By Dr. Leonard Madu
Diaspora News | 7 May 2013 Last updated at 12:52 CET
The Caribbean has always been associated with fun, beaches and carnivals. But it is much more than that. It is not just a fun destination, but a vibrant business destination.
The $20 billion tourist industry plays a big role in the Caribbean economy, but business travelers are also drawn by off shore finance and banking interests, pharmaceuticals and energy.
The Caribbean is the third largest market for U.S. Exports in Latin America, behind Mexico and Brazil. Despite the upturn in the world economy, the Caribbean economies have proved resilient and expanded. The unprecedented infusion of Chinese funds have bolstered the Caribbean economies tremendously.
Economically, Trinidad and Tobago is head above all members of the 15 nation CARICOM group because it has the most advanced and diversified production structure in the region. It has a heavy industrial sector-machinery, steel, oil refining, methanol, etc and a light manufacturing sector-glass, batteries, air conditioning equipment. Currently, it is ranked the number one single site exporter of ammonia and methanol in the world.
The Jamaican economy is dependent on services which account for nearly 65% of the GDP. Most foreign exchange is derived from tourism, remittances from abroad and bauxite/alumina. Remittances from the diaspora account for about 15% of the GDP.
In Belize, no sector of the economy is closed to foreign investors, but special permits and licenses are required for activities mostly reserved for Belize citizens-internal transportation, sugar cane cultivation, accounting and merchandising-may not be granted to foreigners.
The government also sells citizenship to those willing to pay from $35, 000 to $50, 000 for the honor. Priority areas of investment are agro-industries, food processing, tourism aquaculture and horticulture, light manufacturing and assembly plants.
With a population of about 60, 000 and a GDP of $661 million, St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a personal income tax. With one exception, foreign investments are not subject to any restrictions and foreign investors receive national treatment.
The only restriction is to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes. Qualified companies enjoy full exemptions from taxes on corporate profits for up to 15 years.
Priority sectors are tourism, financial services, information technology and agriculture.
Haiti continues to suffer from lack of investments, partly because of limited infrastructure and insecurity. The apparel sector accounts for 90% of Haitian exports and nearly one tenth of the GDP. Remittances from the diaspora are the primary source of foreign exchange and accounts for 20% of the GDP.
And more than twice the earnings from exports. The new government has granted important concessions to new industries not competing with local production. Companies that locate outside metro Port Au Prince will receive 100% tax exemption for 5-15 years. Key sectors for investment include tourism, agribusiness, apparel, etc.
St Lucia has significantly diversified its economic base in the last decade, by creating a light manufacturing base that includes metal sheeting, corrugated cardboard cartons, sporting goods and apparel.
It has no income tax, no inheritance tax, no property tax and no capital gains tax. Investment sectors include manufacturing, tourism, international financial services, information and communication technology and agro processing.
Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St, Vincent and the Grenadines have investment sectors based on financial services, tourism, information technology and agriculture.
Which countries are the best and easiest to invest in? According to the Wold Bank’s Doing Business 2012, ten CARICOM countries top the list of the best places to do business in the Caribbean. These are in descending order-St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Belize.
According to the report, Trinidad and Tobago top the list in protecting investors, Jamaica is tops in starting a business, and St. Lucia is number one over all in doing business. Haiti was rated the worst among CARICOM countries.
The criteria used in choosing these countries include, ease of starting a business, steady electricity, protecting investors, paying taxes, resolving insolvency, dealing with construction permits, employing workers, getting credit, registering property, enforcing contracts and trading across borders.
As an exporter, what kinds of goods and products should I export? Household consumer goods, building materials, computers, cosmetics, food processing and packaging equipments, drugs and pharmaceuticals, automotive parts and services and telecommunication equipments and services.
What are the language problems to be encountered?. Apart from Haiti and Suriname, all the CARICAM countries are English speaking.
African Caribbean Institute and allied organizations have been partnering Caribbean businesses with those in the United States and Africa and educating business persons on how to do business in the Caribbean.
Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the
African Caribbean Institute and Chamber of Commerce.
He is also a Fox TV analyst and writes from