Barbados has a highly developed infrastructure that supports international business efforts and the insurance sector. Roger Crombie reports on some of the most important institutions.

Barbados has become one of the leading international business domiciles in the world, and its exempt insurance industry has been at the forefront of this development. The industry infrastructure supporting this growth includes expertise in insurance, investment management, accounting, legal and banking services. This expertise, together with a regulated, but flexible business environment and an expanding network of tax treaties, continues to attract significant international businesses to Barbados.

Barbados is an attractive domicile for both small and large international businesses operating under specialised legislation designed to facilitate global competitiveness. Tax treaties exist with many countries including Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. Negotiations are continuing with many other countries with a view to making Barbados a hub of international treaty-based financial activity.

There are several prominent elements of the infrastructure supporting international business activities, which play a vital role in encouraging the island's development as a business centre.

Ministry of Economic Development

The Ministry was established with specific responsibility for the encouragement and growth of a vibrant international business and financial services sector. It also has responsibility for the promotion of industrial development and the formulation and management of policy related to telecommunications. It oversees important legislation governing these operations and concessions available to the sector.

Its mission is to:

  • promote and facilitate investment in the manufacturing and services sectors;

  • to facilitate a competitive, fully liberalised telecommunications sector;

  • to foster and promote the development of export trade; and

  • to establish Barbados as the premier centre for international business and financial services.

    The Ministry comprises several divisions and departments:

  • the international business unit, which is responsible for advising on policy and establishing the legislative/supervisory framework for international business and financial services;

  • the industry and research division, which is responsible for advising on manufacturing and trade policies;

  • the telecommunications division, which is responsible for advising on telecommunication policy and for regulation of telecommunications;

  • the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) which has responsibility for the promotion and facilitation of investment;

  • the corporate affairs and intellectual property office, which has responsibility for, among other things, the incorporation and registration of companies, registration of business names, limited partnerships, the organisation of societies with restricted liability, and registration of trademarks, patents and industrial designs; and

  • economic planning, which is responsible for advising Government on the economic and social management of Barbados.

    The Ministry has a number of different programmes, including initiatives to:

  • secure and maintain adequate access to the global marketplace for Barbados' goods and services;

  • establish Barbados as the leading business, financial services and investment centre in the hemisphere;

  • administer the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office Act, CAP 21A and other legislation falling under it;

  • provide a reliable system of public records and an efficient registry service to support commercial activities towards the development of Barbados' domestic and international trade and business;

  • administer the Telecommunications Act 1991-1997 and related Acts which fall under the Ministry's jurisdiction;

  • promote the continued development of leading edge, broad bandwidth, high speed, low-cost digital telecommunications to aid the development of all the various economic sectors to make Barbados globally competitive;

  • actively promote domestic and foreign investment in the industrial and service sectors and provide, as necessary, fiscal and other incentives to investors, through the agency of the BIDC; and

  • promote the export of Barbadian goods and services and provide, through the BIDC, export and trade-related incentives to individual exporters.

    International Business Unit

    This unit was established with a mandate to develop international business and financial services within Barbados. It has principal responsibility for coordinating intra-governmental liaison affecting the international business and financial services sector and is also responsible for oversight of international business companies, societies with restricted liabilities and foreign sales corporations.

    Programmes assigned to the unit include projects aiming to:

  • foster the growth of the international business and financial services sector by identifying present and potential roles of Barbados as a high quality international business centre;

  • coordinate the work of the Advisory Committee on International Business, which was established to advise the Ministry of Economic Development on its programme for the development of the international business and financial services sector;

  • advise on desirable changes in legislation or the introduction of new legislation to ensure the competitiveness and growth of the Barbados economy;

  • act as a catalyst to stimulate the private and public sectors, academia and other groups within and outside Barbados in order to develop the economy;

  • facilitate the efficient processing of applications for the international business sector; and

  • develop a network of bilateral investment and double taxation agreements and coordination of their negotiation.

    The unit is staffed with a cadre of professionals who possess qualifications in law, management, economics and information technology.

    Central Bank of Barbados

    The mission of the Central Bank of Barbados is to foster a sound economic and financial environment that promotes the development of its stakeholders and encourages a culture of excellence and leadership. The bank was established in May 1972 by the Government of Barbados to advance the pace of economic development in the country. Prior to 1972, the East Caribbean Currency Authority (ECCA) was the institution responsible for the management of monetary matters for most of the smaller Eastern Caribbean countries, including Barbados.

    At its inception, the Central Bank of Barbados had certain stated objectives, which included:

  • promoting monetary stability;

  • promoting a sound financial structure;

  • fostering development of the money and capital markets;

  • channelling commercial bank credit into productive activities; and

  • fostering credit and exchange conditions conducive to the orderly and sustained economic development of Barbados.

    The Central Bank of Barbados is now the leading financial institution in the country and its main policy is to formulate, in association with Government, monetary and fiscal policies to assist with the country's economic development programme.

    Barbados Investment and Development Corporation

    The mission statement of the BIDC is to be a world-class business development agency, the most effective in the Caribbean region and to be noted for its excellent service. The BIDC is the industrial development agency of the Barbados Government, and it has special responsibility for promoting and facilitating the establishment and expansion of business enterprises in Barbados, and for export promotion of Barbados's goods and services.

    It also administers the Government's incentive programme for industry and provides a variety of free advisory services for companies looking to establish business entities on the island, particularly in the areas of information technology, manufacturing and financial services. In implementing this function, the BIDC, through its five divisions in Barbados, acts as a catalyst, facilitator and coordinator, in ensuring that the requirements of its clients are met.

    BIDC provides a variety of services aimed at developing business in Barbados, including:

  • social, political and economic information on Barbados;

  • an explanation of incentive legislation;

  • assistance in preparing applications for benefits and incentives;

  • technical advice on factory location;

  • provision of office/factory space at competitive rental rates;

  • liaison between investors and appropriate Government departments;

  • consultation with investors at the initial negotiation stages with private sector organisations; and

  • assistance in preparing work permit applications.

    Barbados International Insurance Association

    The Barbados International Insurance Association (BIIA) was formed in 1986 as an association of insurance managers licensed under the Exempt Insurance Act 1983, and the majority of licensed active exempt insurance managers and self-managed captives in Barbados are members. It has established a code of ethics that governs the conduct and integrity of its members, and acts as a liaison body between the industry, Government and other service suppliers.

    The BIIA plays an active role in expanding the awareness of the importance of the international business sector to the local economy. In addition, the association promotes educational programmes with the goal of expanding the base of industry-related Barbados professionals.

    The range of services provided by insurance managers includes maintenance of statutory and other financial records, active insurance management, the issuance of insurance and reinsurance contracts, monitoring margins of solvency and acting as liaison among bankers, lawyers, investment managers, auditors and other service providers.

    Securities Exchange of Barbados

    The Securities Exchange of Barbados (SEB) was established in June 1987, as a self-governing body that provides a marketplace, where its members, the stockbrokers or shareholders, meet to buy and sell shares on behalf of their clients. Requirements for listing are as follows:

  • evidence of gross revenue or assets in excess of Bds$1m;

  • adequate working capital;

  • competent company management;

  • a positive dividend profile over the three preceding years; and

  • a listed company must maintain a transfer and registry office in Barbados.

    The Insurance Institute of Barbados, Inc

    The Insurance Institute of Barbados was founded in September 1976, as the educational arm of the insurance industry and has two main forms of membership - individual and corporate.

    The objectives of the institute are to:

  • promote, encourage and organise training and education in all aspects of insurance at all levels;

  • establish and maintain an insurance library;

  • facilitate and protect the welfare and interest of the Institute and the insurance profession in Barbados; and

  • encourage the highest standards of professional etiquette and ethics among the members and the observance of such standards amongst non-members.

    Association of the Insurance Institute of the Caribbean

    The Association of the Insurance Institute of the Caribbean (AIIC) was formed in 1989 on the initiative of the Insurance Association of the Caribbean. Member companies include the Insurance Institutes of Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago.