Tourism provides the main source of foreign exchange, economic activity, and employment. The major elements of Barbados’ tourism product are its solid historical and cultural legacy, varied entertainment, and its natural physical attributes. The four major markets for the Barbados tourist industry are the UK, USA, Continental Europe, and Canada.
Accommodation facilities in Barbados include a wide range of hotels, apartments, luxury villas, cottages, and beach houses. Barbados receives just over one million visitors per year, with cruise ship arrivals narrowly surpassing long-stay arrivals in recent years.
Low tax rates, double taxation agreements and exchange of information treaties, have provided Barbados with an ideal environment for its development into a major international business and financial services centre. The key components of this sector are the banking and financial institutions and other global services and trading businesses.
The manufacturing sector comprises mainly of light industry which includes the production of cement blocks, clay tiles, garments and textiles, paint, paper products, furniture, electronic components, chemicals, edible oils, soap, and food products.
Sugar continues to be the principal agricultural product. Most of the sugar produced is sold to the European Community at a guaranteed price. Other products from this sector include root crops, vegetables, dairy products, chicken, and fish.
The Central Bank of Barbados is the main regulatory financial institution in Barbados, and is responsible for formulating, in association with Government, monetary and fiscal policies to assist with local economic development.
Barbados has taken advantage of the expansion in international business, in particular the financial services sector that is now the country’s second major foreign exchange earner. A robust telecommunications infrastructure, a well-trained and English-speaking workforce, and a stable political environment give the country an additional advantage over other, similar destinations. Barbados has also done well from the increased scrutiny and regulation of financial services by international organizations such as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In addition to the above, a number of key factors help keep Barbados relatable to the North American market, thereby increasing opportunities to drive capital into the country. These include an exchange rate tied to the U.S dollar and a roster of regular flights to key North American business centres including Miami, New York, and Toronto.
The Barbados Securities Exchange was established in June 1987 in order to create a market to promote trading in financial securities and to encourage investment by the public in business enterprises. Since 2001 this organization became known as the Barbados Stock Exchange.
A company wishing to be listed on the exchange must meet certain criteria established by the Exchange, after which it must submit a prospectus compliant with both the Companies and Securities legislation of Barbados for review. A new Securities Act was passed in 2001 in order to facilitate the establishment of a securities commission and it makes better provision for the regulation of the securities market, the capital market and investors.
Currently there are over 20 listed securities on the regular market on the Barbados Stock Exchange including cross-listed securities belonging to issuers from within CARICOM. There is also one company listed on the International Securities Market. Two mutual funds are also traded on the Exchange. The Securities Exchanges of Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica work closely together, and nationals are eligible to cross trade in each market.
Mutual funds in Barbados are governed by the Mutual Funds Act of 2002. The Act stipulates that authorised Mutual Fund operators require a licence to operate in Barbados and must have a registered office in Barbados.
The Barbados Stock Exchange is responsible for the regulation of both domestic and foreign mutual funds. Exempt or foreign mutual funds can conduct business in Barbados provided they are registered with the Barbados Stock Exchange and have paid an annual registration fee. The minimum number of shares that can be purchased by a prospective investor must be BB$100 (US$50) or its equivalent in any currency. Local investors are also exempt from stamp duty and property transfer tax with respect to transactions involving the ownership or transfer of shares.
The Government has a liberal policy toward foreign exchange controls and is committed to moving towards the elimination of all foreign exchange controls. The Exchange Control Act of Barbados provides for:
• Registration and repatriation of foreign investment.
• Remittance of dividends, profits, interest, and rentals from real estate to non-residents.
• Transfer of land and buildings situated in Barbados.
It is possible to buy foreign currency directly from the commercial banks however the Government, through the Central Bank, has imposed limits on the amount of foreign transactions available to residents and non-residents. A 2% foreign exchange fee is charged on purchases of foreign currency and payments related to foreign currency transactions, provided the transaction is not made from a foreign currency account. Residents are allowed US$10,000 for personal travel, and a higher limit for business travel. Foreign nationals working in Barbados may operate an external account, which can be credited with foreign currency from specific sources, provided that they are not classified as residents.
The Government is seeking to liberalize the Exchange Control regime with a phased approach. As a part of this process, in August of 2019 the Central Bank of Barbados issued guidance allowing all resident individuals and companies to open foreign currency denominated bank accounts locally, and to hold foreign currency which they have earned in Barbados or abroad.
The Barbados Companies Act, which came into effect in 1985, is modelled on the Canada Business Corporations Act. The procedure for incorporating a company is simple and efficient. A company can be established by either residents or non-residents without a license or other authorisation, unless one is seeking to obtain a Foreign Currency Permit or intends to become licensed as an Insurance company or financial institution. There is a minimum of one director required. The names and addresses of the directors must be filed at the Corporate Registry. There is no limit on the amount of authorised share capital and shares are without par value. A company can carry on any type of legal activity, unless its articles of incorporation specifically provide otherwise.