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Background: The island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. Its economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.
Government type: parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth
Capital: Bridgetown
Currency: 1 Barbadian dollar (Bds$) = 100 cents

Geography of Barbados

Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela|
Geographic coordinates:
 13 10 N, 59 32 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
total: 430 sq. km
land: 430 sq. km
water: 0 sq. km
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 97 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; rainy season (June to October)
Terrain: relatively flat; rises gently to central highland region
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Hillaby 336 m
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, natural gas
Land use:
arable land: 37%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 5%
forests and woodland: 12%
other: 46% (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: infrequent hurricanes; periodic landslides
Environment – current issues: pollution of coastal waters from waste disposal by ships; soil erosion; illegal solid waste disposal threatens contamination of aquifers
Environment – international agreements:
party to:  Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity
Geography – note: easternmost Caribbean island

People of Barbados

About 80% of Barbados’ population is of African descent, 4% European descent, and 16% mixed. About 70% of Barbadians are Anglican, and the rest mostly Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Moravian. There also are small Jewish and Muslim communities. Barbados’ population growth rate has been very low, less than 1% since the1960s, largely due to family planning efforts and a high emigration rate.

Population: 279,254 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  21.68% (male 30,122; female 29,572)
15-64 years:  69.44% (male 93,283; female 97,915)
65 years and over:  8.88% (male 9,432; female 15,006)
Population growth rate: 0.46%
Birth rate: 13.47 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 8.53 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -0.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 12.04 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  73.25 years
male:  70.66 years
female:  75.86 years 
Total fertility rate: 1.64 children born/woman 
noun: Barbadian(s) or Bajan (colloquial)
adjective: Barbadian or Bajan (colloquial)
Ethnic groups: black 80%, white 4%, other 16%
Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%
Languages: English
definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 97.4%
male: 98%
female: 96.8% (1995 est.)

History of Barbados

British sailors who landed on Barbados in the 1620s at the site of present-day Holetown on the Caribbean coast found the island uninhabited. As elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean, Arawak Indians may have been annihilated by invading Caribs, who are believed to have subsequently abandoned the island.

From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627-28 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly, which began meeting in 1639, is the third-oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, preceded only by Bermuda’s legislature and the Virginia House of Burgesses.

As the sugar industry developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replace the small holdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers relocated to British colonies in North America. To work the plantations, slaves were brought from Africa; the slave trade ceased a few years before the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire in 1834.

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

Progress toward more democratic government for Barbados was made in 1951, when universal adult suffrage was introduced. This was followed by steps toward increased self-government, and in 1961, Barbados achieved internal autonomy.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of 10 members of the West Indies Federation, and Sir Grantley Adams served as its first and only prime minister. When the federation was terminated, Barbados reverted to its former status as a self-governing colony. Following several attempts to form another federation composed of Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands, Barbados negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados became an independent state within the British Commonwealth on November 30, 1966

Barbados Economy

Economy – overview: Historically, the Barbadian economy had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but production in recent years has diversified into manufacturing and tourism. The start of the Port Charles Marina project in Speightstown helped the tourism industry continue to expand in 1996-2000. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners, and there is also a light manufacturing sector. The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage direct foreign investment, and privatize remaining state-owned enterprises. Growth should remain steady in 2001, with new tourist facilities a plus factor.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $4 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 2.8% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $14,500 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture:  4%
industry:  16%
services:  80% (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 136,000 (1998 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: services 75%, industry 15%, agriculture 10% (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate: 12% (1998 est.)
revenues: $725.5 million
expenditures: $750.6 million, including capital expenditures of $126.3 million (FY97/98 est.)
Industries: tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export
Industrial production growth rate: 0.8% (1996)
Electricity – production: 718 million kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  100%
hydro:  0%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 667.7 million kWh (1999)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (1999)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: sugarcane, vegetables, cotton
Exports: $260 million (2000 est.)
Exports – commodities: sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components, clothing
Exports – partners: UK 14.8%, US 11.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 7.6%, Venezuela 6.1%, Jamaica 5.8% (1998)
Imports: $800.3 million (2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, electrical components
Imports – partners: United States 30.7%, Trinidad 10.2%, Japan 8.3%, United Kingdom 7.7%, Canada 2.2% (1998)
Debt – external: $425 million (2000 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $9.1 million (1995)
Currency: 1 Barbadian dollar (Bds$) = 100 cents

Map of Barbados