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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country facts

Area: 442 sq km (Antigua 281 sq km; Barbuda 161 sq km)
Population: 85,700 (EIU 2007 Estimate). Barbuda's population of 1,500 live mostly in or near the town of Codrington.
Capital city: St John's City. This is the main commercial centre of Antigua and has the largest harbour, capable of berthing five ships, and sometimes more.
People: Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labour in the sugarcane fields. About 10% of the population consists of Hispanic immigrants, mainly from the Dominican Republic. Nationals from Jamaica, Dominica and Guyana have also settled on the island.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Predominantly Anglican, but also Moravian, Methodist and Roman Catholic
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (EC$) US$1.00 = 2.70EC$
Political parties: United Progressive Party (UPP); Antigua Labour Party (ALP); Barbuda People's Movement (BPM)
Government: A constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style Parliament. The bicameral legislature comprises a 17-member House of Representatives (the lower house) elected every five years and a Senate (upper house) of 17 appointed members. The United Progressive Party holds nine seats, the Antigua Labour Party seven and the Barbuda People’s Movement hold the Barbuda seat.
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II represented by HE the Governor General, Dame Louise Lacke-Tack GCMG.
Prime Minister/Premier: The Hon Baldwin Spencer
Foreign Minister: The Hon Baldwin Spencer
Membership of international groups/organisations: ACP, CARICOM, CDB, Commonwealth, ECLAC, FAO, G77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMG, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM (observer), OAS OECS, OPANAL, UN UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WTO. Antigua was Chair of the G77 in 2008.

DID YOU KNOW?

Antigua has 365 beaches....one for each day of the year.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$ 1.18 Billion (2009 est-CIA World factbook)
GDP per head: US$ 18,100 (2009 est CIA World factbook)
Annual growth: -6.5% (2009 est CIA World factbook)
Inflation: 1.0% (2009 avg EIU)
Major industries: Tourism, construction, light manufacturing, offshore financial sector
Major trading partners: United States, UK, OECS, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.
Agricultural products: Cotton, fruits, vegetables, bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, sugar cane and livestock.

Antigua and Barbuda is an upper middle income country with a small open economy. Social indicators are relatively good. However Antigua and Barbuda’s base is very narrow, depending mostly on tourism for foreign exchange earnings, employment and revenue. Tourism is the major industry with hotels and restaurants employing around 75% of the workforce. But Antigua is a high-cost destination.

Gross tourism revenue amounts to almost 50% of Antigua and Barbuda’s GDP. According to figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, total visitor arrivals of 234,410 to the end of Dec 2009 was a decrease of 11.8% over the same period for 2008. Over the years, the government has accumulated large fiscal deficits and debt repayment arrears, which have adversely affected the country’s creditworthiness and its ability to access external funding for its Public Sector Investment Programme. Public sector debt levels are 108% of GDP

Agricultural production (3.8% of GDP) is mainly directed to the domestic market and is constrained by the limited water supply and labour shortages that reflect the attraction of higher wages in the tourism and construction industries. Small manufacturing outlets produce goods for export including bedding, handicrafts and electronic components. The manufacturing sector accounts for about 1.9% of GDP.

In November 2008 the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that Antigua and Barbuda would be added to the list of countries allowed to advertise remote gambling in the UK as if it were a European Economic Area state.

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HISTORY

The first settlements on Antigua date from about 2400 BC, and were composed of the Siboney (an Arawak word meaning 'stone-people'), peripatetic Meso-Indians whose shell and stone tools have been found at dozens of sites around the island. Antigua was later settled by the pastoral, agricultural Arawaks (35-1100 AD), who were then displaced by the Caribs, an aggressive people who ranged all over the Caribbean. The earliest European contact with the island was made by Christopher Columbus during his second Caribbean voyage (1493), who sighted the island in passing and named it after Santa Maria la Antigua, the miracle-working saint of Seville. European settlement, however, did not occur for over a century, largely because of Antigua's dearth of fresh water and abundance of determined Carib resistance. Finally, in 1632, a group of Englishmen from St Kitts established a successful settlement. Sir Christopher Codrington arrived in Antigua in 1684. He had come to Antigua to find out if the island would support the sort of large-scale sugar cultivation that already flourished elsewhere in the Caribbean. His initial efforts proved to be quite successful, and over the next 50 years sugar cultivation on Antigua exploded. By the middle of the 18th century there were more than 150 cane-processing windmills on the island, each the focal point of a sizeable plantation.

By the end of the 18th century Antigua had become an important strategic port as well as a commercial colony. Known as the 'gateway to the Caribbean', it was situated in a position that offered control over the major sailing routes to and from the region's rich island colonies. Horatio Nelson arrived in 1784 at the head of the Squadron of the Leeward Islands to develop the British naval facilities at English Harbour and to enforce stringent commercial shipping laws. It was during King William IV's reign, in 1834, that Britain abolished slavery in its empire. Antigua instituted immediate full emancipation rather than a 4-year 'apprenticeship' as in the other British Caribbean colonies. Emancipation actually improved the island's economy, but the sugar industry of the British islands was already beginning to wane. Until the development of tourism in the past few decades, Antiguans struggled for prosperity. The rise of a strong labour movement in the 1940s, under the leadership of V.C. Bird, provided the impetus for independence. In 1967, with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redonda as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 it gained independence as a unitary state, despite a strong campaign for separate independence by the inhabitants of Barbuda.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Antigua and Barbuda's Relations with its Neighbours

Antigua and Barbuda enjoys close relations with its neighbours. It is an active member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and shares a common currency and common judiciary with the other six full members and two associate members of the Organisation. Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which has established a single market. It co-ordinates its foreign policy with the member states of CARICOM.

Antigua and Barbuda's Relations with the International Community

Antigua and Barbuda greatly values its membership of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations. Within the Commonwealth, Antigua and Barbuda advances the agenda of Small States in the international community. Venezuela, China and Cuba have Embassies in Antigua and Barbuda. It was the Chair of the G77 in 2008.

Antigua and Barbuda's relations with the UK

UK/Antiguan relations are excellent. A Bilateral Asset Confiscation Agreement to stem the proceeds of crime was signed in 1997. A Transfer of Prisoners Agreement was signed on 23 June 2003. Antigua hosted the second round, 'Super 8', of the Cricket World Cup in March/April 2007 in their new stadium, the 'Sir Vivian Richards' stadium, located on the outskirts of St John’s. Antigua hosted the 3rd test of the England vs. West Indies Cricket tour from 15-19 February 2009.

The UK Government hosted the (6th) bi-annual UK/Caribbean Ministerial Forum from 14-16 July 2008. UK and Caribbean ministers, including Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, met to discuss mutual co-operation on a range of issues including: economic development; climate change; security and migration. Most recently, FCO Minister Jeremy Browne met Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer during the UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum in Grenada in January 2012.

Transforming the Caribbean Economy - new avenues for investment
(http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20080205132101/fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/report%20on%20investment%20conference%20final.pdf) Summary report on conference held on Thursday 2 November at Lancaster House, London [PDF, 45KB, 4 pages]

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council in Kingston, Jamaica has responsibility for the whole of the Caribbean.

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GEOGRAPHY

The State comprises Antigua, the largest of the Leeward Islands, its sister island of Barbuda (30 miles away) and uninhabited Redonda. These islands are situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, east-southeast of Puerto Rico. There are a total of 153km of coastline. Antigua is mainly coral-based, but is of volcanic origin in the south. Barbuda is a flat coral island. The climate is tropical, with little variation between the seasons. Antigua and Barbuda lies within the hurricane belt.

UK Development Assistance

The Department for International Development (DFID) are moving away from discrete stand-alone bilateral projects and work closely with large organisations such as the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Commission. DFID has a number of sub-regional and regional initiatives which Antigua and Barbuda benefits from. These include Technical Assistance to the Caribbean Development Bank; technical assistance to the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery; support to CARICOM with implementation of the regional strategic framework on HIV/AIDS; support to the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) and to the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD).

The EU funded a Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) in Antigua. The management of the project has now been taken over by Antigua.

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POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

Baldwin Spencer's United Progressive Party (UPP) won a narrow victory to secure a second term in office in Antigua and Barbuda's general election on 12 March 2009. The UPP won nine of the 17 seats with Lester Bird's Antigua Labour Party (ALP) winning seven and the UPP-aligned Barbuda People's Movement (BPM) securing the Barbuda seat. Since assuming power the UPP government has embarked on a programme of good governance passing legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, Prevention of Corruption Act and Integrity in Public Life Act. The government’s major challenge has been economic reform and tackling the high debt accumulated by the previous administration.

Barbuda has its own 11 member Council headed by its Chairman, Mr Kelvin Punter. The Council has responsibility for electricity, water and education. The island’s main foreign exchange earner is tourism with a small number of small, luxurious hotels. With limited infrastructure, the island of Barbuda, home to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, is developed with due regard to the environment. Some years ago there was talk of secession from Antigua but this is no longer an issue.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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