ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Antigua and Barbuda
With early Spanish and French influence, and later an English arrival, Antigua and Barbuda is now blossoming as an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Antigua and Barbuda has experienced a steady GDP growth rate over the last few years as it rebounds from the global recession, which severely affected their economy because of the strength that tourism has in the country.
Antigua and Barbuda has over 365 beaches located in the heart of the Caribbean, thus a natural tourist destination. Tourism is an industry that accounts for 60% of the GDP and 40% of investment. The Government plans to diversify this sector, by looking into activities such as: sailing and yachting, health and wellness tourism, eco and nature tourism, and cultural and heritage tourism. The Tourism Development Strategy offers a wide variety of specific business opportunities have been identified across the islands.
Antigua and Barbuda, however, has a strong desire to expand beyond tourism. The Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA) has identified two other sectors of priority. It may come as a surprise, but Antigua and Barbuda has a growing and robust Information and Communications Technology (ICT), for which the government has a placed a high priority in their National Development Plan. This has facilitated fast growth in broadband Internet and data and voice services that are vital for modern information-intensive businesses.
The second area that ABIA is focusing on is agriculture. The country has seen success in recent years and the sector shows good potential, with 12% of land ready for use. The Government’s priority is to encourage self-sufficiency in order to curtail the need to import food, which accounts for about one quarter of all imports. The main business opportunities arise from possibilities to replace some of these food imports and to export to other Caribbean countries, which have a combined food import bill of about $5 billion. Although the Government wants to develop agricultural production, they have a constraint in the limited water supply and labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction. Water management is the biggest issue because the islands receive little rainfall. The clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly, further hampers the islands.
As far as its people, Antigua and Barbuda has well educated people, with a 95% literacy rate, and with English being the official language. Government policy is aimed at ensuring that the skills being produced match competitive business requirements, those being: tourism, ICT enabled services, financial services, and construction. Lastly, the country is renowned for having a welcoming people, political stability, and a safe and secure environment, for which it ranks very well worldwide.
In terms of infrastructure, in August of 2015, the V.C. Bird International Airport, in the Capital City of St. John’s, inaugurated its new airport terminal, which more than doubled its capacity and made it the most inter-connected nation in the Caribbean, and the largest gateway to the East Caribbean.
The development of a sustainable and clean energy supply on the Caribbean Islands is making great progress. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda stands out with the completion of the first phase of 3 MWp sun- to- live solar PV on the grounds of the V.C. Bird International Airport in early October 205 of a total of 10 MWp, which will be finalized in the upcoming 6 months.
Antigua and Barbuda is close to being a perfect paradise, however, it still has some challenges to overcome. Prime Minister Browne, along with ABIA, incentivizes businesses by carrying a friendly currency and Foreign Exchange environment. Antigua and Barbuda also has generous financial incentives, establishing the corporate income tax rate at 25%. Exemption from payment or reduction in the rate is allowed depending on the level of capital investment and number of jobs to be created. Lastly, investor protection is strong as the common law system based on the UK model and guarantees protection.
The United States plays an important role in the development of Antigua and Barbuda, as it is the Nation’s most important trading partner, and accounts for one-third of the tourists. Antigua and Barbuda enjoys a geo-strategic position, being close to the United States, and in close time zone with the East Coast. While relations are good, there are always opportunities for investment and partnership in Antigua and Barbuda’s areas of priority.