Bolivia has a steadily improving economy, a robust mining industry, and the second-largest natural gas reserve in South America. Its government is open to foreign direct investment, and there are generally no restrictions on foreigners investing in Bolivias private sector. The Bolivian government encourages foreign investment and has passed a number of regulations to help support the free exchange of money into and out of the country.
Bolivias economy is supported by a strong service industry, which accounts for approximately 52% of its total GDP, exports such as zinc, ore, natural gas, and tin, and a slowly modernizing agricultural sector. The countrys slow population growth and weak legal infrastructure, however, are obstacles to faster economic growth.
Transferring money into and out of Bolivia currently carries no restrictions, and domestic and foreign currencies are freely convertible at Bolivian banks and currency exchanges. Under the Bolivian banking law #1488, regulations for foreign currency hedging and account maintenance in foreign currencies were established. Today, these regulations are enforced by Bolivias central bank and apply to all currency exchanges and money transfers into and out of the country.
However, there is some ambiguity in Bolivias financial regulations, which may contribute to lowered levels of investment. Foreign investors have complained of confusion in certain circumstances. An example of this is an existing law, which states that both domestic and foreign investors are permitted to repatriate all profits with a 12.5% withholding tax applied. A provision of the 2009 national constitution, however, requires that investors reinvest any private profits coming from an investment in natural resources. Under current Bolivian law, it is unclear how the disparity in these two regulations would be addressed.
Banking transactions occurring within a consecutive three-day period valued at more than USD $10,000 must be accompanied by a form stating the source of the funds, and must be registered with the customs office. Amounts equal to or greater than $50,000 require authorization from Bolivias central bank, and transfers worth $500,000 or more must obtain authorization by the Ministry of the Economy and Public Finance.
Although Bolivia is generally open to direct foreign investment and recently established a series of investment laws to guarantee equal treatment of national and foreign firms operating within the country, the new laws prioritize investments in the public sector over private investment.
Both domestic and international companies have reported issues when investing in Bolivia, due to a slow, overly-bureaucratic legal system, a lack of transparency in business- and legal-related activities, high levels of corruption, lack of contract enforcement, and a regulatory system that is not fully established. Many international rankings organizations place Bolivias investment environment lower than other South American countries, due mainly to an incomplete, patchwork approach to business rules and regulations. The countrys legal framework currently does not meet the standards as outlined in its constitution.
Potential investors should carefully research and review any potential investment opportunity within Bolivia before making a decision, as the countrys judicial system can be slow and unreliable, and Bolivias government does not recognize international arbitration for any commercial agreements.
The Banco Central de Bolivia is responsible for overseeing the performance of the boliviano in the currency markets, establishing fiscal and economic policies for the country, and overseeing Bolivias financial systems. The central bank also ensures that adequate controls are in place to enforce the legality of all financial transactions, including international funds transfers, into and out of the country.
The Bolivian new boliviano (BS) has been the official currency of Bolivia since it replaced the scudo in 1864. Since then, there have been two reissuances of the boliviano, the most recent occurring in 1987, when the new boliviano replaced the reso boliviano. Initially, the boliviano was pegged to the French franc and then moved to the gold standard for a period of time. Today, the new boliviano trades via an exchange system called an incomplete crawling peg. This means the bolivianos exchange rate is fixed, with the rate undergoing micro-readjustments as deemed necessary by the Banco Central de Bolivia.
The bolivianos subunit is the centavo, with one boliviano equal to 100 centavos. Both coins and banknotes are commonly used. Common coins are the 10, 20, and 50 centavo coins, and the 1, 2, and 5 boliviano coins. Commonly used banknotes include the 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 boliviano bills.
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