An unknown number of American investors have complained to United States government officials about alleged corruptive practices by some unnamed “political actors” in Barbados.
Other US company representatives have also informed authorities from their homeland of what they considered “unfair treatment” from Customs and Excise Department personnel here.
The allegations are part of a 2013 Investment Climate Statement on Barbados released by the US State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs last month.
While not giving specific examples of the claims about the corrupt practices mentioned, or dates when they were alleged to have taken place, the wording of the document, intended to advise US investors who might be thinking about pumping money into business ventures in Barbados, implied there was more than one instance of such an occurrence.
Under the sub-heading Corruption, the US statement, which is one of 75 on various jurisdictions released last month, said: “Corruption is not a major problem in Barbados, but some US companies have reported unfair treatment by Barbados’ Customs and Excise Department.
It then added, “Other US companies have reported efforts by political actors to trade political support for payment or partial project ownership.”
This section was the major negative in a generally positive report, which at the outset said “the Government of Barbados, through Invest Barbados, strongly encourages foreign direct investment in Barbados”.
“The government offers special incentive packages for foreign investments in the hotel industry, manufacturing, and offshore business services,” the statement noted.
“The services sector holds the largest potential for growth, especially in the areas of financial services, e-commerce, tourism, educational, health, and cultural services. In agriculture, the slow demise of the sugar industry has opened up land for other agricultural uses, and investment opportunities exist in the areas of agro-processing, alternative and renewable energy, and hydroponics.
“In the financial services sector, the Government has improved its regulatory oversight, and the industry is thriving under better regulatory standards, designed to prevent money laundering and tax evasion.”
The report also said island “uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition and establish clear rules for foreign and domestic investors in the areas of tax, labour, environment, health, and safety”.
Barbados’ corporate social responsibility including that “among both producers and consumers”, private sector involvement in projects benefitting society, NGO involvement in fundraising and voluntarism in gender, health, environmental and community projects, and government’s encouragement of philanthropy was also praised, as was the fact that “local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors in order to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital”.
One negative however, was the view that not only was the island’s regulatory system “slow at times”, but that some US companies “have complained that the Ministry of Finance does not give adequate justification for rejecting a licence”.
Additionally, the US government statement said American companies had previously found it difficulty to get permission to operate in certain areas of business activity.
“Barbados’ economy is small, however, and new enterprises that might compete with entrenched local establishments, especially in the retail and restaurant sector, may face a de facto veto of their licence by local interests,” it stated.
“In the past, the Government did not approve, or considerably delayed, licences for importers of US ice cream and poultry products, and some US fast food franchises.”
The investment climate statement on Barbados, which is one of those updated annually by US embassies and consulates abroad, are expected to “provide US firms with country-specific information and assessments on investment laws, measures and other important business-related factors in foreign markets”.
The US said the statements “support US Government efforts to ensure that US businesses have the information they need to make informed decisions on investment in foreign markets”. (SC)