Capital City: Bridgetown
Largest City: Bridgetown
Official Currency: Barbadian dollar
GDP (nominal) $3.670 billion (2008)
Population: 284,589; 90% Afro-Bajan (Igbo, Yoruba, Akan, others), 6% Asian and Multiracial, Arawak, Mulatto, 4% European (English, Irish, other)
Land Area: 431 km2
Located at roughly 13° North of the equator and 59° West of the prime meridian, it is considered a part of the Lesser Antilles. Its closest island neighbours are Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines to the west. To the south lies Trinidad and Tobago—with which Barbados now shares a fixed official maritime boundary—and also the South American mainland. Barbados is primarily low-lying, with some higher in the country's interior. The highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby in the parish of Saint Andrew.
The geological composition of Barbados is of non-volcanic origin, predominantly limestone-coral. After the break of South America from Africa in the Mesozoic, a reef formed. During the Cenozoic, as both the Caribbean and South American plates moved westward, the two plates impacted and pressed this reef upward. Barbados is part of a North Atlantic Ocean submarine mountain range located to the east of the Windward Islands. This range stretches from its close proximity of Puerto Rico in the north, to a south-easterly direction toward Venezuela. The island of Barbados forms the only part of this mountain range that rises above sea level.
The island's climate is tropical, with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean serving to keep temperatures mild. Some less developed areas of the country contain tropical woodland and mangroves. Other parts of the interior which contribute to the agriculture industry are dotted with large sugarcane estates and wide, gently sloping pastures, with panoramic views down to the coast also.
Barbados -- History --
The reason for the name "Barbados" is controversial. The Portuguese, en route to Brazil or the Spanish were the first Europeans to discover and name the island. The word Barbados means "bearded", but it is a matter of conjecture whether "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island; to the bearded Caribs once inhabiting the island as supported by Dr. Richard Allsopp, a Caribbean linguist; or to the foam spraying over the outlying reefs giving the impression of a beard. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Visconte Maggiolo showed and named Barbados in its correct position.
The first indigenous people are thought to be Amerindians who arrived from Venezuela around approximately 350-400 B.C. The Arawak people were the second wave of migrants, arriving from South America around 800. In the thirteenth century, the Caribs arrived from South America in the third wave, displacing both the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid culture. For the next few centuries, the Caribs — like the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid — lived in isolation on the island.
The Portuguese briefly claimed Barbados from the mid-1500s to the 1600s, and may have seized the Caribs on Barbados and used them as slave labour. Other Caribs are believed to have fled to neighbouring islands. Apart from possibly displacing the Caribs, the Portuguese left little impact and by the 1610s left for South America, leaving the island almost uninhabited. Some Arawaks still live in Barbados.
British sailors who landed on Barbados in 1625 arrived at the site of present-day Holetown. The British then took possession of Barbados in the name of James I. From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627–1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British governance (and was the only Caribbean island that did not change hands during the colonial period). Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639. Among the initial important British figures was Sir William Courten.
With the increased implementation of slave codes, which created differential treatment between Africans and the white workers and planters, the island became increasingly unattractive to poor whites. Black or slave codes were implemented in 1661, 1676, 1682, and 1688. In response to these codes, several slave rebellions were attempted or planned during this time, but none succeeded. However, an increasingly repressive legal system caused the gap between the treatment of typically white indentured servants and black slaves to widen. Imported slaves became much more attractive for the rich planters who would increasingly dominate the island not only economically but also politically.
Some have speculated that, because the Africans could withstand tropical diseases and the climate much better than the white slave population, the white population decreased. This is inconsistent with the fact that many poor whites simply migrated to neighbouring islands and remained in tropical climates. Nevertheless, poor whites who had or acquired the means to emigrate often did so. Planters expanded their importation of African slaves to cultivate sugar cane. The inhabitants of Barbados turned from mainly English and Scots-Irish in the seventeenth century to overwhelmingly black by the end of the 18th century.
Barbados eventually had one of the world's biggest sugar industries after starting sugar cane cultivation in 1640. One group which was instrumental for ensuring the early success of the sugar cane industry were the Sephardic Jews, who originally been expelled from the Iberian peninsula to end up in Dutch Brazil. This quickly replaced tobacco plantations on the islands which were previously the main export. As the sugar industry developed into its main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates that replaced the smallholdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers moved to other British colonies in the Americas, most notably North and South Carolina, and British Guiana, as well as Panama. To work the plantations, planters imported enslaved West Africans to Barbados and other Caribbean islands.
The British abolished the slave trade in 1807 but not the institution itself. In 1816, slaves arose in the largest major slave rebellion in the island's history. Twenty thousand slaves from over seventy plantations rebelled. They drove whites off the plantations, but widespread killings did not take place. This was later termed “Bussa's Rebellion” after the slave ranger Bussa, who with his assistants hated slavery, found the treatment of slaves on Barbados to be “intolerable,” and believed the political climate in the UK made the time ripe to peacefully negotiate with planters for freedom.
Slavery was finally abolished in the British Empire eighteen years later in 1834. In Barbados and the rest of the British West Indian colonies, full emancipation from slavery was preceded by an apprenticeship period that lasted four years.
In 1884, the Barbados Agricultural Society sent a letter to Sir Francis Hincks requesting his private and public views on whether the Dominion of Canada would favourably entertain having the then colony of Barbados admitted as a member of the Canadian Confederation. Asked of Canada were the terms of the Canadian side to initiate discussions, and whether or not the island of Barbados could depend on the full influence of Canada in getting the change agreed to by the United Kingdom. Then in 1952 the Barbados Advocate newspaper polled several prominent Barbadian politicians, lawyers, businessmen, the Speaker of the Barbados House of Assembly and later as first President of the Senate, Sir Theodore Branker, Q.C. and found them to be in favour of immediate federation of Barbados along with the rest of the British Caribbean with complete Dominion Status within five years from the date of inauguration of the West Indies Federation with Canada.
However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, owing to the high income qualification required for voting. More than 70% of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party in 1938, then known as the Barbados Progressive League.
While being a staunch supporter of the monarchy, Adams and his party also demanded more rights for the poor and for the people. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949 governmental control was wrested from the planters and, in 1958, Adams became Premier of Barbados.
From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, an organisation doomed by nationalistic attitudes and by the fact that its members, as British colonies, held limited legislative power. Adams served as its first and only "Premier", but his leadership failed in attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defence of the monarchy was used by his opponents as evidence that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country. Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, became the new people's advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams' conservative government. Barrow instituted many progressive social programmes, such as free education for all Barbadians, and the School Meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.
With the Federation dissolved, Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state on 30 November 1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister. Upon independence Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by establishing membership to the Commonwealth of Nations grouping, a year later Barbados' International linkages were expanded by obtaining membership to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Barbados -- Economy --
Historically, the economy of Barbados had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s it has diversified into the manufacturing and tourism sectors. Offshore finance and information services have become important foreign exchange earners, and there is a healthy light manufacturing sector. Since the 1990s the Barbados Government has been seen as business-friendly and economically sound. The island has seen a construction boom, with the development and redevelopment of hotels, office complexes, and homes.
Recent government administrations have continued efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage foreign direct investment, and privatise remaining state-owned enterprises. Unemployment has been reduced from around 14 percent in the past to under 10 percent.
The economy contracted in 2001 and 2002 due to slowdowns in tourism, consumer spending and the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but rebounded in 2003 and has shown growth since 2004. Traditional trading partners include Canada, the Caribbean Community (especially Trinidad and Tobago), the United Kingdom and the United States.
Business links and investment flows have become substantial: as of 2003 the island saw from Canada CA$ 25 billion in investment holdings, placing it as one of Canada's top five destinations for Canadian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Businessman Eugene Melnyk of Toronto, Canada, is said to be Barbados' richest permanent resident.
It was thought by key Barbadian industry sources that the year 2006 would have been one of the busiest years for building construction ever in Barbados, as the building-boom on the island entered the final stages for several multi-million dollar commercial projects.
The European Union is presently assisting Barbados with a EURO$10 million dollar programme of modernisation of the country's International Business and Financial Services Sector.
Barbados maintains the third largest stock exchange in the Caribbean region. At present, officials at the stock exchange are investigating the possibility of augmenting the local exchange with an International Securities Market (ISM) venture.
The island of Barbados's lone airport is the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) (IATA identifier BGI). It receives daily flights by several major airlines from points around the globe, as well as several smaller regional commercial airlines and charters. The airport serves as the main air-transportation hub for the Eastern Caribbean. It is undergoing a US$100 million upgrade and expansion.
There is also a helicopter shuttle service, which offers air taxi services to a number of sites around the island, mainly on the West Coast tourist belt. Air and water traffic is regulated by the Barbados Port Authority.
Barbados -- Culture --
Barbados is a full and participating member of: Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME), Association of Caribbean States (ACS). Organization of American States (OAS), Commonwealth of Nations, and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which currently pertains only to Barbados and Guyana. In 2001 the Caribbean Community heads of government voted on a measure declaring that the region should work towards replacing the UK's Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Barbados is an original Member (1995) of the World Trade Organisation(WTO), and participates actively in its work. It grants at least MFN treatment to all its trading partners. As of December, 2007 Barbados is linked by an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Commission. The pact involves the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) subgroup of the Group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific states (ACP). CARIFORUM presently the only part of the wider ACP-bloc that has concluded the full regional trade-pact with the European Union.
Barbados has used foreign trade and investment opportunities deftly to maintain living standards well above those of most developing countries. Its trade and investment policies have fostered world-class suppliers in a few areas, particularly tourism and financial services. Based on Barbados's natural endowments and on niche activities created by government policy, these services have become the mainstay of the economy and the main source of foreign exchange. Of necessity, however, specialization and the small size of the economy have resulted in a narrow production base that makes Barbados vulnerable to external shocks.
Trade policy has also sought to protect a small number of domestic activities, mostly food production, from foreign competition, while recognizing that most domestic needs are best met by imports. This protection, and limited competition in certain domestic sectors have weighed on the competitiveness of the leading service activities by restricting their access to inputs at the lowest cost. Barbados's historically stable policy environment and wealth of human capital bode well for its ability to address this issue, adjust to new challenges and, thus, attain and sustain further welfare improvements.
Barbados -- Political system, law and government --
Barbados has been an independent country since 30 November 1966. It functions as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, modelled on the British Westminster system, with Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, as head of state represented locally by the Governor-General, Clifford Husbands and the Prime Minister as the head of the government. The number of representatives within the House of Assembly has gradually increased from twenty-four at independence, to its present composition of thirty seats.
Barbados functions as a two-party system, the two dominant parties being the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the opposition, Barbados Labour Party. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had been in government for fifteen years, since 1993 until the 2008 general election. Under this administration, the former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur acted as the Regional Leader of the CSM (Caribbean Single Market). The Honourable David Thompson is the Prime Minister of Barbados.
Under Chapter I, Section I of the Constitution of Barbados, it is the supreme law of the nation. The Office of the Attorney General heads the independent judiciary. Historically, Barbadian law was based entirely on English common law with a few local adaptations. At the time of independence, the British Parliament ceased having the ability to change local legislation at its own discretion. British law and various legal statutes within British law at this time, and other prior measures adopted by the Barbadian parliament became the basis of the modern-day law system.
More recently however, local Barbadian legislation may be shaped or influenced by such organisations as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, or other International fora which Barbados has obligatory commitments by treaty. Additionally, through international cooperation, other institutions may supply the Barbados parliament with key sample legislation to be adapted to meet local circumstance, before crafting it as local law.
Laws are passed by the Barbadian Parliament, whereby upon their passage, are given official vice-regal assent by the Governor-General to become law.
Magistrate's Court: Covering Criminal, Civil, Domestic, Domestic Violence, and Juvenile matters. But can also take up matters dealing with Corornor's Inquests, Liquor Licences, and civil marriages. Further, the Magistrates court deals with Contract and Tort law where claims don't exceed $10,000.00.
The Supreme Court: is made up of High Court and Court of Appeals.
High Court: Consisting of Civil, Criminal, and Family law divisions.
Court of Appeals: Handles appeals from the High Court and Magistrate's Court. It will hear appeals in both the civil, and criminal law jurisdictions. It may consist of a single Justice of Appeal sitting in Chambers; or as Full Court, will consist of 3 Justices of Appeals.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), (based in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago), is the court of last resort (final jurisdiction) over Barbadian law. It replaced the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC). The CCJ may resolve other disputed matters dealing with the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME).