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.

Antigua and Barbuda

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 http://investantiguabarbuda.org . The government launched an additional website in early 2021 to serve as a “business hub for potential investors,” http://antiguabarbuda.com .

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.

Business Facilitation

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 http://investantiguabarbuda.org . 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 http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/antiguabarbuda .

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 http://absip.gov.ag .

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.

Outward Investment

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).

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

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 the country. Where the government establishes policies that affect or pertain to investments or investors that are not expressed in laws and regulation or by other means, the national government has committed to make them publicly available.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority lie with the bicameral parliament of the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The House of Representatives has 19 members, 17 of whom are elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies, one of whom is an ex-officio member, and one of whom is Speaker. The Senate has 17 appointed members.

Respective line ministries develop 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 foreign direct investment. The laws of Antigua and Barbuda are available online at http://laws.gov.ag/new/ . This website contains the full text of laws already in force, as well as those Parliament is currently considering.

While some draft bills are not subject to public consideration, input from stakeholder groups may be considered. The government encourages stakeholder organizations to support and contribute to the legal development process by participating in technical committees and providing comments 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 primary responsibility for investment supervision, and the Ministry of Finance, Corporate Governance and Public-Private Partnerships monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes. 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.

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. The eight member states and territories of the ECCU tend to enact laws uniformly, though minor differences in implementation may exist. The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties and other sanctions.

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. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Antigua and Barbuda committed to reaching a debt ratio target of 60 percent by 2030. This commitment has been challenged by economic constraints imposed by the pandemic, as the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent to 89 percent over the course of 2020. The government has stated its commitment to make timely debt repayments, but it is not possible to accurately assess the government’s financial condition because it provides minimal transparency into its budget.

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 2017. 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 implemented a number of TFA requirements, but it has also missed two implementation deadlines. A full list is available at https://tfadatabase.org/members/antigua-and-barbuda .

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 matters and rules on constitutional law issues. 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 UK Privy Council.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Antigua and Barbuda is only subject to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

Antigua and Barbuda is a party to the WTO. The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel and Appellate Body resolves disputes over WTO agreements, while courts of appropriate jurisdiction in both countries resolve private disputes. Antigua and Barbuda brought a case before the WTO against the United States concerning the cross-border supply of online 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 ABIA provides guidance on the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors. These are available at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/antiguabarbuda  and http://investantiguabarbuda.org .

The ABIA may grant concessions as specified in the Investment Authority Act Amended 2019. These concessions are listed on Antigua and Barbuda’s iGuide website. Investors must apply to ABIA to take advantage of these incentives.

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 $100,000 (270,225 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the National Development Fund for a family of up to four people and $125,000 (337,818 Eastern Caribbean dollars) for a family of five, with additional contributions of $15,000 (40,538 Eastern Caribbean dollars) 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 (1,081,020 Eastern Caribbean dollars) or more or making a business investment of $1.5 million (4,053,825 Eastern Caribbean dollars). 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 (13.5 million Eastern Caribbean dollars). Each investor must contribute at least $400,000 (1,081,020 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the joint investment. CBI investors must own real estate for a minimum of five years before selling it. A fourth CBI option involves a contribution of $150,000 (405,383 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Fund for a family of 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, and provide a full medical certificate, police certificate, and evidence of the source of funds. Further information is available at https://www.cip.gov.ag/ .

Competition and Antitrust 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 has been submitted to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for review.

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 the 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 includes interest from the date of dispossession of the expropriated property until the date of payment and is required to be paid without delay.

There is an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda paid the former property owner a total of $39.8 million (107.56 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in compensation, it still owes interest payments of $20 million (54 million Eastern Caribbean dollars). In 2019, a judge dismissed a case brought by 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 caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.

Dispute Settlement

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.

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 with Antigua and Barbuda.

Antigua and Barbuda ranked 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 of settling disputes between two private parties. Parties may 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 Appeals provides meditation on commercial contracts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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 ranked 132nd out of 190 countries in this area.

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

Foreign Exchange

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.

Remittance Policies

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.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $1,660 2019 1,662 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 7 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 3 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 8 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html
* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/ 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Bahamas

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government encourages FDI, particularly in the tourism and financial services sector. The National Investment Policy (NIP) and the Commercial Enterprises Act (CEA) explicitly encourage foreign investment in certain sectors of the economy: touristic resorts; upscale villas, condominium, timeshare, and second home development; international business centers; aircraft and maritime services; marinas; information and data processing; information technology services; light industry manufacturing and assembly; agro-industries; mari-culture; food and beverage processing; banking and other financial services; offshore medical centers and services; e-commerce; arbitration; international arbitrage; computer programming; software design and writing; bioinformatics and analytics; and data storage and warehousing.

The Bahamas has an investment promotion strategy that includes multiple government agencies working to attract foreign direct investment. The Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) ( www.bahamas.gov.bs/bia ) takes the lead on administering investment policies, functions as the investment facilitation agency, and acts as a ‘one stop shop’ to assist investors in navigating the cumbersome approvals process. All foreign investors must apply for approval from the BIA. Each administration has consistently supported new investment and has generally honored agreements made by previous administrations. The current government has introduced policies and legislative support for Small and Medium Enterprises (which represent 85 percent of registered businesses), and in 2018 launched the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC). The SBDC provides business advisory services, training, professional development opportunities, incubation services, access to capital, and advocacy for individual businesses. In response to the pandemic and to create opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs, the government earmarked $250 million in 2020 for loans and grants over five years to local small and medium enterprises.

The Bahamas reserves certain sectors of the economy for Bahamian investors. The reserved areas are: wholesale and retail operations (although international investors may engage in the wholesale distribution of any product they produce locally); agencies engaged in import or export; real estate agencies and domestic property management; domestic newspapers and magazine publications; domestic advertising and public relations firms; nightclubs and restaurants except specialty, gourmet, and ethnic restaurants, and those operating in a hotel, resort or tourist attraction; security services; domestic distribution of building supplies; construction companies except for special structures requiring foreign expertise; personal cosmetic or beauty establishments; commercial fishing including both deep water fishing and shallow water fishing of crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and sponges; auto and appliance services; public transportation including boat charters; and domestic gaming. The government does make exceptions to this policy on a case-by-case basis, and the Embassy is aware of several cases in which the Bahamian government has granted foreign investors full market access.

With the exception of these sectors, the Bahamian government does not give preferential treatment to investors based on nationality, and investors have equal access to incentives, which include land grants, tax concessions, and direct marketing and budgetary support. The government provides guidelines for investment through the National Investment Policy (NIP), administered by the BIA, and through the Commercial Enterprises Act (CEA) administered by the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration. The CEA provides incentives to domestic and foreign investors to establish specific investment projects, including approval of a specified number of work permits for senior posts and the expedited issuance of work permits.

Large foreign investment projects, particularly those that require environmental and economic impact assessments, require approval by the National Economic Council (NEC) of The Bahamas. This process generally requires review by multiple government agencies prior to NEC consideration. Bureaucratic impediments are not limited to the NEC approvals process, and the country continues to lag on international metrics related to starting a business. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business rankings, The Bahamas scores 119 out of 190 countries overall, 181 in registering property, 77 in getting construction permits, 152 in access to credit, and 71 in resolving insolvency. All these categories saw a decrease in ratings from 2019 metrics, with the exception of getting construction permits. The Embassy is aware of cases of significant delays in the approvals process, including cases where the Bahamian government failed to respond to investment applications. Despite bureaucratic challenges and the impact of COVID-19, investment continues in tourism, finance, construction, and fast-food franchises.

In response to the losses from Hurricane Dorian and the economic fallout from COVID-19, the government announced efforts to accelerate FDI, including liberalization of requirements for investment and accelerating the review process for proposals. In April 2020, the government also appointed an Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) – a public-private coalition to develop recommendations for government policies to addresses the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC’s full report can be accessed via https://opm.gov.bs/economic-recovery-committee-executive-summary-report-2020/ .

The ERC’s nearly two dozen recommendations were intended to transform the Bahamian investment regime, remove structural impediments, and incentivize domestic and foreign investment. The government accepted certain recommendations, including the establishment of an entrepreneur visa for persons wishing to work or study from The Bahamas for one year ( www.bahamasbeats.com ), limiting approvals for projects under $10 million, creating special economic zones on lesser developed islands, and establishing an autonomous agency to oversee a modern investment regime (INVESTBAHAMAS). With this new agency in place, bureaucratic delays, functionality and transparency are expected to improve. The agency will reportedly give priority to high-tech financial products, biotechnology, renewable energy investments, and climate adaptability projects. INVESTBAHAMAS remains in the planning stages.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have the right to establish private enterprises and, after approval, most companies operate unencumbered. Key considerations for approval include economic impact, job creation, infrastructural development, economic diversification, environmental protection and corporate social responsibility. With the assistance of a local attorney, investors can create the following types of businesses: sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, joint stock company, or subsidiary of a foreign company. The most popular all-purpose vehicles for foreign investors are the International Business Company (IBC) and the Limited Duration Company (LDC). Both benefit from income, capital gains, gift, estate, inheritance, and succession tax exemptions. Investors are required to establish a local company and be registered to operate in The Bahamas.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Bahamas ranks 119 out of 190 countries in terms of “ease of doing business” in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. See http://doingbusiness.org/rankings . The Bahamas is the only Western Hemisphere country not in the WTO, and therefore has never benefitted from a WTO trade policy review. The current government launched accession negotiations with the WTO in April 2019, initially announcing the goal of full membership later the same year. However, the government later described the 2019 target as purely aspirational, confirming it was unlikely accession would take place before 2025. A vocal domestic constituency opposes WTO accession on the grounds that membership will hurt domestic producers and service providers.

Neither the OECD nor UNCTAD have conducted investment policy reviews. The Bahamas achieved the G-20 standard on transparency and cooperation on tax matters, a standard initially advanced by the OECD.

Business Facilitation

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Index, starting a business in The Bahamas takes 12 days, requires seven procedures, and costs the same for both men and women. In 2017, the Bahamian government streamlined this process and launched an e-business portal, which allowed companies to apply for or renew their business licenses online ( http://inlandrevenue.finance.gov.bs/business-licence/copy-applying-b-l/ ).

In 2020, as part of the business license application process, the government expanded provisional licenses for many small, domestic businesses so the majority would be able to start operations while awaiting formal approval. The government also removed the fee for starting a new business and renewed business licenses in under 48 hours. Foreign companies and most larger businesses are not eligible for provisional licenses, expedited renewals, or new business license fee exemptions.

All companies with an annual turnover of $100,000 or more are required to register with the government to receive a Tax Identification Number and a Value Added Tax Certificate. The lengthy registration processes are generally viewed as an impediment to the ease of doing business.

Outward Investment

The Bahamian government neither promotes nor prohibits its citizens from investing internationally, however, all outward direct investments by residents require the prior approval of the Exchange Control Department of the Central Bank of The Bahamas ( https://www.centralbankbahamas.com/exchange-control-notes-and-guidelines ). Applications are considered in light of the probable impact the investments may have on The Bahamas’ balance of payments, specifically business activities that promote the receipt of foreign currency.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The Bahamas has no bilateral investment agreements but has signed tax information exchange agreements with 34 countries, including the United States in 2002. The agreement designates The Bahamas as a qualified jurisdiction and allows U.S. companies to qualify for tax credits for conventions and related corporate expenses.

Tax information exchange agreements to date include: Argentina (2009), Aruba (2011), Australia (2010), Belgium (2009), Canada (2010), China (2009), Czech Republic (2014), Denmark (2010), Faroe Islands (2010), Finland (2010), France (2009), Georgia (2016), Germany (2010), Greenland (2010), Guernsey (2011), Iceland (2010), India (2011), Indonesia (2015), Ireland (2015), Japan (2011), Malta (2012), Mexico (2010), Monaco (2009), Netherlands (2009), Norway (2010), Poland (2013), Republic of Korea (2011), San Marino (2009), South Africa (2011), Spain (2010), Sweden (2010), United Kingdom (2009), and the United States of America (2002).

The Bahamas was the first in the Caribbean region to sign the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Agreement (FATCA) with the United States. Since September 2015, The Bahamas has implemented a non-reciprocal, inter-governmental agreement (Model 1B) to satisfy the obligations of the agreement. Additionally, in January 2017, the government implemented the OECD-developed Common Reporting Standard (CRS) through the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Act and has activated exchange relationships with 63 partners ( www.taxreporting.finance.gov.bs/ ).

The Bahamas is a signatory to the 2008 Economic Partnership Agreement between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the European Union, and the 2019 Economic Partnership Agreement between CARIFORUM and the United Kingdom. Both agreements provide for the asymmetrical liberalization of trade in goods and services between CARIFORUM and the other signatories and include specific commitments on investments and trade in services. The Bahamas has not yet ratified either trade agreement, but provisionally applies both.

The Bahamas remains a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) but does not participate in the customs union. The Bahamas does not have a free trade agreement with the United States but, as a member of CARICOM, is signatory to the US-CARICOM Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (2013).

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Bahamas’ legal and regulatory systems are transparent and generally consistent with international norms. The Bahamian government is reforming public accounting procedures to conform to international financial reporting standards. In March 2021, the government passed a suite of legislation aimed at improving the country’s fiscal governance by enhancing transparency and accountability. The legislation included the Public Debt Management Bill (2021) that seeks to enshrine proper debt management policies into law and improve transparency concerning central government and SOE debt; the Public Finance Management Bill (2021) that expands budgetary and fiscal reporting requirements for central government and SOEs; the Statistics Bill (2021) that transforms the current Department of Statistics into a quasi-independent National Statistics Institute; and the Public Procurement Bill (2020), that overhauls current arrangements for government contracts to improve transparency and accountability.

Proposed legislation is available at the Government Publications Office and public engagement is encouraged, particularly on controversial legislation. There is no equivalent to the Federal Register, but the government regularly updates its website ( www.bahamas.gov.bs ) to list draft legislation, bills before parliament, and its legislative agenda. Regulatory system reform legislation has not been fully implemented. Public consultation on investment proposals is not required by law. The Embassy is unaware of any informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private sector associations that restrict foreign participation in the economy.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) was passed in 2018 to establish broad parameters related to revenue, expenditure, deficits, and public debt. It also calls for an annual Fiscal Strategy Report (FSR) which provides a three-year fiscal forecast that sets targets for the preparation of the government’s annual budgets. The 2020 FSR gave a detailed synopsis of the state of public finances and future plans for revenue, expenditure, debt, and economic growth. The government presents the FSR and makes financial information available during the budget submissions to parliament. The information is also published on the government’s budget website ( www.bahamasbudget.gov.bs ) in simple and non-technical language.

Although efforts have been made to fulfill FRA reporting obligations, The Bahamas’ supreme audit institution, the Office of the Auditor General, has not published a timely audit report of the government’s budget for several years. The last publicly available audit covers fiscal year 2016/2017. Acknowledging the need to meet international standards, the Office of the Auditor General is liaising with the U.S. Global Accountability Office to identify ways to fulfill its reporting obligations.

The government has taken on increasing levels of debt during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide social safety nets while stimulating the economy. Some observers consider the debt levels unsustainable and have even speculated about the possibility of default. The Central Bank of The Bahamas denies this speculation and provides quarterly updates on debt obligations on its website ( www.centralbankbahamas.com ).

International Regulatory Considerations

The Bahamas is not a member of the WTO, so does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of draft technical regulations. As part of WTO accession negotiations launched in 2018, The Bahamas announced it is reviewing investment policies with the aim of developing comprehensive, WTO-compliant investment legislation. The Bahamas is not a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures, nor is it a member of a regional economic bloc.

The Bahamas has enacted basic laws governing standards. The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ), launched in 2016, governs standards for goods and services, particularly metrology (weights and balances). BBSQ also cooperates with other ministries on quality standards, such as sanitary and phytosanitary standards with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources and the Bahamas Health and Food Safety Agency (BAHFSA). BBSQ serves as the country’s focal point on trade barrier issues and is supported by the EU and the Caribbean Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) in the development of national standards. Trade barriers are not a hindrance to trade with the United States and U.S. products are widely accepted.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Bahamian legal system is based on English common law and foreign nationals are afforded full rights in Bahamian legal proceedings. Contracts are legally enforced through the courts, however, there are instances where local and foreign investors have civil disputes tied up in the court system for many years. Investors have been defrauded of sums ranging from several hundred thousand to several million dollars, but the court system has lacked the capacity to recover their investments. Throughout 2020, a U.S. investor and a government utility company were engaged in a civil dispute concerning the termination of a contract, non-payment for services provided, and ownership of equipment and materials. This case is ongoing.

The judiciary is independent and allegations of government interference in the judicial process are rare. With the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Governor General appoints the highest-ranking officials in the judicial system, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the President of the Court of Appeals. The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and uses the Privy Council Judicial Committee in London as the final court of appeal and also contributes financially to the operations of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Bahamas continues to advance efforts to develop its reputation as a center for international arbitration by drafting legislation to govern domestic arbitration and incorporate key provisions of the Model Law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). The legislation has not yet been passed.

In 2020, the government announced it continued to leverage alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a method of resolving disputes without resorting to the court system, including by establishing an ADR unit in mid-August 2020 and developing a two-year strategic plan to promote this method for settling commercial and other types of disputes.

Judgments by British courts and select Commonwealth countries can be registered and enforced in The Bahamas under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act. Court judgments from other countries, including those of the United States, must be litigated in local courts and are subject to Bahamian legal requirements. The current government is taking steps to increase judicial transparency and efficiency. Their goal is to modernize the justice system by digitizing court records, streamlining court administration, constructing a new Supreme Court complex, and drafting new rules and legislation to govern court procedures. Progress has been mixed.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

While some public pronouncements have been made on FDI policies, no major laws, regulations, or judicial decisions have been passed since the 2020 Investment Climate Statement. The government has drafted a Foreign Investment Bill purported to codify the existing National Investment Policy, align with international best practices, and bring additional transparency, accountability, and predictability to the country’s foreign investment process. The Embassy is not aware of efforts to advance this Bill in 2020.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) regulates the telecommunications and energy sectors and imposes antitrust restrictions in these sectors. However, there is no legislation governing competition or anti-trust. A Competition (Antitrust) Bill has been drafted in line with The Bahamas’ CARIFORUM-EU obligations and WTO accession requirements, and initial public consultations were held in August 2018. The Embassy is not aware of any efforts to advance this Bill in 2020.

URCA continues to build technical capacity with the support of the U.S. Government.

Expropriation and Compensation

Property rights are protected under Article 27 of the Bahamian constitution, which prohibits the deprivation of property without prompt and adequate compensation. There have been compulsory acquisitions of property for public use, but in all instances, there was satisfactory compensation at fair market value.

The Emergency Power (COVID-19) Regulations, passed in March 2020 to stem COVID-19 infections, grant the government authorization to requisition any building, ship, aircraft, or article if it is reasonably required for any statutory purpose for the duration of the emergency. At the conclusion of the requisition, the government is to make prompt and adequate compensation to the owner. The Regulations are expected to expire upon cancelation of the state of emergency. The Embassy is not aware of any instance in 2020 where the government invoked this law.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The Bahamas is a member of both the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (commonly known as the New York Convention). Disputes between companies are generally handled in local courts, but foreign investors can refer cases to ICSID and in at least one instance, recourse was sought in a U.S. court in a dispute involving a $4 billion resort development. The Bahamas’ Arbitration Act of 2009 enacted the New York Convention and provides a legal framework.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Order 66 of the Rules of the Bahamian Supreme Court provides rules for arbitration proceedings. The 1958 United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards entered into force for The Bahamas on March 20, 2007. This convention provides for the enforcement of agreements for commercial disputes. Under the convention, courts of a contracting state can enforce such an agreement by referring the parties to arbitration. There are no restrictions on foreign investors negotiating arbitration provisions in private agreements.

The Bahamas is a signatory to Economic Partnership Agreements between CARIFORUM and the European Union (2008) and CARIFORUM and the United Kingdom (2019). Both agreements include dispute settlement provisions and procedures. The Bahamas has not yet ratified either of the trade agreements, but provisionally applies both.

Investment disputes in The Bahamas that directly involve the Bahamian government are rare and there is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Bahamas is a member of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which insures investors against current transfer restrictions, expropriation, war and civil disturbances, and breach of contract by member countries. Local courts enforce and recognize foreign arbitral awards and foreign investors are provided national treatment. The Embassy is not aware of any cases involving state owned enterprises that resulted in litigation.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Company liquidations, voluntary or involuntary, proceed according to the Companies Act. Liquidations are routinely published in newspapers in accordance with the legislation. Creditors of bankrupt debtors and liquidated companies participate in the distribution of the bankrupt debtor’s or liquidated company’s assets according to statute. U.S. investors should be aware that there is no equivalent to Chapter 11 bankruptcy law provisions to protect assets located in The Bahamas.

The Bahamas ranked 152 out of 190 countries with regards to getting credit in the 2020 Ease of Doing Business report, indicating relatively weak credit reporting systems and the ineffectiveness of collateral and bankruptcy laws in facilitating lending. Recognizing the need for credit reforms, the Credit Reporting Act was passed in February 2018, and the Central Bank confirmed that Italian-based CRIF S.P.A. would launch The Bahamas’ first credit bureau in 2021. Bahamian commercial banks and other lenders will be required to share their clients’ credit history with CRIF and allowed to access credit reports.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government encourages the free flow of capital markets, and the Central Bank supports this flow through its regulatory functions. The Bahamas is an Article VIII member of the IMF and has agreed not to place restrictions on currency transactions, such as payments for imports. The Bahamas Securities Commission regulates the activities of investment funds, securities, and capital markets ( www.scb.gov.bs ). The fledgling local stock market, established in 1999, excludes foreign investors but is effectively regulated by the Securities Commission.

There are no legal limitations on foreigners’ access to the domestic credit market, and commercial banks make credit available at market rates. The government encourages Bahamian-foreign joint ventures, which are eligible for financing through both commercial banks and the Bahamas Development Bank ( http://www.bahamasdevelopmentbank.com/ ).

Customarily, the government does not prohibit its citizens from investing internationally. However, all outward direct investments by residents, including foreign portfolio investments, require the prior approval of the Exchange Control Department of the Central Bank of The Bahamas ( www.centralbankbahamas.com/exchange – controls). Applications are assessed by their probable impact on The Bahamas’ balance of payments, specifically business activities that promote the receipt of foreign currency.

In an effort to maintain adequate foreign reserves during the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, the Central Bank suspended purchases of foreign currency on May 4, 2020 for specific transactions that could drain reserves and jeopardize the country’s ability to maintain a fixed, one-to-one exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank also suspended Bahamian investments in U.S.-dollar denominated investment funds created by local brokers seeking higher returns in overseas markets. The Central Bank warned it was prepared to act swiftly in imposing even harsher restrictions, if necessary, to maintain the country’s fixed exchange rate and to conserve foreign currency reserves. The suspension remained in place throughout 2020 and had not been lifted as of spring 2021.

Money and Banking System

The financial sector of The Bahamas is highly developed and consists of savings banks, trust companies, offshore banks, insurance companies, a development bank, a publicly controlled pension fund, a housing corporation, a public savings bank, private pension funds, cooperative societies, credit unions, commercial banks, and the state-owned Bank of The Bahamas. These institutions provide a wide array of services via several types of financial intermediaries. The financial sector is regulated by The Central Bank of The Bahamas, the Securities Commission, Insurance Commission, the Inspector of Financial and Corporate Service Providers, and the Compliance Commission.

According to the Central Bank’s Quarterly Economic Review of December 2020, the contraction in domestic credit outpaced the reduction in the deposit base during the fourth quarter of 2020. Consequently, both bank liquidity and external reserves expanded, bolstered by foreign currency inflows from the government’s external borrowings. However, banks’ credit indicators deteriorated during the fourth quarter due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, data from the third quarter revealed a reduction in banks’ overall profitability, reflecting higher levels of provisioning for bad debt.

In the external sector, the estimated current account balance went from a surplus in 2019 to a deficit during the final quarter of 2020. The services account also moved from surplus to deficit, as travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant reduction in travel receipts. In contrast, the surplus on the capital and financial account increased considerably, owing primarily to an expansion in debt-financed government spending.

In the domestic banking sector, four of the eight commercial banks are subsidiaries of Canadian banks, three are locally owned, and one is a branch of a U.S.-based institution. Continued reorganization by the Canadian banks has severely limited banking services on some of the less populated islands.

The Central Bank’s strategic goals include responding to the loss of brick-and-mortar banks by implementing digital banking across the country. To this end, the Central Bank introduced the “Sand Dollar” in December 2019, the first central bank-backed digital currency in the world. The introduction of the new currency aims to provide individuals with efficient and non-discriminatory access to financial services. Since its launch, domestic financial and political elites have welcomed the financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked residents. To date, nine firms (including clearing banks, money transfer services, credit unions and payment service providers) have successfully completed the cybersecurity assessment and been authorized to distribute Sand Dollars within their proprietary mobile wallets.

Although Sand Dollar accounts and transactions are theoretically subject to the same stringent anti-money laundering and Know Your Customer (KYC) safeguards as traditional commercial banks, the Central Bank’s capacity to enforce these safeguards, as well as account audit capabilities, may be limited. Additional information on the Sand Dollar can be accessed via www.sanddollar.bs/ .

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

The Bahamas maintains a fixed exchange rate policy, which pegs the Bahamian dollar one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. The legal basis for the policy is the Exchange Control Act of 1974 and Exchange Control Regulations. The controls ensure adequate foreign exchange flows are always available to support the fixed parity of the Bahamian dollar against the U.S. dollar. The peg removes issues of rate conversions and allows for unified pricing of goods and services for tourists and residents. To maintain this structure, individuals and corporations resident in The Bahamas are subject to restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, including currency purchases, payments, and investments. Similarly, Bahamians cannot make payments or investments in foreign currencies without Central Bank approval.

Exchange controls are not an impediment to foreign investment in the country. The government requires all non-resident investors in The Bahamas to register with the Central Bank, and the government allows non-resident investors who finance their projects substantially from foreign currency transferred into The Bahamas to convert and repatriate profits and capital gains freely. They do this with minimal bureaucratic formalities and without limitations on the inflows or outflows of funds.

In the administration of exchange controls, the Central Bank does not withhold or delay approval for legitimate foreign exchange purchases for currency transactions and, in the interest of facilitating international trade, it delegates this authority to major commercial banks and selected trust companies. International and local commercial banks, which are registered by the Central Bank as ‘Authorized Dealers,’ may administer and conduct foreign currency transactions with residents of The Bahamas. Similarly, private banks and trust companies which are designated as ‘Authorized Agents’ are permitted to act as depositories for foreign securities of residents and to conduct securities transactions for non-resident companies under their management.

The Central Bank directly approves foreign exchange transactions that fall outside of the delegated authority, including loans, dividends, issues and transfer of shares, travel facilities, and investment currency. The government has continued gradual liberalization of exchange controls over the years with the most recent measure implemented in April 2016. The most recent measures delegated increased authority to commercial banks for exchange control and seek to regularize nationals holding accounts in the United States by allowing nationals to open U.S. dollar denominated accounts within the jurisdiction.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions on investment remittances. Foreign investors who receive a Central Bank designation as a non-resident may open foreign currency-denominated bank accounts and repatriate those funds freely. In addition, with Central Bank approval, a foreign investor may open an account denominated in Bahamian currency to pay local expenses. As mentioned, increased authority has been delegated to commercial banks and money transfer businesses.

The Bahamas is one of 25 member countries that make up the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), an organization dedicated to address the problem of money laundering. The organization’s most recent peer review evaluation and follow-up reports can be found at ( https://www.cfatf-gafic.org/index.php/member-countries/the-bahamas ).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Bahamian government passed omnibus legislation for the effective management of the oil and gas sector in 2017, which included the creation of a sovereign wealth fund, but has not yet promulgated supporting regulations. Discussions of a possible sovereign wealth fund were reignited when the Bahamas Petroleum Company, an Isle of Man-registered company, began exploratory oil drilling in Bahamian waters. The company confirmed in February 2021 that its exploratory drilling did not produce commercially viable quantities of oil.

The government nevertheless announced plans in January 2021 to accelerate the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund and an accompanying National Infrastructure Fund. The government stressed the funds would derive income from royalty payments from all the country’s natural resources (such as salt, sand, rock and aragonite exports), not just potential earnings from oil exploration. The government suggested both funds would mobilize public assets and private capital to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments across the country. The government committed to embrace international best practices designed to address issues of transparency, accountability and the governance structure of such funds.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2020 N/A 2019 13,579 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/bahamas 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A 2019 17,609 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm 
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A 2019 1,100 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 N/A 2019 197% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/topic/investment/
world-investment-report

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

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. In 2021, the government announced plans to focus on encouraging foreign direct investment in renewable energy, manufacturing, technology, and biogenetic engineering.

Barbados encourages investment in the following key sectors: international financial services, information technology, and ship registration, as well as developing areas like financial technology, creative industries, agricultural processing, medical schools, medical tourism, and renewable energy. In the international financial services sector, the government maintains regulatory oversight via the Central Bank of Barbados 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 assist with the expansion and sustainability of the initial investment. It also serves as the primary liaison for existing investors. In April 2020, the government established a Jobs and Investment Council charged with supporting economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recovery. In March 2021, the government announced plans to establish a Barbados Free Zone to help attract foreign direct investment.

Investors interested in doing business in Barbados must register in person with the country’s Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office. While this is a requirement for foreign and domestic investors, the continuing barriers to international travel posed by COVID-19 currently make it more difficult for foreign investors without established local partners and legal representation to comply with this requirement. The government of Barbados has announced plans to fully digitize the registration process before the end of 2021.

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. Invest Barbados offers guidance and direction to new and established investors seeking to pursue investment opportunities in Barbados. The process is transparent and considers 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 . Invest Barbados’ iGuide website is an online guide which provides local and foreign investors with up-to-date information required to make certain investment decisions, including steps for 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, who are usually attorneys. Information is available at www.caipo.gov.bb .

Barbados ranks 102nd out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business, which takes seven procedures and approximately 16 days on average to complete, 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 CAIPO, the Barbados Revenue Authority, the Customs and Excise Department, and any relevant sector-specific licensing agencies.

The government of Barbados continues to facilitate programs and partnerships to assist entrepreneurs who are women and/or 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 Caribbean region. Local companies in Barbados are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities 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 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, Economic Affairs and Investment 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. Responsibility for Senate appointments is expected to shift in the second half of 2021 when Barbados intends to remove the UK’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state and becomes a republic.

Foreign investment into Barbados is governed by a series of laws and 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 – Central Bank of Barbados (CBB)
  • Insurance and non-banking financial services – Financial Services Commission (FSC)
  • International business – International Business Unit, Ministry of International Business and Industry
  • Business incorporation and intellectual property – CAIPO

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment 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 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 at http://www.barbadosparliament.com/  where it posts legislation prior to parliamentary debate and live streams House sittings. The government budget is also available on this website.

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 are published in the Official Gazette after passage in parliament. The Official Gazette is available at https://gisbarbados.gov.bb/the-official-gazette/ .

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent. Publicly listed companies publish annual financial statements and changes in portfolio shareholdings, including share value. 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 Barbados financial service providers. Failure to adhere to these laws and regulations may result in the 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 Sharing.

The Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) oversees a laboratory complex housing metrology, textile, engineering, and chemistry/microbiology laboratories. The primary functions of the BSNI 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 February, BSNI launched a project intended to enhance metrology capacity in concert with a draft bill that would upgrade the organization’s governance structure and laboratory systems to bring them in line with international testing and certification standards. As a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement to Technical Barriers to Trade, Barbados, through the BSNI, 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. The government also increased issuance fees for certificates of origin, making 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 Canadian 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. The High Court hears criminal and civil (commercial) matters and makes determinations based on 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 Chaguaramas (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, shipping 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 for 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 Antitrust 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 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 sector.

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 resolutions 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. The U.S. Embassy does not know of recent cases of investment disputes in Barbados involving U.S. or other 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 for the remediation of civil matters.

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 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.

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. The CBB independently raises or lowers 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 of at least 500,000 USD (1 million Barbados dollars) 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 100,000 USD (200,000 Barbados dollars). 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 has computerized clearance and settlement of share certificates through the Barbados Central Securities Depository Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the BSE. Under the Property Transfer Tax Act, the FSC can accommodate investors requiring a traditional certificate for a small fee. The FSC 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 5,000 USD (10,000 Barbados dollars) 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. 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 UK 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 (CBB) 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, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February 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 has no immediate plans to launch DCash in Barbados, and will focus first on four of Barbados’ Eastern Caribbean neighbors. Bitt also offers a digital access exchange, remittance channel, and merchant-processing gateway available via mMoney, a mobile application.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S., Canadian, and European banks in recent years due to concerns that the region is high-risk.

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 U.S. 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 10,000 USD (20,000 Barbados dollars) per year for personal travel and up to a maximum of 25,000 USD (50,000 Barbados dollars) 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 Barbados. 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 governmental assets, including on- and offshore real property, revenues from oil and gas products, and non-tangible assets such as trademarks, patents, and intellectual property.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 5,200 2019 5,209 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 45,400 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 9,100 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 4.1 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html
* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) http://www.centralbank.org.bb/ 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Belize

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Belize’s government encourages FDI to relieve fiscal pressure and diversify the economy.  While the government is interested in attracting FDI, certain bureaucratic and regulatory requirements impede investment and growth.

There are no laws that explicitly discriminate against foreign investors.  In practice, however, investors complain that lack of transparency, land insecurity, bureaucracy, delays, and corruption are factors that make it difficult to do business in Belize. In 2020, businesses increasingly complained that foreign exchange shortages constrained both local and foreign owned operations as the Central Bank of Belize tighten measures to obtain approval for foreign exchange. U.S. firms have also identified challenges in participating and competing in areas related to the bidding, procurement and dispute settlement processes, particular to SOEs.

The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE; www.belizeinvest.org.bz ) is the investment and export promotion agency.  It promotes FDI through various incentive packages and identified priority sectors for investment such as agriculture, agro-processing, fisheries and aquaculture, logistics and light manufacturing, food processing and packaging, tourism and tourism-related industries, business process outsourcing (BPOs), and sustainable energy.  Export-orientated businesses operating in less developed areas also receive preferential treatment.

The Economic Development Council, https://edc.gov.bz , is a public-private sector advisor body established to advance public sector reforms, to promote private sector development and to inform policies for growth and development.  The Cabinet Sub–Committee on Investment is composed of ministers whose portfolios are directly involved in considering and approving investment proposals.  Additionally, there is an Office of the Ombudsman who addresses issues of official wrongdoing.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Belize acknowledges the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activities.  Foreign and domestic entities must first register their business before engaging in business. They must also register for the appropriate taxes, including business tax and general sales tax, as well as obtain a social security number and trade license.

Generally, Belize has no restrictions on foreign ownership and control of companies; however, foreign investments must be registered with the Central Bank of Belize and adhere to the Exchange Control Act and related regulations.  To register a business name with the government, foreigners must apply with a Belizean partner or someone with a permanent residence. Additionally, persons seeking to open a bank account must also comply with Central Bank regulations. These may differ based on the applicant’s residency status and whether the individual is seeking to establish a local or foreign currency account.  Note: many Belizeans perceive foreigners to receive favorable treatment from the government over access to capital during the start-up process.

Foreign investments must be registered and obtain an “Approved Status” from the Central Bank to facilitate inflows and outflows of foreign currency.  Investments with “Approved Status” are generally granted permission to repatriate funds gained from profits, dividends, loan payments and interest.  Additionally, the Exchange Control Regulation Act was amended in 2020 to relax the requirement for non-residents to obtain prior permission from the Central Bank to conduct transaction in securities and real estate. The amendment now provides for prior written notice to the Central Bank with full particulars of the transaction.

Some investment incentives show preference to Belizean-owned companies.  For example, to qualify for a tour operator license, a business must be majority-owned by Belizeans or permanent residents of Belize ( http://www.belizetourismboard.org ).  This qualification is negotiable particularly where a tour operation would expand into a new sector of the market and does not result in competition with local operators.  The government does not impose any intellectual property transfer requirements.

The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Investment investigates investment projects which do not fall within Belize’s incentive regime or which may require special considerations.  For example, an investment may require legislative changes, a customized memorandum of understanding or agreement from the government, or a public–private partnership.  The government assesses proposals based on size, scope, and the incentives requested.  In addition, proposals are assessed on a five-point system that analyses: 1) socio-economic acceptability of the project; 2) revenues to the government; 3) employment; 4) foreign exchange earnings; and 5) environmental considerations.  There is no statutory timeframe for considering projects as the process largely depends on the nature and complexity of the project.

Foreign investors undertaking large capital investments are advised to adhere to environmental laws and regulations.  Government requires project developers to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), should a project meet certain parameters such as land area, location, or industry criteria.  When purchasing land or planning to develop in or near an ecologically sensitive zone, government recommends that the EIA fully address any measures by the investor to mitigate environmental risks.  Developers must obtain environmental clearance prior to the start of site development.  The Department of Environment website, http://www.doe.gov.bz  has more information on the Environmental Protection Act and other regulations, applications and guidelines.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, there has been no investment policy review of Belize by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Belize concluded its third Trade Policy Review in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2017.

Business Facilitation

BELTRAIDE ( http://www.belizeinvest.org.bz  ), a statutory body of the Government of Belize, operates as the country’s investment and export promotion agency.  Its investment facilitation services are open to all investors – foreign and domestic.  While there are support measures to advance greater inclusion of women and minorities in entrepreneurial initiatives and training, the business facilitation measures do not generally distinguish by gender or economic status.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government launched its National Economic Recovery Strategy, as well as, various fiscal and economic stimulus packages. In April 2020, BELTRAIDE concluded an online National Rapid Private Sector Economic Impact Assessment Survey to determine some of the challenges MSMEs faced as a result of the pandemic. Government thereafter launched its MSME Support Program (MSP) in August 2020 to offer an estimated US $7 million in financial relief through small grants, loans and wage subsidies to enterprises affected by the pandemic.

The Belize Companies and Corporate Affairs Registry (tel: +501 822 0421; email: info@belizecompaniesregistry.gov.bz ; website: https://belizecompaniesregistry.gov.bz  ) is responsible for the registration process of all local businesses and companies.  On line services are available by downloading requisite forms off the Registry’s website, making payments to a local bank and emailing proof of payments. Belize does not operate a single-window registration process.

Businesses must register with the tax department to pay business and general sales tax.  They must also register with their local city council or town board to obtain a trade license to operate a business.  An employer should also register employees for social security.  The 2020 Doing Business report ( http://www.doingbusiness.org  ) estimates it takes on average 48 days to start a company in Belize.  The same report ranks Belize at 135 of 190 economies, losing ten spots compared to 2019.

Outward Investment

Belize does not promote or incentivize outward investments.  Its government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  However, the Central Bank places currency controls on investment abroad, with Central Bank approval required prior to foreign currency outflows.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

There are no reports that Government policies, processes and laws significantly distort or discriminate against foreign investors.  Nonetheless, some investors have complained of systematic shortfalls including that the regime for incentives did not always meet their needs, that land titles are not always reliable and secure, and that bureaucratic delays or corruption can hinder doing business in Belize. U.S. firms have also identified challenges in participating and competing in areas related to the bidding, procurement and dispute settlement processes, particular to SOEs.

There are no NGOs or private sector associations that manage regulatory processes.  NGOs and private sector associations do lobby on behalf of their members but have no statutory authority.

Regulatory authority exists both at the local and national levels with national laws and regulations being most relevant to foreign businesses.  The cabinet dictates government policies that are enacted by the legislature and implemented by the various government ministries.  There are also quasi-governmental organizations mandated by law to manage specific regulatory processes on behalf of the Government of Belize, e.g. the Belize Tourism Board, BELTRAIDE, and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority.  Regulations exist at the local level, primarily relating to property taxes and registering for trade licenses to operate businesses in the municipality.

Some supra-national organizations and regulatory structures exist.  For example, some elements of international trade affecting U.S. businesses are affected by CARICOM treaties, as in the case of the export of sugar within CARICOM.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory systems are consistent with international norms.  Publicly owned companies generally receive audits annually, and the reports are in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards and International Standards on Auditing.

Draft bills or regulations are generally made available for public comment through a public consultation process.  Once introduced in the House of Representatives, draft bills are sent to Standing Committees, which then meet and invite the public and interested persons to review, recommend changes, or object to draft laws prior to further debate.  The mechanism for drafting bills, enacting regulations and legislation generally apply across the board and include investment laws and regulations.  Public comments on draft legislation are not generally posted online nor made publicly available.  In a few instances, laws are passed quickly without meaningful publication, public review or public debate.

Government does not generally disclose the basis on which it reviews regulations.  Some government agencies make scientific studies publicly available for example studies related to environmental impact assessments.

Some government ministries also make available policies, laws, and regulations pertinent to their portfolio available on their respective ministry websites or Facebook pages.  Printed copies of the Belize Government Gazette contain proposed as well as enacted laws and regulations and are publicly available for a subscription fee.  Additionally, enacted laws are published free of cost on the website of the National Assembly or Parliament but there is a delay of a few weeks in updating the website.

Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable with regulatory decisions subject to judicial review.  The Office of the Ombudsman also may investigate allegations of official wrongdoing but has no legal authority to bring judicial charges.  Reports of wrongdoing are submitted to the affected Ministry. Additionally, the Annual Report of the Ombudsman is tabled before the National Assembly and is a publicly available document.

In March 2021, the Government amended the Central Bank Act authorizing the Central Bank to provide emergency programs and facilities to a wide array of institutions, including banks, financial institutions, statutory corporations and other similar bodies. These emergency programs and facilities will allow for wider array of financial support to businesses, including the “purchase of financial assets including debt, equity and securities, credit facilities or discounting of notes, drafts or bills of exchange.” Through this measure the Government hopes to make available US $25 million in liquidity to invest in the productive sector, particularly in tourism businesses. Additionally, this amendment increased the limit of direct advances that the Central Bank can make to Central Government from 8.5 percent to 12 percent of the previous year’s recurrent revenues.

Further legislative reforms introduced in February 2021 purport to increase transparency with regard to Government finances but are yet to be finalized in the National Assembly. The first was a motion to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to include three representatives from the social partners. This change will allow for a combined majority to the opposition and social partners representatives. The Committee is chaired by a member of the Opposition. The amendment provides a significant shift to public transparency as the PAC was previously a defunct committee of the legislature where the Government majority ruled. The PAC holds an important function in examining, considering and reporting on Government’s budget and public expenditures as well as reports of the Auditor General. The second motion was an amendment to the Finance and Audit Reform Act that will establish a contingency fund to be used for urgent and unforeseen expenditures for which there are no other provisions. And the third motion will amend the Contractor General Act and establish a Public Contracts Commission to monitor the award and implementation of public contracts and to investigate fraud, corruption, mismanagement, waste or abuse in the award of public contracts.

Information on public finance, both the government’s budget and its debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) are widely accessible to the general public, with most documents available online.  The budget documents do not include information on contingent or state owned enterprise debt unless Government guarantees or is paying these debts. Nonetheless, the audited annual reports of all major State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were publicly available on their websites.  The Auditor General’s report on government spending, however, is often years delayed.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a full member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Belize’s foreign, economic and trade policies vis-a-vis non-members are coordinated regionally.  The country’s import tariffs are largely defined by CARICOM’s Common External Tariff.

Besides CARICOM, Belize is a member of the Central American Integration System (SICA) at a political level but is not a part of the Secretariat of Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) that supports economic integration with Central America.  Belize is also a member of the WTO and adheres to the organization’s agreements and reporting system.

The Belize Bureau of Standards (BBS) is the national standards body responsible for preparing, promoting and implementing standards for goods, services, and processes.  The BBS operates in accordance with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality.  The BBS is also a member of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and Codex Alimentarius.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Belize Constitution is the supreme law and is founded on the principle of separation of powers with independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative branches of government.  As a former British colony, Belize follows the English Common Law legal system, which is based on established case law and precedent.

Belize has a written Contract Act, supported by precedents from the national courts as well as from the wider English-speaking and Commonwealth case law.  Contracts are enforced through the courts.  There are specialized courts that deal with family related matters including divorce and child custody, but no specialized courts to deal with commercial disputes or cases.

The judicial system remains independent of the executive branch for the most part.  Case law exists where the judiciary has ruled against the government, and its judgements are respected and authoritative.  The highest appellate court exists outside of Belize at the Caribbean Court of Justice, providing a level of independence for the judiciary.  Notwithstanding, the current judicial system has some systemic problems – frequent adjournments, delays, and a backlog of cases caused by only a small number of judges and justices.  General information relating to Belize’s judicial and legal system, including links to Belize’s Constitution, Laws and judicial decisions are available at the Judiciary of Belize website www.belizejudiciary.org .

Businesses and citizens may appeal regulations and enforcement actions.  Regulatory decisions are also subject to judicial review.  Judgments by the Belize Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal are available at http://www.belizejudiciary.org .

As a Member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Belize is also a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice ( www.ccj.org ) based in Trinidad and Tobago. This Court has two jurisdictions in relation to CARICOM Members States. In its appellate jurisdiction, the CCJ is the final court of appeal for both civil and criminal matters emanating from CARICOM Member States. In its original jurisdiction, this Court is responsible for interpreting and applying the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the treaty establishing the Caribbean Community and CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The country has an English Common Law legal system supplemented by local legislation and regulations.  The legal system does not generally discriminate against foreign investment and there are no restrictions to foreign ownership.  The Exchange Control Act and its subsidiary laws and regulations, however, provide the legal framework that applies to foreign ownership and control. Other laws stipulate that foreign investment can qualify for incentives; citizens have the right to private property; contracts are legally binding and enforceable, and regulations are subject to judicial review among other provisions favorable to foreign investment.

Major laws enacted or amended are generally available in the National Assembly’s website at www.nationalassembly.gov.bz .  For the previous year, these include:

  • International Banking Act
  • Deposit Insurance Act
  • Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Act
  • Electronic Transactions Amendment Act
  • Cybercrime Act

There is no “one-stop-shop” website for investment and the laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements related to investors differ depending on the nature of the investment.  BELTRAIDE provides advisory services for foreign investors relating to procedures for doing business in Belize and incentives available to qualifying investors.  Further information is available at the BELTRAIDE website:  http://www.belizeinvest.org.bz 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Belize does not have any laws governing competition, but there are attempts to limit outside competition in certain industries (such as food and agriculture) by levying high import duties and import licensing requirements.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Government has used the right of eminent domain in several cases to appropriate private property, including land belonging to foreign investors.  There were no new expropriation cases in 2020. However, claimants in previous cases of expropriation assert that the Government failed to adhere to agreements entered into by a previous administration.  Belizean law requires that the government assess and compensate according to fair market value.  Expropriation cases can take several years to settle and there are a few cases where compensation is still pending.  Belize nationalized two companies in public-private partnership: Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telemedia Limited.  These actions were challenged in the courts and resolved in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Belize formally acceded to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention) on March 15, 2021. Even though the Convention was extended to Belize by an act of the United Kingdom when Belize was a colony, Belize did not sign on to the Convention after independence.

The Arbitration Act governs arbitration and expressly incorporates three international conventions into domestic law.  These conventions include the 1923 Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses; the Convention on the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards; and the New York Convention.  A 2013 Caribbean Court of Justice judgment also upheld the Arbitration Act giving effect to the New York Convention in domestic law.

The United Kingdom on behalf of Belize signed the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID convention) in 1965 and the country has not ratified it.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Belize is signatory to various investment agreements which make provisions for the settlement of investor-state disputes.  Belize is also a member of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, as well as a party to two Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA): 1) between CARIFORUM and the EU; and 2) CARIFORUM and the United Kingdom.  These arrangements make provisions for the settlement of investor-state disputes.

Since Belize is not a party to any Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, investment disputes involving U.S. persons are taken either before the courts or before international arbitration panels.

Over the past decade, the Government of Belize has been involved in approximately five to eight investment disputes with one involving a U.S. company.  Most cases were initially entered in arbitration panels, but were eventually appealed either before the U.S. District Court of Columbia or the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).  Most of the judgments went against the Government, which has settled the majority and continues to settle other cases.

Local courts are empowered to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards against the government, but these are generally challenged up to the CCJ.  The Crown Proceedings (Amendment) Act and the Central Bank of Belize (International Immunities) Act were passed in 2017, affecting the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards against the government.  Essentially, the Crown Proceedings Amendment Act provides that should a foreign judgment be entered against the government, but a court in Belize later declares the judgement “unlawful, void or otherwise invalid”, the foreign judgment would be legally set aside.  The Act also provides for hefty penalties of fines and/or imprisonment on a person, individual or legal, seeking to enforce the foreign judgment after being set aside.  The Central Bank (International Immunities) Act restates the immunity of the Central Bank of Belize assets “from legal proceedings in other states.”  This Act similarly provides for penalties of fines and/or imprisonment on a person, individual or legal, which initiates any such proceedings.

There has not been a history of extrajudicial actions against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Belize’s Arbitration Act allows the Supreme Court of Belize to support and supervise dispute settlement between private parties through arbitration.  The Supreme Court also provides for a process of court-connected mediation as an alternative method to dispute settlement between private parties and as a means of reducing costs and duration of litigation.

Local courts are empowered to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral, but these are generally challenged up to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Cases involving State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have gone before domestic courts with rulings both in favor and against the SOE.  Foreign businesses generally consider these rulings fair and impartial.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Bankruptcy Act of Belize provides for bankruptcy filings.  The Act provides for the establishment of receivership, trustees, adjudication and seizures of the property of the bankrupt.  The court may order the arrest of the debtor as well as the seizure of assets and documents in the event the debtor may flee or avoid payment to creditors.  The Act also provides for imprisonment on conviction of certain specified offenses.  The Director of Public Prosecutions may also institute proceedings for offenses related to the bankruptcy proceedings.   The bankruptcy law generally outlines actions a creditor may take to recoup his losses.  Bankruptcy protections are not as comprehensive as U.S. bankruptcy law.

Belize ranked 135 of 190 economies in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report.  The poor ranking was attributed to low depth of credit information, the lack of a credit bureau and of a collateral registry as well as problems related to payment of debts in situations of bankruptcy.  According to this report, a receivership proceeding takes at least two years until the creditor is repaid all or part of the money owed and has a cost of 22.5 percent of the debt.  Additionally, the insolvency procedure does not have a good framework to commence operations, to manage debtor´s assets, and to involve creditors in the reorganization proceedings, among others.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Belize’s financial system is small with little to no foreign portfolio investment transactions.  It does not have a stock exchange and capital market operations are rudimentary.  The government securities market is underdeveloped and the market for corporate bonds is almost non-existent.

Temporary restrictions are currently in place for certain current international transactions that relate to the IMF’s Article VIII obligation not to restrict payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Additionally, credit is made available on market terms with interest rates largely set by local market conditions prevailing within the commercial banks.  The credit instruments accessible to the private sector include loans, overdrafts, lines of credit, credit cards, and bank guarantees.  Foreign investors can access credit on the local market.  Under the International Banking Act, foreign investors/nonresidents may access credit from international banks registered and licensed in Belize. However, permission to access credit from the domestic banks requires Central Bank approval.

The Belize Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a state-owned development bank, offers loan financing services in various sectors.  To qualify for a loan from DFC, an individual must be a Belizean resident or citizen, while a company must be majority 51 percent Belizean owned.  The National Bank of Belize is a state-owned bank that provides concessionary credit primarily to public officers, teachers, and low income Belizeans.

Money and Banking System

A financial inclusion survey undertaken by the Central Bank of Belize in 2019 showed that approximately 65.5 percent of adult Belizeans had access to a financial account.  Belize’s financial system remains underdeveloped with a banking sector that may be characterized as stable but fragile.  The Central Bank of Belize (CBB) ( https://www.centralbank.org.bz ) is responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy focusing on the stability of the exchange rate and economic growth.

The Central Bank of Belize in November 2020 approved the sale of Scotia Bank Belize Limited by the Caribbean International Holdings Limited, the parent company Belize Bank Limited. The approval effectively makes the controversial Lord Ashcroft’s Belize Bank Limited the largest bank in the country. Concerns were initially raised on the possible effects on Belize’ correspondent banking situation and the potential withdraw of foreign exchange from the banking system.

To respond to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Bank in April 2020 reduced the statutory liquid asset and cash reserve requirement by two percent points in an effort to expand liquidity and facilitate credit flow in the economy. In March 2021, the Government amended the Central Bank Act authorizing the Central Bank to provide emergency programs and facilities to a wide array of institutions including banks, financial institutions, statutory corporations and other similar bodies. These emergency programs and facilities will allow for wider array of financial support to businesses including the “purchase of financial assets including debt, equity and securities, credit facilities or discounting of notes, drafts or bills of exchange.” Through this measure the Government hopes to make available US $25 million in liquidity to invest in the productive sector, particularly in tourism businesses.

Additionally, this amendment increased the limit of direct advances that the Central Bank can make to Central Government from 8.5 percent to 12 percent of the previous year’s recurrent revenues.

Other measures which the Central Bank has put in place in the last year, to position the banking sector withstand shocks include several guidance to ease banking customers’ debt service payments like moratoria on interest and principal payments, consolidating and restructuring credit facilities, waiving loan, credit, and penalty fees. The Central Bank also issued guidance whereby forbearance measures to extend to December 2021.

Generally, there are no restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts in Belize.  However, persons seeking to open a bank account must comply with Central Bank regulations. Regulations differ based on residency status and whether the individual is seeking to establish a local bank account or a foreign currency account.   Foreign banks and branches are allowed to operate in the country with all banks subject to Central Bank measures and regulations.  Since 2015, all banks have regained correspondent banking relations.  These relationships are still tenuous, with delays in transactions, and fewer services offered at higher costs.

In the last few years, Belize has enacted a number of reforms to strengthen the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime, including amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act and the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act.  In addition, the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC) is headed by the Financial Intelligence Unit with inter-agency support from key financial and law enforcement authorities.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Belize has a stable currency, with the Belize dollar pegged to the United States Dollar since May 1976 at a fixed exchange rate of BZ $2.00 to the US $1.00.

The Government of Belize has established currency controls, and foreign investors seeking to convert, transfer, or repatriate funds must comply with Central Bank regulations.  Foreign investments must be registered at the Central Bank to facilitate inflows and outflows of foreign currency.  Foreign investors must register their inflow of funds to obtain an “Approved Status” for their investment and generally are approved for repatriation of funds thereafter. Additionally, he Exchange Control Regulation Act was amended in 2020 to relax the requirement for non-residents to obtain prior permission from the Central Bank to conduct transaction in securities and real estate. The amendment now provides for prior written notice to the Central Bank with full particulars of the transaction.

Businesses complained that foreign exchange shortages in 2020 constrained both local and foreign operations as the Central Bank of Belize tighten measures to obtain approval for foreign exchange. As such domestic banks prioritized foreign exchange sales to ensure that payments for essential goods and services are covered.

Remittance Policies

As mentioned above, foreign investors must obtain an “Approved Status” for their investment and register their inflow and outflow of funds with the Central Bank. Additionally, the Exchange Control Regulation Act was amended in 2020 to relax the requirement for non-residents to obtain prior permission from the Central Bank to conduct transaction in securities and real estate. The amendment now provides for prior written notice to the Central Bank with full particulars of the transaction.

Generally, there are no time limitations on remittances.  Where there is a waiting period, it depends on the availability of foreign exchange, but does not generally exceed 60 days. The Central Bank however, placed a temporary suspension on all payments of cash dividends and repatriation of profits effective December 29, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Belize does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $1.2 billion 2019 $1.88 billion www.sib.org.bz  www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $77 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $12 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 5.4% UNCTAD data available athttps://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data:

The IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey does not have Belize data related to Inward and Outward Direct Investment.  Statistics on foreign direct investments in Belize by country of origin is limited, including the total invested by U.S. investors.  The Central Bank of Belize recorded total inflows of FDI at US $98.86 million in 2020 and outflows at US $27.1 million in the same period.  Major sources of FDI include the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.  FDI inflows were concentrated primarily in construction, real estate, hotel and restaurant and financial intermediation.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available

Dominica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Dominica strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on local citizens.

Through the Invest Dominica Authority (IDA), the government instituted a number of investment incentives for businesses considering locating in Dominica.  Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, exemption from value added tax on some capital investments, and withholding tax exemptions on dividends, interest payments, and some external payments and income.  The IDA additionally provides support to approved citizenship by investment (CBI) projects.

In late December 2020, the IDA announced plans to launch a new Investment Promotion Strategy in 2021.  The new strategy will focus on four broad areas: agriculture and agri-business, renewable energy, tourism and knowledge services such as business processing operations.  Other sectors include film, music, and video production, manufacturing, bulk water export and bottled water operations, medical and nursing schools, and English language training services.  The government continuously reviews these sectors and has signaled that it is also willing to consider additional sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in Dominica.  Foreign investment in Dominica is not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors are entitled to receive the same treatment as nationals of Dominica.  Foreign investors are entitled to hold up to 100 percent of their investment.  The only restriction is the requirement to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes.  Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors in order to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which Dominica is a member, has not conducted a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review since 2014.

Business Facilitation

The IDA is Dominica’s main business facilitation unit.  It facilitates foreign direct investment into priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment in Dominica.  The IDA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  It offers an online tool useful for navigating laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  Its website is http://investdominica.com.

All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the IDA to ensure the project is consistent with the national interest and provides economic benefits to the country.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) maintains an e-filing portal for most of its services, including company registration on its website.  However, this only allows for the preliminary processing of applications prior to the investor physically making a payment at the Supreme Court office.  Investors are advised to seek the advice of a local attorney prior to starting the process.  Further information is available at http://www.cipo.gov.dm.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020 ranks Dominica 71st out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business.  It takes five procedures and about 12 days to complete the process.  The general practice is to retain an attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents.  A business must register with CIPO, the Tax Authority, and the Social Services Institute.

Outward Investment

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies in Dominica 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.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Dominica has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  Dominica has bilateral investment treaties with the UK and Germany.  Dominica has bilateral tax treaties with the United States and the UK.  Dominica is also party to the following agreements:

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established CARICOM in 1973 to promote economic integration among its 15 member states.  Investors operating in Dominica have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas established the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital, and labor within CARICOM member states.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full members: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and four associate members: Anguilla, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the British Virgin Islands.  The OECS aims to promote harmonization among member states concerning foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries of the OECS ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, establishing the OECS Economic Union in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, including goods, services, and people, move without hindrance.

Economic Partnership Agreement

The European Community and the CARICOM states signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty in CARIFORUM states, to promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and to foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving their trade capacity and creating an investment-conducive environment.  The EPA promotes trade-related developments in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and protection of personal data.

CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement

The UK and the CARIFORUM states signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2019, committing to trade continuity after Britain’s departure from the European Union.  The CARIFORUM-UK EPA eliminates all tariffs on all goods imported from CARIFORUM states into the UK, while those Caribbean states will continue to gradually cut import tariffs on most of the region’s imports from the UK.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The objective of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) is to promote economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying economies, and expanding exports.  It permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in Dominica into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement

The Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries.  Through CARIBCAN, Canada provides duty-free access to its national market for the majority of its products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Government of Dominica provides a legal framework 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 Finance and the IDA provide oversight of the transparency of the system as it relates to investment.

Rule-making and regulatory authority lies within the unicameral parliament.  The parliament has 21 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies, nine appointed members, one Speaker, and one clerk.

Relevant ministries develop laws which are drafted by the Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs.  FDI is governed principally through the laws that oversee the IDA and CBI.  Laws are available online at http://www.dominica.gov.dm/laws-of-dominica.

Although some draft bills are not subject to public consultation, the government generally solicits input from various stakeholder groups in the formulation of laws.  In some instances, the government convenes a special committee to make recommendations on provisions outlined in the law.  The government uses public awareness campaigns to sensitize the general population on legislative reforms.  Copies of proposed regulations are published in the official gazette just before the bills are taken to parliament.  Although Dominica does not have legislation guaranteeing access to information or freedom of expression, access to information is generally available in practice.  The government maintains a website and an information service on which it posts information such as directories of officials and a summary of laws and press releases.

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 Dominica.

The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner or Ombudsman guards against excesses by government officers in the performance of their duties.  The Ombudsman is responsible for investigating any complaint relating to any decision or act of any government officer or body in any case in which a member of the public claims to be aggrieved or appears to the Ombudsman to be the victim of injustice as a result of the exercise of the administrative function of that officer or body.

Dominica’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits it to implement all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfillment of its various treaty obligations.  For example, the Banking Act, which establishes a single banking space and the harmonization of banking regulations in the Economic Union, is uniformly in force in the eight member territories of the ECCU, although there are some minor differences in implementation from country to country.

The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties or legal sanctions.  The IDA can revoke an issued Investment Certificate if the holder fails to comply with certain stipulations detailed in the Act and its regulations.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, Dominica subscribes to a set of 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, Dominica is obligated to implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under OECS authority, unless specific concessions are sought.

The Dominica Bureau of Standards develops, maintains, and promotes standards for improving industrial development, industrial efficiency, promoting the health and safety of consumers, protecting the environment, and facilitating trade.  It also conducts national training and consultations in international standards practices.  As a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, Dominica, through the Dominica Bureau of Standards, is obligated to harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.

Dominica ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016.  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 trade costs reduction, and enhance participation in the global value chain.  Dominica has already implemented a number of TFA requirements.  A full list is available at https://tfadatabase.org/members/dominica/measure-breakdown.

As a member of CARICOM, Dominica utilizes the Advanced Cargo Information System which is a computer-based system developed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to harmonize and standardize electronic cargo information to improve the capability to track cargo efficiently and to support regional and international trade. The Advance Cargo Information System forms a critical part of the World Customs Organization SAFE Framework of Standards. Dominica has also fully implemented the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Dominica bases its legal system on British common law.  The Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, junior judges, and magistrates administer justice in the country.  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 to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal.  The CCJ has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.  In 2015, Dominica acceded to the CCJ, making the CCJ its final court of appeal.

The United States and Dominica 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

The main laws concerning investment in Dominica are the Invest Dominica Authority Act (2007), the Tourism Act (2005), and the Fiscal Incentives Act.  Regulatory amendments have been made to the Income Tax Act, the Value Added Tax Act, the Title by Registration Act, the Alien Landholding Regulation Act, and the Residential Levy Act. The IDA provides a full list of the relevant legislation on their website.

The IDA reviews all proposals for investment concessions and incentives to ensure the project is consistent with the national interest and provides economic benefits to the country.  The Cabinet makes the final decision on investment proposals.

Under Dominica’s CBI program, qualified foreign investors may obtain citizenship without voting rights.  Applicants can contribute a minimum of $100,000 to the Economic Diversification Fund for a single person or invest in designated real estate with a value of at least $200,000.  Applicants must also provide a full medical certificate, undergo a background check, and provide evidence of the source of funds before proceeding to the final stage of an interview.  The government introduced a Citizen by Investment Certificate in order to minimize the risk of unlawful duplication.  Further information is available at http://cbiu.gov.dm.

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 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.  Dominica does not have domestic legislation to regulate competition.

Expropriation and Compensation

There are no known pending expropriation cases involving American citizens.  In such an event, Dominica would employ a system of eminent domain to pay compensation when property must be acquired in the public interest.  There were no reported tendencies of the government to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies, or landholdings.  There are no laws mandating local ownership in specified sectors.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Dominica is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  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.  The Arbitration Act of 1988 is the main legislation that governs arbitration in Dominica.  It adheres to the New York Arbitration Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors are permitted to use national or international arbitration for contracts entered into with the state.  Dominica does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty or a Free Trade Agreement with an investment chapter within the United States.

The country ranks 95th out of 190 countries in resolving contract disputes in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, twelve spots lower than the previous year.  Dispute resolution in Dominica takes an average of 741 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 1988, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  Dominica does not have a recent history of investment disputes involving a U.S. person or other foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is the domestic arbitration body.  Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.  The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal also provides mediation.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Under the Bankruptcy Act (1990), Dominica has a bankruptcy framework that grants certain rights to debtor and creditor.  The 2020 Doing Business Report ranks Dominica 136th out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Dominica 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 buying and selling of financial products for the eight member territories.  In 2020, the ECSE listed 155 securities, comprising 135 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate debt securities.  Market capitalization stood at $1.8 billion. Dominica is open to portfolio investment.

Dominica has accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Agreement, Sections 2, 3, and 4 and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on making payments and transfers for current international transactions.  Dominica does not normally grant foreign tax credits except in the case of taxes paid in a British Commonwealth country that grants similar relief for Dominica 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 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. Dominica is a signatory to this agreement and the ECCB controls Dominica’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 Dominica.  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.  In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector in Dominica as stable.  Assets of commercial banks totaled $781.8 million (2.1 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of 2019. Dominica is well served by bank and non-financial institutions.  There are minimal alternative financial services.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by the 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.

In 2019, the ECCB launched an 18-month financial technology pilot to launch a Digital Eastern Caribbean dollar (DXCD) with its partner, Barbados-based Bitt Inc.  An accompanying mobile application, DCash was officially launched on March 31, 2021 in four pilot countries.  The DCash pilot phase will run for 12 months.  The pilot program is expected to become operational in Dominica later in the year.  The digital Eastern Caribbean currency will operate alongside physical Eastern Caribbean currency.  Dominica does not have any specific legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Dominica is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB.  The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (denoted as XCD).  As a member of the OECS, Dominica has a fully liberalized foreign exchange system.  The XCD has been pegged to the United States dollar at a rate of 2.7 to $1.00 since 1976.  As a result, the XCD does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in Dominica.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in Dominica have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions.  There are no restrictions on the repatriation of dividends for totally foreign-owned firms.  However, a mixed foreign-domestic company may repatriate profits to the extent of its foreign participation.

As a member of the OECS, there are no exchange controls in Dominica and the invoicing of foreign trade transactions are allowed in any currency.  Importers are not required to make prior deposits in local funds and export proceedings do not have to be surrendered to government authorities or to authorized banks.  There are no controls on transfers of funds.  Dominica is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the Government of Dominica, nor the ECCB, of which Dominica is a member, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 357.6 2019 582.4 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as  percent host GDP N/A N/A 2019 54.1 percent UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World %20Investment %20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

 

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Grenada

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Grenada employs a liberal approach to foreign direct investment (FDI) and actively promotes foreign investment into the country.

The government of Grenada identified five priority sectors for investment:

  • Tourism and hospitality services
  • Education and health services
  • Information and communication technology
  • Agribusiness
  • Energy development

The Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) is the country’s investment promotion agency. It was established in 1985 to stimulate, facilitate, and encourage the creation and development of industry.

The GIDC is a “one-stop shop” offering:

  • Investment and trade information
  • Investment incentives
  • Investment facilitation and aftercare
  • Entrepreneurial/business skills training
  • Small business support services
  • Industrial facilities
  • Policy advice

To promote FDI, the GIDC adopts a targeted approach to promote investment opportunities, provides investor facilitation and entrepreneurial development services, and advocates for a supportive environment for investors to develop and grow businesses, trade, and industries.

Investment retention is a priority in Grenada and is maintained through ongoing dialogue with investors facilitated by the GIDC.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no economic and industrial strategies that discriminate against foreign investors. Non-Grenadian investors may be required to obtain an Alien Landholding License and pay a property transfer tax, which levies a 10 percent fee on the purchase of shares in a Grenadian registered company or real estate. In addition, the sale of such shares or real estate to non-nationals will attract a property transfer tax of 15 percent payable by the seller if the seller is a non-Grenadian. Foreign investors employed in Grenada are required to obtain a work permit, renewable annually. U.S. investors must pay a fee of USD $1,111 or XCD $3,000 for work permits. The renewal fee varies based on the investor’s country of citizenship.

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control, except for enterprises deemed prejudicial to national security, the environment, public health, or national culture, or which contravene the laws of Grenada. Grenada has accepted but not yet implemented regional anti-competition obligations. U.S investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms in Grenada relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Grenada passed its most recent Investment Promotion Act in 2014. The legislation promotes, encourages, and protects investment in Grenada by providing investors with a stable framework of fundamental and enforceable rights. It seeks to guarantee and ensure security and fairness in strict accordance with the rule of law and best international standards and practices. The 2014 Act is also in compliance with WTO regulations, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Agreement between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the EU.

The incentives regime enacted in 2016 grants incentives to ensure that all new tax exemptions are codified, restricts discretionary exemptions, and requires that the beneficiaries of exemptions file appropriate tax returns and comply with tax requirements. It also sets streamlined, simple, and non-discretionary system/process for the granting of incentives. The Customs and Inland Revenue Departments (CIRD) administer exemptions through a clearly defined rule-based system in contrast with past incentive schemes that required each case to be approved at the cabinet level.

Under this regime, the CIRD grants incentives to projects within the priority sectors for investment. They are tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and agribusiness, information technology services, telecommunication providers and business process outsourcing operations, education and training, health and wellness, creative industries, energy, and research and development. Other sectors also include student accommodation, heavy equipment operators, investment projects above particular investment thresholds, and projects within specific geographical locations.

The incentive regime seeks to provide investment incentives on a performance basis (i.e., the more one invests, the more incentives one can receive). Therefore, based on the level of investment, CIRD grants different levels of incentives in a transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory manner.

In the past three years, the government was not subject to third-party investment policy reviews through multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the WTO, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Business Facilitation

An investor must register a business name and identify whether it is a partnership or limited liability company. A registered business can be wholly owned or a joint venture. The official website of the GIDC includes an investor’s guide that details the procedures for starting and operating a business in Grenada. The guide has a business procedure flow chart and gives step-by-step instructions for various tasks from registering a business and owning properties to obtaining permits and licenses. Detailed information on business registration and timelines can be found at: http://grenadaidc.com/investor-centre/investors-guide/starting-up-a-business/#.WKxXdfnQe70 

The GIDC provides business facilitation mechanisms and ensures the equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.

Outward Investment

The government of Grenada does not promote or incentivize outward investment. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, to which Grenada is a party, includes a chapter on service agreements under the European Partnership Agreement (EPA). Under certain circumstances, provisions in these agreements may offer incentives to the potential investor. Grenada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

A. Bilateral Investment Treaties: Bilateral Investment Treaties established between Grenada and several countries are designed to encourage and protect international investments and to ensure that investors receive fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory treatment. Bilateral Investment Treaties exist between Grenada and the United States as well as Grenada and the UK.

Grenada is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973 to promote economic integration and development among its 15 member states. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas later established the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) to provide for the free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor within member states.

Grenada is also a member of CARIFORUM and party to the EPA between the EU and CARICOM member states. This agreement aims to alleviate poverty, foster regional integration, promote economic cooperation, and propel CARIFORUM states’ entry into the world economy by creating an attractive investment climate and ensuring trade viability on the world market.

Grenada is also a member of the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN), an agreement between the Canadian government and the Commonwealth Caribbean nations to promote trade, investment, and industrial cooperation. Treaties with investment provisions also exist through the CARICOM-Costa Rica free trade agreement (FTA), CARICOM-Cuba Cooperation Agreement, CARICOM-Dominican Republic FTA, and CARICOM-Venezuela FTA.

The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), an initiative created by the United States with the Caribbean and Central America, also provides trade and tariff benefits.

Grenada, under the umbrella of CARICOM, is reviewing trade agreements with Cuba and the Dominican Republic to negotiate new market access and opportunities.

In 2018, Grenada signed a bilateral Open Skies Agreement with the United States. It is intended to liberalize the aviation market, remove various restrictions, increase capacity and number of routes, and improve the ease of travel to and from Grenada.

B. Bilateral Taxation Treaties: Grenada passed legislation to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Inter-Governmental Agreement (FATCA) with the United States. FATCA requires that information on U.S. citizens with accounts at local financial and credit institutions holding more than XCD $50,000, approximately USD $18,518 be shared with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The legislation provides for the competent authority to be the Comptroller of Inland Revenue, who communicates directly with the IRS. The Comptroller mandates his/her staff to gather information from financial institutions to be divulged to the IRS. According to the legislation, “failure to comply with such a request is a summary offence punishable by a fine not exceeding [XCD] $100,000.”

The legislation also provides for the protection of privacy, stating that the competent authority must protect confidential account information. Other than FATCA, the United States does not have a tax treaty with Grenada.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Grenada recognizes that investors value transparent rules and regulations dealing with investment.

The Investment Act and the investment promotion regime promote transparency by authorizing investment incentives to key sectors through the GIDC. This helps to streamline processes, standardize treatment of investors, and better define investment rights. It also provides procedural guarantees and reduces the possibility for political influence in business negotiation.

Grenada also seeks to promote investment by consulting with interested parties, simplifying and codifying legislation, using plain language drafting, developing registers of existing and proposed regulation, expanding electronic dissemination of regulatory material, and publishing and reviewing administrative decisions.

Tax, labor, environment, health and safety, and other laws or policies do not distort or impede investment. In theory, bureaucratic procedures, including those for licenses and permits, are sufficiently streamlined and transparent. In practice, local authorities recognize that the implementation of procedures can sometimes be slow and inefficient.

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. Public finances and debt obligations, including explicit and contingent liabilities, are also transparent and in keeping with international requirements.

No new regulatory systems and enforcement reforms have been announced since the last ICS report.

International Regulatory Considerations

Grenada has been a member of the WTO since 1996 and is a party to agreements established under the organization. In pursuit of WTO compliance, Grenada is in the process of negotiating trade and investment agreements that contain provisions better aligned with the provisions of the WTO. Grenada is a member of CARICOM and the CARICOM Single Market Economy (CSME), which adheres to the international norms and regulatory standards outlined by the WTO. Also, in keeping with WTO regulations the government notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Prime Minister and the cabinet have the executive authority to negotiate and sign international agreements and conventions with other states and international organizations.

Grenada’s judicial system is based on English common law. The judiciary has four levels: The Magistrates Court, the High Court, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and the UK-based Privy Council.

The Magistrates Court primarily handles minor civil and criminal cases, while the High Court adjudicates cases under the purview of the Acts of Parliament. Appeals from the Magistrates Court are heard by the High Court, while appeals from the High Court are heard by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is comprised of the Chief Justice, who serves as the Head of the Judiciary; four Justices of Appeal; nineteen High Court Judges; and three Masters, who are primarily responsible for procedural and interlocutory matters. The Court of Appeal judges are based at the Court’s headquarters in Saint Lucia.

The Privy Council serves as Grenada’s final Court of Appeal. However, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction under Section 211 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, to which Grenada is a party. The Treaty delineates rights and responsibilities within CARICOM to hear and decide disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the Treaty.

The judicial system remains independent of the executive branch, and judicial processes are generally competent, fair, and reliable, however the process can be slow. Provisions are also made for appeals with the relevant court. Grenadian law also provides for the use of arbitration and mediation to resolve investment disputes.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The economy is supported by a strong legislative and regulatory framework that encourages FDI and promotes investment initiatives. Grenada augmented the investment climate with a revitalization of its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.

In 2016 parliament passed several legislative changes to enhance the investment climate in Grenada. Changes were made to the following Acts:

  • Value Added Tax Amendment Act – Provides for VAT exemptions for qualifying investments in priority sectors.
  • Excise Tax Amendment Act – Provides for tax incentives for investors engaged in manufacturing and investors entitled to conditional duties exemptions for motor vehicles.
  • Property Transfer Tax Amendment Act – Establishes more favourable rates of property transfer tax for investors.
  • Customs Service Charge Amendment Act – Removes the discretionary power of cabinet to prescribe varying rates of customs service charge (CSC) and to prescribe a new rate of CSC applicable to investors engaged in manufacturing.
  • Investment Amendment Act – Provides for specified circumstances under which the Minister of Finance may make regulations under the Principal Act.
  • Bankruptcy and Insolvency Amendment Act – Modernized the law relating to bankruptcy and insolvency of individuals and companies. The act is based on the Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, which has been used as a model in several Caribbean countries.
  • Income Tax Amendment Act – Provides for a waiver on withholding tax applicable on specified types of repatriated funds relating to investors engaged in tourism accommodation or health and wellness.

The GIDC and the Inland Revenue and Customs Department of Grenada work to ensure adherence to the rule of law and to facilitate the procedures outlined in the revised investment regime. The legal and regulatory framework governing foreign direct investment in Grenada is described here: http://grenadaidc.com/ 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There are no competition laws in Grenada. A number of CARICOM and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) proposals on competition are under consideration to strengthen market regimes under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. CARICOM established a Competition Commission and plans are underway to establish a sub-regional Eastern Caribbean Competition Commission.

Expropriation and Compensation

According to the Constitution, Grenada shall not compulsorily acquire or take possession of any investment or any asset of an investor except for a purpose which is legal and non-discriminatory. If the government expropriates property for a legal purpose, it must promptly pay adequate and effective compensation. Owners of expropriated assets have the right to file claims in the High Court regarding the amount of compensation or ownership of the expropriated asset.

In 2016, parliament repealed the 1994 Electricity Supply Act and opened the market to potential investors who will commit to transition to alternative sources of power generation, decreasing costs, reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, and improving energy efficiency. This repealed the exclusive license that was granted to the country’s sole electricity provider Grenada Electricity Services (GRENLEC) and its majority shareholder, U.S.-owned WRB Enterprises. This regulatory change triggered a clause in the Share Purchase Agreement requiring Grenada to repurchase the GRENLEC shares from WRB. WRB filed a request for arbitration with ICSID, and the Grenada government was ordered to pay $74 million to the U.S. investors following a March 2020 ruling. A negotiated sum of $63 million was paid to WRB Enterprises in December 2020.

In the past, Grenadian citizens had their lands expropriated to permit foreign investments but were compensated for such actions typically at the market value. There are no sectors at greater risk of expropriation, and there are no laws requiring local ownership. All expropriations have been subject to due process.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Grenada is a signatory and contracting member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes and has engaged this platform to resolve past disputes. While Grenadian laws have adapted the provisions outlined in the New York Convention, the country is not a contracting state and has not ratified the convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There was an investment dispute between the government of Grenada and U.S.-owned WRB Enterprises, which was the majority shareholder in Grenada Electricity Services Ltd. In 2016, parliament repealed the 1994 Electricity Supply Act and opened the market to potential investors, which put an end to WRB’s 80-year exclusive license. This triggered a clause in the share purchase agreement requiring Grenada to repurchase the shares. The case was brought to arbitration before ICSID. On March 19, 2020, ICSID ruled in favor of WRB Enterprises. Grenada was ordered to pay $74 million for the shares, and a negotiated $63 million was paid in December 2020. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In the event of an investment dispute between two foreign parties, between a foreign investor(s) and Grenadian parties, between Grenadian partners, or between investors and the government of Grenada, Grenadian law mandates that the parties shall first seek to settle their differences through consultation or mediation. If the parties fail to resolve the matter, they may then submit their dispute to arbitration, file a lawsuit in Grenadian courts, invoke the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, or adopt such other procedures as provided for in the Articles of Association of the investment enterprise.

There is no government interference in the court system. Grenada participates in a court-connected mediation mechanism that can be accessed through the Mediation Centre. This Centre extends court-connected mediation to all member states of the OECS and allows for civil actions filed in court to be referred to mediation. Through this system, parties can utilize alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including mediation, if the court deems them to be appropriate mechanisms for resolving the case.

Court-connected mediation, however, cannot be used in family proceedings, insolvency, non-contentious probate proceedings, proceedings when the High Court is acting as a prize court, and any other proceeding in the Supreme Court.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Grenada ranked 168 out of 190 for ease of resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020, the same ranking it received in 2019.

The Bankruptcy Act makes provisions for all aspects of bankruptcy and sets out procedures for creditors to apply to the High Court for a bankruptcy order against a debtor and the appointment of a trustee in bankruptcy. There are provisions for the court to appoint an interim receiver pending the outcome of the application for a bankruptcy order. It also includes provisions for a process whereby an insolvent person, with leave of the court, may make an assignment of the insolvent person’s property for the general benefit of creditors of the insolvent person.

The High Court exercises exclusive jurisdiction in matters related to bankruptcy.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Grenada possesses a robust legislative and policy framework that facilitates free flow of financial resources. Its currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, has a fixed exchange rate established by the regional Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). Foreign employees of investment enterprises and their families may repatriate their earnings after paying personal income tax and all other taxes due. The government of Grenada encourages foreign investors to seek investment capital from financial institutions chartered outside Grenada due to the short domestic supply of capital. Foreign investors are more likely to tap local financial markets for working capital. The government, local banks, and the ECCB respect IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

The private sector has access to the limited number of credit instruments. Grenadian stocks are traded on the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange, whose limited liquidity may pose difficulties in conducting transactions.

Money and Banking System

The financial industry in Grenada is regulated by two entities: The ECCB and the Grenada Authority for Regulation of the Financial Industry (GARFIN). The ECCB regulates the banking system. GARFIN oversees non-banking financial institutions through a regulatory system that encourages and facilitates portfolio investment. The estimated total assets of the largest banks are USD $1.03 billion. Information on the percentage of non-performing assets is not available. Grenada has not experienced cross-shareholding or hostile takeovers. As of November 30, 2020, commercial banks in Grenada deferred debt service on 4,069 commercial bank loans due to job losses and a reduction in salaries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the second highest number of deferrals in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Grenada subject to prudential measures and regulations governed by the ECCB. For the requirements and procedures, foreign banks can refer to the following website: https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/p/grenada-1 

There is correspondent banking available with all licensed commercial banks. No correspondent banking relationships have been lost in the past three years. There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

In addition to the banking sector, there are alternative financial services provided through credit unions. GARFIN regulates credit unions.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Grenada’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar issued by the ECCB located in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The exchange rate is also determined by the ECCB. The Eastern Caribbean dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at 2.7, adding to the stability of trade and investment in Grenada. The national currency rate does not fluctuate.

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with investments. Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted. Banks reserve the right to delay transactions if deemed suspicious or outside the typical level of activity on the account.

Remittance Policies

There are no difficulties or delays regarding remittances and no proposed policy changes that would either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

Transfers of currency are protected by Article VII of the International Monetary Fund Articles of Agreement. Grenada is also a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Grenada does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $1,074 2019 $1,211 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $41 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $8 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 10.8 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/
handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html
    

* Source for Host Country Data: Government of Grenada, Ministry of Finance Statistics Division – https://www.finance.gd/, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank – https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/gdp-datas/comparative-report/1

Guyana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoG recognizes foreign direct investment (FDI) as critical for growing and diversifying the Guyanese economy. Guyanese law does not discriminate against foreign investors. Shortly after being sworn in, President Ali committed to institute an electronic single window application process to expedite business registration, permitting, and improve the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The GoG has prioritized investments in the following sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism and information and communications technology (ICT). The Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) is the GoG’s primary vehicle for promoting FDI opportunities and assisting foreign corporations with their business registrations and applying for tax concessions. Companies and investors are encouraged to do their due diligence and have robust business plans completed before approaching GOINVEST.

The GoG expects to table local content legislation before Parliament in the second quarter of 2021, which will set baseline requirements for foreign firms to hire Guyanese and establish taxation standards to foster greater local participation in the oil and gas sector. The aim of this legislation is to promote long term investments in Guyana, build local capacity, and avoid the resource curse.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Guyana’s constitution protects the rights of foreigners to own property in Guyana. Foreign and domestic firms possess the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commerce. Private entities are governed by the 1991 Companies Act (amended in 1995) under which they have the right to establish business enterprises and are free to acquire or dispose of interest in accordance with the law. Some key sectors like aviation, forestry, banking, mining, and tourism are heavily regulated and require licensing. The process to obtain licenses can be time consuming and may in some instances require ministerial approval.

The GoG prohibits foreign ownership of small-and-medium-scale mining (ASM) concessions. Foreign investors interested in participating in the industry at those levels may establish joint ventures with Guyanese nationals, under which the two parties agree to jointly develop a mining property. However, this type of relationship can carry a high level of risk because arrangements are governed only by private contracts and the sector’s regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), offers little recourse for ASM disputes. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages investors to thoroughly conduct their due diligence when exploring business opportunities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Guyana’s macro-economic fundamentals have remained stable over the past decade. The Ali administration is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to balance sustainable development goals with booming oil production. Developmental policies include incentives for priority areas, including education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and agro-processing.

Government policy focuses on attracting inward FDI. The GoG applies national treatment to all economic activities, except for certain mining operations, although some foreign-owned companies conduct large-scale mining operations in the country. During its first months in office, the Ali administration took actions to improve the business environment such as repealing of taxes on corporate taxes on health, education, and construction materials. Incentives for FDI includes income tax holidays, and tariff and value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published its most recent trade policy review of Guyana in 2015: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp420_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

All companies operating in Guyana must register with the Registrar of Companies. Registration fees are lower for companies incorporated in Guyana than those incorporated abroad.  Locally incorporated companies are subjected to a flat fee of approximately $300 and a company incorporated abroad is subject to a fee of approximately $400. Depending on the type of business, registration may take three weeks or more. Newly registered businesses are encouraged to visit the Guyana Revenue Authority and apply for a tax identification number (TIN). If a company employs Guyanese workers, the company must demonstrate compliance with the National Insurance Scheme (social security). Businesses in the sectors requiring specific licenses, such as mining, telecommunications, forestry, and banking must obtain operation licenses from the relevant authorities before commencing operations. Guyana has six municipal authorities which also assess municipal taxes: Anna Regina, Corriverton, Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, and Rosehall.

GO-INVEST advises the GoG on the formulation and implementation of national investment policies and provides facilitation services to foreign investors, particularly in completing administrative formalities, such as commercial registration and applications for land purchases or leases.  Under the Status of Aliens Act, foreign and domestic investors have the same rights to purchase and lease land. However, the process to access licensing can be complex and many foreign companies have opted to partner with local companies which may assist with acquiring a license. The Investment Act specifies that there should be no discrimination between foreign and domestic private investors, or among foreign investors from different countries. The authorities maintain that foreign investors have equal access to opportunities arising from privatization of state-owned companies.

Resources

Guyana Deeds and Commercial Registry: https://dcra.gov.gy/ 
GO-INVEST: https://goinvest.gov.gy/ 
Guyana Revenue Authority: https://www.gra.gov.gy/ 

Outward Investment

While the GoG is focused on attracting inward investment into Guyana, there are no restrictions for domestic investors to invest abroad. GO-INVEST supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas.  In 2019, the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRF) was passed which created Guyana’s sovereign wealth fund. The Act provides the Minister of Finance with responsibility for the overall management of the fund.  The NRF is currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and, as of February 2021, has a balance of $246.5 million from its nascent oil revenues and royalty payments. The Ali administration plans to amend the existing Natural Resource Fund Act and has committed to leave all funds on deposit until a new regulatory framework is adopted. The GoG has not stated an official investment policy for the sovereign wealth fund as of March 2021.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms. Guyana is a democratic state and a separation of powers exists among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

As captured in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome, often requiring the involvement of multiple ministries. Investors report having received conflicting messages from various officials, and difficulty determining where the authority for decision-making lies.  In the absence of adequate legislation, most decision-making remains centralized. An extraordinary number of issues continue to be resolved in the presidential cabinet, a process that is commonly perceived as opaque and slow. Attempts to reform Guyana’s many bureaucratic procedures have not succeeded in reducing red tape.

International Regulatory Considerations

Guyana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and adheres to Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) guidelines. Guyana is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is working to harmonize its regulatory systems with the rest of the CARICOM member states. Guyana is a member of the UNFCCC and reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation REDD+ initiative.

Guyana has laws on intellectual property rights and patents. However, a lack of enforcement offers few protections in practice and allows for the relatively uninhibited distribution and sale of illegally obtained content.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Guyana’s legal system is mixed following the combination of civil and common laws. Guyana’s judicial system operates independently from the executive branch. The Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago, is Guyana’s highest court. Registered companies are governed by the Companies Act and contracts are enforced by Guyanese courts or through a mediator. Guyana has a commercial court in its High Court, which has both original and appellate jurisdiction.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Legislation exists in Guyana to support foreign direct investment, but the enforcement of these regulations continues to be inadequate. The objective of the Investment Act of 2004 and Industries and Aid and Encouragement Act of 1951 is to stimulate socio-economic development by attracting and facilitating foreign investment. Other relevant laws include: the Income Tax Act, the Customs Act, the Procurement Act of 2003, the Companies Act of 1991, the Securities Act of 1998, and the Small Business Act. Regulatory actions are still required for much of this legislation to be effectively implemented. The Companies Act provides special provisions for companies incorporated outside of Guyana called “external companies.” Companies should direct their inquiries about regulations on FDI to GO-INVEST.

Guyana has no known examples of executive interference in the court system that have adversely affected foreign investors. The judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report states that it takes 581 days to enforce a contract in Guyana.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Competition Commission of Guyana was established under the 2006 Competition and Fair Trading Act. The Competition and Fair Trading act seeks to promote, maintain, and encourage competition; to prohibit the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition, the abuse of dominant trade positions; and to promote the welfare and interests of consumers. The Competition Commission and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) is responsible for investigating complaints by agencies and consumers, eliminating anti-competitive agreements, and may institute or participate in proceedings before a Court of Law.  For mergers and acquisitions within of the banking sector, the Bank of Guyana has ultimate oversight and approval.

Expropriation and Compensation

The government can expropriate property in the public interest under the 2001 Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Act, although there are no recent cases of expropriation. There is adequate legislation to promote and protect foreign investment, however, enforcement is often ineffective. Many reports view Guyana’s judicial system as being slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. All companies are encouraged to conduct due diligence and seek appropriate legal counsel for any potential questions prior to doing business in Guyana.

Dispute Settlement

Guyana is a party to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Additionally, Guyana has ratified the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention), which entered into force in December 2014.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Guyana does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. Negotiations began in 1993 but broke down in 1995. Since then, the two countries have not conducted subsequent negotiations.

Double taxation treaties are in force with Canada (1987), the United Kingdom (1992), and CARICOM (1995). Other double taxation agreements remain under negotiation with India, Kuwait, and the Seychelles. The CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement provides for the negotiation of a double taxation agreement, but no significant developments have occurred since March 2009.

There is one ongoing investment dispute involving a U.S. telecommunications company, which previously held a legal monopoly in Guyana, contesting its liability for back taxes.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

International arbitration decisions are enforceable under the 1931 Arbitration Act of British Guiana, as amended in 1998. The Act is based on the Geneva Convention for the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1927. The GoG enforces foreign awards by way of judicial decisions or action, and such awards must be in line with the policies and laws of Guyana.

According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, resolving disputes in Guyana takes 581 days, and on average costs 27 percent of the value of the claim. According to many businesses, suspected corrupt practices and long delays make the courts an unattractive option for settling investment or contractual disputes, particularly for foreign investors unfamiliar with Guyana.

The GoG has set up a Commercial Court to expedite commercial disputes, but this court only has one judge presiding, and companies have reported that it is overwhelmed by a backlog of cases.  The Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad and Tobago, is Guyana’s court of final instance. In practice, most business disputes are settled by mediation which avoids a lengthy court battle and keeps costs low to both parties. Guyanese state-owned enterprises are not widely involved in investor disputes. To date, there are no complaints on the court process relating to judgments involving state owned enterprises.

Bankruptcy Regulations 

The 1998 Guyana Insolvency Act provides for the facilitation of insolvency proceedings.  The 2004 Financial Institutions Act gives the Central Bank power to take temporary control of financial institutions in trouble.  This Act provides legal authority for the Central Bank to take a more proactive role in helping insolvent local banks.

According to data collected by the World Bank Doing Business Report, resolving insolvency in Guyana takes three years on average and costs 28.5% of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal.  The average recovery rate is 18 cents on the dollar. Globally, Guyana ranks 163 out of 190 economies on the Ease of Resolving Insolvency Report.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Guyana has its own stock market, which is supervised by the Guyana Association of Securities Companies and Intermediaries (GASCI).  Dividends earned from the local stock exchange are tax free.  Guyana’s local stock market performed well in 2020 with a 15 percent increase in its market capitalization.  Credit is available on market terms. The Central Bank respects IMF Article VIII with regard to payments and transfers for international transactions.

Money and Banking System

Guyana relies heavily on cash payments for most financial transactions, but credit cards and mobile payment options are increasingly common. The GoG’s monetary policy remains accommodative, aimed at achieving price stability and controlling liquidity within the economy. The financial sector is regulated by the Bank of Guyana (BOG), the country’s central bank.  The BOG is empowered under the 1995 Financial Institutions Act and the Bank of Guyana Act to regulate the financial sector.  Under these regulations a bank operating in Guyana must maintain high levels of liquidity and a strong deposit and asset base.

In the middle of 2020, licensed depository financial institutions’ (LDFIs’) capital levels continued to be high, while non-performing loans (NPLs) increased marginally during the first half of 2020. The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) remained well above the prudential benchmark of 8.0 percent at 30.7 percent. The stock of NPLs deteriorated to 10.6 percent of total loans. Stress testing was performed by the Central bank with preliminary results indicating that the banking industry’s and individual institutions’ shock absorptive capacities remained adequate under the various scenarios for foreign currency and liquidity. However, vulnerabilities were observed in the investment and credit portfolios. Guyana’s Banking Stability index strengthened from -0.22 in March 2020 to 0.15 in June 2020 attributed to improvement in liquidity. The commercial banking sector grew by 7.2 percent from March 2019 to March 2020. Foreign banks seeking to open operations in Guyana are encouraged to engage with the Bank of Guyana and GO-INVEST.

Guyana has six commercial banks.  Foreign banks can provide domestic services or enter the market with a license from the BoG.  There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Guyanese Dollar (GYD) is fully convertible and transferable, and generally stable in its value against the U.S. dollar. The Guyana dollar weighted mid-rate, relevant for official transactions, remained constant at GYD 208.50 as at half year 2020. Guyana employs a de jure float exchange rate.

No limits exist on inflows or repatriation of funds. However, regulations require that all persons entering and exiting Guyana declare all currency in excess of $10,000 to customs authorities at the port of entry. It is common practice for foreign investors to use subsidiaries outside of Guyana to handle earnings generated by exports.

Remittance Policies 

There is no limit on the acquisition of foreign currency, although the government limits the amount that several state-owned firms may keep for their own purchases.  Regulations on foreign currency denominated bank accounts in Guyana allow funds to be wired in and out of the country electronically without having to go through cumbersome exchange procedures.  Foreign companies operating in Guyana have not reported experiencing government-induced difficulties in repatriating earnings in recent years.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Guyana established a sovereign wealth fund, the Natural Resource Fund (NRF), in 2019, which is governed by the 2019 Natural Resources Act in accordance with the Santiago Principles. In December 2019, the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Guyana signed an operational agreement for the NRF . However, the Ali administration, noting the NRF’s passage under a previous government, has committed to repeal and replace the act to further insulate the NRF from potential political intervention. Until the NRF is amended the GoG does not expect to access the funds which has are held in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. As at March 10, 2021, the SWF held a balance of approximately $268 million.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $5.1 2019 Billion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 179.5 178 Millions BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $8.3 20xx Millions BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 20xx $Amt 20xx xx% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html   

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Haiti

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Haiti’s legislation encourages foreign direct investment. Import and export policies are non-discriminatory and are not based on nationality. Haitian and foreign investors have the same rights, privileges and protections under the 1987 investment code. The Haitian government has made some progress in recent years to improve the legal framework, create and strengthen core public institutions, and enhance economic governance. The Haitian Central Bank continues to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to implement measures aimed at creating a stable macroeconomic environment. The IMF concluded its most recent Article IV economic consultation with Haiti in January 2020 (www.imf.org/en/countries/hti). In April 2020, the IMF loaned Haiti $112 million through its rapid credit facility mechanism to provide liquidity to Haiti for expenditures to address COVID-19.

While not discriminatory towards international investment specifically, the Haitian government’s economic policies fall short of providing a sound enabling environment for foreign direct investment. The Haitian Central Bank announced in August 2020 the intention to use up to $150 million of its international reserves to intervene in the foreign exchange market, resulting in a rapid appreciation of the country’s local currency, the Haitian gourde (HTG), relative to the U.S. dollar (USD). The gourde appreciated from about 121 HTG/USD to 62 HTG/USD over two months and began steadily depreciating in November 2020 to its rate of 80 HTG/USD as of April 2021. The gourde’s sudden and unexpected change in value has resulted in sustained increased costs for export-oriented businesses, including international investors.

Despite passing anti-money laundering and anti-corruption laws to ensure that Haiti’s legislation corresponds with international standards, the government has not strictly followed the legal framework of these laws, and has failed to incentivize investment in Haiti. In early 2017, the Parliament enacted legislation making electronic signatures and electronic transactions legally binding. Other pieces of legislation that may improve Haiti’s investment climate remain pending, including incorporation procedures, a new mining code, and an insurance code. Haiti’s Finance Ministry is implementing measures to improve revenue collection and control spending. The Ministry signed an agreement with Haiti’s Central Bank in November 2019 to strengthen fiscal discipline and limit government monetary financing. Despite these measures, the rate of monetary financing over fiscal year (FY) 2021 appears to be outpacing the annual budgeted amount of $462 million (3.6 percent of FY2021 IMF-projected GDP), standing at $377 million (3.0 percent of GDP) as of March 4, 2021, less than six months into the fiscal year. The Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI), which operates under Haitian Ministry of Commerce oversight, was established to promote domestic and international investment opportunities in Haiti. In concept, the CFI could streamline the investment process by: working with other government agencies to simplify procedures related to trade and investment; providing updated economic and commercial information to local and foreign investors; making proposals on investor incentives; and promoting investment in priority sectors. The CFI aims to offer tailored services to large international investors, but has been unable to operate at full capacity during the pandemic. In practice, the CFI has made limited progress to incentivize job creation and boost national production in agriculture, apparel assembly, and tourism. As an example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti’s Tourism Association reported a 60 percent loss of jobs in the sector in 2019.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Haitian government does not impose discriminatory requirements on foreign investors. Haitian laws related to residency status and employment are reciprocal. Foreigners who are legal residents in Haiti and wish to engage in trade have, within the framework of laws and regulations, the same rights granted to Haitian citizens. However, Article 5 of the Decree on the Profession of Merchants reserves the function of manufacturer’s agent for Haitian nationals.

Foreign firms are also encouraged to participate in government-financed development projects. Performance requirements are not imposed on foreign firms as a condition for establishing or expanding an investment, unless indicated in a signed contract.

Foreign investors are permitted to own 100 percent of a company or subsidiary. As a Haitian entity, such companies enjoy all rights and privileges provided under the law. Additionally, foreign investors are permitted to operate businesses without equity-to-debt ratio requirements. Accounting law allows foreigners to capitalize using tangible and intangible assets in lieu of cash investments.

Foreign investors are free to enter into joint ventures with Haitian citizens. The distribution of shares is a private matter between the two parties. However, the government regulates the sale and purchase of company shares. Investment in certain sectors, such as health and agriculture, requires special Haitian government authorization. Investment in “sensitive” sectors such as electricity, water, telecommunications, and mining require a Haitian government concession as well as authorization from the appropriate governmental agency. In general, natural resources are the property of the state, and the exploitation of mineral and energy resources requires concessions and permitting from the Ministry of Public Works’ Bureau of Mining and Energy. Mining, prospecting, and operating permits may only be granted to companies established and resident in Haiti, and the establishment of new industrial mines cannot take place until an elected parliament passes an updated mining law, along the lines of a draft law initially presented in 2017.

Entrepreneurs are free to dispose of their properties and assets, and to organize production and marketing activities in accordance with local laws.

Investors in Haiti can create the following types of businesses: sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, joint-stock company, public company (corporation), subsidiary of a foreign company, and co-operative society. The most common business structures in Haiti are corporations. A draft law (Société de Droits law), which would facilitate the creation of other types of businesses in Haiti, such as LLCs, remains pending parliamentary approval when parliament is restored.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Haiti’s last investment policy review from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development occurred in 2012. In general, Haiti’s political instability, weak institutions, and inconsistent economic policies impede the country’s ability to attract and direct foreign direct investment.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 2015 Trade Policy Review stated that Haiti’s Investment Code and Law on Free Trade Zones is fully compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures. The full report can be viewed at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp427_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

While the Haitian government has made efforts to facilitate the launching and operating of businesses, the average time to start a business in Haiti is 189 days, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report. At present, it takes between 90 and 120 days to complete registration with the Commercial Registry at the Ministry of Commerce and obtain the authorization of operations (Droit de fonctionnement). The Center for Facilitation of Investments (CFI), a public-private organization, also offers a service providing pre-registered and fully authorized companies in manufacturing, agribusiness, and real estate the opportunity to reduce their registration time. Once the Inter-Ministerial Investment Commission validates these established companies, the shares are transferred to the new owners.

Both foreign and domestic businesses can register at Haiti’s CFI: http://cfihaiti.com . All businesses must register with the Ministry of Commerce, the Haitian tax office, the state-owned Banque Nationale de Crédit, the social security office, and the retirement insurance office.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s internet registry allows investors to search for and verify the existence of a business in Haiti. The registry will eventually provide online registration of companies through an electronic one-stop shop. In October 2020, CFI launched Spotlight, an initiative with the aim of promoting visibility of companies already established in Haiti and registered in the CFI database.

Outward Investment

Neither the law nor the Haitian government restricts domestic investors from investing abroad. Still, Haiti’s outward investment is limited to a few enterprises with small investments. These investors are generally businesspersons with dual citizenship and others of Haitian origin who presently reside in the country in which their firms operate. The majority of these firms are service providers and not investment firms. There is no current program or incentive in place to encourage Haitian entrepreneurs to invest abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Haitian laws are written to allow for transparency and to be applied universally. However, Haitian officials do not uniformly enforce these laws and the bureaucratic “red tape” in the Haitian legal system is often excessive.

Tax, labor, health, and safety laws and policies are also loosely enforced. The private sector often provides services, such as healthcare, to employees that are not entitled to coverage under Haitian government agencies or institutions. All regulatory processes are managed exclusively by the government and do not involve the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

Draft bills or regulations are available to the public through “Le Moniteur,” the official journal of the Haitian government, and information is sometimes made available online. Le Moniteur contains public agency rules, decrees, and public notices that Les Presses Nationales d’Haiti publishes.

According to the World Bank, Haitian ministries and regulatory agencies do not develop forward regulatory plans, nor do they publish proposed regulations prior to their adoption. Haitian law does not require a timeframe for public comment or review of proposed regulations.

International Regulatory Considerations

Haiti is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 15 states and dependencies established to promote regional economic integration. The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), created in 1989, aims to advance the region’s integration into the global economy by facilitating free trade in goods and services, and the free movement of labor and capital. CSME became operational in January 2006 in 12 of the 15 member states. Haiti, as a member of CARICOM, has expressed an interest in participating fully in CSME. However, to become eligible, Haiti must amend its customs code to align with CARICOM and WTO standards.

Haiti also adheres to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on issues of international law, and of the Caribbean Court of Justice for the settlement of trade disputes within CARICOM.

Haiti is an original member of the WTO. As such, it has made several commitments to the WTO with regard to the financial services sector. These commitments include allowing foreign investment in financial services, such as retail, commercial, investment banking, and consulting. One foreign bank, Citibank, operates in Haiti. Haiti has committed to notifying the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of all draft technical regulations. However, Haiti is not party to the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

As a former French colony, Haiti adopted the French civil law system. The Supreme Court, also known as the Superior Magistrate Council, is the highest court of the nation, followed in descending order by the Court of Appeals and the Court of First Instance. Haiti’s commercial code dates back to 1826 and underwent significant revisions in 1944. There are few commercial laws in place and there are no commercial courts. Injunctive relief is based upon penal sanctions rather than securing desirable civil action. Similarly, contracts to comply with certain obligations, such as commodities futures contracts, are not enforced. Haitian judges do not have specializations, and their knowledge of commercial law is limited. Utilizing Haitian courts to settle disputes is a lengthy process and cases can remain unresolved for years. Bonds to release assets frozen through litigation are unavailable. Business litigants often pursue out-of-court settlements.

Haiti’s legal system often presents challenges for U.S. citizens seeking to resolve legal disputes. In Haiti, judges are appointed for a set number of years. Public prosecutors are direct employees of the Ministry of Justice and can be transferred or suspended by the executive branch at any time. There are numerous allegations of undue political interference. Additionally, there are persistent claims that some Haitian officials use their public office to influence commercial dispute outcomes for personal gain. The Haitian government receives international assistance to increase the capacity of its oversight institutions and the capacity of the national police.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Code prohibits fiscal and legal discrimination against foreign investors. The code explicitly recognizes the crucial role of foreign direct investment in promoting economic growth. It also aims to facilitate, liberalize, and stimulate private investment, and contains exemptions to promote investments that enhance competitiveness in sectors deemed priorities, especially export-oriented sectors. Tax incentives, such as reductions on taxable income and tax exemptions, are designed to promote private investment. Additionally, the code grants Haitian and foreign investors the same rights, privileges, and equal protection. Foreign investors must be legally registered and pay appropriate local taxes and fees.

The code also established an Inter-Ministerial Investment Commission (CII) to examine investor eligibility for license exemptions as well as customs and tariff advantages. The Center for Facilitation of Investments (CFI) is the Technical Secretariat of the CII. The Prime Minister, or his delegate, chairs the CII, which is composed of representatives of the Ministries of Economy and Finance, Commerce, and Tourism, as well as those ministries that oversee specific areas of investment. The CII must authorize all business sales, transfers, mergers, partnerships, and fiscal exemptions within the scope of the code. The CII also manages the process of fining and sanctioning enterprises that disregard the code.

The following areas are often noted by businesses as challenging aspects of Haitian law: operation of the judicial system; publication of laws, regulations, and official notices; establishment of companies; land tenure and real property law and procedures; bank and credit operations; insurance and pension regulation; accounting standards; civil status documentation; customs law and administration; international trade and investment promotion; foreign investment regulations; and regulation of market concentration and competition. Although these deficiencies hinder business activities, they are not specifically aimed at foreign firms; rather, they appear to affect both foreign and local companies.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There is currently no law to regulate competition. Haiti is one of the most open economies in the region. The investment code provides the same rights, privileges and equal protection to local and foreign investors. Anti-corruption legislation also criminalizes nepotism and the dissemination of inside information on public procurement processes. Haiti does not, however, have anti-trust legislation.

Expropriation and Compensation

The 1987 Constitution allows expropriation or dispossession only for reasons of public interest or land reform and is subject to prior payment of fair compensation as determined by an expert. If the initial project for which the expropriation occurred is abandoned, the Constitution stipulates that the expropriation will be annulled, and the property returned to the original owner. The Constitution prohibits nationalization and confiscation of real and personal property for political purposes or reasons.

Title deeds are vague and often insecure. The Haitian government established the National Institute of Agrarian Reform to implement expropriations of private agricultural properties with appropriate compensation. The agrarian reform project, initiated under the Preval administration (1996-2001), was controversial among both Haitian and U.S. property owners. There have been complaints of non-compensation for the expropriation of property. Moreover, a revision of the land tenure code, intended to address issues related to the lack of access to land records, surveys, and property titles in Haiti, has been pending in parliament since 2014. A partnership between the private sector, Haitian government, and international organizations resulted in a guide on security land rights in Haiti, which was translated in 2016 and can be found here: https://www.land-links.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Haiti-Land-Manual-2.pdf .

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 2009, Haiti ratified the 1965 International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between states and nationals of other states (ICSID). Under the convention, foreign investors can call for ICSID arbitration for disputes with the state. The Haitian government appears to recognize that weak enforcement mechanisms and a lack of updated laws to handle modern commercial disputes severely compromises the protections and guarantees that Haitian law extends to investors.

Haiti is not a signatory to the Inter-American-U.S. Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of 1975 (Panama Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Haiti is a signatory to the 1958 United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which provides for the enforcement of an agreement to arbitrate present and future investment disputes. Under the convention, Haitian courts can enforce such an agreement by referring the parties to arbitration. Disputes between foreign investors and the state can be settled in Haitian courts or through international arbitration, though claimants must select one to the exclusion of the other. A claimant dissatisfied with the ruling of the court cannot request international arbitration after the ruling is issued. The law provides mechanisms on the procedures a court should follow to enforce foreign arbitral awards issues.

While there is not a consistent history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, a number of investment dispute cases have been reported by U.S. companies over the past 10 years, although the most recent expropriation claim occurred in 2013. Disputes most frequently related to disagreements between business owners and Haitian tax and licensing authorities, a lack of clarity as to land ownership and other disputed property claims, and disputes over the enforcement of government contracts and concessions. Although some businesses were able to resolve disputes through the court system or by otherwise settling with the Haitian government, business owners appear to have accepted their losses and abandoned other legacy cases.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

International arbitration is strongly encouraged as a means of avoiding lengthy domestic court procedures. In principle, foreign judgments are enforceable under local courts. In 2005, the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Inter-American Development Bank jointly developed the Haitian Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber, which provides mechanisms for conciliation and arbitration in private commercial disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Haiti’s bankruptcy law was enacted in 1826 and modified in 1944. There are three phases of bankruptcy under Haitian law. In the first stage, payments cease to be made and bankruptcy is declared. In the second stage, a judgment of bankruptcy is rendered, which transfers the rights to administer assets from the debtor to the Director of the Haitian Tax Authority (Direction Generale des Impots). In this phase, assets are sealed, and the debtor is confined to debtor’s prison. In the last stage, the debtor’s assets are liquidated, and the debtor’s verified debts are paid prorated according to their right. The debtor is released from prison once the debtor’s verified debts are paid. In practice, the above measures are seldom applied. Since 1955, most bankruptcy cases have been settled between the parties.

Although the concepts of real property mortgages and chattel mortgages – based on collateral of movable property, such as machinery, furniture, automobiles, or livestock to secure a mortgage – exist, real estate mortgages involve antiquated procedures and may fail to be recorded against the debtor or other creditors. Property is seldom purchased through a mortgage and secured debt is difficult to arrange or collect. Liens are virtually impossible to impose and using the judicial process for foreclosure is time consuming and often futile. Banks frequently require that loans be secured in U.S. dollars.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The scale of financial services remains modest in Haiti. The banking sector is well capitalized and profitable. In principle, there are no limitations to foreigners’ access to the Haitian credit market, but limited credit is available through commercial banks. The free and efficient flow of capital, however, is hindered by Haitian accounting practices, which are below international standards. While there are no restrictions on foreign investment through mergers or acquisitions, there is no Haitian stock market, so there is no way for investors to purchase shares in a company outside of direct transactions. As summarized in the most recent (2020) IMF Article IV consultation for Haiti, however, the country has accepted the obligations of Article VIII and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on the making of payments and transfers for current international transactions.

The standards that govern the Haitian legal, regulatory, and accounting systems do not comply with international norms. Haitian laws do not require external audits of domestic companies. Local firms calculate taxes, obtain credit or insurance, prepare for regulatory review, and assess real profit and loss. Accountants use basic accounting standards set by the Organization of Certified Professional Accountants in Haiti.

Administrative oversight in the banking sector is superior to oversight in other sectors. Under Haitian law, however, banks are not required to comply with internationally recognized accounting standards, and they are often not audited by internationally recognized accounting firms. Nevertheless, Haiti’s Central Bank requires that banks apply internal audit procedures. As part of their corporate governance all private banks also have in-house audit functions. Most private banks follow international accounting norms and use consolidated reporting principles. The Central Bank is generally viewed as one of the well-functioning Haitian government institutions.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector has concentrated on credit for trade financing and in the proliferation of bank branches to capture deposits and remittances. Telebanking has expanded access to banking services for Haitians. Foreign banks are free to establish operations in Haiti. Three major banking institutions (Unibank, Sogebank and Banque Nationale de Credit) hold roughly 80 percent, or HTG 325 billion (approximately $4 billion), of total banking sector assets. With its acquisition of the Haitian operations of Scotiabank in 2017, Unibank became Haiti’s largest banking company, with a deposit market share of 35 percent. As part of the deal, Scotiabank remains one of Unibank’s international correspondent banks. U.S.-based Citibank also has a correspondent banking relationship with Unibank.

The three major commercial banks also hold 76 percent of the country’s total loan portfolio, while 70 percent of total loans are monopolized by 10 percent of borrowers. The concentration of holdings and limited number of borrowers increases the Haitian banking system’s vulnerability to systemic credit risk and restricts the availability of capital. The quality of loan portfolios in the banking system has slightly improved. Per the Haitian Central Bank, the ratio of nonperforming loans over total loans was 5.37 percent in December 2020, compared to 6.89 percent in December 2019. The Central Bank conducts regular inspections to ensure that financial institutions are in compliance with minimum capital requirements, asset quality, currency, and credit risk management.

The Central Bank’s main challenge is maintaining sound monetary policy in the context of a larger-than-expected government deficit and a depreciating local currency. The exchange rate suffers from continued pressure on the foreign exchange market. The Central Bank has made a series of interventions with a prior objective to support the value of the gourde by increasing the dollar supply in the foreign exchange market. Selling U.S. dollars in the foreign exchange market has also allowed the Central Bank to dry up the excess liquidity of the gourde in the market with the potential effect of tempering the inflation rate. Annual inflation decelerated to 18.7 percent as of January 2021, remaining on a gradual downward trend since September 2020. As of the beginning of March 2021, Haiti’s stock of net international reserves was approximately $501 million.

There are no legal limitations on foreigners’ access to the domestic credit market. However, banks demand collateral of real property to grant loans. Given the lack of effective cadastral and civil registries, loan applicants face numerous challenges in obtaining credit. The banking sector is extremely conservative in its lending practices. Banks typically lend exclusively to their most trusted and credit-worthy clients. Based on a 2018 study by FinScope Haiti, only one percent of the adult population has access to a bank loan. The high concentration of assets does not allow for product innovation at major banks.

To provide greater access to financial services for individuals and prospective investors, the Haitian government’s banking laws recognize tangible movable property (such as portable machinery, furniture, and tangible personal property) as collateral for loans. These laws allow individuals to buy condominiums, and banks to accept personal property, such as cars, bank accounts, etc., as collateral for loans. USAID has a loan portfolio guarantee program with a diversified group of financial institutions to encourage them to expand credit to productive small and medium enterprises, and rural micro-enterprises. Haiti has a credit rating registry in effect for users of the banking sector but does not have the relevant legislation in place to establish a credit rating bureau.

Haiti’s Central Bank issued a series of monetary policy measures to alleviate the potential impact of COVID-19 on the financial system and the economy in March 2020. These measures included: a reduction in the Central Bank’s policy rate to help lower interest rates on loans; the decrease of reserve requirement ratios to reduce the cost for banks to capture resources and grant loans; a reduction in the Central Bank’s refinancing rate to lower the cost of access to liquidity; the alleviation of loan repayment conditions for customers over a three-month period; the waiver of the Central Bank’s fees on interbank transfers to reduce transaction costs for customers; and the increase of limits on transactions through mobile payment services.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Haitian gourde (HTG) is convertible for commercial and capital transactions. The Central Bank publishes a daily reference rate, which is a weighted average of exchange rates offered in the formal and informal exchange markets. The difference between buying and selling rates is generally less than five percent. Funds can be freely converted into specific currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Canadian dollar, the Euro, the Dominican Republic peso, and the Panamanian peso. The U.S. dollar is usually the most widely available currency, and may be available at times when conversion into another currency is not an option. Starting in the fall of 2020, however, a shortage of U.S. dollars in the formal foreign exchange market in Haiti has been a persistent issue for businesses engaging in international trade.

Remittance Policies

The Haitian government does not impose restrictions on the inflow or outflow of capital. The Law of 1989 governs international transfer operations and remittances. Remittances are Haiti’s primary source of foreign currency and are equivalent to approximately one-third of GDP. In 2020, Haiti received about $3.2 billion in remittances. There are no restrictions or controls on foreign payments or other fund transfer transactions. While restrictions apply on the amount of money that may be withdrawn per transaction, there is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that residents may hold in bank accounts, and there is no ceiling on the amount residents may transfer abroad.

The Haitian government has expressed an intention to put in place stricter measures to monitor money transfers in accordance with Haiti’s efforts to deter illicit cash flows, as mandated by the 2013 Anti-Money Laundering Act. The Haitian Central Bank (BRH) issued a circular in June 2020 applicable to commercial banks and transfer houses. The circular, which went into force as of October 2020, specifies that international transfers must be paid in foreign currency if the beneficiary receives the funds in their U.S. dollar-denominated bank account, while transfers must be paid in gourdes if the beneficiary requests payment at any point of service (branch, agency, office, kiosk) on Haitian national territory. According to the circular, payments in gourdes are made at the daily reference exchange rate published by the Central Bank.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

To date Haiti does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Per information released by the Central Bank in September 2018, since 2011 Haiti has levied a tax of $1.50 on all transfers into and out of the country, with the proceeds designated for the National Fund for Education. According to a Central Bank report in September 2018, more than $120 million has been collected since July 2011 on taxes from remittances from the diaspora.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Central Bank of Haiti USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Haiti Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $14,332 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Central Bank of Haiti USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Total FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) FY2019 $75 2019 $55 UN ECLAC data available at:
https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 0.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Jamaica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) is open to foreign investment in all sectors of the economy. The GOJ made significant structural changes to its economy, under International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidance during the six year period to 2019, resulting in an improved investment environment. Since 2013, Jamaica’s Parliament passed numerous pieces of legislation to improve the business environment and support economic growth through a simplified tax system and broadened tax base. The establishment of credit bureaus and a Collateral Registry under the Secured Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) legislation are improving access to credit. Jamaica made starting a business easier by consolidating forms and made electricity less expensive by reducing the cost of external connection works. The GOJ implemented an electronic platform for the payment of taxes and has established a 90-day window for development approvals.

The GOJ’s public procurement regime was amended, with effect from April 2019, to include provisions for domestic margins of preference, affording preferential treatment to Jamaican suppliers in public contracts in some circumstances, and setting aside a portion of the government’s procurement budget for local micro, small, and medium enterprises. Notwithstanding, U.S. businesses are encouraged to participate in GOJ open procurements, many of which are published in media and via the government’s electronic procurement website: https://www.gojep.gov.jm/ .

Jamaica’s commitment to regulatory reform is an intentional effort to become a more attractive destination for foreign investment. According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, Jamaica ranked 71 out of 190 economies, above average compared to Latin American and Caribbean countries. The country improved or held firm on all metrics assessed in the 2020 report, moving most significantly in the area registering property. The GoJ replaced the Ad Valorem Stamp Duty rate payable on the registration of collateral, such as property used to secure loan instruments, with a flat rate duty. Additionally, the transfer tax, payable on the change of ownership from one person to another, was also reduced during the year from five to two percent. Jamaica is ranked 80 out of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index. Some report that bureaucracy remains a major impediment, with the country continuing to underperform in the areas of trading across borders, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts.

Jamaica’s trade and investment promotion agency, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), is the GOJ agency responsible for promoting business opportunities to local and foreign investors. While JAMPRO does not institute general criteria for FDI, the institution targets specific sectors for investment and promotes Jamaican exports (see  http://www.jamaicatradeandinvest.org/ ).

JAMPRO and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation assist micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) primarily through business facilitation and capacity building. MSMEs tend to consist of less than 10 employees. Such fee-based services would be made available to foreign-owned MSMEs (see  https://www.jbdc.net/ ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

All private entities, foreign and domestic, are entitled to establish and own business enterprises, as well as to engage in all forms of remunerative activity subject to, inter alia, labor, registration, and environmental requirements. Jamaica does not impose limits on foreign ownership or control and local laws do not distinguish between local and foreign investors. There are no sector-specific restrictions that impede market access. A 2017 amendment to the Companies Act requires companies to disclose beneficial owners to the Companies Office of Jamaica (ORC).  The law mandates that the company retains records of legal and beneficial owners for seven years. The GOJ has proposed new legislation on the incorporation and operation of International Business Companies (IBC), which is designed to attract and facilitate a wide variety of international business activities to include: (1) holding companies providing asset protection for intellectual property rights, real property, and the shares of other companies; (2) serving as vehicles for licensing and franchising; (3) conducting international trade, and investment activities; (4) acting as special purpose vehicles in international financial transactions; and, (5) serving as the international headquarters for global companies.

The U.S. government is not aware of any discrimination against foreign investors at the time of initial investment or after the investment is made. However, under the Companies Act, investors are required to either establish a local company or register a branch office of a foreign-owned enterprise. Branches of companies incorporated abroad must register with the Registrar of Companies if they intend to operate in Jamaica. There are no laws or regulations requiring firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Incentives are available to local and foreign investors alike, including various levels of tax relief.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Jamaica concluded a third-party trade policy review through the WTO in September 2017. The WTO Secretariat’s recommendations are listed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp459_e.htm 

Jamaica has not undertaken any investment policy reviews within the last three years in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The GOJ’s previous WTO review took place in 2011 and an OECD review took place in 2004.

Business Facilitation

Businesses can register using the “Super Form,” a single Business Registration Form for New Companies and Business Names. The ORC acts as a “one-stop-shop,” effectively reducing the registration time to between one and three days. Foreign companies can register using these forms, with or without the assistance of an attorney or notary. The “Super Form” can be accessed under Forms at the ORC’s website ( https://www.orcjamaica.com ).

Outward Investment

While the GOJ does not actively promote an outward investment program, it does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Jamaica’s regulatory systems are transparent and consistent with international norms. Proposed legislation is available for public review at japarliament.gov.jm , and submissions are generally invited from members of the public when there is a distinct policy shift or for sensitive changes. There is no law that requires the rulemaking body to solicit comments on proposed regulation and no timeframe for the length of a consultation period when it happens. Furthermore, the law does not require reporting on public consultations but the government presents the consultations directly to interested stakeholders in one unified report. Laws in effect are available at japarliament.gov.jm  or moj.gov.jm . Companies interested in doing business in a particular sector should seek guidance from the relevant regulator(s), including the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) for utilities, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) for deposit taking institutions (DTIs) and the Financial Services Commission (FSC) for non-DTIs.

Jamaica is compliant with established benchmarks for public disclosure of its budget, the establishment and functioning of an independent and supreme audit body, and the award of contracts for natural resource extraction. Additionally, Jamaica’s Public Debt Management Act (PDMA) of 2012 has codified a gradual reduction in its contingent liability or Government Guaranteed Loans (GGL). The PDMA targets a three percent GGL-to-GDP ratio by 2027.

International Regulatory Considerations

The GOJ tends to adopt Commonwealth standards for its regulatory system, especially from Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2001, CARICOM member states established the Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) under Article 67 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. CROSQ is intended to harmonize regional standards to facilitate the smooth movement of goods in the common market. Jamaica is also a full member of the WTO and is required to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Jamaica has a common law legal system and court decisions are generally based on past judicial declarations. The Jamaican Constitution provides for an independent judiciary with a three-tier court structure. A party seeking to enforce ownership or contractual rights can file a claim in the Resident Magistrate or Supreme Court. Appeals on decisions made in these courts can be taken before the Court of Appeal and then to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), in its original jurisdiction, is the court of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), but Jamaica has not signed on to its appellate jurisdiction.Jamaica does not have a single written commercial or contractual law and case law is therefore supplemented by the following pieces of legislation: (1) Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act; (2) Companies Act; (3) Consumer Protection Act; (4) Fair Competition Act; (5) Investment Disputes Awards (Enforcement) Act; (6) Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (7) Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act; (8) Loans (Equity Investment Bonds) Act; (9) Partnership (Limited) Act; (10) Registration of Business Names Act; (11) Sale of Goods Act; (12) Standards Act; and, (13) Trade Act. The commercial and civil divisions of the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to hear intellectual property claims.

Jamaica enforces the judgments of foreign courts through: (1) The Judgment and Awards (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (2) The Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; and, (3) The Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act. Under these acts, judgments of foreign courts are accepted where there is a reciprocal enforcement of judgment treaty with the relevant foreign state. International arbitration is also accepted as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties.

The Jamaican judicial system has a long tradition of being fair, but court cases can take years or even decades to resolve. A new Chief Justice appointed in 2018 has set aggressive benchmarks to streamline the delivery of judgments, bring greater levels of efficiency to court administration, and target throughput rates in line with international best practice. Efforts are currently underway to provide hearing date certainty and disposition of cases within 24 months, barring exceptional circumstances. The deployment of new courtrooms and the appointment of additional Appeal Court Judges are indicators of Jamaica’s commitment to justice reform.

Challenges with dispute resolution usually reflect broader problems within the court system, including long delays and resource constraints. Subsequent enforcement of court decisions or arbitration awards is usually adequate, and the local court will recognize the enforcement of an international arbitration award.

A specialized Commercial Court was established in 2001 to expedite the resolution of commercial cases. The rules do not make it mandatory for commercial cases to be filed in the Commercial Court and the Court is largely underutilized by litigants.

Jamaica ranked 119 in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report on the metric of enforcement of contracts, scoring 64.8 in the length of time taken for enforcement, 43.6 for costs associated with litigation and 52.8 on the quality of judicial processes.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There are no specific laws or regulations specifically related to foreign investment. Since foreign companies are treated similar to Jamaican companies when investing, the relevant sections of the applicable laws are applied equally.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Fair Trading Commission (FTC), an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, administers the Fair Competition Act (FCA). The major objective of the FCA is to foster competitive behavior and provide consumer protection. The Act proscribes the following anti-competitive practices: resale price maintenance; tied selling; price fixing; collusion and cartels; and bid rigging. The Act does not specifically prohibit mergers or acquisitions that could lead to the creation of a monopoly. The FTC is empowered to investigate breaches of the Act and businesses or individuals in breach can be taken to court if they fail to implement corrective measures outlined by the FTC.

Expropriation and Compensation

Expropriation is generally not an issue in Jamaica, although land may be expropriated for national development under the Land Acquisition Act, which provides for compensation on the basis of market value. The U.S. government is not aware of any current expropriation-related litigation between the Jamaican government and any private individual or company. However, the U.S. government assisted investors who had property expropriated during the 1970’s socialist regime, with a payment in one such case received in 2010.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Jamaica became a signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID) in 1965. The country is a signatory to the New York Convention (the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards), which governs the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. The Jamaican Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act enables foreign arbitral awards under the New York Convention to be enforced in Jamaica.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

International arbitration is also accepted as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties. Jamaica enforces the judgments of foreign courts through: (1) The Judgment and Awards (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (2) The Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; and, (3) The Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act. Under these acts, judgments of foreign courts are accepted where there is a reciprocal enforcement of judgment treaty with the relevant foreign state. Jamaica does not have a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Jamaica accepts international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors, the Jamaican government, and private parties. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) serves as the region’s international tribunal for disputes within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy. The Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Caribbean Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators both facilitate arbitration and rules of the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Other foreign investors are given national treatment and civil procedures apply. Disputes between enterprises are handled in the local courts but foreign investors can refer cases to ICSID. There were cases of trademark infringements in which U.S. firms took action and were granted restitution in the local courts. While restitution is slow, it tends to be fair and transparent. The U.S. government is not aware of any cases in which State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been involved in investment disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Jamaica enacted new insolvency legislation in 2014 that replaced the Bankruptcy Act of 1880 and seeks to make the insolvency process more efficient. The Act prescribes the circumstances under which bankruptcy is committed; the procedure for filing a bankruptcy petition; and the procedures to be followed in the administration of the estates of bankrupts. The reform addresses bankruptcy; insolvency, receiverships; provisional supervision; and winding up proceedings. The law addresses corporate and individual insolvency and facilitates the rehabilitation of insolvent debtors, while removing the stigma formerly associated with either form of insolvency. Both insolvents and “looming insolvents” (persons who will become insolvent within twelve months of the filing of the proposal if corrective or preventative action is not taken) are addressed in the reforms.

The Act contains a provision for debtors to make a proposal to their creditors for the restructuring of debts, subject to acceptance by the creditor. Creditors can also invoke bankruptcy proceedings against the debtor if the amount owed is not less than the prescribed threshold or if the debtor has committed an act of bankruptcy. The filing of a proposal or notice of intention to file a proposal creates a temporary stay of proceedings. During this period, the creditor is precluded from enforcing claims against the debtor. The stay does not apply to secured creditors who take possession of secured assets before the proposal is filed; gives notice of intention to enforce against a security at least 10 days before the notice of intention or actual proposal is filed; or, rejects the proposal. The 2014 legislation makes it a criminal offence if a bankrupt entity defaults on certain obligations set out in the legislation.Jamaica ranked 34 on Resolving Insolvency in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report. Bankruptcy proceedings take about a year to resolve, costing 18 percent of the estate value with an average recovery rate of 65 percent.The text of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act can be found at: http://www.japarliament.gov.jm/attachments/341_The%20Insolvency%20Act%202014%20No.14%20rotated.pdf

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Credit is available at market terms, and foreigners are allowed to borrow freely on the local market at market-determined rates of interest. A relatively effective regulatory system was established to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. Jamaica has had its own stock exchange, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), since 1969. The JSE was the top performing capital market indices in 2018 and was among the top five performers in 2019. The Financial Services Commission (FSC) and the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), the central bank, regulate these activities. Jamaica adheres to IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

At the end of 2019 there were 11 deposit-taking institutions (DTIs) consisting of eight commercial banks, one merchant bank (Licensed under the Financial Institutions Act) and two building societies. The number of credit unions shrank from 47 at the end of 2009 to 25 at the end of 2019. Commercial banks held assets of approximately USD13 billion and liabilities of USD11.3 billion at the end of 2020. Non-performing loans (NPL) of USD185 million at end December 2020, were 2.9 percent of total loans. Five of the country’s eight commercial banks are foreign-owned. After a financial sector crisis in the mid-1990s led to consolidations, the sector has remained largely stable.

In October 2018, the GOJ took legislative steps to modernize and make the central bank operationally independent through the tabling of amendments to the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Act. The modernization program includes, inter alia, the institutionalization of the central bank independence, improved governance, and the transitioning of monetary policy towards inflation targeting. The modernization efforts continued in 2020 with the passage of the Bank of Jamaica Amendment Act to allow for, among other things: (1) full-fledged inflation targeting; (2) improved capitalization, governance, transparency, and accountability; (3) monetary policy decisions to be devolved to a monetary policy committee; and (4) the central bank Governor to account to Parliament. The Act will therefore remove the power of the government to give monetary policy direction to the central bank. These changes will move Jamaica’s financial governance framework closer in line with international standards.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on holding funds or on converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment. In 2017, the BOJ implemented a new system called the BOJ Foreign Exchange Intervention & Trading Tool (B-FXITT) for the sale and purchase of foreign exchange (FX) to market players. The new system is a more efficient and transparent way of intervening in the FX market to smooth out demand and supply conditions.

Investment-related funds are freely convertible to regularly traded currencies, particularly into United States, Canadian dollars and United Kingdom pounds. However, foreign exchange transactions must be conducted through authorized foreign exchange dealers, “cambios,” and bureau de change. Foreign exchange is generally available and investors are free to remit their investment returns.

Remittance Policies

The country’s financial system is fully liberalized and subject to market conditions. There is no required waiting period for the remittance of investment returns. Any person or company can purchase instruments denominated in foreign currency. There are no restrictions or limitations on the inflow or outflow of funds for the remittance of profits or revenue. The country does not possess the financial muscle to engage in currency manipulation.

Jamaica was listed among the Major Money Laundering Jurisdictions in the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), while noting that the GoJ has enacted legislation to address corruption.

In February 2020, Jamaica was grey listed by the Financial Action Task Force, for failing to address some of the deficiencies identified in the 2017 Caribbean Financial Action Task Force Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures ( https://www.cfatf-gafic.org/index.php/documents/4th-round-meval-reports ).

Having entered an Observation Period following the 2017 publication of the MER, Jamaica’s progression towards remedying partially and non-compliant areas was slow. GoJ has developed a FAFT action plan which includes developing a broader understanding of its money laundering/terrorist financing risk and including all financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions in the AML/CFT regime, and ensuring adequate risk-based supervision in all sectors.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Jamaica does not have a sovereign wealth fund or an asset management bureau.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019* USD15.23B 2019 USD16.46B www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 N/A 2017 USD167 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 25.7% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  

* Source for Host Country Data: Statistical Institute of Jamaica https://statinja.gov.jm/NationalAccounting/Annual/NewAnnualGDP.aspx 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
USA 39.5 5.9 N/A
Spain 182.0.0 27.4
China   220.0  33.1
Canada   30.0   4.5
Other 191.4 -29.1

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens.

The country is home to the ECCB, the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE), and the Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission (ECSRC).

In the federation, each island has a separate investment promotion agency, the St. Kitts Investment Promotion Agency (SKIPA) and the Nevis Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA).  Both agencies have introduced several investment incentives for businesses that consider locating in the federation.  SKIPA and NIPA provide “one-stop shop” facilitation services to investors, guiding them through the various stages of the investment process.

The federal government encourages investment in all sectors, but targeted sectors include financial services, tourism, real estate, agriculture, information and communication technologies, international education services, renewable energy, ship registries, and limited light manufacturing.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in St. Kitts and Nevis.  Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.  Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Foreign investment in St. Kitts and Nevis is generally not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors receive the same treatment as citizens.  The only exception to this is the requirement that foreign investors obtain an Alien Landholders License to purchase residential or commercial property.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which St. Kitts and Nevis is a member, has not conducted a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

SKIPA and NIPA facilitate domestic and foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advise the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment.  Both agencies provide business support services and market intelligence to investors.

St. Kitts and Nevis ranks 109th of 190 countries in starting a business, which takes seven procedures and about 18.5 days to complete, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.  It is not mandatory that an attorney prepare incorporation documents.  A business must register with the Financial Services Regulatory Commission, the Registrar of Companies, the Ministry of Finance, the Inland Revenue Department, and the Social Security Board.

Outward Investment

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies in St. Kitts and Nevis 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.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  It has a Double Taxation Agreement with the United States, but this agreement is limited solely to social security benefits.  St. Kitts and Nevis’s Double Taxation Agreements meet Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards, as well as Tax Information Exchange Agreements standards.  St. Kitts and Nevis maintains double taxation agreements with several countries including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.  It has Double Taxation Conventions (DTCs) with Monaco, San Marino, and some CARICOM countries.  St. Kitts and Nevis is also party to the following agreements:

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to promote economic integration among its 15 member states.  Investors operating in St. Kitts and Nevis have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas established the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital, and labor within CARICOM member states.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full members: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and four associate members: Anguilla, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the British Virgin Islands.  The OECS aims to promote harmonization among member states concerning foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries of the OECS ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, establishing the OECS Economic Union in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, including goods, services, and people, move without hindrance.

CARICOM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The European Union and the CARICOM states signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty in CARIFORUM states, to promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and to foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving their trade capacity and creating investment-conducive environments.  The EPA promotes trade-related developments in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and protection of personal data.

CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement

The UK and the CARIFORUM states signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2019, committing to trade policy continuity after Britain’s departure from the European Union.  The CARIFORUM-UK EPA eliminates all tariffs on all goods imported from CARIFORUM states into the UK, while Caribbean states will continue to gradually cut import tariffs on most of the region’s imports from the UK.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The objective of the Caribbean Basin Initiative is to promote economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying economies, and expanding exports.  The Caribbean Basin Initiative permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in St. Kitts and Nevis into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement

The Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries.  Through CARIBCAN, Canada provides duty-free access to its national market for most products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis provides a legal framework to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labor, environment, health, and safety.  The St. Kitts Ministry of Finance and SKIPA and the Nevis Ministry of Finance and NIPA provide oversight of the system’s transparency as it relates to investment.

The incorporation and registration of companies differs somewhat on the country’s two constituent islands.  In St. Kitts, the Companies Act regulates the process.  On Nevis, the Nevis Island Business Corporation Ordinance regulates the incorporation of companies.  There are no nationality restrictions for directors in a company, and in general, national treatment is applied.  All registered companies must have a registered office in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority lies with the unicameral parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis.  The parliament consists of 11 members elected in single-seat constituencies (eight from St. Kitts and three from Nevis) for a five-year term.

Although St. Kitts and Nevis does not have legislation that guarantees access to information or freedom of expression, access to information is generally available in practice.  The government maintains an information service and a website, where it posts information such as directories of officials and a summary of laws and press releases.  The government budget and limited debt obligation information are available on the website: https://www.gov.kn/.  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. Kitts and Nevis.

The independent Office of the Ombudsman guards against abuses by government officers in the performance of their duties.  The Ombudsman is responsible for investigating any complaint relating to any decision or act of any government officer or body in any case in which a member of the public claims to be aggrieved or appears to the Ombudsman to be the victim of injustice due to the exercise of the administrative function of that officer or body.

Regulations are developed nationally and regionally.  Nationally, the relevant line ministry reviews regulations.  Ministries then submit the results of their reviews to the Ministry of Justice, Legal Affairs and Communications for the preparation of the draft legislation.  Subsequently, the Ministry of Justice, Legal Affairs and Communications reviews all agreements and legal commitments (national, regional, and international) to be undertaken by St. Kitts and Nevis to ensure consistency prior to finalization.  SKIPA has the main responsibility for project-level supervision, while the Ministry of Finance monitors investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.

St. Kitts and Nevis’s membership in regional organizations, particularly the OECS and its Economic Union, commits it to implement all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfillment of its various treaty obligations.  For example, the Banking Act, which establishes a single banking space and the harmonization of banking regulations in the Economic Union, is uniformly in force in the eight member territories of the ECCU, although there are some minor differences in implementation from country to country.  The enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties or legal sanctions.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the Eastern Caribbean Customs Union, St. Kitts and Nevis subscribes to a set of 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, St. Kitts and Nevis is obligated to implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under OECS authority, unless specific concessions are sought.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards develops, establishes, maintains, and promotes standards for improving industrial development, industrial efficiency, the health and safety of consumers, the environment, food and food products, and the facilitation of trade.  It also conducts national training and consultations in international standards practices.  As a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, St. Kitts and Nevis, through the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards, is obligated to harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.

St. Kitts and Nevis ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016.  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. Kitts and Nevis has already implemented some TFA requirements.  A full list is available at: https://www.tfadatabase.org/members/saint-kitts-and-nevis/measure-breakdown.  St. Kitts and Nevis ranks 71st out of 190 countries in trading across borders in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

St. Kitts and Nevis bases its legal system on the British common law system.  The Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), junior judges, and magistrates administer justice in the country.  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 interpretation of the Constitution.  Parties may appeal to the ECSC, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members.  Final appeal is to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the UK.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal.  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 CARICOM member states, which are parties to the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice.  Currently, St. Kitts and Nevis is subject only to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The United States and St. Kitts and Nevis 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

St. Kitts and Nevis’ policy is to attract foreign direct investment into the priority sectors identified under its National Diversification Strategy.  These include financial services, tourism, real estate, agriculture, information technology, education services, and limited light manufacturing.  However, investment opportunities also exist in renewable energy and other services.  The main laws concerning foreign investment include the Fiscal Incentive Act, the Hotels Aid Act, and the Companies Act.

SKIPA and NIPA offer websites useful for navigating procedures and registration requirements for foreign investors at https://investstkitts.kn and https://investnevis.org .  St. Kitts also offers an online investment handbook at https://goldenbookskn.com.

Under St. Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship by investment (CBI) program, foreign individuals can obtain citizenship without needing to establish residence (or gaining voting rights).  Applicants are required to undergo a due diligence process before citizenship can be granted.  A minimum investment for a single investor to qualify is $200,000 in real estate or a $150,000 contribution to the Sustainable Growth Fund.  Applicants must also provide a full medical certificate and evidence of the source of funds.  Applications for CBI status for real estate projects should be submitted to SKIPA for review and processing.  Further information is available at: http://www.ciu.gov.kn/.

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 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. Kitts and Nevis does not have domestic legislation regulating competition.

Expropriation and Compensation

St. Kitts and Nevis employs eminent domain laws which allow the government to expropriate private property.  The government is required to compensate owners.  There are also laws that permit the acquisition of private businesses, and the government claims such laws are constitutional.  The concept of eminent domain and the expropriation of private property is typically governed by laws that require governments to adequately compensate owners of the expropriated property at the time of its expropriation or soon thereafter.  In some cases, the procedure for compensation of owners favors the government valuation.

The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown is aware of two separate and outstanding cases involving the seizure of private land by the government.  In the first case, the previous government agreed to pay the U.S. citizen claimant in installments and completed the first two installments.  According to certain parties to the dispute, the current government defaulted on two installments.  Although a court in St. Kitts and Nevis ordered the government to complete the 2015 and 2016 installments, the government has yet to do so.  The government claims another individual made a claim on the property, and that it must wait until a court rules on the other claim before completing payments to the U.S. citizen owner.

In the second case, in 2015, an American company signed an agreement with St. Kitts and Nevis to provide two million gallons of water.  The government expropriated one of the company’s wells in November 2018 without compensation.  In 2019, the government agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to the company and to deposit an additional $500,000 into an escrow account.  The company subsequently agreed to a settlement of $750,000 plus the escrow deposit.  Although the government agreed to the payments, the Ministry of Infrastructure has not released the funds.  The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown recommends caution when conducting business in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

St. Kitts and Nevis is a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.  It is not a member of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.  However, as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), St. Kitts and Nevis adheres to the New York Arbitration Convention.  The Arbitration Act is the main legislation that governs arbitration in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors are permitted to use national or international arbitration for contracts with the state.  St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.

The country ranks 49th out of 190 countries in enforcing contracts in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.  According to the report, dispute resolution in St. Kitts and Nevis generally took an average of 578 days with a cost of 26.6 percent of the claim.  The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen by foreign investors as main hindrances to timely resolution of 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

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the domestic arbitration body.  Local courts recognize and enforce foreign commercial arbitral awards.  International commercial arbitration in St. Kitts and Nevis is applied under the Arbitration Act.  The ECSC’s Court of Appeal also provides mediation.

Bankruptcy Regulations

St. Kitts and Nevis has a bankruptcy framework that grants certain rights to debtor and creditor.  The 2020 Doing Business Report ranks St. Kitts and Nevis 168th of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the ECCU.  As such, it 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 the buying and selling of financial products for the eight member territories.  In 2020, the ECSE listed 155 securities, comprising 135 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate debt securities.  Market capitalization stood at $1.8 billion.  St. Kitts and Nevis is open to portfolio investment.

St. Kitts and Nevis 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.  The private sector has access to credit on the local market through loans, purchases of non-equity securities, 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. Kitts and Nevis is a signatory to this agreement, and the ECCB controls St. Kitts and Nevis’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.

Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in St. Kitts and Nevis.  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.  In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector as stable.  Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.5 billion (6.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of 2019.

St. Kitts and Nevis 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 and appointed a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking to monitor the issue.

In 2019, the ECCB started an 18-month financial technology pilot to launch a Digital Eastern Caribbean dollar (DXCD) with its partner, Barbados-based Bitt Inc.  An accompanying mobile application, DCash, was officially launched on March 31, 2021 in four pilot countries including St. Kitts and Nevis.  The DCash pilot phase will run for 12 months.  The digital Eastern Caribbean currency will operate alongside physical Eastern Caribbean currency.

St. Kitts and Nevis enacted the Virtual Assets Bill, 2020, to regulate virtual currencies with the expectation that they will become increasingly prevalent.  The bill is intended to facilitate the ease of doing business in a cashless society, and to combat theft, fraud, money laundering, Ponzi schemes, and terrorist financing.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

St. Kitts and Nevis 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, St. Kitts and Nevis has a fully liberalized foreign exchange system.  The XCD was pegged to the United States dollar at a rate of 2.70  Eastern Caribbean dollars to $1.00 in 1976.  As a result, the XCD does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in St. Kitts and Nevis 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.  A mixed foreign-domestic company may repatriate profits to the extent of its foreign participation.

As a member of the OECS, there are no exchange controls in St. Kitts and Nevis and the invoicing of foreign trade transactions are allowed in any currency.  Importers are not required to make prior deposits in local funds and export proceeds do not have to be surrendered to government authorities or to authorized banks.  There are no controls on transfers of funds.  St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

The country passed the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, 2019.  The stated intent of this bill is to begin to bring the country into alignment with international standards for combating money laundering.  St. Kitts and Nevis also passed the Proceeds of Crime and Asset Recovery Bill, 2019, which aims to provide the government with an additional tool to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

In 2016, the government signed an Intergovernmental Agreement in observance of FATCA, making it mandatory for banks in St. Kitts and Nevis to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

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

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 927.4 2019 1,053 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 476 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 169.1 UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
St. Kitts and Nevis does not appear in the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS).

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
St. Kitts and Nevis does not appear in the IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS).

Saint Lucia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Saint Lucia strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI).  Invest Saint Lucia has introduced several investment incentives for businesses that consider locating in Saint Lucia, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment.  Invest Saint Lucia is managed by a Chief Executive Director and is overseen by a board of directors appointed by the government under the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs. The state-run agency Invest Saint Lucia provides “one-stop shop” facilitation services to investors, helping to guide them through the various stages of the investment process.  It assesses investment proposals for viability and in accordance with the laws of Saint Lucia and provides investment promotion services.

Applicable government agencies, rather than Invest Saint Lucia, grant investment concessions.  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.

The Saint 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 Saint 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.  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 Saint 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.  It focuses on building and promoting Saint 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 Saint 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

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

Business Facilitation

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.  Applicants, however, must pay the registration fee in-person 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, Saint 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 Saint 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.

The Government of Saint Lucia is committed to the full participation of people with disabilities in the society and the economy.  It actively engages with people with disabilities in society to ensure the equal participation of people with disabilities in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

Outward Investment

The Government of Saint Lucia prioritizes investment retention as a key component of its overall economic strategy.  While the Government of Saint 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 Saint 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.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Bilateral Investment: Saint Lucia does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  Saint Lucia has bilateral investment treaties with the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  Saint Lucia is also party to the following:

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established CARICOM in 1973.  Its purpose is to promote economic integration among its fifteen member states.  Investors operating in Saint Lucia have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas further establishes the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital and labor within CARICOM.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full members (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), and three associate members (Anguilla, Martinique, and the British Virgin Islands).  Guadeloupe signed an accession agreement to the OECS in 2019.  The purpose of the Treaty is to promote harmonization among member states in foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries and Montserrat ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, which entered into force in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which goods, services, and people move without hindrance.

CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) states and the European Community signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty, to promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and to foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving their trade capacity and creating an investment-conducive environment.  The Agreement promotes trade-related development in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and protection of personal data.

CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement

The UK and the CARIFORUM states signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2019, committing to trade continuity after Britain’s departure from the European Union.  The CARIFORUM-UK EPA eliminates all tariffs on all goods imported from CARIFORUM states into the UK, while those Caribbean states will continue to gradually cut import tariffs on most of the region’s imports from the UK.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The objective of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) is to promote economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying CBI country economies, and expanding their exports.  The CBI provides beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.  It permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in Saint Lucia into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement

The Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries in which Canada provides duty free access to its national market for many products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

Bilateral Taxation Treaties: Saint Lucia has signed taxation agreements with other CARICOM countries.  There is no taxation treaty with the United States, but there is a bilateral Tax Information Agreement.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The legal framework in Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint Lucia.  These laws are developed in the respective ministries and drafted by the Office of the Attorney General.  FDI is covered by the enacting legislation for Invest Saint Lucia, the citizenship by investment (CBI) program, and some sector-specific laws such as the Fiscal Incentives Act or tourism-related laws.  Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint Lucia.  The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found Saint 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.  Saint 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, Saint 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.  Saint 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 Saint 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, Saint Lucia is obligated to harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.  Saint Lucia is working to improve customs efficiency, modernize customs operations, and address inefficiencies in the clearance of goods.

Saint 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.  Saint 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

Saint 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, Saint Lucia is subject only to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The United States and Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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 $100,000 contribution to the National Economic Fund.  A $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 $300,000 or more will also qualify.  There are also provisions for enterprise investment in approved projects and a government bond option.  In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the unit also created a special Covid-19 Relief Bond with a minimum investment of $250,000.  This bond option is available until the end of 2021.  More information on the CBI program is available at https://www.cipsaintlucia.com.

Competition and Antitrust 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. Saint 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.  Saint 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 case of expropriation involving an American citizen-owned property.  An American citizen purchased 32 acres of land in Saint Lucia in 1970.  The government expropriated the land in 1985 by an act of law.  The claimant has been seeking redress, and those efforts have been unsuccessful to date.  The government has been largely unresponsive to repeated attempts by the claimant to follow up on the case, and the government indicated it lost property records the claimant says support their ownership claim.  U.S. Embassy Bridgetown continues to advocate with the government to ensure the claimant is allowed to fully exercise his/her due process rights.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Saint 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 Saint Lucia.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

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

The country ranked 79th out of 190 countries in in enforcing contracts in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.  Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  In 2016, Saint Lucia established a Commercial division within its High 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 Saint Lucia.  Court proceedings are generally transparent and non-discriminatory.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Saint 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 Saint Lucia 131 out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Saint 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 buying and selling of financial products for the eight member territories.  In 2020, the ECSE listed 155 securities, comprising 135 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate debt securities.  Market capitalization stood at $1.8 billion.  Saint Lucia is open to portfolio investment.

Saint 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 Saint 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.  Saint Lucia is a signatory to this agreement and the ECCB controls Saint 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 Saint 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.

In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector in Saint Lucia as stable.  Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.8 billion (6.4 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in at the end of 2019.  In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector in Saint Lucia as stable. Saint Lucia is well-served by bank and non-bank financial institutions.

The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by the 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.

In 2019, the ECCB launched an 18-month financial technology pilot to launch a Digital Eastern Caribbean dollar (DXCD) with its partner, Barbados-based Bitt Inc.  An accompanying mobile application, DCash was officially launched on March 31, 2021 in four pilot countries including Saint Lucia.  The DCash pilot phase will run for 12 months.  The digital Eastern Caribbean currency will operate alongside physical Eastern Caribbean currency.  Saint Lucia does not have any specific legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Saint Lucia is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB.  The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD).  Saint 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 $1.00 since 1976.  As a result, the Eastern Caribbean dollar does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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.  Saint Lucia is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

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

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 2122 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 412 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 7 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 51.7% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%
20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank – https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/gdp-datas/comparative-report/1

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available; Saint Lucia does not appear in the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS).

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available; Saint Lucia does not appear in the IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS).

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, through Invest SVG, strongly encourages FDI, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign currency.  The government is open to all investment, but is currently prioritizing investment in niche markets, particularly tourism, international financial services, agroprocessing, light manufacturing, creative industries, and information and communication technologies.

Invest SVG’s FDI policy is designed to attract investment into priority sectors.  It advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs that attract and facilitate investment.  The government offers special incentive packages for foreign investments in the hotel industry and light manufacturing.  The government offers other incentive packages on an ad hoc basis.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, nor are there requirements for local investment or ownership in locally registered companies, although non-nationals must apply for a license from the Prime Minister’s Office to acquire more than 50 percent of a company.  An attorney must submit the application and Cabinet must approve it.  Companies holding at least five acres of land may restrict or prohibit the issue or transfer of their shares or debentures to non-nationals.

The government has not officially closed any industries to private investment, although some activities such as telecommunications, utilities, broadcasting, banking, and insurance require a government license.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the OECS. The OECS has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Invest SVG facilitates domestic and foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment.  Invest SVG provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  It also reviews all investment projects applying for government incentives to ensure they conform to national interests and provide economic benefits to the country.  Its website is http://www.investsvg.com.  In addition to its website, the country offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  The guide is available at http://theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/saintvincentandthegrenadines.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 93rd of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business, which takes seven procedures and ten days to complete.  The general practice is to retain an attorney to prepare all incorporation documents.  A business must register with the Commerce and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), the Ministry of Trade, the Inland Revenue Department, and the National Insurance Service.  The CIPO has an online information portal that describes the steps to register a business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  There is no online registration process, but the required forms are available online.  These must be printed and submitted to the CIPO.  More information is available at http://www.cipo.gov.vc.

Outward Investment

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

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  The country, however, has bilateral tax treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.   In1989, Germany and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed a treaty for the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment.  In 2018, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the UAE concluded an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and an Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also party to the following economic communities and organizations:

Caribbean Community

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1973.  Its purpose is to promote economic integration among its 15 member states.  Investors operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) established the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital, and labor among CARICOM states.  CARICOM has bilateral agreements with Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.  In 2013, CARICOM entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full member states (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), and four associate members (Anguilla, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the British Virgin Islands).  The OECS promotes harmonization among member states in foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries and Montserrat (a British Overseas Territory) ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, which entered into force in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, including goods, services, and people, move without hindrance.

CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) and the European Community signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty, promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving trade capacity and creating an investment-conducive environment.  The EPA promotes trade-related developments in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and the protection of personal data.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The Caribbean Basin Initiative facilitates the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies.  It promotes economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying country economies, and expanding their imports.  The Caribbean Basin Initiative provides beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.  It permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN)

CARIBCAN is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries in which Canada provides duty-free access to its national market for most products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

St. Vincent and the Grenadines uses transparent policies and laws to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labor, environment, health, and safety.  Accounting, legal, and regulatory practices are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.  The International Financial Accounting Standards, which stem from the General Accepted Accounting Principles, govern the profession in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Rulemaking and regulatory authority rests in the unicameral House of Assembly, which has fifteen elected members and six appointed senators who sit for a five-year term.  The Public Accounts Committee and Director of Audits ensure the government follows administrative processes.

National laws govern all regulations relating to foreign investment.  Ministries develop these laws, and the Ministry of Legal Affairs drafts them.  Laws pertaining to Invest SVG also govern FDI.  Invest SVG has the main responsibility for investment supervision, while the Ministry of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Information and Labor tracks investments to collect information for national statistics and reporting purposes.

The government publishes most draft bills in local newspapers for public comment.  In addition, the government circulates bills at stakeholder meetings.  Some bills and laws are published on the government website at www.gov.vc.  The government sometimes establishes a select committee to suggest amendments to specific draft bills.  In some instances, these mechanisms may also apply to investment laws and regulations.  There is no obligation for the government to consider proposed amendments prior to implementation.  The government discloses information on public finances and debt obligations.  The annual budget address can be found online.

The country’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.  For example, the Banking Act, which establishes a single banking space and the harmonization of banking regulations in the Economic Union, is uniformly in force in the eight member territories of the ECCU, although there are some minor differences in implementation from country to country.  The most recent Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Mutual Evaluation assessment found St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be largely compliant.  The ECCB is the supervisory authority over financial institutions registered under the Banking Act of 2015.

An external company must be registered with the Commercial Registry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines if it wishes to operate in the country.  Companies using or manufacturing chemicals must first obtain approval of their environmental and health practices from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Standards Institution and the Environmental Division of the Ministry of Health.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of the OECS and the ECCU, St. Vincent and the Grenadines subscribes to a set of 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, the country must implement regionally developed regulations, such as legislation passed under the OECS Authority, unless it seeks specific concessions not to do so.

The country’s Bureau of Standards is a statutory body which prepares and promulgates standards in relation to goods, services, processes, and practices.  As a signatory to the WTO Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade, St. Vincent and the Grenadines must harmonize all national standards to international norms to avoid creating technical barriers to trade.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2017 and subsequently notified its Category A measures.  Included in the Trade Facilitation Agreement are measures to improve risk management techniques and a post-clearance audit system to eliminate delays and congestion at the port.  While St. Vincent and the Grenadines has implemented some TFA requirements, it has missed two implementation deadlines.  A full list of measures undertaken pursuant to the TFA is available at https://tfadatabase.org/members/saint-vincent-and-the-grenadines.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is based on the British common law system.  The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary.  The judicial system consists of lower courts, called magistrates’ courts, and a family court.  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 constitutional matters.  Parties may appeal first to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, an itinerant court that hears appeals from all OECS members.  The final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council.

The country has a strong judicial system that upholds the sanctity of contracts and prevents unwarranted discrimination towards foreign investors.  The government treats foreign investors and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.  The police and court systems are generally unbiased in commercial matters.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the regional judicial tribunal.  The CCJ has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is only subject to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The United States and St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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 SVG provides guidance on the relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.  Invest SVG has the authority to screen and review FDI projects.  The review process is transparent and contingent on the size of capital investment and the project’s projected economic impact.  The investor must complete a series of steps to obtain a business license.  These steps are listed at http://www.investsvg.com.  All potential investors seeking an incentive package must submit their proposals for review by Invest SVG to ensure the project is consistent with the nation’s laws and interests and would provide economic benefits to the country.

Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Competition and Antitrust 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 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 the Community, and actions by which an enterprise abuses its dominant position within the Community.  There is no legislation to regulate competition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Acquisition Act, the government may acquire land for a public purpose.  The government must serve a notice of acquisition on the person from whom the land is acquired.  A Board of Assessment determines compensation and files its award in the High Court.  The value of the land is based on the amount for which the land would be sold on the open market by a willing seller.  Under the Alien’s (Land-Holding Regulation) Act, the government can hold properties forfeit without compensation if the terms of investment are not met.  The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any outstanding expropriation claims or nationalization of foreign enterprises in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.

According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, dispute resolution generally took 595 days, though this may vary.  The slow court system and bureaucracy are widely seen as the main hindrances to timely resolution of commercial disputes.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 61st of 190 countries in enforcing contracts in the report.  Through the Arbitration Act, the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investors are permitted to use national or international arbitration regarding contracts entered into with the state.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a bilateral investment treaty or a free trade agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.  The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any current investment disputes in the country.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is the domestic arbitration body, and the local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.  The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act provides that either party to an existing trade dispute can report it to the Governor General.  The Governor General may, if both parties consent, refer the dispute to an arbitration panel for settlement.  The arbitration panel must issue an award that is consistent with national employment laws.  Parties can be represented by legal counsel before the arbitration panel.  These bodies may conduct proceedings in public or private.  The Trade Disputes Act provides that alternative dispute mechanisms are available as a means for settling disputes between two private parties.  The government recognizes voluntary mediation or conciliation as dispute resolution mechanisms.   The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeals also provides mediation.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act governs the country’s bankruptcy framework and grants certain rights to debtors and creditors.  The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranks St. Vincent and the Grenadines 168th of 190 countries in resolving insolvency.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the ECCU.  As such, it is also a participant on the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) and the Regional Government Securities Market.  The ECSE is a regional securities market established by the ECCB and regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission.  The Securities Act of 2001 regulates activities on the ECSM.

The ECSE and its subsidiaries, the Eastern Caribbean Central Securities Depository and the Eastern Caribbean Central Securities Registry, facilitate activities on the ECSE.  The main activities are the primary issuance and secondary trading of corporate and sovereign securities, the clearance and settlement of issues and trades, maintaining securities holders’ records, and providing custodial, registration, transfer agency, and paying agency services in respect of listed and non-listed securities.  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 USD (1.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars), representing a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous year.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is open to portfolio investment.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a credit bureau.

Money and Banking System

Eight participating governments 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. Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to this agreement.  Therefore, the ECCB controls the country’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.

The Banking Act 2015 is a harmonized piece of legislation across all 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines as stable.  Assets of commercial banks totaled $833 million (2.25 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.

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.

Bitt, a Barbadian company, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with ECCB.  The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February 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 is expected to launch DCash in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in mid-2021.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have any specific legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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, its foreign exchange system is fully liberalized.  The XCD 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.

Remittance Policies

Companies registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions.  International companies are exempt from taxation.  Under present regulations, there are no personal income taxes, estate taxes, corporate income taxes, or withholding taxes for international companies operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  International companies are also exempt from competitive tax for 25 years.

Only banks may make currency conversions.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the CFATF.

In 2014, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to facilitate compliance for FATCA, which makes it mandatory for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ banks to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, nor the ECCB, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $823 2019 825 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 7 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 -1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 13.5 UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Suriname

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Suriname (GOS) officially supports and encourages business development through foreign and local investment. The overall investment climate favors U.S. investors with experience working in developing countries. Investment opportunities exist in mining, agriculture, the oil and gas sector, timber, fishing, financial technology and tourism.

With the exception of petroleum, Suriname has no sector-specific laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors, by prohibiting, limiting or conditioning foreign investment. In the oil sector, the state oil company, Staatsolie, maintains sole ownership of all oil-related activities. Foreign investment is possible through exploration and product sharing contracts (PSCs) with Staatsolie. Five U.S. companies participate in PSCs as operators and/or as contract partners. A full list of PSCs can be found on Staatsolie’s website: https://www.staatsolie.com/en/staatsolie-hydrocarbon-institute/active-production-sharing-contracts/ 

In February 2021, the Government of Suriname announced that it will terminate its two existing investment entities, namely the Institute for Promoting Investments in Suriname (InvestSur) and the Investment and Development Corporation of Suriname (IDCS) in order to establish a new investment company. In March 2021, the National Assembly launched debate on a draft law to establish a State-owned investment company to be named the Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The government also created an International Business Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act as a first point of entry for foreign investors.

Suriname does not have a formal business roundtable or ombudsman aimed at investment retention or maintaining an ongoing dialogue with investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control – statutory, de facto, or otherwise. No law requires that domestic nationals own a minimum percentage of domestic companies or that foreign nationals hold seats on the board. No law caps or reduces the percentage of foreign ownership of any private business enterprise.

Except for petroleum, there are no sector-specific restrictions applied to foreign ownership and control. Within the petroleum sector, the law limits ownership to Staatsolie, the state-owned oil company, which maintains sole ownership of all petroleum-related activities. Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) countries do enjoy favored status over other sources of foreign investment, but in practice international firms from beyond the CSME are not denied investment opportunities. An Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union aims to provide European companies better access to Suriname. Suriname has not yet ratified the EPA.

Government ministries screen inbound foreign investments intended for the sector of the economy that they oversee. Special commissions screen all necessary legal and financial documents. Screening criteria vary, but are intended to determine a proposed investment’s compliance with local law. The screening process is neither public nor transparent, and therefore could be considered a barrier to investment. The Department of International Business at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requests that prospective investors fill out an intake form. The intake form will enable its appraisal committee to conduct a quick scan and conclude whether the FDI in question fits the development goals of the government.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted an investment policy review of Suriname in 2019: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp491_e.htm 

The Inter-American Development Bank published a report called Framework for Private Development in Suriname in 2013.The World Bank Group published Suriname Sector Competitiveness Analysis, focusing on the agribusiness and extractive sectors in 2017.

Business Facilitation

The Santokhi administration has emphasized its desire to diversify Suriname’s economy and deepen business ties with the United States, Europe, and others. In 2020, Suriname’s new government began publishing public tenders on the website of the Ministry of Public Works. The government created a Presidential Commission on the Surinamese Diaspora in an effort to explore possibilities for raising capital and increasing business ties with the Surinamese community in the Netherlands. In March 2021, the National Assembly launched debate on a draft law to establish a State-owned investment company to be named the Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The government also created an International Business Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act as a first point of entry for foreign investors.

There is no online registration system. Companies must register with the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which provides guidance on registration procedures. At the time of registration, the company needs a local notary’s assent to ratify the company bylaws. For non-residents, the notary also sends a request to the Foreign Exchange Commission for approval. Applicants must obtain a tax number at the registration office of the tax department. Applications then go to the Ministry of Justice and Police and finally to the President for approval. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism launched the Suriname Electronic Single Window (SESW) in September 2019. Online submission and processing of documents required for import, transit of goods, and export is now possible. The World Bank’s Doing Business report indicates starting a business requires 66 days. The local Chamber of Commerce and Industry states it can take as little as 30 days.

Outward Investment

The Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Suriname’s outward investment is minimal.

The Government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, but there are no specific mechanisms in place to promote the practice. Due to the small size of the local market, some domestic companies have expanded to CARICOM member states, such as Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Suriname does not use transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition. The previous National Assembly (2015-2020) indicated that it would vote on a draft competition law, but did not do so. The Competitiveness Unit of Suriname coordinates and monitors national competitiveness and is working towards establishing policies and suggesting legislation to foster competition. Current legislation on topics such as taxes, the environment, health, safety, and other matters are not purposely used to impede investment, but may still form obstacles. Employment protection legislation is among the most stringent in the world. Labor laws, for instance, prohibit employers from firing an employee without the permission of the Ministry of Labor once the employee has fulfilled his or her probationary period, which by law is limited to two months. Tax laws are criticized for overburdening the formal business sector, while a large informal sector goes untaxed. Public sector contracts and concessions are not always awarded in a clear and transparent manner. The current administration has announced its commitment to greater transparency in the public tendering process, and the Ministry of Public Works is publishing procurement notices on its website on a regular basis.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.

Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within relevant ministries at the national level. It is this level of regulation that is most relevant for foreign businesses. The government may consult with relevant stakeholders on regulations, but there is no required public process. The government presents draft laws and regulations to the Council of Minsters for discussion and approval. Once approved, the President’s advisory body, the State Council, considers the draft. If approved, the government presents a draft to the National Assembly for discussion, amendment, and approval, and then to the President for signature. Legislation only goes into effect with the signature of the President and after publication in the National Gazette.

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are often outdated and therefore not transparent nor consistent with international norms. The National Assembly passed the Act on Annual Accounts in 2017 to create more fiscal transparency by requiring all companies, including state owned enterprises, to publish annual accounts based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The law went into effect in 2020 for large companies, while it went into effect for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) in 2021. Small companies can use the IFRS for SMEs.

Suriname passed new legislation in October 2018 to professionalize and institute better standards in the accountancy profession. The legislation created the Suriname Chartered Accountants Institute (SCAI) and makes membership mandatory for accountants in Suriname. The board of the SCAI has the responsibility to monitor the quality of the profession and apply disciplinary measures.

Draft bills or regulations are discussed in view of the public, and relevant stakeholders may be consulted. The National Assembly has established the email address feedbackwetgeving@dna.sr  as a place where individuals can give their opinion on draft legislation.

There is no centralized online location similar to the Federal Register in the United States where key regulatory actions are published. However, the National Assembly publishes the actual text of adopted laws on its website.

It is unclear what the regulatory enforcement mechanisms that ensure the government follows administrative processes might be, as the processes have not been made accountable to the public. There is no public administration law. The Auditor General’s office is an independent body in charge of supervising the financial management of government funds. The Supreme Audit Institution reports to the National Assembly. The Central Accountant Service exercises control on administrative processes at the ministries and reports to the Ministry of Finance. There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published, similar to the Federal Register in the United States.

The minimum wage law was revised by State Decree on July 18, 2019. The government will determine the minimum wage biennially. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years have largely not been fully implemented. In January 2021, the government announced its intent to implement a value-added tax (VAT) by January 1, 2022.

Reforms such as the revised minimum wages had at most a modest impact due to inflation.

It is unclear what the regulatory enforcement mechanisms are, as the process has not been made public. Regulations are developed by ministries that have jurisdiction over the relevant area, in consultation with involved stakeholders.

The government’s executive budget proposal and enacted budget are easily accessible to the public. The previous government, led by President Desire Delano Bouterse, submitted an executive budget proposal for 2020, but the budget was not passed. The current administration, led by President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, submitted a draft amended budget for 2020, which the National Assembly passed in November 2020. Actual revenues and expenditures regularly deviate from the enacted budget, and the origin and level of accuracy of some information in the budget were not reliable. A full end-of-year report is not publicly available. The Supreme Audit Institution publishes a limited audit based on self-reporting by the ministries. The State Debt Management Office (SDMO) is responsible for the operational management of the public debt of the government. Data regarding public debt is published every three months in the Government Gazette of Suriname and on the SDMO website.

International Regulatory Considerations

As a member of CARICOM, Suriname has committed to regionally-coordinated regulatory systems.

Suriname uses national and international standards. Standards developed by other (international/regional) standardization bodies that Suriname utilizes include: ISO, Codex Alimentarius, International Electro Technical Commission, CROSQ, ASTM International, COPANT, SMIIC (Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries), NEN (Nederland Normalisatie Instituut), ETSI, GLOBAL GAP, etc..

Suriname is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) lists only one notification from Suriname in 2015.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Suriname’s legal system is based on the Dutch civil system. Judges uphold the sanctity of contracts and enforce them in accordance with their terms. When an individual or company disputes a signed contract, they have the right to take the case to court. The judiciary consistently upholds local law, applies it, and enforces it for local and international businesses.

Laws are defined in criminal, civil, and commercial codes and verdicts are based on the judge’s interpretation of those codes. There is no specialized commercial court. The commercial codes contain commercial legislation.

Historically, the judicial system has been considered to be independent of the executive branch. Most observers consider the judicial system to be procedurally competent, fair, reliable, and free of overt government interference. Due to a shortage of judges and administrative staff, processing of civil cases can be delayed. Last year, the Court of Justice appointed seven new judges to ease the delay in court cases. The number of judges is now 30.

Draft regulations may be reviewed by involved stakeholders and they may be given the opportunity to comment. Since October 2019, individuals have also had the option to comment on draft legislation via email at feedbackwetgeving@dna.sr. There is no formal, required public consultation process. Suriname has no general administrative law, so there are no special administrative tribunals. Judges of the regular courts also hear cases of administrative law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The overall regime, and more particularly the approval of foreign direct investment (FDI), may be discretionary rather than rules-based, leading to heightened unpredictability and uncertainty, and associated risks of favoritism and corruption.

In March 2020, the previous National Assembly passed the Foreign Exchange Act, which placed constraints on the use of foreign currency in cash transactions and established a strict exchange rate for the Surinamese dollar. It also granted the government broad authorities to enforce the law, as well as the power to halt the import of “non-essential” goods. In May 2020, a judge suspended the law over questions concerning its constitutionality. In March 2021, the Santokhi govenrment revoked the law and submitted an amended version to the National Assembly for debate.

In April 2020, the previous National Assembly passed the COVID-19 State of Emergency Law, which granted the government broad powers to enforce COVID-19-related precautionary measures. It also created a $53 million fund to assist struggling businesses, and it allowed the government to take loans and advances from local institutions and consolidate them into a single mega-loan. The new National Assembly extended the law in August 2020 and extended it once again in February 2021.

In September 2020, the new National Assembly amended the State Debt Act and the COVID-19 State of Emergency Law. The changes in these laws allow the government to take out local and international loans in order to respond to the global pandemic. In November 2019, the previous National Assembly amended the State Debt Act in order to raise the government’s debt ceiling from 60% of GDP to 95% of GDP.

In February 2021, the Foreign Exchange Commission announced three new measures regarding exchange rate policy. First, exporters will be required to repatriate all their earned export revenues to Suriname, which also means that the buyer abroad will have to pay for the purchased goods through a Surinamese commercial bank. Second, exporters and foreign exchange offices will be required to exchange 30% of their income in foreign currency to the local currency, the Surinamese Dollar (SRD). Third, importers are required to pay for their imports via Surinamese commercial banks. The stated intention of this measure is to foreclose the possibility that exporters act as illegal “cambios” to finance imports and thus make illegal profits. It is also designed to combat trade-based money laundering.

Several criminal investigations of former government officials began in 2020. In February 2020, former Central Bank Governor Robert van Trikt was arrested on fraud charges. In August 2020, the new National Assembly officially indicted ex-Minister of Finance Gillmore Hoefdraad, which allowed the Attorney General to launch an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement conducted by Hoefdraad in collaboration with the ex-Governor of the Central Bank of Suriname, Robert van Trikt. In December 2020, the new National Assembly voted to indict former Vice President (and current National Assembly member) Ashwin Adhin, which allowed the Attorney General to pursue a criminal investigation for embezzlement, fraud, and destruction of government property. The cases remain ongoing.

There is no primary one-stop-shop website for investments that provide relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There are no domestic agencies currently reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns. The previous National Assembly (2015-2020) considered draft laws on competition and consumer protection, but did not ultimately vote on them. According to the authorities, no date for enactment is foreseen. Both draft laws also cover state-owned enterprises. The CARICOM Competition Commission is based in Suriname, and it monitors potential anti-competitive practices for enterprises operating within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

Expropriation and Compensation

According to Article 34 of Suriname’s constitution, expropriation will take place “only for reasons of public utility” and with prior compensation. In practice, the government has no history of expropriations. However, Article 42 of Suriname’s constitution specifically refers to all natural resources as property of the nation, and states that the nation has inalienable rights to take possession of all natural resources to utilize them for the economic, social, and cultural development of Suriname.

There is no history of expropriation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Suriname is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID). Suriname has been a member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since 1964, when the country was still a colony of the Netherlands. Upon becoming independent in 1975, Suriname automatically continued its membership in international conventions and treaties.

There is no specific domestic legislation providing enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention or under the ICSID convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The government is a member state of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Suriname has no BIT or FTA with an investment chapter with the United States.

There have been no publicly known investment disputes in the past 10 years involving a U.S person or other foreign investor. Every effort is made to settle investment disputes outside the court system or via arbitration.

Judgments of foreign arbitral awards are enforced by the local courts only if Suriname has a legal treaty of jurisprudence with the foreign country involved. If not, the foreign judgment can be brought before the Surinamese court for consideration as long as the court determines it has jurisdiction and doing so does not otherwise violate any Surinamese laws. With Suriname’s participation and membership in the Caribbean Court of Justice, judgments from this court are also binding for local courts. Cases have been successfully filed against Suriname before the Inter-American Court of Justice and the Organization of American States. Judgments from these courts have been upheld by the Surinamese legal system.

There is no known history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Suriname’s civil law includes options for arbitration. The government reactivated the Suriname Arbitration Institute (SAI) in August 2014 to offer arbitration and mediation services. The SAI collaborates with the Dutch Arbitration Institute.

The Mediation Council, pursuant to the Labor Mediation Act of 1946, promotes the peaceful settlement of disputes concerning labor issues and the prevention of such disputes in Suriname.

Local courts only recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards if doing so is stipulated in the contract or agreement and it does not contradict local law. Foreign arbitration is an accepted means of settling disputes between private parties, but only if local alternatives are exhausted.

There have been no publicly known investment disputes in which state-owned enterprises are involved. Court processes are, in general, considered transparent and non-discriminatory.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Suriname has bankruptcy legislation. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts, including foreign contract holders, have the right to file for liquidation of debts due to insolvency. In a case where there is a loan from a commercial bank, repayment of the bank loan takes precedence. Bankruptcy, in principle, is not criminalized. However, in cases where a board of directors encouraged a company to pursue bankruptcy to avoid creditors, courts have viewed this behavior as a criminal offense. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Suriname stands at 139 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government does not promote portfolio investment.

There is a small self-regulating stock market with eleven companies registered. It meets twice a month but does not have an electronic exchange. There is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. At present, Suriname is facing liquidity shortfalls. Sufficient policies do exist to facilitate the free flow of financial resources.

As an IMF Article VIII member, Suriname has agreed to refrain from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Credit is allocated on market terms and at market rates. Foreign investors that establish businesses in Suriname are able to get credit on the local market, usually with a payment guarantee from the parent company. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Larger companies can obtain customized credit products. There is, however, a Central Bank regulation that limits a commercial bank’s credit exposure to a single client.

Money and Banking System

The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Larger companies can obtain customized credit products

According to the IMF Article IV Consultation in 2019, the banking system faces pressing vulnerabilities.

Based on the latest (July 2019) data, the capital adequacy ratio for the banking system stood at 10.5 percent (above the 10 percent minimum requirement), but non-performing loans in the banking system remained high (12.5 percent of gross loans), and profitability was low (0.7 percent return on assets). Deposit and loan dollarization remain high.

Total estimated assets of Suriname’s largest banks:

DSB Bank (annual report, 2018): $1,007 million. DSB annual report 2019 is delayed due to COVID-19 and time needed to implement IFRS.

Hakrin Bank (annual report 28, 2019): $671.2 million

Republic Bank Limited (2020 annual report, Suriname-based assets): $396.5 million. (The Republic Bank Limited of Trinidad and Tobago acquired Royal Bank of Canada’s Suriname holdings in 2015.)

Finabank (annual report, 2019): $322.8 million

Suriname has a central bank system.

Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in Suriname. They are subject to the same measures and regulations as local banks. According to an IMF assessment in 2016, banks in Suriname are among those in the region that have lost their correspondent relationships. The IMF notes that though the loss of correspondent banking relationships has not reached systemic proportions, a critical risk still exists. According to the IMF’s Article IV Consultation report in 2019, there is a possibility of losing corresponding banking relationships given recent overseas investigations of potential money laundering via Suriname’s financial sector. The reputational risk to both local and foreign banks acting as their correspondents is substantial. In March 2021, Suriname announced that it had completed a National Risk Assessment to identify and assess its vulnerability to money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

There are no restrictions for foreigners to open a bank account. Banks require U.S. citizens to provide the information necessary to comply with the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment, such as remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan or lease payments, or royalties. There can be shortages in the availability of U.S. cash dollars at local banks, which can affect businesses.

Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into a usable currency at legal market clearing rates with the permission of the Foreign Exchange Commission. However, the criteria for obtaining permissions are opaque.

In September 2020, the Central Bank of Suriname (CBvS) announced the depreciation of the Surinamese Dollar (SRD). The previous official exchange rate was SRD7.52 to $1 dollar. The new sale rate was adjusted to SRD14.29 to $1 dollar. In March 2021, the CBvS announced that it had come to an agreement with the government to establish a minimum and maximum exchange rate for the U.S. dollar, namely that the rate must stay between SRD14.29 and SRD16.30 to $1. In addition to the official exchange rate, different rates are available unofficially in parallel exchange markets. Media reports indicate that exchange rate policy is a key component of Suriname’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund – negotiations which began in 2020.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.

The waiting period on remittances can be relatively short for dividends; return on investments, interest, and principal on private foreign debt; lease payments; royalties; and management fees. The time needed to process the requests depends on the sector and the amount transferred. Transfers through the banking system can range from same day to one week waiting times, contingent upon approval by the Foreign Exchange Commission.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

On May 4, 2017, the National Assembly passed legislation establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). In August 2020, President Santokhi announced that the government would operationalize Suriname’s SWF, as the previous government had not instituted the necessary state decrees to do so. In December 2020, the government held talks with experts from Norway to learn more from the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Suriname does not participate in the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International
Source of Data: BEA; IMF;
Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $3,731 2019 $3,697 www.worldbank.org/en/country  www.cbvs.sr
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international
Source of data: BEA; IMF;
Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 20xx N/A 20xx N/A BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 20xx N/A 20xx N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/
international/direct-investment-
and-multinational-enterprises-
comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 20xx N/A 20xx N/A UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/
handbook/Economic
Trends/Fdi.html

* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Suriname

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Data not available.

Note: Suriname does not release foreign direct investment data publicly. The IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) has no information on Suriname. There are no tax haven sources of inward FDI.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

Note: Portfolio investment data are not available in Suriname on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey. The host government does not publish portfolio investment data.

Trinidad and Tobago

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Trinidad and Tobago seeks foreign direct investment and has traditionally welcomed U.S. investors.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors but some have seen the decision-making process for tenders and the subsequent awarding of contracts turn opaque without warning, especially when their interests compete with those of well-connected local firms.

InvesTT is the country’s investment promotion agency that assists investors through the process of setting up a non-energy business and provides aftercare services once established. Specifically, it provides market information; offers advice on accessing investment incentives; and assists with regulatory and registry issues; property and location services; creation of business linkages; problem solving; and advocacy to the government. The Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Center is another investment promotion agency whose mission is to attract and facilitate foreign direct investment in the financial services sector.

While Trinidad and Tobago prioritizes investment retention, the U.S. Mission is not aware of a formal, ongoing dialogue with investors, either through an Ombudsman or formal business roundtable.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

There are no limits on foreign ownership. Under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, a foreign investor is permitted to own 100 percent of the share capital in a private company. A license is required to own more than a 30 percent of a public company.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any sector-specific restrictions or limitations applied to U.S. investors.

Trinidad and Tobago maintains an investment screening mechanism for foreign investment related to specific projects that have been submitted for the purpose of accessing sector-specific incentives, such as for those offered in the tourism industry.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for Trinidad and Tobago in 2019: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp488_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

The government’s business facilitation efforts focus primarily on investor services (helping deal with rules and procedures) through its investment promotion agency and trying to make the rules more transparent and predictable overall. However, more work needs to be done to achieve efficient administrative procedures and dispute resolution. Trinidad and Tobago ranks 158th of 190 countries for registering property, 174th for enforcing contracts, and 160th for payment of taxes in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, representing a deterioration of indicators that reflect a difficulty of doing business.

The business registration website is: www.ttbizlink.gov.tt . The Global Enterprise Registration Network (GER) gives the TT business registration website a below-average score of 3 out of 10 for its single electronic window, and 4.5 out of 10 for providing information on how to register a business (TTconnect.gov.tt). While the process is clear, the inability to make online payments, and submit certificates online requests are the two main reasons for the low score. A feedback mechanism allowing users to communicate with authorities is a strength of the TT business registration website. Foreign companies can use the website and business registration requires completion of seven procedures over a period of 10 days. The agencies with which a company must typically register include:

  • Companies Registry, Ministry of Legal Affairs
  • Board of Inland Revenue
  • National Insurance Board; and
  • Value Added Tax (VAT Office, Board of Inland Revenue)

Outward Investment

The host government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Through the Trinidad and Tobago Fair Trading Commission, the government develops transparent policies and effective laws to foster market-based competition on a non-discriminatory basis and establishes “clear rules of the game.” Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.

Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within the ministries and regulatory agencies at the national level. The government consults frequently, but not always, with international agencies and business associations in developing regulations. The government submits draft regulations to parliament for approval. The process is the same for each ministry.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. International financial reporting standards are required for domestic public companies.

Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form electronically for public review at http://www.ttparliament.org/, though there is no legal obligation to do so. The government often solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation, though there is no timeframe for the length of a consultation period when it happens, nor is reporting on the consultations mandatory.

All draft bills and regulations are printed in the official gazette and other websites: www.news.gov.tt/content/e-gazette# 

  • ;

The U.S. Mission is not aware of an oversight or enforcement mechanism that ensures that the government follows administrative processes.

There has not been any announcement regarding reforms to the regulatory system, including enforcement, since the last ICS report. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years, such as the mechanism to calculate and collect property tax and the establishment of the revenue authority, have not been fully implemented.

Establishment of the revenue authority is intended to increase collections and streamline the system for paying taxes.

At present, regulatory enforcement mechanisms are usually a combination of moral suasion and the use of applicable administrative, civil, or criminal sanctions. The enforcement process is not legally reviewable.

Regulation is usually reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments. Scientific studies or quantitative analyses are not made publicly available. Public comments received by regulators are generally not made public.

Public finances and debt obligations are transparent and publicly available on the central bank website: https://www.central-bank.org.tt

International Regulatory Considerations

Trinidad and Tobago is not a part of a regional economic block, though it is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional trading bloc that gives duty-free access to member goods, free movement to some members and establishes common treatment of non-members on specific issues. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is an initiative currently being explored by CARICOM that would eventually integrate its member-states into a single economic unit. When fully completed, the CSME would succeed CARICOM.

Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally consistent with United Kingdom standards.

The government has not consistently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of draft technical regulations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

TT’s legal system is based on English common law. Contracts are legally enforced through the court system.

The country has a written commercial law. There are few specialized courts, making the resolution of legal claims time consuming. An industrial court exclusively handles cases relating to labor practices but also suffers from severe backlogs and is widely seen to favor claimants.

Civil cases of less than $2,250 are heard by the Magistrate’s Court. Matters exceeding that amount are heard in the High Court of Justice, which can grant equitable relief. There is no court or division of a court dedicated solely to hearing commercial cases.

TT’s judicial system is independent of the executive, and the judicial process is competent, procedurally and substantively fair, and reliable, although very slow. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 174 of 190 in ease of enforcing contracts, and its court system requires 1,340 days to resolve a contract claim, nearly double the Latin American and Caribbean regional average.

Decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal in the first instance. The United Kingdom Privy Council Judicial Committee is the final court of appeal.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

TT’s judicial system respects the sanctity of contracts and generally provides a level playing field for foreign investors involved in court matters. Due to the backlog of cases, however, there can be major delays in the process. It is imperative that foreign investors seek competent local legal counsel. Some U.S. companies are hesitant to pursue legal remedies, preferring to attempt good faith negotiations in order to avoid an acrimonious relationship that could harm their interests in the country’s small, tight-knit business community.

There is no “one-stop-shop” website for investment providing relevant laws, rules, and procedures. Useful websites to help navigate foreign investment laws, rules, and procedures include: http://www.legalaffairs.gov.tt 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Trinidad and Tobago Fair Trading Commission is an independent statutory agency responsible for promoting and maintaining fair competition in the domestic market. It is tasked with investigating the various forms of anti-competitive business conduct set out in the Fair-Trading Act. Legislation operationalizing this agency in 2006 was not proclaimed by the president until February 2020, and in that time no cases that involve foreign investment have arisen.

Expropriation and Compensation

The government can legally expropriate property based on the needs of the country and only after due process including adequate compensation, generally based on market value. Various pieces of legislation make provisions for compulsory licensing in the interest of public health or intellectual property rights.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any direct or indirect expropriation actions since the 1980s. All prior expropriations were compensated to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Energy sector contacts occasionally describe the tax regime as confiscatory, pointing to after-the-fact withdrawal or weakening of tax incentives offered to entice investment once investment occurs.

Claimants did not allege a lack of due process in prior expropriation cases.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

TT is a party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).

Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards according to chapter 20 of the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 1996.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT recognizes binding arbitration of investment disputes.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any claims by U.S. investors under the bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

The U.S. Mission is unaware of any disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors over the past 10 years. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Some of the available types of alternative dispute resolution include mediation and arbitration. The Civil Proceedings Rules encourage parties to make reasonable attempts to resolve their disputes amicably with litigation as a last resort.  Mediation and arbitration are most commonly used.

There is a domestic dispute resolution center that offers arbitration services. Domestic legislation, the Arbitration Act of 1939, is based on early English arbitration legislation and is not modeled on internationally accepted regulations.

The U.S. Mission has no records of any investment disputes involving an state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Bankruptcy Regulations

Creditors have the right to be notified within 10 days of the appointment of a receiver and to receive a final report, a statement of accounts, and an assessment of claim. Claims of secured creditors are prioritized under the Bankruptcy Act. No distinction is made between foreign and domestic creditors or contract holders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.

The World Bank ranked TT 83rd out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency in its Doing Business 2020 report. This reflects TT’s recovery rate (cents on the dollar), which is worse than the regional average, and cost as a percentage of estate.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government welcomes foreign portfolio investment.

TT has its own stock market and has an established regulatory framework to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.

Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The government and central bank respect IMF article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payment and transfers for current international transactions. Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, however, cause considerable delays in payments and transfers for international transactions.

A full range of credit instruments is available to the private sector. There are no restrictions on borrowing by foreign investors, who are able to access credit. Credit is allocated on market terms, but interest rates tend to be higher for foreign borrowers.

Money and Banking System

Banking services are widespread throughout urban areas, but penetration is significantly lower in rural areas.

Although the banking sector is healthy and well-capitalized, the IMF in its 2020 Financial Stability Assessment Program noted Trinidad and Tobago’s banks are exposed to sovereign risk and potential liquidity risks stemming from non-bank financial entities in the group. The financial system as a whole faces risks of increasing household debt, a lack of supervisory independence and out-of-date regulatory frameworks, the sovereign-bank nexus and the absence of a macro-prudential toolkit, and contagion risks between investment funds and banks. The report further states that the financial sector legislation and regulation have not kept pace with international best practice. The supervisors operate with guidelines in key areas instead of binding powers, which limits their authority

In 2019, the estimated total assets of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest banks was $21.9 billion.

TT has a central bank system. Foreign banks may establish operations in TT provided they obtain a license from the central bank. Trinidad and Tobago has lost correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any current correspondent banking relationships that are in jeopardy.

There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, cause considerable delays in conversion into world currencies. Businesses continue to report a cumbersome bureaucratic process and a minimum three-month delay in such conversions.

The central bank intervenes to maintain an unofficial peg to the U.S. dollar, using a managed float in which the exchange rate fluctuates mildly day-to-day, and limits the availability of foreign currency.

Remittance Policies

While there are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies to tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances, commercial banks have enacted policies that limit access to foreign exchange due to national shortages, on guidance from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank.

Although there are no official time limitations on remittances, timeliness of remittances depends on availability of foreign currency.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The value of TT’s Heritage and Stabilization Fund the fund as of September 2020 is approximately $5.7 billion. The fund invests in U.S. short duration fixed income, U.S. core domestic fixed income, U.S. core domestic equities, and non-U.S. core international equities.

The sovereign wealth fund (SWF) follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the Santiago Principles. TT participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on Sovereign Wealth Funds.

None of the SWF is invested domestically. There are no potentially negative ramifications for U.S. investors in the local market.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $2,310 2019 $2,430 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $6,249 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $69 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 1% UNCTAD data available at https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank:  Homepage | Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (central-bank.org.tt)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.