Albania is an upper middle-income country with a gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 16.77 billion (2021 IMF estimate) and a population of approximately 2.9 million people.
In 2020, the economy contracted by 4 percent in the height of COVID-19 and in 2021 re-bounded with a growth rate of 8.7 percent. The increase was fueled by construction, easing of pandemic related restrictions, recovery of tourism sector, increase in the real estate sector, record domestic electricity production, and continued budgetary, monetary, and fiscal policy support, including IMF and EU pandemic and earthquake related support. The initial growth projection for 2022 was 4.1 percent, despite uncertainties related to the pandemic, elevated fiscal deficits and public debt, and external and internal inflationary pressures. However, uncertainties due to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, surging energy prices, and inflationary pressures, coupled with limited room for fiscal maneuvering due to high public debt that exceeded 80 percent at the end of 2021, present challenges to the Albanian economy.
Albania joined NATO in 2009 and has been a member of WTO since 2000. The country signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union in 2006, received the status of the EU candidate country in 2014, and began accession negotiations with the EU in July 2022.
Albania’s legal framework is in line with international standards in protecting and encouraging foreign investments and does not discriminate against foreign investors. The Law on Foreign Investments of 1993 outlines specific protections for foreign investors and allows 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in all but a few sectors. The U.S.-Albanian Bilateral Investment Treaty, which entered into force in 1998, ensures that U.S. investors receive national treatment and most-favored-nation treatment. Albania and the United States signed a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation in October 2020 with an aim of increasing trade and investment between the two countries. Since the signing multiple U.S. companies have signed agreements for major projects in the country.
As a developing country, Albania offers large untapped potential for foreign investments across many sectors including energy, tourism, healthcare, agriculture, oil and mining, and information and communications technology (ICT). In the last decade, Albania has been able to attract greater levels of foreign direct investment (FDI). According to the UNCTAD data, during 2010-2020, the flow of FDI has averaged USD 1.1 billion and stock FDI at the end of 2020 reached USD 10 billion or triple the amount of 2010. According to preliminary data of the Bank of Albania the FDI flow in 2021 is expected to reach USD 1 billion. Investments are concentrated in extractive industries and processing, real estate, the energy sector, banking and insurance, and information and communication technology. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, and France are the largest sources of FDI. The stock FDI from United States accounts for a small, but rapidly growing share. At the end of Q3 2021, the United States stock FDI in Albania reached USD168 million, up from USD 99 million at the end of 2020, nearly a 70 percent increase.
Despite a sound legal framework, foreign investors perceive Albania as a difficult place to do business. They cite endemic corruption, including in the judiciary and public procurements, unfair competition, informal economy, frequent changes of the fiscal legislation, and poor enforcement of contracts as continuing challenges for investment and business in Albania. Reports of corruption in government procurement are commonplace. The continued use of public private partnership (PPP) contracts has reduced opportunities for competition, including by foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors. Poor cost-benefit analyses and a lack of technical expertise in drafting and monitoring PPP contracts are ongoing concerns. U.S. investors are challenged by corruption and the perpetuation of informal business practices. Several U.S. investors have faced contentious commercial disputes with both public and private entities, including some that went to international arbitration. In 2019 and 2020, a U.S. company’s attempted investment was allegedly thwarted by several judicial decisions and questionable actions of stakeholders involved in a dispute over the investment. The case is now in international arbitration.
Property rights continue to be a challenge in Albania because clear title is difficult to obtain. There have been instances of individuals allegedly manipulating the court system to obtain illegal land titles. Overlapping property titles is a serious and common issue. The compensation process for land confiscated by the former communist regime continues to be cumbersome, inefficient, and inadequate. Nevertheless, parliament passed a law on registering property claims on April 16, 2020, which will provide some relief for title holders.
In an attempt to limit opportunities for corruption, the GoA embarked on a comprehensive reform to digitalize all public services. As of March 2021, 1,200 services or 95 percent of all public services to citizens and businesses were available online through the E-Albania Portal. However, Albania continues to score poorly on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2021, Albania declined to 110th out of 180 countries, a fall of six places from 2020. Albania continues to rank low in the Global Innovation Index, ranking 84 out of 132 countries.
To address endemic corruption, the GOA passed sweeping constitutional amendments to reform the country’s judicial system and improve the rule of law in 2016. The implementation of judicial reform is underway, heavily supported by the United States and the EU, including the vetting of judges and prosecutors for unexplained wealth. More than half the judges and prosecutors who have undergone vetting have been dismissed for unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime. The EU expects Albania to show progress on prosecuting judges and prosecutors whose vetting revealed possible criminal conduct. The implementation of judicial reform is ongoing, and its completion is expected to improve the investment climate in the country. The Albanian parliament voted overwhelmingly and unopposed to extend this vetting mandate in February 2022.
Algeria’s state enterprise-dominated economy is challenging for U.S. businesses, but multiple sectors offer opportunities for long-term growth. The government is prioritizing investment in agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, hydrocarbons (both upstream and downstream), renewable energy, and healthcare.
Following his December 2019 election, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune launched a series of political reforms, which led to the adoption of a new constitution in December 2020 and the election of a new parliament in June 2021. Tebboune has declared his intention to focus on economic issues in 2022 and beyond.
In 2020, the government eliminated the so-called “51/49” restriction that required majority Algerian ownership of all new businesses, though it retained the requirement for “strategic sectors,” identified as energy, mining, defense, transportation infrastructure, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing (with the exception of innovative products). In the 2021 Finance Law, the government reinstated the 51/49 ownership requirement for any company importing items into Algeria with an intent to resell. The government passed a new hydrocarbons law in 2019, improving fiscal terms and contract flexibility in order to attract new international investors. The new law encourages major international oil companies to sign memorandums of understanding with the national hydrocarbons company, Sonatrach. Though the 43 regulatory texts enacting the legislation have not been formally finalized, the government is using the new law as the basis for negotiating new contracts with international oil companies. In recent years, the Algerian government took several steps, including establishing a standalone ministry dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry and issuing regulations to resolve several long-standing issues, to improve market access for U.S. pharmaceutical companies. The government is in the process of drafting and finalizing a new investment law. Algeria has established ambitious renewable energy adoption targets to reduce carbon emissions and reduce domestic consumption of natural gas.
Algeria’s economy is driven by hydrocarbons production, which historically accounts for 95 percent of export revenues and approximately 40 percent of government income. Following the significant drop in oil prices at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the government cut budgeted expenditures by 50 percent and significantly reduced investment in the energy sector. The implementation of broad-based import reductions coupled with a recovery in hydrocarbon prices in 2021 led to Algeria’s first trade surplus since 2014. Though successive government budgets have boosted state spending, Algeria continues to run a persistent budget deficit, which is projected to reach 20 percent of GDP in 2022. Despite a significant reduction in revenues, the historically debt-averse government continues to resist seeking foreign financing, preferring to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost employment and replace imports with local production. Traditionally, Algeria has pursued protectionist policies to encourage the development of local industries. The import substitution policies it employs tend to generate regulatory uncertainty, supply shortages, increased prices, and a limited selection for consumer goods. The government depreciated the Algerian dinar approximately 5% in 2021 after a 10% depreciation in 2020 to conserve its foreign exchange reserves, contributing to significant food inflation.
The government has taken measures to minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including delaying tax payments for small businesses, extending credit and restructuring loan payments, and decreasing banks’ reserve requirements. Though the government has lifted domestic COVID_19 related confinement measures, continued restrictions on international flight volumes complicate travel to Algeria for international investors.
Economic operators deal with a range of challenges, including complicated customs procedures, cumbersome bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, and price competition from international rivals particularly the People’s Republic of China, France, and Turkey. International firms operating in Algeria complain that laws and regulations are constantly shifting and applied unevenly, raising commercial risk for foreign investors. An ongoing anti-corruption campaign has increased weariness regarding large-scale investment projects and put a chill on bureaucratic decision making. Business contracts are subject to changing interpretation and revision of regulations, which has proved challenging to U.S. and international firms. Other drawbacks include limited regional integration, which hampers opportunities to rely on international supply chains.
Andorra is an independent principality with a population of about 79,000 and area of 181 square miles situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It uses the euro as its national currency. Andorra is a popular tourist destination visited by over 8 million people each year (pre-pandemic) who are drawn by outdoor activities like hiking and cycling in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, as well as by its duty-free shopping of luxury products. Andorra’s economy is based on an interdependent network of trade, commerce, and tourism, which represent nearly 60% of the economy, followed by the financial sector. Andorra has also become a wealthy international commercial center because of its integrated banking sector and low taxes. As part of its effort to modernize its economy, Andorra has opened to foreign investment and engaged in other reforms, including advancing tax initiatives. Andorra is actively seeking to attract foreign investment and to become a center for entrepreneurs, talent, innovation, and knowledge.
The Andorran economy is undergoing a process of digitalization and diversification that accelerated due to the impact pandemic-related border closures had on its dominant tourist sector. In 2006, the Government began sweeping economic reforms. The Parliament approved three main regulations to complement the first phase of economic openness: the law of Companies (October 2007), the Law of Business Accounting (December 2007), and the Law of Foreign Investment (April 2008 and June 2012). From 2011 to 2017, the Parliament approved direct taxes in the form of a corporate tax, tax on economic activities, tax on income of non-residents, tax on capital gains, and personal income tax. Andorra joined the IMF in October 2020, providing it access to additional resources for managing its economy. Also, as part of the post-pandemic economic recovery plan, Andorra passed Horizon 23, a comprehensive roadmap backed by 80 million euros of public funds to accelerate economic diversification into sectors like fintech, sports tech, esports, and biotech. These regulations aim to establish a transparent, modern, and internationally comparable regulatory framework.
These reforms aim to attract investment and businesses that have the potential to boost Andorra’s economic development and diversification. Prior to 2008, Andorra limited foreign investment, worried that large foreign firms would have an oversized impact on its small economy. For example, previous regulations allowed non-citizens with less than 20 years residence in Andorra to own no more than 33 percent of a company. While foreigners may now own 100 percent of a trading enterprise or a holding company, the Government must approve the establishment of any private enterprise. The approval can take up to one month, which can be rejected if the proposal is found to negatively impact the environment, the public order, or the general interests of the principality.
Andorra is a microstate that accounts for .001 percent of global emissions and has demonstrated its ambition to the fight against climate change by establishing a national strategy that commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by a minimum of 37 percent by 2030 and pursuing carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition to implementing an energy transition law, Andorra approved the Green Fund and a hydrocarbon tax to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives.
Andorra’s per capita income is above the European average and above the level of its neighbors. The country has developed a sophisticated infrastructure including a one-of-a-kind micro-fiber-optic network for the entire country that provides universal access for all households and companies. Andorra’s retail tradition is well known around Europe, thanks to more than 1,400 shops, the quality of their products, and competitive prices. Products taken out of the Principality are tax-free up to certain limits; the purchaser must declare those that exceed the allowance.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
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The Angolan economy emerged from five straight years of recession with slight GDP growth of 0.7 percent in 2021, thanks primarily to growth in the non-oil sector. The government forecasts more substantial growth of 2.4 percent in 2022. The oil and gas sector remains the key source of government revenue despite declining oil production and the government should benefit from higher than budgeted oil prices in 2022. The growth in non-oil sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, transportation will be bolstered by increased demand from the lifting of COVID restrictions in late 2021 and early 2022.
The Angolan government has maintained a reform agenda since the 2017 election of President Joao Lourenço. His administration has adopted measures to improve the business environment and make Angola more attractive for investment. Angola completed the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility in December 2021, demonstrating an ability to commit to and carry out difficult fiscal and macroeconomic reforms, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The government received three credit rating upgrades between September 2021 and early 2022.
In addition to the Privatization Program (PROPRIV), revision of the Private Investment Law, and updated Public Procurement law, the government has taken steps to recover misappropriated state assets – the Attorney General’s Office claims just under $13 billion since 2018 – and to uproot corruption. Through the Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX), Angola seeks to connect foreign investors with opportunities across the private sector, with PROPRIV, and a wide range of available state-owned enterprises and other assets. The public procurement process has also become more transparent. Angola plans to present its candidacy to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in 2022 to increase transparency in the oil, gas, and mineral resource sectors.
Despite the government’s efforts to address corruption, its prevalence remains a key issue of concern for investors. Angola’s infrastructure requires substantial improvement; which the government is seeking to address by attracting investment public-private partnerships to improve and manage of ports, railroads, and key energy infrastructure. The justice system and other administrative processes remains bureaucratic and time-consuming. Unemployment (32.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021) and inflation (which reached 27 percent in 2021) remain high. There is limited technical training, English-speaking skills are generally low. Skilled labor levels are also low, though the government has attempted to address the issue through training and apprenticeship programs.
Overall FDI increased by $2.59 billion in 2020, the last full year of reporting, from 2019.
The government has committed to reaching 70 percent installed renewable energy by 2025 and has recognized the risks of climate change for Angola. To reach its renewable energy goal, the government has signed deals with U.S. companies on the installation of solar and hydro capacity worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) statistics, Antigua and Barbuda’s 2021 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.47 billion (3.97 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars). This represents an approximate 5.3 percent growth from 2020. The ECCB forecasts 2022 growth at 4.7 percent.
Unanticipated spending on pandemic response measures, coupled with sharp declines in government revenues, forced the government to increase borrowing in 2020. As of December 2021, Antigua and Barbuda reported total public sector debt of $1.3 billion representing 89 percent of GDP. Unlike other Eastern Caribbean (EC) countries, Antigua and Barbuda did not have the resources to significantly increase spending on social support payments to vulnerable populations. Following several years of operating losses, the government became the sole source of financing for regional airline Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in mid-2020. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT was heavily overstaffed and therefore a major employer, but is now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.
Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. The scores remain relatively unchanged from the 2019 report, though some improvements in the ease of starting a business were highlighted.
Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. The ABIA facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services.
While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy have been identified by the government as priority investment areas.
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.
Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system is based on British common law. There is currently an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.
In 2017, the government signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
Argentina presents investment and trade opportunities, particularly in agriculture, energy, health, infrastructure, information technology, and mining. However, economic uncertainty, interventionist policies, high inflation, and persistent economic stagnation have prevented the country from maximizing its potential. The economy fell into recession in 2018, the same year then-President Mauricio Macri signed a three-year $57 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). President Alberto Fernandez and Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s (CFK) took office on December 10, 2019, and reversed fiscal austerity measures, suspended the IMF program, and declared public debt levels unsustainable.
In September 2020, Argentina restructured $100 billion in foreign and locally issued sovereign debt owed to international and local private creditors. Together, these transactions provide short-term financial relief by clearing principal payments until 2024. Unable to access international capital markets, the government relied on Central Bank money printing to finance the deficit, further fueling inflation. Although Argentina’s economy rebounded 10.3 percent in 2021, offsetting a 10 percent decline in 2020, the economy remains below pre-recession levels. In 2021, the Argentine peso (official rate) depreciated 17 percent, inflation reached 50.9 percent, and the poverty rate reached 37.3 percent.
Even as the pandemic receded and economic activity rebounded, the government cited increased poverty and high inflation as reasons to continue, and even expand, price controls, capital controls, and foreign trade controls. Agricultural and food exports such as beef, soy, and flour were frequent targets for government intervention. Beginning in May 2021, the government introduced bans and other limits on beef exports to address increasing domestic prices. However, the government also implemented incentives for exporters and investors in other industries. It eliminated export taxes for specific businesses and industries, including small and medium sized enterprises; auto and automotive parts exports over 2020 volumes; and information technology service exports from companies enrolled in the knowledge-based economy promotion regime. There were also investment promotion incentives in key export sectors such as agriculture, forestry, hydrocarbons, manufacturing, and mining.
The high cost of capital affected the level of investments in developing renewable energy projects, despite the potential for both wind and solar power. In an effort to expand production of oil and natural gas, the current administration provides benefits to the fossil fuel industry that impact the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy technologies. The government has encouraged the use of biofuels and electric vehicles. A proposed Law for the Promotion of Sustainable Mobility includes incentives and 20-year timelines to promote the use of technologies with less environmental impact in transportation.
After the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Argentina in March 2020, the country imposed a strict nationwide quarantine that became one of the longest in the world. Argentina reopened its borders to tourists and non-residents on November 21, 2021. Hotel and lodging, travel and tourism, and entertainment activities have reopened, although many businesses went bankrupt during the shutdown. Most of the pandemic-related economic relief measures were phased out during 2021.
Both domestic and foreign companies frequently point to a high and unpredictable tax burden and rigid labor laws as obstacles to further investment in Argentina. In 2021, Argentina ranked 73 out of 132 countries evaluated in the Global Innovation Index, which is an indicator of a country’s ability to innovate, based on the premise that innovation is a driver of a nation’s economic growth and prosperity. In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Argentina ranked 96 out of 180 countries in 2021, dropping 18 places compared to 2020.
As a Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) member, Argentina signed a free trade and investment agreement with the European Union (EU) in June 2019. Argentina has not yet ratified the agreement. During 2021 there was little progress on trade negotiations with South Korea, Singapore, and Canada. Argentina ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on January 22, 2018. Argentina and the United States continue to expand bilateral commercial and economic cooperation to improve and facilitate public-private ties and communication on trade, investment, energy, and infrastructure issues, including market access and intellectual property rights. More than 265 U.S. companies operate in Argentina, and the United States continues to be the top investor in Argentina with more than USD $8.7 billion (stock) of foreign direct investment as of 2020.
Over the past several years, Armenia has received consistently respectable rankings in international indices that review country business environments and investment climates. Projects representing significant U.S. investment are present in Armenia, most notably ContourGlobal’s Vorotan Hydroelectric Cascade and Lydian’s efforts to develop a major gold mine. U.S. investors in the banking, energy, pharmaceutical, information technology, and mining sectors, among others, have entered or acquired assets in Armenia. Armenia presents a variety of opportunities for investors, and the country’s legal framework and government policy aim to attract investment, but the investment climate is not without challenges. Obstacles include Armenia’s small market size, relative geographic isolation due to closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, weaknesses in the rule of law and judiciary, and a legacy of corruption. Net foreign direct investment inflows are low. Armenia had commenced a robust recovery from a deep 2020 recession prior to the introduction of new sanctions against Russia. GDP growth reached five percent in 2021 and had been expected to continue to grow in 2022 by at least five percent. As a result of the war and sanctions imposed on Russia, Armenia’s 2022 GDP growth forecast is now just above one percent.
In May 2015, Armenia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States. This agreement established a United States-Armenia Council on Trade and Investment to discuss bilateral trade and investment and related issues. Since 2015, Armenia has been a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, a customs union that brings Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia into a single integrated market. In November 2017, Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union, which aimed in part to improve Armenia’s investment climate and business environment.
Armenia imposes few restrictions on foreign control and rights to private ownership and establishment. There are no restrictions on the rights of foreign nationals to acquire, establish, or dispose of business interests in Armenia. Business registration procedures are generally straightforward. According to foreign companies, otherwise sound regulations, policies, and laws are sometimes undermined by problems such as the lack of independence, capacity, or professionalism in key institutions, most critically the judiciary. Armenia does not limit the conversion and transfer of money or the repatriation of capital and earnings. The banking system in Armenia is sound and well-regulated, but investors note that the financial sector is not highly developed. The U.S.-Armenia Bilateral Investment Treaty provides U.S. investors with a variety of protections. Although Armenian legislation offers protection for intellectual property rights, enforcement efforts and recourse through the courts are in need of improvement.
Armenia experienced a dramatic change of government in 2018, when a democratically elected leader came to power on an anti-corruption platform after street protests toppled the old regime. Following the 2020 NK hostilities, in June 2021, the incumbent retained power in snap parliamentary election that met most international democracy standards. The government continues to push forth with economic and anti-corruption reforms that have improved the business climate. Overall, the competitive environment in Armenia is improving, but several businesses have reported that broader reforms across judicial, tax, customs, health, education, military, and law enforcement institutions will be necessary to shore up these gains.
Despite improvements in some areas that raise Armenia’s attractiveness as an investment destination, investors claim that numerous issues remain and must be addressed to ensure a transparent, fair, and predictable business climate. A number of investors have raised concerns about the quality of dialogue between the private sector and government. Investors have also flagged issues regarding government officials’ ability to resolve problems they face in an expeditious manner. An investment dispute in the country’s mining sector has attracted significant international attention and remains outstanding after several years.
Australia is generally welcoming to foreign investment, which is widely considered to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth and productivity. The United States is by far the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Australia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the stock of U.S. FDI totaled USD 170 billion in January 2020. The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2005, establishes higher thresholds for screening U.S. investment for most classes of direct investment. While welcoming toward FDI, Australia does apply a “national interest” test to qualifying investment through its Foreign Investment Review Board screening process.
Various changes to Australia’s foreign investment rules, primarily aimed at strengthening national security, have been made in recent years. This continued in 2020 with the passage of the Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia’s National Security) Act 2020, which broadens the classes of foreign investments that require screening, with a particular focus on defense and national security supply chains. All foreign investments in these industries now require screening, regardless of their value or national origin. The Foreign Investment Reform legislation commenced in January 2021. Despite the increased focus on foreign investment screening, the rejection rate for proposed investments has remained low and there have been no cases of investment from the United States having been rejected in recent years, although some U.S. companies have reported greater scrutiny of their investments in Australia.
In response to a perceived lack of fairness, the Australian government has tightened anti-tax avoidance legislation targeting multi-national corporations with operations in multiple tax jurisdictions. While some laws have been complementary to international efforts to address tax avoidance schemes and the use of low-tax countries or tax havens, Australia has also gone further than the international community in some areas.
Australia has increased funding for clean technology projects and both local and international companies can apply for grants to implement emission-saving equipment to their operations. Australia adopted a net-zero emissions target at the national level in November 2021 although made no change to its short-term goal of a 26-28 percent emission reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels. Australia’s eight states and territories have adopted both net-zero targets and a range of interim emission reduction targets set above the federal target. Various state incentive schemes may also be available to U.S. investors.
The Australian government is strongly focused on economic recovery from the COVID-driven recession Australia experienced in 2020, the country’s first in three decades. In addition to direct stimulus and business investment incentives, it has announced investment attraction incentives across a range of priority industries, including food and beverage manufacturing, medical products, clean energy, defense, space, and critical minerals processing. U.S. involvement and investment in these fields is welcomed.
Austria has a well-developed market economy that welcomes foreign direct investment, particularly in technology and R&D. The country benefits from a skilled labor force, and a high standard of living, with its capital, Vienna, consistently placing at the top of global quality-of-life rankings.
With more than 50 percent of its GDP derived from exports, Austria’s economy is closely tied to other EU economies, especially that of Germany, its largest trading partner. The United States is one of Austria’s top two-way trading partners, ranking fifth in overall trade according to provisional data from 2021. The economy features a large service sector and an advanced industrial sector specialized in high-quality component parts, especially for vehicles. The agricultural sector is small but highly developed.
The COVID-19 crisis deeply affected Austria’s economy, contributing to a GDP decrease of 6.7% in 2020 with the unemployment rate increasing to a peak of 5.4% at the end of 2020. Austria’s economy rebounded with 4.5% GDP growth in 2021 and unemployment lower than before the onset of the pandemic, but forecasters recently lowered expectations to 3.8% growth for 2022 due to instability stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Austria is experiencing a record number of vacancies, largely stemming from a shortage of skilled labor.
The country’s location between Western European industrialized nations and growth markets in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE) has led to a high degree of economic, social, and political integration with fellow European Union (EU) member states and the CESEE.
Some 220 U.S. companies have investments in Austria, represented by around 300 subsidiaries, and many have expanded their original investment over time. U.S. Foreign Direct Investment into Austria totaled approximately EUR 11.6 billion (USD 13.7 billion) in 2020, according to the Austrian National Bank, and U.S. companies support over 16,500 jobs in Austria. Austria offers a stable and attractive climate for foreign investors.
The most positive aspects of Austria’s investment climate include:
Relatively high political stability;
Harmonious labor-management relations and low incidence of labor unrest;
Highly skilled workforce;
High levels of productivity and international competitiveness;
Excellent quality of life for employees and high-quality health, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure.
Negative aspects of Austria’s investment climate include:
A high overall tax burden;
A large public sector and a complex regulatory system with extensive bureaucracy;
Low-to-moderate innovation dynamics;
Low levels of digitalization;
Low levels of private venture capital.
Key sectors that have historically attracted significant investment in Austria:
ICT and Electronics;
Key issues to watch:
Due to a strong reliance on Russian natural gas and the third-highest banking exposure to Russia among EU Member States, Austria could be one of the hardest countries hit by sanctions against Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions are expected to cause a 0.4-0.5% decrease in Austria’s GDP. However, the impact is likely to be greater if natural gas supplies are disrupted. Austria relies on Russian imports for approximately 80% of its natural gas demand.
At the same time, Austria’s export-oriented economy makes it particularly sensitive to events affecting trade, which could include potential setbacks in the pandemic, particularly during the winter months. The tourism sector, which, together with hotels and restaurants, accounts for 15 percent of the country’s GDP is still struggling, currently operating at two-thirds of its pre-crisis output levels. Many companies are also struggling to find skilled labor, which is hindering the economy from reaching its full output potential.
The overall investment climate in Azerbaijan continues to improve, although significant challenges remain. Azerbaijan’s government has sought to attract foreign investment, undertake reforms to diversify its economy, and stimulate private sector-led growth. The Azerbaijani economy, however, remains heavily dependent on oil and gas output, which account for roughly 88 percent of export revenue and over half of the state budget. The economy of Azerbaijan grew 5.6% year-on-year in 2021, compared to a 4.3% contraction in the previous year. Both oil and gas (1.7%) and the non-oil and gas (7.2%) sectors of the economy expanded as the economy continued to recover from the pandemic. While the oil and gas sector has historically attracted the largest share of foreign investment, the Azerbaijani government has targeted four non-oil sectors to diversify the economy: agriculture, tourism, information and communications technology (ICT), and transportation/logistics. Measures taken in recent years to improve the business climate and reform the overall economy include eliminating redundant business license categories, empowering the popular “Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (ASAN)” government service centers with licensing authority, simplifying customs procedures, suspending certain business inspections, and reforming the tax regime.
Community spread of COVID-19 is occurring in Azerbaijan, and COVID-19 infections are present in all regions the country. The special quarantine regime was extended until May 1, 2022, according to a February 2022 decision by Azerbaijan’s Cabinet of Ministers. Masks are no longer required in outdoor spaces but remain obligatory indoors. In 2021, Azerbaijan allocated AZN 800.8 million (USD 471 million) from the state budget to support COVID-19 mitigation measures, including vaccine purchases, bonus payments to healthcare workers, and the operation of modular hospitals.
Despite substantial efforts to open the business environment, progress remains slow on structural reforms required to create a diversified and competitive private sector, and corruption remains a major challenge for firms operating in Azerbaijan. A small group of government-connected holding companies dominates the economy, intellectual property rights enforcement is improving but remains insufficient, and judicial transparency is lacking.
Under Azerbaijani law, foreign investments enjoy complete and unreserved legal protection and may not be nationalized or appropriated, except under specific circumstances. Private entities may freely establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises. Foreign citizens, organizations, and enterprises may lease, but not own, land. Azerbaijan’s government has not shown any pattern of discriminating against U.S. persons or entities through illegal expropriation. The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Azerbaijan provides U.S. investors with recourse to settle investment disputes using the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The average time needed to resolve international business disputes through domestic courts or alternative dispute resolution varies widely.
Following the release in November of a tripartite ceasefire declaration by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, which brought an end to the fall 2020 intensive fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani government is seeking new investments in the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh that were previously under the control of Armenian-backed separatists. Azerbaijan’s 2022 budget includes an allocation of AZN 2.2 billion (USD 1.3 billion) for the restoration and reconstruction of these territories. These funds will be reportedly used to restore road infrastructure, electricity, gas, water, communications infrastructure, and the education and healthcare sectors, along with the restoration of cultural and historical monuments. The government is also pursuing green energy projects in this region. Reconstruction is expected to continue over the coming years, along with continued special budget allocations provided for rebuilding and resettling these territories. Demining these territories as part of reconstruction efforts remains a priority of the Azerbaijani government.
The investment climate in the Kingdom of Bahrain is positive and relatively stable. Bahrain maintains a business-friendly attitude and liberal approach to attracting foreign investment and business.
In an economy dominated by state-owned enterprises (SOE), Bahrain aims to foster a greater role for the private sector to promote economic growth. Government of Bahrain (GOB) efforts focus on encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI) in the manufacturing, logistics, information and communications technology (ICT), financial services, tourism, health, and education sectors.
Bahrain’s total FDI stock reached BD 11.537 billion ($30.683 billion) in 2020. Annual FDI inflows dropped from BD 603 million ($1.6 billion) in 2018 to BD 355 million ($942 million) in 2019 and BD 333 million ($885 million) in 2020. The financial services, manufacturing, logistics, education, healthcare, real estate, tourism, and ICT sectors have attracted the majority of Bahrain’s FDI.
Bahrain’s economy saw a major recovery in 2021, following the slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rise in global oil prices. In addition, the continuity of some key provisions from the BD 4.3 billion ($11.4 billion) financial relief package, that was launched in 2020 to help support businesses and individuals, helped boost Bahrain’s revenues and economic growth.
In November 2021, the government announced a new economic recovery plan focused on five pillars: (1) creating quality jobs for citizens; (2) streamlining commercial procedures to attract $2.5 billion in yearly FDI by 2025; (3) launching $30 billion in major strategic projects; (4) developing strategic priority sectors; and (5) achieving fiscal sustainability and economic stability, including by extending Bahrain’s Fiscal Balance Program to 2024. Since then, the government has released detailed development strategies for the industrial, tourism, financial services, oil and gas, telecommunications and logistics sectors and identified 22 signature infrastructure projects, including the creation of five new island cities, that will stimulate post-pandemic growth and drive the economic recovery plan. The government has not identified funding sources to finance these projects or its sector modernization strategies.
Bahrain’s Vision 2030 outlines measures to protect the natural environment, reduce carbon emissions, minimize pollution, and promote sustainable energy. Bahrain’s Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA), within the Ministry of Electricity and Water Affairs, designs energy efficiency policies and promotes renewable energy technologies that support Bahrain’s long-term climate action and environmental protection ambitions. Endorsed by Bahrain’s Cabinet and monitored by SEA, the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) and the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) set national energy efficiency and national renewable energy 2025 targets of 6 and 5 percent, respectively, with the NREAP target increasing to 10 percent by 2035.
To strengthen Bahrain’s position as a regional startup hub and to enhance its investment ecosystem, the GOB launched Bahrain FinTech Bay in 2018; issued new pro-business laws; and established several funds to encourage start-up investments including the $100 million Al Waha Fund of Funds and the Hope Fund to support startup growth. Since 2017, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has operated a financial technology regulatory sandbox to enable startups in Bahrain, including cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies, and regulate conventional and Sharia-compliant businesses.
The U.S.-Bahrain Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) entered into force in 2001 and protects U.S. investors in Bahrain by providing most-favored nation treatment and national treatment, the right to make financial transfers freely and without delay, international law standards for expropriation and compensation cases, and access to international arbitration.
Bahrain permits 100 percent foreign ownership of new industrial entities and the establishment of representative offices or branches of foreign companies without Bahraini sponsors or local partners. In 2017, the GOB expanded the number of sectors in which foreigners are permitted to maintain 100 percent ownership in companies to include tourism services, sporting events production, mining and quarrying, real estate, water distribution, water transport operations, and crop cultivation and propagation. In May 2019, the GOB loosened foreign ownership restrictions in the oil and gas sector, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership in oil and gas extraction projects under certain conditions.
The U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force in 2006. Under the FTA, Bahrain committed to world-class Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection.
Despite the GOB’s transparent, rules-based government procurement system, U.S. companies sometimes report operating at a disadvantage compared with other firms. Many ministries require firms to maintain a local commercial registration or pre-qualify prior to bidding on a local tender, often rendering firms with little or no prior experience in Bahrain ineligible to bid on major tenders.
In February 2022, Bahrain’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism broke ground on the United States Trade Zone (USTZ) to incentivize U.S. companies to build out full turnkey industrial manufacturing, logistics, and distribution facilities in Bahrain to access the wider GCC market.
Bangladesh is the most densely populated non-city-state country in the world, with the eighth largest population (over 165 million) within a territory the size of Iowa. Bangladesh is situated in the northeastern corner of the Indian subcontinent, sharing a 4,100 km border with India and a 247-kilometer border with Burma. With sustained economic growth over the past decade, a large, young, and hard-working workforce, strategic location between the large South and Southeast Asian markets, and vibrant private sector, Bangladesh will likely continue to attract increasing investment, despite severe economic headwinds created by the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Buoyed by a young workforce and a growing consumer base, Bangladesh has enjoyed consistent annual GDP growth of more than six percent over the past decade, with the exception of the COVID-induced economic slowdown in 2020. Much of this growth continues to be driven by the ready-made garment (RMG) industry, which exported $35.81 billion of apparel products in fiscal year (FY) 2021, second only to China, and continued remittance inflows, reaching a record $24.77 billion in FY 2021. (Note: The Bangladeshi fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30; fiscal year 2021 ended on June 30, 2021.) The country’s RMG exports increased more than 30 percent year-over-year in FY 2021 as the global demand for apparel products accelerated after the COVID shock.
The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) actively seeks foreign investment. Sectors with active investments from overseas include agribusiness, garment/textiles, leather/leather goods, light manufacturing, power and energy, electronics, light engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), plastic, healthcare, medical equipment, pharmaceutical, ship building, and infrastructure. The GOB offers a range of investment incentives under its industrial policy and export-oriented growth strategy with few formal distinctions between foreign and domestic private investors.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock was $20.87 billion through the end of September 2021, with the United States being the top investing country with $4.1 billion in accumulated investments. Bangladesh received $2.56 billion FDI in 2020, according to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The rate of FDI inflows was only 0.77 percent of GDP, one of the lowest of rates in Asia.
Bangladesh has made gradual progress in reducing some constraints on investment, including taking steps to better ensure reliable electricity, but inadequate infrastructure, limited financing instruments, bureaucratic delays, lax enforcement of labor laws, and corruption continue to hinder foreign investment. Government efforts to improve the business environment in recent years show promise but implementation has yet to materialize. Slow adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and sluggish judicial processes impede the enforcement of contracts and the resolution of business disputes.
As a traditionally moderate, secular, peaceful, and stable country, Bangladesh experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in recent years, accompanied by an increase in terrorism-related investigations and arrests following the Holey Artisan Bakery terrorist attack in 2016. A December 2018 national election marred by irregularities, violence, and intimidation consolidated the power of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling party, the Awami League. This allowed the government to adopt legislation and policies diminishing space for the political opposition, undermining judicial independence, and threatening freedom of the media and NGOs. Bangladesh continues to host one of the world’s largest refugee populations. According to UN High Commission for Refugees, more than 923,000 Rohingya from Burma were in Bangladesh as of February 2022. This humanitarian crisis will likely require notable financial and political support until a return to Burma in a voluntary and sustainable manner is possible. International retail brands selling Bangladesh-made products and the international community continue to press the Government of Bangladesh to meaningfully address worker rights and factory safety problems in Bangladesh. With unprecedented support from the international community and the private sector, the Bangladesh garment sector has made significant progress on fire and structural safety. Critical work remains on safeguarding workers’ rights to freely associate and bargain collectively, including in Export Processing Zones (EPZs).
The Bangladeshi government has limited resources devoted to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and counterfeit goods are readily available in Bangladesh. Government policies in the ICT sector are still under development. Current policies grant the government broad powers to intervene in that sector.
Capital markets in Bangladesh are still developing, and the financial sector is still highly dependent on banks.
With a $4.4 billion economy, Barbados is the largest economy in the Eastern Caribbean. The shutdown of the tourism sector in 2020 due to the pandemic led to an 18 percent GDP contraction. The economy began to recover in 2021 with 1.4 percent growth, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts 2022 growth at 8.5 percent. Unemployment was estimated at approximately 40 percent in the first quarter of 2021, representing a 30 percent increase from the same period last year.
The Government of Barbados entered a standby arrangement with the IMF in late 2018. The $290 million ($580 million Barbados dollars) Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) program aims to decrease the debt-to-GDP ratio, strengthen the balance of payments, and stimulate growth. While the government was on track to meet its IMF targets pre-pandemic, the program dampened income and spending power due to public sector layoffs, the introduction of new indirect taxes, and a decline in the construction sector. The impact of the pandemic required the IMF to adjust the program targets downwards several times. The IMF also approved additional lending into the program twice in 2020.
The country’s services sector continues to hold the largest growth potential, especially in the areas of international financial services, information technology, global education services, health, and cultural services. The gradual decline of the sugar industry has opened land for other agricultural uses. Investment opportunities exist in the areas of agricultural processing and alternative and renewable energy. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors. The government has identified renewable energy and climate resilience projects as top priorities. In 2021, Barbados joined the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) framework seeking to harmonize global corporate minimum tax rates at 15 percent.
Barbados bases its legal system on the British common law system. It does not have a bilateral investment agreement with the United States, but it does have a double-taxation treaty and a tax information exchange agreement.
In 2015, Barbados signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Barbados to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
According to its most recent report, the Belgian central bank expects gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 2.6% in 2022 despite economic headwinds linked to global supply chain bottlenecks, spiking energy costs, and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Experts project that Belgium’s growth rate will slow but remain above potential, dipping slightly to 2.4% in 2023 and further to 1.6% in 2024. The labor market remains strong as overall job numbers continue to increase, and analysts anticipate that the unemployment rate will decline steadily to 5.7% by 2024. The inflation rate will likely continue to increase, largely driven by rising energy prices. The Belgian central bank expects the rate to peak in 2022 at 4.9% and then decline as energy markets stabilize. Belgium’s budget deficit is projected to reach 6.3% of GDP for 2021 – down from a high of 9.1% in 2020 – and will likely remain above 4% of GDP through 2024. The level of government debt will hold steady, with most experts projecting 108.9% of GDP in 2021, 106.3% in 2022 and 107.5% in 2023.
Belgium is a major logistical hub and gateway to Europe, a position that helps drives its economic growth. Since June 2015, the Belgian government has undertaken a series of measures to reduce the tax burden on labor and to increase Belgium’s economic competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign investment. A July 2017 decision to lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% further improved the investment climate. The current coalition government has not signaled any intention to revise this tax rate.
Belgium boasts an open market well connected to the major economies of the world. As a logistical gateway to Europe, host to major EU institutions, and a central location closely tied to the major European economies, Belgium is an attractive market and location for U.S. investors. Belgium is a highly developed, long-time economic partner of the United States that benefits from an extremely well-educated workforce, world-renowned research centers, and the infrastructure to support a broad range of economic activities
Belgium has a dynamic economy and attracts significant levels of investment in chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and composites; environmental technologies; food processing and packaging; health technologies; information and communication; and textiles, apparel and sporting goods, among other sectors. In 2021, Belgian exports to the U.S. market totaled $27.7 billion, registering the United States as Belgium’s fourth largest export destination. Key exports included chemicals (37.6%), machinery and equipment (10.9%), and precious metals and stones (5.9%). In terms of imports, the United States ranked as Belgium’s fourth largest supplier of imports, with the value of imported goods totaling $27.6 billion in 2021. Key imports from the United States included chemicals (38.8%), machinery and equipment (11%), and plastics (10.7%).
Belize has the smallest economy in Central America, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US $1.3 billion in 2021, a 12.5 percent expansion over the previous year. Due to mounting fiscal pressures and a need to diversify and expand its economy, the Government of Belize (GoB) is open to, and actively seeks, foreign direct investment (FDI). However, the small population of the country (2021 estimate – 432,516 persons), high cost of doing business, high public debt, bureaucratic delays, often insufficient infrastructure, and corruption constitute investment challenges. The Central Bank of Belize projects the country’s GDP will likely expand 6.0 percent in 2022 while the IMF’s projects 6.5 percent growth, led by a rebound of activity in the construction, retail and wholesale trade, transport and communication, and tourism sectors.
Public debt declined from 133 percent of GDP in 2020 to 108 percent in 2021. This was in large part due to the Blue Bond Agreement, a successful marine protection and conservation-driven financial transaction. International reserves increased from US $348 million (3.8 months of imports) in 2020 to US $420 million (3.9 months of imports) in 2021, partly due to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 25.6 million allocation, which the authorities are keeping as reserve. Belize’s government encourages FDI to relieve fiscal pressure and transform the economy. The Central Bank of Belize recorded increased inflows of FDI at US $152.25 million in 2021 and outflows at US $24.4 million in the same period. FDI inflows were concentrated primarily in real estate, construction, financial intermediation, and the hotel and restaurant industries.
Generally, Belize has no restrictions on foreign ownership and control of companies; however, foreign investments must be registered with the Central Bank of Belize and adhere to the Exchange Control Act and related regulations. The Government of Belize (GoB) made progress on the ease of doing business through trade license, stamp duty, exchange control, and land reforms to streamline business applications and related processes.
The banking system remains stable but fragile. Since January 2020, a domestic bank and an international bank each lost a correspondent banking relationship, a significant portion of the sector. In March 2022, the GoB lowered the business tax on the net interest income charged to banks and financial institutions to encourage lending in strategic foreign exchange earning sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sectors.
There were incidents of property destruction at two American companies involved in sugar cane industry in the last year. In response, a prominent agro-productive organization wrote to the Government in January 2022 expressing concerns that the Belizean government’s failure to protect and support private sector investors in these instances led to damaging the investment climate and the Belizean economy.
Belize is categorized as a small island developing state (SIDS) that is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and is a relatively minor contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Belize’s updated National Determined Contributions (NDC) is nonetheless committed to developing a long-term strategy aligned with achieving net zero global emissions by 2050.
Benin transitioned to a democracy in 1990, enjoying a reputation for regular, peaceful, and, until recently, inclusive elections. In 2019 and 2021, the government held legislative and presidential elections, respectively, which were not fully inclusive nor competitive. Elections-related unrest in 2019 and 2021 resulted in several deaths. In April 2021, President Patrice Talon was re-elected for a second, and pursuant to Benin’s constitution, final five-year term.
Benin’s overall macroeconomic conditions were positive in 2020, though growth declined compared to previous years. According to the World Bank, GDP growth slowed from 6.9 percent in 2019 to 3.8 percent in 2020. Most of the slowdown in 2019 and 2020 was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria’s partial closure of its borders that lasted from August 2019 to December 2020. In December 2021, Benin’s National Assembly unanimously passed the Government of Benin (GOB) 2022 budget, which projects economic growth to accelerate to seven percent in 2022, higher than estimates from multilateral institutions. The IMF projection for growth in 2022 is 6.5 percent, and the African Development Bank projects a growth rate recovery from 4.8 in 2021 to 6.5 percent in 2022 if Covid-19 is brought under control. Port activity and the cotton sector are the largest drivers of economic growth. Telecommunications, agriculture, energy, cement production, and construction are other significant components of the economy. Benin also has a large informal sector. The country’s GDP is roughly 51 percent services, 26 percent agriculture, and 23 percent manufacturing.
In January 2022, the Talon administration released its second government action plan (French acronym-PAG) estimated at $20.6 billion. The PAG lists 342 projects (half of which are carried forward from the Talon administration’s first PAG covering 2016-2021) across 23 sectors. With the goals of strengthening the administration of justice, fostering a structural transformation of the economy, and improving living conditions, the projects are concentrated in infrastructure, agriculture and agribusiness, tourism, health, energy, telecomuncation, and education. The government estimates that full implementation of the PAG will result in the creation of 500,000 new jobs and a leap in national economic and social conditions. The government intended that 48 percent of the PAG be funded through public funds and the remainder through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Through the end of 2021 a limited number of public-private partnerships had been secured. Government critics allege that the Talon administration is using the PAG in part to channel resources and contracts to administration insiders.
Benin continues efforts to attract private investment in support of economic growth amidst reports of high-level corruption among government insiders and occasional failure to respect foreign investment contracts. The Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (APIEX) is a one-stop-shop for promoting new investments, business startups, and foreign trade. In 2020, APIEX worked with foreign companies to facilitate new investments, though some companies reported that the agency was under-resourced and hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape in other agencies and ministries. APIEX reported that business creation increased to 40,000 in 2020 from 13,000 in 2015. The construction of a Special Economic Zone, located at Glo-Djigbé, is also a major component of the second PAG. Located 30 miles north of Benin’s capital Cotonou, the Glo-Djigbé Industrial Zone (GDIZ) is currently in the works under the direction of Benin’s Industry Promotion and Investment Company (SIPI), a public private partnership. The GDIZ is structured such that the GOB owns a 35 percent stake in it with the the Mauritanian-Singaporean firm Arise Integrated International Platfoms (Arise-IIP) owning 65 percent. Glo-Djigbé seeks to transform numerous locally produced agricultural products and high-tech goods for export. Though no businesses have started operating in GDIZ yet, approximately 25 have signed contracts to begin operations there, including Oryx and JNP (both petroleum services); NKS (cashew processing), Groupe Aigle (cotton processing), and SIDDIH (pharmaceuticals). The GDIZ is expected to increase Benin’s GDP by $7 billion over the next decade and boost export revenues. The primary target markets will be the United States, the European Union, and other African countries. The GDIZ covers 1,640 hectares with 400 hectares being developed currently.
Benin’s second MCC power compact, valued at $391million entered into force in June 2017. This compact aims to strengthen the national power utility, attract private sector investment into solar power generation, and fund infrastructure investments in electricity distribution as well as off-grid electrification for poor and unserved households. It is also advancing policy reforms to bolster financing for the electricity sector and strengthen regulation and utility management. Through the compact MCC is expanding the capacity and increasing the reliability of Benin’s power grid in southern and northern Benin. As two thirds of Benin’s population does not have access to electricity, the compact also includes a significant off-grid electrification project via a clean energy grant facility that supports private sector investment in off-grid power systems. Benin’s second MCC compact follows its first compact (2006-2011) which modernized the Port of Cotonou and improved land administration, the justice sector, and access to credit.
In general, Bolivia is open to foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2021, gross FDI flows received reached USD 440 million, higher than in 2020 when Bolivia registered a significant divestment of USD 1,018 million. FDI flows were greatest in the sectors of hydrocarbons, manufacturing, industry, and commerce, together representing over 80 percent of the total. Additional sectors receiving some FDI included the transport sector, storage and communications, insurance companies, and real estate services.
The year 2021 was economically characterized as a rebound after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, in which Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 8.9 percent, the largest contraction in over 50 years. The leading sectors were mining, construction, and transport, registering double digit growth rates. International financial institutions estimated GDP growth between 5-5.5 percent for 2021. Bolivia was the fastest growing economy in the continent from 2014-2016 and in the top three until the start of the pandemic.
Bolivia abrogated the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) it had with the United States and several other countries in 2012. The Bolivian government claimed the abrogation was necessary for Bolivia to comply with the 2009 Constitution. Companies that invested under the U.S. – Bolivia BIT will be covered by its terms until June 10, 2022, but investments made after June 10, 2012, are not covered.
Notwithstanding the uncertain political situation, Bolivia’s investment climate has remained relatively steady over the past several years. Lack of legal security, corruption allegations, and unclear investment incentives are all impediments to investment in Bolivia. There is no significant FDI from the United States in Bolivia, and there are no initiatives designed to encourage U.S. investment specifically. Bolivia’s current macroeconomic stability, abundant natural resources, and strategic location in the heart of South America make it a prospective country for investment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bolivian government took several economic measures to support families, such as authorizing postponement in the payment of basic services (water, electricity, natural gas, telecommunications) and credit payment deferral for the private sector. These measures ended in 2021.
Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law stipulates climate change mitigation and adaptation. Bolivia last updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) for implementing the Paris Agreement in 2015. Bolivia does not have any regulatory “green” incentives for investment.
In 2021, the investment rate as a percentage of GDP (18 percent) was in line with regional averages. There has also been a shift from private to public investment. In recent years, private investment was particularly low because of the deterioration of the business environment. From 2006 to 2021, private investment, including local and foreign investment, averaged 7 percent of GDP. During the same period, public investment grew significantly, reaching an annual average of 12 percent of GDP.
FDI is highly concentrated in natural resources, especially hydrocarbons and mining, which account for nearly two-thirds of FDI in Bolivia. Since 2006, the net flow of FDI averaged 1.6 percent of GDP. Before 2006, it averaged around 6.7 percent of GDP.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is open to foreign investment, but to succeed, investors must overcome endemic corruption, complex legal/regulatory frameworks and government structures, non-transparent business procedures, insufficient protection of property rights, and a weak judicial system under the indue influence of ethno-nationalist parties and their patronage networks. Economic reforms to complete the transition from a socialist past to a market-oriented future have proceeded slowly and the country has a low level of foreign direct investment (FDI). According to the BiH Central Bank preliminary data, in the first nine months of 2021 FDI in BiH was USD 617 million, a 65% increase from the same period in 2020. In the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report, BiH was among the least attractive business environments in Southeast Europe, with a ranking of 90 out of 190 global economies. (Note: Beginning in 2021, the World Bank discontinued the worldwide assessment in the Doing Business Report.) The World Bank 2020 report ranked BiH particularly low for its lengthy and arduous processes to start a new business and obtain construction permits. According to the World Bank estimates, real GDP is expected to grow 4 percent in 2021 after contracting 3.2 percent in 2020. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) expects BiH’s GDP to grow by 4.5% in 2021. EBRD announced that BiH’s economic recovery has been stronger than expected mostly due to the recovery in external markets and strong expansion of domestic private consumption, backed by higher exports of goods and services. BiH is tied closely to global value chains as it primarily exports goods rather than services.
U.S. investment in BiH is low due to its small market size, relatively low income levels, distance from the United States, challenging business climate, and the lack of investment opportunities. Most U.S. companies in BiH are represented by small sales offices that are concentrated on selling U.S. goods and services, with minimal longer-term investments. U.S. companies with offices in BiH include major multinational companies and market leaders in their respective sectors, such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Pfizer, McDonalds, Marriott, Caterpillar, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, UPS, Philip Morris, KPMG, PwC and others. Nonetheless, BiH offers business opportunities to well-prepared and persistent exporters and investors. Companies that overcome the challenges of establishing a presence in BiH often make a return on their investment over time. A major U.S. investment fund was able to enter the market with a regional investment in the telecom/cable sector in 2014 and exit its majority position in 2019 with a good return. There is an active international community, but lack of political will has stalled the many reform efforts that would improve the business climate as BiH pursues eventual European Union membership. The country is open to foreign investment and offers a liberal trade regime and its simplified tax structure is one of the lowest in the region (17 percent VAT and 10 percent flat income tax).
The complex institutional and territorial structure of BiH complicates the economic landscape of the country and may lead to further disruptions in Foreign Direct Investment. In July 2021, the Republika Srpska (RS) entity began a blockade of state institutions and in October 2021 began to take unconstitutional steps to return competencies to the entity-level government. This near-virtual decision-making blockade and attempts to withdraw the RS from state institutions and agencies have created questionsfor many investors and businesses. The duplicative nature of the proposed RS-based parallel institutions and agencies will complicate the investment landscape and create regulatory and legal confusion. While no new parallel RS agencies are yet operational, the RS has taken concrete legislative and regulatory steps to lay the groundwork for their full implementation in the near to mid-term. Investors should exercise all due diligence and take into account ongoing and potential Constitutional Court challenges and the fact these RS moves violate the Dayton Peace Agreement when deciding whether to conduct business with these nascent agencies or operate under constitutionally questionable legal frameworks established by the RS. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity also has functionality issues, with 2018 election results yet unimplemented, and a legislative body that struggles to pass basic economic reforms. Potential investors are urged to read the legal reviews and statements of the High Representative to BiH.
BiH is pursuing World Trade Organization membership and hopes to join in the future. It is also richly endowed with natural resources, providing potential opportunities in energy (hydro, wind, solar, along with traditional thermal), agriculture, timber, and tourism. The best business opportunities for U.S. exporters to BiH include energy generation and transmission equipment, telecommunication and IT equipment and services, transport infrastructure and equipment, engineering and construction services, medical equipment, agricultural products, and raw materials and chemicals for industrial processing. In 2021, U.S. exports to BiH totaled USD 322 million, a 37 percent increase from 2020, and held around 3 percent share of total BiH imports. BiH exports to the United States in 2021 totaled USD 94 million, an increase of 135 percent from 2020. U.S. exports to BiH are primarily in the areas of raw materials for industrial processing, food and agricultural products, machinery and transport equipment, and mineral fuels.
Botswana is a small country with a population of about 2.35 million (World Bank, 2020) and nestled between South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its central location in southern Africa enables it to serve as a gateway to the region. Botswana has historically enjoyed high economic growth rates and its export-driven economy is highly correlated with global economic trends. Development has been driven mainly by revenue from diamond mining, which has enabled Botswana to develop infrastructure and provide social welfare programs for vulnerable members of the population, and these programs will be maintained despite financial challenges in the current financial year, which runs from April 2022 to March 2023. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was significant as evidenced by an economic growth of negative 8.5 percent in 2020; economic growth was estimated to reach 9.7 percent in 2021. Unemployment also rose from 22.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (prior to the pandemic) to 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021. The fiscal impact of the pandemic has also been significant, resulting in large budget deficits of $1.4 billion in 2020 and $0.87 billion in 2021 compared to the $0.68 billion surplus that the government had forecasted for 2021 in its National Development Plan (NDP). In the first quarter of 2021, diamond revenues recovered, but international tourism revenues did not. In recent years, inflation has remained at the bottom end of the central bank’s three to six percent acceptable range; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation rose to a 13-year high of 10.6 percent in January 2022 and stayed at that level in February 2022. The World Bank classifies Botswana as an upper middle-income country based on its per capita income of $6,405 in 2020, although it declined from $7,203 in 2019.
Botswana is a stable, democratic country with an independent judiciary system. It maintains a sound macroeconomic environment, fiscal discipline, a well-capitalized banking system, and a crawling peg exchange rate system. In March 2021, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) maintained Botswana’s sovereign credit rating for long and short-term foreign and domestic currency bonds at “BBB+/A-2” with a negative outlook, which reflects the risks COVID-19 will continue to pose on Botswana’s economic and fiscal performance over the next 12 months. In November 2021, Moody’s revised its credit rating for Botswana from A2 to A3 with a stable outlook. These agencies’ ratings are highly influenced by Botswana’s continued dependence on diamonds, which contribute to at least a quarter of Botswana’s GDP and are susceptible to external shocks which places the country at a much higher risk. The diamond industry has however been experiencing a recovery, setting Botswana on a positive trajectory.
Botswana has minimal labor strife. The country has been cited in the 2020 Global Competitiveness Report as one of 30 countries out of 141 in which hiring of foreign labor has become significantly harder than it was in 2008. Botswana is a member state to both the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and the 1958 New York Convention. Corruption in Botswana remains less pervasive than in other parts of Africa; nevertheless, foreign and national companies have noted increasing tender-related corruption. The Government of Botswana (GoB) created the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) to assist foreign investors. Botswana offers low tax rates and has no foreign exchange controls. The BITC’s topline economic goals are to promote export-led growth, ensure efficient government spending and financing, build human capital, and to ensure the provision of appropriate infrastructure. GoB entities, including BITC, use these criteria to determine the level of support to give foreign investors. The GoB has committed to streamline business-related procedures, and remove bureaucratic impediments based on World Bank recommendations in a business reform roadmap. Under this framework, the GoB introduced electronic tax and customs processes in 2016 and 2017. The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) built and successfully integrated the Online Business Registration System (OBRS) with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Immigration Office. OBRS is designed to reduce the business registration process by more than 10 days. On March 2022, Parliament passed the Intellectual Property Policy to leverage Botswana’s IP potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will from April 1, 2022, be transitioned to Public Procurement and Regulatory Authority (PPRA) and no longer adjudicate on government tenders. The GoB also established the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) to streamline sector-targeted investment in Botswana’s different geographic areas. The Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry (MITI) is developing a Trading Service Strategy to facilitate economic diversification and is also working on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation Strategy.
Due to COVID-19-related economic shortfalls, Botswana drew down heavily on its foreign exchange reserves and government savings. Sectors such as mining, tourism, trade, hotels and restaurants, construction, and manufacturing suffered significantly; however, rough diamond sales recovered somewhat in the second half of 2020. In April 2021, the government put in place several interventions to raise revenues including a Value Added Tax (VAT) increase from 12 percent to 14 percent, an increase on Withholding Tax on dividend income from 7.5 percent to 10 percent and increases in several fees and levies charged for government services (source: 2021, Budget Speech). The government moved swiftly to implement relevant statutory instruments to curb the likelihood of companies exploiting COVID-19 to collude to set exorbitant prices. The 2020 statutory instrument 61 regulated the prices of essential supplies and basic food commodities for the duration of the 18-month COVID-19 related state of emergency. Interventions like the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) and the Reset Agenda augmented the short-term economic relief package that included wage subsidies, tax amnesties, waivers of certain levies due to government, loan guarantee schemes to support firms’ access to bank credit, and provision of food relief. The president’s Reset Agenda seeks to adjust some priorities in light of new and unexpected challenges and to find smarter ways to implement projects in a timely manner and within stipulated budgets. The ERTP aims to reinforce support already given to affected businesses and also to take advantage of opportunities that have emerged because of the pandemic such as digital services and e-commerce.
Botswana is committed to reducing greenhouse emissions to 15 percent by 2030 through renewable energy projects already underway and listed in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Botswana also adopted a Climate Change Policy in 2021 which seeks to promote access to carbon markets, climate finance, and clean technologies.
Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere behind the United States, and the twelfth largest economy in the world (in nominal terms) according to the World Bank. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named Brazil the seventh largest destination for global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2021 with inflows of $58 billion, an increase of 133percent in comparison to 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels (in 2019, inflows totaled $65.8 billion). In recent years, Brazil has received more than half of South America’s total amount of incoming FDI, and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. According to Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) measurements, U.S. stock was 24 percent ($123.9 billion) of all FDI in Brazil as of the end of 2020, the largest single-country stock by ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), while International Monetary Fund (IMF) measurements assessed the United States had the second largest single-country stock of FDI by UBO, representing 18.7 percent of all FDI in Brazil ($105 billion) and second only to the Netherlands’ 19.9 percent ($112.5 billion). The Government of Brazil (GoB) prioritized attracting private investment in its infrastructure and energy sectors during 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 delayed planned privatization efforts and despite government efforts to resume in 2021, economic and political conditions hampered the process.
The Brazilian economy resumed growth in 2017, ending the deepest and longest recession in Brazil’s modern history. However, after three years of modest recovery, Brazil entered a recession following the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent in 2021, in comparison to a 4.1 percent contraction in 2020. As of February 2022, analysts had forecasted 0.3 percent 2022 GDP growth. The unemployment rate was 11.1 percent at the end of 2021, with over one-quarter of the labor force unemployed or underutilized. The nominal budget deficit stood at 4.4 percent of GDP ($72.4 billion) in 2021, and is projected to rise to 6.8 percent by the end of 2022 according to Brazilian government estimates. Brazil’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 89.4 percent in 2020 and fell to around 82 percent by the end of 2021. The National Treasury projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 86.7 percent by the end of 2022, while the Independent Financial Institution (IFI) of Brazil’s Senate projects an 84.8 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. The BCB increased its target for the benchmark Selic interest rate from 2 percent at the end of 2020 to 9.25 percent at the end of 2021, and 11.75 percent in March 2022. The BCB’s Monetary Committee (COPOM) anticipates raising the Selic rate to 12.25 percent before the end of 2022.
President Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019, and in that same year signed a much-needed pension system reform into law and made additional economic reforms a top priority. Bolsonaro and his economic team outlined an agenda of further reforms to simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and complicated code of labor laws in the country, but the legislative agenda in 2020 was largely consumed by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Brazilian government passed a major forex regulatory framework and strengthened the Central Bank’s autonomy in executing its mandate. The government also passed a variety of new regulatory frameworks in transportation and energy sectors, including a major reform of the natural gas market. In addition, the government passed a law seeking to improve the ease of doing business as well as advance the privatization of its major state-owned enterprise Electrobras.
Brazil’s official investment promotion strategy prioritizes the automobile manufacturing, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors. Foreign investors in Brazil receive the same legal treatment as local investors in most economic sectors; however, there are foreign investment restrictions in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, and maritime sectors. The Brazilian congress is considering legislation to liberalize restrictions on foreign ownership of rural property.
Analysts contend that high transportation and labor costs, low domestic productivity, and ongoing political uncertainties hamper investment in Brazil. Foreign investors also cite concerns over poor existing infrastructure, rigid labor laws, and complex tax, local content, and regulatory requirements; all part of the extra costs of doing business in Brazil.
Brunei is a small, energy-rich sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Brunei boasts a well-educated, largely English-speaking population, excellent infrastructure, and a government intent on attracting foreign investment and projects. In parallel with Brunei’s efforts to attract foreign investment and create an open and transparent investment regime, the country has taken steps to streamline the process for entrepreneurs and investors to establish businesses and has improved its protections for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
Despite ambitions to diversify, Brunei’s economy remains dependent on the income derived from sales of oil and gas, contributing about 50 percent to the country’s GDP. Substantial revenue from overseas investment supplements income from domestic hydrocarbon production. These two revenue streams provide a comfortable quality of life for Bruneians by regional standards. Citizens are not required to pay taxes and have access to free education through the university level, free medical care, and subsidized housing and car fuel.
Brunei has a stable political climate and is generally sheltered from natural disasters. Its central location in Southeast Asia, with good telecommunications and airline connections, business tax credits in specified sectors, and no income, sales, or export taxes, offers a welcoming climate for potential investors. Sectors offering U.S. business opportunities in Brunei include aerospace and defense, agribusiness, construction, petrochemicals, energy and mining, environmental technologies, food processing and packaging, franchising, health technologies, information and communication, digital finance, and services. Brunei has ambitious climate change goals, aspiring to lower greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent and increase its share of renewable energy to 30 percent of total capacity by 2035.
Brunei continues to take a cautious approach against the COVID-19 pandemic despite having fully immunized 95 percent of the population. As of March 2022, although the country is not under lockdown, Brunei has not fully opened its borders to non-essential travel. Travelers entering the country are required to obtain permission from the Prime Minister’s Office.
In 2014, Brunei began implementing sections of its Sharia Penal Code (SPC) that expanded preexisting restrictions on activities such as alcohol consumption, eating in public during the fasting hours in the month of Ramadan, and indecent behavior, with possible punishments including fines and imprisonment. The SPC functions in parallel with Brunei’s common law-based civil penal code. The government commenced full implementation of the SPC in 2019, introducing the possibility of corporal and capital punishments including, under certain evidentiary circumstances, amputation for theft and death by stoning for offenses including sodomy, adultery, and blasphemy. Government officials emphasize that sentencing to the most severe punishments is highly improbable due to the very high standard of proof required for conviction under the SPC. While the SPC does not specifically address business-related matters, potential investors should be aware that the SPC generated global controversy when it was implemented due to its draconian punishments and inherent discrimination toward LGBT communities. The sultan declared a moratorium on the death penalty for sharia crimes in response to the outcry and there have been no recorded incidents of U.S. citizens or U.S. investments directly affected by sharia law.
Bulgaria is seen by many investors as an attractive low-cost investment destination, with government incentives for new investment. The country offers some of the least expensive labor in the European Union (EU) and low and flat corporate and income taxes. However, Bulgaria has the lowest labor productivity rate in the EU, and a rapidly shrinking population could exacerbate the trend.
In 2021 Bulgaria continued to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, although the impact on the economy was less severe than in many other European countries. In 2021 the government updated the budget to include more public funding of COVID-related measures, such as increased pensions. Tourism, logistics, the service industries, and the automotive sector were particularly hard hit by the pandemic. The Bulgarian economy declined 4.4 percent in 2020, rebounded to 4.2 percent growth in 2021, and is projected to grow by 4.8 percent in 2022. This recovery is being driven by higher consumption and public investment funds. The war in Ukraine and rising energy and food prices, however, threaten these growth expectations.
Bulgaria is expected to receive EUR 6.2 billion over a six-year period (2021-2026) from the EU’s post-COVID recovery grant funds to improve its economy in areas such as green energy, digitalization, and private sector development.
The government expects to adopt the Euro in early 2024, after having joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) in July 2020 and the EU’s Banking Union in October 2020. The adoption of the euro will eliminate currency risk and help reduce transaction costs with some of the country’s key European trading partners.
There are no legal limits on foreign ownership or control of firms. With some exceptions, foreign entities are given the same treatment as national firms and their investments are not screened or otherwise restricted. There is strong growth in software development, technical support, and business process outsourcing. The Information Technology (IT) and back-office outsourcing sectors have attracted a number of U.S. and European companies to Bulgaria, and many have established global and regional service centers in the country. The automotive sector has also attracted U.S. and foreign investors in recent years.
Foreign investors remain concerned about rule of law in Bulgaria. Along with endemic corruption, investors cite other problems impeding investment including difficulty obtaining needed permits, unpredictability due to frequent regulatory and legislative changes, sporadic attempts to negate long-term government contracts, and an inefficient judicial system. The new government coalition which came to power in December 2021 cited rule of law reform as its highest priority.
On January 24, 2022, the Burkinabé military officers deposed the democratically-elected government of former President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, dissolved the government and national assembly, and suspended the constitution. The coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba assumed the role of president of Burkina Faso’s Transition Government. In February 2022, a transitional charter was signed by Transition President LTC Damiba laying out a three-year transition period before democratic elections could be held. Since then, a Transitional government and a Transition Legislative Assembly have been installed.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country and the world’s seventh poorest country according to the 2020 UN Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index, ranked at 182 out of 189 countries. Burkina Faso has an estimated population of 22 million inhabitants (as of June 2022) according to the United Nations, and the IMF estimates its growth domestic product (GDP) at US$ 19.62 billion. Burkina Faso’s economy rebounded in 2021 and grew at an estimated 8.5 percent, attributable to increases in gold exports and the services sector, according to the World Bank. The economy is forecasted to grow at 5.6 percent in 2022. The fiscal deficit stood at 5.5 percent of GDP in 2022, but could reach 6.6 percent of GDP in 2022 as a result of the multitude of challenges Burkina Faso faces, including security, humanitarian, food, and social, etc. Over 40 percent of the Burkinabe population live below the poverty line, and the country ranks 144th out of 157 countries in the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. Some 80 percent of the country’s population is engaged in agriculture—mostly subsistence—with only a small fraction directly involved in agribusiness. In 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Burkinabe government announced a series of socio-economic measures ranging from tax breaks to subsidies and food support to low-income families. The overall cost of the measures was estimated at US$656 million.
Overall, Burkina Faso welcomes foreign investment and actively seeks to attract foreign partners to aid in its development. It has partially put in place the legal and regulatory framework necessary to ensure that foreign investors are treated fairly, including setting up a venue for commercial disputes and streamlining the issuance of permits and company registration requirements. More progress is needed to diminish the dominance of state-owned firms in certain sectors and to enforce intellectual property protections.
Burkina Faso ranks 100th of 177 countries in the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom report 2022 Economic Freedom Index. Among the 51 African countries in the report, Burkina Faso ranked 14th, improving its 21st position in the 2021 economic freedom report. Burkina Faso’s corruption perception score improved slightly from 40 in 2020 to 42 in 2021 and improved the country’s ranking from 86th to 78th of 180 countries.
The gold mining industry has boomed in the last decade, and the bulk of foreign investment is in the mining sector, mostly from Canadian firms. Moroccan, French and UAE companies control local subsidiaries in the telecommunications industry, while foreign investors are also active in sectors such as agriculture, transport and logistics, energy, and financial technology. There is a growing foreign investment interest in the security sector. In June 2015, a new mining code was approved to standardize contract terms and better regulate the sector. In 2018, the parliament adopted a new investment code that offers many advantages to foreign investors. This code offers a range of tax breaks and incentives to lure foreign investors, including exemptions from value-added tax (VAT) on certain equipment. Effective tax rates as a result are lower than the regional average, though the tax system is complex, and compliance can be burdensome. Opportunities for U.S. firms exist in many sectors, but including in agriculture and manufacturing
Burkina Faso remains committed to a market-based economy without barriers to trade. Over the last 15 years, the national power utility’s Société Nationale de l’Eléctricité du Burkina (SONABEL) customer base and energy demand ballooned. Between 2015 and 2021, SONABEL customer base grew by 64%. However, supply can only meet the demand in non-peak periods. Burkina Faso imports nearly 70 percent of its electricity from neighboring Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and faces electricity reliability and affordability challenges. It also imports other energy products such as gasoline and gas through a network of foreign companies to meet local demand. the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) suspended the US$ 500 million compact with the Government of Burkina Faso. The Compact aimed to unlock economic growth by strengthening electricity sector effectiveness, energy reliability cost-effectiveness, and grid development and access, creating a more favorable investment environment for firms in the energy sector and the wider economy and spurring further foreign direct investment in Burkina Faso.
On February 1, 2021, the Burmese military seized power in a coup d’état that reversed much of the economic progress of recent years. The military’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests destabilized the country, prompted widespread opposition, and created a sharp deterioration in the investment climate. Burma’s economy shrank by 18 percent in 2021, with a forecast for one percent growth in 2022, according to the World Bank. The regime’s ongoing violence, repression, and economic mismanagement have significantly reduced Burma’s commercial activity, compounded by the pro-democracy Civil Disobedience Movement that emerged in response to the coup. Many routine business services like customs, ports, and banks are not fully operational as of April 2022. Immediately after the coup, the military detained the civilian leadership of economic and other ministries as well as the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) and replaced them with appointees who are beholden to the regime. The CBM has imposed severe foreign exchange restrictions that limit commercial activity, and the regime severely limits access to U.S. dollars. Frequent power outages and reliance on generators have dramatically raised costs for business. The regime’s suspensions of internet and other telecommunications have restricted access to information and seriously hindered business operations. Due to COVID-19 concerns, commercial international flights resumed only on April 17, 2022. Many foreign companies have suspended operations, invoked force majeure to exit investments, and evacuated foreign national staff. The rule of law is absent, regime security forces engage in random violence, there are attacks in response by pro-democracy People’s Defense Forces, and arbitrary detentions of perceived regime opponents including labor organizers and journalists. Companies invested in the market face a heightened reputational risk. There is also the potential for the regime to expropriate property or nationalize private companies. In response to the coup, the U.S. government has imposed targeted sanctions, including on members of the regime’s so-called State Administration Council (SAC), ministers, and other authorities. The U.S. has also suspended our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and instituted more stringent export controls. In the 2022 Business Advisory for Burma, the United States reaffirmed that it does not seek to curtail legitimate business and responsible investment in Burma. Nevertheless, investors should exercise extreme caution, avoid joint ventures with regime-affiliated businesses, and conduct heightened due diligence when considering new investments in this market.
Located in Central Africa, Burundi is one of the seven member states of the East African Community (EAC). Burundi is one of the world’s most impoverished countries, with 87 percent of the population living below the World Bank’s poverty measure of $1.90 per day, 80-90 percent of the population reliant on agriculture (mostly subsistence farming) and a youth unemployment rate of about 65 percent. Economic growth is insufficient to create employment for Burundi’s rapidly growing population and President Ndayishimiye, in power since June 2020, has actively promoted good political and economic governance to improve the business environment by fighting corruption and promoting fiscal transparency. His administration is actively seeking to increase existing value chains to find new sources of employment and revenue and to find new revenue streams.
The Government of Burundi (GoB) is also seeking to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). Since taking office President Ndayishimiye has made or hosted multiple state visits with potential trade and development partners. Given the importance of agriculture, the GoB is promoting initiatives to modernize and diversify agricultural production, seeking to increase production of crops beyond coffee and tea. To attract FDI, the GoB must address an array of longstanding challenges, including: poor governance and weak institutional capacity; pervasive corruption; an exchange rate gap between the official and parallel market rates that fluctuates between 50-70 percent; financial restrictions and capital controls that limit access to and expatriation of foreign exchange; a low-skilled workforce; only 12 percent electrification nationwide; poor internet connectivity; and limited availability of reliable economic statistics.
The GoB is working to develop infrastructure, including photovoltaic and hydroelectric power plants, roads construction, rehabilitation of Bujumbura Port and the construction of a railway joining Burundi, DRC and Tanzania to improve access to the country, reduce transportation costs and boost regional trade. The demand for electricity and water significantly exceeds capacity, and the transmission system is old and poorly maintained, leading to rolling blackouts and outages. In the mining sector, the GoB is introducing a new mining code and industry-wide regulations it says will promote greater transparency. As of March 2022, all foreign mining companies’ operations remain pending revision and renegotiation of new contracts/agreements based on a “win-win” principle and implementation of the new mining code.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated border closures resulted in a sharp economic slowdown in 2020, and the IMF estimates GDP shrank by around 1 percent, before rebounding by 3.6 percent in 2021. Testing capacity is low and vaccination rates remain among the lowest in the world. Burundian authorities have prepared a COVID-19 response plan to limit the disease spread and cushion its macroeconomic and social impacts; however, its implementation has been constrained by limited financing and domestic resistance, including from some at high levels of government.
The Government of Cabo Verde welcomes international investment, provides prospective investors “one-stop shop” assistance through its investment promotion agency Cabo Verde TradeInvest, and offers incentives and tax breaks for investments in multiple sectors, most notably tourism and information and communication technology. Growth is projected to slowly accelerate in 2022 as tourism inflows from Europe increase and the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, helped by an efficient vaccination rollout throughout the country. However, increases in food and energy costs stemming from the Ukraine crisis could hinder economic recovery. Cabo Verde’s political stability, democratic institutions, and economic freedom lend predictability to its business environment. Free and fair elections, good governance, prudent macroeconomic management, openness to trade, increasing integration into the global economy, and the adoption of effective social development policies all contribute to a favorable climate for investment. Cabo Verde receives high marks on international indicators for transparency and lack of corruption. There are few regulatory barriers to foreign investment in Cabo Verde, and foreign investors receive the same treatment as Cabo Verdean nationals regarding taxes, licenses and registration, and access to foreign exchange. The country’s strategic location and growing connectivity with other West African nations make it a potential gateway for investors interested in a foothold from which to expand to the continent.
As Cabo Verde’s low proportion of arable land, scant rainfall, lack of natural resources, territorial discontinuity, and small population make it a high-cost economy with few economies of scale, the country relies on foreign investment, imports, development aid, and remittances. Despite the challenges, in 2007 the country became one of the first to graduate from least developed country status, and it met most of its Millennium Development Goals by 2015. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the economy’s dependence on tourism, which accounted directly for 25 percent of GDP and more than 40 percent indirectly pre-pandemic, makes it vulnerable to external shocks. In addition, the pandemic caused the government to put plans to privatize state-owned enterprises on hold, though privatization of ports and airports management and water and electricity could move forward later. While the business and investment climates continue to improve, there remain bureaucratic, linguistic (relatively few English or French speakers), and cultural challenges to overcome.
The government’s new Cabo Verde Ambition 2030 plan builds on its Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development and promises to open opportunities in sustainable tourism, renewable energy, blue and digital economies, and the transformation of Cabo Verde into a transportation and logistics platform. Cabo Verde aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. Diversification of the economy remains a priority, but high public debt levels, which reached a record estimated 158.4 percent of GDP in 2021, limit government funding capacity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on Cambodia’s economy. Despite a surge of cases in 2021, Cambodia’s economy demonstrated resilience in some sectors (agriculture, manufacturing) and showed signs of gradual recovery from the previous year’s economic disruptions, achieving 2.2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This follows a 3.1 percent contraction of its GDP in 2020. Having adopted a “living with COVID” stance to reopen its economy and attract international tourists, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) in March 2022 dropped all quarantine and testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. The World Bank predicts Cambodia’s GDP growth to rebound to 4.5 percent in 2022.
The RGC has made attracting investment from abroad a top priority, and in October 2021 passed a new Law on Investment. Foreign direct investment (FDI) incentives available to investors include 100 percent foreign ownership of companies, corporate tax holidays, reduced corporate tax rates, duty-free import of capital goods, and no restrictions on capital repatriation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government enacted economic recovery measures to boost competitiveness and support the economy, including a long-awaited Competition Law, a Public-Private Partnership Law, and provided tax breaks to the hardest hit businesses, such as those in the tourism and restaurant sectors. The government also delayed the implementation of a capital gains tax to 2024 and established an SME Bank of Cambodia to support small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Despite these incentives, Cambodia has not attracted significant U.S. investment. Apart from the country’s relatively small market size, other factors dissuading U.S. investors include: systemic corruption, a limited supply of skilled labor, inadequate infrastructure (including high energy costs), a lack of transparency in some government approval processes, and preferential treatment given to local or other foreign companies that engage in acts of corruption or tax evasion or take advantage of Cambodia’s weak regulatory environment. Foreign and local investors alike lament the government’s failure to adequately consult the business community on new economic policies and regulations. In light of these concerns, on November 10, 2021, the U.S. Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce issued a business advisory to caution U.S. businesses currently operating in, or considering operating, in Cambodia to be mindful of interactions with entities involved in corrupt business practices, criminal activities, and human rights abuses. Notwithstanding these challenges, several large American companies maintain investments in the country, for example, Coca-Cola’s $100 million bottling plant and a $21 million Ford vehicle assembly plant slated to open in 2022.
In recent years, Chinese FDI — largely from state-run or associated firms — has surged and has become a significant driver of growth in Cambodia. Chinese businesses, many of which are state-owned enterprises, may not assess the challenges in Cambodia’s business environment in the same manner as U.S. businesses. In 2021, Cambodia recorded FDI inflows of $655 million, with approximately 52 percent reportedly coming from the PRC.
Physical infrastructure projects, including commercial and residential real estate developments, continue to attract the bulk of FDI. However, there has been some increased investments in manufacturing, including garment and travel goods factories, as well as agro-processing.
In 2022, both the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement entered into force.
Climate change remains a critical issue in Cambodia due to its vulnerability to extreme weather occurrences, high rates of deforestation, and low environmental accountability.
Cameroon, the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), continues to face the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, growth has started to recover from a 2020 recession. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Cameroon’s gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by 4.6 percent in 2022. Cameroon’s current account balance also improved in 2021 and early 2022. The government continues to implement its 2020-2030 National Development Strategy and development projects, especially in road infrastructure, transport, energy, and health, albeit with delays. Cameroon utilized its hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in early 2022 to hasten the completion of some long-awaited projects and promote Cameroon to investors.
Cameroon maintains strong competitive advantages because of a bilingual population, a relatively diversified economy, and its location as a gateway to the Central African region. It offers immense investment potential in infrastructure, extractive industries, consumer markets, and modern communication technology (for example, internet broadband, fiber optic cable, and data centers). However, Cameroon’s telecommunication infrastructure is overutilized and in need of upgrades, which often results in network outages. Agricultural processing and transport infrastructure, such as seaports, airports, and rail, need investments, especially for modernization and maintenance. More investment opportunities exist in the financial sector as only 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services.
Corruption and weak governance structures continue to hamper Cameroon’s business climate.
The IMF approved a three-year, $689.5 million hybrid Extended Credit Facility-Extended Fund Facility arrangement in July 2021 to advance structural fiscal reforms, improve governance, and continue mitigating the health, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic while ensuring domestic and external sustainability. Cameroon’s 2022 budget aligns with its National Development Strategy and IMF program and sets a target to reduce the budget deficit from -3.2 percent in 2021 to -2 percent in 2022.
Canada and the United States have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, proximity to the U.S. market, highly skilled work force, and abundant resources. Canada encourages foreign direct investment (FDI) by promoting stability, global market access, and infrastructure. The United States is Canada’s largest investor, accounting for 44 percent of total FDI. As of 2020, the amount of U.S. FDI totaled USD 422 billion, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled USD 570 billion, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
Canada attracted USD 61 billion inward FDI flows in 2021 (the highest since 2007), a rebound from COVID-19-related decreases in 2020 according to Canada’s national statistical office.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) came into force on July 1, 2020, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA supports a strong investment framework beneficial to U.S. investors. Foreign investment in Canada is regulated by the Investment Canada Act (ICA). The purpose of the ICA is to review significant foreign investments to ensure they provide an economic net benefit and do not harm national security. In March 2021, the Canadian government announced revised ICA foreign investment screening guidelines that include additional national security considerations such as sensitive technology areas, critical minerals, and sensitive personal data. The guidelines followed an April 2020 ICA update, which provides for greater scrutiny of foreign investments by state-owned investors, as well as investments involving the supply of critical goods and services.
Despite a generally welcoming foreign investment environment, Canada maintains investment stifling prohibitions in the telecommunication, airline, banking, and cultural sectors. The 2022 budget proposal included language that could limit foreign ownership of real estate for a two-year period (to cool an overheated market and lack of housing for Canadians). Ownership and corporate board restrictions prevent significant foreign telecommunication and aviation investment, and there are deposit acceptance limitations for foreign banks. Investments in cultural industries such as book publishing are required to be compatible with national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada. In addition, non-tariff barriers to trade across provinces and territories contribute to structural issues that have held back the productivity and competitiveness of Canada’s business sector.
Canada has taken steps to address the climate crisis by establishing the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act that enshrines in law the Government of Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and issuing the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan that describes the measures Canada is undertaking to reduce emissions to 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Chad is Africa’s fifth largest country by surface area, encompassing three bioclimatic zones. Chad is landlocked, bordering Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, Central African Republic (CAR) to the south, and Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger to the west (with which it shares Lake Chad). The nearest port — Douala, Cameroon — is 1,700 km from the capital, N’Djamena. Chad is one of six countries that constitute the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a common market. Chad’s human development is one of the lowest in the world according to the UN Human Development Index (HDI). Poverty afflicts a large proportion of the population.
The Government of Chad (GOC) actively solicits foreign investment, especially from North America. Opportunities for foreign investment exist in Agribusiness; Agricultural, Construction, Building & Heavy Equipment; Automotive & Ground Transportation; Education; Energy & Mining; Environmental Technologies; Food Processing & Packaging; Health Technologies; Information Technology; Industrial Equipment & Supplies; Information & Communication; and Services. Since oil production began in 2003, the petroleum sector has dominated economic activity and been the largest target of foreign investment, including from U.S. companies. Agriculture and livestock breeding are also important economic activities, employing most of the population. In recent years, the GOC has prioritized agriculture, solar energy production, gold mining, livestock breeding and processing, and information technology to diversify the economy and lessen fiscal dependence on volatile global energy markets.
Chad’s investment climate is challenging. Private sector development suffers from a lack of transport infrastructure, GDP growth, skilled labor, reliable electricity, adequate contract enforcement, good governance, and attractive tax rates. Frequent border closures with neighboring countries complicate trade. The COVID-19 pandemic, and associated restrictions, halted Chad’s modest 2019 economic recovery following several years of recession caused by low global oil prices and disruptive debt payments to Glencore. Overall vaccination rates remain low. Existing IMF and World Bank programs aim to improve governance, increase transparency, and reduce internal arrears. Private sector financing is limited, and low GDP growth constrains government investment. Corruption and historically frequent replacement of senior level government figures present further roadblocks, as does cumbersome French-based labor law. The GOC’s interest in maintaining a stake in investment projects, while facilitating access to key decision makers, also introduces financial and operational risks.
Despite these challenges, the success of several foreign investments into Chad illustrates opportunities for experienced, dedicated, and patient investors. Successful investors typically operate with trusted local partners. The oil sector will mark 20 years of operations in 2023. Singapore-based Olam International entered Chad’s cotton market in 2018. Mindful of the imperative to enact reforms, the GOC operationalized a Presidential Council to Improve the Business Climate in January 2021. With rich natural resources, minimally developed agriculture and meat processing sectors, ample sunshine, increasing telecommunications coverage, and a rapidly growing population, Chad presents an opportunity for targeted investment in key sectors.
With the second highest GDP per capita in Latin America (behind Uruguay), Chile has historically enjoyed among the highest levels of stability and prosperity in the region. However, widespread civil unrest broke out throughout the country in 2019 in protest of the government’s handling of the economy and perceived systemic inequality. Pursuant to a political accord, Chile held a plebiscite in October 2020 in which citizens chose to redraft the constitution. Uncertainty about the outcome of the redrafting process may impact investment. Due to Chile’s solid macroeconomic policy framework, the country boasts one of the strongest sovereign bond ratings in Latin America, which has provided fiscal space for the Chilean government to respond to the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic through stimulus packages and other measures. As a result, Chile’s economic growth in 2021 was, according to the Central Bank’s latest estimation, between 11.5 percent and 12 percent. The same institution forecasts Chile’s economic growth in 2022 will be in the range of 1 to 2 percent due largely to the gradual elimination of COVID-19 economic stimulus programs.
Chile has successfully attracted large amounts of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) despite its relatively small domestic market. The country’s market-oriented policies have created significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate in the country’s economic growth. Chile has a sound legal framework and there is general respect for private property rights. Sectors that attract significant FDI include mining, finance/insurance, energy, telecommunications, chemical manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory are restricted from foreign ownership, but companies may enter into contracts with the government to extract these resources. Corruption exists in Chile but on a much smaller scale than in most Latin American countries, ranking 27 – along with the United States – out of 180 countries worldwide and second in Latin America in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Although Chile is an attractive destination for foreign investment, challenges remain. Legislative and constitutional reforms proposed in response to the social unrest and the pandemic have generated concerns about the future government policies on property rights, rule of law, tax structure, the role of government in the economy, and many other issues. Importantly, the legislation enabling the constitutional reform process requires that the new constitution must respect Chile’s character as a democratic republic, its judicial sentences, and its international treaties (including the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement). Despite a general respect for intellectual property (IP) rights, Chile has not fully complied with its IP obligations set forth in the U.S.-Chile FTA and remains on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report for not adequately enforcing IP rights. Environmental permitting processes, indigenous consultation requirements, and cumbersome court proceedings have made large project approvals increasingly time consuming and unpredictable, especially in cases with political sensitivities. The current administration has stated its willingness to continue attracting foreign investment.
In 2021, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was the number two global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination, behind the United States. As the world’s second-largest economy, with a large consumer base and integrated supply chains, China’s economic recovery following COVID-19 reassured investors and contributed to high FDI and portfolio investments. The PRC implemented major legislation in 2021, including the Data Security Law in September and the Personal Information Protection Law in November.
China remains a relatively restrictive investment environment for foreign investors due to restrictions in key sectors and regulatory uncertainties. Obstacles include ownership caps and requirements to form joint venture (JV) partnerships with local firms, industrial policies to develop indigenous capacity or technological self-sufficiency, and pressures to transfer technology as a prerequisite to gaining market access. New data and financial rules announced in 2021 also created significant uncertainty surrounding the financial regulatory environment. The PRC’s pandemic-related visa and travel restrictions significantly affected foreign businesses operations, increasing labor and input costs. An assertive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and emphasis on national companies and self-reliance has heightened foreign investors’ concerns about the pace of economic reforms.
Key developments in 2021 included:
The Rules for Security Reviews on Foreign Investments came into effect January 18, expanding PRC vetting of foreign investment that may affect national security.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law on June 10.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) issued draft revisions to its Cybersecurity Review Measures to broaden PRC approval authority over PRC companies’ overseas listings on July 10.
China formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on September 16.
On November 1, the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) went into effect and China formally applied to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).
On December 23, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The law prohibits importing goods into the United States that are mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the PRC, especially from Xinjiang.
On December 27, the National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) updated its foreign FDI investment “negative lists.”
While PRC pronouncements of greater market access and fair treatment of foreign investment are welcome, details and effective implementation are needed to ensure equitable treatment.
With improving security conditions in metropolitan areas, a market of 50 million people, an abundance of natural resources, and an educated and growing middle-class, Colombia continues to be an attractive destination for foreign investment in Latin America. Colombia ranked 67 out of 190 countries in the “Ease of Doing Business” index of the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report (most recent report).
The Colombian economy grew by 10.6 percent in 2021, the largest increase in gross domestic product (GDP) since the statistical authority started keeping records in 1975. This followed a 6.8 percent collapse in 2020 due to the negative effects of the pandemic and lower oil prices, the first economic contraction in more than two decades. In July 2021, rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded Colombia below investment grade status, citing the increasing fiscal deficit (7.1 percent of GDP for 2021) as the main reason for the downgrade. The Colombian Government passed a tax reform that entered into effect in January 2022, the Social Investment Law, that seeks to reactivate the economy, generate employment, and contribute to the fiscal stability of the country.
Colombia’s legal and regulatory systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The country has a comprehensive legal framework for business and foreign direct investment (FDI). The 2012 U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) has strengthened bilateral trade and investment. Colombia’s dispute settlement mechanisms have improved through the CTPA and several international conventions and treaties. Weaknesses include protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), as Colombia has yet to implement certain IPR-related provisions of the CTPA. Colombia became the 37th member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2020, bringing the obligation to adhere to OECD norms and standards in economic operations.
The Colombian government has made a concerted effort to develop efficient capital markets, attract investment, and create jobs. Restrictions on foreign ownership in specific sectors still exist. FDI inflows increased 4.8 percent from 2020 to 2021, with 67 percent of the 2021 inflow dedicated to the extractives sector. Roughly half of the Colombian workforce in metropolitan areas is employed in the informal economy, a share that increases to four-fifths in rural areas. In 2021, the unemployment rate was 13.7 percent with 3.4 million people unemployed. The employed population reached 21.6 million, an increase of 0.9 percent compared to 2020.
Since the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia has experienced a significant decrease in terrorist activity. Several powerful narco-criminal operations still pose threats to commercial activity and investment, especially in rural zones outside of government control.
Corruption remains a significant challenge. The Colombian government continues to work on improving its business climate, but U.S. and other foreign investors continue to voice complaints about non-tariff, regulatory, and bureaucratic barriers to trade, investment, and market access at the national, regional, and municipal levels. Stakeholders express concern that some regulatory rulings in Colombia target specific companies, resulting in an uneven playing field. Investors generally have access at all levels of the Colombian government, but cite a lack of effective and timely consultation with regulatory agencies in decisions that affect them. Investors also note concern regarding the national competition and regulatory authority’s (Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio, SIC) differing rulings for different companies on similar issues, and slow processing at some regulatory agencies, such as at food and drug regulator INVIMA.
Costa Rica is the oldest continuous democracy in Latin America and the newest member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with an established government institutional framework, stable society, and a diversified upper-middle-income economy. The country’s well-educated labor force, relatively low levels of corruption, geographic location, living conditions, dynamic investment promotion board, and attractive free trade zone incentives all appeal to investors. Foreign direct investment inflow in 2020 was USD 1.76 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP, with the United States accounting for USD 1.2 billion. Costa Rica recorded 7.6 percent GDP growth in 2021 (the highest level since 2008) as it recovered from a 4.5 percent contraction in 2020 largely due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Costa Rica has had remarkable success in the last two decades in establishing and promoting an ecosystem of export-oriented technology companies, suppliers of input goods and services, associated public institutions and universities, and a trained and experienced workforce. A similar transformation took place in the tourism sector, with a plethora of smaller enterprises handling a steadily increasing flow of tourists eager to visit despite Costa Rica’s relatively high prices. Costa Rica is doubly fortunate in that these two sectors positively reinforce each other as they both require and encourage English language fluency, openness to the global community, and Costa Rican government efficiency and effectiveness. A 2019 study of the free trade zone (FTZ) economy commissioned by the Costa Rican Investment and Development Board (CINDE) shows an annual 9 percent growth from 2014 to 2018, with the net benefit of that sector reaching 7.9 percent of GDP in 2018. This sector continued to expand during the pandemic. The value of exports increased by 24 percent in 2021, representing the highest growth in 15 years.
The Costa Rican investment climate is threatened by a high and persistent government fiscal deficit, underperformance in some key areas of government service provision, including health care and education, high energy costs, and deterioration of basic infrastructure. The Covid-19 world recession damaged the Costa Rican tourism industry, although it is recovering. Furthermore, the government has very little budget flexibility to address the economic fallout and is struggling to find ways to achieve debt relief, unemployment response, and the longer-term policy solutions necessary to continue compliance under the current stabilizing agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On the plus side, the Costa Rican government has competently managed the crisis despite its tight budget and Costa Rican exports are proving resilient; the portion of the export sector that manufactures medical devices, for example, is facing relatively good economic prospects and companies providing services exports are specialized in virtual support for their clients in a world that is forced to move in that direction. Moreover, Costa Rica’s accession in 2021 to the Organization for Co-operation and Development (OECD) has exerted a positive influence by pushing the country to address its economic weaknesses through executive decrees and legislative reforms in a process that began in 2015. Also in the plus column, the export and investment promotion agencies CINDE and the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) have done an excellent job of protecting the Free Trade Zones (FTZs) from new taxes by highlighting the benefits of the regime, promoting local supply chains, and using the FTZs as examples for other sectors of the economy. Nevertheless, Costa Rica’s political and economic leadership faces a difficult balancing act over the coming years as the country must simultaneously exercise budget discipline and respond to demands for improved government-provided infrastructure and services.
Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) offers a welcoming environment for U.S. investment. The Ivoirian government wants to deepen commercial cooperation with the U.S. The Ivoirian and foreign business community in CDI considers the 2018 investment code generous with welcome incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors. Côte d’Ivoire’s resiliency to the COVID-19 crisis led to quick economic recovery. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth stayed positive at two percent in 2020 and rebounded to 6.5 percent in 2021, with government of CDI projecting average growth at 7.65 percent during the period 2021-2025. International credit rating agency Fitch upgraded the country’s political risk rating in July 2021 from B+ to BB-, while the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) assessment confirms CDI’s economic resilience, despite the Omicron variant of COVID. However, possible repetition of 2021 energy shortages, poor transparency, and delays in reforms could dampen confidence.
U.S. businesses operate successfully in several Ivoirian sectors including oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; the digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure. The competitiveness of U.S. companies in IT services is exemplified by one company that altered the local payment system by introducing a digital payment system that rapidly increased its market share, forcing competitors to lower prices.
Côte d’Ivoire is well poised to attract increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) based on the government’s strong response to the pandemic, the buoyancy of the economy, high-level support for private sector investment, and clear priorities set forth in the new 2021-2025 National Development Plan (PND – Plan National de Développement). An important factor is Côte d’Ivoire’s resurgence as a regional economic and transportation hub. Government authorities are continuing to implement structural reforms to improve the business environment, modernize public administration, increase human capital, and boost productivity and private sector development. However, this will not come without challenges and uncertainties in the medium term, particularly regarding the evolution of the pandemic and global recovery as well as regulatory and transparency concerns. Government authorities underscore their commitment to strengthening peace and security systems in the northern zone of the country, while striving for inclusive growth in the context of post-pandemic recovery. Finally, recent political instability in northern and western neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, could impede investor confidence in the region, especially when it comes to security.
Doing business with the Ivoirian government remains a significant challenge in some areas such as procurement, taxation, and regulatory processes. Some new public procurement procedures adopted in 2019 were only implemented in 2021, including implementation of an e-procurement module, and improved evaluation, prioritization, selection, and monitoring procedures. This is a work in process, and concerns remain that these procedures are not consistently and transparently applied. Similar concerns circulate about tax procedures, especially retroactive assessments based on changes in tax formulas. An overly complicated tax system and slow, opaque government decision-making processes hinder investment. Government has identified VAT (Value Added Tax), mining, digitalization, and property taxes as key areas for broadening the tax base and improving state revenues. Other challenges include low levels of literacy and income, weak access to credit for small businesses, corruption, and the need to broaden the tax base to relieve some of the tax-paying burden on businesses.
Croatia’s EU membership has enhanced its economic stability and provided new opportunities for trade and investment. Characteristics that make Croatia an attractive destination for foreign investment include a geostrategic location with diverse topography and temperate climate, well-developed infrastructure, and a well-educated multilingual workforce. The Croatian government settled a longstanding investment dispute with a U.S. investor in December 2021. Historically, the most promising sectors for investment in Croatia have been tourism, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, and banking. Investment opportunities are growing in Croatia’s robust IT sector, and the coming years will offer new opportunities related to the energy transition. Croatia also offers visas for so-called “digital nomads” to work in Croatia for up to one year without having to pay local taxes.
Despite the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy experienced a robust rebound of 10.4 percent growth in 2021. Tourism in 2021 exceeded all expectations, and the sector, which accounts for as much as 20 percent of GDP, achieved 88 percent of record-breaking 2019 revenues. Throughout the pandemic, the government distributed more than $1.5 billion in job-retention and economic stabilization measures that significantly helped maintain employment. Unemployment in January 2022 was at 7.8 percent. In early 2022, the government announced nearly $800 million worth of measures to help citizens and businesses cope with rising energy costs. The European Commission estimates the Croatian economy will grow 4.8 percent in 2022 and 3.0 percent in 2023.
Croatia will receive more than $30 billion in EU funding through 2030, including approximately $7 billion through the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), which has the potential to provide a significant boost to the economy if the government directs the funds to productive activities that stimulate job creation and economic growth. The government intends to spend approximately 40 percent of RRF funds in support of climate-related and clean energy objectives, including initiatives to improve energy efficiency in public and private buildings, accelerate development of renewable sources of energy, modernize the electricity distribution and transmission grid to facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources, and promote greater investments in geothermal energy. Croatia joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) in July 2020, and the government expects to enter the eurozone on January 1, 2023. Croatia also received an invitation from the OECD in early 2022 to begin the accession process.
The Croatian government has taken some positive steps to improve the business climate, but it has been slow to reform the judiciary, which is most often mentioned as one of the greatest barriers to investment. In addition, the economy is burdened by a large government bureaucracy, underperforming state-owned enterprises, and low regulatory transparency. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalization efforts, which has helped decrease excessive bureaucratic procedures for both citizens and companies. Government reforms also seek to liberalize the services market, diversify capital markets and improve access to alternative financing, and reform tax incentives for research and development. Croatia’s labor laws provide strong protections to workers and there are no risks to doing business responsibly in terms of labor laws and human rights. The government is willing to meet at senior levels with interested investors and to assist in resolving problems.
Cyprus is the eastern-most member of the European Union (EU), situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Africa, and Asia – and thus occupies a strategic place in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
The Republic of Cyprus (ROC) eagerly welcomes foreign direct investment (FDI). The ROC is a member of the eurozone. English is widely spoken. The legal system is based on UK common law. Legal and accounting services for foreign investors are highly developed. Invest Cyprus, an independent, government-funded entity, aggressively promotes investment in the traditional sectors of shipping, tourism, banking, and financial and professional services. Newer sectors for FDI include energy, film production, investment funds, education, research & development, information technology, and regional headquartering. The discovery of significant hydrocarbon deposits in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (and in the surrounding Eastern Mediterranean region) has driven major new FDI by multinational companies in recent years.
The ROC has generally handled the pandemic effectively, mitigating its impact on investment to the greatest extent possible. As of March 2022, around 85 percent of the adult population was double-vaccinated, with many people having received a third dose. COVID case loads generally follow trends in continental Europe. COVID cases are again rising, consistent with what we are seeing elsewhere in Europe, the government has a highly effective testing regime in place and has demonstrated competence in managing the local epidemic.
The ROC has also demonstrated commitment to promoting green investments, with significant funding allocated to securing a green transition (see Section 8).
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only internationally recognized government on the island, but since 1974 the northern third of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots. This area proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “TRNC” as a government, nor does any country other than Turkey. A substantial number of Turkish troops remain in the northern part of the island. A buffer zone, or “green line,” patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two parts. The Republic of Cyprus and the area administered by Turkish Cypriots are addressed separately below.
U.S. citizens can travel to the north / Turkish Cypriot area, however, additional COVID-19 measures may apply when crossing. U.S. companies can invest in the north but should be aware of legal complications and risks due to the lack of international recognition, tensions between the two communities, and isolation of the north from the eurozone. Turkish Cypriot businesses are interested in working with American companies in the fields of agriculture, hospitality, renewable energy, and retail franchising. Significant Turkish aid and investment flows to the “TRNC.” A political settlement between the communities would be a powerful catalyst for island-wide Cypriot economic growth and prosperity.
The Czech Republic is a medium-sized, open economy with 71 percent of its GDP based on exports, mostly from the automotive and engineering industries. According to the Czech Statistical Office, most of the country’s exports go to the European Union (EU), with 32.4 percent going to Germany alone. The United States is the Czech Republic’s second largest non-EU export destination, following the United Kingdom. While the Czech GDP dropped by 5.6 percent due to the economic impact of COVID-19 in 2020, it rebounded in 2021 to 3.3 percent according to the Czech Statistical Office. The Ministry of Finance forecasts 3.1 percent growth for 2022.
The “Bill on Screening of Foreign Investments” entered into force May 1, 2021. The law gives the government the ability to screen greenfield investments and acquisitions by non-EU investors.
The Czech Republic has taken strides to diversify its traditional investments in engineering into new fields of research and development (R&D) and innovative technologies. EU structural funding has enabled the country to open a number of world-class scientific and high-tech centers. EU member states are the largest investors in the Czech Republic.
The United States announced on February 15, 2020 plans to provide up to USD 1 billion in financing through the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, the dedicated investment vehicle for the Three Seas Initiative and its participating Central and Eastern European countries. The Three Seas Initiative seeks to reinforce security and economic growth in the region through the development of energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure. In December 2020 the DFC approved the first tranche of U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund amounting to USD 300 million.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed March 24, 2021, to a request from the Czech cabinet to return as an investor to the Czech Republic after a 13-year pause to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. The EBRD’s investments in the Czech Republic primarily focus on private sector assistance and should reach EUR 100 – 200 million annually (USD109-218 million). The EBRD plans to be involved in investment projects in the Czech Republic temporarily (maximum five years).
The continued economic fallout from COVID-19 resulted in the Czech Republic’s highest historic state budget deficit of 419.7 billion crowns (USD 18.2 billion) in 2021. In 2021, the Czech Republic appropriated approximately USD17 billion for the COVID-19 response, including USD7.7 billion in direct support, USD 6.7 billion in healthcare and social services expenses, and USD2.3 billion in loan guarantees.
The Czech Republic has adopted environmental strategies and policies to address the climate crisis. Public procurement policies include environmental considerations, and the government provides subsidies to companies for using modern low-carbon technologies, renewables, and resource-effective processes.
There are no significant risks to doing business responsibly in areas such as labor and human rights in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic fully complies with EU and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) standards for labor laws and equal treatment of foreign and domestic investors. Wages continue to trail those in neighboring Western European countries (Czech wages are roughly one-third of comparable German wages). While wage growth slowed in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a 3.1 percent year-on-year increase, wages rose by 6.1 percent in 2021, according to the Czech Statistical Office. As of the fourth quarter of 2021, wages grew primarily in the real estate, accommodation, and hospitality sectors. As of January 2022, the unemployment rate remained the lowest in the EU, at only 2.3 percent.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources. With 80 million hectares (197 million acres) of arable land and 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the resources to achieve prosperity for its people. Despite its potential, the DRC often cannot provide adequate food, security, infrastructure, and health care to its estimated 100 million inhabitants, of which 75 percent live on less than two dollars a day.
The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency in 2019 and his government’s commitment to attracting international, and particularly U.S. investment, have raised the hopes of the business community for greater openness and transparency. In January 2021, the DRC government (GDRC) became eligible for preferential trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), reflecting progress made on human rights, anti-corruption, and labor. Tshisekedi created a presidential unit to address business climate issues. In late 2020 Tshisekedi ejected former President Joseph Kabila’s party from the ruling coalition and in April 2021 he appointed a new cabinet.
Overall investment is on the rise, fueled by multilateral donor financing and private domestic and international finance. The natural resource sector has historically attracted the most foreign investment and continues to attract investors’ attention as global demand for the DRC’s minerals grows. The primary minerals sector is the country’s main source of revenue, as exports of copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, diamond, tin, and tungsten provide over 95 percent of the DRC’s export revenue. The highly competitive telecommunications industry has also experienced significant investment, as has the energy sector through green sources such as hydroelectric and solar power generation. Several breweries and bottlers, some large construction firms, and limited textiles production are active. Given the vast needs, there are commercial opportunities in aviation, road, rail, border security, water transport, and the ports. The agricultural and forestry sectors present opportunities for sustainable economic diversification in the DRC, and companies are expressing interest in developing carbon credit markets to fund investment.
Overall, businesses in the DRC face numerous challenges, including poor infrastructure, a predatory taxation system, and corruption. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed economic growth and worsened the country’s food security, and the Russia’s attacks on Ukraine have raised global prices on imported foods and gasoline. Armed groups remain active in the eastern part of the country, making for a fragile security situation that negatively affects the business environment. Reform of a non-transparent and often corrupt legal system is underway. While laws protecting investors are in effect, the court system is often very slow to make decisions or follow the law, allowing numerous investment disputes to last for years Concerns over the use of child labor in the artisanal mining of copper and cobalt have served to discourage potential purchasers. USG assistance programs to build capacity for labor inspections and enforcement are helping to address these concerns.
The government’s announced priorities include greater efforts to address corruption, election reform, a review of mining contracts signed under the Kabila regime, and improvements to mining sector revenue collection. The economy experienced increased growth in 2021 based on renewed demand for its minerals.
Denmark is regarded by many independent observers as one of the world’s most attractive business environments and ranks highly in indices measuring political, economic, and regulatory stability. It is a member of the European Union (EU), and Danish legislation and regulations conform to EU standards on virtually all issues. It maintains a fixed exchange rate policy, with the Danish Krone linked closely to the Euro. Denmark is a social welfare state with a thoroughly modern market economy heavily driven by trade in goods and services. Given that exports account for about 60 percent of GDP, the economic conditions of its major trading partners – the United States, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom – have a substantial impact on Danish national accounts.
Denmark is a world leader in “green technology” industries, such as offshore wind and energy efficiency, and in sectors such as shipping and life sciences. Denmark is a net exporter of food. Its manufacturing sector depends on raw material imports. Within the EU, Denmark is among the strongest supporters of liberal trade policy. Transparency International regularly ranks Denmark as being perceived as the least corrupt nation in the world. Denmark is strategically situated to link continental Europe with the Nordic and Baltic countries. Transport and communications infrastructures are efficient.
The Danish economy experienced a contraction of 2.1 percent of GDP in 2020 due to COVID-19 followed by a 4.7 percent rebound in 2021, thereby weathering the pandemic with among the lowest declines in GDP in the EU. Denmark’s economic activity and employment have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels and trends, but companies across sectors cite labor shortages as a key challenge. In May 2022, the Ministry of Finance revised its GDP growth projections, forecasting 3.5 percent GDP growth in 2022, decelerating to 2 percent annual GDP growth in 2023. The Ministry projects the Danish economy will weather headwinds from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and surging energy prices, as well as elevated levels of inflation, due to its robust foundation, although economic activity will be at a slightly lower level. The Ministry anticipates the impact will mainly be through increased inflation and disruption of trade. Denmark’s underlying macroeconomic conditions, however, are healthy, and the investment climate is sound. The entrepreneurial climate, including female-led entrepreneurship, is robust.
New legislation establishing a foreign investment screening mechanism to prevent threats to national security and public order came into effect on July 1, 2021. The mechanism requires mandatory notification for investments in the following five sectors: defense, IT security and processing of classified information, companies producing dual-use items, critical technology, and critical infrastructure. It allows for voluntary notification for all sectors. The legislation does not apply to Greenland or to the Faroe Islands, though both are looking into potential legislation.
In 2020, the Danish parliament passed the Danish Climate Act, which established a statutory target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent from 1990 levels in 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050. In April 2022, the government presented a reform proposal on Danish energy policy to move towards the above goals and simultaneously achieve independence from Russian natural gas. The proposal includes plans for increased domestic production of biogas as well as natural gas from the North Sea, a quadrupling of combined onshore wind and solar power production capacity by 2030, and an expansion of district heating. The government also proposed green taxation to finance the transition with a differentiated carbon emission tax in addition to the EU carbon trading system.
Note: Additional information on the investment climates in the constituent parts of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, can be found at the end of this report.
Djibouti, a country with few resources, recognizes the crucial need for foreign direct investment (FDI) to stimulate economic development. The country’s assets include a strategic geographic location, free zones, an open trade regime, and a stable currency. Djibouti has identified a number of priority sectors for investment, including transport and logistics, real estate, energy, agriculture, and tourism. Djibouti’s investment climate has improved in recent years, which has led to interest by U.S. and other foreign firms. There are, however, a number of reforms still needed to promote investment.
In 2020, according to the UN Conference of Trade and Development, FDI stock represented 58.53% of GDP, up from 52.5% in 2018. Real GDP growth has remained between 5% and a little over 8% per year for the last five years. Inflation decreased to 0.1 % in 2018 then peaked at an estimated 3.3% in 2019 and decreased to 2.9% in 2020. In recent years, Djibouti undertook a surge of foreign-backed infrastructure loans to posture themselves as the “Singapore of Africa.” Major projects have included a new gas terminal and pipeline to Ethiopia, a new port, free zones, improved road systems, a railroad connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa, and a water pipeline from Ethiopia. Djibouti launched the first phase of an ambitious port and free zone project, Djibouti Damerjog Industrial Development (DDID) free-trade zone, scheduled to be built in three phases of five years each. The project includes a multipurpose port, a liquefied natural gas terminal, a livestock terminal, dry docks and a ship repair area, a power plant and a factory that will produce construction materials. DDID, which is expected to attract foreign investors, will offer all the preferential policies guaranteed by the free zone authority, such as tax exemption, minimized restrictions on foreign labor and competitive water and electricity rates. In April 2018, the Government of Djibouti enacted tax, labor, and financial reforms to improve its investment climate.
Various business climate reforms were introduced in 2020 with the objectives of improving competitiveness both regionally and internationally. These reforms included starting online registration for companies and the creation of the Djibouti Port Community System platform which is a portal that provides a comprehensive set of online services to the business community.
Economic development and foreign investment are hindered by high electricity costs, high unemployment, an unskilled workforce, a large informal sector, regional instability, opaque business practices, compliance risks, corruption, and a weak financial sector. The World Bank estimated the government’s public debt-to-GDP ratio was 66.7% in 2019 with a projection of 69.9% in 2020 which will gradually decrease over the years. The majority of the debt is owed to Chinese entities.
The Commonwealth of Dominica (Dominica) is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Government of Dominica strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Dominica remains vulnerable to external shocks such as climate change impacts, natural hazards, and global economic downturns. According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) figures, the economy of Dominica had an estimated GDP of $409.9 million USD (1,107.78 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2021, which signified a slight recovery from a 15.4 percent contraction in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stagnation of the tourism sector. The IMF forecasts real GDP growth of 7.9 percent in 2022 and expects GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
The economy also continues to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Losses from Hurricane Maria were estimated at $1.37 billion or 226 percent of GDP. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government was primarily focused on reconstruction efforts, with support from the international community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Dominica has received financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to provide fiscal assistance and macro-economic stability and support in health-related expenditures, loss of household income, food security, and the agricultural sector.
Through its economic policies, the government is seeking to stimulate sustainable and climate-resilient economic growth by implementing a revised macroeconomic framework that includes strengthening the nation’s fiscal framework. The government states it is committed to creating a vibrant business climate to attract more foreign investment.
Dominica remains a small emerging market in the Eastern Caribbean, with investment opportunities mainly in the service sector, particularly in eco-tourism, information and communication technologies, and education. Other opportunities exist in alternative energy, including geothermal energy, and capital works due to reconstruction and new tourism projects.
The government provides some investment incentives for businesses that are considering establishing operations in Dominica, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Foreign investors can repatriate all profits and dividends and can import capital. Dominica’s legal system is based on British common law. It does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, though it does have bilateral investment treaties with the UK and Germany.
In 2018, the Government of Dominica signed an Intergovernmental Agreement to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Dominica to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
The Commonwealth of Dominica (Dominica) is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Government of Dominica strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Dominica remains vulnerable to external shocks such as climate change impacts, natural hazards, and global economic downturns. According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) figures, the economy of Dominica had an estimated GDP of $409.9 million USD (1,107.78 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2021, which signified a slight recovery from a 15.4 percent contraction in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stagnation of the tourism sector. The IMF forecasts real GDP growth of 7.9 percent in 2022 and expects GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
The economy also continues to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Losses from Hurricane Maria were estimated at $1.37 billion or 226 percent of GDP. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government was primarily focused on reconstruction efforts, with support from the international community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Dominica has received financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to provide fiscal assistance and macro-economic stability and support in health-related expenditures, loss of household income, food security, and the agricultural sector.
Through its economic policies, the government is seeking to stimulate sustainable and climate-resilient economic growth by implementing a revised macroeconomic framework that includes strengthening the nation’s fiscal framework. The government states it is committed to creating a vibrant business climate to attract more foreign investment.
Dominica remains a small emerging market in the Eastern Caribbean, with investment opportunities mainly in the service sector, particularly in eco-tourism, information and communication technologies, and education. Other opportunities exist in alternative energy, including geothermal energy, and capital works due to reconstruction and new tourism projects.
The government provides some investment incentives for businesses that are considering establishing operations in Dominica, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Foreign investors can repatriate all profits and dividends and can import capital. Dominica’s legal system is based on British common law. It does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, though it does have bilateral investment treaties with the UK and Germany.
In 2018, the Government of Dominica signed an Intergovernmental Agreement to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Dominica to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays an important role for the Dominican economy, and the Dominican Republic is one of the main recipients of FDI in the Caribbean and Central America. The government actively courts FDI with generous tax exemptions and other incentives to attract businesses to the country. Historically, the tourism, real estate, telecommunications, free trade zones, mining, and financing sectors are the largest FDI recipients.
Besides financial incentives, the country’s membership in the Central America Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) is one of the greatest advantages for foreign investors. Observers credit the agreement with increasing competition, strengthening rule of law, and expanding access to quality products in the Dominican Republic. The United States remains the single largest investor in the Dominican Republic. CAFTA-DR includes protections for member state foreign investors, including mechanisms for dispute resolution.
Foreign investors report numerous systemic problems in the Dominican Republic and cite a lack of clear, standardized rules by which to compete and a lack of enforcement of existing rules. Complaints include perceptions of widespread corruption at both national and local levels of government; delays in government payments; weak intellectual property rights enforcement; bureaucratic hurdles; slow and sometimes locally biased judicial and administrative processes, and non-standard procedures in customs valuation and classification of imports. Weak land tenure laws and interference with private property rights continue to be a problem. The public perceives administrative and judicial decision-making to be inconsistent, opaque, and overly time-consuming. A lack of transparency and poor implementation of existing laws are widely discussed as key investor grievances.
U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Many U.S. firms and investors have expressed concerns that corruption in the government, including in the judiciary, continues to constrain successful investment in the Dominican Republic.
The current government, led by President Luis Abinader, made a concerted effort in its first full year of government to address issues of corruption and transparency that are a core issue for social, economic, and political prosperity, including prosecutorial independence, long-awaited electricity sector reform, and the empowerment of the supreme audit institution, the Chamber of Accounts. More work has repeatedly been promised, but passage remains uncertain as each measure is still subject to administrative or legislative processes, including approval of new public procurement legislation, passage of draft civil asset forfeiture legislation, the law for reform of the management of government assets, and a modern foreign investment law.
The Dominican Republic, an upper middle-income country, has been the fastest growing economy in Latin America over the past 50 years, according to World Bank data. It grew by 12.3 percent in 2021, 4.7 percent when compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic). Tax revenues were 12.7 percent higher than what was stipulated in the Initial Budget for 2021; coupled with budgetary discipline, the government closed its deficit to 2.7 percent of GDP. However, inflation at the end of 2021 was 8.50 percent, double the target of 4.0 percent ±1.0. Despite the government efforts to reduce public spending and increase revenues, absent meaningful fiscal reform, public debt continued to grow in 2021, reaching $47.7 billion at the end of November 2021 (if debt to the Central Bank is added, the public debt reached $62.04 billion), and a total service of debt of $5.9 billion – resulting in decrease in the debt to GDP ratio, but an increase in the total value of government debt. The government continues to apply large subsidies to different sectors of the economy such as the electricity sector and hydrocarbons. In 2021, the government allocated $1.03 billion to the subsidy for Electricity Distribution Companies (EDE’s) and $266.9 million directly to fuel.
According to the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, the Dominican Republic is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, though it represents only 0.06% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a small island developing state, the Dominican Republic is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme climate events, such as storms, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels. Combined with rapid economic growth (over 5 percent until 2020) and urbanization (more than 50 percent of population in cities, 30 percent in Santo Domingo), climate change could strain key socio-economic sectors such as water, agriculture and food security, human health, biodiversity, forests, marine coastal resources, infrastructure, and energy. The National Constitution calls for the efficient and sustainable use of the nation’s natural resources in accordance with the need to adapt to climate change. The government is acting, both domestically and in coordination with the international community, to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The government of Ecuador under President Guillermo Lasso has adopted an ambitious economic reform agenda to drive investment. Private sector leaders in Ecuador emphasize the “Lasso Effect” in investment given the surge of optimism following the April 2021 election of the region’s most pro-business president in decades. “More Ecuador in the world and more of the world in Ecuador” – President Lasso’s key message for his presidency – includes the administration’s drive to attract $30 billion in investment over his four-year administration. Indeed, investment is growing – with both international and domestic companies searching for opportunities in this traditionally protectionist market that once garnered little attention compared to neighbors Colombia and Peru. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are the cornerstone of the administration’s investment drive, including the establishment of a PPP Secretariat and the consolidation of PPP-related tax rules and regulations.
The Ecuadorian government is taking positive steps to improving fiscal stability. In September 2020, the International Monetary Fund approved a $6.5 billion, 27-month Extended Fund Facility for Ecuador and has already disbursed $4.8 billion to aid in economic stabilization and reform. The IMF program is in line with the government’s efforts to correct fiscal imbalances and to improve transparency and efficiency in public finance. The Ecuadorian Central Bank reported solid GDP growth of 4.2 percent in 2021 and projects 2.8 percent GDP growth in 2022. The Ecuadorian government remains committed to the sustainability of public finances and to continue a fiscal consolidation path. The fiscal deficit narrowed to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2021 (from over 7 percent of GDP in 2020) and is expected to narrow further to a little over 2 percent of GDP in 2022 due to improved tax collection, prudent public spending, and high oil prices.
Still, the Lasso administration faces major challenges to its investment agenda given the country’s long-term reputation as a high-risk country for investment. A challenging relationship with the National Assembly complicates the passage of needed economic reform legislation. While the administration’s November 2021 tax reform passed into law, the National Assembly soundly defeated President Lasso’s proposed investment promotion bill March 24. Serious budget deficits and the COVID-induced economic recession force the government to employ cost cutting measures and limit public investment. Ecuador has traditionally struggled to structure tenders and PPPs that are bankable, transparent, and competitive. This has discouraged private investment and attracted companies that lack a commitment to quality construction, accountability and transparency, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion. Corruption remains widespread, and Ecuador is ranked in the bottom half of countries surveyed for Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Index. In addition, economic, commercial, and investment policies are subject to frequent changes and can increase the risks and costs of doing business in Ecuador.
Ecuador is a dollarized economy that has few limits on foreign investment or repatriation of profits, with the exception of a currency exit tax. It has a population that generally views the United States positively, and the Lasso Administration has expanded bilateral ties and significantly increased cooperation with the United States on a broad range of economic, security, political, and cultural issues.
Sectors of Interest to Foreign Investors
Petroleum and Gas: Per the 2008 Constitution, all subsurface resources belong to the state, and the petroleum sector is dominated by one state-owned enterprise (SOE) that cannot be privatized. Presidential Decree 95 published July 2021 opened private sector participation in oil exploration and production, with a goal to double oil production to 1 million barrels per day by 2028. The government can offer concessions of its refineries, sell off SOE gasoline stations, issue production-sharing contracts for oil exploration and exploitation, and prepare the SOE to be listed publicly on the stock market. The government maintained its consumer fuel subsidies since May 2020. The Ecuadorian government plans three oil field tenders in 2022 including concessions for Intracampos II and III and Block 60–Sacha. Given its declining and underdeveloped gas fields, the government plans to launch a tender for its Amistad offshore gas field. Additionally, the government announced potential tenders for a South-East concession, a private operator for the Esmeraldas refinery, and another to build and operate a new Euro 5 quality refinery.
Mining: The Ecuadorian government plans to accelerate mining development to increase revenues and diversify its economy. Presidential Decree 151, published August 2021, seeks to promote private sector participation in mining exploration and production. The decree allows for private sector investment, joint ventures with the state-owned mining enterprise (SOE); seeks to combat illegal mining; and establishes an Advisory Board to guide the government on best practices for responsible mining. The government announced plans to relaunch its mining cadastre in 2022, which was closed in 2018 due to irregularities in granting concessions. Ecuador has two operating mines — a gold mine operated by a Canadian company and a copper mine operated by a PRC-affiliated company. In 2021 the government issued two new mining concessions and announced plans to issue concessions for 12 additional strategic mining projects.
Electricity: Hydroelectric electricity accounts for 80 percent of Ecuador’s electricity generation. The PRC-built 1500 MW Coca Codo Sinclair (CCS) hydro power plant designed to provide 30 percent of Ecuador’s electricity has never generated its total installed power capacity and has been undergoing repairs since it began operating in 2016. CCS is also at risk from regressive erosion from the adjacent Coca River. The government contracted U.S. Army Corp of Engineers engineering services December 2021 to develop a solution to mitigate the river erosion. The government plans to develop wind, solar, hydro, biomass, biogas, geothermal, biofuel, combined cycle, and gas-fired electrical generation plants to diversify the energy matrix. It awarded a 200 MW solar tender and a 110 MW wind tender to private operators in 2020. It launched tenders for a 500 MW renewable energy block, a 400 MW combined cycle power plant, and a Northeast Interconnection transmission line in December 2021. The government imported its first LNG cargo December 2021 followed by a second shipment in February 2022.
Telecommunications: The Lasso administration is prioritizing rural connectivity as its major telecommunications policy. In mid-2021, the Ministry of Telecommunications (MINTEL) received from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the valuation report for the 2.5 GHz (gigahertz) and 700 MHz (megahertz) bands. The cost set is reserved. Likewise, MINTEL asked the ITU for the valuation of the 3.5 GHz, 850, 900 AWS and 1900 bands, which in turn will allow new players in the market and the future deployment of the fifth generation of technologies (5G). Three 5G technology connectivity tests have taken place in Ecuador, though there is no target date for the beginning of 5G commercial operations. Ecuador is due to renegotiate the concession contracts with the mobile network operators, which expire in 2023. New terms and conditions of the concession rights and use of frequencies are currently in the works including technical, legal, and regulatory requirements. The current negotiations do not include the frequency bands for the 5G network and are instead focused on the frequencies currently assigned to operators.
E–Commerce: In 2020, E-Commerce sales reached $2.3 billion record sales, an overnight digital transformation due to the pandemic. In 2021, according to Ecuador´s Electronic Commerce Chamber, E-Commerce sales grew 20 to 40 percent ($460 to $920 million, approximately). While many Ecuadorians are interested in purchasing online, they are limited in their ability to receive international shipments due to logistics and customs problems upon arrival in Ecuador. The Ministry of Production launched the National E-Commerce Strategy in 2021, establishing a framework for facilitating the digital transformation in the country. The strategy focuses on strengthening the current legal framework, capacity building for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and improving logistics and payment gateway capabilities. Since the issuance of the National E-Commerce Strategy, no new regulations have entered into force to facilitate its application and the objectives set forth therein. The government is also promoting the development of the Andean Digital Agenda together with the other Andean Community countries, whose update will be promulgated in the first half of this year.
The Egyptian government continues to make progress on economic reforms, and while many challenges remain, Egypt’s investment climate is improving. Thanks in part to the macroeconomic reforms it completed as part of a three-year, $12-billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program from 2016 to 2019, Egypt was one of the fastest-growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Egypt was also the only economy in the Middle East and North Africa to record positive economic growth in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and thanks in part to IMF assistance totaling $8 billion. Increased investor confidence and high real interest rates have attracted foreign portfolio investment and increased foreign reserves. In 2021, the Government of Egypt (GoE) announced plans to launch a second round of economic reforms aimed at increasing the role of the private sector in the economy, addressing long-standing customs and trade policy challenges, modernizing its industrial base, and increasing exports. The GoE increasingly understands that attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is key to addressing many of its economic challenges and has stated its intention to create a more conducive environment for FDI. FDI inflows grew 11 percent between 2018 and 2019, from $8.1 to $9 billion, before falling 39 percent to $5.5 billion in 2020 amid sharp global declines in FDI due to the pandemic, according to data from the Central Bank of Egypt and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD ranked Egypt as the top FDI destination in Africa between 2016 and 2020.
Egypt has passed several regulatory reform laws, including a new investment law in 2017; a “new company” law and a bankruptcy law in 2018; and a new customs law in 2020. These laws aim to improve Egypt’s investment and business climate and help the economy realize its full potential. The 2017 Investment Law is designed to attract new investment and provides a framework for the government to offer investors more incentives, consolidate investment-related rules, and streamline procedures. The 2020 Customs Law is likewise meant to streamline aspects of import and export procedures, including through a single-window system, electronic payments, and expedited clearances for authorized companies.
Egypt will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 27, in November 2022. Recognizing the immense challenges the country faces from the impacts of climate change, government officials announced that the Cabinet will appropriate 30 percent of government investments in the 2022/2023 budget to green investments, up from 15 percent in the current fiscal year 2021/2022, and that by 2030 all new public sector investment spending would be green. The GoE accelerated plans to generate 42 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by five years, from 2035 to 2030, and is prioritizing investments in solar and wind power, green hydrogen, water desalination, sustainable transportation, electric vehicles, smart cities and grids, and sustainable construction materials. The government continues to seek investment in several mega projects, including the construction of smart cities, and to promote mineral extraction opportunities. Egypt intends to capitalize on its location bridging the Middle East, Africa, and Europe to become a regional trade and investment gateway and energy hub and hopes to attract information and communications technology (ICT) sector investments for its digital transformation program.
Egypt is a party to more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, including with the United States. It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA). In many sectors, there is no legal difference between foreign and domestic investors. Special requirements exist for foreign investment in certain sectors, such as upstream oil and gas as well as real estate, where joint ventures are required.
El Salvador’s location and natural attributes make it an attractive investment destination. The macroeconomic context and declining rule of law present some challenges. El Salvador’s economy has registered the lowest levels of growth in the region for many years, with average annual GDP growth of 2.5 percent from 2016 to 2019. After a deep pandemic-related contraction (7.9 percent) in 2020, the Central Bank estimates GDP rebounded to 10.3 percent growth in 2021. The IMF expects the economy to grow 3.2 percent in 2022, with growth rates declining to 2 percent in the medium-term. Economic underperformance is mainly driven by fiscal constraints. Persistent budget deficits and increased government spending – exacerbated by the pandemic – have contributed to a heavy debt burden. With public debt at an estimated 88.5 percent of GDP in 2021, the Government of El Salvador (GOES) has limited capacity for public investment and job creation initiatives. Large financing needs are projected for 2022.
The Bukele administration continues to make efforts to attract foreign investment and has taken measures to reduce cumbersome bureaucracy and improve security conditions. However, the implementation of the reforms has been slow, and laws and regulations are occasionally passed and implemented quickly without consulting with the private sector or assessing the impact on the business climate.
After being announced in June 2021, Bitcoin became a legal tender in El Salvador on September 7, 2021, alongside the U.S. dollar. The Bitcoin Law mandates that all businesses must accept Bitcoin, with limited exceptions for those who do not have the technology to carry out transactions. Prices do not need to be expressed in Bitcoin and the U.S. dollar is the reference currency for accounting purposes. The GOES created a $150 million trust fund managed by El Salvador’s Development Bank to guarantee automatic convertibility and subsidize exchange fees. The rapid implementation caused uncertainty in the investment climate and added costs to businesses.
Government of El Salvador actions have eroded separation of powers and independence of the judiciary over the past year. In May 2021, the Legislative Assembly dismissed the Attorney General and all five justices of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber and immediately replaced them with officials loyal to President Bukele. Furthermore, in August 2021, the legislature amended the Judicial Career Organic Law to force into retirement judges ages 60 or above and those with at least 30 years of service. The move was justified by the ruling party as an effort to root out corruption in the judiciary from past administrations. A September 2021 ruling from the newly appointed Constitutional Chamber allows for immediate presidential re-election, despite the Constitution prohibiting presidential incumbents from re-election to a consecutive term. Legal analysts believe these measures were unconstitutional and have enabled the Legislative Assembly and the Bukele administration to exert control over the judiciary.
The Legislative Assembly is not required to publish draft legislation and opportunities for public engagement are limited. With the NuevasIdeasruling party holding a supermajority, legislation is often passed quickly with minimal analysis and debate in parliamentary committees and plenary sessions, contributing to an overall climate of regulatory uncertainty.
Commonly cited challenges to doing business in El Salvador include the discretionary application of laws and regulations, lengthy and unpredictable permitting procedures, as well as customs delays. El Salvador has lagged its regional peers in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The sectors with the largest investment have historically been textiles and retail establishments, though investment in energy has increased in recent years.
The Bukele administration has proposed several large infrastructure projects which could provide opportunities for U.S. investment. Project proposals include enhancing road connectivity and logistics, expanding airport capacity and improving access to water and energy, as well as sanitation. Given limited fiscal capacity for public investment, the Bukele administration has begun pursuing Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to execute infrastructure projects. In August 2021, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved the contract award of the first PPP project to expand the cargo terminal at the international airport.
As a small energy-dependent country with no Atlantic coast, El Salvador heavily relies on trade. It is a member of the Central American Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR); the United States is El Salvador’s top trading partner. Proximity to the U.S. market is a competitive advantage for El Salvador. As most Salvadoran exports travel by land to Guatemalan and Honduran ports, regional integration is crucial for competitiveness. Although El Salvador officially joined the Customs Union established by Guatemala and Honduras in 2018, implementation stalled following the Bukele administration’s decision to prioritize bilateral trade facilitation with Guatemala. In October 2021, however, the GOES announced it would proceed with Customs Union implementation. El Salvador rejoined technical level working group discussions and resumed testing of system interconnectivity.
The Bukele administration has taken initial steps to facilitate trade. In 2019, the government of El Salvador (GOES) relaunched the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC), which produced the first jointly developed private-public action plan to reduce trade barriers. The plan contained 60 strategic measures focused on simplifying procedures, reducing trade costs, and improving connectivity and border infrastructure. Measures were not fully implemented in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the NTFC revised the action plan to adjust measures under implementation and finalized drafting the national trade facilitation strategy, which will be launched in March 2022. In January 2022, the NFTC met to evaluate progress on the action plan. The NFTC released the action plan for 2022 on February 17th. The 2022 action plan has 29 measures to facilitate cross-border trade and improve road and border infrastructure.
Equatorial Guinea’s rise to become a country with one of the highest GDPs per capita in sub-Saharan Africa has been driven almost entirely by U.S. companies’ foreign direct investment (FDI) in the oil and gas sector. In the mid-2010s, the decline in both oil prices and the country’s hydrocarbon reserves caused an economic recession that has continued for six years and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it still ranks among the top five richest sub-Saharan countries, the country’s gross national income (GNI) per capita plummeted from $14,030 in 2013 to $5,810 in 2021.
Despite its economy’s dependence on FDI, the country presents a complex, challenging environment for foreign investors. Equatorial Guinea ranks near the bottom of the list for various global indices, including those for corruption, transparency, and ease of doing business, and the government suffers from a lack of technical expertise and capacity to implement many of the reforms it proposes. Freedom of the press is limited, and public information on laws and regulations is not readily accessible, creating an opaque operating environment that many outside investors have difficulty navigating. Furthermore, both senior leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and members of the president’s extended family own a significant number of businesses in diverse industries, dominating the private sector and creating major conflicts of interest in a country known for pervasive corruption.
On January 1, 2022, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), of which Equatorial Guinea is a member, began enforcing new foreign currency regulations on companies operating in extractive industries. While there continue to be negotiations on the final implementation of these regulations, they are likely to impact foreign firms’ willingness to invest in the hydrocarbon sector in Equatorial Guinea and other CEMAC countries. Finally, as a small country with an estimated population of 1.2 million residents and an underdeveloped education system, Equatorial Guinea suffers from a shortage of both skilled and unskilled labor, which affects many businesses’ abilities to operate competitively.
In the face of the country’s growing economic and fiscal challenges, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $282.8 million, three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement in December 2019, which required the government to implement reforms to improve transparency, good governance, and the business environment. Between 2019 and 2021, the government passed laws, issued decrees, and established institutions to comply with these requirements. It implemented a new anti-corruption law, created an Investment Promotion Center (IPC), passed an updated labor law, announced the privatization of its main state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and launched its Single Business Window to simplify the process of registering a business. Some of these initiatives have had modest success, while most exist on paper only.
On the surface, Equatorial Guinea appears to provide opportunities for foreign investment. In addition to its hydrocarbon reserves, the country has rich soils, abundant fishing waters, vast forests, eye-catching landscapes, relatively developed road infrastructure, and a strategic location for maritime trade. Before investing in Equatorial Guinea, however, potential investors should conduct extensive research and carefully consider both the potential benefits and pitfalls of establishing operations in the country’s opaque and challenging environment.
Except for the mining sector, Eritrea’s investment climate is not conducive to U.S. investment. Wide-ranging U.S. economic sanctions, the lack of a commercial code, disconnection from international financial systems for all but government-to-government transactions, and strict government control of all imports and exports severely limit foreign investment. Most private businesses are small, family-owned storefronts. With rare exception, businesses of size or scale are state controlled or run by the sole political party, the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). The Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) is the largest employer in the country, and most citizens are employed by country’s national service program, which often results in indefinite terms of forced labor at very low wages in a wide range of public sector positions. The national currency, the Eritrean Nakfa, is not convertible and there are restrictions on the repatriation of profits out of the country. The national budget is not public. The judiciary is not independent or transparent. There is limited freedom of the press, international journalists are often barred from entry, and the government maintains control of the media. Most profitable investments in Eritrea come about through direct negotiation with the PFDJ rather than market-based private investment.
Estonia is a safe and dynamic country for investment, with a business climate very similar to the United States. As a member of the EU, the Government of Estonia (GOE) maintains liberal policies in order to attract investments and export-oriented companies. Creating favorable conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) and openness to foreign trade has been the foundation of Estonia’s economic strategy. The overall freedom to conduct business in Estonia is well protected under a transparent regulatory environment.
Estonia is among the leading countries in Eastern and Central Europe regarding FDI per capita. By 2021, Estonia had attracted in total USD 38 billion (stock) of investment, of which 27 percent was made into the financial sector, 17 percent into real estate, 15 percent into retail and wholesale sector, and 13 percent into science and technology. United States FDI stock in Estonia is USD 451 million, and Estonian FDI stock in United States totals USD 349 million.
The Estonian economy has recovered strongly from the pandemic crisis. The country’s GDP grew 8.3 percent in 2021, one of the fastest recoveries in Europe. Although Estonia is tightly connected to international value chains, it has experienced relatively few impacts from global supply chain issues so far, but the war in Ukraine is likely to have a more significant impact on supply chains in the region than the COVID crisis.
In the area of climate and environmental policies, Estonia is working toward decarbonizing its economy including reducing its dependency on oil shale in electricity generation, increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, and introducing carbon free transport. The green transition in the business sector will require support from the government to help ensure Estonia adheres to the principles of circular economy.
Estonia’s government has not yet set limitations on foreign ownership, and foreign investors are treated on an equal footing with local investors. However, the government is currently developing a framework to screen incoming FDI for national security concerns, which could have some impact on foreign investments. There are no investment incentives available to foreign investors.
Foreign investors have not faced significant challenges with corruption, though Estonia has had some cases in local municipalities.
The Estonian income tax system, with its flat rate of 20 percent, is considered one of the simplest tax regimes in the world. Deferral of corporate taxation payment shifts the time of taxation from the moment of earning the profits to that of their distribution. Undistributed profits are not subject to income taxation, regardless of whether these are reinvested or merely retained. This may change for companies with an annual turnover of more than 750 million euros depending on the EU’s implementation of the OECD’s global minimum tax agreement.
Estonia offers opportunities for businesses in a number of economic sectors including information and communication technology (ICT), green energy, wood processing, and biotechnology. Estonia has strong trade ties with Finland, Sweden, and Germany.
Estonia suffers a shortage of labor, both skilled and unskilled.
Since the 2018 election that saw a number of ministers with private sector experience join the cabinet, foreign investments have increased. The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) advocates for foreign investors and facilitates regulatory approval. Recent positive developments include the country’s commercial operation of a 10 MW solar powered plant as well as the opening of a Kelloggs – Tolaram factory that produces noodles for export as well as the first 24-hour border operation between Eswatini and South Africa.
After Eswatini regained AGOA eligibility, the country has worked to redefine itself through the economic recovery strategy as an export-oriented, private sector led economy. The government built or is in the process building a number of factory shells that benefit manufacturing firms.
In addition to manufacturing, the Swati government is prioritizing the energy sector, particularly renewable energy, and developed a Grid Code and Renewable Energy and Independent Power Producer (RE&IPP) Policy to create a transparent regulatory regime and attract investment. Eswatini generally imports 80 percent of its power from South Africa and Mozambique. With both South Africa and Mozambique experiencing electricity shortages, Eswatini is working to increase its own energy generation using renewable sources, including hydro and solar projects.
With the emergence of Covid 19, the need for ICT business and infrastructure opportunities found their way to the top of the priority list as ICT became the core of the new normal. Eswatini is supporting ICT initiatives such as e-governance and further development of the Royal Science and Technology Park. The digital migration program of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) also presents ICT opportunities in the country.
Incentives to invest in Eswatini include repatriation of profits, fully serviced industrial sites, purpose-built factory shells at competitive rates, and duty exemptions on raw materials for manufacture of goods to be exported outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Financial incentives for all investors include tax allowances and deductions for new enterprises, including a 10-year exemption from withholding tax on dividends and a low corporate tax rate of 10 percent for approved investment projects. New investors also enjoy duty-free import of machinery and equipment. Special Economic Zone (SEZ) investors may benefit from a 20-year exemption from all corporate taxation (followed by taxation at 5 percent); full refunds of customs duties, value-added tax, and other taxes payable on goods purchased for use as raw material, equipment, machinery, and manufacturing; unrestricted repatriation of profits; and full exemption from foreign exchange controls for all operations conducted within the SEZ.
In the year 2021, six mining licenses were granted by the king for prospecting in gold, diamonds, and coal. Eswatini’s land tenure system, where the majority of rural land is “held in trust for the Swati nation,” continues to discourage long-term investment in commercial real estate and agriculture.
Eswatini has historically been a services economy with South African retail service providers being among the major employers. However, due to developments in the Africa continental free trade area, it is likely that strategic manufacturing for export will again take the lead in the near future as there is new enthusiasm towards foreign market opportunities.
Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, with a growing population of over 110 million, approximately two-thirds of whom are under age 30. A reform-minded government, low-cost labor, a national airline with over 100 passenger connections, and growing consumer markets are key elements attracting foreign investment.
Ethiopia faced several economic challenges in 2021 related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a drought in the southern and eastern lowlands, political tension and unrest in parts of the country, and an ongoing conflict in the north. Ethiopia’s macroeconomic position was characterized by over 30 percent inflation, meager foreign exchange reserves, a large budget deficit, and plummeting credit ratings. The IMF estimated GDP growth at 2.0 percent in 2021, a significant drop from 6.0 percent in 2020 and double-digit growth for much of the past decade. During 2021, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) made the first revisions in over 60 years to the commercial code, awarded a spectrum license to a private telecom operator, and took initial steps toward privatization of other state-owned sectors, including the telecom and sugar industries.
Ethiopia is a signatory of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and it has a climate resilience green economy strategy (CRGES) to build a green and resilient economy. Ethiopia has also formulated climate-resilient sectoral policies and strategies to provide specific strategic interventions in areas such as agriculture, forestry, transport, health, urban development, and housing.
In 2020-21, the GOE provided liquidity to private banks to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, to facilitate debt restructuring and to prevent bankruptcies and it also injected liquidity into the hotel and tourism sector through commercial banks. The GOE planned to allocate roughly $1 billion U.S. dollars during the same period for medical equipment purchases, healthcare worker salaries, quarantine and isolation facilities, and the procurement of disinfectants and personal protective equipment.
The challenges of doing business in Ethiopia remain daunting. Companies often face long lead-times importing goods and dispatching exports due to logistical bottlenecks, corruption, high land-transportation costs, and bureaucratic delays. An acute foreign exchange shortage (the Ethiopian birr is not a freely convertible currency) impedes companies’ ability to repatriate profits and obtain investment inputs. The lack of a capital market hinders private sector growth. Export performance remains weak, as the country struggles to develop exports beyond primary commodities (coffee, gold, and oil seeds) and the Ethiopian birr remains overvalued. Ethiopia is not a signatory of major intellectual property rights treaties such as the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks.
Insecurity and political instability associated with various ethnic conflicts – particularly the conflict in northern Ethiopia – have negatively impacted the investment climate and dissuaded foreign direct investment (FDI).
Since April 2021, Fiji experienced a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, and at one point during the crisis, suffered among the highest infection rates in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and a series of natural disasters had a devastating impact on the tourism-dependent economy. The government also lost over $1.51 billion in tax revenues. The gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions, increased remittances from overseas workers, and the distribution of government-funded unemployment benefits have slightly boosted some consumption and investment activity, with GDP growth estimated at -4.1 percent in 2021, compared to -15.2 percent in 2020.
The reopening of borders for tourism in December 2021 resulted in a 12-fold increase in visitor arrivals in the 12 months to February 2022, compared to the same period ending February 2021. The resumption of tourism and improved performance in the primary and industrial sectors, major exports, and the service-related sectors is expected to drive growth by 11.3 percent in 2022 and 8.5 percent in 2023.
Fiji has traditionally been the economic, transportation, and academic hub of the South Pacific islands. The government welcomes foreign investment and parliament passed the Investment Act 2021 to improve the ease of doing business in Fiji. The government’s investment and trade promotion agency, Investment Fiji, registered 12 investment projects valued at $7.64 million (FJD $16.2 million) from American investors in 2021. Exports to Fiji totaled over $180 million in 2021. The United States is Fiji’s top export market. In 2021, U.S. consumers bought over $230 million in Fijian goods and services last year.
Fiji has trade and investment potential, and offers incentives to encourage investments in agriculture, residential housing development, energy, audio & visual, retirement village/aged care facilities, health sector, tourism, manufacturing, and the information communication technology (ICT)/business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.
Finland is a Nordic country situated north of the Baltic States bordering Russia, Sweden, and Norway, possessing a stable and modern economy, including a world-class investment climate. It is a member of the European Union and part of the euro area. The country has a highly skilled, educated, and multilingual labor force, with strong expertise in Information Communications Technology (ICT), emerging technologies, shipbuilding, forestry, and renewable energy. Finland offers stability, functionality, high standard of living, and a well-developed digital infrastructure.
Key challenges for foreign investors include high tax rates, a rigid labor market, cumbersome bureaucracy, and lengthy and unwieldly process in opening bank accounts. An aging population and the shrinking work force are the most pressing demographic concerns for economic growth.
Finland is top-ranked in COVID Recovery Index Table (CERI), reflecting its good governance and resilient health care sector. Finland’s vulnerabilities are its dependence on exports and an aging population.
Finland is committed to the EU’s greenhouse emissions reduction target under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement and is aiming to become the world’s first carbon-neutral society by 2035.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Finland by country is as follows: Sweden, 27 percent; the Netherlands 17 percent; Luxembourg 15 percent; Norway 7 percent; and China 5 percent.
Despite its openness to trade and investment, Finland lags behind the other Nordic and Baltic countries as a destination for foreign investment. In 2019, FDI accounted for 31 percent of Finland’s GDP – less than in 2010 and well below the 49 percent regional average.
To attract investment, the Government of Finland (GOF) cut the corporate tax rate in 2014 from 24.5 percent to 20 percent (the lowest rate in the Nordics), simplified its residency permit procedures, and established Business Finland as a one-stop-shop for foreign investors.
The Foreign Commercial Service and Political/Economic Section at U.S. Embassy in Finland are a valuable resource for American businesses wishing to engage the Finnish market. Finland has vibrant telecommunication, energy, emerging markets, and biotech sectors, as well as Arctic expertise. With excellent transportation links to the Nordic-Baltic region, Finland is emerging as a regional transportation hub.
On January 1, 2018, Finpro, the Finnish trade promotion organization, and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, merged to become Business Finland, which facilitates foreign direct investment in Finland and trade promotion. Business Finland employs 600 experts in 40 offices abroad and 16 offices in Finland.
France welcomes foreign investment and has a stable business climate that attracts investors from around the world. The French government devotes significant resources to attracting foreign investment through policy incentives, marketing, overseas trade promotion offices, and investor support mechanisms. France has an educated population, first-rate universities, and a talented workforce. It has a modern business culture, sophisticated financial markets, a strong intellectual property rights regime, and innovative business leaders. The country is known for its world-class infrastructure, including high-speed passenger rail, maritime ports, extensive roadway networks, a dense network of public transportation, and efficient intermodal connections. High-speed (3G/4G) telephony is nearly ubiquitous, and France has begun its 5G roll-out in key metropolitan cities.
In 2021, the United States was the leading foreign investor in France in terms of new jobs created (10,118) and second in terms of new projects invested (247). The total stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in France reached $91 billion. More than 4,500 U.S. firms operate in France, supporting over 500,000 jobs, making the United States the top foreign investor overall in terms of job creation.
Following the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, the French government implemented significant labor market and tax reforms. By relaxing the rules on companies to hire and fire employees, the government cut production taxes by 15 percent in 2021, and corporate tax will fall to 25 percent in 2022. Surveys of U.S. investors in 2021 showed the greatest optimism about the business operating environment in France since 2008. Macron’s reform agenda for pensions was derailed in 2018, however, when France’s Yellow Vest protests—a populist, grassroots movement for economic justice—rekindled class warfare and highlighted wealth and, to a lesser extent, income inequality.
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 shifted Macron’s focus to mitigating France’s most severe economic crisis in the post-war era. The economy shrank 8.3 percent in 2020 compared to the year prior, but with the help of unprecedented government support for businesses and households, economic growth reached seven percent in 2021. The government’s centerpiece fiscal package was the €100 billion ($110 billion) France Relance plan, of which over half was dedicated to supporting businesses. Most of the support was accessible to U.S. firms operating in France as well. The government launched a follow-on investment package in late 2021 called “France 2030” to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity, and accelerate the ecological transition.
Also in 2020, France increased its protection against foreign direct investment that poses a threat to national security. In the wake of the health crisis, France’s investment screening body expanded the scope of sensitive sectors to include biotechnology companies and lowered the threshold to review an acquisition from a 25 percent ownership stake by the acquiring firm to 10 percent, a temporary provision set to expire at the end of 2022. In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction, which included the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector. In early 2021, the French government threated to block the acquisition of French supermarket chain Carrefour by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard, which eventually scuttled the deal.
Key issues to watch in 2022 are: 1) the impact of the war in Ukraine and measures by the EU and French government to mitigate the fallout; 2) the degree to which COVID-19 and resulting supply chain disruptions continue to agitate the macroeconomic environment in France and across Europe, and the extent of the government’s continued support for the economic recovery; and 3) the creation of winners and losers resulting from the green transition, the degree to which will be largely determined by firms’ operating models and exposure to fossil fuels.
Gabon is a historically stable country in a volatile region and has significant economic advantages: a small population (roughly 2 million), an abundance of natural resources, and a strategic location in the Gulf of Guinea. After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and traditional investment partners, and to position Gabon as an emerging economy. Gabon promotes foreign investment across a range of sectors, particularly in oil and gas, infrastructure, timber, ecotourism, and mining. Gabon’s government depends on revenues from hydrocarbons.
The Gabonese investment climate is marked by impediments related to establishing a new business, connecting to utilities, such as electricity and water, and transferring company ownership. Many companies also report difficulties in obtaining loans. Banks and other financiers struggle to release funds, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), due to a lack of guarantees and missing documentation. However, several business incubators active in the country are attempting to facilitate business activities. Gabon ranks 38th in Africa for the protection of minority investors and 43rd for the payment of taxes.
Gabon adopted a new hydrocarbon code and a new mining code in July 2019, to provide a modernized basis for the legal, institutional, technical, economic, customs, and tax regimes governing these sectors and to spur investment through a more stable business climate.
Economic conditions in Gabon continued to weaken throughout 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic caused two shocks to the Gabonese economy, prompting it to enter into a recession. First, the decline in global demand and the corresponding collapse in oil prices hit government revenues and the economy hard. Second, domestic demand plummeted as a result of the government’s actions taken to halt the pandemic, such as through border closures and a national curfew.
A renewed wave of illnesses that began in January 2021 compounded this situation. Gabon officially launched its national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in March 2022; a total of 499,247 doses of COVID vaccines have been administered. Assuming every person requires two doses, the number of doses is seen as enough to have vaccinated about 11.5% of the country’s population (World-coronavirus-tracker)
On July 2021, the IMF Executive Board approved a USD $553.2 million, 36-month arrangement under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Gabon. The Board’s approval allowed for an immediate disbursement of US$115.25 million for budget support. The program aims to support the short-term response to the COVID-19 crisis and lay the foundations for green and inclusive private sector-led growth and a strong and sustainable recovery to benefit all Gabonese. A combined first and second review of the EFF was undertaken in May 2022.
Historically, the mining, oil and petroleum, and wood sectors have attracted the most investment in Gabon. To attract more investors in those key sectors Gabon created a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Nkok near Libreville in 2010. This 1,350-hectare project targets local and foreign investors, provides priority access to electricity and water and on-site legal and financial services, and is near the deep-sea port of Owendo. Originally set up through a partnership between Olam International Ltd, the Gabonese government, and the Africa Finance Corporation, it operates with a mandate to develop infrastructure, enhance industrial competitiveness, and build a business-friendly ecosystem. However, corruption, bureaucratic red tape, and the lack of transparency, including through the inconsistent application of customs regulations, remain impediments to investment. Many international companies, including U.S. firms, continued to report difficulties in receiving timely payments from the government, and some oil companies have closed down operations altogether.
Georgia, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, is a small but open market that derives benefits from international trade, tourism, and transportation. While it is susceptible to global and regional shocks, the country has made sweeping economic reforms since 1991 that have produced a relatively well-functioning and stable market economy. Average growth rate was over five percent from 2005 through 2019, and its rankings improved impressively in global business, governance, corruption, and other indexes. Georgia ranked twenty sixth in the Heritage Foundations’ 2022 Economic Freedom Index, and 45th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Fiscal and monetary policy are focused on low deficits, low inflation, and a floating real exchange rate, although the latter was affected by regional developments, including sanctions on Russia and other external factors, such as a stronger U.S. Dollar. The COVID-19 pandemic reversed some of the past gains and placed significant pressure on the domestic currency and local economy. Georgia’s economy contracted six percent in 2020 with particularly steep losses in the tourism sector. Although Georgia successfully managed the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the infection rate surged in the second part of 2021, compelling the government to adopt a series of restrictions and shut-downs that negatively impacted economic activity. Despite this, Georgia’ economy picked up in 2021, demonstrating strong growth, 10.4 percent higher than 2020. While government and international financial partners forecasted an optimistic outlook for 2022, the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war and sanctions on Russia have damaged growth prospects and led to lower growth expectations.
Overall, business and investment conditions are sound, and Georgia favorably compares to the regional peers. However, there is an increasing lack of confidence in the judicial sector’s ability to adjudicate commercial cases independently or in a timely, competent manner, with some business dispute cases languishing in the court system for years. Other companies complain of inefficient decision-making processes at the municipal level, shortcomings in the enforcement of intellectual property rights, lack of effective anti-trust policies, accusations of political meddling, selective enforcement of laws and regulations, including commercial laws, and difficulties resolving disputes over property rights. The Georgian government continues to work to address these issues, and despite these remaining challenges, Georgia ranks high in the region as a good place to do business.
The United States and Georgia work to increase bilateral trade and investment through a High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment and through the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Economic, Energy, and Trade Working Group. Both countries signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994, and Georgia is eligible to export many products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences program.
Georgia suffered considerable instability in the immediate post-Soviet period. After regaining independence in 1991, civil war and separatist conflicts flared up along the Russian border in the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In August 2008, tensions in the region of South Ossetia culminated in a brief war between Russia and Georgia. Russia invaded and occupied the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia continues to occupy these Georgian regions, and the central government in Tbilisi does not have effective control over these areas. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent. Tensions still exist both inside the occupied territories and near the administrative boundary lines, but other parts of Georgia, including Tbilisi, are not directly affected.
Transit and logistics are priority sectors as Georgia seeks to benefit from increased East/West trade through the country. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad has boosted Georgia’s transit prospects and the government has looked for ways to enhance trade. In 2016, the government awarded the contract to build a new port in Anaklia to a group of international investors, including a U.S. company. However, in 2020 the government terminated its contract with the group, resulting in a legal dispute with the investor. While the government has stated its commitment to the construction of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port Project, a tender has not yet been announced.
Separately, logistics and port management companies in Poti and Batumi have started to develop and expand the Batumi and Poti Ports. In 2020, the owner of Georgia’s largest port, Poti Port on the Black Sea, announced its plans to create a deep-water port. In 2021, logistics companies completed two new terminal projects in Batumi and Poti ports.
As Europe’s largest economy, Germany is a major destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and has accumulated a vast stock of FDI over time. Germany is consistently ranked as one of the most attractive investment destinations based on its stable legal environment, reliable infrastructure, highly skilled workforce, and world-class research and development.
An EU member state with a well-developed financial sector, Germany welcomes foreign portfolio investment and has an effective regulatory system. Capital markets and portfolio investments operate freely with no discrimination between German and foreign firms. Germany has a very open economy, routinely ranking among the top countries in the world for exports and inward and outward foreign direct investment.
Foreign investment in Germany mainly originates from other European countries, the United States, and Japan, although FDI from emerging economies (and China) has grown in recent years. The United States is the leading source of non-European FDI in Germany. In 2020, total U.S. FDI in Germany was $162 billion. The key U.S. FDI sectors include chemicals ($8.7 billion), machinery ($6.5 billion), finance ($13.2 billion), and professional, scientific, and technical services ($10.1 billion). From 2019 to 2020, the industry sector “chemicals” grew significantly from $4.8 billion to $8.7 billion. Historically, machinery, information technology, finance, holding companies (nonbank), and professional, scientific, and technical services have dominated U.S. FDI in Germany.
German legal, regulatory, and accounting systems can be complex but are generally transparent and consistent with developed-market norms. Businesses operate within a well-regulated, albeit relatively high-cost, environment. Foreign and domestic investors are treated equally when it comes to investment incentives or the establishment and protection of real and intellectual property. Germany’s well-established enforcement laws and official enforcement services ensure investors can assert their rights. German courts are fully available to foreign investors in an investment dispute. New investors should ensure they have the necessary legal expertise, either in-house or outside counsel, to meet all national and EU regulations.
The German government continues to strengthen provisions for national security screening of inward investment in reaction to an increasing number of high-risk acquisitions of German companies by foreign investors, particularly from China, in recent years. German authorities screen acquisitions by foreign entities acquiring more than 10 percent of voting rights of German companies in critical sectors, including health care, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, specialized robots, semiconductors, additive manufacturing, and quantum technology, among others. Foreign investors who seek to acquire at least 10 percent of voting rights of a German company in one of those fields are required to notify the government and potentially become subject to an investment review. Furthermore, acquisitions by foreign government-owned or -funded entities will now trigger a review.
German authorities are committed to fighting money laundering and corruption. The government promotes responsible business conduct and German SMEs are aware of the need for due diligence.
Ghana’s economy had expanded at an average of seven percent per year since 2017 until the coronavirus pandemic reduced growth to 0.4 percent in 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance. Between 2017 and 2019, the fiscal deficit narrowed, inflation decreased, and GDP growth rebounded, driven primarily by increases in oil production. Ghana saw a 9 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2019 and closed that year with a 6.5 percent GDP growth rate. Indicating a recovery from the pandemic, the Ghana Statistical Service reported a 6.6 percent growth rate in the third quarter of 2021, marking the fastest growth in GDP since the pandemic began. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expected growth to rebound to 4.7 percent in 2021 from the shock of COVID-19 and by 6.2 percent in 2022. The economy remains highly dependent on the export of primary commodities such as gold, cocoa, and oil, and consequently is vulnerable to slowdowns in the global economy and commodity price shocks. In November 2020, Ghana launched the 100 billion cedi (about $13 billion) Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprises Support (Ghana CARES) Program to address the effects of the virus on the economy. In 2020, the government also launched Ghana’s National Adaptation Plan Process by which it expects to develop strategies to build resilience against the impacts of both climate change and crises such as COVID-19. In general, Ghana’s investment prospects remain favorable, as the Government of Ghana seeks to diversify and industrialize through agro-processing, mining, and manufacturing. It has made attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) a priority to support its industrialization plans and to overcome an annual infrastructure funding gap.
Challenges to Ghana’s economy include high government debt, particularly energy sector debt, low internally generated revenue, and inefficient state-owned enterprises. Ghana has a population of 31 million, with over 14 million potential taxpayers, but only six million of whom filed their annual tax returns. As Ghana seeks to move beyond dependence on foreign aid, it must develop a solid domestic revenue base. On the energy front, Ghana has enough installed power capacity to meet current demand, but it needs to reduce the cost of electricity by improving the management of its state-owned power distribution system.
Among the challenges hindering foreign direct investment are: costly and difficult financial services, lack of government transparency, corruption, under-developed infrastructure, a complex property market, costly and intermittent power and water supply, the high costs of cross-border trade, a burdensome bureaucracy, and an unskilled labor force. Enforcement of laws and policies is weak, even where good laws exist on the books. Public procurements are sometimes opaque, and there are often issues with delayed payments. In addition, there have been troubling trends in investment policy over the last six years, with the passage of local content regulations in the petroleum, power, and mining sectors that may discourage needed future investments.
Despite these challenges, Ghana’s abundant raw materials (gold, cocoa, and oil/gas), relative security, and political stability, as well as its hosting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat make it stand out as one of the better locations for investment in sub-Saharan Africa. There is no discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Investment laws protect investors against expropriation and nationalization and guarantee that investors can transfer profits out of the country, although international companies have reported high levels of corruption in dealing with Ghanaian government institutions. Among the most promising sectors are agribusiness and food processing; textiles and apparel; downstream oil, gas, and minerals processing; construction; and mining-related services subsectors.
The government has acknowledged the need to strengthen its enabling environment to attract FDI, and is taking steps to overhaul the regulatory system, improve the ease of doing business, and restore fiscal discipline.
The Greek economy has proven resilient in recent years as it continues to rebound from the 2007 economic crisis – including the rigid fiscal constraints demanded by creditors — and the global COVID-19 pandemic. In early 2020, COVID-19 held the potential to permanently scar an economy that still suffered from legacy issues, including high debt and non-performing loans, limited credit growth, near zero capacity for fiscal expansion, and a hollowed-out healthcare system. While continuing its aggressive reform agenda, the Mitsotakis government rose to meet the pandemic challenge, as European institutions effectively welcomed Greek debt back into the eurosystem, the IMF and EU evaluated the country’s public debt as sustainable, Moody’s upgraded Greek sovereign debt, the country began borrowing at historically low cost, and strategic investors returned, favorably considering Greece’s current and long-term value proposition. Meanwhile, over the past several years, our bilateral relationship has deepened significantly via our defense and strategic partnerships, and Greece ambitiously seeks now to bring our economic ties to similar, historic heights. Far from being the problem child of Europe or the international financial system, Greece is increasingly a source of solutions – not just in the fields of energy diplomacy and defense, but in high-tech innovation, healthcare, and green energy, improving prospects for solid economic growth and stability here and in the wider region.
The Mitsotakis government was elected in July 2019 on an aggressive investment and economic reform agenda which has plowed forward despite the pandemic. During its first nine months in power, Mitostakis’s team pushed market-friendly reforms and Parliament voted through dozens of economic-related bills, including a key investment law in October 2019, designed to cut red tape, help achieve full employment, and adopt best international practices – including by digitizing government services. GDP growth reached 8.3 percent in 2021, a major leap forward following the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greece maintains a liquidity buffer, estimated at €30 billion, but is intent on boosting its coffers as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is larger than expected. So far untouched, the buffer should be sufficient to cover the country’s financing needs until at least the end of 2022, and the country’s leadership maintains its intention to reserve the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) tranche solely for sovereign debt interest payments. While capital controls were completely lifted in September 2019, Greece remains subject to enhanced supervision by Eurozone creditors. However, the European Commission’s (EC) latest positive assessment on the Greek economy, will – most likely – pave the way for the end of the country’s enhanced surveillance status in Q3 2022.
Greece’s banking system, despite three recapitalizations as part of the August 2015 European Stability Mechanism (ESM) agreement, remains saddled with the largest ratio of non-performing loans in the EU, which constrains the domestic financial sector’s ability to finance the national economy. As a result, businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, still struggle to obtain domestic financing to support operations due to inflated risk premiums in the sector. To tackle the issue, and as a requirement of the agreement with the ESM, Greece has established a secondary market for its non-performing loans (NPLs). According to the Bank of Greece, non-performing loans (NPLs) came, on a solo basis, to €58.7 billion at end-September 2020, down by €9.8 billion from December 2019 and by €48.5 billion from their March 2016 peak. The NPL-to-total loan ratio remained high in September 2020 at 35.8 percent. The high percentage of performing loans benefited from moratoria until December 31, 2020, and contained the inflow of new NPLs. Non-performing private debt remains high, irrespective of the reduction in NPLs on bank balance sheets via transfer to non-bank entities. 2020 saw substantial reforms aimed at resolving the issue of NPLs. These involved the securitization of NPLs through the activation of the “Hercules” scheme and the enactment of Law No. 4738/2020 which improves several aspects of insolvency law. Nevertheless, NPLs will remain high, and considering that there will be a new inflow of NPLs due to the pandemic, other solutions complementary to the “Hercules” scheme should be implemented. In addition to sales of securitized loan packages, banks have exploited other ways to manage bad loans. For example, nearly all of Greece’s systemic banks employ loan servicing firms to manage non-performing exposure. Greece’s secondary market for NPL servicers now includes 24 companies including: Sepal (an Alpha Bank-Aktua joint venture), FPS (a Eurobank subsidiary), Pillarstone, Independent Portfolio Management, B2Kapital, UCI Hellas, Resolute Asset Management, Thea Artemis, PQH, Qquant Master Servicer, and DV01 Asset Management.
Greece’s return to economic growth has generated new investor interest in the country. Pfizer, Cisco, Deloitte, and Microsoft, to name a few, have all announced major investments in the past few years, due in part to improved protection of intellectual property rights and Greece’s delisting from the U.S. Trade Representatives Special 301 Watch List in 2020. In March 2021, Greece successfully raised €2.5 billion from its first 30-year bond sale in more than a decade, with the issue more than 10 times oversubscribed. The bond, which has so far received investor demand of more than €26.1 billion, will price at 150 basis points over the mid-swap level, resulting in a yield of 1.93 percent.
In January 2022, Fitch Ratings Agency maintained Greece’s credit rating at BB and noted the country’s outlook as ‘stable’ due to the financial impact of COVID-19. On April 1, 2021, Moody’s improved its outlook of the Greek banking system from “stable” to “positive.”Standard & Poor’s affirmed its credit rating for Greece at BB-in October 2020 and also kept its outlook to “stable.” The European Central Bank (ECB) included Greek government bonds in its quantitative easing program, with €12 billion worth of Greek government debt earmarked for purchase under the ECB’s €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program in 2020. In February 2022, Greece has received the Eurogroup’s approval to repay the final tranches of bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) early, along with a small part of bilateral loans from its eurozone partners. Greece plans to repay loans worth €1.9 billion to the IMF by March, two years ahead of schedule.
The Greek government was given strong marks for its initial response in limiting the spread of the pandemic and has implemented several innovative digital reforms to its economy during COVID-19. The Greek economy contracted by 10 percent in 2020 with a gross domestic product (GDP) of €189 billion but its GDP rose to €211 billion in 2021. This was largely attributed to the successful 2021tourism season, which brought in €10 billion to the Greek economy. The unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in 2021, a slight increase from 15.5 percent in 2020.
In response to the pandemic, Greece’s recovery and resilience plan was among the first plans that were formally approved by the European Council, in July 2021. Greece received €4 billion of the disbursement in August. The plan will disburse €17.8 billion in grants and €12.7 billion in loans over the course of five years. Greece has earmarked funding for many climate-relevant investments and digitalization efforts. Greece was also the first Member State to finalize its Partnership Agreement for the 2021-2027 programming period. The Partnership Agreement outlines the plan for deploying of more than €21 billion worth of investments to support Greece’s economic, social and territorial cohesion.
The Greek government also took measures to support businesses throughout the pandemic in 2021. In February 2021, the government approved a €500 million scheme to support small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic. The state aid Temporary Framework was open to small and medium-sized enterprises active in all sectors except financial, primary agriculture, tobacco, and fisheries sectors. This public support, in the form of direct grants, sought to provide sufficient working capital for businesses affected by the pandemic. In May 2021, the European Commission approved a €793 million support measure for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak in the form of direct grants, which is open to companies active in all sectors except the financial one. The aid aims to provide liquidity support to qualifying beneficiaries, to safeguard businesses against the risk of default, allowing them to preserve their economic activity and helping them recover after the pandemic.
Rounding out 2021, the Greek government enacted a €665 million scheme in November 2021 to support households affected by the pandemic. The scheme was adopted to assist households at risk of losing their primary residence by defaulting on their mortgage loans. On 3 November 2021, the European Commission approved modifications to ensure the extension of the loan period and a reduction of the maximum aid amount per beneficiary.
Grenada’s legal framework for business is strong. The country is a parliamentary democracy, has a functioning court system, relatively low crime rates, and no political violence. The presence of a comprehensive investment incentive regime, stable economy, existing trade agreements, responsive investment promotion experts, and a robust citizenship by investment program contributes to a healthy and attractive investment climate. However, Grenada’s tourism-driven economy was severely impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed unparalleled challenges for Grenada by creating macroeconomic instability that threatened to undermine years of consecutive socio-economic progress since 2013. The government’s main revenue earners – tourism and international education — were severely impacted and continue to struggle amidst efforts to revive the economy. Growth in construction, private sector projects, and the country’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program is fueling economic activity and forecasted to drive recovery in 2022. Following a 13.8 percent decline in growth during 2020, Grenada experienced a slower-than-expected real GDP growth of 4.8 percent compared to an initial projection of 6 percent. Grenada’s recovery is driven by growth in several sectors including construction (22.8 percent), agriculture (12.5 percent), wholesale and retail (4.4 percent), and financial intermediation (3.5 percent). Tourism and private tertiary education, which once accounted for more than 60 percent of GDP, continues to lag, but the government hopes for an uptick as students return to classes and tourists resume travel.
Government finances remain significantly lower than the 2019 pre-pandemic era, but 2021 saw some positive developments compared to 2020. Revenue collection in 2021 surpassed that of 2020 but remained below 2019 performance. Grenada continues to depend on the country’s citizenship by investment program as a significant source of revenue generation. At the end of October 2020, the program received 437 applications compared to 303 the previous year. By the end of 2021 the CBI program earned more than $55.4 million in revenue – a 40 percent increase compared to the previous year. The debt-to-GDP ratio fell from 108 percent in 2013 to just under 60 percent by the end of 2020. Due to an increase in borrowing and long-term concessionary loans to finance the country’s COVID response, the debt to GDP ratio currently stands at 69 percent.
The government of Grenada has a strong interest in climate resilient initiatives, renewable energy, and developing the blue economy (broadly defined as the sustainable, environmentally sensitive use of ocean resources for economic growth and job creation). Other international investments include projects in construction, manufacturing, retail, duty free outlets, and agriculture. Parliament continues to review legislature governing value added tax, property transfer tax, investment, excise tax, customs (service charge), and bankruptcy and insolvency. The government has an innovative investment incentives regime which assists with streamlining bureaucratic and legal processes to increase the attractiveness of FDI and improve the ease of doing business in Grenada. This regime ensures transparency, equitable treatment of investors, and adherence to the rule of law, thus bolstering Grenada’s marketability as an investor-friendly climate.
Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America, with a $ 85.9 billion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. The economy grew by an estimated 7.5 percent in 2021 following a 1.5 percent retraction in 2020. Remittances, mostly from the United States, increased by 34.9 percent in 2021 and were equivalent to 17.8 percent of GDP. The United States is Guatemala’s most important economic partner. The Guatemalan government continues to make efforts to enhance competitiveness, promote investment opportunities, and work on legislative reforms aimed at supporting economic growth. More than 200 U.S. and other foreign firms have active investments in Guatemala, benefitting from the U.S. Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). Foreign direct investment (FDI) stock was $21.4 billion in 2021, a 21.9 percent increase over 2020. FDI flows increased by 272.6 percent in 2021 mostly due to the purchase of outstanding shares of a local company by a foreign telecommunications company. Some of the activities that attracted most of the FDI flows in the last three years were information and communications, financial and insurance activities, manufacturing, commerce and vehicle repair, water, electricity, and sanitation services.
Despite steps to improve Guatemala’s investment climate, international companies choosing to invest in Guatemala face significant challenges. Complex laws and regulations, inconsistent judicial decisions, bureaucratic impediments, and corruption continue to impede investment.
Citing Guatemala’s CAFTA-DR obligations, the United States has raised concerns with the Guatemalan government regarding its enforcement of both its labor and environmental laws.
Guatemala’s Climate Change Framework Law established the groundwork for Guatemala’s Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) and is designed to align Guatemala’s emissions and development targets with national planning documents in six sectors: energy, transportation, industry, land use, agriculture, and waste management. In November 2020, the Guatemala government endorsed the LEDS as the country’s official strategy for climate change mitigation.
As part of the government’s efforts to promote economic recovery during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Economy (MINECO) began implementing an economic recovery plan in September 2020, which focuses on recovering lost jobs and generating new jobs, attracting new strategic investment, and promoting consumption of Guatemalan goods and services locally and globally.
On September 5, 2021 Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya and Guinean military special forces seized power and detained former President Alpha Conde through a coup d’état. COL Doumbouya declared himself Guinea’s head of state, dissolved the government and National Assembly and suspended the constitution. Guinea is currently governed by the National Committee for Reunification and Development (CNRD), which is led by COL Doumbouya and comprised primarily of military officials. On September 27, 2021 COL Doumbouya released the Transitional Charter which supersedes the constitution until a new Constitution is promulgated; Guinea’s penal and civil codes remains in force. On October 1, 2021 the Supreme Court Justice installed COL Doumbouya as Head of State, Transition President, CNRD President, and Commander-in-Chief of Security Forces. On January 22, 2022 the National Transition Council, the transition government’s legislative body, was installed but no timeline for future elections or return to civilian rule was provided as of April 2022.
Guinea enjoys sizeable endowments of natural resources, energy opportunities, and arable land.
These seeming advantages have not yet resulted in economic development, and may in fact hinder it, in an example of the famous “resource curse.” Guinea’s economy has been based on extraction of primary resources, from at least the French colonial era and the slave trade before it. This extractive paradigm and legacy of underdevelopment, combined with low levels of education, and longstanding patterns of nondemocratic governance dating back to the colonial era, limit the potential for broad-based economic growth based on value addition, innovation, and productive as opposed to extractive or rent-seeking investment. At the same time, a sense of national identity and unity, and both formal and informal practices of solidarity that tend towards wealth redistribution may prove to be assets for the country’s development, if the government and the private sector can harness them productively.
The 2021 coup d’etat, persistent corruption, and fiscal mismanagement make the near-term economic prognosis for Guinea mixed. In this context, Guinea has looked to foreign investment to bolster tax and export revenues and to support infrastructure projects and overall economic growth. China, Guinea’s largest trading partner, dramatically increased its role in years leading up to the coup with a variety of infrastructure investments. Investors should proceed with caution, understanding that the potential for profits comes with significant political risk. Weak institutions mean that investors may secure lucrative concessions from the government in the short term, but these could be open to renegotiation or rescission in the long term. Prior to the coup, former President Conde’s government implemented reforms to improve various aspects of the investment climate. For example, the former government reduced property transfers fees from 2 to 1.2 percent of property value. The time required to obtain a construction permit was reduced and import procedures were improved. Since 2019, Guinea has implemented a permanent taxpayer identification number system that requires all payments to be made by “Real Time Gross System” (RTGS) immediate transfers.
Since the coup d’etat, the transition government has spoken extensively about fighting corruption and increasing transparency. Transition President COL Doumbouya created the Court to Repress Economic and Financial Crimes (CRIEF) to handle cases involving embezzlement, corruption, and misuse of public funds over one billion GNF (approximately $110,000) in December 2021. As of April 2022, the court has focused on collecting evidence for corruption cases against businesses tied to and officials that served in former President Conde’s government.
Endowed with abundant mineral resources, Guinea has the raw materials to be an economic leader in the extractives industry. Guinea is home to a third of the world’s reserves of bauxite (aluminum ore), and bauxite accounts for over half of Guinea’s present exports. Historically, most of the country’s bauxite was exported by Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG) (Bauxite Company of Guinea) [a joint venture between the Government of Guinea, U.S.-based Alcoa, the Anglo-Australian firm Rio Tinto, and Dadco Investments of the Channel Islands], via a designated port in Kamsar. While CBG still retains the largest reserves, the Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB) (Mineral Company of Boke), a Sino-Singaporean conglomerate, recently surpassed CBG as the largest single producer of bauxite. New investment by SMB and CBG, in addition to new market entrants, are expected to significantly increase Guinea’s bauxite output over the next five to ten years. Guinea also possesses over four billion tons of untapped high-grade iron ore, significant gold and diamond reserves, undetermined amounts of uranium, as well as prospective offshore oil reserves. Artisanal and medium-sized industrial gold mining in the Siguiri region is a significant contributor to the Guinean economy, but some suspect much of the gold leaves the country clandestinely, without generating any government revenue. In the long term, both former President Conde’s government and the transition government project that Guinea’s greatest potential economic driver will be the Simandou iron ore project, which is slated to be the largest greenfield project ever developed in Africa. The transition government reached an ambitious agreement with Rio Tinto and the SMB-Winning Consortium (WCS) in March 2022 to develop the rail and port infrastructure to bring ore from Simandou to market by early 2025. In 2017, the governments of Guinea and China signed a USD 20 billion framework agreement giving Guinea potentially USD 1 billion per year in infrastructure projects in exchange for increased access to mineral wealth. In 2018, the Chinese Group TBEA invested USD 2.89 billion in the bauxite and alumina sector. The project includes development of a bauxite mine, the construction of a port, railroad, and power plant to facilitate the supply chain. The project is estimated to generate USD 406 million in annual revenue for Guinea.
The amended 2013 Mining Code stipulates that raw ore producers in Guinea begin processing raw ore into refined or processed products within a few years of development, depending on the terms of the individual investment and the mandate with the Ministry of Mines and Geology. In April 2022, the transition government called upon bauxite concessionaires to solidify refining plans by May 2022. U.S.-based companies are in varying stages of proposing LNG projects to furnish this upcoming tremendous energy need. China is reportedly offering coal-based solutions to meet the potential demand.
Guinea’s abundant rainfall and natural geography bode well for hydroelectric and renewable energy production. The largest energy sector investment in Guinea is the 450MW Souapiti dam project (valued at USD 2.1 billion), begun in late 2015 with Chinese investment, which likewise completed the 240MW Kaleta Dam (valued at USD 526 million) in May 2015. Kaleta more than doubled Guinea’s electricity supply, and for the first-time furnished Conakry with more reliable, albeit seasonal, electricity (May-November). Souapiti began producing electricity in 2021. A third hydroelectric dam on the same river, dubbed Amaria, began construction in January 2019 and is expected to be operational in 2024. The Chinese mining firm TBEA is providing financing for the Amaria power plant (300 MW, USD 1.2 billion investment). If corresponding distribution infrastructure is built, and pricing enables it, these projects could make Guinea an energy exporter in West Africa. In addition, U.S.-based Endeavor began operating Project Te in November 2020, a 50MW thermal plant on the outskirts of the capital. Former President Conde’s government also signed an emergency agreement in December 2019 to buy power from the 105 MW Turkish Karpowership barge anchored off Conakry’s coast. Former President Conde’s government emphasized investment in solar and other energy sources to compensate for hydroelectric deficits during Guinea’s dry season. Toward that end, former President Conde’s government entered into several Memoranda of Understanding with the private sector to develop solar projects.
Agriculture and fisheries hold other areas of opportunity and growth in Guinea. Already an exporter of fruits, vegetables, and palm oil to its immediate neighbors, Guinea is climatically well suited for large-scale agricultural production and export. However, the sector has suffered from decades of neglect and mismanagement, lack of transportation infrastructure, and lack of electricity and a reliable cold chain. Guinea is an importer of rice, its primary staple crop.
Guinea’s macroeconomic and financial situation is weak. The aftermath of the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis left former President Conde’s government with few financial resources to invest in social services and infrastructure. Lower natural resource revenues stemming from a drop in world commodities prices and ill-advised government loans strained an already tight budget. In 2018 the government borrowed excessively from the Central Bank (BCRG), which threatened the first review of Guinea’s current International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. Lower than forecast natural resource revenues in 2019 due to heavy rains and political violence threatened the fourth review, which Guinea passed in April 2020. In December 2020, the Executive Board of the IMF completed its fifth and sixth reviews of Guinea’s economic performance. The completion of these reviews enabled the immediate disbursement of USD 49.47 million – bringing total disbursements under Guinea’s third extended credit facility to USD 66.60 million before the program’s end.
A shortage of credit persists, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the government is increasingly looking to international investment to increase growth, provide jobs, and kick-start the economy. On March 13, 2020, Guinea confirmed its first Covid-19 case. The pandemic negatively impacted the well-being of households, particularly those working in the informal sector, who have limited access to savings and financial services. Guinea experienced an Ebola epidemic from February to June 2021. Despite its able handling of the epidemic, which kept deaths to a minimum, cross-border trade with Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone was reduced temporarily during the outbreak. Violence surrounding the March 2020 legislative election and constitutional referendum, as well as the October 2020 presidential election, all negatively impacted Guinea’s growth prospects. The transition government has worked to maintain economic stability since the 2021 coup d’etat, though without a timeline for elections, the uncertain political situation further limits potential growth.
Prior to the coup, Guinea passed and implemented an anti-corruption law, updated its Investment Code, and renewed efforts to attract international investors, including a new investment promotion website put in place in 2016 by Guinea’s investment promotion agency to increase transparency and streamline processes for new investors. However, Guinea’s capacity to enforce its more investor-friendly laws is compromised by a weak and unreliable legal system. Then President Conde inaugurated the first Trade Court of Guinea on March 20, 2018. Transition President COL Doumbouya created the Court to Repress Economic and Financial Crimes (CRIEF) to handle cases involving embezzlement, corruption, and misuse of public funds over one billion GNF (approximately $110,000) in December 2021. As of April 2022, the court has focused on collecting evidence for corruption cases against businesses tied to and officials that served in former President Conde’s government.
To attract foreign investment, the Private Investment Promotion Agency (APIP) and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Small and Medium Enterprises hosted the second annual Guinea Investment Forum (GUIF) in Dubai in February 2022, following the inaugural event in Guinea in February 2021.
Guyana is located on South America’s North Atlantic coast, bordering Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil, and is the only English-speaking country on the continent. Guyana became an oil producing nation in 2019 and, with a population of 782,766, is poised to dramatically increase its per capita wealth. While it is currently the third poorest country in the western hemisphere, Guyana’s economy grew by 19.9 percent in 2021. Guyana’s economy is projected to grow by 47.9 percent in 2022 according to the Ministry of Finance, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Guyana’s is poised for strong economic growth over the next decade as its offshore oil and gas production quickly ramps up to over 1 million barrels per day (bpd), an unprecedented development pace for a country that just discovered commercially viable hydrocarbon resources in 2015. ExxonMobil, the majority shareholder in the consortium (which also includes Hess and the China National Offshore Oil Company) developing Guyana’s offshore oil and gas deposits, increased its estimate for commercially viable oil deposits in Guyana to over 10 billion barrels in October 2021. Industry experts expect Guyana’s total recoverable oil deposits to increase as exploration activities expand to other offshore blocks, which remain unexplored. To manage the windfall from oil and gas production, the Government of Guyana (GoG) amended its sovereign wealth fund legislation in December 2021, thereby opening its coffers for the government to spend most of the fund’s initial balance on needed infrastructure and energy developments and invest in the country’s healthcare and education systems.
Guyana is quickly transforming into a regional destination for international investment. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Guyana increased from $1.8 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2021, mainly due to investments in its oil and gas sector. In an effort to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, the GoG is offering incentives for investment in the agriculture, business support services, health, information technology manufacturing and energy sectors, especially in outlying regions, through the Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST). At the same time, processes including the government tender process are slow and often opaque, with some tenders expiring and being re-issued after a year passes without decision and no pro-active communication to U.S. bidders.
The GoG lifted most of its COVID-19 domestic restrictions on February 14, 2022, thanks to a significant drop in COVID cases. Proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 PCR, or approved antigen, test taken with 72 of travel are still required to enter Guyana. The Ministry of Health (MoH) reports that more than 60 percent of Guyana’s adult population is fully vaccinated, as are 44 percent of children ages 12 – 17. While the GoG remains wary of future variants, the government has indicated a strong resistance to resuming containment and mitigation efforts like mask mandates, nationwide curfews, and strict quarantine requirements.
Climate change presents a clear and present danger to Guyana, especially in its low-lying coastal regions where 90 percent of the population lives. According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report, Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, is forecasted to be under water by 2030 due to rising sea levels. To assist the country’s transition to a more climate resilient economy, the GoG is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which seeks to create financial incentives for maintaining the country’s intact forests covering 87 percent of the landmass, watersheds, and unique biodiversity. The strategy is expected to be tabled in parliament in mid-2022 for approval and adoption.
The GoG’s 2022 priorities include significant infrastructure investments, energy developments, improving healthcare services, diversifying and expanding agriculture sector, boosting sea and flood defenses, supporting emerging and value-added industries, and improving the business climate. Key challenges to Guyana’s development include high crime rates, some of the highest cost of electricity in the region, lengthy delays for permits, and access to land. Despite commitments from the GoG to ease regulatory hurdles and improve the business climate, Guyana’s Ease of Doing Business ranking continues to hover at 134 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 report.
Haiti, one of the most urbanized nations in Latin America and the Caribbean region, occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola. Haiti’s investment climate continues to present both important opportunities and major challenges for U.S. investors. With a market economy, ample arable land, and a young population, Haiti offers numerous opportunities for investors. Despite efforts by the Haitian government to achieve macroeconomic stability and sustainable private sector-led and market-based economic growth, Haiti’s investment climate is characterized by an unstable national currency (Haitian gourde, or HTG), persistent inflation, high unemployment, political uncertainty, and insecurity. The global outbreak of the coronavirus and resulting slowdown of economic activity, the August 2021 earthquake in the south of Haiti, the assassination of the Haitian president, and increasingly emboldened criminal actors further complicated the Haitian government’s capacity to achieve macroeconomic stability, create jobs, and encourage economic development through foreign trade and investment. In the absence of a functioning parliament and prior to President Moise’s assassination in July 2021, the Haitian government had taken additional steps to regulate commercial activity by presidential decree, with sudden regulatory changes the business community viewed as detrimental to a functioning market. As a free market system, the Haitian economy traditionally relies on its agricultural, construction, and commerce sectors, as well as the export-oriented apparel assembly industry. Although the business climate is challenging, Haiti’s legislation encourages foreign direct investment. The government has prioritized building and improving infrastructure, including boosting energy production, and has additionally designated agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism as key investment sectors. The Haitian investment code provides the same rights, privileges, and equal protection to local and foreign companies. Under Haitian law, Haiti’s business climate affords equal treatment to all investors, including women, minorities, and foreign nationals.
Haiti continues to face significant challenges and civil unrest. With no dates yet announced for national elections, it is anticipated that political uncertainty and a short-term economic policy focus will complicate the workings of an already opaque bureaucracy. Prime Minister Ariel Henry has publicly announced the imminent formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council to organize elections and a National Constituent Assembly to reform the constitution. While the country maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime, and largely adheres to World Bank programs to fight poverty, continuing reports of corruption and financial mismanagement have raised challenges for investment.
The Government of Haiti (GoH) Post-COVID Economic Recovery Plan (PREPOC 2020-2023) includes the textile sector as one of the most important means for achieving economic transformation and diversification over the next three years. Since its launch in January 2021, the Investment Opportunity Generation Project has tried to support the industry through targeted business information as well as transactional support to increase business opportunities for investors and manufacturers. Despite the negative impact of the pandemic, most companies in the sector currently operates near full capacity.
According to the World Investment Report 2021 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows to Haiti fell to $30 million in 2020 from $75 million the year prior – a 60 percent decrease and the lowest level since United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) began recording FDI inflows using a consistent methodology in 2010. Inflation remains above target because of weak domestic production, a deepening government budget deficit mostly financed by monetization from the Central Bank, food price pressures, and the depreciation of the Haitian gourde against the U.S. dollar. The Haitian Central Bank (BRH) assesses that inflation is also caused by deteriorating security conditions, with armed gangs blocking key transport thoroughfares and cutting off Haiti’s southern departments from markets in Port-au-Prince and the North. The rise in commodity prices on the international market also increases the country’s import bill and amplifies inflationary pressures. Haiti’s net international reserves were $520 million at the end of March 2022. Improving the investment outlook for Haiti requires political and economic stability underscored by the enactment of institutional and structural reforms that can improve Haiti’s business and political environment. The International Monetary Fund projects a 0.3 percent growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2022.
Monthly inflation was recorded at 0.6 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively in January and February 2022. Year-on-year, the inflation rate reached 25.2 percent in February 2022. The Central Bank assesses the implementation of a realistic budget and better coordination between fiscal and monetary policies through adherence to an economic and financial governance pact could limit the monetary effect in the fueling of inflationary pressures.
Haiti is ranked 170 out of 189 countries on the United Nations Development Program’s 2020 Human Development Index. The World Bank’s latest household survey in 2012 reported that over 6 million Haitians live on less than $2.41 per day, and more than 2.5 million fall below $1.12 per day.
The reports of damage from the 2021 earthquake indicate that nearly 54,000 houses were destroyed and 83,770 other buildings, including schools, health facilities, and public buildings, were damaged. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report, made available on December 12, 2021, estimated the total recovery needs from the earthquake to be $1.98 billion, which is equivalent to 13.5 percent of Haiti’s 2020 GDP.
Honduras contains all the ingredients for a thriving, prosperous economy: strategic location next to U.S. markets with a deep-water port, a rich endowment of natural resources, breathtaking tourist destinations, and hard-working people, including a significant cadre of skilled labor. Despite these advantages, per capita income in Honduras is the third lowest in all Latin America. Investors cite corruption, crime, and poor infrastructure and weak or nonexistent rule of law as the primary reasons that Honduras does not attract more of the private investment it needs to stimulate inclusive economic growth. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), real Honduran GDP grew by 12.5 percent in 2021, a rebound from the devastating effects in 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic and twin hurricanes Eta and Iota. The IMF predicts the economy will grow by 3.8 percent in 2022.
The 2022 inauguration of Honduras first woman president, Xiomara Castro, marked the beginning of a new era in the country’s political economy. The participation of U.S. Vice President Harris at President Castro’s inauguration exemplified the strong U.S. commitment to Honduras. The two countries have committed to work jointly to address the root causes of migration, including by combating corruption and expanding economic opportunity. Since taking office, the Castro administration has launched initiatives to reduce corruption, improve education and public health, and create jobs.
These laudable efforts have been frustrated by fiscal challenges, including budget planning and debt management. Although the United States and international organizations including the IMF assess Honduras as low risk for debt distress, public messaging from the administration announcing a fiscal crisis roiled international bond markets, driving up the risk premium on Honduran debt. To address these budget shortfalls, the government announced it will utilize its foreign reserves to finance operations, which could put additional inflationary pressure on the economy. To help Honduras implement its social agenda without increasing its debt burden, the United States has begun a debt management technical assistance program with the Ministry of Finance.
In both public and private, the Castro administration emphasizes the need for job creation and private investment in Honduras. The government approved a new law in 2022 to facilitate the development and formalization of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The government’s Results-Based Governance system and other anti-corruption efforts are excellent examples of efforts to improve the investment climate. From the perspective of the private sector, however, these efforts have been overshadowed by policy decisions that have dramatically increased the uncertainty of investment returns. Chief among these was the May 2022 approval of a new energy law that threatens power generators with forced sale at a “just price” if they do not reduce their tariffs to the government’s satisfaction. The law provides no guarantee of future payment, stipulates that new energy investment must be majority state-owned, and all but eliminates private trade in energy. As a result of the new law, several private energy companies have discontinued planned projects in Honduras and are exploring investment opportunities in other countries in the region.
The Castro administration also eliminated the special economic zones known as “ZEDEs” by their initials in Spanish. The ZEDEs were broadly unpopular, and viewed by some as a vector for corruption, but their elimination raised concerns in the business community about the government’s commitment to commercial stability and the rule of law.
Another government policy contributing to uncertainty in the investment climate has been the elimination of the legal framework used by most businesses to employ per-hour workers. The law’s repeal fulfilled a Castro campaign promise, responding to criticism by labor unions that temporary work allowed companies to evade their social security obligations and exploit workers. Business representatives note, however, that many industries, including retail, tourism, and food service rely heavily on hourly labor and will be constrained by the new framework. Civil society representatives also point out that the change adversely affects women and students, who relied on hourly work to manage households and school schedules, although union leaders counter that the previous framework allowed employers to target women and young people for economic exploitation, given that their personal circumstances often do not allow them to take on full-time employment.
Many foreign investors in Honduras operate thriving enterprises. At the same time, all investors face challenges including unreliable and expensive electricity, corruption, unpredictable tax application and enforcement, high crime, low education levels, and poor infrastructure. Squatting on private land is an increasingly severe problem in Honduras and anti-squatting laws are poorly enforced. Continued low-level protests and strikes are additional concerns for private investors.
Despite these setbacks, over 200 American companies operate businesses in Honduras. Honduras enjoys preferential market access to the United States under CAFTA-DR, which has allowed for the development of intra-industry trade in textiles and electrical machinery, among other sectors. The proximity to the United States and established supply chain linkages means that opportunities exist to increase nearshoring sourcing to meet U.S. demand for a variety of goods. The White House “Call to Action to Deepen Investment in the Northern Triangle” is designed to coordinate increased U.S. investment in the region, including Honduras. This program, along with others, aims to support sustained and inclusive economic development in Honduras and surrounding countries.
Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on July 1, 1997, with its status defined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Under the concept of “one country, two systems,” the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government promised that Hong Kong would be vested with executive, legislative, and independent judicial power, and that its social and economic systems would remain unchanged for 50 years after reversion. The PRC’s imposition of the National Security Law (NSL) on June 30, 2020 undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and introduced heightened uncertainty for foreign and local firms operating in Hong Kong.
As a result, the U.S. Government has taken measures under Executive Order 13936 on Hong Kong Normalization to eliminate or suspend aspects of Hong Kong’s differential treatment, including issuing a suspension of licenses under the Arms Export Control Act, giving notice of termination of an agreement that provided for reciprocal tax exemption on income from the international operation of ships, establishing new marking rules requiring goods made in Hong Kong to be labeled “Made in China,” and imposing sanctions against several former and current Hong Kong and PRC government officials. On March 31, 2022, the Secretary of State again certified Hong Kong does not warrant treatment under U.S. law in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997.
Since the imposition of the NSL in Hong Kong by Beijing, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Hong Kong may be subject to increased levels of surveillance, as well as arbitrary enforcement of laws and detention for purposes other than maintaining law and order. The PRC’s 14th Five-Year Plan through 2025, which includes long-range objectives for 2035, lays out a plan for Hong Kong to become more closely integrated into the overall development of the Mainland and encourages deeper co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong. On March 5, 2022, PRC Premier Li Keqiang asserted that Beijing intends to exercise “overall jurisdiction over the two SARs,” referring to Hong Kong and Macau.
On July 16, 2021, the Department of State, along with the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory to U.S. businesses regarding potential risks to their operations and activities in Hong Kong. These include risks for businesses following the imposition of the NSL; data privacy risks; risks regarding transparency and access to critical business information; and risks for businesses with exposure to sanctioned Hong Kong or PRC entities or individuals. The imposition of the NSL by Beijing, significant curtailments in protected freedoms, and the reduction of the high degree of autonomy Hong Kong enjoyed in the past has raised concerns among a number of international firms operating in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is the United States’ twelfth-largest export market, thirteenth largest for total agricultural products, and sixth largest for high-value consumer food and beverage products. Hong Kong’s economy, with advanced institutions and regulatory systems, is bolstered by competitive sectors including financial and professional, trading, logistics, and tourism, although tourism has suffered devastating drops since 2020 due to COVID-19. The Hong Kong Government’s (HKG) adherence to a “Zero COVID” policy for most of the past two years has also imposed high economic costs on residents and businesses, and drastically reduced the number of visitors to the territory. Since Beijing’s 2020 imposition of the NSL on Hong Kong and the city’s implementation of COVID-19 travel restrictions, some international firms in Hong Kong have relocated entirely, while others have shifted key staff or operations elsewhere.
Hong Kong provides for no distinction in law or practice between investments by foreign-controlled companies and those controlled by local interests. Foreign firms and individuals can incorporate their operations in Hong Kong, register branches of foreign operations, and set up representative offices without encountering discrimination or undue regulation. There are no restrictions on the ownership of such operations. Company directors are not required to be residents of or in Hong Kong. Reporting requirements are straightforward and are not onerous. On economic issues, Hong Kong generally pursues a free market philosophy with minimal government intervention. The HKG generally welcomes foreign investment, neither offering special incentives nor imposing disincentives for foreign investors.
While Hong Kong’s legal system had been traditionally viewed as a bastion of judicial independence, authorities have placed considerable pressure on the judiciary over the previous year. Rule of law risks that were formerly limited to mainland China are now increasingly a concern in Hong Kong. In March 2020, two sitting UK judges resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, with the UK government citing a systematic erosion of liberty and democracy that made it untenable for those judges to sit on Hong Kong’s highest court.
The service sector accounted for more than 90 percent of Hong Kong’s nearly USD 367 billion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. Hong Kong hosts a large number of regional headquarters and regional offices, though Hong Kong’s deteriorating political environment and COVID-related travel restrictions have led some firms to depart. The number of U.S. firms with regional bases in Hong Kong fell over the previous decade. Approximately 1,260 U.S. companies are based in Hong Kong, according to Hong Kong’s 2021 census data, with more than half regional in scope. Finance and related services companies, such as banks, law firms, and accountancies, dominate the pack. Seventy of the world’s 100 largest banks have operations in Hong Kong.
Hungary continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and now faces rising inflation and economic uncertainty due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Despite a growing deficit and energy prices, as well as a continued skilled labor shortage and corruption concerns, ratings agencies in 2021 maintained Hungary’s sovereign debt at BBB, two notches above investment grade, with a stable outlook. In December 2021, the Finance Ministry forecasted 5.9 percent economic growth and a 4.9 percent budget deficit for 2022. Analysts since then have revised their forecasts and project 2 percentage points lower economic growth for this year.
Hungary, an EU member since 2004, currently has a population of 9.7 million and a GDP of $155 billion. Fellow EU member states and the United States are Hungary’s most important trade and investment partners, although Asian influence is growing; foreign direct investment (FDI) from Asian sources was five percent of total FDI in 2019 and now accounts for over 30 percent of new foreign direct investment in 2020.
Macroeconomic indicators were generally strong before the COVID-19 pandemic, with GDP growing by 4.9 percent in 2019. Following a 5.1 percent pandemic-induced contraction in 2020, Hungary’s GDP increased by 6.4 percent in 2021. As the Government of Hungary (GOH) increased spending to support the economy and other priorities, the 2021 budget deficit reached approximately 7.5 percent of GDP, which pushed up public debt close to 80 percent of GDP.
Hungary’s central location in Europe and high-quality infrastructure have traditionally made it an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Between 1989 and 2019, Hungary received approximately $97.8 billion in FDI, mainly in the banking, automotive, software development, and life sciences sectors. The EU accounts for 89 percent of all in-bound FDI. The United States is the largest non-EU investor, whereas in terms of annual investment, South Korea was the largest investor overall in 2021. The GOH actively encourages investments in manufacturing and other sectors promising high added value and/or employment, such as research and development, defense, and service centers.
Despite these advantages, Hungary’s regional economic competitiveness has declined in recent years. Since early 2016, multinationals have identified shortages of qualified labor, specifically technicians and engineers, as the largest obstacle to investment in Hungary. In certain industries, such as finance, energy, telecommunication, pharmaceuticals, and retail, unpredictable sector-specific tax and regulatory policies have favored national and government-linked companies. Additionally, persistent corruption and cronyism continue to plague the public procurement sector. According to Transparency International’s (TI) 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, Hungary placed 73rd worldwide and ranked 26th out of the 27 EU member states, outperforming only Bulgaria.
Analysts remain concerned that the GOH may intervene in certain priority sectors to unfairly promote domestic ownership at the expense of foreign investors. In September 2016, Prime Minister (PM) Viktor Orban announced that at least half of the banking, media, energy, and retail sectors should be in Hungarian hands. Since then, observers note that through various tax changes the GOH has pushed several foreign-owned banks out of Hungary. GOH efforts have helped increase Hungarian ownership in the banking sector to close to 60 percent, up from 40 percent in 2010. In the energy sector, foreign-owned companies’ share of total revenue fell from 70 percent in 2010 to below 50 percent by 2022. Foreign media ownership has decreased drastically as GOH-aligned businesses have consolidated control of Hungary’s media landscape: the number of media outlets owned by GOH allies increased from around 30 in 2015 to nearly 500 in 2018. In November 2018, the owners of 476 pro-GOH media outlets, constituting between 80 and 90 percent of all media, donated those outlets to the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA) run by individuals with ties to the ruling Fidesz party.
Ostensibly in response to the COVID crisis, the Hungarian government has had uninterrupted state-of-emergency (SOE) powers since November 2020 with authority to bypass Parliament and govern by decree. Parliament passed the first SOE legislation in March 2020 as part of its COVID-19 pandemic response; this legislation did not have a sunset clause, and the government repealed it in June 2020. The GOH passed a second SOE law in November 2020, this time for a 90-day period. Following the expiration of the first 90-day term, the Parliament extended the SOE in February, May, September and most recently in December 2021 – until June 2022 – without any support from opposition parties. As part of the emergency measures, the GOH extended measures for national security screening of foreign investments from December 31, 2020, until December 31, 2022, and may extend this deadline further.
Iceland is an island country located between North America and Europe in the Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle with an advanced economy that centers around three primary sectors: fisheries, tourism, and aluminum production. Until recently, U.S. investment in Iceland has mostly been concentrated in the aluminum sector, with Alcoa and Century Aluminum operating plants in Iceland. However, U.S. portfolio investments in Iceland have been steadily increasing in recent years. Iceland’s convenient location between the United States and Europe, its high levels of education, connectivity, and English proficiency, and a general appreciation for U.S. products make Iceland a promising market for U.S. companies. Furthermore, Americans made up a third of the tourist population that visited Iceland in 2021.
There is broad recognition within the Icelandic government that foreign direct investment (FDI) is a key contributor to the country’s economic revival after the 2008 financial collapse. As part of its investment promotion strategy, the Icelandic government operates a public-private agency called “Invest in Iceland” that facilitates foreign investment by providing information to potential investors and promoting investment incentives. Iceland has identified the following “key sectors” in Iceland; tourism; algae culture; data centers; and life sciences. Iceland offers incentives to foreign investors in certain industries.
Tourism has been a growing force behind Iceland’s economy in the past decade, with opportunities for investors in high-end tourism, including luxury resorts and hotels. The number of tourists in Iceland grew by more than 400 percent between 2010 and 2018, reaching more than 2.3 million in 2018. However, tourism in Iceland contracted in 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic effects on tourism, and the overall economy. The government implemented measures to bolster the tourism economy, thus avoiding mass bankruptcies in the sector, and has committed to building out tourism-related infrastructure.
The startup and innovation communities in Iceland are flourishing, with the IT and biotech sectors growing fast, particularly pharmaceuticals and wellness, gaming, and aquaculture. Iceland’s IT sector spans all areas of the digital economy. The Icelandic energy grid derives 99 percent of its power from renewable resources, making it uniquely attractive for energy-dependent industries. For instance, the data center industry in Iceland is expanding.
Iceland is working by the 2018 Climate Acton Plan, which was updated in 2020, and is designed to achieve Iceland’s national climate goals of making the country carbon neutral by 2040 and to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.
The Government of India continued to actively court foreign investment. In the wake of COVID-19, India enacted ambitious structural economic reforms that should help attract private and foreign direct investment (FDI). In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced plans to raise $2.4 billion though an ambitious privatization program that would dramatically reduce the government’s role in the economy. In March 2021, parliament further liberalized India’s insurance sector, increasing FDI limits to 74 percent from 49 percent, though still requiring a majority of the Board of Directors and management personnel to be Indian nationals.
Parliament passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill on August 6, 2021, repealing a law adopted by the Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh in 2012 that taxed companies retroactively. The Finance Minister also said the Indian government will refund disputed amounts from outstanding cases under the old law. While Prime Minister Modi’s government had pledged never to impose retroactive taxes, prior outstanding claims and litigation led to huge penalties for Cairn Energy and telecom operator Vodafone. Both Indian and U.S. business have long advocated for the formal repeal of the 2012 legislation to improve certainty over taxation policy and liabilities.
India continued to increase and enhance implementation of the roughly $2 trillion in proposed infrastructure projects catalogued, for the first time, in the 2019-2024 National Infrastructure Pipeline. The government’s FY 2021-22 budget included a 35 percent increase in spending on infrastructure projects. In November 2021, Prime Minister Modi launched the “Gati Shakti” (“Speed Power”) initiative to overcome India’s siloed approach to infrastructure planning, which Indian officials argue has historically resulted in inefficacies, wasteful expenditures, and stalled projects. India’s infrastructure gaps are blamed for higher operational costs, especially for manufacturing, that hinder investment.
Despite this progress, India remains a challenging place to do business. New protectionist measures, including strict enforcement and potential expansion of data localization measures, increased tariffs, sanitary and phytosanitary measures not based on science, and Indian-specific standards not aligned with international standards effectively closed off producers from global supply chains and restricted the expansion in bilateral trade and investment.
The U.S. government continued to urge the Government of India to foster an attractive and reliable investment climate by reducing barriers to investment and minimizing bureaucratic hurdles for businesses.
Indonesia’s 274 million population, USD 1 trillion economy, growing middle class, abundant natural resources, and stable economy are attractive features to U.S. investors; however, investing in Indonesia remains challenging. President Joko (“Jokowi”) Widodo, now in his second five-year term, has prioritized pandemic recovery, infrastructure investment, and human capital development. The government’s marquee reform effort — the 2020 Omnibus Law on Job Creation (Omnibus Law) — was temporarily suspended by a constitutional court ruling, but if fully implemented, is touted by business to improve competitiveness by lowering corporate taxes, reforming labor laws, and reducing bureaucratic and regulatory barriers. The United States does not have a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Indonesia.
In February 2021, Indonesia replaced its 2016 Negative Investment List, liberalizing nearly all sectors to foreign investment, except for seven “strategic” sectors reserved for central government oversight. In 2021, the government established the Risk-Based Online Single Submission System (OSS), to streamline the business license and import permit process. Indonesia established a sovereign wealth fund (Indonesian Investment Authority, i.e., INA) in 2021 that has a goal to attract foreign investment for government infrastructure projects in sectors such as transportation, oil and gas, health, tourism, and digital technologies.
Yet, restrictive regulations, legal and regulatory uncertainty, economic nationalism, trade protectionism, and vested interests complicate the investment climate. Foreign investors may be expected to partner with Indonesian companies and to manufacture or purchase goods and services locally. Labor unions have protested new labor policies under the Omnibus Law that they note have weakened labor rights. Restrictions imposed on the authority of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) led to a significant decline in investigations and prosecutions. Investors cite corruption as an obstacle to pursuing opportunities in Indonesia.
Other barriers include bureaucratic inefficiency, delays in land acquisition for infrastructure projects, weak enforcement of contracts, and delays in receiving refunds for advance corporate tax overpayments. Investors worry that new regulations are sometimes imprecise and lack stakeholder consultation. Companies report that the energy and mining sectors still face significant foreign investment barriers, and all sectors have a lack of adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, and restrictions on cross border data flows.
Nonetheless, Indonesia continues to attract significant foreign investment. According to the 2020 IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey, Singapore, the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, and China were among the top foreign investment sources (latest available full-year data). Private consumption drives the Indonesian economy that is the largest in ASEAN, making it a promising destination for a wide range of companies, ranging from consumer products and financial services to digital start-ups and e-commerce. Indonesia has ambitious plans to expand access to renewable energy, build mining and mineral downstream industries, improve agriculture production, and enhance infrastructure, including building roads, ports, railways, and airports, as well as telecommunications and broadband networks. Indonesia continues to attract American digital technology companies, financial technology start-ups, franchises, health services producers and consumer product manufacturers.
Indonesia launched the National Women’s Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2020, which aims to empower women through greater access to financial resources and digital skills and to increase financial and investor support for women-owned businesses.
The effects of COVID-19 have begun to recede in Iraq, and vaccination rates are rising daily. The Iraqi economy is recovering and reverting to more normal conditions. However, the 2020 devaluation of the dinar and Russia’s war against Ukraine have exacerbated inflationary pressures, resulting in price increases, particularly on agricultural products. As of April 2022, the new government has not yet been formed and policies of the new government remain uncertain.
Widespread protests in October 2019 caused the resignation of then-PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi and his government. After a lengthy period of government formation, the current government of PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power in May 2020. Sporadic, sometimes violent, protests continue, especially in the country’s south. Iraq held national elections in October 2021, with the government formation process expected to continue into 2022.
In October 2020, Iraq’s cabinet approved an economic reform agenda known as the “white paper,” which identified numerous reforms, legislative amendments, subsidy cuts, and e-government measures that are broadly in line with previous World Bank and IMF reform recommendations. The white paper acknowledged the scope of Iraq’s structural economic problems and aimed to place the country on a private sector-driven economic growth path. While Finance Minister Ali Allawi asserted that his ministry itself was able to implement 65 percent of the reforms, there was a lack of collaboration and buy-in from other ministries due to entrenched opposition from stakeholders who profit from Government of Iraq (GOI) opacity and inefficiency. Iraq did achieve one key white paper initiative, one-stop company registration, with the launch of its Online Single Window, which used the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) digital solutions platform.
The security environment, including the threat of resurgent extremist groups, remains an investment impediment in many parts of the country. Other lingering effects of the fight against ISIS include major disruptions of key domestic and international trade routes and the negative impacts on respective economic infrastructure. Many militia groups that participated in the fight against ISIS remain deployed and are only under nominal government control. Militia groups have been implicated in a range of criminal and illicit activities in commercial sectors, including extortion. However, the security situation varies throughout the country and is generally less problematic in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR).
Investors in Iraq face challenges resolving issues with legitimate GOI entities, including procurement disputes, receiving timely payments, and winning public tenders. Difficulties with corruption, business registration, customs regulations, irregular and high tax liabilities, unclear visa and residency permit procedures, arbitrary application of regulations, lack of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, electricity shortages, and lack of access to financing remain common complaints for local and foreign companies operating in Iraq. Shifting and unevenly enforced regulations that often change with new government formation create additional burdens for investors.
Despite these challenges, the Iraqi market offers potential for U.S. exporters. Iraq regularly imports rice, wheat, and other agricultural commodities, as well as machinery, consumer goods, and defense articles. While non-oil bilateral trade with the United States was $805.8 million in 2021, Iraq’s economy had an estimated GDP of $98 billion. Government contracts and tenders are the source of most commercial opportunities in Iraq in all sectors, including the significant oil and gas contracts, and have been financed almost entirely by oil revenues. Increasingly, the GOI has asked investors and suppliers to provide financing solutions and allow for deferred payments.
Investors in the IKR face many of the same challenges as investors elsewhere in Iraq, but the IKR’s security and regulation environments are more stable. However, the region’s economy has struggled to recover from the 2014 ISIS offensive and ongoing disputes with the central government over revenue sharing. The GOI’s Federal Supreme Court (FSC) February 15, 2022 decision declared the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) 2007 oil and gas law to be unconstitutional. The oil contracts impacted by this decision are the KRG’s largest revenue source, providing economic stability when oil prices at present are rising. Local businesses welcome an American Chamber of Commerce presence in the IKR, hoping to improve KRG’s business process effectiveness and transparency.
Water scarcity is a present danger and the salinization of water and soils, desertification, and the disappearance of arable land are existential environmental concerns connected to poor resource management and climate change. These challenges also represent economic opportunities in Iraq, which needs investments in green and renewable energy, modern irrigation systems, and the infrastructure to capture flared gas.
The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was approved by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) in 2012 and became effective the following year. The U.S. and Iraqi governments subsequently established the Trade and Finance Joint Coordination Committee and held the first TIFA meeting in Washington in March 2014. A second meeting was held in June 2019.
Trade data resources in addition to Table 1 Key Business Metrics and Rankings include:
The COVID-19 crisis had a massive impact on Ireland’s economy and its effects will continue in 2022. The Irish government implemented varying degrees of lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the onset in March 2020, including restrictions to close non-essential businesses and services for extended periods of time. Unemployment (including COVID-19 related temporary unemployment) peaked at 28.1 percent in April 2020. Ireland’s official unemployment rate remained around 5 percent (currently at 5.2 percent as of February 2022) due to the unprecedented pandemic related government assistance programs to businesses and workers furloughed due to COVID-19. Over the past two years, the government sustained a level of unprecedented deficit spending to combat the pandemic. Despite the prolonged difficulties caused by COVID-19, Ireland’s economy performed extremely well with GDP growth of 13.5 percent recorded in 2021 following growth of 5.9 percent in 2020. Most of this growth can be attributed to export focused industries (technology, pharmaceutical, and other large multinational companies headquartered in Ireland) while the domestic economy struggled with temporary business closures due to the restrictions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exasperated Ireland’s growing inflation concerns with fuel and gas price rises leading to price increases across all sectors, which could dampen consumer spending and confidence and could result in lower-than-expected growth for 2022.
The Irish government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) and has had considerable success in attracting investment, particularly from the United States. There are over 950 U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland operating primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, biosciences, pharmaceutical and medical devices; computer hardware and software; internet and digital media; electronics, and financial services.
One of Ireland’s many attractive features as an FDI destination is its favorable 12.5 percent corporate tax (in place since 2003), the second lowest in the European Union (EU). Ireland signed the OECD Inclusive Framework Agreement, which institutes minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent when implemented. Firms routinely note that they come to Ireland primarily for the high quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce; the availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators. Additional positive features include a transparent judicial system; transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe; and Ireland’s geographic location making it well placed in time zones to support investment in Asia and the Americas. Ireland benefits from its membership of the EU and a barrier-free access to a market of almost 500 million consumers. In addition, the clustering of existing successful industries has created an ecosystem attractive to new firms. The United Kingdom’s (UK) departure from the EU, or Brexit, on January 1, 2021, leaves Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU and may make Ireland even more attractive as a destination for FDI.
The Irish government treats all firms incorporated in Ireland on an equal basis. Ireland’s judicial system is transparent and upholds the sanctity of contracts, as well as laws affecting foreign investment. Conversely, Ireland’s ability to attract investment are often marred by relatively high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); skilled-labor shortages; licensing and permitting challenges (e.g., for zoning, rezoning, project permissions, etc.) Eurozone-risk; infrastructure in need of investment (such as in transportation, affordable housing, energy and broadband internet); high income tax rates; uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels among the highest in Europe.
New data centers must meet new requirements regarding location, energy consumption and energy storage as Ireland’s electricity system struggles to meet demand for energy.
A formal national security screening process for foreign investment in line with the EU framework is expected to be in place by late 2022, though the original date was 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic. At present, investors looking to receive government grants or assistance through one of the four state agencies responsible for promoting foreign investment in Ireland are often required to meet certain employment and investment criteria.
Ireland uses the euro as its national currency and enjoys full current and capital account liberalization.
The government recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate. Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property.
Several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operate in Ireland in the energy, broadcasting, and transportation sectors. All of Ireland’s SOEs are open to competition for market share.
While Ireland has no bilateral investment treaties, the United States and Ireland have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty since 1950 that provides for national treatment of U.S. investors. The two countries have also shared a Tax Treaty since 1998, supplemented in December 2012 with an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Israel has an entrepreneurial spirit and a creative, highly educated, skilled, and diverse workforce. It is a leader in innovation in a variety of sectors, and many Israeli start-ups find good partners in U.S. companies. Popularly known as “Start-Up Nation,” Israel invests heavily in education and scientific research. U.S. firms account for nearly two-thirds of the more than 300 research and development (R&D) centers established by multinational companies in Israel. Israel has 117 companies listed on the NASDAQ, the fourth most companies after the United States, Canada, and China. Israeli government agencies, led by the Israel Innovation Authority, fund incubators for early-stage technology start-ups, and Israel provides extensive support for new ideas and technologies while also seeking to develop traditional industries. Private venture capital funds have flourished in Israel in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook Israel’s economy, but successful pre-pandemic economic policy buffers – strong growth, low debt, a resilient tech sector among them – mean Israel entered the COVID-19 crisis with relatively low vulnerabilities, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Staff Report for the 2020 Article IV Consultation. The fundamentals of the Israeli economy remain strong, and Israel’s economy rebounded strongly post-pandemic with 8.1 percent GDP growth in 2021. With low inflation and fiscal deficits that have usually met targets pre-pandemic, most analysts consider Israeli government economic policies as generally sound and supportive of growth. Israel seeks to provide supportive conditions for companies looking to invest in Israel through laws that encourage capital and industrial R&D investment. Incentives and benefits include grants, reduced tax rates, tax exemptions, and other tax-related benefits.
The U.S.-Israeli bilateral economic and commercial relationship is strong, anchored by two-way trade in goods and services that reached USD 45.1 billion in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and extensive commercial ties, particularly in high-tech and R&D. The total stock of Israeli foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States was USD 40.4 billion in 2020. Since the signing of the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement in 1985, the Israeli economy has undergone a dramatic transformation, moving from a protected, low-end manufacturing and agriculture-led economy to one that is diverse, mostly open, and led by a cutting-edge high-tech sector.
The Israeli government generally continues to take slow, deliberate actions to remove trade barriers and encourage capital investment, including foreign investment. The continued existence of trade barriers and monopolies, however, have contributed significantly to the high cost of living and the lack of competition in key sectors. The Israeli government maintains some protective trade policies.
Israel has taken steps to meet its pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with planned investments in technologies and projects to slow the pace of climate change.
Italy’s successful vaccination campaign, an ambitious reform and investment plan funded and approved by the European Union, and Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s leadership which has boosted Italy’s role on the international stage, helped the Italian economy to grow a healthy 6.6 percent in 2021 – one of the fastest rates in Europe. Growth was underpinned by a robust 17 percent increase in investment. However, energy price spikes, supply chain disruptions, and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine create uncertainty affecting consumer and business confidence. Italy now forecasts its economy, the euro area’s third largest, will grow by 3.1 percent (down from a 4.7 percent projected in September 2021). For 2023, the government projects GDP will grow 2.4 percent (down from the previous target of 2.8 percent). The public debt, proportionally the highest in the eurozone after Greece’s, is targeted at 147 percent of GDP in 2022, down from 2020’s 156 percent, and projected to decline to 145 percent in 2023.
Italy’s National Resilience and Recovery Plan (NRRP) combines over €200 billion in investment to accelerate the digital and green transition coupled with wide-ranging reforms addressing the Italian economy’s longstanding drags on growth — namely its slow legal system, tax administration and bloated bureaucracy — while rebalancing policies to address gender, youth, and regional disparities. This combination of investment and reform, with some easing of fiscal constraints from Brussels, may reposition Italy, the eurozone’s second largest industrial base, as an engine for growth. In April 2022, the European Commission disbursed €21 billion in the first tranche of Next Generation EU funds pandemic aid to Italy after determining the Italian government successfully met the 51 objectives of its NRRP set out for 2021. Italy will have to achieve a further 45 milestones and targets by June 30, 2022, to receive the second tranche of funds worth €24.1 billion. Crucial for improving Italy’s investment climate and spurring growth is reform of Italy’s justice system, one of the slowest in Europe. According to the European Commission, the average Italian civil law case takes more than 500 days to resolve, versus an average of about 200 days in Germany, 300 in Spain and 450 in Greece. For U.S. investors, judicial reform and bureaucratic streamlining would minimize uncertainty and create a more favorable investment climate.
Italy is and will remain an attractive destination for foreign investment, with one of the largest markets in the EU, a diversified economy, and a skilled workforce. Italy’s economy, the eighth largest in the world, is dominated by small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), which comprise 99.9 percent of Italian businesses. Italy’s relatively affluent domestic market, access to the European Common Market, proximity to emerging economies in North Africa and the Middle East, and assorted centers of excellence in scientific and information technology research, remain attractive to many investors. Italy is the eighth largest consumer market in the world, the seventh largest manufacturing producer, and boasts a diversified economy and skilled workforce. The clustering of industry, the infrastructure, and the quality of life are also among the top reasons international investors decide to start or expand a business in Italy. According to Italy’s Institute of Statistics, over 15,000 foreign multinationals employ one out of seven Italian residents. Foreign companies account for 18 percent of Italian GDP and 14 percent of investments. Exports of pharmaceutical products, furniture, industrial machinery and machine tools, electrical appliances, automobiles and auto parts, food and wine, as well as textiles/fashion are an important source of external revenue. The sectors that have attracted significant foreign investment include telecommunications, transportation, energy, and pharmaceuticals. The government remains open to foreign investment in shares of Italian companies and continues to make information available online to prospective investors.
The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) considers foreign direct investment (FDI) a key driver for economic growth and in recent years has undertaken macroeconomic reforms that have improved its investment climate. However, the reform program was stymied by measures implemented to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. An early lockdown in the Spring of 2020 helped contain the number of Covid-19 cases but the impact on the economy was severe, with real GDP shrinking by 10 percent. To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on public health and the economy, the authorities suspended the fiscal rule for a year and swiftly implemented public health measures and a fiscal package to support jobs and protect the most vulnerable segments of the population. The downturn and the fiscal package resulted in a fiscal deficit of 3.1 percent of GDP in FY2020/21.
The Jamaican economy contracted during fiscal year (FY) 2020/21, underpinned by a near collapse in tourism and travel and weaker disposable incomes. But unlike previous shocks, the country did not experience the usual bouts of macroeconomic instability, suggesting the past decade of economic and legislative reforms are beginning to bear fruit. The Jamaican economy is also recovering from the effects of the pandemic well ahead of regional peers, with economic growth of 7-9 percent projected for FY 2021/22. Robust construction activities, a strong rebound in tourist arrivals, and record remittances, both mostly from the United States, provided the impetus for growth. The expansion in economic activity spurred a rebound in employment, with the unemployment rate falling to a historic low of 7.1 percent. The economic recovery combined with strong fiscal management allowed the government to generate the primary surplus required to reverse the debt to GDP ratio, which is expected to return to the pre-pandemic levels. The economic turnaround also contributed to a general improvement in business and consumer confidence. Notwithstanding, inflation and inflationary expectations are beginning to threaten stability, forcing the central bank to tighten monetary policy.
On March 09, 2022, Fitch Ratings Agency affirmed Jamaica’s Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B+’ and assigned a stable outlook. Fitch reported that Jamaica’s ‘B+’ rating was supported by a favorable business climate and government efforts to lower the debt to GDP ratio. The agency explained that the country remained susceptible to external shocks, low growth levels, high public debt and a debt composition that exposes the country to exchange rate fluctuations and interest rate hikes. “The Stable Outlook is supported by Fitch’s expectation that having been interrupted by the pandemic, a downward trend in public debt-to-GDP will be underpinned by political consensus to maintain a high primary surplus,” the agency continued.
Jamaica received $366 million in FDI in 2020 (latest available data), a $299 million drop over the previous year. Despite the decline, data from the 2021 UNCTAD World Investment Report showed that Jamaica was the highest FDI destination in the English-Speaking Caribbean. China and Spain were the major drivers of FDI in 2020. Up to the onset of COVID-19, tourism, mining, and energy led investment inflows into the island. Though hard hit by the global pandemic, tourism and mining continued to drive foreign investment. Mineral and Chemicals investments also picked up in 2020. There is a significant host government commitment to mining, tourism, and airport development, which could resume when economic conditions improve. Business process outsourcing (BPO), including customer service and back-office support, continued to attract local and overseas investment. Investments in improved air, sea, and land transportation have reduced time and costs for transporting goods and have created opportunities in logistics.
Jamaica’s high crime rate, corruption, and comparatively high taxes have stymied its investment prospects. The country’s Transparency International corruption perception ranking improved marginally from 74 (2019) to 69 (2020) out of 180 countries. Despite laws that prescribe criminal penalties for corrupt acts by officials, there were still reports of corruption at some ministries and agencies. Measures implemented to address crime continued into 2021, including the continuation of Zones of Special Operations in several high crime areas of the island. While these efforts resulted in lower rates of serious crime in the attendant zones, the measures did not significantly impact the overall murder rate, and Jamaica continues to have one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
With energy prices a major component of the cost of doing business, the government has instituted a number of policies to address the structural impediment. In early 2020, the government published its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), outlining the country’s electricity roadmap for the next two decades. The plan, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, projected 1,164 MW of new generation capacity at a cost of $7.3 billion, including fuel cost and the replacement of retired plants. Renewable sources are projected to generate 50 percent of electricity by 2037, with Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), introduced in 2016, providing the lion’s share of the other 50 percent. The increased investment in new generation is expected to increase efficiency and reduce the price of electricity to consumers.
Japan is the world’s third largest economy, the United States’ fourth largest trading partner, and, as of 2020, the top provider of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. The Japanese government welcomes and solicits inward foreign investment and has set modest goals for increasing inbound FDI. Despite Japan’s wealth, high level of development, and general acceptance of foreign investment, however, inbound FDI stocks, as a share of GDP, are the lowest among the OECD countries.
On the one hand, Japan’s legal and regulatory climate is highly supportive of investors. Courts are independent, but attorney-client privilege does not exist in civil, criminal, or administrative matters, with the exception of limited application in cartel anti-trust investigations. There is no right to have counsel present during criminal or administrative interviews. The country’s regulatory system is improving transparency and developing new regulations in line with international norms. Capital markets are fairly deep and broadly available to foreign investors. Japan maintains strong protections for intellectual property rights with generally robust enforcement. The country remains a large, wealthy, and sophisticated market with world-class corporations, research facilities, and technologies. Nearly all foreign exchange transactions, including transfers of profits, dividends, royalties, repatriation of capital, and repayment of principal, are freely permitted. The sectors that have historically attracted the largest foreign direct investment in Japan are electrical machinery, finance, and insurance.
On the other, foreign investors in the Japanese market continue to face numerous challenges. A traditional aversion towards mergers and acquisitions within corporate Japan has inhibited foreign investment, and weak corporate governance, among other factors, has led to low returns on equity and cash hoarding among Japanese firms, although business practices are improving in both areas, at least among leading firms. Investors and business owners must also grapple with inflexible labor laws and a highly regimented system of labor recruitment and management that can significantly increase the cost and difficulty of managing human resources. The Japanese government has recognized many of these challenges and is pursuing initiatives to improve investment conditions.
A revised national Climate Law, which the National Diet passed unanimously in May 2021 and enters into full effect on April 1, 2022, will codify Japan’s decarbonization commitments under the Paris Agreement. The new legislation amends the law in three areas: requiring Japan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, bolstering mechanisms to support and expedite decarbonization at the subnational level, and requiring digitalization and transparency of emissions-related information published by the Government of Japan (GOJ).
Levels of corruption in Japan are low, but deep relationships between firms and suppliers as well as between large business and the bureaucrats who regulate them may limit competition in certain sectors and inhibit the entry of foreign firms into local markets.
Future improvement in Japan’s investment climate is contingent largely on the success of structural reforms to raise economic growth.
Since King Abdullah II’s 1999 ascension to the throne, Jordan has taken steps to encourage foreign investment and to develop an outward-oriented, market-based, and globally competitive economy. Jordan is also uniquely poised as a platform to host investments focused on the reconstruction of Iraq and other projects in regional markets.
Jordan is committed to investment promotion as a key driver of economic growth and job creation, though in practice these policies are implemented unevenly. Traditionally, foreign investment has been concentrated in the energy (from both conventional sources and renewables), tourism, real estate, manufacturing, and services sectors. The Government of Jordan offers a range of incentives to potential investors and has undertaken measures to review and enhance the economic, financial, and legal framework governing the investment process. However, despite improvement on doing business indicators, operating in Jordan is more difficult than elsewhere in the region. U.S. investors specifically cite instability in the tax regime and incentive packages as a key challenge, as well as public-private interface issues including the government’s inconsistent interpretation of its policies and regulations.
Jordan’s economic growth has been limited for over a decade by exogenous shocks, including the global financial crisis, energy disruptions during the 2011 Arab Spring, the 2015 closure of Jordans borders with Iraq and Syria, and the Syrian civil war. Although the borders with Iraq fully and Syria partially reopened in 2017 and 2018 respectively, cross-border movements have not recovered to previous levels. After a 1.6 percent GDP contraction in 2020 due to the pandemic, Jordan achieved 2.2 percent real GDP growth in 2021. IMF projections estimate growth will reach 2.7 percent in 2022.
In recent years, the government has run large annual budget deficits and reducing the financing gap with loans, foreign grants, and savings. In March 2020, the IMF board approved a $1.3 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program focused on fiscal consolidation, increased revenue collection, targeted social spending, economic growth, and job creation. The IMF also released additional credit from a Rapid Financing Instrument to help Jordan meet its fiscal obligations during the pandemic. In January 2022, Jordan and the IMF completed its third review of the EFF program.
In October 2021, Jordan established a dedicated Ministry of Investment, which has absorbed the duties of the Jordan Investment Commission and the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Unit. The Minister of Investment is charged with all issues related to local and foreign investors and setting policies to stimulate investment and enhance competitiveness.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) dropped slightly by 1.5 percent to JD 509.8 million ($720 million) in 2020 compared to 2019. FDI inflow reached JD 269.4 million ($380 million) during the first three quarters of 2021.
Kazakhstan has made significant progress towards creating a market economy since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It has attracted significant foreign investment to develop its abundant mineral, petroleum, and natural gas resources. As of October 2021, the stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) totaled $170 billion, including $40.4 billion from the U.S., according to official central bank statistics. Publicly available information indicates that U.S. investments in the hydrocarbons sector alone far exceed this official statistic.
While Kazakhstan’s vast hydrocarbon and mineral reserves remain the backbone of the economy, the government continues to make incremental progress toward diversification into other sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic gave impetus to efforts by the Government of Kazakhstan (GOK) to remove bureaucratic barriers to trade and investment. The GOK maintains an active dialogue with foreign investors through the President’s Foreign Investors Council and the Prime Minister’s Council for Improvement of the Investment Climate. Kazakhstan is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Widespread civil unrest in January raised concerns about the country’s political and economic stability. President Tokayev has since assured foreign investors that the GOK will ensure a stable investment climate and meet its commitments to investors. He also pledged to reduce the outsized role of monopolies and oligopolies in the economy. President Tokayev announced political and economic reforms in March that may bring positive changes to the country’s investment climate by increasing privatization and combatting corruption.
Given Kazakhstan’s long border and extensive economic ties with Russia, Russian aggression against Ukraine and ensuing sanctions against Russia affect Kazakhstan’s investment climate. Some investors will likely be deterred from investing in Kazakhstan, while others may find Kazakhstan an attractive alternative to doing business in Russia. The GOK has expressed a commitment to complying with the western sanctions against Russia and has invited western investors to relocate from Russia to Kazakhstan.
Despite President Tokayev’s assurances, concerns remain that some of the underlying economic causes of the January unrest remain unaddressed and sanctions on Russia may exacerbate existing structural weaknesses to cause high inflation, currency devaluation, and logistical impediments to imports and exports. Despite institutional and legal reforms, corruption, excessive bureaucracy, arbitrary law enforcement, and limited access to a skilled workforce in certain regions continue to present challenges. The government’s tendency to increase its regulatory role in relations with investors, to favor an import-substitution policy, to limit the use of foreign labor, and to intervene in companies’ operations continues to concern foreign investors. Foreign firms cite the need for better rule of law, deeper investment in human capital, improved transport and logistics infrastructure, a more open and flexible trade policy, a more favorable work-permit regime, and a more customer-friendly and consistent tax administration.
Kenya has a positive investment climate that has made it attractive to international firms seeking a location for regional or pan-African operations. The novel coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the short-term economic outlook, but the country remains resilient in addressing the health and economic challenges. In July 2020 the U.S. and Kenya launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this progress, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts, burdensome bureaucratic processes, and significant delays in receiving necessary business licenses. Corruption remains pervasive and Transparency International ranked Kenya 128 out of 180 countries in its 2021 Global Corruption Perception Index – reflecting modest progress over the last decade but still well below the global average.
Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure and a robust financial sector and is a developed logistics hub with extensive aviation connections throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 2018, Kenya Airways initiated direct flights to New York City in the United States. Mombasa Port is the gateway for East Africa’s trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides it with preferential trade access to growing regional markets.
In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passing the Tax Laws Amendment (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), which established new procedures and provisions related to taxes, eased the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, simplified registration procedures for small businesses, reduced the cost of construction permits, and established a “one-stop” border post system to expedite the movement of goods across borders. However, the Finance Act (2019) introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act (2020) enacted a Digital Service Tax (DST). The DST, which went into effect in January 2021, imposes a 1.5 percent tax on any transaction that occurs in Kenya through a “digital marketplace.” The oscillation between business reforms and conflicting taxation policies has raised uncertainty over the Government of Kenya’s (GOK) long-term plans for improving the investment climate.
Kenya’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Africa, averaging five to six percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2015 (excepting 2020due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic), five percent inflation since 2015, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. There is relative political stability and President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained focused on his “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage, establish national food and nutrition security, build 500,000 affordable new homes, and increase employment by growing the manufacturing sector.
Kenya is a regional leader in clean energy development with more than 90 percent of its on-grid electricity coming from renewable sources. Through its 2020, second Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement targets, Kenya has prioritized low-carbon resilient investments to reduce its already low greenhouse gas emissions a further 32 percent by 2030. Kenya has established policies and a regulatory environment to spearhead green investments, enabling its first private-sector-issued green bond floated in 2019 to finance the construction of sustainable housing projects.
American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.
Already one of Europe’s poorest countries, Kosovo was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic but recovered quickly. Although economic growth estimates for 2021 differ significantly between the Central Bank of Kosovo’s 9.9 percent estimate and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) 7.5 percent estimate, both point to a robust economic recovery and faster growth rates than initially forecast. A large inflow of remittances and diaspora tourism combined with increased exports contributed to this growth. Although many international financial institutions remain cautious in forecasting economic growth for 2022 given the unpredictability of the pandemic and global supply chain shocks, most expect Kosovo’s GDP to grow between 3.8 and 4 percent.
The pandemic has not led to permanent changes in Kosovo’s investment policies. The government enacted several relief measures that are all temporary and focused on maintaining employment levels and helping businesses preserve liquidity. As such, Kosovo’s COVID-19 relief measures did not significantly affect its broader investment policy environment.
Kosovo has potential to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), but that potential is constrained by its failure to address several serious structural issues, including limited regional and global economic integration; political interference in the economy; corruption; an unreliable energy supply; a large informal sector; difficulty establishing property rights; and tenuous rule of law, including a glaring lack of contract enforcement. The country’s ability to sustain growth relies significantly on international financial support and remittances. Its ongoing dispute with Serbia and lack of formal recognition by many countries and international organizations, including the lack of membership in the United Nations, also create obstacles to doing business.
Increased energy prices throughout Europe, particularly in the last quarter of 2021 through the first quarter of 2022 exposed Kosovo’s vulnerability to energy price shocks and its serious issues with energy reliability. By January 2022, the Kosovo government had to subsidize the energy sector in the amount of €90 million (about 1.3 percent of GDP) and increase energy tariffs to cover the cost of increased energy imports. Kosovo also faced blackouts due to maintenance issues at its two dilapidated coal-fired power plants. The Energy Regulatory Office in February 2022 instituted block tariffs for residential consumers but did not change electricity prices for businesses.
In 2021, the net flow of FDI in Kosovo was estimated at $466 million, a significant increase over the 2020 amount of $382 million. Real estate and leasing activities are the largest beneficiaries of FDI, followed by financial services and energy. The food, IT, infrastructure, and energy sectors are growing and are likely to attract new FDI.
One key sector of the economy that has sustained strong growth is the wood processing sector. Companies producing kitchens, baths, doors, upholstered furniture, and combined wood, metal and glass have seen increased investment since 2017. The sector is maturing and receiving support in business development services and access to finance. Kosovo is also addressing its energy security by increasing its renewable energy capacity and facilitating more bankable renewable projects. Kosovo has also rapidly increased the exports of bedding, mattresses, and cushions, but this development has mainly been concentrated within a few companies.
Kosovo’s laws and regulations are consistent with international benchmarks for supporting and protecting investment, though justice sector enforcement remains weak. Kosovo has a flat corporate income tax of 10 percent. In 2016, the government partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other international donors to launch the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund, which improves access to credit. With USAID assistance, Kosovo passed legislation to establish a Commercial Court, which aims to handle business disputes fairly, efficiently, and predictably and is expected to improve the business enabling environment by reducing opportunities for corruption and building investor and private sector trust in the judiciary.
Property rights and interests are enforced, but legal system weaknesses and difficulties associated with establishing title to real estate, in part due to competing claims arising from the history of conflict with Serbia, make enforcement difficult. Kosovo has a legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), but enforcement remains weak, largely due to a lack of resources. While IPR theft occurs in Kosovo, there is insufficient data on how widespread the issue is. The issue does not get attention in the media, and the U.S. Embassy in Pristina has not had significant complaints of IPR theft in Kosovo from U.S. companies. Anecdotally, the IPR theft that occurs tends to be mostly in lower-value items that likely do not garner significant attention.
All legal, regulatory, and accounting systems in Kosovo are modeled on EU standards and international best practices. All large companies are required to comply with international accounting standards. Investors should note that despite regulatory requirements for public consultation and the establishment of an online platform for public comments (http://konsultimet.rks-gov.net), some business groups complain that regulations are passed with little substantive discussion or stakeholder input.
In Kosovo’s recent history, the political environment has been characterized by short electoral cycles and prolonged periods of caretaker governments. However, the current governing coalition has an overwhelming majority, and all indications point to the likelihood that it will remain in place for much, if not all, of its four-year term. In addition, there have been few substantive changes in legislation and regulations on foreign investment and the general business environment despite previously short electoral cycles. To date, the U.S. Embassy in Pristina is not aware of any damage to commercial projects or installations. The government, which took office March 2021, ran on an anti-corruption platform and has a strong electoral mandate to enact positive change.
The public consistently ranks Kosovo’s high unemployment rate (officially 25.9 percent in 2021) as among its greatest concerns. Unemployment levels for first-time job seekers and women are considerably higher than the official rate. Many experts cite a skills gap and high reservation wage as significant contributing factors.
Despite the challenges, Kosovo has attracted a number of significant investors, including several international firms and U.S. franchises. Some investors are attracted by Kosovo’s relatively young population, low labor costs, relative proximity to the EU market, and natural resources. Global supply disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have sparked greater interest recently from some businesses to utilize Kosovo as a base for near-shoring production destined for the EU market. Kosovo does provide preferential access for products to enter the EU market through a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).
The Government of Kuwait launched an ambitious development plan in 2018 known as ‘Vision 2035’ which aims to transform country into an international trade hub and diversify its oil-centric economy. The goal is to increase private sector participation in Kuwait’s economy by creating a more investor-friendly environment as well as to invest in the nation’s economic infrastructure via the construction of new airports, ports, roads, industrial areas, residential developments, hospitals, a railroad, and a metro rail. The Northern Gateway initiative, which encompasses the Five Islands or New Kuwait projects, envisions public and private sector investment in the establishment of an international economic zone that could exceed USD 400 billion over several decades. With one of the world’s largest sovereign funds with more than USD 670 billion in assets as of March 2021, minimal taxes, and low-cost labor, Kuwait provides a great opportunity for investment. However, bureaucratic red tape and the frequent changing of the government has stalled the progress of many initiatives.
Several public-private partnerships are in the pipeline in the power, water management, and renewable energy sectors. Two billion-dollar hospitals were completed in the last two years. These institutions need foreign investment to operate and train hospital staff, as well as to deliver world-class equipment and IT infrastructure.
With a view to attracting foreign investment, the government passed a foreign direct investment law in 2013 that permits up to 100 percent foreign ownership of a business if approved by the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA). All other foreign businesses must abide by existing law that mandates that Kuwaitis, or other GCC nationals, own at least 51 percent of any enterprise. In approving applications from foreign investors seeking 100 percent ownership, KDIPA prioritizes local job creation, the provision of training and education to Kuwaiti citizens, technology transfer, diversification of national income sources, contribution to exports, support for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the utilization of Kuwaiti products and services. KDIPA has sponsored 37 foreign firms, including six U.S. companies. KDIPA also provides certain investment incentives like tax benefits, customs duties relief, and permission to recruit foreign employees.
Kuwait has also made great strides in protecting intellectual property. Kuwait’s 2019 Copyright Law addressed serious concerns about Kuwait’s intellectual property protection regime. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) moved Kuwait from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List in its 2020 Special 301 Report because of the new copyright legislation and an increase in intellectual property enforcement actions. The Special 301 Report identifies countries that are trading partners, but which do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR). Kuwait has continued to increase enforcement actions in 2021.
Kuwait is a country of 1.4 million citizens and 3.3 million expatriates. It possesses six percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and is a major oil exporter. The economy is heavily dependent upon oil production and related industries, which are almost wholly owned and operated by the government. The energy sector accounts for more than half of GDP and close to 90 percent of government revenue. The fall in oil prices after OPEC+ failed to agree on production targets in 2019 and the reduction in global demand for oil upon the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 greatly exacerbated Kuwait’s fiscal deficit. However, the rapid increases in the price of oil since spring 2021 has allowed Kuwait to significantly reduce its deficit from KD 5.4 billion (USD 17.7 billion) in March 2021 to KD 406.4 million (USD 1.3 billion ) as of January 2022. However, reduced stress on the country’s finances has dampened support for economic and business reforms that Kuwait needs to become the investment hub envisioned in New Kuwait Vision 2035. Kuwait’s ability to implement these changes will determine whether the current financial windfall will result in an economically sustainable future.
As it develops the private sector to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, the government faces two central challenges. It must improve the business climate to enable the private sector and must prepare its citizens to work in the private sector. Political tension between the government and the elected National Assembly, a slow and overly complicated bureaucracy, inconsistent legal practices, and restrictive economic policies contribute to a challenging business environment for outside investors.
More than 85 percent of all Kuwaitis with jobs work in the public sector, where they receive generous salaries and benefits. This makes public sector jobs largely preferable to careers in the private sector. Convincing young Kuwaitis that their future is in the private sector will require changing social attitudes and raising the level of local education so that Kuwaiti businesses can compete internationally in sectors other than fossil fuels.
The Kyrgyz Republic remains a frontier market oriented towards higher-risk investors, but the government under President Sadyr Japarov has expressed its desire to attract greater, more diversified foreign direct investment (FDI) and to develop a green economy to contribute to sustainable economic growth. In 2021, the President traveled extensively to seek investment partners in different regions, and government officials attended several trade and investment expositions in the region and beyond. While the official attitude toward FDI is positive and by law there are no limits on foreign ownership or control, in practice foreign investors may be subject to greater scrutiny than domestic investors, and the country’s capacity to provide a sound enabling environment for investment still faces many challenges. The legal framework for foreign investment mostly corresponds to international standards, but enforcement of these laws and private property rights is weak, and criminal investigations of commercial disputes is not uncommon.
Mining has historically been the industry that attracted the most FDI to the Kyrgyz Republic but a dispute with its largest foreign investor may have damaged investor appetite for this sector. In May 2021, the Kyrgyz government raided the offices of Kumtor Gold Company, a local subsidiary of Canadian mining company Centerra Gold, and fined the Canadian firm $3 billion for alleged environmental damages caused by running the Kumtor gold mine. The national government subsequently took over the mine and pursued Centerra Gold for corruption, criminal violations, and environmental damage in national and international courts. In September 2021, the London Bullion Market Association suspended Kyrgyzaltyn, the state gold refiner, from its Good Delivery List over issues concerning delivery and the potential for fraud, while the sale of Kyrgyz gold still suffers transparency issues. With the creation of the “Heritage of the Great Nomads” national holding company, the government has also signaled it intends to play a greater role in the development of the mining and precious metals industries. In April 2022, the Kyrgyz government and Centerra reached a conditional agreement by which the Kyrgyz government will take full control of the mine and give up its 26 percent stake in Centerra.
Still, other growing industries have attracted both domestic and foreign investor interest, including textiles, agriculture, education, franchising, and IT. Green investment is another promising area for potential investors as the Kyrgyz government increased its commitment to fighting climate change and sustainable development. In 2021, the Kyrgyz Republic joined the Global Methane Pledge and unveiled revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which also opened many opportunities for foreign firms seeking to invest in industries such as hydropower, energy efficiency, and methane abatement.
Additional challenges to an enabling investment climate include a weak judiciary, lack of incentives for foreign investors, and a banking system highly dependent on the Russian financial system. The local currency, the Kyrgyz som, quickly depreciated against the U.S. dollar after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, making not only imports more expensive but contributing to a drop in value of remittances that Kyrgyz migrant workers in Russia send home, which annually comprise roughly 30 percent of Kyrgyz GDP.
*Some information in the report may be subject to change upon date of publication and will be updated in the 2022 ICS.
Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is a rapidly growing developing economy at the heart of Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Laos’ economic growth over the last decade, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, averaged just below eight percent, placing Laos amongst the fastest growing economies in the world. Over the last 30 years, Laos has made slow but steady progress in implementing reforms and building the institutions necessary for a market economy, culminating in accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in February 2013. The Lao government’s commitment to WTO accession and the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 led to major reforms of economic policies and regulations with the aim to improve Laos’ business and investment environment. Nonetheless, within ASEAN, Laos ranks only ahead of Burma in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business’ rankings. The Lao government is increasingly tying its economic fortunes to the economic integration of ASEAN and export-led development and is prioritizing the digital economy, logistics, green growth, and more sustainable development.
Prior to Laos’ second COVID lockdown in September 2021, the World Bank predicted that Laos’ economic growth rate would increase from 0.5 percent in 2020 to 3.6 percent in 2021 on the prediction that Laos would soon open its borders. However, limited fiscal and foreign currency buffers have posed a challenge to the government’s ability to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. Overall, the pandemic has resulted in an intensification of the country’s macroeconomic vulnerabilities. When compared to other countries in the region, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Laos have been relatively stable and driven by the construction of infrastructure and power projects. In 2022, if the pandemic is brought under control and the government effectively implements fiscal support measures, international and Lao economists project GDP growth will reach four percent.
The exploitation of natural resources and the development of hydropower has driven rapid economic growth over the last decade, with both sectors largely led by foreign investors. However, because growth opportunities in these industries are finite and employ few people, the Lao government has recently begun prioritizing and expanding the development of high-value agriculture, light manufacturing, and tourism, while continuing to develop energy resources and related electrical transmission capacity for export to neighboring countries.
The Lao government hopes to leverage its lengthy land borders with Burma, China, Thailand, and Vietnam to transform Laos from “land-locked” to “land-linked,” thereby further integrating the Lao economy with the larger economies of its neighbors. The government hopes to increase exports of agriculture, manufactured goods, and electricity to its more industrialized neighbors, and sees significant growth opportunities resulting from the Laos-China Railway, which connects Kunming in Yunnan Province, China with Laos’ capital city Vientiane. Some businesses and international investors are beginning to use Laos as a low-cost export base to sell goods within the region and to the United States and Europe. The emergence of light manufacturing has begun to help Laos integrate into regional supply chains, and improving infrastructure should facilitate this process, making Laos a legitimate locale for regional manufacturers seeking to diversify from existing production bases in Thailand, Vietnam, and China. New Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Vientiane and Savannakhet have attracted major manufacturers from Europe, North America, and Japan. Chinese and Thai interests also have plans for new SEZ projects.
Economic progress and trade expansion in Laos remain hampered by a shortage of workers with technical skills, weak education and health care systems, and poor—although improving—transportation infrastructure. Institutions, especially in the justice sector, remain highly underdeveloped and regulatory capacity is low. Despite recent efforts and some improvements, corruption is rampant and is a major obstacle for foreign investors.
Corruption, policy and regulatory ambiguity, and the uneven application of laws remain disincentives to further foreign investment in the country. The Lao government is making efforts to improve the business environment. Its 8thfive-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) (2016-2020) directed the government to formulate “policies that would attract investments” and to “begin to implement public investment and investment promotion laws.” The former prime minister, now president, has stated his goal was to see Laos improve its World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking (Laos is currently ranked #154). In February 2018 and January 2020, the Office of the Prime Minister issued orders laying out specific steps ministries were to take to improve the business environment. These efforts made an impact. For example, due to streamlining of application processes, it now takes to less than 17 days to obtain a business license, compared to 174 days a few years ago.
In 2021, the former prime minister assumed the presidency of a new administration with a stated focus on economic issues. This continuity provides a foundation to build on Laos’ previous National Socio-Economic Development Plan. Laos’ new development plan, the 9th NSEDP (2021-2025), will be published later this year with a focus on graduating Laos from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2026 and become an upper-middle income country. One of the government’s priorities is to diversify the economy and improve the investment climate encouraging both domestic and foreign investment to accelerate economic growth. The government is focused on a post-COVID economic recovery through policies to achieve macro-economic stability, connectivity through improved infrastructure, and green, sustainable growth initiatives. Sectors such as agriculture, natural resource development, and tourism are emphasized in the draft 9th NSEDP plan. Further development of investment-related policies and other regulations can be expected from the new government.
The current administration remains active in firing or disciplining corrupt officials, with the government and National Assembly in 2019 disciplining hundreds of officials for corruption-related offenses. Despite these efforts, Laos’ Ease of Doing Business ranking fell from 139 in 2016 to154 in 2020. The multiple ministries, laws, and regulations affecting foreign investment in Laos creates confusion, and requires potential investors to engage either local partners or law firms to navigate a confusing and cumbersome bureaucracy.
Located in the Baltic region of northeastern Europe, Latvia is a member of the EU, Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Latvian government recognizes that, as a small country, it must attract foreign investment to foster economic growth, and thus has pursued liberal economic policies and developed infrastructure to position itself as a transportation and logistics hub. As a member of the European Union, Latvia applies EU laws and regulations, and, according to current legislation, foreign investors possess the same rights and obligations as local investors (with certain exceptions). Any foreign investor is entitled to establish and own a company in Latvia and apply for a temporary residence permit.
Latvia provides several advantages to potential investors, including:
Regional hub: Latvia is a transportation and logistics hub between West and East, providing strategic access to both the EU market and to Russia and Central Asia. Latvia’s three ice-free ports are connected to the country’s rail and road networks and to the largest international airport in the Baltic region (Riga International Airport). Latvia’s road network is connected to both European and Central Asian road networks. Railroads connect Latvia with the other Baltic States, Russia, and Belarus, with further connections extending into Central Asia and China.
Workforce: Latvia’s workforce is highly educated and multilingual, and its culture promotes hard work and dependability. Labor costs in Latvia are the fifth lowest in the EU.
Competitive tax system: Latvia ranked second in the OECD’s 2021 International Tax Competitiveness Index Rankings. To further boost its competitiveness, the Latvian government has abolished taxes on reinvested profits and has established special incentives for foreign and domestic investment. There are five special economic zones (SEZs) in Latvia: Riga Free Port, Ventspils Free Port, Liepaja Special Economic Zone, Rezekne Special Economic Zone, and Latgale Special Economic Zone, which provide various tax benefits for investors. The Latgale Special Economic Zone covers a large part of Latgale, which is the most economically challenged region in Latvia, bordering Russia and Belarus.
Despite the continued COVID-19 pandemic, Latvia’s GDP increased by 4.8 percent in 2021, rebounding from the 3.6 percent contraction in 2020. According to the government, growth in manufacturing and services sectors contributed to the economic growth. The most competitive sectors in Latvia remain woodworking, metalworking, transportation, IT, green tech, healthcare, life science, food processing, and finance. Recent reports suggest that some of the most significant challenges investors encounter in Latvia are a shortage of available workforce, demography, quality of education, and a significant shadow economy.
Latvia has made significant progress combatting money laundering since its non-resident banking sector first came under increased regulatory scrutiny in 2018 because of inadequate compliance with international AML standards. In late 2019 and early 2020, MONEYVAL and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded that Latvia had developed and implemented strong enough reforms for combating financial crimes to avoid inclusion on FATF’s so-called “grey list.” The Government of Latvia continues work to restore confidence in its financial institutions and has passed several pieces of additional reform legislation. Latvia also became the first member state under the MONEYVAL review to successfully implement all 40 FATF recommendations.
Some investors note a perceived lack of fairness and transparency with Latvian public procurements. Several companies, including foreign companies, have complained that bidding requirements are sometimes written with the assistance of potential contractors or couched in terms that exclude all but “preferred” contractors.
The chart below shows Latvia’s ranking on several prominent international measures of interest to potential investors.
*These figures significantly underestimate the value of U.S. investment in Latvia due to the fact that these do not account for investments by U.S. firms through their European subsidiaries.
Lebanon’s deep economic depression since the end of 2019 is the result of an import-dependent economy out of hard currency and decades of financial mismanagement, including a state-sponsored “Ponzi” scheme that offered high interest rates to attract financial inflows. The August 2020 Port of Beirut explosion and the COVID-19 pandemic further hampered economic growth. A June 2021 World Bank report estimated that Lebanon’s depression is likely to rank among top three most severe economic crises since the 1850s. The World Bank estimated Lebanon’s real GDP fell 10.5 percent in 2021 after a 21.4 percent contraction in 2020. Lebanon’s currency, the Lebanese pound (LBP), has lost more than 90 percent of its value since 2019. As a result, inflation in an import-dependent economy reached 240 percent as of December 2021. Lebanon’s Central Bank is intervening in the foreign exchange market to stem the local currency’s fall at the expense of the country’s limited foreign currency reserves. Lebanon’s banks accumulated around $70 billion in USD losses and are USD insolvent. More than half the country’s population is considered poor, and up to 50 percent are unemployed.
On March 7, 2020, Lebanon announced it would default on and restructure its nearly $31 billion dollar-denominated debt, the first such default in Lebanon’s history. Lebanon has not yet entered into negotiations with bondholders and is unable to borrow on international capital markets, reducing the country’s ability to import key commodities and invest in infrastructure. International correspondent banks likely place increased levels of due diligence on domestic banks because of the incomplete implementation of anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards. Correspondent banks have also introduced onerous requirements on their Lebanese counterparts because of increasing country risk. PM Najib Mikati formed a government in September 2021, after a 13-month political vacuum, and his Cabinet resumed talks with the IMF on a potential loan in January 2022. While the Mikati government has drafted a plan to address the $69 billion in financial sector losses, the IMF is looking for the government to develop a more comprehensive social, economic, and financial reform program to stabilize the economy and lay the foundation for future growth. The IMF will likely require deep fiscal reforms to make Lebanon’s debt – which reached 194 percent of GDP in 2021 – more sustainable, including restructuring the financial sector, reforming state-owned enterprises, particularly the energy sector, strengthening governance and anti-corruption efforts, and unifying the country’s system of multiple currencies.
Absent holistic economic reforms, preferably as part of an IMF program, analysts assess that Lebanon’s near- and medium-term economic future is bleak, imperiling Lebanon’s potential as a destination for foreign investment. Much depends on how Lebanon implements overdue economic and governance reforms and attracts international assistance and foreign investment. If the country can implement necessary reforms, attract foreign capital, stabilize the exchange rate, and recapitalize its financial sector, then opportunities remain for U.S. companies. Lebanon still has the legal underpinnings of a free-market economy, a highly educated labor force, and limited restrictions on investors. The most alluring sector is the energy sector, particularly for power production, renewable energies, and oil and gas exploration, though challenges remain with corruption and a lack of transparency. Information and communication technology, healthcare, safety and security, waste management, and franchising have historically attracted U.S. investments. However, corruption and a lack of transparency have continued to cause frustration among local and foreign businesses. Other concerns include over-regulation, arbitrary licensing, outdated legislation, ineffectual courts, high taxes and fees, poor economic infrastructure, and a fragmented and opaque tendering and procurement processes. Social unrest driven by a decline in public services and growing food insecurity may further hamper the investment climate.
If Lebanon is able to reform its business environment, it may once again attract foreign investment. Lebanon’s economic crisis is likely to be long and painful, however, and recovery can only be accelerated through quick but careful implementation of reforms.
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a country open to and eagerly seeking foreign direct investment (FDI). Government, business, labor, and civil society leaders all strongly agree that attracting FDI is vital to Lesotho’s future. In 2021 the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho (GOKL) undertook many promising initiatives to make doing business in Lesotho easier. However, in 2020 GOKL took or proposed measures that concerned foreign entrepreneurs and investors. These included measures that treat foreign-owned businesses differently than in the past and which suggest to some foreign observers a turn towards economic nationalism.
Among the important reforms undertaken in 2020, GOKL introduced new e-licensing and e-registration platforms that promise to greatly reduce the time for business creation and licensing. New protocols for customs procedures promise to streamline importing and exporting. And at the highest levels GOKL has announced that to help Lesotho recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, GOKL will focus on making Lesotho an attractive destination for FDI.
While GOKL clearly recognizes the importance of FDI and has continued to enact policies to make foreign investment easier, 2020 also saw the rollout of rules intended to protect local entrepreneurs from foreign competition in designated sectors. In recent years, many migrants from Asia and other parts of Africa have started businesses in these designated sectors and the current government has announced aggressive measures to reverse this trend. These sectors—such as small retail food sales and basic auto repair—are dominated by local small and micro enterprises but some do have participation by medium-sized foreign-owned firms.
Although these regulations will have a negative effect on some foreign investors, they will have low impact on overall FDI because most businesses in the designated sectors are relatively small. However, the government has also enacted other regulations, such as requiring foreign investors to renew their business licenses yearly instead of every three years, a condition that many foreign investors describe as onerous to the point of impossibility given the bureaucratic challenges.
Moreover, recent policy debates within the government around proposals to mandate a minimum percentage of local ownership enterprises earmarked for the locals have caused real concern. In February, the government implemented the regulations in the used car motor dealership sector causing barriers to entry for investors. Uncertainty concerning the execution of the regulations in other sectors remains.
Lesotho’s economy and FDI were badly affected by COVID-19 in 2021, with several foreign-owned textile factories closing or cutting back on operations due to the global downtrend in demand. The government introduced measures to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector. Other challenges included corruption; while not pervasive, corruption is a problem with Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranking Lesotho as 83rd out of 180 countries. Foreign investors are requested to adhere to international labor standards, however, there were reported instances of Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) in some textiles factories. The government, in collaboration with the stakeholders, is working to address GBV. Despite these challenges, GOKL is refining the services it offers foreign investors, and Lesotho retains advantages such as ready access to the South African and regional markets as well as lower labor, electricity, and communications costs than neighboring countries. Lesotho also has a government that remains focused on providing jobs to its citizens, and which has publicly proclaimed its eagerness to work with foreign investors—especially those ready to partner with locals.
Liberia offers opportunities for investment, especially in natural resources such as mining, agriculture, fishing, and forestry, but also in more specialized sectors such as energy, telecommunications, tourism, and financial services. The economy, which was severely damaged by more than a decade of civil wars that ended in 2003, has been slowly recovering, but Liberia has yet to attain pre-war levels of development. Liberia’s largely commodities-based economy relies heavily on imports even for most basic needs like fuel, clothing, and rice – Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many sectors of the economy, which contracted in 2019 and 2020. However, the World Bank and IMF expect per capita GDP to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. Growth will be driven mainly by the mining sector, although structural reforms are also expected to increase activity in agriculture and construction.
Low human development indicators, expensive and unreliable electricity, poor roads, a lack of reliable internet access (especially outside urban areas), and pervasive government corruption constrain investment and development. Most of Liberia lacks reliable power, although efforts to expand access to the electricity grid are ongoing through an extension from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, connection to the West Africa Power Pool, and other internationally supported energy projects. Public perception of corruption in the public sector is high, as indicated by Liberia’s poor showing in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries. Low public trust in the banking sector and seasonal currency shortages result in most cash being held outside of banks. To remedy this, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in 2021 initiated a plan to print and circulate additional currency. The new printing and minting will provide 48 billion Liberian dollars through 2024. The CBL and commercial banks have also successfully pushed the adoption of mobile money, which Liberians access through their mobile phones to make everyday purchases and pay bills. However, the government has yet to activate the “national switch,” meaning banking instruments like ATMs and mobile money accounts remain unintegrated and are not interoperable.
The government-backed Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) works with public and private sector stakeholders to explore how to create a friendlier business environment. International donors also work with the government to improve the investment climate, which ranks toward the global bottom by most global measures. Despite these numerous challenges, Liberia is rich in natural resources. It has large expanses of potentially productive agricultural land and abundant rainfall to sustain agribusinesses. Its rich mineral resources offer significant potential to investors in extractive industries. Several large international concessionaires have invested successfully in agriculture and mining, though negotiating these agreements with the government often proves to be a lengthy and byzantine struggle. The fishing industry, long dormant compared to pre-war levels, is making improvements that should make it more attractive for investment.
Libya presents a challenging investment climate. Reconstruction needs, severely underserved consumer demand, and abundant natural resources provide many opportunities for domestic and foreign investors, and the Government of National Unity (GNU), which took office in March 2021, has expressed a strong desire to receive greater foreign investment and partner with foreign companies. Nonetheless, the country’s prospects for foreign investment continue to be hampered by security risks posed by the presence of non-state militias, foreign mercenaries, and extremist and terrorist groups, and opaque bureaucracy, onerous regulations, and widespread rent-seeking activity in public administration. The Libyan government has a long history of not honoring contracts and payments, and several U.S. firms continue to be owed back payments for work done before and after the 2011 revolution. The sectors that have historically attracted the most significant investment into Libya are oil and gas, electricity, and infrastructure.
Following years of civil conflict, Libya’s warring parties signed a ceasefire in October 2020 that paved the way for a United Nations-facilitated political process that resulted in the country’s first unified national government since 2014. The GNU is an interim government charged with leading the country toward national elections that were scheduled for December 2021, but ultimately postponed. Since the postponement of elections Libya has entered a new period of political uncertainty that has slowed down any attempts to improve the business climate.
Libya holds Africa’s largest (and the world’s ninth largest) proven oil reserves and Africa’s fifth largest gas reserves. Most government revenues derive from the sale of crude oil. Libya’s oil production has been making a gradual recovery from repeated attacks on oil infrastructure by ISIS-Libya and other armed groups in 2016 and a nine-month forced shutdown in 2020 due to the civil conflict. Production has reached 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) as of March 2022. Technocrats heading the NOC, an independent, apolitical institution, continue to lay the groundwork for the long-term development and stabilization of the energy sector. The Ministry of Oil and Gas has attempted to exert political control over the NOC, at times complicating matters for companies working in the sector.
The Privatization and Investment Board (PIB), supervised by the Ministry of Economy, is the primary governmental body for encouraging private foreign investment in Libya.The Investment Law of 2010 provides the primary legal framework for foreign investment promotion. Passed prior to the 2011 revolution that toppled the Qadhafi regime, the law lifted many FDI restrictions and provided a series of incentives to encourage private investment. No significant laws related to investment have been passed since the revolution. No pandemic- or green-related measures have been instituted that can affect the investment climate.
Perceived corruption is deeply embedded in Libya and is widespread at all levels of public administration. The lack of transparency or accountability mechanisms in the management of oil reserves and revenues, the issuance of government contracts, and the enforcement of often ambiguous regulations continue to provide government officials with substantial opportunities for rent-seeking activities.
Lithuania is strategically situated at the crossroads of Europe and Eurasia. It offers investors a diversified economy, EU rules and norms, a well-educated multilingual workforce, advanced IT infrastructure and a stable democratic government. The Lithuanian economy has been growing steadily since the 2009 economic crisis but contracted in 2020 due to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it recovered relatively rapidly in 2021, reaching 5.1 percent GDP growth thanks to budget surpluses and accumulated financial reserves prior to the crisis, as well as a well-diversified economy. The country joined the Eurozone in January 2015 and completed the accession process for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in May 2018. Lithuania’s income levels are lower than in most of the EU. Based on the average net monthly wage, Lithuania is 23rd of 27 EU member states. According to Bank of Lithuania statistics, at the end of 2021, the United States was Lithuania’s 15th largest investor, with cumulative investments totaling $366 million (1.3 percent of total FDI).
The new government elected at the end of 2020 has continued prior governments’ efforts to improve the business climate and lower barriers to investment. In 2013, the government passed legislation which streamlined land-use planning, saving investors both time and money. In July 2017, the government introduced the new Labor Code which is believed to better balance the interests of both employees and employers, and in 2020 it introduced a law on exemption of profit tax for the period of up to 20 years for large and significant investment to the country.
The government provides equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors and sets few limitations on their activities. Foreign investors have the right to repatriate or reinvest profits without restriction and can bring disputes to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. Lithuania offers special incentives, such as tax concessions, to both small companies and strategic investors. Incentives are also available in seven Special Economic Zones located throughout the country.
U.S. executives report some burdensome procedures to obtain business and residence permits, and limited instances of low-level corruption in government. Transportation barriers, especially insufficient direct air links with some European cities, remain a hindrance to investment, as does the lack of transparency in government procurement.
Lithuania offers many investment opportunities in most of its economy sectors. The sectors which to date attracted most investment include Information and Communication Technology, Biotech, Metal Processing, Machinery and Electrical Equipment, Plastics, Furniture, Wood Processing and Paper Industry, Textiles and Clothing. Lithuania also offers opportunities for investment in the growing sectors of Real Estate and Construction, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Shared Services, Financial Technologies, Biotech and Lasers.
Luxembourg, the only Grand Duchy in the world, is a landlocked country in northwestern Europe surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany. Despite its small landmass and small population (634,700), Luxembourg is the second-wealthiest country in the world when measured on a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita basis.
Since 2002, the Luxembourg Government has proactively implemented policies and programs to support economic diversification and to attract foreign direct investment. The Government focused on key innovative industries that showed promise for supporting economic growth: logistics, information, and communications technology (ICT), health technologies including biotechnology and biomedical research; clean energy technologies, and most recently, space technology and financial services technologies. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the health-tech sector has become a priority sector to attract to Luxembourg.
Luxembourg’s economy proved resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, as 2020 GDP only contracted by 1.3 percent. Luxembourg’s economy rebounded strongly in 2021 with a growth rate of 6.9 percent. Luxembourg fared better than the EU growth rate of 5 percent. This rebound is due to a well-performing financial sector which managed to quickly revert to telework and only suffered limited effects of the pandemic. The Government of Luxembourg also provided a major economic stimulus package of 11 billion euros ($13 billion), equivalent to 18.5 percent of Luxembourg GDP, which helped stabilize the economy. This package includes direct subsidies and compensatory payments to companies, state-guaranteed loans, deferral of taxes, and social security contributions. The Government of Luxembourg borrowed a total of 5 billion euros ($6 billion) at negative interest rates due to the Grand Duchy’s Triple A credit rating.
Unemployment decreased 6.3 to 5.2 percent in 2021 and went back to pre-pandemic levels. This rapid job market recovery was supported by the government’s part-time employment reimbursement scheme, which allows workers to go on extended leave while receiving 80 percent of their salary and keeping their job. This measure cost the State of Luxembourg 1.3 billion euros in 2020 and 216 million euros in 2021.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine represents a major downside risk for the Luxembourg economy, with rising energy prices and a general spike in inflation stifling growth in 2022. The forecast 3.5 percent growth rate for 2022 might be out of reach.
Luxembourg remains a financial powerhouse thanks to the exponential growth of the investment fund sector through the launch and development of cross-border funds (UCITS) in the 1990s. Luxembourg is the world’s second largest investment fund asset domicile, after only the United States, with over $6 trillion of assets in custody in financial institutions.
Luxembourg has committed to the EU target of 55 percent Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions reductions by 2030 and net-zero emission by 2050, and has also set itself a national target of 25 percent renewable energy and 35-40 percent energy efficiency improvement by 2030.
Luxembourg is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most open and transparent economies and has no restrictions on foreign ownership. It is also consistently ranked as one of the world’s most competitive and least-corrupt economies.
Over the past decade, Luxembourg has adopted major fiscal reforms to counter money-laundering, terrorist-financing, and tax evasion.
The Government of Luxembourg actively supports the development of new sectors to diversify the country’s economy, given the dominance of the financial sector. Target sectors include space, logistics, and information technology, including financial technology and biomedicine.
Luxembourg launched its SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, and, in 2017, announced a fund offering financial support for the space resources industry. More than 50 companies dedicated to space initiatives are now active in Luxembourg. Luxembourg added an additional space fund in early 2020 to further bolster its status as a space startup nation.
Luxembourg has positioned itself as “the gateway to Europe” to establish European company headquarters operations by virtue of its central European location and advanced road, railway, and air connectivity. Due to uncertainties related to Brexit, 50 insurers, asset managers and banking institutions have decided to re-locate their EU headquarters to Luxembourg or transfer a significant part of their activity to the country.
Luxembourg is actively seeking logistics companies to expand the new logistics hub at Luxembourg Airport, home to Cargolux, Europe’s largest all cargo airline. Inaugurated in 2017, the Luxembourg Intermodal Terminal (LIT) is ideally positioned as an international hub for the consolidation of multimodal transport flows across Europe and beyond.
Luxembourg is also seeking ICT companies to use the existing high-security, state-of-the-art datacenters, affording high-speed internet connectivity to major international data hubs. Luxembourg has set up a high-performance computer which will be part of the EU’s high-performance computer network called EURO HPC
Macau became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on December 20, 1999. Macau’s status since reverting to Chinese sovereignty is defined in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration (1987) and the Basic Law (the SAR’s de facto constitution). Under the concept of “one country, two systems” articulated in these documents, Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy in economic matters, and its economic system is to remain unchanged for 50 years following the 1999 reversion to Chinese sovereignty. Macau, a separate customs territory, describes itself as a liberal economy and a free port. Tourism is the basis of the Macau economy. The Government of Macau (GOM) maintains a transparent, non-discriminatory, and free-market economy. The GOM is committed to maintaining an investor-friendly environment.
In 2002, the GOM ended a long-standing gaming monopoly, awarding two gaming concessions and one sub-concession to consortia with U.S. interests. This opening encouraged substantial U.S. investment in casinos and hotels and has spurred rapid economic growth in the tourism, gaming, and entertainment sector, in which the gaming industry constitutes the most important pillar of Macau’s economy. In 2021, gaming taxes accounted for 67 percent of $6 billion total tax revenue collected.
Macau is today the biggest gaming center in the world, having far surpassed Las Vegas in gambling revenue. However, Macau has been hit worse by the pandemic than Las Vegas due to inbound travel restrictions mandated by the GOM since January 2020, which drastically reduced the number of travelers from mainland China, who account for about 70 percent of all tourists entering Macau. Although the individual visa scheme that allows for mainland visitors to come to Macau resumed in August 2020, visa processing for tour groups, which have been the main source of tourists for years, is still on hold and its reactivation hinges on Beijing’s revising its rigid Zero-COVID policies. Macau recorded $10.82 billion in full-year casino gross gaming revenue in 2021, a 44 percent increase compared to 2020 figures, but still down 79 percent compared to the 2019 pre-pandemic numbers. U.S. investment over the past decade is estimated to exceed $24 billion. In addition to gaming, Macau aspires to position itself as a regional center for incentive travel, conventions, and tourism, though to date it has experienced limited success in diversifying its economy. In 2007, business leaders founded the American Chamber of Commerce of Macau.
Macau also seeks to become a “commercial and trade cooperation service platform” between mainland China and Portuguese-speaking countries. The GOM has various policies to promote these efforts and to create business opportunities for domestic and foreign investors. Many infrastructure projects are currently underway, such as new casinos, hotels, subways, airport expansion, and the Macau-Taipa 4th vehicle harbor crossing that started construction in August 2020.
Malawi’s economy was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gross domestic product growth slowed to 0.9 percent in 2020, but rebounded slightly in 2021, expanding by 2.2 percent. The government forecasts this trend will continue and forecasts growth of 4.5 percent by 2023. Macroeconomic and fiscal challenges remain, however. The government’s heavy debt burden and persistent fiscal deficits are likely to restrain economic expansion that outpaces population growth. Inflation was 9 percent in 2021, driven largely by currency devaluation and price increases for imported goods, primarily fuel, fertilizers, and food. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and is particularly vulnerable to climate related shocks.
The Government of Malawi is eager to attract foreign direct investment. Investment opportunities exist in agricultural, mining, health, transportation, information technology, and energy sectors. Transportation is a potential growth sector as the government works to improve the road network and rehabilitate railway lines connecting Malawi to Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. Public-private partnership opportunities are likely to open in aviation and road networks. Corruption remains a major problem at all levels of the public and private sectors. There is a scarcity of skilled and semi-skilled labor. Political risk in Malawi is manageable and tribal, religious, regional, ethnic, or racial tensions are minimal.
The Malawi Investment and Trade Center assists investors and businesses by providing insight and local knowledge to help navigate the myriad regulations, processes, and procedures required to operate a business. Malawi’s legal system is generally unbiased but is notoriously slow. Investors have the right to establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises. Parliament is scheduled to review existing land laws in early 2022. If passed, the reforms may negatively affect foreign ownership and investment in land-based enterprises.
Scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) remains a challenge and negatively affects investors. The government aims to maintain a three-month supply of forex, but often falls short of that goal. Forex rationing has led to several months wait for business to remit foreign investment funds. Despite the long wait times, there are currently no restrictions on remittance of foreign investment funds if the capital and loans initially came from foreign sources and were registered with the Reserve Bank of Malawi.
Malawi is a land-locked country and the road network connecting to ports in neighboring countries is limited. Investment in infrastructure overall has been limited. Formal and informal trade boundaries may restrict imports and exports, and import tariffs tend to be high. Malawi is one of the least electrified countries in the world; approximately eleven percent of the country has access to regular electricity and internet is unreliable, and expensive.
The government is committed to addressing climate change through climate smart policies and programs. The Environmental Management Act provides details on environmental requirements for investors and ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs). Climate change issues are integrated across the public service and national development plans. However, limited resources and issues related to poverty impede the government’s ability to implement climate adaptation and resilience programs and initiatives.
Malawi’s borders are open to local and international travelers, but all travelers are required to present negative COVID-19 test results and certificate of COVID-19 vaccination.
The Republic of Maldives comprises 1,190 islands in 20 atolls spread over 348 square miles in the Indian Ocean. Tourism is the main source of economic activity for Maldives, directly contributing close to 30 percent of GDP and generating more than 60 percent of foreign currency earnings. The tourism sector experienced impressive growth, from 655,852 arrivals in 2009 to 1.7 million in 2019, before a steep decline in 2020 resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism began to recover in late 2020 and reached 1.3 million in 2021. This recovery in tourism will likely continue to drive the economy. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the government re-emphasized the need to diversify, with a focus on the fisheries and agricultural sectors.
GDP growth averaged six percent during the decade through 2019, lifting Maldives to middle-income country status. Per capita GDP is estimated at USD 6,698 in 2020, the highest in South Asia. However, income inequality and a lack of employment opportunities remain a major concern for Maldivians, especially those in isolated atolls. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, GDP fell 33.5% percent in 2020. With the tourism industry’s recovery, GDP grew 31.6 percent in 2021.
Maldives is a multi-party constitutional democracy, but the transition from long-time autocracy to democracy has been challenging. Maldives’ parliament ratified a new constitution in 2008 that provided for the first multi-party presidential elections. In 2018, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party was elected president, running on a platform of economic and political reforms and transparency, following former President Abdulla Yameen whose term in office was marked by corruption, systemic limitations on the independence of parliament and the judiciary, and restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and association. The MDP also won a super majority (65 out of 87) seats in parliamentary elections in April 2019, the first single-party majority in Maldives since 2008. President Solih pledged to restore democratic institutions and the freedom of the press, re-establish the justice system, and protect fundamental rights. Corruption across all sectors, including tourism, was a significant issue under the previous government and remains a concern.
Serious concerns also remain about a small number of violent Maldivian extremists who advocate for attacks against secular Maldivians and may be involved with transnational terrorist groups. In February 2020, attackers stabbed three foreign nationals – two Chinese and one Australian – in several locations in Hulhumalé. ISIS claimed responsibility for an April arson incident on Mahibadhoo Island in Alifu Dhaalu atoll that destroyed eight sea vessels, including one police boat, according to ISIS’ online newsletter al-Naba. There were no injuries or fatalities. Speaker of Parliament and former President Mohamed Nasheed was nearly killed in a May 6, 2021, IED attack motivated by religious extremism. Nasheed sustained life threatening injuries and several members of his security and bystanders were also injured. Nine individuals have been charged in connection with the attack, with one already convicted.
Large scale infrastructure construction in recent years contributed to economic growth but has resulted in a significant rise in debt. The Maldives’ debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 58.5 percent in 2018 to an estimated 61.8 percent in 2019 according to the World Bank (WB); this further increased to 138 percent in 2020 according to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), an increase driven by a sharp drop-off in government revenue.
Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law and competition from politically influential local businesses act as deterrents. U.S. investment in Maldives has been limited and focused on the tourism sector, particularly hotel franchising and air transportation. In 2021, construction, transportation, fisheries, and renewable energy also benefited from increased FDI.
On December 28, 2020, Maldives submitted an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which includes an enhanced ambition of 26 percent decrease in emissions and carbon neutrality by 2030, conditioned on receiving financial, technological, and technical support.
Despite enthusiasm for U.S. investment, there are significant obstacles to investing in Mali, including political instability, economic sanctions, allegations of corruption, poor infrastructure, and ongoing insecurity throughout the country. Mali remains under transition government rule after a coup d’etat in August 2020, followed by a further consolidation of military power in May 2021. The U.S. Department of State maintains a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” travel advisory for Mali due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. Continued insecurity throughout Mali is exacerbated by the minimal presence of the state in many areas and has permitted terrorist groups to conduct attacks against Western targets and Malian security forces. Intercommunal violence stemming from conflict between livestock herders and crop farmers in central Mali further contributes to instability.
Mali depends on bilateral donors and multilateral financial institutions, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and African Development Bank, to fund major development projects, particularly in health, infrastructure, education, and agriculture. Mali received significant financial support in 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to support post-pandemic economic recovery. Since then, however, donors such as Denmark and France have partially or fully interrupted their development support to Mali, intensifying the financing needs.
The COVID-19 crisis interrupted a five-year period of consistent growth. As a result, Mali’s growth in 2020 reached only two percent against an initial projection of five percent. The transition government took measures to support households and businesses amid this economic slowdown, further increasing its fiscal deficit, which reached 6.2 percent of GDP in 2020, against an initial projection of 3.5 percent. In March 2021, the IMF projected GDP growth of six percent for Mali, as well as average inflation of two percent. Mali was relying on these positive projections to reduce its budget deficit to 4.5 percent of GDP, down from 5.5 percent a year ago. These projected figures will likely be significantly affected by the ECOWAS and WAEMU sanctions in force during the first half of 2022.
Business contacts report both Malian and foreign businesses face corruption in procurement, customs procedures, tax payment, and land administration, although the transition government has committed to undertaking reform, including through improved public financial management practices and increased tax revenues. Efforts to strengthen revenue collection agencies, particularly customs, are ongoing following significant revenue shortfalls in 2018 that the IMF attributed to corruption, weak taxpayer compliance, and fraud. Malian businesses generally view U.S. products favorably and openly search for new partnerships with U.S. firms, particularly in infrastructure, energy, mining, and agriculture.
The Republic of Malta is a small, strategically located country 60 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles north of Libya, astride some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. A politically stable parliamentary republic with a free press, Malta is considered a safe, secure, and welcoming environment for American investors to do business.
Malta joined the European Union in 2004, the Schengen visa system in 2007, and the Eurozone in 2008. With a population of about 516,100 and a total area of only 122 square miles, it is the EU’s smallest country in geographic size. The economy is based on services, primarily shipping, banking and financial services, online gaming, tourism, and professional, scientific, and technical activities. Manufacturing also plays a small, but important role. Maltese and English are the official languages.
Given its central location in one of the world’s busiest trading regions, as well as its relatively small economy, Malta recognizes the important contribution that international trade and investment provides to the generation of national wealth.
After robust economic growth of 5.3 percent in 2019, the Maltese economy registered a severe contraction in 2020 of -8.2 percent brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, thanks to the improvement of the public health situation in Malta, which allowed for a significant relaxation of restrictive measures, real GDP growth rebounded strongly to 5.9 percent in 2021. Malta’s unemployment rate stood at 3.1 percent in February 2022.
While the top three credit rating agencies predicted the economic impact of the pandemic would be less pronounced on the Maltese economy when compared to other EU neighboring countries, Moody’s moved from a stable to a negative outlook. The current sovereign credit ratings are A-/A-2 with a stable outlook (S&P); A2 with a negative outlook (Moody’s); and A+ with a stable outlook (Fitch). Moody’s recent change to a negative outlook on the government’s debt burden is attributed to the Financial Action Task Force’s greylisting and risks linked to the recovery of the tourism sector.
In 2020, the Government of Malta revamped its citizenship-by-investment program, which provides citizenship by naturalization to applicants (and their dependents). The new program still offers a track to citizenship through the introduction of a residency requirement before the acquisition of Maltese citizenship. The residency program offers two investment routes to acquire citizenship: i) individuals can apply after a one-year residency period if they invest €750,000 ($875,000) or more; or ii) applicants can opt to pay €600,000 ($700,500) if they apply after a three-year residency period. IIP conditions include a €700,000 ($814,000) minimum for purchasing immovable property, or a €16,000 per year minimum for leasing immovable property (which must be retained for at least five years), and a €150,000 minimum for investment in stocks, bonds, or debentures. Applicants must also make a mandatory €10,000 ($11,600) philanthropic donation and pass a due diligence test before filing the application. In March 2022, the government suspended the processing of applications for nationals of the Russian Federation and Belarus. The suspension applies to both Malta’s citizenship-by-investment scheme as well as a residency through investment scheme, which must be renewed on a yearly basis.
The deterioration of the global economy that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the Mauritanian economy and reversed the previously bright economic outlook that led to the reduction of the country’s poverty rate from 10.9 percent in 2008 to 6.0 percent in 2014. The Mauritanian government response has been swift in mitigating the impact of the pandemic with the support from international partners by way of assistance funds and debt service suspensions. As a response to the pandemic’s economic impact, President Ghazouani launched the Economic Recovery Plan (ProPEP) in September 2020. ProPEP aims to boost the economy and improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations by reducing extreme poverty, expanding basic socio-economic infrastructures, organizing the information sector, and adopting a regulatory framework conducive to private sector development. As part of his annual speech to the parliament on January 29, Prime Minister Bilal presented a brighter picture of Mauritania’s economic outlook highlighting the government’s push to attract more investors. His presentation highlighted Mauritania’s natural resources which consist of deposits of copper, gypsum, uranium, and hydrocarbons including one of Africa’s largest offshores discoveries, the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) natural gas field.
The 2022 budget reflects the Mauritanian government’s priorities as it attempts to revitalize the national economy and alleviate poverty, especially in the informal sector which was particularly impacted by COVID-19 and comprises 70 to 75 percent of the total economy. With its considerable natural resources, Mauritania places great importance on foreign direct investment (FDI). The continued global demand for iron-ore boded well for Mauritania throughout the pandemic as iron ore production is a main contributor to the country’s GDP. Real GDP is expected to grow from 2.8 percent in 2021 to 4.2 percent in 2022.
Mauritania has substantial renewable energy potential, particularly when it comes to solar, wind, and hydro power resources. The natural gas reserves at GTA are expected to enter production in 2023. The energy sector (hydrocarbons and renewable energy) offers opportunities for increased U.S. direct investment in Mauritania. On February 28, Kosmos Energy announced that it will increase investments in Mauritania and Senegal in 2022 by USD 300 million to accelerate development of the GTA gas field. According to Power Africa, the Government of Mauritania is working to expand its electricity supply and encourage investment in the renewable energy sector to stimulate the economy with the aim of reaching universal access by 2030. To do this, the GIRM will:
Increase new production capacity from local resources, mainly natural gas;
Increase the share of renewable energies in its total energy production, targeting 60 % by 2030;
Further develop the transmission network and interconnections with neighboring countries; and
Implement decentralized solutions in isolated areas.
Traditionally, U.S. investment in Mauritania has been primarily in the hydrocarbons and mining sectors. However, the Mauritanian government’s efforts to meet the challenges of food self-sufficiency provide an opportunity for U.S. agro-businesses to engage with Mauritania through supplies and equipment sales, as well as technical training. In 2019, Mauritania ranked as the United States’ 157th largest goods export market amounting to USD 91 million. Mauritania’s top export categories were machinery (USD 24 million), meat poultry (USD 15 million), vehicles (used and new) (USD 9 million), minerals fuels (USD 9 million).
Mauritius is an island nation with a population of 1.3 million people. The Government of Mauritius (GoM) claims an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 2.3 million square kilometers, but its undisputed EEZ amounts to approximately 1.3 million square kilometers, in addition to jointly managing about 388,000 square kilometers of continental shelf with Seychelles. Mauritius has maintained a stable and competitive economy. Real GDP grew at an average of 4.7 percent from 1968 to 2017, enabling the country to achieve middle-income status in less than 50 years. In 2020, Mauritius’ GDP was $11 billion and its gross national income per capita amounted to $10,230. In July 2020, the World Bank classified Mauritius as a high-income country based on 2019 data, but Mauritius reverted to upper-middle income status in 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic severely damaged the economy. Tourism, which contributed around 20 percent to the economy pre-COVID, did not return as expected following the reopening of borders in October 2021. There was a moderate rebound in exports of goods, but exports of services declined further due to the difficult situation in the tourism sector. The GoM estimated that GDP growth would increase 4.8 percent in 2021, with contractions in tourism (18.8 percent) and sugar (9.6 percent), according to Statistics Mauritius. The IMF forecasted that the economy would grow 6.7 percent growth in 2022. Unemployment was estimated at 9.2 percent at the end of 2020, while inflation for 2021 was 4.0 percent.
One of the poorest countries in Africa at independence in 1968, Mauritius has become one of the continent’s wealthiest. It successfully diversified its economy away from sugarcane monoculture to a manufacturing and service-based economy driven by export-oriented manufacturing (mainly textiles), tourism, financial and business services, information and communication technology, seafood processing, real estate, and education/training. Before COVID-19, authorities planned to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for investment into Africa; increasing the use of renewable energy; developing smart cities; growing the blue economy; and modernizing infrastructure, especially public transportation, the port, and the airport.
In November 2021 at the Conference of Parties 26 (COP 26), the GoM pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of the business-as-usual scenario 2030 figures. To achieve this target, the government plans to undertake major reforms in its energy, transport, waste, refrigeration and air-conditioning, agriculture, and conservation sectors. The government aims to produce 60 percent of the country’s energy from green sources by 2030, to phase out the total use of coal before 2030, and to increase energy efficiency by 10 percent based on 2019 figures. As part of the national strategy to modernize the public transport system, the light rail network that launched in 2019 is expected to be extended. The government was also working to diversify 70 percent of waste from the landfill by 2030 through the implementation of composting plants, sorting units, biogas plants and waste-to-energy plants.
In 2020 and 2021, however, officials focused on supporting sectors whose revenue disappeared due to the pandemic. In May 2020, the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) set up the Mauritius Investment Corporation (MIC) to mitigate the economic downturn due to the pandemic. The BoM invested $2 billion of foreign exchange reserves in the MIC which were largely directed towards the pharmaceutical and blue economy sectors, in addition to assisting companies that suffered during the pandemic. The BoM also intervened regularly on the domestic foreign exchange market to supply foreign currency.
Government policy in Mauritius is pro-trade and investment. The GoM has signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements with 46 countries and maintains a well-regarded legal and regulatory framework. Mauritius has been eager to attract foreign direct investment from China and India, as well as courting more traditional markets like the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. The China-Mauritius free-trade agreement went into effect on January 1, 2021. Mauritius also signed a preferential trade agreement with India, which went into effect in April 2021. The GoM promotes Mauritius as a safe, secure place to do business due to its favorable investment climate and tradition as a stable democracy. Corruption in Mauritius is low by regional standards, but recent political and economic corruption scandals illustrated there was room for improvement in terms of transparency and accountability. For instance, a commercial dispute between a U.S. investor and a parastatal partner that turned into a criminal investigation has raised questions of governmental impartiality.
In 2021, Mexico was the United States’ second largest trading partner in goods and services. It remains one of our most important investment partners. Bilateral trade grew 482 percent from 1993-2020, and Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market. The United States is Mexico’s top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) with a stock of USD 184.9 billion (2020 per the International Monetary Fund’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey).
The Mexican economy averaged 2.1 percent GDP growth from 1994 to 2021, contracted 8.3 percent in 2020 — its largest ever annual decline — and rebounded 5 percent in 2021. Exports surpassed pre-pandemic levels by five percent thanks to the reopening of the economy and employment recovery. Still, supply chain shortages in the manufacturing sector, the COVID-19 omicron variant, and increasing inflation caused the economic rebound to decelerate in the second half of 2021. Mexico’s conservative fiscal policy resulted in a primary deficit of 0.3 percent of GDP in 2021, and the public debt decreased to 50.1 percent from 51.7 percent of GDP in 2020. The newly appointed Central Bank of Mexico (or Banxico) governor committed to upholding the central bank’s independence. Inflation surpassed Banxico’s target of 3 percent ± 1 percent at 5.7 percent in 2021. The administration maintained its commitment to reducing bureaucratic spending to fund an ambitious social spending agenda and priority infrastructure projects, including the Dos Bocas Refinery and Maya Train.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force July 1, 2020 with Mexico enacting legislation to implement it. Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has delayed issuance of key regulations across the economy, complicating the operating environment for telecommunications, financial services, and energy sectors. The Government of Mexico (GOM) considers the USMCA to be a driver of recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis given its potential to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) to Mexico.
Investors report the lack of a robust fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis, regulatory unpredictability, a state-driven economic policy, and the shaky financial health of the state oil company Pemex have contributed to ongoing uncertainties. The three major ratings agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s) maintained their sovereign credit ratings for Mexico unchanged from their downgrades in 2020 (BBB-, Baa1, and BBB, lower medium investment grade, respectively). Moody’s downgraded Pemex’s credit rating by one step to Ba3 (non-investment) July 2021, while Fitch and S&P maintained their ratings (BB- and BBB, lower medium and non-investment grades, respectively. Banxico cut Mexico’s GDP growth expectations for 2022, to 2.4 from 3.2 percent, as did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to 2.8 percent from the previous 4 percent estimate in October 2021. The IMF anticipates weaker domestic demand, ongoing high inflation levels as well as global supply chain disruptions in 2022 to continue impacting the economy. Moreover, uncertainty about contract enforcement, insecurity, informality, and corruption continue to hinder sustained Mexican economic growth. Recent efforts to reverse the 2013 energy reforms, including the March 2021 changes to the electricity law (found to not violate the constitution by the supreme court on April 7 but still subject to injunctions in lower courts), the May 2021 changes to the hydrocarbon law (also enjoined by Mexican courts), and the September 2021 constitutional amendment proposal prioritizing generation from the state-owned electric utility CFE, further increase uncertainty. These factors raise the cost of doing business in Mexico.
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a lower middle income island nation of 104,832 in 2021, an eight percent population decline from 2019. The inhabitants live on 607 islands with a total land area of 271 square miles and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of over one million square miles (2.6 million square km) in a remote area of the Western Pacific Ocean. The nation is composed of distinct, separate cultures and languages organized into four states under a weak national government. The FSM is part of the former U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, gaining independence in 1986. Since independence, the United States has provided over $100 million annually to the FSM under a Compact of Free Association (Compact or COFA) with the United States. FSM uses the funds for development under the administration of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (DOI). The World Bank estimates FSM’s 2020 Gross Domestic Income (GDI) at $3,950 per person, a trend reflecting no growth over the previous 10 years. The national currency is the U.S. dollar.
Commercial fishing remains the key economic sector in the FSM. The country’s primary sources of income are the sale of fishing rights ($70 million in FY2020), corporate income taxes, mainly from offshore corporate registrations for captive insurance ($10 million in FY 2020), and special revenue grants ($26 million in FY2020). The FSM continues largely as a subsistence economy, except in larger towns where the economy is centered on government employment and a small commercial sector. The cash economy is primarily fueled by government salaries paid by Compact funds (70 percent of employed adults work in the public sector) and, to a much lesser degree, by family remittances and Social Security benefits paid to FSM citizens who previously worked in the United States or who are the surviving spouse of an American citizen.
Compact funding was anticipated to change in 2023 from direct funding in the form of sector grants, to the use by the FSM of proceeds derived from a trust fund developed from U.S. contributions over 20 years. (Note: The Compact of Free Association is under renegotiation as of June 2022 and it cannot be determined if the direct funding mechanism of sector grants will continue or end). As of September 2021, the balance of the Compact Fund stood at $1 billion. FSM has also created its own trust fund, contributing $17 million in FY2020, raising its overall balance to $307 million. (Note: audited balances for the FSM Trust Fund for FY2021 have not yet been published).
The FSM GDP for 2018 was $402 million, a 19.5 percent increase from 2017 at constant prices. The economy recorded a trade deficit of $125 million in goods and services for the same year. FSM government debt at $83.2 million was low, giving FSM a low 23.7 debt/GDP ratio, one of the lowest in the Pacific. Major creditors are the Asian Development Bank (52.5 percent of debt) and the U.S. Rural Utility Services (20.7 percent of debt). Despite the low levels of debt in absolute terms, the International Monetary Fund deemed FSM to be at a high level of debt stress due to the uncertainty created by looming Compact Funding reductions in 2023 and the possible need to borrow to maintain operations of state governments.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is almost nonexistent due to prohibitions on foreign ownership of land and businesses (in specified industries), difficulties in registering companies (the process requires approvals from the state governments as well as the national government), poor private sector contract enforcement, poor protection of minority (foreign) investors’ rights, weak courts, and weak bankruptcy processes. In addition, lack of infrastructure, poor health and education systems, the scarcity of commercial flights, and high costs of imported goods and various business services also contribute to the lack of FDI.
Pohnpei State’s Legislature amended its laws in September 2018 to reduce requirements on foreign investment. The law specified the business sectors that permit FDI, with the remaining sectors available for Pohnpei citizens only. Domestic capital formation is very low. Commercial banks are classified as foreign entities and their ability to provide commercial loans, especially secured by real estate, is very limited. Banks view all credit to FSM borrowers as essentially unsecured.
Most national political power is delegated to the four states by the FSM Constitution, including regulation of foreign investment and restrictions on leases. Thus, investors must navigate nationwide between five different sets of regulations and licenses. U.S. citizens can live and work in the FSM indefinitely without visas under the Compact but cannot own property on most FSM islands. FSM voters select national legislators (senators). The national senators then caucus to select the president and vice-president from among the four at-large senators. There are no political parties. On May 11, 2019, Senators selected David Panuelo and Yosiwo George as president and vice president, respectively, for four-year terms. The most recent elections for Congress were held March 1, 2021.
The FSM federal government closed its borders in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not allow any repatriations until May 2021. Since that time, it has repatriated citizens and essential workers intermittently via a single flight per month into the country. The shut-down has adversely affected the FSM’s tourism industry and the ability of the international community to implement infrastructure programs needed to support investment. Recently, flights have increased in frequency and quarantine has been reduced, with plans to fully reopen in August 2022.
Only Yap State has undertaken any green energy initiatives with a single pilot wind project. It has also implemented several small-scale solar projects on outer islands.
Under the new pro-reform government, Moldova is making progress on economic reforms and strengthening democratic institutions. The pro-reform message voters sent when they chose Maia Sandu as Moldova’s first female President in November 2020 was solidified when the pro-Western, anti-corruption Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) won snap parliamentary elections in July 2021. The government enjoys wide support among the business community.
In December 2021, the government secured a 40-month, $560 million governance-focused program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government also unlocked new EU MicroFinancial assistance and secured an Economic Recovery and Resilience plan of up to $660 million for 2021 – 2024 to help Moldova meet its development priorities.
In 2021, Moldova’s economy grew by a record 13.9%, following an almost 8% contraction in 2020. Unemployment decreased, outmigration slowed, and consumer confidence grew.
However, there are major concerns facing Moldova’s investment climate in 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an immediate and significant negative impact on Moldova’s economy. Almost 20% of Moldova’s goods were imported from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus before the war; with those supply routes now frozen, Moldovans have had to substitute goods from the EU at significantly higher costs. Moldova relied on the port in Odesa and Ukraine’s railway system for much of its trade and now must pay significantly higher transport fees for goods to be trucked in from Romania via the land border. Experts predict GDP will grow by at most 0.3% in 2022.
The government is committed to strengthening Moldova’s investment and business climate to attract foreign investment, which will help mitigate the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, energy crisis, and disruptions to Moldovan economy because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government continues to deal with the fallout from the massive bank fraud in 2014, when more than a billion dollars was stolen from Moldova’s state coffers. Efforts are being taken to implement reforms, investigate and prosecute those responsible, and tackle the pervasive corruption that continues to undermine public trust and slow economic development. Moldova ranks 105 out of 180 on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.
Moldova has adopted modern commercial legislation in accordance with WTO rules following negotiations linked to Moldova’s WTO accession. The main challenges to the business climate remain the lack of effective and equitable implementation of laws and regulations, and arbitrary, non-transparent decisions by government officials to give domestic producers an edge over foreign competitors in certain areas. For example, an environmental tax is applied on bottles and other packaging of imported goods, but not levied on bottles and packaging produced in Moldova. Additionally, the government may liberally cite public security or general social welfare as reasons to intervene in the economy in contravention of its declared respect for market principles. There are reports of problems with customs valuation of goods, specifically that the Customs Service has been applying the maximum possible values to imported goods, even if their actual purchase value was far lower.
In June 2014, Moldova signed an Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU), including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), committing the government to a course of reforms to bring its governmental, regulatory, and business practices in line with EU standards. In March 2022, in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the government formally applied for EU membership. The DCFTA has helped integrate Moldova further into the European common market and created more opportunities for investment in Moldova as a bridge between Western and Eastern European markets. Moldova now exports over 80 percent of its goods to European, North American, and other non-Russian markets. U.S. assistance, particularly in the agricultural, wine, information technology, and other key sectors, has been critical in promoting a competitive Moldova that is well-integrated into Western markets.
While some large foreign companies have taken advantage of tax breaks in the country’s free economic zones, foreign direct investment (FDI) remains low. Finance, automotive, light industry, agriculture, food processing, IT, wine, and real estate have historically attracted foreign investment. Largely through USAID programs, Embassy Chisinau has supported the development of a number of these emerging sectors, yet risks remain. The National Strategy for Investment Attraction and Export Promotion 2016-2020 identified seven priority sectors for investment and export promotion: agriculture and food processing, automotive, business services such as business process outsourcing (BPO), clothing and footwear, electronics, information and communication technologies (ICT), and machinery.
Private investors, including several U.S. companies, have shown strong interest in the ICT sector, especially after Moldova established a preferential tax regime for the sector. Improvements in the strength and transparency of the financial sector also helped attract interest. Many U.S. businesses have explored opportunities in the agricultural and energy sectors.
Mongolia’s frontier market and vast mineral reserves represent potentially lucrative opportunities for investors but vulnerability to external economic and financial shocks, ineffective dispute resolution, and lack of input from stakeholders during rulemaking warrant caution. Mongolia imposes few market-access barriers, and investors face few investment restrictions, enjoying mostly unfettered market access. Such franchises as fast food and convenience stores, outperforming expectations, suggest that investors can bring successful international business models to Mongolia. The cashmere-apparel and agricultural sectors also show strong promise. However, investing into such politically sensitive sectors as mining carry higher risk.
Mongolia attracts investors’ attention but has trouble converting interest into actual investments. Unless and until Mongolia embraces a stable business environment that both transparently creates and predictably implements laws and regulations, many investors will find its market too risky and opt for more competitive countries. An essential step to mitigating these risks is for Mongolia to implement the U.S.-Mongolia Agreement on Transparency in Matters Related to International Trade and Investment (known as the Transparency Agreement), which requires a public-comment period before new regulations become final. Mongolia has implemented some of this agreement but is five years behind full implementation of public-notice commitments.
2021 also saw resolution of some of the disputes hampering progress of the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, expected to provide 25 percent of Mongolia’s GDP as soon as 2024. Agreements over cost- and debt-sharing of a portion of the mine’s development, and commitments to more transparency by Oyu Tolgoi’s partners over management and development decisions, signals that Mongolia can and will work out disputes within the terms of its contractual obligations.
Government and parliament continue to address threats to judicial independence by implementing 2019 constitutional amendments and 2020 statutory judicial reforms that have improved transparency and reduced political influence in the appointment and removal of judges. Investors, however, continue to cite long delays in reaching court judgments, followed by similarly long delays in enforcing decisions, as well as reports that administrative inspection bodies, such as the tax authority, will fail to act on politically sensitive decisions or cases involving politically exposed Mongolians. Businesses note substantial and unpredictable regulatory burdens at all levels; and cite an excessively slow tax dispute resolution process as an indirect expropriation risk. In June 2022, parliament streamlined procedures for, and reduced the required number of, permits and licenses. Government effort to move delivery of most services onto digital platforms may also increase the efficiency of its business registration processes.
COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are stressing Mongolia’s economy. In late 2021, Mongolia’s parliament passed its New Recovery Policy, a 10-year development plan to increase national productivity by improving transport logistics, energy production, industrialization, urban and rural infrastructure, and green development. This program depends on restoring market access for mining exports, the primary revenue source. However, as of early 2022, China’s zero-COVID policies continue to create bottlenecks along the Mongolia-China border. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting unprecedented international sanctions on Russia, has created uncertainty about access to imports of petroleum products, electricity, and such key commodities as wheat and fertilizer.
Montenegro’s economy is centered on three sectors, with the government largely focusing its efforts on developing tourism, energy, and to a lesser extent, agriculture. The tourism sector officially accounts for about 25 percent of GDP, although some analysts believe it accounts for over one-third when taking into account the grey economy. In the energy sector, the most important development project in the transmission system was the construction of a one-way underwater electricity cable to export power to Italy, which included the development of a 433-kilometer-long tunnel approximately 1,200 meters below the Adriatic Sea surface. The project cost 800 million euro and began operation in December 2019. There are several other ongoing energy projects, including the controversial ecological reconstruction of the coal-fired thermal plant in Pljevlja in partnership with China’s Dongfang Electric Corporation, as well as the development of a 55-megawatt wind power plant in Gvozd, a project supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Montenegrin government also signed concession agreements for exploratory offshore oil and gas drilling, which began in March 2021, although preliminary results indicate that the drill site is not feasible for exploitation.
According to the Central Bank of Montenegro (CBCG), foreign direct investment (FDI) to Montenegro in 2021 totalled €898.4 million. Although no one source country dominates FDI, significant investments have come from Italy, Hungary, China, Russia, and Serbia, with other investments also coming from the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the United States. Montenegro has one of the highest public debt-to-GDP ratios in the region, currently at 83 percent. Infrastructure development remains a government priority, including the second section of Montenegro’s first highway, a project designed to better connect the more developed south with the relatively underdeveloped north of the country. The pandemic hit Montenegro’s economy hard, with the unemployment rate reaching 24 percent by the end of 2021. In addition, GDP declined by 15.3 percent in 2020, the biggest drop in Europe. The country enjoyed a strong recovery in 2021, however, with the government announcing a GDP growth rate of 14 percent for the year, one of the highest in Europe. Economic recovery will continue to face challenges, however. Developments in Ukraine and Russia, two of the Montenegro’s main sources of tourists, will threaten economic growth. An internal political crisis, after Parliament in early February 2022 passed a motion of no-confidence in the Government and subsequently removed the Parliament’s Speaker, also threatens economic stability. As of late March 2022, a caretaker Government was running the country’s day-to-day operations and ongoing negotiations to form a new Government were taking place, with the possibility of snap elections if these talks fail.
Montenegro began implementing a wide-ranging economic reform program known as Europe Now, which eliminated all individual health care contributions, almost doubled the minimum wage, increased pensions, and introduced a system of progressive taxation. As a candidate country on its path to joining the European Union (EU), Montenegro has opened all 33 negotiating chapters (and closed three). But the county’s candidacy is dependent on progress against interim benchmarks in rule of law. The European Commission’s 2021 Country Report for Montenegro termed progress in this area as “limited.” Despite regulatory improvements, corruption remains a significant concern. Montenegro joined NATO in June 2017. Montenegro has not joined the Open Balkan Initiative, previously known as “Mini-Schengen,” an initiative championed by Serbia and Albania designed to facilitate trade, services, and movement of people throughout the Western Balkans.
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index
At the confluence of Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, Morocco seeks to transform itself into a regional business hub by leveraging its geographically strategic location, political stability, and world-class infrastructure to expand as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies. Morocco actively encourages and facilitates foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing, through positive macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms. The Government of Morocco implements strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, with an emphasis placed on value-added industries such as renewables, automotive, aerospace, textile, pharmaceuticals, outsourcing, and agro-food. Most of the government’s strategies are laid out in the New Development Model released in April of 2021. As part of the Government’s development plan, Morocco continues to make major investments in renewable energy, is on track to meet its stated goal of 64 percent total installed capacity by 2030, and announced an even more ambitious goal of 80 percent by 2050.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2021, Morocco attracted the ninth-most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa in 2020. Peaking in 2018 when Morocco attracted $3.6 billion in FDI, inbound FDI dropped by 55 percent to $1.7 billion in 2019 and remained largely unchanged at $1.7 billion in 2020. UAE, France, and Spain hold a majority of FDI stocks. Manufacturing attracted the highest share of FDI stocks, followed by real estate, trade, tourism, and transportation. Morocco continues to orient itself as the “gateway to Africa,” and expanded on this role with its return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) which entered into force in 2021. In June 2019, Morocco opened an extension of the Tangier-Med commercial shipping port, making it the largest in Africa and the Mediterranean; the government is developing a third phase for the port which will increase capacity to five million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Tangier is connected to Morocco’s political capital in Rabat and commercial hub in Casablanca by Africa’s first high-speed train service. But weak intellectual property rights protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, inadequate money laundering safeguards and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges. In 2021, Morocco was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list” of countries subjected to increased monitoring due to deficiencies int the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Morocco has ratified 72 investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 62 economic agreements, including with the United States and most EU nations, that aim to eliminate the double taxation of income or gains. Morocco is the only country on the African continent with a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, eliminating tariffs on more than 95 percent of qualifying consumer and industrial goods. The Government of Morocco plans to phase out tariffs for some products through 2030. The FTA supports Morocco’s goals to develop as a regional financial and trade hub, providing opportunities for the localization of services and the finishing and re-export of goods to markets in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Since the U.S.-Morocco FTA came into effect bilateral trade in goods has grown nearly five-fold. The U.S. and Moroccan governments work closely to increase trade and investment through high-level consultations, bilateral dialogue, and other forums to inform U.S. businesses of investment opportunities and strengthen business-to-business ties.
Mozambique’s lengthy coastline, deep-water ports, favorable climate, rich soil, and vast natural resources give the country significant potential, but investors face challenges related to the business environment. The Government of the Republic of Mozambique (GRM) made progress on public financial management reforms and publishing budget and debt figures, took steps to reform State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and arrested or prosecuted high-level officials on corruption-related charges. It reached an agreement with the IMF and promoted dialogue with the private sector and donor community on economic reforms. Challenges include Mozambique’s opaque and complicated taxation policies, barriers to private land ownership, corruption, an underdeveloped financial system, high interest rates, poor infrastructure, and difficulties obtaining visas. Infrastructure outside of Maputo is often poor, while bureaucracy and corruption slow trade at many points of entry. Mozambican labor law makes it difficult to hire and fire workers, and court systems are bogged down in labor disputes. The domestic workforce also lacks many advanced skills needed by industry, and the visa regime makes bringing in foreign workers difficult.
Insecurity related to a terrorist insurgency in northern Mozambique has resulted in multi-billion-dollar onshore LNG projects being delayed, although a smaller offshore floating LNG platform remains on track to begin production by October 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the extractive industry and tourism sector, and pandemic-related restrictions affected many other economic sectors. Following a recession in 2020, the economy returned to 2.5 percent economic growth in 2021. In 2022, the GRM began to ease some restrictions, although COVID-19 measures have continued to limit the hours restaurants and other businesses can operate and impose testing requirements on travelers.
Mozambique is eager to partner with the United States on climate issues, although it lacks resources. It joined the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) and is considering joining the Global Methane Pledge. As the GRM made progress on rural electrification, it incorporated solar energy and solicited investment for hydropower projects. U.S. development agencies and international financial institutions contributed to energy projects in solar and natural gas. The U.S. Department of Energy helped identify areas where small renewable solar and wind projects could be built alongside agricultural activities. These areas may provide opportunities for sustainable foreign direct investment in the renewable energy market. Mozambique is a growing producer of critical minerals, including graphite, lithium, and titanium. In 2021, Mozambique joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, enabling Mozambique to legally export diamonds.
The GRM worked constructively with the United States and other members of the donor community. In March 2022, it reached an agreement with the IMF for a three-year, $470 million program that aims to reinforce economic recovery while addressing challenges related to debt and financing and encouraging good governance and improved management of public resources. The GRM is working with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) towards signing a second MCC compact (Compact II) in 2023. Compact II will entail business-enabling reforms and will undertake investments in Zambézia Province that focus on transportation infrastructure, commercial agriculture, and climate change mitigation. While Compact II is still under development, it has potential to contribute to key sectors and help create an enabling environment for additional investments.
The Namibian government prioritizes attracting more domestic and foreign investment to stimulate economic growth, combat unemployment, and diversify the economy. The Ministry of Industrialization and Trade (MIT) is the governmental authority primarily responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Foreign Investment Act of 1993 (FIA). The MIT is working on new business legislation, the Namibia Investment Promotion and Facilitation Act, but the legislation is still in draft form. As a result, the FIA remains the guiding legislation on investment.
The FIA calls for equal treatment of foreign investors and Namibian firms, including the possibility of fair compensation in the event of expropriation, international arbitration of disputes, the right to remit profits, and access to foreign exchange. The government emphasizes the need for investors to partner with Namibian-owned companies and/or have a majority of local employees to operate in country.
The mining, fishing, and tourism sectors have historically attracted significant investment in Namibia. There are large Chinese foreign investments, particularly in the uranium mining sector. South Africa has considerable investments in the diamond mining and banking sectors, while Canada has investment in gold, zinc, and lithium mining. Spain and Russia have investments in the fishing industry. Foreign investors from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, and other countries have investment in oil exploration off the Namibian coast. Logistics, manufacturing, and mining for diamonds and critical minerals such as gold lithium, and uranium also attract investment.
The investment climate in Namibia is generally positive. Despite global economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Namibia has maintained political stability and continues to offer key advantages for inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), such as an independent judicial system, protection of property and contractual rights, good quality physical and telecommunications infrastructure, and easy access to South Africa and the region. Namibia is upgrading its transportation infrastructure to facilitate investment and position itself as a regional logistics hub. An expansion at Walvis Bay Port concluded in 2019, renovations at Hosea Kutako International Airport are ongoing, and there are plans to extend and rehabilitate the national rail line, notably to improve connection from Walvis Bay port to neighboring countries. Namibia has the best roads on the African continent, according to the World Economic Forum. Namibia also has access to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU, which is also headquartered in Namibia), the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Free Trade Area, and markets in Europe and Asia. With the second highest solar radiation in the world and vast land and wind resources, Namibia is also positioning itself to be a global leader in renewable energies and green hydrogen, with potential to improve local and regional access to energy and efforts to combat climate change.
Factors that may inhibit FDI into Namibia are the country’s relatively small domestic market, high transport costs, high energy prices, and limited skilled labor pool. Corruption is a problem but not endemic. A recent scandal in the fishing sector resulted in the arrests of ministers and business leaders, cost Namibia around a billion USD, and strained public trust.
As a post-apartheid country with one of the highest rates of inequality in the world, Namibia continues to look for ways to address historic economic imbalances. Proposed legislation, the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill (NEEEB), which has been in draft form for more than a decade, will look to create economic and business opportunities for disadvantaged groups, including in the areas of ownership, management, human resource development, and value addition. Parliament aims to pass the bill in 2022, but further delays are possible.
Nepal’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is approximately USD33.7 billion, and trade totaling USD13.6 billion. Despite considerable potential – particularly in the energy, tourism, information and communication technology (ICT), infrastructure and agriculture sectors – political instability, widespread corruption, cumbersome bureaucracy, and inconsistent implementation of laws and regulations have deterred potential investment. While the Government of Nepal (GoN) publicly states its keenness to attract foreign investment, this has yet to translate into meaningful practice. The COVID pandemic further slowed reform efforts that might have made Nepal a more attractive investment destination. Despite these challenges, foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country has been increasing in recent years. Historically, few American companies have invested in Nepal; and yet the U.S. still features among the top 10 foreign investors in Nepal, constituting about 3% of the total FDI stock.
In 2017, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a USD500 million Compact with the GoN that will focus on electricity transmission and road maintenance. The GoN has agreed to contribute an additional USD130 million for these Compact programs. Following years of delay, the GoN ratified the Compact on February 27 and attention has now turned to implementation. Despite the delay, MCC ratification showed that the GoN is committed to honoring its international commitments.
Nepal’s location between India and China presents opportunities for foreign investors. Nepal also possesses natural resources that have significant commercial potential.
Hydropower – Nepal has an estimated 40,000 megawatts (MW) of commercially-viable hydropower electricity generation potential, which could become a major source of income through electricity exports.
Other sectors offering potential investment opportunities include agriculture, tourism, the ICT sector, and infrastructure. The tourism sector is slowly recovering from the downturn due to the pandemic.
Nepal offers opportunities for investors willing to accept inherent risks and the unpredictability of doing business in the country and possess the resilience to invest with a long-term mindset. While Nepal has established some investment-friendly laws and regulations in recent years, significant barriers to investment remain.
Corruption, laws limiting the operations of foreign banks, lingering challenges in the repatriation of profits, controlled currency exchange facilities, prohibition of FDI in certain sectors as well as a minimum foreign investment threshold of NPR 50 million (USD415,000), and the government’s monopoly over certain sectors of the economy (such as electricity transmission and petroleum distribution), undermine foreign investment in Nepal.
Millions of Nepalis seek employment overseas, creating a talent drain, especially among educated youth.
A lack of understanding of international business standards and practices among the political and bureaucratic class, and a legal and regulatory regime that is not quite aligned with international practices also hinder, impede and frustrate foreign investors. Nepal’s tax regime, in particular, may be inconsistent with international practices, and could trip-up foreign investors as has happened in two cases in recent years.
Immigration laws and visa policies for foreign workers are cumbersome. Inefficient government bureaucratic processes, a high rate of turnover among civil servants, and corruption exacerbate the difficulties for foreigners seeking to work in Nepal.
Political uncertainty is another continuing challenge for foreign investors. Nepal’s ruling parties have spent much of their energy over the last years on internal political squabbles instead of governance.
Nepal’s geography also presents challenges. The country’s mountainous terrain, land-locked geography, and poor transportation infrastructure increases costs for raw materials and exports of finished goods.
Trade unions – each typically affiliated with parties or even factions within a political party – and unpredictable general strikes create business risk.
The persistent use of intimidation, extortion, and violence – including the use of improvised explosive devices – by insurgent groups targeting domestic political leaders, GoN entities, and businesses remains a source of potential instability, although the country’s most prominent insurgent group (led by Netra Bikram Chand, also known as Biplav) agreed in March 2021, to enter peaceful politics, which may reduce this threat.
After weathering the pandemic better than most countries, the New Zealand economy has begun to overheat. Net debt to GDP has increased from 19.5 percent prior to the onset of Covid restrictions to 34.5 percent at the end of 2021. The increase in debt has been due in part to spending measures the government has undertaken for Covid response and recovery. These measures were able to support economic activity during extensive Covid-related domestic lockdowns and travel restrictions, but along with supply chain disruptions, they have begun to contribute to higher inflation. Nationwide labor shortages across a variety of sectors have also had a sizeable impact on the economy. In response to war in Ukraine, the New Zealand government rapidly passed historic sanctions legislation targeting individuals, companies, and assets associated with Russia’s invasion. Sanctions are expected to have a limited direct impact on the investment climate in New Zealand.
While a swift border closure and the imposition of lockdowns originally helped stamp out community transmission of Covid, the appearance of the Omicron variant in January 2022 resulted in an outbreak that put pressure on the health system. At time of writing, border restrictions were being phased out in favor of a management approach to the pandemic. The government announced its plans to open the New Zealand border to travelers from visa-waiver countries on May 1. By October, it is expected that the border will fully reopen. Since 2020, the tourism sector has suffered the most, while primary exports and the housing market have helped to sustain the economy. Unemployment is currently 3.2 percent, a record low.
New Zealand has an international reputation for an open and transparent economy where businesses and investors can make commercial transactions with ease. Major political parties are committed to an open trading regime and sound rule of law practices. This has been regularly reflected in high global rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report and Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption index. New Zealand is party to a multitude of free trade agreements (FTA). In February 2022, the country signed its latest, an FTA with the United Kingdom.
Successive governments accept that foreign investment is an important source of financing for New Zealand and a means to gain access to foreign technology, expertise, and global markets. Some restrictions do apply in a few areas of critical interest including certain types of land, significant business assets, and fishing quotas. These restrictions are facilitated by a screening process conducted by a government agency.
The current Labour-led government welcomes productive, sustainable, and inclusive foreign investment, but since being elected in October 2017 and reelected in October 2020, there has been a modest shift in economic priorities to social initiatives while continuing to acknowledge New Zealand’s dependence on trade and foreign investment. Cabinet has agreed a whole-of-government framework that will drive climate change policy. This national initiative is currently underway to reduce the country’s emissions and is developing a pathway for farmers to reduce agricultural emissions. The rapidly developing digital and e-commerce landscape is supported by government initiatives that expand the knowledge base, while making a priority of digital inclusion. Along with its focus on post-pandemic recovery, the New Zealand government has invested in a digital, innovative future that aims to secure multilateral agreements with e-commerce rules that address the complexities of the evolving digital economy.
The 2022 Investment Climate Statement for New Zealand uses the exchange rate of NZD 1 = USD 0.70
Investors should be extremely cautious about investing in Nicaragua. The regime of President Ortega and Vice President Murillo continues to suspend constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, detain political prisoners, and disregard the rule of law, creating an unpredictable investment climate rife with reputational risk and arbitrary regulation.
President Ortega awarded himself a fourth consecutive term in November 2021 after arbitrarily jailing opposition figures, barring all credible opposition political parties from participating in elections, blocking legitimate international election observation efforts, and committing widespread electoral fraud. Through a sham judicial process, regime-controlled courts subsequently convicted more than 40 political prisoners – including all of those who aspired to run against Ortega as presidential candidates – on vague, spurious charges. The Ortega-Murillo regime has also targeted the independent media and journalists and in 2021 seized La Prensa, Nicaragua’s only print newspaper. Independent universities have faced invasive governmental investigations and extreme budget cuts, causing 14 university closures. The regime-controlled National Assembly subsequently took control of six universities, leaving 30,000 students in limbo.
In 2020, the National Assembly approved six repressive laws that alarmed investors. Some of the most concerning include: a gag law that criminalizes political speech; a foreign agents law that requires organizations and individuals to report foreign assistance and prevents any person receiving foreign funding from running for office; and a consumer protection law that could prevent financial institutions from making independent decisions on whether to service financial clients, including OFAC-sanctioned entities. Tax authorities have seized properties following reportedly arbitrary tax bills and jailed individuals without due process until taxes were negotiated and paid. Arbitrary fines and customs inspections prejudice foreign companies that import products.
In response to the Ortega-Murillo regime’s deepening authoritarianism, almost all international financial institutions have stopped issuing new loans to Nicaragua, and external financing will fall sharply beyond 2022. The regime is publicly betting that a new economic partnership with the People’s Republic of China – following a break in diplomatic relations with Taiwan and establishment of ties with China in December 2021 – will provide fresh investment and financing to make up for its growing isolation.
Nicaragua’s economic forecast is uncertain and subject to downside risks. Independent economists predict Nicaragua’s economic growth will slow considerably to a rate of less than 3 percent in 2022. Growth in 2021 was unexpectedly high at more than 9 percent but followed three years of contractions from 2018 to 2020. Official estimates from the Nicaraguan Central Bank project growth between 4 and 5 percent in 2022. Inflation increased to 7 percent in 2021. The number of Nicaraguans insured through social security, a measure of the robustness of the formal economy, remains 6 percent below 2018 levels. After several years of very low activity, Nicaragua’s credit market began expanding in 2021. The uncertainty surrounding the government’s 2019 tax reforms – and multiple years of still-unresolved legal challenges – continue to pause companies’ plans for expansion or reinvestment.
Nicaragua’s economy still has significant potential for growth if investor confidence can be restored by strengthening institutions and improving the rule of law. Its assets include: ample natural resources; a well-developed agricultural sector; an organized and sophisticated private sector committed to a free economy; ready access to major shipping lanes; and a young, low-cost labor force that supports the manufacturing sector. The United States is Nicaragua’s largest trading partner – it is the source of roughly one quarter of Nicaragua’s imports, and the destination of approximately two-thirds of Nicaragua’s exports.
Niger is eager to attract foreign investment and has taken slow but deliberate steps to improve its business climate, including making reforms to liberalize the economy, encourage privatizations, appeal to foreign investors, increase imports and exports, and create new export processing zones.
In April 2021, newly elected President Bazoum Mohamed was inaugurated in Niger’s historic first democratic transfer of executive power. Bazoum intends to build upon the advancement of his predecessors to continue to develop the nation’s mineral and petroleum wealth, while seeking to develop agricultural businesses that can take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Pre-COVID economic growth averaged roughly six percent per year and the government managed positive 1.5 percent growth through the 2020 pandemic year. The Government of Niger (GoN) continues to seek foreign investment – U.S. or otherwise.
President Bazoum frequenty reiterates the need for FDI during official visits. In 2017, the GoN created the High Council for Investment, which is an organization tasked with supporting and promoting foreign direct investments in Niger, and is furthering appeals for foreign investment with the development of the GUCE,Guichet Unique du Commerce Exterieur, an information and facilitation system for foreign trade, electronic and dematerialized, intended to simplify and modernize procedures to facilitate the passage of goods entering and leaving the national territory.
U.S. investment in the country is very small; there is currently only one U.S. firm operating in Niger outside of U.S. Government-related projects. Many U.S. firms see risk due to the country’s limited internet, transport, and energy infrastructure, terrorist threats, the perception of political instability, lack of educated and skilled/experienced workers, and a climate that is dry and very hot. Foreign investment dominates key sectors: France in the the uranium sector, Morocco is making inroads with telecommunications, bank and real estate development, while Chinese and Turkish investment is paramount and expanding in the oil, mining,construction, and hospitality sectors. Much of the country’s retail stores, particularly those related to food, dry goods and clothing are operated by Lebanese and Moroccan entrepreneurs. GoN focus areas for investment include the mining and petroleum sector, infrastructure and construction, transportation, and agribusiness. The GoN also hopes to draw investment into petroleum exploration into proven reserves with the 2023 target completion of a crude oil export pipeline.
Nigeria’s economy – Africa’s largest – exited recession with a 3.4% GDP growth rate in 2021 following a contraction of 1.9% the previous year. The IMF forecasts growth rates of under 3% in 2022 and 2023 while the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics predicts a more robust 4.2% growth rate in 2022. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has prioritized diversification of Nigeria’s economy beyond oil and gas, with the stated goals of building a competitive manufacturing sector, expanding agricultural output, and capitalizing on Nigeria’s technological and innovative advantages. With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is an attractive consumer market for investors and traders, and offering abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool.
The government has undertaken reforms to help improve the business environment, including by facilitating faster business start-up by allowing electronic stamping of registration documents and making it easier to obtain construction permits, register property, obtain credit, and pay taxes. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows nevertheless declined from roughly $1 billion in 2020 to $699 million in 2021 as persistent challenges remain.
Corruption is a serious obstacle to Nigeria’s economic growth and is often cited by domestic and foreign investors as a significant barrier to doing business. Nigeria’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index fell slightly from its 2020 score of 149 out of 175 countries to154 of 180 in 2021. Businesses report that corruption by customs and port officials often leads to extended delays in port clearance processes and to other issues importing goods.
Nigeria’s trade regime is protectionist in key areas. High tariffs, restricted foreign exchange availability for 44 categories of imports, and prohibitions on many other import items have the aim of spurring domestic agricultural and manufacturing sector growth. The government provides tax incentives and customs duty exemptions for pioneer industries including renewable energy. A decline in oil exports, rising prices for imported goods, an overvalued currency, and Nigeria’s expensive fuel subsidy regime continued to exert pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves in 2021. Domestic and foreign businesses frequently cite lack of access to foreign currency as a significant impediment to doing business.
Nigeria’s underdeveloped power sector is a bottleneck to broad-based economic development and forces most businesses to generate a significant portion of their own electricity. Reform of Nigeria’s power sector is ongoing, but investor confidence continues to be weakened by regulatory uncertainty and limited domestic natural gas supply.
Security remains a concern to investors in Nigeria due to violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism in certain parts of the country. The ongoing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) insurgencies have included attacks against civilian and military targets in the northeast of the country. Nigeria has experienced a rise in kidnappings for ransom and attacks on villages by armed gangs in the North West and North Central regions. Criminal attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta region that restricted oil production in 2016 have eased, but a significant rise in illegal bunkering and oil theft has left the sector in a similar state of decreased output.
The Republic of North Macedonia, an EU candidate country, and a NATO member since March 2020, continues to be receptive to U.S. commercial investments. The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted North Macedonia’s economy and delayed foreign direct investment inflow. The government’s COVID stimulus measures helped limit the economic drop to 6.1 percent in 2020, and assisted the recovery in 2021, which saw four percent GDP growth. Government support also cushioned the impact of the crisis on the labor market, with unemployment falling to 15.7 percent in 2021 and then to 15.2 percent in Q1 of 2022. In its Growth Acceleration Plan, the government set targets to double average annual GDP growth rate from 2.5 percent to 5 percent in the period 2022-2026, create 156,000 new jobs, and reduce unemployment to 8.6 percent. It also committed to “green growth” by accelerating the energy transition and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Declaration on Green Agenda signed November 2020. Although economic effects of the pandemic linger, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is exacerbating the energy crisis and supply chain woes.
While doing business is generally easy in North Macedonia and the legal framework is largely in line with international standards, corruption is a consistent issue. Large foreign companies operating in the Technological Industrial Development Zones (TIDZ) generally report positive investment experiences and maintain good relations with government officials. However, the country’s overall regulatory environment remains complex, and frequent regulatory and legislative changes, coupled with inconsistent interpretation of the rules, create an unpredictable business environment conducive to corruption. The government generally enforces laws, but there are numerous reports that some officials remain engaged in corrupt activities. Transparency International ranked North Macedonia 87th out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021, 24 spots higher from the prior year, with a score of 39/100 in absolute terms.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs continues to coordinate government activities related to foreign investments. The government made limited efforts in 2021 to attract new investment, focusing instead on economic recovery from the pandemic. However, the government did court foreign companies and investors for public projects in transportation and energy infrastructure. The State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption has opened number of corruption-related inquiries, including several involving high-level officials, and the government appointed a new Deputy Prime Minister for Good Governance, who will focus on structural and procedural changes to reduce opportunities for corruption.
Fitch Ratings reaffirmed North Macedonia’s previous credit rating of BB+ with a negative outlook, and Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its credit rating at BB- with a stable outlook.
There are several areas to watch in 2022. In 2021, Embassy Skopje identified digitalization and green energy as areas ripe for U.S. investment due to the government’s growing commitment to invest in these strategic sectors. North Macedonia’s location, at the crossroads of pan-European transport corridors VIII and X, is an advantage as companies consider “near-shoring” their production to be closer to consumption centers in Europe as fallout from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to snarl global supply chains.
Norway is a modern, highly developed country with a small but very strong economy. Per capita GDP is among the highest in the world, boosted by decades of success in the oil and gas sector and other world-class industries like shipping, shipbuilding, and aquaculture. The major industries are supported by a strong and growing professional services industry (finance, ICT, legal), and there are emerging opportunities in fintech, cleantech, medtech, and biotechnology. Strong collaboration between industry and research institutions attracts international R&D activity and funding. Norway is a safe and straightforward place to do business, ranked 9 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, and fourth out of 180 on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. Norway is politically stable, with strong property rights protection and an effective legal system. Productivity is significantly higher than the EU average.
Norway has managed the coronavirus pandemic with relative success two years in, maintaining a low death rate, protecting health facilities’ capacity, and cushioning economic shocks. Swift implementation of social mobility restrictions, strong political unity, and broad public support were among the country’s key success factors. Norway’s solid financial footing, including fiscal reserves in its trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund and monetary policy maneuverability, enabled the government to finance generous support packages to mitigate the pandemic’s economic impact on workers and businesses.
Norwegian lawmakers and businesses welcome foreign investment as a matter of policy and the government generally grants national treatment to foreign investors. Some restrictions exist on foreign ownership and use of natural resources and infrastructure. The government remains a major owner in the Norwegian economy and retains monopolies on a few activities, such as the retail sale of alcohol.
While not a member of the European Union (EU), Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA, which also includes Iceland and Liechtenstein) with access to the EU single market’s movement of persons, goods, services, and capital. The Norwegian government continues to liberalize its foreign investment legislation with the aim of conforming more closely to EU standards and has cut bureaucratic regulations over the last decade to make investment easier. Foreign direct investment in Norway stood at USD 160 billion at the end of 2021 and has more than doubled over the last decade. There are approximately 8,100 foreign-owned companies in Norway, and over 700 U.S. companies have a presence in the country, employing more than 58,000 people.
Oman’s location at the crossroads of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, and South Asia and in proximity to larger regional markets is an attractive feature for potential foreign investors. Some of Oman’s most promising development projects and investment opportunities involve its ports and free zones, most notably in Duqm, where the government envisions a 2,000 square-kilometer free trade zone and logistics hub. With a “friends of all, enemies of none” foreign policy, Oman does not face the external security challenges of some of its neighbors. Oman’s domestic political situation remains stable, despite increasing economic pressure and the need to create employment for young Omanis.
Oman’s economy and government finances rely heavily on oil and gas revenue. High energy prices in 2022 are improving Oman’s economic prospects but will not immediately overcome the effects of years of relatively low energy prices, weak economic growth, budget deficits, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government announced a medium-term fiscal plan in November 2020 to fix its heavily indebted finances by cutting down on spending and raising revenues, primarily through taxes. Some of the measures negatively affected capital flow, and in an economy dependent on state spending the suspension or cancellation of government projects during Oman’s economic contraction further hit the struggling private sector.
Government leadership recognizes these challenges and is working to improve Oman’s investment climate and to achieve its economic development goals under Oman’s Vision 2040 development plan. Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tarik al Said, who assumed the sultancy in January 2020, has prioritized foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction as an imperative to boost local job creation, particularly as COVID-19-related restrictions have loosened. Toward this end, Oman is in the process of developing further advantages for foreign investors, including a program of tax and fee incentives, permissions to invest in several new industries in the economy, expanded land use, increased access to capital, and labor and employment incentives for qualifying companies. In September 2021, Oman allowed expatriate residents with work visas to own residential units and offered long-term residency visas to attract investors. Five- and 10-year renewable residence visas are available to foreign investors in the tourism, real estate, education, health, information technology, and other key sectors. In March 2022, Oman announced that it would reduce the cost of foreign worker permit fees by up to 85 percent, reversing a hike in the fees it had implemented in June 2021 that some businesses had found problematic.
The success of Oman’s reform efforts will depend on its ability to open key sectors to private sector competition and foreign investment, minimize bureaucratic red tape, pay off its overdue bills, balance its desire for “Omanization” with the realities of training and restructuring its work force, and translate its promises of economic reform into increased FDI flows and job creation. The government also needs to undertake more fundamental reforms for investment such as making its tender system transparent, increasing access to credit, and speeding up approvals for new businesses.
Sultan Haitham and his government are actively courting FDI into many of its sectors. In February 2021, the Ministry of Finance signed three memoranda of understanding with the Saudi Fund for Development to finance several projects amounting to about $244 million. In January 2022, Oman also signed a Sovereign Investment Partnership with the United Kingdom, its largest FDI partner, to facilitate joint investments in both countries.
Sultan Haitham and his government are also seeking to make fuller use of the 2009 U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA), under which U.S. businesses and investors have the right to 100-percent ownership of their companies and can import their products to Oman duty-free. U.S. companies operating in Oman sometimes raise concerns over a lack of clarity and consistency on business license and visa renewal criteria, as well as an increase in associated costs.
The top complaints of businesses relate to requirements for hiring and retaining Omani national employees and a heavy-handed application of “Omanization” quotas. Payment delays to companies that completed work on government infrastructure projects are also a problem across various sectors. Smaller companies without in-country experience or a regional presence face considerable bureaucratic obstacles conducting business here. Beginning in 2020, the government also temporarily ceased the issuance of most new project awards and purchases to curb expenditures.
Companies created under Oman’s new Foreign Capital Investment Law (FCIL), promulgated in 2020, have come under the government’s radar and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP) is re-evaluating investor visas that it issued in 2020. The FCIL removed minimum-share capital requirements and limits on the amount of foreign ownership in an Omani company.
Pakistan has sought to foster inward investment, restructure tax collection, boost trade and investment, and fight corruption. It entered a $6 billion IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program in July 2019, committing to carry out structural reforms that have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2022, the IMF Board authorized release of the latest tranche of the program, bringing the total disbursed to $3 billion. Nevertheless, progress has been slow in reforming taxation and privatizing state-owned enterprises. Pakistan has successfully tapped global bond markets three times since March 2021.
Pakistan’s economy outperformed downbeat forecasts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with GDP expanding 5.6 percent in FY 2021 (July 2020 – June 2021). Pakistan has made significant progress since 2019 in transitioning to a market-determined exchange rate. The current account deficit, on the decline through 2020, has increased substantially and constrains policy efforts. Rising inflation is another major constraint on policy, having risen in FY 2021 and reaching 13 percent in January 2022.
While Pakistan has a nominally open foreign direct investment (FDI) regime, it remains a challenging environment for investors. The security situation has improved in recent years but remains dynamic, dispute resolution processes are lengthy, enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is weak, taxation is inconsistent, and regulations vary across Pakistan’s provinces. Incoming FDI declined by 8.9 percent in FY 2021 compared to FY 2020, and levels of investment have historically lagged behind Pakistan’s regional peers.
The Pakistani government updated its National Climate Change Policy and National Wildlife Policy in 2021, which address issues in water, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity, and vulnerable ecosystems. Pakistan also introduced the 2020-2023 National Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the 2020-2025 National Electric Vehicle Policy for 2-3 Wheelers and Commercial Vehicles, and the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy in 2019.
The United States has consistently been one of Pakistan’s largest sources of FDI. In FY 2021, the PRC was Pakistan’s number one source of new FDI, largely due to projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for which only PRC-approved companies could bid. Over the last three years, U.S. companies have pledged more than $1.5 billion of investment in Pakistan. American companies have profitable operations across a range of sectors, notably fast-moving consumer goods, agribusiness, and financial services. Other sectors attracting U.S. interest include franchising, information and communications technology (ICT), renewable energy, and healthcare services. The Karachi-based American Business Council, a local affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has 61 U.S. member companies, most of which are Fortune 500 companies and span a wide range of sectors. The Lahore-based American Business Forum, with 23 founding members and 22 associate members, also helps U.S. investors. The U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, a division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supports U.S.-based companies who do business with Pakistan. In 2003, the United States and Pakistan signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as the primary vehicle to address impediments to bilateral trade and investment flows and to grow commerce between the two economies. In March 2022, the United States and Pakistan held TIFA intersessional talks.
The Republic of Palau is a small island nation of about 350 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, with an estimated population of about 21,000 people. The government is the country’s largest employer, with approximately 30 percent of the workforce, and the tourism sector is Palau’s biggest economic driver, contributing an estimated 40 percent to GDP. GDP in 2021 was $257 million, approximately $14,243 per capita. Palau’s official currency is the U.S. dollar, and the country has three FDIC–insured U.S. banks. Apart from tourism, commercial industries include wholesale/retail trade, business services, commercial fisheries, and construction. Fish, coconuts, breadfruit, bananas, and taro cultivation constitute the subsistence sector, though the country’s agricultural base is small. Palau has a limited export base and production capacity, thus highly vulnerable to external shocks. Primary exports include frozen fish (tuna), tropical aquarium fish, ornamental clams and corals, coconut oil, and handicrafts. Palau continues to rely heavily on imports and continues to run trade deficits ($45.8 million in 2018). The country exports $0.5 million to the United States in 2021.
Palau’s economy remains dependent on donor funding. Since independence, Palau has operated under a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the United States, which provides it with U.S. direct assistance, subsidies, and other financial support. In 2019, U.S. assistance to Palau was $32 million, roughly one-fourth of government spending. Palau receives additional aid from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and international organizations such as the World Bank, ADB, and UDP.
Palau’s economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a devastating effect on tourism. The economy shrank 8.7% and 19.7% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. To offset COVID-related losses, the ADB provided Palau with $41 million in 2020.
The Foreign Investment Act guides the foreign investment process in Palau, and Foreign Investment Regulations restrict some sectors to Palauan citizens, including wholesale or retail sale of goods, all land and water transportation, travel and tour agencies, and commercial fishing. Other sectors are semi-restricted, requiring a Palauan partner. Foreigners cannot own land in Palau, but they can lease land and own buildings on leased land. While the government welcomes foreign investors, Palau’s investment climate poses challenges. Some U.S. investors have made allegations of corrupt practices when seeking government permits, doing business with local partners, and in public procurement processes. Establishing secure land title may be complicated due to the complexity of Palau’s traditional land ownership system and occasional over-lapping claims. Palau is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the WTO, or any other organization or convention protecting intellectual property rights. Palau has no bilateral investment protection agreements and is not a member of any free trade associations. Human resource constraints are a challenge for foreign investors and, third country nationals from Bangladesh and the Philippines comprise a large proportion the labor force.
FDI flows accounted for $24 million in 2020, up slightly compared to 2019 ($22 million), despite the pandemic. The stock of FDI grew to $488 million in 2020. Traditionally, FDI has be is mostly directed towards the tourism and real estate sectors. Main investment partners include China, Taiwan, and Singapore.
Panama’s investment climate is mixed. Over the last decade, Panama was one of the Western Hemisphere’s fastest growing economies. Its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is outpacing most other countries in the region, with a 15.3 percent growth rate in 2021 (after a contraction of 17.9 percent in 2020) and a projected growth rate of 7.8 percent for 2022, according to the World Bank. Panama also has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the region and has several investment incentives, including a dollarized economy, a stable democratic government, the world’s second largest free trade zone, and 14 international free trade agreements. Although Panama’s market is small, with a population of just over 4 million, the Panama Canal provides a global trading hub with incentives for international trade. However, Panama’s structural deficiencies weigh down its investment climate with high levels of corruption, a reputation for government non-payment, a poorly educated workforce, a weak judicial system, and labor unrest. Panama’s presence on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list since June 2019 for systemic deficiencies in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing increases the risk of investing in Panama, notwithstanding the government’s ongoing efforts to increase financial transparency.
The government is eager for international investment and has several policies in place to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). As such, it continues to attract one of the highest rates of FDI in the region, with $4.6 billion in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. As of March 18, 2022, Panama’s sovereign debt rating remains investment grade, with ratings of Baa2 (Moody’s), BBB- (Fitch), and BBB (Standard & Poor’s with a negative outlook).
Panama’s high vaccination rates of 80 percent of the eligible population with at least one dose and 70 percent with at least two doses as of March 21 have contributed to its economic recovery. As the global economy rebounded, Panama’s services and infrastructure-reliant industries bounced back significantly in 2021. Sectors with the highest economic growth in 2021 included mining (148 percent increase), construction (29 percent), commerce (18 percent), industrial manufacturing (11 percent), and transportation, storage, and communications (11 percent). Panama ended 2021 with a year-on-year inflation rate variation of 2.6 percent, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).
The government’s assertion that it is climate-negative creates opportunities for economic growth, aided by laws 37, 44, and 45 that provide incentives to promote investment in clean energy sources, specifically wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass/biofuels.
Panama’s investment climate is threatened, however, by high government fiscal deficits, unemployment, and inequality. The pandemic resulted in government debt ballooning by $3 billion in 2021 to over $40 billion. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands at around 64 percent, well above the 46 percent it stood at before the pandemic. Unemployment peaked at 18.5 percent in September 2020, a 20-year high, but has since fallen to 11.3 percent as of October 2021. Yet high levels of labor informality persist. Additionally, Panama is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with the 14th highest Gini Coefficient and a national poverty rate of 14 percent. The World Bank’s 2022 Global Economic Prospects Report and the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report noted that Panama should focus on inclusive economic growth and structural reforms to avoid economic stagnation and an employment crisis.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest economy among the Pacific Islands and offers enormous trade and investment potential. Key investment prospects are in infrastructure development, a growing urban-based middle-class market, abundant natural resources in mining, oil and gas, forestry, and fisheries.
Under the banner of “Take-Back PNG,” Prime Minister James Marape’s government endorsed a fair, open, and collective approach in its decision-making processes, especially decisions concerning the proper management of the country’s resources and investment returns.
Under Marape, PNG reaffirmed its openness to trade and investment, is stepping up reforms to recover from high debt levels and seeks to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI), especially in the natural resources sector to stimulate its economy.
Since taking office, the Marape Administration – despite being comprised of many of the same officials as the prior O’Neill Administration – blamed the O’Neill Government for the country’s poor fiscal regime, lack of infrastructure development, the high cost of logistical services, the breakdown of law and order, a cumbersome public sector, and poorly performing state-owned enterprises. To address these problems, the government regularly reaffirmed its need for FDI to stimulate its economy, announced a fiscal stimulus package which supports funding for local business to aid PNG’s economic recovery.
The country has faced dwindling FDI compared to pre-COVID-19 years, however investments increased at the start of 2021. Business confidence increased in 2022 sparked by renewed interest in PNG and evidenced by several key mergers and acquisitions in late 2021. Mining companies continue to be an attractive investment destination. Growth in mining industry is estimated to be 5.4%, underpinned by the expected reopening of the Porgera mine and improvements in OK Tedi and Wafi Golpu production in 2022. Furthermore, telecommunication companies are also anticipating growth and seen as good foreign investment opportunities in PNG and the Pacific. Telstra Australia acquired telecommunication giant Digicel Pacific which has the largest market share in PNG. Vodafone PNG – Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Ltd which operates across Fiji, Western Samoa, American Samoa, Kiribati, Cook Island and Vanuatu started operations as the third mobile operator in PNG with an anticipated investment exceeding US $399 million. Australia was the top investing country in 2021, followed by Malaysia, the USA, Hong Kong, and the PRC. By sector investments, the energy sector had the highest investments, and investment proposals, followed by the retail, and wholesale sector, then manufacturing, mining and petroleum, and other sectors; despite recording increase in investments.
The government recognizes the need for climate change action and has submitted its Enhanced National Determined Contributions (NDC). PNG’s proposed climate change mitigation, and adaptation strategies to achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050 are conditionally. The government has mainstreamed climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies into its national long-term visions, plans, and strategies. PNG’s climate change envoy at the COP26, stressed, and leveraged preservation of the country’s rainforests for climate change action, and the need for economic development and sustainable FDI along these lines.
Paraguay has a small but growing open economy, which for the past decade averaged 3.2 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth per year, and has the potential for continued growth over the next decade. Major drivers of economic growth in Paraguay are the agriculture, retail, and construction sectors. The Paraguayan government encourages private foreign investment. Paraguayan law grants investors tax breaks, permits full repatriation of capital and profits, supports maquila operations (special benefits for investors in manufacturing of exports), and guarantees national treatment for foreign investors. Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s all have upgraded Paraguay’s credit ratings over the past several years. In December 2021, Fitch maintained Paraguay’s credit rating at BB+ with a stable outlook, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paraguay scores at the mid-range or lower in most competitiveness indicators. Judicial insecurity hinders the investment climate, and trademark infringement and counterfeiting are major concerns. Since President Mario Abdo Benitez took office, his government passed several new laws to combat money laundering. Previously, the government has taken measures to improve the investment climate, including the passage of laws addressing competition, public sector payroll disclosures, and access to information. A number of U.S. companies, however, continue to have issues working with government offices to solve investment disputes, including the government’s unwillingness to pay debts incurred under the previous administration and even some current debts.
Paraguay was the first country in the region to quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which considerably impacted the services sector of the economy. Since March 2020, the government of Paraguay took a series of economic measures in response to the pandemic, which included tax breaks for some sectors, lower policy rates, new financing for health supplies, subsidies for suspended formal and informal sector workers, and soft loans for businesses, among others. Although Paraguay lifted most sanitary restrictions, some of these economic measures, such as tax breaks in the form of VAT reductions in rent and activities linked to the hotel, tourism, and service sectors, are still in force. These prompt measures to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic, caused Paraguay to incur additional debt, resulting in an increase in its debt to GDP ratio from 22.4 percent in 2019 to 33.6 percent in 2021. The government also has a sustainable government procurement policy and, although it does not have climate change regulatory incentives, it does have policies and regulations that support the preservation of biodiversity, forests, clean air and water, the use of nature-based solutions, and seek other ecological benefits. Despite the government’s significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, it continues to occur in agriculture and ranching as well as in the production of bricks. Children of impoverished families also accompanied a parent or guardian in his or her work activities and work in the streets begging or selling small merchandise.
Paraguay’s export and investment promotion bureau, REDIEX, prepares comprehensive information about business opportunities in Paraguay.
The Government of Peru’s (GOP’s) focus on sound fiscal management and macroeconomic fundamentals contributed to the country’s region-leading economic growth since 2002. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a severe economic contraction of over 11 percent in 2020, but Peru recovered with 13.3 percent GDP growth in 2021. Recent political instability (Peru has had four presidents since 2020) is restricting near-term growth, with consensus forecasts calling for approximately 3.0 percent GDP growth in 2022, and 2.9 percent in 2023. COVID-19 health costs and an economic stimulus package strained Peru’s fiscal accounts somewhat, but the deficit stabilized to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2021. The surge in spending, however, continues to impact Peru’s debt, which increased from 26.8 percent of GDP in 2019 to 36.1 percent in 2021. Net international reserves remain strong at $78.4 billion. Global price pressures moved inflation higher, to 4.0 percent in 2021, a significant spike from the 1.8 percent in 2020. Inflation continued in 2022, with Peru’s 12-month rate through March reaching 6.8 percent.
Along with recent political instability, corruption, and social conflict negatively impact Peru’s investment climate. As of April 1, 2022, President Castillo had appointed four cabinets since taking office in July 2021. Allegations of corruption plague the current and previous administrations. Transparency International ranked Peru 105th out of 180 countries in its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. Peru’s Ombudsman office reported 157 active social conflicts in the country as of February 2022. More than half of them (86) occurred in the mining sector, which represents 10 percent of Peru’s economic output. Citing political instability, including contentious relations between the administration and congress, and governance challenges, the three major credit rating agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P) downgraded Peru’s sovereign credit ratings since Castillo’s inauguration. All three, however, maintained Peru at investment grade.
Peru fosters an open investment environment, which includes strong protections for contract and property rights. Peru is well integrated in the global economy including with the United States through the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA), which entered into force in 2009. Peru’s investment promotion agency ProInversion seeks foreign investment in nearly all areas of the economy, particularly to support infrastructure. Prospective investors would benefit from seeking local legal counsel to navigate Peru’s complex bureaucracy. Private sector investment made up more than two-thirds of Peru’s total investment in 2021.
Poland’s strong fundamentals and timely macroeconomic policies have enabled the country’s economy to withstand several recent turbulent periods. In 2021, the Polish economy was recovering rapidly from the pandemic-induced recession, which had interrupted almost 30 years of continuous economic expansion. Policy actions including broad fiscal measures and unprecedented monetary support cushioned the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Already in the second quarter of 2021, output returned to pre-crisis levels and annual growth in 2021 averaged 5.7 percent. The post-pandemic recovery has been sustained by robust private consumption. Despite pandemic-related challenges and the deterioration of some aspects of the investment climate, Poland remained an attractive destination for foreign investment. Solid economic fundamentals and promising post-COVID recovery forecasts continued to draw foreign, including U.S., capital. The Family 500+ program and additional pension payments continued in 2021 as key elements of the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s social welfare and inequality reduction agenda. The government increased the minimum wage and the labor market remained relatively strong, supported by a package of measures introduced in 2020 and continued in 2021 known as the “Anti-Crisis Shield.” The support measures amounted to approximately $55 billion. Prospects for future growth of the Polish economy are uncertain due to the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. High inflation, the highest in 20 years, is likely to continue and interest rates, which will rise along with it, will negatively impact the economy. The approval of Poland’s National Recovery Plan (KPO), however, and the transfer of EU funds envisaged therein, should make a positive impact.
In 2021, the government introduced an “Anti-Inflation Shield’ including a temporary reduction in value added tax (VAT) on electricity, gas, and heating as well as foodstuffs to prevent significant deterioration in consumption. A fiscal stimulus program (the “Polish Deal”) was also introduced and took effect in 2022. After only a few months of its implementation, the government has radically amended it. New solutions aimed at insulating the economy from the effects of the war in Ukraine will be introduced under the banner of an “Anti-Putin Shield.” These measures will include compensation to Polish businesses that operated in Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus; subsidies to the state-owned gas pipeline operator; regulated gas tariffs for households and “sensitive recipients” such as hospitals; subsidies for farmers to combat rising fertilizer prices; and a reduction of the income tax threshold. The proposal is still subject to consultations but is expected to be enacted into law in 2022. The current anti-inflationary measures are likely to be extended until the end of 2022. All of these policies will drastically increase fiscal spending and curtail tax revenue.
The Polish government has made gradual progress in simplifying administrative processes for firms, supported by the introduction of digital public services, but weaknesses persist in the legal and regulatory framework. Implemented and proposed legislation dampened optimism in some sectors (e.g., retail, media, energy, digital services, and beverages). Investors point to lower predictability and the outsized role of state-owned and state-controlled companies in the Polish economy as an impediment to long-term balanced growth. The government continues to push for the creation of state-controlled “national champions” that are large enough to compete internationally and lead economic development. Despite a polarized political environment, and a few less business-friendly sector-specific policies, the broad structures of the Polish economy are solid. Foreign investors are not abandoning projects planned before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and some are even transferring activities from Ukraine and Belarus to Poland. Prospects for future growth will depend on the course of the war in Ukraine, but in the near-term, external and domestic demand and inflows of EU funds, as well as various government aid programs, are likely to continue to attract investors seeking access to Poland’s market of over 38 million people, and to the broader EU market of over 500 million.
In mid-2021, the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology finished public consultations on its Industry Development White Paper, which identifies the government’s views on the most significant barriers to industrial activity and serves as the foundation for Poland’s Industrial Policy (PIP) – a strategic document focused on digitization, security, industrial production location, the Green Deal, and modern society which sets the direction for long-term industrial development. In early 2022, the Ministry announced there was need for further analysis and introduction of new economic solutions due to the considerable changes in the EU energy policy, supply chain disruptions, and the geopolitical situation.
Poland’s well-diversified economy reduces its vulnerability to external shocks, although it depends heavily on the EU as an export market. Foreign investors also cite Poland’s well-educated work force as a major reason to invest, as well as its proximity to major markets such as Germany. U.S. firms represent one of the largest groups of foreign investors in Poland. The volume of U.S. investment in Poland was estimated at over $4.2 billion by the National Bank of Poland in 2020 and at around $25 billion by the Warsaw-based American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). With the inclusion of indirect investment flows through subsidiaries, it may reach over $62 billion, according to KPMG and AmCham. Historically, foreign direct investment (FDI) was largest in the automotive and food processing industries, followed by machinery and other metal products and petrochemicals. “Shared office” services such as accounting, legal, and information technology services, including research and development (R&D), is Poland’s fastest-growing sector for foreign investment. The government seeks to promote domestic production and technology transfer opportunities in awarding defense-related tenders. There are also investment and export opportunities in the energy sector—both immediate (natural gas), and longer term (nuclear, hydrogen, energy grid upgrades, photovoltaics, and offshore wind)—as Poland seeks to diversify its energy mix and reduce air pollution. Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and health care industries opened wider to investments and exports as a result of the COVID-19 experience. 2021 turned out to be a record year for venture capital investment in Poland. Compared to 2020, the value of investments in this area increased by 66 percent, exceeding $800 million. Around 15 percent of these transactions were investments in the sector of medical technologies.
Defense remains a promising sector for U.S. exports. The Polish government is actively modernizing its military inventory, presenting good opportunities for the U.S. defense industry. A law increasing the defense budget was adopted in March 2022. The law also amends the mechanism of military financing, expansion, and procurement. The defense budget is to increase to 3 percent of GDP from 2023, exceeding the NATO target of 2 percent. Under the new law, the Council of Ministers will be tasked with determining, every four years, the direction of the modernization and development of the armed forces for a 15-year planning period. Information technology and cybersecurity along with infrastructure also are sectors that show promise for U.S. exports, as Poland’s municipalities focus on smart city networks. A $10 billion central airport project may present opportunities for U.S. companies in project management, consulting, communications, and construction. The government seeks to expand the economy by supporting high-tech investments, increasing productivity and foreign trade, and supporting entrepreneurship, scientific research, and innovation through the use of domestic and EU funding. The Polish government is interested in the development of green energy, hoping to utilize the large amounts of EU funding earmarked for this purpose in the coming years and decades.
The Polish government plans to allocate money from the EU Recovery Fund (once Poland’s plan is approved) to pro-development investments in such areas as economic resilience and competitiveness, green energy and the reduction of energy intensity, digital transformation, the availability and quality of the health care system, and green and intelligent mobility. A major EU project is to synchronize the Baltic States’ electricity grid with that of Poland and the wider European network by 2025. Another government strategy aims for a commercial fifth generation (5G) cellular network to become operational in all cities by 2025, although planned spectrum auctions have been repeatedly delayed.
Some organizations, notably private business associations and labor unions, have raised concerns that policy changes have been introduced quickly and without broad consultation, increasing uncertainty about the stability and predictability of Poland’s business environment. For example, the government had announced an “advertising tax” on media companies with only a few months warning after firms had already prepared budgets for the current year. Broadcasters were concerned the tax, if introduced, could irreparably harm media companies weakened by the pandemic and limit independent journalism. Other proposals to introduce legislation on media de-concentration and limitations on foreign ownership have raised concern among foreign investors in the sector; however, those proposals seem to have stalled for the time being. The Polish tax system has undergone a major transformation with the introduction of many changes over recent years, including more effective tax auditing and collection, with the aim of increasing budget revenues. Through updated regulations in November 2020, Poland has adopted a range of major changes concerning the taxation of doing business in the country. The changes include the double taxation of some partner