance of Presidential Regulation No. 10/2021, introducing major reforms that removed restrictions on foreign ownership in hundreds of sectors that were previously closed or subject to foreign ownership caps. Several sectors remain closed to investment or are otherwise restricted. Presidential Regulation No. 10/2021 contains a grandfather clause that clarifies that existing investments will not be affected unless treatment under the new regulation is more favorable or the investment has special rights under a bilateral agreement. The Indonesian government also expanded business activities in special economic zones to include education and health. (See section on limits on foreign control regarding the new list of investments.) The website of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) provides information on investment requirements and procedures: https://nswi.bkpm.go.id/guide. Indonesia mandates reporting obligations for all foreign investors through the OSS system as stipulated in BKPM Regulation No. 6/2020. (See section two for Indonesia’s procedures for licensing foreign investment.)
The Indonesian Competition Authority (KPPU) implements and enforces the 1999 Indonesia Competition Law. The KPPU reviews agreements, business practices and mergers that may be deemed anti-competitive, advises the government on policies that may affect competition, and issues guidelines relating to the Competition Law. Strategic sectors such as food, finance, banking, energy, infrastructure, health, and education are the KPPU’s priorities. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation and its implementing regulation, Government Regulation No. 44/2021, removes criminal sanctions and the cap on administrative fines, which was set at a maximum of IDR 25 billion (USD 1.7 million) under the previous regulation. Appeals of KPPU decisions must be processed through the commercial court.
Indonesia’s political leadership has long championed economic nationalism, particularly concerning mineral and oil and gas reserves. According to Law No. 25/2007 (the Investment Law), the Indonesian government is barred from nationalizing or expropriating an investor’s property rights, unless provided by law. If the Indonesian government nationalizes or expropriates an investors’ property rights, it must provide market value compensation.
Presidential Regulation No. 77/2020 on Government Use of Patent and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights (MLHR) Regulation No. 30/2019 on Compulsory Licenses (CL) enables patent right expropriation in cases deemed in the interest of national security or due to a national emergency. Presidential Regulation No. 77/2020 allows a GOI agency or Ministry to request expropriation, while MLHR Regulation No. 30/2019 allows an individual or private party to request a CL. GOI issued Presidential decrees number 100 and number 101 in November 2021 announcing government use of the Remdesivir and Favipiravir Patents to secure needed COVID-19 drugs supply. This decree will remain in effect for three years, extendable until the end of the global Covid-19 pandemic and requires the assigned company to compensate Remdesivir and Favirapir patent holders one percent of its net annual sales.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Indonesia had 114 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and 28 subsidiaries divided into 12 sectors, as of December 2019. By February 2022 that number had been reduced to 41 SOEs divided into 12 sectors mainly through consolidation or merger, although a small number of SOEs have also been liquidated due to ineffectiveness. As of December 2021, 28 were listed on the Indonesian stock exchange. Two SOEs plan IPOs in 2022, namely PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy and PT ASDP Indonesia Ferry (Persero). SOEs make up 55 percent of the economy.
In 2017, Indonesia announced the creation of a mining holding company, PT Inalum. In 2020, three state owned sharia banks were merged. In January 2022, Minister of SOEs, Erick Thohir, stated that in total, nine SOE holding companies will be formed by 2024, including pharmaceutical, insurance, survey services, food industry, manufacturing industry, defense state-owned holdings, the media industry, port services, and transportation and tourism services holding.
Several of this holding companies have already been formed, including pharmaceutical holding (Lead by PT Bio Farma, formed in early 2020), Indonesia battery holding (formed on March 26, 2021), Port Service Holding (a merger of PT Pelindo I to Pelindo IV, formed on October 1, 2021), Indonesia Financial Group (IFG) as an insurance holding formed in October 2020, Holding of SOE hotels (Wika as the lead of the holding, formed in December 2020), Ultra Micro Holding (BRI, Pegadaian and PNM, formed Sept 13, 2021), ID Food or Holding of food SOEs (lead by PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia, formed on January 7), Injourney as a tourism holding company (PT Aviasi Pariwisata Indonesia, formed on January 13), and Defend ID as the defense industry holding (with Len Industry as the lead of the holding, formed on March 2).
Since his appointment by President Jokowi in November 2019, Minister of SOEs Erick Thohir has underscored the need to reform SOEs in line with President Jokowi’s second-term economic agenda. Thohir has noted the need to liquidate underperforming SOEs, ensure that SOEs improve their efficiency by focusing on core business operations, and introduce better corporate governance principles. Thohir has spoken publicly about his intent to push SOEs to undertake initial public offerings (IPOs) on the Indonesian Stock Exchange. He also encourages SOEs to increase outbound investment to support Indonesia’s supply chain in strategic markets, including through acquisition of cattle farms, phosphate mines, and salt mines.
Information regarding SOEs can be found at the SOE Ministry website (http://www.bumn.go.id/ ) (Indonesian language only).
There are also an unknown number of SOEs owned by regional or local governments. SOEs are present in almost all sectors/industries including banking (finance), tourism (travel), agriculture, forestry, mining, construction, fishing, energy, and telecommunications (information and communications).
Indonesia is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement. Private enterprises can compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations. However, many sectors report that SOEs receive strong preference for government projects. SOEs purchase some goods and services from the private sector and foreign firms. SOEs publish an annual report and are audited by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), the Financial and Development Supervisory Agency (BPKP), and external and internal auditors.
While some state-owned enterprises have offered shares on the stock market, Indonesia does not have an active privatization program. The government capitalized Indonesia Investment Authority (INA) with USD 4 billion in state-owned assets to attract equity investments in those assets, which may eventually be sold to investors or listed on the stock market.
President Jokowi was elected on a strong good-governance platform, but his performance on this remains inconsistent. Corruption remains a serious problem in the view of many, including some U.S. companies. The Indonesian government has issued detailed directions on combating corruption in targeted ministries and agencies, and the 2018 release of the updated and streamlined National Anti-Corruption Strategy mandates corruption prevention efforts across the government in three focus areas (licenses, state finances, and law enforcement reform). The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was established in 2002 as the lead government agency to investigate and prosecute corruption. KPK is one of the most trusted and respected institutions in Indonesia. The KPK has taken steps to encourage companies to establish effective internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of public officials. By law, the KPK is authorized to conduct investigations, file indictments, and prosecute corruption cases involving law enforcement officers, government executives, or other parties connected to corrupt acts committed by those entities; attracting the “attention and the dismay” of the general public; and/or involving a loss to the state of at least IDR 1 billion (approximately USD 66,000). The government began prosecuting companies that engage in public corruption under new corporate criminal liability guidance issued in a 2016 Supreme Court regulation, with the first conviction of a corporate entity in January 2019. Giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal act, with possible fines ranging from USD 3,850 to USD 77,000 and imprisonment up to a maximum of 20 years to life, depending on the severity of the charge. Presidential decree No. 13/2018 issued in March 2018 clarifies the definition of beneficial ownership and outlines annual reporting requirements and sanctions for non-compliance.
Indonesia’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021 rose to 96 out of 180 countries surveyed, compared to 102 out of 180 countries in 2020. Indonesia’s score of public corruption in the country, according to Transparency International, rose to 38 in 2020 from 37 in 2020 (scale of 0/very corrupt to 100/very clean). Indonesia ranks below neighboring Timor Leste, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Corruption reportedly remains pervasive despite laws to combat it. In September 2019, the Indonesia House of Representatives (DPR) passed Law No. 19/2019 on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) which revised the KPK’s original charter, reducing the Commission’s independence and limiting its ability to pursue corruption investigations without political interference. The current KPK Commissioner has stated that KPK’s main role will no longer be prosecution, but education and prevention. Although there have been some notable successful prosecutions including against members of the President’s cabinet, the 2019 changes to the KPK have led to a significant decline in investigations and prosecutions.
Indonesia ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in September 2006. However, Indonesia is not yet compliant with key components of the convention, including provisions on foreign bribery. Indonesia has not yet acceded to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention but attends meetings of the OECD Anti-Corruption Working Group. Several civil society organizations function as vocal and competent corruption watchdogs, including Transparency International Indonesia and Indonesia Corruption Watch.
Indonesia Corruption Watch
Jl. Kalibata Timur IV/D
No. 6 Jakarta Selatan 12740
Tel: +6221.7901885 or +6221.7994015
10. Political and Security Environment
As in other democracies, politically motivated demonstrations occasionally occur throughout Indonesia, but are not a major or ongoing concern for most foreign investors. Since the Bali bombings in 2002 that killed over 200 people, and other follow-on high-profile attacks on western targets Indonesian authorities have aggressively continued to pursue terrorist cells throughout the country, disrupting multiple aspirational plots. Despite these successes, violent extremist networks, terrorist cells, and lone wolf-style ISIS sympathizers have conducted small-scale attacks against law enforcement, government, and non-Muslim places of worship with little or no warning.
Foreign investors in Papua face unique challenges. Indonesian security forces occasionally conduct operations against small armed separatist groups, including the Free Papua Movement, a group that is most active in the central highlands region. Low-intensity communal, tribal, and political conflict also exists in Papua and has caused deaths and injuries. Anti-government protests have resulted in deaths and injuries, and violence has been committed against employees and contractors of at least one large corporation there, including the death of a New Zealand citizen in an attack on March 30, 2020, as well as armed groups seizing aircraft and temporarily holding pilots and passenger’s hostage. Additionally, racially-motivated attacks against ethnic Papuans in East Java province led to violence in Papua and West Papua in late 2019, including riots in Wamena, Papua that left dozens dead and thousands more displaced. Continued attacks and counter attacks between security personnel and local armed groups have exacerbated the region’s issues with internally displaced persons.
Travelers to Indonesia can visit the U.S. Department of State travel advisory website for the latest information and travel resources:
Kenya has a positive investment climate that has made it attractive to international firms seeking a location for regional or pan-African operations. The novel coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the short-term economic outlook, but the country remains resilient in addressing the health and economic challenges. In July 2020 the U.S. and Kenya launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this progress, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts, burdensome bureaucratic processes, and significant delays in receiving necessary business licenses. Corruption remains pervasive and Transparency International ranked Kenya 128 out of 180 countries in its 2021 Global Corruption Perception Index – reflecting modest progress over the last decade but still well below the global average.
Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure and a robust financial sector and is a developed logistics hub with extensive aviation connections throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 2018, Kenya Airways initiated direct flights to New York City in the United States. Mombasa Port is the gateway for East Africa’s trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides it with preferential trade access to growing regional markets.
In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passing the Tax Laws Amendment (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), which established new procedures and provisions related to taxes, eased the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, simplified registration procedures for small businesses, reduced the cost of construction permits, and established a “one-stop” border post system to expedite the movement of goods across borders. However, the Finance Act (2019) introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act (2020) enacted a Digital Service Tax (DST). The DST, which went into effect in January 2021, imposes a 1.5 percent tax on any transaction that occurs in Kenya through a “digital marketplace.” The oscillation between business reforms and conflicting taxation policies has raised uncertainty over the Government of Kenya’s (GOK) long-term plans for improving the investment climate.
Kenya’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Africa, averaging five to six percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2015 (excepting 2020due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic), five percent inflation since 2015, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. There is relative political stability and President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained focused on his “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage, establish national food and nutrition security, build 500,000 affordable new homes, and increase employment by growing the manufacturing sector.
Kenya is a regional leader in clean energy development with more than 90 percent of its on-grid electricity coming from renewable sources. Through its 2020, second Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement targets, Kenya has prioritized low-carbon resilient investments to reduce its already low greenhouse gas emissions a further 32 percent by 2030. Kenya has established policies and a regulatory environment to spearhead green investments, enabling its first private-sector-issued green bond floated in 2019 to finance the construction of sustainable housing projects.
American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.
Kenya’s regulatory system is relatively transparent and continues to improve. Proposed laws and regulations pertaining to business and investment are published in draft form for public input and stakeholder deliberation before their passage into law (http://www.kenyalaw.org/; http://www.parliament.go.ke/the-national-assembly/house-business/bills-tracker). Kenya’s business registration and licensing systems are fully digitized and transparent while computerization of other government processes, aimed at increasing transparency and efficiency, and reducing corruption, is ongoing.
The 2010 Kenyan Constitution requires government to incorporate public participation before officials and agencies make certain decisions. The draft Public Participation Bill (2019) aims to provide the general framework for such public participation. The Ministry of Devolution has produced a guide for counties on how to carry out public participation; many counties have enacted their own laws on public participation. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) incorporates the principles of sustainable development, including public participation in environmental management. The Public Finance Management Act mandates public participation in the budget cycle. The Land Act, Water Act, and Fair Administrative Action Act (2015) also include provisions providing for public participation in agency actions.
Kenya also has regulations to promote inclusion and fair competition when applying for tenders. Executive Order No. 2 of 2018 emphasizes publication of all procurement information including tender notices, contracts awarded, name of suppliers and their directors. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority publishes this information on the Public Procurement Information Portal, enhancing transparency and accountability (https://www.tenders.go.ke/website). However, the directive is yet to be fully implemented as not all state agencies provide their tender details to the portal.
Many GOK laws grant significant discretionary and approval powers to government agency administrators, which can create uncertainty among investors. While some government agencies have amended laws or published clear guidelines for decision-making criteria, others have lagged in making their transactions transparent. Work permit processing remains a problem, with overlapping and sometimes contradictory regulations. American companies have complained about delays and non-issuance of permits that appear compliant with known regulations.
Kenya is a member of the EAC, and generally applies EAC policies to trade and investment. Kenya operates under the EAC Custom Union Act (2004) and decisions regarding tariffs on imports from non-EAC countries are made by the EAC Secretariat. The U.S. government engages with Kenya on trade and investment issues bilaterally and through the U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership. Kenya also is a member of COMESA and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
According to the Africa Regional Integration Index Report 2019, Kenya is the second most integrated country in Africa and a leader in regional integration policies within the EAC and COMESA regional blocs, with strong performance on regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people, and financial and macro-economic integration. The GOK maintains a Department of EAC Integration under the Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development. Kenya generally adheres to international regulatory standards. It is a member of the WTO and provides notification of draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Kenya maintains a TBT National Enquiry Point at http://notifyke.kebs.org. Additional information on Kenya’s WTO participation can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/kenya_e.htm.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Publicly listed companies adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that have been developed and issued in the public interest by the International Accounting Standards Board. The board is an independent, non-profit organization that is the standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.
Kenya’s legal system is based on English Common Law, and its constitution establishes an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court, High Court, and Environment and Land Court. Subordinate courts include: Magistrates, Kadhis (Muslim succession and inheritance), Courts Martial, the Employment and Labor Relations Court, and the Milimani Commercial Courts – the latter two have jurisdiction over economic and commercial matters. In 2016, Kenya’s judiciary instituted the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Courts, focused on corruption and economic crimes. There is no systematic executive or other interference in the court system that affects foreign investors, however, the courts often face allegations of corruption, as well as political manipulation, in the form of insufficient budget allocations by the executive branch, which significantly impact the judiciary’s ability to fulfill its mandate. Delayed confirmation of judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission has in the past resulted in an understaffed judiciary and prolonged delays in cases coming to trial and receiving judgments. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased case backlogs, as courts reduced operations and turned to virtual hearings, particularly for non-urgent cases.
The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (2012) provides for the enforcement of judgments given in other countries that accord reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Kenya. Kenya has entered into reciprocal enforcement agreements with Australia, the United Kingdom, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Seychelles. Outside of such an agreement, a foreign judgment is not enforceable in Kenyan courts except by filing a suit on the judgment. Foreign advocates may practice as an advocate in Kenya for the purposes of a specified suit or matter if appointed to do so by the Attorney General. However, foreign advocates are not permitted to practice in Kenya unless they have paid to the Registrar of the High Court of Kenya the prescribed admission fee. Additionally, they are not permitted to practice unless a Kenyan advocate instructs and accompanies them to court. The regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.
The 2018 amendment to the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) Act expanded its scope to include protection of intellectual property rights, including those not registered in Kenya. The amended law empowered ACA inspectors to investigate and seize monetary gains from counterfeit goods. The 2019 amendment to the 2001 Copyright Act (established when the country had less than one percent internet penetration), formed the independent Copyright Tribunal, ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, recognized artificial intelligence generated works, established protections for internet service providers related to digital advertising, developed a register of copyrighted works by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), and protected digital rights through procedures for take down notices.
The Competition Act of 2010 created the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK). The law was amended in 2019 to clarify the law with regard to abuse of buyer power and empower the CAK to investigate alleged abuses of buyer power. The competition law prohibits restrictive trade practices, abuse of dominant position, and abuse of buyer power, and it grants the CAK the authority to review mergers and acquisitions and investigate and take action against unwarranted concentrations of economic power. All mergers and acquisitions require the CAK’s authorization before they are finalized. The CAK also investigates and enforces consumer-protection related issues. In 2014, the CAK established a KES one million (approximately USD 10,000) filing fee for mergers and acquisitions valued between one and KES 50 billion (up to approximately USD 500 million). The CAK charges KES two million (approximately USD 20,000) for larger transactions. Company acquisitions are possible if the share buy-out is more than 90 percent, although such transactions seldom occur in practice.
The constitution guarantees protection from expropriation, except in cases of eminent domain or security concerns, and all cases are subject to the payment of prompt and fair compensation. The Land Acquisition Act (2010) governs due process and compensation related to eminent domain land acquisitions; however, land rights remain contentious and resolving land disputes is often a lengthy process. However, there are cases where government measures could be deemed indirect expropriation that may impact foreign investment. Some companies reported instances whereby foreign investors faced uncertainty regarding lease renewals because county governments were attempting to confiscate some or all of the project property.
The Insolvency Act (2015) modernized the legal framework for bankruptcies. Its provisions generally correspond to those of the United Nations’ Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency. The act promotes fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies to protect the interests of all creditors and other interested persons, including the debtor. The act repeals the Bankruptcy Act (2012) and updates the legal structure relating to insolvency of natural persons, incorporated, and unincorporated bodies. Section 720 of the Insolvency Act (2015) grants the force of law in Kenya to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law model law on cross border insolvency.
Creditors’ rights are comparable to those in other common law countries, and monetary judgments are typically made in KES. The Insolvency Act (2015) increased the rights of borrowers and prioritizes the revival of distressed firms. The law states that a debtor will automatically be discharged from debt after three years. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Kenya.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
In 2013, the Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (PTFPR) published a list of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and recommended proposals to reduce the number of State Corporations from 262 to 187 to eliminate redundant functions between parastatals; close or dispose of non-performing organizations; consolidate functions wherever possible; and reduce the workforce — however, progress is slow (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BytnSZLruS3GQmxHc1VtZkhVVW8/edit). SOEs’ boards are independently appointed and published in Kenya Gazette notices by the Cabinet Secretary of the ministry responsible for the respective SOE. The State Corporations Act (2015) mandated the State Corporations Advisory Committee to advise the GOK on matters related to SOEs. Despite being public entities, only SOEs listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange publish their financial positions, as required by Capital Markets Authority guidelines. SOEs’ corporate governance is guided by the constitution’s chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity, the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) (L&I) and the Public Officer Ethics Act (2003), which establish integrity and ethics requirements governing the conduct of public officials.
In general, competitive equality is the standard applied to private enterprises in competition with public enterprises. Certain parastatals, however, have enjoyed preferential access to markets. Examples include Kenya Reinsurance, which enjoys a guaranteed market share; Kenya Seed Company, which has fewer marketing barriers than its foreign competitors; and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), which benefits from retail market outlets developed with government funds. Some state corporations have also benefited from easier access to government guarantees, subsidies, or credit at favorable interest rates. In addition, “partial listings” on the Nairobi Securities Exchange offer parastatals the benefit of accessing equity financing and GOK loans (or guarantees) without being completely privatized.
In August 2020, the executive reorganized the management of SOEs in the cargo transportation sector and mandated the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) to oversee rail, pipeline and port operations through a holding company called Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN). ICDC assumes a coordinating role over the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), and Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). KTLN focuses on lowering the cost of doing business in the country through the provision of cost effective and efficient transportation and logistics infrastructure.
SOE procurement from the private sector is guided by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) and the published Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations (2020) which introduced exemptions from the Act for procurement on bilateral or multilateral basis, commonly referred to as government-to-government procurement; introduced E-procurement procedures; and preferences and reservations, which gives preferences to the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” strategy (http://kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/LegalNotices/2020/LN69_2020.pdf).
Kenya is neither party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) nor an Observer Government.
The Privatization Act (2003) establishes the Privatization Commission (PC) that is mandated to formulate, manage, and implement Kenya’s Privatization Program. GOK has been committed to implementing a comprehensive public enterprises reform program to increase private sector participation in the economy. The privatization commission (https://www.pc.go.ke/) is fully constituted with a board responsible for the privatization program. The PC has 26 approved privatization programs (https://www.pc.go.ke/sites/default/files/2019-06/APPROVED%20PRIVATIZATION%20PROGRAMME.pdf ). In 2020, the GOK began the process of privatizing some state-owned sugar firms through a public bidding process, including foreign investors.
Corruption is pervasive and entrenched in Kenya and international corruption rankings reflect its modest progress over the last decade. The Transparency International (TI) 2021 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 128 out of 180 countries, its second-best ranking, and a marked improvement from its 2011 rank of 145 out of 176. Kenya’s score of 30, however, remained below the global average of 43 and below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 33. TI cited lack of political will, limited progress in prosecuting corruption cases, and the slow pace of reform in key sectors as the primary drivers of Kenya’s relatively low ranking. Corruption has been an impediment to FDI, with local media reporting allegations of high-level corruption related to health, energy, ICT, and infrastructure contracts. Numerous reports have alleged that corruption influenced the outcome of government tenders, and some U.S. firms assert that compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act significantly undermines their chances of winning public procurements.
In 2018, President Kenyatta began a public campaign against corruption. While GOK agencies mandated to fight corruption have been inconsistent in coordinating activities, particularly regarding cases against senior officials, cabinet, and other senior-level arrests in 2019 and 2020 suggested a renewed commitment by the GOK to fight corruption. In 2020, the judiciary convicted a member of parliament to 67 years in jail or a fine of KES 707 million (approximately USD 7 million) for defrauding the government of KES 297 million (approximately USD 2.9 million). The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), in 2019, secured 44 corruption-related convictions, the highest number of convictions in a single year in Kenya’s history. The EACC also recovered assets totaling more than USD 28 million in 2019 – more than the previous five years combined. Despite these efforts, much work remains to battle corruption in Kenya.
Relevant legislation and regulations include the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003), the Public Officers Ethics Act (2003), the Code of Ethics Act for Public Servants (2004), the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (2010), the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012), and the Bribery Act (2016). The Access to Information Act (2016) also provides mechanisms through which private citizens can obtain information on government activities; however, government agencies’ compliance with this act remains inconsistent. The EACC monitors and enforces compliance with the above legislation.
The Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) requires public officers to register potential conflicts of interest with the relevant commissions. The law identifies interests that public officials must register, including directorships in public or private companies, remunerated employment, securities holdings, and contracts for supply of goods or services, among others. The law requires candidates seeking appointment to non-elective public offices to declare their wealth, political affiliations, and relationships with other senior public officers. This requirement is in addition to background screening on education, tax compliance, leadership, and integrity.
The law requires that all public officials, and their spouses and dependent children under age 18, declare their income, assets, and liabilities every two years. Information contained in these declarations is not publicly available, and requests to obtain and publish this information must be approved by the relevant commission. Any person who publishes or makes public information contained in a public officer’s declarations without permission may be subject to fine or imprisonment.
The Access to Information Act (2016) requires government entities, and private entities doing business with the government, to proactively disclose certain information, such as government contracts, and comply with citizens’ requests for government information. The act also provides a mechanism to request a review of the government’s failure to disclose requested information, along with penalties for failures to disclose. The act exempts certain information from disclosure on grounds of national security. However, the GOK has yet to issue the act’s implementing regulations and compliance remains inconsistent.
The private sector-supported Bribery Act (2016) stiffened penalties for corruption in public tendering and requires private firms participating in such tenders to sign a code of ethics and develop measures to prevent bribery. Both the constitution and the Access to Information Act (2016) provide protections to NGOs, investigative journalism, and individuals involved in investigating corruption. The Witness Protection Act (2006) establishes protections for witnesses in criminal cases and created an independent Witness Protection Agency. A draft Whistleblowers Protection Bill has been stalled in Parliament since 2016.
President Kenyatta directed government ministries, departments, and agencies to publish all information related to government procurement to enhance transparency and combat corruption. While compliance is improving, it is not yet universal. The information is published online (https://tenders.go.ke/website/contracts/Index).
Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and in 2016 published the results of a peer review process on UNCAC compliance: (https://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNCAC/CountryVisitFinalReports/2015_09_28_Kenya_Final_Country_Report.pdf). Kenya is also a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery, and a member of the Open Government Partnership. Kenya is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Kenya is also a signatory to the East African Community’s Protocol on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:
Rev. Eliud Wabukala (Ret.)
Chairperson and Commissioner
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
P.O. Box 61130 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Phones: +254 (0)20-271-7318, (0)20-310-722, (0)729-888-881/2/3
Report corruption online: https://eacc.go.ke/default/report-corruption/
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Transparency International Kenya
Phone: +254 (0)722-296-589
Report corruption online: https://www.tikenya.org/
10. Political and Security Environment
Kenya’s 2017 national election was marred by violence, which claimed the lives of nearly 100 Kenyans, a contentious political atmosphere, which pitted the ruling Jubilee Party against the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), as well as political interference and attacks on key institutions by both sides. In November 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court unanimously upheld the October 2017 repeat presidential election results and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in an election boycotted by NASA leader Raila Odinga. In March 2018, President Kenyatta and Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged to work together to heal the political, social, and economic divides highlighted by the election. The GOK, civil society actors, private sector, and religious leaders are implementing a number of initiatives to promote peace in advance of the next national election in August 2022.
The United States’ Travel Advisory for Kenya advises U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution due to the threat of crime and terrorism, and not to travel to counties bordering Somalia and to certain coastal areas due to terrorism. Due to the high risk of crime, it is common for private businesses and residences to have 24-hour guard services and well-fortified property perimeters.
Instability in Somalia has heightened concerns of terrorist attacks, leading businesses and public institutions nationwide to increase their security measures. Tensions flare occasionally within and between ethnic communities in Kenya. Regional conflict, most notably in Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan, sometimes have spill-over effects in Kenya. There could be an increase in refugees entering Kenya due to drought and instability in neighboring countries, adding to the already large refugee population in the country.
Kenya and its neighbors are working together to mitigate threats of terrorism and insecurity through African-led initiatives such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Eastern African Standby Force (EASF). Despite attacks against Kenyan forces in Kenya and Somalia, the Government of Kenya has maintained its commitment to promoting peace and stability in Somalia.
Mozambique’s lengthy coastline, deep-water ports, favorable climate, rich soil, and vast natural resources give the country significant potential, but investors face challenges related to the business environment. The Government of the Republic of Mozambique (GRM) made progress on public financial management reforms and publishing budget and debt figures, took steps to reform State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and arrested or prosecuted high-level officials on corruption-related charges. It reached an agreement with the IMF and promoted dialogue with the private sector and donor community on economic reforms. Challenges include Mozambique’s opaque and complicated taxation policies, barriers to private land ownership, corruption, an underdeveloped financial system, high interest rates, poor infrastructure, and difficulties obtaining visas. Infrastructure outside of Maputo is often poor, while bureaucracy and corruption slow trade at many points of entry. Mozambican labor law makes it difficult to hire and fire workers, and court systems are bogged down in labor disputes. The domestic workforce also lacks many advanced skills needed by industry, and the visa regime makes bringing in foreign workers difficult.
Insecurity related to a terrorist insurgency in northern Mozambique has resulted in multi-billion-dollar onshore LNG projects being delayed, although a smaller offshore floating LNG platform remains on track to begin production by October 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the extractive industry and tourism sector, and pandemic-related restrictions affected many other economic sectors. Following a recession in 2020, the economy returned to 2.5 percent economic growth in 2021. In 2022, the GRM began to ease some restrictions, although COVID-19 measures have continued to limit the hours restaurants and other businesses can operate and impose testing requirements on travelers.
Mozambique is eager to partner with the United States on climate issues, although it lacks resources. It joined the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) and is considering joining the Global Methane Pledge. As the GRM made progress on rural electrification, it incorporated solar energy and solicited investment for hydropower projects. U.S. development agencies and international financial institutions contributed to energy projects in solar and natural gas. The U.S. Department of Energy helped identify areas where small renewable solar and wind projects could be built alongside agricultural activities. These areas may provide opportunities for sustainable foreign direct investment in the renewable energy market. Mozambique is a growing producer of critical minerals, including graphite, lithium, and titanium. In 2021, Mozambique joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, enabling Mozambique to legally export diamonds.
The GRM worked constructively with the United States and other members of the donor community. In March 2022, it reached an agreement with the IMF for a three-year, $470 million program that aims to reinforce economic recovery while addressing challenges related to debt and financing and encouraging good governance and improved management of public resources. The GRM is working with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) towards signing a second MCC compact (Compact II) in 2023. Compact II will entail business-enabling reforms and will undertake investments in Zambézia Province that focus on transportation infrastructure, commercial agriculture, and climate change mitigation. While Compact II is still under development, it has potential to contribute to key sectors and help create an enabling environment for additional investments.
Investors face numerous requirements for permits, approvals, and clearances, which often take substantial time and effort to obtain. The difficulty of navigating the system creates vulnerabilities to corruption, a risk that is aggravated by relatively low wages earned by administrative clerks. Labor, health, safety, and environmental regulations may go unenforced or are selectively enforced. In some cases, civil servants have reportedly threatened to enforce antiquated regulations that remain on the books in order to obtain favors or bribes.
The private sector, through CTA, maintains an ongoing dialogue with the GRM, holding quarterly meetings with the Prime Minister and an annual meeting with the President. On behalf of its members and other business associations, CTA provides feedback to the GRM on laws and regulations that impact the business environment. However, because of its exclusive role in communicating with the GRM on behalf of the private sector, some businesses have expressed concerns that not all voices are heard. In addition, some businesses have argued that CTA is not an effective advocate given its political affiliation with long-time ruling party Frelimo. Numerous other business associations exist, including a newly accredited American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), formed in 2019 to represent the interests of the U.S. business community in Mozambique.
The GRM requires businesses in certain sectors to apply for an Environmental License, via the Environmental Impact Evaluation Process, regulated under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation (no. 54/2015). The Ministry of Land and Environment and its subordinate institutions and directorates issue licenses following the Environmental Impact Evaluation Process, which entails creation of an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP).
Draft bills are made available for public comment through business associations or in public meetings. The GRM publishes changes to laws and regulations in the National Gazette, which is available electronically. Public comments are usually limited to input from a few private sector organizations, such as CTA. There have been complaints of short comment periods and that comments are not properly reflected in the National Gazette.
Overall fiscal transparency in Mozambique is improving in the wake of the “hidden debts” scandal, which broke in 2016. GRM reporting on public debts has improved, with SOE debt now included in the national budget. However, publicly available budget documents still do not provide a complete picture of the GRM’s revenue streams, particularly with regard to SOE earnings, which generally do not have publicly available audited financial statements. The GRM also maintains off-budget accounts not subject to adequate audit or oversight. For published portions of the budget that were relatively complete, the information provided was generally reliable. The March 2022 IMF agreement contains reform measures designed to improve the GRM’s public financial management.
Mozambique is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In 2016, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Eswatini (then-Swaziland), signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. Mozambique exports aluminum under this EPA agreement. The GRM ratified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in July 2016 and notified the WTO in January 2017. The GRM established a National Trade Facilitation Committee to coordinate the implementation of the TFA.
Mozambique is a member of the WTO and generally notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. The National Institute of Norms and Quality (Instituto Nacional de Normalização e Qualidade, INNOQ) falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and is the WTO enquiry point for TBT-related issues. INNOQ is a member of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and carries the mandate to issue ISO 9001 certificates. According to the WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Mozambique, no specific trade concerns have been raised about Mozambique’s TBT measures in the WTO TBT Committee.
Like most countries in Africa, Mozambique generally uses standards based on existing ISO and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for most products.
Mozambique’s legal system is based on Portuguese civil law and customary law. The GRM updated its Commercial Code in 2005 and 2018.
In recent years, Mozambique’s legal system has shown a degree of independence. In August 2021, the Maputo City Judicial Court began proceedings for 19 defendants in the “hidden debts” trial, who were accused of illicitly acquiring over $2 billion in state-backed loans under the guise of developing a tuna fishing fleet and coastal protection system. The court completed hearings in March 2022, and anticipated verdicts to be announced on August 1, 2022. It is unclear whether Mozambique’s General Prosecutor will pursue further indictments. The former Finance Minister responsible for signing the illicit state-backed loan guarantees in the scandal remains under custody in South Africa, pending possible extradition to the United States. The General Prosecutor’s office has also pursued suspects in separate corruption-related cases.
The 2009 Code of Fiscal Benefits (no. 4/2009) and 2009 Decree (no. 56/2009) form the legal basis for foreign direct investment in Mozambique. Operating within these regulations, APIEX analyzes the fiscal and customs incentives available for a particular investment. Investors must establish foreign business representation and acquire a commercial representation license. During project development, investors must document their community consultation efforts related to the project. If the investment requires the use of land, the investor must present, among other documents, a topographic plan or an outline of the site where the project will be developed.
If the investment involves an area under 1,000 hectares and the investment is under approximately $25 million, the governor of the province where it will be located can approve the investment. While APIEX has the authority to approve any project up to $40 million, the Minister of Economy and Finance (MEF) must approve national or foreign investments between $40 million and $225 million. If the investment occupies an area of 10,000 hectares, or an area greater than 100,000 hectares for a forestry concession, or it amounts to more than $225 million, the Council of Ministers must approve it. APIEX provides additional information regarding Mozambique’s investment requirements.
The 2013 “Competition Law” (no. 10/2013), established a modern legal framework for competition and created the Competition Regulatory Authority, inspired by the Portuguese competition enforcement system. Violating the prohibitions contained in the Competition Law (either by entering into an illegal agreement or practice or by implementing a concentration subject to mandatory filing) could result in a fine of up to five percent of the turnover of the company in the previous year. Competition Regulatory Authority decisions may be appealed in the Judicial Court in Maputo for cases leading to fines or other sanctions, or to the Administrative Court for merger control procedures.
There have been no significant cases of nationalization since the adoption of the 1990 Constitution. Mozambican law holds that “when deemed absolutely necessary for weighty reasons of national interest or public health and order, the nationalization or expropriation of goods and rights shall result in the owner being entitled to just and equitable compensation.”
The GRM adopted a comprehensive legal regime for bankruptcy in 2013 known as the “Insolvency Law” (no. 1/2013). This law streamlines the bankruptcy process, sets the rules for business recovery, facilitates potential recovery for struggling businesses, and establishes legal methods to declare bankruptcy. Under the law, creditors can approve a proposed rescue plan, request that a debtor be declared insolvent, and challenge suspicious transactions.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
According the State Holdings Management Institute (IGPE), Mozambique has twelve SOEs, 18 companies that are majority state-owned, and 23 companies with minority state ownership, which IGPE does not consider to be SOEs.
Some of the largest SOEs, such as Airports of Mozambique (Aeroportos de Moçambique) and Electricity of Mozambique (Electricidade de Moçambique), have monopolies in their respective industries. In some cases, SOEs enter into joint ventures with private firms to deliver certain services. For example, Ports and Railways of Mozambique (CFM, Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique) offers some concessions. Many SOEs benefit from state subsidies. In some instances, SOEs have benefited from non-compete contracts that should have been competitively tendered. SOE accounts are generally not transparent and not thoroughly audited by the Supreme Audit Institution. Unsustainable SOE debt represents a liability for the GRM, and SOEs were at the heart of the hidden debt scandal revealed in 2016.
In 2018, the Parliament passed Law no. 3/2018, which broadens the definition of SOEs to include all public enterprises and shareholding companies. The law seeks to unify SOE oversight and harmonize the corporate governance structure, instituting additional financial controls, borrowing limits, and financial analysis and evaluation requirements for SOEs. The law requires the oversight authority to publish a consolidated annual report on SOEs, with additional reporting requirements for individual SOEs. The Council of Ministers approved regulations for the SOE law in early 2019, and in 2020 the MEF published limited information on SOE debt.
The GRM is working with the IMF and the international donor community in an effort to reform its SOEs. In March 2021, the GRM hired a consulting company to study models for restructuring SOEs and selected four SOEs to be restructured: Mozambican Insurance Company (EMOSE), the Correios de Moçambique (Post Office), the Sociedade de GestãoImobiliária(DOMUS) and the Matola Silos and Grain Terminal (STEMA).
Mozambique’s privatization program has been relatively transparent, with tendering procedures that are generally open and competitive. Most remaining parastatals operate as state-owned public utilities with GRM oversight and control, making their privatization more politically sensitive. While the GRM has indicated an intention to include private partners in most of these utility industries, progress has been slow.
While corruption remains a major concern in Mozambique, the GRM has undertaken some steps to address the problem. Working with the IMF, it published the July 2019 Diagnostic Report on Transparency, Governance and Corruption, which identifies 29 anti-corruption reform measures. The March 2022 IMF agreement intends to use these measures as benchmarks for subsequent reforms.
The Mozambican judicial system conducted a trial for 19 defendants in the “hidden debts” case, hearing from more than 70 witnesses. The trial was aired publicly in a positive step to counter the perception that senior Mozambican government officials can commit crimes with impunity. The Maputo City Court has set sentences for August 1, 2022; the court has announced it is considering seizing assets of the accused to partially compensate the nation for the over $2 billion in fraudulent state-backed loans.
Mozambique’s civil society and journalists remain vocal on corruption-related issues. Action related to the “hidden debts” scandal is being led by a civil society umbrella organization known as the Budget Monitoring Forum (Forum de Monitoria de Orcamento, FMO) that brings together around 20 different organizations for collective action on transparency and corruption issues. A civil society organization that participates in the FMO, the Center for Public Integrity (CIP), also continues to publicly pressure the GRM to act against corrupt practices. CIP finds that many local businesses are closely linked to the GRM and have little incentive to promote transparency.
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Ana Maria Gemo
Central Anti-Corruption Office (Gabinete Central de Combate a Corrupção)
Avenida 10 de Novembro, 193
+258 82 3034576 gabinetecorrupção@yahoo.com.br
Contact at a “watchdog” organization:
Project Coordinator Extractive Industries
Center for Public Integrity (CIP, Centro de Integridade Publica)
Rua Fernão Melo e Castro, 124
+258 84 8866440 email@example.com
10. Political and Security Environment
In July 2021, Mozambican security forces deployed to Cabo Delgado Province were joined by Rwandan and SADC military contingents. Since that time, the combined forces have made security gains against the Islamic State in Mozambique (ISIS-M). However, the ongoing insurgency continues to deter investment in northern Mozambique. Sporadic terrorist attacks continue to occur, mainly against civilians, in the northern provinces. As of mid-2022, TotalEnergies had yet to resume construction of its Area 1 LNG facility following suspension of its operations and declaration of force majeure in April 2021.
The United States designated ISIS-M as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group in March 2021. ISIS provides support to combatants in northern Mozambique and occasionally claims credit for their attacks. Since 2017, the ISIS affiliate carried out more than 500 deliberate attacks against unarmed civilians, causing an estimated 3,100 deaths and up to 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). As of April 2022, the GRM had begun implementing plans to stabilize the region with support from the international donor community and encouraging IDPs to return to their homes.
Following the ceasefire and peace agreement signed in August 2019, Mozambique’s disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration (DDR) of ex-combatants from political opposition group Renamo is nearing conclusion. The October 2021 death of Mariano Nhongo, leader of the Renamo Military Junta splinter group, corresponded with a drop in the number of attacks along major highways in Manica and Sofala provinces.
Pakistan has sought to foster inward investment, restructure tax collection, boost trade and investment, and fight corruption. It entered a $6 billion IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program in July 2019, committing to carry out structural reforms that have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2022, the IMF Board authorized release of the latest tranche of the program, bringing the total disbursed to $3 billion. Nevertheless, progress has been slow in reforming taxation and privatizing state-owned enterprises. Pakistan has successfully tapped global bond markets three times since March 2021.
Pakistan’s economy outperformed downbeat forecasts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with GDP expanding 5.6 percent in FY 2021 (July 2020 – June 2021). Pakistan has made significant progress since 2019 in transitioning to a market-determined exchange rate. The current account deficit, on the decline through 2020, has increased substantially and constrains policy efforts. Rising inflation is another major constraint on policy, having risen in FY 2021 and reaching 13 percent in January 2022.
While Pakistan has a nominally open foreign direct investment (FDI) regime, it remains a challenging environment for investors. The security situation has improved in recent years but remains dynamic, dispute resolution processes are lengthy, enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is weak, taxation is inconsistent, and regulations vary across Pakistan’s provinces. Incoming FDI declined by 8.9 percent in FY 2021 compared to FY 2020, and levels of investment have historically lagged behind Pakistan’s regional peers.
The Pakistani government updated its National Climate Change Policy and National Wildlife Policy in 2021, which address issues in water, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity, and vulnerable ecosystems. Pakistan also introduced the 2020-2023 National Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the 2020-2025 National Electric Vehicle Policy for 2-3 Wheelers and Commercial Vehicles, and the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy in 2019.
The United States has consistently been one of Pakistan’s largest sources of FDI. In FY 2021, the PRC was Pakistan’s number one source of new FDI, largely due to projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for which only PRC-approved companies could bid. Over the last three years, U.S. companies have pledged more than $1.5 billion of investment in Pakistan. American companies have profitable operations across a range of sectors, notably fast-moving consumer goods, agribusiness, and financial services. Other sectors attracting U.S. interest include franchising, information and communications technology (ICT), renewable energy, and healthcare services. The Karachi-based American Business Council, a local affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has 61 U.S. member companies, most of which are Fortune 500 companies and span a wide range of sectors. The Lahore-based American Business Forum, with 23 founding members and 22 associate members, also helps U.S. investors. The U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, a division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supports U.S.-based companies who do business with Pakistan. In 2003, the United States and Pakistan signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as the primary vehicle to address impediments to bilateral trade and investment flows and to grow commerce between the two economies. In March 2022, the United States and Pakistan held TIFA intersessional talks.
Pakistan generally lacks transparency and effective policies and laws that foster market-based competition in a non-discriminatory manner. The Competition Commission of Pakistan has a mandate to ensure market-based competition, but laws and regulations are opaque, vary among provinces, and are sometimes applied to benefit domestic businesses.
All businesses in Pakistan are required to adhere to certain regulatory processes managed by the chambers of commerce and industry. Rules, for example on the requirement for importers or exporters to register with a chamber, are equally applicable to domestic and foreign firms. To date, Post is not aware of incidents where such rules have been used to discriminate against foreign investors in general or U.S. investors specifically.
The Pakistani government is responsible for establishing and implementing legal rules and regulations, but sub-national governments have a role as well depending on the sector. Prior to implementation, non-government actors and private sector associations can provide feedback to the government on regulations and policies, but governmental authorities are not bound to follow their input. Regulatory authorities are required to conduct in-house post-implementation reviews of regulations in consultation with relevant stakeholders. However, these assessments are not made publicly available. Since the 2010 introduction of the 18th amendment to Pakistan’s constitution, which delegated significant authorities to provincial governments, foreign companies must comply with provincial, and sometimes local, laws in addition to federal law. Foreign businesses complain about the inconsistencies in the application of laws and policies from different regulatory authorities. There are no rules or regulations in place that discriminate specifically against U.S. firms or investors, however.
The SECP is the main regulatory body for foreign companies operating in Pakistan, but it is not the sole regulator. Company financial transactions are regulated by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), labor by Social Welfare or the Employee Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), and specialized functions in the energy sector are administered by bodies such as the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), and Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB). Each body has independent management, but all must submit draft regulatory or policy changes through the Ministry of Law and Justice before any proposed rules or regulations may be submitted to parliament or, in some cases, the executive branch.
The SECP is authorized to establish accounting standards for companies in Pakistan, however, execution and implementation of those standards is poor. Pakistan has adopted most, though not all, International Financial Reporting Standards. Though most of Pakistan’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms, execution and implementation is inefficient and opaque.
The Pakistani government requires companies to provide environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures on their projects in country, but there is no single regulatory mechanism or central regulation for such requirements. For instance, companies must work with the Ministry of Climate Change on environmental disclosures; the EOBI on social disclosures, such as those that concern pensions; and SECP on governance disclosures. However, implementation and monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for such requirements are weak and opaque.
Most draft legislation is made available for public comment but there is no centralized body to collect public responses. The relevant authorities, usually the responsible ministry for proposed legislation, gathers public comments as it deems necessary; otherwise, the government submits legislation directly to the legislative branch. For business and investment laws and regulations, the Ministry of Commerce relies on stakeholder feedback obtained from chambers and associations – such as the American Business Council (ABC) and Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) – rather than publishing regulations online for public review.
There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published. Different regulators publish their regulations and implementing actions on their respective websites. In most cases, regulatory implementing actions are not published online.
Businesses impacted by non-compliance with government regulations may seek relief from the judiciary, Ombudsman’s offices, and the Parliamentary Public Account Committee. These forums are designed to ensure the government follows required administrative processes.
Pakistan did not announce any enforcement reforms during the last year. Pakistan is in the process of updating its IPR laws to make them consistent and to improve IPR enforcement through draft amendments on trademark, patent, and copyright legislation. If drafted according to international IP treaties, and fully implemented, updated laws can improve IPR enforcement in Pakistan and boost foreign investor willingness to bring innovations to Pakistan.
Enforcement processes are legally reviewable – initially by specialized IP Tribunals, but also through the High and Supreme Courts of Pakistan. Few of these processes are digitalized.
The government publishes limited debt obligations in the budget document in two broad categories: capital receipts and public debt, which are published in the “Explanatory Memorandum on Federal Receipts.” These documents are available at http://www.finance.gov.pk/, https://www.fbr.gov.pk/, and http://www.sbp.org.pk/ecodata/index2.asp . The government does not publicly disclose the terms of bilateral debt obligations.
Pakistan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). However, there is no regional cooperation between Pakistan and other member nations on regulatory development or implementation.
Pakistan’s judicial system incorporates British standards. As such, most of Pakistan’s regulatory systems use British norms to meet international standards.
Pakistan has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1, 1995, and provides most favored nation (MFN) treatment to all member states, except India and Israel. In October 2015, Pakistan ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Pakistan is one of 23 WTO countries negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement. Pakistan notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, albeit at times with significant delays.
Most international norms and standards incorporated in Pakistan’s regulatory system, including commercial matters, are influenced by UK law. Laws governing domestic or personal matters are strongly influenced by Islamic Sharia law. Regulations and enforcement actions may be appealed through the court system. The Supreme Court is Pakistan’s highest court and has jurisdiction over the provincial courts, referrals from the federal government, and cases involving disputes among provinces or between a province and the federal government. Decisions by the courts of the superior judiciary (the Supreme Court, the Federal Sharia Court, and five High Courts – Lahore High Court, Sindh High Court, Balochistan High Court, Islamabad High Court, and Peshawar High Court) have national standing. The lower courts are composed of civil and criminal district courts, as well as various specialized courts, including courts devoted to banking, intellectual property, customs and excise, tax law, environmental law, consumer protection, insurance, and cases of corruption. Pakistan’s judiciary is influenced by the government and other stakeholders. The lower judiciary is influenced by the executive branch and seen as lacking competence and fairness. It currently faces a significant backlog of unresolved cases.
Pakistan’s Contract Act of 1872 is the main law that regulates contracts with Pakistan. British legal decisions, under some circumstances, are also cited in court rulings. While Pakistan’s legal code and economic policy do not discriminate against foreign investments, enforcement of contracts remains problematic due to a weak and inefficient judiciary.
Theoretically, Pakistan’s judicial system operates independently of the executive branch. Although higher courts are widely viewed as credible, lower courts are often considered corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from outside influences including the executive branch, the military, and other prominent figures. As a result, there are doubts concerning the competence, fairness, and reliability of Pakistan’s judicial system. In addition, concern over potential contempt of court proceedings inhibits businesses and the public from reporting on perceived weaknesses of the judicial system.
Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable. Specialized tribunals and departmental adjudication authorities are the primary forum for such appeals. Decisions made by a tribunal or adjudication authority may be appealed to a high court and then to the Supreme Court.
Pakistan’s investment and corporate laws permit wholly owned subsidiaries with 100 percent foreign equity in most sectors of the economy. In the education, health, and infrastructure sectors, 100 percent foreign ownership is allowed. In the agricultural sector, the threshold is 60 percent, with an exception for corporate agriculture farming, where 100 percent ownership is allowed.
Most foreign companies operating in Pakistan are “private limited companies,” which are incorporated with a minimum of two shareholders and two directors registered with the SECP. While there are no regulatory requirements on the residency status of company directors, the chief executive must reside in Pakistan to conduct day-to-day operations. If the chief executive is not a Pakistani national, she or he is required to obtain a multiple-entry work visa. Corporations operating in Pakistan are statutorily required to retain full-time audit services and legal representation. Corporations must also register any changes to the name, address, directors, shareholders, CEO, auditors/lawyers, and other pertinent details to the SECP within 15 days of the change. To address long process delays, in 2013, the SECP introduced the issuance of a provisional “Certificate of Incorporation” prior to the final issuance of a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC). The certificate of incorporation includes a provision noting that company shares will be transferred to another shareholder if the foreign shareholder(s) and/or director(s) fails to obtain a NOC.
No new law, regulation, or judicial decision was announced or went into effect during the last year which would be significant to foreign investors.
There is no “single window” website for investment in Pakistan which provides direct access to all relevant laws, rules, and reporting requirements for investors.
Established in 2007, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) is designed to ensure private and public sector organizations are not involved in any anti-competitive or monopolistic practices. Complaints regarding anti-competitive practices can be lodged with CCP, which conducts the investigation and is legally empowered to impose penalties; complaints are reviewable by the CCP appellate tribunal in Islamabad and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The CCP appellate tribunal is required to issue decisions on any anti-competitive practice within six months from the date in which it becomes aware of the practice.
As of early 2022, the CCP was investigating a cement sector cartel; it found that cement manufacturers in Pakistan established a cartel and kept prices at an artificially high level, raising excess revenues worth $250 million, but its review was not yet final. In 2021, the CCP also conducted an inquiry into sugar prices and submitted a report to the Prime Minister’s office, with the Federal Investigation Agency tasked to follow up on the inquiry. However, to date no action has been taken on the report’s findings.
The CCP has also conducted an inquiry regarding the banking sector on the charges of forming a cartel to bid up interest rates for public sector debt.
The CCP generally adheres to transparent norms and procedures.
Agency decisions are reviewable by the CCP appellate tribunal and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Two Acts, the Protection of Economic Reforms Act 1992 and the Foreign Private Investment Promotion and Protection Act 1976, protect foreign investment in Pakistan from expropriation, while the 2013 Investment Policy reinforced the government’s commitment to protect foreign investor interests. Pakistan does not have a strong history of expropriation.
Pakistan does not have a single, comprehensive bankruptcy law. Foreclosures are governed under the Companies Act 2017 and administered by the SECP, while the Banking Companies Ordinance of 1962 governs liquidations of banks and financial institutions. Court-appointed liquidators auction bankrupt companies’ property and organize the actual bankruptcy process, which can take years to complete. On average, Pakistan requires 2.6 years to resolve insolvency issues and has a recovery rate of 42.8 percent. Pakistan was ranked 58 of 190 for ease of “resolving insolvency” rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report.
The Companies Act 2017 regulates mergers and acquisitions. Mergers are allowed between international companies, as well as between international and local companies. In 2012, the government enacted legislation for friendly and hostile takeovers. The law requires companies to disclose any concentration of share ownership over 25 percent.
Pakistan has no dedicated credit monitoring authority. However, SBP has authority to monitor and investigate the quality of the credit commercial banks extend.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Pakistan has 212 SOEs operating in various sectors: 85 commercial SOEs, 83 subsidiaries of those commercial SOEs, and 44 non-commercial SOEs (defined as not-for-profits, trusts, universities, training institutions, and welfare funds). The commercial SOEs mainly operate in seven sectors: power; oil and gas; infrastructure, transport, and communication; manufacturing, mining, and engineering; finance; industrial estate development and management; and wholesale, retail, and marketing. They provide stable employment and other benefits for more than 450,000 workers, but a number require annual government subsidies to cover their substantial losses.
Three of the country’s largest SOEs include: Pakistan Railways (PR), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). According to the IMF, the total debt of SOEs amounts to 2.3 percent of GDP – just over $7 billion in 2019. Note: IMF and WB data for 2020-21 regarding SOEs is not yet available, however, according to SBP provisional data from December 2021, the total debt of Pakistani SOEs is $8.59 billion. EndNote. The IMF required audits of PIA and PSM by December 2019 as part of Pakistan’s IMF Extended Fund Facility. PR is the only provider of rail services in Pakistan and the largest public sector employer with approximately 90,000 employees. PR has received commitments for $8.2 billion in CPEC loans and grants to modernize its rail lines. PR relies on monthly government subsidies of approximately $2.8 million to cover its ongoing obligations. In 2019, government payments to PR totaled approximately $248 million. The government provided a $37.5 million bailout package to PR in 2020. The Government of Pakistan extended bailout packages worth $89 million to PIA in 2019 and $250 million in 2021. Established to avoid importing foreign steel, PSM has accumulated losses of approximately $3.77 billion per annum. The government has provided $562 million to PSM in bailout packages since 2008. In September 2020, Pakistan’s Cabinet approved a $124 million restructuring plan of PSM, offering its employees a Voluntary Separation Scheme to Cut Losses. The company loses $5 million a week, and has not produced steel since June 2015, when the national gas company shut off supplies to PSM facilities due to its greater than $340 million in outstanding unpaid utility bills.
SOEs competing in the domestic market receive non-market-based advantages from the host government. Two prominent examples are carrier PIA and steelmaker PSM, which operate at a loss while receiving financial bailouts from the federal government. Post is not aware of negative impacts to U.S firms as a result.
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) introduced corporate social responsibility (CSR) voluntary guidelines in 2013. Adherence to the OECD guidelines is not known.
Terms to purchase public shares of SOEs and financial institutions are the same for both foreign and local investors. On March 7, 2019, the government announced plans to carry out a privatization program but postponed plans because of significant political resistance. Even though the government is still publicly committed to privatizing its national airline (PIA), the process has been stalled since early 2016 when three labor union members were killed during a violent protest in response to the government’s decision to convert PIA into a limited company, a decision which would have allowed shares to be transferred to a non-government entity and pave the way for privatization. A bill passed by the legislature requires the government retain 51% equity in the airline in the event it is privatized, reducing the attractiveness of the company to potential investors.
Pakistan ranked 140 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. The organization noted significant and persistent corruption within Pakistan due to gaps in accountability and enforcement of penalties, along with the lack of merit-based promotions and relatively low salaries.
Bribes are classified as criminal acts under the Pakistani legal code and are punishable by law, but are widespread across most levels of government. While higher courts are widely viewed as credible, lower courts are generally considered corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent wealthy, religious, political, and military figures. Political interference in judicial appointments increases the government’s influence over the court system.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, suffers from insufficient funding and professionalism, and is viewed by many as politically biased. NAB prosecutions alleging bureaucratic malfeasance deter agencies from acting on legitimate regulatory concerns affecting the business sector.
National Accountability Bureau
Ataturk Avenue, G-5/2, Islamabad
Despite improvements to the security situation in recent years, the presence of foreign and domestic terrorist groups within Pakistan continues to pose threats to U.S. interests and citizens. Many multinational companies operating in Pakistan employ private security and risk management firms to mitigate the significant threats to their business operations. Although the number of attacks by terrorist groups has declined over the last decade, increased activity since 2021 has renewed security concerns in some regions. Baloch militant groups continue to target the Pakistani military as well as PRC-affiliated installations in Balochistan, where Gwadar port is being developed under CPEC. There are greater security resources and infrastructure in the major cities, particularly Islamabad, and security forces in those areas may be better able to respond to emergencies.
The BOI, along with provincial investment promotion agencies, can coordinate airport-to-airport security and secure lodging for foreign investors. To inquire about this service, investors can contact the BOI for additional information – https://www.invest.gov.pk/
Abductions/kidnappings of foreigners for ransom remains a concern.
While security challenges exist in Pakistan, the country has not grown increasingly politicized or insecure in the past year.
The Government of Peru’s (GOP’s) focus on sound fiscal management and macroeconomic fundamentals contributed to the country’s region-leading economic growth since 2002. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a severe economic contraction of over 11 percent in 2020, but Peru recovered with 13.3 percent GDP growth in 2021. Recent political instability (Peru has had four presidents since 2020) is restricting near-term growth, with consensus forecasts calling for approximately 3.0 percent GDP growth in 2022, and 2.9 percent in 2023. COVID-19 health costs and an economic stimulus package strained Peru’s fiscal accounts somewhat, but the deficit stabilized to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2021. The surge in spending, however, continues to impact Peru’s debt, which increased from 26.8 percent of GDP in 2019 to 36.1 percent in 2021. Net international reserves remain strong at $78.4 billion. Global price pressures moved inflation higher, to 4.0 percent in 2021, a significant spike from the 1.8 percent in 2020. Inflation continued in 2022, with Peru’s 12-month rate through March reaching 6.8 percent.
Along with recent political instability, corruption, and social conflict negatively impact Peru’s investment climate. As of April 1, 2022, President Castillo had appointed four cabinets since taking office in July 2021. Allegations of corruption plague the current and previous administrations. Transparency International ranked Peru 105th out of 180 countries in its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. Peru’s Ombudsman office reported 157 active social conflicts in the country as of February 2022. More than half of them (86) occurred in the mining sector, which represents 10 percent of Peru’s economic output. Citing political instability, including contentious relations between the administration and congress, and governance challenges, the three major credit rating agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P) downgraded Peru’s sovereign credit ratings since Castillo’s inauguration. All three, however, maintained Peru at investment grade.
Peru fosters an open investment environment, which includes strong protections for contract and property rights. Peru is well integrated in the global economy including with the United States through the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA), which entered into force in 2009. Peru’s investment promotion agency ProInversion seeks foreign investment in nearly all areas of the economy, particularly to support infrastructure. Prospective investors would benefit from seeking local legal counsel to navigate Peru’s complex bureaucracy. Private sector investment made up more than two-thirds of Peru’s total investment in 2021.
Laws and regulations most relevant to foreign investors are enacted and implemented at the national level. Most ministries and agencies make draft regulations available for public comment. El Peruano, the state’s official gazette, publishes regulations at the national, regional, and municipal level. Ministries generally maintain current regulations on their websites. Rule-making and regulatory authority also exists through executive agencies specific to different sectors. The Supervisory Agency for Forest Resources and Wildlife (OSINFOR), the Supervisory Agency for Energy and Mining (OSINERGMIN), and the Supervisory Agency for Telecommunications (OSIPTEL), all of which report directly to the President of the Council of Ministers, can enact new regulations that affect investments in the economic sectors they manage. These agencies also have the right to enforce regulations with fines. Regulation is generally reviewed on the basis of scientific and data-driven assessments, but public comments are not always received or made public. The government does not promote or require companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory standards are consistent with international norms. Peru’s Accounting Standards Council endorses the use of IFRS standards by private entities. Public finances and debt obligations, including explicit and contingent liabilities, are transparent and publicly available at the Ministry of Economy and Finance website: https://www.mef.gob.pe/es/estadisticas-sp-18642/deuda-del-sector-publico.
Peru is a member of regional economic blocs. Under the Pacific Alliance, Peru looks to harmonize regulations and reduce barriers to trade with other members: Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Peru is a member of the Andean Community (CAN), which issues supranational regulations (based on consensus of its members) that supersede domestic provisions.
Peru follows international food standard bodies, including: CODEX Alimentarius, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) guidelines for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) standards. When CODEX does not have limits or standards established for a product, Peru defaults to the U.S. maximum residue level or standard. Peru’s system is generally more aligned with the U.S. regulatory system and standards than with its other trading partners. Peru notifies all agricultural-related technical regulations to the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) committee.
Peru uses a civil law system. Companies are generally regulated through Peru’s civil code, which includes sections governing contracts and general corporate law. Peru’s civil court system resolves conflicts between companies. Companies can also access conflict resolution services in civil courts. Litigation processes in Peruvian courts are slow.
Peru has an independent judiciary. The executive branch does not interfere with the judiciary as a matter of policy. Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable through administrative process and the court system. Peru is in the process of reforming its justice system. The National Justice Board (Junta Nacional de Justicia), which began operating in January 2020, supervises the selection processes, appointments, evaluations, and disciplinary actions for judges.
Peru has a stable and attractive legal framework used to promote private investment. The 1993 Peruvian Constitution includes provisions that establish principles to ensure a favorable legal framework for private investment, particularly for foreign investment. A key constitutional and regulatory principle is equal treatment of domestic and foreign investment. Some of the main private investment regulations include:
Legislative Decree 662, which establishes foreign investment legal stability regulations;
Legislative Decree 757, which establishes Peru’s private investment growth framework law; and
Supreme Decree 162-92-EF, which establishes private investment guarantee mechanism regulations.
INDECOPI is the GOP agency responsible for reviewing domestic competition-related concerns. Congress published a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) control law in January 2021. The law currently requires INDECOPI to review and approve M&As involving companies, including multinationals, that have combined annual sales or gross earnings over $146 million in Peru and if the value of the sales or annual gross earnings in Peru of two or more of the companies involved in the proposed M&A operation exceed $22 million each.
A legislative decree issued in September 2018 (DL 1444) modified the public procurement law to allow government agencies to use government-to-government (G2G) agreements to facilitate procurement processes. The GOP considers the G2G procurement model as a suitable method for expediting priority infrastructure projects in a manner that is more transparent and less susceptible to corruption. However, the USG, outside of the US Army Corps of Engineers, does not have a mechanism to support Peru’s G2G contracts. Peru expanded the use of G2G agreements in 2021 to include large infrastructure projects including a $1.6 billion general reconstruction initiative (related to damages caused by the El Nino event of 2017) and a $3.0 billion Central Highway project.
The Peruvian Constitution states that Peru can only expropriate private property based on public interest, such as public works projects or for national security. Article 70 of the Constitution establishes that the State can only expropriate through a judicial process or prior mandate of the law, and only after payment of compensation, including for damages. Peruvian law bases compensation for expropriation on fair market value. Article 70 also guarantees the inviolability of private property.
Public dialogue has at times touched the theme of expropriation or nationalization of the extractives sectors, including during political campaigns, but the GOP has not to date moved forward with any direct expropriation of sectors or businesses. Landowners have alleged indirect expropriation due to government inaction and corruption in “land-grab” cases that have, at times, been linked to projects endorsed by subnational governments.
Peru has a creditor rights hierarchy similar to that established under U.S. bankruptcy law, and monetary judgments are usually made in the currency stipulated in the contract. However, administrative bankruptcy procedures are slow and subject to judicial intervention. Compounding this difficulty are occasional laws passed to protect specific debtors from action by creditors that would force them into bankruptcy or liquidation. In August 2016, the GOP extended the period for bankruptcy from one year to two years. Peru does not criminalize bankruptcy.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Peru wholly owns 35 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), 34 of which are under the parastatal conglomerate FONAFE. The list of SOEs under FONAFE can be found here: https://www.fonafe.gob.pe/empresasdelacorporacion. FONAFE appoints an independent board of directors for each SOE using a transparent selection process. There is no notable third-party analysis on SOEs’ ties to the government. SOE ownership practices are generally consistent with OECD guidelines.
The largest SOE is PetroPeru which refines oil, operates Peru’s main oil pipeline, and maintains a stake in select concessions. In March 2022, S&P Ratings downgraded PetroPeru’s global foreign currency rating to “junk” status, citing PricewaterhouseCoopers’ refusal to sign the firm’s 2021 financial audit.
The GOP initiated an extensive privatization program in 1991, in which foreign investors were encouraged to participate. Since 2000, the GOP has promoted multi-year concessions as a means of attracting investment in major projects, including a 30-year concession to a private group (Lima Airport Partners) to operate the Lima airport in 2000 and a 30-year concession to Dubai Ports World to improve and operate a new container terminal in the Port of Callao in 2006.
Corruption in Peru is widespread and systematic, affecting all levels of government and the whole of society, which, until recently, had developed a high tolerance to corruption. Embezzlement, collusion, bribery, extortion, and fraud in the justice system, politics, and public works by high-level authorities and key public officers is common. Corruption in public procurement is relatively common due to weak control and risk management systems, lack of ethical or integrity values among some public officials, lack of transparency and accountability in procurement processes, social tolerance of corruption, and minimal enforcement. This embedded dynamic has eroded trust in public entities and the private sector.
In 2021, Peru fell to 105 (from 94 in 2020) among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, below Chile (27), Colombia (87), and Argentina (96), and tied with Ecuador. According to Transparency International, this backsliding reflected, in part, continued problems with structural corruption, impunity, and political instability. National surveys on corruption by Proética, Transparency International’s National Chapter in Peru, identified corruption as one of the leading public issues in the country. The OECD’s January 2022 decision to open accession discussions with Peru may provide momentum for anti-corruption efforts.
It is illegal in Peru for a public official or an employee to accept any type of outside remuneration for the performance of his or her official duties. The law extends to family members of officials and to political parties. In 2019, Peru made the irregular financing of political campaigns a crime, carrying penalties up to eight-years jail time. Peru has ratified both the UN Convention against Corruption and the OAS’ Inter-American Convention against Corruption. Peru has signed the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and has adopted OECD public sector integrity standards through its National Integrity and Anticorruption Plan.
The Public Auditor (Contraloria) oversees public administration. In January 2017, Peru passed legislative decrees extending the scope of civil penalties for domestic acts of bribery, including by NGOs, corporate partners, board members, and parent companies if subsidiaries acted with authorization. Penalties include an indefinite exclusion from government contracting and substantially increased fines. The Public Auditor also began auditing construction projects in real time, rather than after project implementation, in an effort to improve transparency. It is also auditing the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of Public Integrity of the Prime Minister Office and General Coordinator
ProEtica, the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International
Calle Manco Capac 816, Miraflores, Lima
(51) (1) 446-8581, 446-8941, 446-8943 firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Political and Security Environment
President Pedro Castillo is Peru’s fifth president in five years (and fourth president since 2020), a reflection of both deep polarization and continued power struggles between the legislative and executive branches over multiple administrations. Allegations of corruption and incompetence among cabinet ministers spurred Castillo to designate four cabinets in seven months. There are also ongoing investigations of persons close to the president for alleged high-level corruption. Castillo’s Peru Libre party holds the largest congressional voting bloc, 34 of 130 seats, in an opposition-led congress that took office July 28. Eleven political parties in the legislature divide the congress in thirds among left, right, and center. Pedro Castillo has been subject to two failed impeachment motions since his July 2021 inauguration, one in December and the second in March. According to a March 2022 IPSOS poll, Castillo held just a 26 percent approval rating, while President of Congress Maricarmen Alva held just 20 percent approval.
According to the Ombudsman, there were 157 active social conflicts in Peru as of March 2022. Although political violence against investors is rare, protests are common. In many cases, protestors sought public services not provided by the government. Widespread protests in late 2020 across several agricultural producing regions resulted in the repeal and rewriting of the nation’s agricultural law. Protests throughout 2021 and 2022 across several mining producing regions also resulted in temporary suspension of activities at several mining operations, including an intermittent suspension at Peru’s second largest copper mine, Las Bambas, for several months in 2021 and 2022.
Violence remains a concern in coca-growing regions. The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, “SL”) narco-terrorist organization continued to conduct a limited number of attacks in its base of operations in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) emergency zone, which includes parts of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, Huanuco, and Junin regions. Estimates vary, but most experts and Peruvian security services assess SL membership numbers between 250 and 300, including 60 to 150 armed fighters. SL collects “revolutionary taxes” from those involved in the drug trade and, for a price, provides security and transportation services for drug trafficking organizations to support its terrorist activities.
At present, there is little government presence in the remote coca-growing zones of the VRAEM. The U.S. Embassy in Lima restricts visits by official personnel to these areas because of the threat of violence by narcotics traffickers and columns of the Shining Path. Information about insecure areas and recommended personal security practices can be found at http://www.osac.gov or http://travel.state.gov.
Republic of the Congo
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), and the Government of Republic of the Congo (ROC) project an increase of 2.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, a recovery from a 0.8 percent GDP decline in 2021.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the ROC struggled with the effects of the 2014 drop in oil prices. Poor governance and a lack of economic diversification pushed the ROC to near insolvency, reduced its creditworthiness, and forced the central bank to expend significant foreign currency reserves.
Oil represents the largest sector of the economy and contributes upwards of 60 percent of the government’s annual declared revenue. The primary non-oil sectors are timber, telecommunications, banking, construction, and agriculture. ROC has resources for economic diversification, with vast swaths of arable land, some of the largest iron ore and potash deposits in the world, a heavily forested land mass, and a deep-water International Ship and Port Facility Security Code-certified port. ROC is eligible for the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preferences since October 2000, providing incentive for export-related investment. ROC also participates in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).
The largest current infrastructure project is major road repairs on the section of highway between Brazzaville and Owando; the initial project was completed in 2016. ROC’s nascent internet and inconsistent supplies of electricity and water present major hurdles to and opportunities for foreign direct investment. Significant sections of the country’s road system need maintenance or paving. The limited railroad network competes with truck and bus traffic for commercial cargo. However, large infrastructure projects are in progress in several major cities, and the government reports spending significant amounts on infrastructure improvements.
Investors report that the commercial environment in ROC has not improved substantially in recent years. ROC ranked 162 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. American businesses operating in ROC and those considering establishing a presence regularly report obstacles linked to corruption, lack of transparency, subjective application of legal codes and host government inefficiency in matters such as registering businesses, obtaining land titles, paying taxes, and negotiating natural resource contracts.
Lack of transparency poses one of the greatest hurdles to FDI, as investors must navigate an opaque regulatory bureaucracy. Companies routinely find themselves embroiled in tax, customs, and labor disputes arbitrated by court officials who make decisions that do not conform with Congolese law and ROC Ministry of Justice regulations.
ROC has no known informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.
The government develops new regulations internally and rarely requests formal input from industry representatives. Various ministries have regulatory authority over the individual industries in their area of responsibility, with overall authority coordinated by the Ministry of Economy. The government does not usually offer a formal, public-comment period.
ROC’s accounting, legal, and regulatory frameworks are transparent in their structure, though the application often lacks transparency and fairness. ROC uses Francophone Africa’s Organization for Business and Customs Harmonization (French acronym OHADA) system of accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures.
The government does legally require extractive industries to conduct environmental impact surveys ahead of activities. Mining and timber sector companies are required to do ongoing environmental and social offset activities. Oversight on these required activities is self-reported from businesses. The GROC lacks the capacity to enforce and assure disclosures.
The government does not make draft bills or regulations available for public comment. The government publishes new laws and regulations in ROC’s Official Journal.
The Official Journal is available for download at the website of the Secretary General of the Government who maintains the Official Journal online at http://www.sgg.cg.
Most government ministries have an inspector general that conduct oversight to ensure that government agencies follow administrative processes. The Office of the President has an inspector general who oversees the entire government.
In 2021, the government passed the new Anti-Corruption Law, aiming to target corruption among public officials across all sectors of government. The new legislation is a complement to the 2017 Public Transparency and Financial Management law that focused on transparency of public funds and the officials managing them. The new law increases fines and potential jail time for corruption and is meant to mitigate loss of funds to corruption. No new reforms were made in the reporting period.
The inspector general process is not legally reviewable, digitalized, nor accountable to the public.
The government publishes some public finances and debt obligations, including explicit and contingent liabilities. The Ministry of Finance publishes the arrangements on its website, https://www.finances.gouv.cg/.
ROC participates as a member in the Economic Community of Central African States (French acronym CEEAC), a regional economic cooperation community, and in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (French acronym CEMAC), a monetary union of six Central African states. CEMAC forms the base of local regulatory systems, including the stock exchange, the central bank, and the language for rules and regulations on investment and the economy. CEMAC sets the regional debt threshold for member countries and limits external cash transfers for companies based in member countries, and institutes banking regulations shared by member countries.
ROC’s regulatory system for business disputes and regulations governing company registration structure and incorporation incorporates Francophone African regulatory norms promulgated by Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Rights (OHADA).
ROC participates as a member country of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The government did not provide information as to whether it notifies the WTO Committee of all draft regulations relating to Technical Barriers to Trade. ROC signed the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement but has not begun implementing the agreement.
The French civil law legal system serves as the basis of the Congolese legal system. Contracts are enforced by referring to the commercial court system.
OHADA provides the basis for ROC’s national commercial law, supplemented by ROC-specific provisions, such as requiring companies to register with the commercial courts. A commercial court exists in ROC but has not convened since 2016.
The judicial system remains independent in principle. In practice, however, the executive branch intervenes in the judicial system on an ad hoc basis. The judicial process is procedurally competent, but its fairness and the reliability of judgments and applications of the legal code are questionable.
Appellate courts exist and receive appeals of enforcement actions. Public Law 6-2003, which established the country’s Investment Charter, states that Congolese law will resolve investment disputes. Judgments of foreign courts are difficult to enforce in ROC. Though the government does not usually deny foreign court judgments outright, it may propose process or procedural delays that prolong matters indefinitely without resolution.
ROC’s commercial court has authority over any legal disputes involving foreign investors.
Investors may also file legal complaints in the OHADA court – based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – which has jurisdiction throughout Francophone Africa. ROC’s Hydrocarbons Law and Mining Code of 2016 contain industry-specific regulations for foreign investments.
The government published no substantive changes to laws, regulations, or judicial decisions related to foreign investment during the reporting period.
The ROC Agency for Business Creation ACPCE is the first stop for establishing a business. Its website has limited information about laws, rules, and reporting requirements: https://dgpme.cg/acpce.php. The newly formed American Chamber of Commerce also serves as a resource for American investors.
No agencies review transactions for competition-related concerns, either domestic or international in nature. Ministries in general monitor individual industries and review industry-related transactions.
The ROC government may legally expropriate property if it finds a public need for a given public facility or infrastructure (e.g. roads, hospitals, etc.).
No recent history of expropriation regarding private companies exists. Historically, however, the ROC government has expropriated private property from Congolese citizens to build roads and stadiums. Law entitles the claimants to a fair market value compensation, but the government distributed such compensation inconsistently.
Beginning in 2012, the ROC government expropriated land of Congolese private property owners in the Kintele suburb of Brazzaville to build a sports complex for the 2015 African Games. The government offered minimal compensation to property owners. At the time, citizens publicly complained of a lack of legal recourse against the government.
The government has not taken any measures alleged to be indirect expropriations such as confiscatory tax regimes or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments during the reporting period. However, there is an abundance of corrupt employees within the tax authority who charge companies more than they are due, irrespective of the legal tax regime.
ROC has no specific law that governs bankruptcy. As a member of OHADA, ROC applies OHADA bankruptcy provisions in the event of corporate or individual insolvency. No laws criminalize bankruptcy. ROC does not have a credit bureau or other credit monitoring authority serving the country’s market.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) dominated the Congolese economy in the 1970s and 1980s. The number of SOEs remains comparatively small following a wave of privatization in the 1990s. The national oil company (SNPC), electricity company (E2C), and water supply company (LCDE) constitute the largest remaining SOEs. SOEs report to their respective ministries.
The government publishes no official list of SOEs.
Constraints on SOEs operating in the non-oil sector appear to be monitored sufficiently and are subject to civil society and media scrutiny. The operations of SNPC, however, continue to be opaque. SOEs must publish annual reports subject to examination by the government’s supreme audit institution. In practice, these examinations do not always occur. Private companies may compete with public companies and have in some cases won contracts sought by SOEs. Government budget constraints limit SOE’s operations.
The Republic of the Congo has not adhered to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.
ROC has no known privatization programs.
ROC adopted a law against corruption by public officials, “Code de Transparence dans les Finances Publiques,” on March 9, 2017. It adopted another comprehensive law against corruption, “Prévention et Lutte contre la Corruption et les Infractions Assimilées” on January 24, 2022. The ROC government inconsistently enforces both of these laws.
The corruption laws apply to elected and appointed officials. They do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.
No specific laws or regulations address conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
ROC does not encourage or require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.
Some private companies, particularly multinationals, use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.
ROC is a party to the UN Anticorruption Convention.
ROC does not provide protection to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) investigating corruption. NGOs report that government corruption results in self-censoring of reporting and investigations into corruption.
U.S. firms routinely cite corruption as an impediment to investment, particularly in the petroleum sector. Corruption can be found in nearly all sectors including government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory systems, customs, and taxation.
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Emmanuel Ollita Ondongo
Haute Autorité de Lutte contre la Corruption (HALC)
Centre Ville, Brazzaville, République du Congo
+242 06 944 6165 or +242 05 551 2229
Contact at a “watchdog” organization:
Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme (RPDH, the local chapter of “Publish What You Pay” – Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez)
B.P. 939 Pointe-Noire, République du Congo
+242 05 019 8501 or +242 05 358 3577 http://www.rpdh-cg.org/
10. Political and Security Environment
The most recent period of civil strife and violence ended in December 2017, when anti-government forces in the Pool region, which surrounds the capital of Brazzaville, signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. Before this violence, the country was in civil conflict from 1997 to 1999.
There are no known examples of damage to commercial projects and/or installations in the past ten years. Civil disturbances have occasionally resulted in damage to high-profile, public places such as police stations.
While elections in 2021 were peaceful, political violence and civil unrest may occur. In the past, political demonstrations have led to armed clashed, deaths, and injuries.
South Africa boasts the most advanced, broad-based economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The investment climate is fortified by stable institutions; an independent judiciary and robust legal sector that respects the rule of law; a free press and investigative reporting; a mature financial and services sector; and experienced local partners.
In dealing with the legacy of apartheid, South African laws, policies, and reforms seek economic transformation to accelerate the participation of and opportunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans. The Government of South Africa (GoSA) views its role as the primary driver of development and aims to promote greater industrialization, often employing tariffs and other trade measures that support domestic industry while negatively affecting foreign trade partners. President Ramaphosa’s October 2020 Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan unveiled the latest domestic support target: the substitution of 20 percent of imported goods in 42 categories with domestic production within five years. Other GoSA initiatives to accelerate transformation include labor laws to achieve proportional racial, gender, and disability representation in workplaces and prescriptive government procurement requirements such as equity stakes and employment thresholds for historically disadvantaged South Africans. In January 2022, the World Bank approved South Africa’s request for a USD 750 million development policy loan to accelerate the country’s COVID-19 response. South Africa previously received USD 4.3 billion from the International Monetary Fund in July 2020 for COVID-19 response. This is the first time that the institutions have supported South Africa’s public finances/fiscus since the country’s democratic transition.
In November 2021 at COP 26 the GoSA, the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union (EU) announced the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonization of South Africa’s economy, with a focus on the electricity system, to help achieve the ambitious emissions reduction goals laid out in South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in an inclusive, equitable transition. The partnership will mobilize an initial commitment of USD 8.5 billion over three-to-five years using a variety of financial instruments.
South Africa continues to suffer the effects from a “lost decade” in which economic growth stagnated, hovering at zero percent pre-COVID-19, largely due to corruption and economic mismanagement. During the pandemic the country implemented one of the strictest economic and social lockdown regimes in the world at a significant cost to its economy. South Africa suffered a four-quarter technical recession in 2019 and 2020 with economic growth registering only 0.2 percent growth for the entire year of 2019 and contracting -6.4 percent in 2020. In a 2020 survey of over 2,000 South African businesses conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), over eight percent of respondents permanently ceased trading, while over 36 percent indicated short-term layoffs. Although the economy grew by 4.9 percent in 2021 due to higher economic activity in the financial sector, the official unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 34.9 percent. Other challenges include policy certainty, lack of regulatory oversight, state-owned enterprise (SOE) drain on the fiscus, widespread corruption, violent crime, labor unrest, lack of basic infrastructure and government service delivery and lack of skilled labor.
Due to growth in 2021, Moody’s moved South Africa’s overall investment outlook to stable; however, it kept South Africa’s sovereign debt at sub-investment grade. S&P and Fitch ratings agencies also maintain assessments that South Africa’s sovereign debt is sub-investment grade at this time.
Despite structural challenges, South Africa remains a destination conducive to U.S. investment as a comparatively low-risk location in Africa, the fastest growing consumer market in the world. Google (US) invested approximately USD 140 million, and PepsiCo invested approximately USD 1.5 billion in 2020. Ford announced a USD 1.6 billion investment, including the expansion of its Gauteng province manufacturing plant in January 2021.
South African laws and regulations are generally published in draft form for stakeholder comment at: https://www.gov.za/document?search_query=&field_gcisdoc_doctype=545&field_gcisdoc_subjects=All&start_date=&end_date=. South Africa’s process is similar to the U.S. notice and comment consultation process and full draft texts are available to the public; however, foreign stakeholders have expressed concern over the adequacy of notice and the GoSA’s willingness to address comments. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The GoSA’s regulatory regime and laws enacted by Parliament are subject to judicial review to ensure they follow administrative processes.
DTIC is responsible for business-related regulations. It develops and reviews regulatory systems in the areas of competition, standards, consumer protection, company and intellectual property registration and protections, as well as other subjects in the public interest. It also oversees the work of national and provincial regulatory agencies mandated to assist DTIC in creating and managing competitive and socially responsible business and consumer regulations. DTIC publishes a list of bills and acts that govern its work at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/legislation/legislation-and-business-regulation/?hilite=%27IDZ%27
South Africa has a number of public laws that promote transparency of the business regulatory regime to aid the public in understanding their rights. For instance, South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act (2008) reinforces various consumer rights, including right of product choice, right to fair contract terms, and right of product quality. The law’s impact varies by industry, and businesses have adjusted their operations accordingly. A brochure summarizing the Consumer Protection Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/CP_Brochure.pdf. Similarly, the National Credit Act of 2005 aims to promote a fair and non-discriminatory marketplace for access to consumer credit and for that purpose to provide the general regulation of consumer credit and improves standards of consumer information. A brochure summarizing the National Credit Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Brochure.pdf
The South African National Treasury is developing new legislation that will “seek to enhance the transformation imperatives of the South African financial services sector.” In August 2021, the former Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni said that a new version of the Conduct of Financial Institutions (COFI) bill contains provisions that, if enacted, will require financial institutions to develop transformation plans and commitments around B-BBEE. The bill seeks to enhance market conduct, market development and financial inclusion. National Treasury also published a draft policy document on financial inclusion for public comment, which focuses on general ‘economic inclusiveness’ for South Africa. A summary statement of the draft policy can be found at: http://www.treasury.gov.za/comm_media/press/2020/20201028%20Media%20Statement%20-%20Updated%20Financial%20Inclusion%20Policy.pdf.
Parliament’s National Assembly passed the Employment Equity Amendment Bill in November 2021 and has sent the draft law to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. The bill will allow the Employment and Labor minister to set employment equity targets for different business sectors and for different designated groups (that is, black people, women, and persons with disabilities).
In South Africa the financial sector has been a leader in integrating environmental, social, and governance issues into its practices. For example, regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act, 1956 requires a pension fund and its board to “before investing in, and whilst invested in an asset, consider any factor which may materially affect the sustainable long-term performance of the asset including but not limited to those of an environment, social and governance character.” There are no specific ESG disclosure rules for companies, but several ESG related laws include a carbon tax law and energy efficiency legislation.
The Financial Sector and Deposit Insurance Levies (Administration) and Deposit Insurance Premiums Bill was tabled in parliament in January 2022. The National Treasury had published the bill for comment in December 2021. The bill seeks to “facilitate the funding of financial sector regulators, ombuds and other bodies, to ensure that they are able to effectively regulate the financial sector for the benefit of financial customers.” According to the bill’s memorandum, the deposit insurance premiums will be imposed on licensed banks, mutual banks, co-operative banks and branches of foreign banks that conduct business in South Africa. The model imposes huge expenses on the financial sector and results in an increased burden on already over-taxed citizens.
Under the current disclosure regime in South Africa, there is no explicit duty to provide disclosures on ESG matters. However, JSE-listed companies are subject to general continuing disclosure obligations under the JSE Listing Requirements, which apply to financially material ESG issues. Regulatory enforcement processes are legally reviewed and made publicly available for stakeholder comments.
The country’s fiscal transparency is overall very good. National Treasury publishes the executive budget online and the enacted budget is usually published within three months of enactment. End of year reports are published within twelve months of the end of the fiscal year. Information on debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) is made publicly available and updated at least annually. Public finances and debt obligations are fairly transparent. The year ending March 2021 report is not yet published.
South Africa is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which commenced trading in January 2021. It is a signatory to the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite FTA and a member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which has a common external tariff and tariff-free trade between its five members (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland). South Africa has free trade agreements with the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the European Union (EU); the EFTA-SACU Free Trade Agreement between SACU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland; and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the SADC EPA States (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Mozambique) and the EU and its Member States. SACU and Mozambique (SACUM) and the United Kington (UK) signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in September 2019.
South Africa is a member of the WTO. While it notifies some draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), these notifications may occur after implementation. In November 2017, South Africa ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, implementing many of its commitments, including some Category B notifications. The GoSA is not party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
South Africa has a strong legal system composed of civil law inherited from the Dutch, common law inherited from the British, and African customary law. Generally, South Africa follows English law in criminal and civil procedure, company law, constitutional law, and the law of evidence, but follows Roman-Dutch common law in contract law, law of delict (torts), law of persons, and family law. South African company law regulates corporations, including external companies, non-profit, and for-profit companies (including state-owned enterprises). Funded by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa has district and magistrate courts across 350 districts and high courts for each of the provinces. Cases from Limpopo and Mpumalanga are heard in Gauteng. The Supreme Court of Appeals hears appeals, and its decisions may only be overruled by the Constitutional Court. South Africa has multiple specialized courts, including the Competition Appeal Court, Electoral Court, Land Claims Court, the Labor and Labor Appeal Courts, and Tax Courts to handle disputes between taxpayers and SARS. Rulings are subject to the same appeals process as other courts.
The major laws affecting foreign investment in South Africa are:
The Companies Act, which governs the registration and operation of companies in South Africa.
The Protection of Investment Act, which provides for the protection of investors and their investments.
The Labor Relations Act, which provides protection for employees against unfair dismissal and unfair labor practices.
The Customs and Excise Act, which provides for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
The Competition Act, which is responsible for the investigation, control and evaluation of restrictive practices, abuse of dominant position, and mergers.
The Special Economic Zones Act which provides national economic growth and exports by using support measures to attract foreign and domestic investments and technology.
In July 2021, the SARS updated the SARS Customs and Excise Client Accreditation rules. Section 64E deals with SARS client accreditation rules and is of interest to importers and exporters who wish to apply for accredited client status in South Africa. An accredited client, or preferred trader, is similar to the authorized economic operator found in many other countries. The new rules set out two levels of accredited client status: Level 1 – Authorized Economic Operator (Compliance) and Level 2 – Authorized Economic Operator (Security). A person that is registered for customs and excise activities in South Africa may apply for Level 1 or 2 accredited client status. According to the new rules, all customs activities for which an applicant is registered or licensed under the provisions of the Act will be considered when assessing applications for either level of accredited client status. The new rules also set out the application process, the validity of the person applying, the renewal process for accredited client status, criteria for levels of accredited client status, and the benefits of the two levels of accredited client status.
The Ease of Doing Business Bill was introduced in Parliament in February 2021 and is currently under consideration by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration. If passed, the bill will provide for a mechanism to allow the executive, Parliament. and others to assess the socio-economic impact of regulatory measures, including the detection and reduction of measures that increase the cost of doing business. DTIC has a one-stop-shop website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors (refer to section one for details).
South Africa’s Competition Commission is empowered to investigate, control, and evaluate restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant positions, and review mergers to achieve equity and efficiency. Its public website is www.compcom.co.za. The Competition Commission is an investigative body. The Competition Tribunal, an adjudicative body that may review Competition Committee actions, functions very much like a court. It has jurisdiction throughout South Africa and adjudicates competition matters. Tribunal decisions may be appealed through the South African court system. International and domestic investors have raised concern the Commission has taken an increasingly social activist approach by prioritizing the public interest criteria found in the Competition Amendment Bill of 2018 over other more traditional anti-trust and monopoly criteria to push forward social and economic policies such as B-BBEE. Concerns include that the new Commission approach has led to more ambiguous, expensive, and lengthy review processes and often result in requests to alter previously agreed-upon terms of the merger and acquisition at a late stage.
In January 2021, GovChat, South Africa’s official citizen-government engagement platform, asked the Competition Tribunal to prevent its removal from a U.S.-owned platform, which charges a fee to business and GoSA clients for contacting customers or citizens. The tribunal granted GovChat’s application for interim relief, stating: “The respondents are interdicted and restrained from off-boarding the applicants from their WABA pending the conclusion of a hearing into the applicants’ complaint lodged with the [Competition] Commission, or six months of date hereof, whichever is the earlier.” On March 14, 2022, the Competition Commission referred the investigation to the Tribunal for review, alleging that the U.S. party’s actions against GovChat constituted an “abuse of dominance.” The Commission asked the Tribunal to assess the U.S. party with a maximum penalty constituting 10 percent of its annual turnover, and to enjoin the U.S. party from removing GovChat from the WhatsApp platform.
The Competition Commission prohibited the sale of the South African operations of a U.S. fast food chain and Grand Food Meat Plant, its main supplier, by Grand Parade Investments (GPI) to a U.S. private equity firm in June 2021 on the grounds that the sale would reduce the proportion of black ownership from 68 percent to zero percent. The regulator found this to be “a significant reduction in the shareholding of historically disadvantaged persons.” By August 2021, the parties and the Commission had agreed to a revised set of conditions which include the new owner’s commitment to improving its rating for the enterprise and supplier development element under its B-BBEE scorecard, which relates to empowering black-owned and smaller enterprises. In addition, the U.S. private equity firm agreed to establish an employee share ownership program that will entitle workers to a five percent stake in the company.
Racially discriminatory property laws and land allocations during the colonial and apartheid periods resulted in highly distorted patterns of land ownership and property distribution in South Africa. Given land reform’s slow and mixed success, the National Assembly (Parliament) passed a motion in February 2018 to investigate amending the constitution (specifically Section 25, the “property clause”) to allow for land expropriation without compensation (EWC). Some politicians, think-tanks, and academics argue that Section 25 already allows for EWC in certain cases, while others insist that amendments are required to implement EWC more broadly and explicitly. Parliament tasked an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee composed of parliamentarians from various political parties to report back on whether to amend the constitution to allow EWC, and if so, how it should be done. In December 2018, the National Assembly adopted the committee’s report recommending a constitutional amendment. Following elections in May 2019 the new Parliament created an ad hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution. The Committee drafted constitutional amendment language explicitly allowing for EWC and accepted public comments on the draft language through March 2021. After granting a series of extensions to complete its work, Parliament finally voted on the Committee’s draft bill on December 7, 2021. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds parliamentary majority (267 votes) to pass, as well as the support of six out of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces. Because no single political party holds such a majority, a two-third vote can only be achieved with the support of two or more political parties. Because the ruling ANC could not garner enough supporting votes from the left-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters, who sought more drastic “state custodianship” of all property, nor the right-leaning Democratic Alliance, which rejected EWC as an investment-killing measure, the bill failed. However, on December 8, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told media that the ruling party would use its simple majority to pass EWC legislation, which requires a lower threshold than a constitutional amendment. The ANC’s EWC bill is still making its way through Parliament but will likely see constitutional challenges from opposing parties.
In October 2020, the GoSA published the draft expropriation bill in its Gazette, which would introduce the EWC concept into its legal system. The application of the draft’s provisions could conflict with South Africa’s commitments to international investors under its remaining investment protection treaties as well as its obligations under customary international law. Submissions closed in February 2021 and the Public Works committee is currently finalizing the language.
Existing expropriation law, including The Expropriation Act of 1975 (Act) and the Expropriation Act Amendment of 1992, entitles the GoSA to expropriate private property for reasons of public necessity or utility. The decision is an administrative one. Compensation should be the fair market value of the property as agreed between the buyer and seller or determined by the court per Section 25 of the Constitution.
In 2018, the GoSA operationalized the 2014 Property Valuation Act that creates the office of Valuer-General charged with the valuation of property that has been identified for land reform or acquisition or disposal. The Act gives the GoSA the option to expropriate property based on a formulation in the Constitution termed “just and equitable compensation.”
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA), enacted in 2004, gave the state ownership of South Africa’s mineral and petroleum resources. It replaced private ownership with a system of licenses controlled by the GoSA and issued by the Department of Mineral Resources. Under the MPRDA, investors who held pre-existing rights were granted the opportunity to apply for licenses, provided they met the licensing criteria, including the achievement of certain B-BBEE objectives. Parliament passed an amendment to the MPRDA in 2014 but President Ramaphosa never signed it. In August 2018, Minister for the Department of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe called for the recall of the amendments so that oil and gas could be separated out into a new bill. He also announced the B-BBEE provisions in the new Mining Charter would not apply during exploration but would start once commodities were found and mining commenced. In November 2019, the newly merged Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) published draft regulations to the MPRDA. In December 2019, the DMRE published the Draft Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill for public comment. Parliament continues to review this legislation. Oil and gas exploration and production is currently regulated under MPRDA, but the new Bill will repeal and replace the relevant sections pertaining to upstream petroleum activities in the MPRDA.
On September 27, 2018, the Minister of the DMRE released a new mining charter, stating that the new charter would be operationalized within the next five years to bolster certainty in the sector. The charter establishes requirements for new licenses and investment in the mining sector and includes rules and targets for black ownership and community development in the sector to redress historic economic inequalities from the apartheid era. The new rules recognize existing mining right holders who have a minimum 26 percent B-BBEE ownership as compliant but requires an increase to 30 percent B-BBEE ownership within a five-year transitional period. Recognition of B-BBEE ownership compliance is not transferable to a new owner. New mining right licenses must have 30 percent B-BBEE shareholding, applicable to the duration of the mining right.
In March 2019 the Minerals Council of South Africa applied for a judicial review of the 2018 Mining Charter. The court was asked to review several issues in the Mining Charter including: the legal standing of the Mining Charter in relation to the MPRDA; the levels of black ownership of mines under B-BBEE requirements; the levels of ownership required when B-BBEE partners sell their shares, and if B-BBEE ownership levels must be maintained in perpetuity, especially when levels of ownership preceded the current Mining Charter. In September 2021, the Pretoria high court ruling set aside key aspects of the Mining Charter, notably those related to black ownership targets. The DMRE resolved not to appeal the high court ruling.
The Insolvency Act 24 of 1936 sets out liquidation procedures for the distribution of any remaining asset value among creditors. Financial sector legislation such as the Banks Act or Insurance Act makes further provision for the protection of certain clients (such as depositors and policy holders). South Africa’s bankruptcy regime grants many rights to debtors, including rejection of overly burdensome contracts, avoiding preferential transactions, and the ability to obtain credit during insolvency proceedings.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) play a significant role in the South African economy in key sectors such as electricity, transport (air, rail, freight, and pipelines), and telecommunications. Limited competition is allowed in some sectors (e.g., telecommunications and air). The GoSA’s interest in these sectors often competes with and discourages foreign investment.
There are over 700 SOEs at the national, provincial, and local levels. Of these, seven key SOEs are overseen by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and employee approximately 105,000 people. These SOEs include Alexkor (diamonds); Denel (military equipment); Eskom (electricity generation, transmission, and distribution); Mango (budget airlines); South African Airways (national carrier); South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL); and Transnet (transportation). For other national-level SOEs, the appropriate cabinet minister acts as shareholder on behalf of the state. The Department of Transport, for example, oversees South African’s National Roads Agency (SANRAL), Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which operates nine of South Africa’s airports. The Department of Communications oversees the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). A list of the seven SOEs that are under the DPE portfolio are found on the DPE website at: https://dpe.gov.za/state-owned-companies/. The national government directory contains a list of 128 SOEs at: https://www.gov.za/about-government/contact-directory/soe-s.
SOEs under DPE’s authority posted a combined loss of R13.9 billion (USD 0.9 billion) in 2019 (latest data available). Many are plagued by mismanagement and corruption, and repeated government bailouts have exposed the public sector’s balance sheet to sizable contingent liabilities. The debt of Eskom alone represents about 10 percent of GDP of which two-thirds is guaranteed by government, and the company’s direct cost to the budget has exceeded nine percent of GDP since 2008/9.
Eskom, provides generation, transmission, and distribution for over 90 percent of South Africa’s electricity of which 80 percent comes from 15 coal-fired power plants. Eskom’s coal plants are an average of 41 years old, and a lack of maintenance has caused unplanned breakdowns and rolling blackouts, known locally as “load shedding,” as old coal plants struggle to keep up with demand. Load shedding reached a record 1136 hours as of November 30, 2021, costing the economy an estimated USD eight billion and is expected to continue for the next several years until the GoSA can increase generating capacity and increase its Energy Availability Factor (EAF). In October 2019 the DMRE finalized its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, which outlines South Africa’s policy roadmap for new power generation until 2030, which includes replacing 10,000 MW of coal-fired generation by 2030 with a mix of technologies, including renewables, gas and coal. The IRP also leaves the possibility open for procurement of nuclear technology at a “scale and pace that flexibly responds to the economy and associated electricity demand” and DMRE issued a Request for Information on new nuclear build in 2020. In accordance with the IRP, the GoSA approved the procurement of almost 14,000 MW of power to address chronic electricity shortages. The GoSA held the long-awaited Bid Window 5 (BW5) of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) in 2021, the primary method by which renewable energy has been introduced into South Africa. The REIPPPP relies primarily on private capital and since the program launched in 2011 it has already attracted approximately ZAR 210 billion (USD 14 billion) of investment into the country. All three major credit ratings agencies have downgraded Eskom’s debt following Moody’s downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign debt rating in March 2020, which could impact investors’ ability to finance energy projects.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the monopoly responsible for South Africa’s ports, charges some of the highest shipping fees in the world. High tariffs on containers subsidize bulk shipments of coal and iron. According to the South African Ports Regulator, raw materials exporters paid as much as one quarter less than exporters of finished products. TNPA is a division of Transnet, a state-owned company that manages the country’s port, rail, and pipeline networks. In May 2020 S&P downgraded Transnet’s local currency rating from BB to BB- based on a generally negative outlook for South Africa’s economy rather than Transnet’s outlook specifically.
South Africa’s state-owned carrier, South African Airways (SAA), entered business rescue in December 2019 and suspended operations indefinitely in September 2020. The pandemic exacerbated SAA’s already dire financial straits and complicated its attempts to find a strategic equity partner to help it resume operations. Industry experts doubt the airline will be able to resume operations. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines provide regular service between Atlanta (Delta) and Newark (United) to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The telecommunications sector, while advanced for the continent, is hampered by poor implementation of the digital migration. In 2006, South Africa agreed to meet an International Telecommunication Union deadline to achieve analogue-to-digital migration by June 1, 2015. The long-delayed migration is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2022, and while potential for legal challenges remain, most analysts believe the migration will be completed in 2022. The independent communications regulator initiated a spectrum auction in September 2020, which was enjoined by court action in February 2021 following suits by two of the three biggest South African telecommunications companies. After months of litigation, the regulator agreed to changes some terms of the auction, and the auction took place successfully in March 2022. One legal challenge remains, however, as third-largest mobile carrier Telkom has alleged the auction’s terms disproportionately favored the two largest carriers, Vodacom and MTN. Telkom’s case is due to be heard in April 2022, and its outcome will determine whether the spectrum allocation will proceed.
The GoSA appears not to have fulfilled its oversight role of ensuring the sound governance of SOEs according to OECD best practices. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture in the public sector has outlined corruption at the highest echelons of SOEs such as Transnet, Eskom, SAA and Denel and provides some explanation for the extent of the financial mismanagement at these enterprises. The poor performance of SOEs continues to reflect crumbling infrastructure, poor and ever-changing leadership, corruption, wasteful expenditure and mismanagement of funds.
The GoSA has taken few concrete actions to privatize SOEs; on the contrary, even minor reorganizations are roundly criticized as attempts to privatize state assets. Meanwhile, failing SOEs like PRASA are propped up by the fiscus. In 2021, the GoSA sought to sell a controlling 51 percent interest in South African Airways to a bespoke consortium funded in large part by the Public Investment Corporation, which controls investments of state pensions. A year later, however, the airline remains under government control because critical terms of the deal, including the sale price, have not been agreed upon. Transnet, Eskom, and defense contractor Denel have been subjects of various reorganization plans, but ultimately remain accountable to Cabinet shareholders.
President Ramaphosa, during his February 10, 2022, State of the Nation Address (SONA), announced that the cabinet had approved amendments to the Electricity Regulations Act (ERA) that would liberalize South African electricity markets. The amendment provides changes to definitions that will enable the legal framework for a liberalized energy market and allow for a more competitive and open electricity market in the country including the establishment of a Transmission System Operator, a necessary part of state-owned utility Eskom’s unbundling process. The Eskom generation and distribution divisions are set to be restructured by December 2022. The market structure in the bill provides for a shift to a competitive multimarket electricity supply industry, which represents a significant departure from South Africa’s long-standing vertically integrated model monopolized by Eskom. According to a press release from the DMRE, the changes will provide for “an open market that will allow for non-discriminatory, competitive electricity-trading platform.”
South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced, and public sector accountability is low. High-level political interference has undermined the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). “State capture,” a term used to describe systemic corruption of the state’s decision-making processes by private interests, is synonymous with the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. In response to widespread calls for accountability, President Ramaphosa launched four separate judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate corruption, fraud, and maladministration, including in the Public Investment Corporation, South African Revenue Service, and the NPA which have revealed pervasive networks of corruption across all levels of government. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry, launched in 2018, has published and submitted three parts of its report to President Ramaphosa and Parliament as of March 2022. Once the entire report is reased and submitted to Parliament, Ramaphosa stated his government will announce its action plan. The Zondo Commission findings reveal the pervasive depth and breadth of corruption under the reign of former President Jacob Zuma.
The Department of Public Service and Administration coordinates the GoSA’s initiatives against corruption, and South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations focuses on organized crime, economic crimes, and corruption. The Office of the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated body, investigates government abuse and mismanagement. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PCCA) officially criminalizes corruption in public and private sectors and codifies specific offenses (such as extortion and money laundering), making it easier for courts to enforce the legislation. Applying to both domestic and foreign organizations doing business in the country, the PCCA covers receiving or offering bribes, influencing witnesses, and tampering with evidence in ongoing investigations, obstruction of justice, contracts, procuring and withdrawal of tenders, and conflict of interests, among other areas. Inconsistently implemented, the PCCA lacks whistleblower protections. The Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Public Finance Management Act call for increased access to public information and review of government expenditures. President Ramaphosa in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation Address on 20 February 2018 announced Cabinet members would be subject to lifestyle audits despite several subsequent repetitions of this pledge, no lifestyle audits have been shared with the public or Parliament.
The South Africa government’s latest initiative is the opening of an Office on Counter Corruption and Security Services (CCSS) that seeks to address corruption specifically in ports of entry via fraudulent documents and other means.
South Africa is a signatory to the Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. South Africa is also a party to the SADC Protocol Against Corruption, which seeks to facilitate and regulate cooperation in matters of corruption amongst Member States and foster development and harmonization of policies and domestic legislation related to corruption. The Protocol defines ‘acts of corruption,’ preventative measures, jurisdiction of Member States, as well as extradition. http://www.sadc.int/files/7913/5292/8361/Protocol_Against_Corruption2001.pdf
To report corruption to the GoSA:
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Office of the Public Protector, South Africa
175 Lunnon Street, Hillcrest Office Park, Pretoria 0083
Anti-Corruption Hotline: +27 80 011 2040 or +27 12 366 7000 http://www.pprotect.org or email@example.com
South Africa has strong institutions and is relatively stable, but it also has a history of politically motivated violence and civil disturbance. Violent protests against the lack of effective government service delivery are common. Killings of, and by, mostly low-level political and organized crime rivals occur regularly. In May 2018, President Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee in the security cluster to serve as a national task force on political killings. The task force includes the Police Minister‚ State Security Minister‚ Justice Minister‚ National Prosecuting Authority, and the National Police Commissioner. The task force ordered multiple arrests, including of high-profile officials, in what appears to be a crackdown on political killings. Criminal threats and labor-related unrest have impacted U.S. companies in the past. In July 2021 the country experienced wide-spread rioting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court during the deliberations of the “Zondo Commission” established to review claims of state-sponsored corruption during Zuma’s presidency. Looting and violence led to over USD 1.5 billion in damage to these province’s economies and thousands of lost jobs. U.S. companies were amongst those impacted. Foreign investors continue to raise concern about the government’s reaction to the economic impacts, citing these riots and deteriorating security in some sectors such as mining to be deterrents to new investments and the expansion of existing ones.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Switzerland is welcoming to international investors, with a positive overall investment climate. The Swiss federal government enacts laws and regulations governing corporate structure, the financial system, and immigration, and concludes international trade and investment treaties. However, Switzerland’s 26 cantons (analogous to U.S. states) and largest municipalities have significant independence to shape investment policies locally, including incentives to attract investment. This federal approach has helped the Swiss maintain long-term economic and political stability, a transparent legal system, extensive and reliable infrastructure, efficient capital markets, and an excellent quality of life for the country’s 8.6 million inhabitants. Many U.S. firms base their European or regional headquarters in Switzerland, drawn to the country’s modest corporate tax rates, productive and multilingual workforce, and well-maintained infrastructure and transportation networks. U.S. companies also choose Switzerland as a gateway to markets in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. Furthermore, U.S. companies select Switzerland because of favorable and less restrictive labor laws compared to other European locations as well as availability of a skilled workforce.
In 2019, the World Economic Forum rated Switzerland the world’s fifth most competitive economy. This high ranking reflects the country’s sound institutional environment and high levels of technological and scientific research and development. With very few exceptions, Switzerland welcomes foreign investment, accords national treatment, and does not impose, facilitate, or allow barriers to trade. According to the OECD, Swiss public administration ranks high globally in output efficiency and enjoys the highest public confidence of any national government in the OECD. The country’s competitive economy and openness to investment brought Switzerland’s cumulative inward direct investment to USD 1.4 trillion in 2020 (latest available figures) according to the Swiss National Bank, although nearly half of this amount is invested in regional hubs or headquarters that further invest in other countries.
In order to address international criticism of tax incentives provided by Swiss cantons, the Federal Act on Tax Reform and Swiss Pension System Financing (TRAF) entered into force on January 1, 2020. TRAF obliges cantons to offer the same corporate tax rates to both Swiss and foreign companies, while allowing cantons to continue to set their own cantonal tax rates and offer incentives for corporate investment. These can be deductions or preferential tax treatment for certain types of income (such as for patents), or expenses (such as for research and development). Switzerland joined the Statement of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) in July 2021. It intends to implement the BEPS effective minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent by January 2024, after a referendum to amend the Swiss constitution.
Personal income and corporate tax rates vary widely across Switzerland’s cantons. Effective corporate tax rates ranged between 11.85 and 21.04 percent in 2021, according to KPMG. In Zurich, for example, the combined effective corporate tax rate (including municipal, cantonal, and federal taxes),was 19.7 percent in 2021. The United States and Switzerland have a bilateral tax treaty.
Key sectors that have attracted significant investments in Switzerland include information technology, precision engineering, scientific instruments, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, and machine building. Switzerland hosts a significant number of startups. A new “blockchain act” came fully into force in August 2021, which is expected to benefit Switzerland’s already sizeable ecosystem for companies in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.
There are no “forced localization” laws designed to require foreign investors to use domestic content in goods or technology (e.g., data storage within Switzerland). Switzerland follows strict privacy laws and certain personal data may not be collected in Switzerland.
Switzerland is a highly innovative economy with strong overall intellectual property protection. Switzerland enforces intellectual property rights linked to patents and trademarks effectively, and new amendments to the country’s Copyright Act to strengthen copyright enforcement on the internet came into force in April 2020.
There are some investment restrictions in areas under state monopolies, including certain types of public transportation, telecommunications, postal services, alcohol and spirits, aerospace and defense, certain types of insurance and banking services, and the trade in salt. The Swiss agricultural sector remains protected and heavily subsidized.
Liechtenstein’s investment conditions are identical in most key aspects to those in Switzerland, due to its integration into the Swiss economy. The two countries form a customs union, and Swiss authorities are responsible for implementing import and export regulations.
Both Liechtenstein and Switzerland are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, which also includes Iceland and Norway). EFTA is an intergovernmental trade organization and free trade area that operates in parallel with the European Union (EU). Liechtenstein participates in the EU single market through the European Economic Area (EEA), unlike Switzerland, which has opted for a set of bilateral agreements with the EU instead.
Liechtenstein has a stable and open economy employing 40,328 people in 2020 (latest figures available), exceeding its domestic population of 39,055 and requiring a substantial number of foreign workers. In 2020, 70.6 percent of the Liechtenstein workforce were foreigners, mainly Swiss, Austrians and Germans, most of whom commute daily to Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein was granted an exception to the EU’s Free Movement of People Agreement, enabling the country not to grant residence permits to its workers.
Liechtenstein is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Liechtenstein’s gross domestic product per capita amounted to USD 162,558 in 2019 (latest data available). According to the Liechtenstein Statistical Yearbook, the services sector, particularly in finance, accounts for 63 percent of Liechtenstein’s jobs, followed by the manufacturing sector (particularly mechanical engineering, machine tools, precision instruments, and dental products), which employs 36 percent of the workforce. Agriculture accounts for less than one percent of the country’s employment.
Liechtenstein’s corporate tax rate, at 12.5 percent, is one of the lowest in Europe. Capital gains, inheritance, and gift taxes have been abolished. The Embassy has no recorded complaints from U.S. investors stemming from market restrictions in Liechtenstein. The United States and Liechtenstein do not have a bilateral income tax treaty.
The Swiss government uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster a competitive investment climate. Proposed laws and regulations are open for three-month public comment from interested parties, interest groups, cantons, and cities before being discussed within the bicameral parliament or promulgated by the appropriate regulatory authority. Authorities take comments into account carefully, particularly since proposals may be subject to optional or automatic referenda that allow Swiss voters to reject or accept the proposals. Only in rare instances – such as the case of the extension of a moratorium until 2025 on planting GMO crops – are regulations reviewed on the basis of political or customer preferences rather than solely on the basis of scientific analysis.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. However, Switzerland adopts many EU standards in line with a series of agreements with the EU.
The WTO concluded in 2017 that Switzerland has regularly notified its draft technical regulations, ordinances, and conformity assessment procedures to the WTO TBT Committee. Switzerland has been a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) since 2015.
Swiss civil law is codified in the Swiss Civil Code (which governs the status of individuals, family law, inheritance law, and property law) and in the Swiss Code of Obligations (which governs contracts, torts, commercial law, company law, law of checks and other payment instruments). Switzerland’s civil legal system is divided into public and private law. Public law governs the organization of the state, as well as the relationships between the state and private individuals or other entities, such as companies. Constitutional law, administrative law, tax law, criminal law, criminal procedure, public international law, civil procedure, debt enforcement, and bankruptcy law are sub-divisions of public law. Private law governs relationships among individuals or entities. Intellectual property law (copyright, patents, trademarks, etc.) is an area of private law. Labor is governed by both private and public law.
All cantons have a high court, which includes a specialized commercial court in four cantons (Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen and Aargau). The organization of the judiciary differs by canton; smaller cantons have only one court, while larger cantons have multiple courts. Cantonal high court decisions can be appealed to the Swiss Supreme Court. The court system is independent, competent, and fair.
Switzerland is party to a number of bilateral and multilateral treaties governing the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The Lugano Convention, a multilateral treaty tying Switzerland to European legal conventions, entered into force in 2011 (replacing an older legal framework by the same name). A set of bilateral treaties is also in place to handle judgments of specific foreign courts. While no such agreement is in place between the United States and Switzerland, Switzerland operates under the New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Law, meaning local courts must enforce international arbitration awards under specific circumstances.
The major laws governing foreign investment in Switzerland are the Swiss Code of Obligations, the Lex Friedrich/Koller, Switzerland’s Securities Law, the Cartel Law and the Financial Market Infrastructure Act. There is currently no specific screening of foreign investment beyond a normal anti-trust review. However, Parliament instructed the Federal Council to prepare a foreign investment screening mechanism in March 2020. The Federal Council decided on the basic tenets of Switzerland’s future investment screening mechanism in August 2021, and a draft law is expected to go to Parliament in 2022, with the earliest potential date for entry into force in 2023. There are few sectoral or geographic incentives or restrictions; exceptions are described below in the section on performance requirements and incentives.
There is no pronounced interference in the court system that should affect foreign investors.
The Swiss Competition Commission and the Swiss Takeover Board review competition-related concerns, and regularly decide on questions concerning mergers, market access, abuse of market position, and other matters affecting competitive advantage. In May and July 2021, the Competition Commission decided on cases involving collusive behavior in public and private tenders in the field of electrical installation and maintenance, and fined Ford Credit Switzerland for unlawful coordination of leasing conditions. The Competition Commission found an amicable conclusion with a German tobacco producer which colluded with several European partners distributors export pans to Switzerland.
Decisions by the Swiss Competition Commission may be appealed to the Federal Administrative Court, those by the Swiss Takeover Board to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
A revision to the Swiss Cartel Act came into force in January 2022, regarding the conduct of companies with relative market power, the freedom of powerful companies to set prices, and geo-blocking practices applies. Under the revised law, all Swiss competition law rules against the abuse of a dominant position will apply not only to dominant companies, but also to companies with relative market power. A new category of abusive pricing by dominant companies and companies with relative market power was also introduced. Further, the geo-blocking of Swiss customers in distance selling and e-commerce is now prohibited.
There are no known cases of expropriation within Switzerland.
Switzerland’s bankruptcy law, the Federal Act on Debt Enforcement and Bankruptcy of 11 April 1889 (in German, French and Italian), does not criminalize bankruptcy. Under the bankruptcy law, the same rights and obligations apply to foreign and Swiss contract holders. Swiss authorities provide information about Swiss residents and companies regarding debts registered with the debt collection register.
The Swiss Federal Statute on Private International Law (PILS, Art. 166-175, in force since January 1, 1989) governs Swiss recognition of foreign insolvency proceedings, including bankruptcies, foreign composition, and arrangements. Swiss law requires reciprocity for recognition of foreign insolvency.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Swiss Confederation is the largest or sole shareholder in Switzerland’s five state-owned enterprises (SOEs), active in the areas of ground transportation (SBB), information and communication (Swiss Post, Swisscom), defense (RUAG, which was divided into two companies in January 2020 – see below), and aviation / air traffic control (Skyguide). These companies are typically responsible for “public function mandates,” but may also cover commercial activities (e.g., Swisscom in the area of telecommunications).
These SOEs typically have commercial relationships with private industry. Private sector competitors can compete with the SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations. Additional publicly owned enterprises are controlled by the cantons in the areas of energy, water supply, and a number of subsectors. SOEs and canton-owned companies may benefit from exclusive rights and privileges (some of which are listed in Table A 3.2 of the most recent WTO Trade Policy Review – https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp455_e.htm).
Switzerland is a party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Some areas are partly or fully exempted from the GPA, such as the management of drinking water, energy, transportation, telecommunications, and defense. Private companies may encounter difficulties gaining business in these exempted sectors.
In the aftermath of a 2016 cyberattack, the Federal Council reviewed Swiss defense and aerospace company RUAG’s structure in light of cybersecurity concerns for the Swiss military, and decided in June 2018 to split the company. RUAG was split into two holding companies as of January 1, 2020. A smaller company, MRO Switzerland, remains state-owned and provides essential technology and systems support to the Swiss military. A larger company, RUAG International, includes non-armaments aviation and aerospace businesses, and will be gradually fully privatized in the medium term, according to the Swiss government.
Switzerland is ranked 7th of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2021, reflecting low perceptions of corruption in society. Under Swiss law, officials are not to accept anything that would “challenge their independence and capacity to act.” In case of non-compliance the law foresees criminal penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years, for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws effectively. The bribery of public officials is governed by the Swiss Criminal Code (Art. 322), while the bribery of private individuals is governed by the Federal Law Against Unfair Competition. The law defines as granting an “undue advantage” either in exchange for a specific act, or in some cases for future behavior not related to a specific act. Some officials may receive small gifts valued at no more than CHF 200 or CHF 300 for an entire year, which are not seen as “undue.” However, officials in some fields, such as financial regulators, may receive no advantages at all. Transparency International has recommended that a maximum sum should be set at the federal level.
Investigating and prosecuting government corruption is a federal responsibility. A majority of cantons require members of cantonal parliaments to disclose their interests. A joint working group comprising representatives of various federal government agencies works under the leadership of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to combat corruption. Some multinational companies have set up internal hotlines to enable staff to report problems anonymously.
Switzerland ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2009. Swiss government experts believe this ratification did not result in significant domestic changes, since passive and active corruption of public servants was already considered a crime under the Swiss Criminal Code.
A review by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in 2017 recommended the adoption of a code of ethics/conduct, together with awareness-raising measures, for members of the federal parliament, judges, and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to avoid conflict of interests. These measures needed to be accompanied by a reinforced monitoring of members of parliament’s compliance with their obligations. In March 2018, the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions recommended that Switzerland adopt an appropriate legal framework to protect private sector whistleblowers from discrimination and disciplinary action, to ensure that sanctions imposed for foreign bribery against natural and legal persons are effective, proportionate, and dissuasive, and to ensure broader and more systematic publication of concluded foreign bribery cases. The OECD Working Group positively highlighted Switzerland’s proactive policy on seizure and confiscation, its active involvement in mutual legal assistance, and its role as a promoter of cooperation in field of foreign bribery. Regarding detection, the OECD Working Group commended the key role played by the Swiss Financial Intelligence Unit (MROS) in detecting foreign bribery.
A number of Swiss federal administrative authorities are involved in combating bribery. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) deals with issues relating to the OECD Convention. The Federal Office of Justice deals with those relating to the Council of Europe Convention, while the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (MFA) deals with the UN Convention. The power to prosecute and judge corruption offenses is shared between the relevant Swiss canton and the federal government. For the federal government, the competent authorities are the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Criminal Court, and the Federal Police. In the cantons, the relevant actors are the cantonal judicial authorities and the cantonal police forces.
In 2001, Switzerland signed the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. In 1997, Switzerland signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which entered into force in 2000. Switzerland signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003. Switzerland ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2009.
In order to implement the Council of Europe convention, the Swiss parliament amended the Penal Code to make bribery of foreign public officials a federal offense (Title Nineteen “Bribery”); these amendments entered into force in 2000. In accordance with the revised 1997 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the Swiss parliament amended legislation as of 2001 on direct taxes of the Confederation, cantons, and townships to prohibit the tax deductibility of bribes.
Switzerland maintains an effective legal and policy framework to combat domestic corruption. U.S. firms investing in Switzerland have not raised with the Embassy any corruption concerns in recent years.
“Watchdog” Organization Contact:
Transparency International Switzerland
P.O. Box 8509
3001 Bern / Switzerland
Ph. +41 31 382 3550
10. Political and Security Environment
There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Switzerland. Protests do occur in Switzerland, but authorities carefully monitor protest activities. Urban areas regularly experience demonstrations, mostly on global trade and political issues, and some occasionally sparked by U.S. foreign policy. Protests held during the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) occasionally draw participants from several countries in Europe. Historically, demonstrations have been peaceful, with protestors registering for police permits. Protestors have blocked traffic; spray-painted areas with graffiti, and on rare occasions, clashed with police. Political extremist or anarchist groups sometimes instigate civil unrest. Right-wing activists have targeted refugees/asylum seekers/foreigners, and more recently have organized protests against COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, left-wing activists (who historically have demonstrated a greater propensity toward violence) usually target organizations involved with globalization, alleged fascism, and alleged police repression. Swiss police have at their disposal tear gas and water cannons, which are rarely used.
Thailand is an upper middle-income country with a half-trillion-dollar economy, generally pro-investment policies, and well-developed infrastructure. General Prayut Chan-o-cha was elected by Parliament as Prime Minister on June 5, 2019. Thailand celebrated the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn May 4-6, 2019, formally returning a King to the Head of State of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy. Despite some political uncertainty, Thailand continues to encourage foreign direct investment as a means of promoting economic development, employment, and technology transfer. In recent decades, Thailand has been a major destination for foreign direct investment, and hundreds of U.S. companies have invested in Thailand successfully. Thailand continues to encourage investment from all countries and seeks to avoid dependence on any one country as a source of investment.
The Foreign Business Act (FBA) of 1999 governs most investment activity by non-Thai nationals. Many U.S. businesses also enjoy investment benefits through the U.S.-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations, signed in 1833 and updated in 1966. The Treaty allows U.S. citizens and U.S. majority-owned businesses incorporated in the United States or Thailand to maintain a majority shareholding or to wholly own a company or branch office located in Thailand, and engage in business on the same basis as Thai companies (national treatment). The Treaty exempts such U.S.-owned businesses from most FBA restrictions on foreign investment, although the Treaty excludes some types of businesses. Notwithstanding their Treaty rights, many U.S. investors choose to form joint ventures with Thai partners who hold a majority stake in the company, leveraging their partner’s knowledge of the Thai economy and local regulations.
The Thai government maintains a regulatory framework that broadly encourages investment. Some investors have nonetheless expressed views that the framework is overly restrictive, with a lack of consistency and transparency in rulemaking and interpretation of law and regulations.
The Board of Investment (BOI), Thailand’s principal investment promotion authority, acts as a primary conduit for investors. BOI offers businesses assistance in navigating Thai regulations and provides investment incentives to qualified domestic and foreign investors through straightforward application procedures. Investment incentives include both tax and non-tax privileges.
The Thai government is actively pursuing foreign investment related to clean energy, electric vehicles, and related industries. Thailand is currently developing a National Energy Plan that will supersede the current Alternative Energy Development Plan that sets a 20 percent target for renewable energy by 2037. Revised plans are expected to increase clean energy targets in line with the Prime Minister’s November 2021 announcement during COP26 that Thailand will increase its climate change targets, as well as domestic policies focused on sustainability, including the “Bio-Circular Green Economy” model.
The government passed laws on cybersecurity and personal data protection in 2019; as of March 2022, the cybersecurity law has been enforced while the personal data protection law is still in the process of drafting implementing regulations. The government unveiled in January 2021 a Made in Thailand (MiT) initiative that will set aside 60 percent of state procurement budget for locally made products. As of March 2022, Federation of Thai Industry registered 31,131 products that should benefits from the MiT initiative.
The government launched its Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development plan in 2017. The EEC is a part of the “Thailand 4.0” economic development strategy introduced in 2016. Many planned infrastructure projects, including a high-speed train linking three airports, U-Tapao Airport commercialization, and Laem Chabang and Mab Ta Phut Port expansion, could provide opportunities for investments and sales of U.S. goods and services. In support of its “Thailand 4.0” strategy, the government offers incentives for investments in twelve targeted industries: next-generation automotive; intelligent electronics; advanced agriculture and biotechnology; food processing; tourism; advanced robotics and automation; digital technology; integrated aviation; medical hub and total healthcare services; biofuels/biochemical; defense manufacturing; and human resource development.
Generally, Thai regulations are readily available for public review. Foreign investors have, on occasion, expressed frustration that some draft sub-regulations are not made public until they are finalized. Comments stakeholders submit on draft regulations are not always taken into consideration. Non-governmental organizations report; however, the Thai government actively consults them on policy, especially in the health sector and on intellectual property issues. In other areas, such as digital and cybersecurity laws, the Thai government has taken stakeholders’ comments into account and amended draft laws accordingly.
U.S. businesses have repeatedly expressed concerns about Thailand’s customs regime. Complaints center on lack of transparency, the significant discretionary authority exercised by Customs Department officials, and a system of giving rewards to officials and non-officials for seized goods based on a percentage of the value of the goods. Specifically, the U.S. government and private sector have expressed concern about inconsistent application of Thailand’s transaction valuation methodology and the Customs Department’s repeated use of arbitrary values. Thailand’s latest Customs Act, which entered into force on November 13, 2017, was a moderate step forward. The Act removed the Customs Department Director General’s discretion to increase the Customs value of imports. It also reduced the percentage of remuneration awarded to officials and non-officials from 55 percent to 40 percent of the sale price of seized goods (or of the fine amount) with an overall limit of five million baht ($160,000). The 2017 changes, however, have not fully satisfied those concerned that Customs officials problematic incentives to manufacture violations under the system.
The Thai Constitution requires the government to assess the environmental impact of a wide range of undertakings, including by holding a public hearing of relevant stakeholders. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) is responsible for determining which projects, activities, or actions are required to have an environmental impact assessment report and for prescribing the regulations, methods, procedures, and guidelines in preparing an environmental impact assessment report. Additional information can be found here: http://www.onep.go.th/eia/.
Inconsistent and unpredictable enforcement of government regulations remains problematic. In 2017, the Thai government launched a “regulatory guillotine” initiative to cut down on red tape, licenses, and permits. The initiative focused on reducing and amending outdated regulations in order to improve Thailand’s ranking on the World Bank “Ease of Doing Business” report. The regulatory guillotine project is still underway and making slow progress.
Gratuity payments to civil servants responsible for regulatory oversight and enforcement remain a common practice despite stringent gift bans at some government agencies. Firms that refuse to make such payments can be placed at a competitive disadvantage to other firms that do engage in such practices.
The Royal Thai Government Gazette (www.ratchakitcha.soc.go.th) is Thailand’s public journal of the country’s centralized online location of laws, as well as regulation notifications.
Thailand is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and notifies most draft technical regulations to the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee. However, Thailand does not always follow WTO and other international standard-setting norms or guidance (e.g., Codex Alimentarius maximum residue limits for pesticides on food) but prefers to set its own standards in some cases.
Thailand’s legal system is primarily based on the civil law system with strong common law influence. Thailand has an independent judiciary that is generally effective in enforcing property and contractual rights. Most commercial and contractual disputes are generally governed by the Civil and Commercial Codes. The legal process is slow in practice and monetary compensation is based on actual damage that resulted directly from the wrongful act. Decisions of foreign courts are not accepted or enforceable in Thai courts. Most legal cases in Thailand will be under the jurisdiction of the Courts of Justice; however, there are also specialized courts that handle specific or technical problems: the Labor Court, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, the Bankruptcy Court, the Tax Court, and the Juvenile and Family Courts. Thailand also established the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Case to specifically handle corruption cases.
The Foreign Business Act or FBA (described in detail above) governs most investment activity by non-Thai nationals. Other key laws governing foreign investment are the Alien Employment Act (1978) and the Investment Promotion Act (1977). However, as explained above, many U.S. businesses enjoy investment benefits through the U.S.-Thailand Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations (often referred to as the ‘Treaty of Amity’), which was established to promote friendly relations between the two nations. Pursuant to the Treaty, American nationals are entitled to certain exceptions to the FBA restrictions.
Pertaining to the services sector, the 2008 Financial Institutions Business Act unified the legal framework and strengthened the Bank of Thailand’s (the country’s central bank) supervisory and enforcement powers. The Act allows the Bank of Thailand (BOT) to raise foreign ownership limits for existing local banks from 25 percent to 49 percent on a case-by-case basis. The Minister of Finance can authorize foreign ownership exceeding 49 percent if recommended by the central bank. Details are available at https://www.bot.or.th/English/AboutBOT/LawsAndRegulations/SiteAssets/Law_E24_Institution_Sep2011.pdf.
In addition to acquiring shares of existing (traditional) local banks, foreign banks can enter the Thai banking system by obtaining new licenses. The Ministry of Finance issues such licenses, following consultations with the BOT. The BOT is currently preparing rules for establishing virtual banks or digital-only banks (no physical branches), a tool meant to enhance financial inclusion and keep pace with consumer needs in the digital age. Digital-only banks can operate at a lower cost and offer different services than traditional banks. The guidelines are expected to be released by mid-2022.
The 2008 Life Insurance Act and the 2008 Non-Life Insurance Act apply a 25 percent cap on foreign ownership of insurance companies. Foreign membership on boards of directors is also limited to 25 percent. However, in January 2016 the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC), the primary insurance industry regulator, announced that Thai life and non-life insurance companies wishing to exceed these limits could apply to the OIC for approval. Any foreign national wishing to hold more than 10 percent of the voting shares in an insurance company must seek OIC approval. With approval, a foreign national can acquire up to 49 percent of the voting shares. Finally, the Finance Minister, with OIC’s positive recommendation, has discretion to permit greater than 49 percent foreign ownership and/or a majority of foreign directors, if the operation of the insurance company may cause loss to insured parties or to the public. While OIC has not issued a new insurance license in the past 20 years, OIC is now contemplating issuing new virtual licenses for firms to sell insurance digitally without an intermediary. Full details have not yet been announced.
The Board of Investment offers qualified investors several benefits and provides information to facilitate a smoother investment process in Thailand. Information on the BOI’s “One Start One Stop” investment center can be found at http://osos.boi.go.th.
Thailand’s Trade Competition Act covers all business activities, except state-owned enterprises exempted by law or cabinet resolution; specific activities related to national security, public benefit, common interest and public utility; cooperatives, agricultural and cooperative groups; government agencies; and other enterprises exempted by the law. The Act’s definition of a business operator includes affiliates and group companies, and subjects directors and management to criminal and administrative sanctions if their actions (or omissions) resulted in violations. The Act also provides details about penalties in cases involving administrative court or criminal court actions.
The Office of Trade Competition Commission (OTCC) is an independent agency and the main enforcer of the Trade Competition Act (2018). The Commission advises the government on issuance of relevant regulations; ensures fair and free trade practices; investigates cases and complaints of unfair trade; and pursues criminal and disciplinary actions against those found guilty of unfair trade practices stipulated in the law. The law focuses on the following areas: unlawful exercise of market dominance; mergers or collusion that could lead to monopoly; unfair competition and restricting competition; and unfair trade practices.
The Thai government, through the Ministry of Commerce’s Central Commission on Price of Goods and Services, has the legal authority to control prices or set de facto price ceilings for selected goods and services, including staple agricultural products and feed ingredients (such as, pork, cooking oil, wheat flour, feed wheat, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGs), and feed quality barley), liquefied petroleum gas, medicines, and sound recordings. In 2022, there are 56 goods and services under the price-controlled products list, which can be found here. The controlled list is reviewed at least annually, but the price-control review mechanisms are non-transparent. In practice, Thailand’s government influences prices in the local market through its control of state monopoly suppliers of products and services, such as in the petroleum, oil, and gas industry sectors.
Thailand’s Constitution provides protection from expropriation without fair compensation and requires the government to pass a specific, tailored expropriation law if the expropriation is required for the purpose of public utilities, national defense, acquisition of national resources, or for other public interests. The Investment Promotion Act also guarantees the government shall not nationalize the operations and assets of BOI-promoted investors.
The Expropriation of Immovable Property Act (EIP), most recently amended in 2019, applies to all property owners, whether foreign or domestic nationals. The Act provides a framework and clear procedures for expropriation; sets forth detailed provision and measures for compensation of landowners, lessees and other persons that may be affected by an expropriation; and recognizes the right to appeal decisions to Thai courts. However, the EIP and Investment Promotion Act do not protect against indirect expropriation and do not distinguish between compensable and non-compensable forms of indirect expropriation.
Thailand has a well-established system for land rights that is generally upheld in practice, but the legislation governing land tenure still significantly restricts foreigners’ rights to acquire land.
Thailand’s bankruptcy law is modeled after the United States. The Thai Bankruptcy Act (1940) authorizes restructuring proceedings that require trained judges who specialize in bankruptcy matters to preside. Thailand’s bankruptcy law allows for corporate restructuring similar to U.S. Chapter 11 and does not criminalize bankruptcy. The law also distinguishes between secured and unsecured claims, with the former prioritized.
Within bankruptcy proceedings, it is also possible to undertake a “composition” in order to avoid a long and protracted process. A composition takes place when a debtor expresses in writing a desire to settle his/her debts, either partially or in any other manner, within seven days of submitting an explanation of matters related to the bankruptcy or during a time period prescribed by the receiver. Despite these laws, some U.S. businesses complain that Thailand’s bankruptcy courts in practice can slow processes to the detriment of outside firms seeking to acquire assets liquidated in bankruptcy processes.
The National Credit Bureau of Thailand (NCB) provides the financial services industry with information on consumers and businesses. The NCB is required to provide the financial services sector with payment history information from utility companies, retailers and merchants, and trade creditors.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Thailand’s 52 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have total assets of USD 448 billion and a combined gross income of USD 131 billion (end of 2021 figures, latest available). In 2021, they employed 255,397 people, or 0.65 percent of the Thai labor force. Thailand’s SOEs operate primarily in service delivery, in particular in the energy, telecommunications, transportation, and financial sectors. More information about SOEs is available at the website of the State Enterprise Policy Office (SEPO) under the Ministry of Finance at www.sepo.go.th.
A 15-member State Enterprises Policy Commission, or “superboard,” oversees operations of the country’s 52 SOEs. In May 2019, the Development of Supervision and Management of State-Owned Enterprise Act (2019) went into effect with the goal to reform SOEs and ensure transparent management decisions. The Thai government generally defines SOEs as special agencies established by law for a particular purpose that are 100 percent owned by the government (through the Ministry of Finance as a primary shareholder). The government recognizes a second category of “limited liability companies/public companies” in which the government owns 50 percent or more of the shares. Of the 52 total SOEs, 42 are wholly-owned and 10 are majority-owned. Three SOEs are publicly listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand: Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited, PTT Public Company Limited, and MCOT Public Company Limited. By regulation, at least one-third of SOE boards must be comprised of independent directors.
Private enterprises can compete with SOEs under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, products/services, and incentives in most sectors, but there are some exceptions, such as fixed-line operations in the telecommunications sector.
While SEPO officials aspire to adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs, there is not a level playing field between SOEs and private sector enterprises, which are often disadvantaged in competing with Thai SOEs for contracts.
Generally, SOE senior management reports directly to a cabinet minister and to SEPO. Corporate board seats are typically allocated to senior government officials or politically affiliated individuals.
The 1999 State Enterprise Corporatization Act provides a framework for conversion of SOEs into stock companies. Corporatization is viewed as an intermediate step toward eventual privatization. [Note: “Corporatization” describes the process by which an SOE adjusts its internal structure to resemble a publicly traded enterprise; “privatization” denotes that a majority of the SOE’s shares is sold to the public; and “partial privatization” is when less than half of a company’s shares are sold to the public.] Foreign investors are allowed to participate in privatizations, but restrictions are applied in certain sectors, as regulated by the FBA and the Act on Standards Qualifications for Directors and Employees of State Enterprises of 1975, as amended. However, privatization efforts have been on hold since 2006 largely due to strong opposition from labor unions.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Thailand 110th out of 180 countries with a score of 35 out of 100 in 2021 (zero is highly corrupt). Bribery and corruption are still problematic. Despite increased usage of electronic systems, government officers still wield discretion in the granting of licenses and other government approvals, which creates opportunities for corruption. U.S. executives with experience in Thailand often advise new-to-market companies to avoid corrupt transactions from the beginning rather than to stop such practices once a company has been identified as willing to operate in this fashion. American firms that comply with the strict guidelines of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are able to compete successfully in Thailand. U.S. businesses say that publicly affirming the need to comply with the FCPA helps to shield their companies from pressure to pay bribes.
Thailand has a legal framework and a range of institutions to counter corruption. The Organic Law to Counter Corruption criminalizes corrupt practices of public officials and corporations, including active and passive bribery of public officials. The anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to political parties.
As of February 2022, the Thai government is working on an Anti-SLAPP law (strategic lawsuit against public participation) proposed by the Thai National Anti-Corruption Commission. The new law provides a legal definition of SLAPP lawsuits as cases where the plaintiff intends to “suppress public participation in defense of the public interest in good faith” or has the purposed of intimidation, suppressing information, negotiating, or ending litigation” and empowers law enforcement to file Anti-SLAPP charges in court.
Thai procurement regulations prohibit collusion among bidders. If an examination confirms allegations or suspicions of collusion among bidders, the names of those applicants must be removed from the list of competitors.
Thailand adopted its first national government procurement law in December 2016. Based on UNCITRAL model laws and the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, the law applies to all government agencies, local authorities, and state-owned enterprises, and aims to improve transparency. Officials who violate the law are subject to 1-10 years imprisonment and/or a fine from Thai baht 20,000 (approximately USD 615) to Thai baht 200,000 (approximately USD 6,150).
Since 2010, the Thai Institute of Directors has built an anti-corruption coalition of Thailand’s largest businesses. Coalition members sign a Collective Action Against Corruption Declaration and pledge to take tangible, measurable steps to reduce corruption-related risks identified by third party certification. The Center for International Private Enterprise equipped the Thai Institute of Directors and its coalition partners with an array of tools for training and collective action.
Established in 2011, the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) aims to encourage the government to create laws to combat corruption. ACT has 54 member organizations drawn from the private, public, and academic sectors. ACT’s signature program is the “Integrity Pact,” run in cooperation with the Comptroller General Department of the Ministry of Finance and based on a tool promoted by Transparency International. The program forbids bribes from signatory members in bidding for government contacts and assigns independent ACT observers to monitor public infrastructure projects for signs of collusion. Member agencies and companies must adhere to strict transparency rules by disclosing and making easily available to the public all relevant bidding information, such as the terms of reference and the cost of the project.
Thailand is a party to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, but not the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
Thailand’s Witness Protection Act offers protection (to include police protection) to witnesses, including NGO employees, who are eligible for special protection measures in anti-corruption cases.
International Affairs Strategy Specialist
Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission
361 Nonthaburi Road, Thasaai District, Amphur Muang Nonthaburi 11000, Thailand
Tel: +662-528-4800 Email: TACC@nacc.go.th
Dr. Mana Nimitmongkol
Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT)
44 Srijulsup Tower, 16th floor, Phatumwan, Bangkok 10330
10. Political and Security Environment
Street clashes between anti-government protesters and police occurred regularly in a major Bangkok intersection in the early months of 2021. Several protesters were injured by rubber bullets, two of whom later died.
Violence related to an ongoing ethno-nationalist insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces has claimed more than 7,000 lives since 2004. Although the number of deaths and violent incidents has decreased in recent years, efforts to end the insurgency have so far been unsuccessful. The government is currently engaged in preliminary talks with the leading insurgent group. Almost all attacks have occurred in the three southernmost provinces of the country.
Located in West Africa, The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa with a population of roughly 2.25 million people. The Gambia has an active private sector, and the government has announced its support for encouraging local investment and attracting foreign direct investment. The government’s Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency is dedicated to attracting foreign investment and promoting exports and it provides guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify for a Special Investment Certificate.
The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on agriculture, tourism, and remittances for support. The Gambia remains heavily dependent on the agriculture sector, with 75 percent of the population dependent on crops and livestock for their livelihoods. However, recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the services sector, including financial services, telecommunication, and construction. The country also has a long trading history and is a party to several trade agreements, which have the potential to make it an attractive production platform for the region and beyond.
The Gambia’s largest trade partner is Cote D’Ivoire, a fellow ECOWAS member, from which The Gambia imports the majority of its fuel products. Other major trade partners include China and Europe. The Gambia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa.
With its young and rapidly growing population, Gambia provides a market with numerous opportunities for the sale of international products and services. Many Gambians have strong personal or professional ties to the United States, as well as a strong affinity for American brands. With a continued interest in new American brands, many Gambians have opened shops strictly selling American products. The quality and durability of American products are highly regarded. English is the official language and the business language. Local languages are also spoken by Gambians, and many of them are multilingual.
Registered property rights are crucial to support investment, productivity, and growth; however, the absence of a land policy means disputes over land are a major problem in The Gambia. Occasional disagreements occur in rural areas, mainly the West Coast Region, over land ownership or succession. Most conflicts result when community leaders sell a plot of land to multiple buyers. The Lands Office record-keeping system is manual and poor.
Frequent power outages, high data tariffs, and interruptions in internet services hinder businesses’ operational efficiency. Telecommunication operating costs remain high, and service is slow and subject to blackouts due to constant maintenance. In addition, the road system is heavily trafficked and can become impassable during the rainy season due to lack of drainage. The Gambia lacks the energy infrastructure necessary to support advanced commercial activities.
In December 2021, President Adama Barrow from the National People’s Party was re-elected for a second term five-year term. During his inaugural speech, Barrow pledged to jumpstart the economy and ensure broad-based development gains. In January 2021, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources launched the development process of Gambia’s Long-Term Climate Change Strategy (LTS), which aims to help in the full integration of climate into the country’s policies and strategies, better supporting the needs, priorities, and adaptive capacities of communities most affected by climate change. The plan, Vision 2050, has four strategic priorities and was intended to be released in late 2021, but is still in the works.
Domestic Economy Developments
The 2021 fiscal year was a challenging one for the Gambian economy, but it was an improvement from 2020. The economy was expected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2021 in comparison to the -0.2 percent growth rate recorded in 2020. The improved growth rate is attributed to a rebound in the economy, especially in the service sector. In 2021, the agricultural sector was expected to increase at a rate of 4.5 percent, a considerable decrease from the previous year’s 11.7 percent. Due to late rains resulting to an estimated decline in all agricultural sub-components except for livestock, which has an estimated growth rate of 4.2 percent in 2021. In essence, rain dependent agriculture continues to make the sector highly vulnerable to climate change.
The industry sector was predicted to register the same growth rate of 9.9 percent in 2021 as it did in 2020. This is due to the lingering impact of the pandemic on construction especially the new road expansion project funded by Organization for Islamic Countries.
Mining, quarrying, electricity, water, and construction sub-sectors are all projected to register a decline in 2021. Manufacturing is the only sub-sector projected to record an improved growth rate from -21.2 percent in 2020 to -1.7 percent in 2021.
The Service sector, which remains the largest contributor to GDP, was estimated to register a growth from -7.2 percent in 2020 to 0.2 percent in 2021. The growth in the sector is mainly driven by modest performance in most of its sub-components such as wholesale and retail trade; information and communication; financial and insurance activities; professional and technical activities; and education, all of which are all projected to grow by less than 10 percent over the review period.
Economy and Impact of COVID-19
Prior to outbreak of the pandemic, The Gambia had shown strong macroeconomic performance in the few years following the remarkable political transition in 2016-17. Economic growth accelerated, debt vulnerabilities decreased, external stability strengthened, structural and legislative reforms progressed, and key social indicators improved. However, the COVID-19 pandemic halted some of the hard-won progress, slowing economic activity and re-igniting extreme poverty. The Gambia experienced a third wave of the pandemic in mid-2021, which has receded.
The COVID-19 vaccination rate currently stands at about 12 percent of the target population. The first quarter of 2021 looked promising, thanks to a huge vaccination campaign and a dramatic drop in the number of cases and fatalities by the virus. However, the recent emergence of new strains, especially the omicron variant, has dampened this prospect. The economy took a hit due to the closure of businesses and schools, and a slowdown in tourism activities in 2020. The Gambia had projected the start of economic recovery in 2021, as economic activity began showing early signs of recovery from the pandemic-induced contraction registered in 2020.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education reported COVID-19 related school closures affected about 674,300 students from Early Childhood Development to senior secondary schools in 2020. While most schools have since reopened, school closures resulted in many dropouts—highest among girls—and learning losses, which will likely have long-term detrimental economic and societal consequences. Limited digital infrastructure further hampered online learning.
Micro-, Small-, and Medium-Size Enterprises (MSMEs), which form the backbone of the Gambian economy by employing 60 percent of the active labor force and contributing approximately 20 percent to GDP, were particularly hard hit during the COVID crisis. The survival of MSMEs is crucial for mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy and to sustain employment and create the conditions needed for future growth once the pandemic is over. Recovery efforts may provide an opportunity to “rebuild better” by prioritizing sustainability, resilience, and inclusiveness.
The World Bank indicated the key to The Gambia’s post-COVID economic strategy will require the creation of a skilled labor force that is more productive and better able to adopt and adapt to new technologies. This includes infrastructure improvements to increase productivity and create jobs. Inclusive and sustained economic growth remains one of the main objectives of the Government of The Gambia (GoTG), and the medium-term policy priorities will be anchored on achieving and sustaining a more diversified growth to improve the living standards of all citizens, in addition to creating a favorable environment for the private sector to thrive.
The GOTG uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis to establish “clear rules of the game.” The Gambia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms. The Consumer Protection Act of 2007 mandates the Commission to advocate for competition in The Gambia; and to determine and impose penalties or appropriate remedies to ensure businesses comply with prohibited restrictive practices, and monitor compliance, among other things. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.
Rule-making and regulatory authority exists with the President, his cabinet of Ministers, and the committee members under the National Assembly of The Gambia, and various government parastatals. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms. Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with the U.S. federal notice and comment procedures and applies to investment laws and regulations in The Gambia.
There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations. There is no formal stock market such as a stock exchange for trading equity securities. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms.
Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. A contract was concluded with LexisNexis in 2009 for the publication of the entire country’s legislation; however, access is not free of charge. The National Assembly is also in the process of compiling all regulatory actions on its website. No centralized online location exists where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published. The Gambia also lacks a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies. There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
There are two types of courts in The Gambia: the Superior Courts and the Magistrates Court. The Cadi Court and District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals may be established by an act of the National Assembly. The judicial power of The Gambia is vested in the courts, which exercise this power according to the respective jurisdictions conferred by an act of the National Assembly. No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the previous Investment Climate Statement report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented. The Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still in draft stages.
Proposed laws and regulations are made available to all the relevant stakeholders for their review and discussion at validation workshops. During the process of enactment in the National Assembly, deputies are free to suggest changes. Regulations are not reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments. There are no known scientific studies or quantitative analysis conducted on the impact of regulations made publicly available for comment, but there is a public agency, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics, that does develop data based on enacted legislation. Public comments received by regulators are not made public. Only limited information on debt obligation is made available. Documents lack complete information on natural resource revenues as well as financial earnings from state-owned enterprises.
The Gambia is a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and as such, is signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty, which harmonizes investment rules. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) first introduced competition legislation in 2008, including a prohibition on anticompetitive mergers.
The Gambia has its own regulatory system, designed from collaboration with stakeholders from the international community of NGOs, but international norms or standards referenced or incorporated into the country’s regulatory system are often based on the UK system of regulations. The international norms and standards of the United Kingdom are referenced and incorporated into The Gambia’s regulatory system.
The Gambia is a member of the WTO. The government does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. However, draft technical regulations are available to relevant stakeholders like the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), if requested.
The country’s legal system is based on English common law and there are effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. The Gambia has a written and consistently applied commercial law, which is found in the Companies Act. Monetary judgments can be made in both the investor’s currency and local currency. The Gambia does not have a written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and although the courts are not totally free from influence of the executive branch, they have demonstrated their independence on occasion. The Supreme Court, presided over by a chief justice, has both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Appeals against decisions of district tribunals (or the industrial tribunal in the case of labor disputes) may be lodged with the lower courts, the High Court and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeal in the country.
The investment laws and regulations of The Gambia apply equally to local and foreign investors. These include unclear provisions of some of the laws related to investment, such as competition, labor and corruption, and, in some instances, regulations do not exist to implement the laws effectively. For information on the laws, rules, procedures, and reporting required, foreign investors can visit the website of GIEPA (http://www.giepa.gm/).
The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) (https://gcc.gm/) is the body primarily responsible for the promotion of competition and the protection of consumers mandated by three acts, namely: The Competition Act 2007, The Consumer Protection Act 2014, and The Essential Commodities Act 2015. No major investment-related laws, regulations, or judicial decisions came out within the past year. The GCCPC’s 3rd Strategic Plan (2019 to 2021) covers enforcement and promotion of the Competition Act 2007, administration and promotion of the Consumer Protection Act 2014, advocacy and awareness creation and empowerment, mobilization and optimal utilization of resources, and infrastructure and human capital development.
GCCPC is a commercial watchdog that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns and ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.
The Constitution of The Gambia provides the legal framework for the protection of private ownership of property and only provides for compulsory acquisition by the state if this is found to be necessary for defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town, and country planning. During President Jammeh’s 22 years in office, state paramilitary officials were known to arrive unannounced on private property and tear down any standing structures on the property in question. Claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation stemming from these incidents under President Jammeh.
Bankruptcy is covered by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of 1992. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts may file for both liquidation and reorganization.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Gambia has a majority ownership in 14 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that operate in key economic sectors. Seven of the SOEs are commercial and operate more independently from the government, while the others are public corporations or institutions, some providing regulatory functions. While the President appoints the chief executive officer (CEO), or Director General, and the full boards of most of the SOEs, the enterprises remain under the supervision of line ministries. such as agriculture, power generation, energy, and gas. SOEs can also be found in the information and telecommunications, aviation, and finance industries. SOE revenues are not projected in budget documents. Audits of the public sector and SOEs are conducted by the Gambia’s Supreme Audit Institution. The following is a list of 14 SOEs.
Assets Management & Recovery Corporation (AMRC)
Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA)
Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GCC)
Gambia International Airlines (GIA)
Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC)
Gambia Ports Authority (GPA)
Gambia Postal Services (GAMPOSTS)
Gambia Public Printing Cooperation (GPPC)
Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS)
Gambia Telecommunication Cellular Company (GAMCEL)
Gambia Telecommunication Company (GAMTEL)
National Water and Electricity Corporation (NAWEC)
Public Utility and Regulatory Authority
Social Security Housing & Finance Corporation (SSHFC)
The Gambia’s government imposed an embargo on state-owned enterprises (SOEs) borrowing from each other in June 2020, according to the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs during a National Assembly session. Based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2018 between SSHFC and SOEs, SOEs defaulted in their payments to Social Security. Other SOEs include Gambia International Airline (GIA), Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), GAMCEL, and GAMTEL, with NAWEC being the largest defaulter.
Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations, such as licenses and supplies. The Ministry of Finance website published the list of SOEs (https://mofea.gm/soe). The Public-Private Partnership Unit at the Ministry of Finance monitors the SOEs.
By using the Public-Private Partnership Unit SOE Guidelines to form an integral part in organizing good practices among their state-owned enterprise sectors, promoting the implementation of the Guidelines in establishing their ownership practices, defining a framework for corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, and disseminating this Recommendation of the Guidelines among Ministries. Additionally, the GOTG is open to a review by the Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices and for follow-up on the implementation of the OECD Council on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises’ Recommendations.
The Government of The Gambia is currently not engaged in any forms of privatization programs.
There are laws in place to combat corruption by public officials in The Gambia. These laws are largely ineffective because the committees, which are commissioned to enforce them, are yet to be fully established. In cases when trials are conducted, they are conducted in a non-discriminatory manner. The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia extend to family members of officials and political parties alike. The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia contain laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
The Gambian Government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. The constitution of The Gambia calls for internal codes of conduct (Section 222), as do the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance to which The Gambia is a signatory. Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.
The Gambia has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences but has not ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. In May 2014, The Gambia ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. During former President Jammeh’s rule, the GOTG did not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. However, such protections are likely as part of the new administration’s pledge to act regarding the African Union convention on preventing and combatting corruption.
At least one U.S. firm complained in 2016 of corruption as an obstacle to FDI. This complaint was reported in the water resource management sector and involved a commercial dispute between the GOTG and a U.S. firm. The firm has since indicated that the new administration is taking steps to resolve the matter.
A growing number of Gambians say corruption is on the rise and the government is not doing enough to combat it, the latest Afrobarometer survey shows. Over the past three years, citizens’ perceptions of widespread corruption among public officials have increased significantly. A number of Gambians report having to pay bribes to obtain public services, and only half believe they can report corruption to the authorities without fear of retaliation (Source: https://afrobarometer.org/countries/gambia-1). An anti-corruption bill introduced in the National Assembly in December 2019 has yet to be passed, and the Gambia has no anti-corruption commission, despite being a signatory to numerous conventions, including the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked The Gambia 102nd, or more corrupt than 101 out of 179 countries.
No international, regional, or local NGOs operating as “watchdog” organizations monitoring corruption are known to exist in the country.
Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
The Gambia (+220) 4223015 / 4222307
10. Political and Security Environment
The Gambia was ruled for over two decades by former president Yahya Jammeh, who consistently violated political rights and civil liberties. The 2016 election resulted in a surprise victory for opposition candidate Adama Barrow. Fundamental freedoms including the rights to free assembly, association, and expression initially improved thereafter, but the progress toward the consolidation of the rule of law is slow. The Barrow government has faced increasing criticism over corruption. LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination and violence against women remains a serious problem.
In January, authorities forcefully dispersed a Banjul demonstration against President Barrow’s decision to remain in office beyond a three-year timetable. Authorities arrested 137 people, including high-ranking members of the Three Years Jotna (ThreeYears Is Enough) pressure group; the group was banned that month and eight members received charges including rioting, which remained pending at year’s end.
In September, legislators rejected a draft constitution that would have introduced term limits for presidents.
President Barrow imposed a COVID-19-related state of emergency in March 2020, which expired in September. Public assemblies were restricted in March and a curfew was instituted in August, though most restrictions were rescinded or loosened by year’s end. The authorities reported nearly 3,800 cases and 124 deaths to the World Health Organization at year’s end.
The Philippines remains committed to improving its overall investment climate and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sovereign credit ratings remain at investment grade based on the country’s historically sound macroeconomic fundamentals, but one credit rating agency has updated its ratings with a negative outlook indicating a possible downgrade within the next year due to increasing public debt and inflationary pressures on the economy. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows rebounded to USD 10.5 billion, up 54 percent from USD 6.8 billion in 2020 and surpassing the previous high of USD 10.3 billion in 2017, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (the Philippine Central Bank). While 2021 was a record year for inward FDI, since 2010 the Philippines has lagged behind regional peers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in attracting foreign investment. The Philippines ranked sixth out of ten ASEAN economies for total FDI inflows in 2020, and last among ASEAN-5 economies (which include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) in cumulative FDI inflows from 2010-2020, according to World Bank data. The majority of FDI equity investments in 2021 targeted the manufacturing, energy, financial services, and real estate sectors. (https://www.bsp.gov.ph/SitePages/MediaAndResearch/MediaDisp.aspx?ItemId=6189)
Poor infrastructure, high power costs, slow broadband connections, regulatory inconsistencies, and corruption are major disincentives to investment. The Philippines’ complex, slow, and sometimes corrupt judicial system inhibits the timely and fair resolution of commercial disputes. Traffic in major cities and congestion in the ports remain barriers to doing business. The Philippines made progress in addressing foreign ownership limitations that has constrained investment in many sectors, through legislation such as the amendments to the Public Services Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investment Act, that were signed into law in 2022.
Amendments to the Public Services Act open previously closed sectors of the economy to 100 percent foreign investment. The amended law maintains foreign ownership restrictions in six “public utilities:” (1) distribution of electricity, (2) transmission of electricity, (3) petroleum and petroleum products pipeline transmission systems, (4) water pipeline distribution systems, (5) seaports, and (6) public utility vehicles. The newly approved Retail Trade Liberalization Act aims to boost foreign direct investment in the retail sector by reducing the minimum per-store investment requirement for foreign-owned retail trade businesses from USD 830,000 to USD 200,000. It will also reduce the quantity of locally manufactured products foreign-owned stores are required to carry. The Foreign Investment Act will ease restrictions on foreigners practicing their professions in the Philippines and grant them access to investment areas that were previously reserved for Philippine nationals, particularly in the education, technology, and retail sectors.
In addition, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act signed in March 2021 reduced the corporate income tax from ASEAN’s highest rate of 30 percent to 25 percent for large firms, and 20 percent for small firms. The rate for large firms will be gradually lowered to 20 percent by 2025. CREATE could attract new business investment, although some foreign investors have concerns about the phase-out of their incentive benefits, which are replaced by the performance-based and time-bound nature of the incentives scheme adopted in the measure.
While the Philippine bureaucracy can be slow and opaque in its processes, the business environment is notably better within the special economic zones, particularly those available for export businesses operated by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), known for its regulatory transparency, no red-tape policy, and one-stop shop services for investors. Finally, the Philippines’ infrastructure spending under the Duterte Administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program is estimated to have exceeded USD100 billion over the 2017-2022 period.
Proposed Philippine laws must undergo public comment and review. Government agencies are required to craft implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) through public consultation meetings within the government and with private sector representatives after laws are passed. New regulations must be published in newspapers or in the government’s online official gazette before taking effect (https://www.gov.ph/). The 2016 Executive Order on Freedom of Information (FOI) mandates full public disclosure and transparency of government operations, with certain exceptions. The public may request copies of official records through the FOI website (https://www.foi.gov.ph/). Government offices in the Executive Branch are expected to develop their respective agencies’ implementation guidelines. The order is criticized for its long list of exceptions, which render the policy less effective.
Stakeholders report regulatory enforcement in the Philippines is generally weak, inconsistent, and unpredictable. Many U.S. investors describe business registration, customs, immigration, and visa procedures as burdensome and frustrating. Regulatory agencies are generally not statutorily independent but are attached to cabinet departments or the Office of the President and, therefore, are subject to political pressure. Issues in the judicial system also affect regulatory enforcement.
The Philippines continues to fulfill required regulatory reforms under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The Philippines officially joined live operations of the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) on December 30, 2019. The country’s National Single Window (NSW) now issues an electronic Certificate of Origin via the TRADENET.gov.ph platform, and the NSW is connected to the ASW, allowing for customs efficiencies and better transparency.
The Philippines passed the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act in 2016, which enables the country to largely comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.
The Philippines has a mixed legal system of civil, common, Islamic, and customary laws, along with commercial and contractual laws.
The Philippine judicial system is a separate and largely independent branch of the government, made up of the Supreme Court and lower courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court and sole constitutional body. More information is available on the court’s website (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/). The lower courts consist of: (a) trial courts with limited jurisdictions (i.e., Municipal Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts, etc.); (b) Regional Trial Courts (RTCs); (c) Shari’ah District Courts (Muslim courts); and (d) Courts of Appeal (appellate courts). Special courts include the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court for public officials) and the Court of Tax Appeals. A total of 147 RTCs have been designated as Special Commercial Courts (SCC) to hear intellectual property (IP) cases, with four SCCs authorized to issue writs of search and seizure on IP violations, enforceable nationwide. In addition, nearly any case can be appealed to appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, increasing caseloads and further clogging the judicial system.
Foreign investors describe the inefficiency and uncertainty of the judicial system as a significant disincentive to investment. Many investors decline to file dispute cases in court because of slow and complex litigation processes and corruption among some personnel. The courts are not considered impartial or fair. Stakeholders also report an inexperienced judiciary when confronted with complex issues such as technology, science, and intellectual property cases. The Philippines ranked 152nd out of 190 economies, and 18th among 25 economies from East Asia and the Pacific, in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report in terms of enforcing contracts.
The interagency Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) is the ultimate governing body that oversees the administration and grant of tax incentives by investments promotions agencies (IPAs). Chaired by the Philippine Secretary of Finance, the FIRB also determines the target performance metrics used as conditions to avail of tax incentives and reviews, approves, and cancels incentives for investments above USD 20 million as endorsed by IPAs. The BOI regulates and promotes investment into the Philippines that caters to the domestic market. The Strategic Investment Priorities Plan (SIPP), administered by the BOI, identifies preferred economic activities approved by the President. Government agencies are encouraged to adopt policies and implement programs consistent with the SIPP.
The Foreign Investment Act (FIA) requires the publishing of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) that outlines sectors in which foreign investment is restricted. The FINL consists of two parts: Part A details sectors in which foreign equity participation is restricted by the Philippine Constitution or laws; and Part B lists areas in which foreign ownership is limited for reasons of national security, defense, public health, morals, and/or the protection of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The 1995 Special Economic Zone Act allows the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to regulate and promote investments in export-oriented manufacturing and service facilities inside special economic zones, including the granting of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investments worth USD 20 million and below.
The 2015 Philippine competition law established the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), an independent body mandated to resolve complaints on issues such as price fixing and bid rigging, to stop mergers that would restrict competition. More information is available on PCC website (http://phcc.gov.ph/#content). The Department of Justice (https://www.doj.gov.ph/) prosecutes criminal offenses involving violations of competition laws.
Philippine law allows expropriation of private property for public use or in the interest of national welfare or defense in return for fair market value compensation. In the event of expropriation, foreign investors have the right to receive compensation in the currency in which the investment was originally made and to remit it at the equivalent exchange rate. However, the process of agreeing on a mutually acceptable price can be protracted in Philippine courts. No recent cases of expropriation involve U.S. companies in the Philippines.
The 2016 Right-of-Way Act facilitates acquisition of right-of-way sites for national government infrastructure projects and outlines procedures in providing “just compensation” to owners of expropriated real properties to expedite implementation of government infrastructure programs.
The 2010 Philippine bankruptcy and insolvency law provides a predictable framework for rehabilitation and liquidation of distressed companies, although an examination of some reported cases suggests uneven implementation. Rehabilitation may be initiated by debtors or creditors under court-supervised, pre-negotiated, or out-of-court proceedings. The law sets conditions for voluntary (debtor-initiated) and involuntary (creditor-initiated) liquidation. It also recognizes cross-border insolvency proceedings in accordance with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, allowing courts to recognize proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction involving a foreign entity with assets in the Philippines. Regional trial courts designated by the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over insolvency and bankruptcy cases.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises, known in the Philippines as government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC), are predominantly in the finance, power, transport, infrastructure, communications, land and water resources, social services, housing, and support services sectors. The Governance Commission for GOCC (GCG) further reduced the number of GOCCs to 118 in 2020 (excluding water districts), from 133 the prior year; a list is available on their website (https://gcg.gov.ph). The government corporate sector has combined assets of USD 150 billion and liability of USD 103 billion (or net assets/equity worth about USD 46 billion) as of end-2020. Using adjusted comprehensive income (i.e., without subsidies, unrealized gains, etc.), the GOCC sector’s income declined by 55 percent to USD 1.1 billion in 2020, the lowest since 2015. GOCCs are required to remit at least 50 percent of their annual net earnings (e.g., cash, stock, or property dividends) to the national government. Competition-related concerns, arising from conflicting mandates for selected GOCCs, exist in the transportation sector. For example, both the Philippine Ports Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines have both commercial and regulatory mandates.
Private and state-owned enterprises generally compete equally. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is the only agency, with limited exceptions, allowed to provide coverage for the government’s insurance risks and interests, including those in build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects and privatized government corporations. Since the national government acts as the main guarantor of loans, stakeholders report GOCCs often have an advantage in obtaining financing from government financial institutions and private banks. Most GOCCs are not statutorily independent, thus could potentially be subject to political interference.
The Philippines is not an OECD member country. The 2011 GOCC Governance Act addresses problems experienced by GOCCs, including poor financial performance, weak governance structures, and unauthorized allowances. The law allows unrestricted access to GOCC account books and requires strict compliance with accounting and financial disclosure standards; establishes the power to privatize, abolish, or restructure GOCCs without legislative action; and sets performance standards and limits on compensation and allowances. The GCG formulates and implements GOCC policies. GOCC board members are limited to one-year terms and subject to reappointment based on a performance rating set by GCG, with final approval by the Philippine President.
The Philippine Government’s privatization program is managed by the Privatization and Management Office (PMO) under the Department of Finance. The privatization of government assets undergoes a public bidding process. Apart from restrictions stipulated in FINL, no regulations discriminate against foreign buyers, and the bidding process appears to be transparent. The PMO is currently reviewing the privatization of government-owned mining assets as part of the Philippine government’s revenue-generating measures adopted during the pandemic. Additional information is available on the PMO website (http://www.pmo.gov.ph/).
Corruption is a pervasive and long-standing problem in both the public and private sectors. The country’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index declined to the 117th spot (out of 180), its worst score in nine years. The 2021 ranking was also dragged down by the government’s poor response to COVID-19, with Transparency International characterizing it as abusive enforcement of laws and accusing the government of major human rights and media freedom violations. Various organizations, including the World Economic Forum, have cited corruption among the top problematic factors for doing business in the Philippines. The Bureau of Customs is still considered to be one of the most corrupt agencies in the country.
The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 outlines strategies to reduce corruption by streamlining government transactions, modernizing regulatory processes, and establishing mechanisms for citizens to report complaints. A front-line desk in the Office of the President, the Presidential Complaint Center, or PCC (https://op-proper.gov.ph/contact-us/), receives and acts on corruption complaints from the general public. The PCC can be reached through its complaint hotline, text services (SMS), and social media sites.
The Philippine Revised Penal Code, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Code of Ethical Conduct for Public Officials all aim to combat corruption and related anti-competitive business practices. The Office of the Ombudsman investigates and prosecutes cases of alleged graft and corruption involving public officials. Cases against high-ranking officials are brought before a special anti-corruption court, the Sandiganbayan, while cases against low-ranking officials are filed before regional trial courts.
The Office of the President can directly investigate and hear administrative cases involving presidential appointees in the executive branch and government-owned and controlled corporations. Soliciting, accepting, and/or offering/giving a bribe are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment, a fine, and/or disqualification from public office or business dealings with the government. Government anti-corruption agencies routinely investigate public officials, but convictions by courts are limited, often appealed, and can be overturned. Recent positive steps include the creation of an investors’ desk at the office of the ombuds Office, and corporate governance reforms of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Philippines ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2003. It is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Terrorist groups and criminal gangs operate around the country. The Department of State publishes a consular information sheet and advises all Americans living in or visiting the Philippines to review the information periodically. A travel advisory is in place for those U.S. citizens considering travel to the Philippines.
Terrorist groups, including the Islamic State East Asia (IS-EA) and its affiliate Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Maute Group, Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines (AKP), the communist insurgent group the New People’s Army, and elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), periodically attack civilian targets, kidnap civilians – including foreigners – for ransom, and engage in armed attacks against government security forces. These groups have mostly carried out their activities in the western and central regions of Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago and Sulu Sea. Groups affiliated with IS-EA continued efforts to recover from battlefield losses, recruiting and training new members, and staging suicide bombings and attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small arms that targeted security forces and civilians.
The Philippines’ most significant human rights problems are killings allegedly undertaken by vigilantes, security forces, and insurgents; cases of apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process; official corruption; shrinking civic spaces; and a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for slow court procedures, weak prosecutions, and poor cooperation between police and investigators. In 2021, the Philippines continued to see red-tagging (the act of labelling, branding, naming, and accusing individuals or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists that is used as a strategy by state agents against those perceived to be “threats” or “enemies of the State”), arrests, and killings of human rights defenders and members of the media.
President Duterte’s administration continued its nationwide campaign against illegal drugs, led primarily by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which continues to receive worldwide attention for its harsh tactics. In 2021, the government retained its renewed focus on antiterrorism with a particular emphasis on communist insurgents. In addition to Philippine military and police actions against the insurgents, the Philippine government also pressured political groups and activists – accusing them of links to the NPA, often without evidence. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, signed into law on July 3, intends to prevent, prohibit, and penalize terrorism in the country, although critics question whether law enforcement and prosecutors might be able to use the law to punish political opponents and endanger human rights. Following the passage of the Antiterrorism Act of 2020, various human rights groups and private individuals filed petitions questioning the constitutionality of the act. On December 9, the Supreme Court announced its ruling that only two specific provisions of the bill were unconstitutional: first, making dissent or protest a crime if such act had an intent to cause harm; and second, allowing the Anti-terrorism Council to designate someone a terrorist based solely off UN Security Council designation. The petitioners and other human rights groups said, however, that the ruling against the two provisions still does not provide protection to the Filipino people.
The upcoming May 2022 elections could impact the political and security environment in the country, given the Philippines’ history of election-related violence. The Philippine police and military keep a close watch on certain areas they classify as “election hotspots.”
Uganda’s investment climate presents both important opportunities and major challenges for U.S. investors. With a market economy, ideal climate, ample arable land, a young and largely English-speaking population, and development underway of fields containing at least 1.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, Uganda offers numerous opportunities for investors. Despite the negative effects of COVID-19 related countermeasures on the economy, including a 40-day July-August 2021 national lockdown, according to the Bank of Uganda (BOU), the economy grew by 6.5% in 2021, recovering from 1.5% contraction in 2020. On a fiscal year basis, the economy grew by 3.3% in FY 2020/21 (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021) compared to 3% in FY 2019/20. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is still yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels, with receipts dropping by 35% to $847 million in FY 2020/21 compared to $1.3 billion in FY 2019/20. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects FDI to rebound due to oil-related investments projected at $10 billion over the next five years and the IMF also projects Uganda’s economy to return to pre-pandemic growth that averaged 5.3% from 2014 to 2019. Oil-related investments were spurred by the February 1, 2022 announcement by Uganda and its partners – Tanzania, TotalEnergies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and the state-owned Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) – of final investment decision (FID) on upstream oil production, with first oil expected in 2025.
Uganda maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime. In 2021, the IMF approved a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) to the government to enable the country to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and spur economic recovery. Uganda received the first tranche of $258 million in June 2021 and the second tranche of $125 million in March 2022. As the economy begins to recover, Uganda’s power, agricultural, construction, infrastructure, technology, and healthcare sectors present attractive potential opportunities for U.S. business and investment.
President Yoweri Museveni and government officials vocally welcome foreign investment in Uganda. However, the government’s actions sometimes do not support its rhetoric. The closing of political and democratic space, poor economic management, endemic corruption, growing sovereign debt, weak rule of law, growing calls for protectionism from some senior policymakers, and the government’s failure to invest adequately in the health and education sectors all create risks for investors. U.S. firms often find themselves competing with third-country firms that cut costs and win contracts by disregarding environmental regulations and labor rights, dodging taxes, and bribing officials. Shortages of skilled labor, a complicated land tenure system, and increased local content requirements, also impede the growth of businesses and serve as disincentives to investment.
An uncertain mid-to-long-range political environment also increases risk to foreign businesses and investors. President Museveni was declared the winner in the widely disputed and discredited January 2021 general elections and started a five-year term in May 2021 after 35 years already in power. Domestic political tensions increased following election-related violence and threats to democratic institutions. Many of Uganda’s youth, a demographic that comprises 77% of the population, openly clamor for change. However, the 77-year-old President has not provided any indication that he or his government are planning reforms to promote more inclusive, transparent, and representative governance.
On the legislative front, Uganda’s parliament passed a Mining and Minerals Bill on February 17, 2022, aimed at reforming the mining sector and attracting larger mining companies to exploit Uganda’s cobalt, copper, nickel, rare earth, and other mineral deposits. However, the private sector has noted that the bill could limit potential international investment since it contains high tax and free carried interest provisions and insufficient legal protections for mining firms.
On paper, Uganda’s legal and regulatory systems are generally transparent and non-discriminatory, and they comply with international norms. In practice, bureaucratic hurdles and corruption significantly impact all investors, but with disproportionate effect on foreigners learning to navigate a parallel informal system. While Ugandan law requires open and transparent competition on government project tenders, U.S. investors have alleged that endemic corruption means that competitors not subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or similar legislation, often pay bribes to win awards.
Ugandan law allows the banking, insurance, and media sectors to establish self-regulatory processes through private associations. The government continues to regulate these sectors, however, and the self-regulatory practices generally do not discriminate against foreign investors.
Potential investors must be aware of local, national, and supranational regulatory requirements in Uganda. For example, EAC rules on free movement of goods and services would affect an investor planning to export to the regional market. Similarly, regulations issued by local governments regarding operational hours, or the location of factories would only affect an investor’s decision at the local level. Foreign investors should liaise with relevant ministries to understand regulations in the proposed sector for investment.
Uganda’s accounting procedures are broadly transparent and consistent with international norms, though full implementation remains a challenge. Publicly listed companies must comply with accounting procedures consistent with the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board.
Governmental agencies making regulations typically engage in only limited public consultation. Draft bills similarly are subject to limited public consultation and review. Local media typically cover public comment only on more controversial bills. Although the government publishes laws and regulations in full in the Uganda Gazette, the gazette is not available online and can only be accessed through purchase of hard copies at the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation offices. The Uganda Legal Information Institute also publishes all enacted laws on its website (https://ulii.org/).
Uganda’s court system and Inspector General of Government are responsible for ensuring the government adheres to its administrative processes; however, anecdotal reports suggest that corruption significantly undermines the judiciary’s oversight role.
In July 2020, the URA started the implementation of the amended Income Tax Act, which imposes presumptive taxes on rental income based on location using a blockchain compliance system meant to improve transparency and reduce corruption.
Generally, there is legal redress to review regulatory mechanisms through the courts, and the process is made public.
Uganda’s legislative process includes public consultations and, as needed, subject matter expert presentations before parliament; however, not all comments received by regulators are made publicly available and parliament’s decisions tend to be primarily politically driven. Formal scientific or economic analyses of the potential impact of a pending regulation are seldom conducted.
Public finances are generally transparent and budget documents are available online. The government annually publishes the Annual Debt Statistical Bulletin, which contains the country’s debt obligations including status of public debt, cost of debt servicing, and liabilities. However, the government’s significant use of supplementary and classified budget accounts – which accounted for 9% of the FY2020/21 budget – undermines parliamentary and public oversight of public finances.
The government does not require companies to disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) profiles.
Per treaty, Uganda’s regulatory systems must conform to the below supranational regulatory systems (though in practice, domestication of supranational legislation remains imperfect):
African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP)
African Union (AU)
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
Commonwealth of Nations
East African Community (EAC)
Uganda, through the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Codex Alimentarius, and International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML). Uganda applies European Union directives and standards, but with modifications.
Uganda is a member of the WTO and notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations through the Ugandan Ministry of Trade’s National TBT Coordination Committee.
Uganda’s legal system is based on English Common Law. The courts are responsible for enforcing contracts. Litigants must first submit commercial disputes for mediation either within the court system or to the government-run Center for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (CADER). Uganda does not have a singular commercial law; multiple statutes touch on commercial and contractual law. A specialized commercial court decides commercial disputes. Approximately 80% of commercial disputes are resolved through mediation. Litigants may appeal commercial court decisions and regulatory and enforcement actions through the regular national court system.
While in theory the court system is independent, in practice there are credible reports that the executive has attempted to influence the courts in certain high-profile cases. More importantly for most investors, endemic corruption and significant backlogs hamper the judiciary’s impartiality and efficacy.
Uganda does not have any specialized laws or institutions dedicated to competition-related concerns, although commercial courts occasionally handle disputes with competition elements. There was no significant competition-related dispute handled by the courts in 2021.
The constitution guarantees the right to property for all persons, domestic and foreign. It also prohibits the expropriation of property, except when in the “national interest” such as eminent domain and preceded by compensation to the owner at fair market value. In 2020, the two National Telecom Operators – MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda – renewed their licenses to operate in Uganda for 12 and 20 years respectively. One requirement of those license renewals is for the telecom companies to list 20% stakes on the Ugandan stock market within two years of being granted the license. MTN Uganda listed on the stock exchange in 2021.
In 1972, then-President Idi Amin expropriated assets owned by ethnic South Asians. The expropriation was extrajudicial and was ordered by presidential decree. The government did not allow judicial challenge to the expropriations or offer any compensation to the owners. The Ugandan government has since returned most of the properties to the original owners or their descendants or representatives. There have not been any expropriations since, and government projects are often significantly delayed by judicial disputes over compensation for property the Ugandan government seeks to expropriate under eminent domain.
The Bankruptcy Act of 1931, the Insolvency Act of 2011, and the Insolvency Regulations of 2013 generally align Uganda’s legal framework on insolvency with international standards. On average, Uganda recovers $ 0.39 per dollar, well above the sub-Saharan average of $0.20. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Uganda has thirty State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). However, the Ugandan government does not publish a list of its SOEs, and the public is unable to access detailed information on SOE ownership, total assets, total net income, or number of people employed. The government has not established any new SOEs in 2021 but has ramped up expenditure for car manufacturer Kiira Motors Corporation. While there is insufficient information to assess the SOEs’ adherence to the OECD Guidelines of Corporate Governance, the Ugandan government’s 2021 Office of Auditor General report noted corporate governance issues in seven SOEs. In February 2021, the Ugandan government embarked on a plan to merge some of the SOEs to reduce duplication of roles and costs of administration. This process is still ongoing. SOEs do not get special financing terms and are subject to hard budget constraints. According to the Ugandan Revenue Authority Act, they have the same tax burden as the private sector. According to the Land Act, private enterprises have the same access to land as SOEs. One notable exception is the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), which receives proprietary exploration data on new oil discoveries in Uganda. UNOC can then sell this information to the highest bidder in the private sector to generate income for its operations.
The government privatized many SOEs in the 1990s. Uganda does not currently have a privatization program.
Uganda has generally adequate laws to combat corruption, and an interlocking web of anti-corruption institutions. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority Act’s Code of Ethical Standards (Code) requires bidders and contractors to disclose any possible conflict of interest when applying for government contracts. However, endemic corruption remains a serious problem and a major obstacle to investment. Transparency International ranked Uganda 144 out of 180 countries in its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, dropping two places from 2020. While anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and political parties, in practice many well-connected individuals enjoy de facto immunity for corrupt acts and are rarely prosecuted in court.
The government does not require companies to adopt specific internal procedures to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Larger private companies implement internal control policies; however, with 80% of the workforce in the informal sector, much of the private sector operates without such systems. While Uganda has signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention, it is not yet party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and does not protect non–governmental organizations investigating corruption. Some corruption watchdog organizations allege government harassment.
U.S. firms consistently identify corruption as a major hurdle to business and investment. Corruption in government procurement processes remains particularly problematic for foreign companies seeking to bid on Ugandan government contracts.
Contacts at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Inspector General of Government
Inspectorate of Government
Jubilee Insurance Centre, Plot 14, Parliament Avenue, Kampala
Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA)
UEDCL Towers Plot 39 Nakasero Road
P.O. Box 3925, Kampala Uganda
Contact at a “watchdog” organization: Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda
There has been an uptick in crime over the past several years – particularly after the start of the pandemic – and Uganda has also experienced periodic political violence associated with elections and other political activities. Security services routinely use excessive force to stop peaceful protests and demonstrations. In 2021, Uganda experienced twin suicide bombings in the capital, Kampala, and another bomb explosion in the city outskirts. In the twin suicide explosions, one targeted the main central police station and the other took place a few dozen meters away from parliament gate. Four victims and the bombers were killed in the twin suicide bombings; ISIS-DRC claimed responsibility for both, as well as the earlier bombing on the outskirts, which killed one. Also in 2021, Minister of Works and Transport Gen. Katumba Wamala was targeted by armed assailants who fired bullets at his car, killing his daughter and driver. He survived with minor injuries. Political tensions increased dramatically prior to, during, and after the January 2021 general elections. Security forces in unmarked cars picked up dozens of opposition supporters and held them in detention long past the constitutionally mandated limit. Cases of torture allegedly perpetrated by elements within the security forces persist.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) continues to be of vital importance to Vietnam, as a means to support post-COVID economic recovery and drive the government’s aspirations to achieve middle-income status by 2045. As a result, the government has policies in place that are broadly conducive to U.S. investment. Factors that attract foreign investment include government commitments to fight climate change issues, free trade agreements, political stability, ongoing economic reforms, a young and increasingly urbanized and educated population, and competitive labor costs. According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), which oversees investment activities, at the end of December 2021 Vietnam had cumulatively received $241.6 billion in FDI.
In 2021, Vietnam’s once successful “Zero COVID” approach was overwhelmed by an April outbreak that led to lengthy shutdowns, especially in manufacturing, and steep economic costs. However, the government reacted quickly to launch a successful national vaccination campaign, which enabled the country to switch from strict lockdowns to a “living with COVID” policy by the end of the year. The Government of Vietnam’s fiscal stimulus, combined with global supply chain shifts, resulted in Vietnam receiving $19.74 billion in FDI in 2021 – a 1.2 percent decrease over the same period in 2020. Of the 2021 investments, 59 percent went into manufacturing – especially in electronics, textiles, footwear, and automobile parts industries; 8 percent in utilities and energy; 15 percent in real estate; and smaller percentages in other industries. The government approved the following major FDI projects in 2021: Long An I and II LNG Power Plant Project ($3.1 billion); LG Display Project in Hai Phong ($2.15 billion); O Mon II Thermal Power Plant Factory in Can Tho ($1.31 billion); Kraft Vina Paper Factory in Vinh Phuc ($611.4 million); Polytex Far Eastern Vietnam Co., Ltd Factory Project ($610 million).
At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made an ambitious pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050, by increasing use of clean energy and phasing out coal-fueled power generation. In January 2022 Vietnam introduced new regulations that place responsibility on producers and importers to manage waste associated with the full life cycle of their products. The Government also issued a decree on greenhouse gas mitigation, ozone layer protection, and carbon market development in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s recent moves forward on free trade agreements make it easier to attract FDI by providing better market access for Vietnamese exports and encouraging investor-friendly reforms. The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) entered into force August 1, 2020. Vietnam signed the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement entered into force May 1, 2021. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) entered into force January 1, 2022 for ten countries, including Vietnam. These agreements may benefit U.S. companies operating in Vietnam by reducing barriers to inputs from and exports to participating countries, but also make it more challenging for U.S. exports to Vietnam to compete against competitors benefiting from preferential treatment.
In February 2021, the 13th Party Congress of the Communist Party approved a ten-year economic strategy that calls for shifting foreign investments to high-tech industries and ensuring those investments include provisions relating to environmental protection. On January 1, 2021, Vietnam’s Securities Law and new Labor Code Law, which the National Assembly originally approved in 2019, came into force. The Securities Law formally states the government’s intention to remove foreign ownership limits for investments in most industries. The new Labor Code includes several updated provisions including greater contract flexibility, formal recognition of a greater part of the workforce, and allowing workers to join independent workers’ rights organizations, though key implementing decrees remain pending. On June 17, 2020, Vietnam passed a revised Law of Investment and a new Public Private Partnership Law, both designed to encourage foreign investment into large infrastructure projects, reduce the burden on the government to finance such projects, and increase linkages between foreign investors and the Vietnamese private sector.
Despite a comparatively high level of FDI inflow as a percentage of GDP – 7.3 percent in 2020 – significant challenges remain in Vietnam’s investment climate. These include widespread corruption, entrenched State Owned Enterprises (SOE), regulatory uncertainty in key sectors like digital economy and energy, weak legal infrastructure, poor enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), a shortage of skilled labor, restrictive labor practices, and the government’s slow decision-making process.
U.S. companies continue to report that they face frequent and significant challenges with inconsistent regulatory interpretation, irregular enforcement, and an unclear legal framework. AmCham members have consistently voiced concerns that Vietnam lacks a fair legal system for investments, which affects U.S. companies’ ability to do business in Vietnam. The 2020 PCI report documented companies’ difficulties dealing with land, taxes, and social insurance issues, but also found improvements in procedures related to business administration and anti-corruption.
Accounting systems are inconsistent with international norms, and this increases transaction costs for investors. The government had previously said it intended to have most companies transition to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by 2020. Unable to meet this target, the Ministry of Finance in March 2020 extended the deadline to 2025.
In Vietnam, the National Assembly passes laws, which serve as the highest form of legal direction, but often lack specifics. Ministries provide draft laws to the National Assembly. The Prime Minister issues decrees, which provide guidance on implementation. Individual ministries issue circulars, which provide guidance on how a ministry will administer a law or decree.
After implementing ministries have cleared a particular law to send the law to the National Assembly, the government posts the law for a 60-day comment period. However, in practice, the public comment period is sometimes truncated. Foreign governments, NGOs, and private-sector companies can, and do, comment during this period, after which the ministry may redraft the law. Upon completion of the revisions, the ministry submits the legislation to the Office of the Government (OOG) for approval, including the Prime Minister’s signature, and the legislation moves to the National Assembly for committee review. During this process, the National Assembly can send the legislation back to the originating ministry for further changes. The Communist Party of Vietnam’s Politburo reserves the right to review special or controversial laws.
In practice, drafting ministries often lack the resources needed to conduct adequate data-driven assessments. Ministries are supposed to conduct policy impact assessments that holistically consider all factors before drafting a law, but the quality of these assessments varies.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) oversees administrative procedures for government ministries and agencies. The MOJ has a Regulatory Management Department, which oversees and reviews legal documents after they are issued to ensure compliance with the legal system. The Law on the Promulgation of Legal Normative Documents requires all legal documents and agreements to be published online and open for comments for 60 days, and to be published in the Official Gazette before implementation.
Business associations and various chambers of commerce regularly comment on draft laws and regulations. However, when issuing more detailed implementing guidelines, government entities sometimes issue circulars with little advance warning and without public notification, resulting in little opportunity for comment by affected parties. In several cases, authorities allowed comments for the first draft only and did not provide subsequent draft versions to the public. The centralized location where key regulatory actions are published can be found here .
The Ministry of Finance has provisions laws instructing public companies to produce an annual report disclosing their environmental, social and corporate governance policies. In 2016, the State Securities Commission of Vietnam, in cooperation with the International Finance Corporation, published an Environmental and Social Disclosure Guide which encourages independent external assurance. While almost all public companies in Vietnam now perform an environmental and social impact assessment when investing in a new project, many see this exercise as merely procedural.
While general information is publicly available, Vietnam’s public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) are not transparent. The National Assembly set a statutory limit for public debt at 65 percent of nominal GDP, and, according to official figures, Vietnam’s public debt to GDP ratio at the end of 2021 was 43.7 percent – down from 53.3 percent the previous year. However, the official public-debt figures exclude the debt of certain large SOEs. This poses a risk to Vietnam’s public finances, as the government is liable for the debts of these companies. Vietnam could improve its fiscal transparency by making its executive budget proposal, including budgetary and debt expenses, widely and easily accessible to the general public long before the National Assembly enacts the budget, ensuring greater transparency of off-budget accounts, and by publicizing the criteria by which the government awards contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction.
Vietnam’s legal system mixes indigenous, French, and Soviet-inspired civil legal traditions. Vietnam generally follows an operational understanding of the rule of law that is consistent with its top-down, one-party political structure and traditionally inquisitorial judicial system, though in recent years the country has begun gradually introducing elements of an adversarial system.
The hierarchy of the country’s courts is: 1) the Supreme People’s Court; 2) the High People’s Court; 3) Provincial People’s Courts; 4) District People’s Courts, and 5) Military Courts. The People’s Courts operate in five divisions: criminal, civil, administrative, economic, and labor. The Supreme People’s Procuracy is responsible for prosecuting criminal activities as well as supervising judicial activities.
Vietnam lacks an independent judiciary and separation of powers among Vietnam’s branches of government. For example, Vietnam’s Chief Justice is also a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. According to Transparency International, there is significant risk of corruption in judicial rulings. Low judicial salaries engender corruption; nearly one-fifth of surveyed Vietnamese households that have been to court declared that they had paid bribes at least once. Many businesses therefore avoid Vietnamese courts as much as possible.
The judicial system continues to face additional problems: for example, many judges and arbitrators lack adequate legal training and are appointed through personal or political contacts with party leaders or based on their political views. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and appeals are adjudicated in the national court system. Through a separate legal mechanism, individuals and companies can file complaints against enforcement actions under the Law on Complaints.
The 2005 Commercial Law regulates commercial contracts between businesses. Specific regulations prescribe specific forms of contracts, depending on the nature of the deals. If a contract does not contain a dispute-resolution clause, courts will have jurisdiction over a dispute. Vietnamese law allows dispute-resolution clauses in commercial contracts explicitly through the Law on Commercial Arbitration. The law follows the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law as an international standard for procedural rules.
Vietnamese courts will only consider recognition of civil judgments issued by courts in countries that have entered into agreements on recognition of judgments with Vietnam or on a reciprocal basis. However, with the exception of France, these treaties only cover non-commercial judgments.
The legal system includes provisions to promote foreign investment. Vietnam uses a “negative list” approach to approve foreign investment, meaning foreign businesses are allowed to operate in all areas except for six prohibited sectors – from which domestic businesses are also prohibited. These include illicit drugs, wildlife trade, prostitution, human trafficking, human cloning, and debt collection services.
The law also requires that foreign and domestic investors be treated equally in cases of nationalization and confiscation. However, foreign investors are subject to different business-licensing processes and restrictions, and companies registered in Vietnam that have majority foreign ownership are subject to foreign-investor business-license procedures.
The Ministry of Planning and Investment enacted Circular No. 02/2022/TT-BKHĐT, which came into effect on April 1, 2022, guiding the supervision and investment assessments of foreign investment activities in Vietnam, providing a common template. It also examines the implementation of financial obligations towards the State; the execution of legal provisions on labor, foreign exchange control, environment, land, construction, fire prevention and fighting and other specialized legal regulations; the financial situation of the foreign-invested economic organization; and other provisions related to the implementation of investment projects.
The 2019 Labor Code, which came into effect January 1, 2021, provides greater flexibility in contract termination, allows employees to work more overtime hours, increases the retirement age, and adds flexibility in labor contracts.
The Law on Investment, revised in June 2020, stipulated that Vietnam would encourage FDI through financial incentives in the areas of university education, pollution mitigation, and certain medical research. The Public Private Partnership Law, passed in June 2020, lists transportation, electricity grid and power plants, irrigation, water supply and treatment, waste treatment, health care, education, and IT infrastructure as prioritized sectors for FDI and public-private partnerships.
Vietnam has a “one-stop-shop” website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.
The Vietnam Competition and Consumer Authority (“VCCA”) of MOIT reviews transactions subject to complaints for competition-related concerns. In 2021, VCCA reported that 125 merger control notifications, most of which related to real estate, have been submitted since 2019. Thirty percent of cases notified involved offshore transactions. The VCCA clarified that the Vietnam merger control regime seeks to regulate only relevant transactions that may have an anticompetitive impact on Vietnamese markets, especially those that enable enterprises to hold a dominant or monopoly position and heighten the risk of an abuse of dominance.
Under the law, the government of Vietnam can only expropriate investors’ property in cases of emergency, disaster, defense, or national interest, and the government is required to compensate investors if it expropriates property. Under the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, Vietnam must apply international standards of treatment in any case of expropriation or nationalization of U.S. investor assets, which includes acting in a non-discriminatory manner with due process of law and with prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. The U.S. Mission in Vietnam is unaware of any current expropriation cases involving U.S. firms.
Under the 2014 Bankruptcy Law, bankruptcy is not criminalized unless it relates to another crime. The law defines insolvency as a condition in which an enterprise is more than three months overdue in meeting its payment obligations. The law also provides provisions allowing creditors to commence bankruptcy proceedings against an enterprise and procedures for credit institutions to file for bankruptcy. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report, Vietnam ranked 122 out of 190 for resolving insolvency. The report noted that it still takes five years on average to conclude a bankruptcy case in Vietnam. The Credit Information Center of the State Bank of Vietnam provides credit information services for foreign investors concerned about the potential for bankruptcy with a Vietnamese partner.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The 2020 Enterprises Law, which came into effect January 1, 2021, defines an SOE as an enterprise that is more than 50 percent owned by the government. Vietnam does not officially publish a list of SOEs.
In 2018, the government created the Commission for State Capital Management at Enterprises (CMSC) to manage SOEs with increased transparency and accountability. The CMSC’s goals include accelerating privatization in a transparent manner, promoting public listings of SOEs, and transparency in overall financial management of SOEs.
SOEs do not operate on a level playing field with domestic or foreign enterprises and continue to benefit from preferential access to resources such as land, capital, and political largesse. Third-party market analysts note that a significant number of SOEs have extensive liabilities, including pensions owed, real estate holdings in areas not related to the SOE’s ostensible remit, and a lack of transparency with respect to operations and financing.
Vietnam officially started privatizing SOEs in 1998. The process has been slow because privatization typically transfers only a small share of an SOE (two to three percent) to the private sector, and investors have had concerns about the financial health of many companies. Additionally, the government has inadequate regulations with respect to privatization procedures.
Vietnam has laws to combat corruption by public officials, and they extend to all citizens. Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has made fighting corruption a key focus of his administration, and the CPV regularly issues lists of Party and other government officials that have been disciplined or prosecuted. Trong recently expanded the campaign to include “anti-negativity,” described loosely as acts that can cause public anger or reputational harm to the CPV. Nevertheless, corruption remains rife. Corruption is due, in large part, to low levels of transparency, accountability, and media freedom, as well as poor remuneration for government officials and inadequate systems for holding officials accountable. Competition among agencies for control over businesses and investments has created overlapping jurisdictions and bureaucratic procedures that, in turn, create opportunities for corruption.
The government has tasked various agencies to deal with corruption, including the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption (chaired by the General Secretary Trong), the Government Inspectorate, and line ministries and agencies. Formed in 2007, the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption has been under the purview of the CPV Central Commission of Internal Affairs since February 2013. The National Assembly provides oversight on the operations of government ministries. Civil society organizations have encouraged the government to establish a single independent agency with oversight and enforcement authority to ensure enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption: Mr. Phan Dinh Trac Chairman of Communist Party Central Committee Internal Affairs 4 Nguyen Canh Chan, Ba Dinh, Hanoi Tel: +84 0804-3557
Contact at a watchdog organization: Ms. Nguyen ThiKieuVien Executive Director ,Towards Transparency International National Floor 4, No 37 Lane 35, Cat Linh Street, Dong Da, Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: +84-24-37153532
10. Political and Security Environment
Vietnam is a unitary single-party state, and its political and security environment is largely stable. Protests and civil unrest are rare, though there are occasional demonstrations against perceived or real social, environmental, labor, and political injustices.
In August 2019, online commentators expressed outrage over the slow government response to an industrial fire in Hanoi that released unknown amounts of mercury. Other localized protests in 2019 and early 2020 broke out over alleged illegal dumping in waterways and on public land, and the perceived government attempts to cover up potential risks to local communities.
Citizens sometimes protest actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), usually online. For example, in June 2019, when PRC Coast Guard vessels harassed the operations of Russian oil company Rosneft in Block 06-01, Vietnam’s highest-producing natural gas field, Vietnamese citizens protested via Facebook and, in a few instances, in public.
In April 2016, after the Formosa Steel plant discharged toxic pollutants into the ocean and killed a large number of fish, affected fishermen and residents in central Vietnam began a series of regular protests against the company and the government’s lack of response to the disaster. Protests continued into 2017 in multiple cities until security forces largely suppressed the unrest. Many activists who helped organize or document these protests were subsequently arrested and imprisoned.
Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa that shares a border with eight countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. It has an estimated population of 17.86 million, GDP of $19.3 billion and GDP per capita of USD $1,086.
Zambia has been in a financial and economic crisis since at least 2020, when the country became the world’s first COVID-era default after Zambia missed a payment on $3 billion of outstanding Eurobonds. The Zambian economy contracted in 2020 by 3.0 percent and grew by a meager 1.0 percent in 2021. The IMF forecasts 2022 real GDP growth of only 1.1 percent. Zambia’s debt overhang remains a severe inhibitor of economic growth, effectively eliminating the government’s access to international capital markets and forcing it to finance a persistent budget deficit through domestic borrowing, which crowds out private sector access to capital and limits growth.
Despite broad economic reforms and debt relief under the World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in the early 2000s, Zambia has generally struggled to meet its full economic potential. A decade of democratic and economic backsliding under former President Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front resulted in widespread use of corruption and economic rent-seeking that has further damaged Zambia’s reputation as an investment destination. Cumbersome administrative procedures and unpredictable legal and regulatory changes continue to inhibit Zambia’s immense potential for private sector investment, compounded by insufficient transparency in government contracting, ongoing lack of reliable electricity, and a high cost of doing business due to poor infrastructure, high cost of capital, and the lack of skilled labor.
President Hakainde Hichilema achieved a resounding victory at the polls in August 2021 on a platform of democratic and economic reform and renewal. By December 2021, Zambia achieved staff-level agreement with the IMF on a $1.4 billion Extended Credit Facility that is expected to anchor macroeconomic and fiscal reforms and restore investor confidence. With the appointment of respected economists and technocrats to lead the Ministry of Finance and the central bank, the Hichilema administration has made significant strides reducing inflation, which has dropped from nearly 25.0 percent in July 2021 to 13.1 by the end of March 2022. The Hichilema administration is currently seeking debt restructuring under the auspices of the G-20 Common Framework, which would provide the basis for IMF board approval of Zambia’s Extended Credit Facility. A successful businessman and investor in his own right, President Hichilema has pledged to tackle fiscal and regulatory reforms aimed at strengthening Zambia’s investment climate.
Zambia remains highly dependent on its mining and extractives industry. It is Africa’s second-largest producer of copper and is an important source of several other critical minerals, including nickel and cobalt. According to the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, mining products accounted for 77 percent of Zambia’s total export earnings and 28 percent of government revenues in 2019. Investment in the mining sector fell substantially during the Lungu era due to multiple changes to Zambia’s minerals tax regime and an unstable regulatory environment. The Hichilema administration in its maiden budget introduced a key reform to Zambia’s minerals tax policy that is expected to attract new investment in the sector. The agriculture, healthcare, energy, financial services, and ICT sectors all offer potentially attractive opportunities for expanded U.S. trade and investment.
The U.S. Embassy works closely with the American Chamber of Commerce of Zambia (AmCham) to support its American and Zambian members seeking to increase two-way trade. Agriculture and mining remain headlining sectors for the Zambian economy. U.S. firms are present and are exploring new projects in tourism, power generation, agriculture, and services.
Proposed laws and other statutory instruments are often insufficiently vetted with interest groups or are not released in draft form for public comment. Proposed bills are published on the National Assembly of Zambia website (http://www.parliament.gov.zm/) for public viewing and to facilitate public submissions to parliamentary committees reviewing the legislation; however, these are frequently issued with little advanced notice. Hard copies of the documents are delivered by courier to the stakeholders’ premises/mailboxes.
Opportunities for comment on proposed laws and regulations sometimes exist through trade associations and policy thinktanks such as the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Chamber of Mines, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia. The government established the Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) in 2014 with the mandate to administer the Business Regulatory Act. The Act requires public entities to submit for Cabinet approval a policy or proposed law that regulates business activity, after the policy or proposed law has BRRA approval. A public entity that intends to introduce any policy or law for regulating business activities should give notice, in writing, to the BRRA at least two months prior to submitting it to Cabinet; hold public consultations for at least 30 days with relevant stakeholders; and perform a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The BRRA works in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, which does not approve any proposed law to regulate business activity without the approval of BRRA. While this framework exists on paper, the BRRA and the consultative process is still relatively new and unknown even by other government officials, and in some cases, it appears that the BRRA was informed after the Ministry of Justice had already approved a law.
While there are clear public procurement guidelines, transparency remains a concern for potential investors and bidders. To enhance the transparency, integrity, and efficiency of Zambia’s procurement system, the GRZ launched the Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) in July 2016. President Hichilema has made public procurement reform a key priority for his administration, introducing a new financial crimes fast track court and strengthening the mandate of key investigative institutions.
Zambia is a member of several regional and international economic groupings, including the COMESA and SADC Free Trade Areas. Zambia was also an active participant in the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area between COMESA, SADC, and the East African Community (EAC). The top five intra-COMESA exports from Zambia include tobacco, sugar, wire, refined copper, and cement. Trade among SADC member states is conducted on reciprocal preferential terms. Rules of Origin define the conditions for products to qualify for preferential trade in the SADC region. Products have to be “wholly produced” or “sufficiently processed” often warranting change in tariff heading in the SADC region to be considered compliant with the SADC Rules of Origin, which are product-specific and not generic.
COMESA, EAC, and SADC member states agreed in October 2008 to negotiate a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) covering half of Africa. The TFTA was launched in June 2015 in Egypt; to date, Zambia is one of the 22 out of the 26 member states which have signed the agreement. The Agreement will enter into force once it has been ratified by 14 Member States-with 10 Members (Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Eswatini, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and Zambia) ratified.
According to OECD trade facilitation indicators, Zambia performs better than the average sub-Saharan African and lower middle-income countries in the areas of information availability, involvement of the trade community, appeal procedures, and automation. Zambia’s performance for internal border agency co-operation and governance and impartiality is below average for sub-Saharan African and lower middle-income countries.
In February 2019, Zambia signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and in February 2021 it deposited the instruments of ratification with the African Union, making Zambia the 36th member to fully accede to the agreement. The trade agreement among 54 African Union member states creates in theory a continent-wide single market, with plans for free movement of people and a single-currency union.
At the multilateral level, Zambia has been a WTO member since 1995. Zambia’s investment incentives program is transparent and has been included in the WTO’s trade policy reviews. The incentive packages are also subject to reviews by the Board of the ZDA and to periodic reviews by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Zambia is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), but still faces major challenges in expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, which is a major requisite of the TFA. The new administration has committed to implement a robust infrastructure development for roads and bridges which form a backbone of Zambia’s transport network and regional connectivity. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU through its Everything but Arms FTA, and to the United States via the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and AGOA agreements.
Zambia has a dual legal system that consists of statutory and customary law enforced through a formal court system. Statutory law is derived from the English legal system with some English Acts of Parliament still deemed to be in full force and effect within Zambia. Traditional and customary laws, which remain in a state of flux, are generally not written or codified, although some of them have been unified under Acts of Parliament. No clear definition of customary law has been developed by the courts, and there has not been systematic development of this subject.
Zambia has a written commercial law. The Commercial Court, a division of the High Court, deals with disputes arising out of commercial transactions. All commercial matters are registered in the commercial registry and judges of the Commercial Court are experienced in commercial law. Appeals from the Commercial Court, based on the amended January 2016 constitution, now fall under the recently established Court of Appeals, comprised of eight judges. The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, Chapter 76, makes provision for the enforcement in Zambia of judgments given in foreign countries that accord reciprocal treatment. The registration of a foreign judgment is not automatic. Although Zambia is a state party to international human rights and regional instruments, its dualist system of jurisprudence considers international treaty law as a separate system of law from domestic law. Domestication of international instruments by Acts of Parliament is necessary for these to be applicable in the country. Systematic efforts to domesticate international instruments have been slow but continue to see progress.
The courts support Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and there has been an increase in the use of arbitration, mediation, and tribunals by litigants in Zambia. Arbitration is common in commercial matters and the proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Act No. 19 of 2000. The Act incorporates United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Zambian courts have no jurisdiction if parties have agreed to an arbitration clause in their contract. The establishment of the fee-based judicial commercial division in 2014 to adjudicate high-value claims has helped accelerate resolution of such cases.
The courts in Zambia are generally independent, but contractual and property rights enforcement is weak and final court decisions can take a prohibitively long time. At times, politicians have exerted pressure on the judiciary in politically controversial cases. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and adjudication depends on the matter at hand and the principal law or act governing the regulations.
The major laws affecting foreign investment in Zambia include:
The Zambia Development Agency Act of 2006, which offers a wide range of incentives in the form of allowances, exemptions, and concessions to companies.
The Companies Act of 1994, which governs the registration of companies in Zambia.
The Zambia Revenue Authority’s Customs and Excise Act, Income Tax Act of 1966, and the Value Added Tax of 1995 provide for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
The Employment Code Act of 2019, Zambia’s basic employment law that provides for required minimum employment contractual terms.
The Immigration and Deportation Act, Chapter 123, regulates the entry into and residency in Zambia of visitors, expatriates, and immigrants.
The Zambian economy operates under free market norms with a fairly developed competition and regulatory framework. There is freedom of pricing, currency convertibility for a small currency basket, freedom of trade, and free use of profits. A fairly strong institutional framework is provided for strategic sectors, such as mining and mining supply industries, and large-scale commercial farming. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is a statutory body established with a unique dual mandate to promote competition in the economy, curtail restrictive business practices and protect consumer rights. The CCPC’s mandate implemented through the CCPC ACT cuts across all economic sectors in an effort to eliminate abuse of dominant position of market power, anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and cartels, and to enhance consumer protection and safeguard competition.
In 2016 the CCPC published a series of guidelines and policies that included adoption of a formal Leniency Policy intended to encourage persons to report information that may help to uncover prohibited agreements. In certain circumstances the person receives immunity from prosecution, imposition of fines, or the guarantee of a reduction in fines. The policy also calculates administrative penalties. In addition, the CCPC in 2016 published draft Settlement Guidelines, which provide a formal framework for parties seeking to engage the CCPC to reach a settlement.
The CCPC Act, Chapter 417, prevents firms from distorting the competitive process through conduct or agreements designed to exclude actual or potential competitors, and applies to all entities, regardless of whether private, public, or foreign. Although the CCPC largely opens investigations when a complaint is filed, it can also open investigations on its own initiative. Zambian competition law can also be enforced by civil lawsuits in court brought by private parties, while criminal prosecution by the CCPC is possible in cartel cases without the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecution under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No. 24 of 2010. However, the general perception is that the Commission may be restricted in applying the competition law against government agencies and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), especially those protected by other laws.
Zambia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank and other international agreements. This guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, and other disturbances, or in cases of expropriation. Zambia has signed bilateral reciprocal promotional and protection of investment protocols with a number of countries. The ZDA also offers further security for investments in the country through the signing of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs).
Investments may only be legally expropriated by an act of Parliament relating to the specific property expropriated. Although the ZDA Act states that compensation must be at a fair market value, the method for determining fair market value is ill-defined. Compensation is convertible at the current exchange rate. The ZDA Act also protects investors from being adversely affected by any subsequent changes to the Investment Act of 1993 for seven years from their initial investment.
Leasehold land, which is granted under 99-year leases, may revert to the government if it is determined to be undeveloped after a certain amount of time, generally five years. Land title is sometimes questioned in court, and land is re-titled to other owners.
There is no pattern of discrimination against U.S. persons by way of an illegal expropriation by the government or authority in the country. There are no high-risk sectors prone to expropriation.
The Bankruptcy Act, Chapter 82, provides for the administration of bankruptcy of the estates of debtors and makes provision for punishment of offenses committed by debtors. It also provides for reciprocity in bankruptcy proceedings between Zambia and other countries and for matters incidental to and consequential upon the foregoing. This applies to individuals, local, and foreign investors. Bankruptcy judgments are made in local currency but can be paid out in any internationally convertible currency. Under the Bankruptcy Act, a person can be charged as a criminal. A person guilty of an offense declared to be a felony or misdemeanor under the Bankruptcy Act in respect of which no special penalty is imposed by the Act shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Zambia has made strides in improving its credit information system. Since 2008, the credit bureau, TransUnion, requires banks and some non-banks to provide loan requirement information and consult it when making loans. The credit bureau eventually captures data from other institutions, such as utilities. However, the bureau’s coverage is still less than ten percent of the population, the quality of its information is suspect, and there it lacks clarity on data sources and the inclusion of positive information.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
There are currently 34 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in different sectors in Zambia including agriculture, education, energy, financial services, infrastructure, manufacturing, medical, mining, real estate, technology, media and communication, tourism, and transportation and logistics. Most SOEs are wholly owned, or majority owned by the government under the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) established in 2015. Zambia has two categories of SOEs: those incorporated under the Companies Act and those established by particular statutes, referred to as statutory corporations. There is a published list of SOEs in the Auditor General’s annual reports; SOE expenditure on research and development is not detailed. There is no exhaustive list or online location of SOEs’ data for assets, net income, or number of employees. Consequently, inaccurate information is scattered throughout different government agencies/ministries. The majority of SOEs have serious operational and management challenges.
In theory, SOEs do not enjoy preferential treatment by virtue of government ownership, however, they may obtain protection when they are not able to compete or face adverse market conditions. The Zambia Information Communications Authority Act has a provision restricting the private sector from undertaking postal services that would directly compete with the Zambia Postal Services Corporation. Zambia is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the WTO, however private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies.
SOEs in Zambia are governed by Boards of Directors appointed by government in consultation with and including members from the private sector. The chief executive of the SOE reports to the board chairperson. In the event that the SOE declares dividends, these are paid to the Ministry of Finance. The board chair is informally obliged to consult with government officials before making decisions. The line minister appoints members of the Board of Directors from within public service, the private sector, and civil society. The independence of the board, however, is limited since most boards are comprised of a majority of government officials, while board members from the private sector or civil society that are appointed by the line minister can be removed.
SOEs can and do purchase goods or services from the private sector, including foreign firms. SOEs are not bound by the GPA and can procure their own goods, works, and services. SOEs are subject to the same tax policies as their private sector competitors and are generally not afforded material advantages such as preferential access to land and raw materials. SOEs are audited by the Auditor General’s Office, using international reporting standards. Audits are carried out annually, but delays in finalizing and publishing results are common. Controlling officers appear before a Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts to answer audit queries. Audited reports are submitted to the president for tabling with the National Assembly, in accordance with Article 121 of the Constitution and the Public Audit Act, Chapter 378.
In 2015, the government transferred most SOEs from the Ministry of Finance to the revived Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The move, according to the government, was to allow line ministries to focus on policy making thereby giving the IDC direct mandate and authorization to oversee SOE performance and accountability on behalf of the government. The IDC’s oversight responsibilities include all aspects of governance, commercial, financing, operational, and all matters incidental to the interests of the state as shareholder.
There were no sectors or companies targeted for privatization in 2021. The privatization of parastatals began in 1991, with the last one occurring in 2007. The divestiture of state enterprises mostly rests with the IDC, as the mandated SOE holding company. The Privatization Act includes the provision for the privatization and commercialization of SOEs; most of the privatization bidding process is advertised via printed media and the IDC’s website (www.idc.co.zm). There is no known policy that forbids foreign investors from participating in the country’s privatization programs.
Zambia’s anti-corruption activities are governed by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012 and the National Anti-Corruption Policy of 2009, which stipulate penalties for different offenses. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the supreme institution mandated to fight corruption in Zambia and works with partner institutions-Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Agency and Intelligence Services. While legislation and stated policies on anti-corruption are adequate in theory, implementation often falls short due to limited technical capacity and suspected corruption within key government institutions. The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act of 2010 provides for the disclosure of conduct adverse to the public interest in the public and private sectors. However, like with other laws and policies, enforcement is weak. Zambia lacks adequate laws on asset disclosure, evidence, and freedom of information. Although the ACC has the mandate to investigate corruption and sometimes prosecute, it lacks autonomy to fully prosecute cases, often requiring authorization to prosecute from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). This practice has been criticized as a conduit for shielding high level crime and corruption through the executive which is perceived as influencing the DPP as an appointing authority. In March 2019 Cabinet approved the Access to Information Bill (ATI), but the draft bill has not been made public or presented to Parliament as of March 2022. The bill aims to ensure the government is proactive and organized in disseminating information to the public. Versions of the ATI Bill have been pending since 2002.
In 2021, Zambia established a fast-track financial crimes court to prosecute public corruption cases. The Hichilema administration has dismissed several key civil service staff and arrested numerous former government officials on suspicion of corruption. Zambia maintained a ranking of 117 out of 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report — a drop from 113 in the 2019 report. The legal and institutional frameworks against corruption have been strengthened, and efforts have been made to reduce red tape and streamline bureaucratic procedures, as well as to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, including those involving high-ranking officials. Most of these cases, however, remain on the shelves waiting to be tried while officials remain free, sometimes still occupying the positions through which the alleged corruption took place. In March 2018, Parliament passed the Public Finance Management Bill, which allows the government to prosecute public officials for misappropriating funds, something previous legislation lacked. The government published the implementing regulations in November 2020. Despite this progress, corruption remains a serious issue in Zambia, affecting the lives of ordinary citizens and their access to public services. Corruption in the police service has emerged as an area of particular concern (with frequency of bribery well above that found in any other sector), followed by corruption in the Road Transport and Safety Agency. The government has cited corruption in public procurements and contracting procedures as major areas of concern.
The Anti-Money Laundering Unit of the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) also assists with investigation of allegations of corruption and financial misconduct. An independent Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) was established in 2010 but does not have the authority to prosecute financial crimes. Zambia’s anti-corruption agencies generally do not discriminate between local and foreign investors. Transparency International has an active Zambian chapter.
The government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. Most large private companies have internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery. The Integrity Committees (ICs) Initiative is one of the strategies of the National Anti-Corruption Policy (NACP), which is aimed at institutionalizing the prevention of corruption. The NACP received the Cabinet’s approval in March 2009 and the Anti-Corruption Commission spearheads its implementation. The NACP targets eight institutions, including the Zambia Revenue Authority, Immigration Department, and Ministry of Lands. The government has taken measures to enhance protection of whistleblowers and witnesses with the enactment of the Public Disclosure Act, as well as to strengthen protection of citizens against false reports, in line with Article 32 of the UN Convention.
U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to foreign direct investment. Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement and dispute settlement. Giving or accepting a bribe by a private, public, or foreign official is a criminal act, and a person convicted of doing so is liable to a fine or a prison term not exceeding five years. A bribe by a local company or individual to a foreign official is a criminal act and punishable under the laws of Zambia. A local company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from taxes. Many businesses have complained that bribery and kickbacks, however, remain rampant and difficult to police, as some companies have noted government officials’ complicity in and/or benefitting from corrupt deals.
Zambia signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2007. Other regional anti-corruption initiatives are the SADC Protocol against Corruption, ratified in 2003, and the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, ratified in 2007. Zambia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions but is a party to the Anticorruption Convention. Currently, there are no local industries or non-profit groups that offer services for vetting potential local investment partners. Normally, the U.S. Embassy provides limited vetting of potential local investment partners for U.S. businesses, when contracted as a commercial service.
Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:
Mr. Silumesi Muchula
Acting Director General, Anti-Corruption Commission
Kulima House, Cha Cha Cha Road, P.O. Box 50486, Lusaka
+260 211 237914
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Mr. Maurice Nyambe
Executive Director, Transparency International Zambia
3880 Kwacha Road, Olympia Park, P.O. Box 37475, Lusaka
+260 211 290080
10. Political and Security Environment
Zambia has benefited from almost 30 years of largely peaceful multi-party politics, with 3 peaceful transfers of executive power. Zambia does not have a history of large-scale political violence. National elections in 2021 were largely peaceful and former President Edgar Lungu conceded defeat to Hakainde Hichilema. The rise in street crime remains a significant concern as the Zambian economy struggles to create meaningful employment opportunities for young people.