Barbados has a long and distinguished history of welcoming foreign investment. Although the promotional strategy has evolved over the years, successive governments have remained committed to creating an environment conducive to the attraction of international business and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the main productive sectors of manufacturing, ICT and financial services.

Deliberate Strategy

The establishment of the Barbados Development Board in 1956, followed in the 60s by the creation of specialist investment promotion agencies, signalled a more strategic approach to the diversification of the Barbados economy through the encouragement of foreign investment in specific industries. The adoption of the Sir Arthur Lewis model of ‘industrialisation by invitation’ during the 70s and 80s led to one of the more successful periods of economic growth in the island’s history. Through the creation of a welcoming, investor friendly environment characterized by economic, political and social stability, availability of skilled human resources, well-developed infrastructure and supported by attractive fiscal incentives, Barbados played a key role in the global expansion of manufacturing enterprises such as Intel Corporation, TRW and Playtex Corporation, among others.

As investors continuously seek to achieve greater efficiencies in their operations, to enhance their competitive advantage and to expand their global footprint, the government has consistently introduced and supported policies, which ensure that Barbados continues to be well positioned to respond to the demands of the international marketplace. A key priority area, and one of the country’s most defining characteristics, has been the ongoing development of its human resources. This has enabled Barbados to produce a cadre of well qualified professionals to satisfy the requirements of investors who have made Barbados their location of choice.

Public Private Partnerships

Combined with this, the Barbados government, in collaboration with industry professionals including members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, the Barbados International Business Association, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, as well as stakeholders such as the Central Bank, the Financial Services Commission and the Ministry of International Business, and through the Joint Policy Working Group, has continuously sought to update and refine its legislative and regulatory infrastructure. Such a strategy ensures that the country’s suite of international business products, buttressed by a growing network of tax treaties, are so designed to meet the varying needs of its clients enabling them to realize their growth and development objectives. Even as the international financial services industry currently grapples with stricter compliance and KYC guidelines, Barbados’ authorities are working assiduously with stakeholders to address the issue, which threatens to derail progress in this vital sector.

This collaborative approach is also embodied in the Social Partnership – a coalition of government, employers and labour, working together in support of national development goals. All members of this tripartite acknowledge that each must play their respective parts to ensure that the Barbados environment remains both an attractive and welcoming place to live and work.

Mature and Proven Jurisdiction

Today, Barbados has matured into a tried and proven jurisdiction successfully providing high value-added business solutions for investors in a wide range of industries such as niche manufacturing, ICT-including business process outsourcing, international insurance, international banking and wealth management services including family offices and trusts. Among those who have been enjoying the benefits of the Barbados jurisdiction are global brands such as Gildan whose worldwide marketing and administrative operations have been based here for almost 20 years; McKinney Rogers, a Barbados headquartered international consultancy with offices in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe; and Lenstec, manufacturer of intra-ocular lenses for use in cataract surgery and exported to China, Japan and the USA.

Additionally, Barbados has proven to be a preferred choice for high net worth individuals who are drawn to the country for its excellent quality of life and the easy access to a wide variety of activities from sports and leisure to a range of entertainment and fine dining options, and above all, the friendly and welcoming nature of its people. The Barbados government has responded by introducing a special facility – the Special Entry and Reside Permit to enable persons in this category who meet the criteria to be granted permission to reside in Barbados. Such individuals may also be eligible for certain tax benefits should they choose to manage their global wealth from Barbados.

With a longstanding tradition of attracting business of substance, Barbados remains cognizant of the need to adapt to the changing dynamics of the global business environment. Adherence to international best practice standards and transparency are the tenets upon which the Barbados international business and financial services (IB&FS) sector was founded and continue to be the guiding principles behind the country’s success as a reputable international financial centre. Barbados is signatory to a FATCA Model 1 Agreement, as well as the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, the OECD’s new international standard for automatic exchange of financial information.

Into the Future

As the lead investment promotion agency for international business, Invest Barbados (IB)  will continue to play a key role in the attraction of FDI to Barbados. While focusing on traditional markets, namely Canada, the USA and the UK, simultaneously IB has been actively exploring potential opportunities in newer markets such as Latin American, in particular, Colombia and Mexico. In addition to the primary sectors – manufacturing, ICT and financial services, recent opportunities in areas such as medical tourism, medical schools and renewable energy continue to be identified and evaluated.

The Corporation, through its overseas offices in Canada and the USA, as well as its Barbados headquarters, continues to assure potential investors of government’s support and commitment to welcoming business of substance. As Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, recently confirmed, it was the assurance of IB officials which gave him the comfort to proceed with a major investment in the country.

According to the recent IMF Article 1V consultation, the Barbados economy is once again poised for growth. IB will continue to play its part in taking the country forward. In fulfilment of its mandate and in recognition of the vital importance of the IB&FS sector, the second largest contributor to Barbados’ GDP, IB will continue to expand its reach in existing markets, while exploring new markets and opportunities as we seek to realize our goal of becoming the wealth management centre of choice in the Western Hemisphere. IB remains committed to working with stakeholders to ensure that the Barbados environment continues to be a welcoming and inviting place for discerning investors.

About the Author

Jannette Babb
Jannette Babb - Director of Research & Development

Director of Research and Development (Ag) at Invest Barbados.