2021 Investment Climate Statements: Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) statistics, Antigua and Barbuda’s 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.38 billion (3.73 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars). This represents an approximate 18 percent drop from 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s tourism-dependent economy. Short-term forecasts project a sluggish recovery throughout 2021, with the country not projected to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and tourism until 2024. The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 3.4 percent in 2021, and in fact may contract by an additional 10 percent.
Unanticipated spending on pandemic response measures, coupled with sharp declines in government revenues, forced the government to increase borrowing in 2020. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 67 percent at the end of 2019 to 89 percent at the end of 2020. Unlike other Eastern Caribbean (EC) countries, Antigua and Barbuda has not significantly increased spending on social support payments to vulnerable populations. The government became the sole source of financing for regional airline Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) in mid-2020. Based in Antigua and Barbuda, LIAT was a major employer but is now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee.
Antigua and Barbuda ranks 113th out of 190 countries rated in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report. The scores remain relatively unchanged from the 2019 report, though some improvements in the ease of starting a business were highlighted.
The government encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange. Through the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services.
While the government welcomes all foreign direct investment, tourism and related services, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, information and communication technologies, business process outsourcing, financial services, health and wellness services, creative industries, education, yachting and marine services, real estate, and renewable energy have been identified by the government as priority investment areas. Uncertainty about the trajectory of economic recovery of the tourism, commercial aviation, and cruise industries impacts the potential for projects in those sectors.
There are no limits on foreign control of investment and ownership in Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign investors may hold up to 100 percent of an investment.
Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system is based on British common law. There is currently an unresolved dispute regarding the alleged expropriation of an American-owned property. For this reason, the U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate in Antigua and Barbuda.
In 2017, the government signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of Antigua and Barbuda encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, enhance economic activity, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on its citizens. Diversification of the economy remains a priority.
Through the ABIA, the government facilitates and supports foreign direct investment in the country and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors. All potential investors are afforded the same level of business facilitation services. ABIA offers complementary support services to investors exploring business opportunities, including facilitation of incentives and concessions, project monitoring, and general assistance. ABIA’s website is 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.
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.
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).
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
The corporate tax rate is 25 percent.
Antigua and Barbuda has signed bilateral investment treaties with Germany and the United Kingdom (UK). It does not have a bilateral investment treaty or bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. Antigua and Barbuda has bilateral taxation agreements with Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. There are double taxation agreements in force with the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Antigua and Barbuda has 22 Tax Information Exchange Agreements in force.
Antigua and Barbuda is also party to the following economic communities and organizations:
Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the CARICOM in 1973. Its purpose is to promote economic integration among its 15 member states. Investors operating in Barbados have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) establishes 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 (OECS)
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 Antigua and Barbuda 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
As a member of the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Eastern Caribbean Stock Exchange (ECSE) and the Regional Government Securities Market. The ECSE is a regional securities market established by the ECCB and licensed under the Securities Act of 2001, a uniform regional body of legislation governing securities market activities. As of March 31, 2020, there were 154 securities listed on the ECSE, comprising 134 sovereign debt instruments, 13 equities, and seven corporate bonds. Market capitalization stood at $666 million (1.8 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars), representing a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous year. Antigua and Barbuda is open to portfolio investment.
Antigua and Barbuda accepted the obligations of Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund Agreement Sections 2, 3, and 4, and maintains an exchange system free of restrictions on making international payments and transfers. The government normally does not grant foreign tax credits except in cases where taxes are paid in a Commonwealth country that grants similar relief for Antigua and Barbuda taxes, or where an applicable tax treaty provides a credit. The private sector has access to credit on the local market through loans, purchases of non-equity services, and trade credits, as well as other accounts receivable that establish a claim for repayment.
Money and Banking System
Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the 1983 agreement establishing the ECCB. The ECCB controls Antigua and Barbuda’s currency and regulates its domestic banks.
The Banking Act 2015 is a harmonized piece of legislation across the ECCU member states. The ECCB and the Ministers of Finance of member states jointly carry out banking supervision under the Act. The Minsters of Finance usually act in consultation with the ECCB with respect to those areas of responsibility within the Minister of Finance’s portfolio.
Domestic and foreign banks can establish operations in Antigua and Barbuda. The Banking Act requires all commercial banks and other institutions to be licensed. The ECCB regulates financial institutions. As part of supervision, licensed financial institutions are required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reports to the ECCB. In its latest annual report, the ECCB listed the commercial banking sector as stable. Assessments including effects of the pandemic are not yet available. Assets of commercial banks totaled $2.07 billion (5.6 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) at the end of December 2019 and remained relatively consistent during the previous year. The reserve requirement for commercial banks was six percent of deposit liabilities.
Antigua and Barbuda is well-served by bank and non-bank financial institutions. There are minimal alternative financial services offered. Some people still participate in informal community group lending, but the practice is declining.
The Caribbean region has witnessed a withdrawal of correspondent banking services by U.S., Canadian, and European banks due to risk management concerns. CARICOM remains committed to engaging with key stakeholders on the issue and appointed a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking to continue to monitor the issue.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Digital Assets Business Bill 2020 created a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital asset businesses, clients, and customers. The bill states that all digital asset businesses in the country must obtain a license for issuing, selling, or redeeming virtual coins, operating as a payment service or electronic exchange, providing custodial wallet services, among other activities. The government aspires to develop Antigua and Barbuda into a regional center for blockchain and cryptocurrency. At the end of 2020, over 40 major businesses accepted bitcoin cash.
Bitt, a Barbadian company, developed digital currency DCash in partnership with the ECCB. The first successful DCash retail central bank digital currency (CDBC) consumer-to-merchant transaction took place in Grenada in February 2021 following a multi-year development process. The CBB and the FSC established a regulatory sandbox in 2018 where financial technology entities can do live testing of their products and services. This allowed regulators to gain a better understanding of the product or service and to determine what, if any, regulation is necessary to protect consumers. Bitt completed its participation and formally exited the sandbox in 2019. Bitt launched DCash in Antigua and Barbuda in March 2021.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU and the ECCB. The currency of exchange is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). As a member of the OECS, Antigua and Barbuda has a foreign exchange system that is fully liberalized. The Eastern Caribbean dollar has been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of XCD 2.70 to USD 1.00 since 1976. As a result, the Eastern Caribbean dollar does not fluctuate, creating a stable currency environment for trade and investment in Antigua and Barbuda.
Companies registered in Antigua and Barbuda have the right to repatriate all capital, royalties, dividends, and profits free of all taxes or any other charges on foreign exchange transactions. The government levies withholding taxes on non-resident corporations and individuals receiving income in the form of dividends, preferred share dividends, interest and rentals, management fees, and royalties, as well as on interest on bank deposits to non-resident corporations. A person must be present on the island for no less than four years without interruption to be considered a resident. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the CFATF.
In 2017, the government of Antigua and Barbuda signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the FATCA, making it mandatory for banks in Antigua and Barbuda to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Neither the government of Antigua and Barbuda nor the ECCB, of which Antigua and Barbuda is a member, maintains a sovereign wealth fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Antigua and Barbuda are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they are not designed for competition. The government established many SOEs to create economic activity in areas where the private sector is perceived to have little interest. A list of SOEs can be found at: 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.
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.
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implements these laws if corruption is proven. Allegations of corruption against government officials in Antigua and Barbuda are fairly common. Both major political parties frequently accuse the other of corruption, but investigations yield few results. Antigua and Barbuda is party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the UN Anti-Corruption Convention.
The Integrity in Public Life Act requires all public officials to disclose all income, assets (including those of spouses and children), and personal gifts received while in public office. An Integrity Commission, established by the Act and appointed by the Governor General, receives and investigates complaints regarding noncompliance with or violations of this law or of the Prevention of Corruption Act. As the only agency charged with combatting corruption, the Commission was independent but understaffed and under-resourced. Critics stated the legislation was inadequately enforced and that the act should be strengthened.
The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy is the independent law enforcement agency with specific authority to investigate reports of suspicious activity concerning specified offenses and the proceeds of crime.
The Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the statutory right to access official documents from public authorities and agencies, and created a commissioner to oversee the process. In practice, citizens found it difficult to obtain documents, possibly due to government funding constraints rather than obstruction. The Act created a special unit mandated to monitor and verify disclosures. By law, the disclosures are not public. There are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.
Resources to Report Corruption
Sydney P. Christian
R.I.O.A. (Francis) Building, High Street, St. John’s (268) 562-5512/14
Lt Col Edward Croft
Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy
Camp Blizzard, St. George’s, Antigua (268) 562-3255/6
(268) 562-3255/6 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance Programs
As a high-income country under World Bank criteria, Antigua and Barbuda does not qualify for DFC financing.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
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
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)