Country Rankings - Antigua and Barbuda
Oct 16, 2014 Antigua and Barbuda: pluckyCredit to the tiny Caribbean territory of Antigua and Barbuda, which is doggedly continuing to stick to its guns in a trade dispute with the mighty United States; if ever there was a David versus Goliath contest between nations, in the non-military sense at least, then this must be it. But then it's not difficult to see why plucky Antigua keeps chipping away at this issue when it is so obviously in the right from a legal standpoint, and has been so grievously harmed economically as a result. The matter in dispute is a change in US laws some years ago which effectively shut offshore-based e-gaming operators out of the very lucrative US market. One may not be comfortable with the rise of the e-gaming and gambling industry from a moral point of view. But the flip side to this coin is that hundreds, if not thousands, of precious, skilled and well-paying jobs have been lost in a country that has little to fall back on economically apart from tourism – the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority estimates that 3,500 Antiguans and Barbudans have experience or have had specific training in the industry, out of a total population of just 100,000. The far-sighted Government of Antigua and Barbuda was well ahead of the competition when it put in place the first set of laws to licence and regulate interactive gaming and wagering companies in 1994. Exploiting access to two separate undersea fibre networks, by the year 2000 the number of internet gambling licensees in the jurisdiction had grown to 93, the jurisdiction's industry was turning over USD1.7bn, had a 60 percent share of the global market and employed 1,600 people. Then, in the early 2000s came a series of enforcement actions against providers of e-gaming services to the US, followed by new legislation effectively banning US financial institutions from processing payments made to and from offshore e-gaming firms. These actions wrecked the sector in Antigua and Barbuda, which by 2003 had lost 80 percent of its e-gaming and sportsbook firms. More reprehensible, however, is how the US Government ignored subsequent WTO rulings in favor of the Caribbean nation, and effectively picked up its ball and stomped home when it rescinded one of its services agreements under GATT. Despite repeated protestations by Antigua and no less than former WTO chief Pascal Lamy, the US remains completely unmoved by A&B's plight. I'm glad that USTR Michael Froman has agreed to discuss this issue once again, but, sorry to say A&B, I'll be really surprised if the meeting leads to anything more than the usual empty promises to review the situation.
Nov 21, 2013 Antigua and Barbuda: talkingLet's hope that this week's talks between Antigua and Barbuda (David) and the USA (Goliath) represent an outbreak of sanity in one of the silliest and least constructive episodes in recent international relations. I'm offering bouquets on a provisional basis, because it could all still go wrong. So far the progress of the affair has not reflected credit on anyone, except possibly the WTO, which has tried to walk a tightrope between on the one hand infuriating the US, and on the other failing to support a member country which on the face of it has been damaged. I'm not going to try to allocate blame for the original blow-up: it was probably foolish and short-sighted of Antigua to help itself with such insouicance at the free-lunch counter of offshore gaming; but the US, while justified from any legal perspective in its original actions against the operators of Antiguan sites, has seemed unwilling to compromise in subsequent negotiations. The strict US laws against inter-state and international gaming, whatever their original justification in a pre-Internet age, hardly seem fit for purpose in a wired-up, interconnected world, and indeed they are gradually being bypassed, at least for domestic operators, by more modern legislation both at state and federal level. It's time to let down the barriers internationally; and if it's done in a sensible way, the result could be a win-win situation for all concerned: American consumers, the US Treasury and the Davids of The Caribbean.
Sep 12, 2013 Antigua and Barbuda: open for businessBuying and selling citizenship is quite a thriving business. Countries often don't talk too much about it, although almost all of them do it in one way or another: you want to be British? Australian? Russian? It will cost you just a few million bucks (you can be Russian just by purloining a few million US state papers, but that does carry some risks and you won't be able to go to the Super Bowl any longer). The latest country to play the game is Antigua and Barbuda, which plans to open a Citizenship by Investment Unit, said the Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. This is a practical way of making money for the tiny country, which lost its golden geese when the US Justice Department landed like a ton of bricks on its e-gaming sector a few years back. More practical than the trade sanctions which the WTO is allowing Antigua to impose on the US by way of contravening IP rights. I must say I do find that a most peculiar suggestion: normally I strongly support the WTO, but how can it be right to allow Antigua to take the intellectual property of US companies? They will run yelling to Uncle Sam, who will presumably have to compensate them. Is that a recipe for future good relations between the US and Antigua? There will be no winners in that game.
Feb 28, 2013 Antigua and Barbuda: stays the courseAnother miniscule island statelet which has not been helped by the exotic behaviour of a senior figure is Antigua and Barbuda, which is now trying to extricate itself from the consequences of the Allen Stanford debacle (he is serving 110 years for fraud in a Florida penitentiary) and is itself being sued for megabucks over the affair. More damaging to Antigua, though, was its ill-thought-out bet on internet gaming as a passport to riches, which has brought it head to head with the United States, one David versus Goliath combat which may not have a Biblical ending. Anyway, my award to Antigua is for tackling its fiscal problems in a coherent way without taxing the life out of its citizens. CARICOM is offering to help the islands in their battle with the US, which is noble but probably misconceived. Câ€™est magnifique, mais ce nâ€™est pas la guerre: c'est de la folie. Said about the Charge of the Light Brigade by a French general, but will serve very nicely for our purpose.