Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), as of December 31, 2019, Antigua and Barbuda had an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in market prices of $1.72 billion in 2019, with forecast growth of 6.75 percent in 2020. The economy of Antigua and Barbuda remained buoyant, driven mainly by increased tourist arrivals and ongoing public and commercial construction projects. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these projections have been revised downwards significantly, with expected declines in revenues and increased spending on imports such as medicine, medical equipment, and food. The government has stated it remains committed to improving the business climate to attract more foreign investment and stimulate growth.
In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated. The scores remained relatively unchanged from the previous year, but highlighted some improvements in starting a business.
The government strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government facilitates and supports FDI in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services.
While the government welcomes all FDI, tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy have been identified by the government as priority investment areas.
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.
Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system is based on British common law. There is currently an unresolved dispute regarding expropriation of an American-owned property. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.
In 2017, the government signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||Not ranked||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||113 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/
|Global Innovation Index||2019||Not ranked||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2018||7.0||http://apps.bea.gov/international/
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||15,890||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of Antigua and Barbuda strongly encourages FDI, particularly in industries that create jobs, enhance economic activity, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Diversification of the economy remains a priority.
Through the ABIA, the government facilitates and supports FDI in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. While the government welcomes all FDI, it has identified tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy as priority investment areas.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment, and a local or foreign entrepreneur needs about 40 days from start to finish to transfer the title on a piece of property. In 1995, the government established a permanent residency program to encourage high-net-worth individuals to establish residency in Antigua and Barbuda for up to three years. As residents, their income is free of local taxation. This program is separate from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.
The ABIA evaluates all FDI proposals and provides intelligence, business facilitation, and investment promotion to establish and expand profitable business enterprises. The ABIA also advises the government on issues that are important to the private sector and potential investors to increase the international competitiveness of the local economy.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda 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
The OECS, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.
Established in 2006, the ABIA facilitates foreign direct investment in the aforementioned priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment. The ABIA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors. Its website is: . It also offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors. The guide is available at .
All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the ABIA to ensure the project is consistent with national interests and provides economic benefits to the country.
In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranks 130th out of 190 in the ease of starting a business. The establishment of a new business takes nine procedures and 19 days to complete. This time was reduced by three days because the government made improvements to the exchange of information between public entities involved in company incorporation. The general practice is to retain a local attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents. A business must register with the Intellectual Property and Commerce Office (IPCO), the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, the Social Security Scheme, and the Board of Education. The government continues to explore ways to further expedite the process.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda continues to advance the work of the Antigua and Barbuda Business Innovation Center (ABBIC), a two-year project to assist small business and entrepreneurs. The ABBIC includes a business incubator and provides education, training, and investment opportunities to new and existing businesses. The Innovation Center focuses on businesses in the healthcare, tourism, agriculture and environment sectors, as well as projects submitted by women.
Through the Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Program (EDP), people with disabilities can apply for a special incentive grant. The EDP will also provide opportunities for female and young entrepreneurs in keeping with government’s mandate to support the growth of niche markets, innovation, the intellectual capital and ingenuity of its citizens, and the development of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda prioritizes investment retention as a key component of its overall economic strategy, there are no formal mechanisms in place to achieve this. In order to sustain future economic growth, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy depends on significant FDI.
There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad. Local companies in Antigua and Barbuda 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
Antigua and Barbuda seeks to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labor, environment, health, and safety. The government of Antigua and Barbuda publishes laws, regulations, administrative practices, and procedures of general application and judicial decisions that affect or pertain to investments or investors in Antigua and Barbuda. Where the national government establishes policies that affect or pertain to investments or investors that are not expressed in laws and regulations or by other means, the national government will make them publicly available.
Rulemaking and regulatory authority lies with the bicameral parliament of the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The House of Representatives has 19 members, 17 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies, one ex-officio member, and one Speaker. The Senate has 17 appointed members.
Respective line ministries develop the relevant national laws and regulations, which are then drafted by the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Laws relating to the ABIA and the CBI program are the main laws relevant to FDI. The laws of Antigua and Barbuda are available online at . This website contains the full text of laws already in force, as well as those parliament is currently considering.
Although, some draft bills are not subject to public consultation, input from various stakeholder groups may be considered. The process is detailed at: . The government encourages stakeholder organizations to support and contribute to the legal development process by participating in technical committees and commenting on drafts.
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.
The constitution provides for the independent Office of the Ombudsman to guard against abuses of power by government officials. The Ombudsman is responsible for investigating complaints about acts or omissions by government officials that violate the rights of members of the public.
The ABIA has the main responsibility for investment supervision, and the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.
Antigua and Barbuda’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits the state to implement all appropriate measures to fulfill its various treaty obligations. Therefore, the eight member states and territories of the ECCU tend to enact laws uniformly, although there may be some minor differences in implementation. The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties and other sanctions. The ABIA can revoke an issued Investment Certificate if the holder fails to comply with certain stipulations detailed in the Investment Authority Act and its regulations.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has stated its commitment to achieving better development outcomes through improved transparency and accountability in the management of public finances. As a member of the ECCU Monetary Council, the government of Antigua and Barbuda is committed to reaching the debt ratio target of 60 percent by 2030. The government hopes to achieve this by minimizing debt servicing, budgetary costs, and risk exposure to government while making every effort to maintain debt at a sustainable level.
The government enacted the Miscellaneous Amendments Act at the end of 2018, which ensured a number of important international standards were reflected in national legislation. The government has also reduced the proportion of revenue required to pay the interest on government debt. The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found Antigua and Barbuda to be largely compliant.
The ECCB is the supervisory authority over financial institutions registered under the Banking Act of 2015.
International Regulatory Considerations
As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda subscribes to principles and policies outlined in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre. The relationship between national and regional systems is such that each participating member state is expected to coordinate and adopt, where possible, common national policies aimed at the progressive harmonization of relevant policies and systems across the region. Thus, Antigua and Barbuda is obligated to implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under the authority of the OECS, unless it seeks specific concessions to do otherwise.
The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards is a statutory body that prepares and promulgates standards in relation to goods, services, processes, and practices. Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade and is obligated to notify the Committee of any draft new and updated technical regulations
Antigua and Barbuda ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in November 2017. Ratification of the Agreement is an important signal to investors of the country’s commitment to improving its business environment for trade. The TFA is intended to improve the speed and efficiency of border procedures, facilitate trade costs reduction, and enhance participation in the global value chain. Antigua and Barbuda has already implemented a number of TFA requirements. A full list is available at: .
The Advanced Cargo Information System is a CARICOM project that seeks to improve the capability to track cargo efficiently. Antigua and Barbuda is one of three regional pilot countries who have already enacted the enabling legislation. Antigua and Barbuda has fully implemented the Automated System for Customs Data. Importers are no longer required to produce a Certificate of Good Standing (Tax Compliance Certificate) for the importation of goods. This has reduced the time needed to clear goods. Legislative changes to the Customs Control and Management Act enabled the electronic processing of manifests. The government will soon introduce a Maritime Single Window System and an Authorized Economic Operators Programme to improve trade facilitation. These two programs will allow pre-approved businesses and importers to fast-track the clearance of their goods.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Antigua and Barbuda bases its legal system on the British common law system. 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 (commercial) matters and makes determinations on the interpretation of the Constitution. Parties may appeal first to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members. The final appellate authority is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Currently, Antigua and Barbuda is subject only to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Antigua and Barbuda is a party 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. Antigua and Barbuda brought a case against the United States before the WTO concerning the cross-border supply of gambling and betting services. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and Barbuda, but agreement on settlement terms remains outstanding.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The government discontinued concessions provided under the Tourism and Business Special Incentives Act (2013) in 2018. The government is currently reviewing its concessions regime.
Citizenship by Investment
Under the CBI program, foreign individuals can obtain citizenship in accordance with the Citizenship by Investment Act of 2013, which grants citizenship (without voting rights) to qualified investors. Applicants are required to undergo a due diligence process before citizenship can be granted. The minimum contribution for investors under the CBI is a contribution of $100,000 to the National Development Fund for a family of up to four people and $125,000 for a family of five, with additional contributions of $15,000 per person for up to four additional family members. Individual applicants can also qualify for the program by buying real estate valued at $400,000 or more or making a business investment of $1.5 million. Alternatively, at least two applicants can propose to make a joint investment in an approved business with a total investment of at least $5 million. Each investor must contribute at least $400,000 to the joint investment. CBI investors must own property for a minimum of five years before selling it. A newer fourth option is a contribution of $150,000 to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Fund for a family of up to four people, which entitles one member of the family to a one year tuition-only scholarship at UWI’s Five Islands campus. All applicants must also pay relevant government and due diligence fees, as well as providing a full medical certificate, a police certificate, and evidence of the source of funds. The government announced changes to the fee structure in March 2020, reducing fees for the addition of dependent children under six on approved applications to $10,000 and for dependent children ages six to 17 to $20,000, effective until October 31, 2020. Further information is available at: .
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Chapter 8 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas outlines the competition policy applicable to CARICOM states. Member states are required to establish and maintain a national competition authority for implementing the rules of competition. CARICOM established a Caribbean Competition Commission (CCC) to rule on complaints of anti-competitive cross-border business conduct. CARICOM competition policy addresses anti-competitive business conduct such as collusion 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. Antigua and Barbuda does not have any legislation regulating competition. The OECS agreed to establish a regional competition body to handle competition matters within its single market. The draft OECS bill is with the Ministry of Legal Affairs for review.
In March 2019, the CCC preliminarily ruled that parts of a proposed sale of the Bank of Nova Scotia’s banking assets in nine countries in the Caribbean, including OECS member countries, to Republic Financial Holdings and life insurance operations in two other Caribbean countries to Sagicor Financial Corporation could have an anti-competitive impact in at least three member states, including Antigua and Barbuda which raised numerous objections to the sale. In November 2019, the Bank of Nova Scotia announced that it had suspended the sale of its Antigua and Barbuda operations and would continue to run its operations in the jurisdiction.
Expropriation and Compensation
According to the Investment Authority Act of 2006, investments in Antigua and Barbuda will not be nationalized, expropriated, or subject to indirect measures having an equivalent effect, except as necessary for the public good, in accordance with due process of law, on a non-discriminatory basis, and accompanied by prompt, adequate, and effective compensation. Compensation in such cases is the fair market value of the expropriated investment immediately before the expropriation or the impending expropriation became public knowledge, whichever is earlier. Compensation shall include interest from the date of dispossession of the expropriated property until the date of payment. Compensation is required to be paid without delay in convertible currency, and be effectively realizable and freely transferable.
There is an unresolved dispute regarding the expropriation of an American-owned property. Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda paid the former property owner a total of $39.8 million in compensation, it still owes interest payments of $20 million. In March 2019, a judge dismissed a case bought by the former property owners against the government for payment of the outstanding balance. However, the owners intend to appeal. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Antigua and Barbuda is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States. However, it is a member of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention. Private parties may use international or national arbitration if specified in contracts. The Arbitration Act Cap. 33 (1975) is the main legislation which governs arbitration in Antigua and Barbuda. It adheres to the New York Arbitration Convention.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Investors may use national or international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes with the state. Antigua and Barbuda also has bilateral investment treaties with Germany and the UK that recognize binding international arbitration of investment disputes. Antigua and Barbuda does not have a bilateral investment 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 Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda ranks 36th out of 190 countries in enforcing contracts in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. According to the report, dispute resolution in Antigua and Barbuda generally takes an average of 476 days. The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen as the main hindrances to timely resolutions to commercial disputes. Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
As mandated by the Arbitration Act, alternative dispute mechanisms are available as a means for settling disputes between two private parties. Parties may also use voluntary mediation or conciliation. The Arbitration Act mandates the legal recognition and enforcement of judgments of foreign courts by local courts. Thus, the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal provides meditation on commercial contracts.
Under the Bankruptcy Act (1975), Antigua and Barbuda has a bankruptcy framework that grants certain rights to debtors and creditors. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report addresses the strength of the framework and its limitations in resolving insolvency in Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda ranks 132nd of 190 countries in this area.
4. Industrial Policies
In 2018, the government of Antigua and Barbuda made a policy decision to stop granting waivers for property taxes. Foreign investors can still access other concessions, including the manufacturers’ incentive that grants exemption from the payment of import duties, revenue recovery charge, and sales tax on raw materials, packaging materials, tools, equipment, and machinery.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has been proactively pursuing public-private partnerships (PPPs) through the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO). NAMCO is a wholly owned government entity that holds the government’s stake in joint ventures and manages the investment proceeds that accrue.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The government established the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade and Processing Zone (Free Zone) in 1994. A commission, acting as a private enterprise, administers the Free Zone. The Free Zone is part of a government initiative to diversify the economy. The commission is mandated to attract investment in priority areas.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government does not mandate employment of its citizens by foreign investors. However, the provisions of the Labor Code outline requirements for acquiring a work permit and prohibit anyone who is not a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda (or the OECS) to work without a work permit. In practice, work permits may be granted to senior managers if no qualified Antiguan nationals are available for the post. There are no excessively onerous visa or residency requirements.
As a member of the WTO, Antigua and Barbuda is party to the Agreement to the Trade Related Investment Measures. While there are no formal performance requirements, the government encourages investments that will create jobs and increase exports and foreign exchange earnings. There are no requirements for participation either by nationals or by the government in foreign investment projects. There is no requirement that enterprises must purchase a fixed percentage of goods or technology from local sources, but the government encourages local sourcing. Foreign investors receive the same treatment as citizens. There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (for example, backdoors into hardware and software or keys for encryption).
5. Protection of Property Rights
The government owns 55 percent of the country’s land, and the remaining 45 percent is privately owned. The Lands Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs is the custodian of Crown lands on behalf of the government.
By custom, the residents of Barbuda owned all land on Barbuda communally. In 2018, the government amended the Barbuda Land Act to allow Barbudans to have private ownership of land on Barbuda. The government then announced plans to repeal the Barbuda Land Act, replacing it with a new Crown Land Regulation Act that would allow private ownership of land in Barbuda by non-Barbudans. Many Barbudans are opposed to this legislation, which would allow the government to sell land on Barbuda for the commercial development of tourism facilities. Barbudan representatives have filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the new legislation in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and continue to oppose the government’s actions.
Both citizens and non-citizens can lease or buy land on the island of Antigua from the government or the private sector. Land sold to non-citizens is subject to the Non-Citizen Land Holding Regulation Act that requires the buyer to obtain a license to purchase land. Buyers are advised to consult with a local attorney. All land titles and purchases must be registered at the Land Registry.
The Town and Country Planning office of the Development Control Authority designates land use areas, including for commercial, agricultural, industrial, or tourism use. The government’s Free Trade and Processing Zone manages lands and facilities which are geared towards attracting foreign direct investment in export sectors.
Because Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU, lending institutions in Antigua and Barbuda generally follow the guidelines published by the ECCB. However, the lack of capital market depth in the sub-region makes the use of securitization difficult. The country could potentially benefit from initiatives to expand the range of financial products offered by the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) and the Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank.
In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranks 124th out of 190 countries for ease of registering property. It takes about 32 days to complete seven necessary procedures, and the cost is about 10.8 percent of the property value.
Intellectual Property Rights
Antigua and Barbuda has an extensive legislative framework supporting the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). However, enforcement efforts are inconsistent. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
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 regarding intellectual property in any trade agreement to which Antigua and Barbuda is a party. The EPA recognizes 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 WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).” As a member of the WTO, Antigua and Barbuda recognizes the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
The Comptroller of Customs leads enforcement and prevention efforts against counterfeit goods, which include detention, seizure, and forfeiture. The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has extensive powers of search and seizure in the investigation of alleged infringements, and has the power to confiscate suspected infringing copies.
Antigua and Barbuda is not included in the United States Trade Representative Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
As a member of the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the 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 securities market activities. As of March 31, 2019, there were 149 securities listed on the ECSE, comprising 128 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and eight corporate bonds. Market capitalization stood at $1.8 billion. This represents a significant decrease compared to the previous year and is attributed mainly to the delisting of CIBC First Caribbean International Bank Ltd, whose market capitalization previously accounted for 79.2 percent of total capitalization. Antigua and Barbuda is open to portfolio investment.
Antigua and Barbuda 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 international payments and transfers. The government normally does not grant foreign tax credits except in cases where taxes are paid in a Commonwealth country that grants similar relief for Antigua and Barbuda taxes, or where an applicable tax treaty provides a credit. The private sector has access to credit on the local market through loans, purchases of non-equity securities, and trade credits, as well as other accounts receivable that establish a claim for repayment.
Money and Banking System
Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the 1983 agreement establishing the ECCB. The ECCB controls Antigua and Barbuda’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.
The Banking Act 2015 is a harmonized piece of legislation across the ECCU member states. The ECCB and the Ministers of Finance of member states jointly carry out banking supervision under the Act. The Ministers of Finance usually act in consultation with the ECCB with respect to those areas of responsibility within the Minister of Finance’s portfolio.
Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in Antigua and Barbuda. The Banking Act requires all commercial banks and other institutions to be licensed. The ECCB regulates financial institutions. As part of supervision, licensed financial institutions are required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reports to the ECCB. In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector in Antigua and Barbuda as stable. Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.07 billion at the end of December 2019 and remained relatively consistent during the previous year. The reserve requirement for commercial banks was 6 percent of deposit liabilities.
Antigua and Barbuda remains well served by bank and non-bank financial institutions. There are minimal alternative financial services offered. Some people still participate in informal community group lending, but the practice is declining.
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 continue to monitor the issue.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has announced plans to introduce legislation to operate and regulate blockchain technology as an integral part of aspirations to develop Antigua and Barbuda as a regional center for blockchain and cryptocurrency. The government intends to collaborate with global oversight bodies in the implementation of international best practices that will make the jurisdiction attractive to international business.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB. The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). As a member of the OECS, Antigua and Barbuda has a foreign exchange system that is fully liberalized. 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 Antigua and Barbuda.
Companies registered in Antigua and Barbuda have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions. The government levies withholding taxes on non-resident corporations and individuals receiving income in the form of dividends, preferred share dividends, interest and rentals, management fees, and royalties, as well as on interest on bank deposits to non-resident corporations. A person must be present on the island for no less than four years without interruption to be considered a resident. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the CFATF.
In February 2017, the government of Antigua and Barbuda signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the FATCA, making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Neither the government of Antigua and Barbuda nor the ECCB, which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Antigua and Barbuda are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition. The government established many SOEs to create economic activity in areas where the private sector is perceived to have very little interest. A list of SOEs can be found at: .
SOEs are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report. In 2016, parliament passed the Statutory Corporations (General Provisions) Act, which specifies the ministerial responsibilities in the appointment and termination of board members, decisions of the board, and employment in these SOEs. In order to promote diversity and independence on SOE boards, professional associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society may nominate directors for boards.
Antigua and Barbuda does not have a targeted privatization program.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Responsible business conduct by producers and consumers is positively regarded in Antigua and Barbuda. The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes. Individuals benefit from business-sponsored initiatives when local and foreign-owned enterprises pursue volunteer opportunities and make monetary or in-kind donations to local causes.
The 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 in their activities and encourages philanthropy.
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implements these laws if corruption is proven. Allegations of corruption against government officials in Antigua and Barbuda are fairly common. Both major political parties frequently accused the other of corruption, but investigations yielded few, if any results. Antigua and Barbuda is party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention.
The Integrity in Public Life Act requires all public officials to disclose all income, assets (including those of spouses and children), and personal gifts received while in public office. An Integrity Commission, established by the Act and appointed by the Governor General, receives and investigates complaints regarding noncompliance with or violations of this law or of the Prevention of Corruption Act. As the only agency charged with combating corruption, the Commission was independent but understaffed and under-resourced. Critics stated the legislation was inadequately enforced and the act should be strengthened.
The Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the statutory right to access official documents from public authorities and agencies, and it created a commissioner to oversee the process. In practice, citizens found it difficult to obtain documents, possibly due to government funding constraints rather than obstruction. The Act created a special unit mandated to monitor and verify disclosures. By law, the disclosures are not public. There are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.
Resources to Report Corruption
Chairman, Integrity Commission
R.I.O.A. (Francis Trading) Building,
Ground Floor, High Street
St. John’s, Antigua (268) 462-5939
The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy is the independent law enforcement agency with specific authority to investigate reports of suspicious activity concerning specified offences and the proceeds of crime.
Lt Col Edward Croft
Director, Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy
Camp Blizzard, St. George’s, Antigua
10. Political and Security Environment
Antigua and Barbuda does not have a recent history of politically-motivated violence or civil disturbance. Elections are peaceful and regarded as being free and fair. The next general elections are constitutionally due by March 2023.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Antigua and Barbuda had an employed labor force of about 43,535 in 2019 with a literacy rate of approximately 90 percent. The minimum working age is 16 years. People under 18 must have a medical clearance to work and may not work later than 10 p.m. The Ministry of Labor, which conducts periodic workplace inspections, effectively enforces this law. The labor commissioner’s office also has an inspectorate that investigates child labor allegations.
Workers have the right to associate freely and to form labor unions. Approximately 60 percent of formal sector workers belong to a union. Unions are free to conduct activities without government interference. Labor unions form an important part of the membership of both political parties. The law provides for the right of public and private sector workers to organize and bargain collectively without interference.
The labor code provides for the right to strike, but the Industrial Relations Court may limit this right in a given dispute. Workers who provide essential services (including bus, telephone, port, petroleum, health, and safety workers) must give 21 days’ notice of intent to strike. Once either party to a dispute requests that the court mediate, strikes are prohibited under penalty of imprisonment. Because of the delays associated with this process, unions often resolve labor disputes before calling a strike. In addition, courts may issue an injunction against a legal strike when the national interest is threatened or affected. Labor law prohibits retaliation against strikers, and the government effectively enforces those laws. The labor code provides that the minister of labor may issue orders, which have the force of law, to establish a minimum wage. The minimum wage is $3.03 an hour for all categories of labor. In practice, the great majority of workers earn substantially more than the minimum wage.
The customary standard workweek was 40 hours in five days. The law provides that employers may not require workers to work more than a 48-hour, six-day workweek, and provides for 12 paid annual holidays. The law requires that employees be paid one and a half times the employees’ basic wage per hour for overtime work in excess of the standard workweek. The Ministry of Labor put few limitations on overtime, allowing it in temporary or occasional cases, but did not allow employers to make regular overtime compulsory.
Investors in Antigua and Barbuda are required to maintain workers’ rights and safeguard the environment. While there are no specific health and safety regulations, the Labor Code provides general health and safety guidance to Labor Ministry inspectors. The Labor Commission settles disputes over labor abuses, health, and safety conditions. The law gives the Labor Ministry the authority to require special safety measures, not otherwise defined in the law, to be put into place for worker safety. Antigua and Barbuda is party to the International Labor Convention on Occupational Safety and Health No. 155 of 1981.
The labor inspectorate enforced standards in all sectors, including the informal sector. The government enforced labor laws, including levying remedies and penalties of up to $1,850 (5,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars) for nonpayment of work. The government penalized overtime violations, but this was not always effective at deterring labor violations.
Workers have the right to report unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment. Inspectors then investigate such claims, and workers may leave such locations without jeopardy to their continued employment.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
As a high-income country under World Bank criteria, Antigua and Barbuda does not qualify for DFC financing.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Please note that the following tables include FDI statistics from three different sources, and therefore will not be identical. Table 2 uses U.S. Department of Economic Affairs (BEA) data when available, which measures the stock of FDI by the market value of the investment in the year the investment was made (often referred to as historical value). This approach tends to undervalue the present value of FDI stock because it does not account for inflation. BEA data is not available for all countries, particularly if only a few U.S. firms have direct investments in a country. In such cases, Table 2 uses other sources that typically measure FDI stock in current value (or historical values adjusted for inflation). Even when Table 2 uses BEA data, Table 3 uses the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) to determine the top five sources of FDI in the country. The CDIS measures FDI stock in current value, which means that if the United States is one of the top five sources of inward investment, U.S. FDI into the country will be listed in this table. That value will come from the CDIS and therefore will not match the BEA data.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number: 246-227-4000