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Business and Officialdom in Nicaragua

Policy instability, corruption and access to financing are the greatest threats facing foreign companies doing business in Nicaragua. In the general atmosphere of corruption, bribery is commonplace, especially when business owners try to deal with registries, permit services and public utilities such as electricity, water and telephone companies.

Complicated bureaucratic procedures, which can normally take months to complete, promote the buying off of officials in order to get the necessary documents in a decent amount of time. As the Nicaraguan government lacks transparency, there are not any overall agencies or watchdog groups to whom business owners can report incidents of corruption. Nepotism and powerful political interests make the legal system of Nicaragua one of the weakest in Latin America.

The legal environment is regulated, in theory, but severely unregulated in practice and resolving legal disputes can take years before a judge will make a ruling—making investing in Nicaragua a risky endeavor, at best. Foreign investors are often at a disadvantage in disputes against Nicaraguans, who may have political or personal ties to court officials. Bribery, corruption and nepotism are the faults hidden underneath the warmth and politeness of Nicaraguan business practices.

Nicaraguans are very physical and affectionate people. Handshakes often turn into hugs among well acquainted colleagues and women usually kiss each other on the cheek when greeting and departing one another. Business colleagues, especially women, frequently compliment one another on their appearance. Formal dress attire is normally not worn when conducting business and showing up to an initial meeting overly dressed would be in poor taste.

Impromptu meetings generally do not occur, most meetings will be prearranged. It is acceptable to arrive up to 30 minutes late to a meeting, after that the tardiness considered rude and you should prepare a very good excuse. Do not hurry through a meeting or schedule another meeting right after as it is a sign of disrespect to rush off and leave the meeting unfinished. A fair amount of caution and restraint should always be exercised when dealing in with Nicaraguan businesses and official government agencies.

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