Albania

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Albania’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems have improved in recent years, but there are still many serious challenges. Endemic corruption, uneven enforcement of legislation, cumbersome bureaucracy, and a lack of transparency all hinder the business community.

Albanian legislation includes rules on disclosure requirements, formation, maintenance, and alteration of firms’ capitalization structures, mergers and divisions, takeover bids, shareholders’ rights, and corporate governance principles. The Competition Authority (http://caa.gov.al ) is an independent agency tasked with ensuring fair and efficient competition in the market.

The Law on Accounting and Financial Statements includes reporting provisions related to international financial reporting standards (IFRS) for large companies, and national financial reporting standards for small and medium enterprises. Albania meets minimum standards on fiscal transparency, and debt obligations are published by the Ministry of Finance and Economy. Albania’s budgets are publicly available, substantially complete, and reliable.

The rulemaking process in Albania meets the minimum requirements of transparency. Ministries and regulatory agencies develop forward regulatory plans that include changes or proposals intended to be adopted within a set timeframe. The law on notification and public consultation requires the GoA to publish draft laws and regulations for public consultation or notification and set clear timeframes for these processes. Such draft laws and regulations are published at the following page: http://www.konsultimipublik.gov.al/  . The business community frequently complains that final versions of laws and regulations fail to address their comments and concerns and that comment periods are not always respected.

Business groups have raised concerns about unfair competition and monopolies, rating the issue as one of the most concerning items damaging the business climate.

All laws, by-laws, regulations, decisions by the Council of Ministers (the government), decrees, and any other regulatory acts are published at the National Publication Center at the following site: https://qbz.gov.al/. 

Independent agencies and bodies, including but not limited to, the Energy Regulatory Entity (ERE), Agency for Electronic and Postal Communication (AKEP), Financial Supervising Authority (FSA), Competition Authority (CA), National Agency of Natural Resources (NARN), and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), oversee transparency and competition in specific sectors.

International Regulatory Considerations

Albania acceded to the WTO in 2000 and the country notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of all draft technical regulations.

Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in 2006; the EU agreed to open accession talks on March 25, 2020. Albania was granted EU candidate status in 2014; it has long been involved in the gradual process of legislation approximation with the EU acquis. This process is expected to accelerate with the opening of accession negotiations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Albanian legal system is a civil law system. The Albanian constitution provides for the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial branches, thereby supporting the independence of the judiciary. The Civil Procedure Code, enacted in 1996, governs civil procedures in Albania. The civil court system consists of district courts, appellate courts, and the High Court (the supreme court), which currently lacks quorum. The district courts are organized in specialized sections according to the subject of the claim, including civil, family, and commercial disputes.

The administrative courts of first instance, the Administrative Court of Appeal, and the Administrative College of the High Court adjudicate administrative disputes. The Constitutional Court, which currently lacks quorum, reviews whether laws or subsidiary legislation comply with the Constitution and, in limited cases, protects and enforces the constitutional rights of citizens and legal entities.

Parties may appeal the judgment of the first-instance courts within 15 days of a decision, while appellate court judgments must be appealed to the High Court within 30 days. A lawsuit against an administrative action is submitted to the administrative court within 45 days from notification and the law stipulates short procedural timeframes, enabling faster adjudication of administrative disputes.

Investors in Albania are entitled to judicial protection of legal rights related to their investments. Foreign investors have the right to submit disputes to an Albanian court. In addition, parties to a dispute may agree to arbitration. Many foreign investors complain that endemic judicial corruption and inefficient court procedures undermine judicial protection in Albania and seek international arbitration to resolve disputes. It is beneficial to U.S. investors to include binding international arbitration clauses in any agreements with Albanian counterparts. Albania is a signatory to the New York Arbitration Convention and foreign arbitration awards are typically recognized by Albania. However, the government initially refused to recognize an injunction from a foreign arbitration court in one high-profile case in 2016. The Albanian Civil Procedure Code outlines provisions regarding domestic and international commercial arbitration.

Albania does not have a specific commercial code but has a series of relevant commercial laws, including the Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies Law, Bankruptcy Law, Public Private Partnership and Concession Law, Competition Law, Foreign Investment Law, Environmental Law, Law on Corporate and Municipal Bonds, Transport Law, Maritime Code, Secured Transactions Law, Employment Law, Taxation Procedures Law, Banking Law, Insurance and Reinsurance Law, Concessions Law, Mining Law, Energy Law, Water Resources Law, Waste Management Law, Excise Law, Oil and Gas Law, Gambling Law, Telecommunications Law, and Value-Added Law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Law on Foreign Investments seeks to create a hospitable legal climate for foreign investors and stipulates the following:

  • No prior government authorization is needed for an initial investment;
  • Foreign investments may not be expropriated or nationalized directly or indirectly, except for designated special cases, in the interest of public use and as defined by law;
  • Foreign investors enjoy the right to expatriate all funds and contributions in kind from their investments; and
  • Foreign investors receive most favored nation treatment according to international agreements and Albanian law.

There are limited exceptions to this liberal investment regime, most of which apply to the purchase of real estate. Agricultural land cannot be purchased by foreigners and foreign entities but may be leased for up to 99 years. Investors can buy agricultural land if registered as a commercial entity in Albania. Commercial property may be purchased, but only if the proposed investment is worth three times the price of the land. There are no restrictions on the purchase of private residential property.

To boost investments in strategic sectors, the government approved a new law on strategic investments in May 2015. Under the new law, a “strategic investment” may benefit from either “assisted procedure” or “special procedure” assistance from the government to help navigate the permitting and regulatory process. To date, no major foreign investors have taken advantage of the law. Several projects proposed by domestic companies or consortiums of local and foreign partners have been designated as strategic investments, mostly in the tourism sector.

Major laws pertaining to foreign investments include:

  • Law on Strategic Investments: Defines procedures and rules to be observed by government authorities when reviewing, approving, and supporting strategic domestic and foreign investments in Albania;
  • Law on Concessions and Public Private Partnerships, amended in 2019;
  • Law on Foreigners, amended in February 2020;
  • Law on the Foreign Investments, amended by the Law;
  • Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies: Outlines general rules and regulations on the merger of commercial companies;
  • Law on Cross-Border Mergers: Determines rules on mergers when one of the companies involved in the process is a foreign company
  • Law on Protection of Competition: Stipulates provisions for the protection of competition, and the concentration of commercial companies; and
  • Law on Collective Investment Undertakings: Regulates conditions and criteria for the establishment, constitution, and operation of collective investment undertakings and of management companies.

Authorities responsible for mergers, change of control, and transfer of shares include the Albanian Competition Authority (ACA: http://www.caa.gov.al/laws/list/category/1/page/1 ), which monitors the implementation of the competition law and approves mergers and acquisitions when required by the law; and the Albanian Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA: http://www.amf.gov.al/ligje.asp ), which regulates and supervises the securities market and approves the transfer of shares and change of control of companies operating in this sector.

Albania’s tax system does not distinguish between foreign and domestic investors. Informality in the economy, which may be as large as 40 percent of the total economy, presents challenges for tax administration.

Visa requirements to obtain residence or work permits are straightforward and do not pose an undue burden on potential investors. The government amended the Law on Foreigners in February 2020. The amendments remove restrictions on foreign employees and streamline the visa and work permit processes for foreigners and foreign workers by introducing online visa application process, simplifying and accelerating the working permit process, and providing the same access to the labor market for citizens of Western Balkan countries as the United States, EU, and Schengen-country citizens have.

The Law on Entrepreneurs and Commercial Companies sets guidelines on the activities of companies and the legal structure under which they may operate. The government adopted the law in 2008 to conform Albanian legislation to the EU’s Acquis Communitaire. The most common type of organization for foreign investors is a limited liability company.

The Law on Public Private Partnerships and Concessions establishes the framework for promoting and facilitating the implementation of privately financed concessionary projects. According to the law, concession projects may be identified by central or local governments or through third party unsolicited proposals. To limit opportunities for corruption, the 2019 amendments prohibited unsolicited bids, beginning in July 2019, on all sectors except for works or services in ports, airports, generation and distribution of electricity, energy for heating, and production and distribution of natural gas. In addition, the 2019 amendments removed the zero to 10 percent bonus points for unsolicited proposals, which gave companies submitting unsolicited bids a competitive advantage over other contenders. Instead, if the party submitting the unsolicited proposal does not win the bid, it will be compensated by the winning company for the cost of the feasibility study, which in no case shall exceed 1 percent of the total cost of the project.

There is no one-stop-shop that lists all legislation, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. However, foreign investors should visit the Albania Investment Development Agency webpage (www.aida.gov.al ), which offers information for foreign investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Albanian Competition Authority (http://www.caa.gov.al/?lng=en ) is the agency that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns. The Law on Protection of Competition governs incoming foreign investment whether through mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, or green-field investments, irrespective of industry or sector. In the case of share transfers in insurance and banking industries, the Financial Supervisory Authority (http://amf.gov.al/ ) and the Bank of Albania (https://www.bankofalbania.org/ ) may require additional regulatory approvals. Transactions between parties outside Albania, including foreign-to-foreign transactions, are covered by the competition law, which states that its provisions apply to all activities, domestic or foreign, that directly or indirectly affect the Albanian market.

Expropriation and Compensation

The constitution guarantees the right of private property. According to Article 41, expropriation or limitation on the exercise of a property right can occur only if it serves the public interest and with fair compensation. During the post-communist period, expropriation has been limited to land for public interest, mainly infrastructure projects such as roads, energy infrastructure, water works, airports, and other facilities. Compensation has generally been reported as being below market value and owners have complained that the compensation process is corrupt, slow, and unfair. Civil courts are responsible for resolving such complaints.

Changes in government can also affect foreign investments. Following the 2013 elections and peaceful transition of power, the new government revoked or renegotiated numerous concession agreements, licenses, and contracts signed by the previous government with both domestic and international investors. This practice has occurred in other years as well.

There are many ongoing disputes regarding property confiscated during the communist regime. Identifying ownership is a longstanding problem in Albania that makes restitution for expropriated properties difficult. The restitution and compensation process started in 1993 but has been slow and marred by corruption. Many U.S. citizens of Albanian origin have been in engaged inlong-running restitution disputes. Court cases go on for years without a final decision, causing many to refer their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France. A significant number of applications are pending for consideration before the ECHR. Even after settlement in Strasbourg, enforcement remains slow.

To address the situation, the GoA approved new property compensation legislation in 2015 that aims to resolve pending claims for restitution and compensation. The 2018 law reduces the burden on the state budget by changing the cash compensation formula. The legislation presents three methods of compensation for confiscation claims: restitution; compensation of property with similarly valued land in a different location; or financial compensation. It also set a ten-year timeframe for completion of the process. In February 2020, the Albanian parliament approved a law “On the Finalization of the Transitory Process of Property Deeds in the Republic of Albania,” which aims to finalize land allocation and privatization processes contained in 14 various laws issued between 1991 and 2018.

The GoA has generally not engaged in expropriation actions against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives. There have been limited cases in which the government has revoked licenses, specifically in the mining and energy sectors, based on contract violation claims.

The Law on Strategic Investments, approved in 2015, empowers the government to expropriate private property for the development of private projects deemed special strategic projects. Despite the provision that the government would act when parties fail to reach an agreement, the clause is a source of controversy because it entitles the government to expropriate private property in the interest of another private party. The expropriation procedures are consistent with the law on the expropriation, and the cost for expropriation would be incurred by the strategic investor. The provision has yet to be exercised.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

For an international arbitration award to be recognized locally, the claimant must bring the award before the Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court will not adjudicate the merits of the case and can strike down the award only for the reasons listed in Article V of the New York Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Albania signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty with United States in 1995, and it entered into force in 1998. It has also ratified the New York Convention, ICSID Convention, and Geneva Convention. According to the Albanian Constitution, these conventions take precedence over domestic legislation. Foreign investors opt to include international arbitration clauses in their contracts with Albanian parties because the court system is not responsive, and the judiciary marked by endemic corruption.

For an international arbitration award to be recognized locally, the claimant must enforce the award before the Court of Appeals. The possibility of bringing an action before the local court to avoid arbitration proceedings is remote. According to provisions in the Albanian Code of Civil Procedure, if a party brings actions before local courts despite the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, the court would, upon motion of the other party, dismiss the case without entertaining its merits. The decision of the court to dismiss the case can be appealed to the Supreme Court, which has 30 days to consider the appeal.

The Albanian Code of Civil Procedure requires the courts to reach a judgment in a reasonable amount of time but does not provide a specific timeline for adjudicating commercial disputes. Reaching a final judgment in commercial litigation can take several years.

Over the past ten years, there have been three investment disputes between the GoA and U.S. companies, two of which resulted in international arbitration. Despite the GoA’s stated desire to attract and support foreign investors, U.S. investors in disputes with the GoA reported a lack of productive dialogue with government officials, who frequently displayed a reluctance to settle the disputes before they were escalated to the level of international arbitration, or before the international community exerted pressure on the government to resolve the issue. U.S. investors in Albania should strongly consider including binding arbitration clauses in any agreements with Albanian counterparts.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

An alternative to dispute settlement via the courts is private arbitration or mediation. Parties can engage in arbitration when they have agreed to such a provision in the original agreement, when there is a separate arbitration agreement, or by agreement at any time when a dispute arises.

Albania does not have a separate law on domestic arbitration. In 2017, Albania repealed all domestic arbitration provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, leaving the country without provisions to govern domestic arbitration. However, parties may engage in domestic arbitration because the Code of Civil Procedure guarantees the enforcement of domestic arbitral awards. Mediation is also available for resolving all civil, commercial, and family disputes and is regulated by the law On Dispute Resolution through Mediation. Arbitral awards are final and enforceable and can be appealed only in cases foreseen in the Code of Civil Procedure. Mediation is final and enforceable in the same way.

The provisions for international arbitration procedures and the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards are stipulated in the Albanian Code of Civil Procedure. Albania does not have a separate law on international arbitration. Although the arbitration chapter of the Code of Civil Procedure stipulates only the rules for domestic arbitration, the country is signatory to the 1958 New York Convention and therefore recognizes the validity of written arbitration agreements and arbitral awards in a contracting state.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Albania maintains adequate bankruptcy legislation, though corrupt and inefficient bankruptcy court proceedings make it difficult for companies to reorganize or discharge debts through bankruptcy.

A law on bankruptcy that entered into force in May 2017 aimed to close loopholes in the insolvency regime, decrease unnecessary market exit procedures, reduce fraud, and ease collateral recovery procedures. The Bankruptcy Law governs the reorganization or liquidation of insolvent businesses. It sets out non-discriminatory and mandatory rules for the repayment of the obligations by a debtor in a bankruptcy procedure. The law establishes statutory time limits for insolvency procedures, professional qualifications for insolvency administrators, and an Agency of Insolvency Supervision to regulate the profession of insolvency administrators.

Debtors and creditors can initiate a bankruptcy procedure and can file for either liquidation or reorganization. Bankruptcy proceedings may be invoked when the debtor is unable to pay the obligations at the maturity date or the value of its liabilities exceeds the value of the assets.

According to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Law, the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings suspends the enforcement of claims by all creditors against the debtor subject to bankruptcy. Creditors of all categories must submit their claims to the bankruptcy administrator. The Bankruptcy Law provides specific treatment for different categories, including secured creditors, preferred creditors, unsecured creditors, and final creditors whose claims would be paid after all other creditors were satisfied. The claims of the secured creditors are to be satisfied by the assets of the debtor, which secure such claims under security agreements. The claims of the unsecured creditors are to be paid out of the bankruptcy estate, excluding the assets used for payment of the secured creditors, following the priority ranking as outlined in the Albanian Civil Code.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Law, creditors have the right to establish a creditors committee. The creditors committee is appointed by the Commercial Section Courts before the first meeting of the creditor assembly. The creditors committee represents the secured creditors, preferred creditors, and the unsecured creditors. The committee has the right (a) to support and supervise the activities of the insolvency administrator; (b) to request and receive information about the insolvency proceedings; c) to inspect the books and records; and d) to order an examination of the revenues and cash balances.

If the creditors and administrator agree that reorganization is the company’s best option, the bankruptcy administrator prepares a reorganization plan and submits it to the court for authorizing implementation.

According to the insolvency procedures, only creditors whose rights are affected by the proposed reorganization plan enjoy the right to vote, and the dissenting creditors in reorganization receive at least as much as what they would have obtained in a liquidation. Creditors are divided into classes for the purposes of voting on the reorganization plan and each class votes separately. Creditors of the same class are treated equally.

The insolvency framework allows for the continuation of contracts supplying essential goods and services to the debtor, the rejection by the debtor of overly burdensome contracts, the avoidance of preferential or undervalued transactions, and the possibility of the debtor obtaining credit after commencement of insolvency proceedings. No priority is assigned to post-commencement over secured creditors. Post-commencement credit is assigned over ordinary unsecured creditors.

The creditor has the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting creditors’ claims and to request information from the insolvency representative. The selection and appointment of insolvency representative does not require the approval of the creditor. In addition, the sale of substantial assets of the debtor does not required the approval of the creditor.

According to the law on bankruptcy, foreign creditors have the same rights as domestic creditors with respect to the commencement of, and participation in, a bankruptcy proceeding. The claim is valued as of the date the insolvency proceeding is opened. Claims expressed in foreign currency are converted into Albanian currency according to the official exchange rate applicable to the place of payment at the time of the opening of the proceeding.

The Albanian Criminal Code contains several criminal offenses in bankruptcy, including (i) whether the bankruptcy was provoked intentionally; (ii) concealment of bankruptcy status; (iii) concealment of assets after bankruptcy; and (iv) failure to comply with the obligations arising under bankruptcy proceeding.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Albania ranked 39th out of 190 countries in the insolvency index. A referenced analysis of resolving insolvency can be found at the following link: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/255991574747242507/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies-Economy-Profile-of-Albania 

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Individuals and investors face significant challenges with protection and enforcement of property rights. Despite recent improvements, procedures are cumbersome, and registrants have complained of corruption during the process.  Over the last three decades, the GoA has drafted and passed much, though not all, of its property legislation in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way. According to the EU’s 2019 Progress Report, significant progress has yet to be made toward improving the legal framework for registration, expropriation, and compensation of property. Reform of the sector has yet to incorporate consolidation of property rights or the elimination of legal uncertainties. However, on February 12, 2020, the Albanian parliament approved the Law on the Finalization of the Transitory Process of Property Deeds in the Republic of Albania, which aims to finalize land allocation and privatization processes contained in 14 various laws issued between 1991 and 2018.

The property registration system has improved thanks to international donor assistance, but the process has stalled as Albania still needs to complete the initial registration of property titles in the country. Approximately 10 percent of the properties are registered in digital form, almost entirely in Tirana, in urban and peripheral areas that experience a high turnover a lot of transactions. Another 80 percent of properties have been registered as part of the initial registration process but the plot records for these properties are still only in paper form and often in poor and outdated condition. The remaining 10 percent have still to be registered for the first time, which includes the southern coastal area. The poor state of the data is a risk for title security and a constraint to investment and an effective land market.

Albania has an estimated 440,000 illegal structures, built without permits, and illicit construction continues to be a major impediment to securing property titles. A process that aims to legalize or eliminate such structures started in 2008 but is still not complete.  The situation has led to clashes between squatters and owners of allegedly illegal buildings and the Albanian State Police during the demolition of these structures to make way for public infrastructure projects.

To streamline the property management process, the GoA established in April 2019 the State Cadaster Agency (ASHK), which united several major agencies responsible for property registration, compensation, and legalization, including the Immovable Property Registration Office (IPRO), the Agency of Inventory and Transfer of Public Properties (AITPP), and the Agency for the Legalization and Urbanization of Informal Areas (ALUIZNI).

According to the 2020 World Bank’s “Doing Business Report,” Albania performed poorly in the property registration category, ranking 98th out of 190 countries.  It took an average of 19 days and five procedures to register property, and the associated costs could reach 8.9 percent of the total property value. The civil court system manages property rights disputes, but verdicts can take years, authorities often fail to enforce court decisions, and corruption concerns persist within the judiciary.

Intellectual Property Rights

Albania is not included on the U. S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  That said, intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are common due to weak legal structures and poor enforcement.  Counterfeit goods, while decreasing, are present in some local markets, including software, garments, machines, and cigarettes. Albanian law protects copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications, but enforcement of these laws is wanting.  Regulators are ineffective at collecting fines and prosecutors rarely press charges for IPR theft. U.S. companies should consult an experienced IPR attorney and avoid potential risks by establishing solid commercial relationships and drafting strong contracts. According to the International Property Right Index  (IPRI) published by Property Right Alliance, Albania ranks 106th out of 129 countries evaluated. It ranked 79th in the subcategory of copyright piracy.

A revised 2016 IPR law aimed to strengthen enforcement and address shortcomings so as to harmonize domestic legislation with that of the EU.   In 2019, the Criminal Code was amended to include harsher punishments of up to three years in prison for IPR infringement.

The main institutions responsible for IPR enforcement include the State Inspectorate for Market Surveillance (SIMS), the Albanian Copyright Office (ACO), the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), the General Directorate of Patents and Trademarks (GDPT), the General Directorate for Customs, the Tax Inspectorate, the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Police, and the courts.  In 2018, the National Council of Copyrights was established as a specialized body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the law and certifying the methodology for establishing the tariffs. Two other important bodies in the protection and administration of IPR are the agencies for the Collective Administration (AAK) and the Copyrights Department within the Ministry of Culture. Four different AAKs have merged in 2017 to provide service into a sole window for the administration of IPR.

The SIMS, established in 2016, is responsible for inspecting, controlling, and enforcing copyright and other related rights.   Despite some improvements, actual law enforcement on copyrights continues to be problematic and copyright violations are persistent.  The number of copyright violation cases brought to court remains low.

While official figures are not available, Customs does report the quantity of counterfeit goods destroyed annually.  In cases of seizures, the rights holder has the burden of proof and so must first inspect the goods to determine if they are infringing.  The rights holder is also responsible for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods. Cigarettes were the most common product seized by Customsin 2019.

The GDPT is responsible for registering and administering patents, commercial trademarks and service marks, industrial designs, and geographical indications.  The 2008 law on industrial property was amended in 2014 to more closely align with that of the EU . In 2019, the GDPT received 1,157 applications for national trademarks, 2,664 applications for the international extension of trademark registration according to the Madrid system, and 913 applications for patents.

Albania is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Law Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, and is a member of the European Patent Organization.  The government became party to the London Agreement on the implementation of Article 65 of the European Convention for Patents in 2013. In 2018, Parliament approved the Law 34/2018 on Albania’s adherence to the Vienna Agreement for the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks. In June 2019, Albania joined the Geneva Act of WIPO’s Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Embassy Tirana on IP issues:
Alex MacFarlane
Economic Officer
Phone: + 355 (0) 4229 3115
E-mail: USALBusiness@state.gov

Country resources:

American Chamber of Commerce
Address: Rr. Deshmoret e shkurtit, Sky Tower, kati 11 Ap 3 Tirana, Albania
Email: info@amcham.com.al
Phone: +355 (0) 4225 9779
Fax: +355 (0) 4223 5350
http://www.amcham.com.al/ 

List of local lawyers: http://tirana.usembassy.gov/list_of_attorneys.html

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government has adopted policies to promote the free flow of financial resources and foreign investment in Albania. The Law on “Foreign Investments” is based on the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of foreign investments. Foreign investors have the right to expatriate all funds and contributions of their investment.  In accordance with IMF Article VIII, the government and Central Bank do not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for international transactions. Despite Albania’s shallow foreign exchange market, banks enjoy enough liquidity to support sizeable positions.  Portfolio investments continue to be a challenge because they remain limited mostly to company shares, government bonds, and real estate.

In the recent years, the high percentage of non-performing loans and the economic slowdown forced commercial banks to tighten lending standards.  However, following a decrease in non-performing loans (NPL) in 2018 the, lending increased by 7 percent year-over-year in 2019.  The credit market is competitive, but interest rates in domestic currency can be high, ranging from 6 percent to 7 percent. Most mortgage and commercial loans are denominated in euros because rate differentials between local and foreign currency average 2.5 percent.  Commercial banks operating in Albania have improved the quality and quantity of services they provide, including a large variety of credit instruments, traditional lines of credit, and bank drafts etc.

Money and Banking System

In the absence of an effective stock market, the country’s banking sector is the main channel for business financing.  The sector is sound, profitable, and well capitalized. The high rate of non-performing loans (NPL)s had been a concern for several years but has declined recently.  The Bank of Albania’s legal measures to address the problem have generated positive results. The banking sector is 100 percent fully privatized.  It has undergone consolidation over the last couple of years, as the number of banks decreased from 16 in 2018 to 12 in 2020. As of December 2019, the Turkish -owned National Commercial Bank remained the largest bank in the market, with 27 percent of the market share, followed by Austrian Raiffeisen Bank, with 15 percent, and Albanian Credins Bank, with 14.8 percent.  The American Investment Bank is the only bank with U.S. shareholders, and it ranks seventh with 5.2 %percent of the banking sector’s total assets, which in 2019 reached $13.5 billion.

Albania’s banking sector weathered the financial crisis better than many of its neighbors, due largely to a limited exposure to international capital markets and lack of a domestic housing bubble.  In December 2019, Albania had 446 bank outlets, down from 474 a year ago and the peak of 552 in 2016. Capital adequacy, at 18.3 percent, remains above Basel requirements and indicates sufficient assets.  At the end of 2019, the return on assets was 1.5 percent. The number of NPLs continued to fall, reaching 8.4 percent at the end of the 2019, down from 11.1 percent in 2018, and significantly below the 2014 level when NPLs peaked at 25 percent. As part of its strategy to stimulate business activity, the Bank of Albania has adopted a plan to ease monetary policy by continuing to persistently keep low interest rates. The most recent reduction was in March 2020, when the interest rate was reduced to the historic low of 0.5 percent, down from a rate of 1 percent in place since June 2018.

Most of the banks operating in Albania are subsidiaries of foreign banks. Only three banks have an ownership structure whose majority shareholders are Albanian.  However, the share of total assets of the banks with majority Albanian shareholders has increased because of the sector’s ongoing consolidation. There are no restrictions for foreigners who wish to establish a bank account. They are not required to prove residency status.  However, U.S. citizens must complete a form allowing for the disclosure of their banking data to the IRS as required under the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Central Bank of Albania (BoA) formulates, adopts, and implements foreign exchange policies and maintains a supervisory role in foreign exchange activities in accordance with the Law on the Bank of Albania No. 8269 and the Banking Law No. 9662.  Foreign exchange is regulated by the 2009 Regulation on Foreign Exchange Activities no. 70 (FX Regulation).

BoA maintains a free -float exchange rate regime for the domestic currency, the Lek. Albanian authorities do not engage in currency arbitrage, nor do they view it as an efficient instrument to achieve competitive advantage.  BoA does not intervene to manipulate the exchange rate unless required to control domestic inflation, in accordance with the Bank’s official mandate of inflation targeting.

Foreign exchange is readily available at banks and exchange bureaus. Preliminary notification is necessary if the currency exchange is several million dollars or more – the law does not specify an amount but provides factors for determining the threshold for large exchanges – as the exchange market in Albania is shallow.  A 2018 campaign launched by the BoA to reduce the domestic use of the euro to improve the effectiveness of domestic economic policies has produced tangible results. The share of foreign currency loans in total loans fell from 60 percent in 2015 to 50 percent in 2019. Foreign currency deposits, which to some extent reflect relatively high remittances, rose to 54.6 percent of total deposits.

Remittance Policies

The Banking Law does not impose restrictions on the purchase, sale, holding, or transfer of monetary foreign exchange.  However, local law authorizes the BoA to temporarily restrict the purchase, sale, holding, or transfer of foreign exchange to preserve the foreign exchange rate or official reserves.  In practice, BoA rarely employs such measures. The last episode was in 2009, when the Bank temporarily tightened supervision rules over liquidity transfers by domestic correspondent banks to foreign banks due to insufficient liquidity in international financial markets.  It also asked banks to halt distribution of dividends and use dividends to increase shareholders’ capital, instead. BoA lifted these restrictions in 2010.

The Law on Foreign Investment guarantees the right to transfer and repatriate funds associated with an investment in Albania into a freely usable currency at a market-clearing rate.  Only licensed entities (banks) may conduct foreign exchange transfers and waiting periods depend on office procedures adopted by the banks. Both Albanian and foreign citizens entering or leaving the country must declare assets in excess of 1,000,000 lek (USD 9,000) in hard currency and/or precious items.  Failure to declare such assets is considered a criminal act, punishable by confiscation of the assets and possible imprisonment.

Although the Foreign Exchange (FX) Regulation provides that residents and non-residents may transfer capital within and into Albania without restriction, capital transfers out of Albania are subject to certain documentation requirements.  Persons must submit a request indicating the reasons for the capital transfer, a certificate of registration from the National Registration Center, and the address to which the capital will be transferred. Such persons must also submit a declaration on the source of the funds to be transferred.  In January 2015, The FX Regulation was amended and the requirement to present the documentation showing the preliminary payment of taxes related to the transaction was removed.

Albania is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body.  In February 2020, Albania was included in the category of jurisdictions under increased monitoring, also referred to as the Grey List. Albania had previously been on this list and was taken off in 2015. The 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) placed Albania in the “Major Money Laundering Jurisdictions” category following its inclusion for the first time in 2017. The category implies that financial institutions of the country engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Parliament approved a law in October 2019 to establish the Albanian Investment Corporation (AIC). The law entered in force in January 2020. The AIC would develop, manage, and administer state-owned property and assets, invest across all sectors by mobilizing state owned and private domestic and foreign capital, and promote economic and social development by investing in line with government-approved development policies.

The GoA plans to transfer state-owned assets, including state-owned land, to the AIC and provide initial capital to launch the corporation. The IMF Staff Concluding Statement  of November 26, 2019, warned that the law would allow the government to direct individual investment decisions, which could make the AIC an off-budget spending tool that risks eroding fiscal discipline and circumventing public investment management processes.

Algeria

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The national government manages all regulatory processes.  Legal and regulatory procedures, as written, are considered consistent with international norms, although the decision-making process is at times opaque.

Algeria implemented the Financial Accounting System (FAS) in 2010.  Though legislation does not make explicit references, FAS appears to be based on International Accounting Standards Board and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  Operators generally find accounting standards follow international norms, though they note that some particularly complex processes in IFRS have detailed explanations and instructions but are explained relatively briefly in FAS.

There is no mechanism for public comment on draft laws, regulations or regulatory procedures.  Copies of draft laws are not made publicly accessible before enactment.  Government officials often give testimony to Parliament on draft legislation, and that testimony typically receives press coverage.  Occasionally, copies of bills are leaked to the media.   All laws and some regulations are published in the Official Gazette (www.joradp.dz ) in Arabic and French, but the database has only limited online search features and no summaries are published.  Secondary legislation and/or administrative acts (known as ‘circulaires’ or ‘directives’) often provide important details on how to implement laws and procedures.  Administrative acts are generally written at the ministry level and not made public, though may be available if requested in person at a particular agency or ministry.  Public tenders are often accompanied by a book of specifications only provided upon payment.

In some cases, authority over a matter may rest among multiple ministries, which may impose additional bureaucratic steps and the likelihood of either inaction or the issuance of conflicting regulations.  The development of regulations occurs largely away from public view; internal discussions at or between ministries are not usually made public.  In some instances, the only public interaction on regulations development is a press release from the official state press service at the conclusion of the process; in other cases, a press release is issued earlier.  Regulatory enforcement mechanisms and agencies exist at some ministries, but they are usually understaffed and enforcement remains weak.

The National Economic and Social Council (CNES) studies the effects of Algerian government policies and regulations in economic and social spheres.  The CNES provides feedback on proposed legislation, but neither the feedback nor legislation are necessarily made public.

Information on external debt obligations up to fiscal year 2018 was publicly available via the Central Bank’s quarterly statistical bulletin online .  The statistical bulletin describes external debt and not public debt, but the Ministry of Finance’s budget execution summaries reflect amalgamated debt totals.  The Ministry of Finance is planning to create an electronic, consolidated database of internal and external debt information, and in 2019 published additional public debt information on its website.  A 2017 amendment to the 2003 law on currency and credit covering non-conventional financing authorizes the Central Bank to purchase bonds directly from the Treasury for a period of up to five years.   The Ministry of Finance indicated this would include purchasing debt from state enterprises, allowing the Central Bank to transfer money to the treasury, which would then provide the cash to, for example, state owned enterprises in exchange for their debt.  In September 2019, the Prime Minister announced Algeria would no longer use non-conventional financing, although the Ministry of Finance stressed the program remains available until 2022.

International Regulatory Considerations

Algeria is not a member of any regional economic bloc or of the WTO.  The structure of Algerian regulations largely follows European – specifically French – standards.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Algeria’s legal system is based on the French civil law tradition.  The commercial law was established in 1975 and most recently updated in 2007 (www.joradp.dz/TRV/FCom.pdf ).  The judiciary is nominally independent from the executive branch, but U.S. companies have reported allegations of political pressure exerted on the courts by the executive.  Organizations representing lawyers and judges have protested during the past year against alleged executive branch interference in judicial independence.  Regulation enforcement actions are adjudicated in the national courts system and are appealable.  Algeria has a system of administrative tribunals for adjudicating disputes with the government, distinct from the courts that handle civil disputes and criminal cases.  Decisions made under treaties or conventions to which Algeria is a signatory are binding and enforceable under Algerian law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 51/49 investment rule requires a majority Algerian ownership for all investments, though pending guidance from the Algerian government will limit the rule to “strategic sectors” as prescribed in the 2020 Finance Law (see section 2).  There are few other laws restricting foreign investment.  In practice, the many regulatory and bureaucratic requirements for business operations provide officials avenues to advance informally political or protectionist policies.  The investments law enacted in 2016 charged ANDI with creating four new branches to assist with business establishment and the management of investment incentives.  ANDI’s website (www.andi.dz/index.php/en/investir-en-algerie ) lists the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.  Much of the information lacks detail – particularly for the new incentives elaborated in the 2016 investments law – and refers prospective investors to ANDI’s physical “one-stop shops” located throughout the country.

There is an ongoing effort by the customs service, under the Ministry of Finance, to establish a new digital platform featuring one-stop shops for importers and exports to streamline bureaucratic processes.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The National Competition Council (www.conseil-concurrence.dz/ ) is responsible for reviewing both domestic and foreign competition-related concerns.  Established in late 2013, it is housed under the Ministry of Commerce.  Once the economic concentration of an enterprise exceeds 40 percent of a market’s sales or purchases, the Competition Council is authorized to investigate, though a 2008 directive from the Ministry of Commerce exempted economic operators working for national economic progress from this review.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Algerian state can expropriate property under limited circumstances, with the state required to pay “just and equitable” compensation to the property owners.  Expropriation of property is extremely rare, with no cases within the last 10 years.  In late 2018, however, a government measure required farmers to comply with a new regulation altering the concession contracts of their land in a way that would cede more control to the government.  Those who refused to switch contract type by December 31, 2018 lost their right to their land.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Algeria is a signatory to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (The New York Convention) and the Convention on the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention).  The Algerian code of civil procedure allows both private and public sector companies full recourse to international arbitration.  Algeria permits the inclusion of international arbitration clauses in contracts.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investment disputes sometimes occur, especially on major projects.  Investment disputes can be settled informally through negotiations between the parties or via the domestic court system.  For disputes with foreign investors, cases can be decided through international arbitration.  The most common disputes in the last several years have involved state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach and its foreign partners concerning the retroactive application since 2006 of a windfall profits tax on hydrocarbons production.  Sonatrach won a case in October 2016 against a Spanish oil company and two Korean firms.  An international firm won one of their cases against Sonatrach in 2016.  In 2018, Sonatrach announced it had settled all outstanding international disputes.

The most recent investment dispute involving a U.S. company dates to 2012.  The company, which had encountered bureaucratic barriers to the expatriation of dividends from a 2005 investment, did not resort to arbitration.  The dispute was resolved in 2017, with the government permitting the company to expatriate the dividends.

There is no U.S.-Algeria Bilateral Investment Treaty or Free Trade Agreement.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACI), the nationwide, state-supported chamber of commerce, has the authority to arbitrate investment disputes as an agent of the court.  The bureaucratic nature of Algeria’s economic and legal system, as well as its opaque decision-making process, means that disputes can drag on for years before a resolution is reached.  Businesses have reported cases in the court system are subject to political influence and generally tend to favor the government’s position.

Local courts recognize and have the authority to enforce foreign arbitral awards.  Nearly all contracts between foreign and Algerian partners include clauses for international arbitration.  The Ministry of Justice is in charge of enforcing arbitral awards against SOEs.

Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are not widely used.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Algeria’s bankruptcy system is underdeveloped.  While bankruptcy per se is not criminalized, management decisions (such as company spending, investment decisions, and even procedural mistakes) are subject to criminal penalties including fines and incarceration, so decisions that lead to bankruptcy could be punishable under Algerian criminal law.  However, bankruptcy cases rarely proceed to a full dissolution of assets.  The Algerian government generally props up public companies on the verge of bankruptcy via cash infusions from the public banking system.  According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, debtors and creditors may file for both liquidation and reorganization.

In the past year, the court gave the government authority to put several companies in receivership and appointed temporary heads to direct them following the arrests of their CEOs as part of a broad anti-corruption drive.  The status and viability of several of those companies is unclear.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property are generally recognized and enforceable, but court proceedings can be lengthy and results unpredictable.  All property not clearly titled to private owners remains under government ownership.  As a result, the government controls most real property in Algeria, and instances of unclear titling have resulted in conflicting claims of ownership, which has made purchasing and financing real estate difficult.  Several business contacts have reported significant difficulty in obtaining land from the government to develop new industrial activities; the state prefers to lease land for 33-year terms, renewable twice, rather than sell outright.  The procedures and criteria for awarding land contracts are opaque.

Property sales are subject to registration at the tax inspection and publication office at the Mortgage Register Center and are part of the public record of that agency.  All property contracts must go through a notary.

According to the World Bank Doing Business report, Algeria ranks 165 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Patent and trademark protection in Algeria remains covered by a series of ordinances dating from 2003 and 2005, and representatives of U.S. companies operating in Algeria reported that these laws were satisfactory in terms of both the scope of what they cover and the penalties they mandate for violations.  A 2015 government decree increased coordination between the National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute for Industrial Property (INAPI), and law enforcement to pursue patent and trademark infringements.

ONDA, under the Ministry of Culture, and INAPI, under the Ministry of Industry and Mines, are the two entities within the Algerian government that protect IPR.  ONDA covers literary and artistic copyrights as well as digital software rights, while INAPI oversees the registration and protection of industrial trademarks and patents.  Despite strengthened efforts at ONDA, INAPI, and the General Directorate for Customs (under the Ministry of Finance), which have seen local production of pirated or counterfeit goods nearly disappear since 2011, imported counterfeit goods are prevalent and easily obtained.  Algerian law enforcement agencies annually confiscate several hundred items, including clothing, cosmetics, sports items, foodstuffs, automotive spare parts, and home appliances.  ONDA destroyed more than 100,000 copies of pirated media to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day in 2017, but software firms estimate that more than 85 percent of the software used in Algeria, and a similar percentage of titles used by government institutions and state-owned companies, is not licensed.

Algeria has remained on the Priority Watch List of USTR’s Special 301 Report (https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301) since 2009.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed – each at no more than 35 percent equity.  There is a small and medium enterprise exchange with one listed company.  The exchange has a total market capitalization representing less than 0.1 percent of Algeria’s GDP.  Daily trading volume on the exchange averages around USD 2,000.  Despite its small size, the market functions well and is adequately regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.

Government officials aim to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion in the next five years and enlist up to 50 new companies.  Attempts to list additional companies have been stymied by a lack both of public awareness and appetite for portfolio investment, as well as by private and public companies’ unpreparedness to satisfy due diligence requirements that would attract investors.  Proposed privatizations of state-owned companies have also been opposed by the public.  Algerian society generally prefers material investment vehicles for savings, namely cash.  Public banks, which dominate the banking sector (see below), are required to purchase government securities when offered, meaning they have little leftover liquidity to make other investments.  Foreign portfolio investment is prohibited – the purchase of any investment product in Algeria, whether a government or corporate bond or equity stock, is limited to Algerian residents only.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is roughly 85 percent public and 15 percent private as measured by value of assets held, and is regulated by an independent central bank.  Publicly available data from private institutions and U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Data show estimated total assets in the commercial banking sector in 2017 were roughly 13.9 trillion dinars (USD 116.7 billion) against 9.2 trillion dinars (USD 77.2 billion) in liabilities.  The central bank had mandated a 12 percent reserve requirement until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to eight percent.  In August 2017, the ratio was further reduced to 4% in an effort to inject further liquidity into the banking system.  The decrease in liquidity was a result of all public banks buying government bonds in the first public bond issuance in more than 10 years; buying at least five percent of the offered bonds is required for banks to participate as primary dealers in the government securities market.  The bond issuance essentially returned funds to the state that it had deposited at local banks during years of high hydrocarbons profits.  In January 2018, the bank increased the retention ratio from 4 percent to 8 percent, followed by a further increase in February 2019 to a 12 percent ratio  in anticipation of a rise in bank liquidity due to the government’s non-conventional financing policy, which allows the Treasury to borrow directly from the central bank to pay state debts.  In response to liquidity concerns caused by the oil price decline in March 2020, the bank decreased the reserve requirement to 8 percent.

The IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets, currently estimated between 10-12 percent of total assets.  The quality of service in public banks is generally considered low as generations of public banking executives and workers trained to operate in a statist economy lack familiarity with modern banking practices.  Most transactions are materialized (non-electronic).  Many areas of the country suffer from a dearth of branches, leaving large amounts of the population without access to banking services.  ATMs are not widespread, especially outside the major cities, and few accept foreign bankcards.  Outside of major hotels with international clientele, hardly any retail establishments accept credit cards.  Algerian banks do issue debit cards, but the system is distinct from any international payment system.  In addition, approximately 4.6 trillion dinars ( USD 40 billion), or one-third, of the money supply is estimated to circulate in the informal economy.

Foreigners can open foreign currency accounts without restriction, but proof of a work permit or residency is required to open an account in Algerian dinars.  Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in the country, but they must be legally distinct entities from their overseas home offices.

In 2015, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Algeria from its Public Statement, and in 2016 it removed Algeria from the “gray list.”  The FATF recognized Algeria’s significant progress and the improvement in its anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.  The FATF also indicated Algeria has substantially addressed its action plan since strategic deficiencies were identified in 2011.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are few statutory restrictions on foreign investors converting, transferring, or repatriating funds, according to banking executives.  Monies cannot be expatriated to pay royalties or to pay for services provided by resident foreign companies.  The difficultly with conversions and transfers results mostly from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish.  Missteps at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process.  Transfers should take roughly one month to complete, but often take three to six months.  Also, the Algerian government has been known to delay the process as leverage in commercial and financial disputes with foreign companies.

Expatriated funds can be converted to any world currency.  The IMF classifies the exchange rate regime as an “other managed arrangement,” with the central bank pegging the value of the Algerian dinar (DZD) to a “basket” composed of 64 percent of the value of the U.S. dollar and 36 percent of the value of the euro.  The currency’s value is not controlled by any market mechanism and is set solely by the central bank.  As the Central Bank controls the official exchange rate of the dinar, any change in its value could be considered currency manipulation.  When dollar-denominated hydrocarbons profits fell starting in mid-2014, the central bank allowed a slow depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over 24 months, culminating in about a 30 percent fall in its value before stabilizing around 110 dinars to the U.S. dollar in late 2016.  However, the dinar lost only about 10 percent of its value against the euro in the same time frame.  The 2020 Finance Law forecast a 10 percent depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over three years.  Between March 8 and March 30 2020, the government allowed the dinar to depreciate five percent against the dollar.  Imbalances in foreign exchange supply and demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 led to a steep decline in the value of the euro and dollar on the foreign exchange black market.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to remittance policies.  Algerian exchange control law remains strict and complex. There are no specific time limitations, although the bureaucracy involved in remittances can often slow the process to as long as six months.  Personal transfers of foreign currency into the country must be justified and declared as not for business purpose.  There is no legal parallel market through which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market for foreign currency, where the dollar and euro trade at a significant premium above official rates, although economic disruptions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 led to interruptions in the functioning of the black market.  With the more favorable informal rates, local sources report that most remittances occur via foreign currency hand-carried into the country.  Under central bank regulations revised in September 2016, travelers to Algeria are permitted to enter the country with up to 1,000 euros or equivalent without declaring the funds to customs.  However, any non-resident can only exchange dinars back to a foreign currency with proof of initial conversion from the foreign currency.  The same regulations prohibit the transfer of more than 3,000 dinars (USD 26) outside Algeria.

Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 127) per year for travel abroad.  To do the conversion, they must demonstrate proof of their intention to travel abroad through plane tickets or other official documents.

In April 2019, the Finance Ministry announced the creation of a vigilance committee to monitor and control financial transactions to foreign countries.  It divided operations into three categories relating to 1) imports, 2) investments abroad, and 3) transfer abroad of profits.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Algeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is the “Fonds de Regulation des Recettes (FRR).”  The Finance Ministry’s website shows the fund decreased from 4408.2 billion dinars (USD 37.36 billion) in 2014 to 784.5 billion dinars (USD 6.65 billion) in 2016.  Algerian media reported the FRR was spent down to zero as of February 2017.  Algeria is not known to have participated in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWF’s.

Andorra

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Government set out transparent policies and laws, which have significantly liberalized all economic sectors in Andorra. New, foreign-owned businesses have to be approved by the government, and the process can take up to a month. The Government is committed to a transparent process. Andorra has begun to relax labor and immigration standards; previously, foreign professionals had to establish 20 years of residency before being eligible to own 100 percent of their business in Andorra. This restriction has been lifted for nationals coming from countries that have reciprocal standards for Andorran citizens.

Following approval of the new Accounting Law in 2007, individuals carrying out business or professional activities, trading companies, and legal persons or entities with a profit purpose must file financial statements with the administration.

International Regulatory Considerations

Although not a member of the European Union (EU), Andorra, as a member of the European Customs Union, is subject to all EU free trade regulations and arrangements with regard to industrial products. Concerning agriculture, the EU allows duty free importation of products originating in Andorra.

Andorra is negotiating a new association agreement with the European Union that will allow Andorrans to establish themselves in Europe and Andorran companies will be able to trade in the EU market.

Although the Government took some steps in the past to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Andorra currently holds observer status in the WTO. Andorra has applied for membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Its process of adhesion is ongoing.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Andorra has a mixed legal system of civil and customary law with the influence of canon law. The judiciary is independent from the executive branch. The Supreme Court consists of a court president and eight judges, organized into civil, criminal, and administrative chambers; four magistrates make up the Constitutional Court. The Tribunal of Judges and the Tribunal of the Courts are lower courts. Regulations and enforcement actions can be appealed in the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Law on Foreign Investment (10/2012) entered into force in 2012, opening the country’s economy by removing the sectorial restrictions stipulated in the prior legislation. In this way, Andorra has positioned itself on equal terms with neighboring economies, enabling it to become more competitive for new sectors and enterprises.

ACTUA is responsible for economic promotion and provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements to investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Law on Effective Competence and Consumer Protection (13/2013) protects investors against unfair practices. The Ministry of Economy is responsible for administering anti-trust laws and reviews transactions for competition-related concerns (whether domestic or international in nature).

Expropriation and Compensation

The Law of Expropriation (1993) allows the Government to expropriate private property for public purposes in accordance with international norms, including appropriate compensation. We know of no incidents of expropriation involving the U.S. entities in Andorra.

Dispute Settlement

Andorran legislation establishes mechanisms to resolve disputes if they arise and its judicial system is transparent. The Constitution guarantees an independent judiciary branch, overseen by a High Council of Justice. The prosecution system allows for successive appeals to higher courts. The European Court of Justice is the ultimate arbiter of unsettled appeals.

Andorra became a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in September 2015, requiring Andorran courts to enforce financial awards. Andorra is not a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Parties to a dispute can also resolve disputes contractually through international arbitration. Contractual disputes between U.S. individuals or companies and Andorran entities are rare, but when they arise are handled appropriately. There have been no reported cases of U.S. investment disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Andorra’s Bankruptcy decree dates to 1969. Other laws from 2008 and 2014 complement the initial text and further protect workers’ rights to fair salaries as well set up mechanisms to monitor the implementation of judicial resolutions. Additionally, Law 8/2015 outlines urgent measures allowing Government intervention of the banking sector in a crisis.

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Constitution guarantees the right to private ownership for citizens and residents. Both domestic and foreign private entities now have the right to establish and own business enterprises.

Real Property

Andorran law protects property rights with enforcement carried out at the administrative and judicial levels. Foreign investments for the purchase of property are possible in Andorra, subject to prior authorization. There is a four percent asset-transfer tax. Secured property loans are available through the Andorran banking sector. The Andorran Financial Authority (AFA) oversees mortgages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Andorra joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1994 and has been party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, and the Rome Convention since 2004. Andorra continues to hold observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since it has not yet updated its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime to be in compliance with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Protection of IP rights in Andorra is weak. The legal framework includes: the Trademark Act of May 1, 1995, the Law 26/2014 on Patents, the Law on Authors’ Rights of June 1999, and Law 23/2011on the Creation of the Society of Collective Management of Copyright and Neighboring Rights.

In 2012, the Society for the Administration of Authors’ Rights (SDADV) was created to manage the economic rights, neighboring rights, and the interests of copyright holders. Right holders can choose whether to participate in this voluntary collective arrangement.

Businesses seeking to register a trademark should contact the Andorran Trademarks Office:

Trademarks Office of the Principality of Andorra
Ministry of Economy
Edifici Administratiu del Prat del Rull
Cami de la Grau s/n
AD 500 Andorra La Vella
Tel. (376) 875 600
Email: ompa@andorra.ad
http://www.ompa.ad/ 

Andorra is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it included in the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Andorran financial sector is efficient and is currently the main pillar of the Andorran economy, representing 21 percent of the country’s GDP and over 5 percent of the workforce. Created in 1989, and redefined with more responsibilities in 2003, the Andorran Financial Authority (AFA; www.afa.ad ) regulates all aspects of the integrated financial system and safeguards its stability. The AFA is a public entity with its own legal status, functionally independent from the Government. AFA has the power to carry out all necessary actions to ensure the correct development of its supervision and control functions, disciplinary and punitive powers, treasury and public debt management services, financial agency, international relations, advice, and studies.

The Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit (UIFAND) was created in 2000 as an independent organ to deal with the tasks of promoting and coordinating the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism (www.uifand.ad ).

The State Agency for the Resolution of Banking Institutions (AREB); is a public-legal institution created by Law 8/2015 to take urgent measures to introduce mechanisms for the recovery and resolution of banking institutions (www.areb.ad ).

Money and Banking System

Andorra adopted the use of the Euro in 2002 and in 2011 signed a new Monetary Agreement with the European Union (EU) making the Euro the official currency. Since July 1, 2013, Andorra has had the right to coin Euros. No exchange or capital controls exist.

The Andorra banking system is sound and considered the most important part of the financial sector. The Andorran banks offer a variety of services at market rates. The country also has a sizeable and growing market for portfolio investments.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service certified all the Andorran banks as qualified intermediaries.

Founded in 1960, the Association of Andorran Banks (ABA; www.aba.ad ) represents all Andorran banks. Among its tasks are representing and defending interests of its members, watching over the development and competitiveness of Andorran banking at national and international levels, improving sector technical standards, co-operation with public administrations, and promoting professional training, particularly dealing with money laundering prevention. At present, all five Andorran banking groups are ABA members, totaling an estimated 46 billion Euros in combined assets for 2017.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Andorra adopted the Euro in 2002 and in 2011 signed a new Monetary Agreement with the EU making the Euro the official currency. Since 2013, Andorra has the right to coin Euros. There are no limits or restrictions on remittances provided that they correspond to a company’s official earning records.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Andorra has no Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

Angola

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Angola’s regulatory system is complex, vague, and inconsistently enforced. In many sectors, no effective regulatory system exists due to a lack of institutional and human capacity. The banking system is slowly adhering to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Public sector companies (SOEs) are still far from practicing IFRS. The public does not participate in draft bills or regulations formulation, nor does a public online location exist where the public can access this information for comment or hold government representatives accountable for their actions. The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM) sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have permitted some purchase power agreements (PPA) participation.

Overall, Angola’s national regulatory system does not correlate to other international regulatory systems. However, Angola is a member of the WB, ADB AfDB, OPEC (January 2007), the United Nations (UN) and most of its specialized agencies – International Conference on Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), UNCTAD, the IMF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the WTO, and has a partnership agreement with the EU. At the regional level, the GRA is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the SADC, among other organizations. Angola has yet to join the SADC Free Trade Zone of Africa as a full member. On March 21, 2018 together with 44 African countries, Angola joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across Africa. Angola is also a member of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), which seeks to maintain relations with other port authorities or associations, regional and international organizations and governments of the region to hold discussions on matters of common interest.

Angola became a member of the WTO on November 23,1996. However, it is not party to the Plurilateral Agreements on Government Procurement, the Trade in Civil Aircraft Agreement and has not yet notified the WTO of its state-trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT. A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. TBT regimes are not coordinated. There have been no investment policy reviews for Angola from either the OECD or UNCTAD in the last four years. Angola conducts several bilateral negotiations with Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPS), Cuba and Russia and extends trade preferences to China due to credit facilitation terms, while attempting to encourage and protect local content.

Regulation reviews are based on scientific or data driven assessments or baseline surveys. Evaluation is based on data. However, evaluation is not made available for public comment.

The National Assembly is Angola’s main legislative body with the power to approve laws on all matters (except those reserved by the constitution to the government) by simple majority (except if otherwise provided in the constitution). Each legislature comprises four legislative sessions of twelve months starting on October 15 annually. National Assembly members, parliamentary groups, and the government hold the power to put forward all draft-legislation. However, no single entity can present draft laws that involve an increase in the expenditure or decrease in the State revenue established in the annual budget.

The president promulgates laws approved by the assembly and signs government decrees for enforcement. The state reserves the right to have the final say in all regulatory matters and relies on sectorial regulatory bodies for supervision of institutional regulatory matters concerning investment. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers oversees investment regulations that affect the country’s economy including the ministries in charge. Other major regulatory bodies responsible for getting deals through include:

  • The National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG): The government regulatory and oversight body responsible for regulating oil exploration and production activities. On February 6, 2019, the parastatal oil company Sonangol launched the National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) through the Presidential decree 49/19 of February 6. The ANPG is the new national concessionaire of hydrocarbons in Angola, authorized to conduct, execute and ensure oil, gas and biofuel operations run smoothly, a role previously held by Sonangol. The ANPG must also ensure adherence to international standards and establish relationships with other international agencies and sector relevant organizations.
  • The Regulatory Institute of Electricity and Water Services (IRSEA): The regulatory authority for renewable energies and enforcing powers of the electricity regulatory authority.
  • The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM): The institute sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have improved legal protection for investors to attract more private investment in electrical infrastructure, such as dams and hydro distribution stations.
  • As of October 1, 2019, a 14 percent VAT regime came into force, replacing the existing 10 percent Consumption Tax. The General Tax Administration (AGT) is the office that oversees tax operations and ensures taxpayer compliance. The new VAT tax regime aims to boost domestic production and consumption, and reduce the incidence of compound tax created for businesses unable to recover consumption tax incurred. VAT may be reclaimed on purchases and imports made by taxpayers, making it neutral for business.

Angola acceded to the New York Arbitration Convention on August 24, 2016 paving the way for effective recognition and enforcement in Angola of awards rendered outside of Angola and subject to reciprocity. Angola participates in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which includes a peer review mechanism on good governance and transparency. Enforcement and protection of investors is under development in terms of regulatory, supervisory, and sanctioning powers. Investor protector mechanisms are weak or almost non-existent.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, and the government does not allow the public to engage in the formulation of legislation or to comment on draft bills. Procurement laws and regulations are unclear, little publicized, and not consistently enforced. Oversight mechanisms are weak, and no audits are required or performed to ensure internal controls are in place or administrative procedures are followed. Inefficient bureaucracy and possible corruption frequently lead to payment delays for goods delivered, resulting in an increase in the price the government must pay.

No regulatory reform enforcement mechanisms have been implemented since the last ICS report, in particular those relevant to foreign investors. The Diário da República (the Federal Register equivalent), is a legal document where key regulatory actions are officially published.

International Regulatory Considerations

Angola’s overall national regulatory system does not correlate to other international regulatory systems and is overseen by its constitution. Angola is not a full member of the International Standards Organization (ISO), but has been a corresponding member since 2002. The Angolan Institute for Standardization and Quality (IANORQ) within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce coordinates the country’s establishment and implementation of standards. Angola is an affiliate country of the International Electro-technical Commission that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services.

A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regimes are not coordinated. Angola acceded to the Kyoto Convention on February 23, 2017.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Angola’s formal legal system is primarily based on the Portuguese legal system and can be considered civil law based, with legislation as the primary source of law. Courts base their judgments on legislation and there is no binding precedent as understood in common law systems. The constitution proclaims the constitution as the supreme law of Angola (article 6(1) and all laws and conduct are valid only if they conform to the constitution (article 6(3).

The Angolan justice system is slow, arduous, and often partial. Legal fees are high, and most businesses avoid taking commercial disputes to court in the country. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey ranks Angola 186 out of 190 countries on contract enforcement, and estimates that commercial contract enforcement, measured by time elapsed between filing a complaint and receiving restitution, takes an average of 1,296 days, at an average cost of 44.4 percent of the claim.

Angola has commercial legislation that governs all commercial activities but no specialized court. In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases, and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice at trial level for provincial and municipal courts and the supreme court nominates provincial court judges. In 1991, the constitution was amended to guarantee judicial independence. However, as per the 2010 constitution, the president appoints supreme court judges for life upon recommendation of an association of magistrates and appoints the attorney general. Confirmation by the General Assembly is not required. The system lacks resources and independence to play an effective role and the legal framework is obsolete, with much of the criminal and commercial code reflecting colonial era codes with some Marxist era modifications. Courts remain wholly dependent on political power.

There is a general right of appeal to the court of first instance against decisions from the primary courts. To enforce judgments/orders, a party must commence further proceedings called executive proceedings with the civil court. The main methods of enforcing judgments are:

  • Execution orders (to pay a sum of money by selling the debtor’s assets);
  • Delivery up of assets; and,
  • Provision of information on the whereabouts of assets.

The Civil Procedure Code also provides ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Ordinary appeals consist of first appeals, review appeals, interlocutory appeals, and full court appeals, while extraordinary appeals consist of further appeals and third-party interventions. Generally, an appeal does not operate as a stay of the decision of the lower court unless expressly provided for as much in the Civil Procedure Code.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

AIPEX is the investment and export promotion center tasked with promoting Angola’s export potential, legal framework, environment, and investment opportunities in the country and abroad. Housed within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, AIPEX is also responsible for ensuring the application of the 2018 NPIL on foreign direct investments, entered into force on June 26, 2018.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

On May 17, 2018 Angola’s National Assembly approved the nation’s first anti-trust law. The law set up the creation of the Competition Regulatory Authority, which prevents and cracks down on actions of economic agents that fail to comply with the rules and principles of competition. The Competition Regulatory Authority of Angola (Autoridade Reguladora da Concorrência – ARC) was created by Presidential Decree no. 313/18, of December 21, 2018, and it succeeds the now defunct Instituto da Concorrência e Preços. It has administrative, financial, patrimonial and regulatory autonomy, and is endowed with broad supervisory and sanctioning powers, including the power to summon and question persons, request documents, carry out searches and seizures, and seal business premises.

The ARC is responsible, in particular, for the enforcement of the new Competition Act of Angola, approved by Law no. 5/18, of May 10, 2018 and subsequently implemented by Presidential Decree no. 240/18, of October 12. The Act has a wide scope of application, pertaining to both private and state-owned undertakings, and covers all economic activities with a nexus to Angola. The Competition Act prohibits agreements and anti-competitive practices, both between competitors (“horizontal” practices, the most serious example of which are cartels), as well as between companies and its suppliers or customers, within the context of “vertical” relations.

Equally prohibited is abusive conduct practiced by companies in a dominant position, such as the refusal to provide access to essential infrastructures, the unjustified rupture of commercial relations and the practice of predatory prices, as well as the abusive exploitation, by one or more companies, of economically-dependent suppliers or clients. Prohibited practices are punishable by heavy fines that range from one-ten percent of the annual turnover of the companies involved. Offending companies that collaborate with the ARC, by revealing conduct until then unknown or producing evidence on a voluntary basis, may benefit from significant fine reductions, under a leniency program yet to be developed and implemented by the ARC. Considering the ample powers and potentially heavy sanctions at the disposal of the ARC, companies present in (or planning to enter) Angola are well advised to consider carefully the impact of the new law on their activities, in order to mitigate any risk that its market conduct may be found contrary to the Competition Act.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Tenure Act of November 9, 2004 and the General Regulation on the Concession of Land (Decree no 58/07 of July 13, 2007), all land belongs to the state and the state reserves the right to expropriate land from any settlers. The state is only allowed to transfer ownership of urban real estate to Angolan nationals, and may not grant ownership over rural land to any private entity (regardless of nationality), corporate entities or foreign entities. The state may allow for land usage through a 60-year lease to either Angolan or foreign persons (individuals or corporate), after which the state reserves legal right to take over ownership.

Expropriation without compensation remains a common practice. Land tenure became a more significant issue following independence from Portugal when over 50 percent of the population moved to urban centers during the civil war. The state offered some areas for development within a specific timeframe. After this timeframe, areas that remained underdeveloped reverted to the state with no compensation to any claimants. In most cases, claimants allege unfair treatment and little or no compensation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Angola is not a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention), but has ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Its ratification was endorsed domestically via resolution No. 38/2016, published in the Official Gazette of Angola on August 12, 2016.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Angolan Arbitration Law (Law 16/2003 of July 25) (Voluntary Arbitration Law — VAL) provides for domestic and international arbitration. Substantially inspired by Portuguese 1986 arbitration law, it cannot be said to strictly follow the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. In contrast, the VAL contains no provisions on definitions, rules on interpretation, adopts the disposable rights criterion in regards to arbitration, does not address preliminary decisions, nor distinguish between different types of awards, and permits appeal on the merits in domestic arbitrations, unless the parties have otherwise agreed.

Angola is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which can provide dispute settlement assistance as part of its political risk insurance products and eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act. The United States and Angola have signed a TIFA, which seeks to promote greater trade and investment between the two nations. The U.S. Embassy is aware of one ongoing formal investment dispute involving an American company.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Although not widely implemented, the Government of Angola and public sector companies recognize the use of arbitration to settle disputes with foreign arbitration awards issued in foreign courts. In 2016, Angola took a major step in international arbitration by signing the New York Convention on recognition of foreign arbitration awards. On March 6, 2017, the Government of Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention with the UN Secretary General. The Convention entered into force on June 4, 2017.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Angola is ranks 168 out of 190 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on resolving insolvency. Banks are bound to comply with prudential rules aimed at ensuring that they maintain a minimum amount of funds not less than the minimal stock capital at all times to ensure adequate levels of liquidity and solvability. Insolvency is regulated by the Law on Financial Institutions No. 12/2015 of June 17, 2015. Based on this law, the BNA increased the social capital requirement for banks operating in the country by 200 percent (BNA notice 2/2015) to guard against possible damages to clients and the financial system. All monetary deposits up to 12.5 million Kwanzas (USD 27,000 equivalent) are also to be deposited into the BNA’s Deposit Guarantee Funds account (Presidential Decree 195/18 of 2018) so that clients (both local and foreign) are guaranteed a refund in case of bankruptcy by their respective bank. Article 69 of the law expressly states that it is the responsibility of the president of the Republic to create the fund, but it is silent on the rules governing its operation or the amounts guaranteed by the fund.

In 2018, based on Notice 2/2018 on the “Adequacy of Minimum Capital Stock and Regulatory Own Funds of Financial Banking Institutions,” commercial banks were required to increase their operating capital from 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion kwanzas (USD 35 million) by the end of the year. In late 2019, following results from an Asset Quality Review, the government announced plan to recapitalize the largest state-owned bank, Banco de Poupanco e Credito (BPC). The injection of capital will constitute the third capital injection into BPC by the state since 2015, which has previously received close to USD2 billion of state funds to help restructure the bank.  In early 2019, the BNA revoked the operating licenses of two private banks, Banco Mais and Banco Postal, due to their inability to recapitalize to meet new mandatory operating capital requirements. A third bank, Banco Angolano e Comércio de Negócios (BANC), was also put under administration due to its poor governance and a failure to also raise the mandatory operating capital to meet new minimum requirements.

In 2015, following the 2014 collapse of Banco Espirito Santo Angola (BESA), the subsidiary of Portugal’s Banco Espírito Santo, the State intervened and restructured BESA which now operates as Banco Economico. In August 2019, the BNA ordered Banco Economico’s shareholders to increase the bank’s capital to comply with the new BNA-imposed capital requirements no later than June 2020. While Angola’s arbitration law (Arbitration Law No. 16/03) for insolvency adopted in 2013 introduced the concept of domestic and international arbitration, the practice of arbitration law is still not widely implemented.

The law criminalizes bankruptcy under the following classification: condemnation in Angola or abroad for crimes of fraudulent bankruptcy, i.e. involvement of shareholders or managers in fraudulent activities that result in the bankruptcy, negligence bankruptcy, forgery, robbery, or involvement in other crimes of an economic nature. The Ministry of Finance, the BNA and the Capital Markets Commission (CMC) oversee credit monitoring and regulation.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Transparency and land property rights are critical for Angolan economic development, given that two thirds of Angolans work in agriculture and are directly dependent on land property rights. However, the Land Act (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004. While the land act is a crucial step toward addressing issues of land tenure, normalization of land ownership in Angola persists with problems such as difficulties in completing land claims, land grabbing, lack of reliable government records, and unresolved status of traditional land tenure. Among other provisions, the law included a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles). During the civil war, a transparent system of land property rights did not exist, so it was crucial to re-establish one shortly after the end of hostilities in 2002.

According to the “Land Act,” the State may transfer or constitute, for the benefit of Angolan natural or legal persons, a multiplicity of land rights on land forming part of its private domain. Although, it is possible to transfer ownership over some categories of land, the transfer of State land almost never implies the transfer of its ownership, but only the formation of minor land rights with leasehold being the most common form in Angola. The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land (GRA 2004 law). Weak land tenure legislation and lack of secure legal guarantees (clean titles), are the reasons given by most commercial banks for their greater than 80 percent refusal rate for loans since land is used as collateral. Foreign real-estate developers therefore seek out public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements with State actors who can provide protection against land disputes and financial risks involved in projects that require significant cash outlays to get started.

Registering parcels of land over 10,000 hectares must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Registering property takes 190 days on average, ranking 167 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value. Owners must also wait five years after purchasing before reselling land. There are no written regulations setting out guidelines defining different forms of land occupation, including commercial use, traditional communal use, leasing, and private use. Over the years, the government has given out large parcels of land to individuals in order to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely been unsystematic and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.

Before obtaining proof of title nationwide, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Instituto de Planeamento e Gestão Urbana de Luanda, an often a time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more. However, in the case that a company already owns the land, it must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. An updated property certificate (“certidão predial”) is obtained from the relevant Real Estate Registry, with the complete description of the property including owner(s) information and any charges, liens, and/or encumbrances pending on the property. The complex administration of property laws and regulations that govern land ownership and transfer of real property as well as its tedious registration process may reduce investor appetite for real estate investments in Angola. Despacho no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011 mandates the total fees for the “certidão predial” include stamp duty (calculated according to the Law on Stamp Duty); justice fees (calculated according to the Law on Justice Fees); fees to justice officers (according to the set contributions for the Justice budget); and, notary and other fees. The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal unit (UCF).

Intellectual Property Rights

Angolan law recognizes the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). Angola’s National Assembly adopted the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Intellectual Property in August 2005, incorporating the 1979 text, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty concluded in 1970 and later amended in 1979 and 1984. The Ministry of Industry administers IPR for trademarks, patents, and designs under Industrial Property Law 3/92. The Ministry of Culture regulates authorship, literary, and artistic rights under Copyright Law 4/90. Angola is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and follows international patent classifications of patents, products, and services to identify and codify requests for patents and trademark registration.

IAPI (Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce charged with implementing patent and trademark law. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Environment oversees copyright law. IP infringement is widespread, most notably in the production and distribution of pirated CDs, DVDs, and other media, largely for personal consumption. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are another major area of concern.

There are currently no statistics available regarding counterfeit goods seized by the Angolan government. INADEC (Instituto Nacional de Defesa dos Consumidores), under the umbrella of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, tracks and monitors the Angolan government’s seizures of counterfeit goods. They do not currently have a website, nor do they regularly publish statistics. They publish information on seizures of counterfeit products on an ad-hoc basis, primarily in the government-owned daily, Jornal de Angola.

Angola is not included in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ . The U.S. Embassy point of contact for IPR related issues is Mballe Nkembe (NkembeMM@state.gov). For legal counsel, refer to Angola’s Country Commercial Guide Local Professional Services List (http://export.gov/ccg/angola090710.asp )

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Angola’s capital markets remain nascent. To respond to the need for increased sources of financing for the economy, in 2013, the Angolan government created the Capital Markets Commission (CMC). Angola’s banks are likely the most established businesses that could potentially list on an exchange. However, many Angolan banks have a high rate of non-performing loans, reported to be as high as 37 percent. Angola’s banks have struggled in recent years due to the country’s deteriorating economic environment and increasingly high rate of delinquent loans. The Governor of the BNA has stated that Angola’s banks must go through a consolidation phase and ordered an asset quality review of the banks in early 2019. So far, the BNA has revoked the licenses of three banks based on their failure to meet the mandatory new share-capital minimum requirement, will recapitalize the largest state-owned bank, and has ordered another bank’s shareholders to increase the bank’s operating capital or face potential revocation. The process may limit banks’ ability in the near-term to list on the country’s fledgling stock exchange.

The Angolan government raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue in international markets with investor demand reportedly reaching USD 8.44 billion, exceeding the government’s expectations. For its second Eurobond issue in May 2018, Angola sold a USD 1.75bn, ten year bond at a coupon interest rate of 8.25 percent and a 30 year bond worth USD 1.25bn with a yield of 9.375 percent. According to Angola’s finance ministry, the second Eurobond issuance received more than 500 investor submissions totaling USD 9 billion, three times the final sale value. In November 2015, Angola raised a USD 1.5 billion, 10-year Eurobond with a 9.5 percent yield. Plans to return to the internal bond market in 2020 have been put on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing downturn in global oil prices.

The BNA has developed a market for short-term bonds, called Titulos do Banco Central, and long-term bonds, called Obrigaçoes do Tesouro. Most of these bonds are bought and held by local Angolan banks. The Obrigaçoes have maturities ranging from one to 7.5 years, whereas the Titulos have maturities of 91 to 182 days. For information on current rates, see: http://www.bna.ao/ .

Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so they either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds. The termination of the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs) on September 25, 2018, has further reduced funding opportunities for many SMEs. Since its inception in 2012, Angola Invest financed approximately 515 projects worth USD 377 million.

The Angolan National Development Plan provides for the liquidation of unviable state-owned enterprises, the privatization of non-strategic state enterprises and the sale of shareholding by 2022. In January 2018, the president created a commission – the State Asset Management Institute (IGAPE), to prepare and implement the privatization program (PROPRIV), with assistance from the Stock Exchange BODIVA. By April 2020, the Government had reportedly sold an estimated seven entities under its privatization initiative.

Money and Banking System

The BNA, Angola’s central bank and currency regulator has remained under considerable pressure to stabilize Angola’s economy as a high rate, currently 37 percent, of non-performing loans has crippled the banks’ ability and willingness to foster private sector lending. The BNA implemented a contractionary monetary policy, reducing local currency in circulation over fears of escalating inflation and foreign currency arbitrage. To further address these concerns, in early 2018, the government also scrapped the Angolan currency’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar in favor of greater rate flexibility, and began regular foreign exchange auctions to banks, preventing the allocation of dollars to preferred clients. From January 2018 to December 2019, the Angolan currency lost 178 percent of its purchasing capacity against the Dollar. The Net International Reserves, despite a loss of purchasing power of more than 100 percent taking into account the price of the currency, suffered a reduction of 40 percent from 2017 to June 2019. The 178 percent devaluation from 2018 has translated into an increase in Angola’s debt, now close to 111 percent of GDP.

Angola’s agreement with the IMF for USD 3.7 billion in financial support for which it has requested an additional USD 800 million, suggests the government’s intent to reassure investors, and to diversify Angola’s source of borrowing. As a key condition of the IMF loan, Angola cannot have any new oil collateralized debt. The government also resorted to international capital markets and raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue with investor demand reportedly reaching nearly USD 8.44 billion.

There are currently 27 banks in Angola. Five banks, Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), Banco Economico, Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA), Banco BIC Angola (BIC), and Banco de Poupança e Credito S.A.R.L. (BPC), control over 80 percent of total banking assets, deposits, and loans. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds. Banks had until the end of 2018 to comply with the newly BNA-set USD 50 million mandatory capital start-up requirement, up from the previous USD 25 million requirement. In early 2019, the BNA revoked the operating licenses of two banks, Banco Mais and Banco Postal, for failing to increase their capital to meet the new minimum requirements. Another bank, Banco Angolano de Negocios e Comercio, is currently under BNA administration.

Angola is scheduled for its next Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mutual evaluation review in 2020/2021 which may also be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, the FATF adjudged that Angola had made significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and established the requisite legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding strategic deficiencies the identified by the FATF during reviews in 2010 and 2013. Angola has continued to work with the regional FATF body, the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), to address its remaining strategic deficiencies in anticipation of the 2020/2021 review.

Angola has been affected by the broader global de-risking trends wherein banks decide to stop lending to businesses in markets deemed too risky from an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing compliance standpoint. In December 2016, Deutsche Bank, the last international bank providing dollar-clearing services, closed its dollar clearing services in Angola. A limited number of international banks still operate in Angola and provide limited trade finance such as Germany’s Commerzbank and South Africa’s Standard Bank. In 2018, there were no further correspondent bank losses. International banks previously refrained from entering the Angolan market because of the risk of fines and other penalties, but in 2018 there was more interest, with several banks conducting independent assessments of the business climate.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Angola continues trading mostly in two currencies, the U.S. dollar and the Euro, with the Renminbi gaining greater prominence given the degree of trade with China. In a bid to deal with the foreign currency shortage and substantial foreign currency arbitrage in the parallel market, the government has opted for a managed float for its currency exchange rate. The Angolan Kwanza was pegged at a rate of 166.00 per U.S. dollar from April 2016 to January 2018 following a steep devaluation due to the slump in oil prices. On January 10, 2018, the BNA began conducting foreign currency auctions allowing the kwanza to fluctuate within an undisclosed but controlled band. Since dropping the peg to the U.S. dollar in January 2018, the Kwanza has depreciated by approximately 178 percent as at the end of December 2019 where a USD was equivalent to 462 Kwanzas.

As of November 29, 2019, the BNA’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) authorized direct sales of foreign currency between oil companies and commercial banks, and reduced banks’ foreign exchange position limit from 5.0 percent of its own funds to 2.5 percent. The controlling exchange rate is determined by the transaction rate applied on the sale. Occasionally, the BNA may also sell forex through auctions to commercial banks. Banks may charge a margin of up to 2 percent on the reference exchange rate published on the institutional website of the BNA, considered high for investors. Currently, the BNA also publishes daily for public consumption the rates at which each individual commercial bank is selling and purchasing forex.

The informal activity in the supply of foreign currency, products, and services is still winning the daily battle against the formal market, even when taking into account availability, quantity, speed, and stability. In 2019, the BNA took steps to eliminate remaining imbalances in the foreign exchange market. Commercial banks may assign foreign currency to their clients based on a schedule submitted and approved by the BNA. On the sale by banks to exchange offices and remittance companies, banks may only make foreign currency available in physical notes on a collateral basis, as they must, and at the time of sale debit the national currency account of those institutions against delivery of physical notes. Payment of remittances in any form and non-strategic imports face a lengthy wait between 90-180 days for foreign exchange. Priority is given to strategic importers of food, raw materials for construction, agriculture, medicine and the oil sector. According to the IMF, the government accumulated USD 51 million in new arrears between end-December 2018 and end-June 2019, due to constraints associated with correspondent banks transacting in U.S. dollars. The government further accumulated about USD 30 million in new arrears between end-June and end-September 2019 and was expected to accumulate an additional USD 30 million by year-end, due to the same correspondent banking constraints.

Investors cannot freely convert their earnings in kwanza to any foreign exchange rate due to limited available foreign exchange. Credit cards and other options for payment are extremely limited and money-servicing businesses (Western Union & MoneyGram) have ceased foreign outward transactions in foreign currency. From June 9, 2019, Letters of credit have been designated as the preferential payment instrument for imports.

The National Bank of Angola (BNA) Notice no. 15/19, published 30 December 2019, defines new procedures for foreign exchange operations carried out by non-residents.

According to the notice, the new procedures apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign direct investment – that is, foreign exchange non-resident operations carried out, alone or cumulatively, including divestment operations – in the following ways:

  • Transfer of personal funds from abroad;
  • Application of cash and cash equivalents in national and foreign currency, in bank accounts opened in financial institutions domiciled in Angola, held by foreign exchange residents, susceptible to repatriation;
  • Imports of machinery, equipment, accessories and other tangible fixed assets;
  • Incorporation of technologies and knowledge, provided that they represent an added value to the investment and are susceptible to financial evaluation;
  • Provision of supplementary capital payments or supplies to partners or shareholders;
  • Application, in the national territory, of funds in the scope of reinvestment;
  • Conversion of credits resulting from the execution of contracts for the supply of machinery, equipment and goods, as long as they are proven to be liable to payments abroad; and,
  • Foreign investment in securities or divestment of such assets, covering: i) shares; ii) obligations; iii) units of participation in collective investment undertakings and other documents representing homogeneous legal situations.

These procedures also apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign investment projects that have been registered with the BNA prior to 30 December 2019. However, they do not apply to investments made by non-foreign exchange residents in the oil sector, which will continue to be governed by proper legislation.

The following obligations are applicable to non-resident foreign exchange entities that intend to invest in Angola, within the scope of the new procedures:

  • They must be holders of foreign exchange non-resident accounts, opened with a banking financial institution domiciled in Angola,
  • For the purpose of receiving payments, including for the purchase of shares listed on the stock exchange, foreign currency must be sold to the investment banking intermediary financial institution, except in the case of purchase of securities denominated in foreign currency traded on a regulated market in Angola;
  • Transfer income related to a foreign direct investment is only allowed after the project has been completed and after payment of the taxes due.

The non-resident foreign exchange investor is allowed to maintain in national currency values relating to income, reimbursement of supplies or proceeds from the sale of investments to make new investments or convert to foreign currency at a future date.

Finally, the following obligations are now imposed on financial institutions that carry out transactions with non-resident foreign exchange entities:

  • Report to BNA the transfer of securities to and from abroad related to the import and export of capital and associated income, at the time of registration in the accounts of its clients who are not foreign exchange residents;
  • Require full identification and knowledge of its customers, as well as confirmation of their status as non-resident foreign exchange;
  • Transfer the financial resources designated for making investments to a specific sub-account created, that should be used only for that purpose;
  • Ensure that movements in bank accounts held by foreign exchange non-residents, in national and foreign currency, are supported by documents that allow a clear identification of the origin or destination of the funds;
  • For the purpose of assessing the legitimacy of transfers abroad of income from foreign direct investments not quoted on a stock exchange, make sure that the investment was made, through the copy of the Private Investment Registration Certificate (CRIP), among other requirements.
  • For the purpose of validating the export proceeds from the sale of securities and related income, validate the source of the credit in the bank accounts of non-resident customers.

Breach of the obligations summarized above is punishable by fines of up to AOA 150 million (USD 305,000) for individuals or up to AOA 500 million (USD 1.02 million) for legal persons.

Remittance Policies

In 2019, the Angolan government amended its anti-money laundering previously established in January 2014. The new law, Law no. 5/20, applies particularly to financial and non-financial entities, accountants, lawyers, law firm partners and auditors acting (including intermediation) in representation of clients in transactions that involve real estate’s acquisition/sale, incorporation of companies and bank accounts’ opening, management or movement, in attempts to better combat illicit remittance flows. Importantly, the new law expressly prohibits the incorporation of shell banks — banks with no physical presence in Angola nor connection to any financial group, requires reporting on capital movement in any commercial bank exceeding USD 1000, and requires enhanced scrutiny of local politically exposed persons. The subsequent drop in foreign exchange availability in Angola, beginning in 2015 due to declining petroleum revenues, has severely impeded personal and legitimate business remittances.

International and domestic companies operating in Angola face delays securing foreign exchange approval for remittances to cover key operational expenses, including imported goods and expatriate salaries. The government has improved profit and dividend remittances for most companies, including foreign airlines with withheld remittances for the sector currently valued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at USD 4 million, down from 137 million in early 2019.

The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum-funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles. In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component (http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/ ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco, based reportedly on poor results at the FSDEA and conspiracy with the Fund’s wealth manager, Quantum Global (QG), to embezzle FSDEA funds. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA. Zenu remains under investigation for money laundering, embezzlement, and fraud related to his management of the FSDEA, and is currently on trial for fraud in connection with the transfer of USD 500 million from the Angolan Central Bank to a bank in the UK. On March 22, 2019, the government freed Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, QG’s CEO, in preventive detention since September 2018, based on the insufficiency of evidence to support the collection of malfeasance charges, while it continues to build its case against him.

Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG, and announced that the government will use USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.

Marshall Islands

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. Bureaucratic procedures are generally transparent, although nepotism and customary hierarchal relationships can play a role in government actions. Proposed laws and regulations are available in draft form for public comment pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, Title 6 of the Marshall Islands Revised Code. Generally, tax, labor, environment, health and safety, and other laws and policies do not impede investment. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Marshall Islands is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) which has a model regulatory and policy framework focused on competition, access and pricing, fair trading, and consumer protections.  The RMI seeks to implement PIF-agreed standards domestically; however, the capacity for enforcement remains weak.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has a responsive judiciary that consistently upholds the sanctity of contracts. The legal system in the Marshall Islands is patterned on common law proceedings as they exist in the United States. The country has a judicial branch composed of a Supreme Court, a High Court, a Traditional Rights Court, District Courts, and Community Courts. The Supreme Court is made up of one Chief Justice and two Associate Justices.  The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and one Associate Justice. The Chief Justices are both U.S. Citizens serving 10-year terms.  There are also three Traditional Rights Court judges, two District Court judges, and several Community Court judges serving the Marshall Islands. On certain occasions, as necessary, the Marshall Islands Judicial Service Commission recruits qualified judges on contract from the United States to serve with the Chief Justice on the Supreme Court and to temporarily fill vacancies on the High Court as there are few qualified and independent Marshallese who can fill these positions.  The Traditional Rights Court deals with customary law and land disputes.

The Marshall Islands Courts are generally considered fair, without undue influence or interference.  Marshall Islands Court rulings, legal codes, and public law can be found on their website: http://www.rmicourts.org/ .

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

All non-citizens wishing to invest in the Marshall Islands must obtain a Foreign Investment Business License (FIBL). The FIBL is obtained from the Registrar of Foreign Investment in the office of the Attorney General. In coordination with the Investment Promotion Unit at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce, the Ministry of Finance reviews the application and ensures that the business does not fall under the categories of the National Reserved List listed above. The application process usually takes 7-10 working days. The FIBL grants non-citizens the right to invest in the Marshall Islands, provided the investment remains within the scope of business activity for which the FIBL was granted.

The 2015 amendment to the Foreign Investment Business License Act requires all holders of FIBLs to maintain reliable and complete accounting records and records of ownership, and that all business records must be kept in such a way that they can be converted into written form at the request of an authorized inspector.  These records must be retained for a period of five years.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Marshall Islands does not currently have any anti-trust legislation or agency which reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

All land is privately owned by Marshallese citizens through complex family lineages. Although the Government of the Marshall Islands may legally expropriate property under the country’s constitution, the government has only exercised this right on one occasion and only for a temporary period of time. Given the importance of private land ownership in customary law and practice, it is very unlikely that the government will exercise this right in the foreseeable future.

If a business activity is subsequently added to the reserved List, the Registrar of Foreign Investment may not cancel or revoke an existing Foreign Investment Business License if the investment has already commenced.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The Marshall Islands has been a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the 1958 New York Convention) since 2006, but is not a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), nor does it have plans to become a member at this time.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There are no ongoing investment disputes involving the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and foreign investors.   There is a very limited record of foreign investment disputes in the Marshall Islands due to the small size of foreign investment in the country. The most common type of business disputes are with landowners over land use, and land rights issues, and as there is currently no official dispute resolution procedure, these are frequently resolved informally or only after protracted court disputes. Domestic civil society has traditionally not been actively engaged in dispute resolution.  The Marshall Islands Courts are generally considered fair, without undue influence or interference.  There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Republic of the Marshall Islands does not have any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms or domestic arbitration bodies available as a means for setting disputes between two private parties.  There is no known history of the RMI enforcing foreign commercial arbitral decisions.

Bankruptcy Regulations

There is no legal provision for bankruptcy in the Marshall Islands.  It ranks 153 out of 190 for resolving insolvency in World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land rights are a highly complex and frequently contentious issue in the Marshall Islands. Land ownership is through family lineage and according to social class. Paramount Chiefs (Iroij) have title to entire islands or portions of islands within an atoll, clan elders (alaps) have title to several parcels of land under their Paramount Chiefs, and workers (dri-jerbal) have title to the parcel of land associated with their Paramount Chief on which they live. Each parcel of land is thus owned by at least three separate individual landowners, one each from the classes described above. Non-Marshallese may not purchase land, and land purchases by Marshallese are also very rare. Paramount Chiefs may grant land rights to others, though they retain their share of ownership in all circumstances.

Available land for development is scarce, particularly in the two major urban areas of Majuro and Ebeye. Non-citizen investors must negotiate lease agreements directly with customary groups of landowners. Land may be leased in perpetuity with many leases having a term of 50 years, and options for renewal.  The Kwajalein land lease to the U.S. Government runs fifty years (to 2066) with an option to renew for another twenty years, for example. Mortgages against the title of land are not permitted, but commercial lease agreements and land lease payments may be used as collateral. There is limited written documentation of titles to land in the Marshall Islands, although local citizens generally know who controls each parcel of land on their particular atoll. In 2003, the Government of the Marshall Islands established a Land Registration Authority to create a voluntary register of customary land and establish a legal framework for recording documents related to ownership rights.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, the Marshall Islands rank 187th out of 190 countries for registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Marshall Islands is not a member of the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), or any other international agreement on intellectual property rights. There is inadequate protection for intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The only intellectual property-related legislation relates to locally produced music recordings, and it has never been enforced.  The Marshall Islands are not listed on the USTR’s Special 301 Report, nor are they listed in the notorious market report. Pirated DVDs and CDs imported from off-island are readily available.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There are no stock exchanges or financial regulatory institutions in the country.

Money and Banking System

There are currently two banks with branches in the Marshall Islands. The Bank of Guam is a publicly owned U.S. company with its headquarters in Guam. It complies with all U.S. regulations and is FDIC-insured. The Bank of the Marshall Islands is a privately-owned Marshallese company with headquarters in Majuro.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The government does not impose any restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with an investment. The Marshall Islands uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, and there is no central bank. There are no official remittance policies and no restrictions on foreign exchange transactions. There have been no reported difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange as the vast majority of funds are denominated in U.S. dollars.

Remittance Policies

While the government encourages reinvestment of profits locally, there are no laws restricting repatriation of profits, dividends, or other investment capital acquired in the Marshall Islands. To comply with international money laundering commitments, cash transactions and transfers exceeding USD 10,000 are reported by the banks to the Banking Commission, which monitors this information and has the authority to investigate financial records when necessary. To date, however, the country has not successfully prosecuted any money laundering cases.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Marshall Islands has no sovereign wealth fund (SWF) or asset management bureau (AMB), but the Compact of Free Association established a Trust Fund for the Marshall Islands that is independently overseen by a committee composed of the United States, Taiwan, and Marshall Islands representatives.

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future