Executive Summary

Former Soviet republic Moldova has made some progress towards adopting the principles of a free-market democracy since gaining its independence in 1991, but still has significant shortcomings in its investment climate. After multiple government changes in 2015 and political demonstrations in early 2016, Moldova regained some stability in 2016 providing the new cabinet room for reform work that it has formally committed to. The government has to deal with the fallout from the massive bank fraud and wide-spread perceptions of pervasive corruption that has undermined trust in the state and political-economic institutions.

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. Moldova hopes that implementation of the DCFTA will integrate it further into the European common market and create more opportunities for investment in Moldova as a bridge between Western and Eastern European markets. The Government approved an Action Plan for the implementation of AA/DCFTA in 2017-2019.

After political volatility stalled reforms in 2015, a Democratic Party-led parliamentary majority installed a new government in early 2016, which declared its intent to pursue greater integration with the EU. The cabinet’s immediate efforts focused on judicial reforms, public administration restructuring, measures ensuring independence of financial and banking regulators, bank fraud investigations, and enhanced regulatory transparency. These measures helped restore donor support and secure a three-year IMF program worth about USD 180 million.

The business climate is challenging. Although the many underdeveloped sectors offer opportunities, investors should proceed with caution. While a number of large foreign companies have taken advantage of tax breaks in the country’s free economic zones, foreign direct investment remains low. Finance, automotive, light industry, agriculture, food processing, wine, and real estate have historically attracted foreign investment. The National Strategy for Investment Attraction and Export Promotion 2016-2020 identified seven priority sectors for investment and export promotion: agriculture and food, automotive, business services such as business process outsourcing (BPO), clothing and footwear, electronics, information and communication technologies (ICT), and machinery.

The Moldovan government has also identified seven priority areas for development and reform in its National Development Strategy “Moldova 2020”: education, access to financing, road infrastructure, business regulation, energy efficiency, justice sector reform, and social insurance. Based on that strategy, the government will set out a new 2016-2018 action plan for a business regulatory framework reform to facilitate day-to-day business activity.

The major investment climate concerns in 2017 include uncertainties related to opposing political agendas between the cabinet and the president, the lack of public trust in the government as well as public and private institutions, continuing fragility of the banking sector, and instability in the wider region.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 123 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2016 44 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2016 46 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 USD 2 million http://www.bea.gov/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 USD 2,240 http://data.worldbank.org/

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, relies heavily on foreign trade and remittances from its workers abroad for its economic growth. Under Moldovan law, foreign companies enjoy national treatment in most respects. In principle, the government views FDI as vital for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. However, the amount of FDI received is far below what Moldova needs to create jobs and promote economic growth.

Moldova enjoyed a period of increased FDI with eastward expansion of the EU into Romania on January 1, 2007. However, the 2008 global financial crisis significantly decreased FDI in Moldova, which has yet to return to pre-crisis levels. Remittances have also not regained their 2008 levels and have been falling further in recent years, reflecting slower growth in the region and the falling value of the Russian ruble (most remittances are from workers paid in Russian rubles.)

Moldova’s development path in recent years has been guided by agreements with the EU for reforms in trade policy and the judiciary. Following the expiration of a Moldova-EU Action Plan in 2008, Moldova negotiated its Association Agreement with the EU, which was signed in June 2014 and ratified on July 1, 2016. Moldova hopes the Association Agreement will bring closer political association and economic integration with the EU. The DCFTA, a component of the Association Agreement, provides for mutual elimination of customs duties on industrial and most agricultural products and for further liberalization of the services market. It also addresses other barriers to trade and reforms in economic governance, with the goal of strengthening transparency and competition and adopting EU product standards. Moldova hopes to eventually join the common EU market.

As a country with a small economy, Moldova hopes a liberalized trade and investment strategy will increase the export of its goods and services.

The government has approved an activity program for 2016-2018 that centers on EU integration, with the ultimate goal of applying for EU membership. The program also sets economic development, creation of well-paid jobs, elimination of corruption, and rule of law among key objectives. The government also approved an Action Plan for the implementation of the Moldova-EU Association Agreement and DCFTA for the period 2017-2019. The government has identified in its national development strategy “Moldova 2020” seven priority areas for development and reform: education, access to financing, road infrastructure, business regulation, energy efficiency, justice system, and social insurance. The government has made a formal commitment to accelerate the country’s development by making the economy more capital-intensive, sustainable, and knowledge-driven.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no formal limits on foreign control, with the significant exception that foreigners are expressly prohibited from owning agricultural or forest land. Under Moldovan law, foreign companies enjoy national treatment in most respects. The Law on Investment in Entrepreneurship prohibits discrimination against investments based on citizenship, domicile, residence, place of registration, place of activity, state of origin, or any other grounds. The law provides for equitable and level-field conditions for all investors and rules out discriminatory measures hindering management, operation, maintenance, utilization, acquisition, extension, or disposal of investments. Local companies and foreigners are to be treated equally with regard to licensing, approval, and procurement. Companies registered in questionable tax havens are prohibited from holding shares in commercial banks and restrictions on foreign ownership of agriculture and forestry lands.

By statute, special forms of legal organizations and certain activities require a minimum of capital to be invested (e.g., MDL 20,000 (USD 1,000) for joint stock companies, MDL 15 million (USD 750,000) for insurance companies, and MDL 100 million (USD 5 million) for banks).

Moldovan law restricts the right to purchase agricultural and forest land to Moldovan citizens. Foreigners may become owners of such land only through inheritance and may only transfer the land to Moldovan citizens. In 2006, Parliament further restricted the right of sale and purchase of agricultural land to the state, Moldovan citizens, and legal entities without foreign capital. However, foreigners are permitted to buy all other forms of property in Moldova, including land plots under privatized enterprises and land designated for construction. There are reportedly Moldovan-registered companies with foreign capital known to own agricultural land by means of loopholes in the previous law. The only straightforward option available to foreigners who wish to use agricultural land in Moldova is to lease the land.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The latest Investment Policy Review of Moldova was conducted the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2013 and can be accessed at http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/Investment%20Policy%20Reviews/Investment-Policy-Reviews.aspx .

Moldova was last subject to a trade policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO) published in October 2015 and can be accessed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp423_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

The government has taken steps over the years to simplify and streamline the process of business registration and licensing, lowering tax rates, strengthening tax administration and increasing transparency.

Business registration is overseen by the Moldovan State Registration Chamber, which keeps the State Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs. By law, registration should take five days for a standard procedure or four hours for an expedited procedure and is done in two stages. The first stage involves submission of an application and a set of documents, the range of which may vary depending on the legal form of the business (LLC, joint-stock company, sole proprietorship, etc.). At the second stage, the State Registration Chamber issues a registration certificate and a unique identification number for the business, conferring full legal capacity to the entity. In 2010, the government introduced the “one-stop-shop” principle, under which businesses are relieved of the requirement to register separately with fiscal, statistical, social security, or health insurance authorities. There are currently no procedures for online business registration.

The government took further steps to deregulate construction projects by reducing the number, cost and time of administrative procedures needed to obtain building permits. To further protect businesses from arbitrary inspection, in 2012 parliament passed a law that regulates the timing and the types of checks various authorities can conduct on businesses. Businesses submit electronic reports for statistical, tax or social security purposes. Starting in 2012, businesses are able to apply online to get licenses. In 2014, tax authorities introduced an online tax filing and payment system for businesses. In 2016, the government announced a so-called moratorium on state inspections in a bid to improve legislation dealing with state checks to bring some order and predictability in conducting such checks. The moratorium on inspections caused a reduction by half in inspections per company – now two per year. As next steps the government plans to reduce further the number of inspecting bodies, regulatory agencies and business authorizations.

Certain types of activity listed in the law on licensing entrepreneurial activity require businesses to be first licensed by public authorities. A business license may be obtained through an online platform recently launched by the Moldovan Licensing Chamber (www.servicii.gov.md ).

In March 2006, the Moldovan Parliament ratified the 1961 Hague Convention on Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Acceptance of U.S. apostilles applied on official documents simplifies the legalization of official documents issued in the United States that are required in the process of business registration.

Moldova has an investment promotion agency called Moldovan Investment and Export Promotion Organization (MIEPO) to assist prospective investors with information about business registration or industrial sectors, facilitate contact with relevant authorities, and organize study visits. MIEPO has an investment guide available on its website  www.miepo.md .

The government set up a special council for promoting investment projects of national importance to tackle red tape holding back the launching of large business investments.

Outward Investment

Moldova does not have an official policy or mechanism of promoting or incentivizing outward investment.

Moldova has signed bilateral investment protection and promotion agreements with 42 countries. In addition to the United States, these include Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

Moldova has a bilateral treaty with the United States on the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment. Moldova has not signed a separate bilateral taxation treaty with the United States; however, the U.S. Government applies the Convention on Matters of Taxation signed with the USSR on June 20, 1973, which also deals with avoidance of double taxation, to former Soviet republics, including Moldova.

Moldova has signed free trade agreements with 43 countries, among them member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). In 2008, Moldova moved from the extended generalized system of preferences (GSP-plus) with the EU to autonomous trade preferences, which expanded the duty-free access of Moldovan goods to EU markets. In September 2014, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) supplanted the Autonomous Trade Preferences regime.

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Moldovan government publishes significant laws in draft form for public comment. Draft laws are also available on-line on the website of Moldovan Parliament. Business and trade associations provide other opportunities for comment. The working group of the State Commission for Regulation of Entrepreneurial Activity, which was established as a filter to eliminate excessive business regulations, meets weekly to vet draft governmental regulations dealing with entrepreneurship. The working group’s meetings are open to interested businesses. Laws and regulations are published in the official gazette called Monitorul Oficial, while a database of laws and regulations is available online at lex.justice.md .

Bureaucratic procedures are not always transparent, and red tape often makes processing registrations, ownership, etc. unnecessarily long, costly, and burdensome. Discretionary decisions by government officials provide room for abuse and corruption. While the government has adopted a number of laws to improve the business environment and reduce excessive state controls and regulation, effective implementation of these laws is often lacking.

Moldova made a commitment to implement International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2008. Since January 1, 2015, Moldova has been applying new national accounting standards based on IFRS and EU directives. Use of IFRS has been required by law for all public interest entities since 2011. Public interest entities are defined as financial entities, investment funds, insurance companies, private pension funds, and publicly listed entities.

The Foreign Investors Association (FIA) was established in 2004 with the support of the OECD. The FIA engages in a dialogue with the government on topics related to the investment climate and produces an annual publication of concerns and recommendations for the improvement of the investment climate. In 2006, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) registered in Moldova, representing another voice for the business community. In 2011, a group of ten large EU investors founded the European Business Association (EBA.) The three largest foreign business associations – AmCham, FIA and EBA – handed the government a list of business constraints and recommendations to improve the investment climate.

Since 2008, the National Business Agenda supported by the U.S. Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has organized 30 domestic business associations, putting forth an annual list of priorities in their dialogue with the authorities. These priorities deal with the general business environment and regulatory framework.

Since 2004, the government has been taking steps to reduce excessive government regulation of business activity. All regulations and governmental decisions related to business activity have been published in a special business registry “Register of Regulations on Business Activity” in order to raise the awareness of business people about their rights, increase the transparency of business regulations and help fight corruption. The Law on Basic Principles Regulating Entrepreneurial Activity was passed in August 2007. The government has started applying a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) to all draft laws and acts bearing on business activity to enhance transparency in the drafting of laws and regulatory acts.

As part of a USAID-backed program, the Ministry of Economy reviewed the number of permits and authorizations issued to businesses as well as the number of authorities issuing such documents. As a result, government approved a list of business permits and authorizations and banned governmental agencies and inspections from issuing or requesting any form of documents not included in the list.

In 2012, parliament passed a law to introduce clear and uniform rules for the release of information and standardized documents through a “one-stop window.”

The World Bank Cost of Doing Business 2016 survey shows that the time spent by companies dealing with regulatory authorities decreased in 2016, after a decade of no meaningful change. Despite reported improvements, the survey notes that only 13% of business managers consider that the business climate really improved in 2016. 60% of managers do not see significant change, while 27% believe it has worsened.

In 2016, the government made a decision to merge several agencies – the State Registry, Cadastral Office, the Licensing Chamber, State Registration Chamber and Civil Status Archive – into a Public Service Agency.

International Regulatory Considerations

European integration is a fundamental priority for Moldova’s current government. The Association Agreement (AA) including a Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) significantly strengthens Moldova’s political association and economic integration with the European Union. The AA/DCFTA has binding regulatory provisions committing Moldova to a reform agenda and to approximating domestic legislation to EU standards in a range of areas including corporate law, labor, consumer protection, competition and market surveillance, general product safety, tax, energy, customs duties, public procurement, etc. Under the DCFTA, Moldova will gradually abolish duties and quotas in mutual trade in goods and services, and will eliminate non-tariff barriers by adopting EU rules on health and safety standards, as well as intellectual property rights, among others. The agreement contains a timeframe for implementation of provisions with deadlines of up to ten years.

Moldova has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2001 and, as such, is a signatory to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These agreements contain major investment-related provisions, such as opening to the establishment of foreign service providers, prohibition of local-content, trade-balancing and domestic-sales requirements (TRIMs), and protection of intellectual property of investors (TRIPS). No major inconsistencies with WTO TRIMS have been reported.

As a WTO member, Moldova has to notify draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

As a result of negotiations connected with Moldova’s accession to the WTO, modern commercial legislation was adopted in accordance with WTO rules. 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 who may apply measures that put domestic producers at an advantage in relation to foreign competitors in certain areas. For example, an environmental tax is applied on bottles and other packaging of imported goods, while such a tax is not levied on bottles and packaging produced in Moldova. Additionally, the government may cite public security or general social welfare as reasons to intervene in the economy in contravention of its declared respect for market principles.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Moldova has a civil law legal system with codified laws that govern different aspects of life, including business, trade, and economy. The country’s legal framework consists of its constitution, organic, and ordinary laws passed by the parliament and normative acts issued by the government and other public authorities. Moldovan courts are nominally independent from government and political interference, but suffer from low efficiency and lack of popular trust.

Starting 2003, the court system has undergone several changes that eliminated economic courts, which were seen as fertile soil for corruption, and currently consists of lower courts (i.e. trial courts), four courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court of Justice.

Moldova is preparing a new justice reform strategy while extending the implementation period for a current reform strategy ending in 2016 due to delays during the implementation period.

Parliament passed amendments in 2016 optimizing the country’s court system as part of the larger justice sector reforms, which will reduce the number of trial courts in Moldova. All specialized courts such as the Commercial Circumscription Court and Military Court will cease their activities. Five trial courts from Chisinau will be merged into one court – the Chisinau trial court, while that Chisinau court’s jurisdiction will also include adjudication of commercial disputes.

In 2016, Moldova continued reforms in the prosecution system. Two specialized independent prosecution offices were created. The Anticorruption Prosecution Office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting, corruption, bribery and abuse of power by public officials. The Prosecutor’s Office on Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases will investigate and prosecute organized crime, including tax evasions, smuggling, intellectual property crimes, trafficking in persons, drugs, etc.

The government has also reformed the public integrity system by creating the National Integrity Agency (NIA) – the successor to the National Integrity Commission. The new Integrity Agency will be staffed with 30 investigators who will be in charge of checking public officials’ financial disclosures, properties and conflicts of interests. However due to the lack of funding and burdensome administrative planning, the Agency has yet to start functioning.

Also, in 2016 parliament passed a new law on disclosure of assets and conflicts of interest by public officials. This law, long-awaited by Moldovan civil society, will broaden and improve the competencies of integrity-checking authorities to oversee public officials’ integrity. Parliament has also introduced new statutes in the Criminal Code criminalizing the misuse of international assistance funds. This statute will help identify and investigative any corruption or misuse of international donors’ assistance by Moldovan public officials in public acquisitions, technical assistance programs, and grants.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

In addition to its international agreements, Moldovan laws affecting FDI include the Civil Code, the Law on Property, the Law on Investment in Entrepreneurship, the Law on Entrepreneurship and Enterprises, the Law on Joint Stock Companies, the Law on Small Business Support, the Law on Financial Institutions, the Law on Franchising, the Tax Code, the Customs Code, the Law on Licensing Certain Activities, and the Law on Insolvency.

The current Law on Investment in Entrepreneurship came into effect in 2004. It was designed to be compatible with European standards in its definitions of types of local and foreign investment. It provides guarantees of investors’ rights, non-application of expropriation or similar actions, and for payment of damages if investors’ rights are violated. The law permits FDI in all sectors of the economy, while certain activities require a business license.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The government established a National Competition Agency in 2007. However, foreign investors accused the agency of abuse, lack of experience, and flawed antitrust legislation after they were singled-out for investigations. As a result, in 2012, Parliament passed a new law on competition that was consistent with EU practice and legislation. The National Competition Agency was subsequently renamed the Competition Council. The Competition Council oversees compliance with competition and state-aid provisions and initiates examination of alleged violation of competition laws. The Competition Council may request cessation of action, prescribe behavioral or structural remedies, and apply fines.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Law on Investment in Entrepreneurship states that investments cannot be subject to expropriation or to measures with a similar effect. However, an investment may be expropriated if the expropriation is done for purposes of public utility, is not discriminatory, and is done with just compensation. If a public authority violates an investor’s rights, the investor is entitled to compensation equivalent to the actual damages at the time of occurrence, including any lost profits. Compensation must be paid in the currency in which the original investment was made or in any other convertible currency.

The government has given no indication of intent to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies or representatives by expropriation, or of intent to expropriate property owned by citizens of other countries. No particular sectors are at greater risk of expropriation or similar actions in Moldova.

Since 2001, the government has cancelled several privatizations, citing the failure of investors to meet investment schedules or irregularities committed during privatization. While the government agreed to repay investors in such disputes, investors have had to apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to enforce compensation payments. The government has been compliant with the ECHR rulings involving foreign businesses.

In the past, the limit on foreign ownership of agricultural land was reportedly used in lawsuits as an argument against foreign companies.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 2011, Moldova ratified the Convention on the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID – Washington Convention). The country also ratified the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Moldova is also a party to the Geneva European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of April 21, 1961, and the Paris Agreement relating to the application of the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of December 17, 1962.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Moldova is signatory to a number of bilateral investment treaties (see chapter 3 above), including the U.S.-Moldovan Treaty Concerning the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment, which make binding international arbitration of investment disputes. There have been no known claims made by U.S. investors under the treaty.

Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards against the government. There are no known cases when the Moldovan government denied voluntary payment under an arbitral award rendered against it.

The government has had a history of depriving investors, both national and foreign, of their businesses in various forms. Most of them sued the government at the European Court for Human Rights for violation of the right to fair trial and of the respect for property.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Private parties may choose alternative dispute resolution mechanisms instead of going to courts. Moldovan law provides the options of mediation and arbitration. The arbitration legislation is modeled after UNCITRAL rules. There are a number of arbitration bodies available in Moldova, among them the most popular is the arbitration court of the Moldovan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The American Chamber of Commerce in Moldova (Amcham Moldova) has recently set up the Chisinau Court of International Commercial Arbitration (CACIC) under its aegis.

Moldova is a party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Domestic courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.

Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are regulated by a complex framework of documents, including the Code for Civil Procedures, international conventions and bilateral treaties. Therefore, depending on the nationality of the court, Moldovan courts may apply different legal norms in examining the enforcement of foreign judgments. However, as a general rule, foreign judgments are enforceable in Moldova on reciprocity basis.

Moldova’s court system generally enjoys a low level of public trust and is perceived to be vulnerable to acts of corruption, while court processes lack transparency. The overall expectation in court hearings involving representatives of public authorities, including economic entities, is that final court rulings will be in favor of state representatives.

Bankruptcy Regulations

In terms of resolving insolvency, the World Bank ranks Moldova 60th out of 190 economies in 2016. Moldova scores below the regional average and trails EU members in central and eastern Europe. The country has changed its insolvency law to grant priority to secured creditors and to ease insolvency proceedings by introducing new restructuring mechanisms, reducing opportunities for appeals, adding moratorium provisions, establishing strict statutory periods in the proceedings and enhancing the role of insolvency administrators. The law has also introduced expedited insolvency proceedings.

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives apply to all Moldovan-registered businesses irrespective of the country of origin of the investment. Certain incentives apply only in specially-designated areas such as free economic zones and industrial parks (see below: Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation). Until 2020, Moldovan legislation allows employees of IT companies to benefit from incentives on personal income tax and social security contributions. Also, starting January 1, 2017 a new law on information technology parks sets a single tax for residents of IT parks, calculated as the maximum between 7% from sales and 30% from the national average forecasted salary multiplied by the number of employees. There is also a range of tax incentives applicable if businesses meet certain requirements. Among those incentives are the following: value-added tax (VAT) and customs exemptions on long-term assets included in share capital; deferment of VAT liabilities on imports of materials used in manufacturing export-bound products; and lower social contributions and VAT rates for agricultural businesses.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

At present, seven free economic zones (FEZs), one international free port – Giurgiulesti – and one international free airport – Marculesti – are registered in Moldova. According to Moldovan law, job creation, attraction of foreign and domestic investments, and export-oriented production are the main goals of such zones. The Law on Free Economic Zones regulates FEZ activity. Foreigners have the same investment opportunities as local entities. FEZ commercial entities enjoy the following advantages: 25 percent exemption from income tax; 50 percent exemption from tax on income from exports; for investments of more than USD 1 million, a three-year exemption from tax on income resulting from exports; and for investments of more than USD 5 million, a five-year exemption from tax on income from exports; zero value-added tax; exemption from excises; and protection of residents against any new changes in the law for 10 years. Furthermore, residents investing at least USD 200 million in the FEZ are protected against new changes in the law for the entire period of operation in the FEZ, but such protection cannot extend beyond 20 years.

The government also passed a law creating nine industrial parks in 2008 to attract investments in industrial projects. Businesses operating in those parks do not receive any special tax treatment, but typically have access to ready-to-use production facilities, offices and lower office rent fees for 25-30 years. Typically, these are idle premises of former big industrial enterprises.

Similar to the FEZs, the Giurgiulesti Free International Port, Moldova’s only port accessible to sea-going vessels, was established in 2005 for 25 years. Commercial residents of the port enjoy the following advantages: 25 percent exemption from income tax for the first 10 years following the first year when taxable income is reported; 50 percent exemption from tax on income for the remaining years; exemption from value-added tax and excises on imports and exports outside Moldova’s customs territory; zero valued-added tax on imports from Moldova; and protection of commercial residents against any changes in the law until February 17, 2030.

The Marculesti International Free Airport, a former military air base, was established in 2008 as a free enterprise zone for a 25-year period to develop cargo air transport. Airport management is also interested in turning Marculesti into a regional hub for low-cost passenger airlines.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

All incentives are applied uniformly to both domestic and foreign investors. The Law on Investment in Entrepreneurship, in effect since 2004, does not protect new investors from legislative changes.

No formal requirements exist for investors to purchase from local sources or to export a certain percentage of their output.

No limitations exist on access to foreign exchange in relation to a company’s exports. There are no special requirements that nationals own shares of a company. Both joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned companies may be set up in Moldova.

While not an official policy, in sectors of the economy that require large investments, experienced management, and technical expertise such as energy or telecommunications, the government has showed preference for experienced foreign investors over local investors. In other sectors, foreign and local investors formally receive equal treatment.

The government does not impose “offset” requirements on procurements. Moldovan law allows investments in any area of the country in any sector, provided that national security interests, anti-monopoly legislation, environmental protection, public health, and public order are respected.

Enforcement procedures for performance requirements to enjoy tax incentives are described in the Tax Code and related governmental decisions and instructions. Foreign investors are required to disclose the same information as local ones. Moldova has no discriminatory visa, residence, or work-permit requirements inhibiting foreign investors’ mobility in Moldova. The government has set up a one-stop shop for foreigners applying for Moldovan residence and work permits in a bid to streamline a complicated procedure.

Moldova has a liberal commercial regime with more than 100 countries. According to the Tax Code, Moldovan exports are exempt from value added tax. Although there are no formal import price controls, there are reports that Moldovan Customs Service may make arbitrary price assessments on certain types of imported goods for taxation purposes.

Post is not aware of any reports of forced data localization or special requirements targeting foreign IT providers. The Ministry of Information Technology and Communication is responsible for developing strategies and policies on electronic communication, while the National Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Information Technology (ANRCETI) has functions of regulations and oversight.

Real Property

Moldova has laws that formally protect all property rights. A system for recording property titles and mortgages is in place. There is a national cadastral office, which registers all ownership titles in the real estate registry. However, the mortgage market is still underdeveloped.

The judicial sector remains weak and does not always fully guarantee the rights of citizens and foreign investors. Instances of judicial malfeasance in recent years have involved dubious proceedings in lower courts that resulted in illegal dispossessions of local and foreign investors of shares in Moldovan financial institutions.

Intellectual Property Rights

Moldova does not fully enforce its IPR laws due to conflicts of interest, lack of resources, and a low level of awareness and training among law enforcement agencies. However, intellectual property protection is improving. The country has an agency for the protection of copyrights, the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI), which continues working on improving the legal framework and adjusting it to EU norms, increasing public awareness, and building capacity in law enforcement. Following Moldova’s adoption of AA/DCFTA with the EU in June 2014, AGEPI participated in implementation of the IPR chapter of the agreement with the objective of ensuring a level of protection for intellectual property rights in Moldova similar to that in the EU, including effective enforcement.

Along with other public institutions, AGEPI worked on fulfilling Moldova’s IPR obligations as provided by the 2014-2016 National Action Plan for the implementation of the Association Agreement. In 2015, Moldova adopted the second Action Plan on the implementation of the National Strategy on Intellectual Property through 2020 for IPR enforcement.

For consolidating the institutional capacities of intellectual property system, a law regulating the activity of the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI) was approved in July 2014. Continuous efforts are made to improve the access and quality of IPR services.

AGEPI made the IPR data base publicly available online and free of charge on its webpage www.db.agepi.md  and launched an online filing application system. In 2016, over 40% of national IPR applications were filed through the online system.

In addition, Moldova has a National Commission for Intellectual Property chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, which meets regularly. In 2016, the Commission discussed and adopted recommendations on a series of emergency IPR issues, including the improvement of IPR enforcement in Moldova, consolidation of geographical indications system, encouragement of the innovative activity through IPR use, etc.

Significant progress was registered in implementing a number of IPR regulations in line with the EU agreements dealing with geographical indications.

In November 2016 an EU technical assistance project “Support for the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights” was launched. The project aims primarily to improve the communication and co-ordination of relevant institutions involved in implementing IPR laws and regulations; to develop an IT system which will improve exchange of IPR-related data between the enforcement bodies; to consolidate the system for protection of geographical indications, and to raise IPR awareness.

Since 2012 the IPR Enforcement Observatory, established by AGEPI, is annually publishing the “National Report on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Moldova.” The latest report covering 2015 is accessible online at http://observatorpi.md/ .

The government passed new regulations in line with EU requirements to improve IPR protection during customs procedures. However, Moldova still has to strengthen IPR enforcement capacity of its Customs Service. Developing an efficient mechanism for destruction of counterfeited and pirated goods is another priority best practice for Moldova’s law enforcement, stymied by a lack of capacity and funding.

In 2016, the Customs Service examined and accepted 85 requests for action on IPR protection at the border. Customs officials reported 34 instances of fraudulent introduction of goods violating IPR into Moldova’s customs territory in 2016.

The Ministry of Interior is the main law enforcement body for preventing and combating intellectual property-related offences on the domestic market. In 2016, the Ministry registered and processed 47 notices of infringement of intellectual property rights, 43 of them relating to trademarks infringements, one to geographical indication and 3 to copyright. The General Police Inspectorate undertook 75 controls, the majority of which being initiated under the ex-officio procedure. As a follow-up to the controls, 52 contravention and 3 penal proceedings were instituted.

Moldova is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report; nor is it listed in the notorious market report.

Moldova is party to the majority international treaties in IPR field, including the WTO/TRIPs and 23 WIPO agreements, a list of which, including other international and regional agreements and IPR conventions, is available at www.agepi.gov.md/en/legislation/international.php

Registration of intellectual property with AGEPI is not difficult; applications for registration can be submitted on-line. The time required to obtain IPR protection in Moldova varies depending upon the type of protection sought. For a copyright it takes 15-30 days, patent for plants 1.5-3 years, short-term patent for invention 7-8 months, patent for invention 17-18 months, geographical indications, appellations of origin, or traditional specialties guaranteed 10-12 months, industrial design 10-12 months, and trademark 10-12 months.

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

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Moldova’s securities market is underdeveloped. Official National Bank of Moldova (NBM) statistics includes data on portfolio investments, yet there is a lack of sufficient open-source information to fully reflect the trends and relevance of this form of investment in Moldova. NBM data shows that most portfolio investments target banks, while the National Statistics Bureau does not differentiate between foreign direct investment and portfolio investments of less than 10 percent in the equity of a company.

Laws, governmental decisions, NBM regulations, and Stock Exchange regulations provide the framework for capital markets and portfolio investment in Moldova. The government began regulatory reform in this area in 2007 with a view to spurring the development of the weak non-banking financial market. In particular, since 2008 only two bodies – the NBM and the National Commission for Financial Markets – regulate financial and capital markets.

Credit is allocated on market terms with banks being the only reliable source of business financing. The government regulates credit policy via the NBM, auctions through commercial banks, mandatory reserves, credit secured through collateral, open market operations, and T-bill auctions on the primary market. Foreign investors may obtain credit on the local market. Local commercial banks provide mostly short-term, high-interest loans and require large amounts of collateral, reflecting the country’s perceived high economic risk. Progress in lending activity suffered a sharp reversal in 2015 in the wake of the late-2014 banking crisis, triggered by a massive bank fraud, which severely weakened the banking system. Extreme monetary tightening by the NBM in the wake of large currency emissions connected to the resulting bank bailouts led to prohibitively high interest rates. As a result, in early 2016, yields on one-year government bonds shot up to 25 percent, with commercial rates following close.

Several large banks were affected by ownership scandals and hostile takeovers that damaged their reputation. Three banks at the center of the scandal were liquidated in October 2015. The banking sector has not yet fully recovered from the fallout of the large banking fraud of 2014, while the Government committed to enhance regulation in the financial and banking sectors.

Large investments can rarely be financed through a single bank and require a bank consortium. Recent years have seen growth in leasing and micro-financing. Raiffeisen Leasing remains the only international leasing company to have opened a representative office in Moldova.

The private sector’s access to credit instruments is difficult because of the insufficiency of long-term funding and extremely high interest rates. Financing through local private investment funds is virtually non-existent. A few U.S. investment funds have been active on the Moldovan market, notably NCH Advisors, Western NIS Enterprise Fund, and Emerging Europe Growth Fund, the latter two managed by Horizon Capital equity fund managers.

Furthermore, lack of ownership transparency and poor record on the rule of law represent significant challenges to a potential investor. Weaknesses in the share registry system have contributed to “raider attacks” over the past few years when securities were fraudulently transferred from their rightful owners to others.

Acting as an independent regulatory agency, the National Commission for Financial Markets (NCFM) supervises the securities market, insurance sector and non-bank financing. The NCFM adopted a Corporate Governance Code and passed new regulations intended to simplify the issuance of corporate securities and increase the transparency of transactions on the Moldovan Stock Exchange. In 2011, the government adopted a new strategy for the development of the non-banking financial sector through 2014 that focuses on adopting European standards in financial market regulation and supervision. Amendments were passed in 2011 to the law on joint-stock companies to strengthen minority shareholder rights and improve disclosure obligations for transactions involving conflicts of interest. A new capital markets law adopting European Union regulations came into effect in 2013. It is designed to open up capital markets to foreign investors, strengthen NCFM’s powers of independent regulator and sets higher capital requirements on capital market participants. Following several takeover scandals in recent years, the government has passed amendments to strengthen the integrity of shareholder rights.

Money and Banking System

Moldovan banks are the main source of business financing, with non-bank financing, albeit growing, still playing a minor role. The banking system has two tiers: the NBM and 11 commercial banks. The NBM regulates the commercial bank sector and reports to parliament. Foreign bank branches have to register in Moldova and operate under the local banking legislation. Moldova has four foreign banks; among them Societe Generale’s Mobiasbanca and Erste Bank’s BCR are the most well-known.

Foreign investors’ share in Moldovan banks’ capital is around 81 percent. Yet, questions remain about true bank owners who pass as foreign investors in official statistics. A crisis at three Moldovan banks, two of them being among the country’s top five, in late 2014 called into question the soundness of the banking system, which has yet to recover from the fallout. The banking crisis has had an impact on the whole banking system, causing some foreign banks to call off their correspondent relationship with Moldovan banks.

There is a lack of transparency on ultimate beneficial ownership, large exposures to some clients, significant related-party lending in banks’ portfolios, and resulting high non-performing loans. This has contributed to a small number of individuals concentrating control over most of the banking assets. Both regulating bodies, NCFM and NBM, are seen as having weak enforcement powers, at times undercut by questionable court rulings. In response to this problem, the Moldovan parliament adopted legislation that would strengthen the independence of decision making at the two regulating bodies. In order to strengthen the weak system of tracking shares and shareholders, authorities also put in place a law to set up a central share depository with the help of international financial institutions.

As of December 31, 2016, total bank assets were MDL 72.95 billion (USD 3.66 billion). Moldova’s three largest commercial banks account for around 64 percent of the total bank assets, as follows: Moldova Agroindbank: MDL 19.7 billion (USD 991 million); Moldindconbank: MDL 14.49 billion (USD 727 million); and Victoriabank: MDL 12.61 billion (USD 633 million). In a bid to prevent another bank crisis, the NBM instituted the procedure of special monitoring of these top three banks over concerns about the transparency of bank shareholders.

Moldovan legislation does not have a definition of hostile takeovers. There were instances of what was termed “raider attacks” in the banking sector that saw the use of corrupt legal practices to defraud rightful owners of their shares.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Moldova accepted Article VIII of the IMF Charter in 1995, which required liberalization of foreign exchange operations. There are no restrictions on the conversion or transfer of funds associated with foreign investment in Moldova. After the payment of taxes, foreign investors are permitted to repatriate residual funds. Residual fund transfers are not subject to any other duties or taxes, and do not require special permission. The country’s central bank uses a floating exchange rate regime and intervenes only to smooth sharp fluctuations.

After a tumultuous period of inflation and devaluation of the 1990s, the local currency has entered a period of relative stability punctuated by periods of volatility and depreciation due to economic shocks of domestic or foreign origins.

Between late 2014 and early 2016, the national currency, the leu (plural lei), depreciated with difficulties in the economic and political environment, along with Russian bans on Moldovan food exports and falling remittances from Russia, which impacted Moldova’s balance of payments. A massive banking fraud and a subsequent bailout program further undermined the leu, which depreciated by 36 percent. In 2016, the currency rate stabilized settling for MDL 19.98 to the U.S. dollar at the end of the year.

Remittance Policies

No significant delays in the remittances of investment returns have been reported, while domestic commercial banks have accounts in leading multinational banks. Foreign investors enjoy the right to repatriate their earnings.

The Moldovan leu is the only accepted legal tender in the retail and service sectors in Moldova. The foreign exchange regulation of the NBM allows foreigners and residents to use foreign currencies in some current and capital transactions on the territory of Moldova. Generally, there are no difficulties associated with the exchange of foreign or local currency in Moldova.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Post is not aware of any sovereign wealth fund run by the government of Moldova.

Since gaining independence in 1992, Moldova privatized most state-owned enterprises, and most sectors of the economy are almost entirely in private hands. However, the government still controls fully or partially some enterprises. The major government-owned enterprises are two northern electrical distribution companies, the Chisinau heating companies, fixed-line telephone operator Moldtelecom, state airline Air Moldova, the country’s largest tobacco company, and the state railway company. The government keeps a registry of state-owned assets, which is available on the website on the Public Property Agency https://app.gov.md/ro/advanced-page-type/registrul-patrimoniului-public .

State-owned enterprises (SOE) are governed by the law on stock companies and the law on state enterprises as well as a number of governmental decisions. SOEs have boards of directors usually made up of representatives of the line ministry, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Finance. As a rule, SOEs report to the respective ministries, with those registered as joint stock companies being required to make their financial reports public. Moldova does not incorporate references to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs in its normative acts.

Moldovan legislation does not formally discriminate between state-owned enterprises and private-run businesses. By law, governmental authorities must provide a level legal and economic playing field to all enterprises.

The Law on Entrepreneurship and Enterprises has a list of activities restricted solely to state enterprises, which includes, among others, human and animal medical research, manufacture of orders and medals, postal services (except express mail), sale and production of combat equipment and weapons, minting and real estate registration.

There are reports of state-owned enterprises having an advantage over privately-run businesses in Moldova. Either from government representatives sitting on their boards or from their dominant position in their industry, state-owned companies are generally seen as being better positioned to influence decision-makers than their private sector competitors, and use this perceived competitive advantage to prevent open competition in their individual sectors.

Privatization Program

Moldova launched the first of several waves of privatization in 1994. In 2007, Parliament passed a new law governing management and privatization of state-owned assets. Two major privatizations in 2013 – of the then-largest bank, Banca de Economii, and the 49-year concession of the Chisinau Airport – subsequently proved highly controversial. Privatization efforts in 2014 and 2015 emphasized public-private partnerships as means for companies to gain access to state-owned resources in infrastructure-related projects. As of early 2017, the government was floating plans for privatization of additional state assets.

Moldova conducts privatizations through open tenders organized at the stock exchange that are open to any interested investor. Also, the government may use open outcry auctions for some properties, the so-called investment or commercial tenders to sell entire companies to the highest bidders and public private partnerships for infrastructure related projects. The government publishes privatization announcements on the website of the Public Property Agency www.app.gov.md  and in the official journal Monitorul Oficial. Some investors have complained that the privatizations are unfair and lack transparency.

While Moldovan legislation deals with issues pertaining to environment, workers’ rights, social fairness or governance, there is little awareness of the concept of responsible business conduct. The country’s corporate culture and private sector are still at an early stage of development and still seeking to define the nature of interactions between private business and the authorities and the public at large. There is no governmental policy to encourage enterprises to follow OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Foreign companies operating in Moldova are gradually introducing the concept of corporate social responsibility as an aspect of responsible business conduct. However, the Soviet-era notion of a paternalistic government responsible for maintaining the social welfare for all citizens remains quite widespread. AmCham Moldova has set a leading example, with its corporate members engaging in a forestation project, in the rehabilitation of medical facilities, and in Christmas collection projects for orphanages.

While Moldova is taking steps to adopt European and international standards to combat corruption and organized crime, corruption remains a major problem. The wider Moldovan society also has a general perception of prevalent corruption among high level officials.

The government developed and enacted a series of laws designed to address legislative gaps such as the Law on Preventing and Combating Corruption, the Law on Conflict of Interests and the Law on the Code of Conduct for Public Servants. The Criminal Code criminalizes public corruption through two specific statutes – passive and active corruption. These statutes apply only to corruption actions and bribery committed by public officials. In 2016 Moldova started the reform of the prosecution system and created a specialized prosecution agency – The Anticorruption Prosecution Office. However, the new prosecution agency is yet to prove its full effectiveness in combating corruption, including in a non-discriminatory manner.

In 2016, parliament passed in the first reading the Law on the National Integrity Authority and the Law on Disclosure of Assets and Conflict of Interest by public officials. According to the first draft law, the National Integrity Center is to replace the National Integrity Commission. The new agency will be staffed with 30 integrity inspectors and have the power to apply fines on delinquent officials. The director and deputy director would be hired in a competitive process. The second draft law provides for clearer procedures and mechanisms for disclosing assets, properties, and conflicts of interest by Moldovan public officials.

A 2012 law reorganized the Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (CCECC) into the National Anticorruption Center (NAC). The NAC focuses solely on investigating public corruption and bribery crimes, and is subordinated to the parliament (CCECC was under the executive branch). Moldovan judges, who had previously enjoyed full immunity from investigation, can now be prosecuted for crimes of corruption without a prior sanction from their highest self-governing body, the Superior Council of Magistrates, which nevertheless keeps its powers to approve any search or arrest warrant against a judge.

In 2016, legislative initiatives launched by the Supreme Court of Justice in the anticorruption area stalled due to the opposition by Moldovan civil society due to concerns that the creation of anti-corruption courts raised the risk of corruption as there would be no oversight body.

Moldova’s Criminal Code includes articles on public and private sector corruption, combating economic crimes, criminal responsibility of public officials, active and passive corruption and trade of influence which put the legislation more in line with international, anti-bribery standards by criminalizing the act of promising, offering or giving a bribe to a public official. Anti-corruption laws extend culpability to family members; however due to the presumption of legally acquired assets provided for by the Moldovan Constitution, the effective presumption is that of a legal acquirement. The statute of illicit enrichment that was introduced in 2013 is yet to be used effectively by law enforcement in cases of public officials.

Moldovan laws require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit corruption and corrupt behavior. The Moldovan Criminal Code criminalizes separately corruption and bribery in the private sector.

In 2016, Parliament passed two new statutes to the Criminal Code criminalizing the misuse of international assistance funds. This statute will help identify and prosecute any misuse of international donors’ assistance by Moldovan public officials in public acquisitions, technical assistance programs and grants areas.

In November 2012, as part of the Justice Sector Reform Action Plan, the Ministry of Justice drafted a series of amendments in the anti-corruption area. This package of anticorruption amendments include: new legislation on integrity testing of justice sector officials, the introduction of extended confiscation and illicit enrichment statutes in the Moldovan Criminal Code as per the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The new Criminal Code statutes and new laws on integrity testing of public officials and disciplinary liability law for judges were passed in late 2013, and amended in 2016 to include the following amendments:

Parliament also passed a law in 2016 providing for a gradual increase of prosecutors’ salaries in the framework of the prosecutorial reform.

The country has laws regulating the conflict of interests in awarding contracts and the overall government procurement process; however laws are not effectively enforced. For instance in 2016 anticorruption prosecutors initiated five criminal cases dealing with public officials involved in procurements for the public health and education.

Despite the established anti-corruption framework, the number of cases involving prosecution of corruption did not meet international expectations (given corruption perceptions), and enforcement of existing legislation is widely deemed insufficient. The dismissal, in April 2013, of the government on corruption allegations has worsened the Moldovan society’s perception of corruption. After dropping to 103rd place in 2014, Moldova’s ranking in the 2015 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index remained unchanged, while the country’s score dropped to 33 out of 100 from 35 a year earlier. In the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Moldova scored 30 points and ranked 123rd.

A Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) survey done in 2013 shows that 71 percent of Moldovans think that corruption is a very serious problem and 60 percent think that the government’s efforts to fight corruption are ineffective. At the same time, according to the GCB, 80 percent of Moldovan citizens believe that the most corrupt institution is the judiciary, followed by police (76 percent) and political parties (75 percent).

Post has received many reports from foreign investors of serious problems with corruption and bribery. For example, when a foreign investor discovered that he had underpaid his taxes and wished to remedy the situation, the tax inspector assigned to the company attempted to extort money. The tax service later lauded the investor for his self-reporting and negotiated a reduced payment.

Post has also received reports of “informal” hostile takeovers of profitable businesses. In these cases, business owners were approached by politically-connected individuals who wished to acquire part of the businesses. When business owners refused, they were pressured to close.

In 2007, Moldova ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, subsequently adopting amendments to its domestic anti-corruption legislation.

Moldova is not a signatory of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery. However, Moldova is part of two regional anti-corruption initiatives: the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative for South East Europe (SPAI) and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe. Moldova cooperates closely with the OECD through SPAI and with GRECO, especially on country evaluations. In 1999, Moldova signed the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and Civil Law Convention on Corruption. Moldova ratified both conventions in 2003.

Resources to Report Corruption

Viorel Chetraru
Director, National Anti-Corruption Center
Bul. Stefan cel Mare si Sfant 168, Chisinau MD2004, Moldova
Tel. +373 22-257 257 (secretariat)/800-55555 (hotline)/22-257 333 (special line)

Lilia Carasciuc
Executive Director, Transparency International Moldova
Strada 31August 1989 nr. 98, of.205, Chisinau MD2004, Moldova
Tel. +373-22 203-484(office)/800-10 000 (hotline)

Post has received no reports over the past ten years of politically-motivated damage to business projects or installations in Moldova. In 2015 and early 2016, the political scene witnessed a public outcry amid perceptions of a corrupt political class that failed to prevent, if not potentially condoned or supported, a massive bank fraud resulting in the disappearance of nearly 15 percent of GDP from the country’s then-three largest banks. Round-the-clock anti-government protests culminated in January 2016 in clashes with riot police when protesters tried to prevent parliament from voting in a new government. The clashes were limited and did not turn into full-blown violence or cause extensive damage that would affect businesses in any way and the government remained in power.

Separatists control the Transnistrian region of Moldova, located between the Nistru River and the eastern border with Ukraine. Although a brief armed conflict took place in 1991-1992, both sides signed a ceasefire in July 1992, which has generally been observed. Local authorities in Transnistria maintain a separate monetary unit, the Transnistrian ruble (approximately 11.30 rubles per U.S. dollar), and a separate customs system. Despite the political separation, economic cooperation takes place in various sectors. The government has implemented measures requiring businesses in Transnistria to register with Moldovan authorities (see Expropriation and Compensation). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with Russia, and Ukraine acting as guarantors/mediators and the United States and EU as observers, continues to support negotiations between Moldova and the separatist region Transnistria (known as the “5+2” format). Throughout the years, negotiations have been piecemeal, with talks stalling in 2006 and formally resuming in late November 2011. An important achievement of the talks in the past few years has been the resumption of rail freight traffic through Transnistria. However, progress on other issues was limited and relations at times highly antagonistic.

For years, Moldova prided itself on its skilled labor force, including numerous workers with specialized and technical skills. However, with economic turmoil, many skilled workers left Moldova for better paying jobs in other countries. This led to shortages of skilled workers in Moldova. There are imbalances in the labor market arising from a general lack of workers with vocational training that employers need on one hand, and lack of job opportunities for academically educated people on the other. Labor shortages are reported in manufacturing and engineering, while language (Moldovans are usually bilingual in Russian and Romanian) and IT skills are thought to be in ample supply. However, low birth rates and an aging population represent a further challenge to Moldova’s labor pool.

Official unemployment was 4.2 percent in 2016, which is misleading given the low labor participation rate of 42.6 percent, owing to large numbers of Moldovans migrating abroad that reduces the number of job seekers at home and informal work. Youth unemployment is more than double the national average at 11.8 percent.

Moldova’s Constitution guarantees the right to establish or join a trade union. Trade unions have influence in the large and mostly state-owned enterprises and have historically negotiated for strong labor relations, minimum wage and basic worker rights. Unions also have a say in negotiating collective labor agreements in various industries. Unions are less active and effective in small private companies. Moldova is a signatory to numerous conventions on the protection of workers’ rights. The country has moved toward adopting international standards in labor laws and regulations. In recent years, changes were made to labor legislation in favor of employers. Nevertheless, labor legislation is stringent in matters dealing with severance pays or maternity leave – regulations that some foreign investors view as an impediment to labor flexibility and as putting a heavy burden on employers.

The government is currently drafting amendments to the Labor Code and a new law on foreign work and migration. The changes are intended to make the legislative framework better equipped for modernization of the labor market, skills development and vocational education training reform.

The Moldovan General Federation of Trade Unions has been a member of the ILO since 1992, and has been affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Unions (ICFU) since 1997. The Federation split into two separate unions in 2000, but merged in 2007, forming the National Trade Union Confederation (CNSM). After attempts of the previous Communist-led government to interfere in the activity of unions, the CNSM was isolated from the international trade unions movement. With a change in government in 2009 and the election of new trade union leaders, CNSM was given membership in the International Trade Union Confederation in 2010.

In 1992, the Moldovan and U.S. governments signed an investment incentive agreement that exempts OPIC from Moldovan taxes on loan interest and fees. OPIC became active in Moldova in September 1997, providing political-risk insurance to a U.S. company investing in an agribusiness. Since then, OPIC has provided a number of financial and insurance products to U.S. businesses operating in Moldova in such fields as agribusiness, telecommunications, banking, consulting, transportation logistics and mortgage financing.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) provides U.S. companies investing in Moldova short- and medium-term financing in the private sector under its insurance, loan and guarantee programs. In 2000, Ex-Im and Moldova signed a Framework Guarantee Agreement setting the terms for it to issue sovereign guarantees to facilitate Ex-Im financing of U.S. exports to Moldova. Also in 2000, Ex-Im and Moldova signed a Project Incentive Agreement that enabled the Ex-Im to finance U.S. exports for creditworthy private sector projects in Moldova on a non-sovereign risk basis which required host-government support such as permit and license approvals. Under the agreement, repayment of Ex-Im financing is based on the capture of financed projects’ revenue streams in special escrow accounts held in banks approved by Ex-Im.

In 2002, Ex-Im signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank. Under the memorandum, Ex-Im’s financing can be used to support exports of U.S. goods and services to any country located in the Black Sea region, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The agreement enables the Black Sea Trade Development Bank to act as a guarantor of specific transactions and also provides for parallel financing arrangements.

Moldova is eligible for U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) funding for feasibility studies, orientation visits, specialized training grants, business workshops and other forms of technical assistance with U.S. export potential.

Institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank are very active in Moldova in both the private and public sectors, offering various financial tools for both insurance and credit. Moldova is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and a member of the World Bank group. MIGA promotes foreign direct investment into developing countries by insuring investors against political risk, advising governments on attracting investment, sharing information through on-line investment information services and mediating disputes between investors and governments. Moldova is also eligible for project and trade financing from the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank. The country also benefits from loans extended by the EU’s European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2016 $6,749 2015 $6,568 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $48.08 N/A N/A N/A
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 53.07 N/A N/A N/A

*National Bureau of Statistics and National Bank of Moldova are the primary source of the information. Total inbound stock of FDI is provided as a historical cost figure.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data*
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 2,634 100% Total Outward N/A 100%
Russian Federation 746 28.3% N/A N/A
Netherlands 326 12.4% N/A N/A
Cyprus 224 8.5% N/A N/A
Spain 212 8.0% N/A N/A
France 206 7.8% N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

* Note: IMF statistics from 2015.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets*
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 100% All Countries 100% All Countries 100%

*Note: According to preliminary data from the National Bank of Moldova, total net portfolio investment in 2016 was USD 0.76 million. The IMF rounds this to zero.

U.S. Embassy Chisinau, Moldova
Str. Alexei Mateevici 10
Chisinau MD 2009, Moldova
Main switchboard +373 (22) 40 83 00
Fax: +373 (22) 23 30 74/40 84 10

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future