An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Barbados

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Barbados, through Invest Barbados, welcomes foreign direct investment with the stated goals of creating jobs, earning foreign exchange, transferring technology, enhancing skills, and contributing to economic growth.

Barbados encourages investment in the following key sectors: international financial services, manufacturing, information technology, and ship registration, as well as developing areas like financial technology, creative industries, agro processing, medical schools, medical tourism and renewable energy.  In the international financial services sector, the government maintains its regulatory oversight to prevent money laundering and tax evasion.

Through Invest Barbados, the government facilitates domestic and foreign private investment.  Invest Barbados’ mandate is to actively promote Barbados as a desirable investment location, to provide advice, and to assist prospective investors.  Invest Barbados also provides customized support for investors to ensure the expansion and sustainability of the initial investment.  It also serves as the primary liaison for existing investors.  As part of the government’s plans to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced the establishment of a Jobs and Investment Council which seeks to mobilize investments and create jobs during and after the pandemic.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in Barbados.  Nationals and non-nationals may establish and own private enterprises and private property in Barbados.  These rights extend to the acquisition and disposition of interests in private enterprises.

No industries are closed to private enterprise, although the government reserves the right not to allow certain investments.  Some activities, such as telecommunications, utilities, broadcasting, franchises, banking, and insurance require a government license.  There are no quotas or other restrictions on foreign ownership of a local enterprise or participation in a joint venture.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Barbados has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Invest Barbados is the main investment promotion agency that attracts and facilitates foreign investment.  All potential investors must submit their proposals for review by Invest Barbados to ensure the projects are consistent with national interests and provide economic benefits to the country.

Invest Barbados offers guidance and direction to new and established investors seeking to pursue investment opportunities in Barbados.  The process is transparent and takes into account the size of capital investment as well as the economic impact of a proposed project.

Invest Barbados offers a website that is useful for navigating applicable laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  This is available at http://www.investbarbados.org .  In February 2020, Invest Barbados launched the Barbados iGuide website, an online guide which provides both local and foreign investors with up-to-date information required to make certain investment decisions, including steps to setting up a business, opportunities for investment, labor and other business costs, and legal requirements, among other data.  This is available at https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/barbados .

The Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) maintains an online e-registry filing service for matters pertaining to the Corporate Registry.  It is available to registered agents (usually attorneys).  Information is available at www.caipo.gov.bb .

Barbados ranks 102nd out of 190 countries in the indicator of the ease of starting a business, which takes seven procedures and approximately 16 days to complete at the cost of 7.35 percent of income per capita, according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.  The general practice is to retain an attorney to prepare relevant incorporation documents.  The business must register with the CAIPO, the Barbados Revenue Authority, the Customs and Excise Department, and the National Insurance Scheme.

The government of Barbados continues to facilitate programs and partnerships to assist women entrepreneurs and people with disabilities.  The government of Barbados remains committed to working with civil society and other organizations to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Outward Investment

While no incentives are offered, Barbados generally encourages local companies to invest in other countries, particularly within the region.  Local companies in Barbados are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).  The Barbados Investment Development Corporation (BIDC) provides market development support for domestic companies seeking to enhance their export potential.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Barbados’ legal framework fosters competition and establishes clear rules for foreign and domestic investors regarding tax, labor, environmental, health, and safety concerns.  These regulations are in keeping with international standards.  The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and Invest Barbados provide oversight aimed at ensuring the transparency of investment.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority rest with the bicameral parliament of the government of Barbados.  The House of Assembly consists of 30 members who are elected in single seat constituencies.  The Senate consists of 21 members who are appointed by the Governor General.

Foreign investment into Barbados is governed by a series of laws and their implementing regulations.  These laws and regulations are developed with the participation of relevant ministries, drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, and enforced by the relevant ministry or ministries.  Additional compliance supervision is delegated to specific agencies, by sector, as follows:

  • Banking and financial services – The Central Bank of Barbados (CBB)
  • Insurance and non-banking financial services – Financial Services Commission (FSC)
  • International business – International Business Unit, Ministry of International Business
  • Business incorporation and intellectual property – CAIPO

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.

All foreign businesses must be registered or incorporated through CAIPO and will be regulated by one of the other aforementioned agencies depending on the nature of the business.

Although Barbados does not have legislation that guarantees access to information or freedom of expression, access to information is generally available in practice.  The government maintains a website and an information service to facilitate the dissemination of information such as government office directories and press releases.  The Government Information Service (BGIS) website is available at: http://gisbarbados.gov.bb/ .  The government also maintains a parliamentary website where it posts legislation prior to parliamentary debate and live streams House sittings.  The government budget is also available on this website, http://www.barbadosparliament.com/ .

Although some bills are not subject to public consultation, input from various stakeholder groups and agencies is enlisted during the initial drafting of legislation.  Public awareness campaigns, through print and electronic media, are used to inform the general public.  Copies of regulations are circulated to stakeholders, and government ministries and departments, and are published in the Official Gazette after passage in parliament.  The Official Gazette is also available on the BGIS website.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent.  Publicly listed companies publish annual financial statements and changes in portfolio shareholdings, including share values.  Service providers are required to adhere to international best practice standards including International Financial Reporting Standards, International Standards on Auditing, and International Public Sector Accounting Standards for government and public sector bodies.  They must also comply with the provisions of the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Prevention and Control Act.  Accounting professionals must engage in continuous professional development.  The Corporate and Trust Service Providers Act regulates Barbadian financial service providers.  Failure to adhere to these laws and regulations may result in revocation of the business license and/or cancellation of work permit(s).  The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found Barbados to be largely compliant.

The Office of the Ombudsman is established by the constitution to guard against abuses of power by government officers in the performance of their duties.  The Office of the Ombudsman aims to provide quality service in an impartial and expeditious manner when investigating complaints by Barbadian nationals or residents who consider the conduct of a government body or official unreasonable, improper, inadequate, or unjust.

The Office of the Auditor General is also established by the constitution and is regulated by the Financial Administration and Audit Act.  The Auditor General is responsible for the audit and inspection of all public accounts of the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Assembly, all government ministries, government departments, government-controlled entities, and statutory bodies.  The Office of the Auditor General’s annual reports can be found on the parliament of Barbados website.

International Regulatory Considerations

The OECD recognized Barbados as largely compliant with international regulatory standards.   Barbados is a signatory to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, and the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Matters to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.

The Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) oversees a laboratory complex housing metrology, textile, engineering, and chemistry/microbiology laboratories.  The primary functions of the BNSI include the preparation, promotion, and implementation of standards in all sectors of the economy, including the promotion of quality systems, quality control, and certification.  The Standards Act (2006) and the Weights and Measures Act (1977) and Regulations (1985) govern the work of the BNSI.  In November 2019, the government revealed plans to upgrade its governance structure and laboratory systems to bring it in line with international testing and certification standards.  As a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, Barbados, through the BNSI, is obligated to harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.

Barbados ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2018.  With full implementation, the Agreement improves the speed and efficiency of border procedures, facilitates trade costs reduction, and enhances participation in the global value chain.  In 2019, Barbados implemented the Automated System for Customs Data which streamlined document compliance and inspections by port authorities.  However, the government increased the issuance fees for certificates of origin which has made trade more expensive.  In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Barbados is ranked 132nd out of 190 countries for trading across borders.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Barbados’ legal system is based on the British common law.  Modern corporate law is modeled on the Canada Business Corporations Act.  The Attorney General, the Chief Justice, junior judges, and magistrates administer justice in Barbados.  The Supreme Court consists of the Court of Appeal and the High Court.  Parties may appeal to the Court of Appeal.  The High Court hears criminal and civil (commercial) matters and makes determinations on the interpretation of the constitution.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal.  The CCJ has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramus (RTC).  In 2005, Barbados became a full member of the CCJ, making the body its final court of appeal and original jurisdiction of the RTC.

The United States and Barbados are both parties to the WTO.  The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel and Appellate Body resolve disputes over WTO agreements, while courts of appropriate jurisdiction in both countries resolve private disputes.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Invest Barbados’ foreign direct investment policy is to promote Barbados as a desirable investment location, to provide advice, and to assist prospective investors.  The main laws concerning investment in Barbados are the Barbados International Business Promotion Act (2005), the Tourism Development Act (2005), and the Companies Act.  There is also a framework of legislation that supports the jurisdiction as a global hub for business including insurance, ships’ registration, and wealth management.

All proposals for investment concessions are reviewed by Invest Barbados to ensure proposed projects are consistent with the national interest and provide economic benefits to the country.

Invest Barbados provides complimentary “one-stop shop” facilitation services to investors to guide them through the investment process.  It offers a website useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors: http://www.investbarbados.org .

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Chapter 8 of the RTC outlines the competition policy applicable to CARICOM states.  Member states are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority for facilitating the implementation of the rules of competition.  At the CARICOM level, a regional Caribbean Competition Commission (CCC) applies the rules of competition.  The CARICOM competition policy addresses anticompetitive business conduct such as agreements between enterprises, decisions by associations of enterprises, and concerted practices by enterprises that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition within the Community and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within the Community.  The Fair Competition Act codified the establishment of the Barbados Fair Trading Commission (FTC) in 2001.  The FTC is responsible for the promotion and maintenance of fair competition and participates in the CCC.  The FTC regulates the principles, rates, and standards of service for public utilities and other regulated service providers.  The Telecommunications Act regulates competition in the telecommunications field.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Barbados constitution and the Companies Act (Chap. 308) contain provisions permitting the government to acquire property for public use upon prompt payment of compensation at fair market value.  U.S. Embassy Bridgetown is not aware of any outstanding expropriation claims or nationalization of foreign enterprises in Barbados.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The government of Barbados wrote the New York Convention’s provisions into domestic law but did not ratify the convention.  The Arbitration Act (1976) and the Foreign Arbitral Awards Act (1980), which recognizes the 1958 New York Convention on the Negotiation and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, are the main laws governing dispute settlement in Barbados.

Barbados is also a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), also known as the Washington Convention.  Individual agreements between Barbados and multilateral lending agencies also have provisions calling on Barbados officials to accept recourse to binding international arbitration to resolve investment disputes between foreign investors and the state.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Barbados Arbitration Act (1976) and the Foreign Arbitral Awards Act (1980) provide for arbitration of investment disputes.  Barbados does not have a bilateral trade treaty or a free trade agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.  U.S. Embassy Bridgetown is not aware of any current investment disputes in Barbados.

Barbados ranks 170th out of 190 countries in enforcing contracts according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.  Dispute resolution in Barbados generally takes an average of 1,340 days.  The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen as the main hindrances to timely resolution of commercial disputes.  Through the Arbitration Act of 1976, local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  In 2019, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act was amended to include the establishment of a commercial division in the High Court which will oversee proceedings regarding arbitration.  Barbados does not have recent cases of investment disputes involving either U.S. or foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Supreme Court of Barbados is the domestic arbitration body.  Local courts enforce foreign arbitral awards.  In 2019, two new court protocols in the Supreme and Magistrate courts were introduced for alternative dispute mechanisms in mediation and arbitration to be available to judges and attorneys to remedy civil matters.  The law courts also increased the number of mediators and mandatory training.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (2002), Barbados has a bankruptcy framework that recognizes certain debtor and creditor rights.  The Act gives a potentially bankrupt company three options: bankruptcy (voluntary or involuntary), receivership, or reorganization of the company.  The Companies Act provides for the insolvency and/or liquidation of a company incorporated under this Act.  In 2019, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act was amended to include the establishment of a commercial division in the High Court which will oversee proceedings connected to bankruptcy and insolvency.  Barbados ranked 35th out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report.  The bankruptcy resolution process takes about 15 percent of the estate costs within 1.8 years.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property in Barbados.  Foreign investors and locals are treated equally regarding property taxes.  Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  The CBB must verify real property purchases for non-residents.  If a non-resident uses foreign funds and pays for the property in Barbados, the CBB will normally endorse the transaction.  The sale of property is subject to a 2.5 percent property transfer tax in addition to a 1 percent stamp duty.  Brokerage and legal fees are not included in those levies.  Buyers should seek the advice of a local attorney when purchasing property.

With respect to commercial, industrial, hotel and villa properties, the applicable rate of land tax is 0.65 percent on the improved value of the property.  Holders of a certificate from the Barbados Tourism Authority enjoy rebate of 50 percent for hotels and 25 percent for villas.  The Commissioner of Land Tax charges an annual fee based on the assessed property value on residential property as follows:

  • 0% on the first USD 75,000
  • 10% on amounts between USD 75,001 and USD 225,000
  • 70% on amounts between USD 225,000 and USD 425,000
  • 1% on excess of USD 425,000
  • 8% on vacant land under 4,000 sq. ft.
  • 0% on vacant land over 4,000 sq. ft.

Barbados ranks 118th of 190 countries in ease of registering property in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.  It takes approximately 50 days to complete seven procedures and the cost is about 4.5 percent of the property value.  The government has included an additional procedure that has increased the time to record the conveyance at the Land Registry and to pay transfer fees and stamp duties.  This has made transferring property more onerous.

Intellectual Property Rights

Barbados has a good legislative framework governing intellectual property rights (IPR), but enforcement need improvement.  Barbados is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and  is party to the Berne Convention,  the Paris Convention,   the Nice Agreementand others.a The government of Barbados adopted a new Copyright Act in 1998 and amended it in 2004 to provide tougher penalties.  In the early 2000s, Barbados also approved legislation covering integrated circuits topography, geographical indications, and protection against unfair competition.  In addition, Barbados revised its Trademark and Industrial Designs Acts to meet international standards.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (2001) establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property rights protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations regarding intellectual property in any trade agreement to which Barbados is a party. The EPA provides for the protection and enforcement of IPR.  Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties and of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).”

Barbados remains on the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List in 2020.  Barbados acceded to the WIPO Internet Treaties in December 2019 but has not proposed IPR legislation to implement its treaty obligations.  It is also not clear that there is a strong commitment to enforce existing legislation.  In the realm of copyright and related rights, continuing concerns include the unauthorized retransmission of U.S. broadcasts and cable programming by local cable operators in Barbados, including state-owned broadcasters, without adequate compensation to U.S. right holders, and  the refusal of Barbadian TV and radio broadcasters and cable and satellite operators to pay for public performances of music.   The longstanding failure to enforce judgments and other successful outcomes for right holders and the resulting lack of deterrence are additional sources of concern.

It is the responsibility of the importer to pay for and destroy counterfeit goods.  Failure to observe certain standards regarding the importation of goods may result in a recommendation to the Comptroller of Barbados’ Customs and Excise Department to have the goods destroyed.  If the goods fall under Ministry of Health’s jurisdiction, they are destroyed under that ministry’s guidance.  If the goods are prohibited and do not pertain to the Ministry of Health, the Customs and Excise Department will destroy them as appropriate.  Information on the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the local market is not readily available, as there is no tracking method in place to collect data.  Barbados is not on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Barbados has a small stock exchange, an active banking sector, and opportunities for portfolio investment.  Local policies seek to facilitate the free flow of financial resources, although some restrictions may be imposed during exceptional periods of low liquidity.  Historically, the CBB independently raised or lowered interest rates without government intervention.  There are a variety of credit instruments in the commercial and public sectors that local and foreign investors may access.

Barbados continues to review legislation in the financial sector to strengthen and improve the regulatory regime and attract and facilitate retention of foreign portfolio investments.  The government continues to improve its legal, regulatory, and supervisory frameworks to strengthen the banking system.  The Anti-Money Laundering Authority and its operating arm, the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit, review anti-money laundering policy documents and analyze prudential returns.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1982 established the Securities Exchange of Barbados, which was reincorporated as the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE) in 2001.  The BSE operates a two-tier electronic trading system comprised of a regular market and an innovation and growth market (formerly the junior market).  Companies applying for listing on the regular market must observe and comply with certain requirements.  Specifically, they must have assets at least USD 500,000 and adequate working capital, based on the last three years of their financial performance, as well as three-year performance projections.  Companies must also demonstrate competent management and be incorporated under the laws of Barbados or another regulated jurisdiction approved by the Financial Services Commission.  Applications for listing on the innovation and growth market are less onerous, requiring minimum equity of one million shares at a stated minimum value of USD 100,000.  Reporting and disclosure requirements for all listed companies include interim financial statements and an annual report and questionnaire.  Non-nationals must obtain exchange control approval from the CBB to trade securities on the BSE.

The BSE publicized its intent to fully immobilize traditional share certificates and to computerize clearance and settlement through the Barbados Central Securities Depository Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the BSE.  The FSC under the Property Transfer Tax Act, can accommodate investors requiring a traditional certificate for a small fee.  The Financial Services Commission also regulates mutual funds in accordance with the Mutual Funds Act.

The BSE adheres to rules in accordance with International Organization of Securities Commissions guidelines designed to protect investors, ensure a fair, efficient, and transparent market, and reduce systemic risk.  Public companies must file audited financial statements with the BSE no later than 90 days after the close of their financial year.  The authorities may impose a fine not exceeding USD 5,000 for any person under the jurisdiction of the BSE who contravenes or is not in compliance with any regulatory requirements.

The BSE launched the International Securities Market (ISM) in 2016.  It is designed to operate as a separate market, allowing issuers from Barbados and other international markets.  The ISM is founded on a strong regulatory framework.  To date, the ISM has five listing sponsors.

The BSE collaborates with its regional partners, the Jamaica Stock Exchange and the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange, through shared trading software.  The capacity for this inter-exchange connectivity provides a wealth of potential investment opportunities for local and regional investors.  The BSE obtained designated recognized stock exchange status from the United Kingdom in 2019.  It is also a member of the World Federation of Exchanges.

Barbados has accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on current account transactions.

Money and Banking System

The government established the Central Bank of Barbados in 1972.  The CBB manages Barbados’ currency and regulates its domestic banks.

The Barbados Deposit Insurance Corporation (BDIC) provides protection for depositors.  Oversight of the entire financial system is conducted by the Financial Oversight Management Committee, which consists of the CBB, the BDIC, and the FSC.  The private sector has access to financing on the local market through short-term borrowing and credit, asset financing, project financing, and mortgage financing.

Commercial banks and other deposit-taking institutions set their own interest rates.  The CBB requires banks to hold 17.5 percent of their domestic deposits in stipulated securities.

Bitt, a Barbadian company, introduced a blockchain-based digital mobile wallet service for consumers.  Bitt offers a digital asset exchange, remittance channel, and merchant-processing gateway available via a mobile application.  The CBB and the FSC established a regulatory sandbox in 2018 where financial technology entities can do live testing of their products and services.  This allowed regulators to gain a better understanding of the product or service and to determine what, if any, regulation is necessary to protect consumers.  Bitt completed its participation and formally exited the sandbox in July 2019.  The CBB concluded that the company’s digital wallet service is a good candidate for regulation under legislation that is currently being drafted.

International banks domiciled in the United States, Canada, and Europe are reviewing their correspondent banking relationships in regions they deem high-risk for financial services.  The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S. and European banks.  CARICOM remains committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the issue.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Barbados’ currency of exchange is the Barbadian dollar (BBD).  It is issued by the CBB.  Barbados’ foreign exchange operates under a liberal system.  The Barbadian dollar has been pegged to the United States dollar at a rate of BBD 2.00: USD 1.00 since 1975.  This creates a stable currency environment for trade and investment in Barbados.

Remittance Policies

Companies can freely repatriate profits and capital from foreign direct investment if they are registered with the CBB at the time of investment.  The CBB has the right to stagger these conversions depending on the level of international reserves available to the CBB at the time capital repatriation is requested.

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment controls the flow of foreign exchange and the Exchange Control Division of the CBB executes foreign exchange policy under the Exchange Control Act.  Individuals may apply through a local bank to convert the equivalent of USD 10,000 per year (effective July 1, 2019) for personal travel and up to a maximum of USD 25,000 for business travel.  The CBB must approve conversion of any amount over these limits.  International businesses, including insurance companies, are exempt from these exchange control regulations.

Barbados is a member of the CFATF.  In 2014, the government of Barbados signed an Intergovernmental Agreement in observance of FATCA, making it mandatory for banks in Barbados to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Currently, the CBB does not maintain a sovereign wealth fund.  In the past, the government announced plans to create a sovereign wealth fund to ensure national wealth is available for present and future generations of Barbadians.  Barbadians 18 years and older are expected to gain a stake in the fund after it is established.  It is envisioned that the fund will hold government assets, including on- and offshore real property, revenues from oil and gas products, and non-tangible assets such as trademarks, patents, and intellectual property.  As part of the government’s pandemic response, the prime minister has signaled plans to reengage on this issue.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  The non-governmental organization (NGO) community, while comparatively small, is involved in fundraising and volunteerism in gender, health, environmental, and community projects.  The government at times partners with NGOs and encourages philanthropy.

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively.  Barbados signed but did not yet ratify the UN Convention on Corruption and the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

In 2012, Barbados enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act, which includes standards of integrity in public life.  However, it has not been proclaimed by the governor-general and consequently was not in force.  The Integrity in Public Life Bill 2018 remains pending in parliament.  This Bill seeks to establish an integrity commission, to promote the integrity of government officials, and strengthen measures for the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of acts of corruption.  The law also requires public officials to declare income and assets and makes provisions for whistleblower protection.  Upon assuming power in 2018, the prime minister required all high-level public officials to disclose income and assets to the government.  While the government claimed officials complied with this directive, the disclosures were not published.

A government minister with the previous administration was arrested in the United States on charges of laundering proceeds from bribes paid in Barbados.  He was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He intends appeal the conviction.

Barbados is a member of the regional Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Resources to Report Corruption

The Director
Financial Intelligence Unit
P.O. Box 1372, Bridgetown
246-436-4734
director@barbadosfiu.gov.bb

The Chairman
Anti-Money Laundering Authority
P.O. Box 1372, Bridgetown
246-436-4734
amla@sunbeach.net

Fiji

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Business Facilitation

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.

Contact: The Chief Executive, Investment Fiji, P.O. Box 2303, Government Buildings, Suva; Telephone: (679) 3315 988; Fax: (679) 3301 783; Email: info@investmentfiji.org.fj; Website: http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj/. 

Outward Investment

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 (http://www.parliament.gov.fj/ ) 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: http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj . 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.

Dispute Settlement

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.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

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

Foreign Exchange

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.

Remittance Policies

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.

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.

9. Corruption

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: info@ficac.org.fj

Marshall Islands

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of the RMI publicly expresses interest in finding ways to increase foreign investment, but there are many structural impediments to foreign investment and economic progress, such as land rights, which are unlikely to be changed in the foreseeable future.

Foreign investment is governed through the Foreign Investment Business License (Amendment Act (2000)), which established the Registrar of Foreign Investment and which details restrictions on foreign investments. The Ministry of Resources and Development, Trade and Investment Division administers the law in coordination with the Office of the Attorney General.

Land issues and disputes concerning leases are subject to customary law governing land tenure, and proceedings can take a protracted time to resolve.  Land cannot be purchased by investors; it can only be leased through customary practices.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Although the Marshall Islands generally encourages foreign investment, the Foreign Investment Business License (Amendment) Act established a National Reserved List, which restricts foreign investment in certain small-scale retail and service businesses. However, this law is not consistently enforced, and foreign investors may enter partnership agreements with local Marshallese businesses. Officially, foreign investment is prohibited in the following business ventures:

  • Small scale agriculture and marine culture for local markets
  • Bakeries and pastry shops
  • Motor garages and fuel filling stations
  • Land taxi operations, not including airport taxis used by hotels
  • Rental of all types of motor vehicles
  • Small retail shops with a quarterly turnover of less than USD 1,000 (including mobile retail shops and/or open-air vendors/take-outs)
  • Laundromat and dry cleaning, other than service provided by hotels/motels
  • Tailor/sewing shops
  • Video rental
  • Handicraft shops
  • Delicatessens, Deli Shops, or Food take-out

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years the Government of the Marshall Islands has not conducted an investment policy review through any organization or institution.

Business Facilitation

The government of the Marshall Islands created the Office of Commerce and Investment and Tourism (OCIT) three years ago to assist foreign investors.  OCIT’s website at https://www.rmiocit.org/  has helpful information regarding investment and doing business in the Marshall Islands.  The OCIT is currently in the process of developing a one-stop-shop online business registration process which they hope to launch next year.    However, currently there is no online website for registering a business in the Marshall Islands.  This must be done in person.  After a foreign investor receives a FIBL, detailed in the Laws and Regulations on FDI, the business owner must complete the following steps:

  • Check the uniqueness of the proposed company name with the Registrar of Corporations. This costs USD 100 and takes one day.
  • Have the company charters notarized. Notarization can be done at the Office of the Attorney General.  It takes two days on average and costs USD 10.
  • Register the company with the Registrar of Corporations. This takes five days and costs USD 250.  Limited Liability Companies need to file a Certificate of Formation and need to have LLC agreements detailing how the LLC will be operated, managed, and distributions divided.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Marshallese Social Security Administration. This number will also serve as the company’s tax identification number.  This process takes two days and costs USD 20.
  • Apply for a business license. The business owner needs to submit a company charter along with the business license.  Business licenses are usually issued in seven days.  Licensing fees vary depending on the type of business.  Fees are as follows:
    • Retail Business: USD 150
    • Banks: USD 5,000
    • Professional: USD 3,000
    • Hotels: USD 500

The Ministry of Finance segments the business sector for tax purposes using annual gross revenue amounts, not number of employees.  There are no other segmentations recognized by the Marshall Islands.  There is a Small Business Development Center in Majuro.

Outward Investment

The RMI government does not actively promote, incentivize, or restrict outward investment.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. Bureaucratic procedures are generally transparent, although nepotism and customary hierarchal relationships can play a role in government actions. Proposed laws and regulations are available in draft form for public comment pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, Title 6 of the Marshall Islands Revised Code. Generally, tax, labor, environment, health and safety, and other laws and policies do not impede investment. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Marshall Islands is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) which has a model regulatory and policy framework focused on competition, access and pricing, fair trading, and consumer protections.  The RMI seeks to implement PIF-agreed standards domestically; however, the capacity for enforcement remains weak.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has a responsive judiciary that consistently upholds the sanctity of contracts. The legal system in the Marshall Islands is patterned on common law proceedings as they exist in the United States. The country has a judicial branch composed of a Supreme Court, a High Court, a Traditional Rights Court, District Courts, and Community Courts. The Supreme Court is made up of one Chief Justice and two Associate Justices.  The High Court consists of the Chief Justice and one Associate Justice. The Chief Justices are both U.S. Citizens serving 10-year terms.  There are also three Traditional Rights Court judges, two District Court judges, and several Community Court judges serving the Marshall Islands. On certain occasions, as necessary, the Marshall Islands Judicial Service Commission recruits qualified judges on contract from the United States to serve with the Chief Justice on the Supreme Court and to temporarily fill vacancies on the High Court as there are few qualified and independent Marshallese who can fill these positions.  The Traditional Rights Court deals with customary law and land disputes.

The Marshall Islands Courts are generally considered fair, without undue influence or interference.  Marshall Islands Court rulings, legal codes, and public law can be found on their website: http://www.rmicourts.org/ .

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

All non-citizens wishing to invest in the Marshall Islands must obtain a Foreign Investment Business License (FIBL). The FIBL is obtained from the Registrar of Foreign Investment in the office of the Attorney General. In coordination with the Investment Promotion Unit at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce, the Ministry of Finance reviews the application and ensures that the business does not fall under the categories of the National Reserved List listed above. The application process usually takes 7-10 working days. The FIBL grants non-citizens the right to invest in the Marshall Islands, provided the investment remains within the scope of business activity for which the FIBL was granted.

The 2015 amendment to the Foreign Investment Business License Act requires all holders of FIBLs to maintain reliable and complete accounting records and records of ownership, and that all business records must be kept in such a way that they can be converted into written form at the request of an authorized inspector.  These records must be retained for a period of five years.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Marshall Islands does not currently have any anti-trust legislation or agency which reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

All land is privately owned by Marshallese citizens through complex family lineages. Although the Government of the Marshall Islands may legally expropriate property under the country’s constitution, the government has only exercised this right on one occasion and only for a temporary period of time. Given the importance of private land ownership in customary law and practice, it is very unlikely that the government will exercise this right in the foreseeable future.

If a business activity is subsequently added to the reserved List, the Registrar of Foreign Investment may not cancel or revoke an existing Foreign Investment Business License if the investment has already commenced.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The Marshall Islands has been a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the 1958 New York Convention) since 2006, but is not a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), nor does it have plans to become a member at this time.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There are no ongoing investment disputes involving the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and foreign investors.   There is a very limited record of foreign investment disputes in the Marshall Islands due to the small size of foreign investment in the country. The most common type of business disputes are with landowners over land use, and land rights issues, and as there is currently no official dispute resolution procedure, these are frequently resolved informally or only after protracted court disputes. Domestic civil society has traditionally not been actively engaged in dispute resolution.  The Marshall Islands Courts are generally considered fair, without undue influence or interference.  There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Republic of the Marshall Islands does not have any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms or domestic arbitration bodies available as a means for setting disputes between two private parties.  There is no known history of the RMI enforcing foreign commercial arbitral decisions.

Bankruptcy Regulations

There is no legal provision for bankruptcy in the Marshall Islands.  It ranks 153 out of 190 for resolving insolvency in World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land rights are a highly complex and frequently contentious issue in the Marshall Islands. Land ownership is through family lineage and according to social class. Paramount Chiefs (Iroij) have title to entire islands or portions of islands within an atoll, clan elders (alaps) have title to several parcels of land under their Paramount Chiefs, and workers (dri-jerbal) have title to the parcel of land associated with their Paramount Chief on which they live. Each parcel of land is thus owned by at least three separate individual landowners, one each from the classes described above. Non-Marshallese may not purchase land, and land purchases by Marshallese are also very rare. Paramount Chiefs may grant land rights to others, though they retain their share of ownership in all circumstances.

Available land for development is scarce, particularly in the two major urban areas of Majuro and Ebeye. Non-citizen investors must negotiate lease agreements directly with customary groups of landowners. Land may be leased in perpetuity with many leases having a term of 50 years, and options for renewal.  The Kwajalein land lease to the U.S. Government runs fifty years (to 2066) with an option to renew for another twenty years, for example. Mortgages against the title of land are not permitted, but commercial lease agreements and land lease payments may be used as collateral. There is limited written documentation of titles to land in the Marshall Islands, although local citizens generally know who controls each parcel of land on their particular atoll. In 2003, the Government of the Marshall Islands established a Land Registration Authority to create a voluntary register of customary land and establish a legal framework for recording documents related to ownership rights.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, the Marshall Islands rank 187th out of 190 countries for registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Marshall Islands is not a member of the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), or any other international agreement on intellectual property rights. There is inadequate protection for intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The only intellectual property-related legislation relates to locally produced music recordings, and it has never been enforced.  The Marshall Islands are not listed on the USTR’s Special 301 Report, nor are they listed in the notorious market report. Pirated DVDs and CDs imported from off-island are readily available.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There are no stock exchanges or financial regulatory institutions in the country.

Money and Banking System

There are currently two banks with branches in the Marshall Islands. The Bank of Guam is a publicly owned U.S. company with its headquarters in Guam. It complies with all U.S. regulations and is FDIC-insured. The Bank of the Marshall Islands is a privately-owned Marshallese company with headquarters in Majuro.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The government does not impose any restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with an investment. The Marshall Islands uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, and there is no central bank. There are no official remittance policies and no restrictions on foreign exchange transactions. There have been no reported difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange as the vast majority of funds are denominated in U.S. dollars.

Remittance Policies

While the government encourages reinvestment of profits locally, there are no laws restricting repatriation of profits, dividends, or other investment capital acquired in the Marshall Islands. To comply with international money laundering commitments, cash transactions and transfers exceeding USD 10,000 are reported by the banks to the Banking Commission, which monitors this information and has the authority to investigate financial records when necessary. To date, however, the country has not successfully prosecuted any money laundering cases.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Marshall Islands has no sovereign wealth fund (SWF) or asset management bureau (AMB), but the Compact of Free Association established a Trust Fund for the Marshall Islands that is independently overseen by a committee composed of the United States, Taiwan, and Marshall Islands representatives.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The Marshall Islands has some basic worker protection laws, including a minimum wage and protections for foreign workers.  With the exception of a few retail businesses, the banking sector, and the ship registry, there is little general awareness of corporate social responsibility or responsible business conduct among producers or consumers. Firms that pursue these objectives are viewed neither favorably nor unfavorably.

9. Corruption

There are credible allegations and periodic prosecutions for misuse of government funds and abuse of public office for private gain. Government procurement and transfers appear most vulnerable to corruption, and personal relationships sometimes play a role in government decisions. Government officials at all levels are permitted to invest in and own private businesses without regard for conflict-of-interest considerations. Foreign aid has been abused and past audits report a number of financial irregularities connected to donor-funded activities. Bribery is a second-degree felony, whether to a domestic or foreign official.  The Marshall Islands acceded to the UN Convention against Corruption in September 2011.

Domestic and international firms as well as NGOs have repeatedly identified corruption as a problem in the business environment and a major detractor for international firms exploring investment or business activities in the local market.

Resources to Report Corruption

Richard Hickson
Attorney General
RMI Attorney General Office
PO Box 890
Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 96960
RichardHicksonLawyer@gmail.com
Tel: +692 625 3244
Fax: +692 625 5218

No international, regional, or local watchdog organizations operate in the country.

Saint Lucia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of St. Lucia strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI). Through Invest Saint Lucia, the government introduced several investment incentives for businesses that consider locating in St. Lucia, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment.  Invest Saint Lucia provides “one-stop shop” facilitation services to investors, helping to guide them through the various stages of the investment process.

Applicable government agencies, rather than Invest Saint Lucia, grant investment concessions. Invest Saint Lucia is overseen by the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs.  Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, a waiver of import duty on imported plant machinery and equipment and imported raw and packaging materials, and export allowance or tax relief on export earnings.  Various laws provide fiscal incentives to encourage establishing and expanding foreign and domestic investment.  Invest Saint Lucia also provides investment promotion services.

The St. Lucian government encourages investment in all sectors, but targeted sectors include tourism, smart manufacturing and infrastructure, information and communication technologies, alternative energy, education, and business/knowledge processing operations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There is no limit on the amount of foreign ownership or control in the establishment of a business in St. Lucia.  The government allows 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in any sector.  Currently, there are no restrictions on foreign investors investing in military or security-related businesses or natural resources.  However, Invest Saint Lucia assesses investment proposals for viability and in accordance with the laws of St. Lucia.  Trade licenses and other approvals/licenses may be required before establishment.

Invest Saint Lucia evaluates all FDI proposals and provides intelligence, business facilitation, and investment promotion to establish and expand profitable business enterprises in St. Lucia.  Invest Saint Lucia also advises the government on issues that are important to the private sector and potential investors and advocates for an improved business climate, growth in investment opportunities, and improvements in the international competitiveness of the local economy.  They focus on building and promoting St. Lucia as an ideal location for investors, seeking and generating new investment in strategic sectors, facilitating domestic and foreign direct investment as a one stop shop for investors, and identifying major issues and measures geared towards assisting the government in the ongoing development of a National Investment Policy.

The government of St. Lucia treats foreign and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

St. Lucia, as a member state of the OECS, has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Invest Saint Lucia is the main business facilitation unit for potential investors into St. Lucia.  It facilitates FDI in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment.  Invest Saint Lucia provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by Invest Saint Lucia to ensure the projects are consistent with the national interest and provide economic benefits to the country.  Invest Saint Lucia offers an online resource that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures and registration requirements for foreign investors.  It is available at http://www.investstlucia.com/ .

The Registry of Companies and Intellectual Property office maintains an e-filing portal for most of its services, including company registration.  Relevant officials can review applications submitted electronically.  However, applicants must pay the registration fee at the Registry office.  The Registry of Companies and Intellectual Property office can only accept payment in the form of cash and checks.  Personal checks are not accepted.  It is advisable to consult a local attorney prior to starting the process.  Further information is available at http://www.rocip.gov.lc .

According to the World Bank Doing Business Report for 2020, St. Lucia ranked 69 out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business.  The general practice for starting a business is to retain an attorney to prepare all incorporation documents.  A business must register with the Registry of Companies and Intellectual Property Office, the Inland Revenue Authority, and the National Insurance Corporation.  The government of St. Lucia continues to support the growth of women–led businesses.  The government seeks to support equitable treatment of women in the private sector through non-discriminatory processes for business registration, awarding of fiscal incentives, and assessing investments.

In 2018, the government of St. Lucia embarked on a disability assessment, funded by the Caribbean Development Bank, to support the full participation of people with disabilities in the society and the economy.  Among other objectives, the assessment seeks to provide data about the engagement of people with disabilities in society and to ensure the equal participation of people with disabilities in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

Outward Investment

The government of St. Lucia prioritizes investment retention as a key component of its overall economic strategy.  While the government of St. Lucia is encouraging more domestic savings, it continues to require significant foreign investment to fill the investment gap.

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies in St. Lucia are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME), which enhance the competitiveness of the local and regional private sectors across traditional and emerging high-potential markets.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The legal framework in St. Lucia seeks to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labor, environment, health, and safety.  The Ministry of Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister and Invest Saint Lucia provide oversight on the transparency of the system as it relates to investment.  The government offers a range of incentives for foreign investors.  The Invest Saint Lucia Act addresses government policy for attracting investment.  The Trade License Act, Aliens Licensing Act, Special Development Areas Act, Income Tax Act, Free Zones Act, Tourism Incentives Act, Investment and Stimulus Act, and Fiscal Incentives Act also impact foreign investment.  The government announced plans to update these pieces of legislation to ensure that St. Lucia remains compliant with international tax and exchange of information requirements.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority lie with the bicameral parliament.  The parliament consists of 17 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies to the lower house, and 11 appointed members in the Senate.

Relevant laws govern all regulations relating to foreign investment in St. Lucia.  These laws are developed in the respective ministries and drafted by the Office of the Attorney General.  Laws that oversee Invest Saint Lucia, the citizenship by investment (CBI) program, and some sector-specific laws such as the Fiscal Incentives Act or tourism-related laws govern FDI.  St. Lucia’s laws are available online at http://www.govt.lc .

Although some draft bills are not subject to public consultation, the government often solicits input from various stakeholder groups and via town hall meetings when formulating new legislation.  The government also uses public awareness efforts such as television and radio call-in programs to inform and shape public opinion.  The government publishes copies of proposed laws and regulations in the Official Gazette before they are presented in the House of Assembly.  Although St. Lucia does not have legislation guaranteeing access to information or freedom of expression, access to information is generally available in practice.  The government maintains an information service website on which it posts information such as directories of officials and a summary of laws and press releases.  The government budget and an audit of that budget are available on the website.  Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.  The International Financial Accounting Standards, which stem from the General Accepted Accounting Principles, govern the accounting profession in St. Lucia.  The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found St. Lucia to be largely compliant.  The ECCB is the supervisory authority over financial institutions registered under the Banking Act of 2015.

The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner or Ombudsman is a constitutional entity created to guard against abuses of power by government officers in the performance of their duties.  The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner is independent.  The Parliamentary Commissioner investigates complaints relating to actions or omissions by any government official or government body where such actions or omissions cause an injustice or harm a member of the public.

In developing regulations, respective ministries advise the Ministry of Home Affairs, Justice and National Security regarding necessary elements and parameters of the proposed legislation.  The Ministry of Home Affairs, Justice and National Security subsequently drafts the legislation, ensuring compatibility with the nation’s domestic and international legal commitments.  Invest Saint Lucia has the main responsibility for investment supervision, whereas the Ministry of Finance monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.  St. Lucia’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits the state to ensure the fulfillment of its various treaty obligations, although there are some minor differences in implementation from country to country.  The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include financial penalties and other sanctions.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, St. Lucia subscribes to a set of principles and policies outlined in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.  Each participating member state is expected to coordinate and adopt, where possible, common national policies, with the objective of progressive harmonization of relevant policies and systems across the region.  St. Lucia is obligated to implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under OECS authority, unless it seeks specific concessions not to implement such regulations.

The St. Lucia Bureau of Standards is a statutory body established under the Standards Act.  It establishes, maintains, and promotes standards for improving industrial development and efficiency, promoting the health and safety of consumers, and protecting the environment, food products, quality of life, and the facilitation of trade.  It also conducts international standards consultations and training.  As a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, St. Lucia is obligated to harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.  St. Lucia is working to improve customs efficiency, modernize customs operations, and address inefficiencies in the clearance of goods.

St. Lucia ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2015.  Ratification of the Agreement is an important signal to investors of the country’s commitment to improving its business environment for trade.  The TFA aims to improve the speed and efficiency of border procedures, facilitate reductions in trade costs, and enhance participation in the global value chain.  St. Lucia has already implemented several TFA requirements.  A full list is available at: https://www.tfadatabase.org/members/saint-lucia/measure-breakdown  .

Legal System and Judicial Independence

St. Lucia bases its legal system on the British common law system, but its civil code and property law are influenced by French law.  The Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, junior judges, and magistrates administer justice.  The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act establishes the Supreme Court of Judicature, which consists of the High Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.  The High Court hears criminal and civil matters and makes determinations on the interpretation of the Constitution. Parties may appeal first to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.  The final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal, established in 2001 by the Agreement Establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.  The CCJ has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.  In its appellate jurisdiction, the CCJ considers and determines appeals from the CARICOM member states that are parties to the Agreement Establishing the CCJ.  Currently, St. Lucia is subject only to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The United States and St. Lucia are both parties to the WTO.  The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel and Appellate Body resolve disputes over WTO agreements, while courts of appropriate jurisdiction in both countries resolve private disputes.

The judicial system remains relatively independent of the executive branch of government and is free of political interference in judicial matters.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Invest Saint Lucia’s FDI policy is to actively pursue FDI in priority sectors and advise the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract sustainable investment.  Invest St. Lucia reviews all proposals for investment concessions and incentives to ensure the projects are consistent with the national interest and provide economic benefits to the country.

Invest Saint Lucia provides “one-stop shop” facilitation services to investors to guide them through the various stages of the investment process.  Invest Saint Lucia offers a website that is useful to navigate the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors: http://www.investstlucia.com/ .

Under St. Lucia’s CBI program, foreign individuals may obtain citizenship in accordance with the Citizenship by Investment Act of 2015, which grants the right to citizenship by investment.  Program applicants are required to submit to a due diligence process before citizenship can be granted.  The minimum investment for a single applicant to qualify is a USD 100,000 contribution to the National Economic Fund.  A USD 190,000 contribution covers a family of four made up of the principal applicant, spouse, and up to two dependents.  Alternatively, a real estate purchase valued at USD 300,000 or more will also qualify.  There are also provisions for enterprise investment in approved projects.  More information on the CBI program is available at https://www.cipsaintlucia.com .

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Chapter 8 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas outlines the competition policy applicable to the CARICOM member states.  Member states are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority.  CARICOM established a Caribbean Competition Commission to apply rules of competition regarding anti-competitive cross-border business conduct.  CARICOM competition policy addresses anti-competitive business conduct, such as agreements between enterprises, decisions by associations of enterprises, and concerted practices by enterprises that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition within CARICOM, and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within CARICOM. St. Lucia does not yet have legislation regulating competition.  The OECS agreed to establish a regional competition body to handle competition matters within its single market.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Acquisition Act, the government can acquire land for a public purpose.  The government must serve a notice of acquisition to the person from whom the land is acquired.  St. Lucia employs a system of eminent domain to pay compensation in such cases.  There were no reports that the government discriminated against U.S. investments, companies, or landholdings.  There are no laws forcing local ownership in specified sectors.

There is one disputed case of expropriation involving an American citizen-owned property.  An American citizen purchased 32 acres of land in St. Lucia in 1969.  The government expropriated the land in 1985 by an act of law.  The claimant has been seeking redress since that time.  The claimant is amenable to fair compensation.  However, attempts to rectify the land registry in the claimant’s favor have been unsuccessful to date.  The government has been exceedingly slow in examining the case, has lost paperwork, and is generally unresponsive to the claimant’s direct requests for information on the status of the claim.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

St. Lucia is a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, but not a member of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.  The Arbitration Act (2001) provides general and specific provisions on arbitration rules and procedures in St. Lucia.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors can use national or international arbitration regarding contracts entered with the state.  St. Lucia does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty or a Free Trade Agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.  Post is not aware of any current investment disputes in St. Lucia.

The country ranked 75th out of 190 countries in resolving contract disputes in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report, and 79th out of 190 in enforcing contracts.  Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  In 2016, St. Lucia established a Commercial Court.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is the domestic arbitration body.  The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal also provides mediation.  The judgements handed down by this court is recognized and enforceable under the local court system in St. Lucia.  Court proceedings are generally transparent and non-discriminatory.

Bankruptcy Regulations

St. Lucia has a limited bankruptcy framework that grants certain rights to debtors and creditors. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report notes the limitations of this framework, ranking St. Lucia 131 out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  There are some special license requirements pertaining to acquisition of land, development of buildings, and expansion of existing construction, and special standards for various aspects of the tourism industry.  Individuals or corporate bodies who are not CARICOM nationals and who seek to acquire land must apply for and obtain an alien landholder’s license as required under the Alien Landholding Act prior to acquisition.

In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, St. Lucia ranked 107th out of 190 countries in the ease of registering property, compared to 104th in 2019.  It takes about 17 days to complete the necessary procedures, at a cost of about 7.2 percent of the property value.

Intellectual Property Rights

St. Lucia has two primary provisions governing the protection of intellectual property rights.  They are the copyrights act and the trademarks act.

Copyright Act

This Act protects literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, creative products, and performances in St. Lucia.  To be eligible for copyright protection, the work must be written down, recorded or otherwise fixed in a material form.  Storage of the work in a computer can be regarded as a recording of the work in a material form.

Trademarks Act

A trademark may be registered for goods, services or both.  Once registered, the owner has the exclusive rights to use the trademark, authorize its use by another person, and obtain relief under the Act if the holder’s rights have been violated.  A registered trademark is deemed personal property and is enforceable like the rights of personal property.

While the legal structures governing intellectual property are generally strong, enforcement is inconsistent.  The Attorney General is responsible for administering intellectual property laws.  The Registry of Companies and Intellectual Property Office administers the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.

St. Lucia is a signatory to the Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the Vienna Agreement Establishing an International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks, and the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms.  St. Lucia is also a signatory to the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, and Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organization.  In addition, St. Lucia has signed the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (2001) establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations with respect to intellectual property in any trade agreement to which St. Lucia is a party.  The EPA gives recognition to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property.  Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties and of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).”

The Comptroller of Customs spearheads the preventative and enforcement aspects of intellectual property rights protection, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of counterfeit goods.  The Customs and Excise Department conducts investigations of customs offenses and administers fines and penalties.

St. Lucia is not listed on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) 2018 Out-Of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets or in the 2019 Special 301 Report.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

St. Lucia is a member of the ECCU.  As such, it is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) and the Regional Government Securities Market.  The ECSE is a regional securities market established by the ECCB and licensed under the Securities Act of 2001, a uniform regional body of legislation governing the securities market.  St. Lucia is a member of this stock exchange.

The government of Saint Lucia remained the market leader in the financial year, raising USD 496.2 million from the auctions of 15 Treasury bills and four bonds, which represents an increase of USD 90.0 million, 22.2 percent from the amount raised in 2018.  The Government of Saint Lucia’s activity accounted for 34.5 percent of the number of auctions and 38.4 percent of the overall regional government securities market (RGSM) proceeds.

St. Lucia has accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund Agreement, Sections 2, 3 and 4 and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on making payments and transfers for current international transactions.  Foreign tax credit is allowed for the lesser of the tax payable in the foreign country or the tax charged under St. Lucia tax law.  The private sector has access to credit on the local market through loans, purchases of non-equity securities, and trade credits and other accounts receivable that establish a claim for repayment.

Money and Banking System

The eight participating governments of the ECCU have passed the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Agreement Act.  The Act provides for the establishment of the ECCB, its management and administration, its currency, relations with financial institutions, relations with the participating governments, foreign exchange operations, external reserves, and other related matters.  St. Lucia is a signatory to this agreement and the ECCB controls St. Lucia’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.

The Banking Act is a harmonized piece of legislation across the ECCU.  The Minister of Finance usually acts in consultation with, and on the recommendation of, the ECCB with respect to those areas of responsibility within the Minister of Finance’s portfolio.

Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in St. Lucia.  The Banking Act requires all commercial banks and other institutions to be licensed in order to conduct any banking business.  The ECCB regulates financial institutions.  As part of ongoing supervision, licensed financial institutions are required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reports to the ECCB.

The ECCB annual economic report stated that the banking system in St. Lucia recorded USD 308.409 million (USD 833.3 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in net foreign assets at the end of 2018, up from USD 219.954 million (USD 594.3 Eastern Caribbean dollars) one year earlier.  Liquidity in the commercial banking system improved during 2018, which was the most recently published report.  At the end of December, the ratio of liquid assets to short-term liabilities stood at 42 percent, which was above the recommended minimum, and about 2.9 percentage points higher than the level recorded at the end of 2017.

St. Lucia is well-served by bank and non-bank financial institutions.  There are minimal alternative financial services.  Some citizens still participate in informal community group lending.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S. and European banks.  CARICOM remains committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the issue and appointed a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking to monitor the issue.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

St. Lucia is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB.  The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD).  St. Lucia has a fully liberalized foreign exchange system.  The Eastern Caribbean dollar has been pegged to the United States dollar at a rate of XCD 2.70 to USD 1.00 since 1976.  As a result, the Eastern Caribbean dollar does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in St. Lucia.

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.  Funds can also be freely converted into any of the major world currencies.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in St. Lucia have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits.  There are no restrictions on the repatriation of dividends for totally foreign-owned firms.

As a member of the OECS, there are no exchange controls in St. Lucia, and parties can invoice foreign trade transactions in any currency.  Importers are not required to make prior deposits in local funds and are not required to surrender export proceeds to government authorities or to authorized banks.  There are no controls on transfers of funds.  St. Lucia is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the government of St. Lucia, nor the ECCB, of which St. Lucia is a member, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

St. Lucia’s government and citizens appreciate responsible business conduct.  The private sector typically engages in projects that benefit society, and support environmental, social, and cultural causes.

9. Corruption

Most locals and foreigners do not view corruption related to foreign business and investment as a major problem in St. Lucia.  However, there are isolated reports of allegations of official corruption, particularly among customs officials.  Local laws provide for access to information.  The law also requires government officials to present their financial assets annually to the Integrity Commission.  While authorities do not make public the disclosure reports filed by individuals, the commission submits a report to parliament each year.  The commission lacked the ability to compel compliance with the law, and as a result, compliance was low.

The Parliamentary Commissioner, Auditor General, and Public Services Commission are responsible for combating corruption.  Parliament can also appoint a special committee to investigate specific allegations of corruption.  The country is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and acceded to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2011.  St. Lucia ranked 55 out of 180 countries in the 2018 and 2019 Transparency International Corruption Index.

St. Lucia has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, notably the Integrity in Public Life Act of 2004.  However, while the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, enforcement is not always effective.  Government agencies involved in enforcement of anti-corruption laws include the Royal St. Lucia Police Force, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Integrity Commission, and the Financial Intelligence Unit.

In June 2015, twelve Commonwealth Caribbean countries including St. Lucia established a regional body to enhance transparency and to help fight corruption.  The Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Commonwealth Caribbean supports regional efforts to promote integrity and address corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Pastor Sherwin Griffith
Chairman
Integrity Commission
2nd Floor, Graham Louisy Administrative Building,
Waterfront Castries, Saint Lucia
(758) 468-2187
sg8449@hotmail.com

Paul Thompson
Director
Financial Intelligence Authority
Gablewoods North P.O.
Castries LC02 501, Saint Lucia
(758) 451-7126
slufia@candw.lc

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future