From May 24th to May 26th, Antigua will be hosting an important event Invest in Caribbean 2017, which aims at promoting the opportunities present in each country. Where do you personally see the biggest opportunities for foreign investment in Antigua compared to the other countries in the region?
Tourism development remains the sector that provides the greatest potential for investment attraction; simply due to the fact that the tourism sector contributes at least 50% of our GPD. There are other sectors that have been identified as potential growth sectors and these sectors are linked to special incentives under the Tourism and Business Special Incentives Act. Apart from tourism, the other sectors identified are: Manufacturing; Agriculture, Fisheries & Agri-Business; ICT; Financial Services; Health & Wellness; Creative Industry and Renewable Energy.
ABIA is a statutory body formed under the Investment Authority Act of 2006. Since its creation, what have been your main objectives?
Our mandate is to promote Antigua and Barbuda as an ideal location for investment attraction and we are also responsible for building capacity of the local small businesses. We wish to see our SMEs developing and being positioned to benefit from possible linkages that can result from the foreign investors developing major projects.
In which ways would you say the authority help the small businesses to develop?
We offer a number of training courses under a program “Mind Your Business”. This program is designed to build capacity at the various levels of personnel in the business, ultimately resulting in enhanced efficiency and effectiveness in the operation and management of our small businesses.
The MYB program has been in place for approximately seven (7) years and there is a wide range of courses that we offer including: ICT related courses; business plan preparation; marketing, costing and pricing etc. The objective is to cover all of the essential elements of business operations.
ABIA has launched some recognized program such as the Diaspora Investment Partnership Program and Construct Antigua & Barbuda Initiative. What has been the importance of those initiatives so far to the development of the country?
The ABIA launched a Diaspora initiative in 2013, where we visited two (2) major U.S. cities (New York and Miami). With the assistance of Consul staff we were able to meet with the Diaspora community, sharing information on investment opportunities in Antigua and Barbuda. Unfortunately the initiative did not evolve as we would have liked due to limited available resources.
CAB-I on the other hand has been ongoing since 2012. This programme, a government led initiative, was launched to make residential home ownership more affordable to residents and citizens. CAB-I benefits to home owners includes waiver of ABST on all building materials and fixtures to be consumed in the home construction. Additionally, benefits are also accessed from supplier’s discounts on purchases; reduced rates from banks, insurance companies and other professional services. This initiative has been very successful and has provided a boost to the construction industry and contributed to national economic growth.
During Hon. Browne recent visit to the UAE, he stated that Antigua’s goal is to become the Dubai of the Caribbean in the coming years with an increased desire to promote the potential present in Antigua worldwide. As the Executive Director of the ABIA, how are you improving Antigua’s international perception to ensure that it does become the ‘Dubai of the Caribbean’?
The ABIA supports the government investment agenda by making readily available, information critical towards investor location decision making. This includes relevant country information, data and statistics. While the ABIA has not been involved in a lot of major pro-active investment promotion activities, we are seeking to generate leads through our website presence, as well social media tools such as Instagram and Facebook.
We recently launched an Online Guide to investment in Antigua and Barbuda. This is in our view a very effective investment promotion tool to generate interest and inquiries from potential investors. The web based tool provides a wide range of comprehensive information, data and statistics on the nation, within easy reach of all potential investors.
The ABIA has also been playing a pivotal role in the advocacy for investment climate reforms. This process is ongoing and will certainly enhance the nation’s ease of doing business rankings and further position Antigua and Barbuda as an ideal location to attract foreign direct investment.
Having some initiatives in the country like the CIP programme, How would you say you collaborate with such initiatives?
Initially, the Citizenship by Investment Program was developed out of the ABIA. Sometime in 2011, the government indicated an interest in developing an Economic Citizenship Program and involved the ABIA to conduct the necessary research and feasibility study. A taskforce was established by ABIA senior management and included a wide cross section of professionals towards achieving the government’s objective.
Based on provisions of the CIP Act, the ABIA is required to be consulted in the application process for two investment options, real estate and business. The ABIA is also involved in the process of facilitating investors’ requests for incentives and concessions to assist in project development.
Our guide will be launched during Invest in the Caribbean 2017. What final message would you like to say about Antigua & Barbuda that would encourage our investment community worldwide to come to your country to do business?
Antigua and Barbuda is definitely a location open for business and investment. The country offers a number of comparative advantages for attracting investment. These include: location, the natural beauty of our nation; friendly and welcoming people; political stability; safety and security with low rates of crime; well educated population; skilled population; stable currency and no foreign exchange restrictions on capital repatriation; strong investor protection; also Antigua and Barbuda offers one of the most attractive incentive packages for investors.
We encourage those investors who are seeking investment opportunities with the potential to generate a good return on their investment based on the generous incentives on offer; to make Antigua