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) statistics, Antigua and Barbuda’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.38 billion (3.73 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars). This represents an approximate 18 percent drop from 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s tourism-dependent economy. Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021, with the country not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism until 2024. The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.4 percent in 2021, and in fact may contract by an additional 10 percent.
Unanticipated spending on pandemic response measures, coupled with sharp declines in government revenues, forced the government to increase borrowing in 2020. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent at the end of 2019 to 89 percent at the end of 2020. Unlike other Eastern Caribbean (EC) countries, Antigua and Barbuda has not significantly increased spending on social support payments to vulnerable populations. The government became the sole source of financing for regional airline Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in mid-2020. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT was a major employer but is now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.
Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. The scores remain relatively unchanged from the 2019 report, though some improvements in the ease of starting a business were highlighted.
The government encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment 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 foreign direct investment, 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. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.
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 the alleged 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.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of Antigua and Barbuda encourages foreign direct investment, 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 foreign direct investment 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. ABIA offers complementary support services to investors exploring business opportunities, including facilitation of incentives and concessions, project monitoring, and general assistance. ABIA’s website is . The government launched an additional website in early 2021 to serve as a “business hub for potential investors,” .
While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, 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. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.
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. In 2020, the government established the Nomad Digital Residence Visa program in which eligible remote workers can apply for a two-year special resident authorization. These programs are separate from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.
The ABIA evaluates all foreign direct investment proposals applying for government incentives 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 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 ranked 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 Commercial Office (IPCO), the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, the Social Security Scheme, and the Board of Education.
The Antigua and Barbuda Science Innovation Park (ABSIP) launched in 2019 to support and create business startup opportunities that will generate sustainable business enterprises. ABSIP provides business incubation and financing, access to business financing, branding, training, partnership establishment, and other services. ABSIP’s website is .
The Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP) supports the creation of micro and small businesses with the intent of increasing the Antiguan and Barbudan ownership share of the country’s economy. Priority sectors in which EDP grants loans are agriculture and agroprocessing, manufacturing, information technology, e-business, and tourism.
Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda prioritizes investment return as a key component of its overall economic strategy, there are no formal mechanisms in place to achieve this. To sustain future economic growth, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy depends on significant foreign direct investment.
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).
4. Industrial Policies
The government of Antigua and Barbuda granted certain concessions specified in the Investment Authority Act Amended 2019. These concessions provide exemption or reduction on various taxes and fees, including corporate income tax, withholding tax, stamp duty on land transfers, and import duties on vehicles and construction materials. The length and/or scale of concession is based on company and investment size. These incentives cover capital investment in agriculture, fisheries, agribusiness, business process outsourcing, energy, health and wellness, manufacturing, creative, financial services, information and communications technology, and tourism sectors. Investors must apply to the ABIA to take advantage of these incentives. Investments in healthcare, tourism, infrastructure development, renewable energy, education, and other projects considered important for economic development may receive incentives and/or concessions determined by the ABIA and Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda if they are over $55.6 million (150.26 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in size.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has been proactively pursuing public-private partnerships (PPP) 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).
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
As a member of the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Eastern Caribbean Stock 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 securities market activities. As of March 31, 2020, there were 154 securities listed on the ECSE, comprising 134 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate bonds. Market capitalization stood at $666 million (1.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars), representing a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous year. 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 services, 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 Minsters 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 as stable. Assessments including effects of the pandemic are not yet available. Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.07 billion (5.6 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of December 2019 and remained relatively consistent during the previous year. The reserve requirement for commercial banks was six percent of deposit liabilities.
Antigua and Barbuda is 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., Canadian, and European banks due to risk management concerns. 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.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Digital Assets Business Bill 2020 created a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital asset businesses, clients, and customers. The bill states that all digital asset businesses in the country must obtain a license for issuing, selling, or redeeming virtual coins, operating as a payment service or electronic exchange, providing custodial wallet services, among other activities. The government aspires to develop Antigua and Barbuda into a regional center for blockchain and cryptocurrency. At the end of 2020, over 40 major businesses accepted bitcoin cash.
Bitt, a Barbadian company, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with the ECCB. The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February 2021 following a multi-year development process. 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 2019. Bitt launched DCash in Antigua and Barbuda in March 2021.
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 U.S. 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 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, of 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 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. 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.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.