U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES:  BARBADOS
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NOVEMBER 1994


Official Name:  Barbados

PROFILE

Geography
Area:  431 sq. km. (166 sq. mi.); about three times the size of 
Washington, DC.
Cities:  Capital--Bridgetown.
Terrain:  Flat, rising to a ridge in the center.
Climate:  Tropical.

People
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Barbadian(s); also "Bajan(s)."
Population:  264,000.
Average annual growth rate:  0.2%.
Ethnic groups:  African 80%, mixed 16%, European 4%.
Religions:  Anglican 70%, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and 
Moravian.
Language:  English.
Education:  Attendance--primary school 100%, secondary school 93%.  
Adult literacy--99%.
Health:  Infant mortality rate (1993)--21/1,000.  Life expectancy--73 
yrs. men, 75 yrs. women.
Work force (124,800, 1992):  Commerce and tourism--25%.  Government--
23%.  Manufacturing--11%.  Agriculture and fishing--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), privy council.
Subdivisions:  11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown.
Political parties:  Democratic Labor Party, Barbados Labor Party, 
National Democratic Party.
Suffrage:  Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (1993):  $1.64 billion.
Real GDP growth rate:  1%.
Per capita GDP:  $6,200.
Average inflation rate:  1.1%.
Natural resources:  Petroleum, limestone.
Agriculture (8% of GDP):  Sugar accounts for 3.4% of GDP and 80% of 
arable land.
Industry:  Manufacturing (10% of GDP)--food, beverages, textiles, paper, 
chemicals, fabricated products.  Services--tourism.
Trade:  Exports--$194 million.  Major markets--CARICOM 31%, U.K. 17%, 
U.S. 13%.  Imports--$704 million.  Major suppliers--U.S. 34%, European 
Union 19% (U.K. accounts for 11% of all suppliers), CARICOM 16%, Japan 
3%.
Official exchange rate:  U.S. $1=BDS $2.  


PEOPLE

Barbados' population is about 80% African descent, 4% European descent, 
and 16% mixed.  About 70% 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 at the site of present-day 
Holetown in 1624 or 1625 found it uninhabited.  Arawak Indians may have 
been native to the island but were later annihilated--apparently by 
marauding 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 under uninterrupted British control.  
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.  To work these 
plantations, slaves were brought from Africa; the slave trade ceased a 
few years before the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire 
in 1834.

Local politics were dominated by a group of British plantation owners 
and merchants.  It was not until the 1930s that a movement for political 
rights was begun by the descendants of emancipated slaves.  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 universal adult suffrage was introduced.  This was followed 
by steps toward increased self-government, and in 1961, Barbados 
achieved internal 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.


GOVERNMENT

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

The bicameral parliament consists of the House of Assembly and Senate.  
The 28 members of the House are elected by universal suffrage to five-
year terms.  Elections may be called at any time it 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.

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, 
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.  
There is no local government; all divisions are administered by the 
central government.  Barbados' defense expenditures account for about 
2.5% of the government budget.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The three political parties--the Barbados Labor Party (BLP), the 
Democratic Labor Party (DLP), and the National Democratic Party (NDP)--
all are moderate and have no real 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 small industry, and promoting tourism.

In parliamentary elections held on September 6, 1994, the BLP won a 
decisive victory over the outgoing DLP and the government of Erskine 
Sandiford.  The BLP won 19 seats to the DLP's eight; one seat went to 
the NDP.  The new Prime Minister, 44-year-old economist Owen Arthur, has 
brought new faces and new economic theories to his government.

Principal Government Officials

Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Dame Nita Barrow
Prime Minister--Owen Arthur
Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS--Dr. Rudi Webster
Ambassador to the UN--Besley Maycock

Barbados maintains an embassy in the United States located at 2144 
Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC  20008 (tel. 202-939-9200) and a 
consulate general in New York City at 800 2nd Avenue, 18th floor, New 
York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-867-8435).


ECONOMY

After three years of steady decline brought on by fundamental macro-
economic imbalances that had begun to emerge in the 1980s, Barbados in 
1993 experienced a real growth rate of nearly 1%.  This trend continued 
into the first half of 1994, with an increase in GDP of 3.8%.  Most of 
the growth was in the domestic sector--with the exception of tourism 
revenues, which grew at an estimated 14%.  The number of visitors from 
the U.S. declined slightly but still constituted the largest share (29%) 
of that market.

Contributing to this improved economic picture were stringent measures 
taken in 1991-93 under a significant, albeit not yet completed, 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment program.  In 
addition, a tripartite social compact among government, labor, and the 
private sector in 1993 served to stabilize prices and wages, holding 
inflation to an estimated 1.1%.

The exchange rate was steady at U.S. $1=BDS $2.  As Barbados made a 
concerted effort to increase debt payments, its foreign debt declined 
for the third year in a row.  The national debt, though, increased by 
18% to $1.13 billion at the end of 1993, as a greater share of public 
expenditure was financed locally.

Traditionally, sugar was Barbados' largest industry, but in recent 
years, tourism and light industry have overtaken it.  Sugar production 
declined for the third consecutive year in 1993--to 48,500 metric tons--
as new management was brought in to reverse the trend.  Estimates for 
the 1994 crop are 50,000 metric tons.  Export earnings from sugar--all 
is sold to the U.K.--fell by 15% to $28.4 million.

Unemployment increased to 25% at the end of 1993, making job creation a 
central issue in the political campaign of 1994.


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 all its activities.  Barbados was 
admitted to the United Nations in December 1966.  Wishing to participate 
fully in the inter-American system, it joined the Organization of 
American States (OAS) in 1967 and the Association of Caribbean States 
(ACS) on July 25, 1994.

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 13 members.  Barbados is 
also a member of the Caribbean Development Bank, established in 1970 
with headquarters in Bridgetown.

As a member of CARICOM, Barbados 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.

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, Cuba, Canada, 
Columbia, Costa Rica, China, the U.K., the U.S., and Venezuela have 
ambassadors or high commissioners resident in Barbados.


U.S.-BARBADIAN RELATIONS

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.

As a relatively high-income country, Barbados receives only limited 
economic assistance from the United States.  The U.S. supports economic 
development programs regionally that benefit Barbados and encourages 
full participation in the Caribbean Basin and Enterprise for the 
Americas Initiatives.  The CARICOM nations, including Barbados, have 
signed a framework agreement with the United States to promote trade and 
investment in the region.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--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 U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial 
Bank of Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel:  809-436-4950; 
fax:  809-429-5246).   

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