U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Antigua and Barbuda, March 1998
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

Official Name: Antigua and Barbuda

PROFILE

Geography

Area: Antigua--281 sq. km. (108 sq. mi.); Barbuda--161 sq. km. (62 sq. 
mi.). 
Cities: Capital--St. John's (pop. 30,000).
Terrain: Generally low-lying, with highest elevation 405 m. (1,330 ft.).
Climate: Tropical maritime.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Antiguan(s), Barbudan(s).
Population (1996): 68,600.
Annual growth rate (1996): 0.68%.
Ethnic groups: Almost entirely of African origin; some of British, 
Portuguese, and Levantine Arab origin.
Religions: Principally Anglican, with evangelical Protestant and Roman 
Catholic minorities.
Language: English.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--about 90%.
Health: Life expectancy--71 yrs. male; 75 yrs. female. Infant mortality 
rate--18/1,000.
Work force (32,000): Sectors--commerce and services, agriculture, other 
industry.
Unemployment (1996): 7.0%

Government

Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style parliament. 
Constitution: 1981.
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--magistrate's courts, Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (High 
Court and Court of Appeals, privy council in London).
Administrative subdivisions: Six parishes and two dependencies (Barbuda 
and Redonda).
Political parties: Antigua Labor Party (ALP, incumbent), United 
Progressive Party (UPP), Barbuda People's Movement (BPM).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy

GDP (1996): $545 million.
GDP growth rate (1996): 5.8%.
Per capita GDP (1996): $7,950.
Natural resources: Negligible.
Agriculture (3.7% of GDP): Products--cotton, livestock, vegetables, 
pineapples.
Services: Tourism, banking, and other financial services.
Trade (1996): Exports--$55 million. Markets--CARICOM, U.S. (7%). 
Imports--$316.8 million. Suppliers--U.S., CARICOM, U.K. (20%). 
Official exchange rate: Eastern Caribbean dollars 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. The Siboney were succeeded by the 
Arawaks, who originated in Venezuela and gradually migrated up the chain 
of islands now called the Lesser Antilles. The warlike Carib people 
drove the Arawaks from 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 the islands 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 town is named after him. Codrington and 
others brought slaves from Africa's west coast to work the plantations.

Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834 but remained economically 
dependent on the 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 and 
became the majority party in 1951, 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 11 
of the 17 parliamentary seats. The official opposition in parliament is 
led by Baldwin Spencer of the United Progressive Party.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

As head of state, 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. Elections must be held at least every five years, but may be 
called by the prime minister at any time.

Antigua and Barbuda has a multiparty political system, with a long 
history of hard fought elections, two of which have resulted in peaceful 
changes of government. The opposition, however, claims to be 
disadvantaged by the ruling party's longstanding monopoly on patronage 
and its control of the electronic media. 

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, 
movement, and association. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the 
eastern Caribbean court system. Jurisprudence is based on English common 
law.

Principal Government Officials

Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Sir James Carlisle
Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Lester Bryant Bird
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Lionel A. Hurst
Ambassador to the United Nations--Patrick Albert Lewis
Antigua and Barbuda maintain an embassy in the United States at 3216 New 
Mexico Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-362-5122).

ECONOMY

Tourism is the key industry, and the principal earner of foreign 
exchange, in Antigua and Barbuda. The economy has recovered from the 
aftermath of storm damage received during the hurricane season of 1995. 
Although not operating to its full potential, the tourism sector is 
gaining momentum. Overall economic growth for 1996 was 5.8%. Agriculture 
continues to decline in economic importance. Fruit and vegetable 
production predominate, but the government has encouraged investment in 
livestock, cotton, and export-oriented food crops. The construction 
sector continues to grow.

Inflation has been moderate, averaging 3-4% annually, since 1993.

Antigua and Barbuda is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin 
Initiative. Its 1995 exports to the U.S. were valued at $3 million, and 
its U.S. imports totaled $97 million. It also belongs to the 
predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market 
(CARICOM).

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Antigua and Barbuda maintains diplomatic relations with the United 
States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the People's Republic of China, 
as well as with many Latin American countries and neighboring Eastern 
Caribbean states. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth 
of Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization of 
Eastern Caribbean States, and the Eastern Caribbean's Regional Security 
System (RSS).

As a member of CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda 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 Bird joined 14 other Caribbean leaders, and 
President Clinton, for 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.

U.S.-ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA RELATIONS

The United States has maintained friendly relations with Antigua and 
Barbuda since its independence. The United States has supported the 
Government of Antigua and Barbuda's effort to expand its economic base 
and to improve its citizens' standard of living. The U.S. has also been 
active in supporting post-hurricane disaster assistance and 
rehabilitation through USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and 
the Peace Corps. Following the closure in July 1996 of the USAID 
regional mission for the eastern Caribbean, U.S. assistance is channeled 
primarily through multilateral agencies such as the Inter-American 
Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank. In 
addition, Antigua and Barbuda receives counternarcotics assistance and 
benefits from U.S. military exercise-related and humanitarian civic 
assistance construction projects.

Antigua and Barbuda is strategically situated in the Leeward Islands 
near maritime transport lanes of major importance to the United States. 
Antigua has long hosted a U.S. military presence. The former U.S. Navy 
support facility, turned over to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda 
in 1995, is now being developed as a regional Coast Guard training 
facility. The U.S. Air Force continues to maintain a space tracking 
facility on Antigua. The U.S. embassy in Antigua closed on June 30, 
1994.

Antigua and Barbuda's location close to the U.S. Virgin Islands and 
Puerto Rico makes it an attractive transshipment point for narcotics 
traffickers. International concerns have also been raised by the 
vulnerability of the off-shore financial sector to money laundering. To 
address these problems, the U.S. and Antigua and Barbuda have signed a 
series of counter-narcotic and counter-crime treaties and agreements 
including a maritime law enforcement agreement (1995), subsequently 
amended to include overflight and order-to-land provisions (1996), a 
bilateral extradition treaty (1996), and a mutual legal assistance 
treaty (1996).

In 1996, Antigua and Barbuda had more than 60,000 U.S. visitors. The 
Islands also had more than 269,000 cruise ship passenger arrivals, the 
majority of whom were U.S. citizens. It is estimated that 4,500 
Americans reside in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--vacant
Charge d'Affaires--Donald K. Holm
Political/Economic Counselor--Stephen R. Snow
Consul General--Philip M. Jones
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. Donald Robinson
Regional Labor Attache--Peggy Zabriskie
Economic/Commercial Officer--Leo Gallagher
Public Affairs Officer--Jennifer Clark
Peace Corps Director--David Styles (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 
Antigua frequently. However, a U.S. consular agent resident in Antigua 
assists U.S. citizens in Antigua and Barbuda.

The U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial Bank of 
Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950; fax: 
246-429-5246).

Consular Agent 
Juliet Ryder
Hospital Hill, English Harbor
Antigua
Tel: (268) 463-6531.

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th & Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-Trade

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 provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). 
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will 
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. 
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is 
required). The CABB also carries international security information from 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication 
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a 
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives 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. 

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (For this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication.)

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov. 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is 
available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the 
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 

[end of document]
Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage