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Malaysia

Executive Summary

Since May 2018 elections, the new government has focused on delivering on some of its key campaign promises such as tackling corruption, improving livelihoods for the bottom 40 percent (B40) income earners, and introducing open tenders for infrastructure projects.  The Ministry of Finance has also revised Malaysia’s GDP to debt ratio when the government included previously off budgets in their reported figures. A key campaign promise, the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) provided for a three-month tax holiday and was then replaced with a Sales and Services Tax (SST).  

The Government of Malaysia has traditionally encouraged foreign direct investment (FDI), and the Prime Minister and many Cabinet ministers have engaged with foreign investors a number of times since taking office.  The government has encouraged interested investors to meet with relevant government authorities to negotiate incentive packages, actively targeting industries. Government officials have called for investments in high technology and research and development, focusing on artificial intelligence, Internet of Things device design and manufacturing, Smart Cities, electric vehicles, automation of the manufacturing industry, telecommunications infrastructure, and other “catalytic sub-sectors,” such as aerospace.  It also seeks further development in sectors such as oil, gas and energy; palm oil and rubber; wholesale and retail operations; financial services; tourism; electrical and electronics (E&E); business services; communications content and infrastructure; education; agriculture; and health care.

Under the previous administration, inbound FDI had been steady in nominal terms, and Malaysia’s performance in attracting FDI relative to both earlier decades and the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had slowed.  According to the 2013 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Investment Policy Review of Malaysia, FDI to Malaysia began to decline in 1992, and private investment overall started to slide in 1997 following the Asian financial crises.  In the intervening years, domestic demand has increasingly been the source of Malaysia’s economic performance, with foreign investment receding as a driver of GDP growth. The OECD concluded in its Review that Malaysia’s FDI levels in recent years had reached record high levels in absolute terms, but were at low levels as a percentage of GDP.  The current government estimates that GDP will grow at 4.9 percent in 2019.

The business climate in Malaysia has been conducive to U.S. investment.  Increased transparency and structural reforms that will prevent future corrupt practices could make Malaysia a more attractive destination for FDI in the long run.  The largest U.S. investments are in the oil and gas sector, manufacturing, and financial services. Firms with significant investment in Malaysia’s oil and gas and petrochemical sectors include: ExxonMobil, Caltex, ConocoPhillips, Hess Oil, Halliburton, Dow Chemical and Eastman Chemicals.  Major semiconductor manufacturers, including ON Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Intel, and others have substantial operations in Malaysia, as do electronics manufacturers Western Digital, Honeywell, St. Jude Medical Operations (medical devices), and Motorola. In recent years Malaysia has attracted significant investment in the production of solar panels, including from U.S. firms.  Many of the major Japanese consumer electronics firms (Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Matsushita, etc.) have facilities in Malaysia.


Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 61 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018 15 of 190 http://doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 35 of 127 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $15,100 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $9,650 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Malaysia has one of the world’s most trade-dependent economies with exports and imports of goods and services reaching about 130 percent of annual GDP according to the World Trade Organization. The Malaysian government values foreign investment as a driver of continued national economic development, but has been hampered by restrictions in some sectors and an at-times burdensome regulatory regime.  Some of these restrictions may be lifted by the new government in an effort to attract FDI.

In 2009, Malaysia removed its former Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) investment guidelines, enabling transactions for acquisitions of interests, mergers, and takeovers of local companies by domestic or foreign parties without FIC approval. Although the FIC itself still exists, its primary role is to review of investments related to distributive trade (e.g., retail distributors) as a means of ensuring 30 percent of the equity in this economic segment is held by the bumiputera (ethnic Malays and other indigenous ethnicities in Malaysia).

Since 2009, the government has gradually liberalized foreign participation in the services sector to attract more foreign investment. Following removal of certain restrictions on foreign participation in industries ranging from computer-related consultancies, tourism, and freight transportation, the government in 2011 began to allow 100 percent foreign ownership across the following sectors: healthcare, retail, education as well as professional, environmental, and courier services. Some limits on foreign equity ownership remain in place across in telecommunications, financial services, and transportation.

Foreign investments in services, whether in sectors with no foreign equity limits or controlled sub-sectors, remain subject to review and approval by ministries and agencies with jurisdiction over the relevant sectors. A key function of this review and approval process is to determine whether proposed investments meet the government’s qualifications for the various incentives in place to promote economic development goals. Nevertheless, the Ministerial Functions Act grants relevant ministries broad discretionary powers over the approval of specific investment projects. Investors in industries targeted by the Malaysian government often can negotiate favorable terms with ministries, or other bodies, regulating the specific industry. This can include assistance in navigating a complex web of regulations and policies, some of which can be waived on a case-by-case basis. Foreign investors in non-targeted industries tend to receive less government assistance in obtaining the necessary approvals from the various regulatory bodies and therefore can face greater bureaucratic obstacles.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The legal framework for foreign investment in Malaysia grants foreigners the right to establish businesses and hold equity stakes across all parts of the economy.  However, despite the progress of reforms to open more of the economy to a greater share of foreign investment, limits on foreign ownership remain in place across many sectors.

Telecommunications

Malaysia began allowing 100 percent foreign equity participation in Applications Service Providers (ASP) in April 2012.  However, for Network Facilities Providers (NFP) and Network Service Provider (NSP) licenses, a limit of 70 percent foreign participation remains in effect.  In certain instances, Malaysia has allowed a greater share of foreign ownership, but the manner in which such exceptions are administered is non-transparent.  Restrictions are still in force on foreign ownership allowed in Telekom Malaysia. The limitation on the aggregate foreign share is 30 percent or five percent for individual investors.

Oil and Gas

Under the terms of the Petroleum Development Act of 1974, the upstream oil and gas industry is controlled by Petroleum Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS), a wholly state-owned company and the sole entity with legal title to Malaysian crude oil and gas deposits.  Foreign participation tends to take the form of production sharing contracts (PSCs). PETRONAS regularly requires its PSC partners to work with Malaysian firms for many tenders. Non-Malaysian firms are permitted to participate in oil services in partnership with local firms and are restricted to a 49 percent equity stake if the foreign party is the principal shareholder.  PETRONAS sets the terms of upstream projects with foreign participation on a case-by-case basis.

Financial Services

Malaysia’s 10-year Financial Sector Blueprint envisages further opening to foreign institutions and investors, but does not contain specific market-opening commitments or timelines.  For example, the services liberalization program that started in 2009 raised the limit of foreign ownership in insurance companies to 70 percent. However, Malaysia’s Central Bank (Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)), would allow a greater foreign ownership stake if the investment is determined to facilitate the consolidation of the industry.  The latest Blueprint, 2011-2020, helped to codify the case-by-case approach. Under the Financial Services Act passed in late 2012, issuance of new licenses will be guided by prudential criteria and the “best interests of Malaysia,” which may include consideration of the financial strength, business record, experience, character and integrity of the prospective foreign investor, soundness and feasibility of the business plan for the institution in Malaysia, transparency and complexity of the group structure, and the extent of supervision of the foreign investor in its home country.  In determining the “best interests of Malaysia,” BNM may consider the contribution of the investment in promoting new high value-added economic activities, addressing demand for financial services where there are gaps, enhancing trade and investment linkages, and providing high-skilled employment opportunities. BNM, however, has never defined criteria for the “best interests of Malaysia” test, and no firms have qualified.

While there has been no policy change in terms of the 70 percent foreign ownership cap for insurance companies, the government did agree to let a foreign owned insurer maintain a 100 percent equity stake after that firm made a contribution to a health insurance scheme aimed at providing health coverage to lower income Malaysians.

BNM currently allows foreign banks to open four additional branches throughout Malaysia, subject to restrictions, which include designating where the branches can be set up (i.e., in market centers, semi-urban areas and non-urban areas).  The policies do not allow foreign banks to set up new branches within 1.5 km of an existing local bank. BNM also has conditioned foreign banks’ ability to offer certain services on commitments to undertake certain back office activities in Malaysia.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Malaysia’s most recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) investment review occurred in 2013.  Although the review underscored the generally positive direction of economic reforms and efforts at liberalization, the recommendations emphasized the need for greater service sector liberalization, stronger intellectual property protections, enhanced guidance and support from Malaysia’s Investment Development Authority (MIDA), and continued corporate governance reforms.

Malaysia also conducted a WTO Trade Policy Review in February 2018, which incorporated a general overview of the country’s investment policies.  The WTO’s review noted the Malaysian government’s action to institute incentives to encourage investment as well as a number of agencies to guide prospective investors.  Beyond attracting investment, Malaysia had made measurable progress on reforms to facilitate increased commercial activity. Among the new trade and investment-related laws that entered into force during the review period were: the Companies Act, which introduced provisions to simplify the procedures to start a company, to reduce the cost of doing business, as well as to reform corporate insolvency mechanisms; the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) to replace the sales tax; the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act, pursuant to which the Malaysian Aviation Commission was established; and various amendments to the Food Regulations.  Since the WTO Trade Policy Review, however, the new government has already eliminated the GST, and has revived the Sales and Services Tax, which was implemented on September 1, 2018.

http://www.oecd.org/investment/countryreviews.htm  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp466_e.htm  

Business Facilitation

The principal law governing foreign investors’ entry and practice in the Malaysian economy is the Companies Act of 2016 (CA), which entered into force on January 31, 2017 and replaced the Companies Act of 1965.  Incorporation requirements under the new CA have been further simplified and are the same for domestic and foreign sole proprietorships, partnerships, as well as privately held and publicly traded corporations. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019, Malaysia streamlined the process of obtaining a building permit and made it faster to obtain construction permits; eliminated the site visit requirement for new commercial electricity connections, making getting electricity easier for businesses; implemented an online single window platform to carry out property searches and simplified the property transfer process; and introduced electronic forms and enhanced risk-based inspection system for cross-border trade and improved the infrastructure and port operation system at Port Klang, the largest port in Malaysia, thereby facilitating international trade; and made resolving insolvency easier by introducing the reorganization procedure.  These changes led to a significant improvement of Malaysia’s ranking per the Doing Business Report, from 24 to 15 in one year.

In addition to registering with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, business entities must file: 1) Memorandum and Articles of Association (ie, company charter); 2) a Declaration of Compliance (ie, compliance with provisions of the Companies Act); and 3) a Statutory Declaration (ie, no bankruptcies, no convictions).  The registration and business establishment process takes two weeks to complete, on average. The new government repealed GST and installed a new sales and services tax (SST), which began implementation on September 1, 2018.

Beyond these requirements, foreign investors must obtain licenses.  Under the Industrial Coordination Act of 1975, an investor seeking to engage in manufacturing will need a license if the business claims capital of RM2.5 million (approximately USD 641,000) or employs at least 75 full-time staff.  The Malaysian Government’s guidelines for approving manufacturing investments, and by extension, manufacturing licenses, are generally based on capital-to-employee ratios. Projects below a threshold of RM55,000 (approximately USD 14,100) of capital per employee are deemed labor-intensive and will generally not qualify.  Manufacturing investors seeking to expand or diversify their operations will need to apply through MIDA.

Manufacturing investors whose companies have annual revenue below RM50 million (approximately USD12.8 million) or with fewer than 200 full-time employees meet the definition of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) and will generally be eligible for government SME incentives.  Companies in the services or other sectors that have revenue below RM20 million (approximately USD5.1 million) or fewer than 75 full-time employees will meet the SME definition.

[Reference]

Outward Investment

While the Malaysian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, a number of Government-Linked companies, pension funds, and investment companies do have investments overseas.  These companies include the sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Malaysia, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, KWAP, Malaysia’s largest public services pension fund, and the Employees’ Provident Fund of Malaysia.  Government owned oil and gas firm Petronas also has investments in several regions outside Asia.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

As a member of ASEAN, Malaysia is a party to trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand; China; India; Japan; and the Republic of Korea. During the review period, the ASEAN-India Agreement was expanded to cover trade in services. Malaysia also has bilateral FTAs with: Australia; Chile; India; Japan; New Zealand; Pakistan; and Turkey.

Reference: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s366_sum_e.pdf 

Malaysia has bilateral investment treaties with 36 countries, but not yet with the United States.  Malaysia does have bilateral “investment guarantee agreements  ” with over 70 economies, including the United States. The Government reports that 65 of Malaysia’s existing investment agreements contain Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.  Malaysia has double taxation treaties with over 70 countries, though the double taxation agreement with the U.S. currently is limited to air and sea transportation.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

In July 2013, the Malaysian Government initiated a National Policy on Development and Implementation of Regulations (NPDIR).  Under this policy, the federal government embarked on a comprehensive approach to minimize redundancies in the country’s regulatory framework.  The benefits to the private sector thus far have largely been reduced licensing requirements, fees, and approval wait-times for construction projects.  The main components of the policy have been: 1) a regulatory impact assessment (a cost-benefit analysis of all newly proposed regulations); and 2) the creation of a regulations guide, PEMUDAH (similar to the role MIDA plays for prospective investors), to aid businesses and civil society organizations in understanding regulatory requirements affecting their organizations’ activities.  Under the NPDIR, the government has committed to reviewing all new regulations every five years to determine with the new regulations need to be adjusted or eliminated.

Despite this effort to make government more accountable for its rules and to make the process more inclusive, many foreign investors continue to criticize the lack of transparency in government decision making.  The implementation of rules on government procurement contracts are a recurring concern. Non-Malaysian pharmaceutical companies claim to have lost bids against bumiputera (ethnic Malay)-owned companies further claiming they’d offered more effective medicines at lower cost.

[Reference]

(http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/  provides data for 185 economies on whether governments publish or consult with public about proposed regulations)

International Regulatory Considerations

Malaysia is one of 10 Member States that constitute the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). On December 31, 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community formally came into existence. For many years ahead of that date, and since, ASEAN’s economic policy leaders have met regularly to discuss promoting greater economic integration within the 10-country bloc.  Although trade within the 10-country bloc is robust, Member States have prioritized steps to facilitate a greater flow of goods, services, and capital. No regional regulatory system is in place. As a member of the WTO, Malaysia provides notification of all draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Malaysia’s legal system generally reflects English Law in that it consists of written and unwritten laws.  Written laws include the federal and state constitutions as well as laws passed by Parliament and state legislatures.  Unwritten laws are derived from court cases and local customs. The Contract Law of 1950 still guides the enforcement of contracts and resolution of disputes.  States generally control property laws for residences, although the Malaysian government has recently adopted measures, including high capital gains taxes, to prevent the real estate market from overheating.  Nevertheless, through such programs as the Multimedia Super Corridor, Free Commercial Zones, and Free Industrial Zones, the federal government has substantial reach into a range of geographic areas as a means of encouraging foreign investment and facilitating ownership of commercial and industrial property.

In 2007 the judiciary introduced dedicated intellectual property (IP) courts that consist of 15 “Sessions Courts” that sit in each state, and six ‘High Courts’ that sit in certain states (i.e. Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Perak, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak).  Malaysia launched the IP courts to deter the use of IP-infringing activity to fund criminal activity and to demonstrate a commitment to IP development in support of the country’s goal to achieve high-income status. These lower courts hear criminal cases, and have the jurisdiction to impose fines for IP infringing acts.  There is no limit to the fines that they can impose. The higher courts are designated for civil cases to provide damages incurred by rights holders once the damages have been quantified post-trial. High courts have the authority to issue injunctions (i.e., to order an immediate cessation of infringing activity) and to award monetary damages.

Labor Courts, which the Ministry of Human Resources describes as “a quasi-judicial system that serves as an alternative to civil claims,” provide a means for workers to seek payment of wages and other financial benefits in arrears.  Proceedings are generally informal but conducted in accordance with civil court principles. The High Court has upheld decisions which Labor Courts have rendered.

Certain foreign judgments are enforceable in Malaysia by virtue of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1958 (REJA).  However, before a foreign judgment can be enforceable, it has to be registered. The registration of foreign judgments is only possible if the judgment was given by a Superior Court from a country listed in the First Schedule of the REJA: the United Kingdom, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, New Zealand, Republic of Sri Lanka, India, and Brunei.

To register a foreign judgment under the REJA, the judgment creditor has to apply for the same within six years after the date of the foreign judgment. Any foreign judgment coming under the REJA shall be registered unless it has been wholly satisfied, or it could not be enforced by execution in the country of the original Court.

If the judgment is not from a country listed in the First Schedule to the REJA, the only method of enforcement at common law is by securing a Malaysian judgment. This involves suing on the judgment in the local Courts as an action in debt. Summary judgment procedures (explained above) may be used to expedite the process.

Post is not aware of instances in which political figures or government authorities have interfered in judiciary proceedings involving commercial matters.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Malaysia established the Malaysia Investment Development Authority (MIDA) to attract foreign investment and to serve as a focal point for legal and regulatory questions.  Organized as part of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), MIDA serves as a guide to foreign investors interested in the manufacturing sector and in many services sectors.  Regional bodies providing support investors include: Invest Kuala Lumpur, Invest Penang, Invest Selangor, the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA), and the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation, among others.

As noted, the Ministerial Functions Act authorizes government ministries to oversee investments under their jurisdiction.  Prospective investors in the services sector will need to follow requirements set by the relevant Malaysian Government ministry or agency over the sector in question.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

On April 21, 2010, the Parliament of Malaysia approved two bills, the Competition Commission Act 2010 and the Competition Act 2010.  The Acts took effect January 1, 2012. The Competition Act prohibits cartels and abuses of a dominant market position, but does not create any pre-transaction review of mergers or acquisitions.  Violations are punishable by fines, as well as imprisonment for individual violations. Malaysia’s Competition Commission has responsibility for determining whether a company’s “conduct” constitutes an abuse of dominant market position or otherwise distorts or restricts competition.  As a matter of law, the Competition Commission does not have separate standards for foreign and domestic companies. Commission membership consists of senior officials from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism (MDTCC), the Ministry of Finance, and, on a rotating basis, representatives from academia and the private sector.

In addition to the Competition Commission, the Acts established a Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) to hear all appeals of Commission decisions.   In the largest case to date, the Commission imposed a fine of RM10 million on Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia in September 2013 for colluding to divide shares of the air transport services market.  The airlines filed an appeal in March 2014. In February 2016, the CAT ruled in favor of the airlines in its first-ever decision and ordered the penalty to be set aside and refunded to both airlines.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Embassy is not aware of any cases of uncompensated expropriation of U.S.-held assets, or confiscatory tax collection practices, by the Malaysian government. The government’s stated policy is that all investors, both foreign and domestic, are entitled to fair compensation in the event that their private property is required for public purposes. Should the investor and the government disagree on the amount of compensation, the issue is then referred to the Malaysian judicial system.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Malaysia signed the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) on October 22, 1965, coming into force on October 14, 1966.  In addition, it is a contracting state of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since November 5, 1985.

Malaysia adopted the following measures to make the two conventions effective in its territory:

The Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Act, 1966. (Act of Parliament 14 of 1966); the Notification on entry into force of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Act, 1966. (Notification No. 96 of March 10, 1966); and the Arbitration (Amendment) Act, 1980. (Act A 478 of 1980).

Although the domestic legal system is accessible to foreign investors, filing a case generally requires any non-Malaysian citizen to make a large deposit before pursuing a case in the Malaysian courts.  Post is unaware of any U.S. investors’ recent complaints of political interference in any judicial proceedings.

References:

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Malaysia’s investment agreements contain provisions allowing for international arbitration of investment disputes.  Malaysia does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States.

Post has little data concerning the Malaysian Government’s general handling of investment disputes.  In 2004, a U.S. investor filed a case against the directors of the firm, who constituted the majority shareholders.  The case involves allegations by the U.S. investor of embezzlement by the other directors, and its resolution is unknown.

The Malaysian government has been involved in three ICSID cases — in 1994, 1999, and 2005.  The first case was settled out of court. The second, filed under the Malaysia-Belgo-Luxembourg Investment Guarantee Agreement (IGA), was concluded in 2000 in Malaysia’s favor.  The 2005 case, filed under the Malaysia-UK Bilateral Investment Treaty, was concluded in 2007 in favor of the investor. However, the judgment against Malaysia was ultimately dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, namely that ICSID was not the appropriate forum to settle the dispute because the transaction in question was not deemed an investment since it did not materially contribute to Malaysia’s development. Nevertheless, Malaysian courts recognize arbitral awards issued against the government. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Malaysia’s Arbitration Act of 2005 applies to both international and domestic arbitration. Although its provisions largely reflect those of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, there are some notable differences, including the requirement that parties in domestic arbitration must choose Malaysian law as the applicable law.  Although an arbitration agreement may be concluded by email or fax, it must be in writing: Malaysia does not recognize oral agreements or conduct as constituting binding arbitration agreements.

Many firms choose to include mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.  The government actively promotes use of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Center for Arbitration (http://www.rcakl.org.my), established under the auspices of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee to offer international arbitration, mediation, and conciliation for trade disputes.  The KLRCA is the only recognized center for arbitration in Malaysia. Arbitration held in a foreign jurisdiction under the rules of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States 1965 or under the United Nations Commission on International trade Law Arbitration Rules 1976 and the Rules of the Regional Centre for Arbitration at Kuala Lumpur can be enforceable in Malaysia.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Malaysia’s Department of Insolvency (MdI) is the lead agency implementing the Insolvency Act of 1967, previously known as the Bankruptcy Act of 1967.  On October 6, 2017, the Bankruptcy Bill 2016 came into force, changing the name of the previous Act, and amending certain terms and conditions. The most significant changes in the amendment include — (1) a social guarantor can no longer be made bankrupt; (2) there is now a stricter requirement for personal service for bankruptcy notice and petition; (3) introduction of the voluntary arrangement as an alternative to bankruptcy; (4) a higher bankruptcy threshold from RM30,000 to RM50,000; (5) introduction of the automatic discharge of bankruptcy; (6) no objection to four categories of bankruptcy for applying a discharge under section 33A (discharge of bankrupt by Certificate of Director General of Insolvency); (7) introduction of single bankruptcy order as a result of the abolishment of the current two-tier order system, i.e. receiving and adjudication orders; (8) creation of the Insolvency Assistance fund.

The distribution of proceeds from the liquidation of a bankrupt company’s assets generally adheres to the “priority matters and persons” identified by the Companies Act of 2016.  After the bankruptcy process legal costs are covered, recipients of proceeds are: employees, secured creditors (i.e., creditors of real assets), unsecured creditors (i.e., creditors of financial instruments), and shareholders.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Malaysia. The country ranks 46th on the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Rankings for Ease of Resolving Insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Malaysian Government has codified the incentives available for investments in qualifying projects in target sectors and regions.  Tax holidays, financing, and special deductions are among the measures generally available for domestic as well as foreign investors in the following sectors and geographic areas: information and communications technologies (ICT); biotechnology; halal products (e.g., food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals); oil and gas storage and trading; Islamic finance; Kuala Lumpur; Labuan Island (off Eastern Malaysia); East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia; Sabah and Sarawak (Eastern Malaysia); Northern Corridor.

The lists of application procedures and incentives available to investors in these sectors and regions can be found at: http://www.mida.gov.my/home/invest-in-malaysia/posts/ 

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Free Zone Act of 1990 authorized the Minister of Finance to designate any suitable area as either a Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), where manufacturing and assembly takes place, or a Free Commercial Zone (FCZ), generally for warehousing commercial stock.  The Minister of Finance may appoint any federal, state, or local government agency or entity as an authority to administer, maintain and operate any free trade zone. Currently there are 13 FIZs and 12 FCZs in Malaysia. In June 2006, the Port Klang Free Zone opened as the nation’s first fully integrated FIZ and FCZ, although the project has been dogged by corruption allegations related to the land acquisition for the site. The government launched a prosecution in 2009 of the former Transport Minister involved in the land purchase process, though he was later acquitted in October 2013.

The Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) is an initiative by the Malaysian Government, implemented through MDEC, launched in November 2017 with the participation of China’s Alibaba.  DFTZ aims to facilitate seamless cross-border trading and eCommerce, and enable Malaysian SMEs to export their goods internationally. According to the Malaysian government, the DFTZ consists of two components:

An eFulfilment Hub to help Malaysian SMEs export their goods with the help of leading fulfilment service providers;

An eServices Platform to efficiently manage cargo clearance and other processes needed for cross-border trade

For more information, please visit https://mydftz.com  

Raw materials, products and equipment may be imported duty-free into these zones with minimum customs formalities. Companies that export not less than 80 percent of their output and depend on imported goods, raw materials, and components may be located in these FZs.  Ports, shipping and maritime-related services play an important role in Malaysia since 90 percent of its international trade by volume is seaborne. Malaysia is also a major transshipment center.

Goods sold into the Malaysian economy by companies within the FZs must pay import duties.  If a company wants to enjoy Common External Preferential Tariff (CEPT) rates within the ASEAN Free Trade Area, 40 percent of a product’s content must be ASEAN-sourced. In addition to the FZs, Malaysia permits the establishment of licensed manufacturing warehouses outside of free zones, which give companies greater freedom of location while allowing them to enjoy privileges similar to firms operating in an FZ. Companies operating in these zones require approval/license for each activity. The time needed to obtain licenses depends on the type of approval and ranges from two to eight weeks.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Fiscal incentives granted to both foreign and domestic investors historically have been subject to performance requirements, usually in the form of export targets, local content requirements and technology transfer requirements.  Performance requirements are usually written into the individual manufacturing licenses of local and foreign investors.

The Malaysian government extends a full tax exemption incentive of fifteen years for firms with “Pioneer Status” (companies promoting products or activities in industries or parts of Malaysia to which the government places a high priority), and ten years for companies with “Investment Tax Allowance” status (those on which the government places a priority, but not as high as Pioneer Status).  However, the government appears to have some flexibility with respect to the expiry of these periods, and some firms reportedly have had their pioneer status renewed. Government priorities generally include the levels of value-added, technology used, and industrial linkages. If a firm (foreign or domestic) fails to meet the terms of its license, it risks losing any tax benefits it may have been awarded.  Potentially, a firm could lose its manufacturing license. The New Economic Model stated that in the long term, the government intends gradually to eliminate most of the fiscal incentives now offered to foreign and domestic manufacturing investors. More information on specific incentives for various sectors can be found at www.mida.gov.my.

Malaysia also seeks to attract foreign investment in the information technology industry, particularly in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), a government scheme to foster the growth of research, development, and other high technology activities in Malaysia.  However, since July 1, 2018, the Government decided to put on hold the granting of MSC Malaysia Status and its incentives, including extension of income tax exemption period or adding new MSC Malaysia Qualifying Activities in order to review and amend Malaysia’s tax incentives.  While the MSC Malaysia Status Services Incentive has been approved and gazetted on December 31, 2018 and applications are accepted starting on April 2, 2019 for non-Intellectual Property (IP) activities, the MSC Malaysia Status IP Incentive policy is still under review. For further details on incentives, see www.mdec.my.  The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) approves all applications for MSC status. For more information please visit: https://www.mdec.my/msc-malaysia  

In the services sector, the government’s stated goal is to attract foreign investment in regional distribution centers, international procurement centers, operational headquarter research and development, university and graduate education, integrated market and logistics support services, cold chain facilities, central utility facilities, industrial training, and environmental management.  To date, Malaysia has had some success in attracting regional distribution centers, global shared services offices, and local campuses of foreign universities. For example, GE and Honeywell maintain regional offices for ASEAN in Malaysia. In 2016, McDermott moved its regional headquarters to Malaysia and Boston Scientific broke ground on a medical devices manufacturing facility.

Malaysia seeks to attract foreign investment in biotechnology, but sends a mixed message on agricultural and food biotechnology. On July 8, 2010, the Malaysian Ministry of Health posted amendments to the Food Regulations 1985 [P.U. (A) 437/1985] that require strict mandatory labeling of food and food ingredients obtained through modern biotechnology.  The amendments also included a requirement that no person shall import, prepare or advertise for sale, or sell any food or food ingredients obtained through modern biotechnology without the prior written approval of the Director. There is no ‘threshold’ level on the labeling requirement. Labeling of “GMO Free” or “Non-GMO” is not permitted. The labeling requirements only apply to foods and food ingredients obtained through modern biotechnology but not to food produced with GMO feed.  The labeling regulation was originally scheduled to be enforced beginning in July 2012. However, a Ministry of Health circular published on August 27, 2012 announced that enforcement would be deferred until July 8, 2014. However, there has not been any announcement to date of its enforcement. A copy of the law and regulations respectively can be found at: http://www.biosafety.nre.gov.my/BiosafetyAct2007.shtml, and http://www.biosafety.nre.gov.my/BIOSAFETY percent20REGULATIONS percent202010.pdf.

Malaysia has not implemented measures amounting to “forced localization” for data storage.  Bank Negara Malaysia has amended its recent Outsourcing Guidelines to remove the original data localization requirement and shared that it will similarly remove the data localization elements in its upcoming Risk Management in Technology framework.  The government has provided inducements to attract foreign and domestic investors to the Multimedia Super Corridor, but does not mandate use of onshore providers. Companies in the information and communications technology sector are not required to hand over source code.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land administration is shared among federal, state, and local government.  State governments have their own rules about land ownership, including foreign ownership.  Malaysian law affords strong protections to real property owners. Real property titles are recorded in public records and attorneys review transfer documentation to ensure efficacy of a title transfer.  There is no title insurance available in Malaysia. Malaysian courts protect property ownership rights. Foreign investors are allowed to borrow using real property as collateral. Foreign and domestic lenders are able to record mortgages with competent authorities and execute foreclosure in the event of loan default.  Malaysia ranks 29th (ranked 42nd in 2018) in ease of registering property according to the Doing Business 2019 report, right behind Finland and ahead of Hungary, thanks to changes it made to its registration procedures.

[Reference]

http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings .

Intellectual Property Rights

In December 2011, the Malaysian Parliament passed amendments to the copyright law designed to, inter alia, bring the country into compliance with the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty, define Internet Service Provider (ISP) liabilities, and prohibit unauthorized recording of motion pictures in theaters.  Malaysia subsequently acceded to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty in September 2012. In addition, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism (MDTCC) took steps to enhance Malaysia’s enforcement regime, including active cooperation with rights holders on matters pertaining to IPR enforcement, ongoing training of prosecutors for specialized IPR courts, and the 2013 reestablishment of a Special Anti-Piracy Taskforce.

In response to trends of rising internet piracy, the interagency Special Anti-Piracy Task Force established a Special Internet Forensics Unit (SIFU) within MDTCC.  The SIFU team’s responsibilities include monitoring for sites suspected of being, or known as, purveyors of infringing content. This organization follows MDTCC’s practice of launching investigations based on information and complaints from legitimate host sites and content providers.  Capacity building remains a priority for the SIFU. Coordination with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which has responsibility for overall regulation of internet content, has been improving, according to many rights holders in Malaysia. Our contacts at MDTCC have told Post that the process of developing investigative leads that would support a case for the Attorney General’s Chambers (equivalent to the U.S. Department of Justice) is a work in progress.

Despite Malaysia’s success in improving IPR enforcement, key issues remain, including relatively widespread availability of pirated and counterfeit products in Malaysia, high rates of piracy over the Internet, and continued problems with book piracy.  USTR conducted an Out-of-Cycle Review of Malaysia in 2018 to consider the extent to which Malaysia is providing adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, including with respect to patents.  During this review, the United States and Malaysia have held numerous consultations to resolve outstanding issues.  In 2019, USTR extended the Out-of-Cycle Review of Malaysia while asking Malaysia to complete actions to fully resolve these concerns in the near term.

The United States continues to encourage Malaysia to accede to the WIPO Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.  In addition, the United States continues to urge Malaysia to provide effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products, and to provide an effective system to address patent issues expeditiously in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Foreigners may trade in securities and derivatives.  Malaysia houses one of Asia’s largest corporate bond markets, and is the largest sukuk (Islamic bond) market in East Asia.  Both domestic and foreign companies regularly access capital in Malaysia’s bond market. Malaysia provides tax incentives for foreign companies issuing Islamic bonds and financial instruments in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s stock market (Bursa Malaysia) is open to foreign investment and foreign corporation issuing shares.  However, foreign issuers remain subject to bumiputera ownership requirements of 12.5 percent if the majority of their operations are in Malaysia.  Listing requirements for foreign companies are similar to that of local companies. There are additional criteria for foreign companies wanting to list in Malaysia including, among others: approval of regulatory authorities of foreign jurisdiction where the company was incorporated, valuation of assets that are standards applied in Malaysia or International Valuation Standards, and the company must have been registered with the Registrar of Companies under the Companies Act 1965 or 2016.

Malaysia has taken steps to promote good corporate governance by listed companies.  Publicly listed companies must submit quarterly reports that include a balance sheet and income statement within two months of each financial quarter’s end and audited annual accounts for public scrutiny within four months of each year’s end. An individual may hold up to 25 corporate directorships.  All public and private company directors are required to attend classes on corporate rules and regulations.

Legislation also regulates equity buybacks, mandates book entry of all securities transfers, and requires that all owners of securities accounts be identified.  A Central Depository System (CDS) for stocks and bonds established in 1991 makes physical possession of certificates unnecessary. All shares traded on the Bursa Malaysia must be deposited in the CDS.  Short selling of stocks is prohibited.

Money and Banking System

International investors generally regard Malaysia’s banking sector as dynamic and well regulated.  Although privately owned banks are competitive with state-owned banks, the state-owned banks dominate the market.  The five largest banks – Maybank, CIMB, Public Bank, RHB, and Ambank – account for an estimated 75 percent of banking sector loans.  According to the World Bank, total banking sector lending for 2017 was 140.27 percent of GDP, and 1.5 percent of the Malaysian banking sector’s loans were non-performing for 2017.

Bank Negara prohibits hostile takeovers of banks, but the Securities Commission has established non-discriminatory rules and disclosure requirements for hostile takeovers of publicly traded companies.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In December 2016, the central bank, began implementing new foreign exchange management requirements. Under the policy, exporters are required to convert 75 percent of their export earnings into Malaysian ringgit. The goal of this policy was to deepen the market for the currency, with the goal of reducing exchange rate volatility.  The policy remains in place, with the Central Bank giving case-by-case exceptions. All domestic trade in goods and services must be transacted in ringgit only, with no optional settlement in foreign currency. The Central Bank has demonstrated little flexibility with respect to the ratio of earnings that exporters hold in ringgit. Post is unaware of any instances where the requirement for exporters to hold their earnings in ringgit has impeded their ability to remit profits to headquarters.

Remittance Policies

Malaysia imposes few investment remittance rules on resident companies. Incorporated and individual U.S. investors have not raised concerns about their ability to transfer dividend payments, loan payments, royalties or other fees to home offices or U.S.-based accounts.  Tax advisory firms and consultancies have not flagged payments as a significant concern among U.S. or foreign investors in Malaysia. Foreign exchange administration policies place no foreign currency asset limits on firms that have no ringgit-denominated debt. Companies that fund their purchases of foreign exchange assets with either onshore or offshore foreign exchange holdings, whether or not such companies have ringgit-denominated debt, face no limits in making remittances.  However, a company with ringgit-denominated debt will need approval from the Central Bank for conversions of RM50 million or more into foreign exchange assets in a calendar year.

The Treasury Department has not identified Malaysia as a currency manipulator.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Malaysian Government established government-linked investment companies (GLICs) as vehicles to harness revenue from commodity-based industries and promote growth in strategic development areas.  Khazanah is the largest of the GLICs, and the company holds equity in a range of domestic firms as well as investments outside Malaysia. The other GLICs – Armed Forces Retirement Fund (LTAT), National Capital (PNB), Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Pilgrimage Fund (Tabung Haji), Public Employees Retirement Fund (KWAP) – execute similar investments but are structured as savings vehicles for Malaysians.  Khazanah follows the Santiago Principles and participates in the International Forum on Sovereign Wealth Funds

Khazanah was incorporated in 1993 under the Companies Act of 1965 as a public limited company with a charter to promote growth in strategic industries and national initiatives.  As of December 31, 2018, Khazanah reported a 21 percent drop in its net worth and a decline in its “realizable” assets to RM136 billion (from USUSD 39.3 billion to USUSD 32.9 billion).  Khazanah also recorded a pre-tax loss of RM6.27 billion (USUSD 1.52 billion) compared to a pre-tax profit of RM2.89 billion (USUSD 723 million) the previous year. The sectors comprising its major holdings include telecommunications and media, airports, banking, real estate, health care, and the national energy utility.  According to its Annual Review 2019 presentation, in 2018, Khazanah’s mandate and objectives were refreshed, and the company will now pursue its two distinct objectives (commercial vs. strategic) through a dual-fund investment structure: (1) an intergenerational wealth fund to meet its commercial objectives (which will include public and private assets); and (2) a strategic fund to meet its strategic objective (which will include strategic assets and developmental ones).

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises play a very significant role in the Malaysian economy.  Such enterprises have been used to spearhead infrastructure and industrial projects.  As of July 2017, the government owns approximately 42 percent of the value of firms listed on the Bursa Malaysia through its seven Government-Linked Investment Corporations (GLICs), including a majority stake in a number of companies.  Only a minority portion of stock is available for trading for some of the largest publicly listed local companies. Khazanah, often considered the government’s sovereign wealth fund, owns stakes in companies competing in many of the country’s major industries.  Prime Minister Mahathir chairs Khazanah’s Board of Directors. PETRONAS, the state-owned oil and gas company, is Malaysia’s only Fortune Global 500 firm.

As part of its Government Linked Companies (GLC) Transformation Program, the Malaysian Government embarked on a two-pronged strategy to reduce its shares across a range of companies and to make those companies more competitive.  Among the notable divestments of recent years, Khazanah, the largest Government-Linked Investment Company (GLIC), offloaded its stake in the national car company Proton to DRB-Hicom Bhd in 2012. In 2013, Khazanah divested its holdings in telecommunications services giant Time Engineering Bhd.  In 2015, Khazanah cut its equity ownership of national utility company Tenaga Nasional from 31 percent to 29 percent. Khazanah’s annual report for 2017 noted only that the fund had completed 12 divestments that produced a gain of RM 2.5 billion (USD 625 million). In 2018, Khazanah partially divested its shares in IHH Healthcare Berhad, saw two successful IPOs, and issued USUSD 321 million in exchangeable sukuk.  However, significant losses at domestic companies including at Axiata, Telekom Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional, IHH Healthcare Berhad, CIMB Bank, and Malaysia Airports led to the pre-tax loss of USUSD 1.52 billion the company experienced in 2018. In April 2019, Khazanah sold 1.5 percent of its stake in Tenaga Nasional on Bursa Malaysia, after which Khazanah still owned 27.27 percent of the national electric company.

https://www.khazanah.com.my/getmedia/806f3b69-9bb5-452d-a3fa-ce7e77e612b4/Khazanah-Annual-Review-2019-Presentation-Deck-5-Mar-2019_2.aspx

State-owned enterprises (SOEs), which in Malaysia are called government-linked companies (GLCs), with publicly traded shares must produce audited financial statements every year.  These SOEs must also submit filings related to changes in the organization’s management. The SOEs that do not offer publicly traded shares are required to submit annual reports to the Companies Commission.  The requirement for publicly reporting the financial standing and scope of activities of SOEs has increased their transparency. It is also consistent with the OECD’s guideline for Transparency and Disclosure.  Moreover, many SOEs prioritize operations that maximize their earnings. However, the close relationships SOEs have with senior government officials blur the line between strictly commercial activity pursued for its own sake and activity that has been directed to advance a policy interest.  For example, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) is both SOE in the oil and gas sector and the regulator of the industry. Malaysia Airlines (MAS), in which the government previously held 70 percent but now holds 100 percent, required periodic infusions of resources from the government to maintain the large numbers of the company’s staff and senior executives.  The airline is still undergoing a restructuring, and the stated goal of the country’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah, which holds all of the airline’s shares, is to re-list the airline in early 2019.

Privatization Program

In several key sectors, including transportation, agriculture, utilities, financial services, manufacturing, and construction, Government Linked Corporations (GLCs) continue to dominate the market.  However, the Malaysian Government remains publicly committed to the continued, eventual privatization, though it has not set a timeline for the process and faces substantial political pressure to preserve the roles of the GLCs.  The Malaysian Government established the Public-Private Partnership Unit (UKAS) in 2009 to provide guidance and administrative support to businesses interested in privatization projects as well as large-scale government procurement projects.  UKAS, which used to be a part of the Office of the Prime Minister, is now under the Ministry of Finance. UKAS oversees transactions ranging from contracts and concessions to sales and transfers of ownership from the public sector to the private sector.

Foreign investors may participate in privatization programs, but foreign ownership is limited to 25 percent of the privatized entity’s equity.  The National Development Policy confers preferential treatment to the bumiputera, which are entitled to at least 30 percent of the privatized entity’s equity.

The privatization process is formally subject to public bidding.  However, the lack of transparency has led to criticism that the government’s decisions tend to favor individuals and businesses with close ties to high-ranking officials.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The development of responsible business conduct programs in Malaysia has shifted from a government-led initiative to business-led practices.  In 2006, Malaysian stock market regulator, the Securities Commission, published a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Framework for all publicly listed companies, which are required to disclose their CSR programs in their annual financial reports.  In 2007 the Women, Family and Community Ministry launched the Prime Minister’s CSR’s Awards to encourage the spread of CSR programs. In 2011, the Malaysian Government launched the 1Malaysia Training Plan (SL1M), an employment incentive that allows businesses to double the tax deduction for expenses to hire and train graduates from rural areas or from low-income families.  In 2011, the Board for Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Malaysia (BCSRM) supplanted the Institute for Corporate Responsibility Malaysia as the focal point for the country’s responsible business conduct programs. The BCSRM is the local affiliate of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Although the Malaysian Government encourages companies to adopt RBC programs, it does not promote adherence to the principles in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises or the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Malaysia is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

9. Corruption

The Malaysian government established the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in 2008 and the Whistleblower Protection Act in 2010.  The Malaysian government considers bribery a criminal act and does not permit bribes to be deducted from taxes. Malaysia’s anti-corruption law prohibits bribery of foreign public officials, permits the prosecution of Malaysians for offense committed overseas, and provides for the seizure of property.

The MACC conducts investigations, but prosecutorial discretion remains with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).  There is no systematic requirement for public officials to disclose their assets and the Whistleblower Protection Act does not provide protection for those who disclose allegations to the media.   In 2015, the Attorney General and Parliament opened investigations into allegations of financial mismanagement at the state development fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), chaired by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.  After Najib installed a new Attorney General and removed other ministers, the MACC’s investigation closed in late 2015 and the new Attorney General declared the Prime Minister innocent.

The new government prioritized  anti-corruption efforts in its campaign manifesto. Since taking office in May 2018, it established Royal Commissions of Inquiry into alleged corruption at 1MDB, the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), the Council of Trust for the People (MARA), and the Hajj Pilgrims Fund (Tabung Haji), all government or government-linked agenices.  On May 21, 2018 the MACC established a 1MDB taskforce, including the police and central bank. As of April 2019, the government has charged former Prime Minister Najib with 42 counts of money laundering, criminal breach of trust, and abuse of power.

On July 2, 2018, the government announced it was reducing the number of agencies and departments under the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) from over 90 to only 26 for greater transparency.  Of those reduced, 40 will be re-designated to other ministries, while 10 agencies, offices, and task forces will be abolished. Nine have been given the green light to operate as independent entities, reporting directly to Parliament while five other agencies have been merged.  The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Election Commission, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the National Audit Department will now report directly to Parliament instead of the PMD

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri bin Abdull -Chief Commissioner
Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission
Block D6, Complex D, Pusat Pentadbiran
Kerajaan Persekutuan, Peti Surat 6000
62007 Putrajaya
+6-1800-88-6000
Email: info@sprm.gov.my

Contact at a “watchdog” organization:

Cynthia Gabriel, Director
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
C Four Consultancies Sdn Bhd
A-2-10, 8 Avenue
Jalan Sg Jernih 8/1, Seksyen 8, 46050 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia
Email: info@c4center.org

10. Political and Security Environment

There have been no significant incidents of political violence since the 1969 national elections.  The May 9, 2018 national election led to the first transition of power between coalitions since independence and was peaceful.  In April 2012, the Peaceful Assembly Act took effect, eliminating the need for permits for public assemblies, but outlaws street protests and placing other significant restrictions on public assemblies.  On April 28 2012, the police disrupted a large protest march that took place despite restrictions the government attempted to impose. Subsequent demonstrations and protest marches took place in 2013 and 2014 without disruption.  Following the July 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza, several Malaysian non-governmental entities organized a boycott of McDonald’s. Over a several week period, protestors picketed at several McDonalds restaurants, at times taunting and harassing employees.  Periodically, Malaysian groups will organize modest protests against U.S. government policies, usually involving demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy. To date, these have remained peaceful and localized, with a strong police presence. Likewise, several non-governmental organizations have organized mass rallies in major cities in peninsular and East Malaysia related to domestic policies that have been peaceful.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Malaysia’s 1.78 million documented and 2-4 million undocumented foreign workers make up over 20 percent of the country’s workforce.  The new Pakatan Harapan coalition government has pledged to reduce Malaysia’s reliance on foreign labor while bringing the nation’s laws up to international standards, and has begun taking steps towards reforming a foreign worker recruitment process accused of corrupt practices and leading workers into debt bondage under the former government.

Malaysia’s shortage of skilled labor is the most frequently mentioned impediment to economic growth cited in numerous studies.  Malaysia has an acute shortage of highly qualified professionals, scientists, and academics. The Embassy has heard from some U.S. companies that the shortage of skilled labor has resulted in more on-the-job training for new hires.

The Malaysian labor market operates at essentially full employment, with unemployment for Malaysians at 3.3 percent as of February 2019.  In an effort to improve the employability of local graduates, the GOM offers additional training modules at public universities in English language skills, presentation techniques, and entrepreneurship.

Malaysia is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO).  Labor relations in Malaysia are generally non-confrontational. While  a system of government controls strongly discourages strikes and restricts the formation of unions, the new government has created a National Labor Advisory Council – comprised of the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress and Malaysian Employer’s Federation – to increase labor participation in unions.  The government plans to amend its Trade Unions Act and Industrial Relations Act in July 2019 to increase freedom of association in Malaysia. Some labor disputes are settled through negotiation or arbitration by an industrial court and the new Minister of Human Resources has significantly reduced the backlog of industrial court cases over the past nine months.  Malaysian authorities have pledged to move forward with amendments to the country’s labor laws as a means of boosting the economy’s overall competitiveness and combatting forced labor conditions. In its first year in power, the government has outlawed outsourcing companies, improved oversight of employment agencies, and brought the Employment Act, Children and Young Persons Act, and Occupational Safety and Health Act in line with ILO principles.

Although national unions are currently proscribed due to sovereignty issues within Malaysia, there are a number of territorial federations of unions (the three territories being Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak).  The government has prevented some trade unions, such as those in the electronics and textile sectors, from forming territorial federations. Instead of allowing a federation for all of Peninsular Malaysia, the electronics sector is limited to forming four regional federations of unions, while the textile sector is limited to state-based federations of unions, for those states which have a textile industry.  Upcoming changes to the Trade Unions Act should address this issue and allow unions to form. Employers and employees share the costs of the Social Security Organization (SOSCO), which covers an estimated 12.9 million workers and has been expanded to cover foreign workers. No systematic welfare programs or government unemployment benefits exist; however, the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), which employers and employees are required to contribute to, provides retirement benefits for workers in the private sector.  Civil servants receive pensions upon retirement.

The regulation of employment in Malaysia, specifically as it affects the hiring and redundancy of workers remains a notable impediment to employing workers in Malaysia. The high cost of terminating their employees, even in cases of wrongdoing, is a source of complaint for domestic and foreign employers.  The Prime Minister formed an Independent Committee on Foreign Workers to study foreign worker policies. The Committee submitted 40 recommendations for streamlining the hiring of migrant workers and protecting employees from debt bondage and forced labor conditions. The recommendations remain under consideration by the Cabinet.

Some contacts at U.S. companies have reported that the government monitors the ethnic balance among employees and enforces an ethnic quota system for hiring in certain areas.  Race-based preferences in hiring and promotion are widespread in government, government-owned universities and government-linked corporations.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, the new government has increased and standardized the minimum wage across the country to RM 1100 (USD 275), a raise from RM 1,000 (USD 250) in Peninsular Malaysia and RM 920 (USD 230) in East Malaysia.  While campaigning, the government pledged to raise the minimum wage to RM1,500 (USD 375) within five years, although it has faced resistance from employer associations and the business community.

In 2018, the Department of Labor’s Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) listing of goods produced with child labor and forced labor included Malaysian palm oil (forced and child labor), electronics (forced labor), and garments (forced labor).  Senior officials across the Malaysian interagency have taken this listing seriously and have been working with the private sector and civil society to address concerns relating to the recruitment, hiring, and management of foreign workers in all sectors of the Malaysian economy, including palm oil and electronics.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Malaysia has a limited investment guarantee agreement with the U.S. under the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) program, for which it has qualified since 1959.  Few investors have sought OPIC insurance in Malaysia.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2017 $315,000 2017 $314,710 www.worldbank.org/en/country  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $9,500 2017 $15,100 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 $1,300 2017 $1,100 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 44.8% 2017 45% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/sections/dite_dir/docs/wir2018/wir18_fs_my_en.pdf 


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data (as of June 2018)
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $140,399 100% Total Outward $129,308 100%
Singapore $28,684 20.4% Singapore $23,171 18%
Japan $17,679 12.6% Indonesia $11,348 8.8%
Hong Kong $12,582 9.0% Mauritius $8,718 6.7%
Netherlands $9,557 6.8% Cayman Islands $7,297 5.6%
United States $8,306 6.0% Canada $6,859 5.3%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets (as of June 2018)
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $86,675 100% All Countries $60,004 100% All Countries $26,671 100%
United States $27,515 31.7% United States $22,020 36.7% Singapore $9,956 37.3%
Singapore $25,951 29.9% Singapore $15,996 26.7% United States $5,495 20.6%
Hong Kong $5,142 5.9% Hong Kong $4,422 7.4% Australia $1,682 6.3%
United Kingdom $4,591 5.3% United Kingdon $3,781 6.3% Indonesia $1.108 4.2%
Australia $3,545 4.1% Luxembourg $2,161 3.6% United Kingdom $809 3%

14. Contact for More Information

Embassy Kuala Lumpur Economic Section
376 Jalan Tun Razak / 50400 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
+6-03-2168-5153
Email: KualaLumpurEcon@state.gov

Papua New Guinea

Executive Summary

In hosting Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) for the first time ever in 2018, Papua New Guinea (PNG) showcased the country as an ideal business and investment destination in the region. The lead-up to the Leaders’ Summit in November increased interaction among all twenty-one member economies with efforts to check and balance a regional trading system that is open and accessible to facilitate business and investment activities. This process led Papua New Guinea into taking an active role in reviewing and reforming its trade policies and systems to meet international best practices, a process that is still in train.

The country’s host year invigorated attention towards its vast potential for foreign investment and trade partnerships.  However, while PNG seeks to build an enabling environment for investment and trade, the country struggles with poor road infrastructure, limited internet service, high cost of logistical services, security challenges, and the lack of strong and efficient government institutional capacity.  PNG has a strong appetite to drive its economic growth through significant foreign investment. Enormous investment opportunities can be found in the infrastructure development sector; meeting the needs of a growing urban base of middle class consumers; the abundant natural resources in mining, oil and gas, forestry, and fisheries; and through potential capital investment partnerships. Mining and Petroleum, Energy, Construction, Manufacturing, Catering and Hospitality are PNG’s top five sectors by foreign direct investment value.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 138 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 108 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $234 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $2,340 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The PNG Government remains focused on fostering an enabling environment for businesses to grow and attract foreign direct investment.

PNG aims to increase Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in mining and the petroleum/gas sector from USD40.0 million in 2016 to USD100.0 million by 2022. FDI stock reached USD4.2 billion in 2016. The mining, oil, and gas sectors attract most of the FDI. There is a target to increase stock to USD10.0 billion by 2022. The government also aims to increase FDI in the renewable sector.

           The 2017-2032 PNG National Trade Policy (NTP) policy goal is to maximize trade and investment by increasing exports, reducing imports of substitute goods, and increasing FDI that generates wealth and contribute to growing the economy. The NTP envisions a future PNG with “an internationally competitive export-driven economy that is built on and aided by an expanding and efficient domestic market.” The fifteen-year trade policy outlined the following eight policy objectives:

1) To send a strong signal to the international community that PNG is open for business.

2) To expand market access, inclusive of negotiations of terms that will result in market presence for PNG’s products and services in foreign markets, thereby sustaining trade surpluses on both the merchandise and services accounts.

3) To protect consumer welfare through strengthened enforcement of intellectual property rights and ensure national standards and compliance measures are respected.

4) To create an environment in PNG that is conducive for doing business and increasing employment, by ensuring that costs are reduced and are also transparent and predictable.

5) To identify markets where PNG can receive a cost advantage for products of strategic interest and create secure, predictable market access conditions through trade agreements.

6) To advocate for the elimination of large-scale subsidies provided by trading partners that distort international trading prices on products of strategic interest to PNG.

7) To mobilize resources to finance needs of the trade and trade-related sectors.

8) To mainstream the SMEs into trade deals by negotiating clear terms of establishment of foreign firms in PNG’s markets in sectors of strategic interest through goods and services scheduling commitments.

The policy lays out numerous legal, regulatory, and administrative measures to be adopted by the Government of PNG in furtherance of these objectives.  It also sets very ambitious economic targets, including the creation of over 100,000 new jobs, USD 10 billion in foreign investment, increased foreign exchange reserves, reduced government debt to GDP ratio, and a more diversified economy in the next five years.

All these plans’ and priorities’ effectiveness remain to be seen, as plans in PNG can be well set out but lack the Government’s political will and commitment to be implemented.

While investment and labor restrictions have been floated by the government and private sector, there are presently no such restrictions in place.

The Investment Promotion Authority was established by an Act of Parliament in 1992 with the primary mandate to promote and facilitate investment in Papua New Guinea and also to regulate the business industry in the country. The services provided by the Authority include: Business, registration, regulation and certification (under the Business Registration and Certification or Office of the Registrar of Companies), Investor Servicing and Export Promotion (under the Investor Services and Promotion Division), Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (under the Intellectual Property Office of PNG), and regulating capital Markets (under the Securities Commission of PNG).

The mining, petroleum, and gas sectors remain key to the economy of PNG. PNG’s mineral, petroleum, and gas resource projects are owned and operated by foreign investors.

With the important role that the above-mentioned sectors play in the economy, the Cabinet appointed a State Negotiating Team (SNT) in May 2018, comprising heads of various state-owned enterprises, government departments. The SNT leads negotiations between developers and PNG’s key national stakeholders.

In addition, the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a key partner in hosting the annual Petroleum and Energy Summit in Port Moresby. This is the country’s premium petroleum and energy investment forum that brings together international industry experts and investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investment in Papua New Guinea is facilitated, regulated and monitored by the Investment Promotion Act.

Section 37 of the Act guarantees that the property of a foreign investor shall not be nationalized or expropriated except in accordance with law, for a public purpose defined by law and in payment of compensation as defined by law.

Foreigners are not allowed to own land in PNG.  Most foreign businesses use long-term leases for land instead of direct purchases.  There are no other specific requirements. PNG recently changed its citizenship laws to allow dual citizenship, which had previously been a limiting factor for Papua New Guineans returning from overseas having naturalized elsewhere.  Another change allows long-term residents to naturalize as PNG citizens with full legal rights and responsibilities.

There are no sector specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign goods.

The Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) screens foreign direct investment. When reviewing an FDI proposal, the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) may consider a number of factors, including the:

  • Potential for positive development of human and natural resources;
  • Investor’s past record in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere;
  • Creation of additional employment and income-earning opportunities;
  • Likelihood the proposal will generate additional government revenue and contribute to economic growth;
  • Transfer of technologies and skills and the contribution to training citizens of Papua New Guinea.

There is no specific investment level. The IPA may, however, pursuant to Section 28(7) of the Investment Promotion Act require an applicant for Certification to deposit the prescribed amount prior to a Certificate being issued. The prescribed amounts are per Section 6B of the Investment Promotion Regulation:

  • Individual – PGK 50,000 (USD 15,340);
  • Partnership – PGK 50,000 (USD 15,340) per partner; and
  • Corporate Body – PGK 100,000 (USD 30,680).

The purpose of the screening mechanism is to assess the net economic benefit and alignment with national interest. The possible outcomes of a review are prohibition, divestiture, and imposition of additional requirements. The IPA and other regulatory bodies in particular sectors make the decision on the outcome.

Appeal processes differ among the sectors. For IPA related matters, a company must submit its appeal to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. An accompanying fee of PGK 200 (USD 61) is required. Appeals may be lodged in response to any decision made by the IPA, including rejection of an application or the cancellation of a registration.

The Bank of Papua New Guinea, PNG’s Central Bank, approves all foreign investment proposals. Such proposals include the issue of equity capital to a non-resident, the borrowing of funds from a non-resident investor or financial intermediary, and the supply of goods and services on extended terms by a non-resident.  In its review, the Bank is mostly concerned that the terms of the investment funds are reasonable in the context of prevailing commercial conditions and that full subscription of loan funds are promptly brought to Papua New Guinea. A debt/equity ratio of 5:1 is generally imposed with respect to overseas borrowings and a ratio of 3:1 with respect to local borrowings.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The government has not undergone any third party investment policy reviews through a multilateral organization.

Business Facilitation

The Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) through the Companies Office is responsible for the administration of Papua New Guinea’s key business laws.  These include the Companies Act, Business Names Act, Business Groups Incorporation Act and the Associations Incorporation Act.

The services provided by the Authority include: Business, registration, regulation and certification (under the Business Registration and Certification or Office of the Registrar of Companies), investor servicing and export promotion (under the Investor Services and Promotion Division), protection of intellectual property rights (under the Intellectual Property Office of PNG), and regulating capital markets (under the Securities Commission of PNG).

There is comprehensive service information published online (http://www.ipa.gov.pg/business-registration-regulation-and-certification/).

The Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) is the lead agency for GPNG’s business facilitation efforts. It can be reached online at http://www.ipa.gov.pg/  . The new “Do It Online” section allows both overseas and domestic business registration.  Previously, the processing times were substantial, but the current processing time for IPA is seven (7) days.  A foreign company must first register under the Companies Act of 1997. Foreign companies have two options for registration in PNG: to incorporate a new company in PNG or to register an overseas company under the Companies Act of 1997.  In practice, most foreign companies incorporate a new PNG subsidiary when entering the PNG market.

Once incorporated and registered with the IPA, a newly incorporated PNG company or overseas company should also register with the Internal Revenue Commission for tax and employment purposes.  Typically, this process takes nine (9) days.

Outward Investment

Through the IPA, the government has a range of direct and indirect taxation-based incentives for large and small proposals.

There are international treaties, agreements and pacts which give Papua New Guinea’s manufactured goods preferential access to various export markets, including duty free and reduced tariff entry to some of the largest markets in the world, for example the European Union (EU) under the Cotonou Agreement.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency’s (MIGA) principle responsibility is promotion of investment for economic development in member countries through:

  • guarantees to foreign investors against losses caused by non-commercial risks; and
  • advisory and consultative services to member countries to assist them in creating a responsive investment climate and information base to guide and encourage flow of capital.

There are no explicit legal restrictions on outward investment. The most likely barrier for this type of investment would be sufficient access to foreign currency.  There have been no recent large-scale outward investments originating from PNG.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

PNG has Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with Australia, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.  PNG has a free trade agreement (FTA) with the countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group: Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji.

PNG does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the U.S. It currently has “double tax treaties” with the following countries: Australia, Canada, China, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.  PNG also has a tax information exchange agreement with Australia.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) is charged with fostering competition. While there are transparent policies in place, the competition regime works more towards the regulation of existing monopolies and does little to foster competition. Tax, labor, environment, health, and safety and other laws do not distort or impede investment. However, the lack of implementation of existing laws by some government entities frustrates some investors. For example, there are long bureaucratic delays in the processing of work permits and frequent complaints about corruption and bribery in government departments.

The IPA and the Government are moving, with the assistance of the International Finance Corporation, towards a more streamlined regulatory framework to encourage foreign investment. One example of this trend is the IPA’s move to an online registration process for businesses.

There are informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations and private sector associations. There are impediments to the licensing of skilled foreign labor that are imposed by local professional associations, such as the Papua New Guinea Institute of Engineers and the Law Society (both of which have their own regulatory processes), that foreigners must go through before they can work/practice in the country.

There are no private sector and/or government efforts to restrict foreign participation in industry standards-setting consortia or organizations.

Proposed laws and regulations are made available for public comment, but comments are not always taken into consideration or acted on by lawmakers or regulators.

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms, but there are delays in the dispute resolution system due to a lack of human resources in the judiciary.

When possible, proposed laws are made available for public comment, but comments are not always taken into consideration or acted on by lawmakers.  Frequently, important Parliamentary decisions, such as the annual budget, are taken with no hearings and little or no debate before voting.

Many PNG government functions and documents are available online, but not all, and they are not centralized.

Regulatory decisions can sometimes be capricious and opaque, but they do not specifically target foreign-owned businesses.  Most regulatory decisions can be appealed to courts with jurisdiction. There are no regulatory reforms currently planned.

Regulatory decisions can sometimes be capricious and opaque, but they do not specifically target foreign-owned businesses.  Most regulatory decisions can be appealed to courts with jurisdiction. There are no regulatory reforms currently planned.

The overall fiscal transparency practices in PNG lack coordination and consistency.

The Government through the Department of Finance has ongoing legislative and procedural reforms to strengthen the country’s public finance management capacity and systems. The government indicated strong outcomes with the implementation of its 2018 Public Money Management Regularization Act PMMR Act, aimed at centralizing all financial activities of the government bodies to stop unauthorized financial transactions outside of the official budgetary process.

However, the government needs greater coordination amongst reporting agencies to deliver their mandated functions and responsibilities effectively. This includes all government agencies consistently and fully reporting all required financial activities, with proper financial statements to the supreme audit institution. The lack of full and timely reporting practices continues to undermine public finance management systems, and publicly available budget information.

In addition, the content structure of budget documents remain unclear for many ordinary citizens due to low financial literacy levels, and the lack of proper public /civic awareness programs on the budget.

International Regulatory Considerations

PNG is a party to the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement.  The agreement came into effect in 2017 and does address the need for competent regulatory authorities in each country (PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji).  However, the regulatory chapter is small and is designed to be strengthened and improved going forward.

When international standards are applied in PNG, the government most often references Australian models due to their bilateral history and continuing close economic ties.

The government notified the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade once for regulations issued in 2006 that covered food safety issues.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The legal system is based on English common law.

Contract law in Papua New Guinea is very similar to, and applies in much the same way, as contract law in other common law countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. There is, however, considerably less statutory regulation of the application and operation of contracts in Papua New Guinea than in those other countries.

The Supreme Court is the nation’s highest judicial authority and final court of appeal. Other courts are the National Court; district courts, which deal with summary and non-indictable offenses; and local courts, established to deal with minor offenses, including matters regulated by local customs.

In addition to the courts mentioned above, the Constitution and the Village Courts Act established the Village Court system.  Matters involving customary law claims are likely to arise at the Village Court level. There is no jury system in Papua New Guinea. Lawyers operating in Papua New Guinea are governed by the Papua New Guinea Law Society, and only lawyers registered with the Society should be used.

While often slow, the judiciary system is widely viewed as independent from government interference.

The Supreme Court is the ultimate appeals court in Papua New Guinea. It has original jurisdiction in matters of constitutional interpretation and enforcement and has appellate jurisdiction in appeals from the National Court, certain decisions of the Land Titles Commission, and those of other regulatory entities as prescribed in their own Acts. The National Court also has original jurisdiction for certain constitutional matters and has unlimited original jurisdiction for criminal and civil matters. The National Court has jurisdiction under the Land Act in proceedings involving land in Papua New Guinea other than customary land.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign investors can either be incorporated in PNG as a subsidiary of an overseas company or incorporated under the laws of another country and therefore registered as an overseas company under the Companies Act 1997.

The 1997 Companies Act and 1998 Companies Regulation oversee matters regarding private and public companies, both foreign and domestic. All foreign business entities must have IPA approval and must be certified and registered with the government before commencing operations in PNG. While government departments have their own procedures for approving foreign investment in their respective economic sectors, the IPA provides investors with the relevant information and contacts. The regulations governing foreign investments in PNG include:

  • Free Trade Zone Act 2000;
  • Investment Promotion Act 1992;
  • Papua New Guinea Companies Act 1997;
  • Forestry Act 1991;
  • Mining Act 1992;
  • Fisheries Act 1994; and
  • Oil and Gas Act 1998.

In 2014, the government amended the 1997 Companies Act to improve corporate governance and ease regulatory burdens. This amendment allowed IPA to begin using its online company registry. The main changes to the act are as follows:

  1. Increased protection and benefits for shareholders;
  2. Clarification of duties imposed upon directors;
  3. A more transparent and streamlined process of issuing shares;
  4. Increased protection of creditors, including a more disciplined liquidation process;
  5. A clearer process for filing annual returns; and
  6. Streamlined filing requirements in anticipation of implementing an online registration.

A summary of the changes to the Act can be found on the IPA website: http://www.ipa.gov.pg/wp-content/uploads/Changes-to-the-company-Act.pdf .

In 2013, the government amended the Takeovers Code to include a test for foreign companies wishing to buy into the ownership of local companies. The new regulation states that the Securities Commission of Papua New Guinea (SCPNG) shall issue an order preventing a party from acquiring any shares, whether partial or otherwise, if the commission views that such acquisition or takeover is not in the national interest of PNG. This applies to any company, domestic or foreign, registered under the PNG Companies Act, publicly traded, with more than 5 million PGK (USD 1.53 million) in assets, with a minimum of 25 shareholders, and more than 100 employees.

In recent years, this law has not been used to prevent ExxonMobil’s acquisition of InterOil or Chinese company Zijin Mining’s purchase of 50 percent of the Porgera Joint Venture gold mine.

Yes.The IPA website: https://www.ipa.gov.pg/   is the official online information platform to engage with the public on matters relating to the IPA’s mandated roles and function.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The 2002 Independent Consumer and Competition Commission Act is the law that governs competition. It also established the Independent Consumer & Competition Commission (ICCC), the country’s premier economic regulatory body and consumer watchdog; introduced a new regime for the regulation of utilities, in particular in relation to prices and service standards; and allowed the ICCC to take over the price control tasks previously undertaken by the Prices Controller as well as the consumer protection tasks previously undertaken by the Consumer Affairs Council.

The Act’s competition laws, contained in Part VI of the Act, prohibit:

  • Entering into, or giving effect to contracts, arrangements or understandings having the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition (Section 50);
  • Arrangements between competitors that contain exclusionary provisions, which have the purpose of preventing, restricting or limiting dealings with any particular person or class of persons who are in competition with one or more of the parties to the arrangement;
  • Price fixing agreements between competitors (but fixing prices of joint venture products, recommended prices and joint buying and promotion arrangements, are not absolutely prohibited, although they may still be subject to the prohibition on contracts, arrangements, and understandings that substantially lessen competition) (Sections 53-56);
  • A person with a substantial degree of market power from taking advantage of that power for the purpose of restricting the entry of a new competitor into a market, preventing or deterring a competitor from engaging in competitive conduct, or eliminating a competitor from that market (Section 58);
  • The practice of resale price maintenance, which occurs where a supplier tries to specify a price below which a reseller may not sell the supplier’s product. This prohibition also applies to third parties seeking to insist that products not be resold below a specified price (Sections 59-64); and
  • Mergers or acquisitions that would have the effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in a market (Section 69).

The ICCC’s website is http://www.iccc.gov.pg  .

Interested parties may also want to go to the ICCC’s Facebook page for information on changes in policies and regulations: https://www.facebook.com/pngiccc/timeline  .

There have been no significant actions taken by ICCC in the last 12 months that have affected international investors.

Expropriation and Compensation

The judicial system upholds the sanctity of contracts, and the Investment Promotion Act of 1992 expressly prohibits expropriation of foreign assets.

After years of growing concern over environmental issues, in September 2013, the Government of Papua New Guinea nationalized the country’s largest taxpaying company, Ok Tedi Mining Limited.  The nationalization raised concerns about the government’s policy. Some observers saw this event as a special case, given that much of the company’s profits are held in trust for the people of PNG, and its effective ownership by a company – the PNG Sustainable Development Program’s (PNGSDP) – would transfer benefits from the mine back to the people. By a unanimous vote in Parliament, the government annulled PNGSDP’s share in the mine and issued new shares to the state.  This vote also removed BHP Billiton’s immunity from environmental liability and gave the state the right to restructure PNGSDP. As there have been no other expropriating acts since late 2013, the Ok Tedi Mining Limited nationalization does appear to have been a one-off.

The OK Tedi nationalization was an Act of Parliament, considered and voted on in the regular order of business.  There was no recourse or due process beyond the Parliament.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1978, Papua New Guinea has been a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). In agreements with foreign investors, GPNG traditionally adopts the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law).

Papua New Guinea is one of the few UN Member states that has not signed the New York Convention (formerly known as the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investment disputes may be settled through diplomatic channels or through the use of local remedies before having such matters adjudicated at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes or through another appropriate tribunal of which Papua New Guinea is a member. The Investment Promotion Act 1992 that is administered by the IPA also protects against expropriation, cancellation of contracts, and discrimination through the granting of most favored nation treatment to investors.  PNG does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States, and no claims have been made under such an agreement. There is not a recent history of international judgments against GoPNG nor is there a recent history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

According to the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the usual way for local and foreign parties to settle a dispute in Papua New Guinea is through the local court system.  Litigation in PNG is perceived to be an expensive and drawn-out process, with years for a decision to be handed down.

There are no such mechanisms outside of the courts and contract enforcement.

A 2015 international arbitration decision in favor of Interoil (which has since been acquired by ExxonMobil) and against Oil Search was respected in PNG.

There have been no such cases.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Papua New Guinea’s bankruptcy laws are included in chapter 253 of the Insolvency Act of 1951 and sections 254 through 362 of the Companies Act of 1997, which covers receivership and liquidation. Bankruptcy and litigation searches can only be conducted in person at the National Court in Port Moresby.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, resolving insolvency in Papua New Guinea takes an average of three years, and typically costs 23 percent of the debtor’s estate. The average recovery rate is 25.2 cents on the dollar. Globally, Papua New Guinea stands at 141 out of 189 economies on the Ease of Resolving Insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Performance requirements/incentives are applied uniformly to both domestic and foreign investors. The investment incentives currently available are designed primarily to encourage the development of industries that are considered desirable for the long-term economic development of Papua New Guinea or specific underdeveloped regions within the country, and are as follows.

The Investment Promotion Act contains guarantees that there will be no nationalization or expropriation of foreign investors’ property except in accordance with law, for a public purposes defined by law or in payment of compensation as defined by law.

Accelerated depreciation rates are available for new manufacturing and agricultural plants, generous deductions are available for capital expenditure on land used for primary production, and accelerated deductions are available for mining and petroleum companies. For more details, see Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Global Tax Solutions page (http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/tax/index.jhtml).

A 10-year exemption from tax is available where certain new businesses are established in specified rural development areas. Businesses, resident or non-resident, engaged in the following activities qualify for this exemption:

  • Agricultural production of any kind;
  • Manufacturing of any kind;
  • Construction;
  • Transport, storage and communications;
  • Real estate;
  • Business services; and
  • Provision of accommodation, motels or hotels.

The following have been specified as rural development areas:

  • Central province – Goilala;
  • Enga province – Kandep, Lagalp, Wabag, Wapenamunda;
  • Gulf province – Kaintiba, Kikori;
  • Eastern Highlands province – Henganofi, Lufa, Okapa, Wonenave;
  • Southern Highlands province – Jimi, Tambal;
  • Madang province – Bogia, Rai Coast, Ramu;
  • Milne Bay province – Losula, Rabaraba;
  • Morobe province – Finschaffen, Kabwum, Kaiapit, Menyamya, Mumeng;
  • East New Britain province – Pomio;
  • West New Britain province – Kandrian;
  • East Sepik province – Ambuti, Angoram, Lumi, Maprik;
  • West Sepik province – Amanab, Nuku, Telefomin; and
  • Simbu province – Gumine, Karimui.

The exemption does not apply to businesses in areas in which a special mining lease or a petroleum development license is granted.

Businesses that commence exporting qualifying goods manufactured by them in Papua New Guinea are exempt from income tax on the profits derived from those sales for the first three complete years. For the following four years, the profit derived from the excess of export sales over the average export sales of the three previous years is exempt from income tax. The list of qualifying goods include, among other items, motor vehicles, matches, paint, refined petroleum, soaps, wooden furniture, dairy products, flour, chopsticks, artifacts, clothing and manufactured textiles, and jewelry.

A wage subsidy is payable to new businesses that manufacture new manufactured products. The business will receive a prescribed percentage of the value of the minimum wage paid by the business, multiplied by the number of Papua New Guineans permanently employed by the business.

The relevant percentages are as follows:

  • Year 1 – 40 percent
  • Year 2 – 30 percent
  • Year 3 – 20 percent
  • Year 4 – 15 percent
  • Year 5 – 10 percent

Eligible products are, broadly, all products listed under division D of the International Standard Classification of All Economic Activities (Third Revision), provided the products are not subject to quota pricing without import pricing or to tariff protection.

Registered foreign companies must file an annual certification with the Registrar of Companies accompanied by audited financial statements. A foreign company must apply for Certification under the Investment Promotion Act 1992 within 14 days of registering. Any foreign company automatically falls under this category and therefore must complete the same process.

However, a company may apply to be exempted from certain requirements. A company which chooses to conduct business through a branch registered in Papua New Guinea can repatriate its profits without being subject to withholding tax. On the other hand, the dividends of a Papua New Guinea incorporated subsidiary may attract dividend withholding tax. A higher rate of income tax is imposed on non-resident companies. If a foreign company merely wishes to have a representative office in Papua New Guinea, it may be exempt from lodging tax returns if it derives no income in Papua New Guinea. The Companies Act adopts similar principles and standards of corporate regulation to those in place in New Zealand. Companies registered in Papua New Guinea must lodge an annual return every year with the Registrar of Companies within six months of the end of its financial year. Currently, the Papua New Guinea government is reviewing its structure.

There are no discriminatory or preferential export and import policies affecting foreign investors, and there are low levels of import taxes.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Papua New Guinea has not established geographically defined duty-free export zones.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

All non-citizens seeking employment in PNG must have a valid work permit before they can be hired. The work permit must be granted by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) in accordance with the Employment of Non-Citizens Act of 2007. It can take weeks or even months to obtain both a work permit and visa for non-citizens to work in Papua New Guinea, and delays are common due to a lengthy bureaucratic clearance process. In the past, the government has used its immigration powers to block visas for personnel to come to Papua New Guinea to fill positions that it believes can be filled by Papua New Guineans.

There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest.

Papua New Guinea does not follow forced localization policy.

National Information & Communication Technology Authority (NICTA) Data Integrity Act called CCE (Controlled Customer Equipment) is strictly enforced.

There are no measurements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country’s territory?  Only illegal transmission of state/military data will be charged against the state or military.

There are two Acts that enforce data integrity:  Data Interference and System Interference. The fine is an amount not exceeding K100,000.00 or 10 years in prison. NICTA and Cyber Crime Division enforce rules on local data storage within the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights exist and are enforced.  Mortgages and liens do exist. For non-customary land, the system is reliable.

PNG’s legal system does not allow direct foreign ownership of land. To get around this limitation, long-term government leases are used. The legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, but there are substantial delays particularly within the Department of Lands.

The majority of land (over 80 percent) is “customarily owned” meaning that there is little legal documentation.  The lack of documentation makes acquisition difficult as even after a transaction settles, it can be challenged by an individual that also claims customary ownership.  The government has been working to standardize and document customary ownership, but the problem persists.

Intellectual Property Rights

The IPA through the Intellectual Property Office of PNG (IPOPNG) administers the Trade Marks Act, Chapter 385, Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (2000) and the Patents and Industrial Design Act (2000).

Protections for intellectual property rights relating to the reproduction and sale of counterfeit and pirated products, particularly music and movies, are insufficient. Such counterfeit products are openly sold on the streets and in shops. Sales persist despite sporadic law enforcement action. Other counterfeit products that infringe on copyrights, patents, and/or trademarks are often imported from Asian countries and sold in Papua New Guinea. Customs periodically seizes such shipments, but there are significant gaps in their enforcement regime. Adequate protection for trade secrets and semiconductor chip layout design exist in law, and minimal infringements appear to occur. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Portfolio investments are unregulated and limited to the availability of stocks.

PNG has one stock market in Port Moresby, POMSoX. It was founded in 1999.  It is closely aligned with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), and its procedures are the same as ASX.

There is no factor market, and the free flow of remission of funds offshore is subject to approval by the Central Bank (Bank of Papua New Guinea) and the International Revenue Commission.  Owing to a persistent shortage of foreign currency at the Bank of Papua New Guinea, companies have struggled to make international remissions. In its most recent Article IV consultation, the IMF found multiple restrictions on current international payments and two multiple currency practices (MCPs) that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement.

In its previous Article IV consultation in late 2017, the IMF found no restrictions on current international payments and no multiple currency practices (MCPs) that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement.

Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors are able to get credit on the local market, much more so than in previous years due to the liberalization of policies, provided that foreign investors have a good credit history. Credit instruments are limited to leasing and bank finance.

Money and Banking System

PNG’s commercial banking sector comprises four commercial banks. Two are Australian institutions, Westpac and Australian and New Zealand Group (ANZ) banks, with local banks Bank of South Pacific (BSP) and Kina Bank.  BSP is the largest bank in the country, recording 59 percent of lending in 2017. BSP operates 79 branches, 52 sub-branches, 351 agents, 499 ATMs, 11,343 electronic funds transfer at point of sale (EFTPOS) units and 4261 employees.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of PNG recently indicated that much remains to be done in terms of financial inclusion. Speaking at the opening of the Central Bank’s Currency Processing Facility, he highlighted that nearly three quarters of PNG’s population do not have access to formal financial services and most of those excluded represent the low income population in rural areas, urban settlements, with women particularly excluded.

There are both domestic and international banks in PNG and all have reported profits in their most recent reporting.  Based on the Oxford Business Group business update issue of 2018, assets in the commercial sector have recorded exponential growth since 2002, with the Bank of PNG reporting that total commercial banking assets rose from PGK3.9bn (USD 1.2bn) in that year to reach PGK20.3bn (USD 6.3bn) in 2011. Growth has been slower in recent years, however, with total assets rising from PGK22.7bn (USD 7.1bn) in2012 to a high of PGK29.8 million.

According to BSP’s Board Chairman, total assets of the bank at the end of 2018 are at K20.696 billion. Loans and advances to customers has seen net growth of K1.138 billion to K11.233 billion.

Branches/subsidiaries of two Australian banks represent the number two and number three largest financial institutions operating in the country. While the Australian banks do not provide reports of PNG-specific assets, the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Bank had total global assets of USD 889.9 billion at year’s end 2015, and Westpac Bank had USD 812.2 billion in total global assets at the end of 2015. The banking system in Papua New Guinea is sound.

The Bank of Papua New Guinea is to act as the central bank for Papua New Guinea. The Central Banking Act of 2000 outlines the powers, functions, and objectives of the Bank.

Foreigners are required to show documentation either of their employment or their business along with proof of a valid visa in order to register for a bank account

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

While there are no legal restrictions on such activities, a lack of available foreign exchange makes such conversions, transfers, and repatriation time consuming or impossible.

No.  Bank of Papua New Guinea requires that all funds held in PNG be held in PNG kina (PGK).  This rule was announced with little notice and caught many businesses off-guard in 2016. While there was an appeals process for businesses that wished to keep non-PGK accounts, none of the appeals were granted.

On June 4, 2014, the Central Bank introduced measures which have effectively pegged the kina at levels that led to foreign exchange shortages.  While the kina does fluctuate somewhat in value, it only trades in a tight band as allowed by the central bank (Bank of Papua New Guinea). Recently, the central bank has allowed PGK to slowly depreciate against the USD and other currencies.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes or plans to change remittance policies.  Remittance is done only through direct bank transfers. All remittances overseas in excess of PGK 50,000 (USD 15,340) per year require a tax clearance certificate issued by the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC). In addition, approval of PNG’s Central Bank – the Bank of Papua New Guinea – is required for annual remittances overseas in excess of PGK 500,000 (USD 153,420). Remittances related to the payment of trade-related goods are not taken into account. There are no specific restrictions on the repatriation of capital owned by or due to non-residents. The Central Bank’s principal objectives in assessing applications for capital repayments are to ensure that the funds are due and payable to a non-resident and that Papua New Guinea assets are not sold at an artificial value.

While there are no legal time limitations on remittances, foreign companies have waited many months for large transfers or performed transfers in small increments over time due to a shortage of foreign exchange.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

A Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill was passed in Parliament on July 30, 2015.  However, falling commodity prices have severely impacted government revenues.  Plans for the SWF have been put on hold indefinitely.

PNG’s SWF is not yet operational.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in PNG continue to dominate critical public utilities. PNG’s total state assets stand at K9.3 billion with staff strength at 7000 employees. Papua New Guinea’s nine SOEs altogether comprise 4.8 per cent of GDP with a total revenue of K3 billion.

The SOEs operate and provide services in aviation, mobile services and telecommunications, water and sewerage, motor vehicle insurance, development banking and finance, petroleum sector, data service, port services, electricity, and postal and logistics services.  Each SOE has an independent board that is appointed by the cabinet which then reports to the government minister. Recent reports highlighted the rapid growth in the assets of the nine largest SOEs; however, asset use has been inefficient and with their profitability steadily declining since 2005.

The structural reform in 2015 established Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH), with the government’s stated purpose to give SOEs greater autonomy and accountability, but this still lacks in the day-to-day operations of the SOEs.  The main hindrance has been linked to yet too much cabinet authority allowed by the SOE governing law, the Kumul Consolidated Holdings Act 2015. The law gives the cabinet the powers to appoint SOE directors to granting approvals for corporate plans, remuneration levels, tenders, engagement of consultants, among others, thereby reducing the autonomy of the SOE. It has also been reported that the Act allows the cabinet to direct governance control over the SOEs, a responsibility normally reserved for SOE boards. This increases the risk of political considerations overriding commercial targets, as elected member of the cabinet exert their authority over the operation of the SOEs. It was also noted that PNG’s SOEs currently lacked transparency, accountability and autonomy and a robust legal framework that requires the SOEs to operate commercially. Most SOEs in PNG continue to fail to produce financial accounts in a timely manner to allow for more informed government and legislative decision-making. This includes KCH’s failure to publicly report its audited financial statements to date.

http://www.kch.com.pg/portfolio/   provides a list of SOEs in PNG.

There is no privatization program in place and thus no guidelines or structure on when and how foreign investors are allowed to participate in privatization programs. The government has funding available for privatization and is currently using the Public Private Partnership (PPP) structure as a model for privatization.  The trend has been towards growing SOEs. The cumulative asset value of SOEs grew from USD1.58 billion in 2012 to USD6.32 billion by the end of 2015.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

PNG does not have a national action plan for responsible business conduct (RBC).  However, most multinational companies in PNG do operate with a set of standards. The concept of a social license to operate is pervasive in the extractive industries and guides interactions with all stakeholders.

Due to limited resources and capacity, many human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, and other such laws to protect individuals from adverse business impacts go largely unenforced.  While there are occasional cases of government action in these situations, that action is the exception, not the norm.

The government has not put in place corporate governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders

There are currently no non-governmental organizations specifically monitoring RBC in PNG.

While PNG does not have specific policies, most large international companies use international best practices as standards.

PNG is a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  PNG EITI’s efforts have thus far been hampered by a lack of cooperation from relevant government ministries and a severe lack of data.

9. Corruption

Corruption is widespread in Papua New Guinea, particularly the misappropriation of public funds, “skimming” of inflated contracts, and nepotism.

Giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal act. Penalties differ for Members of Parliament (MPs), public officials, and ordinary citizens. For MPs the penalty is imprisonment for no more than seven years; for public officials the penalty is imprisonment for no more than seven years and a fine at the discretion of the court; for ordinary citizens the penalty is a fine not exceeding PGK 400 (USD 123) or imprisonment of no more than one year. A bribe by a local company or individual to a foreign official is a criminal act. A local company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from taxes.

Yes.  The Leadership Code extends to family members of officials.

Yes, but enforcement is insufficient.

The government encourages companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.

Most of the larger domestic companies and international firms from Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have effective internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery. Many firms from elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia, particularly those in the resource extraction sectors, lack such programs.

Papua New Guinea has signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. Papua New Guinea is not a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime or the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

No specific protections are provided to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

PNG’s Ombudsman Commission and the Police Fraud & Anti-Corruption Directorate are generally the main avenues to report and seek protection to matters pertinent to investigating corruption. The Ombudsman Commission is mandated to investigate and recommend to concerned authorities to take action while the Police Fraud & Anti-Corruption Directorate has the powers to prosecute.

U.S. firms routinely identify corruption as a challenge to foreign direct investment. Some critical areas in which corruption is pervasive include budget management, forestry, fisheries, and public procurement.  In addition, the findings from the recent business survey, Results of the 2017 Survey of Businesses in Papua New Guinea, highlighted that, “corruption is becoming an increasing problem with most firms reporting that they make “irregular payments” to government officials.” A considerable number of those surveyed indicated that problems lay in either Lands or Customs/Finance/Tax institutions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Twain Pambuai
Director of Corporate Services
Ombudsman Commission
Tower Building
Douglas Street
+675 308 2618
Twain.pambuai@ombudsman.gov.pg

Arianne Kassman
Executive Director
Transparency International
P.O. Box 591, Port Moresby, NCD
+675 320 2188
exectipng@gmail.com

Lawrence Stephens
Chairman
Transparency International
P.O. Box 591, Port Moresby, NCD
+675 320 2188
taubadasaku@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

Periodic tribal conflicts occur, particularly in the Highlands and Sepik regions of the country, and election-related violence broke out following the 2017 national elections.  While foreign investors/interests have not been the target of these often violent confrontations, project infrastructure can occasionally be inadvertently damaged or their operations disrupted due to the prevailing security situation.

Incidents of damage to projects and/or installations over the past few years have not been specifically politically motivated. The majority of disruption and damage caused to projects is due to disputes between landowners and the central government, which are fueled by a perception in certain cases that the central government has failed to uphold its financial commitments to landowners. Landowners in these disputes have taken out their frustration with the central government by damaging the infrastructure or disrupting the operations of foreign projects in their regions.

The central bureaucracy is increasingly politicized, which has eroded the capacity of government departments and allowed nepotism/political cronyism to thrive in parts the public service. Civil disturbances have been triggered by the government’s failure to deliver financial and development commitments, particularly to landowners in the resource project areas. They have also occurred in major urban areas based on disputes between long-term residents and newly arrived migrants and/or between competing criminal networks.

Rampant political interference in the appointment process of the executive management and boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have resulted in most SOEs suffering from poor management. The awarding process of government procurement contracts continues to lack competitive bidding processes due to excessive political influence.  In addition, the lack of proper consultation by the government on legislative and policy reforms have raised serious concern on the independence and effectiveness of due process.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Papua New Guinea does not have a primary information system to keep track of the country’s labor market, according to PNG’s Department of Labor & Industrial Relations. PNG’s Department of Labor & Industrial Relations is responsible for labor and industrial matters in the country.  The absence of a proper information system hinders reliable and readily available labor data and statistics. In addition, the lack of specific legislative and policy guidelines has limited plans and exercises on collecting data on a regular and reliable basis over the years.

The Department confirmed the use of sectoral employment movements and trends to track PNG’s labor market.

A labor market survey for Papua New Guinea was last conducted in 2010, facilitated by the Department of Labor & Industrial Relation’s National Employment Division. The Department’s National Employment Division is responsible for registering the movement of the national labor market. The Division collected basic employment information such specific roles and responsibilities through its statistical form, and recorded as monthly (employment) returns. This method of collecting and sourcing data from the Department’s main employment programs has collapsed over the years due to the drastic fall in the number of its users. The Department’s employment programs are no longer effective channels to facilitate employment placements. Currently, Department of Labor & Industrial Relations rely on its administrative data, capturing records of issued work permits, agent and licensing permits for recruitment agencies as its basis for PNG’s labor (market) figures.

The Central Bank of Papua New Guinea’s quarterly employment index is the widely used reference for labor market statistics in the country. The index covers 500 private companies, which represent 80 per cent of the formal private sector, employing about 10,000 workers.  The Bank conducts periodic interviews with each company to verify their employment and revenue levels on a quarterly basis. The index generally represents employment levels by region and industry throughout the country.

With limited accountability in PNG’s labor market, most private businesses tend to have more bargaining power to determine the size and level of skilled workers for their operations. This has largely seen highly paid jobs dominated by mostly expatriate workers under contractual arrangements. It has also given rise to large numbers of skilled jobs occupied by expatriate workers. The lack of proper national labor market surveys continue to keep the actual availability of employment and workforce unchecked and open to displacement of national skilled workforce.

Youth unemployment is rampant throughout the country with fifty per cent of the population under the age of twenty-five years. The high unemployment figures reflect the small sector of formal business activities, as well as a downturn in the extractive resource sectors, which is heavily relied on to generate government revenue streams and create employment.

The country continues to see a shortage of highly skilled or specialized and experienced workforce in financial and industry management capacities. This is mainly due to high turnovers in national staff in organizations and the slowness in localizing roles in a business.

Discussions during the recent Foreign Employment Classification of Occupations Review Consultation workshop, facilitated by the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations included:

Transport Sector:  Low supply of specialist heavy machinery operators

Mining, Oil and Gas Sector:  Low supply of specialists for engineering positions, and lack of Fitters and Turners.

Health Sector:  Low supply of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists

Manufacturing and Distribution:

  • Lack of Branch Managers with technical expertise and hand-on experience of operations.
  • Lack of Facilities Managers with technical and occupational safety expertise.
  • Lack of Fleet Managers with managerial and leadership expertise
  • Low supply of Abattoir Managers

Manufacturing and Distribution, Construction, and Engineering Sector:

  • Lack of Branch Managers with technical expertise and hand-on experience of operations.
  • Lack of Facilities Managers with technical and occupational safety expertise.
  • Lack of Fleet Managers with managerial and leadership expertise

Department of Labor & Industrial Relations 2009 Work Permit Guideline. The Guideline explains the Papua New Guinea Classification of Industrial Divisions and the country’s Classification of Occupations, which are an integral part of the Work Permit System.

In practice, the Guideline is accommodative to industry labor demands. Permits are accessible by providing a simple justification suitable for hirer’s work requirements.

There are no seasonal adjustment restrictions in PNG.  While companies do provide severance packages as a practice when conducting layoffs, there is no specific legal requirement to do so.  There is no social insurance or other safety net programs for unemployed workers.

The approach of regulating foreign employment in Papua New Guinea is open and accommodative. The country’s regulating practices are based on three broad principles:

  1. Due to local skills shortage, employers should be able to freely recruit non-citizens for Managerial, Professional, Skilled Trades and other occupations, which require a high skill level.
  2. For semi-skilled job requirements, these roles should be advertised in PNG first. If a suitable candidate cannot be found, then the employer is free to recruit a non-citizen for that position.
  3. Unskilled or low-skilled jobs should be reserved for PNG citizens.

Collective bargaining, while a common practice in the public sector, has declined in recent years. Worker unions in mainly state-owned telecommunications and power companies were actively involved to some point under previous organizational structures, arrangements, and leadership.

The Government through the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations does intervene in labor disputes. In fact, one of its main/core functions is to deal with industrial relations and this is normally done through:

  1. Settling of minor complains;
  2. Conciliation and mediation; and
  3. Arbitrary tribunals.

These functions are undertaken by the Industrial Relations Division, the Industrial Registrar’s Office and the Office of the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal and Minimum Wages Board.

There were no reports of major industrial action that affected investment projects in 2018.

No new labor related laws or regulations were enacted in 2018.

There is a Draft National Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Bill that is under review. The Department of Labor & Industrial Relations began drafting this bill since 2011. The bill will undergo final legal vetting, and will require cabinet endorsement before tabled in parliament to pass into law.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

An OPIC representative visited Papua New Guinea in September 2018 and met with various government agencies.

In the meeting with PNG’s Investment Promotion Authority (IPA), IPA expressed the willingness to promote OPIC financing product options through its promotional networks such as its regular provincial awareness campaigns, and its official website.  IPA reported that Infrastructure financing in PNG is mostly arranged through Exim banks. IPA identified Information, Technology, Communications, Value Chain, and Transportation sectors as potential areas for OPIC financing. In addition, the Department of Finance identified the Transportation, Information, Technology and Communications, and Energy sectors as good areas for partnership through OPIC.

There is an OPIC agreement between PNG and the U.S.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2017 $20.536 Billion www.worldbank.org/en/country  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2016 $234 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2017 $1.0 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2017 20.9 UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

PNG is not a reporting country for CDIS data.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

PNG is not a reporting country for CPIS data.

14. Contact for More Information

Wendy Kolls
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Port Moresby
P.O. Box 1492, Douglas Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Office: +675-321-1455, ext. 2116| Mobile:  +675-7020-1257| Fax: +675-321-1593|

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