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Country Facts

Area: 430 sq km; 166 sq miles
Population: 275,000 (June 2007)
Capital City: Bridgetown
People: About 80% of Barbados's population are of African descent, 4% European descent, and 16% mixed. Barbados's population growth rate has been very low, less than 1% since the 1960s.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other (e.g. also small Jewish and Muslim communities) 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, other 12%, none 17%.
Currency: Barbadian Dollar (BBD) which is tied to the US Dollar. US$1= BDD1.998
Major Political Parties: Democratic Labour Party (DLP); Barbados Labour Party (BLP); People's Empowerment Party (PEP).
Government: Barbados is an independent state within the Commonwealth. It has a bicameral parliament consisting of a House of Assembly, with 30 members directly elected to serve a five-year term, and a Senate, with 21 members appointed by the Governor General (12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, two on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, seven by the Governor General alone). Executive power is vested in the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, who is leader of the majority party in the elected Assembly. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1951. The three political parties are all moderate. The BLP is a party of the centre, but lies to the right of the DLP in the political spectrum. The parties have no major ideological differences: electoral contests and political disputes often have personal overtones. The legal system is based on Common Law.
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands GCMG KA
Prime Minister: The Hon. David J.H. Thompson, MP
Foreign Minister: Senator Maxine McClean
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Barbados' memberships include: The Commonwealth, CARICOM, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), UN, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNESCO, Organisation of American States (OAS), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), IMF, WHO, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

Did You Know?

The grapefruit originates from Barbados.

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Life expectancy (2005 est.): 76.6 years (men: 73.6 years, women: 79.3 years)
Infant mortality (2005 est.): 11 per 1,000 life births
People living with HIV/AIDS (2005): 2700 (UNAIDS)
Adult HIV prevalence (% 2005): 1.5 (UNAIDS)


Levels of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean are second only to those of southern Africa. In Barbados. AIDS is now the second biggest killer in the 20 to 45 year age group and most of them are heterosexual cases.

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP, current prices: US$ 3,714m(2009) (EIU)Annual Growth: –5.6% (2009 EIU)
Inflation: 3.5% (2009 est EIU)
Major Economic Sectors: tourism, offshore financial services, construction and utilities, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export, agriculture, information technology services.
Major export partners 2008: CARICOM 30.2%, US 9.1%, Other 13%, UK 8.2% (EIU)
Major import partners (2008): US 28.1%, CARICOM 27.4%, UK 3.9%, Other 13%, Europe 9.1% (EIU)

After eight years of steady growth in the mid- to late-1990s, the economy contracted slightly at the beginning of the century. The downturn was mainly caused by a slump in the key tourist industry, with falling overall numbers in tourist arrivals and low hotel occupancy, made worse by the events of 11th September 2001. The Government of Barbados launched a series of tourism initiatives to increase airlift capacity and earmarked a substantial amount of money for an advertising campaign aimed at the US and European markets. This resulted in a return to growth, up to a peak of 4.9% in 2004, although this has subsequently fallen slightly to 4.3% in 2007.

The tourism sector, which depends to a high degree on the UK (provides approximately 55% of visitors. Some 340,000 British tourists (including cruise ship passengers) visited in 2010).

Visitor numbers from other Caribbean countries have fallen due to high regional airfares. However, high fuel costs, shorter cruise ship itineraries and fewer cruise ship visits to Barbados remain of concern to industry operators, along with uncertainties over UK consumer demand. Similar slowdowns in mainland Europe will have a slight impact, but they are much less important to the economy in comparison with the British market.

Offshore oil and gas exploration has seen high levels of interest from foreign companies. While there is no guarantee of finding reserves, initial indications are that this could be worth pursuing. Any success would have the potential to transform the economy, moving it away from a significant reliance on tourism.

Inflation While down to 3.5% in 2009 compared to 8.1% in 2008 the EIU forecasts another rise back to roughly 5.1%.Strong capital inflows and increased deposits boosted bank sector liquidity. The country’s largest conglomerate, Barbados Shipping & Trading (BS&T) has been taken over by Neal & Massy, a Trinidadian company, significantly reducing the proportion of production capacity controlled from within Barbados. There are therefore raised concerns over the creation of semi-monopolies in some sectors.

The government has struggled to cope with a large fiscal deficit, estimated at 8.4% of GDP and a total public sector debt over 100% of GDP. The fiscal deficit is expected to narrow in the coming years while the public sector is expected to grow further.

Barbados was taken off the OECD's list of tax havens in January 2002.

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The original inhabitants of Barbados were Arawak Indians, who were driven off the island around AD 1200 by invading Carib Indians from Venezuela. The Carib Indians in turn abandoned the island around 1500. Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos in 1536 named the island Los Barbados (Bearded Ones), presumably after the long, hanging aerial roots of the island's fig trees, which resemble beards. English settlers established the island’s first European settlement in 1627. In the 1640s the colonists planted their fields with sugarcane and brought slaves to the island to work on the sugar plantations. The sugar industry continued to boom until the 19th century. Even after the abolition of slavery, large estates owned almost all the arable land and most black islanders had to stay working on the plantations, for lack of better opportunities. Barbadians emigrated to other countries in the Caribbean and to work on the Panama Canal. Barbados gained internal self-government in 1961 and became an independent nation on 30 November 1966. Since independence, Barbados has been a stable democracy.

BBC News Country Timeline: Barbados (

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Relations with Neighbours

Barbados has generally good relations with its CARICOM neighbours, especially with the Eastern Caribbean countries. It can be seen as a role model for small developing countries. Barbados is one of the three countries that have ratified the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The CCJ, which has come into force with these three ratifications, but is not yet operational, will be a Court of First Instance for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. It will also replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as highest Court of Appeal of Barbados.

There has, in the past, been tension between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago over a disputed maritime area. Arbitration hearings in the matter were heard in London in October 2005 and a ruling was given in April 2006 broadly in Barbados' favour. This has enabled the country to move ahead with plans for oil exploration within its own territorial waters. Both countries claimed victory but Barbados is seen to have come out on top.

Relations with the International Community

Barbados is an influential player in CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the ACP. This was emphasised in August 2002, when CARICOM Heads of Government gave then Prime Minister Owen Arthur the task of setting up a regional stabilisation fund to mitigate the economic effects of external shocks to the region. Barbados is also a centre for regional organisations, being the location of UN House, the new Eastern Caribbean offices of six UN agencies. These include the Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Telecommunications Union, the Children's Fund, the International Drug Control Programme and the Development Fund for Women. Prime Minister David Thompson holds the CARICOM Portfolio for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which is now up and running with six CARICOM countries.

Relations with the UK

UK-Barbados relations are good. There are about 4,500 British citizens resident in Barbados and about 250,000 British tourists visit annually.

Cultural Relations with the UK

Cultural links are strong and varied with many exchanges.

Recent Outward Visits

FCO Minister, Jeremy Browne, visited Barbados in January 2011.

Recent Inward Visits

PM David Thompson visited London in April 2009 and spoke on "The Caribbean and the Global Crisis" at Canning House.

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Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. Most of the island is relatively flat, with low, gentle hills in the interior, except for the north-east, which rises up to 340 metres. The west coast has white sandy beaches and calm turquoise waters. The east side of the island faces the more turbulent Atlantic. Coral reefs surround most of the island.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

Barbados is a small market in global terms yet remains a key market for UK companies doing business in the region.

Main UK exports to Barbados are transport equipment, manufactured articles, food and beverages and chemicals. The UK's primary import from Barbados is sugar, accounting for over 50% of the UK's imports from Barbados. The Barbados authorities are keen to attract foreign direct investment into the country, particularly in manufacturing, tourism, information technology and construction. An Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) and a double taxation agreement are in force between the two countries. There has traditionally been a strong programme of trade promotion activity between Barbados and the UK. The Trade and Investment Section of the British High Commission, Bridgetown has hosted several trade missions in recent years.

Money Laundering

Anti-money laundering legislation has been passed and a Financial Intelligence Unit established.

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The Environment

The Barbados Government takes environmental issues seriously and is pressing for the Caribbean Sea to be recognised internationally as a Special Area in the context of sustainable development.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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