Freedom in the World
Antigua and Barbuda
Political Rights: 33 / 40 (+2) [Key]
Civil Liberties: 49 / 60
In April 2015, Parliament passed a controversial banking act that increases the regulatory authority of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank over banks in Antigua and Barbuda. The move was in part a response to a financial crisis that had been sparked by a Ponzi scheme involving American investor R. Allen Stanford. Although a group of defrauded investors sued the government of Antigua and Barbuda in 2013, claiming that top officials were aware of Stanford’s scheme and benefited from it, no Antiguan officials connected to the Stanford case have been brought to trial. The 2015 banking act provoked strong protests by the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union because of restrictions on employee rights, especially severance payments, and the amount of authority the law delegates to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Similar legislation was passed in other Caribbean countries.
Elections are administered by an Independent Elections Commission, whose effectiveness has improved since the 2009 elections. The electoral law now calls for continuous registration, which is considered more inclusive than the limited time period for registration that had previously been allowed for. Amendments to the Representation of the People Act were proposed in 2015 that would increase transparency in the campaign finance system.
Antigua and Barbuda has seen gradual improvement in accountability structures since 2004, when the government enacted a Freedom of Information Act. The Public Accounts Committee can also expose governmental improprieties and wrongdoings, but historically it has not functioned effectively and there have been lengthy delays in submission of the Auditor General’s report.
The country took initial steps in 2015 to join the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), with both major political parties signing a Memorandum of Understanding on constitutional reform in July. If successful, this would mean that the CCJ would replace the British Privy Council as the final court of appeal for the country.
The legislature abolished criminal defamation in April 2015, though certain similar cyber crimes remain subject to imprisonment or large fines under the Electronic Crimes Act of 2013.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2016. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Antigua and Barbuda, see Freedom in the World 2015.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year