Facts About Barbados
Nickname: Gem of the Caribbean
Area: (166 sq. mi.); about three times the size of Washington, DC.
Terrain: Generally flat, hilly in the interior.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Barbadian(s) or informally Bajan(s).
Population (2008 estimate): 281,698.
Ethnic groups: African descent-90%, white-4%, Asian or mixed-6%.
Education (2005): Adult literacy--99.7%.
Life expectancy: men 70.8 years; women 74.8 years
Unemployment (2009): 10%.
Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth.
Independence: November 30, 1966.
Subdivisions: Eleven parishes and the city of Bridgetown.
Political parties: Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Democratic Labour Party (DLP), People's Empowerment Party (PEP).
GDP (2008): $3.682 billion.
GDP growth rate (2008): 0.7%.
Per capita GDP (2008 est.): $19,100.
Inflation (2007): 5.5%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, fish, quarrying, natural gas.
Agriculture: Sugar accounts for less than 1% of GDP and 80% of arable land.
Manufacturing and construction: Food, beverages, infrastructure, electronic components, textiles, paper, chemicals.
Services: Tourism, banking and other financial services, and data processing.
Official exchange rate: BDS$2 = U.S. $1.
About 90% of Barbados' population is of African descent, 4% European descent, and 6% Asian or mixed. About 40% of Barbadians are Anglican, and the rest mostly Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Moravian. There also are small Jewish and Muslim communities. Barbados' population growth rate has been very low, less than 1% since the 1960s, largely due to family planning efforts and a high emigration rate.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Elliot Belgrave
Prime Minister--Freundel Stuart
Since independence, Barbados has transformed itself from a low-income economy dependent upon sugar production into an upper-middle-income economy based on tourism. Barbados is now one of the most prosperous countries in the western hemisphere outside of the United States and Canada. The economy went into a deep recession in 1990 after 3 years of steady decline brought on by fundamental macroeconomic imbalances. After a painful readjustment process, the economy began to grow again in 1993. Growth rates averaged between 3%-5% since then until 2001, when the economy contracted 2.8% in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the global drop-off in tourism. Growth picked up again in 2004 and 2005, and the economy grew by 3.8% in 2006.
Tourism drives the economy in Barbados, but offshore banking and financial services have become an increasingly important source of foreign exchange and economic growth. The sugar industry, once dominant, now makes up less than 1% of GDP and employs only around 500 people. The labor force totaled 142,000 persons at the end of 2006. The average rate of unemployment during the last quarter of 2006 was estimated at 7.6%. The current account deficit expanded to 12.5% of GDP, and government debt rose above 80% of GDP in 2006.
Barbados hosted the final matches of the Cricket World Cup in 2007, and much of the country's investment during 2006 and the beginning of 2007 was directed toward accommodating the expected influx of visitors. As a result of these preparations, growth was registered in all sectors, especially transportation, communications, construction, and utilities. The government and private sector are both working to prepare the country for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME)--a European Union-style single market.
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