Area: 431 sq. km. (166 sq. mi.); about three
times the size of Washington, DC.
Terrain: Generally flat, hilly in the interior.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Barbadian(s);
Population (2004 estimate): 272,700.
Avg. annual growth rate (2004): 0.2%.
Ethnic groups: Black 90%, White 4%, Asian or
Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%,
Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman
Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%.
Education: Attendance--primary school
100%, secondary school 93%. Adult literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate
(1998)--7.8/1,000. Life expectancy--70.9
yrs. men; 76.12 yrs. women (2002 est.).
Work force (2004, 146,300): tourism,
government, manufacturing, construction, mining,
Unemployment (2004): 9.8%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent
sovereign state within the Commonwealth.
Independence: November 30, 1966.
Branches: Executive--governor general
(representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of
state), prime minister (head of government),
courts, Supreme Court (High Court and Court of
Appeals), privy council in London.
Subdivisions: Eleven parishes and the city of
Political parties: Barbados Labor Party (BLP,
incumbent), Democratic Labor Party (DLP),
National Democratic Party (NDP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2004): $2.8 billion.
GDP growth rate (2004): 3.4%.
Per capita GDP (2004 est.): $12,000.
Average inflation rate (first half of 2005):
Natural resources: Petroleum, Fishing,
quarrying, natural gas.
Agriculture (4% of GDP): Sugar accounts for less
than 1% of GDP and 80% of arable land.
Industry: Manufacturing and construction
(12% of GDP)--food, beverages, electronic
components, textiles, paper, chemicals.
Services: (83% of GDP) Tourism, banking and
other financial services, data processing.
Trade (2004): Exports--$278 million.
Major markets--U.S. 15%, Trinidad and Tobago
10%, U.K. 10%, and Jamaica 4%. Imports--$1,413
million. Major suppliers--U.S. 36%,
Trinidad and Tobago 21%, U.K. 6%, Japan 5%.
Official exchange rate: Barbados dollars (BDS)
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.
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
As the sugar industry developed into the main
commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into
large plantation estates, which replace 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 Labor 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
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, with a 5-year
maximum duration for 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 Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy
Council in London, whose decisions are binding
on all parties. Judges of the Supreme Court are
appointed by the governor general on the
recommendation of the prime minister after
consultation with the leader of the opposition.
The island is divided into 11 parishes and
the city of Bridgetown for administrative
purposes. There is no local government.
Barbados' defense expenditures account for about
2.5% of the government budget.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The three political parties--the Barbados Labor
Party (BLP), the Democratic Labor Party (DLP),
and the semi-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP)--are
all 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
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 and Minister of Culture,
has given a high priority to economic
development and diversification. The main
opposition party, the DLP, is led by Sen. Clyde
Mascoll, who was elected President of the DLP in
2001, as part of a party reorganization.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands
Prime Minister--Owen Arthur
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Michael King
Ambassador to the UN--Dr. Christopher Hackett
Barbados maintains an
in the United States located at 2144 Wyoming
Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 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, FL33134 (tel. 305-442-1994).
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 U.S. 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
2003, and the economy grew by 3.4% in 2004.
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 only employs around 800 people.
The labor force totaled 146,300 persons at the
end of 2004, with a near-historic low
unemployment rate of 9.8%.
Barbados will host several games and the
final of the Cricket World Cup in 2007, and much
of the country's investment is directed toward
accommodating the expected influx of visitors.
The government and private sector are both
working to prepare the country for the CARICOM
Single Market and Economy (CSME)--a European
Union-style single market scheduled to begin in
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
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 14 members.
Barbados also is a member of the Caribbean
Development Bank, established in 1970, with
headquarters in Bridgetown. The eastern
Caribbean's Regional Security System, 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).
As a member of CARICOM, Barbados supported
efforts by the United States to implement UN
Security Council Resolution 940, designed to
facilitate the departure of Haiti's de facto
authorities from power. The country agreed to
contribute personnel to the multinational force,
which restored the democratically elected
government of Haiti in October 1994.
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 counternarcotics issues, finance
and development, and trade.
Barbados has diplomatic missions headed by
resident ambassadors or high commissioners in
Canada, the U.K., the U.S., 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,
Colombia, China, Guatemala, the U.K., the U.S.,
and Venezuela have ambassadors or high
commissioners resident in Barbados.
In 1751, George Washington visited Barbados,
making what is believed to have been his only
trip abroad. The U.S. Government has been
represented on Barbados since 1824. From 1956 to
1978, the U.S. operated a naval facility in
The U.S. and Barbados have had friendly
bilateral relations since Barbados' independence
in 1966. The U.S. 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, the World Bank, and the recently opened
USAID Caribbean Regional Program office in
Barbados also receives substantial
counternarcotics assistance and is eligible to
benefit from the U.S. military's
exercise-related and humanitarian assistance
Barbados and U.S. authorities cooperate
closely in the fight against narcotics
trafficking and other forms of transnational
crime. In 1996, the U.S. 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. Barbados is the headquarters of
the Regional Security System (RSS), which
involves the Coast Guards of the OECS. It is
currently supported by U.S. funding but is due
to evolve into a regionally funded organization
according to an agreed schedule.
A popular tourist destination, Barbados had
around 1.3 million total tourists in 2004,
mainly cruise ship visitors. The majority of
tourists are from the U.K., the Caribbean, or
the U.S., and an estimated 3,000 Americans
reside in the country.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Ellen T. Gilroy
Political/Economic Counselor--Sheila Peters
Consul General--Clyde Howard Jr.
Regional Labor Attaché--Alfred Anzaldua
Economic-Commercial Affairs--John Ashworth
Public Affairs Officer--Julie O'Reagan
Peace Corps Director--Terry Armstrong
Embassy in Barbados is located in the
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building,
Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950;
Other Contact Information
Caribbean/Latin American Action
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
1818 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036