Minister of Finance and the Economy Harold Lovell says that government will continue to financially bail out ABI Bank despite continued ambiguity concerning the future of the country’s relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Having seized control of Robert Allen Stanford’s two banks in recent days , Antiguan government officials are now pledging to work closely with American regulators to investigate their banking system, long suspected by federal officials of being a center for laundering money from around the region. “We are prepared to cooperate fully with the Americans in probing this whole affair,” Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer said on Sunday evening.
Antigua and Barbuda, once described by the US as a centre for money laundering, was recognised by an international task force in 2001 as being "fully cooperative" in the fight against the activity. In 2009, the country's economy - and the reputation of its financial regulatory system - was rocked by news that its single biggest investor, Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, had been charged with massive fraud by the US authorities.
According to a State Department report last year , the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda “remains susceptible to money laundering because of its offshore financial sectors and Internet gaming industry.” It noted that Antigua had 17 offshore banks, three offshore trusts, two offshore insurance companies and 23 licensed Internet gaming companies.
Tourism continues to dominate Antigua and Barbuda's economy, accounting for nearly 60% of GDP and 40% of investment. The dual-island nation's agricultural production is focused on the domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction. Manufacturing comprises enclave-type assembly for export with major products being bedding, handicrafts, and electronic components.
Antigua is the main population centre and the focus for business and tourism. Relatively-undeveloped Barbuda is home to smaller, exclusive resorts and a sanctuary for frigate birds.
Long before the Spaniards arrived, the islands had been settled by several different groups of Amerindians--Siboney (or Ciboney), Taino, Arawak and Caribs--who had passed through the Caribbean from South America. There is evidence of Amerindian Siboney settlements dating back to 2000BC.
Early settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English who formed a colony in 1667. Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834. The islands became an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1981.
Antigua was 'discovered' by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage of exploration in 1493. He named the island after Santa Maria de la Antigua, the miracle-working patron saint of the cathedral in Seville, Spain, from whose port his expedition sailed.
Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-ga) is a small Caribbean island located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles island chain. The 108 square mile island is complimented by Barbuda lying just 27 miles to the north and the uninhabited Redonda, 24 miles to the southwest. Approximately 70,000 people live on Antigua, all residing in the capital of St. John's or in the numerous villages sprawled across the island.