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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Executive Summary

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  In the most recent available figures from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 2020 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) was 783 million USD (2.12 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is still recovering from the explosive eruptions from La Soufriere volcano in April 2021. Volcanic ash blanketed most of the northern half of the St. Vincent, which includes much of the country’s agricultural districts. This, coupled with the ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, has exacerbated the economic situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The government is hoping that construction projects in the tourism sector and civil infrastructure will provide a much-needed economic boost this year.   The economy might struggle to hit its forecasted growth of around 4.57 percent in 2022, as the agriculture and tourism sectors are impacted by the ongoing pandemic and volcanic reconstruction efforts.

The country seeks to diversify its economy across several niche markets, particularly tourism, international financial services, agricultural processing, scientific and medical research, light manufacturing, renewable energy, creative industries, and information and communication technologies.

The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines strongly encourages foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly in industries that create jobs and earn foreign exchange.  Through the Invest St. Vincent and the Grenadines Authority (Invest SVG), the government facilitates FDI and maintains an open dialogue with current and potential investors.

The government does not impose limits on foreign control, nor are there requirements for local ownership or ownership in locally registered companies.  The island’s legal system is based on the British common law system.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  It has double-taxation treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

In 2016, St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed an intergovernmental agreement in observance of the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), making it mandatory for banks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to report the banking information of U.S. citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2022 36 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 7 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 7,460 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.  The country, however, has bilateral tax treaties with the United States, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.   In 1989, Germany and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed a treaty for the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investment.  In 2018, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the UAE concluded an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and an Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also party to the following economic communities and organizations:

Caribbean Community

The Treaty of Chaguaramas established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1973.  Its purpose is to promote economic integration among its 15 member states.  Investors operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have preferential access to the entire CARICOM market.  The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) established the CSME, which permits the free movement of goods, capital, and labor among CARICOM states.  CARICOM has bilateral agreements with Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.  In 2013, CARICOM entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

The Revised Treaty of Basseterre established the OECS.  The OECS consists of seven full members (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), and three associate members (Anguilla, Martinique, and the British Virgin Islands).  Guadeloupe signed an accession agreement to the OECS in 2019.  The purpose of the Treaty is to promote harmonization among member states in foreign policy, defense and security, and economic affairs.  The six independent countries and Montserrat ratified the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, which entered into force in 2011.  The Economic Union established a single financial and economic space within which goods, services, and people move without hindrance.

CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) and the European Community signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in 2008.  The overarching objectives of the EPA are to alleviate poverty, promote regional integration and economic cooperation, and foster the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy by improving trade capacity and creating an investment-conducive environment.  The EPA promotes trade-related developments in areas such as competition, intellectual property, public procurement, the environment, and the protection of personal data.

CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement

The UK and the CARIFORUM states signed an EPA in 2019, committing to trade continuity after Britain’s departure from the European Union.  The CARIFORUM-UK EPA eliminates all tariffs on all goods imported from CARIFORUM states into the UK, while those Caribbean states will continue to gradually cut import tariffs on most of the region’s imports from the UK.

Caribbean Basin Initiative

The Caribbean Basin Initiative facilitates the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies.  It promotes economic development through private sector initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean by expanding foreign and domestic investment in non-traditional sectors, diversifying country economies, and expanding their imports.  The Caribbean Basin Initiative provides beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.  It permits duty-free entry of products manufactured or assembled in St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the United States.

Caribbean/Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN)

CARIBCAN is an economic and trade development assistance program for Commonwealth Caribbean countries in which Canada provides duty-free access to its national market for most products originating in Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the following sectors: water, transportation, housing, transportation (ports), electricity, tourism, information and communication, telecommunications, investment and investment services, financial services, fisheries, agriculture, sports and culture, civil engineering, and infrastructure.

SOEs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are wholly owned government entities.  They are headed by boards of directors to which senior managers report.  They are governed by their respective legislation and do not generally pose a threat to investors, as they do not have a mandate to compete with private-sector companies.  There is no single published list of SOEs, though information about individual SOEs is available.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government and the public view responsible business conduct positively.  The private sector is involved in projects that benefit society, including in support of environmental, social, and cultural causes.  Individuals benefit from business-sponsored initiatives when employees of local and foreign-owned enterprises volunteer and when companies make monetary or in-kind donations to local causes.

The NGO community, while comparatively small, is involved in fundraising and volunteerism in gender, health, environmental, and community projects.  The government sometimes partners with NGOs and generally encourages philanthropy.

There are no alleged or reported human or labor rights concerns relating to responsible business conduct of which foreign businesses should be aware.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies or a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association.

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implements these laws.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a signatory to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, but not to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has the authority to prosecute a number of corruption-related offenses.  Corruption allegations are investigated by the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.  There is generally no statutory standard obligation for public officers to disclose financial information to a specific authority.  If confiscation proceedings are initiated or contemplated against a corrupt official, the courts can order disclosure of financial information.  The Financial Intelligence Unit has the authority to conduct financial investigations with a court order.

The law also provides for public access to information.  Only a narrow list of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure exists, but there is no specific timeline for relevant authorities to make the requested response or disclosure.  There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for not providing a response and there is no appeal mechanism for review of a disclosure denial.

10. Political and Security Environment

St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not have a recent history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance.  Elections are peaceful and regarded as being free and fair.  The next general elections are constitutionally due in 2025.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to the World Bank, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had an active labor force of approximately 54,945 persons in 2020.  The government generally enforces labor laws, and penalties are sufficient to deter violations.  The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the rights of workers to form and join unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes.  The law also provides that it is lawful to conduct peaceful picketing in contemplation of a trade dispute.  Trade unions and leaders of the trade union movement enjoy a strong voice in the labor and economic affairs of the country.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and dismissal for engagement in union activities.  Although the law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, a court may order reinstatement.

The International Labor Organization has noted with concern the discretionary authority of the government over trade union registration, and the government’s unfettered authority to investigate the financial accounts of trade unions.

The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act Chapter 215 provides for establishment of an arbitration tribunal and a board of inquiry in connection with trade disputes and allows provision for the settlement of such disputes.  Labor unions and businesses are generally satisfied with the arbitration panels, which have tripartite representation.  One of the mandates of the Department of Labor is to serve as a dispute resolution mechanism.

The Wages Council Act establishes the Wages Council, which addresses minimum wages, hours of work, overtime, vacation, sick leave, and maternity leave for specified categories of workers.  Employers who fail to pay minimum wages are subject to orders for the payment of the wages.  The statutory minimum wages are set out in regulations under the Wages Council Act.  The hours of work for specified categories of workers are usually eight hours per day with overtime generally calculated at a rate of time and a half and double time for work done on Sundays and public holidays.

The Equal Pay Act makes provision for the removal and prevention of discrimination, based on the sex of the employee, in the rates or remuneration for males and females in paid employment.  Teachers, police officers, public servants, the Medical Association, industrial workers, and some members of the private sector, especially in financial services, operate under collective bargaining agreements.

The Protection of Employment Act No. 20 of 2003 allows for severance.  Article 27 (1) allows employees to ask that their services be deemed as severed after six weeks of being laid off from work.  There is typically no unemployment insurance or other social security safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.  The government, however, offered limited cash grants to some workers whose employment was impacted by the layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law provides for a minimum working age of 16.  This provision is generally observed in practice.  Compulsory primary and secondary education policies reinforce minimum age requirements.  The Labor Department has a small cadre of labor inspectors who conduct spot investigations of enterprises and checked records to verify compliance with the labor laws.  These inspectors may refer cases to the police and the public prosecutor’s office for legal action against an employer who employs underage workers.

Investors in the country are responsible for maintaining workers’ rights and safeguarding the natural environment.  Workers have the right to report and/or leave unsafe work environments without risking their continued employment.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $823 2019 825 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 7 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 199.5 UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report 

* Source for Host Country Data: Eastern Caribbean Central Bank https://eccb-centralbank.org/statistics/dashboard-datas/ 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Political/Economic Section
U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
Telephone Number:  +1 246 –227 4000
Email Address:  BridgetownPolEcon@state.gov

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a high-income developing country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $15,425 and an annual GDP of $21.6 billion (2020). It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean and is the third most populous country in the region with 1.4 million inhabitants. The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP for 2022 will increase by 5.4 percent as the economy rebounds following the economic impact of COVID-19 mitigation. TT’s investment climate is generally open and most investment barriers have been eliminated, but stifling bureaucracy and opaque procedures remain.

Energy exploration and production drive TT’s economy. This sector has historically attracted the most foreign direct investment. The energy sector usually accounts for approximately half of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. Petrochemicals and steel are other sectors accounting for significant foreign investment. Since the economy is tethered to the energy sector, it is particularly vulnerable to fluctuating prices for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.

Since the last ICS, TT has rolled back several pandemic-related measures that affected the investment climate including reopening borders to air travel; ending the state of emergency that only permitted essential services to operate; reopening the hospitality and entertainment sector to vaccinated individuals; and reopening schools.

TT is working towards implementing its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Climate Agreement through 15 percent reduction is emissions from power generation (including by the ongoing construction of utility-scale renewable power generation plants), public transportation (through the conversion to compressed natural gas as a fuel, and development of an e-mobility policy) and industry by 2030. The TT government (GoTT) is developing policies on carbon capture and storage, but this technology has been predominantly used to inject carbon into hydrocarbon reservoirs for greater output.

There are no significant risks to responsibly doing business in areas such as labor and human rights.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 82 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 97 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $ 4,974 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $ 15,420 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

TT has 55 SOEs comprised of 43 wholly owned companies, eight majority-owned, and four in which the government has a minority share. SOEs are in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, financial services, transportation, and communication sectors. Information on the total assets of SOEs, total net income of SOEs and number of people employed by SOEs is not available. The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance appoints directors to the boards of state enterprises, reportedly at the direction of the Minister of Finance. SOEs are often informally or explicitly obligated to consult with government officials before making major business decisions. According to TT’s constitution, the government is entitled to:

  • exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise
  • appoint a majority of directors of the board of directors of the enterprise; and
  • hold at least 50 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the enterprise.

A published list of SOEs for 2022 can be found here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/2021/10/04/https-www-finance-gov-tt-wp-content-uploads-2021-10-state-enterprises-investment-programme-seip-2022-pdf/ 

In sectors that are open to both the private sector and foreign competition, SOEs are sometimes favored for government contracts, which might negatively impact U.S. investors in the market.

The country has not adhered to the OECD corporate governance guidelines for SOEs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is general awareness of expectations of, and standards for, responsible business conduct (RBC), including obligations to proactively conduct due diligence to ensure businesses are doing no harm, including with regards to environmental, social, and governance issues.

The GoTT has not put forward a clear definition of responsible business conduct, nor does it have specific policies to promote and encourage it. The GoTT has not conducted a national action plan on RBC, nor does it currently factor it into procurement decisions.

There are five reports of forced labor in the last 12 months. There are no reported claims in the last five years by indigenous or other communities that a government entity improperly allocated land or natural resources.

There have not been any high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.

TT has laws to ensure protection of human rights, labor rights, consumers, and the environment. Enforcement, however, is lacking due to staffing shortages, capacity issues, and a bureaucratic judiciary.

The GoTT, in collaboration with civil society, created the TT Corporate Governance Code, which incorporates governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The code, however, is not mandatory.

The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in TT that freely advocates for responsible business conduct and improved corporate governance practices in the Caribbean.

The GoTT does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies sourcing minerals originating from conflict-affected areas.

As a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the GoTT publicly declares annually all revenues received from companies engaged in the extractive industries. The companies, in turn, publicly declare payments to the government.

TT is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.

9. Corruption

Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:

  • The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
  • The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to public authorities’ official documents. The intention of the act was to address the public’s concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the act, designated officers in each ministry and statutory authority process applications for information.
  • The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.

The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. Effectiveness of these measures has been limited by a lack of thorough enforcement. These laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties. TT does not have laws or regulations to counter conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The GoTT has been a party to the development of corporate governance standards (non-binding) to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials. Some private companies, particularly the larger firms, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials, although this is not a government requirement.

TT adheres to the UN Anticorruption Convention. There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption, but investigations are not feared since corrupt actors are rarely punished.

U.S. firms often say corruption is an obstacle to FDI, particularly in government procurement, since TT’s procurement processes are not transparent.

10. Political and Security Environment

While non-violent demonstrations occasionally occur, widespread civil disorder is not typical. There have been no serious incidents of political violence since a coup attempt in 1990.

Subsequent to the closure of state oil firm Petrotrin in November 2018, which resulted in the lay-off of nearly 6,000 workers, there were reports of damage to installations.

Certain areas of TT are increasingly insecure due to a critical level of violent crime.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The labor market includes many skilled and experienced workers, and the educational level of the population is among the top 10 in North America, according to the Human Development Index, although there is a gap between official literacy statistics and functional literacy. In 2020, the International Labor Organization’s estimate of unemployment was 4.5 percent, while youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was estimated at 11.17 percent in 2020. Information on the informal economy is not widely available.

Agricultural employment accounts for 3.6 percent of total employment while employment in services accounts for over 60 percent. The estimated non-agricultural workforce in the informal economy is 10 percent of the overall labor force. TT’s workforce includes not only TT nationals but also citizens of 11 other CARICOM countries as part of the free movement of labor without the need to obtain a work permit. In 2019, TT granted 16,523 Venezuelan refugees and migrants the right to work in the country for a period of one year under a temporary protective status. In 2021, the GoTT allowed registered Venezuelan refugees a one-year extension of status. Some members of the business community have indicated that many migrant workers have returned to their countries of origin due to the unavailability of job opportunities following the pandemic related closures.

TT is a net importer of expatriate labor, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, and extractive industry specialists. There are surpluses of accountants and attorneys and shortages of unskilled workers for the hospitality, retail, and agriculture sectors. The GoTT subsidizes tertiary-level education for citizens whose income falls within a minimum range. The Multi-Sector Skills Training Program provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism for eligible citizens of TT. The GoTT also encourages continuing learning opportunities for the disadvantaged via the Skills Training Program, which develops skills that can aid in the creation of home-based production of goods and services and employment generation.

There is no government policy requiring hiring of nationals, although it is encouraged, particularly in the energy sector.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions via severance. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act provides guidance entitlements based on specific circumstances. Severance pay is usually only paid to retirees and workers who have been made redundant. An employer is not required to pay severance to workers if everyone is severed, since the business is being closed. However, if only a portion of the workforce is rendered redundant, the employer must pay severance. Unemployment insurance does not exist for workers who have been laid off for economic reasons, but programs designed to help job seekers get employed as quickly as possible are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted a 3-6-month unemployment benefit program for those laid off.

Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no separate labor law provisions for special economic zones, trade zones, or free ports.

Collective bargaining is common, with approximately 15 percent of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. Government workers, including civil servants, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and staff in several state-owned enterprises, are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Unions are also quite active in the energy, steel, and telecommunications industries. Collective bargaining takes place between the firm and the recognized majority union rather than on an industry-wide basis. The government as an employer also bargains collectively. The process of collective bargaining is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act. There are close to 30 active, independent labor unions in TT.

The Industrial Relations Act provides for dispute resolution through an industrial court in instances where the issue cannot be resolved by collective bargaining or through conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Labor.

There was no strike in the past year that posed an investment risk.

The International Labor Organization has not identified any compliance gaps in law or practice regarding international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. The GoTT does not have a labor inspectorate system to identify and remediate labor violations, but the industrial court investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or improper dismissal of union members.

There were no new labor related laws or regulations enacted or in draft over the last year.

14. Contact for More Information

Valerie Laboy
Economic-Commercial Officer
15 Queen’s Park West
Port of Spain, TT
+1 (868) 622-6371 ext. 5926
poscommercial@state.gov 

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