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 Citizenship by Investment program are the main laws relevant to foreign direct investment. The full text of laws already in force, as well as those Parliament is currently considering are available at:
While some draft bills are not subject to public consultation, 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. The government discloses information on public finances and debt obligations through the annual budget address. The annual budget address can be found online at: https://ab.gov.ag/ .
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 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 enforcement mechanisms of these regulations include penalties or legal sanctions. 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.
The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards is a statutory body that prepares and promulgates standards in relation to goods, services, processes, and practices. As a member of the WTO, Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory to the 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. A full list of measures undertaken pursuant to the TFA is available at https://tfadatabase.org/en/members/antigua-and-barbuda .
As a member of CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda utilizes the Advanced Cargo Information System, a computer-based system developed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to harmonize and standardize electronic cargo information in order to improve the capability to track cargo efficiently and to support regional and international trade. The Advanced Cargo Information System forms a critical part of the World Customs Organization SAFE Framework of Standards. Antigua and Barbuda has also fully implemented the Automated System for Customs Data.
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) 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. Antigua and Barbuda is only subject to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ.
The United States and Antigua and Barbuda are both 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 .
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 citizenship by investment 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 program 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. Citizenship by investment investors must own real estate for a minimum of five years before selling it.
A fourth 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 six 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 medical certificate, police certificate, and evidence of the source of funds. Further information is available at: https://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 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. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the CCC.
The OECS has agreed to establish a regional authority to regulate competition in the economic union and would be a part of the CCC. To date, the draft OECS Competition Bill remains under review. As such, there is currently no legislation or authority outside of the CARICOM framework that regulates competition in Antigua and Barbuda.
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 2007 expropriation of an American-owned property. Following the expropriation, the owners initiated legal action to enforce their rights under Antigua and Barbuda’s Land Acquisition Act. A 2014 Privy Council court decision ordered the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to pay the former property owners $39.8 million in compensation. The government has only paid approximately $20 million as of June 2022, and the property owners have continued to pursue multiple legal remedies to compel the government to pay the outstanding balance. In 2022, the courts dismissed the government’s appeal of a 2018 court decision in favor of the claimants. At that time, the courts ruled that the outstanding costs due to the claimants should be assessed by the High Court to be paid promptly and in full. The claimants have also continued to pursue recourse in other jurisdictions in addition to Antigua and Barbuda, with the latest legal decision in 2022. The government has not made any additional payments to the claimants since 2020 and to date, the government has only paid them approximately $ 26.6 million. The U.S. government recommends continued caution when investing in real estate or any other venture 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 Chap. 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 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.
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 full text of the legislation can be found on the government’s website.