U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Official Name: Antigua and Barbuda
Area: Antigua--281 sq. km. (108 sq. mi.); Barbuda--161 sq. km. (62 sq.
mi.). Cities: Capital--St. Johns (pop. 30,000).
Terrain: Generally low-lying, with highest elevation 405 m. (1,330
Climate: Tropical maritime.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Antiguan(s), Barbudan(s).
Annual growth rate: 1%.
Ethnic groups: Almost entirely of African origin; some of British,
Portuguese, Lebanese, and Syrian origin.
Religions: Principally Anglican, with evangelical Protestant and Roman
Language: English (official), local dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--about 90%.
Health: Life expectancy--71 yrs. male, 75 yrs. female. Infant
Work force (32,000): Sectors--commerce and services, agriculture, other
Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style parliament.
Independence: November 1, 1981.
Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II,
head of state), prime minister (head of government), and cabinet.
Legislative--a 17-member Senate appointed by the governor general
(mainly on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the
opposition) and a 17-member popularly elected House of Representatives.
Judicial--Court of Appeal, chief justice, five justices.
Administrative subdivisions: Six parishes and two dependencies (Barbuda
Political parties: Antigua Labor Party (ruling), United National
Democratic Party, Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1991): $411 million.
Annual growth rate (1991): 2.6%.
Per capita GDP: $6,500.
Natural resources: Negligible.
Agriculture (4% of GDP): Products--cotton, livestock, vegetables.
Industry: Types--tourism 40%, transport 12%, construction 9%,
Trade (1991 est.): Exports--$32 mil-lion. Trading partners--CARICOM,
U.S. Imports--$353 million. Trading partners--U.S., CARICOM, U.K.
Official exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean $2.70=U.S. $1.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Antigua was first inhabited by the Siboney ("stone people"), whose
settlements date at least to 2400 BC. Between 35 and 1100 AD, the
Arawak people resided on Antigua. This group originated in Venezuela
and gradually migrated up the chain of islands now called the Lesser
Antilles. The warlike Carib people drove out the Arawak from
strongholds on neighboring islands but apparently did not settle on
either Antigua or Barbuda.
Christopher Columbus landed on the islands in 1493, naming the larger
one "Santa Maria de la Antigua." The English colonized in 1632. Sir
Christopher Codrington established the first large sugar estate in
Antigua in 1674 and leased Barbuda to raise provisions for his
plantations. Barbuda's only village is named for him. Codrington and
others brought slaves from Africa's west coast to work the plantations.
Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834 but remained bound to their
plantation owners. Economic opportunities for the new freedmen were
limited by a lack of surplus farming land, no access to credit, and an
economy built on agriculture rather than manufacturing. Poor labor
conditions persisted until 1939, when a member of a royal commission
urged the formation of a trade union movement.
The Antigua Trades and Labor Union, formed shortly afterward, became the
political vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird, who became the union's
president in 1943. The Antigua Labor Party (ALP), formed by Bird and
other trade unionists, first ran candidates in the 1946 elections,
beginning a long history of electoral victories.
Voted out of office in the 1971 general elections that swept the
Progressive Labor Movement into power, Bird and the ALP returned to
office in 1976; the party won renewed mandates in the general elections
in 1984 and 1989. In the 1989 elections, the ruling ALP won all but two
of the 17 seats.
During elections in March 1994, power passed from Vere Bird to his son
Lester Bird but remained within the Antigua Labor Party. The ALP won 10
of the 17 parliamentary seats.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
As head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in
Antigua and Barbuda by a governor general who acts on the advice of the
prime minister and the cabinet.
Antigua and Barbuda has a bicameral legislature: a 17-member Senate
appointed by the governor general--mainly on the advice of the prime
minister and the leader of the opposition--and a 17-member popularly
elected House of Representatives. The prime minister is the leader of
the majority party in the House and conducts affairs of state with the
cabinet. The prime minister and the cabinet are responsible to the
parliament, which normally has a life of five years.
Antiguans have enjoyed a long history of free and fair elections with
peaceful changes of government. Constitutional safeguards include
freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Like its
neighbors in the English-speaking Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda has an
excellent human rights record. Its judicial system is modeled on
British practice and procedure and its jurisprudence on English Common
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir Wilfred Ebenezer Jacobs
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lester Bryant Bird
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Patrick Albert Lewis
Ambassador to the United Nations--Lionel A. Hurst
Antigua and Barbuda maintain an embassy in the United States at 3216 New
Mexico Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-362-5122).
Sugar cultivation was Antigua and Barbuda's major export earner until
1960, when prices fell dramatically and crippled the industry. By 1972,
the industry was largely dismantled. The agricultural pattern in
Antigua has shifted to a multiple cropping system. Fruit and vegetable
production predominates, but the Antiguan Government has encouraged
investment in livestock, cotton, and export-oriented food crops.
Currently, the economy is based on services rather than manufacturing.
Tourism is the backbone of the economy, and the major source of visitors
is the United States. Tourism is the principal source of foreign
exchange for the country and directly produces about 17% of the gross
domestic product and indirectly at least 40%. Antigua and Barbuda have
more than 3,300 hotel rooms to accommodate tourists.
For the most part, the environment for private sector investment and
business activity in Antigua is excellent. The government encourages
both domestic and foreign private investment. Government policies
provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and
materials, and subsidies for training provided to local personnel.
Private business also benefits from a stable political environment, good
transportation to and from the island, a relatively low-cost work force,
and a pleasant climate. The country also has a reasonably sound
Nontraditional exports have grown in importance in recent years.
Foreign investors, lured by Antigua's good transportation connections to
North America and Europe, have set up light manufacturing industries on
the island, primarily in the finished textile and electronic component
Antigua and Barbuda are beneficiaries of the U.S. Caribbean Basin
Initiative. They also belong to the 13-member Caribbean Community and
Common Market (CARICOM), which has signed a framework agreement with the
United States to promote trade and investment in the region.
Antigua maintains diplomatic relations with the United States, Canada,
the United Kingdom, and China, as well as with many Latin American
countries and neighboring Eastern Caribbean states. It is a member of
the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Organization of American
States, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Caribbean
Regional Security System.
As a member of CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda strongly backed 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.
U.S.-ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA RELATIONS
Since Antigua's independence in 1981, U.S. relations with the island
nation have been very friendly. The United States seeks to help Antigua
develop economically and to help strengthen its democratic political
system. Antigua and Barbuda is strategically placed in the Leeward
Islands near maritime transport lanes of major importance to the United
States. Antigua affords U.S. citizens the same legal protections that
its own citizens enjoy. It is visited by more than 170,000 tourists
from the United States and elsewhere each year and has become more
popular with U.S. retirees.
Antigua long has hosted a U.S. military presence. Currently, a U.S. Air
Force tracking facility and a naval training facility provide useful
services for the United States, as well as jobs and income for
Antiguans. Antigua also benefits from a number of regional U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID) programs, although these programs
will diminish with the FY 1996 closure of the regional USAID office in
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador-designate--Jeanette W. Hyde
Deputy Chief of Mission--Tain P. Tompkins
Political/Economic Counselor--Thomas R. Hutson
Consul General--Dale Shaffer
Regional Labor Attache--Peggy Zabriskie
Economic-Commercial Officer--Carole Jackson
Public Affairs Officer--Tyrone Kemp
USAID Regional Director--Mosina Jordan
Peace Corps Director--James Scanlon (resident in St. Lucia)
The United States maintains no official presence in Antigua. The
ambassador and embassy officers are resident in Barbados and travel to
The U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial
Bank of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 809-436-4950;
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