The Caribbean nation of Antigua & Barbuda says its economic policies, announced in the aftermath of the global recession, are paying dividends, with the construction sector showing strong signs of growth.
“Homeowners are now building, the construction sector is growing, banks are lending at reduced rates, and suppliers are seeing an increase in business activity. This trend is expected to continue,” said Dr. McChesney Emanuel, Chairman of the country’s investment promotion agency ABIA, at an event in Sandals Grande Resort in Dickenson Bay.
The dual-island state launched a series of programs to stimulate business activity in the face of the global recession triggered by the housing market crash in the United States.
According to the IMF and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), both of which reviewed the country’s economic progress, government initiatives contributed to 2.3% of GDP growth in 2012. The CIA World Factbook estimates that GDP per capita was $18,300 USD in 2012.
In September 2013, the country put in motion a new program called “citizenship via investment,” which grants investors a passport (which entitles them to visa free-travel to over 115 countries, including the UK, France and Canada) in return for investing $250,000 USD in a national development fund, $400,000 in real estate or $1.5 million in a government-approved business.
Dr. Emanuel said that phase two of the plan targets continued growth in the construction sector. “Construction accounts for a significant portion of our GDP and generates expenditures in other important sectors of the Antigua and Barbuda economy.”
One of the initiatives is the “Antigua and Barbuda Outsourcing and Specialized Services program,” under which the government seeks to groom a robust outsourcing industry such as that seen in nearby Jamaica.
This initiative, according to the investment agency, aims to spur growth in technology-driven cost-effective services, such as call centers, data entry, engineering, and financial services.
Dr. Emanuel informed the audience that Nearshore Americas had agreed to conduct a workshop and prepare a roadmap as to how the Caribbean nation can realize its dream to become an outsourcing hotspot creating jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Antigua and Barbuda is ranked 71st out of 189 economies in the World Bank’s 2014 Doing Business index, ahead of Uruguay, China, Argentina, Brazil and India. It was also ranked above every state in the Caribbean region except St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago. In terms of protecting investors, Antigua and Barbuda was ranked second in the Caribbean and 34th in the world.