Barbados - Tips

Barbados Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Barbados

Rockley Beach in the resort town of
Rockley, Barbados. September 13,
2001. [© AP Images]

The flag of Barbados is three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side),
gold, and blue with the head of a black trident centered on the gold band.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Barbados

Geography
Area: 431 sq. km. (166 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Washington,
DC.
Cities: Capital--Bridgetown.
Terrain: Generally flat, hilly in the interior.
Climate: Tropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Barbadian(s); informally "Bajan(s)."
Population (2006 estimate): 279,912.
Annual population growth rate (2005): 0.3%.
Ethnic groups: Predominantly of African descent 90%, White 4%, Asian or mixed
6%.
Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other
12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%.
Language: English.
Education (2005): Adult literacy--99.7%.
Health (2005): Infant mortality rate--11.0/1,000. Life expectancy--men 70.8
years; women 74.8 years.
Work force (2006): 142,000 (tourism, government, manufacturing, construction,
mining, agriculture, fishing).
Unemployment (2006): 7.6%.

Government
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the
Commonwealth.
Independence: November 30, 1966.
Constitution: 1966.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head
of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet.
Legislative--bicameral Parliament. Judicial--magistrate's courts, Supreme
Court (High Court and Court of Appeals), Caribbean Court of Justice in
Trinidad and Tobago.
Subdivisions: Eleven parishes and the city of Bridgetown.
Political parties: Barbados Labour Party (BLP, incumbent), Democratic Labour
Party (DLP), People's Empowerment Party (PEP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (2006): $2.976 billion.
GDP growth rate (2006): 3.8%.
Per capita GDP (2006 est.): $17,300.
Inflation (2006): 7.6%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, fish, quarrying, natural gas.
Agriculture: Sugar accounts for less than 1% of GDP and 80% of arable land.
Manufacturing and construction: Food, beverages, infrastructure, electronic
components, textiles, paper, chemicals.
Services: Tourism, banking and other financial services, and data processing.
Trade (2005): Exports--$359 million (merchandise) and $1.41 billion
(commercial services). Major markets--United States (13.4%), European Union
(12.4%), Trinidad and Tobago (10.8%), St. Lucia (6.1%), and Jamaica (5%).
Imports--$1.6 billion (merchandise) and $636 million (commercial services).
Major suppliers--United States (35.9%), Trinidad and Tobago (21.2%), European
Union (13.3%), Japan (7.6%), and Canada (3.4%).
Official exchange rate: BDS$2 = U.S. $1.

PEOPLE
About 90% of Barbados' population is of African descent, 4% European descent,
and 6% Asian or mixed. About 40% of Barbadians are Anglican, and the rest
mostly Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Moravian. There also are small
Jewish and Muslim communities. Barbados' population growth rate has been very
low, less than 1% since the 1960s, largely due to family planning efforts and
a high emigration rate.

HISTORY
British sailors who landed on Barbados in the 1620s at the site of
present-day Holetown on the Caribbean coast found the island uninhabited. As
elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean, Arawak Indians may have been annihilated
by invading Caribs, who are believed to have subsequently abandoned the
island.

From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627-28 until independence
in 1966, Barbados was a self-funding colony under uninterrupted British rule.
Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its
House of Assembly, which began meeting in 1639, is the third-oldest
legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, preceded only by Bermuda's
legislature and the Virginia House of Burgesses.

As the sugar industry developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados
was divided into large plantation estates, which replaced the small holdings
of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers relocated to
British colonies in North America. To work the plantations, slaves were
brought from Africa; the slave trade ceased a few years before the abolition
of slavery throughout the British empire in 1834.

Plantation owners and merchants of British descent dominated local politics.
It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a
movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir
Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party in 1938. Progress toward
more democratic government for Barbados was made in 1951, when the first
general election under universal adult suffrage occurred. This was followed
by steps toward increased self-government, and in 1961, Barbados achieved the
status of self-governing autonomy.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of 10 members of the West Indies
Federation, and Sir Grantley Adams served as its first and only prime
minister. When the federation was terminated, Barbados reverted to its former
status as a self-governing colony. Following several attempts to form another
federation composed of Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands,
Barbados negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with
the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic
progress, Barbados became an independent state within the British
Commonwealth on November 30, 1966.

Under its constitution, Barbados is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the
British system. The governor general represents the monarch. Control of the
government rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister and
responsible to the Parliament.

The bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Assembly and Senate. The 30
members of the House are elected by universal suffrage to 5-year terms.
Elections may be called at any time the government wishes to seek a new
mandate or if the government suffers a vote of no-confidence in Parliament.
The Senate's 21 members are appointed by the governor general--12 with the
advice of the prime minister, two with the advice of the leader of the
opposition, and seven at the governor general's discretion to represent
segments of the community.

Barbados has an independent judiciary composed of magistrate courts, which
are statutorily authorized, and a Supreme Court, which is constitutionally
mandated. The Supreme Court consists of the high court and the court of
appeals, each with four judges. The Chief Justice serves on both the high
court and the court of appeals. The court of last resort is the Caribbean
Court of Justice.

The island is divided into 11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown for
administrative purposes. There is no local government.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The two main political parties--the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), the
Democratic Labour Party (DLP)--are both moderate and have no major
ideological differences; electoral contests and political disputes often have
personal overtones. The major political problems facing Barbados today are in
promoting economic growth: creating jobs, encouraging agricultural
diversification, attracting foreign investment, and promoting tourism.

The ruling BLP was decisively returned to power in May 2003 elections,
winning 23 seats in the Parliament with the DLP gaining seven seats. The
Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, who also serves as Minister of Finance, has
given a high priority to economic development and diversification. The main
opposition party, the DLP, is led by David Thompson, a Member of Parliament.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands
Prime Minister--Owen Seymour Arthur

Deputy Prime Minister--Mia Amor Mottley
Ambassador to the United States and the OAS--Michael King
Ambassador to the UN--Dr. Christopher Hackett

Barbados maintains an embassy in the United States at 2144 Wyoming Avenue,
NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (tel. 202-939-9200), a consulate general in New
York City at 800 2nd Avenue, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel.
212-867-8435), and a consulate general in Miami at 150 Alhambra Circle, Suite
1270, Coral Gables, FL 33134 (tel. 305-442-1994).

ECONOMY
Since independence, Barbados has transformed itself from a low-income economy
dependent upon sugar production into an upper-middle-income economy based on
tourism. Barbados is now one of the most prosperous countries in the western
hemisphere outside of the United States and Canada. The economy went into a
deep recession in 1990 after 3 years of steady decline brought on by
fundamental macroeconomic imbalances. After a painful readjustment process,
the economy began to grow again in 1993. Growth rates averaged between 3%-5%
since then until 2001, when the economy contracted 2.8% in the wake of the
September 11 terrorist attacks and the global drop-off in tourism. Growth
picked up again in 2004 and 2005, and the economy grew by 3.8% in 2006.

Tourism drives the economy in Barbados, but offshore banking and financial
services have become an increasingly important source of foreign exchange and
economic growth. The sugar industry, once dominant, now makes up less than 1%
of GDP and employs only around 500 people. The labor force totaled 142,000
persons at the end of 2006. The average rate of unemployment during the last
quarter of 2006 was estimated at 7.6%. The current account deficit expanded
to 12.5% of GDP, and government debt rose above 80% of GDP in 2006.

Barbados hosted the final matches of the Cricket World Cup in 2007, and much
of the country's investment during 2006 and the beginning of 2007 was
directed toward accommodating the expected influx of visitors. As a result of
these preparations, growth was registered in all sectors, especially
transportation, communications, construction, and utilities. The government
and private sector are both working to prepare the country for the Caribbean
Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME)--a European Union-style
single market.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
As a small nation, the primary thrust of Barbados' diplomatic activity has
been within international organizations. The island is a member of the
Commonwealth and participates in its activities. Barbados was admitted to the
United Nations in December 1966. Barbados joined the Organization of American
States (OAS) in 1967.

On July 4, 1973, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica signed a
treaty in Trinidad to found the Caribbean Community and Common Market
(CARICOM). In May 1974, most of the remaining English-speaking Caribbean
states joined CARICOM, which now has 15 members. Barbados also is a member of
the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), established in 1970, with headquarters
in Bridgetown. The Eastern Caribbean's Regional Security System (RSS), which
associates Barbados with six other island nations, also is headquartered in
Barbados. In July 1994, Barbados joined the newly established Association of
Caribbean States (ACS).

Barbados has diplomatic missions headed by resident ambassadors or high
commissioners in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and
Venezuela, and at the European Union (Brussels) and the UN. It also has
resident consuls general in Toronto, Miami, and New York City. Brazil,
Canada, China, Cuba, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela
have ambassadors or high commissioners resident in Barbados.

U.S.-BARBADIAN RELATIONS
In 1751, George Washington visited Barbados as a young man, making what is
believed to have been his only trip abroad. The U.S. Government has been
represented on Barbados since 1823. From 1956 to 1978, the United States
operated a naval facility in Barbados.

The United States and Barbados have had friendly bilateral relations since
Barbados' independence in 1966. The United States has supported the
government's efforts to expand the country's economic base and to provide a
higher standard of living for its citizens. Barbados is a beneficiary of the
U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. U.S. assistance is channeled primarily
through multilateral agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank and
the World Bank, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) office in Bridgetown.

In May 1997, Prime Minister Owen Arthur hosted President Clinton and 14 other
Caribbean leaders during the first-ever U.S.-regional summit in Bridgetown,
Barbados. The summit strengthened the basis for regional cooperation on
justice and counter narcotics issues, finance and development, and trade.

Barbados receives counternarcotics assistance and is eligible to benefit from
the U.S. military's exercise-related and humanitarian assistance construction
program.

Barbados and U.S. authorities cooperate closely in the fight against
narcotics trafficking and other forms of transnational crime. In 1996, the
United States and Barbados signed a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) and
an updated extradition treaty covering all common offenses, including
conspiracy and organized crime. A maritime law enforcement agreement was
signed in 1997. A popular tourist destination, Barbados had around 570,000
tourists in 2006, mainly cruise ship visitors. The majority of tourists are
from the U.K., Germany, the Caribbean, and the United States. An estimated
3,000 Americans reside in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Mary M. Ourisman
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Martina Strong (Acting)
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Martina Strong
Economic-Commercial Affairs--Anthony Eterno
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Kate Raftery

The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey,
St. Michael (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 246-429-5246).

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658, 800-USA-Trade
Fax: 202-482-0464

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW
Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/
Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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