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Investing in Libya

There has been much speculation and interest in Libya as an emerging or, more appropriately, a re-emerging market, over the last few years. As the high foreign turnout at recent trade and investment exhibitions in Tripoli has shown, there is growing interest in investing in Libya, not only in the oil and gas sector but in other sectors as well.
This interest is slowly translating into commercial activity, although interested parties are face a number of questions: How do we invest in Libya? Do we establish a new company in Libya, a branch office, or appoint an agent? Can profits be repatriated? Can we employ foreign staff or must we employ only local nationals?
While it is impossible to answer all these questions here, it is possible to provide an outline of the framework involved.
The relevant legislation is contained primarily within the commercial code together with a number of specific decrees or laws. The Sharia code applies only to family and inheritance disputes.
The principal decrees of concern to a company interested in investing in Libya are: Law 25, Petroleum Law 1955, Law 5, the 1997 Encouragement of Foreign Capital Investment Law, and various laws on social security, immigration and employment.
Investment in the oil industry, through exploration and production, is mainly governed by Law 25. This law is currently under review not least because it only deals with oil, without any reference to gas. Investment in any industry peripheral to energy is governed by Law 5 which was introduced to encourage foreign investment and a specific authority was established to administer the system. The aim of the authority is to provide a one-stop-shop for foreign investors and to help cut through the red tape.
Law 5 relates specifically to investment in industry, health, tourism services, and agriculture. The type of investment encouraged includes: machinery, equipment, tools, spare parts and raw materials, transport means unavailable locally and internet protocol rights.
The foreign capital investment law provides a set off incentives to foreign investors and to locals engaged with foreign partners. Such incentives include exemption from customs duties and tax on machinery and equipment, the transfer of the project ownership and re-export of capital employed, the right to employ foreign personnel in the absence of national substitutes etc.
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