U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: BARBADOS
RELEASED BY THE BUREAU OF INTER-AMERICAN AFFAIRS
OFFICIAL NAME: Barbados
Area: 431 sq. km. (166 sq. mi.); about three times the size of
Terrain: Generally flat, hilly in the interior.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Barbadian(s); also "Bajan(s)."
Population (1995): 264,000.
Average annual growth rate (1995): 0.4%.
Ethnic groups: African 80%, mixed 16%, European 4%.
Religions: Anglican 70%, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and
Education: Attendance--primary school 100%, secondary school 93%. Adult
Health: Infant mortality rate (1995)--13/1,000. Life expectancy--75 yrs.
men, 77 yrs. women.
Work force (1995): 136,000. Sectors--commerce, tourism, government,
manufacturing, agriculture, and fishing.
Unemployment (1995): 19.7%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the
Independence: November 30, 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 in
Subdivisions: 11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown.
Political parties: Barbados Labor Party (BLP, incumbent), Democratic
Labor Party (DLP), National Democratic Party (NDP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1995): $1.88 billion.
GDP growth rate (1995): 2.7%.
Per capita GDP (1995): $7,100.
Average inflation rate (1995): 1.9%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, fishing, natural gas.
Agriculture (6.4% of GDP): Sugar accounts for 3.4% of GDP and 80% of
Industry: Manufacturing (6.8% of GDP)--food, beverages, textiles, paper,
chemicals, fabricated products.
Services: Tourism, banking and other financial services, Informatics.
Trade: (1995) Exports--$196 million. Major markets-- CARICOM 34%, U.K.
21%, U.S. 18%. Imports--$748 million. Major suppliers--U.S. 40%,
European Union 16% (U.K. accounts for 9% of all suppliers), CARICOM 19%.
Official exchange rate: U.S. $1=BDS $2.
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.
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 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 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
Local politics were dominated by plantation owners and merchants of
British descent. 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
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 28 members of the House are elected by universal suffrage to five-
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
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.
The three political parties--the Barbados Labor Party (BLP), the
Democratic Labor Party (DLP), and the 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 small industry, and promoting tourism.
In parliamentary elections held September 6, 1994, the BLP won a
decisive victory over the DLP of former Prime Minister Erskine
Sandiford. The BLP won 19 seats to the DLP's eight; one seat went to the
NDP. The new Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, who also serves as Minister of
Finance, has given a high priority to economic development. The main
opposition party, the DLP, is led by David Thompson.
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--Dr. Courtney Blackman
Ambassador to the UN--Carlston Boucher
Barbados maintains an embassy 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, FL 33134 (tel. 305-442-
Since independence, Barbados has transformed itself from a low-income
economy dependent upon sugar production to a middle-income economy based
on tourism. The economy went into a deep recession in 1990 after three
years of steady decline brought on by fundamental macro-economic
imbalances. After a painful readjustment process, the economy began to
grow again in 1993. The economy grew by 4% in 1994, slipped to 2.7% in
1995, but appears likely to have achieved a 3% or better increase in
The main factors responsible for the improvement in economic activity
include: an expansion in the number of tourist arrivals, an increase in
the volume of manufacturing production, and an increase in sugar
production. Recently, offshore banking and financial services have also
become an important source of foreign exchange and economic growth.
Economic growth has led to net increases in employment in the tourism
sector, as well as in construction and other services sub-sectors of the
economy. The public service remains Barbados' largest single employer.
Although the total labor force increased from 126,000 in 1993 to 136,000
by December 1995, unemployment fell from 21.5% at the height of the
recession to an estimated 16.8% in mid-1996. The exchange rate remains
steady at U.S. $1=BDS $2.
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 14 members. Barbados is
also 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 smaller island
nations, is also 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.
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. Australia, Brazil, Cuba,
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 Barbados.
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. In recent years, U.S. assistance has
been channeled primarily through multilateral agencies such as the
Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
Barbados also receives counter-narcotics assistance and is the
beneficiary of 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 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 popular tourist destination, Barbados had more than 111,700 U.S.
visitors in 1996. In addition, Barbados had nearly 510,000 cruise ship
passenger arrivals, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens.
Approximately 3,000 Americans reside in the country.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Jeanette W. Hyde
Deputy Chief of Mission--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 U.S. embassy in Barbados is located in the Canadian Imperial Bank of
Commerce Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (tel: 246-436-4950; fax:
Other Contact Information:
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th & Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Tel: 202-482-1658, 800-USA-Trade
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
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-
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
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
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information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
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directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's
World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to
the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-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,
including Country Commercial Guides. 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.
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