Country Spotlight: Antigua and Barbuda

Quick facts

 

Capital city: St. John’s

Population: 100,963 (Est 2016)

GDP growth: 2.0% (Est 2016)

Area: 443km2

Government: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Monarch: HM Queen Elizabeth II

Governor-General: Rodney Williams

Prime Minister: Gaston Browne

Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)

Dialling code: 1 268

HDI: 58th

Ease of doing business index: 63rd

 

Dubbed the “heart” or “gem” of the Caribbean because of its strategic location in the middle of the Leeward island chain, the independent Commonwealth state of Antigua and Barbuda comes very close to many people’s idea of paradise. This ideal geographic positioning makes the tropical twin-island jewel a regional travel hub, with excellent air links to North America and Europe.

Home to over 100,000 people and blessed with 365 powder-white sand beaches, the country is revered as one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Antigua, the larger of two islands of Antigua and Barbuda, is a popular tourist destination and is accessible on direct flights from the UK, USA, and Canada. With mysterious abandoned forts, Neolithic caves and an unspoilt beachfront, Barbuda is host to a wild bird sanctuary standing on a mesmerising lagoon.

Antigua’s flatland topography was well suited to produce its early crops of tobacco, cotton and ginger. The main industry, however, developed into sugar cane farming which lasted for over 200 years. Today, with its 30-year independence from Britain, Antigua’s key industry is tourism and related service industries. The next largest employers are the financial services industry and the government.

Historically, as a result of tourism and real estate, Antigua and Barbuda has experienced continuous growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). However, more recently, financial services, tertiary education and e-commerce, have become significant contributors. Bolstered by generous government incentives, foreign investment has contributed to the rapid development of the economy, resulting in the country having one of the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the sub-region.

Antigua and Barbuda, along with seven other states, is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), a development of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD) as its currency. The EC has been pegged to the US dollar for the last 40 years, contributing to long-term financial stability.

Why was the Antigua and Barbuda programme established?

Like many countries around the world, Antigua and Barbuda was adversely affected by the 2008 economic crisis. After considering various options to jumpstart the economy, the government saw the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) as the most effective way to re-attract FDIs, renew interest in the real estate market and spur investment in the general economy.

Though Antigua and Barbuda is a relatively new entrant into the economic investment arena, it has become very popular with investors owing to its straightforward and transparent application process, fast turnaround time and the quality of real estate offerings. The reduction in processing fees in 2017, gave the programme an additional competitive advantage.

After the devastation of Barbuda, the smaller, lesser-populated of the two islands by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, a further decision was taken by the government to decrease the National Development Fund (NDF) contribution for a limited time period*. This, the government feels, will allow for the allocation of the estimated US$200m urgently needed to rebuild a stronger, greener Barbuda, and simultaneously reducing carbon footprints.

The NDF is a non-profit fund that is subject to parliamentary oversight by way of a six-monthly report to be presented to Parliament in sufficient detail to allow for transparency and accountability. The fund will also be audited by an internationally recognised accounting firm.

The Antigua and Barbuda CIP Act was passed in April 2013, setting up The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU). The first application was received in November of that year and the first citizenship granted in February 2014.

The Act allows for anyone 18 years and older and/or his family, who commits to making an investment under one of three options, to apply for citizenship.

What are the benefits of Antigua and Barbuda? 

  • Visa-free access to over 135 countries, including the United Kingdom, the Schengen area, Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Decision rendered in 60-90 days on most files
  • No restrictions on dual nationality
  • Citizenship for life, once residency requirement is met
  • Straightforward application process, no minimum net worth requirement or previous business experience
  • No tax on worldwide income, inheritance, capital gains or investment returns
  • History of a stable currency US$1 = EC$2.70 since 1976
  • Antigua and Barbuda is a stable Westminster-style democracy
  • Well-established legal and regulatory framework, supporting civil and commercial relationships
  • Well-educated workforce, skills and abilities for the modern workplace
  • Active and committed member of the international community

* NDF Limited Time Offer: November 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018

In addition to visa-free travel to over 135 countries, eligible investors have the right to reside permanently on the islands. The recent elimination of personal income tax makes it even more attractive.

Applicants must submit to a rigorous due diligence (DD) or background check process. The only residency stipulation is that new citizens spend at least five days on Antigua and Barbuda in the five years following the granting of citizenship.

As far as innovation is concerned, Antigua and Barbuda was the first Caribbean nation to permit investment in approved businesses, an initiative that other jurisdictions are now copying.

Additionally, new citizens can add new dependents after approval and there is no HIV test requirement for minors under 11.

Posted in Country Spotlights.

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