St Vincent & the Grenadines

KEY FACTS

Joined Commonwealth: 1979

Population: 109,000 (2010)

GDP p.c. growth: 3.6% p.a. 1990–2010

UN HDI 2011: world ranking 85

Official language: English

Time: GMT minus 4hr

Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)

Geography

 

Area: 389.3 sq km

Coastline: 84km

Capital: Kingstown

 

St Vincent and the Grenadines, one of the Windward Island countries of the Eastern Caribbean, lies near the southern end of the Caribbean chain, about 97km north of Grenada. The country comprises six parishes, one of which being Grenadines.

Area: Total land area 389.3 sq km: St Vincent 344 sq km, and the Grenadines 45.3 sq km.

Topography: The country comprises the island of St Vincent and the northern Grenadines, a series of 32 islands and cays, stretching south-west towards Grenada. (The southern Grenadine islands are part of Grenada.) The larger northern Grenadines are Bequia (pronounced Beck-way), Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Isle D’Quatre and Union Island.

Climate: Tropical, moderated by trade winds in June/July. The dry season is January to May, the rainy season May/June to September.  There is significantly heavier rainfall in the mountainous interior. Tropical storms and hurricanes may occur June–November.

Environment: The most significant environmental issue is pollution of coasts and coastal waters by discharges from yachts and from industrial plants on shore.

Vegetation: The mountains of St Vincent support a luxuriant growth of tropical forest; coconuts and the more typical tropical coral island vegetation occur on the Grenadines and coastal fringes of St Vincent island. Forest covers 69% of the land area, having increased at 0.4% p.a. 1990–2010. The botanical gardens, founded in 1765, conserve rare species, including the mangosteen fruit tree, and a descendant from Captain Bligh’s original breadfruit tree.

Wildlife: The Buccament Valley east of Layou is a tropical rainforest reserve, home to the endangered St Vincent parrot, as well as many other species such as the unique whistling warbler. Bequia’s rich marine flora and fauna make it a popular resort for divers.

Main towns: Kingstown (capital, pop. 16,500 in 2010), Georgetown (1,400), Byera (1,200), Biabou (900) and Chateaubelair (630) on St Vincent; Port Elizabeth (770) on Bequia in the Grenadines.

Transport: There are 829km of roads, 70% paved. Cruiseships call at St Vincent. A mail boat runs several times a week through the Grenadines and ferries operate between the islands.  E T Joshua International Airport is at Arnos Vale, 3km south-east of Kingstown. There are small airports/airstrips on Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mustique. A new international airport was due to be opened at Argyle in the east of St Vincent in 2012.

Economy:  St Vincent and the Grenadines has a relatively undeveloped economy, nevertheless providing a relatively high quality of life. It is vulnerable as the economic base is very small, and is heavily dependent on agriculture and especially bananas.

The main export crop, bananas, was sold to the EU under its preferential arrangements, but since these ended in 2007, Caribbean banana producers have faced a tougher competitive environment, and small, less efficient producers have moved out of banana production. The government has encouraged diversification into tourism, manufacturing, offshore finance and call centres, and has promoted growth of the private sector.

Economic growth fluctuates with agricultural output and prices on world markets. The economy has, however, been prudently managed and inflation and debt have generally been relatively modest. By the mid-2000s, with new investment in tourism infrastructure, economic growth was strong – averaging 5.6% p.a. 2004–08 – but in the face of the world economic downturn of 2008–09, slowed sharply in 2008 (1.7%) and contracted in 2009 (–1.2%) and 2010 (–1.3%).

The economy is robust and diverse, benefiting from a low inflation rate and growing opportunities in the trade and export sectors. Infrastructure is sound, with upgrades to sea ports and road network. International airport is currently under construction and due for completion by the end of 2012. Twenty percent (20%) of power is hydro generated. St. Vincent and The Grenadines is conducting research into renewable energy source, possesses excellent and modern telecommunications infrastructure as well as dependable sewerage and water facilities. All of this is supported by a healthy business environment that is investor focused.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a stunning archipelago in the Eastern Caribbean, has long awed visitors with its beauty. It is a stable democracy, with a government which places emphasis on providing a favourable investment climate sound legislature and, an aggressive incentive regime make the islands a business haven. With Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at 25.1% of its GDP, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an emerging and developing investment arena, with one of the highest rates of foreign investment in the Caribbean

 

Investment Opportunities:

Airport Development

The Government is cognizant of the fact that all of the necessary infrastructure must be in place to facilitate FDI and any other Private Sector development. Significant strides have been made in this regard, with perhaps one of the most critical projects being the enhancement of the island’s capacity to facilitate air transport. St.Vincent and the Grenadines is now accepting proposals for a Public/Private partnership for the development of a jetport on the mainland This project is even more timely in light of the heightened emphasis on export development, tourism and hotel development.

Upscale Tourism

The further diversification of the tourism industry into upscale and niche markets has led to investments facilities such as convention centres, yacht facilities and professional golf courses. Incentives are now being offered to hotel developers interested in facilities in excess of 100 rooms. This sort of development is actively being encouraged in light of the proposed airport development and the exotic appeal of the islands, which have attracted investors such as the Mustique Company Ltd, Raffles Resorts, Donald Trump and Disney.

Sports Tourism

Sports Tourism will receive a major boost with the construction of a National Stadium. Proposals are being invited from investors for a partnership in the construction of this Stadium. The stadium will house an international sized athletic track, an international sized football field and an Olympic sized swimming pool.  St.Vincent and the Grenadines has become an ideal location for Sports Tourism as the tranquility of the islands ensure that athletes do not suffer the distractions prevalent in other locations. The capacity for sports tourism will be further enhanced by the impending increase in hotel accommodation.

Film Industry

As the Government continues to diversify the economy away from the traditional dependence on agricultural revenues, headway has already been made in a number of sectors. The sheer natural beauty of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has contributed immensely to the success of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Information Technology

Heavy investments in higher education in Information Technology and plans for a new technology park will increase investment prospects in this sector. Value added services to telecommunications, Intellectual Property, Research & Development and Medical transcriptions are areas for investments that can be pursued in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. Knowledge of English as a first language is a clear advantage over countries in the Far East in the transcription of medical notes dictated by Physicians. Similarly, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines is an attractive location, particularly since individual companies with proprietary software are finding it attractive to register offshore.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Investment Incentive Schemes

St. Vincent & The Grenadines provides investment incentives in the areas of light manufacturing, agroprocessing, information technology, film, international financial services, tourism and other services. Benefits include tax holidays, repatriation of profits, duty free concessions and consumption tax exemptions. Tax holidays vary between 10 years and 15 years (the current nominal corporation tax rate in SVG is 32.5%, down from 40% just a few years ago).

The Fiscal Incentive Act No.5 of 1982, specifies five groups of enterprises; the length of the tax holiday depends on the amount of the value added to a product in SVG, the level of employment, inter-industry and sectoral linkages, the opportunity to earn foreign exchange, and the level of investment.

The main investment promotional agency is Invest SVG launched in August 2009, formerly knows as the National Investment Promotions Incorporated (NIPI) agency, which launched on August 16, 2004, and reports to the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.