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Antigua and Barbuda

Executive Summary

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index N/A N/A http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 113 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index N/A N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 7.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 16,600 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The government of Antigua and Barbuda granted certain concessions specified in the Investment Authority Act Amended 2019. These concessions provide exemption or reduction on various taxes and fees, including corporate income tax, withholding tax, stamp duty on land transfers, and import duties on vehicles and construction materials. The length and/or scale of concession is based on company and investment size. These incentives cover capital investment in agriculture, fisheries, agribusiness, business process outsourcing, energy, health and wellness, manufacturing, creative, financial services, information and communications technology, and tourism sectors. Investors must apply to the ABIA to take advantage of these incentives. Investments in healthcare, tourism, infrastructure development, renewable energy, education, and other projects considered important for economic development may receive incentives and/or concessions determined by the ABIA and Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda if they are over $55.6 million (150.26 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in size.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda has been proactively pursuing public-private partnerships (PPP) through the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO). NAMCO is a wholly owned government entity that holds the government’s stake in joint ventures and manages the investment proceeds that accrue.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The government established the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade and Processing Zone (Free Zone) in 1994. A commission, acting as a private enterprise, administers the Free Zone. The Free Zone is part of a government initiative to diversify the economy. The commission is mandated to attract investment in priority areas.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government does not mandate employment of its citizens by foreign investors. However, the provisions of the Labor Code outline requirements for acquiring a work permit and prohibit anyone who is not a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda (or the OECS) to work without a work permit. In practice, work permits may be granted to senior managers if no qualified Antiguan nationals are available for the post. There are no excessively onerous visa or residency requirements.

As a member of the WTO, Antigua and Barbuda is party to the Agreement to the Trade Related Investment Measures. While there are no formal performance requirements, the government encourages investments that will create jobs and increase exports and foreign exchange earnings. There are no requirements for participation either by nationals or by the government in foreign investment projects. There is no requirement that enterprises must purchase a fixed percentage of goods or technology from local sources, but the government encourages local sourcing. Foreign investors receive the same treatment as citizens. There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (for example, backdoors into hardware and software or keys for encryption).

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The government owns 55 percent of Antigua’s land, and the remaining 45 percent is privately owned. The Lands Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs is the custodian of Crown lands on behalf of the government.

By custom, the residents of Barbuda own all land on Barbuda communally; private land ownership is prohibited. Any citizen over 18 years old has the right to occupy residential land, graze animals, and use land for commercial purposes, as long as projects are not considered major developments. In the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, the government attempted to introduce a private property system through amending and repealing the Barbuda Land Act and replacing it with the Crown Land Regulation Act, which would allow private ownership of land in Barbuda by non-Barbudans. Barbudan representatives have filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of this legislation in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Therefore, the Crown Land Regulation Act has not yet taken effect.

Citizens and non-citizens can lease or buy land on the island of Antigua from the government or the private sector. Land sold to non-citizens is subject to the Non-Citizen Land Holding Regulation Act, which requires buyers to obtain a license to purchase land. Buyers are advised to consult with a local attorney. All land titles and purchases must be registered at the Land Registry.

The Town and Country Planning office of the Development Control Authority designates land use areas, including for commercial, agricultural, industrial, or tourism use. The government’s Free Trade and Processing Zone manages land and facilities which are geared towards attracting foreign direct investment in export sectors.

Because Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU, lending institutions in Antigua and Barbuda generally follow the guidelines published by the ECCB. However, the lack of capital market depth in the sub-region makes the use of securitization difficult.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda ranked 124th out of 190 countries for ease of registering property. It takes about 32 days to complete seven necessary procedures, and the cost is about 10.8 percent of the value.

Intellectual Property Rights

Antigua and Barbuda has an extensive legislative framework supporting the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). However, enforcement efforts are inconsistent. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literacy and Artistic Works.

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

The Comptroller of Customs leads enforcement and prevention efforts against counterfeit goods, which include detention, seizure, and forfeiture. The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has extensive powers of search and seizure in the investigation of alleged infringements and has the power to confiscate suspected infringing copies.

Antigua and Barbuda is not included in the United States Trade Representative 2021 Special 301 Report or the 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

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: https://ab.gov.ag/detail_page.php?page=1 .

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.

Privatization Program

Antigua and Barbuda does not have a targeted privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible business conduct by producers and consumers is positively regarded in Antigua and Barbuda. The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.

The NGO community, while comparatively small, is involved in fundraising and volunteerism in gender, health, environmental, and community projects. The government at times partners with NGOs in their activities and encourages philanthropy.

Antigua and Barbuda is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies or a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

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
Chairman
Integrity Commission
R.I.O.A. (Francis) Building, High Street, St. John’s (268) 562-5512/14
(268) 562-5512/14

Lt Col Edward Croft
Director
Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy
Camp Blizzard, St. George’s, Antigua (268) 562-3255/6
(268) 562-3255/6 ondcp@candw.ag
ondcp@candw.ag

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.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Antigua and Barbuda had an employed labor force of about 59,000, with ten percent unemployment, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While official unemployment statistics for 2020 are not available, government officials have publicly stated that up to 50 percent of the country’s population was unemployed.

The adult literacy rate is 99 percent. The minimum working age is 16 years. People under 18 must have a medical clearance to work and may not work later than 10 p.m. The Ministry of Legal Affairs, Public Safety, and Labour conducts periodic workplace inspections to enforce this law. The labor commissioner’s office also has an inspectorate that investigates child labor allegations.

Workers have the right to associate freely and to form labor unions. Approximately 60 percent of formal sector workers belong to a union. Unions are free to conduct activities without government interference. Labor unions form an important part of the membership of both political parties. The law provides for the right of public and private sector workers to organize and bargain collectively without interference.

The labor code provides for the right to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, though there are several restrictions on the right to strike. Essential workers must provide two weeks’ notice of intent to strike. Once either party to a dispute requests court mediation, strikes are prohibited under penalty of imprisonment. Because of the delays associated with this process, unions often resolve labor disputes before calling a strike. The Industrial Relations Court may issue an injunction against a legal strike when the national interest is threatened or affected. The law prohibits retaliation against strikers. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, but it does not specifically require reinstatement of workers illegally fired for union activity.

The labor code provides that the Minister of Legal Affairs, Public Safety, and Labour may issue orders, which have the force of law, to establish a minimum wage. The minimum wage is $3.03 (8.18 Eastern Caribbean dollars) an hour for all categories of labor. In practice, the great majority of workers earn substantially more than minimum wage.

The customary standard workweek is 40 hours in five days. The law provides that the employer may not require workers to work more than a 48-hour, six-day workweek, and provides for 12 paid annual holidays. The law requires that employees be paid one and a half times the employees’ basic wage per hour for overtime work in excess of the standard workweek. The Ministry of Legal Affairs, Public Safety, and Labour put few limitations on overtime, allowing it in temporary or occasional cases, but did not allow employers to make regular overtime compulsory.

Investors in Antigua and Barbuda are required to maintain workers’ rights and safeguard the environment. While there are no specific health and safety regulations, the Labour Code provides general health and safety guidelines to labor inspectors. The Labour Commission settles disputes over labor abuses, health, and safety conditions. The law gives the ministry the authority to require special safety measures, not otherwise defined in the law, to be put in place for worker safety. Antigua and Barbuda is party to the International Labor Convention on Occupational Health and Safety No. 155 of 1981.

Workers have the right to report unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment. Inspectors then investigate such claims, and workers may leave such locations without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number: 246-227-4000
Email: BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Bahamas

Executive Summary

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a 760-mile-long archipelago stretching from the south-east coast of Florida to the north-west coast of Haiti. Despite historical and cultural similarities with many Caribbean countries, The Bahamas is actually in the North Atlantic Ocean. Only 29 of its 700 islands are occupied, with the majority of the population clustered around the two largest cities of Nassau and Freeport. The country maintains a stable environment for investment with a long tradition of parliamentary democracy, respect for the rule of law, and a well-developed legal system. Bahamians’ use of English and frequent travel to the U.S. contribute to their familiarity and preference for U.S. goods and services. The Bahamas is a developed country with an educated populace and high per capita GDP of $34,864. The Bahamas relies primarily on imports from the United States to satisfy its fuel and food needs and conducts more than 85 percent of its international trade with the United States. U. S. exports to The Bahamas were valued at $3.01 billion in 2020, resulting in a trade surplus of $2.9 billion in the United States’ favor.

The Free National Movement (FNM) government, elected in May 2017, has sought to manage an economy dealing with the dual, unprecedented economic crises wrought by the passage of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and the global COVID-19 pandemic. According to Standard & Poors November 2020 forecasts, The Bahamas’ GDP growth is expected to fall by a 21 percent in 2020, a loss of more than $2 billion compared to 2018’s real GDP of $10.8 billion. Full economic recovery is not anticipated until 2022, subject primarily to the buoyancy of the tourism sector and post-pandemic economic recovery. Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) predict The Bahamas could suffer the most severe economic contraction of all Caribbean countries.

With few natural resources and a limited industrial sector, the Bahamian economy is heavily dependent on tourism and, to a lesser degree, financial services. These sectors have traditionally attracted the majority of foreign direct investment (FDI). Tourism contributes over 50 percent of the country’s GDP and employs just over half of the workforce. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than seven million tourists, mostly American, visited the country annually. The plummet in tourism has deprived the country of its main source of revenue, and efforts to reopen hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other tourism infrastructure have been stymied by the ongoing pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited questions about the country’s dependence on tourism and vulnerability to external shocks, leading to calls for economic diversification and other sources of foreign exchange. The government and private sector have identified areas for development and investment, including light manufacturing, technology, agriculture and fisheries, extractive industries, and renewable energy.  The government has also committed to digitizing its business services and jumpstarting domestic productivity through small and medium enterprises, especially those operating in non-traditional sectors.

The Bahamas maintains an open investment climate and promotes a liberal tax environment and freedom from many types of taxes, including capital gains, inheritance, and corporate and personal income tax. The Bahamas does not offer export subsidies, engage in trade-distorting practices, or maintain a local content requirement, but foreign capital investments must meet a $500,000-dollar minimum before being allowed into the country. The country continues to attract FDI from various parts of the world and has recently benefitted from significant investments in the tourism sector from international companies based in China. Investments from the United States are also primarily in the tourism sector and range from general services to million-dollar private homes and billion-dollar resort developments. U.S. companies have also shown interest in emerging sectors, such as non-oil energy, renewable energy, niche tourism, and digital technology.

Positive aspects of The Bahamas’ investment climate include political stability, a parliamentary democracy, an English-speaking labor force, a profitable financial services infrastructure, established rule of law, general respect for contracts, an independent judicial system, and strong purchasing power with a high per-capita GDP. Negative aspects include a lack of transparency in government procurement, labor shortages in certain sectors, high labor costs, a bureaucratic and inefficient investment approvals process, time consuming resolution of legal disputes, internet connectivity issues, and high energy costs. The price of electricity averages four times higher than in the United States and is driven by antiquated generation systems and a dependence on inefficient fossil-fueled power plants. To remedy energy sector deficiencies, the current government has prioritized infrastructure projects focused on non-oil energy, including a liquid natural gas (LNG) plant and various solar projects; however, the LNG plant is stuck in multi-year negotiations.

Another barrier to investment in the country is the prohibition of foreign investment in 15 sectors of the economy without prior approval from the National Economic Council (NEC). These sectors include commercial fishing, public transport, advertising, retail operations, security services, and real estate agencies, among others. In 2018, the government set a goal of accession to the WTO by the end of 2019, which would require opening at least some of these protected sectors to foreign investment. However, the government later confirmed it was unlikely accession would take place before 2025.

The absence of transparent investment procedures and legislation is also problematic. U.S. and Bahamian companies alike report the resolution of business disputes often takes years and debt collection can be difficult even after court judgments. Companies also describe the approval process for FDI and work permits as cumbersome and time-consuming. The Bahamian government does not have modern procurement legislation and companies have complained the tender process for public contracts is not consistent, and that it is difficult to obtain information on the status of bids. In response, the current government passed a Public Procurement Bill and launched an e-procurement and suppliers registry system to increase levels of accountability and transparency. The Public Procurement Bill was passed in March 2021, but has not yet been fully enacted.

The Bahamas scored 63 out of 100 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2020 (where zero is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 is very transparent). This means The Bahamas is perceived as notably transparent when compared to the 180 countries ranked. However, the country’s scores have dropped eight points since 2012, perhaps indicating an erosion of transparency. The Bahamas still lacks an Office of the Ombudsman to strengthen access to information, nor has it fully enacted its Freedom of Information Act (2017) or appointed an independent Information Commissioner. Although the current government is pursuing legislative reforms to strengthen investment policies, progress on these efforts has been mixed.

Despite its World Bank designation as a high-income country, income inequality is higher in The Bahamas than in other Caribbean countries. This is in part due to The Bahamas’ popularity among wealthy foreigners as a convenient and attractive location to purchase a second home. These privileged, gated communities do not reflect reality for most Bahamians, especially those on less developed islands. The country grapples with high crime, unemployment, and xenophobia directed at irregular migrants from elsewhere in the Caribbean, especially Haiti. Conservative and patriarchal norms sometimes lead to inequality of opportunity, notably for women and migrant children. Women have raised concerns regarding bureaucratic hurdles to register businesses, and difficulty in securing financing. The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) has made economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and lessoning the income gap priorities.

Table 1
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 63 of 100 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 119 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2018 17.609 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=250&UUID=aa8d34cd-4c30-485d-aa74-1656d2ff9eed 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 33,460 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Tax relief is by far the most compelling and significant investment incentive in The Bahamas. The government does not impose taxes on income, estates, or inheritances. Other incentives for investment include waivers on import duties, property tax abatement, and, in some cases, land grants or extended leases for private development at below-market rates. Certain incentives are negotiated directly with the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) and require the approval of the National Economic Council (NEC). In some instances, terms of the incentives are outlined in a Heads of Agreement and the size of the concessions will vary depending on the scale and impact of a project.

Other investment incentives are outlined in concessionary legislation such as the Hotels Encouragement Act, the Bahamas Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act, the Agricultural Manufacturers Act, the Family Islands Development Encouragement Act, the Industries Encouragement Act, the Tariff Act, the International Persons Landholding Act, the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, Grand Bahama Act, and the Commercial Enterprises Act. BIA either administers the legislation or acts as the intermediary between the foreign investor and relevant authority. Further information on investment incentives is available at http://www.bahamas.gov.bs .

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The city of Freeport is a 233-square-mile Free Trade Zone on the island of Grand Bahama. The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (1955) between the Bahamian government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority guarantees the “special economic zone” until 2054. Businesses operating in Freeport are subject to licensing by the Port Authority but exempt from most taxes (including property, excise, import, and business taxes). The Bahamian government has made efforts to regulate business activities and extract tax revenues from the free zone, but most have been litigated to the Port’s benefit. The current government has repealed legislation that differentiated between local and foreign licensees within the Port.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, the two islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama were both declared Special Economic Recovery Zones (SERZ), which allowed residents and businesses to benefit from wide-ranging tax exemptions and incentives until December 31, 2020. In late December 2020, the government extended most of the tax concessions to June 2021, including tax-free sale of fuel and importation of household goods; continuing tax concession on replacement vehicles; and a discount on the value-added tax (VAT) on the sale of real estate valued up to $500,000.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Bahamas maintains few formal performance requirements for investments. During the approvals process, an investor provides proof of adequate and legitimate sources of funding and, depending on the type of investment, produces economic and environmental impact assessments. The government negotiates requirements on a project-by-project basis, and, particularly in the case of larger developments, writes a “Heads of Agreement” between the government and the investor. These agreements include government obligations to the investor. There is no official mandate to hire local personnel, though many Heads of Agreement stipulate the proportion of workers who must be Bahamian.

There is no policy of forced localization to compel foreign investors to purchase locally or transfer technology, but the government encourages commercial enterprises to source from local producers and transfer skills to the local labor market. This engagement is a part of the negotiations with the government during the approval phase, and it is common for an investor to gain concessions where they can benefit local businesses, create jobs, or support the transfer of skills and technology.

The government negotiates and sometimes facilitates work permits for key employees as part of the investment approvals process, and particularly under the Commercial Enterprises Act (CEA). For non-essential services, the Bahamian government requires investors to document efforts to recruit local Bahamians as part of their applications for work permits, but the law does not stipulate an exact percentage. Buyers of second homes can apply for permanent residency and benefit from expedited approval for home purchases that exceed $500,000. The government generates revenue by collecting fees for work permits. Depending on the category, work permits can cost up to $15,000 annually. Fees can be assessed and paid at www.immigration.gov.bs .

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Despite the high number of second-home owners in The Bahamas, the country’s score for ease of “registering property” in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report is 181 out of 190 countries. This makes it among the worst in the world. The cost of registering property in The Bahamas increased to 11.8 percent of property value, compared with 5.9 percent for Latin America and The Caribbean, and 4.7 percent for OECD high-income countries. The time to complete the registration process remains high at 122 days, and there has been limited progress in creating digital land registries or establishing time limits for procedures. These facts resulted in a World Bank ranking of 3 for quality of land administration (on a scale of 0 to 30). The Bahamian government does not publish an official number citing the proportion of land without clear title. Unoccupied property cannot revert to other owners, such as squatters. This leads to a high incidence of unoccupied, derelict, and partially constructed residences in The Bahamas, with little evidence of successful government policies to encourage their sale or productive use. Abandoned buildings are also in evidence in commercial districts, such as downtown Nassau.

The various forms of land ownership in The Bahamas have their foundation in English law and can include crown land, commonage land, and generational land. The legal system facilitates the investor’s secured interest in both mobile and immobile property and is recognized and enforced by law. Mortgages in real property and legal rights in personal property are recorded with the Registrar General of The Bahamas.

The Embassy has received reports of problems obtaining clear title to property, either because the seller had no legal right to convey, or because separate claims to ownership arose after a purchase was made.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Bahamian government is taking steps to strengthen Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in response to pressure from the business community and as part of its protracted WTO accession process. These new regulations cover patents, trademarks, copyrights, integrated circuits, false trade descriptions act, new plant varieties, and geographical indicators. The government anticipates the new regulations will bring The Bahamas into compliance with the terms of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The Bahamas is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but has not ratified the WIPO Internet treaties. The Bahamas is also signatory to the following intellectual property conventions and agreements:

  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works;
  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property;
  • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC);
  • Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
  • Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

The Bahamas has not recently been listed as a country of concern in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report and is not included in USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

The Bahamas’ intellectual property registry is maintained by the Department of the Registrar General ( https://www.bahamas.gov.bs/rgd ), and enforcement is coordinated by the Royal Bahamas Police Force with support from Bahamas Customs. The Copyright Royalty Tribunal (established under the Copyright Act) is responsible for royalty-related activities, such as collecting and distributing royalties.

The government and the Economic Recovery Commission (ERC) have recognized the need to strengthen the intellectual property regime in The Bahamas. The government announced plans to develop a functional and efficient Intellectual Property/Copyright Legislative Department and accelerate the digitization of intellectual property registration and interconnectivity of government agency systems.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are active in the utilities and services sectors of the Bahamian economy. A list of the 25 SOEs available on www.bahamas.gov.bs  includes key SOEs, such as Bahamasair Holdings Ltd. (the national airline); Public Hospitals Authority; Civil Aviation Authority; Nassau Airport Development Authority; University of The Bahamas; Health Insurance Authority; Bank of The Bahamas; Bahamas Power and Light (BPL); Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC); Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS); Nassau Flight Services; and the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.

In April 2019, the government announced plans to introduce a State-Owned Enterprises Bill to impose proper corporate governance and address the risk inefficient SOEs pose to its financial health. The Embassy is unaware of efforts to advance this Bill in 2020, though a suite of legislation passed in March 2021 aimed at improving the country’s fiscal governance may also improve the performance and accountability of SOEs.

Within the past decade, no SOE has returned profits or paid dividends, although SOEs account for significant government expenditure, with approximately $408 million budgeted for fiscal year 2020-2021. The latest budget also reveals that on average, nearly 16 percent of the government’s recurrent spending goes to SOE subventions, noting several SOEs required increased funding given the financial stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government has maintained SOE reforms are integral to its fiscal consolidation plans and announced plans to reduce subsidies by $100 million annually over the next four years. Cost-recovery measures are to begin in mid-2021 for Bahamasair and the Water & Sewerage Cooperation in particular. The savings from SOE reform are expected to assist with meeting additional debt servicing obligations.

The government has permitted foreign investment in sectors where SOEs operate and has approved licenses to private suppliers of electrical and water and sewerage services. These licenses have been issued for private real estate developments or where there is limited government capacity to provide services. An exception is the city of Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama, which has its own licensing authority and maintains monopolies for the provision of electricity, water, and sanitation services.

Privatization Program

The Bahamian government has not taken definitive steps to privatize SOEs but has held up public-private partnerships as the preferred model going forward. The government divested 49 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunication Company in 2011 but issued a second license for cellular services and retained 51 percent equity in the new company. In his February 2018 speech, the then-Deputy Prime Minister announced the government’s intention to divest additional equity in the Bahamian telecommunications sector. In February 2019, the government accepted UK-based Global Ports Holding’s $250 million proposal to redevelop the Nassau Cruise Port, entering a 25-year lease agreement with the company. In early 2019, the company announced a bond offering to raise $130 million for the new port.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Local and foreign companies operating in The Bahamas have recently become more committed to the tenets of responsible business conduct (RBC). Local and foreign companies have led RBC-related initiatives, including educational programs directed at capacity building for specific industries, the maintenance of public spaces, and financial and technical assistance to charitable organizations.

The government encourages RBC through legislation, but enforcement has been slow. The government has also enacted laws protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, but again, enforcement is limited. There have been no high-profile or controversial instances of corporate violations of human rights, but civil society remains active in bringing attention to social issues.

Recent steps in support of RBC also include a requirement for local gaming houses to allocate three percent of net profits to community-based social development programs. Several have established foundations that support issues ranging from the environment to education. The Bahamas has strong trade unions, and labor laws prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, creed, sex, marital status, political opinion, age, HIV status, or disability.

The Bahamas is not an adhering government to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprise.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The government has laws to combat corruption among public officials, but they have been inconsistently applied. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. However, there was limited enforcement of conflicts of interest related to government contracts and isolated reports of officials engaged in corrupt practices, including by accepting small-scale “bribes of convenience”. The political system is plagued by reports of corruption, including allegations of widespread patronage, the routine directing of contracts to political supporters, and favorable treatment for wealthy or politically connected individuals. In The Bahamas, bribery of a government official is a criminal act carrying a fine of up to $10,000, a prison term of up to four years, or both.

In May 2017, the current government won the election on a platform to end corruption. Early in the administration, the government charged a number of former officials with various crimes including extortion and bribery, theft by reason of employment, and defrauding the government. These cases were either dismissed, ended in acquittals, or are ongoing. The government reported no new cases of corruption in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches during 2020. Nevertheless, three Cabinet Ministers resigned in the first three years of the current administration under allegations of corruption, including the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Financial Services, and the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.

The Public Disclosure Act requires senior public officials, including senators and members of Parliament, to declare their assets, income, and liabilities annually. For the 2020 deadlines, the government gave extensions to all who were late to comply. The government did not publish a summary of the individual declarations, and there was no independent verification of the information submitted.

The campaign finance system remains largely unregulated, with few safeguards against quid pro quo donations, creating a vulnerability to corruption and foreign influence. The procurement process also remains susceptible to corruption, as it contains no requirement to engage in open public tenders, although the government routinely did so. In February 2021, the government passed the Public Procurement Bill (2020), which reportedly overhauls current governance arrangements for government contracts to improve transparency and accountability.

According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, The Bahamas ranked 30 out of 180 countries with a score of 63 out of 100. There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption. U.S firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI and have reported perceived corruption in government procurement and in the FDI approvals process.

The government does not, as a matter of government policy, encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering the proceeds of the sale of illicit drugs.  No charges of drug-related corruption were filed against government officials in 2020.

The Bahamas ratified major international corruption instruments, including the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (signed in 1998, ratified in 2000), and has been a party to the Mechanism for Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) since 2001. The Bahamas is not party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Royal Bahamas Police Force
Anti- Corruption Unit
P.O. Box N-458
(242) 322-4444
Email: info@rbpf.bs 

Contacts at “watchdog” organizations:

Citizens for a Better Bahamas
Transparency International (Bahamas Chapter)
(242) 322-4195
Website: www.abetterbahamas.org 
Email: info@abetterbahamas.org 

Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG)
Bay Street Business Center, Bethell Estates
East Bay Street (at Deveaux St.)
Website: www.orgbahamas.com 
Phone: 1-242-828-4459
Email:  info@orgbahamas.com 

10. Political and Security Environment

The Bahamas has no history of politically motivated violence and, barring a few incidents leading up to general elections in 2019, the political process is violence-free and transparent. These incidents were minor and included damage to political party installations, signage, billboards, harassing social media posts and a few reported altercations between opposing party members.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Bahamian labor force is considered well-educated by international literacy and numeracy standards. Although a formal Labor Force Survey has not been completed since December 2019 when the unemployment rate was 10.7 percent, government and international agencies estimate the unemployment rate at 25 to 40 percent in 2020 because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal conditions, wage rates are slightly lower than in the United States but higher than most countries in the region. The minimum wage is $5.25 per hour ($210 per week). There are significant numbers of foreign workers, both documented and undocumented. There are 40,000 registered work permit holders in The Bahamas, and the majority are designated as unskilled or semi-skilled. The majority of this group is comprised of Haitian nationals working in a range of services.

The Bahamian government has granted special permission to resort developments to bring in foreign construction workers. These numbers have ranged from a few hundred at the Pointe Development in Nassau to several thousand during the construction of the Baha Mar mega resort. These concessions were negotiated as part of the Heads of Agreement for specific, large-scale investments, but in most other cases, the employment of foreigners requires applying for individual work permits. Bahamian labor law governs all workers, both foreign and domestic.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires at least one 24-hour rest period per week, paid annual vacations, and employer contributions to National Insurance (Social Security). The Act also requires overtime pay (time and a half) for working more than 40 hours a week or on public holidays. A 1988 law provides for maternity leave and the right to re-employment after childbirth. The Minimum Labor Standards Act, including the Employment Act, Health and Safety at Work Act, Industrial Tribunal and Trade Disputes Act, and the Trade Union and Labor Relations Act were passed in 2001 and in early 2002. Foreign workers also have the right to social security benefits after five consecutive years of contributions.

Bahamian law grants labor unions the right to free assembly and association and to bargain collectively. The unions and associations exercise these rights extensively, particularly in state-owned industries. The Industrial Relations Act governs the right to strike, which requires a simple majority of union members to vote in favor of a strike before it can commence. The Ministry of Labor oversees strike votes and manages overall industrial relations. Although government officials have downplayed perceptions of strained labor relations, industrial unrest has grown throughout 2020 due to longstanding issues and the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, demonstrations were organized by the Bahamas Public Services Union, the Union of Public Officers, the Nurses Union, the Doctors Union, the Consultant Physicians Staff Association, the Bahamas Educators and Managerial Union, Customs, Immigration and Allied Workers Union, the Union of Tertiary Educators, and the Union of Teachers.

In 2016, the government amended legislation to require employers to inform the Minister of Labor in instances where more than ten persons were being laid off. This legislation has been useful to the Bahamian public, as many employers laid off or furloughed workers due to the pandemic throughout 2020.

The Bahamas ratified most International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and domestic law recognizes international labor rights. The Bahamian government lacks fiscal and human resources to adequately investigate occupational safety and health issues, but has announced steps to improve this including strengthening the Department of Labor’s Inspection Section to conduct inspections randomly and on request. The country is committed to eliminating the worst forms of child labor, and the Ministry of Labor has periodically inspected grocery stores and other establishments to ensure the enforcement of laws governing child labor.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance and Development Finance Programs

The Bahamas is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank (MIGA), which insures investors against currency transfer restrictions, expropriation, war, civil disturbances, and breach of contract by member countries. Because the World Bank designates The Bahamas as a high-income country, it generally does not qualify for development assistance.

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Political-Economic Section
U.S. Embassy Nassau
New Providence, The Bahamas
P.O. Box N-8197
Telephone: (242) 322-1181
Email: NassauPolEconDL@state.gov 

Dominica

Executive Summary

The Commonwealth of Dominica (Dominica) is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  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.  Dominica remains vulnerable to external shocks such as climate change impacts, natural hazards, and global economic downturns.  According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) figures, the economy of Dominica had an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $357.6 million (966.4 million Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020, which signified a contraction of 15.4 percent mainly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stagnation of the tourism sector.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts real GDP growth of 3.3 percent in 2021.

The economy also continues to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.  Losses from Hurricane Maria are estimated at $1.37 billion or 226 percent of GDP.  Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government was primarily focused on reconstruction efforts, with support from the international community.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Dominica has received financial support from the IMF and the World Bank to provide fiscal assistance, macro-economic stability and support in health-related expenditure, loss of household income, food security and the agricultural sector.

Dominica’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report remains at the 2020 ranking of 111th out of 190 countries, as the report was not updated during the reporting year.

Through its economic policies, the government is seeking to stimulate sustainable and climate-resilient economic growth through a revised macroeconomic framework that includes strengthening the nation’s fiscal framework.  The government states it is committed to creating a vibrant business climate to attract more foreign investment.

Dominica remains a small emerging market in the Eastern Caribbean (EC), with investment opportunities mainly within the service sector, particularly in eco-tourism; information and communication technologies; and education.  Other opportunities exist in alternative energy, including geothermal energy, and capital works due to reconstruction and new tourism projects.

Recently, the government instituted a number of investment incentives.  Foreign investors in Dominica can repatriate all profits and dividends and can import capital.

Dominica’s legal system is based on British common law.  It does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States but has bilateral investment treaties with the UK and Germany.

In 2018, the Government of Dominica signed an Intergovernmental Agreement to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Dominica to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 48 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 111 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 N/A http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita ($ M USD) 2019 7, 920 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Government of Dominica implemented a series of investment incentives codified in the Fiscal Incentives Act.  These include tax holidays for up to 20 years for approved hotel and resort development projects, duty-free concessions on the purchase of machinery and equipment, and various tax exemptions.  While there is no requirement for enterprises to purchase a fixed percentage of goods from local sources, the government encourages local sourcing.  There are no requirements for participation by nationals or the government in foreign investment projects.

Under the Fiscal Incentives Act, four types of enterprise qualify for tax holidays.  The length of the tax holiday for the first three depends on the amount of value added in Dominica.  The fourth type, known as an enclave industry, must produce goods exclusively for export outside of the CARICOM region.

Enterprise Value Added Maximum Tax Holiday
Group I 50 percent or more 15 years
Group II 25 percent to 50 percent 12 years
Group III 10 percent to 25 percent 10 years
Enclave Enclave 15 years

Companies that qualify for tax holidays are allowed to import into Dominica duty-free all equipment, machinery, spare parts, and raw materials used in production.

The Hotel Aid Act provides relief from customs duties on items brought into the country for use in construction, extension, and equipping of a hotel of not less than five bedrooms.  In addition, the Income Tax Act provides special tax relief benefits for approved hotels and villa development.  A tax holiday for up to 20 years is available for approved hotel and resort developments and up to 10 years for income accrued from the rental of villas in approved villa developments.  The Cabinet must approve these developments.

The standard corporate income tax rate is 25 percent.  There is no capital gains tax.  International businesses are exempt from tax.  Corporate tax does not apply to exempt companies or to enterprises that have been granted tax concession.

Dominica provides companies with a further tax concession effective at the end of the tax holiday period.  In effect, it is a rebate of a portion of the income tax paid based on export profits as a percentage of total profits.  Full exemption from import duties on parts, raw materials, and production machinery is also available.

The Government of Dominica does not have a practice of issuing guarantees or jointly financing foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are no foreign trade zones or free ports in Dominica.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Dominica does not mandate use of local equipment.  The provisions of the Labor Code outline the requirements for acquiring a work permit and prohibit anyone who is not a citizen of Dominica or the OECS to engage in employment unless they have obtained a work permit.  When the government grants work permits to senior managers because no qualified nationals are available for the post, the government may recommend a counterparty trainee who is a Dominican citizen.  There are no excessively onerous visa, residency, or work permit requirements.

As a member of the WTO, Dominica is party to the Agreement to the Trade Related Investment Measures.  While there are no formal performance requirements, the government encourages investments that will create jobs, increase exports and foreign exchange earnings.  There are no requirements for participation by nationals or by the government in foreign investment projects.  There is no requirement that enterprises must purchase a fixed percentage of goods or technology from local sources, but the government encourages local sourcing.  Foreign investors receive national treatment.  There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance.  There are no measures or draft measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  There are some special license requirements for the acquisition of land, development of buildings, and expansion of existing construction, and special standards for various aspects of the tourism industry.  Individuals or corporate bodies who are not citizens and who are seeking to acquire land require an Alien Landholders License prior to the execution of transactions, depending upon the amount of land in question.  A foreign national may hold less than one acre of land for residential purposes or less than three acres for commercial purposes without obtaining an alien landholding license.

If more land is required then a license must be obtained, and the applicant must pay a fee of $2,220 (6,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to the Office of the Accountant-General.  Applicants must meet all the submission requirements before Cabinet can consider granting the license.  Failure to apply for the license will result in a penalty of $7,400 (20,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars).  Upon acquiring land under Section 5 for an approved development, foreign investors must apply for development permission under the Physical Planning Act within six months of acquiring the land and must start construction of the approved development within one year of receipt of development permission.

Dominica is ranked 179th of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank Doing Business Report 2020.  It takes about 125 days to complete the five necessary procedures and the cost is about 13.3 percent of the property value.  The report describes the procedure for purchasing and registering property in Dominica.

If property legally purchased is unoccupied for over twelve years, property ownership can revert to other owners, such as squatters.  This was affirmed by the CCJ in a 2019 ruling.

Intellectual Property Rights

Dominica has a legislative framework supporting its commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).  While the legal structures governing IPR are generally adequate, enforcement could be strengthened.  The Attorney General is responsible for the administration of IPR laws.  The Companies & Intellectual Properties Office (CIPO) registers patents, trademarks, and service marks.

Dominica is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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

The Comptroller of Customs of Dominica spearheads the enforcement of IPR, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of goods.  The Customs and Excise Department investigates customs offenses and administers fines and penalties.

Dominica is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or the 2020 USTR Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Dominica work in partnership with ministries, or under their remit to carry out certain specific ministerial responsibilities.  There are currently 20 SOEs in Dominica operating in areas such as tourism, investment services, broadcasting and media, solid waste management, and agriculture.  There is no published list of these SOEs.  They are all wholly owned government entities.  Each is headed by a board of directors to which senior management reports.  The SOE sector is affected by financial sustainability challenges, with resources insufficient to cover capital replacement.

Privatization Program

Dominica does not currently have a targeted privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  The government encourages philanthropy, but does not have regulations in place to mandate such activities by private company.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government implemented the law inconsistently.  According to civil society representatives and members of the political opposition, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.  Local media and opposition leadership continued to raise allegations of corruption within the government, including in the Citizenship by Investment program.  Dominica acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2010.  The country is party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

The Integrity in Public Office Act, 2003 and the Integrity in Public Office (Amendment) Act 2015 require government officials to account annually for their income, assets, and gifts.  All offenses under the act, including the late filing of declarations, are criminalized.  The Integrity Commission was established and functions under this Act.  The Integrity Commission’s mandate and decisions can be found at http://www.integritycommission.gov.dm.  Generally, the Integrity Commission reports on late submissions and on inappropriately completed forms but does not share financial disclosures of officials with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Additionally, the Integrity Commission has not updated documents on its website since 2015.

The Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for prosecuting corruption offenses, but it lacks adequate personnel and resources to handle complicated money laundering and public corruption cases.

Resources to Report Corruption

Steve Hyacinth
Chairman, Integrity Commission
Cross Street, Roseau, Dominica
Tel: 1-767-266-3436
Email: integritycommission@dominica.gov.dm

10. Political and Security Environment

Dominica held parliamentary elections in December 2019.  Voting was held under heightened security following weeks of protests and legal challenges seeking electoral reform.  The protests were led by the United Workers’ Party, which lost the election in a landslide to the ruling Dominica Labour Party.

Dominica’s economy has been strongly affected by the COVID-19 crisis.  The IMF has projected that Dominica’s GDP will grow -0.4 percent in 2021.  In May 2020, the government unveiled a disaster resilience strategy that was based on three key pillars: structural resilience, financial resilience and post-disaster resilience.  Both IMF and the World Bank have provided support to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The government last raised Dominica’s minimum wage in June 2008.  It varies according to the category of worker, with the lowest minimum wage set at about $1.50 an hour and the maximum set at around $2.06 an hour.  The standard workweek is 40 hours for five or six days of work.  The law provides overtime pay for work in excess of the standard workweek.  Dominica has a labor force of about 32,630, with a literacy rate of 95 percent.

The local state college largely meets the country’s technical and training needs.  There is also a small pool of professionals to draw from in fields such as law, medicine, engineering, business, information technology, and accounting.  Many of the professionals in Dominica trained in the United States, Canada, the UK, or the wider Caribbean, where many of them gained work experience before returning to the country.

The labor legislation in Dominica is applicable to all employees and employers.  There are no waivers or exceptions regarding the application of labor laws and standards in Dominica.

Employers usually advertise job vacancies in local newspapers.  The government recommends that the advertisement should be placed on three separate occasions to ensure transparency and equal opportunity for Dominican residents to apply.  The government does not interfere with the employer’s right to make hiring determinations.

The Labor Contract Act stipulates that the employees shall receive a contract within 14 days of engagement from his/her employer, which outlines the terms and conditions of employment.

The labor laws clearly regulate and define layoffs and the conditions under which layoffs can occur.  Severance by redundancy is also regulated by law.  People employed for three years or more qualify for severance pay.  Social security benefits are payable only when the employee reaches retirement age.

The Industrial Relations Act provides for and regulates trade unions in both public and private sectors.  Dominican law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, the right to strike, and the right of workers to bargain collectively with employers.  The government generally enforces laws governing worker rights effectively, and penalties generally were sufficient to deter violations.  Administrative and judicial procedures are not generally subject to lengthy delays or appeals.  Government mediation and arbitration are free of charge.  The law prohibits anti-union discrimination by providing that employers must reinstate workers who file a successful complaint of illegal dismissal, which can cover being fired for engaging in union activities or other grounds of wrongful dismissal.  Employers generally reinstated or paid compensation to employees who obtained favorable rulings by the ministry following a complaint of legal dismissal.

Collective bargaining is permitted in all firms (both public and private) where the employees are unionized.  A copy of the collective bargaining agreement must be filed at the Ministry of Labor.  There are no sectoral collective agreements.  All unionized firms are obliged by law to negotiate terms and conditions of employment of all workers, whether or not they are members of a trade union.  Dominica ratified all of the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s eight core conventions on human rights and labor administration.

The government deemed emergency, port, electricity, telecommunications, and prison services employees, as well as the banana, coconut, and citrus fruit cultivation workers “essential,” deterring workers in these sectors from going on the strike.  The International Labor Organization noted the list of essential services is broader than international standards.  Nonetheless, in practice essential workers conducted strikes and did not suffer reprisals.  The procedure for essential workers to strike is cumbersome, involving appropriate notice and submitting the grievance to the labor commissioner for possible mediation.  These actions are usually resolved through mediation by the Office of the Labor Commissioner, with the rest referred to the Industrial Relations Tribunal for binding arbitration.

The Industrial Relations Act also mandates the establishment of the Industrial Relations Board and the Industrial Relations Tribunals as dispute resolution mechanisms.  The Division of Labor acts as the first arbitrator with matters of investigation, mediation and conciliation.  Matters are referred only to the tribunals by the Minister when conciliation fails or by request of any of the disputing parties.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the Labor Commissioner within the Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security.  Labor laws provide that the labor commissioner may authorize the employment of a person with disabilities at a wage lower than the minimum rate to enable that person to work.  The Employment Safety Act provides occupational health and safety regulations that are consistent with international standards.  Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardizing their employment, and the authorities effectively enforced this right in practice.

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
246-227-4000
Email: BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Dominican Republic

Executive Summary

Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays an important role for the Dominican economy, and the Dominican Republic is one of the main recipients of FDI in the Caribbean and Central America. The government actively courts FDI with generous tax exemptions and other incentives to attract businesses to the country. Historically, the tourism, real estate, telecommunications, free trade zones, mining, and financing sectors are the largest FDI recipients. In January 2020, the government announced a special incentive plan to promote high-quality investment in tourism and infrastructure in the southwest region and, in February 2020, it passed a Public Private Partnership law to catalyze private sector-led economic growth.

Besides financial incentives, the country’s membership in the Central America Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) is one of the greatest advantages for foreign investors. Observers credit the agreement with increasing competition, strengthening rule of law, and expanding access to quality products in the Dominican Republic. The United States remains the single largest investor in the Dominican Republic. CAFTA-DR includes protections for member state foreign investors, including mechanisms for dispute resolution.

Despite the negative macroeconomic impacts of the pandemic, international indicators of the Dominican Republic’s competitiveness and transparency held steady. Foreign investors report numerous systemic problems in the Dominican Republic and cite a lack of clear, standardized rules by which to compete and a lack of enforcement of existing rules. Complaints include allegations of widespread corruption; requests for bribes; delays in government payments; weak intellectual property rights enforcement; bureaucratic hurdles; slow and sometimes locally biased judicial and administrative processes, and non-standard procedures in customs valuation and classification of imports. Weak land tenure laws and government expropriations without due compensation continue to be a problem. The public perceives administrative and judicial decision-making to be inconsistent, opaque, and overly time-consuming. Corruption and poor implementation of existing laws are widely discussed as key investor grievances.

U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Many U.S. firms and investors have expressed concerns that corruption in the government, including in the judiciary, continues to constrain successful investment in the Dominican Republic.

In August 2020, President Luis Abinader became the 54th President of the Dominican Republic, presiding over the first change in power in 16 years. Taking office with bold promises to rein in corruption, the government quickly arrested a slew of high-level officials from the previous administration implicated in corruption—people who under prior governments would have been considered untouchable. It remains to be seen whether Abinader will deliver on more complex commitments, such as institutional reforms to advance transparency or long-delayed electricity sector reform.

The Dominican Republic, an upper middle-income country, contracted by 6.7 percent in 2020 and concluded the year with a 7.7 percent deficit thanks to the pandemic. The IMF and World Bank project growth for 2021 at 4.0-4.8 percent.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 137 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 115 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 90 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $2,604 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=207&UUID=8544e377-fb53-42fe-a16e-01c425113446 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $8,080 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Dominican Republic presents both opportunities and challenges for foreign investment. The government strongly promotes inward FDI and has prioritized creating a sound enabling environment for foreign investors. While the government has established formal programs to attract FDI, a lack of clear rules and uneven enforcement of existing rules can lead to difficulties.

The Dominican Republic provides tax incentives for investment in tourism, renewable energy, film production, Haiti-Dominican Republic border development, and the industrial sector. The country is also a signatory of CAFTA-DR, which mandates non-discriminatory treatment, free transferability of funds, protection against expropriation, and procedures for the resolution of investment disputes. However, some foreign investors indicate that the uneven enforcement of regulations and laws, or political interference in legal processes, creates difficulties for investment.

There are two main government agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) and the National Council of Free Trade Zones for Export (CNZFE). CEI-RD promotes foreign investment and aids prospective foreign investors with business registration, matching services, and identification of investment opportunities. It publishes an annual “Investment Guide of the Dominican Republic,” highlighting many of the tools, incentives, and opportunities available for prospective investors. The CEI-RD also oversees “ProDominicana,” a branding and marketing program for the country launched in 2017 that promotes the DR as an investment destination and exporter. CNZFE aids foreign companies looking to establish operations in the country’s 75 free trade zones for export outside Dominican territory.

There are a variety of business associations that promote dialogue between the government and private sector, including the Association of Foreign Investor Businesses (ASIEX).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign Investment Law No. 16-95 states that unlimited foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, with a few exceptions for hazardous materials or materials linked to national security. Private entities, both foreign and domestic, have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all legal remunerative activity. Foreign companies are not restricted in their access to foreign exchange, there are no requirements that foreign equity be reduced over time or that technology be transferred according to defined terms, and the government imposes no conditions on foreign investors concerning location, local ownership, local content, or export requirements. See Section 3 Legal Regime for more information.

The Dominican Republic does not maintain a formalized investment screening and approval mechanism for inbound foreign investment. Details on the established mechanisms for registering a business or investment are elaborated in the Business Facilitations section below.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Dominican Republic has not been reviewed recently by multilateral organizations regarding investment policy. The most recent reviews occurred in 2015. This included a trade policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a follow-up review by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) regarding its 2009 investment policy recommendations.

2009 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationArchive.aspx?publicationid=6343 

2015 WTO – https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s319_e.pdf

2015 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2016d2_en.pdf

Business Facilitation

Foreign investment does not require any prior approval in the Dominican Republic, but once made it must be registered with the CEI-RD. Investments in free zones must be registered with the CNZFE, which will notify the CEI-RD.  Foreign investment registration is compulsory, but failure to do so is not subject to any sanction.  In the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, the Dominican Republic’s overall ranking for ease of doing business fell from 102 in 2019 to 115 in 2020, reflecting stagnant performance in several of the indicator categories.

Law No. 16-95 Foreign Investment, Law No. 98-03 on the Creation of the CEI-RD, and Regulation 214-04 govern foreign investment in the Dominican Republic and require an interested foreign investor to file an application form at the offices of CEI-RD within 180 calendar days from the date on which the foreign investment took place. The required documents include the application for registration, containing information on the invested capital and the area of the investment; proof of entry into the country of the foreign capital or physical or tangible goods; and documents of commercial incorporation or the authorization of operation of a branch office through the setting up of legal domicile in the country.  The reinvestment of profits (in the same or a different firm) must be registered within 90 days. Once the documents have been approved, the CEI-RD issues a certificate of registration within 15 business days subject to the payment of a fee which varies depending on the amount of the investment.

Lack of registration does not affect the validity of the foreign investment; but the fact that it is needed to fulfil various types of procedures, makes registration necessary in practice. For example, the registration certificate has to be presented to repatriate profits or investment in the event of sale or liquidation and to purchase foreign exchange from the authorized agencies for transfers abroad, as well as to process the residency of the investor.  In April 2021, CEI-RD launched an online Registry of Foreign Direct Investment, which aims to streamline and make the registration processes more transparent to investors. For more information on becoming an investor or exporter, visit the CEI-RD ProDominicana website at https://prodominicana.gob.do .

The Dominican Republic has a single-window registration website for registering a limited liability company (SRL by its Spanish acronym) that offers a one-stop shop for registration needs ( https://www.formalizate.gob.do/ ). Foreign companies may use the registration website. However, this electronic method of registration is not widely used in practice and consultation with a local lawyer is recommended for company registrations. According to the “Doing Business” report, starting a SRL in the Dominican Republic is a seven-step process that requires 16.5 days. However, some businesses advise the full incorporation process can take two to three times longer than the advertised process.

In order to set up a business in a free trade zone, a formal request must be made to the CNZFE, the entity responsible for issuing the operating licenses needed to be a free zone company or operator. CNZFE assesses the application and determines its feasibility. For more information on the procedure to apply for an operating license, visit the website of the CNZFE at http://www.cnzfe.gov.do .

Outward Investment

There are no legal or government restrictions on Dominican investment abroad, although the government does little to promote it. Outbound foreign investment is significantly lower than inbound investment. The largest recipient of Dominican outward investment is the United States.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The national government manages all regulatory processes. Information about regulations is often scattered among various ministry and agency websites and is sometimes only available through direct communication with officials. It is advisable for U.S. investors to consult with local attorneys or advisors to assist with locating comprehensive regulatory information.

On the 2020 Global Innovations Index, the Dominican Republic’s overall rank was 90 out of 131 nations analyzed. In sub-sections of the report, the Dominican Republic ranks 101 out of 131 for regulatory environment and 78 out of 131 for regulatory quality. In the same year, the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report ranked the Dominican Republic 133 out of 190 economies with respect to enforcing contracts, 124 out of 190 for resolving insolvency, and 74 out of 190 regarding registering property.

The World Bank Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance report states that Dominican ministries and regulatory agencies do not publish lists of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended for adoption within a specific timeframe. Law No. 200-04 requires regulatory agencies to give notice of proposed regulations in public consultations and mandates publication of the full text of draft regulations on a unified website: https://saip.gob.do/ . Foreign investors, however, note that these requirements are not always met in practice and many businesses point out that the scope of the website content is not always adequate for investors or interested parties as not all relevant Dominican agencies provide content, and those that do often do not keep the content up to date. U.S. businesses also reported years’ long delays in the enactment of regulations supporting new legislation, even when the common legal waiting period is six months.

The process of public consultation is not uniform across government. Some ministries and regulatory agencies solicit comments on proposed legislation from the public; however, public outreach is generally limited and depends on the responsible ministry or agency. For example, businesses report that some ministries upload proposed regulations to their websites or post them in national newspapers, while others may form working groups with key public and private sector stakeholders participating in the drafting of proposed regulations. Often the criteria used by the government to select participants in these informal exchanges are unclear, which at a minimum creates the appearance of favoritism and that undue influence is being offered to a handpicked (and often politically-connected) group of firms and investors. Public comments received by the government are generally not publicly accessible. Some ministries and agencies prepare consolidated reports on the results of a consultation for direct distribution to interested stakeholders. Ministries and agencies do not conduct impact assessments of regulations or ex post reviews. Affected parties cannot request reconsideration or appeal of adopted regulations.

The Dominican Institute of Certified Public Accountants (ICPARD) is the country’s legally recognized professional accounting organization and has authority to establish accounting standards in accordance with Law No. 479-08, which also declares that (as amended by Law No. 311-14) financial statements should be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards nationally and internationally. The ICPARD and the country’s Securities Superintendency require the use of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and IFRS for small and medium-sized entities (SMEs).

By law, the Office of Public Credit publishes on its website a quarterly report on the status of the non-financial public sector debt, which includes a wide array of information and statistics on public borrowing ( www.creditopublico.gov.do/publicaciones/informes_trimestrales.htm ).

In addition to the public debt addressed by the Office of Public Credit, the Central Bank maintains on its balance sheet nearly $10 billion in “quasi-fiscal” debt. When consolidated with central government debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio is over 60 percent, and the debt service ratio is over 30 percent.

International Regulatory Considerations

As of the end of 2020, the Dominican Republic was involved in 17 dispute settlement cases with the WTO: one as complainant, seven as respondent, and nine as a third party. In recent years, the Dominican Republic has frequently changed technical requirements (e.g., for steel rebar imports and sanitary registrations, among others) and has failed to provide proper notification under the WTO TBT agreement and CAFTA-DR.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The judicial branch is an independent branch of the Dominican government. According to Article 69 of the Constitution, all persons, including foreigners, have the right to appear in court. The basic concepts of the Dominican legal system and the forms of legal reasoning derive from French law. The five basic French Codes (Civil, Civil Procedure, Commerce, Penal, and Criminal Procedure) were translated into Spanish and passed as legislation in 1884. Some of these codes have since been amended and parts have been replaced, including the total derogation of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2002. Subsequent Dominican laws are not of French origin.

In year 2020, the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report gave the Dominican Republic a score of 6.5 out of 18 in the quality of its judicial processes. In the 2020 Global Innovations Index, the Dominican Republic ranked 86 out of 131 countries for rule of law.

There is a Commercial Code and a wide variety of laws governing business formation and activity. The main laws governing commercial disputes are the Commercial Code; Law No. 479-08, the Commercial Societies Law; Law No. 3-02, concerning Business Registration; Commercial Arbitration Law No. 489-08; Law No. 141-15 concerning Restructuring and Liquidation of Business Entities; and Law No. 126-02, concerning e-Commerce and Digital Documents and Signatures.

Some investors complain of long wait times for a decision by the judiciary. While Dominican law mandates overall time standards for the completion of key events in a civil case, these standards frequently are not met. The World Bank’s 2020 “Doing Business” report noted that resolving complaints raised during the award and execution of a contract can take more than four years in the Dominican Republic, although some take longer. Dominican nationals and foreigners alike have the constitutional right to present their cases to an appeal court and to the Supreme Court to review (recurso de casación in Spanish) the ruling of the lower court. If a violation of fundamental rights is alleged, the Constitutional Court might also review the case. Notwithstanding, foreign investors have complained that the local court system is unreliable, is biased against them, and that special interests and powerful individuals are able to use the legal system in their favor. Others that have successfully won in courts, have struggled to get their ruling enforced.

While the law provides for an independent judiciary, businesses and other external groups have noted that in practice, the government does not respect judicial independence or impartiality, and improper influence on judicial decisions is widespread. Several large U.S. firms cite the improper and disruptive use of lower court injunctions as a way for local distributors to obtain more beneficial settlements at the end of contract periods. To engage effectively in the Dominican market, many U.S. companies seek local partners that are well-connected and understand the local business environment.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The legal framework supports foreign investment. Article 221 of the Constitution declares that foreign investment shall receive the same treatment as domestic investment. Foreign Investment Law No. 16-95 states that unlimited foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, with a few exceptions. According to the law, foreign investment is not allowed in the following categories: a) disposal and remains of toxic, dangerous, or radioactive garbage not produced in the country; b) activities affecting the public health and the environmental equilibrium of the country, pursuant to the norms that apply in this regard; and c) production of materials and equipment directly linked to national defense and security, except for an express authorization from the Chief Executive.

The Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (ProDominicana, formally known as CEI-RD) aims to be the one-stop shop for investment information, registration, and investor after-care services. ProDominicana maintains a user-friendly website for guidance on the government’s priority sectors for inward investment and on the range of investment incentives ( https://prodominicana.gob.do ).

In February 2020, the Dominican government enacted the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) Law No. 47-20 to establish a regulatory framework for the initiation, selection, award, contracting, execution, monitoring and termination of PPPs in line with the 2030 National Development Strategy of the Dominican Republic. The law also created the General Directorate of Public-Private Partnerships (DGAPP) as the agency responsible for the promotion and regulation of public-private alliances and the National Council of Public-Private Partnerships as the highest body responsible for evaluating and determining the relevance of the PPPs. The PPP law recognizes public-private and public-private non-profit partnerships from public or private initiatives and provides for forty-year concession contracts, five-year exemptions of the tax on the transfer of goods and services (ITBIS), and accelerated depreciation and amortization regimes. The DGAPP website has the most up to date information on PPPs ( https://dgapp.gob.do/en/home/  ).

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The National Commission for the Defense of Competition (ProCompetencia) has the power to review transactions for competition-related concerns. Private sector contacts note, however, that strong public pressure is required for ProCompetencia to act.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Dominican constitution permits the government’s exercise of eminent domain; however, it also mandates fair market compensation in advance of the use of seized land. Nevertheless, there are many outstanding disputes between U.S. investors and the Dominican government concerning unpaid government contracts or expropriated property and businesses. Property claims make up the majority of cases. Most, but not all, expropriations have been used for infrastructure or commercial development. Many claims remain unresolved for years.

Investors and lenders have reported that they typically do not receive prompt payment of fair market value for their losses. They have complained of difficulties in the subsequent enforcement even in cases in which the Dominican courts, including the Supreme Court, have ordered compensation or when the government has recognized a claim. In other cases, some indicate that lengthy delays in compensation payments are blamed on errors committed by government-contracted property assessors, slow processes to correct land title errors, a lack of budgeted funds, and other technical problems. There are also cases of regulatory action that investors say could be viewed as indirect expropriation. For example, they note that government decrees mandating atypical setbacks from roads or establishing new protected areas can deprive investors of their ability to use purchased land in the manner initially planned, substantially affecting the economic benefit sought from the investment.

Many companies report that the procedures to resolve expropriations lack transparency and, to a foreigner, may appear antiquated. Government officials are rarely, if ever, held accountable for failing to pay a recognized claim or failing to pay in a timely manner.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 2000, the Dominican Republic signed the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (Washington Convention; however, the Dominican Congress did not ratify the agreement as required by the constitution). In 2001, the Dominican Republic became a contracting state to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention). The agreement entered into force by Congressional Resolution No. 178-01.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Dominican Republic has entered into 11 bilateral investment treaties that are in force, most of which contain dispute resolution provisions that submit the parties to arbitration.

As a signatory to CAFTA-DR, the Dominican Republic is bound by the investment chapter of CAFTA-DR, which submits the Parties to arbitration under either the ICSID or the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) rules. There have been three U.S. investor-state dispute cases filed against the Dominican Republic under CAFTA-DR. One case was settled; in the other two, an arbitration panel found in favor of the government.

Dual nationals of the United States and Dominican Republic should be aware that their status as a Dominican national might interfere with their status as a “foreign” investor if they seek dispute settlement under CAFTA-DR provisions. U.S. citizens who contemplate pursuing Dominican naturalization for the ease of doing business in the Dominican Republic should consult with an attorney about the risks that may be raised by a change in nationality with regard to accessing the dispute settlement protections provided under CAFTA-DR.

According to the Knowyourcountry’s “Dominican Republic: Risk and Compliance Report” from 2018, U.S. investors have had to resort to legal action against the Dominican government and parastatal firms to seek relief regarding payments, expropriations, contractual obligations, or regulatory obligations. Regardless of whether they are located in a free-trade zone, companies have problems with dispute resolution, both with the Dominican government and with private-sector entities. The investors range from large firms to private individuals.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Law 489-08 on commercial arbitration governs the enforcement of arbitration awards, arbitral agreements, and arbitration proceedings in the Dominican Republic. Per law 489-09, arbitration may be ad-hoc or institutional, meaning the parties may either agree on the rules of procedure applicable to their claim, or they may adopt the rules of a particular institution. Fundamental aspects of the United Nations Commission on International Trade (UNCITRAL) model law are incorporated into Law 489-08. In addition, Law 181-09 created an institutional procedure for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center of the Chamber of Commerce Santo Domingo ( http://www.camarasantodomingo.do/ ).

Foreign arbitral awards are enforceable in the Dominican Republic in accordance with Law 489-09 and applicable treaties, including the New York Convention. U.S. investors complain that the judicial process is slow and that domestic claimants with political connections have an advantage.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Law 141-15 provides the legal framework for bankruptcy. It allows a debtor company to continue to operate for up to five years during reorganization proceedings by halting further legal proceedings. It also authorizes specialized bankruptcy courts; contemplates the appointment of conciliators, verifiers, experts, and employee representatives; allows the debtor to contract for new debt which will have priority status in relation to other secured and unsecured claims; stipulates civil and criminal sanctions for non-compliance; and permits the possibility of coordinating cross-border proceedings based on recommendations of the UNCITRAL Model Law of 1997. In March 2019, a specialized bankruptcy court was established in Santo Domingo.

The Dominican Republic scores lower than the regional average and comparator economies on resolving insolvency on most international indices.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives exist in various sectors of the economy, which are available to all investors, foreign and domestic. Incentives typically take the form of preferential tax rates or exemptions, preferential interest rates or access to finance, or preferential customs treatment. Sectors where incentives exist include agriculture, construction, energy, film production, manufacturing, and tourism.

Incentives for manufacturing apply principally to production in free trade zones (discussed in the subsequent section) or for the manufacturing of textiles, clothing, and footwear specifically under Laws 84-99 on Re-activation and Promotion of Exports and 56-07 on Special Tax Incentives for the Textile Sector. Additionally, Law 392-07 on Competitiveness and Industrial Innovation provides a series of incentives that include exemptions on taxes and tariffs related to the acquisition of materials and machinery and special tax treatment for approved companies.

Special Zones for Border Development, created by Law No. 28-01, encourage development near the Dominican Republic-Haiti border. Law No. 12-21, passed in February 2021, modified and extended incentives for direct investments in manufacturing projects in the Zones for a period of 30 years. Incentives still largely take the form of tax exemptions but can be applied for a maximum period of 30 years, versus the 20 years in the original law. These incentives include the exemption of income tax on the net taxable income of the projects, the exemption of sales tax, the exemption of import duties and tariffs and other related charges on imported equipment and machinery used exclusively in the industrial processes, as well as on imports of lubricants and fuels (except gasoline) used in the processes.

Tourism is a particularly attractive area for investment and one the government encourages strongly. Law 158-01 on Tourism Incentives, as amended by Law 195-13, and its regulations, grants wide-ranging tax exemptions, for fifteen years, to qualifying new projects by local or international investors. The projects and businesses that qualify for these incentives are: (a) hotels and resorts; (b) facilities for conventions, fairs, festivals, shows and concerts; (c) amusement parks, ecological parks, and theme parks; (d) aquariums, restaurants, golf courses, and sports facilities; (e) port infrastructure for tourism, such as recreational ports and seaports; (f) utility infrastructure for the tourist industry such as aqueducts, treatment plants, environmental cleaning, and garbage and solid waste removal; (g) businesses engaged in the promotion of cruises with local ports of call; and (h) small and medium-sized tourism-related businesses such as shops or facilities for handicrafts, ornamental plants, tropical fish, and endemic reptiles.

For existing projects, hotels and resort-related investments that are five years or older are granted complete exemption from taxes and duties related to the acquisition of the equipment, materials and furnishings needed to renovate their premises. In addition, hotels and resort-related investments that are fifteen years or older will receive the same benefits granted to new projects if the renovation or reconstruction involves 50 percent or more of the premises.

In addition, individuals and companies receive an income tax deduction for investing up to 20 percent of their annual profits in an approved tourist project. The Tourism Promotion Council (CONFOTOUR) is the government agency in charge of reviewing and approving applications by investors for these exemptions, as well as supervising and enforcing all applicable regulations. Once CONFOTOUR approves an application, the investor must start and continue work in the authorized project within a three-year period to avoid losing incentives.

The Dominican Republic encourages investment in the renewable energy sector. Under Law 57-07 on the Development of Renewable Sources of Energy, investors in this area are granted, among other benefits, the following incentives: (a) no custom duties on the importation of the equipment required for the production, transmission and interconnection of renewable energy; (b) no tax on income derived from the generation and sale of electricity, hot water, steam power, biofuels or synthetic fuels generated from renewable energy sources; and (c) exemption from the goods and services tax in the acquisition or importation of certain types of equipment. Foreign investors praise the provisions of the law, but express frustration with approval and execution of potential renewable energy projects.

The Dominican government does not currently have a practice of jointly financing foreign direct investment projects. However, in some circumstances, the government has authority to offer land or infrastructure as a method of attracting and supporting investment that meets government development goals. In February 2020, the government passed a law on public-private partnerships (PPPs) that may encourage high-quality infrastructure projects and help catalyze private sector-led economic growth. In August 2020, the Abinader administration officially launched the General Directorate of Public Private Partnerships as the government office responsible for planning, executing, and overseeing investment projects financed via PPPs. Their website has the most up to date information on their initiatives and mandates (https://dgapp.gob.do/en/home/).

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Law 8-90 on the Promotion of Free Zones from 1990 governs operations of the Dominican Republic’s free trade zones (FTZs), while the National Council of Free Trade Zones for Export (CNZFE) exercises regulatory oversight. The law provides for complete exemption from all taxes, duties, charges, and fees affecting production and export activities in the zones. Operations located in one of the seven provinces along the Dominican-Haitian border benefit from these incentives for a 20-year period, while those located throughout the rest of the country benefit for a 15-year period. Products produced in FTZs can be sold in the Dominican market, but relevant taxes will apply.

CNZFE delineates policies for the promotion and development of Free Zones, as well as approving applications for operating licenses, with discretionary authority to extend the time limits on these incentives. CNZFE is comprised of representatives from the public and private sectors and is chaired by the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

In general, firms operating in the FTZs report fewer bureaucratic and legal problems than do firms operating outside the zones. Foreign currency flows from the FTZs are handled via the free foreign exchange market. Foreign and Dominican firms are afforded the same investment opportunities both by law and in practice.

According to CNZFE’s 2019 Statistical Report, the most recent available, 2019 exports from FTZs totaled $6.3 billion, comprising 3.2 percent of GDP. There are 695 companies operating in a total of 75 FTZs, of which approximately 33 percent are from the United States. Investments made in FTZs by U.S. companies in 2019 represented approximately 35 percent of total investments. Other major investors include companies registered in the Dominican Republic (21.2 percent), the United Kingdom (7.8 percent), Germany (6.5 percent), and Canada (4.2 percent). Companies registered in 38 other countries comprised the remaining investments. The main productive sectors receiving investment include services, apparel and textiles, tobacco and derivatives, agro-industrial products, and medical and pharmaceutical products.

Exporters/investors seeking further information from the CNZFE may contact:

Consejo Nacional de Zonas Francas de Exportación
Leopoldo Navarro No. 61
Edif. San Rafael, piso no. 5
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Phone: (809) 686-8077
Fax: (809) 686-8079
Website: http://www.cnzfe.gov.do 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Law 16-92 on the Labor Code stipulates that 80 percent of the labor force of a foreign or national company, including free trade zone companies, must be comprised of Dominican nationals. Senior management and boards of directors of foreign companies are exempt from this regulation.

The Dominican Republic does not have excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. The host government does not have a forced localization policy to compel foreign investors to use domestic content in goods or technology.

There are no performance requirements as there is no distinction between Dominican and foreign investment. Investment incentives are applied uniformly to both domestic and foreign investors in accordance with World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to encryption.

Law No. 172-13 on Comprehensive Protection of Personal Data restricts companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data inside the Dominican Republic or beyond the country’s borders. Under this law, companies must obtain express written consent from individuals to transmit personal data unless an exception applies. The Superintendency of Banks currently supervises and enforces these rules, but its jurisdiction generally covers banks, credit bureaus, and other financial institutions. Industry representatives recommend updating this law to designate a national data protection authority that oversees other sectors.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Dominican Constitution guarantees the right to own private property and provides that the state shall promote the acquisition of property, especially titled real property, however, a patchwork history of land titling systems and sometimes violent political change has complicated land titling in the Dominican Republic. By law, all land must be registered, and that which is not registered is considered state land. There are no restrictions or specific regulations on foreigners or non-resident owners of land.

In 2008, the country transitioned to a new system based on GPS coordinates and has been working towards establishing clear titles, but, in March 2021, an industry source estimated that only 25 percent of all land titles were clear. The government advises that investors are ultimately responsible for due diligence and recommends partnering with experienced attorneys to ensure that all documentation, ranging from title searches to surveys, have been properly verified and processed.

Land tenure insecurity has been fueled by government land expropriations, institutional weaknesses, lack of effective law enforcement, and local community support for land invasions and squatting. Political expediency, corruption, and fraud have all been cited as practices that have complicated the issuance of titles or respect for the rights of existing title holders. Moreover, while on the decline, long-standing titling practices, such as issuing provisional titles that are never completed or providing titles to land to multiple owners without requiring individualization of parcels, have created ambiguity in property rights and undermined the reliability of existing records.

The Dominican Republic’s rank for ease of registering property in the 2020 World Bank’s “Doing Business” report improved from 77 to 74 (out of 190 countries). Registering property in the Dominican Republic requires 6 steps, an average of 33 days, and payment of 3.4 percent of the land value as a registration fee. In the last decade, the Dominican government received a $10-million, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan to modernize its property title registration process, address deficiencies and gaps in the land administration system, and strengthen land tenure security. The project involved digitization of land records, decentralization of registries, establishment of a fund to compensate people for title errors, separation of the legal and administrative functions within the agency, and redefinition of the roles and responsibilities of judges and courts.

Mortgages and liens do exist in the Dominican Republic. The Title Registry Office maintains the system for recording titles, as well as a complementary registry of third-party rights, such as mortgages, liens, easements, and encumbrances. Property owners maintain ownership of legally purchased property whether unoccupied or occupied by squatters, however, it can be difficult and costly to enforce private rights against squatters. This may in part be due to a provision in the law known as “adverse possession,” which allows squatters to acquire legal ownership of land without a title (thereby state-owned).

Intellectual Property Rights

The Dominican Republic has strong intellectual property rights (IPR) laws and is meeting its IP obligations under international agreements such as the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Nevertheless, weak institutions and limited enforcement can present challenges for investors. Under the Abinader administration, the country’s posture toward the protection and enforcement of IPR appears to have improved. Still, illicit and counterfeit goods, as well as online and signal piracy, are common and continue to present challenges for authorities. In the Dominican Republic, illicit or counterfeit goods include the full gamut of fashion apparel and accessories, electronics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Several IP authorities in the Dominican Republic grant intellectual property rights. The National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI) issues trademarks and patents, the National Copyright Office (ONDA) issues copyrights, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MISPAS) issues sanitary registrations required for marketing foods, pharmaceuticals, and health products, and the Directorate of International Trade (DICOEX) has jurisdiction over the implementation of geographical indications. IPR registration processes have improved in recent years, but delays and questionable adjudication decisions are still common. These institutions are in the process of implementing electronic filing systems to streamline procedures, however.

IPR Enforcement is carried out by the Customs Authority (DGA), the National Police, the National Copyright Office (ONDA), the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel), the Special Office of the Attorney General for Matters of Health, and the Special Office of the Attorney General for High Tech Crimes. Although the Dominican government has taken steps that appear to indicate a strengthened posture and commitment to IP enforcement, in practice, the country faced challenges in 2020 that contributed to a net decrease in counterfeit seizures, arrests, and convictions. The government attributed much of this decrease to the pandemic and ensuing safety measures, which hampered enforcement activities for much of the year.

Although the Dominican Republic did not enact any new IP-related laws or regulations in the past year, the Office of the Attorney General launched a new IP Unit in November 2020. This unit plans not only to pursue more IP cases but also to develop an interagency mechanism uniting all the institutions involved in IP prevention and prosecution. As a result, these institutions are expected to collaborate more in enforcement activities and in capacity building efforts. For example, in February 2021, the new IP Unit partnered with ONAPI and ONDA to launch an IP training academy for prosecutors and judges to improve the country’s judicial capacity.

Since 2003, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has designated the Dominican Republic as a Special 301 Watch List country for serious IPR deficiencies. The country, however, is not listed in USTR”s Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Dominican Stock Market (BVRD by its Spanish acronym) is the only stock exchange in the Dominican Republic. It began operations in 1991 and is viewed as a cornerstone of the country’s integration into the global economy and domestic development. It is regulated by the Securities Market Law No. 249-17 and supervised by the Superintendency of Securities, which approves all public securities offerings. Since many companies do not wish to sell shares to the public (a common theme among family-owned companies in Latin America), the majority of activity has been in the capital and fixed income markets.

The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Foreign investors are able to obtain credit on the local market but tend to prefer less expensive offshore sources. The Central Bank regularly issues certificates of deposit using an auction process to determine interest rates and maturities.

In recent years, the local stock market has continued to expand, in terms of the securities traded on the BVRD. There are very few publicly traded companies on the exchange, as credit from financial institutions is widely available and many of the large Dominican companies are family-owned enterprises. Most of the securities traded in the BVRD are fixed-income securities issued by the Dominican State.

Money and Banking System

Dominican Republic’s financial sector is relatively stable, and the IMF declared the financial system largely satisfactory during 2019 Article IV consultations, citing a strengthened banking system as a driver of solid economic performance over the past decade. According to a Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion report from 2017, approximately 56 percent of Dominican adults have bank accounts. However, financial depth is relatively constrained. Private lending to GDP (around 27 percent, according to the IMF) is low by international and regional standards, representing around half the average for Latin America. Real interest rates, driven in part by large interest rate spreads, are also relatively high. The country’s relatively shallow financial markets can be attributed to a number of factors, including high fiscal deficits crowding out private investment; complicated and lengthy regulatory procedures for issuing securities in primary markets; and high levels of consolidation in the banking sector.

Dominican banking consists of 113 entities, as follows: 48 financial intermediation entities (including large commercial banks, savings and loans associations, financial intermediation public entities, credit corporations), 40 foreign exchange and remittance agents (specifically, 36 exchange brokers and 6 remittances and foreign exchange agents), and 24 trustees. According to the latest available information (January 2021), total bank assets were $40.8 billion. The three largest banks hold 69.5 percent of the total assets – Banreservas 30.0 percent, Banco Popular 23.1 percent, and BHD Leon 16.4 percent. While full-service bank branches tend to be in urban areas, several banks employ sub-agents to extend services in more rural areas. Technology has also helped extend banking services throughout the country.

The Dominican Monetary and Banking system is regulated by the Monetary and Financial Law No. 183-02, and is overseen by the Monetary Board, the Central Bank, and the Superintendency of Banks. The mission of the Dominican Central Bank is to maintain the stability of prices, promote the strength and stability of the financial system, and ensure the proper functioning of payment systems. The Superintendency of Banks carries out the supervision of financial intermediation entities, in order to verify compliance by said entities with the provisions of the law.

Foreign banks may establish operations in the Dominican Republic, although it may require a special decree for the foreign financial institution to establish domicile in the country. Foreign banks not domiciled in the Dominican Republic may establish representative offices in accordance with current regulations. To operate, both local and foreign banks must obtain the prior authorization of the Monetary Board and the Superintendency of Banks. Major U.S. banks have a commercial presence in the country, but most focus on corporate banking services as opposed to retail banking. Some other foreign banks offer retail banking. There are no restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts, although identification requirements do apply.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Dominican exchange system is a market with free convertibility of the peso. Economic agents perform their transactions of foreign currencies under free market conditions. There are generally no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

The Central Bank sets the exchange rates and practices a managed float policy. Some firms have had repeated difficulties obtaining dollars during periods of high demand. Importers may obtain foreign currency directly from commercial banks and exchange agents. The Central Bank participates in this market in pursuit of monetary policy objectives, buying or selling currencies and performing any other operation in the market to minimize volatility.

Remittance Policies

Law No. 16-95 on Foreign Investment in the Dominican Republic grants special allowances to foreign investors and national individuals residing abroad who make contributions to a company operating in the Dominican Republic. It regulates the types of investments, the areas of investment, and the rights and obligations of investors, among others. Decree No. 214-04 on the Registration of Foreign Investment in the Dominican Republic establishes the requirements for the registration of foreign investments, the remittance of profits, the repatriation of capital, and the requirements for the sale of foreign currency, among other issues related with investments.

Foreign investors can repatriate or remit both the profits obtained and the entire capital of the investment without prior authorization of the Central Bank. Article 5 of the aforementioned decree states that “the foreign investor, whose capital is registered with the CEI-RD, shall have the right to remit or repatriate it…”

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Dominican government does not maintain a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in general do not have a significant presence in the economy, with most functions performed by privately-held firms. Notable exceptions are in the electricity, banking, and refining sectors. In the partially privatized electricity sector, private companies mainly provide electricity generation, while the government handles the transmission and distribution phases via the Dominican Electric Transmission Company (ETED) and the Dominican Corporation of State Electrical Companies (CDEEE). CDEEE is the largest SOE in terms of government expenditures. However, the government participates in the generation phase, too (most notably in hydroelectric power) and one of the distribution companies is partially privatized. In the financial sector, the state-owned BanReservas is the largest bank in the country, with a 32 percent market share by assets. In the refining sector, the government is the majority owner of the only refinery in the country; Refinery Dominicana (Refidomsa) operates and manages the refinery, is the only importer of crude oil in the country, and is also the largest importer of refined fuels, with a 60 percent market share. Sanctioned-Venezuelan firm Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA by its Spanish acronym) is the minority shareholder.

Law No. 10-04 requires the Chamber of Accounts to audit SOEs. Audits should be published at https://www.camaradecuentas.gob.do/index.php/auditorias-publicadas , but audits from the SOEs could not be found. All audits should also be available upon request.

Privatization Program

Privatization of electricity distribution is part of a major reform planned for the electricity sector and outlined in the National Pact for Energy Reform signed February 2021. Plans are also being discussed for dissolving the CDEEE. While not yet expressly stated whether foreign firms will be invited to participate in these efforts, the Abinader administration has welcomed U.S. investment in the sector, generally. Questions should be directed toward the Ministry of Energy and Mines ( https://mem.gob.do/ ).

Partial privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the late 1990s resulted in foreign investors obtaining management control of former SOEs engaged in activities such as electricity generation, airport management, and sugarcane processing.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government does not have an official position or policy on responsible business conduct, including corporate social responsibility (CSR). Although there is not a local culture of CSR, large foreign companies normally have active CSR programs, as do some of the larger local business groups. While most local firms do not follow OECD principles regarding CSR, the firms that do are viewed favorably, especially when their CSR programs are effectively publicized.

The Dominican Constitution states, “Everyone has the right to have quality goods and services, to objective, truthful and timely information about the content and characteristics of the products and services that they use and consume.” To that end, the national consumer protection agency, ProConsumidor, offers consumer advocacy services.

The country joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a candidate in 2016. The government incorporates EITI standards into its mining transparency framework. In 2019, EITI conducted a validation study of the Dominican Republic’s implementation of EITI standards.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The Dominican Republic has a legal framework that includes laws and regulations to combat corruption and provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. However, enforcement of existing laws is often ineffective. Individuals and NGOs noted the greatest hindrance to effective investigations was a lack of political will to prosecute individuals accused of corruption, particularly well-connected individuals or high-level politicians. Government corruption remained a serious problem and a public grievance, so much so, that it was a primary political motivation in the 2020 elections, leading to widespread protests. The Dominican Republic’s rank on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index held at 137 in 2020 (out of 180 countries assessed) but indicated that “the election of a new government…raised hopes for the fight against corruption.”

U.S. companies identified corruption as a barrier to FDI and some firms reported being solicited by public officials for bribes. U.S. investors indicate corruption occurs at all phases of investment, not just in public procurement or during the process for awarding tenders or concessions, as is most often alleged. At least one firm said it intended to back out of a competition for a public concession as a result of a solicitation from government officials. U.S. businesses operating in the Dominican Republic often need to take extensive measures to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In September 2019, the Dominican Supreme Court began a trial against six of the 14 defendants indicted in 2017 for alleged links to $92 million in bribes paid by aBrazilian construction company to obtain public works contracts. A 2016 plea agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Brazilian company implicated high-level public officials in the Dominican Republic; the six current defendants include a senator, a lower house representative, a former senator, and a former minister of public works. Civil society welcomed the trial as a step forward in the fight against corruption, but activists highlighted what they perceived as a lack of political will to investigate thoroughly the case, which involved the country’s political and economic elites. U.S. companies also frequently cite the government’s slow response to the Odebrecht scandal as contributing to a culture of perceived impunity for high-level government officials, which fuels widespread acceptance and tolerance of corruption at all levels.

President Abinader has made it clear since his inauguration in August 2020 that fighting corruption will be a top priority of his administration. He appointed officials with reputations for professionalism and independence including a career anti-corruption advocate now serving as head of the Public Procurement General Directorate. In addition, the Abinader administration created the Directorate of Transparency, Prevention, and Control of Public Spending, and implemented other administrative and legislative measures that should increase internal auditing mechanisms.

In November 2020, the Attorney General’s Office detained 11 former officials and alleged front men, including two siblings of former President Danilo Medina, as part of the “Anti-octopus operation.” They are accused of “having used their family connections” to gain privileged access to the public procurement process and, consequently, of having accumulated fortunes illicitly during the past administration. Analysts have suggested that these arrests dealt a blow to the widespread practice of impunity around issues of corruption, particularly where politically connected people and families were involved, and sent a strong warning against such behavior. The arrests also appear to have appeased the demands of civil society, who threatened to protest if arrests did not happen before January 2021. However, it remains to be seen the extent to which the government will prioritize passage of legislative reforms to strengthen rule of law and prevent similar abuses in the future.

Civil society has been a critical voice in anti-corruption campaigns to date. Several non-governmental organizations are particularly active in transparency and anti-corruption, notably the Foundation for Institutionalization and Justice (FINJUS), Citizen Participation (Participacion Ciudadana), and the Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (ADOCCO).

The Dominican Republic signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. The Dominican Republic is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.

Resources to Report Corruption

Procuraduría Especializada contra la Corrupción Administrativa (PEPCA)
Calle Hipólito Herrera Billini esq. Calle Juan B. Pérez,
Centro de los Heroes, Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
Telephone: (809) 533-3522
Email: pepca@pgr.gob.do 

Linea 311 (government service for filing complaints and denunciations)
Phone: 311 (from inside the country)
Website: http://www.311.gob.do/ 

Participación Ciudadana
Wenceslao Alvarez #8, Zona Universitaria
Phone: 809 685 6200
Website: https://pciudadana.org/
Email: info@pciudadana.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Despite political stability and strong pre-pandemic economic growth, citizen and public security concerns in the Dominican Republic impose significant costs on businesses and limit foreign and domestic investment. There are no known national security threats affecting foreign investment within the Dominican Republic.

Citizen Security

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Santo Domingo as a critical-threat location for crime. According to the Latin American Public Opinion Project, there is a steady increase in crime-related victimization and a growing perception of insecurity in the Dominican Republic since 2010. In 2020, Fund for Peace ranked the Dominican Republic 110 out of 176 countries in its security threats index, and 71 for human rights and rule of law. Other than domestic violence, criminal activity is mostly associated with street-level incidents consisting of robberies and petty larcenies. Of these, street robbery is particularly concerning as criminals often use weapons to coerce compliance from victims. In addition, the Dominican Republic faces challenges with organized crime. Mob schemes in the Dominican land, airspace, and territorial waters include transshipment of South American drugs destined for the United States and Europe, transshipment of ecstasy from the Netherlands and Belgium destined for United States and Canada, substantial money laundering activity particularly by Colombian narcotics traffickers, and significant amphetamine consumption.

Public Security

The U.S. Department of State has assessed the Dominican Republic as being a low-threat location for terrorism and a medium-threat location for political violence. There are no known organized domestic terrorist groups in the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, the Dominican Republic is a likely transit point for extremists from within the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.

Politically motivated protests, demonstrations, and general strikes occur periodically, particularly during general election years. In February and March of 2020, there were multiple, mostly peaceful protests throughout the country over the Dominican electoral authority’s decision to suspend national municipal elections after widespread failure of its electronic voting system. Sabotage of electrical facilities for political purposes also allegedly occurred during the 2020 electoral cycle. In addition, civil unrest has become a common occurrence in the last several years due to the lack of adequate electricity, water resources, and the public opinion from certain groups that the government is not actively protecting the national interest.

Border porosity remains an ongoing concern for the Dominican Republic as the security situation with Haiti has arguably been complicated by the withdraw of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in 2017. Dominican officials have expressed concerns about the potential for widespread civil unrest or instability in Haiti contributing to illegal flows of people and illicit goods across the border.

National Security

There are no known national security threats menacing the survival of the Dominican Republic state. Therefore, its armed forces define a series of citizen and public security concerns as their priority security interests. The Dominican government uses its armed forces to support the police and border security forces within the framework of the Dominican Republic constitution. In this context, the military has deployed through citizen security programs in collaboration with the police and plays an important role in securing the border with Haiti, alongside border security forces.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

An ample labor supply is available, although there is a scarcity of skilled workers and technical supervisors. Some labor shortages exist in professions requiring lengthy education or technical certification. According to 2020 Dominican Central Bank data, the Dominican labor force consists of approximately 5 million workers. The labor force participation rate is 61.1 percent; 56.8 percent of the labor force works in services, 10.6 percent in industry, 9.6 percent in education and health, 9.2 percent in agriculture and livestock, 7.9 percent in construction, and 5.9 percent in public administration and defense. Approximately 46 percent of the labor force works in formal sectors of the economy and 54 percent in informal sectors. In 2020, unemployment increased from 5.9 percent to 7.4 percent over the course of the year due to pandemic-induced challenges. When factoring in discouraged workers and others who were not actively seeking employment, however, the unemployment rate increased from 9.9 percent to 15.0 percent. Youth unemployment remained steady at 13.5 percent, indicating the pandemic had a greater impact on employment for older, more vulnerable segments of the population. With respect to migrant workers, the most recent reliable statistical data is from 2017 and shows a population of 334,092 Haitians age ten or older living in the country, with 67 percent working in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Migration experts believe that this number has increased to approximately 500,000 since 2017. The Dominican government and the United Nations are expected to provide an updated migrant survey in 2021.

The Dominican Labor Code establishes policies and procedures for many aspects of employer-employee relationships, ranging from hours of work and overtime and vacation pay to severance pay, causes for termination, and union registration. The code applies equally to migrant workers, however, many irregular Haitian laborers and Dominicans of Haitian descent working in the construction and agricultural industries do not exercise their rights due to fear of being fired or deported. The law requires that at least 80 percent of non-management workers of a company be Dominican nationals. Exemptions and waivers are available and regularly granted. The law provides for severance payments, which are due upon layoffs or firing without just cause. The amount due is prorated based on length of employment.

Although the Labor Code provides for freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, it places several restrictions on these rights, which the International Labor Organization (ILO) considers excessive. For example, it restricts trade union rights by requiring unions to represent 51 percent of the workers in an enterprise to bargain collectively. In addition, the law prohibits strikes until mandatory mediation requirements have been met. Formal requirements for a strike to be legal also include the support of an absolute majority of all company workers for the strike, written notification to the Ministry of Labor, and a 10-day waiting period following notification before proceeding with the strike. Government workers and essential public service personnel, in theory, may not strike; however, in practice such employees, including healthcare workers, have protested and gone on strike.

The law prohibits dismissal of employees for trade union membership or union activities. In practice, however, the law is inconsistently enforced. The majority of companies resist collective negotiating practices and union activities. Companies reportedly fire workers for union activity and blacklist trade unionists, among other anti-union practices. Workers frequently have to sign documents pledging to abstain from participating in union activities. Companies also create and support company-backed unions. Formal strikes occur but are not common.

The law establishes a system of labor courts for dealing with disputes. The process is often long, with cases pending for several years. One exception is workplace injury cases, which typically conclude quickly – and often in the worker’s favor. Both workers and companies report that mediation facilitated by the Ministry of Labor was the most rapid and effective method for resolving worker-company disputes.

Many of the major manufacturers in free trade zones have voluntary codes of conduct that include worker rights protection clauses generally aligned with the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; however, workers are not always aware of such codes or the principles they contain. The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health, and safety standards in all worksites where an employer-employee relationship exists. Labor inspectors can request remediation for violations, and if remediation is not undertaken, can refer offending employers to the public prosecutor for sanctions.

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 $88,906 2019 $88,941 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $2,604 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $151 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 47.3% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html 

* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (BCRD). The BCRD does not report investment stock positions.

No information for the Dominican Republic is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) website. According to the Dominican Central Bank (BCRD), total inward flows of FDI for 2020 were $2.6 billion. The BCRD provides a breakdown of FDI to the Dominican Republic by individual source country for the top investing countries. The five largest investing countries accounted for 82.3 percent of total inward FDI in 2019. Neither World Bank nor Dominican sources break down FDI from the Dominican Republic to individual destination countries.

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 $3,012.8 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
United States $948.3 31.5% N/A N/A N/A
Mexico $640.2 21.2% N/A N/A N/A
Spain $394.3 13.1% N/A N/A N/A
Canada $258.3 8.6% N/A N/A N/A
France $237.8 7.9% N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (BCRD), 2020 FDI inward flows.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
No information for the Dominican Republic is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) site and the Dominican government only publishes information on general investment flows ( https://www.bancentral.gov.do/a/d/2532-sector-externo ).

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Office
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida República de Colombia #57
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic +1 (809) 567-7775
+1 (809) 567-7775
InvestmentDR@State.gov 

Grenada

Executive Summary

Grenada has a strong legal framework for business. Generally, the presence of a comprehensive investment incentive regime, stable economy, existing trade agreements, and responsive investment promotion experts contributes to a positive investment climate. In 2020 and 2021, however, Grenada’s tourism-driven economy was severely impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Recovery will be a multi-year process.

The country recorded negative 11.2 percent growth in 2020, a stark contrast to the average 4 percent growth experienced from 2013 to 2019. Tourism and private tertiary education are the main revenue earners and were the hardest hit sectors. In the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate almost doubled to 28.4 percent, compared to 15.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. In 2020, Grenada lost more than 14,000 jobs from a labor force of approximately 50,000. The government experienced a significant shortfall in tax revenues and is likely to run a deficit in 2021. Although the debt-to-GDP ratio fell from 108 percent in 2013 to just under 60 percent by the end of 2020, it is projected to rise to 73 percent in 2021 due to the recent increase in long-term concessionary loans taken out to finance COVID response and economic stimulus programs.

The government forecasts 6 percent GDP growth in 2021 driven by construction and major public and private sector projects through Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program. Despite the pandemic, the Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) and CBI program consistently received applications for investment incentives and projects in 2020. During the first quarter of 2020, CBI applications were 25 percent above 2019 figures despite an anticipated decline. According to the Ministry of Finance, the CBI program generated $6.18 million in revenues for the government in the fourth quarter of 2020.

In 2020, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal ordered the government of Grenada to repurchase the shares owned by U.S. company WRB Enterprises, the former majority shareholder in Grenada’s sole electricity company, at a valuation of approximately $74 million. The arbitration stemmed from a 2016 law that liberalized the energy sector in Grenada, which was found to abrograte WRB’s monopoly and thus allowed WRB to require the government of Grenada to repurchase its shares. Following the ICSID ruling, the government of Grenada repurchased the WRB shares in a negotiated settlement.

The government of Grenada has a strong interest in climate resilience initiatives, increasing the use of renewable energy, and developing the blue economy (broadly defined as the sustainable, environmentally sensitive use of ocean resources for economic growth and job creation). Other international investments include projects in construction, retail, duty free outlets, and agriculture. The Grenada parliament made legislative revisions to the acts governing value added tax, property transfer tax, investment, excise tax, customs (service charge), and bankruptcy and insolvency. The government also launched an innovative Investment Incentives Regime intended to streamline bureaucratic and legal processes. This regime improves transparency, equitable treatment of investors, and adherence to the rule of law, thus bolstering Grenada’s marketability as an investor-friendly climate.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 52 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 146 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 41 (outward)
8 (inward)
https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD $9,840 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Grenada provides a legal package of benefits and concessions for specific investment activities. Incentives include tax waivers, import duty exemptions, repatriation of profits, and withholding tax exemptions.

Trade-related incentives are notified under Article 25 and Article 27 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. Concessions are available under the Income Tax Act, the Common External Tariff (SRO 42/09), the Property Transfer Act, the Petrol Tax Act, and the Customer Service Charge Act.

Fiscal incentives include:

  • 100 percent investment allowances up to 15 years
  • 50-100 percent property transfer tax waivers
  • 50-100 percent withholding tax waivers
  • Tax credits of 150 percent for training, research, and development
  • Waiver of VAT on importation of capital goods
  • Tax exemptions and waiver of duties on building materials

Non-fiscal incentives include:

  • Equal treatment of all investors regardless of nationality or residence
  • Conversion into freely convertible currency
  • No discrimination among foreign investors
  • Repatriation of profits allowed

Other incentives include accelerated depreciation (10 percent on physical plant and machinery; 2 percent on industrial buildings); investment allowance (100 percent write-off on total investment); carry forward of losses for three years; reductions in the property transfer tax; and 100 percent relief from customs duties on physical plant, equipment, and raw materials. Certain incentives may be linked to the site of investment, the number of persons employed, or other factors.

There was no instance where Grenada needed to review an approved investor for non-compliance with incentive requirements. Grenada does not have a practice of issuing guarantees or jointly financing foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are no foreign trade zones or free ports in Grenada.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

CARICOM investors are accorded Rights of Establishment, while other foreign investors are required to obtain work permits and alien landholding licenses to invest in property.

The application fee for a work permit is USD $37/XCD $100 payable to the Work Permit Division of the Ministry of Labor. Along with the completed application form, applicants must also submit four passport-sized photos, a police certificate of character from their country, certificates of qualification, and a letter of intention. In addition, investors will need a character reference from a reputable person/former employer, a copy of the passport page indicating the last date of arrival in Grenada, a business registration certificate, company stamp, National Insurance Scheme compliance certificate, and recent tax compliance and VAT receipts.

The approval process takes two to three weeks, longer if there are questions, and is valid for one year. U.S. investors and workers are required to pay USD $1,111 or XCD $3,000 per year for renewal. The local government does not mandate local employment but encourages it.

There is no policy of “forced localization” of data storage and Grenada does not pressure international information and communications technology providers to provide source code or encryption keys. The OECS and other stakeholders have begun to develop draft model laws on electronic regimes. Laws specific to data storage and protection have not yet made it onto the national legislative agenda.

There are no measures to prevent or impede companies from transmitting customer or business-related data outside the country. There are no performance requirements. Investment incentives are applied uniformly to domestic and foreign investors on a case-by-case basis.

There is no requirement for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. There are no measures or draft measures that restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the economy/country’s territory.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Aliens Landholding Regulation Act No. 29 of 1968 (last amended in 2009) is the primary legislative instrument governing the right to private ownership by non-citizens. Investors may purchase or lease privately owned land and dispose of, or transfer, interests in the land under the Act. Investors may hold state lands by grant or lease from the state.

Property rights and interests are enforced under the Aliens Landholding Regulation Act. The only specific regulation regarding land lease or acquisition by a foreign or non-resident investor is the requirement to acquire an Alien Landholding License. The application process is described on the following website: http://grenadaidc.com/investor-centre/investors-guide/starting-up-a-business/#.WLBEUvnQe70 

Before a deed is issued, there is a title search on the previous owner, followed by conveyance, and the registering of the property to a new owner. A clear title must first be identified before the process moves forward. Once the landholder possesses a deed, the property remains legally theirs, occupied or not, until the deed is signed over to someone else.

Grenada ranked 147 out of 190 for the ease of registering property on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Patents Act (Cap. 227 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada) or the Trademarks Act (Cap. 284 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada), or the Copyright Act Cap. 32 of 1988 (Cap. 67 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada) guarantees the intellectual property rights of investors and investment enterprises e.g., patents, trademarks, brand names, and copyrighted materials in printed, recorded, or electronic formats. Grenada is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Domestic legislation regarding intellectual property protection has not been fully amended to bring it in line with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement. However, updates to existing legislation are currently being drafted and reviewed.

Trademarks

The Trademarks Act of 2012 regulates trademarks.

Patents

The Registration of United Kingdom Patents Act Cap 283 of the Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada is still in force, although outdated. In accordance with the act, any person being the grantee of a patent in the United Kingdom or any person deriving right from such grantee may apply within three years from the date of issue of the patent in in the UK to have it registered in Grenada.

The Patent Act Cap 227 of the Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada is not TRIPS compliant. Implementation of the Patent Act No. 16 of 2011 has been slow due to the lack of implementing regulations, but the government has indicated that this a priority.

Copyright

The Copyright Act No. 21 of 2011 is in force.  In accordance with Berne Convention, there is no existing formal system of registration of copyrighted works. There are current discussions with WIPO, in conjunction with the intellectual property offices in the region, to consider a voluntary system of registration for copyrighted works.

Geographic Indication Bill

The geographic indication bills have been drafted but not yet enacted. The 2012 Trademarks Act provides for registration of collective marks in the absence of a geographic indication act.

Industrial Designs Bill

The Industrial Design Bill is a work in progress. According to the Office of Corporate Affairs, its enactment is a priority in 2021.

Administration of intellectual property laws in Grenada is the responsibility of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) is currently responsible for the registration of trademarks, re-registration of UK patents, and all other IP matters.

Post is unaware of any current or past prosecutions of IPR violations. Grenada is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or in the 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy,

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Grenadian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are legislatively established by acts of Parliament. These enterprises all have boards of directors appointed by the government and answerable to the relevant ministries. Twenty-five of the 28 authorized SOEs are operational. They secure credit on commercial terms from commercial banks. SOEs submit annual reports to the Government Audit Department and are subject to audits shared with their parent ministries. SOEs manage transportation infrastructure (ports and airports), housing, education, hospitals, cement production, investment promotion, and small business development, among other functions. Generally, where they compete with the private sector, they do so on an equal basis.

Grenada, like its neighbors, acknowledges the OECD guidelines. Corporate governance of SOEs is established and regulated by founding statutes. Local courts show no favoritism toward SOEs in the adjudication of investment disputes.

For additional information on SOEs in Grenada see: http://www.oecd.org/countries/grenada/ 

Privatization Program

Grenada does not have a privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), interchangeably used with responsible business conduct, is a concept that was introduced to Grenada relatively recently by multinational and regional corporations. Local businesses are slowly incorporating this principle into their operations.

Some social responsibility initiatives undertaken by the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) include education programs, fitness programs, sporting activities, and cultural endeavors. These are predominantly implemented by the telecommunication companies Digicel and LIME, along with financial institutions. There is also a recent push towards environmentally friendly business practices and development projects.

While firms that promote CSR are more favorably viewed by the community, there is little familiarity with international CSR standards. Activities are deemed to be responsible business conduct if they are lawful, not a threat to national security, and not detrimental to the environment, health, and culture of the Grenadian people. Other than this being a requirement for any company operating in Grenada, CSR is not built into the laws governing the operations of a company.

There has been no high profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights or resolution of such cases in the recent past. Grenada generally enforces domestic laws in relation to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protection, and other laws/regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. Local labor unions play a role in promoting and monitoring responsible business conduct. Grenada uses private security companies but is not a signatory to The Montreux Document or the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Service Providers.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Grenada is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. The Integrity in Public Life Act (Act No.24 of 2013) requires that all public servants report their income and assets to the independent Integrity Commission for review. The Integrity in Public Life Commission monitors and verifies disclosures, although disclosures are not made public except in court. Failure to file a disclosure should be noted in the Official Gazette. If the office holder in question fails to file in response to this notification, the commission can seek a court order to enforce compliance.

The Office of the Ombudsman received 59 complaints in 2019, compared to 64 in 2018. Of the 59 complaints, six were closed, 19 are ongoing, advice/referrals were given to 25, and nine were outside the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Private entities received the highest number of complaints totaling 18, followed by the Ministry of Labor with 14. Of the 18 complaints, advice/referrals were given to 12, and six were beyond the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Of the 14 complaints against the Ministry of Labor, one was closed, 10 are ongoing, and three received advice/referrals.

Bribery is illegal in Grenada. For the most part, the enforcement of anti-bribery laws and procedures is effective and non-discriminatory.

Grenada is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The country accepted and acknowledged the UN Convention against Corruption but has not yet signed or ratified it.

U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Grenada.

Resources to Report Corruption

Tafawa Pierre
Superintendent of Police/Head of FIU
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)
The Carenage, St. George’s, Grenada
(473) 435-2373 / 2374
gdafiu@spiceisle.com 

Allison Miller
Acting Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman
Tanteen, St. George’s, Grenada
(473) 435-9315
ombudsmangd@spiceisle.com 

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph
Chairperson
Office of the Integrity Commission
Archibald Avenue, St. George’s, Grenada
(473) 439-9212/ 534-5190
office@grenadaintegritycommission.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Grenada has a stable parliamentary representative democracy free from political violence.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Grenada signed and ratified all the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) undertakings and enshrined these rights into its labor laws, including the Labor Relations Act No.1 of 1999 and the Employment Act No. 1 of 1999. Grenadian law protects the right of workers to be represented by a trade union of their choice.

Employers are generally expected to recognize a union that represents most workers but are not obligated to recognize a minority union formed by some employees if most of the workforce does not belong to said union. In accordance with the Trade Union Recognition Act No 29 of 1979, investors shall grant union representation at any site of employment if most employees indicate the desire for union representation. Investment enterprises are also required to contribute to the social insurance and welfare programs for their workers in accordance with the National Insurance Act.

The Ministry of Labor may refer disputes regarding workers in essential services to compulsory arbitration. Essential services include employees of utility companies, public health, and protection sectors, including sanitation, airport, seaport, and dock services.

Grenada does not restrict the legal activities of trade unions. Most of the workforce is unionized, and labor relations are generally stable.

Article 32 of the Employment Act prohibits employment of children under the age of 16 except for temporary holiday employment. Part 7 of the Employment Act provides for the protection and regulation of wages, and article 52 mandates the minimum wage. Minimum wage schedules are set by occupation. In the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate was 28.4 percent compared to 15.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2019. In 2020, more than 14,000 jobs were lost from a labor force of approximately 50,000 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the tourism sector.

There have been strikes in the past year, but none posed an investment risk, and negotiations toward a satisfactory resolution continue. There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. No potential gaps were identified in law or in practice with international standards by the ILO.

No new labor-related laws or regulations were enacted during the last year, and no bills are pending.

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

14. Contact for More Information

Karl E. Duckworth
Principal Officer, U.S. Embassy Grenada
Tel: (473) 444-1176
Email: duckworthke2@state.gov 

Rachér Croney
Political & Economic Specialist
Tel: (473) 444-1173
Email: croneyrr@state.gov 

Contacts for Investment-Related Inquiries:

Ronald Theodore
CEO, Grenada Investment Development Corporation
Tel: (473) 444-1035
Email: Invest@grenadaidc.com  rtheodore@grenadaidc.com 
rtheodore@grenadaidc.com 
Website: www.grenadaidc.com 

Cathyann Alexander-Pierre
Senior Specialist, Investment Promotion Agency
Grenada Investment Development Corporation
Tel: (473) 444-1033-35, Ext.-236
Email: calexander@grenadaidc.com 

Haiti

Executive Summary

Haiti, one of the most urbanized nations in Latin America and the Caribbean region, occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola. Despite efforts by the Haitian government to achieve macroeconomic stability and sustainable private sector-led and market-based economic growth, Haiti’s investment climate is characterized by, an unstable national currency (Haitian gourde), persistent inflation, high unemployment, political uncertainty, and insecurity. The global outbreak of the coronavirus and resulting slowdown of economic activity in 2020 further complicated the Haitian government’s capacity to achieve macroeconomic stability, create jobs, and encourage economic development through foreign trade and investment. In the absence of a functioning parliament, the Haitian government has additionally taken steps to regulate commercial activity by presidential decree, with sudden regulatory changes the business community views as detrimental to a functioning market. As a free market system, the Haitian economy traditionally relies on its agricultural, construction, and commerce sectors, as well as the export-oriented apparel assembly industry. Although the business climate is challenging, Haiti’s legislation encourages foreign direct investment. The government has prioritized building and improving infrastructure, including boosting energy production, and has additionally designated agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism as key investment sectors. The Haitian investment code provides the same rights, privileges, and equal protection to local and foreign companies. Under Haitian law, Haiti’s business climate affords equal treatment to all investors, including women, minorities, and foreign nationals.

Haiti continues to face significant challenges and civil unrest. With national elections scheduled for September 2021, it is anticipated that political uncertainty and a short-term economic policy focus will compound the workings of an already- opaque bureaucracy. While the country maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime, and largely adheres to World Bank programs to fight poverty, continuing reports of corruption and financial mismanagement have raised questions about investment.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows reached a historic low of $55 million in 2019, according to the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), down from $105 million the year prior and at the lowest level since ECLAC began recording FDI inflows using a consistent methodology in 2010. Inflation remains above target because of weak domestic production, a deepening government budget deficit mostly financed by monetization, food price pressures, and the depreciation of the Haitian gourde against the U.S. dollar. Haiti’s net international reserves were $501 million as of early March 2021. Improving the investment outlook for Haiti requires political and economic stability underscored by the enactment of institutional and structural reforms that can improve Haiti’s business and political environment. The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth at a rate of 1.2 percent in 2021.

Haiti is ranked 170 out of 189 countries on the United Nations Development Program’s 2020 Human Development Index. The World Bank’s latest household survey in 2012 reported that over 6 million Haitians live on less than $2.41 per day, and more than 2.5 million fall below $1.12 per day.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 170 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 179 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index N/A N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $29.0M https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $1,330 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

In order to attract investment to certain industries, the Investment Code privileges eligible firms with customs, tax, and other advantages. Investments that provide added value of at least 35 percent in the processing of local or imported raw materials are eligible for preferential status.

The statute, as modified by the FY2021 budget decree in October 2020, allows for a five-year income tax exemption. Industrial or crafts-related enterprises must meet one of the following criteria in order to benefit from this exemption:

  • Make intensive and efficient use of available local resources (i.e., advanced processing of existing goods, recycling of recoverable materials);
  • Increase national income;
  • Create new jobs and/or upgrade the level of professional qualifications;
  • Reinforce the balance of payments position and/or reduce the level of dependency of the national economy on imports;
  • Introduce or extend new technology more appropriate to local conditions (i.e., utilize non-conventional sources of energy, use labor-intensive production);
  • Create and/or intensify backward or forward linkages in the industrial sector;
  • Promote export-oriented production;
  • Substitute a new product for an imported product, if the new product presents a quality/price ratio deemed acceptable by the appropriate entity and comprises a total production cost of at least 60 percent of the value added in Haiti, including the cost of local inputs used in its production;
  • Prepare, modify, assemble, or process imported raw materials or components for finished goods that will be re-exported;
  • Utilize local inputs at a rate equal or superior to 35 percent of the production cost.

Companies that enjoy tax-exempt status are required to submit annual financial statements. Fines or withdrawal of tax advantages may be assessed to firms failing to meet the Code’s provisions.

A progressive tax system applies to income, profits, and capital gains earned by individuals.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

A law on Free Trade Zones (FTZ) was established in 2002. The law defines the conditions for operating and managing economic FTZs, with exemption and incentive regimes granted to investment in such zones. The law is not specific to a particular activity. Instead, it defines FTZs as geographical areas to which a special regime on customs duties and controls, taxation, immigration, capital investment, and foreign trade applies, and where domestic and foreign investors can provide services, import, store, produce, export, and re-export goods.

FTZs may be private or joint venture. The law provides the following incentives and benefits for enterprises located in FTZs:

  • Full exemption from income tax for a maximum period of 15 years, followed by full taxation, per the FY2021 budget issued by decree in October 2020;
  • Customs and tax exemptions for the import of capital goods and equipment needed to develop the area, with the exception of tourism vehicles;
  • Exemption from all communal taxes (with the exception of proportional duties) for a period not exceeding 15 years;
  • Registration and transfer of the balance due for all deeds relating to purchase, mortgages, and collateral.

Examples of functioning FTZs include one in the northeastern city of Ouanaminthe, where a Dominican company, Grupo M, manufactures clothing for a variety of U.S. companies at its CODEVI facility. Additionally, several U.S. apparel companies lease factory space in this free zone. All the factories at CODEVI combined employ over 15,000 workers as of January 2021.

In October 2012, the Haitian government, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the United States government, opened the 617-acre Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti’s northeastern region. As of 2021, five companies are operating in the park: S&H Global, a South Korean company and the largest single private sector employer in Haiti; MAS Holdings, a Sri Lankan company; Everest, a Taiwanese factory; and two Haitian companies, Peintures Caraibes and Sisalco.

In 2015, three major FTZs were established: Agritrans, the first agricultural free trade zone in Haiti in Trou du Nord; Digneron, an entity of the Palm Apparel Group; and Lafito, a $150 million Panamax port and industrial park. Port Lafito, located 12 miles north of Port au Prince, includes port facility business services that cater to bulk and loose cargo imports, as well as terminal services to worldwide container service shipping lines.

In February 2021, the Government of Haiti authorized a new agro-industrial export free zone in the town of Savane-Diane (ZFAISD) in Artibonite Department, per the application of Haitian company Stevia Agro Industries S.A.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

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

Under Haitian laws, foreign investors operate their businesses and use their assets to organize production freely. Companies are not forced to localize or to use local raw materials for the production of goods. Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code or keys for encryption to any public agencies.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreign investors have noted that real property interests are affected by the absence of a comprehensive civil registry (cadastre). Lease agreement regulations are the same for locals and foreign investors. Many companies report that legitimate property titles are often non-existent and, if they do exist, they often conflict with other titles for the same property. Verification of property titles can take several months, and often much longer. Mortgages exist, but real estate mortgages are expensive and involve allegedly cumbersome procedures. Additionally, mortgages are not always properly recorded under the debtor or creditor’s name. Banks are also risk-averse to issue loans or mortgages. Squatting is not a common practice but was popular in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. As a factor in its overall Ease of Doing Business ranking, the World Bank ranks Haiti 182 out of 187 among countries globally on ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Haitian law protects copyrights, patent rights, and inventions, as well as industrial designs and models, special manufacturers’ marks, trademarks, and business names. The law penalizes individuals or enterprises involved in infringement, fraud, or unfair competition; however, enforcement is weak. Some report that weak enforcement mechanisms, inefficient courts, and judges’ inadequate knowledge of commercial law may impede the effectiveness of statutory protections.

Haiti is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Haiti has completed accession to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Haiti is a signatory to the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, the Patent Law Treaty, and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.

Haiti is not mentioned in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or the USTR 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. For additional information about the national laws and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The Haitian government owns and operates, either wholly or in part, several State-Owned Enterprises (SOE). The Haitian commercial code governs the operations of the SOEs. The sectors include: food processing and packaging (a flourmill), construction and heavy equipment (a cement factory); information and communications (a telecommunications company); energy (the state electricity company, EDH); finance (two commercial banks, Banque Nationale de Crédit and Banque Populaire Haïtienne); and the national port authority and the airport authority. The law defines SOEs as autonomous enterprises that are legally authorized to be involved in commercial, financial, and industrial activities. All SOEs operate under the supervision of their respective sectorial ministry and are expected to create economic and social return. Today, some SOEs are fully owned by the state, while others are jointly owned commercial enterprises. The Haitian parliament, when it is functioning, has full authority to liquidate state enterprises that are underperforming. The majority of SOEs are financially sound. However, EDH receives substantial annual subsidies from the Haitian government to stay in business.

Privatization Program

In response to the economic difficulties of the late 1990s and mismanagement of the SOEs, the government liberalized the market and allows foreign firms to invest in the management and/or ownership of some Haitian state-owned enterprises. To accompany the initiative, the government established the Commission for the Modernization of Public Enterprises in 1996 to facilitate the privatization process.

In 1998, two U.S. companies, Seaboard and Continental Grain, purchased shares of the state-owned flourmill. Each partner currently owns a third of the company, known today as Les Moulins d’Haiti. In 1999, a consortium of Colombian, Swiss, and Haitian investors purchased a majority stake in the national cement factory. In 2010, a state-owned Vietnamese corporation, Viettel, officially acquired 60 percent of the state telecommunications company Teleco (now operating as Natcom), with the Haitian government retaining 40 percent ownership. The government has allowed limited private sector investment in selected seaports. Competition is generally not distorted in favor of state-owned enterprises to the detriment of private companies.

The Haitian government has allowed private sector investment in electricity generation to compensate for EDH’s inability to supply sufficient power, though it has had contractual disputes with multiple independent power producers. Only one independent power producer, partially U.S.-owned E-Power, generates electricity for EDH in Port au Prince as of 2021. In 2019, the Haitian energy sector regulatory authority, ANARSE, issued a series of prequalification rounds for concessionaires to take over and expand electricity production, transmission, and distribution for several of the country’s regional grids, including the grid serving the Caracol Industrial Park. ANARSE is expected to select concessionaires for the initial three grids and issue further tenders for additional regional grids in 2021.

The Government of Haiti created the National Commission for Public Procurement (CNMP) to ensure that Haitian government contracts are awarded through competitive bidding and to establish effective procurement controls in public administration. The CNMP publishes lists of awarded government of Haiti contracts. The procurement law of 2009 requires contracts to be routed through CNMP. In 2012, however, a presidential decree substantially raised the threshold at which public procurements must be managed by the CNMP, resulting in what companies have identified as a decrease in transparency for many smaller government contracts. Moreover, the government frequently enters into no-bid contracts, sometimes issued using “emergency” authority derived from natural disasters, even when there is no apparent connection between the alleged emergency and the government contract, according to foreign investors.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Awareness of responsible business conduct among producers and consumers is limited but growing, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Irish-owned telecommunications company Digicel, for example, sponsors an Entrepreneur of the Year program and has built 120 schools in Haiti. Natcom provides free internet service to several public schools throughout the country. Les Moulins d’Haiti, partially owned by U.S. firm Seaboard Marine, provides some services, including electrical power, to surrounding communities. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, many firms provided logistical or financial support to humanitarian initiatives, and many continue to contribute to reconstruction efforts. Haiti’s various chambers of commerce have also become more supportive of business ethics and social responsibility programs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Haitian, U.S., and other foreign-owned firms donated to prevention and treatment measures.

The Haitian government has not established any incentives to encourage to responsible business conduct.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption, including bribery, raises the costs and risks of doing business in Haiti. U.S. firms have complained that corruption is a major obstacle to effective business operation in Haiti. They frequently point to requests for payment by customs officials in order to clear import shipments as examples of solicitation for bribes.

Haitian law, applicable to individuals and financial institutions, criminalizes corruption and money laundering. Bribes or attempted bribes toward a public official are a criminal act and are punishable by the criminal code (Article 173) for one to three years of imprisonment. The law also contains provisions for the forfeiture and seizure of assets. In practice, however, the law is unevenly and rarely applied.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2020 ranked Haiti in the second lowest spot in the Americas region and 170 out of 180 countries worldwide, with a score of 18 out of 100 in perceived levels of public corruption.

The Haitian government has made some progress in enforcing public accountability and transparency, but substantive institutional reforms are still needed. In 2004, the Government of Haiti established the Anti-Corruption Commission (ULCC), but the organization lacks the necessary resources and political independence to be effective. In 2008, parliament approved the law on disclosure of assets by civil servants and high public officials prepared by ULCC, but to date, compliance has been almost nonexistent.

Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) is currently one of Haiti’s few independent government institutions, responsible for reviewing draft government contracts; conducting audits of government expenditures; and clearing all government officials, including those at the political level, to manage public funds. In November 2020, however, the Haitian government published a decree limiting the authority of the Audit Court. The CSCCA had issued three reports in January 2019, May 2019, and August 2020 citing improper management practices by the Haitian government and the alleged wastage of nearly $2 billion of the Petrocaribe funds. Public anger over the Petrocaribe scandal has since burgeoned into a grassroots movement against widespread corruption in Haiti.

Haiti is not a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

Resources to Report Corruption

Any corruption-related activity can be reported to the Haitian Anti-Corruption Unit, responsible for combatting corruption:

Hans Jacques Ludwig Joseph
Director General
Unite de Lutte Contre la Corruption
13, rue Capotille, Pacot, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: (509) 2811-0661 / (509) 2816-7071
Email: info@ulcc.gouv.ht 

Marilyn B. Allien
President
Fondation Heritage pour Haiti
Petion-Ville, Haiti
Telephone: (509) 3452-1570
Email: admlfhh@yahoo.com  / heritagehaiti@yahoo.com  

10. Political and Security Environment

The U.S. government partners with Haiti in its efforts to strengthen the rule of law and enhance public security; pursue economic growth through increased domestic resource mobilization and support for private investment; and strengthen good governance and anti-corruption efforts. President Jovenel Moise was inaugurated in February 2017 for a five-year term, and his administration has faced repeated challenges due to frequently changing executive branch leadership, an ineffective parliament followed by a parliamentary lapse beginning in January 2020, legislative elections not being held as scheduled in October 2019, allegations of widespread corruption, weak rule of law, and a deteriorating economy. These factors have hindered both reconstruction efforts and the passage of important legislation. Sporadic protests since mid-2018 have stemmed from a number of factors, including a lack of progress in the fight against corruption and a lack of viable economic options. Haiti’s political situation remains fragile.

Political and civil disorder, such as periodic demonstrations triggered by government proposals to increase fuel prices and mismanagement of public funds, at times interrupt normal business operations. During such periods, as well as for three months of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Haitian businesses limited operations or closed completely. Due to the pandemic, schools, regular passenger flights, border crossings, and government offices were also suspended or closed for several months. Operations gradually resumed by mid-2020 for most business sectors, although sporadic protests continued to interrupt daily life as of early 2021.

Damage to businesses and other installations frequently occurs as a result of political and civil disorder. Over the past ten years, multiple incidents of property damage to offices, stores, hotels, hospitals, fuel stations, and car rental companies and dealerships have been reported in the media and to the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince. Property destruction and vandalism ranges from broken windows to arson and looting. Employees and tourists have also been victims of violence. Kidnapping for ransom is a frequent occurrence in Port au Prince. While improvements in the Haitian National Police force’s technical and operational capabilities have maintained some semblance of order, violent crime, including looting of businesses, remains a serious problem, along with criminal gang control of a number of Port au Prince’s marginalized areas.

More information is available at:

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The special legislation of the Labor Code of 1984 establishes and governs labor regulations. Under the Code, the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor enforces the law and maintains good relationships with employers and workers. Normal working hours consist of 8-hour shifts and 48-hour workweeks. In September 2017, the Haitian government passed a labor law to permit three eight-hour shifts in a working day, although this has not been fully implemented for all sectors in Haiti. Workers’ social protection and benefits include annual leave, sick leave, health insurance, maternity insurance, insurance in case of accident at work, and other benefits for unfair dismissal.

Labor unions are generally receptive to investment that creates new jobs, and support from the international labor movement, including the AFL-CIO, is building the capacity of unions to represent workers and engage in social dialogue. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is in the process of revising a new labor code that will better comply with international labor standards.

According to U.S. and other companies, relations between labor and management in Haiti have at times been strained. In some cases, however, industries have autonomously implemented good labor practices. In addition to local entities, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has an office in Haiti and operates an ongoing project with the apparel assembly industry to improve productivity through improvement in working conditions. The ILO, with the support of the U.S. Department of Labor, launched Better Work Haiti, a program that was designed to verify compliance with international labor standards and spur job creation in the garment sector.

Since the inception of Better Work Haiti, the garment sector has seen improvement in occupational safety and health across the factories. Employers have increased their efforts to improve chemical safety, and over 95 percent of local factories have initiated policies to create a safer work environment as well as provide good working conditions to garment workers. Wages vary depending on the economic sector. As of November 2019, the minimum wage for the garment sector was HTG 500 for eight hours of work or (approximately $6.25 as of April 2021) in the export-oriented apparel industry. Better Work Haiti’s biannual report found most factories in compliance with the labor law. The most recent report is available at: https://betterwork.org/portfolio/better-work-haiti-21st-biannual-compliance-synthesis-report/ .

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Merah Baird
Commercial Officer
Embassy of the United States of America
Boulevard du 15 Octobre, Tabarre 41
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Please address email correspondence to PAPECON@state.gov .

Jamaica

Executive Summary

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) considers foreign direct investment (FDI) a key driver for economic growth and in recent years has undertaken macroeconomic reforms that have improved its investment climate. However, the reform program was stymied by measures implemented to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jamaican economy is estimated to have contracted by a record 12 percent during fiscal year (FY) 2020/21, underpinned by a near collapse in tourism and travel and weaker disposable incomes. The country also lost around 130,000 jobs, wiping out the almost 100,000 created in the last four years. With revenues declining and the debt to GDP ratio rising, the government contained expenditure and suspended its fiscal rules. The debt to GDP ratio increased by 16 percentage points to 110 percent due largely to the fallout in GDP, as the nominal debt remained relatively flat. Despite the fallout, inflation was within the four to six percent target range and the current account deficit remained close to the three percent of GDP level. The stock of Net International Reserves (NIR) ended 2020 at USD3.1 billion or 38.81 weeks of goods and services imports.

Jamaica has continued to pursue fiscal consolidation to reduce its debt to GDP ratio. Expenditure will remain flat for the FY 2021/22 and the primary surplus will more than double to 6.1 percent to achieve the debt to GDP target of 100.7 percent by March 2022. This is expected to put the country’s debt to GDP on track to reach the 60 percent target by FY 2027/28. The economy is widely projected to rebound in FY 2021/22, growing by a relatively robust 5.2 percent, while inflation will remain within the four to six percent range. A successful vaccine roll-out program will be critical to the achievement of the targets.

On March 18, 2021, Fitch Ratings Agency affirmed Jamaica’s Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B+’ and assigned a stable outlook. Fitch reported that Jamaica’s ‘B+’ rating was supported by, among other things, a favorable business climate and moderate inflation and commodity dependence. The Ratings Agency explained that the strengths were balanced by the country’s susceptibility to exogenous shocks and high public debt and the exposure of the foreign debt to exchange rate movements. Fitch said Jamaica’s stable outlook was supported “by our expectation that the public debt level will return to a firm downward path post-pandemic, which is underpinned by political consensus to maintain a high primary surplus, the resilience of external finances, and stronger economic policy institutions.”

Jamaica received USD665 million in FDI in 2019 (latest available data), a USD110 million drop over the previous year. Despite the decline, data from the 2020 UNCTAD World Investment Report, showed that Jamaica was the highest FDI destination in the English-Speaking Caribbean and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). China and Spain were the major drivers of FDI in 2019, contributing about 60 percent of the total. Up to the onset of COVID-19 tourism, mining and energy led investment inflows into the island. Though hard hit by the global pandemic, tourism and mining continued to drive foreign investment. There is a significant host government commitment for mining, tourism and airport development, which could resume when economic conditions improve. Business process outsourcing (BPO), including customer service and back office support, continued to attract local and overseas investment. Investments in improved air, sea, and land transportation have reduced time and costs for transporting goods and have created opportunities in logistics.

Companies have reported that Jamaica’s high crime rate, corruption, and comparatively high taxes inhibit its investment prospects. The country’s corruption perception ranking, by Transparency International, improved marginally from 74 (2019) to 69 (2020) out of 180 countries. Despite laws that prescribe criminal penalties for corrupt acts by officials, there were still reports of government corruption in 2020, with a minister and another public official facing several criminal charges. Measures implemented to address crime continued into 2020, including the continuation of States of Emergency and Zones of Special Operations in several high crime areas of the island. While these efforts resulted in lowering serious crimes, the measures did not significantly impact the murder rate, and Jamaica continues to have one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

With energy prices a major component of the cost of doing business, the government has instituted a number of policies to address the structural impediment. In early 2020, the government published its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), outlining the country’s electricity roadmap for the next two decades. The document has projected 1,164 MW of new generation capacity at a cost of USD7.3 billion, including fuel cost and the replacement of retired plants. Renewable sources are projected to generate 50 percent of electricity by 2037, with Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), introduced in 2016, providing the lion’s share of the other 50 percent. The increased investment in new generation is expected to increase efficiency and reduce the price of electricity to consumers.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 69 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 71 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 72 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 USD 145 https://www.bea.gov/data/economic-accounts/international
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 5,320 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Fiscal Incentives (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 2013 repeals most of the legacy incentive legislation and provides flexibility for new tax incentives only to be granted in relation to the bauxite sector, special economic zone activities, the relocation of corporate headquarters, and Junior Stock Exchange listings. The Act also outlines the arrangement for transitioning to the new regime. Continuing beneficiaries may elect to keep old incentives such as relief from income tax and customs duty as well as zero-rated General Consumption Tax (GCT) status for imports.

Below are short descriptions of notable, recently enacted investment incentives.

Omnibus legislation – Provides tax relief on customs duties, additional stamp duties, and corporate income tax. These benefits are granted under the following four areas: (1) The Fiscal Incentives Act: Targets small and medium size businesses and reduces the effective corporate income tax rate by applying: (a) an Employment Tax Credit (ETC) at a maximum value of 30 percent; and (b) a capital allowance applicable to a broadened definition of industrial buildings.

(1) The Fiscal Incentives Act: Targets small and medium size businesses and reduces the effective corporate income tax rate by applying: (a) an Employment Tax Credit (ETC) at a maximum value of 30 percent; and (b) a capital allowance applicable to a broadened definition of industrial buildings. (2) The Income Tax Relief (Large-Scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act: Targets large-scale projects and/or pioneering projects and provides for an improved and more attractive rate for the ETC. Projects will be designated either as large-scale or pioneer based on a decision by Parliament and subject to an Economic Impact Assessment.

(2) The Income Tax Relief (Large-Scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act: Targets large-scale projects and/or pioneering projects and provides for an improved and more attractive rate for the ETC. Projects will be designated either as large-scale or pioneer based on a decision by Parliament and subject to an Economic Impact Assessment. (3) Revised Customs Tariff: Provides for the duty-free importation of capital equipment and raw material for the productive sectors.

(3) Revised Customs Tariff: Provides for the duty-free importation of capital equipment and raw material for the productive sectors. (4) Revised Stamp Duty Act: Provides exemption from additional stamp duty on raw materials and non-consumer goods for the manufacturing sector.

(4) Revised Stamp Duty Act: Provides exemption from additional stamp duty on raw materials and non-consumer goods for the manufacturing sector.

Urban Renewal Act: Companies that undertake development within Special Development Areas can benefit from Urban Renewal Bonds, a 33.3 percent investment tax credit, tax-free rental income, and the exemption from transfer tax and stamp duties on the ‘improved’ value of the property.

Bauxite and Alumina Act: Under this Act, bauxite/alumina producers are allowed to import all productive inputs free of duties, Value Added Tax (VAT), and other port related taxes and charges.

The Foreign Sales Corporation Act: This Act exempts income tax for five years for qualified income arising from foreign trade. U.S. law through the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) reinforces this incentive.

Jamaica’s EX-IM Bank provides concessionary interest rate loans for trade financing, while the Development Bank of Jamaica offers reduced lending rates to the productive sectors. Special tax incentives exist for companies that register on the Junior Stock Exchange.

Income Tax Act (Junior Stock Exchange): As of January 1, 2014, companies listed on the Junior Stock Exchange are not required to pay income tax during the first five years and 50 percent for the next five years.

Special Economic Zone Act: In 2015, Jamaica passed legislation establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The SEZ Act repeals the Jamaica Free Zone Act, making way for: (1) the designation; promotion; development; operation; and, management of Special Economic Zones; (2) the establishment of a SEZ Authority; and, (3) the granting of benefits and other measures in order to attract domestic and foreign investments.

Productive inputs relief (PIR): There is relief from customs duty and additional stamp duty on the importation of certain ‘productive inputs’ that are directly used in the ‘production of primary products’ or the ‘manufacture of goods’. In addition to the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, relief is also granted on certain products imported for use in the tourism, creative arts, and healthcare industries.

Research and Development

Foreign firms are allowed to participate in GOJ-financed or subsidized research and development, however, few opportunities exist for such programs.

Government Guarantee and Private-Public Partnership

The GOJ, through the PDMA of 2012, reduced the tendency of government to provide sovereign guarantees on loans, which often had to be converted into public debt. The debt reduction imperatives built into successive IMF programs further stymied this propensity.

The GOJ, however, continues to actively encourage FDI utilizing the Public-Private Partnership (PPP or P3) model, to attract private financing. Jamaica has successfully implemented a number of PPP projects to include the divestiture of the Kingston Freeport Terminal, the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, and Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. Jamaica seeks to expedite the divestment of government assets through PPPs and public listings in order to drive private capital to otherwise stagnant government assets.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

As at March 2020 there were 183 entities operating in Jamaica’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ),occupying over 26.6 million square feet. Operations in Jamaica’s SEZs include business process outsourcing (BPO); warehousing and distribution; manufacturing; and assembly and production facilities. The Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority ( www.jseza.com ) regulates, supervises, and promotes SEZs. .

SEZ operators benefit from a 12.5 percent corporate income tax rate (effective rate may be as low as 7.5 percent with the approval of additional tax credits); customs duty relief, General Consumption Tax (GCT) relief; employment tax credit; promotional tax credit on research and development; capital allowance; and a stamp duty payable of 50 percent. Developers receive these benefits plus relief from income tax on rental income and relief from transfer tax. There is a non-refundable one-time registration fee and renewable annual fee to enter the regime. Duty-free zones are primarily found in airports, hotels, and tourist centers and, as with special economic zone activities, do not discriminate on the basis of nationality.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Private entities, whether foreign or domestic, generally have the right to freely establish, own, acquire, and dispose of business enterprises and may engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

Real Property

Property rights are guaranteed by the Jamaican Constitution. The Registration of Titles Act recognizes and provides for the enforcement of secured interests in property by way of mortgage. It also facilitates and protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, though some report that working through Jamaica’s bureaucracy can result in significant delays. With less than half of land in Jamaica registered, it can take a long time for landowners to secure titles.

Squatting is also a major challenge in Jamaica, with nearly 20 percent of the population living as squatters. Three-quarters of these squatters reside on government lands. Under the Registration of Titles Act, a squatter can claim a property by adverse possession (without compensating the owner for the land) if a person can demonstrate that he or she has lived on government land for more than 60 years, or on private property for more than 12 years undisturbed (including without any payment to the landowner). There are no specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors.

The country’s World Bank Doing Business Report ranking for ease of “registering property” was 85 in 2020, improving significantly due to the reduction in cost associated with transferring and registering collateral using property. Jamaica continued to outperform other Latin America and Caribbean countries in the time required to close a property transaction.

Registration of Titles Act: http://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Registration%20of%20Titles.pdf

Intellectual Property Rights

Jamaica has one of the stronger intellectual property (IP) protection regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the International Property Rights Index, although legislative and enforcement gaps still exist. Jamaica is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is a signatory of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Jamaica and the United States have an Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and a Bilateral Investment Treaty, which provide assurances to protect intellectual property. It is relatively easy to register IP, and the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) assists parties interested in registering IP and supports investors’ efforts to enforce their rights. Overall, protections across all types of IP are improving.

Law enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods are improving on the ground but border enforcement remains a challenge. IP violations tend to be more in relation to physical goods, while electronic IP theft is less common.

The country’s trademark and copyright regimes satisfy the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In January 2020, the country passed its long-awaited TRIPS compliant Patent and Designs Bill and has been removed from the USTR Special 301 Watchlist. The Geographical Indications Act (GI) of 2004 is now fully in force and TRIPS compliant, protecting products whose particular quality or reputation is attributable to its geographical origin. General law provides protection for trade secrets and protection against unfair competition is guaranteed under the Fair Competition Act.

In the area of copyright protection, amendments to the Copyright Act passed in June 2015 fulfilled Jamaica’s obligations under the WIPO Internet Treaties and extended copyright protection term from 50 to 95 years. The Copyright Act complies with the TRIPS Agreement and adheres to the principles of the Berne Convention, and it covers works ranging from books and music to computer programs. Amendments in June 1999 explicitly provided copyright protection on compilations of works such as databases and make it an offense for a person to manufacture or trade in decoders of encrypted transmissions. It also gives persons in encrypted transmissions or in broadcasting or cable program services a right of action against persons who infringe upon their rights.

Enforcement

The Jamaica Constabulary Force established a specialized intellectual property unit within its counter terrorism and organized crime branch (C-TOC) in 2015 to boost IP enforcement. The unit continued to work with the Contraband Enforcement Team of the Jamaica Customs Agency to seize and destroy counterfeit goods, while pursing criminal proceedings where possible. In 2020, CTOC destroyed USD1.3 million in counterfeit goods. The amount was lower than previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of storage space. The most commonly counterfeited goods include shoes, alcohol, cigarettes, clothing, handbags, and pharmaceuticals. Jamaica’s border enforcement efforts are hampered by customs officers not having ex officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods. Rights holders must first be provided with visual samples of suspect merchandise to verify the item as counterfeit, submit a declaration indicating the differences between the fake and actual brands, and provide an authorization to seize the merchandise.  Rights holders are responsible for paying the costs associated with storage and destruction of counterfeit goods, and in recent cases the cost started at USD250,000. Presently the Commissioner of Customs may grant up to 10 days for a rights holder to produce the required evidence and commitments before releasing suspected counterfeit goods that are in transit.

Jamaica is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report or its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Jamaican SOEs are most active in the agriculture, mining, energy, and transport sectors of the economy. Of 148 public bodies, 55 are self-financing and are therefore considered SOEs as either limited liability entities established under the Companies Act of Jamaica or statutory bodies created by individual enabling legislation. SOEs generally do not receive preferential access to government contracts. SOEs must adhere to the provisions of the GOJ (Revised) Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures and are expected to participate in a bidding process to provide goods and services to the government. SOEs also provide services to private sector firms. SOEs must report quarterly on all contracts above a prescribed limit to the Integrity Commission. Since 2002, SOEs have been subject to the same tax requirements as private enterprises and are required to purchase government-owned land and raw material and execute these transactions on similar terms as private entities.

Jamaica’s Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act (PBMA) requires SOEs to prepare annual corporate plans and budgets, which must be debated and approved by Parliament. As part of the GOJ’s economic reform agenda, SOE performance is monitored against agreed targets and goals, with oversight provided by stakeholders including representatives of civil society. The GOJ prioritized divestment of SOEs, particularly the most inefficient, as part of its IMF reform commitments. Private firms compete with SOEs on fair terms and SOEs generally lack the same profitability motives as private enterprises, leading to the GOJ’s absorbing the debt of loss-making public sector enterprises.

Jamaica’s public bodies report to their respective Board of Directors appointed by the responsible portfolio minister and while no general rules guide the allocation of SOE board positions, some entities allocate seats to specific stakeholders. In 2012, the GOJ approved a Corporate Governance Framework (CGF) under which persons appointed to boards should possess the skills and competencies required for the effective functioning of the entity. With some board members being selected on the basis of their political affiliation, the government is in the process of developing new board policy guidelines. The Jamaican court system, while slow, is respected for being fair and balanced and in many cases has ruled against the GOJ and its agents.

Privatization Program

As part of its economic reform program, the GOJ identified a number of public assets to be privatized from various sectors. Jamaica actively courts foreign investors as part of its divestment strategy. In certain instances, the government encourages local participation. Restrictions may be placed on certain assets due to national security considerations. Privatization can occur through sale, lease, or concession. Transactions are generally executed through public tenders but the GOJ reserves the right to accept unsolicited proposals for projects deemed to be strategic. The Development Bank of Jamaica, which oversees the privatization program, is mandated to ensure that the process is fair and transparent. When some entities are being privatized, advertisements are placed locally and through international publications, such as the Financial Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal, to attract foreign investors. Foreign investors won most of the privatization bids in the last decade.

While the time taken to divest assets depends on state of readiness and complexity, on average transactions take between 18 and 24 months. The process involves pre-feasibility and due diligence assessments; feasibility studies; pre-qualification of bidders; and a public tender. In 2019 the GOJ divested two of its major assets through initial public offerings (IPOs): a 62-megawatt wind farm, which raised almost USD40 million, and a toll highway, which raised almost USD90 million. In 2018, the GOJ signed a 25-year concession for the management and development of the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. Other large privatizations include the 2003 privatization of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and the 2015 privatization of the Kingston Container Terminal port facility.

List of current privatization transactions can be found at http://dbankjm.com/current-transactions/ 

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) among many Jamaican companies is a developing practice, with more established companies further along the scale. In 2013, the government provided additional financial incentives for corporations to support charity work through the Charities Act, under which corporations and individuals can claim a tax deduction on contributions made to registered charitable organizations. Some large publicly listed companies and multinational corporations in Jamaica maintain their own foundations that carry out social and community projects to support education, youth employment, and entrepreneurship.

In 2018, the GOJ became party to the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Multilateral Convention, which updates the network of bilateral tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises. GOJ also became signatory to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, effective March 1, 2019, having deposited instruments of ratification in November 2018.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Jamaican law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, however, there is at least circumstantial evidence that some officials engage in corrupt practice. There were also reports of government corruption in 2020 and it remained a significant cause of public concern. Media and civil society organizations continued to criticize the government for being slow and at times reluctant to tackle corruption.

Under the Corruption Prevention Act, public servants can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined as much as USD 100,000 if found guilty of engaging in acts of bribery, including bribes to foreign public officials.

In 2017, Jamaica passed an Integrity Commission Act that consolidated three agencies with anti-corruption mandates into a single entity, the Integrity Commission, which now has limited prosecutorial powers.  The three agencies are the precursor Integrity Commission, which received and monitored statutory declarations from parliamentarians; the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), which monitored government contracts; and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which received the financial filings of specified public servants. A key area of concern for corruption is in government procurement. However, successful prosecutions – particularly for high-level corruption – are rare.

Two Ministers of government demitted office between 2018 and March 2019, in the wake of corruption allegations.

Corruption, and its apparent linkages with organized crime, appear to be one of the root causes of Jamaica’s high crime rate and economic stagnation.  In 2020, Transparency International gave Jamaica a score of 44 out of a possible 100 on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Jamaica ratified major international corruption instruments, including the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Jamaica is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA)
24hr Hotline: 1-800-CORRUPT (1-800-267-7878)
Email: info@moca.gov.jm 

National Integrity Action
2 Holborn Road
Kingston 10, Jamaica
Phone: 1 876 906 4371/ Fax: 876-754-7951
Email: info@niajamaica.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Crime poses a greater threat to foreign investment in Jamaica than political violence, as the country has not experienced any major political violence since the early 1980s. Violent crime, rooted in poverty, unemployment, and transnational criminal organizations, is a serious problem in Jamaica. Sporadic gang violence and shootings are concentrated in specific inner-city neighborhoods, but can occur elsewhere. There were 1,301 murders in Jamaica in 2020, giving the island a homicide rate of 46.5 per 100,000, marginally lower than 2019’s rate of 47.4. Jamaica had the highest homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2020. Jamaica also faces a significant problem with extortion in certain urban commercial areas and on large construction project sites. The security challenges increase the cost of doing business as companies spend on additional security measures.

The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory (at February 2021) assesses Jamaica at Level 3, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution. U.S. companies with personnel assigned to Jamaica are strongly advised to conduct security and cultural awareness training.

Please refer to the Jamaica 2019 Crime and Safety Report from the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) for additional information ( https://www.osac.gov/Country/Jamaica/Detail ).

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Jamaica had an estimated labor force of 1.3 million as of October 2020 with an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent. Women make up 45.7 percent of the labor force and have an unemployment rate of 13 percent. Unemployment is highest within the 14-19 age cohort. Most Jamaicans are employed in services including the retail and tourism sectors, followed by construction, transportation, and communications. Since 1999, more Jamaicans have become trained in information technology and the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry currently employs more than 40,000 people.

No law requires hiring locals, but foreign investors are expected to hire locals, especially for unskilled and lower skilled jobs. Under the Work Permit Act, a foreign national who wishes to work in Jamaica must first apply for a permit issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The law, which seeks to give first preference to Jamaicans, requires organizations planning to employ foreign nationals to prove that attempts were made to employ a Jamaican national.

The security guard industry adopted the practice of employing workers on extended contracts to avoid some of the cost, including severance, associated with direct employment. Jamaica does not have a history of waiving labor laws to retain or attract investment and these laws tend to be uniform across the economy.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to market conditions, but there are severance payment requirements if a position is made redundant. Under the law, there is a distinction between a layoff and a redundancy. A layoff allows a temporary period without employment for up to four months. The Employment (Termination and Redundancy Payments) Act provides redundancy pay to employees who are let go with at least two years of continuous employment. There are no unemployment benefits in Jamaica but low-income Jamaicans have the option of applying for social benefits under a conditional cash transfer program referred to as the Program for Advancement though Health and Education (PATH).

The law provides for the rights of workers to form or join unions, to bargain collectively, and the freedom to strike. Trade union membership accounts for about 20 percent of the labor force, although the movement has weakened in recent years. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, although it is not uncommon for private sector employers to lay off union workers and rehire them as contractors. Labor law entitles protections to all persons categorized as workers, although it denies contract workers coverage under certain statutory provisions, such as redundancy benefits. The law denies collective bargaining if no single union represents at least 40 percent of the workers in the unit. Unionization is limited in Jamaica’s free zones.

Jamaica has an Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) to which the Minister of Labor and Social Security may refer disputes unsettled at the local level.

Jamaica ratified most International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and international labor rights are recognized within domestic law. Jamaica has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor and established laws and regulations related to child labor, including in its worst forms. However, gaps still exist in Jamaica’s legal framework to adequately protect children from child labor. The GOJ is under-resourced for investigations on worker abuse as well as on occupational safety and health checks.

Jamaica’s workplace policy incorporates all of the recommended practices of the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS but the legislation to regulate enforcement is yet to be ratified. In conjunction with the ILO and local stakeholders, the GOJ passed legislation guiding flexible working arrangements. 12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment  Insurance and Development Finance Programs

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment  Insurance and Development Finance Programs  

The U.S. International Development Corporation (DFC) created by the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act of 2018, consolidates the activities of OPIC and the Development Credit Authority. The new institution has been better capitalized (USD 60 billion) to help U.S. businesses invest in, especially infrastructure projects in developing countries. OPIC had financed many projects in Jamaica and recently provided financing and political risk insurance for two large renewable energy projects, as well as a grid upgrade project for the monopoly power utility. Jamaica is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). 13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Joe James
Economic/Commercial Officer
Email: kingstoncommercial@state.gov
142 Old Hope Road
Kingston 6, Jamaica +1 876-702-6000

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Executive Summary

The Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis (St. Kitts and Nevis) is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  The government seeks to facilitate a conducive business climate to attract more foreign investment.  St. Kitts and Nevis remains vulnerable to external shocks such as climate change impacts, natural disasters, and global economic downturns.  According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) figures, the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis had an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $927.4 million (2.5 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020, having contracted 11.2 percent mainly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on the tourism sector.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts real GDP growth of -2 percent in 2021.

St. Kitts and Nevis’ ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report remains at the 2020 ranking of 139th out of 190 countries, as the report was not updated during the reporting year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the economic gains St. Kitts and Nevis had made in recent years.  The impact of the pandemic on tourism, a mainstay of St. Kitts and Nevis’s economy that generates over 60 percent of GDP, has had ripple effects across the economy.  The government has introduced measures to protect workers and key economic sectors.

St. Kitts and Nevis has identified priority sectors for investment.  These include financial services, tourism, real estate, agriculture, information technology, education services, renewable energy, and limited light manufacturing.

The government provides some investment incentives for businesses that are considering establishing operations in St. Kitts or Nevis, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment.  Foreign investors can repatriate all profits, dividends, and import capital.

The country’s legal system is based on British common law.  It does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  It has a Double Taxation Agreement with the United States, although the agreement only addresses social security benefits.

In 2016, St. Kitts and Nevis signed an Intergovernmental Agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in St. Kitts and Nevis to report banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 45 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 139 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 476 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita ($M USD) 2019 19,920 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

To increase investment in the country, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis implemented a series of investment incentives codified in the Fiscal Incentives Act.  The Fiscal Incentives Act includes a tax holiday of up to 15 years; additional tax rebates of up to five years; exemption from customs duties on material and equipment deemed necessary to establish or update an enterprise; repatriation of profits, dividends, royalties, and imported capital by arrangement with the Ministry of Finance; and protection of investment through government agreement.  Four types of enterprises qualify for tax holidays.  The length of the tax holiday for the first three depends on the amount of value added in St. Kitts and Nevis.  The Fiscal Incentives Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, amended the definition of the fourth type, known as enclave industry.  Enclave enterprises are now permitted to sell goods within the CARICOM region and in the local market, in addition to exporting these goods.

Enterprise Value Added Maximum Tax Holiday
Group I At least 50 percent or more 15 years
Group II At least 25 percent but less than 50 percent 12 years
Group III At least 10 percent but less than 25 percent 10 years
Enclave Enclave 15 years

Companies that qualify for tax holidays may import duty-free all equipment, machinery, spare parts, and raw materials used in production.

The Hotels Aid Act provides relief from customs duties on items brought into the country for use in the construction, extension, and equipping of a hotel of not less than ten bedrooms.  In addition, the Income Tax Act provides special tax relief benefits for hotels of more than 30 bedrooms.  These hotels are exempt from income tax for ten years.  If the hotel contains fewer than 30 bedrooms, gains or profits are exempt from income tax for five years.

Value Added Tax is levied on the total accommodation charges of a hotel or guest house and on the cost of food and beverages sold by a restaurant.  This total tax rate is ten percent.

Investors in St. Kitts and Nevis do not pay a capital gains tax.  Qualified companies enjoy full exemption from taxes on corporate profits for a period not exceeding 15 years.  Corporate tax does not apply to exempt companies or to enterprises that were granted tax concessions.  There is no personal income tax.  Additional tax concessions are available at the end of the tax holiday period.

Normally, individuals and ordinary companies remitting payments to parties outside St. Kitts and Nevis must deduct ten percent withholding tax from profits, administration, management or head office expenses, technical services fees, accounting and audit expenses, royalties, non-life insurance premiums, and rent.  However, this tax does not apply to profits of an approved enterprise such as exempt trusts, limited partnerships, companies, or foundations.

The Unincorporated Business Tax Act mandates a levy on the gross revenue of services provided by professionals such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, and other specified persons listed in the schedule at a rate of four percent.

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are no foreign trade zones or free ports in St. Kitts and Nevis.  However, there are four fully developed industrial sites where production facilities can be constructed to specifications and leased at nominal rates.  The Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis manages and services the sites on behalf of the government.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

St. Kitts and Nevis does not mandate local employment.  The provisions of the Labor Code outline the requirements for acquiring a work permit and prohibit anyone who is not a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis or the OECS from engaging in employment without a work permit.  When St. Kitts and Nevis grants work permits to senior management because no qualified nationals are available for the post, the government may recommend a counterparty trainee who is a citizen.  There are no excessively onerous visa, residency, or work permit requirements.

As a member of the WTO, St. Kitts and Nevis is party to the Agreement to the Trade Related Investment Measures.  While there are no formal performance requirements, the government encourages investments that will create jobs and increase exports and foreign exchange earnings.  There are no requirements for participation either by nationals or by the government in foreign investment projects.  There is no requirement that enterprises must purchase a fixed percentage of goods or technology from local sources, but the government encourages local sourcing.  Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.  Except for the requirement to obtain an Alien Landholders License, foreign investment in St. Kitts and Nevis is not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors receive national treatment.  There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance.  There are no measures or draft measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  Foreign investors are required to obtain an Alien Landholders License to purchase residential or commercial property.  The cost of these licenses is ten percent of the value of the land, plus fees associated with an attorney or other local service provider.  Cabinet grants these licenses.  Foreign investors are not required to pay the Alien Landholders License Tax in areas designated as special development zones, such as Frigate Bay or certain parts of the South East Peninsula.  The Land Registry Act of 2017 was enacted to modernize records, identify property owners, and register clear land titles.

St. Kitts and Nevis ranks 185th of 190 countries in registering property in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

St. Kitts and Nevis has a legislative framework supporting its commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).  While the legal structures governing IPR are adequate, enforcement is inconsistent.  The Intellectual Property Office of St. Kitts and Nevis (IPOSKN) is responsible for administering all laws related to IPR and overseeing the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.  Its website is https://ipo.gov.kn.

St. Kitts and Nevis is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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

The Customs Department of St. Kitts and Nevis can seize prohibited or counterfeit goods.  However, the courts rule on the forfeiture and disposal of such goods.  Complainants arrange with Customs to secure the goods until a judgment is rendered.  St. Kitts and Nevis is in the process of reviewing its existing laws in relation to the importation of counterfeit and prohibited goods.

St. Kitts and Nevis is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

St. 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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in St. Kitts and Nevis work in partnership with ministries, or under their remit to carry out certain specific ministerial responsibilities.  There are currently about ten SOEs in St. Kitts and Nevis in areas such as tourism, investment services, broadcasting and media, solid waste management, and agriculture.  They are all wholly owned government entities.  Each is headed by a board of directors to which senior managers report.  A list of SOEs can be found at http://www.gov.kn.

Privatization Program

St. Kitts and Nevis does not currently have a targeted privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  The government encourages corporate social responsibility, but does not have regulations in place to mandate such activities by private companies.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws effectively.  Media and private citizens reported government corruption was a problem.

Public officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws.  The Financial Intelligence Unit and the police force’s white-collar crime unit investigate reports on suspicious financial transactions, but these reports were not available to the public.

Government agencies involved in enforcement of anti-corruption laws include the Royal St. Kitts and Nevis Police Force, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Financial Intelligence Unit.  The Financial Intelligence Unit investigates financial crimes, but no independent body has been established to handle allegations of government corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Simone Bullen-Thompson
Solicitor-General
Legal Department
Church Street, Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis
Tel: 869-465-2170
Email: simone_bullen@hotmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a recent history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance.  The government constantly reviews mandatory protocols and measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Kitts and Nevis’ general elections are constitutionally due in 2025.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

St. Kitts and Nevis has a labor force of about 25,000 with a literacy rate of 98 percent.  Local colleges largely meet the country’s technical and training needs.  There is also a large pool of professionals to draw from in fields such as law, medicine, information technology, and accounting.  Many of the professionals in St. Kitts and Nevis trained in the United States, Canada, the wider Caribbean, or the UK, and often also gain work experience before returning to St. Kitts and Nevis.

The government set the minimum wage at $3.31 an hour.  The law provides for a 40-hour workweek and for premium pay for work above the standard workweek.  There is no legal prohibition on excessive or compulsory overtime.  Although not required by law, workers generally received at least one 24-hour rest period per week.  The law also calls for paid holidays and work on rest days to be paid at double the standard rate, as well as equal pay for equal work.

Although there is no legislation governing the organization and representation of workers, the constitution speaks to the freedom of association and the right to organize and collective bargaining.  St. Kitts and Nevis ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions on freedom of association and and the right to organize and collective bargaining.  The law permits the police, civil servants, hotel workers, construction workers, and employees of small businesses to organize staff associations.  Staff associations do not have bargaining powers but are used to network and develop professional standards.

Labor unions are free to organize and to negotiate for better wages and benefits for union members.  A union representing more than fifty percent of the employees at a company may apply for the company to recognize the union for collective bargaining.  Companies generally recognize the establishment of a union if the majority of its workers voted in favor of organizing the union, but the companies are not legally obligated to do so.  Collective bargaining takes place on a workplace-by-workplace basis and is not industry-wide.

In practice, but not by law, there are restrictions on strikes by workers who provide essential services, such as the police and civil servants.  The law prohibits anti-union discrimination but does not require employers found guilty of such action to rehire employees who were fired for union activities.  However, the employer must pay lost wages and severance pay.  The ILO Committee of Experts reported in 2015 that workers are not protected against antiunion discrimination during recruitment or on the job.  The ILO provided technical assistance to the government in labor law reform, labor administration, employment services, labor inspection, and occupational safety and health.

The Labor Commissioner mediates all types of disputes between labor and management.  By law, the system of industrial relations in St. Kitts and Nevis allows for labor grievances through a process of conciliation and mediation by the Department of Labor and the Commissioner, an independent hearing, arbitration, and finally a court of law.  In practice, however, few disputes go to the Commissioner for resolution.  If neither the Commissioner nor the Ministry of Labor can resolve the dispute, the law allows a case to be brought before a civil court.

The law does not provide remedies for labor law violations, and the Ministry of Labour does not provide information on the adequacy of resources, inspections, and penalties for violations.  Penalties are outdated and fines are insufficient to deter violations.  The Department of Labour provided employers with training on their rights and responsibilities.

Investors in St. Kitts and Nevis are responsible for maintaining workers’ rights and safeguarding the environment.  While there are no specific health and safety regulations, the Factories Act provides general health and safety guidance to Labor Ministry inspectors.  The Labor Commission settles disputes over safety conditions.  Workers have the right to report unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment, and workers may leave such locations without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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).

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States
246-227-4000
Email: BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Saint Lucia

Executive Summary

Saint Lucia is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  Saint Lucia had an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.122 billion in 2019 according to the latest figures obtained from the World Bank.  Tourism is Saint Lucia’s main economic sector, while real estate and transport are other leading sectors.  The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Saint Lucia’s economy, experiencing an 18.9 percent contraction in 2020.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts 3.1 percent growth in 2021.  The government remains committed to creating a welcoming and open business climate to attract more foreign investment to the country.  Investment opportunities are focused primarily in tourism and hotel development, information and communication technology, manufacturing, international financial services, agribusiness, and creative industries.

Saint Lucia ranked 93 out of 190 countries in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report.

The Government of Saint Lucia provides several incentives to encourage domestic and foreign private investment.  For example, foreign investors in Saint Lucia can repatriate all profits, dividends, and import capital.

The Saint Lucia legal system is based on the British common law system, but its civil code and property law are greatly influenced by French law.  Saint Lucia does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, but it has bilateral investment treaties with the United Kingdom and Germany.

In 2014, the Government of Saint Lucia signed an Intergovernmental Agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Saint Lucia to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 N/A http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 93 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 412 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita ($M USD) 2019 11,020 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Government of Saint Lucia provides incentives to encourage investment by providing tax and non-tax concessions to businesses that can add value to the country’s economic development.  Approval for incentives is granted by the Cabinet upon application, taking into consideration the type, size, scope, and employment potential of the business.

Saint Lucia’s Trade License Act, Aliens Licensing Act, International Business Companies Act, Development Incentives Act, Special Development Areas Act, Income Tax Act, Free Zones Act, Fiscal Incentives Act, Tourism Incentives, and Tourism Stimulus and Investments Act together constitute a broad framework of incentives for foreign investors.

Except for pork and chicken, there are no requirements for an enterprise to purchase a fixed percentage of goods from local sources.  Companies purchasing chicken must purchase a minimum of 28 percent locally produced chicken.  Companies purchasing pork must purchase a minimum of 40 percent locally produced pork.

The Fiscal Incentives Act of 1974 provides for fiscal incentives to facilitate local and foreign investment in the productive sectors of Saint Lucia’s economy.  The law gives export-oriented manufacturing enterprises special consideration.  Investors may apply for incentives with the relevant ministry or ministries, providing a copy of the application to Invest Saint Lucia.  The criteria for fiscal incentive qualification are that an enterprise must be incorporated and registered in Saint Lucia; contribute to the economic development of Saint Lucia; utilize domestic human and natural resources; form linkages with other economic sectors; contribute to foreign exchange earnings; train local personnel; and introduce plant upgrades via technological transfers.

The Fiscal Incentives Act provides a list of incentives, including a tax holiday of up to 15 years for approved projects, a waiver of import duty on imported machinery and plant equipment, a waiver of import duty on imported raw and packaging materials, and an export allowance on export earnings.  Under the Fiscal Incentives Act, four types of enterprises qualify for tax holidays.  The length of the tax holiday for the first three depends on the amount of value added in Saint Lucia.  The fourth type, known as enclave industry, must produce goods exclusively for export outside the CARICOM region.  The government amended the Fiscal Incentives Act in early 2020 to expand incentives offered to local businesses as a means of spurring development and investment.  The Fiscal Incentives Act now includes four subsectors of the service industry: creative industry, professional services, spa and wellness, and information and communications technology.

Enterprise Value Added Maximum Tax Holiday
Group I 50% or more 15 years
Group II 25% to 50% 12 years
Group III 10% to 25% 10 years
Enclave Enclave 15 years

The standard corporate income tax rate is 30 percent.  An International Business Company (IBC) may elect either to be exempted from paying income tax or to be liable for income tax on the chargeable income of the company at the rate of 1 percent.  An IBC is not subject to stamp duties, withholding tax, or capital gains tax.  Amendments to the Act passed in 2017 sought to encourage IBCs to establish head offices in Saint Lucia by offering various incentives, including a waiver of customs duty on materials, articles, or equipment used exclusively by the head office company and exemption from income tax for employees.

Various special licensing requirements apply to the acquisition of land, development of buildings, expansion of existing construction, and certain aspects of the tourism industry.  Individuals or corporate bodies who are not citizens and seek to acquire land may require a license prior to execution, depending upon the amount of land.

The Special Development Areas Act encourages investment in designated areas throughout the island.  These areas include Vieux-Fort, Anse la Raye, Soufriere, Canaries, Choc Estate and Dennery.  Special concessions offered under this law include exemption on stamp duty and import duty on inputs for the construction of new buildings and the renovation or refurbishment of existing buildings; land and house tax; stamp duty payable by vendors and purchasers on the initial purchase of property; higher tax allowances; and accelerated depreciation.  Types of businesses that may qualify for these concessions are residential complexes, commercial or industrial buildings, facilities directed towards the improvement or expansion of services to the tourism sector, water-based activities tourism projects highlighting the heritage and natural environment of Saint Lucia, arts and cultural investments, agriculture-based activities, and fisheries-based activities.

The Tourism Incentives Act effectively provides for earnings exemption from income tax, as a tourism project managed by or on behalf of a company entitled to distribute profits to shareholders or debenture holders as capital monies is free of tax during the two-year period following the end of the tax holiday.  The Act also allows for customs duty exemptions and permits the duty-free importation of materials and equipment used exclusively in connection with the construction and equipping of the tourism project.  The Tourism Stimulus and Investment Act also allows for the waiver of VAT and property tax.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Saint Lucia maintains a Free Zone.  It is an enclosed area treated for customs purposes as lying outside the customs territory of the island.  Goods of foreign origin may be held pending eventual transshipment, re-exportation and, in some cases, importation into the local market without payment of customs duties.  There are various types of companies operating in the Free Zone, including distributors of appliances, furniture, household and office supplies/items; manufacturers; duty-free suppliers of liquor, cigarettes, fragrances, wines, and other items; and pharmaceuticals.  There is one American company operating in the Free Zone.

The Free Zone Act aims to promote export development and foreign investment projects in a “bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free” environment for prescribed activities.  Incentives include exemption from customs duties, taxes, and related charges on all classes of goods entering the Free Zone for commercial or operating purposes.  There are no restrictions or taxes on foreign exchange transactions and no taxes on dividends for the first 20 years of operation.  There are also no work permit fees for management personnel of Free Zone businesses, and no import or export licenses or price controls.  Finally, there is no company income tax for the first five years, and thereafter a reduced corporate income tax.  The Free Zone Act was last amended in 2018.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Government of Saint Lucia does not mandate local employment.  However, the government expects foreign investors to add value to the local economy, which can be achieved by providing local employment.

The 2006 Labor Code provides guidelines for employment, dismissal, and payment of severance and other benefits.  It also defines permanent employment, fixed term employment, and contract for service.

The government requires all non-CARICOM citizens and companies intending to conduct business in Saint Lucia and who own more than 49 percent of the company’s shares to obtain a trade license.  The ministry with responsibility for commerce issues trade licenses.  Under the Foreign National and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Regulation, anyone outside OECS seeking to conduct business or be employed in Saint Lucia must apply for a work permit.  Applications are available from the Labor Department of the ministry with responsibility for labor.  There are no excessively onerous visa, residency, or work permit requirements.

While there are no formal performance requirements, the government encourages investments that create jobs and increase exports and foreign exchange earnings.  Foreign investment in Saint Lucia is not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors are entitled to receive the same treatment as nationals of Saint Lucia.  Foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes must obtain an Alien Landholding License.  No sectors are officially closed to private enterprise, although some activities, such as telecommunications, utilities, broadcasting, banking, and insurance require government licenses.  There is no restriction on foreign ownership of a local enterprise or participation in a joint venture.  There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (e.g. backdoors into hardware and software keys for encryption, etc.).

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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

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

Intellectual Property Rights

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

Copyright Act

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

Trademarks Act

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Lucia is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2020  Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting or Piracy or  in its 2021 Special 301 Report.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Saint Lucia work in partnership with ministries, or under their remit, carrying out specific ministerial responsibilities.  There are 39 SOEs in Saint Lucia operating in areas such as tourism, investment services, broadcasting and media, solid waste management, and agriculture.

SOEs in Saint Lucia do not generally pose a threat to investors.  The Saint Lucian government established most SOEs with the goal of creating economic activity in areas where it perceives the private sector has very little interest.  SOEs are wholly owned government entities and are headed by boards of directors to which senior management reports.  A list of SOEs in Saint Lucia is available at http://www.govt.lc/statutory-bodies .

Privatization Program

Saint Lucia currently does not have a targeted privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

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

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

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

The Parliamentary Commissioner, Auditor General, and Public Services Commission are responsible for combating corruption.  Parliament can also appoint a special committee to investigate specific allegations of corruption.  The country is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and acceded to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2011.

Saint Lucia has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, notably the Integrity in Public Life Act of 2004.  Government agencies involved in enforcement of anti-corruption laws include the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Integrity Commission, and the Financial Intelligence Unit.

Resources to Report Corruption

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

NAME: Pastor Sherwin Griffith
TITLE: Chairman
ORGANIZATION: Integrity Commission
ADDRESS: 2nd Floor, Graham Louisy Administrative Building, Waterfront Castries, Saint Lucia
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (758) 468-2187
EMAIL ADDRESS: icstlucia@gmail.com

NAME: Paul Thompson
TITLE: Director
ORGANIZATION: Financial Intelligence Authority
ADDRESS: Gablewoods North P.O., Castries LC02 501, Saint Lucia
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (758) 451-7126
EMAIL ADDRESS: slufia@candw.lc

10. Political and Security Environment

Saint Lucia is considered politically stable and does not have a recent history of political violence.  Elections are peaceful and considered generally free and transparent.  The next election is constitutionally due in 2021.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

There is no formal national minimum wage in Saint Lucia, though a government-appointed minimum wage commission recommended establishing a minimum wage.  The legislated workweek is 40 hours, with a maximum of eight hours per day.  Overtime hours are at the discretion of the employer and the agreement of the employee.  Pay is time-and-a-half for work over eight hours and double for work on Sundays and public holidays.  Workers paid monthly are entitled to a minimum of 14 paid vacation days after one year.  Workers paid on a daily or biweekly schedule have a minimum of 14 vacation days after 200 working days.

Special legislation covers work hours for shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestic workers, and workers in industrial establishments.  Labor laws, including occupational health and safety standards, apply to all workers whether they are in the formal or informal sectors.

Under the Foreign National and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Regulation, anyone outside of the OECS wanting to conduct business or be gainfully employed in Saint Lucia must apply for a work permit.  Applications can be obtained from the Labor Department, which is currently under the auspices of the Ministry Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development.

According to the World Bank, Saint Lucia had an estimated labor force of about 104, 794 in 2020.  The most available literacy rate is of 72.8 percent (2010 census).  The local state college, which offers technical and vocational courses, meets most of the country’s technical and training needs.  There is also a pool of professionals to draw from in fields such as law, medicine, business, information technology, and accounting.  Many of the professionals in Saint Lucia trained in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or the wider Caribbean, where many of them gained work experience before returning to the country.

The law, including applicable statutes and regulations, specifies the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively.  The law also prohibits anti-union discrimination, and workers fired for union activity have the right to reinstatement.

The law places restrictions on the right to strike by workers who provide essential services such as police and fire departments, health services, and utilities (electricity, water, and telecommunications).  Workers in these organizations must give 30 days’ notice before striking.  Once workers give notice, authorities usually refer the matter to an ad hoc tribunal set up under the Essential Services Act.  The government selects tribunal members, following rules to ensure tripartite representation.  The ad hoc labor tribunals try to resolve disputes through mandatory arbitration.  The ministry’s labor commissioner monitors violations of labor law.

The government does not effectively enforce labor laws, and there were insufficient resources for investigation and enforcement of labor standards.  The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development employed fivelabor officers (inspectors) who, due to financial constraints, focused mainly on occupational health and safety concerns.  The government sets appropriate occupational safety and health standards.

Violations of the labor code can result in fines of up to $1,371 ($3,704 Eastern Caribbean Dollars) and up to two years in prison. The labor department is currently drafting updated legislation to improve enforcement.

Investors in Saint Lucia are responsible for maintaining workers’ rights and safeguarding the environment.  The Labor Commissioner settles disputes over safety issues.  Workers have the right to report or leave unsafe work environments without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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).

14. Contact for More Information

TITLE: Political/Economic Section
ADDRESS: U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados
TELEPHONE NUMBER (246) 227-4000
EMAIL ADDRESS BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Executive Summary

St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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, St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was 783 million USD (2.12 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020.  This represents an estimated 7 percent reduction from 2019, following several consecutive years of minimal growth.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like other Eastern Caribbean countries, is highly dependent on tourism, which accounted for 28.6 percent of GDP and 19.9 percent of formal sector employment in 2019.  The anticipated recovery from the pandemic-induced downturn is expected to fall significantly short of expectations, contributing to a challenging economic outlook for 2021.  Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021 and a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism by 2024.  The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.7 percent in 2021, and in fact may continue to contract as the tourism sector is impacted by the ongoing pandemic.

Unanticipated spending on health care, extended welfare and unemployment benefits, and economic stimulus initiatives, coupled with a sharp drop in government revenues in 2020, forced the government to borrow to finance a widening fiscal deficit.  This new borrowing is primarily from international financial institutions on concessional terms.

The country seeks to diversify its economy across several niche markets, particularly tourism, international financial services, agroprocessing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, creative industries, and information and communication technologies.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 130th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report.

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange.  Through the Invest St. Vincent and the Grenadines Authority (Invest SVG), the government facilitates FDI and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors.

The government does not impose limits on foreign control, nor are there requirements for local ownership or ownership in locally registered companies.  The island’s legal system is based on the British common law system.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  It has double-taxation treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

In 2016, St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 40 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 130 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 7 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 7,460 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Through the Fiscal Incentives Act, St. Vincent and the Grenadines offers many incentives for investors and provides the necessary information on the laws, criteria, and application procedures to qualify for these incentives.

The list of incentives includes exemption from or reduction of duty payments on the importation or purchase of materials and other equipment for use in construction and operation of the business.  Other incentives are the exemption from or a reduction of duty on the importation or purchase of vehicles for use in operation of the business, and a reduction of property tax of up to ten percent for land and buildings used in the operation of the business.

The government also provides tax holidays as an investment incentive.  Group I enterprises (50 percent or more local value added) enjoy a 15-year tax holiday; Group II enterprises (25 to 49 percent local value added) are granted 12 years; Group III enterprises (10 to 24 percent local value added) receive ten years.  Enclave enterprises (producing wholly for markets outside of CARICOM) enjoy a 15-year tax holiday.  The Industry Unit under the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology administers this Act.  These fiscal incentives may be granted to manufacturing and processing companies producing “Approved Products.”  Companies must apply to Cabinet to become “Approved Enterprises” producing such products.  Local value is determined by the percentage of annual sales not contributed by imported materials and services, non-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) national labor, profits and other income payments distributed to members outside of CARICOM, and depreciation on imported machinery and equipment.  Tax holidays are also granted to capital-intensive industries investing at least 9.25 million USD (25 million Eastern Caribbean dollars).

Companies must meet export performance requirements to take advantage of certain tax incentives.  For example, enclave enterprises must produce goods exclusively for export outside the CARICOM region.  Foreign investors may finance investments using domestic or foreign capital sources.  The Fiscal Incentives Act confers income tax credits in the form of export allowance to qualifying enterprises for the export of approved products.

In the tourism sector, the Hotels Aid Act provides incentives for the renovation, refurbishment, and expansion of existing hotels and for the construction of new hotels.  Concessions for expansions of not less than five guest rooms are also available.  The Ministry of Tourism administers the Act.

The corporate tax rate ranges from 15 to 30 percent, except for companies granted tax holidays under the Fiscal Incentives Act.  Companies manufacturing goods for local or export markets and which have maintained a special account conforming to Comptroller of Inland Revenue requirements have access to reduced tax rates.  Offshore businesses are also subject to value added tax (VAT) on taxable goods imported into St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  VAT is 16 percent.  An international company may import machinery and equipment free from certain taxes and custom duties if the imports are capital goods to be used in a company’s business.

The government recognizes trusts if they are in writing and follow the formal requirements for a deed or settlement under the International Trust Act.  The Act recognizes several types of international trusts: protective or spendthrift trusts, charitable trusts, and purpose trusts.  A Registrar of Trusts has direct regulatory responsibilities relating to registration, certificate issuance, and review of trust documentation.  At least one trustee must be registered and licensed for an international trust to be registered.  The government confers certain benefits on registered trusts, including exemptions from various taxes and duties provided the settler was not insolvent at the time the trust was created or did not become insolvent because of the creation of the trust.  The exemptions include income tax, excise tax, customs duties, and stamp duty exemptions.  These are applicable if certain conditions are met, one of which being that the trust must not be domiciled in the country.  The Comptroller of Inland Revenue is empowered to assess a trust’s eligibility for tax exemptions and may require the registered trustee to provide financial information.

If at least one beneficiary of a registered trust becomes a resident after the trust is registered, and if the trust is in good standing, the fact of the residency of the beneficiary will not invalidate the trust.  Neither the trust nor its beneficiaries will be entitled to tax exemptions for any year during which trust had one or more resident beneficiaries.  An international trust, except one that is an international company, will not become void or voidable due to a settler’s bankruptcy, insolvency, or liquidation, the law of the settler’s domicile or ordinary residence notwithstanding.

While there is no formal legislation in relation to incentives in the information and telecommunications sector, commercial presence and establishment is at the discretion of the Cabinet on advice from the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Export Free Zones Act of 1999 provides for the designation or establishment of export free zones, which allow for the duty-free import of inputs for processing and export.  While allowable under law, there are no foreign trade zones or free trade zones in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government does not mandate local employment.  The Employment of Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens Act provides foreign nationals or Commonwealth citizens must obtain valid work permits.  The ministry responsible for national security oversees work permit applications.  The government may modify or cancel work permits after a seven-day notice if the holder fails to comply with the conditions of the permit.

There is no requirement that enterprises purchase a fixed percentage of goods from local sources.  There are no requirements for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software keys for encryption, etc.).  The country has not adopted any specific data protection legislation.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Aliens’ Land Holding Act regulates the holding of land and mortgages related to land by individuals who are non-nationals and companies controlled by non-nationals.  Non-nationals must apply for and be granted a license to hold land.  The breach of any condition of the license authorizes forfeiture to the government of the interest held by the non-national.  License conditions may require that land be developed within a specific timeframe.  Non-nationals apply for a license to hold the land to the office of the Prime Minister through an attorney licensed to practice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  If approved, the non-national must file the license at the Registry of the High Court.  The Registry collects all applicable registration fees and stamp duties.  The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranks St. Vincent and the Grenadines 168th out of 190 countries in ease of registering property.  It takes about 47 days to complete the seven necessary procedures, at a cost of about 11.8 percent of the property value.

Intellectual Property Rights

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a legislative framework protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).  While legal structures governing IPR are adequate, enforcement measures are inconsistent.  The administration of IPR laws is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General.  The CIPO administers the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization and is a signatory to its treaties.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report or in its  2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

The Enforcement Division of the Customs and Excise Department spearheads the preventative and enforcement aspects of IPR protection, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of counterfeit goods.  The Enforcement Division also conducts investigations of customs offenses and administers fines and penalties.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are currently 28 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the following sectors: water, transportation, housing, transportation (ports), electricity, tourism, information and communication, telecommunications, investment and investment services, financial services, fisheries, agriculture, sports and culture, civil engineering, and infrastructure.

SOEs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are wholly owned government entities.  They are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report.  They are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition.  There is no single published list of SOEs, though information about individual SOEs is available.

Privatization Program

There are no targeted privatization programs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government and the public view responsible business conduct positively.  The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  Individuals benefit from business-sponsored initiatives when employees of local and foreign-owned enterprises volunteer and when companies make monetary or in-kind donations to local causes.

The NGO community, while comparatively small, is involved in fundraising and volunteerism in gender, health, environmental, and community projects.  The government sometimes partners with NGOs and generally encourages philanthropy.

There are no alleged or reported human or labor rights concerns relating to responsible business conduct of which foreign businesses should be aware.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies or a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, but not to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has the authority to prosecute a number of corruption-related offenses.  Corruption allegations are investigated by the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.  There is generally no statutory standard obligation for public officers to disclose financial information to a specific authority.  If there are confiscation proceedings initiated or contemplated against a corrupt official, the courts can order disclosure of financial information.  The Financial Intelligence Unit has the authority to conduct financial investigations with a court order.

The law also provides for public access to information.  Only a narrow list of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure exists, but there is no specific timeline for relevant authorities to make the requested response or disclosure.  There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for not providing a response and there is no appeal mechanism for review of a disclosure denial.

Resources to Report Corruption

Sejilla McDowall
Director of Public Prosecutions
Office of Public Prosecutions
Frenches Gate, Kingstown
Telephone: 784-457-1344
Email: dppsvg@vincysurf.com

Colin John
Commissioner of Police
Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force
Kingstown
Telephone: 784-457-1211
Email: svgpolice@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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 in 2025.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ active 2020 labor force was approximately 55,567 persons.  The government generally enforces labor laws, and penalties are sufficient to deter violations.  The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the rights of workers to form and join unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes.  The law also provides that it is lawful to conduct peaceful picketing in contemplation of a trade dispute.  Trade unions and leaders of the trade union movement enjoy a strong voice in the labor and economic affairs of the country.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and dismissal for engagement in union activities.  Although the law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, a court may order reinstatement.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has noted with concern the discretionary authority of the government over trade union registration, and the government’s unfettered authority to investigate the financial accounts of trade unions.

The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act Chapter 215 provides for establishment of an arbitration tribunal and a board of inquiry in connection with trade disputes and allows provision for the settlement of such disputes.  Labor unions and businesses are generally satisfied with the arbitration panels, which have tripartite representation.  One of the mandates of the Department of Labor is to serve as a dispute resolution mechanism.

The Wages Council Act establishes the Wages Council, which addresses minimum wages, hours of work, overtime, vacation, sick leave, and maternity leave for specified categories of workers.  Employers who fail to pay minimum wages are subject to orders for the payment of the wages.  The statutory minimum wages are set out in the regulations under the Wages Council Act.  The hours of work for specified categories of workers are usually eight hours per day with overtime generally calculated at a rate of time and a half and double time for work done on Sundays and public holidays.

The Equal Pay Act makes provision for the removal and prevention of discrimination, based on the sex of the employee, in the rates or remuneration for males and females in paid employment.  Teachers, police officers, public servants, the Medical Association, industrial workers, and some members of the private sector, especially in financial services, operate under collective bargaining agreements.

The Protection of Employment Act No. 20 of 2003 allows for severance.  Article 27 (1) allows employees to ask that their services be deemed as severed after six weeks of being laid off from work.  There is typically no unemployment insurance or other social security safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.  The government, however, offered limited cash grants to some workers whose employment was impacted by the layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law provides for a minimum working age of 16.  This provision is generally observed in practice.  Compulsory primary and secondary education policies reinforce minimum age requirements.  The Labor Department has a small cadre of labor inspectors who conduct spot investigations of enterprises and checked records to verify compliance with the labor laws.  These inspectors may refer cases to the police and the public prosecutor’s office for legal action against an employer who employs underage workers.

Investors in the country are responsible for maintaining workers’ rights and safeguarding the natural environment.  Workers have the right to report and/or leave unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued employment.

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number:  246-227-4000
Email Address:  BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a high-income developing country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $17,397 and an annual GDP of $24.3 billion (2019). It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean and is the third most populous country in the region with 1.4 million inhabitants. The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP for 2021 will increase by 2.6 percent as the economy rebounds following the economic impact of coronavirus mitigation. TT’s investment climate is generally open and most investment barriers have been eliminated, but stifling bureaucracy and opaque procedures remain.

Energy exploration and production drive TT’s economy. This sector has historically attracted the most foreign direct investment. The energy sector usually accounts for approximately half of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. Petrochemicals and steel are other sectors accounting for significant foreign investment. Since the economy is tethered to the energy sector, it is particularly vulnerable to fluctuating prices for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 86 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 105 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 98 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $6,200 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $17,010 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

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.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives include the following: exemption from import duties and customs duties; tax credits and deferrals; cash refunds; carry-over of losses; and access to loans. These are available equally to foreign and domestic investors, but delays in cash refund payments are a frequent complaint of those due them. Additional information is available on the following websites: https://www.finance.gov.tt/mof-investment-incentives-in-trinidad-and-tobago/ 

The government sometimes jointly finances foreign direct investment projects, but it is not common.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Free Zones Act of 1988 (last amended in 1997) established the TT Free Zones Company (TTFZ) to promote export development and encourage both foreign and local investment projects in a relatively bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free environment. Foreign owned firms have the same investment opportunities as Trinidad and Tobago entities. There are currently 15 approved enterprises located in 12 free zones. Just three are located within a multiple-user site in north-central Trinidad. The minister of trade and industry can designate any suitable area in TT as a free zone.

Free zone enterprises are exempt from customs duties on capital goods, parts, and raw materials for use in the construction and equipping of premises and in connection with the approved activity; import and export licensing requirements; land and building taxes; work permit fees; foreign currency and property ownership restrictions; capital gains taxes; withholding taxes on distribution of profits and corporation taxes or levies on sales or profits; VAT on goods supplied to a free zone; and duty on vehicles for use only within the free zone.

A corporation tax exemption for entities that qualify for free zone status is also in force. Application to carry out an approved activity in an existing free zone area is made on specified forms to the TTFZ.

Free zone activities that qualify for approval include manufacturing for export, international trading in products, services for export, and development and management of free zones. Activities that may be carried on in a free zone but do not qualify as approved activities include exploration and production activities involving petroleum, natural gas, or petrochemicals. For more information, please review the following website: http://ttfzco.com/ 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government does not mandate – although it strongly encourages through negotiable incentives – projects that generate employment and foreign exchange; provide training and/or technology transfer; boost exports or reduce imports; have local content; and generally contribute to the welfare of the country.

The government does not mandate that locals be recruited to senior management and boards of directors.

Several foreign firms have encountered inconsistencies leading to long delays in the issuance of long-term work permits, but there are no explicit, onerous requirements.

There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest.

There are no forced localization requirements.

There are no performance requirements, and thus no enforcement procedures. There is no indication of an intention to implement across-the-board performance requirements.

Investment incentives are uniform for domestic and foreign investors but offered on a case-by-case, vice across-the-board, basis.

There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.

There are no measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.

There are no rules on local data storage within Trinidad and Tobago.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are enforced in court. Mortgages and liens exist. TT has a dual system of land titles, the old common law system and the registered land title system governed by the Real Property Act of 1946. Nearly 80 percent of land in TT remains under the more complicated common law system, which is not reliable for recording secured interests.

The Foreign Investment Act of 1990 governs the acquisition of any interest in land by foreign investors. It states that foreign investors wishing to acquire land larger than five acres must obtain a license from the Ministry of Finance. Licenses are generally granted in practice per the criteria provided here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/51.pdf .

It is not clear what proportion of land does not have clear title. The government does not make a defined effort to identify property owners and register land titles.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Trinidad and Tobago ranked 158 out of 190 countries in ease of registering property. Reasons for the poor score include the number of procedures required (more than the regional average), the length of time required (more than the regional average) and the cost of registering property as a percentage of the property value.

Property ownership can revert to squatters if they can prove exclusive possession of another’s land, without permission, for at least 16 years in the case of private lands and 30 years on State lands.

Intellectual Property Rights

The process of protecting intellectual property involves applying for and registering patents, trademarks, or designs. Trinidad and Tobago’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legal structure is strong, but enforcement is generally weak. Infringement on rights and theft is common.

Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 2020, Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks. Implementing regulations remain in drafting for the 2000 Patent Law Treaty and the Hague Agreement on Industrial Designs.

Trinidad and Tobago does not track seizures of counterfeit goods. At its May 2019 WTO Trade Policy Review, it reported one seizure in 2018. The country has prosecuted IPR violations in the past, but such prosecutions are uncommon.

TT is listed in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List for 2021. Challenges concern widespread copyright infringement and the country’s lack of institutional commitment to enforce IPR.

Trinidad and Tobago is not included in USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

TT has 57 SOEs comprised of 44 wholly owned companies, eight majority-owned, and five in which the government has a minority share. SOEs are in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, financial services, transportation, and communication sectors. Information on the total assets of SOEs, total net income of SOEs and number of people employed by SOEs is not available. The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance appoints directors to the boards of state enterprises, reportedly at the direction of the minister of finance. SOEs are often informally or explicitly obligated to consult with government officials before making major business decisions. According to TT’s constitution, the government is entitled to: exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise

  • exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise
  • appoint a majority of directors of the board of directors of the enterprise; and
  • hold at least 50 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the enterprise

A published list of SOEs for 2021 can be found here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/2020/10/05/state-enterprise-investment-programme-2021/ 

In sectors that are open to both the private sector and foreign competition, SOEs are sometimes favored for government contracts, which might negatively impact U.S. investors in the market.

The country has not adhered to the OECD corporate governance guidelines for SOEs.

Privatization Program

TT does not have a privatization program in place, but the government has issued initial public offerings of various state-owned companies to obtain revenue, primarily in the finance and energy sectors.

Foreign investors can participate in the initial public offerings of SOEs.

The purchase of initial public offering shares on past occasions was open to the public, easy to understand, non-discriminatory, and transparent. For example: https://ngc.co.tt/media/news/ngl-initial-public-offering-brokerage-details/ 

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is general awareness of expectations of, and standards for, responsible business conduct (RBC), including obligations to proactively conduct due diligence to ensure businesses are doing no harm, including with regards to environmental, social, and governance issues.

The government has not put forward a clear definition of responsible business conduct, nor does it have specific policies to promote and encourage it. The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC, nor does it currently factor it into procurement decisions.

There have not been any high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.

TT has laws to ensure protection of human rights, labor rights, consumers, and the environment. Enforcement, however, is lacking due to staffing shortages, capacity issues, and a bureaucratic judiciary.

Government, in collaboration with civil society, created the TT Corporate Governance Code, which incorporates governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The code, however, is not mandatory.

The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago that freely advocates for responsible business conduct and improved corporate governance practices in the Caribbean.

The government does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies sourcing minerals originating from conflict-affected areas.

As a member of the EITI, the government publicly declares annually all revenues received from companies engaged in the extractive industries. The companies, in turn, publicly declare payments to the government.

Trinidad and Tobago is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:

  • The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
  • The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to official documents of public authorities. The intention of the act was to address the public’s concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the act, designated officers in each ministry and statutory authority process applications for information.
  • The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.

The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. Effectiveness of these measures has been limited by a lack of thorough enforcement.

The laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.

TT does not have laws or regulations to counter conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The government has been a party to the development of corporate governance standards (non-binding) to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.

Some private companies, particularly the larger ones, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials, though this is not a government requirement.

Trinidad and Tobago adheres to the UN Anticorruption Convention.

There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption, but investigations are not feared since corrupt actors are rarely punished.

U.S. firms often say corruption is an obstacle to FDI, particularly in government procurement, since TT’s procurement processes are not transparent.

Resources to Report Corruption

Mr. Justice Melville Baird
Chairman
The Integrity Commission
P.O. Box 1253, Port of Spain

The Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago
Level 14, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre,
1A Wrightson Road, Port of Spain
868-623-8305
registrar@inegritycommission.org.tt 

Mr. Dion Abdool
Chairman
Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute
(local chapter of Transparency International)
Unit 4-12, Building 7, Fernandes Industrial Centre, Laventille
868-626-5756
admin@transparency.org.tt 

10. Political and Security Environment

While non-violent demonstrations occur on occasion, widespread civil disorder is not typical. There have been no serious incidents of political violence since a coup attempt in 1990.

Subsequent to the closure of state oil firm Petrotrin in November 2018, which resulted in the lay-off of nearly 6,000 workers, there were reports of damage to installations.

Certain areas of TT are increasingly insecure due to a critical level of violent crime. 11. Labor Policies and Practices

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The labor market includes many skilled and experienced workers, and the educational level of the population is among the top 10 in North America, according to the Human Development Index, though there is a gap between official literacy statistics and functional literacy. In 2020, the modeled International Labor Organization estimate of unemployment was 6.7 percent, while youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was estimated at 9.1 percent in 2019.

Agricultural employment accounts for 3.6 percent of total employment while employment in services accounts for over 60 percent. The estimated non-agricultural workforce in the informal economy is 10 percent of the overall labor force. Trinidad and Tobago’s workforce includes not only TT nationals but also citizens of 11 other CARICOM countries as part of the free movement of labor without the need to obtain a work permit. In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago granted 16,523 “Venezuelan migrants” the right to work in the country for a period of one year under a temporary protective status. In 2021, the government allowed registered Venezuelan refugees a one-year extension of status.

Trinidad and Tobago is a net importer of expatriate labor, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, and extractive industry specialists. There are surpluses of accountants and attorneys and shortages of unskilled workers for the hospitality, retail, and agriculture sectors. The government subsidizes tertiary-level education for citizens whose income falls within a minimum range. The Multi-Sector Skills Training Program provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism for eligible citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The government also encourages continuing learning opportunities for the disadvantaged via the Skills Training Program, which develops skills that can aid in the creation of home-based production of goods and services and employment generation.

There is no government policy requiring hiring of nationals, though it is encouraged, particularly in the energy sector.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions via severance. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act provides guidance on who is entitled to receive what based on specific circumstances. Severance pay is usually only paid to retirees and workers who have been made redundant. An employer is not required to pay severance to workers if everyone is severed, since the business is being closed. If, however, only a portion of the workforce is rendered redundant, the employer must pay severance. Unemployment insurance does not exist for workers who have been laid off for economic reasons, but programs designed to help job seekers get employed as quickly as possible are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted a 3-6-month unemployment benefit program for those laid off.

Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no separate labor law provisions for special economic zones, trade zones, or free ports.

Collective bargaining is common, with approximately 15 percent of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. Government workers, including civil servants, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and staff in several state-owned enterprises, are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Unions are also quite active in the energy, steel, and telecommunications industries. Collective bargaining takes place between the firm and the recognized majority union rather than on an industry-wide basis. The government as an employer also bargains collectively. The process of collective bargaining is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act. There are close to 30 active, independent labor unions in TT.

The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) provides for dispute resolution through an industrial court in instances where the issue cannot be resolved by collective bargaining or through conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Labor.

There was no strike in the past year that posed an investment risk.

The International Labor Organization has not identified any compliance gaps in law or practice regarding international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. The government does not have a labor inspectorate system to identify and remediate labor violations, but the industrial court investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or improper dismissal of union members.

There were no new labor related laws or regulations enacted or in draft over the last year. 12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs

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.

14. Contact for More Information

Marissa Nicholas

Commercial Specialist

15 Queen’s Park West

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago +1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5933

+1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5933 poscommercial@state.gov 

poscommercial@state.gov