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CAPITAL: Bridgetown

FLAG: The national flag has three equal vertical bands of ultramarine blue, gold, and ultramarine blue and displays a broken trident in black on the center stripe.

ANTHEM: National Anthem of Barbados, beginning "In plenty and in time of need, when this fair land was young."

MONETARY UNIT: Officially introduced on 3 December 1973, the Barbados dollar (bds$) of 100 cents is a paper currency officially pegged to the US dollar. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. bds$1 = us$0.50000 (or us$1 = bds$2; as of 2004).

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Errol Barrow Day, 23 January; May Day, 1 May; Kadooment Day, first Monday in August; CARICOM Day, 1 August; UN Day, first Monday in October; Independence Day, 30 November; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays are Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


Situated about 320 km (200 mi) nne of Trinidad and about 160 km (100 mi) ese of St. Lucia, Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. The island is 34 km (21 mi) long ns and 23 km (14 mi) wide ew, with an area of 430 sq km (166 sq mi) and a total coastline of 97 km (60 mi). Comparatively, Barbados occupies slightly less than 2.5 times the area of Washington, DC.

The capital city of Barbados, Bridgetown, is located on the country's southwestern coast.


The coast is almost entirely encircled with coral reefs. The only natural harbor is Carlisle Bay on the southwest coast. The land rises to 336 m (1,102 ft) at Mt. Hillaby in the parish of St. Andrew. In most other areas, the land falls in a series of terraces to a coastal strip or wide flat area.


The tropical climate is tempered by an almost constant sea breeze from the northeast in the winter and early spring, and from the southeast during the rest of the year. Temperatures range from 2130°c (7086°f). Annual rainfall ranges from about 100 cm (40 in) in some coastal districts to 230 cm (90 in) in the central ridge area. There is a wet season from June to December, but rain falls periodically throughout the year.


Palms, casuarina, mahogany, and almond trees are found on the island, but no large forest areas exist, most of the level ground having been turned over to sugarcane. The wide variety of flowers and shrubs includes wild roses, carnations, lilies, and several cacti. Natural wildlife is restricted to a few mammals and birds; finches, blackbirds, and moustache birds are common.


Principal environmental agencies are the Ministry of Housing, Lands, and Environment, established in 1978, and the Barbados Water Authority (1980). Soil erosion, particularly in the northeast, and coastal pollution from oil slicks are among the most significant environmental problems. The government of Barbados created a marine reserve to protect its coastline in 1980.

As of 2000, the most pressing environmental problems result from the uncontrolled handling of solid wastes, which contaminate the water supply. Barbados is also affected by air and water pollution from other countries in the area. Despite its pollution problems, 100% of Barbados' urban and rural populations have safe water.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 3 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 11 species of fish, 25 other invertebrates, and 4 species of plants. The Barbados yellow warbler, Eskimo curlew, tundra peregrine falcon, and Orinoco crocodile are endangered species. The Barbados raccoon has become extinct.


The population of Barbados in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 258,000, which placed it at number 171 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 12% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 22% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 0.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 272,000. The population density was 600 per sq km (1,554 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 50% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.42%. The capital city, Bridgetown, had a population of 140,000 in that year.


The estimated net migration rate for Barbados in 2005 was -0.31 migrants per 1,000 population. Foreign-born residents are mainly from the other countries in the region, such as St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Guyana. Extra-regional foreign-born residents are mainly from the United Kingdom, United States, and India. To meet the problem of overpopulation, the government encourages emigration. Most emigrants now resettle in the Caribbean region or along the eastern US coast. As of 2004, Barbados recorded a small refugee population of nine. Barbados was expected to receive greater numbers of asylum seekers in the future due to extra-regional migration to and migrant trafficking through the Caribbean.


About 90% of all Barbadians (colloquially called Bajans) are the descendants of former African slaves. Some 4% are of European descent and about 6% of the population are Asian or of mixed descent.


English, the official language, is spoken universally, with some local pronunciations.


Christianity is the dominant religion, with over 95% percent of the population claiming Christian affiliation, even if they are not active members of a particular denomination. The largest denomination is the Anglican Church, which has 70,000 members, about 65% of whom are considered active participants. The second-largest denomination is the Seventh-Day Adventists with 16,000 reported members. The Roman Catholic Church reports having 11,000 members, of whom about 20% are considered to be active participants. Pentecostals have a membership of about 7,000 with 50% active participation. There are about 5,000 Methodists with about 60% active participation. Of the 2,500 members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, 95% are active members. Other Christian denominations include Moravians, Baptists, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). About 17% of the population claims no religious affiliation and about 12% profess other faiths, including Islam, Baha'i, Judaism, Hinduism, and Rastafarianism (Nyabinghi school).

The constitution provides for religious freedom and the right is generally respected in practice. Interfaith associations promoting tolerance and mutual understanding include the Barbados Christian Council and the Caribbean Conference of Churches.


The highway system had a total length of 1,600 km (995 mi) in 2003, all of which was paved. There were 66,900 passenger cars and 13,200 commercial vehicles registered in 2003. Grantley Adams International Airport, situated 18 km (11 mi) southeast of Bridgetown, is the only airport. Barbados is served by 1 local and 14 international airlines. There is also a deep water harbor at Bridgetown, with berthing facilities for cruise ships and freighters. In 2005, Barbados had a merchant fleet of 58 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 427,465 GRT. The Barbados ships registry is the second Ships Registry worldwide that received Lloyd's Registry Quality Assurance approval under the Quality Management System Standard ISO 9002.


Barbados originally supported a considerable population of Arawak Indians, but invading Caribs decimated that population. By the time the British landed, near the site of present-day Holetown in 1625, the island was uninhabited. Almost 2,000 English settlers landed in 162728. Soon afterward, the island developed the sugar-based economy, supported by a slave population. Slavery was abolished in 1834 and the last slaves were freed in 1838.

During the following 100 years, the economic fortunes of Barbados fluctuated with alternating booms and slumps in the sugar trade. In 1876, the abortive efforts of the British to bring Barbados into confederation with the Windward Islands resulted in the "confederation riots."

In the 1930s, the dominance of plantation owners and merchants was challenged by a labor movement. Riots in 1937 resulted in the dispatch of a British Royal Commission to the West Indies and the gradual introduction of social and political reforms, culminating in the granting of universal adult suffrage in 1950. In 1958, Barbados became a member of the West Indies Federation, which was dissolved in 1962. The island was proclaimed an independent republic on 30 November 1966. Political stability has been maintained since that time. Barbados helped form CARICOM in 1973, the same year the nation began issuing its own currency. The country was a staging area in October 1983 for the US-led invasion of Grenada, in which Barbadian troops took part. In 1995 it was designated as a center for the Regional Security System, funded by the United States, which conducted military exercises in the region.

Laws enacted in the early 1980s led to the development of Barbados as an offshore business center in the 1980s and 1990s, although tourism remained the nation's primary source of revenue. The international recession of the early 1990s negatively affected the economy of Barbados, touching off a decline in tourism and other sectors, and leading to a crisis of confidence in the government. After a no-confidence vote on 7 June 1994, Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford dissolved the House of Assembly, the first time since independence that such an action had been taken, and a new government was installed following general elections in September. Economic recovery in the subsequent years helped Prime Minister Owen S. Arthur lead to BLP to a landslide victory in the 1999 elections. Prime Minister Arthur won the 2004 elections and was leading his country for the launch of a single CARICOM economic market scheduled to take place in 2005.

In 2004 Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago struggled bitterly over their maritime boundary and associated fishing rights. Barbados decided to submit the issue to binding arbitration in the United Nations. Barbados continued to experience an almost yearly rise in narcotics trafficking and violent crime. Joint patrols of the Royal Barbados Police Force and the all-volunteer Barbados Defense Force increased patrols of the island. Barbadian US-foreign policy was hampered somewhat as Barbados refused to agree to the immunity of US military personnel from proceedings in the International Criminal Court. The United States responded by suspending military equipment sales. As of late 2005, the two countries remained at an impasse over the issue.


The constitution of Barbados, which came into effect on 30 November 1966, provides for a crown-appointed governor-general (who in turn appoints an advisory Privy Council) and for independent executive, legislative, and judicial bodies. The bicameral legislature consists of a Senate and a House of Assembly. The Senate, appointed by the governor-general, has 21 members: 12 from the majority party, 2 from the opposition, and 7 of the governor-general's choice. The 28-member House of Assembly is elected at intervals of five years or less. The voting population is universal, with a minimum age of 18. The governor-general appoints as prime minister that member of the House of Assembly best able to command a majority. The prime minister's cabinet is drawn from elected members of the House of Assembly.


The leading political groups grew out of the labor movement of the 1930s. The Barbados Labor Party (BLP) was established in 1938 by Sir Grantley Adams. The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) split from the BLP in 1955. The National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed in 1989 by dissident members of the DLP. The parties reflect personal more than ideological differences.

Errol W. Barrow, the DLP leader, was prime minister from independence until 1976. The BLP succeeded him under J.M.G. ("Tom") Adams, the son of Grantley Adams. In 1981, the BLP retained its majority by 1710, and Adams continued in that office until his death in 1985. On 28 May 1986, Barrow and the DLP won 24 House of Assembly seats to three for the BLP. After Barrow's death on 2 June 1987, Deputy Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, minister of education and leader of the House of Assembly, assumed the prime ministership.

Despite the resignation of finance minister Dr. Richie Haynes in 1989, and his subsequent formation of the National Democratic Party, the DLP under Sandiford continued in power, retaining 18 of the now 28 seats in the House of Assembly. The BLP won the remaining 10 seats, leaving the dissident NDP without any representation.

After losing a vote of confidence in the legislature on 7 June 1994, Sandiford dissolved the House of Assembly and scheduled a general election for September. The BLP won by an overwhelming margin, with 19 seats; the DLP won 8, and the NDP, 1. The BLP leader, Owen S. Arthur, became the new prime minister. The BLP swept the next elections, held in January 1999, winning 26 of the 28 House seats, while the DLP claimed only 2. The 2003 elections resulted in a slight loss for the BLP with 23 seats and the DLP with 7; the next elections were scheduled to take place in 2008.


All local governments, including those on the district and municipal levels, were abolished on 1 September 1969; their functions were subsumed by the national government. The country is divided into 11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown for administrative and electoral purposes.


The Barbados legal system is founded in British common law. The Supreme Court of Judicature sits as a high court and court of appeal; vested by the constitution with unlimited jurisdiction, it consists of a chief justice and three puisne judges, appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition party. Magistrate courts have both civil and criminal jurisdiction. On 9 June 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to hear many of the cases formerly brought to the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The first session of the CCJ was scheduled for November 2003. Eight nationsBarbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobagoofficially approved the CCJ, although 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals.

The courts enforce respect for civil rights and assure a number of due process protections in criminal proceedings including a right of detainees to be brought before a judge within 72 hours of arrest. The Judiciary is independent and free from political influence.

In October 2002, Attorney General Mia Mottley announced that a National Commission

on Law and Order would be established to assist the government in achieving civil peace and harmony by promoting cultural renewal and social cohesion, thereby reducing crime and the fear of crime. The Commission published a National Plan on Justice, Peace and Security in June 2004 that included 68 recommendations on constitutional support for social institutions, governance and civil society, cultural values, law enforcement, and criminal courts.


In 2005 the armed forces numbered 610 active personnel and 430 reservists, of which 500 were in the Army and 110 in the Navy. The Navy was equipped with five patrol boats. The defense budget in 2005 was $14 million.


Barbados became a member of the United Nations (UN) on 9 December 1966 and belongs to several UN specialized agencies, such as the ILO, IMF, FAO, IFC, UNESCO, the World Bank, and WHO. The country joined the WTO on 1 January 1995. Barbados is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, ACP group, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), G-77, OAS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Barbados was one of the founding members of CARICOM (1973). Barbados is part of the Nonaligned Movement and Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). In environmental cooperation, Barbados is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Sugar, rum, and molasses used to be Barbados' main sources of revenue. In recent years, however, economic activity has focused more on light industry and tourism. Offshore finance and information services also contribute to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), providing an important source of foreign reserve holdings.

The dependence on tourism and foreign exchange makes Barbados vulnerable to shifts in the global economic climate. That became especially clear in 200203 when a worldwide slowdown in tourism that accompanied the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Unites States hit the Caribbean country's economy hard. The economy suffered a severe decline in foreign investment and went into recession as a result. Conditions began to improve with the recovery of tourism in 2003 and 2004. GDP grew at a 3.4% rate in 2004 and at a more modest 2.5% rate in 2005.

The 2005 figures indicated that Barbados still had not recovered from the earlier slowdown. Through the mid-1990s to early 2000, GDP growth averaged 3.4% annually, and hit 5% in 2000. Yet, the country has managed to keep its historically high unemployment rate in check. Inflation also has remained relatively low, coming in at a manageable 2.4% in 2004.

The transition from an economy dependent upon sugar production to one more oriented toward tourism has helped make Barbados one of the most prosperous nations in the western hemisphere, besides the United States and Canada. Per capita GDP was $17,300 in 2005. For the short term, much of Barbados' economic activity has been focused on tourism development. The country is scheduled to host several games and the final of the World Cricket Match in 2007. Much of the country's construction work has been aimed at accommodating an anticipated influx of visitors.

Servicesof which the largest sector for Barbados is tourismcomprised 83% of the country's GDP in 2004, with industry (12%) and agriculture (4%) lagging significantly behind.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Barbados's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $4.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $17,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.5%. The average inflation rate in 2003 was -0.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 6% of GDP, industry 16%, and services 78%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $97 million or about $358 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.7% of GDP.


The total labor force as of 2001 was estimated at 128,500. In 1996 (the latest year for which data was available), it was estimated that the service sector accounted for 75% of the labor force, industry 15%, and agriculture 10%. Unemployment, traditionally high, was estimated at 10.7% in 2003.

There is one major union, the Barbados Workers' Union, and several smaller specialized ones. As of 2005, about 19% of the workforce was organized, and were concentrated in important sectors of the economy such as agriculture, transportation and the government. Workers freely enjoy the right to organize and join unions, and unions (except in certain "essential" sectors) are not restricted in their right to strike. Trade unions are affiliated with a variety of regional and international labor organizations, and the Caribbean Congress of Labor has its center of operations in Barbados.

The standard legal workweek is five days and 40 hours, with overtime pay required for additional hours worked. In addition, all overtime is voluntary. A minimum of a three-week paid holiday each year (four weeks for those employed at least five years) is required by law. There is a legal minimum work age of 16, which is generally observed, and is reinforced by compulsory primary and secondary educational rules. The law sets the minimum wage for only household domestics and shop assistants, which (as of 2005) was $2.50 per hour.


About 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres), or 39.5% of the total land area, are classified as arable. At one time, nearly all arable land was devoted to sugarcane, but the percentage devoted to ground crops for local consumption has been increasing. In 2004, 361,200 tons of sugarcane were produced, down from the annual average of 584,000 tons in 198991. In 2004, sugar exports amounted to us$22.4 million, or 8% of total exports. Major food crops are yams, sweet potatoes, corn, eddo, cassava, and several varieties of beans. Some cotton is also grown.


The island must import large quantities of meat and dairy products. Most livestock is owned by individual households. Estimates for 2004 showed 9,000 head of cattle, 13,500 sheep, 18,500 hogs, 5,100 goats, and 3,370,000 chickens. Poultry production in 2004 included 13,300 tons of meat and 1,928 tons of hen eggs.


The fishing industry employs about 2,000 persons, and the fleet consists of more than 500 powered boats. The catch in 2003 was 2,500 metric tons. Flying fish, dolphinfish, tuna, turbot, kingfish, and swordfish are among the main species caught. A fisheries terminal complex opened at Oistins in 1983.


Fewer than 20 hectares (50 acres) of original forests have survived the 300 years of sugar cultivation. There are an estimated 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres) of forested land, covering about 12% of the total land area. Roundwood production in 2003 totaled 5,000 cu m (176,500 cu ft), and imports amounted to 5,000 cu m (176,500 cu ft). In 2003, Barbados imported us$25.9 million in wood and forest products.


Deposits of limestone and coral were quarried to meet local construction needs. Production of limestone in 2003 amounted to 1.23 million metric tons. Clays and shale, sand and gravel, and carbonaceous deposits provided limited yields. Preliminary production figures for hydraulic cement in 2003 totaled 330,000 metric tons. Hydraulic cement output in 2002 totaled 297,667 metric tons.


Electricity supply and distribution is managed by Barbados Light and Power, a private company under government concession. Production in 2002 totaled 800 million kWh, with consumption at 744 million kWh for that year. Capacity in 2002 stood at 166,000 kW. Fossil fuels met 100% of energy demand (petroleum roughly 95% and natural gas the remainder). The world oil crisis of the mid-1970s initiated an active search for commercial deposits of oil and natural gas. Limited pockets of natural gas were discovered, and oil was found in St. Philip Parish. Daily oil production in 2004 averaged 1,000 barrels; natural gas production was 1 billion cu ft in 2003. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, proven oil reserves in 2005 totaled 2.9 million barrels. Barbados's oil is refined in Trinidad. As of the beginning of 2000, Barbados was planning to privatize its energy companies, including the National Petroleum Corporation and the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC).


Although tourism is the main economic driver, Barbados was gradually developing a healthy offshore banking and financial services sector. The sugar industry made up less than 1% of the country's GDP and employed about 800 people in a labor force of 146,3000 in 2004.

Barbadian tourism has benefited from continued income growth in its major source markets and dynamic marketing efforts by the national authorities. The United Kingdom is the largest market for Barbados, providing about one-third of all overnight visitors to the island. The construction industry has grown as a result of tourism-related construction projects (such as a hotel, golf course, condominiums, and a marina), in addition to a series of public works projects. Barbados also has garment and furniture making enterprises.


Barbadian learned societies include the Barbados Astronomical Society and the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society, founded in 1956 and 1948 respectively. The Bellairs Research Institute, associated with McGill University in Montréal, is a center for the study of the tropical environment. The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies has faculties in medicine (located in Bridgetown, founded in 1963) and social sciences. Barbados Community College, founded in 1968, offers training in science and technology. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, in St. Ann's Garrison, established in 1933, has collections illustrating the island's geology, prehistory, natural history, and marine life.


Domestic trade is centered on fish, fruit, and vegetable markets, as well as tourism-related shopping. Many food products and other consumer goods are imported. General business is conducted on weekdays from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Most shops are also open Saturdays from 8 am to noon. Banks are open Monday through Thursday from 8 am to 3 pm and Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 249.8 1,195.0 -945.2
Bunkers, ship stores 53.0 53.0
United States 36.1 453.0 -416.9
Trinidad and Tobago 28.4 236.4 -208.0
United Kingdom 27.5 74.5 -47.0
Jamaica 15.4 10.1 5.3
Saint Lucia 11.7 5.3 6.4
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 9.2 3.6 5.6
Grenada 7.4 7.4
Antigua and Barbuda 6.3 6.3
Guyana 6.2 12.3 -6.1
() data not available or not significant.


Barbados consistently imports more than its exports, which has caused it historically to operate with a negative trade balance. That imbalance has widened in recent years, raising some concerns among international lending authorities such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Exports in 2004 totaled $278 million, with major markets being the United States (15%), Trinidad and Tobago (10%), the United Kingdom (10%), and Jamaica (4%). Primary export products include agricultural commodities such as sugar, honey, molasses, and rum; electrical equipment and small manufactures; medications, printed materials, and pesticides and disinfectants. Imports outpaced exports by a ratio of nearly 5:1 in 2004, totaling $1.413 billion. Most trading activity occurred with the United States (36%), Trinidad and Tobago (21%), the United Kingdom (6%), and Japan (5%).

The government and private sector were both working to prepare the country for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)a European Union-style single market that was to begin in 2006.


The consistently adverse trade balance is substantially alleviated by foreign currency remittances from various emigrants and by tourist expenditures. Furthermore, the IMF notes that the rise in imports is related to an increase in economic activity. More mortgages were being sought in Barbados and construction for the 2007 World Cricket Games was on the rise.

However, the growth in import activity has resulted in a shift in balance of payments: Barbados used to maintain a surplus but ended 2004 with a deficit accounting for 5.5% of GDP. Gross international reserves fell to approximately 3.75 months of imported goods and services.


The bank of issue is the Central Bank of Barbados. In 1972, it replaced the East Caribbean Currency Authority (ECCA). Commercial

Current Account -169.4
   Balance on goods -801.4
     Imports -1,065.6
     Exports 264.2
   Balance on services 646.7
   Balance on income -106.9
   Current transfers 92.2
Capital Account
Financial Account 202.4
   Direct investment abroad -0.5
   Direct investment in Barbados 58.3
   Portfolio investment assets -22.9
   Portfolio investment liabilities 84.1
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -83.1
   Other investment liabilities 166.5
Net Errors and Omissions 34.4
Reserves and Related Items -67.4
() data not available or not significant.

banks include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Barbados National Bank, Barclay's Bank, Broad Street, Caldon Finance Merchant Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Caribbean Commercial Bank, Caribbean Financial Services Corporation, Mutual Bank of the Caribbean, and Royal Bank of Canada. Public institutions include the Barbados Development Bank and the Sugar Industry Agricultural Bank. Barbados has begun development of the offshore banking sector, including the Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $571.9 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.9 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 7.5%.

There is no stock exchange in Barbados, although the Central Bank has established the Barbados Securities Marketing Corp. in anticipation of the future development of a securities exchange. Mutual funds provide a tax-exempt vehicle for investment in existing shares.


The regulatory authority is the Supervisor of Insurance of the Ministry of Finance. The General Insurance Association of Barbados is the general trade association. A full range of life and nonlife insurance is available. Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society and Life of Barbados Limited provided most insurance services to the nation in 1999.


Revenues are derived mostly from import duties, internal consumption taxes, and income tax. Public sector deficits grew during the 1980s as the economy weakened. The international recession of 199091 magnified problems of debt service and debt management. By the end of 1990, the national debt was 9.5% higher than that of 1989. By 1991, the fiscal deficit had become unsustainable; in February 1992, the government began a stabilization program in fiscal policies with assistance from the IMF. By 2000, the deficit problem had been resolved.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 Barbados's central government took in revenues of approximately us$847 million and had expenditures of us$886 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -us$39 million. Total external debt was us$668 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were bds$1,827.5 million and expenditures were bds$1,981.6 million. The value of revenues in dollars was us$914 million and expenditures us$925 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = bds$2 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 28.8%; defense, 2.0%; public order and safety, 6.4%; economic affairs, 16.2%; environmental protection, 6.6%; housing and community amenities, 1.5%; health, 11.7%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.2%; education, 19.3%; and social protection, 5.3%.


The top individual tax rate, as of 2005, was 37.5% and applies to incomes over bds$24,200. However, in 2006, that rate was scheduled to drop to 35%. The corporate income tax rate was 30% but like the top individual tax rate, was slated for reduction to 25% in 2006. There is also a 10% branch remittance tax. Other taxes were levied on insurance premiums, property transfers, land value, bank assets, and rental income. A value-added tax (VAT) was

Revenue and Grants 1,827.5 100.0%
   Tax revenue 1,620.4 88.7%
   Social contributions 100.4 5.5%
   Grants 9.1 0.5%
   Other revenue 97.6 5.3%
Expenditures 1,981.6 100.0%
   General public services 570.7 28.8%
   Defense 39.9 2.0%
   Public order and safety 127.8 6.4%
   Economic affairs 321.2 16.2%
   Environmental protection 131.2 6.6%
   Housing and community amenities 28.8 1.5%
   Health 231.5 11.7%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 42.7 2.2%
   Education 381.8 19.3%
   Social protection 106 5.3%
() data not available or not significant.

instituted in 1997, that is levied at 15% generally, and 7.5% on hotel accommodations. Basic commodities are exempt.


Most imports, except those from other CARICOM members, are subject to import duties that include a customs duty, a consumption tax, and a stamp tax. The Common External Tariff (CET) was reduced to 20% in 1999 and the 35% surtax was removed in 2000. Items that carry a higher import duty rate include fruit and vegetables (40%), jewelry (60%), watches (50%), and motor vehicles (45%). The value-added tax of 15% replaced eleven different taxes, mostly on imports. In addition to the VAT, an excise tax of 46.9593.73 % is placed on imported vehicles. Import licenses are needed to import many agricultural products, but there are no export controls. Beer and fruit drinks may be imported only from CARICOM countries, but fruit juices may be imported from nonmember states.

Barbados became a signatory to the World Trade Organization agreement in 1994, agreeing to dismantle all nontariff barriers by the year 2004.


Various investment incentives, administered through the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), are available to both domestic and foreign investors. These include exception from custom duties, tax reduction and exceptions, and training grants. The government favors productive foreign investments with an emphasis on tourism and banking because of their employment and foreign exchange generating potential. Special incentive packages exist for the hotel industry, manufacturing, and offshore business sectors. The Fiscal Incentives Act of 1974 provides for tax holidays up to 10 years for investment in manufacturing, plus a schedule of rebates on income tax is available for any manufacturing company deriving profits from exports. There is full exemption from all income and withholding taxes for investors in some offshore industries (captive insurance, foreign sales corporations), while most International Business Corporations (IBCs), provided they export 100% of their manufactured output, pay 12.5% corporate tax rate, can import production equipment duty free, and are free of exchange controls. Foreign ownership of Barbadian enterprises or participation in joint ventures must be approved by the Central Bank. The offshore sector offers many opportunities, particularly given the island's strong educational base. The government is stable, labor relations are comparatively tranquil, political violence is unknown, and corruption is not considered a problem.

Barbados has concluded double taxation treaties with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, CARICOM, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) picked up significantly in 2003 and 2004. The UN Conference on Trade and Development reported FID inflows of $58 million in 2003, and $50 million in 2004. These shifts were significant compared with the slowdown in FDI that affected Barbados even before the worldwide decline in tourism that accompanied the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. In 2001, FDI fell to $17.5 million, after hitting a previous peak of $19.4 million in 2000. FDI remained at $17 million in 2002 before starting to turn around in 2003. Barbados held $451 million in FDI stocks in 2004, which comprised 15.9% of GDP.


Government planning, in operation since 1951, has helped Barbados make a successful transition from a sugar-based economy to one with a more globalized presence, particularly in the tourism and financial services sector.

The economy recovered well from its 1990 recession, and showed signs in 2005 of bouncing back from the post-11 September 2001 slowdown. The IMF and US State Department both describe Barbados as a healthy, open economy with steady growth rates, low inflation, and falling unemployment.

While the IMF projects that growth prospects for Barbados will remain strong through 2008, the international lending agency expresses some concern about the country's decline in foreign reserves and growing trade imbalance.

For the long-term, Barbados needs to diversify its economy to protect itself from the shock effects of worldwide recessions and other crises. As a small, open economy, the nation itself has little ability to protect itself from the vagaries of market shifts. This is particularly the case with tourism, as the economic contraction that followed the 11 September 2001 attacks showed.


A national social security system provides old age and survivors' pensions, sickness, disability, and maternity benefits, and employment injury benefits. All employed persons are covered. Unemployment insurance was introduced in 1982 and is funded by equal contributions from employers and employees. Sickness and maternity benefits are provided for employed persons. Free medical care is available in health centers and public hospitals.

Although women are well-represented in all aspects of national life, women's rights advocates cite domestic violence and abuse as a serious problem. A domestic violence law requires an immediate police response to reports of violence against women and children. There are public and private counseling services for victims of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse. Sexual harassment continued in the workplace. In 2004, the government continued to address the issues of children's rights and welfare.

Human rights are protected under the constitution. Prison conditions are inadequate consisting of one overcrowded adult facility that is more than 150 years old.


Barbados has a national health service. In 2004, there were 120 physicians, 13 nurses, and 23 dentists per 100,000 people. Life expectancy in 2005 was 72.59 years and the overall death rate was estimated at 8 per 1,000 people as of 2002. The infant mortality rate was 11.72 per 1,000 live births in 2005. By the mid-1990s, the under-five mortality rate had improved to only 10 per 1,000 from 1960, when it was 90 per 1,000 children. In the mid-1990s, the birth rate was 14 births per 1,000 people. As of 1994, 97% of one-year-old children were vaccinated against measles. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.50 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The Barbados Housing Authority is empowered to acquire land, construct housing projects, and redevelop overcrowded areas. Rising land costs continued to be a hindrance to new home construction, but since 1996, the government has been looking at new ways to help private owners finance land and home purchases. Also since 1996, the government has initiated a new building code to improve existing structures, particularly focusing on renovations that may prevent destruction from hurricanes.

At last estimate, 90% of all housing consisted of detached homes and more than 5% of apartments. About 76% of all homes were owner occupied. The average household size is 4.3 people. An important concern for the government has been to offer a supply of adequate, low-income housing to both improve and supplement the existing housing stock. In the late 1990s, it was estimated that about 30% of the population in Greater Bridgetown lived in "chattel" homes, portable makeshift homes that are built and owned by a household but placed on land rented from the government or other private landlord. As of 2004, the government was still behind schedule on completion of new housing projects.


Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. Primary school covers six years and secondary school covers seven years. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at close to 100% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 90% of age-eligible students. Nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 16:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 15:1.

As of 2000, there were 93 government primary schools and a small number of private primary schools. Secondary education was provided in 22 government secondary schools, 15 assisted private schools, and 7 senior schools for students ages 1416. The education program in Barbados is administered by the Ministry of Education and is free in all government-run schools. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 7.6% of GDP.

Scholarships are awarded for study in the United Kingdom and in Caribbean institutions. The Barbados branch of the University of the West Indies opened at Cave Hill in 1963. The government pays the fees of all Barbadian students at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of West Indies. The Barbados Community College was established in 1968. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.7%.

There is also advanced education for adults at the Extramural Center of the University of West Indies, the Erdiston Teachers Training College, and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. There are special schools for the deaf, blind, and mentally retarded, including two residential institutions for disabled persons.


A free library (1847) is maintained by the government in Bridgetown. There are seven branches, with bookmobile stops throughout the island. By 2002, the system had 126,000 volumes. The library of the Barbados branch of the University of the West Indies has 179,000 volumes and serves as a depository library of the United Nations. The Law Library of the University of the West Indies holds about 110,000 books.

There were seven museums in the country in 2001. There are also 17 monuments and historic sites and 5 zoos and botanical gardens. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society (1933) in Saint Michael is a general museum with collections showing the geology, history, natural history, marine life, and plantation home furnishings of the island, as well as Arawak artifacts. Other museums include the Mallalieu Motor Museum in Christ Church, the Sir Frank Huts on Sugar Museum in Saint James, and a science museum at the Rum Factory and Heritage Park in Saint Phillip.


Automatic telephone service is provided by a private firm, the Barbados Telephone Co. Ltd. In 2003, there were 134,000 mainline phones in use, as well as 140,000 mobile phones. A wireless telephone service provides overseas communications and a telex cable connects Barbados with the United Kingdom. The Congor Bay Earth Station, opened in 1972, links Barbados with the global satellite communications system.

Barbados has a government-controlled television and radio broadcasting service (The Caribbean Broadcasting SystemCBS) and a commercial rediffusion service that broadcasts over a cable network. In 2004, there were nine radio stations, three of which were owned by CBS. The country's only television station is also owned by CBS. In 1997, there were about 237,000 radios and 76,000 television sets in use throughout the country. In 2003, there were 100,000 Internet subscribers.

There are two major daily newspapers (both independently operated, in Bridgetown), the Advocate (circulation 15,000 in 2002) and the Daily Nation (32,000), as well as some periodicals, including a monthly magazine, the New Bajan.

The Constitution of Barbados provides for freedom of expression and the government is said to uphold freedom of speech and press. The government prohibits the production of pornographic materials.


Barbados has a chamber of commerce in St. Michael. The Barbados Association of Office Professionals provides some general business training and networking options. There is also a Barbados Employers' Confederation, a Barbados Manufacturers' Association, and a Barbados Workers' Union. Associations are available a number of professionals, including lawyers, teachers, journalists, and medical professionals. Some notable medical associations include the Barbados Cancer Society, Barbados Dental Association, Barbados Family Planning Association, and the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners.

The Barbados Museum and Historical Society is a key organization for the preservation and promotion of art and culture. The Evangelical Association of the Caribbean and the Caribbean Conference of Churches are multinational organizations based in the country.

International youth organizations include 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, YMCA, and YWCA. Other youth organizations include the Anglican Young People's Association, the Caribbean Youth Business Network, the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, the Guild of Undergraduates of Barbados, and the League of Progressive Youth. There are a number of sports associations in the country, promoting such pastimes as track and field, weightlifting, badminton, and lawn tennis.

The Barbados Council of Women serves as an umbrella organization for women's groups. Branches of international service organizations include Kiwanis International, Lions Club, and Rotary Club. There are national chapters of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and UNICEF.


Barbados, with its fine beaches, sea bathing, and pleasant climate, has long been a popular holiday resort. Cricket is the national sport, followed by surfing, sailing, and other marine pastimes. A valid passport and onward/return ticket are required of all visitors entering Barbados. Visas are not required for citizens of the United States, Canada, or Australia, but visas are required for citizens of some 78 countries.

In 2003, about 531,000 tourists visited Barbados. There were 6,210 hotel rooms that year with 10,770 beds and a 49% occupancy rate. The cost of staying in Barbados varied seasonally. According to 2005 US Department of State estimates, the daily cost of staying in Barbados between December and April was us$394. At other times of the year, daily costs averaged us$284.


Sir Grantley Adams (18981971) was premier of the Federation of the West Indies (195862). His son, John Michael Geoffrey Manningham "Tom" Adams (193185) was prime minister from 1976 until his death, succeeding Errol Walton Barrow (192087). In 1985, Barrow again assumed the office of prime minister until his death. Erskine Sandiford (b.1938) succeeded Barrow. Barbados-born Edwin Barclay (18821955) was president of Liberia from 1930 to 1944. George Lamming (b.1927) is a well-known West Indian novelist. Sir Garfield Sobers (b.1936) has gained renown as the "world's greatest cricketer."


Barbados has no territories or colonies.


Beckles, Hilary. A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Butler, Kathleen. The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 18231843. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Kinas, Roxan. Barbados. Maspeth, N.Y.: APA, 2002.

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Major Cities:


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated November 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The British influence remains alive and strong in BARBADOS . Although this small Caribbean nation has been independent for more than two decades, the mark of the Crown survives in its language, in its passion for cricket, in conservative dress, and in the carefully nurtured observance of afternoon teatime. A renowned tourist mecca, Barbados is, in many ways, the most advanced of the smaller Caribbean islands, and it enjoys its position as a stable, independent state within the British Commonwealth.

The island is geographically isolated and offers few sophisticated cultural amenities, but the sun shines nearly every day, and the sea beckons to visitors throughout the year. From quiet coves to sprawling, luxurious resorts, Barbados is well-equipped for tourism.

The island was settled by the English, but it is thought that perhaps it had been named earlier by Portuguese explorersLos Barbados for the bearded fig trees they found in such profusion.



Bridgetown, founded in 1629, is Barbados' capital and largest city. It has about 123,000 inhabitants. The Careenage, a small inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, divides the city. Some tourist charter boats and fishing boats are docked there. Two of the old warehouses lining the Careenage have been partly renovated and provide space for some cafes and shops.

Broad Street is the principal tourist shopping and banking street. A small statue of Lord Nelson stands in the square, commissioned by the Bridgetown merchants in gratitude for Nelson's saving the West Indies by defeating the French at Trafalgar.

A deep-water harbor was constructed in 1961, and interisland shipping has since been moved from the Careenage to a shallow draft harbor. The government has built Bridgetown Fishing Harbour, which provides piers and moorings for the fishing fleet and a fish market.

The Garrison Savannah, once the training ground for the British West Indies Regiment, is now a park. Horse-racing is held at the track there on most Saturdays in season and on some holidays. Surrounding the Savannah are private buildings that once housed the British forces. One of these is the Barbados Museum.

Many of the older buildings in Bridgetown have been destroyed to make way for modern, utilitarian structures. In recent years, the Barbados National Trust has become interested in preserving Barbados' architectural heritage. As a result, a few of the charming old buildings have been repainted and renovated.


Most meat sold locally, except for chicken, is imported. American beef is available, but quite expensive. Local pork, chicken, and lamb are available, fresh and frozen. Fresh fish is sold every afternoon at fish markets around the island. King-fish, dorado (referred to locally as dolphin), and flying fish are staples; red snapper is available during the summer months. Tuna, shark, and marlin are also available. Shrimp and lobster are available, but at high prices.

Pasteurized milk, cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream are available from the local dairy and are safe for consumption. They are also expensive by U.S. standards and tend to spoil rapidly. Ice cream and frozen yogurt are also produced locally, but are very expensive.

The variety and quality of fruits and vegetables available are disappointing. Prices are high by U.S. standards, whether the produce is locally grown or imported. Most fruit sold in the supermarkets is imported. Local lettuce is available, as are cucumbers, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, and cabbage, but with frequent shortages of these items, especially during the tourist season (mid-December to mid-April). Tomatoes, avocados, melon, squash, broccoli, mangoes, and papayas are seasonally available. Quality varies and you may have to search through the local vendors stalls to find good ones. All bananas sold in Barbados are grown locally. Oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple are imported from the other CARICOM countries. The market at Cheapside, open mornings, Monday through Saturday, is where many local small farmers sell their produce. Although the variety is limited, the prices are much lower than in supermarkets, and some families find this a better source than the supermarkets.


Dress in Barbados is more traditional and conservative than elsewhere in the Caribbean. This translates to more suits and ties and dresses than may be expected from perusal of tourist brochures of cruises and vacations in the Caribbean.

Lightweight, informal clothing is worn by both men and women. The selection available locally is limited and expensive.

Keep in mind that clothing will be laundered more frequently here; it fades and wears out quickly. Elastic loses its stretch; metal pieces rust. When purchasing new items for Barbados try to avoid metal buckles, zippers, snaps, or buttons. Leather belts and shoes tend to mildew.

Clothes not worn frequently that are left in closets on metal hangers may be damaged by rusting of the hangers, sometimes even rusting through the fabric at the shoulders. Leave most woolen clothing or other items that require dry-cleaning in storage. The humidity increases the amount of mildew forming on clothing kept in closets, resulting in the need to wash or dry-clean clothing that has not been worn.

Men: A suit is worn to the office and most social functions. The locally available "shirt jac" (something like the guya-bera in Latin America or safari suit in Africa) is acceptable on some occasions. When selecting your wardrobe for Barbados, keep in mind the heat, the humidity, the island's limited professional cleaning facilities, and the fact that clothing fades and wears out quickly here.

Women: Short-sleeved cotton dresses or skirts and blouses are suitable for work. Short-sleeved or sleeveless cotton dresses, sun-dresses, blouses, and skirts or shorts are suitable for home or running errands, although residents do not generally wear shorts downtownonly the tourists do. Slacks are also worn in the evening or when the weather is cooler. Bring 100% cotton clothing and lingerie. Synthetics are fine for the office or evening. Hats (except on the beach), gloves, and hose are rarely worn. Sweaters are rarely needed, except at the office.

Children: School-age children wear uniforms. Each school has their own color uniform. Some pieces (i.e., white shirts, brown or black shoes) may be purchased in the U.S. at a lower cost. Some specific items must be purchased locally. Children will live in swimsuits, shorts, and T-shirts. Children's clothing is more expensive and of poorer quality than that available in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Tailors and dressmakers are hard to find, and the quality of workmanship varies. Dry-cleaning is much more expensive than in the U.S., and the quality is not always the best. Several good beauty shops operate with prices that are similar to those in the U.S.

Religious Activities

More than 140 different religious denominations and sects are represented in Barbados. The Anglican Church predominates and Anglican churches abound. The island has six Catholic churches. Protestant denominations include Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Moravian, Pilgrim Holiness, New Testament Church of God, Church of the Nazarene, Assembly of God, Baptist, and the United Christian Brethren. Christian Science, Mormon, and Jehovah's Witnesses are also here. More Caribbean in character and African in outlook are the Sons of God Apostolic Church or "Spiritual Baptists" and Rastafarians. Barbados has two Greek Orthodox churches, a synagogue, and a mosque. Baha'is and Hindus are also here.


The education system in Barbados is modeled on the British system and is in many ways not comparable to education in the U.S. In addition to the stress of coping with a different education system, the educational environment lacks amenities taken for granted in the U.S. The schools have no science labs or theaters; the libraries and gyms are inadequate or nonexistent; very little computer training is available. The buildings generally appear rundown; the walls are bare. Children coming from an American education system have found the adjustment especially difficult at the secondary level.

Many parents are satisfied with local preschools and primary schools. The local schools are not obliged to accept U.S. children, however, and it is difficult to find places after June 30.

Primary school children usually attend St. Gabriel's, St. Angela's, or St. Winifred's. All schools require uniforms. Some schools have Brownie and Cub Scout troops.

Secondary education begins at age 11 upon completion of the 11 plus examination.

The differences in the educational system are most apparent at the secondary level, where emphasis is on memorization of material in preparation for taking public examinations. The curriculum is inflexible, and course offerings are limited by the form (grade) in which a child is placed. For example, if your child is ready to begin the second year of Spanish and the form is in the third year of French, the child will have to do third-year French or no foreign language at all. Creativity is not rewarded and often discouraged. No credit is given for having completed course work; scores on the year end public examination determine success or failure. Extracurricular activities such as sports, drama, music, journalism, or other special interests are not normally available. Pressure is placed on children to compete with their classmates to be "first in form."

Special Educational Opportunities

Children can take lessons in ballet, modern dance, swimming, tennis, riding, piano, Spanish, French, chess, table tennis, drawing, karate, judo, gymnastics, and recorder. The Barbados Yachting Association offers sailing lessons in the summer for children 8 and older.

The Barbados Community College also offers courses to adults in foreign languages, computers, and other continuing education. The Alliance Francais offers French-language courses at various levels.

The University of the West Indies will allow a college-age dependent to enroll as an "occasional student" and audit courses on a noncredit basis. Expenses are equal to a non-resident student at a U.S. university. Computer courses are held at a local institute.

The Office of Overseas Schools advises against bringing handicapped children to Barbados.


Cricket is the national sport, and most Barbadians take an avid interest in it. The quality of cricket played locally is high, especially the test matches, and the West Indian team is one of the world's top test match teams.

Soccer, rugby, golf, field hockey, running, cycling, and tennis are popular, and basketball is becoming increasingly so. Individuals have access to three courses: the 18-hole Sandy Lane Hotel Course, the 18-hole course at the new Royal Westmoreland Golf Course, and the 9-hole course at Rockley. Tennis courts are available, although few are public, and most require club membership. At least five squash clubs are available and several gyms and fitness centers offer exercise classes as well as Nautilus equipment. Bodybuilding is a very popular sport in Barbados. The country has produced a number of world-class bodybuilders, including a former Mr. Universe and a former Mr. World.

All beaches in Barbados are public. A certain amount of harassment by panhandlers and itinerant vendors is a problem with some selling drugs. Women who are alone can expect to be approached by several persistent young men who make a living that way. Swimming, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing are popular sports. The water is warm year round. Some of the hotels offer use of their pools gratis or for a small fee. Most swimming areas do not have lifeguards, and swimming on the east coast can be very dangerous.

Sailing conditions are good, but possible local destinations are very limited. No marinas or docks are available to pleasure boat owners in Barbados. Those that exist are only for commercial fishing boats. Boats may be moored along the coast; most are moored in Carlisle Bay adjacent to the Yacht Club. No charge is made for your mooring. The Yacht Club has modest fees to join for both boating and tennis and sponsors serious sailing races for racing, cruising, and dinghy classes.

Thoroughbreds on the island are limited in number, although the Barbados Turf Club holds periodic races during the year. Horses are occasionally brought in from Trinidad or Martinique. Polo matches are held during winter.

Barbados offers opportunities for water polo, horseback riding, rifle shooting, Ping-pong, and netball. For runners, two or three 10K races and a marathon are held each year. The Barbados Hash House Harriers meet every Saturday afternoon at various spots on the island for a run or walk through the countryside. The National Trust sponsors walks each Sunday morning and afternoon that offer great views as well as good exercise.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

All touring on Barbados is done by car. Distances are not great, but travel can sometimes be time consuming due to narrow, congested, and unevenly maintained roads.

Barbados has several old plantation "Great Houses" open to the public. Sam Lord's Castle, Villa Nova, and St. Nicholas Abbey are the best known, but Sunbury and Francia are also interesting to visit. Farley Hill, a great house now in ruins, is a National Park with beautiful views of both coasts, a picnic area, and playground. The Flower Forest, Welchman Hall Gully, and Andromeda Gardens are botanical parks. The Wildlife Reserve has monkeys, caiman, peacocks, tortoises, and other small animals and is a favorite with children. Harrison's Cave is a large limestone cavern also very popular with the younger set.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines offer some of the most beautiful sailing waters in the world. It is a short flight from Barbados to Grenada, Union Island, or St. Vincent. Chartering a sailboat and sailing among the Grenadine islands is a memorable experience for those who are able to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the unique character and attractions of each of the islands.


Entertainment possibilities in Barbados, beyond the tourist-oriented shows, are limited and hard to find. Those who seek them out, begin by asking long-term residents and Barbadians. The island's drive-in movie theater is a great treat on balmy evenings with a cooler of drinks and a vat of popcorn.

Most Americans in Barbados have VCRs (VHS predominant) and get current copies of releases from the many video clubs located around the island. Many of these copies are of indifferent quality and do not appear authorized. Amateur and semiprofessional theater, music, and dance groups perform occasionally. In addition, most larger hotels provide calypso and steelband music of varying quality year round. The island also has some nightclubs and discos.

Barbados has many restaurants that, in general, offer standard tourist fare at tourist prices. A few noteworthy restaurants offer excellent cuisine at prices comparable to those of similar quality in Washington, D.C. Some of the hotels offer buffet specials, which can be more reasonably priced.

The Barbados National Trust holds an open house each week from January to April at some of the finer homes on the island. The plantation houses are varied, with luxury winter homes. These tours are popular with residents and tourists alike. The Barbados Museum supports an amateur archeological group that has been digging with great success at a pre-Columbian Indian site.

Amateur photographers and artists will find both scenic beauty and human interest shots. Art materials are limited. Film can be purchased locally, but is expensive.

Several active bridge clubs hold regular sessions. The Barbados Bridge League offers duplicate bridge four times a week. A chess club and a ham radio club accept members.

Social Activities

The American Women's Club is a large local organization that meets monthly. Membership is open to both Americans and others. The club sponsors several activities, including a book group, a cooking group, bridge, a literary group, and an occasional charity ball.

Opportunities exist to meet Barbadians officially and in community activities. These contacts can later broaden into more personal relationships, but may require more effort to overcome the reserved distance characteristic of Barbadian culture. Nationals of other countries, particularly the U.K. and Canada, are easy to meet and share many interests with Americans. The Multi-National Women's Committee sponsors an annual fund-raising fair to benefit a variety of children's charities each February, thereby offering opportunities to get involved in Barbadian society and meet people from many countries.

International organizations represented in Barbados include, among others, UNDP, PAHO, EEC, IDB, UNICEF, and the OAS.


Geography and Climate

Barbados lies about 270 miles northeast of Venezuela and 1,612 miles southeast of Miami. It is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide with an area of 166 square miles. Constant westward tradewinds temper the tropical climate much of the year.

Situated 100 miles to the east of the Caribbean Windward Island chain, Barbados is distinct from those islands in many ways. It is a coral island, rather than volcanic, and relatively flat.

Mt. Hillaby, the highest point, is only 1,104 feet above sea level. Bridgetown, the capital, is located on the southwest corner of the island. The west and south coasts leading out of the city are densely populated, with hotels, residential, and commercial areas intermingling. The rugged, windswept east coast boasts the scenic Scotland district. The currents on the east coast are very dangerous, and swimming is forbidden in many areas. The interior of the island rises gently and sugarcane fields are interspersed with villages, farms, and the occasional plantation Great House.

Actual temperatures in Barbados vary little during the year, averaging about 77°F (25°C) and rarely rising above 89°F (32°C) or falling below 65°F (18°C). The intensity of the sun this near the Equator makes it seem much hotter, but the effects of the changes in humidity are even stronger. During the summer months, which make up the rainy season and coincide with the hurricane season, high humidity levels greatly intensify the discomfort of the higher temperatures. During the winter, which is the "dry" tourist season, it can feel almost cold in the evenings. Even during those months a significant amount of rain falls.


Approximately 260,000 people live in Barbados, with about 123,000 of them residing in the capital of Bridgetown.

Arawak Indians are thought to have lived here once, only to be destroyed by the fierce Carib Indians who then abandoned the island. Barbados was uninhabited when British sailors landed at what is now Hole-town, in 1625. As the sugar industry developed into the main commercial interest, Barbados was divided into huge estates. Slaves were brought from Africa to work the plantations until slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834.

Barbados is much more densely populated than its Eastern Caribbean island neighbors. The people of Barbados came from Africa, England, South America, North America, other Caribbean nations, and, more recently, from Asian countries. Over 90% of the population is directly descended from African slaves, and they dominate the island's politics. Over the last 15 years, a growing interest in exploring their African cultural heritage has occurred. Approximately 20% of the population are of mixed black and white blood, with shades of skin color playing an important role in defining how Barbadians view one another. This can be seen in the variety of terms used to describe the variations between black and whitebrown skin, light skin, fair skin, high brown, red, and mulatto among them. About 7% of the population is white, and still control much of the economic activity on the island. Since the mid-1980s, a willingness on the part of educated blacks and others to discuss racial problems and concepts has often led to heated debates. Racially motivated violence, however, is rare to nonexistent.

Barbadians consider themselves as friendly, relaxed, and informal, and many visitors to Barbados who stay for only a few days or weeks leave with that same impression. Outsiders who live here, however, perceive Barbadians as more reserved, formal, and less spontaneous and outgoing than any other people in the West Indies. They are not nearly so quick as Americans to deal with others on a first-name basis, resorting more often to titles and formal forms of address. A proud people, Barbadians may take offense easily to any perceived slight, and sometimes seem to be looking for signs of disrespect or condescension.

English is the official language, but dialects vary from country to country in the region, as well as from parish to parish on each island. Most Americans need some time to adapt to the heavy Barbadian dialect, which can become absolutely impenetrable at will. A French patois is spoken widely in St. Lucia, Dominica, and in certain areas of St. Vincent as these islands were all under French control at one time or another.

Public Institutions

From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under British control. 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.

Local politics at that time were dominated by a small group of British plantation owners and tradesmen. It was not until the 1930s that a movement for political rights was begun by educated descendants of the emancipated slaves. One of the leaders, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labor Party in 1938.

Progress toward a more democratic government was made in 1950 when universal suffrage was introduced. This was followed by steps toward increased self-government until full internal autonomy was achieved in 1961.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of 10 members in the West Indies Federation. 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 U.K. in June 1966. After years of peaceful, democratic, and evolutionary progress toward self-rule, Barbados attained independence on November 30, 1966.

Barbados is now an independent and sovereign state within the Commonwealth. Under the current constitution, Barbados is a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The Queen of England, Barbados titular head of state, appoints a Governor General as her representative in Barbados. The bicameral Parliament, consisting of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Assembly, is supreme. The Prime Minister (normally the leader of the House majority party) and other Cabinet members are appointed from among the House members. The Senate consists of 21 members; the House, 28. The Governor General appoints all Senators: 7 without advice to represent religious, economic, social, or other interests; 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister; and 2 on the advice of the opposition leader. The country's two major political parties, the Barbados Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party (which arose out of the labor movement in the West Indies) have precipitated much of the country's political change.

The judiciary comprises the Supreme Court of Barbados and numerous courts of summary jurisdiction. The Supreme Court includes a Court of Appeal and a High Court.

The island is divided into 11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown. No local government exists, and all these divisions are administered by the central government.

The territories are linked in various ways, but little popular support exists to merge the islands into a common Caribbean or other regional political grouping. There have been unsuccessful attempts to form a single political union.

Arts, Science, and Education

The educational system, traditionally geared to prepare administrative and clerical personnel as well as some university entrants, has changed recently. Certain branches of technical training, especially manufacturing, engineering service, hotel management, and management training, have progressed greatly.

The government operates primary and secondary schools, and through grants, aids some private schools, all of which offer regular academic subjectsEnglish, math, languages, science, history, and geography. The educational system is patterned after the British model. The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has faculties of law, arts, and general studies, natural and social sciences, and a school of education. Other UWI facilities are located at the Jamaica and Trinidad campuses. The Barbados Community College offers junior college-level courses in commercial, engineering subjects and liberal arts and recently introduced the associate degree program modeled after the U.S. system. The Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic Institute concentrates on vocational and technical education. Erdiston College conducts a 2-year teacher training course. Codrington College, an Anglican seminary dating back to the early 1700s, now is also affiliated with UWI.

Each year the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) sponsors a guitar festival in February, and the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) in November. The Caribbean and Latin American Music Society (CLAMS) sponsors a series of classical chamber music concerts in January, and the Barbados Dance Theater sponsors a "season of dance" in March. All of these activities involve a limited number of amateur performances (usually fewer than six) over the space of a few days. The NCF also sponsors the island's largest festival, Crop-Over, from June to August. This is similar to the Carnival celebrated on other islands in the Caribbean. It includes calypso competitions and other festivities, culminating in "Kadooment," a street parade of costumes and general merrymaking.

Throughout the year, performances by calypso artists, amateur theatrical productions, the Barbados Symphonia (a local orchestral ensemble), and a variety of talent competitions and concerts by local groups and church choirs are offered. Several local art shows are also here.

Commerce and Industry

Historically, sugar production was Barbados' largest industry since its introduction in the 17th century. But in recent years, tourism and light industry have surpassed sugar both as foreign exchange earners and employers.

Tourism is a major industry in Barbados and continues to increase each year, with an 8% growth in 2000. The majority of visitors are from the United Kingdom, but U.S. visitors have increased in the past few years. To encourage tourism and industrial development, the government is expanding the recently completed major highway program that links the airport, deep-water harbor, several industrial parks.

Sugar production continues and even rose by about 10% in 2000 to its highest yield since 1997. Most of the sugar produced is sold to the European Community at a guaranteed price. Non-sugar agricultural production, vegetables and cotton, grew by about 6%%. However, agriculture only accounts for about 4% of the GDP, and imports are still needed to provide Barbados with much of what it needs to survive, not only in foods, but in energy and other consumer products. In 2000, Barbados import expense was about $800 million. Major trading partners are the U.K. and the U.S.

Barbados is a member of CARICOM, a regional trade alliance.

Unions play an important role in the nation's political and economic development. Some 40% of the work force is unionized, and the labor movement, particularly the Barbados Workers Union, has traditionally been a significant factor in the political process in Barbados.



Barbados has an extensive road network900 miles of paved roadsbut the roads are narrow, poorly developed, and many are indifferently maintained. Blind corners and dangerous intersections are encountered throughout the island. The tropical climate includes frequent brief rains that leave the roadway extremely slippery. The lack of sidewalks means pedestrians are often encountered in the road. Traffic tends to be congested in Bridgetown during daytime hours.

Inexpensive public bus service covers nearly all the island. Buses are not air-conditioned and are overcrowded during rush hours and on Saturdays when people go to market. Independently owned minivans operate at low cost and breakneck speed, with a minimum of regulation and according to no published schedule. Taxis are available in population centers and at most hotels, but fares are too high for regular use.


Daily flights are available to Miami, New York, and through San Juan to other cities. Travel from the U.S. to the other islands of the Caribbean can be expensive, particularly in the high seasonmid-December to mid-April. Travel within the Caribbean islands costs the same year round. Several local travel agents offer moderately priced packages over holiday weekends and during the low season to the other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico, and Caracas. Martinique, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Grenada are close.


Telephone and Telegraph

The telephone system in Barbados is good, with direct-dial service via satellite to the U.S. Repairs can take a very long time. The area code for Barbados and most of the Caribbean is 809. Direct calls are expensive, but cheaper when charged to a U.S. telephone credit card (currently, AT&T and cable and wireless have an agreement to permit use of AT&T cards in Barbados). Telegraph service is also good.

Radio and TV

Two local AM radio stations, four local FM radio stations, and one wired service are available only to subscribers. The AM stations favor West Indian sounds, with lively discussions on local issues and extensive local news coverage. The FM stations present American pop, easy listening, and religious formats. One of the FM stations also presents a classical program on the weekends. The wire service, Rediffusion, carries classical music, drama, and literature. The BBC's World News is broadcast on both AM and FM daily. In addition to the Barbados stations, several regionally based radio stations can be picked up on the AM band, including Radio Francaise Outre-Mer and stations in Grenada, St. Vincent, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Venezuela. VOA is carried 7 hours a day over Radio Antilles (930 AM).

The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) TV station carries 12 hours of programming daily, including about 4 hours of CNN Headline News weekday mornings. Evening programming is a mix of older American and British serials, locally produced news, and information and entertainment shows. Sesame Street is telecast weekday afternoons. CBC broadcasts in NTSC and U.S. sets operate without adjustment. They have recently made available four subscriber channels, ESPN, CNN, TNT South, and Lifetime, at a fee comparable to U.S. cable services that have many more channels.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Barbados has two daily newspapers, The Nation and The Advocate, both published in Bridgetown and available throughout the island. These concentrate on local and regional news. Their coverage of international news not directly affecting Barbados is limited. Home delivery is available. A local distributor offers same day or 1-day-later provision of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Herald Tribune and The New York Times.

Popular U.S. magazines may be purchased at the three or four local bookstores and newsstands, but they are expensive. International editions of U.S. news magazines are available locally.

Barbados has a public library system, and the small central library has a fair collection. Several local bookstores carry a very limited selection of paperbacks and hard-bound books at very high prices.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Barbados has good medical facilities, and most medical specialties have practitioners here. Some areas of medical practice are lacking, however, and certain ailments and injuries cannot be adequately treated locally.

Medical facilities on the other islands are barely adequate, and most lack the facilities to treat major medical problems. Each island has at least one hospital, but complicated cases are usually transferred to Barbados.

Two main hospitals, the government-supported Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the private Bayview Hospital are available, along with local polyclinics. The selection of a personal or family physician is the responsibility of the individual and should be done as soon as possible. The physician with whom you register will determine at which hospital you will receive treatment. In case of emergency, your private physician will meet you at the hospital, which will greatly speed the care given.

Individual or family counseling is available through recommended community resources.

Therapy services, including physical, occupational, and speech, are available both privately and through government services. Most therapists are trained abroad in the U.S., U.K., or Canada and provide good-quality care by U.S. standards.

General dental and orthodontic services are available. When possible, crowns, root canals, dental surgery, etc., should be done in the U.S.

Not all local pharmacists will fill U.S. physician prescriptions. In general, pharmacists will supply a medicine to someone who has run out of a supply while visiting, if the vial and some form of identification are produced. Drug agencies in Barbados order from all over the world, including the U.S., with many of the brand names supplied in the U.S. available here, sometimes at a lower price.

Community Health

The Government of Barbados is continuing its efforts to improve sanitation. Most residences in Bridgetown are connected to sewers. Free garbage pickup is provided once or twice a week in many areas. Sanitation inspectors periodically check homes, hotels, restaurants, and factories to control flies and mosquitoes.

Barbados has pure water, filtered through 600 feet of coral. Tap-water is potable. The water is not fluoridated. The water's lime and calcium content are high. Do not assume the tap-water is potable on the other islands. Drink bottled water, soft drinks, etc.

Preventive Measures

The intense sunlight is a serious hazard. Use sunscreen daily before leaving home. Children particularly need to be protected from overexposure. Sunscreen is available locally. The climate can cause heat exhaustion, sunburn, and fatigue. Drink plenty of fluids to offset increased perspiration.

Local milk and milk products are safe. Fruits and vegetables need only washing.

Skin problems such as acne and fungal infections may be aggravated by the humid climate, and extra measures of hygiene are necessary. Photosensitivity reactions from taking certain medications may occur. Pollen from cane, cashews, and other flora may cause allergic reactions. Some people suffer gastrointestinal disturbances after arrival, but the effects are generally slight and mainly due to the change in eating habits, climate, and water. External ear infections are common. Hookworms, roundworms, and pin-worms are common, but normally do not present a problem to resident Americans.

Dengue fever occurs periodically. No protection is available other than the avoidance of mosquito bites. Use coils and repellants. A few cases of bilharzia (schistosomiasis) continue to be reported annually on St. Lucia as well as the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. To avoid the disease, do not expose any part of the body to any freshwater streams, lakes, or pools. Tuberculosis is a recurrent problem in Dominica, and, to a lesser extent, in St. Lucia. Skin tests for tuberculosis are available in the Medical Unit.


The exact dates of some religious holidays are based on the lunar calendar and change each year.

Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 21 Errol Barrow's Birthday

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter Sunday*

May 1Labor Day



Aug. 1Emancipation Day

August (first Monday) Kadooment Day

October (first Monday) United Nations Day

Nov. 30Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



Passage, Customs & Duties

You can reach Bridgetown from Washington, D.C., by air via New York or Miami. American Airlines has daily flights from JFK and Miami with a stopover in San Juan. No regularly scheduled U.S. passenger liner service is available between the U.S. and Barbados.

U.S. citizens may enter Barbados for up to 28 days without a valid passport, but must carry original documentation proving U.S. citizenship (i.e. valid or expired U.S. passport, certified U.S. birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of Citizenship), state-issued photo identification and an onward or return ticket. U.S. citizen visitors who enter Barbados without these items, even if admitted by immigration authorities, may encounter difficulties in boarding flights for return to the United States. U.S. citizens entering with documents other than U.S. passports should take special care to secure those documents while travelling. It can be time-consuming and difficult to acquire new proof of citizenship to facilitate return travel. The Barbados government requires payment of a service tax upon departure from the island.

Barbados customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Barbados of items such as firearms and agricultural products. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Barbados in Washington, D.C. or one of Barbados's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Americans living in or visiting Barbados are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Barbados and obtain updated information on travel and security within Barbados. The U.S. Embassy is located in Bridgetown at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Building on Broad Street, telephone (246) 436-4950, web site The Consular Section is located in the American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) Building, Cheapside, telephone (246) 431-0225 or fax (246) 431-0179, web site Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except local and U.S. holidays.


Barbados is rabies free, and the authorities are determined to keep it so. Most families purchase animals locally. Some purebred animals are sold locally, but they are expensive. Dogs and cats can generally be imported into Barbados only from the U.K. If you want to import a dog or cat, strict quarantine regulations require that the animal be quarantined for 6 months in the U.K. You must then apply for an import permit from the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture at least 30 days in advance of pet's arrival date. Importation from another rabies-free country is not always permitted, but the cost savings make it worth taking the steps to apply for an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture well in advance of your arrival. The U.K. Ministry of Agriculture will supply a list of recommended kennels for quarantine upon request. If you want to import other animals, you must obtain an import permit from the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture before shipping the animal. Excellent veterinarians are located on the island who offer boarding facilities as well. Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The monetary unit is the Barbados dollar (BDS$), comprising 100¢. US$1= BDS$2 (fixed rate). Most hotels and restaurants on the island accept U.S. currency. The East Caribbean dollar (EC$), comprising 100¢, is also accepted. US$1=EC$2.70. Rates seldom fluctuate.

The Central Bank of Barbados issues Barbados currency in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, and $2 in notes. Coins are issued in $1, 25¢, 10¢, 5¢, and 1¢ denominations. The Caribbean Currency Authority issues East Caribbean notes in denominations of $100, $20, $10, $5, and $1. Coins are minted in 50¢, 25¢, 10¢, 5¢, 2¢, and 1¢ denominations.

Barbados and the other islands of the Eastern Caribbean use the metric system.

Disaster Preparedness

All Caribbean countries can be affected by hurricanes. The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Several books are available in Barbados regarding West Indian life, history, and culture. Most are not widely available outside of the Caribbean. Rather than include a long list of these books here, members of the Embassy staff recommend newcomers read the following books, which are available in the U.S. as an introduction to Barbados.

A-Z of Barbadian Heritage. Kingston, Jamaica: Heinemann Publications, 1990.

Alleyne, W. The Barbados Garrison and Its Buildings. Hampshire, England: Macmillan Caribbean, 1990.

Beckles, Hilary. A History of Barbados. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Broberg, Merle. Barbados. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Hoefer, Hans. Barbados: Insight Guides. APA Publications: Singapore, 1985.

Hoyos, F.A. Barbados: A History from Amerindians to Independence. Macmillan Publishers.

Michener, James. Caribbean. New York: Random House, 1989.

Pariser, H. Adventure Guide to Barbados. New York: Hunter Publishing, 1990.

Potter, Robert B., and Graham M. S. Dann, comps. Barbados. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1987.

Wouk, Herman. Don't Stop the Carnival. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965.

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Barbados is an island situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela and east of the Windward Island chain. It covers an area of 430 square kilometers (166 square miles), roughly 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Its coastline is 97 kilometers (60 miles) in length and its capital, Bridgetown, is situated at a natural harbor on the southwest coast of the island.


The population of Barbados was estimated at 274,540 in mid-2000, representing a growth rate of 0.55 percent over the preceding year. The average annual rate of population increase from 1995 stands at 0.3 percent. At current rates, the island's population will reach approximately 288,000 by 2010. The government wants to restrict population growth because Barbados is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (estimated at 619 people per square kilometer in 1997, or 1,603 people per square mile). There is a well-organized family planning program in the island and the birth rate, at 14.45 per 1,000 population in 2000, is one of the lowest in the region. The migration rate was extremely high until the 1970s but, at 0.32 migrants per 1,000 population, is now low by regional standards.

The age structure of Barbadians reflects government planning policy and high living standards, with only 22 percent of citizens aged 0-14 years, 69 percent between ages 15 and 64, and 9 percent over 65. The infant mortality rate is 12.37 per 1000. Approximately 80 percent of people are of African descent, while a small but economically powerful white minority accounts for about 4 percent of the population. The rest are of mixed ethnic background. English is both the official and the spoken language, and the religion is Christian, represented by Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and other conventional churches.


Despite its high population density and limited natural resources, Barbados has one of the more diversified and successful economies in the Caribbean. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1966, the island has enjoyed political stability, a factor that has encouraged the growth of tourism and other service industries. As a result, the country has dramatically reduced its dependence on sugar exports (although sugar remains the most important agricultural activity) and has developed not only its service sector but also some areas of manufacturing.

Strong growth in the 1970s came to an end with a recession in the late 1980s, as gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 12.9 percent between 1989 and 1992. This drop was caused, in part, by difficulties in the sugar industry and by a downturn in tourism, due largely to a recession in North America. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered financial aid in return for a structural adjustment program that included pay cuts for public-sector workers and other austerity measures. The Barbados dollar was not devalued, however, as the government realized that the island's dependence on imported goods, including food, from the United States would create unacceptable hardship in the event of de-valuation . By 1993 the worst of the recession was over. In the late 1990s gross domestic product (GDP) growth was steady as tourism and export markets recovered. Growth between 1996 and 1998 was estimated at 4 percent annually, falling to 3.2 percent in 1999 and 2.8 percent in 2000.

The economic problems of the 1980s revealed underlying weaknesses in the Barbadian economy, which still exist today. The country runs a huge trade deficit , with imports 4 to 5 times the value of exports due to high demand for imported goods and food combined with poor export performance. The large public sector strains government resources in terms of salaries and other recurrent expenditures, resulting in regular fiscal deficits. The external debt stood at an estimated US$550 million in 1998. Tourism remains crucial to the economy, but Barbados faces serious competition from other Caribbean destinations, while its offshore manufacturing sector has been largely eroded by competition from lower-wage countries such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

More positively, the island has a diversified range of industries, producing consumer goods for the national and local markets. It also has a small but significant petroleum industry, producing enough fuel to meet about one-half of local needs, as well as significant reserves of natural gas.


The political stability of democratic Barbados has been the envy of the Caribbean since independence in 1966. As a former British colony, the country parallels the British electoral and parliamentary systems, which has ensured regular and fair elections and the orderly transfer of power between political parties. The country is a member of the British Commonwealth, with the British monarch the constitutional head of state, represented by a governor general appointed by the Crown. The head of government is the prime minister, who presides over a cabinet appointed by the governor general on his advice. The bi-cameral, or 2-chamber, parliament consists of a 21-member Senate appointed by the governor general and a 28-member House of Assembly, elected by popular vote every 5 years.

Despite lively exchanges of views in parliament, Barbados's political system is based more on consensus than confrontation. Modern Barbadian politics has been dominated by 2 main parties, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Both are broadly social-democratic in outlook, favoring a mixed economy with a strong private sector and a measure of government intervention. The DLP is rather more left of center than its rival, while the BLP was for many years identified with the small, economically dominant, white elite. The BLP won elections in 1994 and again in 1999, capturing 26 out of 28 parliamentary seats with an unprecedented 64.8 percent of the vote. The National Democratic Party (NDP) has not held office.

Government has a strong and direct impact on the economy through its management of the large public sector, its tax policy, and its encouragement of foreign investment in key sectors. During the recession of the late 1980s, for instance, the DLP government was forced to introduce an 8 percent pay cut for public-sector workers in a bid to reduce state expenditure. In 1999, the BLP government finally agreed to restore this pay cut in 3 stages over a given period. The government regularly meets with representatives from the private sector and the trade unions, and a series of tripartite protocols covering wages, prices, and working conditions has revealed an unusually strong degree of consensus.

Taxation has been an important economic factor in recent years as governments have tried to balance the need for increased revenue with goals of social equality. In 1997 a radical change took place with the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) to replace 11 different indirect taxes . The immediate result was greatly improved tax revenue, which reduced the government's fiscal shortfall from the equivalent of 2.5 percent of GDP in 1996 to 0.3 percent in 1997. However, in the same year, the VAT forced prices up and led to inflation of 7.7 percent. The government responded by removing the VAT from 50 essential food items, with the result that consumer prices fell by 1.3 percent in 1998, benefiting the basic household expenditure of poorer families. The basic income tax is payable on earnings greater than BDS$625 per month, with higher rates for larger incomes.

The Barbadian government is active in encouraging foreign investment in tourism, manufacturing, and the informatics (data processing) sector. It offers a range of financial incentives to prospective investors, including tax concessions, and has made considerable efforts to attract offshore financial businesses, such as foreign banks and insurance companies, by introducing the legal and fiscal regulation required. So far, moves to privatize state assets such as the Barbados National Bank, the Caribbean Broadcasting Company, and the Barbados National Oil Company have been planned but not implemented.


Barbados has a network of roads totaling 1,578 kilometers (980 miles), with only a few miles remaining un-paved. There are no railways. The main commercial port is at Bridgetown, but there is also an important marina development at Port St. Charles, north of Speightstown. There is 1 international airport, which receives many daily flights from Europe, North America, and other Caribbean countries. The road infrastructure is generally good and has received substantial government investment over recent years, as have port and airport facilities and a modernized sewerage system on the south coast.

The island's energy needs are partly met by an on-shore field in St. Philip parish, which produced 850,000 barrels of crude petroleum in 1999, equivalent to half of annual local consumption. Energy production in 1998 was estimated at 672 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), in excess of consumption of 625 million kWh. Natural gas production has also increased, and most urban and suburban residents have access to a piped gas supply. A United States-owned company, Conoco, is engaged in offshore exploration for oil and gas reserves.

Communications in Barbados are generally good and the government is committed to liberalizing the telecommunications sector, currently dominated by the Cable & Wireless company, by the end of 2002. In 1997 it was estimated that there were 97,000 telephone lines in use, and cellular and Internet access are growing steadily. The government is also attempting to boost the data-processing and telemarketing sector by promoting Barbados as a regional communications center offering a sophisticated technological infrastructure as well as a highly literate workforce.


The structure of the economy in Barbados today is unrecognizable from that of 50 years ago. Agriculture in 1946 accounted for 37.8 percent of GDP and 55 percent

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Barbados 108,000 8,013 AM 2; FM 3; shortwave 0 237,000 1 76,000 19 6,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Jamaica 353,000 (1996) 54,640 (1996) AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 0 1.215M 7 460,000 21 60,000
St. Lucia 37,000 1,600 AM 2; FM 7; shortwave 0 111,000 3 32,000 15 5,000
a Data is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
b Data is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
c Data is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

of foreign exchange earnings, while in 1998 it represented only 4 percent of GDP and only 2.9 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Sugar is still the island's main agricultural commodity, earning approximately US$34 million annually.

Industry has grown significantly over the same period, reaching 16 percent of GDP in 1998, although parts of this sector have declined since the recession of the late 1980s. The island's industry is divided between manufacturing for local consumption and export-oriented assembly work aimed at the North American market. In 1998, total manufactured exports, excluding the traditional products of refined sugar and rum, earned US$139 million.

The major contributor to the Barbadian economy is the service sector, which represented 80 percent of GDP in 1998. The sector includes government services, the tourism industry, and the 2 recently developed areas of financial services and informatics. Of these, tourism is the principal foreign exchange earner, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) estimates that tourist expenditures in the island reached US$703 million in 1998.

The growth of services is counterbalanced by stagnation in manufacturing and the limited contribution made by agriculture. High costs probably account for problems in manufacturing. Both wages in the sector and necessary inputs are higher in Barbados than in other Caribbean countries, but the island's reputation for stability and high-quality service explain the growth in the newer sectors of the economy.


In colonial times, the country's largely flat, fertile land, its large slave workforce, and a handful of large-scale, sometimes absentee, landowners, made Barbados the plantation economy par excellence. The sugar industry survived into the 20th century (and has continued into the 21st century), but it began to decline from the 1960s onwards as long-haul flights fueled the development of the tourism industry. By the recession of the late 1980s, the sugar sector was in serious trouble, and in 1992 the state sugar company in debt by some US$100 million. The IMF insisted on its dismantling as part of the structural adjustment program and a full restructuring , under the aegis of the British Booker-Tate company, took place. Despite plans for increased production of 75,000 tons annually, Barbados has since struggled to produce the 54,700 tons which the European Union (EU) agrees to import at preferential prices each year. In 1999, sugar production increased 10.8 percent on the previous year but was still only 53,200. Were it not for the EU quota and a smaller U.S. quota of 5,000 tons, the industry would probably collapse. As it is, high labor and input costs, droughts, and outdated technology have made its future uncertain, with production costs often higher than the price paid by the EU. Today the rum industry is forced to import half of its annual requirement of molasses. As the workforce in the sugar industry grows older and landowners increasingly look to capitalize on tourism or new housing developments, sugar is under threat.

Inadequate rainfall and lack of irrigation has prevented the development of other agricultural activity, although some vegetable farming takes place on a commercial scale. Apart from self-sufficiency in milk and poultry, the limited agricultural sector means that Barbados imports large amounts of basic foods, including wheat and meat. There is some fishing, aimed mostly at the tourist and local market. In all, some 5,000 people are employed in agriculture.


The manufacturing sector in Barbados has yet to recover from the recession of the late 1980s when bankruptcies occurred and almost one-third of the workforce lost their jobs. Today, approximately 10,000 Barbadians work in manufacturing. The electronics sector in particular was badly hit when the U.S. semi-conductor company, Intel, closed its factory in 1986. Leaving aside traditional manufacturing, such as sugar refining and rum distilling, Barbados's industrial activity is partly aimed at the local market which produces goods such as tinned food, drinks, and cigarettes. The export markets have been severely damaged by competition from cheaper Caribbean and Latin American competitors. But domestic manufacturing also faces serious potential problems, as trade liberalization means that the government can no longer protect national industries by imposing high tariffs on imported goods. Thus, Barbadian manufacturers must compete with those from other regional economies, whose wage costs and other overheads are usually much lower.

A construction boom, linked to tourism and residential development, has assisted the recovery of a large cement plant in the north of the island that was closed for some years and reopened in 1997. The other significant industrial employer is the petroleum sector, although the island's small oil refinery was closed in 1998 and refining moved to Trinidad and Tobago, where labor and other costs are cheaper.


Tourism is Barbados's crucial economic activity and has been since the 1960s. At least 10 percent of the working population (some 13,000 people) are employed in this sector, which offers a range of tourist accommodations from luxury hotels to modest self-catering establishments. After the recession years, tourism picked up again in the mid-1990s, only to face another slowdown in 1999. This drop was in part due to increasing competition from other Caribbean countries such as the Dominican Republic, and in part to a reduction in visits from cruise ships as they shifted to non-Caribbean routes or shorter routes such as the Bahamas. Cruise ship visitors totaled 445,821 in 1999, a reduction from 517,888 in 1997, but stay-over visitors rose to 517,869 in 1999, setting a new record. Overall, the country witnessed over US$700 million in tourism receipts in 1999.

The real problem for Barbados is that tourist facilities are too densely concentrated on the south coast, which is highly urbanized, while the Atlantic coast, with its rugged shoreline and large waves, is not suitable for beach tourism. There are few large brand-name hotels (the Barbados Hilton was closed for refurbishment in 2000) which makes marketing the island in the United States difficult. On the other hand, the absence of conglomerates and package tours results in a far greater trickle-down of tourist spending among the general population.

Informatics employed almost 1,700 workers in 1999, about the same number as the sugar industry. The island has been involved in data processing since the 1980s and now specializes in operations such as database management and insurance claims processing. Costs in Barbados are higher than elsewhere in the Caribbean (although still only half of costs in the United States), but the island offers strong advantages such as a literate English-speaking workforce and location in the same time zone as the eastern United States. Despite these factors, employment has fallen in recent years, reflecting increasing mobility on the part of foreign companies, which frequently relocate to lower-cost areas.

The financial services sector has also faced problems as licenses issued to new financial companies have slowed down since 1998. There are an estimated 47 offshore banks , as well as hundreds of other insurance and investment companies, all catering to overseas clients. Figures are hard to track, but it is estimated that these financial activities earned BDS$150 million in foreign earnings in 1995. In 1998, approximately 7,500 people were employed in the banking and insurance sector. The financial sector is also under threat of sanctions from the EU and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), both of which have expressed concerns about money laundering , tax evasion, and other financial improprieties in Caribbean offshore centers.

Retailing is an important economic activity, especially in Bridgetown where there are large department stores and supermarkets. In the countryside, most stores are small and family-run. Some 18,000 people work in the retail sector.


Barbados generally imports nearly 4 times more than it exports (US$800.3 million in imports as opposed to US$260 million in exports in 2000), creating a huge trade imbalance that is only partly offset by tourism revenues and other service sector income. According to the CDB,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Barbados
Exports Imports
1975 .107 .217
1980 .228 .527
1985 .354 .611
1990 .211 .704
1995 .236 .764
1998 .251 1.009
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

the balance of payments was in deficit by BDS$76 million in 1999. This situation is sustainable only so long as tourism receipts remain stable, but the island faces real problems of dependency on imported foodstuffs and other basic items.

The main source of imports, according to CDB statistics in 1999, is the United States, which provided 40 percent of the total, followed by regional economies such as Trinidad & Tobago, and the United Kingdom. In terms of exports, Caribbean markets, particularly Jamaica and Venezuela, were the biggest, accounting for approximately 40 percent of the island's export trade. The United Kingdom is an important market for Barbadian sugar and rum.


Regular economic growth and low inflation marked most of the 1990s for Barbados, but by the end of the decade there were anxieties over another possible recession. Consumption of imported goods was too high in relation to export earnings, and credit was too easily available to consumers; therefore, in 1999, the government raised interest rates in an attempt to restrain spending. The Barbadian dollar, which has long been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of BDS$2.000:US$1, is probably overvalued, but it would be extremely difficult for any government to devalue the currency, as so many basic items are imported from the United States.

There is a small local securities exchange, the Securities Exchange of Barbados, founded in 1991, which had a market capitalization of US$2 billion at the end of 1999. Most larger local companies are listed for share trading, together with several companies from Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica.


In terms of poverty eradication, Barbados is a success story, with high per capita GDP, a good level of social

Exchange rates: Barbados
Barbadian dollars (BDS$) per US$1
2001 2.000
2000 2.000
1999 2.000
1998 2.000
1997 2.000
1996 2.000
Note: Fixed rate pegged to the US dollar.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

service provision, and positive health indicators. The United Nations Human Development Index places it third among all non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for its development statistics, ahead of Singapore and other economic successes. Although many Barbadians continue to live in small wooden houses, access to clean water, electricity, and medical facilities is universal. Public education is of a good standard, as are health services. The political culture of consensus has ensured that all Barbadian governments have aimed to eradicate poverty and bring about a degree of wealth redistribution.

As a result of these policies, Barbados has a large, literate, and financially comfortable middle class, many of whom are employed in the public sector. No recent statistics are available regarding percentage share of household income, but it is certain that Barbados does not suffer the same extremes of social division as other Caribbean countries.

However, there remains a wealthy minority, part of which is directly descended from the white plantation owners of the colonial period. Known still as the "plantocracy," these families have extensive interests in retailing, tourism, and the financial sector. Since the country's independence this small elite has retained its economic influence, although its political power has waned, and it remains distanced from the majority black population.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Barbados 5,497 6,764 6,373 7,340 7,894
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.


Working conditions in Barbados are generally good for a workforce estimated at 136,300 in 1998, and there is a strong tradition of consultation between employers and trade unions. Even the small remaining rural work-force is well organized and is capable of negotiating acceptable improvements in wages and conditions. The public sector is particularly well represented and governments are obliged to hold regular consultations with the unions that represent teachers and other civil servants. Pay and working conditions in the service industries are also above average for the region. High levels of literacy are the norm. Legislation is in place against unlawful dismissal and other employer malpractice in Barbados and is mostly observed. All Barbadian workers are part of a National Insurance system that provides sick pay and small retirement pensions.

There is little or no child labor in Barbados, and women are generally offered equal employment opportunities at all levels. A small informal sector exists, mostly catering to tourists, and some women are employed as informal sector beach vendors. The island's remaining problem in social terms is unemployment, which in 1999 affected almost 10 percent of the workforce, a fall from 12.3 percent the previous year.

With relatively high wage levels and regulated employment conditions, Barbadians enjoy a higher standard of living and quality of life than many other Caribbean people. However, in a globalized economy, these advantages are also a disincentive to foreign investors in search of the cheapest possible labor costs.


1627. The first English colonial settlement is established, and Barbados remains a British colony until 1966.

1639. First meeting of the Barbados House of Assembly. This body is the third oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.

1650s. The sugar industry enjoys its most productive and profitable period.

1834. Slavery is abolished in the British empire.

1930s. Widespread unrest and rioting erupts in protest against poor working conditions and inadequate pay and prompts social reforms.

1938. The Barbados Labor Party is founded by Sir Grantley Adams.

1951. The British government grants Barbados full internal autonomy under the British Crown and the Barbados Labor Party is elected to government, with Sir Grantley Adams as prime minister.

1966. On November 20, Barbados becomes a fully independent state within the British Commonwealth.

1989-1992. Recession forces the government to adopt an IMF-approved austerity program.

1999. The Barbados Labor Party wins a second consecutive term in office by a large majority.


The continuing success story of Barbados, based on social fairness and democratic consultation, will largely depend on its ability to fend off competition in the tourism and service sectors. Agriculture will almost certainly continue to decline, while sugar production will survive only as long as the EU continues to subsidize it with preferential quotas and prices. Manufacturing, while strong in terms of local markets, cannot compete as a low-wage offshore activity. As a result, tourism and the new informatics industries will play an increasingly crucial role in generating foreign currency. But as recent experience has shown, both are highly competitive in a regional and global context, and Barbados will face difficulties in increasing its market share without considerable investment in advertising and training.

The greatest cause for concern is the island's huge trade deficit and continuing reliance on imports for everyday food items. Should another recession occur, Barbados would be extremely vulnerable to balance of payments problems and increased indebtedness, factors that might jeopardize the considerable strides made in the country's development since the 1970s.


Barbados has no territories or colonies.


Caribbean Development Bank. Annual Report 1999. Barbados, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Bermuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Government of Barbados Information Network (GOBINET). <>. Accessed September 2001.

International Monetary Fund. <>.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Barbados, August 2000. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Barbados. <>. Accessed September 2001.

James Ferguson




Barbados dollar (BDS$). One dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. The Barbados dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of BDS$1:US$0.49771, or US$1:BDS$2.011.


Sugar and molasses; rum; other food and beverages; chemicals; electrical components; and clothing.


Consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, and electrical components.


US$4 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$260 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$800.3 million (2000 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Barbados
Region: South America
Population: 274,540
Language(s): English
Literacy Rate: 97.4%
Academic Year: September-July
Number of Primary Schools: 106
Compulsory Schooling: 11 years
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 26,662
  Secondary: 28,818
Educational Enrollment Rate: Higher: 29%
Teachers: Primary: 1,553
  Secondary: 1,231
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 17:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Higher: 35%

History & Background

The nation of Barbados, the easternmost island of the West Indies, lies in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands; a former British colony, it has a total of 166 square miles, about 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. The name Barbados comes from the Portuguese word for "bearded" and probably refers to the bearded fig trees that grow there.

Barbados, sometimes referred to as "little England," was colonized by the British in the 1620s. However, Amerindian tribes were the first inhabitants of Barbados. Both the peaceful Arawaks and the more warrior-like Caribs claimed the island as their home. Barbados historians believe that the Caribs may have forced the Arawaks off the island. By the early 1600s, few Indians remained on the island because the Caribs either migrated to the north or south or were taken by Spanish sailors as slaves. In 1625, Captain John Powell arrived in Barbados and claimed it for Britain. Later British colonists settled the island; it was officially made a Crown possession in 1663. The introduction of sugarcane as a principal crop prompted the importation of African slaves to work the plantations. This practice continued until Britain abolished slavery in 1834. Its economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production throughout most of the twentieth century. In the 1990s tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance. Although Barbados had a relatively high per capita growth rate in the 1980s, unemployment, especially among the youth and women, has been a serious problem. Most of the employment is in service and distribution trades, the greater part of which has been unionized.

Barbados is one of the world's most densely populated countries. In 2000 the population was estimated to be 275,000, with 1,597 persons per square mile. Three quarters of its population is under age 44. Population projections put growth at less than 2 percent by the year 2010. Since the 1950s the rate of population growth has been slowed by a successful family planning program and by emigration, now mostly to the other parts of the Caribbean and to North America. During this same time, the death and infant mortality rates declined sharply, and life expectancy rose to 73 years. More than one third of the population is concentrated in Bridgetown, the capital and only seaport, and its surrounding area. About 80 percent of its residents are descendants of African slaves brought to the island 300 years ago. The remaining population includes whites (about 4 percent), East Indians, and persons of mixed African and European descent. English is the official language and is the language of instruction in the schools; a nonstandard English called Bajan is spoken.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Barbados was established as an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30, 1966. It has a parliamentary form of democracy based on the Westminster model. The British monarch is officially head of state and is represented by a governor general with limited power. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, comprised of a 27-member elected House of Assembly, a 21-member appointed Upper House or Senate, and the Governor General. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, comprised of the Prime Minister and other Ministers of Government. The general direction and control of the government rests with the Cabinet, which is collectively responsible to Parliament. The Barbados Parliament is the third oldest in the world with 358 years of an uninterrupted parliamentary system of government.

The government holds the view that the development of Barbados is dependent upon the quality of its educational system; in the Government of Barbados Development Plan, 1988-1993, is a statement of its commitment to "the development of an educational system that enables all persons to realize their talents to the fullest extent possible."

There are three political parties in Barbados, all of which place great emphasis on educational development. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is one of Barbados' oldest leading parties and currently the ruling party; it was in power in 1950 when universal adult suffrage became the law.

Educational SystemOverview

Formal education in Barbados can be traced back to 1680. The present system developed largely from the 1890 Education Act, which established rigid distinctions between and even within levels of education. In 1932, the Marriot-Mayhew Commission carried out a comprehensive investigation of the colony's educational service. It recommended additional educational programs to cater to specific groups, especially teachers, and to the wider community. As a result, a new Teachers' Training College was opened, new secondary schools were established, and a loan fund was created to assist individuals in obtaining higher education abroad. Technical and vocational training was also introduced. A new Education Act emerged in 1981 that sought to provide greater equality of opportunity. Once universal access to basic education was achieved, the country turned its attention toward reform of the education system to stay current with economic and technological change. The Planning Section of the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture compiled a White Paper on Education Reform for Barbados in 1995.

The Barbados government pays the cost of educating its students through primary, secondary, and tertiary level, including provision of textbooks. This strong emphasis on education has resulted in a literacy rate of 98 percent, one of the highest in the world. Public education is compulsory for children, thus providing for 100 percent participation at the primary and secondary levels (children ages 5 to 16). Such an accomplishment was achieved at the primary level for most of the century and at the secondary level in more recent times. In order to ensure active participation by all students, programs include the provision of school meals at the primary level; a textbook loan scheme; transportation assistance; a uniform grant and bursaries at the secondary level; and a wide range of awards, grants, and scholarships at the tertiary level. These support systems reflect the underlying belief that "every person has a right to education opportunities to allow him/her to develop... abilities to the fullest and to contribute to the social and economic development of the country" (White Paper).

The challenge is to improve quality rather than access. The theme of the 1995 White Paper on Education Reform, "Each One MattersQuality Education for All," shifts the focus of education to the needs of each individual and identifies those areas of the system that have to be fixed, hopefully leading to an overall improvement in the quality of graduates from Barbadian schools and educational institutions.

The school year includes three terms of 13 to 14 weeks and runs from September to July. The school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. The education system is multi-staged with some overlap at each stage.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary education is offered to all children between the ages of three to five; they are taught in the four nursery schools and/or in nursery classes in some primary and composite schools. At present about 66 percent of three- and four-year-old children in Barbados are receiving preprimary education. Because of the declining birth rate, the government has been promoting the use of available space at primary and composite schools to provide nursery education.

Primary education is required for children between the ages of 5 and 11 with the goal of preparing them to be able to read and write, to reason, to deal with normal and conflict situations, to be numerate, and to develop high self-esteem. They are taught in 110 primary schools, of which 86 (78 percent) are public. At age 11, students take the Common Entrance Examination, a measure of what children have learned at the end of primary schooling. Because each child develops at his or her own rate, the government proposed, effective May 1996, that children be allowed to take the examination when they are ready. The class teachers and principal of the primary school determine readiness. Children only take the examination once, must be exposed to the entire primary school curriculum, and must be at least 10 years of age to enter secondary school.

Secondary Education

Secondary education is provided for children ages 11 to 18. There are 34 secondary schools, of which 22 are government-run and 12 are assisted private secondary schools. These schools fall into three categories: nine government-owned former grammar or older secondary schools, four of which have sixth forms; 13 assisted private schools; and newer secondary schools. In between the primary and secondary schools are the composite and senior schools. The function of these schools is to ensure that all students acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will lay the basic foundation for future jobs and careers. In addition this level of schooling will ensure high levels of literacy, numeracy, and oracy by building on the primary foundation.

Admission to government secondary schools is based on the score the child receives in the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE), familiarly known as the Common Entrance Examination (CEE). On completion of five years of secondary education, pupils are tested for the Caribbean Examinations Certificate. On completion of a further two-year sixth-form course, pupils take the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced 'A' levels, which allows direct entry to university-level studies.

Higher Education

Four institutions provide higher education, or tertiary education:

  1. Erdiston Teachers College, opened in 1948, provides training for nongraduate and graduate teachers.
  2. Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic was established in 1970 to provide day and night courses and programs in electrical, building and engineering trades, commerce, agriculture, and garments. Students can also prepare here for entry into the Division of Technology of the Barbados Community College.
  3. Barbados Community College (BCC) provides a range of programs in academic, vocational, and technical areas. Divisions of the college include fine arts, liberal arts, science, technology, and health sciences. In addition students can pursue studies at the Barbados Hospitality Institute (BHI), a full service hospitality training facility operated by BCC, providing certificate, diploma, and associate training programs in all aspects of the hospitality industry. The institute comprises both educational and accommodation components and is the first training facility of its kind in Barbados and the eastern Caribbean.
  4. University of the West Indies (UWI) (Cave Hill Campus) has faculties of arts and general studies, natural sciences, social sciences, medical sciences, law, and education. The UWI offers high educational standards and quality research and thus attracts the brightest students from the Caribbean and beyond, and maintains partnerships with the universities in the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Canada, including Oxford, Johns Hopkins, and McGill.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Administration: Administrative control of the formal education system is fairly highly centralized. The Ministry of Education was first established in 1954 under the Premier while Barbados was still a British colony. In 1958, a separate ministry was created with its own staff of administrative and technical offices.

The Ministry is divided into two main sections, technical and administrative. The Chief Education Officer is in charge of the technical staff and is the chief professional advisor. The Permanent Secretary is the chief administrative officer with responsibility for finance. The primary schools are administered directly by the Ministry of Education; the secondary schools have Boards of Management that are appointed by and answer to the Minister of Education. All tertiary-level institutions have Boards of Management, except for UWI, which is a regional institution.

Finance: For more than three decades, Barbados has been committed to a policy of free education from primary schools to university. Between 1990 and 1999 an average of 20 percent of the public expenditure was devoted to education. This level of social investment led the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to rank Barbados the top Caribbean country in human development. In its 1998 Human Development Report, the UNDP said Barbados ranks first overall in health, education, and average standard of living for the Caribbean region and 24th in the world rankings.

The education reform initiatives outlined in the 1995 White Paper were estimated to cost $35 million (Barbadian dollars) over a five-year period (1995-2000). In addition, the Ministry sought US$82 million in foreign and regional financing to fund a wide variety of projects. For example, in 1998 the Inter-American Development Bank approved a US$85 million loan to Barbados to support modernization of the education system and to prepare primary and secondary students for an information and technology-based economy of the twenty-first century. Primary and secondary schools began rehabilitation and re-equipment programs to make them computer and network ready, with computers gradually introduced in all classrooms. Teacher and student training to support the modernization process were included. Media centers created in each classroom include a TV set, videocassette recorder, and TV-OC converter. An additional joint venture by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank resulted in a loan to Barbados of US$116.5 million to implement a computer-aided education program called EduTech 2000. The funds supported the purchase of about 10,000 computers for primary, secondary, and special education schools.

Educational Research: Educational research efforts called for in the 1995 White Paper included the adoption of a new teacher appraisal system; the establishment of a Teachers' Service Commission and a Curriculum Development Council; the provision of a national diagnostic assessment at the primary level; and new legislation establishing a council responsible for certification and articulation of programs at the secondary and tertiary levels.

Nonformal Education

The Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs, and Culture has established a system of adult and continuing education that provides opportunities for the adult population to broaden their general education and acquire specific skills through its nonformal and skills-training programs. Other government ministries and departments, such as the Ministries of Agriculture, Community Development, and Health, Employment, and Labor, also offer nonformal education (NFE) programs. The largest government provider of NFE programs is Barbados Community College through its Division of General and Continuing Studies. Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are also involved in providing adult education, such as the School of Continuing Studies of UWI and the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity, and various community groups such as the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, and the Family Planning Association. The educational programs include skills training for hobbies and potential employment as well as personal development.

Teaching Profession

The 1995 White Paper on Education Reform highlighted teacher empowerment as one means for improving the overall educational experience for all students. The low morale of teachers has negatively impacted their effectiveness in the classroom. Additional problem areas include limited career paths, inadequate opportunities for training in technical and vocational areas, and limited opportunities for training and retraining to deal with the changing societydisciplinary problems and deviance, and social problems such as drugs, AIDS, and gender issues.

A strategic set of initiatives was created to enhance teacher satisfaction and improve student performance. Included was a broad-based committee to review terms and conditions of employment of teachers and principals.


As Barbados enters the new millennium, numerous reforms of its educational system have focused on helping Barbados "compete in the global market economy on equal terms in the knowledge-based and skilled-intensive industries..." (White Paper). Although many improvements have already begun, certain areas of concern will continue to be addressed. Those areas of concern include:

  • Teacher empowerment designed to raise morale through incentives, new appraisal systems, upgrading of training opportunities, and establishment of a Teachers' Commission
  • Curriculum reform through the establishment of a Curriculum Development Council to consider key issues like composition of the curriculum, student performance, and the need to establish attainment targets at each level of the national curriculum
  • Special education, including better identification of children in need of special education services, upgraded curriculum, additional teacher training, expansion of public awareness programs, and trying to secure grant financing to support special education programs in the private sector
  • Early childhood education (ECE) expansion in existing public primary schools through an acceleration of teacher training in ECE, an increase in production and dissemination of ECE curriculum materials, and use of parents as teacher aides
  • Primary education focus on the main factors that impact on student learning through initial screening of primary school children for physical impairments of sight, hearing and speech; teacher training to detect emotional problems; and diagnostic testing on a national scale at ages seven and nine
  • Senior and composite schools curriculum reform to meet more appropriately the educational life preparation needs of students who obtain very low scores in the Barbados Secondary Schools' Entrance Examination (BSSEE)
  • National certification to provide evidence that the holder of the certificate has satisfactorily completed an approved program of secondary education and attained an acceptable level of competency in a set of subjects
  • Assisted private schools government support through financing of teachers of remedial education and a subvention for introduction of information technology, along with strengthened supervision from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture
  • Children-at-risk problems to be met through appointment of two additional education psychologists to the Ministry, greater training for guidance counselors, and a new option in the out-of-school suspension program where students report to specified locations for remedial and counseling services
  • Sixth form schools curriculum expansion to include technical-vocational education, business education, and aesthetics, and establishment of a committee to review all pupil applications to ensure equitable access
  • Tertiary education initiatives to rationalize and accelerate the provision and quality of education that include establishing an advisory committee to the Minister on delivery of tertiary education and coordination and articulation of programs and management of postsecondary education; creating by statute a national accreditation and certification body to deal with accreditation matters at both the secondary and tertiary levels and for private and public sector bodies; specific measures to expand access to the various postsecondary institutions, including Barbados Community College (BCC), Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), participation in the adult and continuing education programs, and the use of distance education as a relevant tool; an advisory committee to help government keep its word and not charge tuition fees at the aforementioned institutions
  • Institutional strengthening through the launching of a Barbados/Inter-American Bank (IDB) Education Project designed to address organizational and management weaknesses
  • Financing education by instituting fiscal incentives to encourage community groups and the private sector to participate in the general maintenance of schools in an "Adopt-a-School" program

Perhaps the most pressing concern for Barbados in the future will be the rising costs of providing education to its citizens in this competitive world. However, the government remains committed to maintaining excellence in its educational system and to the belief that placing a premium on the education of its citizens will result in social, economic, and political growth.


Barbados Education and Educational Facilities. Available from

BarbadosEducation System. World Higher Education Database 2000 International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Centre on Higher Education. Available from

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Available from

Coward, Louis Antonia. "Graduates' Perceptions of Program Processes and Outcomes of Selected Postsecondary Technical and Vocational Education Programs in Barbados." Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1996.

Ellis, Patricia. Adult Education in Barbados. Caribbean Network of Educational Innovation for Development (CARNEID): UNESCO, 1993.

. "Non-Formal Education and Empowerment of Women: Report of A Study in the Caribbean." December 1994. ERIC, ED392960.

Executive Summary of Education Sector Enhancement Program (BA_0009) Loan Proposal. Government of Barbados Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture. 1998.

Government of Barbados 1988b Barbados Development Plan 1988-1993. Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Bridgetown.

Hewitt, Guy. "The Political Significance of Working Class Youth Subculture in Barbados." Studies in Caribbean Public Policy. Vol. 2. ed. D. Brown. Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe Press University of the West Indies, 1998. 1-29.

Lundy, Christine. "Caribbean Conference on Early Childhood Education Summary Report (1997)." ERIC, ED419577.

Senior, Olive. Working Miracles: Women's Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean. Cave Hill, Barbados: University of the West Indies Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1991.

Tree, Ronald. A History of Barbados. New York: Random House, 1972.

White Paper on Education Reform for Barbados. The Planning Section, Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture, Barbados. July 1995.

Bonnie W. Epstein

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Official name: Barbados

Area: 430 square kilometers (166 square miles)

Highest point on mainland : Mount Hillaby (336 meters / 1,102 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres : Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 23 kilometers (14 miles) from east to west; 34 kilometers (21 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 97 kilometers (60 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The second-smallest independent country in the Western Hemisphere and the easternmost Caribbean island, Barbados lies between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It is located roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles) north-northeast of Trinidad and Tobago. It has an area of 430 square kilometers (166 square miles), or nearly two-and-one-half times the size of Washington, D.C.


Barbados claims no territories or dependencies.


The northeasterly trade winds that blow across Barbados's Atlantic coast moderate the island's tropical maritime climate. The weather is cool and dry in winter, and hotter and humid during the rainy season. Rainfall is heaviest between June and December but occurs throughout the year. Average annual precipitation varies from about 100 centimeters (40 inches) in coastal areas to 230 centimeters (90 inches) at higher elevations.

Season Months Average Temperature: °Celsius (°Fahrenheit)
Rainy June to December 23 to 30°C (73 to 86°F)
Winter December to May 21 to 28°C (70 to 82°F)


A series of terraces rises from the western coast to a central ridge, culminating in Mount Hillaby in the north-central part of the island. Hackleton's Cliff, at the eastern edge of the island's central plateau, extends over several miles. South and east of this elevated area is the smaller Christ Church Ridge. The St. George Valley separates Hackleton's Cliff from Christ Church Ridge.


The western coast of Barbados borders the Caribbean Sea, and its eastern coast borders the North Atlantic Ocean.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The low-lying island is almost totally ringed with undersea coral reefs.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Barbados has no notable sea inlets or straits.

Islands and Archipelagos

Barbados consists of one island.

Coastal Features

Flat land and wide strips of sandy beach ring the coast. At the eastern end of the island, flat rocks at Ragged Point form a low, jagged rim to the ocean. The port city of Bridgetown is located on Barbados's only natural harbor, Carlisle Bay, at the southwestern end of the island. The southern and northern ends of the island are known as South Point and North Point, respectively.


Barbados has no inland lakes.


Barbados has no rivers and little surface water of any kind. A few springs are fed by underground water stored in limestone beds, and some ravines may become temporarily filled by heavy rains. The best known of Barbados's underground water channels is Cole's Cave in the middle of the island. Two dry streams known as Indian River and Joes River are of no use for either fishing or navigation.


Barbados has no deserts.


Other than the terraces that rise from the western coast to the center of the island, Barbados is mostly flat.


The highest point, Mount Hillaby (336 meters /1,102 feet), rises in the north-central part of the island. At 305 meters (1,000 feet), Hackleton's Cliff is the next-highest point. Numerous inland cliffs were created by past seismic activity.


Barbados was once two separate islands. A shallow sea, at the site of the present-day St. George Valley, divided the large ridge of Mount Hillaby from the smaller Christ Church Ridge to the south.


Harrison's Cave, near the center of the island, is a large underground cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Streams flow through the cave, spilling over rock formations to form waterfalls which feed into deep pools of emerald-green water.


There are no notable plateaus on Barbados.


As of 2002, the port of Bridgetown was being dredged to allow large cruise ships to dock. As part of this process, the Barbados Marine Trust was transplanting coral from the harbor to other coastline areas. Another aspect of their coral reef preservation activity was the installation of concrete balls, called reef balls, to support and sustain the growth of the coral.



Beckles, Hilary. A History of Barbados. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Spark, Debra. The Ghost of Bridgetown. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2001.

Stow, Lee Karen. Essential Barbados. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 2001.

Web Sites

Barbados Daily Nation. (accessed February 18, 2003).

Barbados Marine Trust. (accessed June 17, 2003).

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BARBADOS. The easternmost of the Caribbean's Windward Islands, Barbados is known as much for its tropical breezes as for its sugarcane fields. The earliest inhabitants were the Amaraks, Amerindians from Venezuela

who are believed to have arrived around 1623 b.c. In 1200, the cannibalistic Caribs conquered the Amaraks. They, in turn, were conquered, enslaved, and finally decimated by smallpox when the Spanish arrived in the Caribbean in 1492. But Spain failed to colonize the island, leaving the British to settle Barbados in 1627 and introduce sugarcane as a major crop.

The American colonies had close ties to Barbados for a number of reasons, including the fact that in 1649, the Barbadian Society of Gentlemen Adventurers settled what became known as the Carolinas. Many Carolinians (North and South) still trace their roots to Barbados.

Barbados's climate also gained renown and in 1751 a young George Washington went there on his only trip abroad. He brought his ailing half brother to the island in search of a miracle tropical cure.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Barbados was a frequent exporter of sugar, ginger, molasses, and cotton to the American colonies. Those crops took a terrible toll on Barbados's West African slaves, brought there by Dutch merchants. (Many other slaves died en route to the island's plantations.) In 1834, slavery was technically abolished on Barbados; after the slaves served a mandatory four-year "apprenticeship," some seventy thousand newly free islanders of African descent celebrated their true emancipation in 1838.

British rule ended in 1966, when the island was finally granted full independence. Its bicameral parliament, however, remains British in style, with a Senate appointed by the governor general, who represents the British monarchy, and a House of Assembly elected by the voters.

The U.S.-Barbadian relations have always been strong. From 1956 to 1978, the U.S. operated a naval base there, and the two nations also signed a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) in 1996. The U.S. also supports Barbadian economic development and provides aid to combat narcotics trafficking.

While sugarcane is still a mainstay crop (Barbados's fifteen hundred small farms produce some sixty thousand tons of sugar annually), tourism is the island's leading industry. With the development in the 1990s of the Port Charles Marina in Speightstown and the opening of additional tourist facilities around the island, Barbados has a sunny future as a popular destination.


Beckles, Hilary McD. A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

———. Natural Rebels: A Social History of Slave Women in Barbados, 1627–1715. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

Broberg, Merle. Barbados. Broomall, Pa.: Chelsea House, 1999.

Puckrein, Gary A. Little England: Plantation Society and Anglo-Barbadian Politics, 1627–1700. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

Vaitilingham, Adam. The Mini "Rough Guide" Barbados. New York: Rough Guides, 2001.

The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 2001.

Laura A.Bergheim

See alsoWest Indies, British and French .

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Barbados
Region (Map name): Caribbean
Population: 274,540
Language(s): English
Literacy rate: 97.4%

Barbados, located northeast of Venezuela, is considered the Little England of the Caribbean. Not only were the British the original settlers the island was uninhabited when they arrived in 1627but the island remains an independent state within the British Commonwealth. The British monarch serves as the titular head of government and is represented by a Governor General. The Governor General appoints a Prime Minister, who presides over a bicameral Parliament that consists of a Senate, which is appointed by the Governor General, and a House of Assembly, which is popularly elected. The population of Barbados is approximately 275,000 and the literacy rate tops 97 percent. English is the official language. Sugarcane and molasses were once the most important Barbadian industries, but in the 1990's tourism took precedence as the largest contributor to the economy.

Freedom of speech and press are respected. The island's two largest newspapers, the Barbados Advocate and the Daily Nation, both publish daily in print and on line. Caribbean Week, a business and travel guide to the region, publishes weekly print editions and posts print content and daily updates on the Web portal Among the island's independent weekly newspapers are the Weekend Investigator and The Broad Street Journal, a business publication in print and online that serves Barbados and the surrounding area. Other weeklies are published by the companies behind its two daily newspapers; The Advocate Co. puts out Sunday Advocate and Nation Publishing Co. produces Eastern Caribbean News, Sunday Sunand Weekend Nation.

There are six FM stations and two AM stations broadcasting to approximately 237,000 radios. There is one television station, which is government-owned. Nineteen Internet service providers operate in Barbados.


"Barbados," CIA World Fact Book 2001. Available from

Benn's Media, 1999, Vol. 3, 147th Edition, p. 246.

The Barbados Advocate, 2002 Home Page. Available from

Daily Nation, 2002 Home Page. Available from

"Using this Site and Caribbean Newsstand," Caribbean Week. Available from

Jenny B. Davis

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Barbados (bärbā´dōz), island state (2005 est. pop. 279,300), 166 sq mi (430 sq km), in the West Indies. The capital and largest city is Bridgetown.

Land, People, and Economy

The island, E of St. Vincent, in the Windward Islands, is the easternmost of the Caribbean islands. It is low and rises gradually toward its highest point at Mt. Hillaby (1,104 ft/336 m). Although there is ample rainfall from June to December, there are no rivers, and water must be pumped from subterranean caverns. About 90% of the population is of African descent, 4% are of European descent, and about 6% are of Asian or mixed descent. English-speaking, the majority of Barbadians are Protestant.

The porous soil and moderate warmth are excellent for the cultivation of sugarcane, which was historically the island's main occupation. Today, sugar and molasses remain important products and are the country's largest exports. The healthful and equable climate makes it a very popular tourist resort, and tourism is the country's largest industry. Manufacturing (largely chemicals, electrical components, clothing, and rum) and banking are growing sectors of the economy. The United States, other Caribbean islands, and Great Britain are the main trading partners.


Although it was probably originally inhabited by Arawaks, it was uninhabited when the English expeditionaries first settled there in 1627 (1605, according to local tradition). Barbados remained a British colony until independence was granted in 1966. During the 19th cent. it was the administrative headquarters of the Windward Islands, but in 1885 it became a separate colony. It later was a member of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–62). The island became an independent associated state of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1966. The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member Senate appointed by the governor-general and a 17-member elected House of Representatives. The Democratic Labor party (DLP) held power from 1986 until 1994, when the Barbados Labor party (BLP) won a legislative majority; Owen Arthur became prime minister. Arthur and the BLP retained power after the 1999 and 2003 elections. In 2008 the DLP defeated the BLP, and David Thompson became prime minister. Thompson died in 2010 and was succeeded as prime minister by Freundel Stuart. The DLP and Stuart remained in power after the 2013 elections.


See K. R. Hope, Economic Development in the Caribbean (1986); H. Beckles, A History of Barbados (1990).

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Culture Name


Alternative Name



Identification. Barbadians are people born on Barbados and people born elsewhere who have at least one Barbadian parent and maintain cultural ties to the nation. There are emigrant Barbadians communities in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Guyana that maintain active ties with their families and friends on the island. Barbadians recognize regional identities that correspond to parish districts and distinctive regional accents.

Location and Geography. Barbados is a coral limestone outcropping of the South American continental shelf that lies in the western Atlantic Ocean, one hundred miles (160 kilometers) east of the island of Saint Lucia and two hundred miles (320 kilometers) north of Trinidad and the northern coast of South America. Barbados has low, rolling hills, and microclimate variations from rain forest to semidesert.

Demography. More than 260,000 people live on this island of 166 square miles (430 square kilometers), with a population density of 1,548 people per square mile (597.7 per square kilometer) in 1996. Large populations have characterized the nation almost since its inception. As early as 1680, the island was home to seventy thousand people.

Until 1960, high birth and death rates generated a large number of young people. Barbadians emigrated in large numbers to the United Kingdom and in smaller numbers to the United States and Canada. Death rates and birth rates fell rapidly after 1960. Aided by continuing emigration among the young and immigration among the elderly, the population aged rapidly. By the year 2050, the proportion of the population age sixty-five and over will range between 25 and 33 percent of the total population.

Linguistic Affiliation. Barbadians speak a dialect of English with tonal qualities that reflect the West African heritage of the vast majority of its population. Barbadians also speak an English-West African pidgin called Bajan. The number of native Bajan speakers has declined in recent decades. Both languages have dialect differences that correspond with parish districts.

Symbolism. The flying fish serves as a national symbol.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Barbados was colonized by the English early in the seventeenth century. The English found the island uninhabited when they landed in 1625, although archaeological findings have documented prior habitation by Carib and Arawak Native Americans. By 1650, Barbados was transformed by the plantation system and slavery into the first major monocropping sugar producer in the emerging British Empire, and its fortunes were tied to sugar and to England for the next three hundred and ten years. In 1651, Barbados won a measure of independence, and established what was to become the oldest continuing parliamentary democracy in the world outside England. This autonomy encouraged planters to remain on the island rather than returning to Europe when they made their fortunes.

National Identity. When West Indian sugar plantations disappeared elsewhere in the 1800s, Barbadian plantations remained productive. In the early twentieth century, the creation of a merchant-planter oligopoly ended the improvement in living standards that occurred in the nineteenth century. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to massive labor disturbances. Subsequent investigations of living conditions established the grounds for fundamental political change. The vote, which until the late nineteenth century had been restricted to propertied white males, was made universal in 1943. By the 1950s, the descendants of former African slaves controlled the assembly and set in motion actions that transformed the island in fundamental ways. The island opted for full independence in 1966 but remains a member of the British Commonwealth.

Barbadian culture emerged out of the plantation slavery economy as a distinctive synthesis of English and West African cultural traditions. Regional, race, and class cultural variants exist, but all residents identify with the national culture.

Ethnic Relations. About 80% of all Barbadians are the descendants of former African slaves. Barbados also has a high proportion of citizens with a largely European ancestry. Barbados is generally free from ethnic tension.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

About 80 percent of the population lives in or around the capital, Bridgetown. The remaining 20 percent live in rural areas in settlements that vary from dispersed homes and occasional plantations to small nucleated villages.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Coocoo (a creamy blend of cornmeal and okra) and flying fish is the national dish. Breaded and fried flying fish is a popular snack or meal. Bajan meals emphasize fish, chicken, pork, and other foods common in West Africa, such as rice, okra, and Scotch bonnet peppers. Popular fruits include papaya, mangos, guava, bananas, oranges, and pineapples. Meal components such as cornmeal, salt fish, and salt beef were supplied to the original plantation labor forces. A common meal served in rural areas called privilege blends rice, okra, hot pepper, pig tail or salt beef, garlic, salt fish, and onions. Mount Gay distillery has been producing rum since 1703. Mauby, brewed from bark, sugar, and spices, is a popular drink.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special occasions often call for pudding and souse, the first a spicy mashed sweet potato encased in pigs belly, and boiled pig's head served with a "pickle" of onions, hot and sweet peppers, cucumbers, and lime. Jug, or jug jug, a dish consisting of pigeon, peas, stew and salt beef, onions, Guinea corn flour, and spices, is served with Christmas dishes such as boiled ham and roasted pork.

Basic Economy. The economy is fueled by the skills of a diverse population that is one of the world's most educated, with a literacy rate close to 100 percent. The currency is the Barbados dollar, which is linked to the United States dollar. Excellent public and private bus and taxi services take advantage of nearly 1,205 miles (1,650 kilometers) of roads and make it possible to move relatively cheaply around the island. The year 1960 brought a structural change in the economy marked by a decline in sugar production and the growth of industrial manufacturing and tourism. Barbados served as a tourist destination as early as the 1600s. Small numbers of tourists come from South America and other islands in the Caribbean. A significant stream comes from northwestern Europe, primarily the United Kingdom. Most tourists, however, come from the United States and Canada. In an island long known in the Caribbean as "Little England," many Barbadians now claim that its increasingly important ties to the United States have transformed the nation into "Little America."

Land Tenure and Property. Land tenure and property concepts follow precedents set in England.

Commercial Activities. Manufactured goods include garments, furniture, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, phonograph records and tapes, processed wood, and paints.

Major Industries. Light manufacturing firms produce structural components for construction, industrial gases, paper products, electronics components, and solar energy units. Barbados also refines petroleum products.

Trade. Although production declined precipitously in the last half of the twentieth century, sugar remains the major export product. Most manufactured goods are used domestically, but a small quantity is traded to other nations in the Caribbean and Latin America. Barbados carries on a small trade with North America, principally in electronic components, garments, medical supplies, and rum.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Before 1960, Barbadian society consisted of a small merchant-planter elite largely of European ancestry; a slightly larger class of accountants, lawyers, medical personnel, journalists, and teachers of diverse ancestry; and a huge lower class of field laborers and domestic servants primarily of African ancestry. The elite remains about the same size but has grown much more diverse in heritage. The lower class has all but disappeared. In its place, there is now a huge middle class that encompasses everything from skilled blue-collar workers employed in manufacturing firms and hotels to a wide range of white-collar, professional, and managerial occupational groups employed directly or indirectly in the manufacturing and tourist sectors.

Political Life

Government. Barbados is an independent parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. For administrative purposes, the island is divided into the city of Bridgetown and eleven parishes. The queen of England is recognized as the head of state, and the highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The queen appoints a governor-general to represent her on the island.

All local governments, including those on the district and municipal levels, were abolished on 1 September 1969; their functions were subsumed by the national government.

Leadership and Political Officials. The Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party compete for seats in the House of Assembly; members of the Senate are appointed by the governor-general. The leader of the majority party in the assembly serves as the prime minister. A Cabinet appointed from among the majority party members of the assembly helps the prime minister carry out the executive functions of government.

The Barbados legal system is founded in British common law. The Supreme Court of Judicature sits as a high court and court of appeal; vested by the constitution with unlimited jurisdiction, it consists of a chief justice and three puisne judges, appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition party. Magistrate courts have both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Final appeals are brought to the Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

Some observers have seen a connection between the growth of tourism on Barbados and the rise of such problems as crime, drug use, and prostitution. A more traditional indigenous problem is family violence, which has decreased dramatically within the span of a single generation as women have become empowered by increased educational and employment opportunities, and their economic dependence on men has decreased.

Military Activity. Barbados maintains a small coast guard and the Barbados Defense Force.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

A national social security system began operations in 1937, providing old age and survivors' pensions, sickness, disability, and maternity benefits, and (under a January 1971 extension) employment injury benefits. People between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five are covered. Unemployment insurance was introduced in 1982 and is funded by equal contributions from employers and employees. Sickness and maternity benefits are provided for employed persons, and all government hospitals and clinics maintain public wards for medical treatments, with costs scaled to income.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Branches of international organizations include the Lions Club, Rotary Club, 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, and YWCA.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Prior to an increase in educational and job opportunities for women in the 1960s, women depended primarily on their children for economic support. Child support paid by the father, or money earned by the children through chores and small jobs often constituted the family's sole source of income. However, women have since entered many job markets once dominated by men; for example, women held ten of forty-nine seats in Parliament in 1999.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although women are well-represented in all aspects of national life, women's rights advocates cite domestic violence as a serious problem. A domestic violence law passed in 1992 requires an immediate police response to reports of violence against women and children.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Historically, sexual activity usually began early as women traded sex for economic support and children ("visiting" or "keeper" relationships). Visiting unions gave way to common-law marriages that for older couples might be legitimated by a church ceremony. Childbearing was an investment activity for women. In a woman's youth, children legitimated her claims for income from men, although establishing those claims required subservience. As a woman entered middle age, her daughters took over nearly all household chores and her sons provided financial resources that could make her independent of spousal support and reduced or eliminated her subservience to an autocratic male. In old age, financial and domestic support from children meant the difference between abject poverty and a moderate or even comfortable lifestyle. Because men could expect support from their children only if they had maintained a relationship with the children's mother, women dependent on men in their youth found that their men were dependent on them by late middle age.

Since 1960, kin relations have undergone a revolution. Barbadian women have experienced a conjunction of good job opportunities and increased educational levels. The West Indian marriage pattern of visiting, common-law marriage, and legal unions remains, but many women now receive far more domestic help, emotional support, and affectionate behavior. Women now have fewer children and enjoy markedly better relationships with their partners.

Domestic Unit. Households range in size from a single man or woman to mixed-gender groups that include as many as fifteen people. Barbadians idealize a household that consists of a married couple and their children, and that pattern characterizes about 45 percent of all households. Around 35 percent of households are organized around a mother and her children. Those households sometimes encompass three generations of women and may include brothers, uncles, sons, and the sexual partners of members of the core family unit. Biological fathers and mothers are distinguished from other adults who may serve various caregiving and economic support functions for children.

Inheritance. Barbadians trace descent and inheritance through both the father and the mother.

Kin Groups. Barbadians recognize no organized, corporate groups of kin.


Child Rearing and Education. Private and public primary and secondary schools offer educational programs modeled on those in the United Kingdom. Child-rearing traditions emphasize gender-based family responsibilities. Traditionally, women took responsibility for the home and taught homemaking skills to their daughters. Men were expected to provide income for the family and work outside the home. Both boys and girls began to work around the home at a very young age, doing chores such as carrying water by age five. Mothers often spoiled their boys. Boys' work was never as continuous as that of their sisters giving boys much more leisure time than girls had. Boys played more often during the day and stayed out later at night. Sons grew into men who were expected to protect their mothers physically, as well as provide for their material needs.

These patterns persist, but increasing affluence has led parents to expect less of their children. Girls now can become lawyers, businesswomen, and university professors. Working women expect their men to help with the children. Women, more than men, help care for elderly parents.

Higher Education. Barbados supports one of the three campuses of the University of the West Indies (UWI). The local campus (Cave Hill) offers degrees in the physical, biological, and social sciences; the humanities; and law and medicine. Barbados Community College follows the practices of the California state community college system, and offers courses in technical fields and the liberal arts. Advanced education is also available through a teacher training college, a polytechnical college, the Extra Mural Centre of the UWI, and a hotel school. The government pays tuition for all citizens who attend the UWI.


Barbadians are known for their politeness and civility, a legacy both of British influence and of the island's high population densityliving in close proximity to others imposes pressure to avoid censure and unpleasant confrontations. Describing his homeland, well-known Barbadian author John Wickham wrote, "The inability of people to remove themselves from one another has led to concern for public order, a compassion for others, and a compelling sense of a neighbor's rights and integrity."


Religious Beliefs. More than 80 percent of the population is Christian, and more than half belong to the Church of England. A small East Indian community includes some people who practice Hinduism, and Islam is adhered to by a small number of people of diverse backgrounds. A growing number of people practice Rastafarianism. A small Jewish community with Sephardic roots attends services in a synagogue originally built in 1640 c.e.

The Apostolic Spiritual Baptists (popularly known as "Tieheads") occupy a special place in Barbados' religious spectrum as the island's only indigenous religion. Fashioned after other West Indian revivalist religions, the sect, founded in 1957 by Bishop Branville Williams, combines Christian observance with the foot stomping, hand clapping, and dancing characteristic of African religious practices. Tieheads, so-called because of the cloth turbans worn by both men and women, sport colorful gowns in colors symbolic of particular qualities.

Rituals and Holy Places. The school day usually begins with a prayer and small revivalist churches abound on the island. Converts to the TieHead faith are baptized and then sequestered for seven to ten days in the "Mourning Ground," a special area of the church.

Religious Practitioners. Priests exert some influence over public policy and cultural life (one reason for the absence of casinos on the island), and a substantial amount of radio air time is devoted to religious programming.

Medicine and Health Care

Barbadians rely on two bodies of knowledge to prevent and treat illness: a biomedical system organized on a Western model and an indigenous medical system that involves "bush" teas and home remedies.

When economic development began in the 1950s, the health care needs arose from high rates of acute infectious disease, and the government built an outstanding health care delivery system directed at those problems. The medical school at the UWI is located at a six hundred bed acute care facility, Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Separate geriatric and psychiatric hospitals provide specialized care. Public clinics in nearly every parish and private clinics concentrated in heavily populated parishes, serve primary health care needs.

Barbadians currently face two very different sets of health issues. The growing elderly population suffers from arthritis, hypertension, adult-onset diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Significant proportions of disabled persons have unmet needs for help in seeing, eating, and walking. Youth face behavioral health problems, including AIDS, substance abuse, domestic and street violence, and mood disorders.

Secular Celebrations

In addition to the major holidays of the Christian calendar, Barbadian holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), May Day (1 May), CARICOM Day (first Monday in August), Independence Day (30 November), and United Nations Day (first Monday in October). This island's major celebration is the Crop Over festival, which takes place in July and early August. The Barbadian equivalent of Thanksgiving in the United States, it is derived from the traditional festival that marked the sugarcane harvest. Events include the ritual presentation of the Last Canes and the judging of costumed groups (called "bands") on Kadooment Day (1 August), the climax of the festival. The festivities include calypso music and abundant food.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The arts on Barbados have been supported since the mid-1950s by the Barbados National Arts Council, and tourism has provided many local artists, especially musicians, with patrons. The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) supports the preservation of the island's handcrafts by running numerous shops where local craftspeople sell their wares, as well as offering workshops for beginners and experts alike.

Literature. Although Barbados has a long oral storytelling tradition, written literature by Barbadians received its first real debut in the 1940s and 1950s in a Barbadian literary magazine called Bim, which was the first showcase of works by a number of Caribbean writers destined for future fame, including Derek Wolcott, the 1992 Nobel laureate in literature, who was born in Saint Lucia but has spent a large portion of his time in Trinidad.

Well-known Barbadian writers include essayist John Wickham, novelist George Lamming (best known for In the Castle of My Skin, and poet Edward Kamau Braithwaite, winner of the 1994 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and a professor of Comparative Literature at New York University.

Graphic Arts. Barbados has a flourishing community of artists producing paintings, murals, sculptures, and crafts, many of which reflect strong African influences. Barbadian crafts include pottery, mahogany items, and jewelry.

Performance Arts. In addition to the popular calypso, reggae, and steel band music that reflects the influence of neighboring Trinidad and Jamaica, Barbados has its own indigenous musical tradition, the tuk band, which provides the backbeat for all major celebrations on the island. Composed of penny-whistles, snare drums, and bass drums, it is reminiscent of a British military band, but with a distinctly African flair.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

State-of-the-art medical research is carried out primarily at the UWI's school of medicine. Social and behavioral research is carried out by UWI faculty and research affiliates of the Institute for Social and Economic Research.


Barrow, Errol W., and Kendal A. Lee. Privilege: Cooking in the Caribbean, 1988.

Best, Curwen. Barbadian Popular Music and the Politics of Caribbean Culture, 1999.

Dann, Graham. The Quality of Life in Barbados, 1984.

Hoyos, F. A. Barbados: A History from the Amerindians to Independence, 1978.

Schomburg, Robert H. The History of Barbados: Comprising a Geographical and Statistical Description of the Island; A Sketch of the Historical Events since the Settlement, 1998.

W. Penn Handwerker

Barbuda See Antigua and Barbuda

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Barbados Island state in the Windward Islands, West Indies; the capital is Bridgetown. Barbados' warm climate encouraged the growth of its two largest industries – sugar cane and tourism. It was settled by the British in 1627, and dominated by British plantation owners (using African slave labour until the abolition of slavery) for the next 300 years. It gained independence in 1966. Area: 430sq km (166sq mi). Pop. (2000) 265,000. See West Indies map;

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Barbados. An island in the eastern Caribbean some 200 miles north-east of Trinidad. Extending 21 miles by 14, it is a little larger than the Isle of Wight. It was uninhabited in 1627 when settled by the English, who began growing sugar cane in the 1630s. In 1665 it survived an attack by the Dutch. The capital is Bridgetown and tourism is augmented by light industry. The population in 1996 was 259,000 and since 1966 it has been an independent state within the Commonwealth.

J. A. Cannon

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BARBADOS, informal B'bados. A Caribbean country and member of the COMMONWEALTH. British colony 1627. Independence 1961. The Barbadian variety of English is rhotic with stronger nasalization than in other CARIBBEAN ENGLISH varieties. Word-final /t/ as in about, but is glotalized and /ai/ as in mine, try is narrowed to /əɪ/. See BAJAN.

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About 90 percent of all Barbadians (sometimes called Bajans) are the descendants of former African slaves. Some 5 percent are mulattos (mixed descent) and another 5 percent are white.

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Barbadoshorrendous, stupendous, tremendous •Barbados • Indus • solidus • Lepidus •Midas, nidus •Aldous • Judas • Enceladus • exodus •hazardous • Dreyfus • Josephus •Sisyphus • typhus • Dollfuss •amorphous, anthropomorphous, polymorphous •rufous, Rufus •Angus • Argus •Las Vegas, magus, Tagus •negus •anilingus, cunnilingus, dingus, Mingus •bogus •fungous, fungus, humongous •anthropophagous, oesophagus (US esophagus), sarcophagus •analogous •homologous, tautologous •Areopagus • asparagus •Burgas, Fergus, Lycurgus •Carajás • frabjous •advantageous, contagious, courageous, outrageous, rampageous •egregious •irreligious, litigious, prestigious, prodigious, religious, sacrilegious •umbrageous • gorgeous

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