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Bangladesh

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 147 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 116 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 723 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 2,030 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The business community is increasingly aware of and engaged in responsible business conduct (RBC) activities with multinational firms leading the way. While many firms in Bangladesh fall short on RBC activities and instead often focus on philanthropic giving, some of the leading local conglomerates have begun to incorporate increasingly rigorous environmental and safety standards in their workplaces. U.S. companies present in Bangladesh maintain diverse RBC activities. Consumers in Bangladesh are generally less aware of RBC, and consumers and shareholders exert little pressure on companies to engage in RBC activities.

While many international firms are aware of OECD guidelines and international best practices concerning RBC, many local firms have limited familiarity with international standards. There are currently two RBC NGOs active in Bangladesh:

  • CSR Bangladesh:
  • CSR Centre Bangladesh:

Along with the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, the CSR Centre is the joint focal point for the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and its corporate social responsibility principles in Bangladesh. The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative. The Centre is a member of a regional RBC platform called the South Asian Network on Sustainability and Responsibility, with members including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

While several NGOs have proposed National Corporate Social Responsibility Guidelines, the government has yet to adopt any such standards for RBC. As a result, the government encourages enterprises to follow generally accepted RBC principles but does not mandate any specific guidelines.

Bangladesh has natural resources, but it has not joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The country does not adhere to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

9. Corruption

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.

10. Political and Security Environment

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.

Americans are advised to exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism when traveling to Bangladesh. Travel in some areas have higher risks. For further information, see the State Department’s travel website for the  Worldwide Caution Travel Advisories, and  Bangladesh Country Specific Information.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Bangladesh’s comparative advantage in cheap labor for manufacturing is partially offset by lower productivity due to poor skills development, inefficient management, pervasive corruption, and inadequate infrastructure.  According to the 2016-2017 Labor Force Survey, 85 percent of the Bangladeshi labor force is employed in the informal economy.  Bangladeshi workers have a strong reputation for hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, and a positive and optimistic attitude.  With an average age of 26 years, the country boasts one of the largest and youngest labor forces in the world.  However, training is not well aligned with labor demand. Bangladesh’s labor laws specify acceptable employment conditions, working hours, minimum wage levels, leave policies, health and sanitary conditions, and compensation for injured workers.  Freedom of association and the right to join unions are guaranteed in the constitution.  In practice, however, compliance and enforcement of labor laws are weak, and companies frequently discourage or prevent formation of worker-led labor unions, preferring pro-factory management unions. In a notable exception to the national labor law, Export Processing Zones (EPZs) do not allow trade unions and heavily restrict other labor activity normally permitted under the broader Bangladesh Labor Act. The EPZ labor law does allow worker welfare associations, to which 74 percent of workers belong, according to the government.

Since two back-to-back tragedies killed over 1,250 workers – the Tazreen Fashions fire in 2012 and the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 – Bangladesh made significant progress in garment factory fire and structural safety remediation, thanks mostly to two Western brand-led initiatives, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance), comprised of North American brands, and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord), which was formed by European brands. Major accidents and workplace deaths in the garment sector dropped precipitously as a result – only four workers died in 2021.  Monitoring and remediation of RMG factories exporting to non-Western countries was overseen by the government, with assistance from the International Labor Organization (ILO) under the National Initiative.  By 2021, fewer than half the factories under the National Initiative had completed initial remediation of safety issues, and both the Alliance and Accord had closed their Bangladesh operations.  North American brands continued to monitor manufacturers’ safety maintenance and training through a new organization, Nirapon. The Accord, under High Court order, transitioned its staff and operations to the newly formed RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), overseen by a board consisting of manufacturers, brands, and worker representatives.  The government has announced plans to form an Industrial Safety Unit to oversee factory safety in National Initiative garment factories as well as all manufacturing. On July 8, 2021, a devastating fire at the Hashem Foods Factory Ltd took the lives of 54 workers including 19 children. In the wake of the fire on July 15, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the formation of a 24-member national committee led by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and headed by the Prime Minister’s Private Sector Advisor Salman Rahman. The committee prioritized 32 industrial sectors considering their propensity for and likelihood of accidents. BIDA announced in December 2021 it would produce a sector-wide report after analyzing the inspection data and will take steps to enforce workplace safety compliance in the non-export sectors.

The U.S. government suspended Bangladesh’s access to the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) over labor rights violations following a six-year formal review conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative. The decision, announced in 2013 in the months following the Rana Plaza collapse, was accompanied by a 16-point GSP Action Plan to help start Bangladesh’s path to reinstatement of the trade benefits.  While some progress was made in the intervening years, several key issues have not been adequately addressed.  Despite revisions intended to make Bangladesh more compliant with international labor standards, the Bangladesh Labor Act (BLA) and EPZ Labor Act (ELA) still restrict the freedom of association and formation of unions and maintain separate administrative systems for workers inside and outside of export processing zones.

Under the current BLA, legally registered unions are entitled to submit charters of demands and bargain collectively with employers, but this has rarely occurred in practice.  The government counts nearly 1,000 registered trade unions, but labor leaders estimate there are fewer than 100 active trade unions in the country’s dominant sector, RMG, and only 30 to 40 are capable enough to negotiate with owners.  The law provides criminal penalties for conducting unfair labor practices such as retaliation against union members for exercising their legal rights, but charges are rarely brought against employers and the labor courts have a large backlog of cases.  Labor organizations reported most workers did not exercise their rights to form unions, attend meetings, or bargain collectively due to fear of reprisal.  From January to December 2021, a total of 6 workers died and 163 were injured due to police interference and about 137 of them belonged to the garment sector.  The garment sector is reeling from the skilled labor crisis and missing opportunities to secure new orders from eager buyers coming to Bangladesh to procure garments after COVID-19-related factory closures in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma.  The local apparel industry has long courted buyers who historically have sourced from other countries to buy from Bangladesh producers.  However, in 2020, at the peak of Covid-19, Bangladesh apparel industries furloughed around 357,000 workers; following lockdown restrictions, the sector re-hired just a handful of the workers.  Some of those furloughed returned to their villages and others switched to new professions.  Industry groups are focusing on developing automation technologies and processes to boost productivity and increase production capacity.

The labor law differentiates between layoffs and terminations; no severance is paid if a worker is fired for misconduct.  In the case of downsizing or “retrenchment,” workers must be notified and paid 30 days’ wages for each year of service.  The law requires factories and establishments to notify Bangladesh’s Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments a week prior to temporarily laying off workers due to a shortage of work or material.  Laid off workers are entitled to their full housing allowance.  For the first 45 days, they are also entitled to half their basic wages, then 25 percent thereafter.  Workers who were employed for less than one year are not eligible for compensation during a layoff.  However, the press and trade unions report employers not only fail to pay workers their severance or benefits, but also their regular wages.  In 2021 alone, workers and organizers staged 172 labor protests in the garment sector over back wages, factory layoffs, and demands to reopen closed factories.  No unemployment insurance or other social safety net programs exist, although the government had begun discussing how to establish them with the help of development partners and brands.  In early 2022, the Government of Bangladesh announced a universal pension scheme from fiscal year (FY) 2022-23.

The government does not consistently and effectively enforce applicable labor laws.  For example, the law establishes mechanisms for conciliation, arbitration, and dispute resolution by a labor court and workers in a collective bargaining union have the right to strike in the event of a failure to reach a settlement.  In practice, few strikers followed the cumbersome and time-consuming legal requirements for settlements and strikes or walkouts often occur spontaneously.  The government was partnered with the ILO to introduce a dispute settlement system within its Department of Labor.

The BLA guarantees workers the right to conduct lawful strikes, but with many limitations.  For example, the government may prohibit a strike deemed to pose a “serious hardship to the community” and may terminate any strike lasting more than 30 days.  The BLA also prohibits strikes at factories in the first three years of commercial production, and at factories controlled by foreign investors.

The U.S. government funds efforts to improve occupational safety and health alongside labor rights in the readymade garment sector in partnership with other international partners, civil society, businesses, and the Bangladeshi government.  The United States works with other governments and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to discuss and assist with additional labor reforms needed to fully comply with international labor conventions.  In early 2021, the government submitted a draft action plan to the EU and ILO describing how it planned to bring its laws and practices into compliance with international labor standards over time.  In February 2022, the government submitted the progress report to ILO and the report will be discussed in the ILO Governing Body on March 21.  The U.S. government is closely monitoring the development and implementation of the plan to ensure it sufficiently addresses long-standing recommendations.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical Source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020-21 $354,242 2020 $323,057 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020-21 $4055 2020 $723 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 $2 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020-21 5.71% 2020 6.01% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report

*Host Country Source:  Bangladesh Bank, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data (December 2020)
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $18,439 100% Total Outward $314 100%
The United States $3,823 20.7% United Kingdom $88 28.0%
The United Kingdom $2,140 11.6% China, P.R. Mainland $49 15.6%
The Netherlands $1,608 8.7% India $47 15.0%
Singapore $1,504 8.2% Nepal $47 15.0%
China, P.R. Mainland $986 5.3% United Arab Emirates $39 12.4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic/Commercial Section
Embassy of the United States of America
Madani Avenue, BaridharaDhaka — 1212
Tel: +880 2 5566-2000
Email: USTC-Dhaka@state.gov 

Burma

Executive Summary

On February 1, 2021, the Burmese military seized power in a coup d’état that reversed much of the economic progress of recent years. The military’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests destabilized the country, prompted widespread opposition, and created a sharp deterioration in the investment climate. Burma’s economy shrank by 18 percent in 2021, with a forecast for one percent growth in 2022, according to the World Bank. The regime’s ongoing violence, repression, and economic mismanagement have significantly reduced Burma’s commercial activity, compounded by the pro-democracy Civil Disobedience Movement that emerged in response to the coup. Many routine business services like customs, ports, and banks are not fully operational as of April 2022. Immediately after the coup, the military detained the civilian leadership of economic and other ministries as well as the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) and replaced them with appointees who are beholden to the regime. The CBM has imposed severe foreign exchange restrictions that limit commercial activity, and the regime severely limits access to U.S. dollars. Frequent power outages and reliance on generators have dramatically raised costs for business. The regime’s suspensions of internet and other telecommunications have restricted access to information and seriously hindered business operations. Due to COVID-19 concerns, commercial international flights resumed only on April 17, 2022. Many foreign companies have suspended operations, invoked force majeure to exit investments, and evacuated foreign national staff. The rule of law is absent, regime security forces engage in random violence, there are attacks in response by pro-democracy People’s Defense Forces, and arbitrary detentions of perceived regime opponents including labor organizers and journalists. Companies invested in the market face a heightened reputational risk. There is also the potential for the regime to expropriate property or nationalize private companies. In response to the coup, the U.S. government has imposed targeted sanctions, including on members of the regime’s so-called State Administration Council (SAC), ministers, and other authorities. The U.S. has also suspended our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and instituted more stringent export controls. In the 2022 Business Advisory for Burma, the United States reaffirmed that it does not seek to curtail legitimate business and responsible investment in Burma. Nevertheless, investors should exercise extreme caution, avoid joint ventures with regime-affiliated businesses, and conduct heightened due diligence when considering new investments in this market.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 140 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/index/mmr
Global Innovation Index 2021 127 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 -6.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $1,350 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Burma has signed and ratified bilateral investment agreements with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand. It has also signed bilateral investment agreements with Israel and Vietnam, although those have not yet entered into force. Texts of the agreements or treaties that have come into force are available on the UNCTAD website at:  https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investmentagreements/countries/144/myanmar  

Burma does not have a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with the United States. In March 2021, the United States suspended the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in response to the coup.

Through its membership in ASEAN, Burma is also a party to the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, as well as to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, all of which contain an investment chapter that provides protection standards to qualifying foreign investors.

Burma also has border trade agreements with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand.

Burma does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States.

Burma has Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements with the United Kingdom, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Korea.

Burma is not a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing.

The Tax Administrative Law (TAL) went into effect on October 1, 2019. This tax law provides guidance on administrative procedures on the following tax laws: the Income Tax Law; the Commercial Tax Law; the Special Goods Tax Law; and any other taxes deemed as such by the Internal Revenue Department. The law includes an advanced ruling system, an anti-avoidance provision, and the imposition of interest on unpaid or overpaid taxes. The TAL also clarified certain provisions under the existing tax laws with respect to tax filing and payment procedures, maintenance of documents, re-assessment of tax returns, changes to the appeal process, and the imposition of penalties.

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Burma are active in various sectors, including natural resource extraction, print news, energy production and distribution, banking, mobile telecommunications, and transportation. SOEs employ approximately 145,000 people, according to a 2018 report by the Natural Resource Governance Institute. The 1989 State-Owned Economic Enterprises Law does not establish a system of monitoring enterprise operations, hence detailed information on Burmese SOEs is difficult to obtain. However, according to commercial statements, the total net income of all SOEs during fiscal year 2020`21 was approximately USD 828 million. The top profit-making SOEs are found in the natural resource sector, namely the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, Myanma Gems Enterprise, and Myanma Timber Enterprise. Within Burma, there are 32 SOEs managed directly by six ministries without independent boards.

SOEs enjoy several advantages including serving in some cases as the market regulator, preferential land access, and access to low-interest credit. According to the State-Owned Economic Enterprises Law, SOEs wield regulatory powers that provide SOEs a significant market advantage, including through an ability to recommend specific tax exemptions to the MIC on behalf of private sector joint-venture partners and to monitor private sector companies’ compliance with contracts. In addition, the law stipulates that SOE managers have sole discretion in awarding contracts and licenses to private sector partners with limited oversight. SOEs can secure loans at low interest rates from state-owned banks, with approval from the cabinet. Private enterprises, unlike SOEs, are forced to provide land or other real estate as collateral in order to be considered for a loan. SOEs have historically had an advantage over private entities in land access because under the Constitution the State owns all the land.

In April 2021, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned three Burmese SOEs for their roles in financing the military regime: the Myanma Gems Enterprise, the Myanma Timber Enterprise; and the Myanmar Pearl Enterprise. In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Treasury also sanctioned two Myanmar military holding companies: Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, and those sanctions also apply to entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked entities or persons. Investors should conduct careful due diligence, including by consulting the Special Designated National list, to identify which entities are subject to U.S. sanctions given the broad scope of these firms and their privileged position in the economy.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The military regime has not demonstrated any awareness or commitment to responsible business. On the contrary, the regime had enacted policies and practices that undermine economic governance and the rule of law. Moreover, security forces are engaged in an escalating pattern of human rights abuses including mass detentions, extrajudicial killings, and violence deliberately targeting civilians. These human rights abuses have seriously also impacted the business community. Two foreign national business advisors were detained and put under house arrest without charge and one economic advisor was charged for violation of the official secrets acts, with no credible evidence provided to support the charge. Local businesspeople have been interrogated and subject to detention without charges by security forces. Several employees of local businesses have been killed by security forces.

Although there are labor unions, independent NGOs, and business associations in Burma, their ability to operate has been several constrained and in some cases these organizations have been openly targeted by the military regime’s security forces. Child and forced labor are present in Burma. For more information on the human rights and labor situation, please refer to the additional resources.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Secretariat suspended Burma’s participation in the EITI initiative following the military coup. Burmese government officials do not regularly participate in meetings of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, although several businesses, civil society organization, and diplomats participate in Burma country discussions.

The regime has not demonstrated an interest in protecting the environment. On the contrary, the regime has pursued environmentally destructive projects like hydro-electric dams. Illegal timber harvesting and mining have increased under the regime with little regard to existing environmental regulations.

The government of Burma is not a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies, a supporter of the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Service Providers, or a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association. The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business is a civil society member of the International Code of Conduct Association.

9. Corruption

Although the pre-coup civilian government made some progress in addressing corruption, including opening — with U.S. support — two new Anti-Corruption Commission branch offices in November 2020, law enforcement and judicial institutions do not have the independence or capacity to be effective in the fight against corruption under the new military regime.  Corruption is rampant within the military, and the post-coup military regime appointed new members to the Anti-Corruption Commission. The military regime has used the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate politically motivated corruption charges, including against deposed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint. Business leaders whom the regime believes are not adequately supportive of the regime have been detained and charged with corruption and/or tax evasion.

In 2018, the government amended its anti-corruption law to give the ACC authority to scrutinize government procurements. Family members of politicians can also be prosecuted under the anti-corruption law, though office holders face higher penalties.

Some companies are legally required to have compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Under Burma’s Anti-Money Laundering Law, law firms, banks, and companies operating in the insurance and gemstone sectors are required to appoint compliance officers and conduct heightened due diligence on certain customers.

Burma does not have laws to counter conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement. However, prior to the coup the President’s office issued orders to prevent conflicts-of-interest for construction contracts and several ministries had put in place internal rules to avoid conflicts-of-interest in awarding tenders. In the private sector, some of Burma’s largest companies have developed anti-corruption policies, which they have published on-line.

Burma signed the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2005 and ratified it on December 20, 2012.

Burma is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

The military regime does not provide protection to NGOs investigating corruption.

10. Political and Security Environment

Burma has a long history of civil wars and military coups marked by violence. In the aftermath of the February coup, Burmese security forces launched a brutal crackdown against the people of Burma, who peacefully protested the coup and the military’s upending of their democratic transition. In the face of brutal force by the regime, the people of Burma have disrupted the military’s ability to govern by launching a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement, including general strikes and protests. Burma is also home to multiple long-running insurgencies in border regions, where the military competes for control with various ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). Shortly after the February 2021 coup, the military launched brutal and unprovoked attacks against EAOs, perceived opponents, and peaceful demonstrators across the country seeking to terrorize the public into submission. On September 7, 2021, the National United Government (NUG) announced a “People’s Defensive War against the military regime.” Violence is widespread and could continue to escalate.

There have been several reported fires and explosion targeting foreign businesses since the coup, including at Chinese-owned factories, an agricultural storage facility, and military related companies. Attacks resulting in destruction of property and injuries have also been reported at banks and ATMs as well. Foreign businesses are concerned about the potential for violence and destruction of property to escalate, although principally the targets have been companies or infrastructure associated with the military or companies that are perceived to be supportive of the military. The Chinese government has reportedly sought increased regime protection for an oil and gas pipeline that runs through Burma to China because of the deteriorating security situation.

The military regime has also declared martial law in several industrial townships in Yangon, suspending even the veneer of civil liberties and allowing security forces to be more aggressive in response to protests.

Protestors and military opponents have organized boycotts of businesses that have ties to the military regime with great success.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Due to the February 1, 2021 coup, progress on labor reforms stalled and in most cases reversed. The national labor tripartite dialogue among the government, employers, and union leaders, which had been an important forum for advancing workers’ rights before the coup, dissolved in February after several large labor unions withdrew in protest. Burma’s labor union leaders, who have been active in organizing strikes and peaceful demonstrations against the regime since February 1, have been openly targeted by the military, and several union leaders have been killed or arrested. The regime has responded to organized labor’s participation in the CDM, declaring 16 labor-related organizations illegal and issuing warrants for the arrest of more 70 union organizers. The U.S. government released a statement noting it is closely monitoring the labor situation and potential impact on Burma’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) eligibility. The EU has made similar statements questioning future GSP eligibility if labor practices continue to deteriorate.

Burma has a large supply of mostly unskilled workers. Skilled labor and managerial staff are in high demand and short supply. According to the government, 70 percent of Burma’s population is employed in agriculture. From the World Bank’s 2014 “Ending Poverty and Boosting Prosperity in a Time of Transition” report on Burma, 73 percent of the total labor force in Burma was employed in the informal sector in 2010, or 57 percent if one excludes agricultural workers. Casual laborers represented another 18 percent, mainly from the rural areas. Unpaid family workers represent another 15 percent.

Many companies struggle to find and retain skilled labor. The military’s nationalization of schools in 1964, its discouragement of English language classes in favor of Burmese, the lack of investment in education by the previous governments of Burma, and the repeated closing of Burmese universities from 1988 to the mid-2000’s have taken a toll on the country’s workforce. Most people in the 15- to 39-year-old demographic lack technical skills and English proficiency. To address this skilled labor shortage, Burma’s Employment and Skill Development Law went into effect in December 2013. The law provides for compulsory contributions on the part of employers to a “skill development fund,” although this provision has not been implemented.

In October 2011, the Burmese government passed the Labor Organization Law, which legalized the formation of trade unions and allows workers to strike. As of April 2019, roughly 2,900 enterprise-level unions had been formed in a variety of industries ranging from garments and textiles to agriculture to heavy industry. The passage of the Labor Organization Law engendered a labor movement in Burma, and there has been a low, yet increasing, level of awareness of labor issues among workers, employers, and even civilian government officials. Still, at present, the use of collective bargaining remains limited. Strikes are increasingly common in the post-coup environment as a form of political protest against the military regime and pre-coup were common in response to employment grievances, particularly in factories.

Prior to the military coup, the Burmese government was bringing the legal system into compliance with international labor standards. The civilian government had passed a number of labor reforms and amended a range of labor-related laws, such as the Shops and Establishment Law, the Payment of Wages Law, and the Occupational Safety and Health Law. In 2019, Parliament also passed the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law. Under this law, parties to labor disputes can seek mediation through arbitration councils. All stakeholders have a say in the selection of arbitration mediators. If arbitration fails, disputes enter the court system. Parliament approved Burma’s ratification of an international treaty to abolish child labor in the country (Minimum Age Convention 138) in December 2019. A mechanism to submit forced labor complaints became operational in February 2020 although it is unclear if the current military regime is accepting or investigating complaints under this mechanism. Complaints of forced labor made against the military itself are resolved through internal military procedures and the outcome of these complaints are not shared publicly.

In March 2022, the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO) decided to establish a Commission of Inquiry due to the deterioration of International Labor Standards in Myanmar following the military coup in February 2021.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $76.19 billion 2021 N/A www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A 2021 N/A BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 -$1 million 2020 N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 44.3% 2021 N/A UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report 

* Source for Host Country Data

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Chad Wilton
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Rangoon
110 University Avenue/Kamayut Township 11041
Rangoon, Burma
+95-1-753-6509
wiltoncl@state.gov 

China

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 66 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
Global Innovation Index 2021 12 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 123.8 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 10,550 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

9. Corruption

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 OECD Convention on 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.

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.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

For U.S. companies operating in China, finding, developing, and retaining domestic talent at the management and skilled technical staff levels remain challenging for foreign firms, especially as labor costs, including salaries and inputs continue to rise. COVID-19 control and related travel measures have also made it difficult to recruit or retain foreign staff. Foreign companies also complain of difficulty navigating China’s labor and social insurance laws, including local implementation guidelines. Compounding the complexity, due to ineffective enforcement of labor laws and high mandatory social insurance contributions, many PRC domestic employers and employees will not sign formal employment contracts, putting foreign firms at a disadvantage. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the only union recognized under PRC law.  Establishing independent trade unions is illegal.  The law allows for “collective bargaining,” but in practice, focuses solely on collective wage negotiations.  The Trade Union Law gives the ACFTU, a CCP organ chaired by a Politburo member, control over all union organizations and activities, including enterprise-level unions.  ACFTU enterprise unions require employers to pay mandatory fees, often through the local tax bureau, equaling a negotiated minimum of 0.5 percent to a standard two percent of total payroll.  While labor laws do not protect the right to strike, “spontaneous” protests and work stoppages occur.  Official forums for mediation, arbitration, and other mechanisms of alternative dispute resolution often are ineffective in resolving labor disputes.  Even when an arbitration award or legal judgment is obtained, getting local authorities to enforce judgments is problematic.

The PRC has not ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on freedom of association, collective bargaining, or forced labor, but it has ratified conventions prohibiting child labor and employment discrimination. Uyghurs and members of other minority groups are subjected to forced labor in Xinjiang and throughout China via PRC government-facilitated labor transfer programs.

In 2021, the U.S government updated its business advisory on risks for businesses and individuals with exposure to entities engaged in forced labor and other human rights abuses linked to Xinjiang. This update highlights the extent of the PRC’s state-sponsored forced labor and surveillance taking place amid its ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. The Advisory stresses that businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law. In fiscal year 2021, CBP issued four Withhold Release Orders  (WROs) against PRC goods produced with forced labor. The Commerce Department added PRC commercial and government entities to its Entity List for their complicity in human rights abuses and the Department of Treasury sanctioned Wang Junzheng, the Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and Chen Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang. In June 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor added polysilicon for China to an update of the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. The Department of Labor has listed 18 goods as produced by forced labor in China. Some PRC firms continued to employ North Korean workers in violation of UN Security Council sanctions. Pursuant to UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2397, all DPRK nationals earning income, subject to limited exceptions, were required to have been repatriated to the DPRK by 22 December 2019.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $14,724,435 2021 $14,343,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $90,190 2020 $123,875 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.html#650
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $80,048 2020 $37,995 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment
-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.html#650
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 $16.6% 2020 13% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/statistics 

* Source for Host Country Data: National Bureau of Statistics 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $3,214,115 100% Total Outward $2,580,658 100%
China, P.R., Hong Kong  $1,726,212 53.7% China, P.C., Hong Kong $1,438,531 55.7%
British Virgin Islands $403,903 12.5% Cayman Islands $457,027 17.7%
Japan $193,338 6.0% British Virgin Islands $155,645 6%
Singapore $148,721 4.6% United States $80,048 3.1%
United States $86,907 2.7% Singapore $59,858 2.3%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Fiji

Executive Summary

Since April 2021, Fiji experienced a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, and at one point during the crisis, suffered among the highest infection rates in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and a series of natural disasters had a devastating impact on the tourism-dependent economy. The government also lost over $1.51 billion in tax revenues. The gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions, increased remittances from overseas workers, and the distribution of government-funded unemployment benefits have slightly boosted some consumption and investment activity, with GDP growth estimated at -4.1 percent in 2021, compared to -15.2 percent in 2020.

The reopening of borders for tourism in December 2021 resulted in a 12-fold increase in visitor arrivals in the 12 months to February 2022, compared to the same period ending February 2021. The resumption of tourism and improved performance in the primary and industrial sectors, major exports, and the service-related sectors is expected to drive growth by 11.3 percent in 2022 and 8.5 percent in 2023.

Fiji has traditionally been the economic, transportation, and academic hub of the South Pacific islands. The government welcomes foreign investment and parliament passed the Investment Act 2021 to improve the ease of doing business in Fiji. The government’s investment and trade promotion agency, Investment Fiji, registered 12 investment projects valued at $7.64 million (FJD $16.2 million) from American investors in 2021. Exports to Fiji totaled over $180 million in 2021. The United States is Fiji’s top export market. In 2021, U.S. consumers bought over $230 million in Fijian goods and services last year.

Fiji has trade and investment potential, and offers incentives to encourage investments in agriculture, residential housing development, energy, audio & visual, retirement village/aged care facilities, health sector, tourism, manufacturing, and the information communication technology (ICT)/business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 45/180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD $109.39M https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD $4,890.00 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Fiji are concentrated in utilities and key services and industries including aerospace (Fiji Airways, Airports Fiji Limited); agribusiness (Fiji Pine Ltd); energy (Energy Fiji Limited); food processing (Fiji Sugar Corporation, Pacific Fishing Company); information and communication (Amalgamated Telecom Holdings); and media (Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd). There are 25 SOEs with combined assets valued at $3.87 billion (FJD $8.2 billion) in 2019. The SOEs include 10 Government Commercial Companies which operate commercially and are fully owned by the government, five Commercial Statutory Authorities (CSA) which have regulatory functions and charge nominal fees for their services, seven Majority Owned Companies, and two Minority Owned Companies with some government equity. The SOEs that provide essential utilities, such as energy and water, also have social responsibility and non-commercial obligations. A list of SOEs is published in government’s annual budget documentation.

Aside from the CSAs, SOEs do not exercise delegated governmental powers. SOEs benefit from economies of scale and may be favored in certain sectors. The Fiji Broadcasting Company Ltd (FBCL) is exempt from the Media Decree, which governs private media organizations and exposes private media to criminal libel lawsuits. The government has pursued a policy of opening or deregulating various sectors of the economy.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is increasingly promoted, and the government has included legal provisions to protect the environment, consumers, human rights, and labor rights, although its monitoring and enforcement of RBC is mixed. The media, civil society organizations, and labor unions play active roles in promoting RBC. In 2019, a foreign-owned tourism development project was cancelled after the media highlighted extensive environmental degradation by the project developers.

9. Corruption

The legal code provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but corruption cases often proceeded slowly. In 2021, parliament enacted the “high court amendment” law that created a specialized court to enable specific judges and magistrates to preside over and speedily resolve anticorruption cases.

The government established the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), which has broad powers of investigation. FICAC’s public service announcements encouraging citizens to report corrupt government activities have had some effect on systemic corruption. The government adequately funded FICAC, but some observers questioned its independence and viewed some of its high-profile prosecutions as politically motivated. The media publishes articles on FICAC investigations into abuse of office, and anonymous blogs report on government corruption. FICAC in collaboration with the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-corruption agency (UN-PRAC) launched a nationwide anti-bribery campaign. However, Fiji’s relatively small population and limited circles of power often lead to personal relationships playing a major role in business and government decisions. Fiji acceded to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2008.

10. Political and Security Environment

The country held general elections in November 2018 and international observers deemed elections credible. Although civil unrest is uncommon, the Public Order Act restricts freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement to preserve public order. The Online Safety law may also restrict free speech in the digital space. In 2021, there were reports that authorities used the POA’s wide provisions to restrict freedom of expression and of association, and arrest citizens critical of the government on social media. The next elections are expected in 2022.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Labor market conditions at the end of 2021 improved with the lifting of the travel restrictions and the reopening of international borders. The number of workers in the informal sector increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 66 percent of the workforce was in the informal sector.

The ILO estimates that Fiji’s labor force in 2020 was 361,369, with a labor force participation rate of 75.4 percent for males and 56.7 percent for females. Education is compulsory until age 17, with male and female students in Fiji achieving largely the same level of education. Fiji continues to face acute labor shortages in a broad range of fields, including the medical, management, engineering, and financial sectors, and increasingly, competent trade-skilled people in the construction, electrical, and plumbing trades. Fiji participates in the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility (PALM) Scheme and Fijians were employed in meat works, hospital, accommodation, and aged care sectors. As of April 2022, close to 800 Fijians were employed in meat works under PALM.

The Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations has responsibility for the administration of labor laws and the encouragement of good labor relations. The Employment Relations (Amendment) Act of 2016 restored the 2007 Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) as the primary basis for the right of workers to join trade unions. Trade unions are independent of the government. The ERP prohibits forced labor, discrimination in employment based on ethnicity, gender, and other prohibited grounds, and stipulates equal remuneration for work of equal value. There are workplace safety laws and regulations, and safety standards apply equally to both citizens and foreign workers. The government announced a rise in the national minimum hourly wage rate to $1.89 (FJD$4) in the revised FY2021-2022.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy Suva
158 Princes Road, Tamavua, Suva
(679) 3314466
commercialsuva@state.gov 

India

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank/
Amount
Website Address
TI Corruption Perception Index 2021 85 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/countries/india 
Innovation Index 2021 46 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country (Million. USD stock positions) 2020 $41,904 usdia-position-2020.xlsx (live.com) 

 

 

World Bank GNI per capita (USD) 2020 $1,920 https://databank.worldbank.org/views/reports/reportwidget.aspx?Report_Name=CountryProfile&Id=b450fd57&tbar=y&dd=y&inf=
n&zm=n&country=IND
 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Among Indian companies there is a general awareness of standards for responsible business conduct. The MCA administers the Companies Act of 2013 and is responsible for regulating the corporate sector in accordance with the law. The MCA is also responsible for protecting the interests of consumers by ensuring competitive markets. The Companies Act of 2013 also established the framework for India’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) laws, mandating that companies spend an average of two percent of their average net profit of the preceding three fiscal years. While the CSR obligations are mandated by law, non-government organizations (NGOs) in India also track CSR activities and provide recommendations in some cases for effective use of CSR funds. According to the MCA website, in FY 2020-21, 8,633 companies spent $2.72 billion on more than 25,000 CSR projects across India.

The MCA released the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct, 2018 (NGRBC) on March 13, 2019, to improve the 2011 National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental & Economic Responsibilities of Business. The NGRBC aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs).

India does not adhere to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are provisions to promote responsible business conduct throughout the supply chain.

India is neither a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), nor a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

9. Corruption

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.

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.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Although there are more than 20 million unionized workers in India, unions still represent less than five percent of the total work force. Most of these unions are linked to political parties. Unions are typically strong in state-owned enterprises. A majority of the unionized work force can be found in the railroads, port and dock, banking, and insurance sectors. According to provisional figures from the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE), over 672,000 workdays were lost to strikes and lockouts during 2021. Nonetheless, the International Labor Organization and International Monetary Fund both estimate India’s informal economy accounts for over 80 percent of overall employment. Labor unrest occurs throughout India, though the reasons and affected sectors vary widely. Most reported labor problems are the result of workplace disagreements over pay, working conditions, and union representation.

To reduce the number and complexity of India’s previous 29 national labor statutes, address statutory contradictions, improve compliance, and improve labor rights protections by shifting businesses and workers into the formal economy, the parliament consolidated and reformed India’s national labor laws, beginning with passage of the Code on Wages in 2019. During 2020, the parliament passed the Industrial Relations Code; the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code; and the Code on Social Security. These laws’ reforms expanded minimum wage and social security coverage to informal sector workers in agriculture and the growing gig economy, raised the threshold for small and medium sized enterprise exemptions from 100 to 300 employees to foster growth of medium sized enterprises and move workers into the formal economy, expanded the authorized use of contract labor, and gave employers greater hiring and firing flexibility. Details of the laws can be accessed at https://labour.gov.in/labour-law-reforms . The new labor laws require adoption by India’s states for full implementation, which remains ongoing.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, as amended in 2017, mandates 26 weeks of paid maternity leave for women. The Act also mandates for all industrial establishments employing 50 or more workers to have a creche for babies to enable nursing mothers to feed the child up to four times in a day.

The Child Labor Act, 1986 establishes a minimum age of 14 years for work and 18 years as the minimum age for hazardous work. The Bonded Labor Act, 1976 prohibits the use of bonded/forced labor.

There are no reliable unemployment statistics for India due to the informal nature of most employment. During the COVID-19 pandemic experts claimed the unemployment rate spiraled as people in the informal sector lost their jobs. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reported that the average unemployment in October-December period of 2021 was around 7.54 percent.

14. Contact for More Information

Matt Ingeneri
Economic Growth Unit Chief
U.S. Embassy New Delhi
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi
+91 11 2419 8000
ingeneripm@state.gov

Indonesia

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1 
Measure Year Index or Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions index 2021 96 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/index/idn 
Global Innovation Index 2021 87 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S.  FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $18,715 M https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=2&step=1 
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $3,870 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD?locations=ID

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Indonesia currently has 26 bilateral investment agreements in force. In 2014, Indonesia began to abrogate its existing BITs by allowing the agreements to expire. However, Indonesia ratified a new BIT with Singapore in March 2021, marking the first investment treaty signed and entered into force after years of review. Indonesia reportedly developed a new model BIT which is currently reflected in the investment chapter of newly signed trade agreements. A detailed list of Indonesia’s investment agreements can be found at https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/97/indonesia .

Indonesia is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In November 2020, 10 ASEAN Member States and five additional countries (Australia, China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand) signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), representing around 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and population. RCEP encompasses trade in goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, SMEs, and government procurement.

Indonesia is actively engaged in bilateral FTA negotiations. Indonesia recently signed trade agreements with Australia, Chile, Mozambique, the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), and South Korea. Indonesia is currently negotiating Bilateral Trade Agreements with the European Union, United Arab Emirates, Canada, and other countries.

The United States and Indonesia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on July 16, 1996. This Agreement is the primary mechanism for discussions of trade and investment issues between the United States and Indonesia. The two countries also signed the Convention between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the United States of America for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income in Jakarta on July 11, 1988.  This was amended with a Protocol, signed on July 24, 1996. There is no double taxation of personal income.

Indonesia is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Based Erosion and Profit Shifting. The government is party to the Inclusive Framework’s October 2021 deal on the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges, including a global minimum corporate tax.

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Indonesian businesses are required to undertake responsible business conduct (RBC) activities under Law No. 40/2007 concerning Limited Liability Companies. In addition, sectoral laws and regulations have further specific provisions on RBC. Indonesian companies tend to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs offering community and economic development, and educational projects and programs. This is at least in part caused by the fact that such projects are often required as part of the environmental impact permits (AMDAL) of resource extraction companies, and those companies face domestic and international scrutiny of their operations. Because a large proportion of resource extraction activity occurs in remote and rural areas where government services are reported to be limited or absent, these companies face very high community expectations to provide such services themselves. Despite significant investments – especially by large multinational firms – in CSR projects, businesses have noted that there is limited general awareness of those projects, even among government regulators and officials. Yet, lack of regulations, oversight and enforcement measures deter stakeholders’ from more consistently adhering to environment, social, and governance standards (ESG).

The government does not have an overarching strategy to encourage or enforce RBC but regulates each area through the relevant laws (environment, labor, corruption, etc.). Some companies report that these laws are not always enforced evenly. In 2017, the National Commission on Human Rights launched a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in Indonesia, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

OJK regulates corporate governance issues, but the regulations and enforcement are not yet up to international standards for shareholder protection.

Indonesia does not adhere to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the government is not known to have encouraged adherence to those guidelines. Many companies claim that the government does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas or any other supply chain management due diligence guidance. Indonesia is an active member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). As part of EITI requirement, payment made to governments in the extractive industries are disclosed through a system database managed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) as it continues to improve data and information transparency.

9. Corruption

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.

Resources to Report Corruption

Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Anti-Corruption Commission)
Jln. Kuningan Persada Kav 4, SetiabudiJakarta Selatan 12950
Email:  informasi@kpk.go.id 

Indonesia Corruption Watch
Jl. Kalibata Timur IV/D
No. 6 Jakarta Selatan 12740
Tel: +6221.7901885 or +6221.7994015
Email:  info@antikorupsi.org 

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:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Indonesia.html.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Companies have reported that the labor market faces several structural barriers, including skills shortages and lagging productivity, restrictions on the use of contract workers, and complicated labor laws. Recent significant increases in the minimum wage for many provinces have made unskilled and semi-skilled labor more costly. In the bellwether Jakarta area, the Governor set the 2022 minimum wage to IDR 4,641,854 ($324.56), compared to the central government’s IDR 4,453,935 ($311.42), a move opposed by the Ministry of Manpower and private companies. Unions staged frequent, largely peaceful protests across Indonesia in 2021 demanding the government increase the minimum wage, decrease the price for basic needs, and stop companies from outsourcing and employing foreign workers.

The 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation introduced labor reforms, intended to attract investors, boost economic growth and create jobs. The Law aims to make the labor market more flexible to encourage job creation and more formal sector employment, as over half of Indonesia’s workers are in the informal sector. Restrictions on the types of work that can be outsourced were lifted and a new working hours arrangement was established to accommodate jobs in the digital economy era. The Law abolished sectoral minimum wages and reformulated the calculation of minimum wage at the provincial and regency/city level based on economic growth or inflation variables. A new unemployment benefit is now officially part of the public safety net for workers, and severance pay requirements were reduced. The business community’s initial reactions to the law were cautiously optimistic, while labor unions, student groups, and religious organizations staged strikes and protests against the law’s labor reforms. Labor unions cite the loss of limits on temporary employment contracts and expansion of outsourcing flexibility as concerns.

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled November 2021 that the passing of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (No. 11/2020 ) was unconstitutional due to the opaqueness of the process by which the law was created and the fact that proposed revisions were not fully shared with the public. The court ordered lawmakers to revise the law within two years. The Omnibus Law, a key pillar for President Jokowi’s reform agenda intended to facilitate investment and create a friendlier business environment, has been the source of controversy among labor and environmental stakeholders, who assert that the law stripped away labor and environmental protections. Some green NGOs described the court’s decision as a “small win” for the environmental NGO community. Parts of the law already enacted via implementing regulations are still considered constitutionally valid during the two-year grace period set by the court though many of the law’s implementing regulations have not yet been released. The ruling stipulates that the government should not issue new regulations of a strategic nature related to the law until improvements are made to the current law.

Until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment had remained steady at 4.38 percent. As of August 2021, Statistics Indonesia recorded that the unemployment rate jumped to 6.49 percent, or 9.1 million people, lower than the same period in 2020 which reached 7.07 percent or 9.77 million people. Meanwhile the number of workers who were furloughed or worked in shorter working hours due to COVID-19 was much higher.

Employers note that the skills provided by the education system is lower than that of neighboring countries, and successive Labor Ministers have listed improved vocational training as a top priority. Labor contracts are relatively straightforward to negotiate but are subject to renegotiation, despite the existence of written agreements. Local courts often side with citizens in labor disputes, contracts notwithstanding. On the other hand, some foreign investors view Indonesia’s labor regulatory framework, respect for freedom of association, and the right to unionize as an advantage to investing in the country. Expert local human resources advice is essential for U.S. companies doing business in Indonesia, even those only opening representative offices.

Labor unions are independent of the government; about 7.6 percent of the workforce is unionized. The law, with some restrictions, protects the rights of workers to join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Indonesia has ratified all eight of the core ILO conventions underpinning internationally accepted labor norms. The Ministry of Manpower maintains an inspectorate to monitor labor norms, but enforcement is stronger in the formal sector. A revised Social Security Law, which took effect in 2014, requires all formal sector workers to participate. Subject to a wage ceiling, employers must contribute an amount equal to 4 percent of workers’ salaries to this plan. In 2015, Indonesia established the Social Security Organizing Body of Employment (BPJS-Employment), a national agency to support workers in the event of work accident, death, retirement, or old age.

Additional information on child labor, trafficking in persons, and human rights in Indonesia can be found online through the following references:

Child Labor Report:  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/indonesia  .

Trafficking in Persons Report: https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-trafficking-in-persons-report/indonesia/

Human Rights Report:  https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/indonesia/

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)  

2021

$1,187 2020 $1,058 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/Indonesia
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2021 $2,537.2 2020 $18,715 https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?
reqid=2&step=1&isuri=1#reqid=2&step=1&isuri=1
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 $461 https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?
reqid=2&step=1&isuri=1#reqid=2&step=1&isuri=1
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2021 2.6% 2020 22.7% /World Investment Report 2021:
Country-Fact-Sheets

*Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), January 2022

There is a discrepancy between U.S. FDI recorded by BKPM and BEA due to differing methodologies. While BEA recorded transactions in balance of payments, BKPM relies on company realization reports. BKPM also excludes investments in oil and gas, non-bank financial institutions, and insurance.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment 2020 Outward Direct Investment 2020
Total Inward 240,507 100% Total Outward  88,847 100%
Singapore 57,994 24.1% Singapore 31,240 35.2%
United States 31,859 13.2% China

(PR Mainland)

24,673 27.8%
Netherlands 31,554 13.1% France 19,432 21.9%
Japan 25,594 10.6% Cayman Islands 3,445 3.9%
China (PR: Hong Kong) 13,577 5.6% British Virgin Islands 2,868 3.2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey, 2020 for inward and outward investment data.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets 2019
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 22,957 100% All Countries 8,757 100% All Countries 14,200 100%
Singapore 16,604 72.3% Singapore 8,06 92.1% Singapore 8,542 60.1%
British Virgin Islands 2,210 9.6% India 450 5.1% British Virgin Islands 2,210 15.6%
United States 950 4.1% Guernsey 81 0.9% United States 948 6.7%
 United Arab Emirates 599 2.6% China

(PR Hong Kong)

59 0.6% United Arab Emirates 599 4.2%
India 457 2.0% Japan 57 0.6% China

(PR Hong Kong)

361 2.5%

Source: IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, 2020. Sources of portfolio investment are not tax havens.

The Bank of Indonesia published comparable data.

14. Contact for More Information

Marc CookEconomic Section
U.S. Embassy Jakarta
+62-21-50831000
BusinessIndonesia@state.gov

Mauritius

Executive Summary

Mauritius is an island nation with a population of 1.3 million people. The Government of Mauritius (GoM) claims an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 2.3 million square kilometers, but its undisputed EEZ amounts to approximately 1.3 million square kilometers, in addition to jointly managing about 388,000 square kilometers of continental shelf with Seychelles. Mauritius has maintained a stable and competitive economy. Real GDP grew at an average of 4.7 percent from 1968 to 2017, enabling the country to achieve middle-income status in less than 50 years. In 2020, Mauritius’ GDP was $11 billion and its gross national income per capita amounted to $10,230. In July 2020, the World Bank classified Mauritius as a high-income country based on 2019 data, but Mauritius reverted to upper-middle income status in 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic severely damaged the economy. Tourism, which contributed around 20 percent to the economy pre-COVID, did not return as expected following the reopening of borders in October 2021. There was a moderate rebound in exports of goods, but exports of services declined further due to the difficult situation in the tourism sector. The GoM estimated that GDP growth would increase 4.8 percent in 2021, with contractions in tourism (18.8 percent) and sugar (9.6 percent), according to Statistics Mauritius.  The IMF forecasted that the economy would grow 6.7 percent growth in 2022. Unemployment was estimated at 9.2 percent at the end of 2020, while inflation for 2021 was 4.0 percent.

One of the poorest countries in Africa at independence in 1968, Mauritius has become one of the continent’s wealthiest. It successfully diversified its economy away from sugarcane monoculture to a manufacturing and service-based economy driven by export-oriented manufacturing (mainly textiles), tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate, and education/training. Before COVID-19, authorities planned to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for investment into Africa; increasing the use of renewable energy; developing smart cities; growing the blue economy; and modernizing infrastructure, especially public transportation, the port, and the airport.

In November 2021 at the Conference of Parties 26 (COP 26), the GoM pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of the business-as-usual scenario 2030 figures. To achieve this target, the government plans to undertake major reforms in its energy, transport, waste, refrigeration and air-conditioning, agriculture, and conservation sectors. The government aims to produce 60 percent of the country’s energy from green sources by 2030, to phase out the total use of coal before 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 10 percent based on 2019 figures. As part of the national strategy to modernize the public transport system, the light rail network that launched in 2019 is expected to be extended. The government was also working to diversify 70 percent of waste from the landfill by 2030 through the implementation of composting plants, sorting units, biogas plants and waste-to-energy plants.

In 2020 and 2021, however, officials focused on supporting sectors whose revenue disappeared due to the pandemic. In May 2020, the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) set up the Mauritius Investment Corporation (MIC) to mitigate the economic downturn due to the pandemic. The BoM invested $2 billion of foreign exchange reserves in the MIC which were largely directed towards the pharmaceutical and blue economy sectors, in addition to assisting companies that suffered during the pandemic. The BoM also intervened regularly on the domestic foreign exchange market to supply foreign currency.

Government policy in Mauritius is pro-trade and investment. The GoM has signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with 46 countries and maintains a well-regarded legal and regulatory framework. Mauritius has been eager to attract foreign direct investment from China and India, as well as courting more traditional markets like the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. The China-Mauritius free-trade agreement went into effect on January 1, 2021. Mauritius also signed a preferential trade agreement with India, which went into effect in April 2021. The GoM promotes Mauritius as a safe, secure place to do business due to its favorable investment climate and tradition as a stable democracy. Corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but recent political and economic corruption scandals illustrated there was room for improvement in terms of transparency and accountability. For instance, a commercial dispute between a U.S. investor and a parastatal partner that turned into a criminal investigation has raised questions of governmental impartiality.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 49 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 52 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $8,300 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $10,230 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The government’s stated policy is to act as a facilitator to business, leaving production to the private sector. The government, however, still controls key services directly or through parastatal companies in the power and water, television broadcasting, and postal service sectors.

The government also holds controlling shares in the State Bank of Mauritius, Air Mauritius (the national airline), and Mauritius Telecom. These state-controlled companies have Boards of Directors on which seats are allocated to senior government officials. The government nominates the chairperson and CEO of each of these companies. In April 2020, Air Mauritius requested voluntary administration, similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States, because it could not comply with financial obligations. The national airline exited voluntary administration in September 2021 following a $280 million government bailout in the form of a loan arrangement through the central bank’s Mauritius Investment Corporation. In October 2021, a newly created state-owned enterprise, Airport Holdings Ltd., acquired 9.43 million shares in Air Mauritius, gaining effective control of the airline.

The government also invests in a wide variety of Mauritian businesses through its investment arm, the State Investment Corporation. The government is also the owner of Maubank and the National Insurance Company.

Two parastatal entities are involved in the importation of agricultural products: the Agricultural Marketing Board (AMB) and the State Trading Corporation (STC). The AMB’s role is to ensure that the supply of certain basic food products is constant, and their prices remain affordable. The STC is the only authorized importer of petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas, and flour. SOEs purchase from or supply goods and services to private sector and foreign firms through tenders.

Audited accounts of SOEs are published in their annual reports. Mauritius is part of the OECD network on corporate governance of state-owned enterprises in southern Africa.

The Declaration of Assets Act (DoA Act) was enacted in December 2018 and took effect in June 2019. It provides that certain key officials of the public sector, including chief executives of state-owned enterprises, must declare their assets and liabilities with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The declaration includes the assets and liabilities of spouses and minor children. This declaration is published on the website of ICAC. A list of SOEs is published in the Declaration of Assets (State-owned Enterprises) Regulations 2019: https://www.icac.mu/declaration-of-assets/ .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The National Committee for Corporate Governance (NCCG) was established under Section 63 of the Financial Reporting Act (2004) and is the coordinating body responsible for all matters pertaining to corporate governance in Mauritius. The NCCG was attached to the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance until 2021, when it was recognized as a corporate body following an amendment to the Financial Reporting Act. The purpose of the Committee is to: (i) establish principles and practices of corporate governance; (ii) promote the highest standards of corporate governance; (iii) promote public awareness about corporate governance principles and practices; and (iv) act as the national coordinating body responsible for all matters pertaining to corporate governance. The latest Code of Corporate Governance for Mauritius (2016) was launched on February 13, 2017 and can be accessed at https://nccg.mu/full-code. In 2021, the NCCG also launched a Corporate Governance Scorecard to introduce an objective and quantitative element for companies to report on compliance. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), also set up under the Financial Reporting Act (2004), aims to advocate for the provision of high-quality reporting of financial and non-financial information by public interest entities and to improve the quality of accountancy and audit service. Mauritius does not have a dedicated center for research on corporate governance.

The Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance was established following the December 2014 elections. Its mandate is to provide guidance and support for enforcement of good governance and the eradication of corruption. In 2015, the Financial Services Commission introduced a Code of Business Conduct as part of its Fair Market Conduct Program. The Financial Services Commission has also introduced several measures in 2020 and 2021 to comply with recommendations made by the Financial Action ask Force for enhancing anti-money laundering and combatting terrorism financing standards.

The Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIoD) is an independent, private sector-led organization that also promotes high standards and best practices of corporate governance, with additional information available at http://www.miod.mu .

In 2017, the government set up a National Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation, which operated under the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment. In 2019, this foundation became the National Social Inclusion Foundation (NSIF). The NSIF is managed by a council consisting of members from the private and public sectors, civil society, and academia. Under the 2016 Finance Act, every company registered in Mauritius must set up a CSR fund and annually contribute the equivalent of 2 percent of its taxable income from of the previous year. In 2017 and 2018, companies were required to remit at least 50 percent of their CSR funds to tax authorities for the National CSR Foundation. The required contribution increased in 2019 to 75 percent for CSR funds set up on or after January 1, 2019. The NSIF is supposed to channel the money to NGO projects in priority areas identified by the government. These priority areas are poverty alleviation, educational support, social housing, family protection, people with severe disabilities, and victims of substance abuse. Further details can be found on the NSIF and MRA websites: https://www.nsif.mu  and https://www.mra.mu/download/CSRGuide.pdf .

9. Corruption

The prevalence of corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but graft and nepotism nevertheless remain concerns and are increasingly a source of public frustration. Several high-profile cases involving corruption have reinforced the perception that corruption exists at the highest political levels, despite the fact that Mauritian law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials. According to Transparency Mauritius, the absence of a law regulating the financing of political parties fuels corruption. A former prime minister was arrested in 2015 on allegations of money laundering, though courts have since dismissed all charges. The state prosecutors appealed the last dismissal in late 2019 and court proceedings are ongoing, with the latest hearing held in February 2022. A minister in the previous government stepped down in 2016 after allegations of bribery. In March 2017, allegations surfaced concerning possible political interference in the Financial Services Commission’s issuance of an investment banking license to Angolan billionaire Alvaro Sobrinho, who is being investigated for alleged corruption in Portugal. In March 2018, the president of Mauritius resigned after press reported that she bought apparel, jewelry, and a laptop computer with a credit card provided by an NGO financed by the same Angolan businessman. In June 2020, the prime minister dismissed his deputy prime minister following allegations of bribery and corruption in a public energy contract. In February 2021, the minister of commerce stepped down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Investors should know that while the constitution and law require arrest warrants to be based on sufficient evidence and issued by a magistrate, police may detain an individual for up to 21 days under a “provisional charge” based on a reasonable suspicion, with the concurrence of a magistrate. Two French businessmen claimed that, in February 2015, authorities held them against their will. A U.S. investor has been unable to leave Mauritius since February 1, 2020, without charges filed against him.

In 2002, the government adopted the Prevention of Corruption Act, which led to the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). ICAC has the power to investigate corruption and money laundering offenses and can also seize the proceeds of corruption and money laundering. The director and board members of ICAC are nominated by the prime minister. The Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Act of 2015 was announced as a measure to recover “unexplained wealth” and came into force in early 2016. Critics of the act dislike its presumption of guilt, which requires the accused to demonstrate a lawful source of questionable assets, as well as the application of the law retroactively for seven years. The 2018 Declaration of Assets Act (DoA) entered into force in June 2019 and defines which public officials are required to declare assets and liabilities to the ICAC. These public officials include members of the National Assembly, mayors, chairpersons and chief executive officers of state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies, among others. This declaration is published on the website of ICAC: https://www.icac.mu/declaration-of-assets/disclosure-of-declarations/ .

Mauritius’ rating by the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International improved in 2021. The country was rated the 49th least-corrupt nation out of 180 countries, compared to 52nd in 2020 and 56th in 2019. However, Mauritius retained its first rank in overall governance in Africa for the 10th consecutive year, according to the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

U.S. investors, in conversations with embassy personnel, have not identified corruption as an obstacle to investment in the country. They have, however, encountered attempts for bribery.

Although the country lacks laws on political party financing, Mauritius has legislation to combat corruption by public officials. These include laws dealing with the declaration of assets, asset recovery, prevention of corruption, anti-money laundering, and criminal offenses related to abuse of office by public officials.

However, legal loopholes exist, and enforcement is weak. Allegations of corruption and misallocation of government contracts by public entities occurred in 2020, namely the use of emergency procurement procedures during the pandemic to allegedly enrich friends and family of those in power.

According to Transparency Mauritius, more companies have introduced control and risk management protocols and adopted code of ethics and good business conduct, even if these do no target government officials. The Prevention of Corruption Act targets mainly the public sector, but there is no whistleblower protection law.

Mauritius has ratified the UNCAC, but has not yet adopted all the recommendations, such as the criminalization of corruption in the private sector. According to Transparency Mauritius, NGOs involved in fighting corruption are not given enough protection and funding.

10. Political and Security Environment

Mauritius has a long tradition of political and social stability. Civil unrest and political violence are uncommon. Free and fair national elections are held every five years with the last general elections held in November 2019. Those most recent elections took place without incident. The current prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth previously served as finance minister, and was appointed prime minister 2017 after his father resigned (in accordance with the constitution). Jugnauth won reelection in 2019. In August 2020 and February 2021, civilians engaged in mass protests following allegations of corruption and mismanagement by the government. The protests were orderly and without incident.

Crime rates are low, but petty and violent crime can occur. Visitors should keep track of their belongings at all times due to the potential for pickpocketing and purse-snatching, especially in crowded and tourist areas. Visitors should also avoid walking alone, particularly on isolated beaches and at night, and should avoid demonstrations.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to the GoM, employment of Mauritians stood at 476,100 in September 2021 (289,100 males and 187,000 females), a decrease from 507,100 in 2020, and 591,000 in 2019. The number of unemployed stood at 49,800 in September 2021, a decrease from 52,200 in 2020. In 2019, the number of unemployed was estimated at 39,700. The unemployment rate for the third quarter of 2021 was estimated at 9.5 percent, compared to 10.5 percent in the second quarter of 2021 and 10.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020. Employment in large establishments (employing 10 or more persons) as of March 2021 was estimated at 305,532 (186,227 male and 119, 305 female) out of which 30, 013 were foreign workers (23,961 males and 6,052 females).

The labor market remains restricted by rising unemployment among graduates and low-skilled workers, and a high number of unemployed women. It is further characterized by a persistent mismatch between qualifications of the unemployed and the skills required in an increasingly services-oriented economy. Government labor market programs aimed at building human capital have been extended, with policies to develop skills of the unemployed focusing on apprenticeships and placements. In November 2016, the government introduced the National Skills Development Program (NSDP), a fully-funded technical training program for youth, which was still running as of April 2020. The NSDP is managed by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), which operates under the Ministry of Education and is responsible for promoting the development of the labor force in Mauritius. The HRDC, with technical and financial support from the French development agency, is also devising a National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) for 2020-2024. The aim of the NSDS is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of skills development programs. The HRDC, in collaboration with the Economic Development Board (EDB), has also established a Skills Development Support Scheme for Foreign Direct Investment to support foreign investors in training their employees. Through this scheme, the HRDC provides eligible employers up to 80 percent of the total amount disbursed on training; the remaining 20 percent is incurred by the employer. The objective is to develop technical expertise and specialization, and likewise boost the skills base for attracting FDI.

In 2018, the government introduced the SME Employment Scheme, which allows SMEs to employ recent graduates, whose monthly stipends are paid by the government for one year. In 2019, the government expanded the program to diploma holders.

In 2017, the National Assembly passed the National Employment Act. This act repealed the Employment and Training Act and introduced a modern legislative framework. The act provides the labor market with information on supply and demand of skills, job seekers, and training institutions; promotes placement and training of job seekers, including young persons and persons with disabilities; and promotes labor migration and home-based work.

In November 2017, the Equal Opportunities Act was amended to protect prospective employees with criminal records from discrimination when being considered for recruitment or promotion.

In 2018, the government introduced a minimum monthly wage of 9,000 Mauritian rupees (approximately $209) for all workers, which impacted over 100,000 low-paid workers. In November 2019, the cabinet, following a recommendation from the National Wage Consultative Council, increased the minimum wage again to 10,200 rupees ($237), effective January 2020. The minimum wage was further increased to 10,575 rupees ($246) in January 2022.

Workers’ rights are protected under the 2019 Workers’ Rights Act. The legislation provides, among others: a portable retirement gratuity fund; fair compensation in case of termination; harmonization of working conditions in different sectors; the flexibility to request the right to work from home either on a full- or part-time basis; and equal remuneration for equal work. The act also expands the Equal Opportunities Act through several measures against discrimination in employment and occupation.

Trade unions are independent of the government and employers. Mauritius has an active trade union movement that about 25 percent of the workforce, and labor-management relations are generally positive. The last major strike affecting the economy took place in 1979. The government generally seeks to avoid strikes through a system that promotes settlement through negotiation or arbitration. Disputes are resolved at the Conciliation and Mediation Section of the Ministry of Labor or at the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation. If the matter is not resolved, it is referred to the Employment Relations Tribunal. Mauritius participates actively in the annual International Labor Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and adheres to ILO core conventions protecting workers’ rights.

14. Contact for More Information

Anjana Khemraz-Chikhuri
Economic & Commercial Assistant
U.S. Embassy to Mauritius and Seychelles, Port-Louis, Mauritius
+ 230 202 4400
ChikhuriA@state.gov

Micronesia

Executive Summary

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a lower middle income island nation of 104,832 in 2021, an eight percent population decline from 2019.   The inhabitants live on 607 islands with a total land area of 271 square miles and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of over one million square miles (2.6 million square km) in a remote area of the Western Pacific Ocean.  The nation is composed of distinct, separate cultures and languages organized into four states under a weak national government.  The FSM is part of the former U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, gaining independence in 1986. Since independence, the United States has provided over $100 million annually to the FSM under a Compact of Free Association (Compact or COFA) with the United States.  FSM uses the funds for development under the administration of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (DOI).  The World Bank estimates FSM’s 2020 Gross Domestic Income (GDI) at $3,950 per person, a trend reflecting no growth over the previous 10 years.  The national currency is the U.S. dollar.

Commercial fishing remains the key economic sector in the FSM. The country’s primary sources of income are the sale of fishing rights ($70 million in FY2020), corporate income taxes, mainly from offshore corporate registrations for captive insurance ($10 million in FY 2020), and special revenue grants ($26 million in FY2020).  The FSM continues largely as a subsistence economy, except in larger towns where the economy is centered on government employment and a small commercial sector. The cash economy is primarily fueled by government salaries paid by Compact funds (70 percent of employed adults work in the public sector) and, to a much lesser degree, by family remittances and Social Security benefits paid to FSM citizens who previously worked in the United States or who are the surviving spouse of an American citizen.

Compact funding was anticipated to change in 2023 from direct funding in the form of sector grants, to the use by the FSM of proceeds derived from a trust fund developed from U.S. contributions over 20 years.  (Note: The Compact of Free Association is under renegotiation as of June 2022 and it cannot be determined if the direct funding mechanism of sector grants will continue or end).  As of September 2021, the balance of the Compact Fund stood at $1 billion.  FSM has also created its own trust fund, contributing $17 million in FY2020, raising its overall balance to $307 million. (Note: audited balances for the FSM Trust Fund for FY2021 have not yet been published).

The FSM GDP for 2018 was $402 million, a 19.5 percent increase from 2017 at constant prices. The economy recorded a trade deficit of $125 million in goods and services for the same year. FSM government debt at $83.2 million was low, giving FSM a low 23.7 debt/GDP ratio, one of the lowest in the Pacific. Major creditors are the Asian Development Bank (52.5 percent of debt) and the U.S. Rural Utility Services (20.7 percent of debt).  Despite the low levels of debt in absolute terms, the International Monetary Fund deemed FSM to be at a high level of debt stress due to the uncertainty created by looming Compact Funding reductions in 2023 and the possible need to borrow to maintain operations of state governments.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is almost nonexistent due to prohibitions on foreign ownership of land and businesses (in specified industries), difficulties in registering companies (the process requires approvals from the state governments as well as the national government), poor private sector contract enforcement, poor protection of minority (foreign) investors’ rights, weak courts, and weak bankruptcy processes.  In addition, lack of infrastructure, poor health and education systems, the scarcity of commercial flights, and high costs of imported goods and various business services also contribute to the lack of FDI.

Pohnpei State’s Legislature amended its laws in September 2018 to reduce requirements on foreign investment.  The law specified the business sectors that permit FDI, with the remaining sectors available for Pohnpei citizens only.  Domestic capital formation is very low. Commercial banks are classified as foreign entities and their ability to provide commercial loans, especially secured by real estate, is very limited.  Banks view all credit to FSM borrowers as essentially unsecured.

Most national political power is delegated to the four states by the FSM Constitution, including regulation of foreign investment and restrictions on leases.  Thus, investors must navigate nationwide between five different sets of regulations and licenses.  U.S. citizens can live and work in the FSM indefinitely without visas under the Compact but cannot own property on most FSM islands.  FSM voters select national legislators (senators).  The national senators then caucus to select the president and vice-president from among the four at-large senators.  There are no political parties.  On May 11, 2019, Senators selected David Panuelo and Yosiwo George as president and vice president, respectively, for four-year terms.  The most recent elections for Congress were held March 1, 2021.

The FSM federal government closed its borders in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not allow any repatriations until May 2021.  Since that time, it has repatriated citizens and essential workers intermittently via a single flight per month into the country.  The shut-down has adversely affected the FSM’s tourism industry and the ability of the international community to implement infrastructure programs needed to support investment.  Recently, flights have increased in frequency and quarantine has been reduced, with plans to fully reopen in August 2022.

Only Yap State has undertaken any green energy initiatives with a single pilot wind project.  It has also implemented several small-scale solar projects on outer islands.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 44 of 100(Regional) http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
Global Innovation Index N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2012 $30 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $3,950 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The FSM has established state monopolies and maintains state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the areas of fuel distribution, telecommunications, and copra production.  These companies are Vital Energy (the parent of FSM Petroleum Corporation, FSMPC), the FSM Telecommunications Corporation, the FSM Telecommunications Cable Corporation, and the FSM Coconut Development Authority, which was folded into Vital Energy in 2014.  Legislation passed in 2016 opened the telecom market to private companies to qualify for World Bank funding for broadband development, including a submarine fiber optic cable to Yap and Palau.  Other prominent SOEs include the National Fisheries Corporation, the FSM Development Bank, the College of Micronesia, and Caroline Islands Air, Inc.

FSM does not currently adhere to the convention on the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on corporate governance of SOEs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is little awareness or definition of responsible business conduct (RBC) in the FSM.  However, most local businesses are small and generally responsive to the community in which they operate.  The two U.S.-based companies in the FSM generally follow RBC principles.  The host government does not promote RBC or factor it into evaluations for public contracts, nor does the country adhere to the convention on OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.

9. Corruption

The FSM has laws prohibiting corruption and there are penalties for corrupt acts.  The National Office of the Public Auditor, with support from the Department of Justice, is the entity most active in anti-corruption activities.  Several senior ex-FSM Government officials were convicted of corruption under the FSM Financial Management Act, usually involving procurement fraud.  An FSM government transportation official pled guilty April 3, 2019, in U.S. District Court to conspiring to launder bribe money he accepted from a U.S.-citizen president of a Honolulu civil engineering company.  The official was then-FSM President Christian’s son-in-law who served 18 months in prison in the United States and was subsequently deported back to the FSM in 2021.  Corruption is not a predicate offense under the money laundering statute.  Bribery is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years in addition to disqualification from holding any government position.  Traditional custom permits a lawbreaker to ask and receive forgiveness by paying a fine to those victimized.  Given many FSM national, state, and municipal government officials also own businesses, there exists significant potential for conflicts of interest.

The degree to which government officials accept direct bribes is unknown but believed to be commonplace, especially deriving from state actors.  Pohnpei State and Yap State are currently prosecuting corruption cases. The Yap State governor and lieutenant governor reported receiving cash envelopes in inauguration presents which they promptly handed to Yap State’s Acting Attorney General who conducted an investigation.  The FSM has not signed or ratified the UN Convention on Corruption or the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.

10. Political and Security Environment

FSM enjoys a stable, democratic form of government with no history of civil or political strife. The islands became part of a UN Trust Territory under U.S. administration following World War II, after periods of Spanish, German, and Japanese control.  In 1979, the islands adopted a constitution, formally becoming the Federated States of Micronesia.  Independence came in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States that was amended and renewed in 2004 and portions related to financial assistance currently are being renegotiated.  Under this agreement, the U.S. Government guarantees the FSM’s external security.

The country’s last presidential election was held in March 2019, in which incumbent Peter Christian lost his bid for a second term to current President David W. Panuelo.  The population’s main concerns during the campaign season were related to the high unemployment rate, depletion of marine resources from overfishing, corruption, and a reliance on foreign aid.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Wages in FSM are low with minimum wage laws for government employees in all states and the federal government.  Only Pohnpei has a minimum wage for the private sector at $1.75 per hour.  However, employers report that they cannot hire employees for less than $3.00 per hour.  Employment in the public sector is preferred because the wages are significantly higher.  The minimum hourly wage for employment with the national government was $2.65.  The minimum hourly wage for government workers in the individual states was: Pohnpei $2.00, Chuuk $1.25, Kosrae $1.42 and Yap $1.60.  The FSM’s minimum wage was last adjusted January 1, 2015.

There are no laws regulating hours of work (although a 40-hour work week is standard practice, with 32 hours standard in Kosrae State), nor are there enforceable standards of occupational safety and health.  While there was one federal regulation that required that employers provide a safe workplace, neither the Department of Health nor the Environmental Protection Agency has enforcement capability, resulting in varying working conditions.  There is no law for either the public or private sector that permits workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their continued employment.

Skilled labor in FSM is limited, with few FSM citizens trained to perform tasks of any technical nature.  Foreign workers, primarily Filipinos, are typically hired to fill roles requiring technical skills. In September 2018, after having banned all Filipino workers from working in the FSM in mid-2018, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs revised its deployment ban on Philippine labor coming to the FSM to ban only new recruits, exempting the 2,000 Filipino workers already in country.  Philippine overseas foreign workers were FSM’s main source for educated and skilled labor but, with the ban in place, this pool can no longer be replenished.

A labor dispute at a privately run hospital in Pohnpei led to the dismissal or resignation of several doctors and surgeons, all from the Philippines.  As a result, service hours were cut and capacities are in doubt. The hospital is one of the embassy’s preferred medical providers, as the island’s only other hospital did not meet hygienic standards, although the medical care itself was generally adequate for non-specialized treatment.  Likewise, wage disputes in Yap state resulted in the mass resignation of 40 doctors and nurses from the Yap State Hospital, triggering a state of emergency and frantic search for replacement medical personnel.

Most doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, engineers, construction foremen, and heavy equipment operators are overseas workers from the Philippines.

The FSM has no collective bargaining or strikes.  Unemployment is high, and workers are easily replaced.  There is no child labor, except in small family businesses.  Occupational safety and health standards are low.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2020 $3,950 www.worldbank.org/en/country
www.fsmstatistics.fm 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $1.0 2012 $30.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/

www.FSMstatistics.fm

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A $1 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-
comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A UNCTAD data available at: https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Frank Talluto
Economic/Consular Officer
1286 U.S. Embassy Place, Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941
+691 320-2187
TallutoFP@state.gov

New Zealand

Executive Summary

After weathering the pandemic better than most countries, the New Zealand economy has begun to overheat. Net debt to GDP has increased from 19.5 percent prior to the onset of Covid restrictions to 34.5 percent at the end of 2021. The increase in debt has been due in part to spending measures the government has undertaken for Covid response and recovery. These measures were able to support economic activity during extensive Covid-related domestic lockdowns and travel restrictions, but along with supply chain disruptions, they have begun to contribute to higher inflation. Nationwide labor shortages across a variety of sectors have also had a sizeable impact on the economy. In response to war in Ukraine, the New Zealand government rapidly passed historic sanctions legislation targeting individuals, companies, and assets associated with Russia’s invasion. Sanctions are expected to have a limited direct impact on the investment climate in New Zealand.

While a swift border closure and the imposition of lockdowns originally helped stamp out community transmission of Covid, the appearance of the Omicron variant in January 2022 resulted in an outbreak that put pressure on the health system. At time of writing, border restrictions were being phased out in favor of a management approach to the pandemic. The government announced its plans to open the New Zealand border to travelers from visa-waiver countries on May 1. By October, it is expected that the border will fully reopen. Since 2020, the tourism sector has suffered the most, while primary exports and the housing market have helped to sustain the economy. Unemployment is currently 3.2 percent, a record low.

New Zealand has an international reputation for an open and transparent economy where businesses and investors can make commercial transactions with ease. Major political parties are committed to an open trading regime and sound rule of law practices. This has been regularly reflected in high global rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report and Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption index. New Zealand is party to a multitude of free trade agreements (FTA). In February 2022, the country signed its latest, an FTA with the United Kingdom.

Successive governments accept that foreign investment is an important source of financing for New Zealand and a means to gain access to foreign technology, expertise, and global markets. Some restrictions do apply in a few areas of critical interest including certain types of land, significant business assets, and fishing quotas. These restrictions are facilitated by a screening process conducted by a government agency.

The current Labour-led government welcomes productive, sustainable, and inclusive foreign investment, but since being elected in October 2017 and reelected in October 2020, there has been a modest shift in economic priorities to social initiatives while continuing to acknowledge New Zealand’s dependence on trade and foreign investment. Cabinet has agreed a whole-of-government framework that will drive climate change policy. This national initiative is currently underway to reduce the country’s emissions and is developing a pathway for farmers to reduce agricultural emissions. The rapidly developing digital and e-commerce landscape is supported by government initiatives that expand the knowledge base, while making a priority of digital inclusion. Along with its focus on post-pandemic recovery, the New Zealand government has invested in a digital, innovative future that aims to secure multilateral agreements with e-commerce rules that address the complexities of the evolving digital economy.

The 2022 Investment Climate Statement for New Zealand uses the exchange rate of NZD 1 = USD 0.70

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 1 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021 
Global Innovation Index 2021 26 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $12,900 https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/southeast-asia-pacific/new-zealand 
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $41,550 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Treasury monitors 12 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), three mixed-ownership-model entities, and 29 Crown entities. Together, these entities make up the broader SOE sector in New Zealand, which is concentrated in the energy and transportation sectors. In the year to June 2021, the asset base of the 12 SOEs was NZD 50.7 billion (USD 35.5 billion). While figures for net income are not available, the operating balance for the sector was NZD 184 million (USD 129 million). In the same period, mixed ownership companies reported an asset base of NZD 28.8 billion (USD 20.2 billion) and an operating balance of NZD 410 million (USD 287 million). For more information on the financial performance of the SOEs and Crown entities, please visit https://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/year-end/financial-statements-2021-html  where a partial list of SOEs is available.

The Treasury’s Governance & Appointments team provides advice to Ministers on board appointments, which typically involve local personnel. Legislation of SOEs falls under the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, which sets up processes to improve efficiency in the sector. All SOEs are registered as public companies and are bound by the Companies Act and the Fair Trade Act, which clearly define the relationships between companies and their directors/shareholders, and the market. In the late 1990s, competition law under the Commerce Act was strengthened to provide for penalties for misuse of a dominant position. The Commerce Commission “ComCom” sets out guidelines and policies for anti-competitive behavior. A suspected breach of the Commerce Act, inclusive of those involving an SOE, is reported to ComCom’s website at https://comcom.govt.nz/contact-us  and is immediately investigated.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The New Zealand government actively promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is widely practiced throughout the country. There are New Zealand NGOs dedicated to facilitating and strengthening CSR, including the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Business Network, and the American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand.

New Zealand is committed to both the OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Multi-national businesses are the main focus, such as a New Zealand company that operates overseas, or a foreign-owned company operating in New Zealand. The guidance can also be applied to businesses with only domestic operations that form part of an international supply chain. Individuals wishing to complain about the activity of a multi-national business that happened in another country, will need to contact the National Contact Points of that country. In New Zealand, MBIE is the NCP to carry out the government’s responsibilities under the guidelines.

To help businesses meet their responsibilities, MBIE has developed a short version of the guidelines to assess the social responsibility ‘health’ of enterprises, and for assessing the actions of governments adhering to the guidelines. If further action is needed, MBIE provide resolution assistance, such as mediation, but do not adjudicate or duplicate other tribunals that assess compliance with New Zealand law. MBIE is assisted by a liaison group that meets once a year, with representatives from other government agencies, industry associations, and NGOs.

As reported over the past five years in the Trafficking in Persons report, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in New Zealand.  Foreigners from South and East Asia, the Pacific, and some countries in Latin America are vulnerable to working as forced laborers in several of New Zealand’s tourist, construction, and agribusinesses. Temporary migrant workers in sectors most negatively affected by pandemic, such as hospitality and tourism, are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.

9. Corruption

New Zealand is renowned for its efforts to ensure a transparent, competitive, and corruption-free government procurement system. The country consistently achieves top ratings in Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Perception Index. Stiff penalties against bribery of government officials as well as those accepting bribes are strictly enforced. The Ministry of Justice provides guidance on its website for businesses to create their own anti-corruption policies, particularly improving understanding of the New Zealand laws on facilitation payments. U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to investing in New Zealand.

New Zealand supports multilateral efforts to increase transparency of government procurement regimes. The country joined the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) in 2012, citing benefits for exporters, while noting that there would be little change for foreign companies bidding within New Zealand’s totally deregulated government procurement system. New Zealand’s accession to the GPA came into effect in August 2015.

New Zealand also engages with Pacific Island countries in capacity building projects to bolster transparency and anti-corruption efforts. The country has signed and ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In 2003, New Zealand signed the UN Convention against Corruption and ratified it in 2015.

The legal framework for combating corruption in New Zealand consists of domestic and international legal and administrative methods. Domestically, New Zealand’s criminal offences related to bribery are contained in the Crimes Act 1961 and the Secret Commissions Act 1910. If the acts occur outside New Zealand, proceedings may be brought against them under the Crimes Act if they are a New Zealand citizen, resident, or incorporated in the country. Penalties include imprisonment up to 14 years and foreign bribery offences can incur fines up to the greater of NZD 5 million (USD 3.4 million) or three times the value of the commercial gain obtained.

The New Zealand government has a strong code of conduct, the Standards of Integrity and Conduct, which applies to all State Services employees and is rigorously enforced. The Independent Police Conduct Authority considers complaints against New Zealand Police and the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner was established in August 2005 to deal with complaints about the conduct of judges. New Zealand’s Office of the Controller and Auditor-General and the Office of the Ombudsman take an active role in uncovering and exposing corrupt practices. The Protected Disclosures Act 2000 was enacted to protect public and private sector employees who engage in “whistleblowing.”

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for drafting and administering the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation and regulations. The AML/CFT Amendment Act 2017 extends the 2009 Act to cover a wider group of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, along with businesses that deal in high-value goods. The New Zealand Police Financial Intelligence Unit estimate that NZD 1.3 billion (USD 910 million) of criminal proceeds is laundered in New Zealand annually, driven in part by the ease of forming a business in the country. The Department of Internal Affairs is working on a solution for businesses that are facing difficulty meeting their AML/CFT obligations during COVID-19.

After a standard review of the 2017 general election and 2016 local body elections, the Justice Select Committee conducted an inquiry in 2019 on the issue of foreign interference through politicized social media campaigns and from foreign donations to political candidates standing in New Zealand elections. New Zealand intelligence agencies acknowledged political donations as a legally sanctioned form of participation in New Zealand politics but raised concerns when aspects of a donation are obscured or are channeled in a way that prevents scrutiny of the origin of the donation, when the goal is to covertly build and project influence. In December 2019 the government passed the Electoral Amendment Act under urgency to ban donations from overseas persons to political parties and candidates over NZD 50 (USD 35) down from the previous NZD 1,500 (USD 1050) maximum, to reduce the risk of foreign money influencing the election process.

10. Political and Security Environment

New Zealand is a stable liberal democracy with almost no record of significant political violence.

The New Zealand government raised its national security threat level for the first time from “low” to “high” after the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  One month later it lowered the risk to “medium” where a “terrorist attack, or violent criminal behavior, or violent protest activity is assessed as feasible and could well occur.”  The incident led to wide-ranging gun law reform that restricts semi-automatic firearms and magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds.  An amnesty buy-back scheme of prohibited firearms administered by the NZ Police ran until December 20, 2019.

A series of anti-vaccine mandate protests in Wellington commenced February 8, 2022, and lasted for 23 days. Although not overtly violent, they included groups that blocked roads, trespassed, and caused general disruption.  The issue has not been politicized, however, with complete cross-aisle agreement from all parties in Parliament not to respond to the demands of the protestors – who remain a tiny minority in a country that is among the most completely vaccinated in the world.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Following restrictive Covid-related immigration policies, the New Zealand labor market tightened further from already-tight levels pre-Covid. Unemployment is currently 3.2 percent. Labor shortages are reported across a multitude of sectors but are most pronounced in construction and agriculture, where specialty skills and migrant workers are impacted by immigration regulations.

New Zealand’s informal economy is considered to be relatively modest, contributing approximately one-tenth of GDP. The relatively small size of the informal economy can be explained by low levels of corruption, along with respect for the rule of law and regulations.

New Zealand operates a Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme that allows the horticulture and viticulture industry to recruit workers from the Pacific Islands for seasonal work to supplement the New Zealand workforce. There have been prosecutions and convictions for the exploitation of migrant workers, with reports that the hospitality, agriculture, viticulture, and construction industries are most effected. New Zealand recruitment agencies that recruit workers from abroad must use a licensed immigration adviser. Impacted by Covid, the RSE scheme underwent changes during the pandemic. While immigration was heavily restricted between 2020 and 2022, the RSE was eventually expanded in early 2022 with an announcement by the Government that the cap would be increased for Pasifika workers in the horticulture sector.

New Zealand has consistently maintained an active and visible presence in the International Labour Organization (ILO), being a founding member in 1919, and its representatives have attended the annual International Labour Conferences since 1935. The ILO and the government of New Zealand have collaborated on several initiatives, including the elimination of child labor in Fiji, employment creation in Indonesia, and the improvement of labor laws in Cambodia.

The government has taken a more proactive approach to enforcing employment law in New Zealand, because the migrant worker population has increased rapidly in recent years and the resources to protect those workers have not kept up with the increase. The government has been steadily increasing the number of labor inspectorates – situated within MBIE – to double the number in 2017.

There is no stated government policy on the hiring of New Zealand nationals, however certain jobs within government agencies that handle sensitive information may have a citizenship requirement, minimum duration of residency, and require background checks.

Labor laws are generally well enforced, and disputes are usually handled by the New Zealand Employment Relations Authority.

MBIE provides guidance for employers on minimum standards of employment mandated by law, guidelines to help promote the employment relationship, and optional guidelines that are useful in some roles or industries. Agreements on severance and redundancy packages are usually negotiated in individual agreements. For more see: https://www.employment.govt.nz/ 

After a three-year review and consultation, the government introduced the Screen Industry Workers Bill in February 2020. The previous government passed the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – commonly referred to as the “Hobbit law” -which put limits on the ability of workers on film productions to collective bargaining.

New Zealand law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes, with some restrictions. Contractors cannot join unions, bargain collectively, or conduct strike action. Police have the right to organize and bargain collectively but sworn police officers do not have the right to strike or take any form of industrial action. In November 2019 MBIE sought feedback on a discussion document entitled “Better protections for contractors” to strengthen legal protections for contractors. They aim to ensure that contractors receive their minimum rights and entitlements, reduce the imbalance of bargaining power between firms and contractors who are vulnerable to poor outcomes, and ensure that system settings encourage inclusive economic growth and competition. Submissions closed in February 2020.

The ERA requires registered unions to file annual membership returns with the Companies Office. MBIE estimate total union membership at 380,659 for the March 2020 quarter, representing 16.4 percent of all employees in the New Zealand labor force.

Industrial action by employees who work for providers of key services are subject to certain procedural requirements, such as mandatory notice of a period determined by the service. New Zealand considers a broader range of key “essential services” than international standards, including: the production and supply of petroleum products; utilities, emergency workers; the manufacture of certain pharmaceuticals, workers in corrections and penal institutions; airports; dairy production; and animal slaughtering, processing, and related inspection services.

The number of work stoppages has been on a downward trend until the Labour-led government took office in 2017. The number of work stoppages increased from 3 in 2016 (involving 430 employees causing 195 lost workdays), to 143 in 2018 (involving 11,109 employees causing 192 lost workdays and NZD 1.2 million (USD 780,000) in lost wages), to 159 in 2019 (involving 53,771 employees causing 142,670 lost workdays and NZD 9.2 million (USD 6 million) in lost wages). In 2020 there were 112 work stoppages involving 595 employees causing 613 lost workdays and NZD 120,000 (USD 84,000) in lost wages. (While figures have not been released for 2021, health care and rail workers voted on strike action during 2021 and 2022.)

Work stoppages include strikes initiated by unions and lockouts initiated by employers, compiled from the record of strike or lockout forms submitted to MBIE under the Employment Relations Act 2000. The data does not cover other forms of industrial action such as authorized stop-work meetings, strike notices, protest marches, and public rallies which have also increased in recent years. Several strikes during the year involved employees of United States businesses or franchises particularly within the fast-food industry. The New Zealand government does not get involved in individual work disputes unless the striking employees violate their legislated responsibilities.

The Labour-led government campaigned on a promise to lift the minimum wage to NZD20 (USD 13) by April 2021. From April 1, 2022, the minimum wage for adult employees who are 16 and over and are not new entrants or trainees is NZD 21.20 (USD 14.84) per hour. The new entrants and training minimum wage is NZD 16.96 (USD 11.87) per hour. In recent years some local government agencies have raised minimum wages for their staff up from the government mandated rate to a “living wage” of nearly NZD 22.75 (USD 15.93) as of 2021. All businesses in New Zealand affected by COVID-19 have been eligible to receive from the government a wage subsidy from March, to pay their employees 80 percent of their salary to stem job losses.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 sets out the health and safety duties for work carried out by a New Zealand business. The Act contains provisions that affect how duties apply where the work involves foreign vessels. These provisions take account of the international law principle that foreign vessels are subject to the law that applies in the flag state they are registered under. Generally New Zealand law does not apply to the management of a foreign-flagged vessel but does apply to a New Zealand business that does work on that vessel. The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Bill 2014 has required all foreign charter fishing vessels to reflag to New Zealand and operate under New Zealand’s full legal jurisdiction since May 2016.

In March 2017, the New Zealand government’s ratification of the ILO’s Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) came into effect. While New Zealand law is already largely consistent with the MLC, ratification gives the Government jurisdiction to inspect and verify working conditions of crews on foreign ships in New Zealand waters. More than 99 percent of New Zealand’s export goods by volume are transported on foreign ships. About 890 foreign commercial cargo and cruise ships visit New Zealand each year.

The Maritime Transport Amendment Act 2017 implements New Zealand’s accession to the intergovernmental International Oil Pollution Compensation’s Supplementary Fund Protocol, 2003. The fund gives New Zealand access to compensation in the event of a major marine oil spill from an oil tanker and exercises New Zealand’s right to exclude the costs of wreck removal, cargo removal and remediating damage due to hazardous substances from liability limits. Accession to the Protocol was prompted in part by New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster in October 2011 when a Greek flagged cargo ship ran aground creating a 331 ton oil spill resulting in NZD 500 million (USD 350 million) in clean-up costs.

On April 4, 2022, the Public Health Response Order 2021 requiring mandatory Covid vaccinations was removed for some workers. Mandatory vaccines remain in place for those employed in health and disability sectors, prison staff, and those working at the border. Border restrictions to enter New Zealand are also currently being eased. From May 1, travelers from visa waiver countries will be permitted to enter the country. From October, the border is expected to fully reopen. For more information, please visit:

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions/border-entry-requirements 

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Wellington
PO Box 1190
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
+64-4-462-6000

Samoa

Executive Summary

The Independent State of Samoa is a peaceful parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. It has a population of approximately 220,000 and a nominal GDP of USD 799 million. Samoa became the 155th member of the WTO in May 2012. Samoa is experiencing a deep recession due in large part to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the World Bank downgraded Samoa’s classification to “lower-middle income” from its previous status as an “upper-middle income” country.

Samoa is one of the most politically and economically stable democratic island countries in the Pacific, featuring a history of strong sociocultural structures and values. Following a months-long peaceful political impasse, Samoa experienced its first political transition in almost 40 years in 2021 and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa became Samoa’s first-ever female prime minister. Samoa has a free press, independent judiciary, and the government has a strong record in protecting human rights.

Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. Samoa’s total land area is 1,097 square miles, consisting of the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i, which account for 99 percent of the total land area, and eight small islets. About 80 percent of land is customary land, owned by villages, with the remainder either freehold or government-owned. Customary land can be leased, but not sold.

In the past decade, Samoa has taken steps to align its systems more closely with nations in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. Samoans drove on the right side of the road (like the United States) until 2009, at which time the country shifted to driving on the left side as done in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Until 2011, Samoa was located east of the international dateline in the same time zone as Hawaii but is now one of the first countries in the world to start each day.

The small island country has experienced catastrophic natural disasters, including a 2009 earthquake and tsunami that killed hundreds, and severe cyclones in 2012 and 2018. These calamities have inflicted damage equivalent to a quarter of Samoa’s GDP, representing significant setbacks to the economy.

In February 2021, the Central Bank of Samoa stated that the country’s economy was in full recession as the impact of COVID-19 global pandemic affected all sectors. From a peak in the third quarter of 2019, Samoa’s GDP has contracted by 12 percent in real terms through the end of 2021. The recession was caused by declines in tourism, business services, transport, and the communications sector. Samoa’s government understands that that its economy needs external investment and is generally welcoming of FDI.

The service sector accounts for nearly three-quarters of GDP and employs approximately 65 percent of the formally employed labor force (roughly 30 percent of the population). Pre-COVID-19, tourism was the largest single activity, though the government shut Samoa’s borders in March 2020 in response to the pandemic and had not reopened to tourism as of the end of 2021.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 N/A http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 20M https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 4,050 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions. Laws and rules do not offer preferential treatment to SOEs. State-owned enterprises are subject to budget constraints, and these are enforced.

SOEs are active in the Energy, Water, Tourism, Aviation, Banking, Agriculture supplies, and Ports/Airports sectors. Laws do not provide for a leading role for SOEs or limit private enterprise activity in sectors in which SOEs operate. SOEs have government-appointed boards and operate with varying degrees of autonomy with respect to their governing Ministry.

SOEs follow a normal corporate structure with a board of directors and executive management. All SOEs have boards of directors who are appointed by a cabinet minister. Some SOEs have board seats allocated specifically to the heads of certain government ministries.

By law SOEs are required to present financials to their board of directors, shareholding Ministry and the National Auditor. Timely compliance, however, varies between SOEs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct (RBC) among both producers and consumers, and foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted RBC principles such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Firms that pursue RBC are viewed favorably but consumers generally prioritize value for money ahead of RBC claims.

The government fairly enforces domestic laws and protects human rights. The government encourages local enterprises to follow generally accepted RBC principals. A national contact point is not known.

There are no extractive industries in Samoa.

9. Corruption

Samoa ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2018. It is not signatory to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. Corruption has not been specifically identified as an obstacle to foreign investment. Both corruption and bribery are criminalized and prosecuted, and the laws appear to be impartially applied.

The Office of the Ombudsman is charged with investigating official corruption. There are no international, non-governmental “watchdog” organizations represented locally. Samoa was not assessed by the Transparency International’s CPI report 2021 report.

10. Political and Security Environment

Samoa is a peaceful parliamentary democracy with no history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance. The risk of civil disorder is low. There is no civil strife or insurrection. There are no significant border disputes at risk of escalating into conflict. Law and order is well maintained by the Samoa Police Service with support from the village chiefs and other traditional/church authorities if required. There are no examples of politically motivated damage to projects or installations in recent years.

Samoa experienced a measles epidemic in 2019 and the government implemented strict border closures in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both severely affected local business with varying degrees of cessation of economic activity. Samoa has demonstrated that it will take extreme measures to prevent loss of life, even at the expense of massive economic losses.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The 2016 Census placed the total workforce at 57,585 people, with the unemployment rate at 3.7 percent, and 36 percent of the workforce engaged in subsistence living. Although the government does not release regular unemployment figures, only about 11 percent of the population – 23,134 people – were registered as employed in the formal sector in the quarter ended December 31, 2021.

Wages and salaries are comparatively low. Private sector minimum wage is roughly USD 1.17 an hour.

Local skilled labor is available in sufficient quantities to undertake most types of building work, except for some specialized skills and supervisory-level manpower, which is recruited locally and from abroad. To hire foreign workers, one must provide MCIL and Samoan immigration with justification that the position cannot be filled locally. This process is viewed as fair and straightforward.

Samoan First Union, the country’s only private sector union, was officially launched in 2015. It is an extension of the New Zealand-based First Union. One of their major pushes was for a WST 3 (USD 1.17) minimum wage, which was achieved in 2019.

Collective bargaining in the private sector is allowed, but not common in Samoa. The Labor and Employment Relations Act 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 2014, and the Labor and Employment Relations Regulations 2015 are the most current pieces of labor legislation, all of which meet core international standards.

Labor laws are not waived to attract new investment.

More information can be found through Samoa’s Child Labor Report

14. Contact for More Information

Funefe’ai Dikaiosune Atoa Tamaalii
Political-Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy, Apia, Samoa
(+685) 21631 X2241
AtoaTamaaliiD@state.gov 

Singapore

Executive Summary

Singapore maintains an open, heavily trade-dependent economy that plays a critical role in the global supply chain. The government utilized unprecedented levels of public spending to support the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Singapore supports predominantly open investment policies and a robust free market economy while actively managing and sustaining Singapore’s economic development. U.S. companies regularly cite transparency, business-friendly laws, tax structure, customs facilitation, intellectual property protection, and well-developed infrastructure as attractive investment climate features. Singapore actively enforces its robust anti-corruption laws and typically ranks as the least corrupt country in Asia. In addition, Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index placed Singapore as the fourth-least corrupt nation globally. The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), which entered into force in 2004, expanded U.S. market access in goods, services, investment, and government procurement, enhanced intellectual property protection, and provided for cooperation in promoting labor rights and environmental protections.

Singapore has a diversified economy that attracts substantial foreign investment in manufacturing (petrochemical, electronics, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and equipment) and services (financial, trade, and business). The government actively promotes the country as a research and development (R&D) and innovation center for businesses by offering tax incentives, research grants, and partnership opportunities with domestic research agencies. U.S. direct investment (FDI) in Singapore in 2020 totaled $270 billion, primarily in non-bank holding companies, manufacturing, finance, and insurance. Singapore received more than double the U.S. FDI invested in any other Asian nation. The investment outlook was positive due to Singapore’s proximity to Southeast Asia’s developing economies. Singapore remains a regional hub for thousands of multinational companies and continues to maintain its reputation as a world leader in dispute resolution, financing, and project facilitation for regional infrastructure development.

Singapore is poised to attract future foreign investments in digital innovation, pharmaceutical manufacturing, sustainable development, and cybersecurity. The Government of Singapore (hereafter, “the government”) is investing heavily in automation, artificial intelligence, integrated systems, as well as sustainability, and seeks to establish itself as a regional hub for these technologies. Singapore is also a well-established hub for medical research and device manufacturing.

Singapore relies heavily on foreign workers who make up 34 percent of the workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic was initially concentrated in dormitories for low-wage foreign workers in the construction and marine industries, which resulted in strict quarantine measures that brought the construction sector to a near standstill. The government tightened foreign labor policies in 2020 to encourage firms to improve productivity and employ more Singaporean workers, and lowered most companies’ quotas for mid- and low-skilled foreign workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced more programs to partially subsidize wages and the cost to firms of recruiting, hiring, and training local workers

Singapore plans to reach net-zero by or around mid-century but faces alternative energy diversification challenges in setting 2050 net-zero carbon emission targets. Singapore launched its national climate strategy – the Singapore Green Plan 2030 – in February 2021, and focuses on increased sustainability, carbon emissions reductions, fostering job and investment opportunities, and increasing climate resilience and food security.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 4 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 8 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 270,807 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 54,920 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Singapore has an extensive network of full and partial state-owned enterprises (SOEs) held under the umbrella of Temasek Holdings, a holding company with the Ministry of Finance as its sole shareholder. Singapore SOEs play a substantial role in the domestic economy, especially in strategically important sectors including telecommunications, media, healthcare, public transportation, defense, port, gas, electricity grid, and airport operations. In addition, the SOEs are also present in many other sectors of the economy, including banking, subway, airline, consumer/lifestyle, commodities trading, oil and gas engineering, postal services, infrastructure, and real estate.

The government emphasizes that government-linked entities operate on an equal basis with both local and foreign businesses without exception. There is no published list of SOEs.

Temasek’s annual report notes that its portfolio companies are guided and managed by their respective boards and management, and Temasek does not direct their business decisions or operations. However, as a substantial shareholder, corporate governance within government linked companies typically are guided or influenced by policies developed by Temasek. There are differences in corporate governance disclosures and practices across the GLCs, and GLC boards are allowed to determine their own governance practices, with Temasek advisors occasionally meeting with the companies to make recommendations. GLC board seats are not specifically allocated to government officials, although it “leverages on its networks to suggest qualified individuals for consideration by the respective boards,” and leaders formerly from the armed forces or civil service are often represented on boards and fill senior management positions. Temasek exercises its shareholder rights to influence the strategic directions of its companies but does not get involved in the day-to-day business and commercial decisions of its firms and subsidiaries.

GLCs operate on a commercial basis and compete on an equal basis with private businesses, both local and foreign. Singapore officials highlight that the government does not interfere with the operations of GLCs or grant them special privileges, preferential treatment, or hidden subsidies, asserting that GLCs are subject to the same regulatory regime and discipline of the market as private sector companies. However, observers have been critical of cases where GLCs have entered into new lines of business or where government agencies have “corporatized” certain government functions, in both circumstances entering into competition with already existing private businesses. Some private sector companies have said they encountered unfair business practices and opaque bidding processes that appeared to favor incumbent, government-linked firms. In addition, they note that the GLC’s institutional relationships with the government give them natural advantages in terms of access to cheaper funding and opportunities to shape the economic policy agenda in ways that benefit their companies.

The USSFTA contains specific conduct guarantees to ensure that GLCs will operate on a commercial and non-discriminatory basis towards U.S. firms. GLCs with substantial revenues or assets are also subject to enhanced transparency requirements under the USSFTA. In accordance with its USSFTA commitments, Singapore enacted the Competition Act in 2004 and established the Competition Commission of Singapore in January 2005. The Competition Act contains provisions on anti-competitive agreements, decisions, and practices, abuse of dominance, enforcement and appeals process, and mergers and acquisitions.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The awareness and implementation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Singapore has been increasing since the formation of the Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) under the UN Global Compact network, with the goals of encouraging companies to adopt sustainability principles related to human and labor rights, environmental conservation, and anti-corruption. GCNS facilitates exchanges, conducts research, and provides training in Singapore to build capacity in areas including sustainability reporting, supply chain management, ISO 26000, and measuring and reporting carbon emissions.

A 2019 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey showed a lack of transparency by Singapore companies in disclosing palm oil sources. However, there is growing awareness and the Southeast Asia Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil has received additional pledges in by companies to adhere to standards for palm oil sourcing set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). A group of food and beverage, retail, and hospitality companies announced in January 2019 what the WWF calls “the most impactful business response to-date on plastics.” The pact, initiated by WWF and supported by the National Environment Agency, is a commitment to significantly reduce plastic production and usage by 2030.

In June 2016, the SGX introduced mandatory, comply-or-explain, sustainability reporting requirements for all listed companies, including material environmental, social and governance practices, from the financial year ending December 31, 2017 onwards. The Singapore Environmental Council operates a green labeling scheme, which endorses environmentally friendly products, numbering over 3,000 from 2729 countries. The Association of Banks in Singapore has issued voluntary guidelines to banks in Singapore last updated in July 2018 encouraging them to adopt sustainable lending practices, including the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into their lending and business practices. Singapore-based banks are listed in a 2018 Market Forces report as major lenders in regional coal financing.

Singapore has not developed a National Action Plan on business and human rights, but promotes responsible business practices, and encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted CSR principles. The government does not explicitly factor responsible business conduct (RBC) policies into its procurement decisions.

The host government effectively and fairly enforces domestic laws with regard to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, and other laws/regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. The private sector’s impact on migrant workers and their rights, and domestic migrant workers in particular (due to the latter’s exemption from the Employment Act which stipulates the rights of workers), remains an area of advocacy by civil society groups. The government has taken incremental steps to improve the channels of redress and enforcement of migrant workers’ rights; however, key concerns about legislative protections remain unaddressed for domestic migrant workers. The government generally encourages businesses to comply with international standards. However, there are no specific mentions of the host government encouraging adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance, or supply chain due diligence measures.

The Companies Act principally governs companies in Singapore. Key areas of corporate governance covered under the act include separation of ownership from management, fiduciary duties of directors, shareholder remedies, and capital maintenance rules. Limited liability partnerships are governed by the Limited Liability Partnerships Act. Certain provisions in other statutes such as the Securities and Futures Act are also relevant to listed companies. Listed companies are required under the Singapore Exchange Listing Rules to describe in their annual reports their corporate governance practices with specific reference to the principles and provisions of the Code of Corporate Governance (“Code”). Listed companies must comply with the principles of the Code and if their practices vary from any provision in the Code, they must explain the variation and demonstrate the variation is consistent with the relevant principle. The revised Code of Corporate Governance will impact Annual Reports covering financial years from January 1, 2019 onward. The revised code encourages board renewal, strengthens director independence, increases transparency of remuneration practices, enhances board diversity, and encourages communication with all stakeholders. MAS also established an independent Corporate Governance Advisory Committee (CGAC) to advocated good corporate governance practices in February 2019. The CGAC monitors companies’ implementation of the code and advises regulators on corporate governance issues.

There are independent NGOs promoting and monitoring RBC. Those monitoring or advocating around RBC are generally able to do their work freely within most areas. However, labor unions are tightly controlled and legal rights to strike are granted with restrictions under the Trade Disputes Act.

Singapore has no oil, gas, or mineral resources and is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. A small sector in Singapore processes rare minerals and complies with responsible supply chains and conflict mineral principles. Under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism framework, it is a requirement for corporate service providers to develop and implement internal policies, procedures, and controls to comply with Financial Action Task Force recommendations on combating of money laundering and terrorism financing.

9. Corruption

Singapore actively enforces its strong anti-corruption laws, and corruption is not cited as a concern for foreign investors. Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index ranks Singapore fourth of 180 countries globally, the highest-ranking Asian country. The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), and the Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act provide the legal basis for government action by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), which is the only agency authorized under the PCA to investigate corruption offences and other related offences. These laws cover acts of corruption within Singapore as well as those committed by Singaporeans abroad. The anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials, and to political parties. The CPIB is effective and non-discriminatory. Singapore is generally perceived to be one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and corruption is not identified as an obstacle to FDI in Singapore. Recent corporate fraud scandals, particularly in the commodity trading sector, have been publicly, swiftly, and firmly reprimanded by the government. Singapore is a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention, but not the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

10. Political and Security Environment

Singapore’s political environment is stable and there is no recent history of incidents involving politically motivated damage to foreign investments in Singapore. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has dominated Singapore’s parliamentary government since 1959 and currently controls 83 of the 92 regularly contested parliamentary seats. Singaporean opposition Workers’ Party, which currently holds nine regularly contested parliamentary seats, does not usually espouse views that are radically different from mainstream public opinion. The opposition Progress Singapore Party, which is represented in parliament since 2020 after winning two additional parliamentary seats reserved to the best performing losing candidates, advocates for more protectionist policies.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In December 2021, Singapore’s labor market totaled 3.64 million workers; this includes about 1.24 million foreigners, of whom about 84 percent are basic skilled or semi-skilled workers. The overall unemployment rate was 2.3 percent as of January. Local labor laws allow for relatively free hiring and firing practices. Either party can terminate employment by giving the other party the required notice. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) must approve employment of foreigners. In 2020, females had an employment rate of 73.2 percent compared to males of 87.9 percent. Females accounted for 46.3 percent of the resident labor force as of June 2020. The Council for Board Diversity reported that as of December 2021, women’s representation on boards of the largest 100 companies listed on the Singapore Exchange increased over the previous year to 18.9 percent. Representation of women also increased on statutory boards to 29.7 percent but declined slightly on registered NGOs and charities to 28.4 percent. Singapore’s adjusted gender pay gap was 6 percent as of the most recent data in 2018 but occupational segregation continued.

Since 2011, the government has introduced policy measures to support productivity increases coupled with reduced dependence on foreign labor. In Budget 2019, MOM announced a decrease in the foreign worker quota ceiling from 40 percent to 38 percent on January 1, 2020 and to 35 percent on January 1. The quota reduction does not apply to those on Employment Passes (EPs) which are high skilled workers making above $39,750 per year. In Budget 2020, the foreign worker quota was cut further for mid-skilled (“S Pass”) workers in construction, marine shipyards, and the process sectors from 20 to 18 percent by January 1, 2021. The quota will be further reduced to 15 percent on January 1, 2023. Singapore’s labor force increased marginally with the partial reopening of borders after easing of COVID-19 restrictions but is expected to face significant demographic headwinds from an aging population and low birth rates, alongside restrictions on foreign workers. Singapore’s local workforce growth is slowing, heading for stagnation over the next 10 years.

To address concerns over an aging and shrinking workforce, MOM has expanded its training and grant programs. The government included a number of individual and company subsidies for existing and new programs in the latest budget, as well as an unprecedented number of supplementary budgets during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. An example of an existing program is SkillsFuture, a government initiative managed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), a statutory board under the Ministry of Education, designed to provide all Singaporeans with enhanced opportunities and skills-capacity building. SSG also administers the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications, a national credential system that trains, develops, assesses, and certifies skills and competencies for the workforce.

All foreigners must have a valid work pass before they can start work in Singapore, with EPs (for professionals, managers, and executives), S Pass (for mid-level skilled staff), and Work Permits (for semi-skilled workers), among the most widely issued. Workers need to have a job with minimum fixed monthly salary and acceptable qualifications to be eligible for the EP and S Pass. MOM has increased minimum salaries multiple times, restricting the ability of some companies to hire foreign workers, including spouses of employment pass holders. From September 2023, it will be raised to $3,500 for new EP applicants ($3,850 for those in the financial services sector) and $2,100 for new S Pass applicants ($2,450 for those in the financial services sector). The government further regulates the inflow of foreign workers through the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) and the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC). The DRC is the maximum permitted ratio of foreign workers to the total workforce that a company can hire and serves as a quota on the hiring of foreign workers. The DRC varies across sectors. It was announced in Budget 2022 that the DRC will be reduced from 87.5 percent to 83.3 percent from January 2024. Employers of S Pass and Work Permit holders are required to pay a monthly FWL to the government. The FWL varies according to the skills, qualifications, and experience of their employees. The FWL is set on a sector-by-sector basis and is subject to annual revisions. FWLs have been progressively increased for most sectors since 2012.

MOM requires employers to consider Singaporeans before hiring skilled professional foreigners. The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), implemented in August 2014, affects employers who apply for EPs, the work pass for foreign professionals working in professional, manager, and executive (PME) posts. Companies have noted inconsistent and increasingly burdensome documentation requirements and excessive qualification criteria to approve EP applications. Under the rules, firms making new EP applications must first advertise the job vacancy in a new jobs bank administered by Workforce Singapore (WSG), http://www.mycareersfuture.gov.sg  for at least 28 days. The jobs bank is free for use by companies and job seekers and the job advertisement must be open to all, including Singaporeans. Employers are encouraged to keep records of their interview process as proof that they have done due diligence in trying to look for a Singaporean worker. If an EP is still needed, the employer will have to make a statutory declaration that a job advertisement on http://www.mycareersfuture.gov.sg had been made.

Consistent with Singapore’s WTO obligations, intra-corporate transfers (ICT) are allowed for managers, executives, and specialists who had worked for at least one year in the firm before being posted to Singapore. ICT would still be required to meet all EP criteria, but the requirement for an advertisement on http://www.mycareersfuture.gov.sg would be waived. In April 2016, MOM outlined measures to refine the work pass applications process, looking not only at the qualifications of individuals, but at company-related factors. Companies found not to have a “healthy Singaporean core, lacking a demonstrated commitment to developing a Singaporean core, and not found to be “relevant” to Singapore’s economy and society, will be labeled “triple weak” and put on a watch list. Companies unable to demonstrate progress may have work pass privileges suspended after a period of scrutiny. Since 2016, MOM has placed approximately 1,200 companies on its FCF Watchlist. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices have worked with 260 companies to be successfully removed from the watchlist.

The Employment Act covers all employees under a contract of service, and under the act, employees who have served the company for at least two years are eligible for retrenchment benefits, and the amount of compensation depends on the contract of service or what is agreed collectively. Employers have to abide by notice periods in the employment contract before termination and stipulated minimum periods in the Employment Act in the absence of a notice period previously agreed upon, or provide salary in lieu of notice. Dismissal on grounds of wrongful conduct by the employee is differentiated from retrenchments in the labor laws and is exempted from the above requirements. Employers must notify MOM of retrenchments within five working days after they notify the affected employees to enable the relevant agencies to help affected employees find alternative employment and/or identify relevant training to enhance employability. Singapore does not provide unemployment benefits, but provides training and job matching services to retrenched workers. Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment in Singapore. There are no additional or different labor law provisions in free trade zones.

Collective bargaining is a normal part of labor-management relations in all sectors. Almost all unions are affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the sole national federation of trade unions in Singapore, which has a close relationship with the PAP ruling party and the government. The current NTUC secretary-general is also a former minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. As of June, the NTUC had more than 1 million members. Given that nearly all unions are NTUC affiliates, the NTUC has almost exclusive authority to exercise collective bargaining power on behalf of employees. Union members may not reject collective agreements negotiated between their union representatives and an employer. Although transfers and layoffs are excluded from the scope of collective bargaining, employers consult with unions on both problems, and the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation issues guidelines calling for early notification to unions of layoffs. Data on coverage of collective bargaining agreements is not publicly available. The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) regulates collective bargaining. The Industrial Arbitration Courts must certify any collective bargaining agreement before it is deemed in effect and can deny certification on public interest grounds. Additionally, the IRA restricts the scope of issues over which workers may bargain, excluding bargaining on hiring, transfer, promotion, dismissal, or reinstatement of workers.

Most labor disagreements are resolved through conciliation and mediation by MOM. Since April 2017, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) under MOM provides advisory and mediation services, including mediation for salary and employment disputes. Where the conciliation process is not successful, the disputing parties may submit their dispute to the IAC for arbitration. Depending on the nature of the dispute, the court may be constituted either by the president of the IAC and a member of the Employer and Employee Panels, or by the president alone. The Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) was established under the Employment Claims Act (2016). To bring a claim before the ECT, parties must first register their claims at the TADM for mediation. Mediation at TADM is compulsory. Only disputes which remain unresolved after mediation at TADM may be referred to the ECT.

The ECT hears statutory salary-related claims, contractual salary-related claims, dismissal claims from employees, and claims for salary in lieu of notice of termination by all employers. There is a limit of $21,200 on claims for cases with TADM mediation, and $14,100 for all other claims. In March 2019, MOM announced that 85 percent of salary claims had been resolved by TADM between April 2017 and December 2018. Salary-related disputes that are not resolved by mediation are covered by the Employment Claims Tribunals under the State Courts. Industrial disputes may also submit their case be referred to the tripartite Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC). The IAC composed has two panels: an employee panel and a management panel. For a majority of dispute hearings, a court is constituted comprising the president of the IAC and a member each from the employee and employer panels’ representatives and chaired by a judge. In some situations, the law provides for compulsory arbitration. The court must certify collective agreements before they go into effect. The court may refuse certification at its discretion on the ground of public interest.

The legal framework in Singapore provides for some restrictions in the registration of trade unions, labor union autonomy and administration, the right to strike, who may serve as union officers or employees, and collective bargaining. Under the Trade Union Act (TUA), every trade union must register with the Registrar of Trade Unions, which has broad discretion to grant, deny, or cancel union registration. The TUA limits the objectives for which unions can spend their funds, including for contributions to a political party or for political purposes, and allows the registrar to inspect accounts and funds “at any reasonable time.” Legal rights to strike are granted with restrictions under TUA. The law requires the majority of affected unionized workers to vote in favor of a strike by secret ballot, as opposed to the majority of those participating in the vote. Strikes cannot be conducted for any reason apart from a dispute in the trade or industry in which the strikers are employed, and it is illegal to conduct a strike if it is “designed or calculated to coerce the government either directly or by inflicting hardship on the community.” Workers in “essential services” are required to give 14 days’ notice to an employer before conducting a strike. Although workers, other than those employed in the three essential services of water, gas, and electricity, may strike, no workers did so since 1986 with the exception of a strike by bus drivers in 2012, but NTUC threatened to strike over concerns in a retrenchment process in July 2020. The law also restricts the right of uniformed personnel and government employees to organize, although the president may grant exemptions. Foreigners and those with criminal convictions generally may not hold union office or become employees of unions, but the ministry may grant exemptions.

The Employment Act, which prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (PHTA), strengthens labor trafficking victim protection, and governs labor protections. Other acts protecting the rights of workers include the Workplace Safety and Health Act and Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Labor laws set the standard legal workweek at 44 hours, with one rest day each week, and establish a framework for workplaces to comply with occupational safety and health standards, with regular inspections designed to enforce the standards. MOM effectively enforces laws and regulations establishing working conditions and comprehensive occupational safety and health (OSH) laws and implements enforcement procedures and promoted educational and training programs to reduce the frequency of job-related accidents. Changes to the Employment Act took effect on April 1, 2019, including for extension of core provisions to managers and executives, increasing the monthly salary cap, transferring adjudication of wrongful dismissal claims from MOM to the ECT, and increasing flexibility in compensating employees working during public holidays (for more detail see https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-act . All workers, except for public servants, domestic workers and seafarers are covered by the Employment Act, and additional time-based provisions for more vulnerable employees.

Singapore has no across the board minimum wage law, although there are some exceptions in certain low-skill industries. Generally, the government follows a policy of allowing free market forces to determine wage levels. In specific sectors where wages have stagnated and market practices such as outsourcing reduce incentive to upskill workers and limit their bargaining power, the government has implemented Progressive Wage Models to uplift wages. These are currently implemented in the cleaning, security, elevator maintenance, and landscape sectors and have been raised progressively. The National Wage Council (NWC), a tripartite body comprising representatives from the government, employers, and unions, recommends non-binding wage adjustments on an annual basis. The NWC recommendations apply to all employees in both domestic and foreign firms, and across the private and public sectors. While the NWC wage guidelines are not mandatory, they are published under the Employment Act and form the basis of wage negotiations between unions and management. The NWC recommendations apply to all employees in both domestic and foreign law firms, and across the public and private sectors. The level of implementation is generally higher among unionized companies compared to non-unionized companies.

MOM and the Ministry of Home Affairs are responsible for combating labor trafficking and improving working conditions for workers, and generally enforce anti-trafficking legislation, although some workers in low-wage and unskilled sectors are vulnerable to labor exploitation and abuse. PHTA sets out harsh penalties (including up to nine strokes of the cane and 15 years’ imprisonment) for those found guilty of trafficking, including forced labor, or abetting such activities. The government developed a mechanism for referral of potential trafficking-in-persons activities, to the interagency taskforce, co-chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Manpower. Some observers note that the country’s employer sponsorship system made legal migrant workers vulnerable to forced labor, because their abilities to change employers without the consent of the current employer are limited. MOM effectively enforces laws and regulations pertaining to child labor. Penalties for employers that violated child labor laws were subject to fines and/or imprisonment, depending on the violation. Government officials assert that child labor is not a significant issue. The incidence of children in formal employment is low, and almost no abuses are reported.

The USSFTA includes a chapter on labor protections. The labor chapter contains a statement of shared commitment by each party that the principles and rights set forth in Article 17.7 of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its follow-up are recognized and protected by domestic law, and each party shall strive to ensure it does not derogate protections afforded in domestic labor law as an encouragement for trade or investment purposes. The chapter includes the establishment of a labor cooperation mechanism, which promotes the exchange of information on ways to improve labor law and practice, and the advancement of effective implementation.

See the U.S. State Department Human Rights Report as well as the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report.

Under the 1966 Investment Guarantee Agreement with Singapore, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) (Now the Development Finance Corporation) offers insurance to U.S. investors in Singapore against currency inconvertibility, expropriation, and losses arising from war. Singapore became a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 1998. In March 2019, Singapore and the United States signed an MOU aimed at strengthening collaboration between the infrastructure agency of Singapore, Infrastructure Asia, and OPIC. Under the agreement, both countries will work together on information sharing, deal facilitation, and capacity building initiatives in sectors of mutual interest such as energy, natural resource management, water, waste, transportation, and urban development. The aim is to enhance Singapore-based and U.S. companies’ access to project opportunities, while building on Singapore’s role as an infrastructure hub in Asia.

Singapore’s domestic public infrastructure projects are funded primarily via Singapore government reserves or capital markets, reducing the scope for direct project financing subsidies by foreign governments.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2021 $373,346 2020 $339,998  

 

www.worldbank.org/en/country

 

 

Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $370,115 2020 $270,800  

BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $26,668 2020 $27,300  

BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 449.6% 2020 545.7%  

UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data: https://www.singstat.gov.sg/ 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 1,465,070 100% Total Outward 727,627 100%
United States 370,090 25% Mainland China 106,406 15%
Cayman Islands 172,690 12% Netherlands 73,272 10%
British Virgin Islands 114,520 8% India 46,240 6%
Japan 97,930 7% United Kingdom 45,413 6%
United Kingdom 88,900 6% Indonesia 44,589 6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

Aw Wen Hao
Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy
27 Napier Road
Singapore 258508
+65 9069-8592
AwWH@state.gov

Sri Lanka

Executive Summary

Sri Lanka, a lower middle-income country with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of about $3,680 and a population of approximately 22 million, is experiencing an economic crisis stemming from an unsustainable debt load and perennial deficits on both the international balance of payments and the government budget. The island’s strategic location off the southern coast of India along the main east-west Indian Ocean shipping lanes gives Sri Lanka a regional logistical advantage, especially as India does not have deep-water ports comparable to what Sri Lanka offers. Sri Lanka is transitioning from a predominantly rural-based economy to a more urbanized economy focused on manufacturing and services. Sri Lanka’s export economy is dominated by apparel and cash-crop exports, mainly tea, but technology service exports are a significant growth sector.

Prior to the April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday attacks, the tourism industry was rapidly expanding, but the attacks led to a significant decline in tourism that continued into 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and the government’s related decision to close its main international airport for commercial passenger arrivals in March 2020. After reopening to visitors early in 2021, tourism revenue for the year reached $261 million, dropping 61 percent year-over-year (YoY) compared to $682 million in 2020. Migrant labor remittances are a significant source of foreign exchange, which saw an increase in 2020 due to the collapse of informal money transfer systems during the pandemic, despite the job losses to Sri Lankan migrant workers, especially in the Middle East. However, worker remittances saw a decline of 22.7 percent in 2021, largely due to inflationary pressures and the expectation of a future depreciation of the exchange rate, which occurred in March 2022. Remittances totaled $5.4 billion for 2021 in comparison to $7.1 billion in 2020.

The administration of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was elected in November 2019, has attempted to promote pro-business positions, including announcing tax benefits for new investments to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). As outlined in its election manifesto, the Rajapaksa government’s economic goals include positioning Sri Lanka as an export-oriented economic hub at the center of the Indian Ocean (with government control of strategic assets such as Sri Lankan Airlines), improving trade logistics, attracting export-oriented FDI, and boosting firms’ abilities to compete in global markets. However, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns brought new economic challenges, forcing the government to adapt policies to the situation on the ground. In April 2020, the Ministry of Finance restricted imports of luxury and semi-luxury consumer products such as consumer durables, motor vehicles, and the import of certain agricultural products as a means of saving foreign reserves and creating employment in labor intensive agriculture. Further restrictions on goods deemed non-essential were added in March 2022. With the IMF estimating a public debt-to-GDP ratio at 118.9 percent (of which 65.6 percent is foreign debt), Sri Lanka is facing a liquidity crisis that is exacerbated by an increasing trade deficit. Exports have helped buoy Sri Lankas FX reserves, growing 19.9 percent in 2021. However, imports continued to outstrip this growth by a significant margin with an increase of 46.8 percent in 2021. Exports of goods increased by 24.4 percent to $12.5 billion in 2021, up from $10 billion in 2020. Exports of services for the year 2020 amounted to $3 billion, down from $7.5 billion in 2019.

In September 2021, the government committed to cease building new coal-fired power plants and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the United Nations International Energy Forum. Sri Lanka has set a target of achieving 70 percent of all its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030. However, renewable energy companies accuse the Ceylon Electricity Board of being in arrears to the tune of $60 million (as of May 2022) after not paying for renewable energy supplied to the national grid since August 2021.

FDI in Sri Lanka has largely been concentrated in tourism, real estate, mixed development projects, ports, and telecommunications in recent years. With a growing middle class, investors also see opportunities in franchising, information technology services, and light manufacturing for the domestic market. The Board of Investment (BOI) is the primary government authority responsible for investment, particularly foreign investment, aiming to provide “one-stop” services for foreign investors. The BOI is committed to facilitating FDI and can offer project incentives, arrange utility services, assist in obtaining resident visas for expatriate personnel, and facilitate import and export clearances.

Sri Lanka’s GDP grew by 3.6 percent according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2021 and is expected to grow by 3.3 percent in 2022. FDI rose to approximately 0.9 percent of GDP in 2021, higher than the 0.5 percent in 2020 and 0.8 percent in 2019 and half of the 1.8 percent in 2018. The IMF projects a GDP growth of 1.2 percent in 2022.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 102 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 95of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD $165 million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD $3,720 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

SOEs are active in transport (buses and railways, ports and airport management, airline operations); utilities such as electricity; petroleum imports and refining; water supply; retail; banking; telecommunications; television and radio broadcasting; newspaper publishing; and insurance. Following the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lankan armed forces began operating domestic air services, tourist resorts, and farms crowding out some private investment. In total, there are over 400 SOEs of which 55 have been identified by the Sri Lanka Treasury as strategically important, and 345 have been identified as non-commercial.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is more widely recognized among Sri Lankan companies than Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). Leading companies in Sri Lanka actively promote CSR, and some SMEs have also started to promote CSR. CSR Sri Lanka is an apex body initiated by 40 leading companies to foster CSR. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce actively promotes CSR among its membership. The SEC, together with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka, published a Code of Best Practices on Corporate Governance in order to establish good corporate governance practices in Sri Lankan capital markets. Separate government agencies are tasked with protecting individuals from adverse business impacts in relation to labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections, although the effectiveness of these agencies is questioned by some. The government has not launched an initiative to promote RBC principles, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The government also does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) although Sri Lanka has mineral resources including graphite, mineral sands, and gemstones.

9. Corruption

While Sri Lanka has generally adequate laws and regulations to combat corruption, enforcement is often weak and inconsistent. U.S. firms identify corruption as a major constraint on foreign investment, but generally not a major threat to operating in Sri Lanka once contracts have been established. The business community claims that corruption has the greatest effect on investors in large projects and on those pursuing government procurement contracts. Projects geared toward exports face fewer problems. A Right to Information Act came into effect in February of 2017 which increased government transparency.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC or Bribery Commission) is the main body responsible for investigating bribery allegations, but it is widely considered ineffective and has reportedly made little progress pursuing cases of national significance. The law states that a public official’s offer or acceptance of a bribe constitutes a criminal offense and carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and fine. Bribery laws extend to family members of public officials, but political parties are not covered. A bribe by a local company to a foreign official is also not covered by the Bribery Act and the government does not require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. Thus far, the Bribery Commission has focused on minor cases such as bribes taken by traffic police, wildlife officers, and school principals. These cases reportedly follow a pattern of targeting low-level offenses with prosecutions years after the offense followed by the imposition of sentences not always proportionate to the conduct (i.e., sometimes overly strict, other times overly lenient).

Government procurement regulations contain provisions on conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement. While financial crime investigators have developed a number of cases involving the misappropriation of government funds, these cases have often not moved forward due to lack of political will, political interference, and lack of investigative capacity. Sri Lanka signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in March of 2004 and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2006. Sri Lanka is a signatory to the OECD-ADB Anti-Corruption Regional Plan but has not joined the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

10. Political and Security Environment

The government’s military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the LTTE. During the civil war, the LTTE had a history of attacks against civilians, although none of the attacks were intentionally directed against U.S. citizens. On April 21, 2019, terrorist attacks targeted several churches and hotels throughout Colombo and in the eastern city of Batticaloa, killing more than 250 people, including over 40 foreigners, five of whom were Americans. In the aftermath of the attacks, the government imposed nationwide curfews and a temporary ban on some social media outlets.

Public opposition to the current government and growing outrage over power, fuel, and food shortages morphed into a largescale protest movement in March 2022. Since then, peaceful protests have been noted nearly every day both in Colombo and across the country, including an ongoing encampment in central Colombo next to the Presidential Secretariat. As public concern grows, some protests have turned violence due to clashes with pro-government protesters or security forces, such as a confrontation between protesters and police on April 19 in a city about 100 km from Colombo. In addition, protesters have surrounded and entered (or attempted to enter) the residences and offices of MPs and officials, and police have sometimes used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. The worst violence occurred on May 9, when attacks by pro-government supporters on two major protest sites in Colombo triggered a wave of retaliatory violence in which anti-government protesters set fire to or vandalized approximately 100 homes and other properties around the country belonging to or affiliated with government MPs and officials. Violence continued into the next day, with busses and cars burned on the streets and dozens of people seriously injured. Declaring a state of emergency, the government worked with the military to restore order to the streets. While subsequent protests have mostly been peaceful, the situation remains volatile and ongoing shortages of essentials and power cuts continue to cause distress.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Both local and international businesses have cited labor shortages as a major problem in Sri Lanka. In 2020, 8.1 million Sri Lankans were employed: 46 percent in services, 27 percent in industry and 26 percent in agriculture. Approximately 70 percent of the employed are in the informal sector. The government sector also employs over 1.4 million people.

Sri Lanka’s labor laws afford many employee protections. Many investors consider this legal framework somewhat rigid, making it difficult for companies to reduce their workforce even when market conditions warrant doing so. The cost of dismissing an employee in Sri Lanka is calculated based upon a percentage of wages averaged over 54 salary weeks, one of the highest in the world. There is no unemployment insurance or social safety net for laid off workers.

Labor is available at relatively low cost, though higher than in other South Asian countries. Sri Lanka’s labor force is largely literate (particularly in local languages), although weak in certain technical skills and English. The average worker has eight years of schooling, and two-thirds of the labor force is male. The government has initiated educational reforms to better prepare students for the labor market, including revamping technical and vocational education and training. While the number of students pursuing computer, accounting, business skills, and English language training programs is increasing, the demand for these skills still outpaces supply with many top graduates seeking employment outside of the country.

Youth are increasingly uninterested in labor-intensive manual jobs, and the construction, plantation, apparel, and other manufacturing industries report a severe shortage of workers. The garment industry reports up to a 40 percent staff turnover rate. Lack of labor mobility in the North and East is also a problem, with workers reluctant to leave their families and villages for employment elsewhere

A significant proportion of the unemployed seek “white collar” employment, often preferring stable government jobs. Most sectors seeking employees offer manual or semi-skilled jobs or require technical or professional skills such as management, marketing, information technology, accountancy and finance, and English language proficiency. Investors often struggle to find employees with the requisite skills, a situation particularly noticeable as the tourism industry opens new hotels.

Many service sector companies rely on Sri Lankan engineers, researchers, technicians, and analysts to deliver high-quality, high-precision products and retention is reasonably good in the information technology sector. Foreign and local companies report a strong worker commitment to excellence in Sri Lanka, with rapid adaptation to quality standards.

Women face workforce restrictions such as caps on overtime work, limits on nighttime shifts and restrictions from certain jobs. In 2021 the labor market was characterized by high female unemployment and low female labor force participation: an estimated 55 percent of public sector employees were men and 45 percent women while 70 percent of employees outside the public sector were men and only 30 percent women.

14. Contact for More Information

Luis Salas
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Colombo, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94-11-249-8500
Email: commercialcolombo@state.gov 

Thailand

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 110 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 43 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 17,450 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 7,040 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

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.

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.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In 2021, 38.6 million people were in Thailand’s formal labor pool, comprising 66 percent of the total population. Thailand’s official unemployment rate stood at 1.6 percent at the end of 2021, interestingly, workers with university degrees have the highest unemployment rate compared with other groups. The working hours in the private sector are still below the pre-Covid era with the average working hours of 45.6 hours per week.

The Thai government is actively seeking to address shortages of both skilled and unskilled workers through education reform and various worker-training incentive programs. Low birth rates, an aging population, and skill mismatch, are exacerbating labor shortage problems in many sectors. Despite provision of 15 years of free education for every child in Thailand, Thailand continues to suffer from a skills mismatch that impedes innovation and economic growth. Thailand also has a shortage of high-skill workers such as researchers, engineers, and managers, as well as technicians and vocational workers. The statistics from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board show that 49.3 percent of new graduates are in the fields of business and social science.  

Regional income inequality and labor shortages, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and service sectors, have attracted millions of migrant workers, mostly from neighboring Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. At the end of 2021, there were more than two million migrant workers registered with the Ministry of Labor.

Employers may dismiss workers provided the employer pays severance. When an employer temporarily suspends business, in part or in whole, the employer must pay the employee at least 75 percent of his or her daily wages throughout the suspension period.

At the end of 2021, there were a total of 1,432 labor unions in Thailand with 364 of them located in Bangkok. Thai law allows private-sector workers to form and join trade unions of their choosing without prior authorization, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes, although these rights come with some restrictions. Noncitizen migrant workers, whether registered or undocumented, do not have the right to form unions or serve as union officials. Migrants can join unions organized and led by Thai citizens.

In 2020, the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare issued a ministerial regulation on occupational safety, health and working environment for diving work; the regulation sets a minimum age of 18. In March 2022, the Ministry of Labor issued a regulation regarding the Protection of Fishery Workers to provide additional protection for the workers’ rights in this industry. Additional information on migrant workers issues and rights can be found in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, as well as the Labor Rights chapter of the U.S. Human Rights report.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2021 $490,297 2020 $501,644 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $18,499 2020 $17,450 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $8,724 2020 $1,810 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 59.3% 2019 46.8% UNCTAD data available at

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

* Source for Host Country Data: Bank of Thailand (http://bot.or.th/)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $290,774 100% Total Outward $173,437 100%
Japan $94,929 32.7% China, P.R.: Hong Kong $31,836 18.4%
Singapore $53,612 18.4% Singapore $20,910 12.1%
China, P.R.: Hong Kong $35,141  12.1% The Netherlands $12,711   7.3%
United States $18,499   6.4% Indonesia $10,757   6.2%
The Netherlands $13,849   4.8% Vietnam   $9,545   5.5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy Bangkok
Economic Section
BangkokEconSection@state.gov 

The Philippines

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 117 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 51 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 5,199 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD3,430 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is regularly practiced in the Philippines, although no domestic laws require it. The Philippine Tax Code provides RBC-related incentives to corporations, such as tax exemptions and deductions. Various non-government organizations and business associations also promote RBC. The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) is the largest corporate-led social development foundation involved in advocating corporate citizenship practice in the Philippines. U.S. companies report strong and favorable responses to RBC programs among employees and within local communities.

9. Corruption

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.

10. Political and Security Environment

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.”

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Managers of U.S. companies in the Philippines report that local labor costs are relatively low and workers are highly motivated, with generally strong English language skills. As of December 2021, the Philippine labor force reached 49.5 million workers, with an employment rate of 93.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. These figures include employment in the informal sector and do not capture the substantial rates of underemployment in the country. Youths between the ages of 15 and 24 made up more than 28.9 percent of the unemployed. More than half of all employment was in the services sector, with 56.6 percent. Agriculture and industry sectors constitute 25.6 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively.

Compensation packages in the Philippines tend to be comparable with those in neighboring countries. Regional Wage and Productivity Boards meet periodically in each of the country’s 16 administrative regions to determine minimum wages. The non-agricultural daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is approximately USD 10, although some private sector workers receive less. Most regions set their minimum wage significantly lower than Metro Manila. Violation of minimum wage standards is common, especially non-payment of social security contributions, bonuses, and overtime. Philippine law also provides for a comprehensive set of occupational safety and health standards. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has responsibility for safety inspection, but a shortage of inspectors has made enforcement difficult.

The Philippine Constitution enshrines the right of workers to form and join trade unions. The trend among firms using temporary contract labor to lower employment costs continues despite government efforts to regulate the practice. The DOLE Secretary has the authority to end strikes and mandate a settlement between parties in cases involving national interest. DOLE amended its rules concerning disputes in 2013, specifying industries vital to national interest: hospitals, the electric power industry, water supply services (excluding small bottle suppliers), air traffic control, and other industries as recommended by the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC). Economic zones often offer on-site labor centers to assist investors with recruitment. Although labor laws apply equally to economic zones, unions have noted some difficulty organizing inside the zones.

The Philippines is signatory to all International Labor Organization (ILO) core conventions but has faced challenges with enforcement. Unions allege that companies or local officials use illegal tactics to prevent workers from organizing. The quasi-judicial National Labor Relations Commission reviews allegations of intimidation and discrimination in connection with union activities. Meanwhile, the NTIPC monitors the application of international labor standards.

Reports of forced labor in the Philippines continue, particularly in connection with human trafficking in the commercial sex, domestic service, agriculture, and fishing industries, as well as online sexual exploitation of children.

14. Contact for More Information

John Avrett, Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Manila
1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: (+632) 5301.2000
Email: ManilaEcon@state.gov 

Timor-Leste

Executive Summary

The Government of Timor-Leste has welcomed foreign-investment and business-development opportunities since gaining independence in 2002. In practice the investment climate continues to be hampered by inadequate regulatory mechanisms, corruption, insufficient personnel capacity, and deficient infrastructure. The government is working to address these issues but limited human capacity and a time-consuming bureaucratic/legislative system has made progress on reform slow. Initially plagued by conflict and turmoil after independence, Timor-Leste has emerged as a peaceful and stable democracy. Peaceful changes of government and freely contested elections, including a 2022 presidential election that drew 16 candidates, demonstrated an active political climate with competing views for how to best develop an economy largely dependent on public-sector spending for growth. Timor-Leste’s desire to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides incentive to implement fiscal and economic reforms to meet regional and international norms.

After an 8.6% economic contraction in 2020, Timor-Leste’s economy rebounded slightly in 2021, growing by 1.8%. Timor-Leste’s private sector is weak and primarily dependent on government contracts, and the government’s ability to regulate industry remains limited. The agriculture sector supplied less than 10% of the country’s total GDP. Oil and gas production represents the largest share of GDP and has attracted the most foreign investment, but the producing fields are depleting, and the Government of Timor-Leste (GOTL) continues to seek partners to develop onshore and offshore blocks. The GOTL is focused on development of the Greater Sunrise offshore natural gas reserves in which the GOTL controls a majority share of the joint venture. The GOTL also wants to develop its own domestic petroleum refinery capabilities on its south coast, which it seeks partners to develop, even as the international community moves towards decarbonization and a clean energy transition. The government has said it would like additional investment in the country’s southern coast, and it maintains Special Economic Zones in Oecusse and Atauro Island.

Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy by employment but has been historically undeveloped and is dominated by subsistence farming. The United States was instrumental in fostering the coffee industry in Timor-Leste, and over the last decade coffee has been the third largest contributor to GDP. Focused efforts to develop other crops could potentially yield similar returns.

Timor-Leste has not developed green development policies that impact the investment climate. The government supports responsible business conduct and protections for labor rights, although it lacks institutional capacity to ensure compliance. In practice, labor and human rights concerns do not pose significant risks to doing business responsibly.

Beginning in March 2020, the government declared a State of Emergency implementing measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including closing its borders, suspending commercial passenger flights, and sometimes enforcing internal travel restrictions. These measures, renewed for most of 2020-2021 every 30 days, hampered progress on development projects, including those involving foreign investments. In November 2021, the government passed amendments to public health laws that enabled the lifting of the SOE.

U.S. assistance to Timor-Leste has contributed to improvements in the customs system and is helping to strengthen the legal regime for cybercrime. U.S. assistance also promotes diversification of Timor-Leste’s economy, support for private-sector, health and agricultural development, strengthening of democratic institutions, and reinforcing a commercial law framework. USAID support for public-private partnerships in the tourism sector and improving agriculture value chains contributes to strengthening the non-oil sector. The Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) provides training opportunities for Timorese government officials in key legal and regulatory agencies to improve the business environment.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 82 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.html#660
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 1,990 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Timorese government operates a small number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) across various sectors, including broadcasting, aviation, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. There is no published list of SOEs.

  • The Government of Timor-Leste owns 20.6 percent of Timor Telecom -a telecommunications provider- while privately-owned Telecommunicators Públicas de Timor (TPT) owns 54 percent. In 2013, two private foreign companies began telecommunications operations, ending Timor Telecom’s monopoly of the fixed and mobile network. In exchange for the end of the monopoly, Timor Telecom acquired certain equipment procured by the government and will retain no-cost usage rights of some government-owned infrastructure and equipment until 2062.
  • In mid-2011, the government established Timor GAP, E.P., a 100-percent state-owned petroleum company intended to partner with international firms in exploration and development of Timor-Leste’s petroleum resources and to provide downstream petroleum services. Timor GAP is supervised by the Minister of Petroleum but is governed by an independent Board of Directors. Firms that partner with Timor GAP will receive preferential treatment in tenders for petroleum projects.
  • In November 2008, the Timorese government transformed Timor-Leste’s Public Broadcasting Service, Radio Televisão de Timor-Leste (RTTL), into a state-owned enterprise known as RTTL. The government owns RTTL under the supervision of the State Secretary of Social Communication and governed by an independent Board of Directors. In 2016, the government established an official news agency, TATOLI.
  • In November 2005 (Government Decree No.8/2005), the government established ANATL, E.P., a state-owned company to administer the domestic airports in all aspects, including air navigation.
  • The government also created SAMES, E.P. in April 2004 (Government Decree No. 2/2004) – a public enterprise that imports, stores, and distributes medicines and medical products and equipment. In April 2015, the government converted SAMES, E.P. into SAMES, I.P., an autonomous institution, which operates under the tutelage and supervision of the Ministry of Health.
  • In 2020, the government approved two decree laws to convert the public electricity utility known as the Department of National Electricity to Public Enterprise (EDTL, E.P) into a state-owned enterprise in the hope it will deliver better services to the customer and improve its cost recovery. Timor-Leste loses nearly half of its generated power by inefficient distribution infrastructure and consumer theft, costing the government millions annually.
  • In 2020, the government through Decree Law no. 41/2020 established Bee Timor-Leste Empressa Publica (BTL, E.P.) as a state-owned public water utility company.

Several autonomous government agencies are active in the economy: The Dili Port Authority (APORTIL), Timor-Leste’s Agency for Information and Communication Technology (TIC Timor), the National Electrical Authority (ANE), and the National Aviation Authority (AACTL) are four such agencies. Other autonomous and self-funded institution includes the National Petroleum and Mineral Authority (ANPM), which regulates the oil and gas sector.

Line ministers or the prime minister’s office supervise SOEs, but independent boards of directors administer them. Senior management reports directly to government-appointed boards of directors. Line ministers are responsible for nominating or dismissing the president of the board of directors with approval from the Council of Ministers

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Businesses are generally aware of expectations and standards for responsible business conduct, although regulation of those standards is inconsistent. The government monitors business compliance with labor and environmental regulations, although the capacity to do so is insufficient. Timor-Leste is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and is rated as making Satisfactory progress across all assessed requirements. Labor violations are infrequently cited or prosecuted.

There have been no high-profile business-related instances of corporate impact on human rights. Child labor exists; it mostly occurs in agriculture and the informal economy but could be a concern for certain supply chains. Timor-Leste has laws concerning labor, the environment, and mineral and petroleum exploitation and worked to enforce them, although inspection and judicial capacity limits constrained enforcement effectiveness.

Land tenure is often unclear, and disputes are common. Communities have protested or rejected instances of government allocation of land for infrastructure or public use. Groups have complained that expropriated property was not valued properly by the government when paying compensation.

Civil society and other organizations generally monitor and promote human rights, both related to corporate actions and otherwise, without undue interference from the government.

Timor-Leste is not an adherent to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

9. Corruption

Transparency International ranked Timor-Leste 82 out of 180 countries in its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2010, the Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC), an independent agency, opened its doors, with support from USAID and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. That same year, the Office of the Prosecutor General forwarded its first high-profile corruption case to the courts. Since then, the CAC has referred several cases to the Office of the Prosecutor General, which have resulted in several ongoing investigations. In 2016, former Minister of Finance Emilia Pires and former Vice-Minister of Health Madalena Hanjam, were convicted of participating in improper procurement of hospital beds. Both received prison sentences. In 2020 and 2021, the government waived immunity for multiple former and current parliamentarians to criminal prosecution for fraud. In January 2022, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Social Justice was accused of corruption involving a contract to supply set-top cable boxes. The Prime Minister waived any immunities, and the CAC conducted an investigation. The Dili Prosecutor’s office will determine if there is sufficient evidence to submit the case to the court. Under Timorese law, bribery is a crime punishable with up to four years of imprisonment. Timor-Leste has also signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention; however, it is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

In July 2020, parliament approved a new anti-corruption bill with new identified offenses, including in the private sector, which included penalties for construction fraud and a failure to declare assets or unjustified wealth. The Law on Measures to Prevent and Fight Corruption (No. 7/2020) went into effect in late 2020.

10. Political and Security Environment

Timor-Leste emerged from a history of colonialism, occupation, and civil strife to the period of relative domestic calm that it has enjoyed for more than a decade. After twenty-four years of occupation by Indonesia, under an agreement between the United Nations, former colonial power Portugal, and Indonesia, a popular consultation was held on August 30, 1999, to allow the Timorese to vote on whether to remain part of Indonesia or to become independent. Seventy-nine percent of Timor-Leste voters rejected Indonesia’s governance proposal, effectively putting Timor-Leste on a path to independence. Timorese militias opposed to the decision organized and, supported by the Indonesian military, commenced a campaign of retribution. Approximately 1,300 Timorese were killed and as many as 300,000 people were forcibly relocated into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country’s infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100 percent of the country’s electrical grid were destroyed. On September 20, 1999, at the request of the Timorese government, Australia led a deployment of peacekeeping troops (the International Force for East Timor, INTERFET), which ended the violence.

After almost three years of UN administration, Timor-Leste became a fully independent republic with a parliamentary form of government on May 20, 2002. UN peacekeepers departed in 2005 leaving a special political mission in its stead. In 2006, however, civil order collapsed due to domestic political struggles, which led to armed conflict between the police and military. The government of Timor-Leste urgently requested police and military assistance from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Portugal. In August 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1704, creating the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to assist in restoring stability, rebuilding the security sector institutions, supporting the Government of Timor-Leste to conduct the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections, and achieving accountability for crimes against humanity and atrocities committed in 1999. An Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) supported UNMIT’s mission. Timor-Leste held free, fair, and largely peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate José Ramos-Horta assumed the presidency, and former guerilla leader and outgoing president Xanana Gusmão became prime minister.

National elections for president and parliament in 2012 were peaceful, free, and fair. UNMIT and the ISF departed from Timor-Leste at the end of 2012. Following free, fair, and peaceful parliamentary elections in July 2017, Mari bin Amude Alkatiri became prime minister of a two-party coalition government. In a March 2017 presidential election, also judged as free and fair, voters elected Francisco Lu Olo Guterres. In contrast with previous years, elections proceeded without extensive support from the international community. Security forces maintained public order with no reported incidents of excessive use of force. Alkatiri’s government was not able to pass its program or budget. Early parliamentary elections in May 2018 were considered fair and transparent, with 81% voter turnout.

In January 2020, the coalition government rejected its own budget in protest of ongoing ministerial vacancies, and the prime minister submitted his resignation to the president. The prime minister subsequently withdrew the request to resign and assumed leadership of the country’s COVID-19 response. The president maintains the authority to determine whether the country will hold early elections to resolve a political impasse or whether the political parties in parliament should form a new government. Following changes in the ruling coalition membership, the Eighth Constitutional Government continues. After political instability in the governing coalition delayed passage of the 2020 budget by ten months, the 2021 and 2022 budgets were successfully passed on time. In April 2021, the government passed a budget amendment responding to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, including severe flooding in Dili.

Two rounds of presidential elections in March and April 2022 were peaceful, free, and fair, with over 75% voter turnout.

Occasional factional political violence can temporarily impact local retail businesses. There have been no instances in the past ten years of damage to projects or installations.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Private Investment Law stipulates that all investors are required to employ Timorese workers and promote their professional training for the performance of qualified functions, including the improvement of technical or managerial knowledge. The law does grant qualified investors the right to a minimum of five work visas for workers or collaborators qualified for supervisory, directing, or technical functions necessary for the investment project, and the ability to request work visas for foreign workers required to install or operate the venture. Timor-Leste’s immigration laws permit workers to apply for work permits in-country after entry on a 30-day visa acquired at arrival; however, U.S. citizens consistently report difficulties getting work permits approved in time. Delays in work permits can subsequently lead to penalties for overstaying visas, which can amount to hundreds of dollars

Shortages of skilled labor remain a significant constraint on private sector growth in Timor-Leste. Shortages of skilled workers are particularly notable in the construction and fishing sectors. Public and private sector employers also consistently encounter problems locating managerial, clerical, and other office staff. There is a surplus of young, inexperienced, unskilled labor, with roughly 15,000 new entrants into the labor market each year in an economy with an estimated total of 70,000 formal sector jobs for a total country population of approximately 1.36 million. Youth unemployment is estimated at 13.4%. Agriculture employs 59% of the population, the largest sector, the majority of which is subsistence agriculture. Data shows that the unemployment rate increases at higher levels of education, indicating a mismatch between training and skills sought by employers, and in particular a lack of vocational training. The government, donors, and employers place considerable emphasis on education and training to build local capacity. This policy aims not only to fill the skill gaps but also to meet local hiring requirements for foreign investors. There is a significant gender imbalance in employment, with the percentage of working age women having substantially lower participation rates, and higher unemployment rates than men.

Only about a quarter of the working age population works in the formal economy. About 28% are unemployed, unpaid household workers, informal workers, retired, or not seeking work. Another 27% are subsistence farmers or fisher people, and 21% are students. Apart from agriculture and fisheries, informal employment largely involves small-scale commerce, including informal vending and handicrafts. Of those formally employed, 82% work in the capital municipality of Dili. The oil and gas sector employs only 0.1% of the working age population, although it contributes 12% of the national GDP.

Foreign migrant workers constitute a small portion of the workforce, with unemployment rates equal to or higher than domestic workers. Substantial numbers of Timorese go overseas to work, with the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea being popular destinations. Government programs support training for out-going migrant workers. Worker remittances represent a significant source of national income, totaling $397 million in 2020.

The 2012 Labor Law put in place regulations for labor conditions, including a 44-hour work week, standard benefits such as leave and premium pay for overtime, and minimum standards of worker health and safety. In June 2012, the government set the minimum wage for full-time employment at $115 per month. Enforcement of labor laws declined in recent years due to budget shortfalls, and enforcement in 2020 and 2021 was constrained by COVID-19.

The government’s labor inspectorate identifies and remediates labor violations and holds violators accountable, investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or dismissal of union members, and investigates and prosecutes instances of forced and/or child labor. Most cases come from temporary labor agreements in the construction and service sectors. Labor inspection numbers rose in 2021 after having been limited in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related government measures.

As stipulated in labor code, workers have the right to strike; however, they must notify companies in advance of the planned strike, and most labor disputes are settled through mediation and arbitration. Workers must present claims in writing to their employer and give the employer five days to respond prior to declaring a strike. If the employers do not respond within that timeframe or respond but the parties do not reach agreement within 20 days, the organization representing the workers must provide five days’ advance notice of a strike. Strikes can be stopped by the government if they disturb public order.

Various businesses have protested state-of-emergency provisions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic that severely limited economic activity. Government responses and outcomes have been peaceful. A successful vaccination campaign and falling case counts has led to the relaxation of most restrictive measures but international travel remains limited. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, strikes against international companies occurred primarily over employment contracts and salary entitlements but yielded limited disruption.

The Government of Timor-Leste is member to the following major international labor and human rights conventions:

  • International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 on Forced Labor
  • ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
  • ILO Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining
  • ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

The Maritime Boundary Treaty with Australia, which entered into force in 2019, delineates special labor and migration regulations for Timorese and foreign workers on the Bayu Undan project and other offshore projects in the EEZ.

14. Contact for More Information

Political, Economic, and Consular Section
United States Embassy
Av. De Portugal, Praia dos Coqueiros
Dili, Timor-Leste
Phone: +670 330-2400
Email: DiliEcon@state.gov

Vietnam

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 87 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 44 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD 2,820 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 2,650 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Companies are required to publish their corporate social responsibility activities, corporate governance work, information of related parties and transactions, and compensation of management. Companies must also announce extraordinary circumstances, such as changes to management, dissolution, or establishment of subsidiaries, within 36 hours of the event.

Most multinational companies implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that contribute to improving the business environment in Vietnam, and awareness of CSR programs is increasing among large domestic companies. The VCCI conducts CSR training and highlights corporate engagement on a dedicated website  in partnership with the UN.

AmCham also has a CSR group that organizes events and activities to raise awareness of social issues. Non-governmental organizations collaborate with government bodies, such as VCCI and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), to promote business practices in Vietnam in line with international norms and standards.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative was introduced to Vietnam many years ago but the government has not officially participated in it. Overall, the government has not defined responsible business conduct (RBC), nor has it established a national plan or agenda for RBC. The government has yet to establish a national point of contact or ombudsman for stakeholders to get information or raise concerns regarding RBC. The new Labor Code, which came into effect January 1, 2021, recognizes the right of employees to establish their own representative organizations, allows employees to unilaterally terminate labor contracts without reason, and extends legal protection to non-written contract employees. For a detailed description of regulations on worker/labor rights in Vietnam, see the Department of State’s 2020 Human Rights Report.

Vietnam participates in the OECD Southeast Asia Regional Program since its launch in 2014 and has cooperated in several policy reviews with the OECD, notably Investment Policy Reviews (2009 and 2018), Clean Energy Finance (2021), and the Vietnam Economic Review (forthcoming). Vietnam also participates in the OECD-Southeast Asia Corporate Governance Initiative. Engagement with businesses will include activities in the agriculture (with a focus on seafood), garment and footwear sectors, and building resilient supply chains. Vietnam doesn’t have any domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies that source minerals that may originate from conflict-affected areas.

Vietnam’s Law on Consumer Protection is largely ineffective, according to industry experts. A consumer who has a complaint on a product or service can petition the Association for Consumer Protection (ACP) or district governments. ACP is a non-governmental, volunteer organization that lacks law enforcement or legal power, and local governments are typically unresponsive to consumer complaints. The Vietnamese government has not focused on consumer protection over the last several years.

Vietnam allows foreign companies to work in private security. Vietnam has not ratified the Montreux Documents, is not a supporter of the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Service Providers and is not a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA).

Vietnamese legislation clearly specifies businesses’ responsibilities regarding environmental protection. The revised 2020 Environmental Protection Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2022, states that environmental protection is the responsibility and obligation of all organizations, institutions, communities, households, and individuals. The law also specifies that manufacturers bear two responsibilities, including responsibility for waste recycling and responsibility for waste treatment.

The Penal Code, revised in 2017, includes a chapter with 12 articles regulating different types of environmental crimes. In accordance with the Penal Code, penalties for infractions carry a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine equivalent to $650,000. However, enforcement remains a problem. To date, no complaint or request for compensation due to damages caused by pollution or other environmental violations has ever been successfully resolved in court due to difficulties in identifying the level of damages and proving the relationship between violators and damages.

In the past several years, there have been high-profile, controversial instances of impacts on human rights by commercial activities – particularly over the revocation of land for real estate development projects. Government suppression of these protests ranged from intimidation and harassment via the media (including social media) to imprisonment. There are numerous examples of government-supported forces beating protestors, journalists, and activists covering land issues. Victims have reported they are unable to press claims against their attackers.

9. Corruption

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.

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.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Although Vietnam has made some progress on labor issues in recent years, including, in theory, allowing the formation of independent unions, the sole union that has any real authority is the state-controlled Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL). Workers will not be able to form independent unions legally until the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) issues guidance on implementation of the 2019 Labor Code, including decrees on procedures to establish and join independent unions, and to determine the level of autonomy independent unions will have in administering their affairs. MOLISA expects to issue this guidance in 2022.

Vietnam has been a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) since 1992 and has ratified seven of the core ILO labor conventions (Conventions 100 and 111 on discrimination, Conventions 138 and 182 on child labor, Conventions 29 and 105 on forced labor, and Convention 98 on rights to organize and collective bargaining). In June 2020 Vietnam ratified ILO Convention 105 – on the abolition of forced labor – which came into force July 14, 2021. The EVFTA also requires Vietnam to ratify Convention 87, on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, by 2023.

Labor dispute resolution mechanisms vary depending on situations. Individual labor disputes and rights-based collective labor disputes must go through a defined process that includes labor conciliation, labor arbitration, and a court hearing. Only interest-based collective labor disputes may legally be pursued via demonstration, and only after undergoing through conciliation and arbitration. However, in practice strikes organized by ad hoc groups at individual facilities are not uncommon, and are usually resolved through negotiation with management. In 2021 there were 105 strikes nationwide, 20 fewer than in 2020 as reported by VGCL.

According to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO), in 2021 there were 50.7 million people participating in the formal labor force in Vietnam out of over 74.9 million people aged 15 and above, around 1.4 million lower than 2020. The labor force is relatively young, with workers 15-39 years of age accounting for half of the total labor force. 61.6 percent of women in the working age participate to the labor force in comparison to 74.3 percent of men in the working age while 65.3 percent of people in the working age in the urban areas participate in the labor force in comparison to 69.3 percent in the rural areas.

Estimates on the size of the informal economy differ widely. The IMF states 40 percent of Vietnam’s laborers work on the informal economy; the World Bank puts the figure at 55 percent; the ILO puts the figure as high as 79 percent if agricultural households are included. Vietnam’s GSO stated that among 53.4 million employed people, 20.3 million people worked in the informal economy.

An employer is permitted to dismiss employees due to technological changes, organizational changes (in cases of a merger, consolidation, or cessation of operation of one or more departments), when the employer faces economic difficulties, or for disruptive behavior in the workplace. There are no waivers on labor requirements to attract foreign investment.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
U.S. Embassy
7 Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam
+84-24-3850-5000
InvestmentClimateVN@state.gov