Antigua and Barbuda Introduction
Antigua and Barbuda is an independent Commonwealth state in the Eastern Caribbean. Antigua was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and later became a British settlement. Under Lord Nelson, it became Britain’s main naval base from which it patrolled the West Indies.
Antigua is 14 miles long and 11 miles wide and its 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, following its independence from Britain in 1981, Antigua’s key industry is tourism and related service industries. The next largest employers are the finance services industry and the government.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy with a British style parliamentary system of government. The Queen has her representative, an appointed Governor General, representing the Queen as the Head of State. The Government is composed of two chambers: the elected 17 member House of Representatives, led by the Prime Minister; and the 17 member Senate. 11 of the Senate members are appointed by the Governor General under the guidance of the Prime Minister, four members are appointed under the direction of the Leader of the Opposition and two by the Governor General. General elections are mandated every five years and can be called earlier. The High Court and Court of Appeal are the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and the Privy Council in London respectively.
With some 365 beaches of clean clear turquoise waters, the lush tropical island of Antigua is an inviting paradise and considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. As a result, tourism is the key driver of GDP and generates around 60% of the island’s income, with key target markets being the USA, Canada and Europe.
Antigua has experienced a challenging economic environment in recent years. However, the Government has been credited with its implementation of the National Economic and Social Transformation Plan and a debt restructuring effort. One of the initiatives to support the island nation's economy is the introduction of a citizenship-by-investment program, for which Henley & Partners has played a significant role in advising and assisting the Government on the design, implementation and international placement.
Antigua’s commitment to serving its tourism industry and increasing its GDP is demonstrated with the airport expansion project set to be completed in 2014. It is worth USD 45 million and includes three passenger jet bridges and more than two dozen check-in counters, creating an overall higher efficiency for passenger arrival. It will also allow an increase in scheduled, charter and inter-island flights. There are already direct flights to Antigua from London, New York, Miami and Toronto in place.
The currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (ECD), which is pegged to the USD at 2.70 ECD/USD. Antigua is a member of the United Nations (UN), the British Commonwealth, Caricom and the Organisation of American States (OAS), among many other international organizations. Holders of the Antiguan passport enjoy visa free travel to 150 destinations, including the UK and the countries of the Schengen area. Holders of this passport, like all Caribbean countries, do require a visa to enter the USA as they are not a member of the Visa Waiver Program.