The Republic of Fiji is an economic, transportation, and academic hub of the South Pacific islands, making it an attractive trade and investment option for businesses looking to establish a presence in the region. While the population is just short of one million, Fiji is an upper middle-income country that boasts a well-developed tourism infrastructure that attracted 894,389 tourists in 2019. Fiji welcomes foreign investment and has undertaken economic reforms purported to improve the investment climate. The government’s investment promotion office, Investment Fiji, is responsible for the promotion, regulation, and control of foreign investment. Its online single window clearance system simplifies the registration process and enables online investment license applications.
Although the government has made some progress to improve the investment climate, transparency remains a concern, with foreign investors encountering lengthy and costly bureaucratic delays. The land ownership regulations in Fiji are complex and the Land Sales Act restricts ownership of freehold land inside city or town council boundaries to Fijian citizens. Delays from the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service can slow the remittance of profits and dividends because the tax authority must certify all taxes were paid before money is transferred overseas.
Fiji’s Reserve Bank (RBF) predicts the economy will contract well below its projected 1.7 percent growth in 2020 as a result of the negative impact of COVID-19. In 2019 the economy grew one percent, recording 10 consecutive years of economic expansion. Growth in 2019 was driven by growth in the tourism industry and remittances. Growth in tourism, Fiji’s largest foreign exchange earner, remained strong in 2019. Total visitor arrivals reached 894,389 in 2019, and earnings are estimated to have increased three percent over 2018 levels. The number of U.S. visitors increased by 13 percent, with arrivals reaching 96,968 in 2019 and accounting for ten percent of total visitors. The country’s liberal visa requirements allow nationals of over 100 countries to enter Fiji without acquiring a visa in advance. Remittances from Fijians working abroad, a second pillar of the economy, grew by 5.8 percent and totaled USD 265.4 million (FJD 564 million) in 2018. The sugar industry, although a major employer, struggles to modernize since preferential sugar quotas from the European Union ended in 2017. Mineral water, exported mainly to the United States, is Fiji’s largest domestic export. U.S. exports to Fiji declined by 1.7 percent in 2019. Two-way trade between the United States and Fiji totaled approximately USD 349.5 million in 2019.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||N/A||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||102 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/
|Global Innovation Index||2019||NA||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$148||https://apps.bea.gov/international/
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$9,090||http://data.worldbank.org/
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Investment Fiji is responsible for the promotion, regulation, and control of foreign investment in the interest of national development. Its Online Single Window Clearance System simplifies the registration process and enables online applications for a FIRC and payment of the requisite application fee of USD 1,170 (FJD 2,725). Information on the registration procedures, regulations, and registration requirements for foreign investment is available at the Investment Fiji website: http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj.
Investors need to meet the requirements listed under the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation as well as ensure that the investment activity does not fall under the reserved and restricted activities lists. The following documents must accompany the FIRC application: if a company is being listed as a shareholder, then a certified copy of the certificate of incorporation and name(s) of those associated with the shareholding company; if local equity contribution is required, a copy of the shareholders agreement and a copy of the declaration of shareholders, witnessed or certified by a Justice of the Peace, lawyer and/or chartered accountant; certified copies of the passport bio-data pages, together with recent color passport-size photos of all those associated with the business; a police clearance report from the country of residence in the last 12 months or more; and proof of company registration abroad (if applicable). A business plan including a budget/cash flow forecast of the project is required. The approval process for investment applications takes at least five working days and sometimes longer if the paperwork is incomplete.
Investors are also required to obtain the necessary permits and licenses from other relevant authorities and should be prepared for delays. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business survey estimated that it took 11 procedures and a total of 40 days to get a business registered in Fiji. There are no special services or preferences to facilitate investment and business operations by micro, small and medium sized enterprises, or by women. The World Bank survey shows that the number of processes or the duration to acquire the necessary permits for businesses operated by men or women is the same.
The Reserve Bank of Fiji lifted its suspension of offshore investments by Fiji residents. However, the offshore investment allowance by Fiji residents is capped at USD 10,741 (FJD 25,000) per annum. For companies, including the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF), the amount of offshore investment is determined by the Reserve Bank of Fiji.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The lack of consultation with the private sector and other stakeholders on proposed laws and regulations remains an area of concern. The business community has complained that the government enacts new regulations with little prior notice or publicity. There is a perception among foreign investors that there is a lack of transparency in government procurement and approval processes. Some foreign investors considering investment in Fiji have encountered lengthy and costly bureaucratic delays, shuffling of permits among government ministries, inconsistent and changing procedures, lack of technical capacity, costly penalties due to the interpretation of tax regulations by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS), and slow decision-making. The Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) regulates all food and animal products entering Fiji and has stringent and costly point-of-origin inspection and quarantine requirements for foreign goods. Some importers have had import permits denied for categories of food or animal products which were previously allowed, with little or no explanation for the change.
Fiji’s constitution provides for public access to government information and for the correction or deletion of false or misleading information. Although the constitution requires that a freedom of information law be enacted, there is no such law yet. The parliamentary website ( ) is a centralized online location that publishes laws and regulations passed in parliament.
International Regulatory Considerations
Fiji has been a member of the WTO since January 1996. According to Fiji’s trade profile on the WTO website, there are no records of disputes. Fiji ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2017.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
The legal system in Fiji developed from British law. Fiji maintains a judiciary consisting of a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeal, a High Court, and magistrate courts. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.
Both companies and individuals have recourse to legal treatment through the system of local and superior courts. A foreign investor theoretically has the right of recourse to the courts and tribunals of Fiji with respect to the settlement of disputes, but government decrees have been used to block foreign investors from legal recourse in investment takeovers, tax increases, or write-offs of interest to the government.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation regulate foreign investment in Fiji. All businesses with a foreign-investment component in their ownership are required to register and obtain a Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC) from Investment Fiji. Information on the registration procedures, regulations, and registration requirements for foreign investment is available at the Investment Fiji website: . Amendments to the FIA also require that foreign investors seek approval prior to any changes in the ownership structure of the business, with penalties incurred for non-compliance.
Investment Fiji’s online Single Window Clearance System enables online business registration, application for a FIRC, and application fee payment. Information on the registration procedures, regulations, and registration requirements for foreign investment is available at the Investment Fiji website: http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj. However, the most up to date reporting requirements may not be available on the website.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Fiji Commerce Commission (FCC), established under the 2010 Commerce Commission Decree, regulates monopolies, promotes competition, and controls prices of selected hardware, basic food items, and utilities, in order to ensure a fair, competitive, and equitable market.
Expropriation and Compensation
Expropriation has not historically been a common phenomenon in Fiji. A foreign investor theoretically has the same right of recourse as a Fijian enterprise to the courts and other tribunals of Fiji to settle disputes. In practice, the government has acted to assert its interests with laws affecting foreign investors.
In 2013, the government amended the Foreign Investment Decree with provisions to permit the forfeiture of foreign investments as well as significant fines for breaches of compliance with foreign investment registration conditions.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Fiji acceded to the New York Convention in September 2010. Fiji has been a member of the ICSID since September 1977. However, there are no legislative or other measures adopted to make the convention effective.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The government has sometimes opted to penalize foreign investors in lieu of dispute settlement by deportation but there have been no new cases since 2016.
Past investment disputes have often focused on land issues, particularly in the mining, timber and tourism sectors. Such disputes have been resolved through labor-management dialogue, government intervention, referral to compulsory arbitration, or through the courts. In some instances, the investors have withdrawn from Fiji when a resolution could not be found. Fiji is a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States.
The World Bank Doing Business 2020 survey ranked Fiji 101 out of 190 on the efficiency of the judicial system to resolve a commercial dispute. According to the survey, Fiji took 397 calendar days to complete procedures at a cost of 42.6 percent of the value of the claim.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Fiji is a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States. Fiji acceded to the New York Convention in September 2010. In 2017, Fiji enacted the International Arbitration Act to improve the framework governing international commercial arbitration. With the support from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICTRAL), Fiji has adopted a version of the UNICTRAL model law on arbitration. In 2016, Fiji setup the Fiji Mediation Center (FMC), an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, with local and international mediators accredited by the Center in collaboration with Singapore. The FMC services include family, commercial, and small case mediation, and as of March 2019, has mediated over 190 cases, with 67 percent of the mediated cases settled, and 84 percent of cases settled within one working day.
Fiji’s Companies Act 2015 has provisions relating to solvency and negative solvency. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business survey, in terms of resolving insolvency, Fiji was ranked 98 out of 190 countries. The survey estimated that it took 1.8 years at a cost of ten percent of the estate to complete the process, with an estimated recovery rate of 46.5 percent of value.
4. Industrial Policies
Fiji offers incentives to encourage investment in multi-story residential housing development, and retirement village/ aged care facilities. For residential housing developments, incentives include income tax exemptions on developer profits for the entire project, while incentives for retirement villages include tax holidays between 5-13 years, dependent on the level of capital investment. Incentives to encourage investment in the setting up of electric vehicle charging stations include a seven year tax holiday, subsidies ranging from five to seven percent of the total capital outlay incurred in the development of charging stations for investments between USD 1.3-4.7 million (FJD 3-10 million), and loss carried forward for eight years. Other environmental incentives are available for investments in bio-fuel production and renewable energy projects.
Tourism incentives include tax-related investment allowances for approved expenditures on tourist boats/ships and approved building and expansion projects. The tourism incentive package provides a ten-year tax holiday for approved large tourism development projects with capital investments of more than USD 3.0 million (FJD 7 million) to be completed within two years from the date when the provisional approval was granted. Filmmaking and audio-visual incentives include a 47 percent tax rebate on production costs spent in Fiji up to USD 12 million, which is a maximum allowable tax rebate of USD 5.64 million. There are various incentives to encourage investment in the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry industry including zero-rated fiscal duty on imported agricultural machineries, equipment and inputs, and specialized equipment and machinery for forestry and fisheries. The benefits, which can include up to a ten-year tax holiday, vary by industry and nature of the investment.
The income of any business setting up private hospitals with a minimum capital investment of USD 3.0 million (FJD 7 million), is exempt from taxation for a period of ten years. A 60 percent investment allowance applies for refurbishments, renovations and extensions with a minimum capital investment of USD 0.43million (FJD 1 million). The income of any business setting up ancillary medical services such as pathology lab, MRI, or other diagnostics is exempt from taxation for a period of four years with a minimum capital investment level of USD 0.86 million (FJD 2 million). A 60 percent investment allowance applies for refurbishments, renovations and extensions with a minimum capital investment of USD 214,826 (FJD 500,000). There is a duty concession (free fiscal duty, free import excise and free VAT) on medical, hospital, surgical, and dental goods that are used and imported by the business. Recipients of provisional approvals for setting up private hospitals should complete the project within two years from the date the provisional approval was granted. Losses on private hospitals may be carried forward for eight years.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The northern and selected maritime regions of Fiji have been declared Tax Free Regions (TFR) to encourage development in these isolated outposts. The specific areas include Vanua Levu, Rotuma, Kadavu, Levuka, Lomaiviti, Lau, and the Korovou-Tailevu area in the east of Viti Levu. Businesses established in these regions which meet the prescribed requirements enjoy a corporate tax holiday for up to 13 years and import duty exemption on raw materials, machinery, and equipment.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Many jobs are reserved for Fijian citizens, and work permit applications for expatriate employees may face delays or denials. Potential employers and employees should consult Fiji Immigration for further information prior to making any binding commitments as it can be difficult to secure employment visas for non-Fijians.
To support the implementation of newly approved investments, Investment Fiji established a monitoring system to assist companies in obtaining necessary approvals to commence operations. The investing firm must ensure that commercial production begins within 12 months for investments under USD 1.1 million (FJD 2.5 million) or within 18 months of the date of approval of the project for investments above USD 1.1 million (FJD 2.5 million).
The U.S. Embassy is unaware of any policies regulating data storage or requiring foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Land tenure and usage in Fiji is a highly complex and sensitive issue. Fiji’s Land Sales Act of 2014 restricts ownership of freehold land inside a city or town council boundaries areas to Fijian citizens. There are exceptions to allow foreigners to purchase strata title land, which is defined as ownership in part of a property including multi-level apartments or subdivisions. Foreigners are still allowed to purchase, sell, or lease freehold land for industrial or commercial purposes, residential purposes within an integrated tourism development, or for the operation of a hotel licensed under the Hotel and Guest Houses Act. The Land Sales Act also requires foreign land owners who purchase approved land to build a dwelling valued at a minimum of USD 10,741 (FJD 250,000) on the land within two years, or face an annual tax of 20 percent of the land value (applied as ten percent every six months). Freehold land currently owned by a non-Fijian can pass to the owners’ heirs and will not be deemed a sale.
Foreign land owners criticized the government of Fiji for the speed at which the act was passed and the perceived lack of consultation with land owners and developers. The application of the Land Sales Act continues to create uncertainty among foreign investors. The Fiji government has yet to provide full clarification of the act, such as defining what constitutes an integrated tourism development. The limited capacity of construction and architecture firms, makes it difficult to comply with the two-year time frame for building a dwelling before tax penalties set in.
According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, registering property took a total of 69 days and involved four main processes, including conducting title searches at the Titles Office, presenting transfer documents for stamping at the Stamp Duty office, obtaining tax clearance on capital gains tax, and settlement at the Registrar of Titles Office.
Ethnic Fijians communally hold approximately 87 percent of all land. Crown land owned by the government accounts for four percent while the remainder is freehold land, which private individuals or companies hold. All land owned by ethnic Fijians, commonly referred to as iTaukei land, is held in a statutory trust by the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) for the benefit of indigenous landholding units.
To improve access to land, the government established a land bank in the Ministry of Lands under the land use decree for the purpose of leasing land from indigenous landowning units (collections of households; under the indigenous communal landowning system, land is not owned by individuals) through the TLTB and subleasing the land to individual tenants for lease periods of up to 99 years.
The constitution includes other new provisions protecting land leases and land tenancies, but observers noted that the provisions had unintended consequences, including weakening the overall legal structure governing leases.
The availability of Crown land for leasing is usually advertised. This does not, however, preclude consideration given to individual applications in cases where land is required for special purposes. Government leases for industrial purposes can last up to 99 years with rents reassessed every ten years. TLTB leases for land nearer to urban locations are normally for 50-75 years. Annual rent is reassessed every five years. The maximum rent that can be levied in both cases is six percent of unimproved capital value. Leases also usually carry development conditions that require lessees to effect improvements within a specified time.
Apart from the requirements of the TLTB and Lands Department, town planning, conservation, and other requirements specified by central and local government authorities affect the use of land. Investors are urged to seek local legal advice in all transactions involving land.
Intellectual Property Rights
Fiji’s copyright laws are in conformity with World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) provisions. Copyright laws adhere to international laws, and while there are provisions for companies to register a trademark or petition for a patent in Fiji through the Office of the Attorney General, trademark and patent laws are outdated. Furthermore, the enforcement of these laws remains inadequate. There is no protection for designs or trade secrets.
Illegal materials and reproductions of films, sound recordings, and computer programs are widely available throughout Fiji. The government is reviewing trademark and patent laws, but capacity is a challenge.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The capital market is regulated and supervised by the Reserve Bank of Fiji. Nineteen companies were listed on the Suva-based South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPSE) in 2017. At the end of September 2019, market capitalization was USD 1.5 billion (FJD 3.4 billion), an annual increase of 26 percent compared to September 2019. To promote greater activity in the capital market, the government lowered corporate tax rates for listed companies to ten percent and exempted income earned from the trading of shares in the SPSE from income tax and capital gains tax.
Money and Banking System
Fiji has a well-developed banking system supervised by the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF). The RBF regulates the Fiji monetary and banking systems, manages the issuance of currency notes, administers exchange controls, and provides banking and other services to the government. In addition, it provides lender-of-last-resort facilities and regulates trading bank liquidity.
There are six trading banks with established operations in Fiji: ANZ Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of South Pacific, Bred Bank, Home Finance Corporation, and Westpac Banking Corporation. Non-banking financial institutions also provide financial assistance and borrowing facilities to the commercial community and to consumers. These institutions include the Fiji Development Bank, Credit Corporation, Kontiki Finance, Merchant Finance, and insurance companies. As of December 2019, total assets of commercial banks amounted to USD 4.72 billion (FJD 10.6 billion). The RBF reported that liquidity reachedUSD 259.2 million (FJD 603.7 million) in December 2019 were sufficient and did not pose a risk to bank solvency.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) relaxed a number of foreign exchange controls, including increasing delegated limits for commercial banks and authorizing foreign exchange dealers to process some payments. The Fiji dollar remains fully convertible. The Fiji dollar is pegged to a basket of currencies of Fiji’s principal trading partners, chiefly Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union, and Japan.
Although no limits were placed on non-residents borrowing locally for some specified investment activities, the RBF placed a credit ceiling on lending by commercial banks to non-resident controlled business entities.
Tax compliance may restrict foreign investors’ repatriation of investment profits and capital. Prior clearance of withholding tax payments on profit and dividend remittances is required from the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service. Profit and dividend remittances above USD 0.43 million (FJD 1 million) per company per annum and large payments require RBF approval. Provided all required documentation is submitted, the processing time for remittance applications is approximately three working days.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
There is no sovereign wealth fund or asset management bureau in Fiji. The country’s pension fund scheme, the Fiji National Provident Fund, which manages and invests members’ retirement savings, accounts for a third of Fiji’s financial sector assets. The fund invests in equities, bonds, commercial paper, mortgages, real estate and various offshore investments.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Fiji are concentrated in utilities and key services and industries including aerospace (Fiji Airways, Airports Fiji Limited); agribusiness (Fiji Pine Ltd); energy (Energy Fiji Limited); food processing (Fiji Sugar Corporation, Pacific Fishing Company); information and communication (Amalgamated Telecom Holdings); and media (Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd). There are ten Government Commercial Companies which operate commercially and are fully owned by the government, five Commercial Statutory Authorities (CSA) which have regulatory functions and charge nominal fees for their services, seven Majority Owned Companies, and two Minority Owned Companies with some government equity. The SOEs that provide essential utilities, such as energy and water, also have social responsibility and non-commercial obligations.
Aside from the CSAs, SOEs do not exercise delegated governmental powers. SOEs benefit from economies of scale and may be favored in certain sectors. The Fiji Broadcasting Company Ltd (FBCL) is exempt from the Media Decree, which governs private media organizations and exposes private media to criminal libel lawsuits. In some sectors, the government has pursued a policy of opening up or deregulating various sectors of the economy.
In 2019, government partially divested its ownership in theEnergy Fiji Limited (EFL), selling 20 percent to Fiji’s pension fund, the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF). The government also intends to divest a further 24 percent of EFL In 2018, the government signed the first public private partnership agreement in the medical sector with an Australian company to develop, upgrade, and operate the Ba and Lautoka hospitals, the country’s two major hospitals in the western region. To encourage more private sector participation, the government continues to support the partial divestment of shares in certain government companies as well as the sale of some of its assets in aviation infrastructure and energy. Foreign investors are increasingly participating in public-private sector partnership arrangements in the energy, health, and maritime port sectors. Information on these programs and opportunities is published in the local newspapers and the Ministry of Economy’s website ( ).
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is increasingly promoted, with both multi-national companies and large local companies practicing RBC through charitable foundations. Major companies’ advertising often promotes the company’s social benefits or charity sponsorships. There is no official favoring of RBC-friendly businesses, and consumers tend to seek value for money. The government has included a social responsibility component for SOEs that provide essential utilities.
The legal code provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government does not implement the law effectively. The government established the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), which has broad powers of investigation. FICAC’s public service announcements encouraging citizens to report corrupt government activities have had some effect on systemic corruption. The media publishes articles on FICAC investigations into abuse of office, and anonymous blogs report on government corruption. However, Fiji’s relatively small population and limited circles of power often lead to personal relationships playing a major role in business and government decisions.
Resources to Report Corruption
NAME: Mr. Rashmi Aslam
TITLE: Acting Deputy Commissioner
ORGANISATION: Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC)
ADDRESS: P.O. Box 2335, Government Buildings, Suva, FIJI
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (679) 3310290
EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Political and Security Environment
The country held general elections in November 2018. International observers deemed elections credible and that the result “reflected the will of the people.” The Public Order Act restricts freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement to preserve public order. The new Online Safety Act has had a chilling effect on free speech in the digital space. Civil unrest is uncommon.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that Fiji’s labor force in 2019 was 359,713. Education is compulsory until age 17, with male and female students in Fiji achieving largely the same level of education. According to ILO estimates, the labor force participation rate was estimated at 60.4 percent in 2019. National unemployment in 2019 stood around 4.2 percent, although the rates for youth and women were higher, at 14.5 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.
Fiji continues to face acute labor shortages in a broad range of fields, including the medical, management, engineering, and financial sectors, and to a lesser extent, for competent trade-skilled people in the construction and tourism industries.
The Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations has responsibility for the administration of labor laws and the encouragement of good labor relations. The Employment Relations (Amendment) Act of 2016 restored the 2007 Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) as the primary basis for the right of workers to join trade unions.
Trade unions are independent of the government. The ERP prohibits forced labor, discrimination in employment based on ethnicity, gender, and other prohibited grounds, and stipulates equal remuneration for work of equal value. There are workplace safety laws and regulations, and safety standards apply equally to both citizens and foreign workers. The national minimum wage rate is USD 1.15 (FJD 2.68).
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Fiji.|
|No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Fiji.|
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Suva
158 Princes Road, Tamavua
P. O. Box 218
Suva, Fiji (679) 3314466