Making Sense of Thailand’s Foreign Business Act

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Harry Handley

Following Thailand’s 2014 coup, there were suggestions that the incoming military-led government would implement protectionist policies that would restrict investment into the country by foreign firms. However, in the years that followed there was a significant shift in the outlook of Thailand’s leaders. Barriers were lowered and restrictions reduced in a number of industries; this resulted in over US$9 billion of inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2015.

Research from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that Thailand will continue to encourage inward investment over the next few years in order to push the economy towards high income status. This is highlighted by recent amendments made (and further amendments scheduled for 2017) to the Foreign Business Act – the predominant legislation governing foreign investment in Thailand. This article will outline the key points of the Foreign Business Act, including the recent update, and what this means for potential entrants.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Indonesia Transfer Pricing Rules, Singapore-Laos Cooperation, and Thailand 4.0 Strategies for SOEs

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Indonesia: New rules for transfer pricing

The Indonesian government approved a new Minister of Finance regulation, MoF 213/2016, on new rules for transfer pricing documentation, effective January 2017. The new decree stipulates that firms doing cross-border transactions with affiliates must prepare transfer pricing documents detailing their global structure and payments. The move aims to match global standards and curb tax avoidance. Multinationals with annual turnover of at least US$822.74 million (IDR 11 trillion) must prepare a country-by-country (CbC) report with information about their affiliates, revenue, profits, income tax paid in different jurisdictions, retained earnings, and assets. The companies are also required to prepare a master file and a local file, which should include its Indonesian company details, structure, assets, and transactions.

Companies with annual gross revenue of more than US$377,000 (IDR 50 billion) or accumulated transactions of more than US$150,800 (IDR 20 billion) for tangible assets and US$37,700 (IDR 5 billion) for intangible assets need to prepare only the master and local files. Transactions with tax residents in countries with a lower statuary rate than that of Indonesia’s 25 percent are also required to prepare the master and local files. The government is also offering companies to settle previous tax disputes by paying a penalty under an amnesty program until March 2017.

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Singapore and India to Include Limitation of Benefits in DTAA Amendment: Implications for Foreign Investors

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By Mike Vinkenborg 

On December 30, 2016 Singapore and India agreed on amending their Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) for capital gain income. With the new agreement, which will implemented on April 1, 2017, India aims to tackle investments coming into the country through shell companies and prevent tax avoidance. This follows the agreements reached by India and Mauritius in May 2016 and India and Cyprus in November that year, when they similarly amended their respective DTAAs by implementing a Limitation of Benefits (LOB) clause. The India-Singapore DTAA, last amended in 2005, had the provision that any changes in the Mauritius treaty would automatically apply to the Singapore DTAA. All three DTAA amendments will come into effect on April 1, 2017.

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Evaluating Cambodia’s Tax Reform

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Alexander Chipman Koty

Cambodia’s updated Law on Financial Management for 2017 reflects the government’s ongoing efforts to revamp the country’s tax system and bring more businesses operating in the informal sector into the formal tax regime by offering incentives for small taxpayers. The amended laws, which came into effect on January 1, offer lower tax rates for small and medium sized enterprises and tax exemptions for firms that uphold quality accounting. The new rules continue a tax reform initiative that began in 2013 to increase the government’s tax revenue collection capabilities and better regulate Cambodia’s significant informal economy. Successful implementation will better equip foreign investors to compete with domestic firms in the informal sector that are able to offer lower rates for their services by avoiding tax obligations.

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ASEAN Market Watch: Indonesia Seeks Engineers, ASEAN ICT Masterplan, and Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail

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Indonesia faces shortage of engineers

Indonesia’s annual shortage of around 30,000 engineers is becoming a key obstacle to its infrastructure development plans. Currently, Indonesia has 57 million skilled workers but it would need 113 million by 2030 to meet the country’s requirements. Around 20 percent of Indonesia’s six million university and postgraduate students pursue Islamic studies, with most students ending up with unrelated jobs.

According to a 2015 national labor force survey, less than ten percent of Indonesia’s 250 million citizens have a university-level education. Of those, only eight percent choose an engineering study and more than half of these graduates work in different fields, such as banking. The government believes that the country needs a more skilled workforce if they are to keep up with other ASEAN countries and meet the Master Plan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development’s (MP3EI 2025) ambitious targets, which will be difficult to achieve with substantial infrastructure gaps.

Achieving Indonesia’s infrastructure development goals, which range from sea projects, airports, highways, and power plants, necessitates a technical workforce. The government is taking steps to establish more industry-oriented engineering colleges, technical institutes, and state-funded scholarships. The last few years have seen improvements, with 57 percent of Indonesians completing education after primary school in 2015, compared to 40 percent in 2002. Furthermore, the share of college-age Indonesians attending universities has risen from 20 percent to 25 percent over the last decade. However, economists believe that Indonesia still needs to do more to meet its infrastructure development goals by 2025.

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Investing in Myanmar: Recent Developments and Future Outlook

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By Alexander Chipman Koty

MyanmarFollowing a series of bold political reforms beginning in 2011, Myanmar has sprung onto the radar of foreign investors as one of Asia’s last frontier markets. For decades, Myanmar was an isolated and overlooked pariah state dominated by a repressive military government that crushed dissent and participated in illegal drug and jewels trades. However, the military government’s unexpected democratic reforms, which culminated in the rise of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to power in 2015 and the removal of American economic sanctions in 2016, quickly changed the narrative surrounding the Southeast Asian nation.

Historically one of the region’s wealthiest countries but presently among its poorest, Myanmar has long been underperforming its vast economic potential, as the military regime’s ineffective political and economic policies hamstrung the country’s development. Favorable demographics, an advantageous location, and rich natural resources – along with the introduction of substantial economic reforms – make Myanmar an intriguing destination for adventurous investors who were previously blocked from entering the market.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Philippines Contractualization Law, Cambodia Customs Seal, and Malaysia Foreign Worker Levy

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Philippines: Policy on labor contractualization approved

The Philippines government approved a new Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regulation, Order No. 168 on contractualization, after it was submitted on December 29, 2016. The new law amends the provisions of the labor code and legalizes subcontracting or outsourcing labor through third party agencies. This will allow principal employers to hire contractual labor, but only through service providers. These providers will be responsible for regularizing workers rather than the employer. Higher financial requirements will be imposed on service providers to eliminate unreliable subcontractors and ensure payments for laborers. The government believes that the change will address issues of labor abuse.

Several labor groups have opposed the directives, believing the change will only further legitimize contractualization in a different form and not eliminate it. The groups are lobbying for direct hiring and to prohibit third party hiring by banning fixed-term employment. They have asked President Rodrigo Duterte not to implement the directive and to issue an order banning all forms of fixed employment contracts, thereby fulfilling his campaign promise of eliminating contractualization. In the first five months of Duterte’s term, the government regularized 25,000 contractual workers, which is less than 10 percent of the total workforce.

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Hungry for More: A Taste of ASEAN’s Foodservice Industry

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By Harry Handley

ASEAN foodserviceSoutheast Asia is one of the four key target regions for international expansion in the consumer foodservice industry for 2017, according to Euromonitor research. ASEAN boasts a well-developed food culture, as well as a consumer preference for dining-out and a young, curious, and experimental population.

To support the development of the region’s foodservice industry, the ASEAN secretariat introduced a new food safety policy in 2016. The policy sets out 10 principles aimed at harmonizing food safety regulations and advancing regional integration in the industry. ASEAN leaders hope that a more closely integrated and transparently regulated market will lead to further interest from international companies.

As ASEAN’s foodservice industry gradually becomes more integrated, opportunities for regional expansion are rife. However, catering to local tastes in the foodservice industry is crucial, and though they share commonalities, each Southeast Asian country also boasts their own unique consumer preferences. Consequently, both identifying the preferences of the target market and choosing the appropriate entry model is instrumental to achieving success in the region.

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Human Resources in ASEAN – New Issue of ASEAN Briefing Magazine

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HR in ASEAN 250x350The latest issue of ASEAN Briefing Magazine, titled “Human Resources in ASEAN“, is out now and available to subscribers as a complimentary download in the Asia Briefing Publication Store through the month of January.

In this issue of ASEAN Briefing

  • Sourcing Talent in ASEAN: A Guide to Regional Opportunities
  • Assessing Regional Wage Differentials
  • Overtime and Social Insurance Compliance Considerations

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ASEAN Market Watch: Indonesia Foreign Ownership Rules, Philippines Internet Speeds, and Thailand Manufacturing

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Indonesia: Foreign ownership in digital payment companies reduced

Indonesia’s central bank, Bank Indonesia, has reduced foreign ownership in local companies that offer electronic payment services. As per Regulation No. 18/40/PBI/2016, effective on November 9, foreign ownership in such companies has been reduced to a 20 percent stake on the Operation of Payment Transaction Processing. This applies to companies that operate as card providers or offer switching, clearing, or settlement services for electronic payments.

The regulation does not retroactively apply to existing companies. Rather, companies in the digital payments sector, existing companies that expand into the sector, and existing companies in the sector that change ownership will have to abide by the new rules. Apart from this, other rules apply, such as e-wallet service providers that have 300,000 users will need to obtain a Service Provider license from Bank Indonesia.

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