Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) statistics, Antigua and Barbuda’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.38 billion (3.73 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars). This represents an approximate 18 percent drop from 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s tourism-dependent economy. Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021, with the country not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism until 2024. The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.4 percent in 2021, and in fact may contract by an additional 10 percent.
Unanticipated spending on pandemic response measures, coupled with sharp declines in government revenues, forced the government to increase borrowing in 2020. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent at the end of 2019 to 89 percent at the end of 2020. Unlike other Eastern Caribbean (EC) countries, Antigua and Barbuda has not significantly increased spending on social support payments to vulnerable populations. The government became the sole source of financing for regional airline Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in mid-2020. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT was a major employer but is now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.
Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. The scores remain relatively unchanged from the 2019 report, though some improvements in the ease of starting a business were highlighted.
The government encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services.
While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy have been identified by the government as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.
Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system is based on British common law. There is currently an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.
In 2017, the government signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of Antigua and Barbuda encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, enhance economic activity, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Diversification of the economy remains a priority.
Through the ABIA, the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services. ABIA offers complementary support services to investors exploring business opportunities, including facilitation of incentives and concessions, project monitoring, and general assistance. ABIA’s website is . The government launched an additional website in early 2021 to serve as a “business hub for potential investors,” .
While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, it has identified tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment, and a local or foreign entrepreneur needs about 40 days from start to finish to transfer the title on a piece of property. In 1995, the government established a permanent residency program to encourage high-net-worth individuals to establish residency in Antigua and Barbuda for up to three years. As residents, their income is free of local taxation. In 2020, the government established the Nomad Digital Residence Visa program in which eligible remote workers can apply for a two-year special resident authorization. These programs are separate from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.
The ABIA evaluates all foreign direct investment proposals applying for government incentives and provides intelligence, business facilitation, and investment promotion to establish and expand profitable business enterprises. The ABIA also advises the government on issues that are important to the private sector and potential investors to increase the international competitiveness of the local economy.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda treats foreign and local investors equally with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The OECS, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, has not conducted a trade policy review in the last three years.
Established in 2006, the ABIA facilitates foreign direct investment in priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment. The ABIA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors. Its website is . It also offers an online guide that is useful for navigating the laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors. The guide is available at .
All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the ABIA to ensure the project is consistent with national interests and provides economic benefits to the country.
In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranked 130th out of 190 in the ease of starting a business. The establishment of a new business takes nine procedures and 19 days to complete. This time was reduced by three days because the government made improvements to the exchange of information between public entities involved in company incorporation. The general practice is to retain a local attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents. A business must register with the Intellectual Property and Commercial Office (IPCO), the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, the Social Security Scheme, and the Board of Education.
The Antigua and Barbuda Science Innovation Park (ABSIP) launched in 2019 to support and create business startup opportunities that will generate sustainable business enterprises. ABSIP provides business incubation and financing, access to business financing, branding, training, partnership establishment, and other services. ABSIP’s website is .
The Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP) supports the creation of micro and small businesses with the intent of increasing the Antiguan and Barbudan ownership share of the country’s economy. Priority sectors in which EDP grants loans are agriculture and agroprocessing, manufacturing, information technology, e-business, and tourism.
Although the government of Antigua and Barbuda prioritizes investment return as a key component of its overall economic strategy, there are no formal mechanisms in place to achieve this. To sustain future economic growth, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy depends on significant foreign direct investment.
There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad. Local companies in Antigua and Barbuda are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME).
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Antigua and Barbuda are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition. The government established many SOEs to create economic activity in areas where the private sector is perceived to have little interest. A list of SOEs can be found at: .
SOEs are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report. In 2016, Parliament passed the Statutory Corporations (General Provisions) Act, which specifies the ministerial responsibilities in the appointment and termination of board members, decisions of the board, and employment in these SOEs. To promote diversity and independence on SOE boards, professional associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society may nominate directors for boards.
Antigua and Barbuda does not have a targeted privatization program.
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implements these laws if corruption is proven. Allegations of corruption against government officials in Antigua and Barbuda are fairly common. Both major political parties frequently accuse the other of corruption, but investigations yield few results. Antigua and Barbuda is party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the UN Anti-Corruption Convention.
The Integrity in Public Life Act requires all public officials to disclose all income, assets (including those of spouses and children), and personal gifts received while in public office. An Integrity Commission, established by the Act and appointed by the Governor General, receives and investigates complaints regarding noncompliance with or violations of this law or of the Prevention of Corruption Act. As the only agency charged with combatting corruption, the Commission was independent but understaffed and under-resourced. Critics stated the legislation was inadequately enforced and that the act should be strengthened.
The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy is the independent law enforcement agency with specific authority to investigate reports of suspicious activity concerning specified offenses and the proceeds of crime.
The Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the statutory right to access official documents from public authorities and agencies, and created a commissioner to oversee the process. In practice, citizens found it difficult to obtain documents, possibly due to government funding constraints rather than obstruction. The Act created a special unit mandated to monitor and verify disclosures. By law, the disclosures are not public. There are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.
Resources to Report Corruption
Sydney P. Christian
R.I.O.A. (Francis) Building, High Street, St. John’s (268) 562-5512/14
Lt Col Edward Croft
Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy
Camp Blizzard, St. George’s, Antigua (268) 562-3255/6
(268) 562-3255/6 email@example.com
10. Political and Security Environment
Antigua and Barbuda does not have a recent history of politically-motivated violence or civil disturbance. Elections are peaceful and regarded as being free and fair. The next general elections are constitutionally due by May 2023.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number: 246-227-4000