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Background Notes: Caribbean, January 2004 [Secure eReader]
eBook by U.S. Department of State

eBook Category: Travel
eBook Description: Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs country background notes for international travelers to Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Each country's brief, factual background note summarizes its geography, people (population, ethnic groups, languages, health, and religion), history, culture, government and political conditions (type, political parties and principal government officials), economy (GDP; land, climate, and demographics; agriculture and natural resources; trade, industry, and investment; and transportation), defense, human rights, and foreign relations. Each country's background note also provides travel and business information, including principal U.S. officials (ambassador, public affairs officer, counselor for economic affairs, etc.); embassy location, telephone, and fax numbers; and passport information.

eBook Publisher: InfoStrategist.com
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2004

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

November 2003

Background Note:

Antigua and Barbuda



Antigua and Barbuda


Area: Antigua – 281 sq. Km. (108 sq. Mi.); Barbuda – 161 sq. Km. (62 sq. Mi.). Cities: Capital – St. John's (pop. 30,000). Terrain: Generally low-lying, with highest elevation 405 m. (1,330 ft.). Climate: Tropical maritime.


Nationality: Noun and adjective – Antiguan(s), Barbudan(s). Population (2001 Antiguan census): 75,401. Annual population growth rate (1999): 1.1%. Ethnic groups: Almost entirely of African origin; some of British, Portuguese, and Levantine Arab origin. Religions: Principally Anglican, with evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic minorities.

Language: English. Education: Years compulsory – 9. Literacy – about 90%. Health: Life expectancy – 71 yrs. Male; 75 yrs. Female. Infant mortality rate – 18/1,000. Work force (31,300): Commerce and services, agriculture, other industry. Unemployment (Labor Commission est. 2002): 11-13%.


Type: Constitutional monarchy with Westminster-style Parliament. Constitution: 1981. Independence: November 1, 1981. Branches: Executive – governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), prime minister (head of government), and cabinet. Legislative – a 17-member Senate appointed by the Governor General (mainly on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition) and a 17-member popularly elected House of Representatives. Judicial – magistrate's courts, Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeals, Privy Council in London). Administrative subdivisions: Six parishes and two dependencies (Barbuda and Redonda). Political parties: Antigua Labor Party (ALP, incumbent), United Progressive Party (UPP), Barbuda People's Movement (BPM). Suffrage: Universal at 18.


GDP ( 2002): $710 million. GDP growth rate (2002): 2.7%. Per capita GDP (est. 2000): $9,690. Natural resources: Negligible. Agriculture (2001, 4% of GDP): Products – cotton, livestock, vegetables, and pineapples. Services: Tourism, banking, and other financial services. Trade (est. 2001): Exports – $17 million Trade partners (2000): OECS (24%), U.S. (10%), Trinidad and Tobago (7%), Barbados (21%). Imports $375 million – U.S. (27%), U.K. (10%), OECS (1%).


Antigua was first inhabited by the Siboney ("stone people") whose settlements date at least to 2400 BC. The Arawaks who originated in Venezuela and gradually migrated up the chain of islands now called the Lesser Antilles succeeded the Siboney. The warlike Carib people drove the Arawaks from neighboring islands but apparently did not settle on either Antigua or Barbuda.

Christopher Columbus landed on the islands in 1493 naming the larger one "Santa Maria de la Antigua." The English colonized the islands in 1632. Sir Christopher Codrington established the first large sugar estate in Antigua in 1674, and leased Barbuda to raise provisions for his plantations. Barbuda's only town is named after him. Codrington and others brought slaves from Africa's west coast to work the plantations.

Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834 but remained economically dependent on the plantation owners. Economic opportunities for the new freedmen were limited by a lack of surplus farming land, no access to credit, and an economy built on agriculture rather than manufacturing. Poor labor conditions persisted until 1939 when a member of a royal commission urged the formation of a trade union movement.

The Antigua Trades and Labor Union, formed shortly afterward, became the political vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird who became the union's president in 1943. The Antigua Labor Party (ALP), formed by Bird and other trade unionists, first ran candidates in the 1946 elections and became the majority party in 1951 beginning a long history of electoral victories.

Voted out of office in the 1971 general elections that swept the progressive labor movement into power, Bird and the ALP returned to office in 1976 and the party has won renewed mandates in every subsequent election.

During elections in March 1994, power passed from Vere Bird to his son, Lester Bird. In the last elections in March 1999, the ALP gained a 12-seat majority, while the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) led by Baldwin Spencer retained four seats, and the Barbuda People's Movement (BPM) retained one seat.


As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in Antigua and Barbuda by a governor general who acts on the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet. Antigua and Barbuda has a bicameral legislature: a 17-member Senate appointed by the governor general-mainly on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition – and a 17-member popularly elected House of Representatives. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House and conducts affairs of state with the cabinet. The prime minister and the cabinet are responsible to the Parliament. Elections must be held at least every 5 years but may be called by the prime minister at any time. National elections are anticipated to occur prior to March of 2004.Antigua and Barbuda has a multiparty political system with a long history of hard-fought elections, two of which have resulted in peaceful changes of government. The opposition, however, claims to be disadvantaged by the ruling party's longstanding monopoly on patronage and its control of the electronic media.

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the eastern Caribbean court system. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.

Principal Government Officials

Chief of State – Queen Elizabeth II Governor General-Sir James Carlisle Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs – Lester Bryant Bird Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS – Lionel A. Hurst Ambassador to the United Nations – Patrick Albert Lewis

Antigua and Barbuda maintain an embassy in the United States at 3216 New Mexico Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016 (tel. 202-362-5122).


Antigua and Barbuda's economy is service-based, with tourism, financial and government services representing the key sources of employment and income. Tourism also is the principal earner of foreign exchange in Antigua and Barbuda. However, a series of violent hurricanes since 1995 resulted in serious damage to tourist infrastructure and periods of sharp reductions in visitor numbers. Antigua and Barbuda's tourist sector continues to recover from past hurricanes and a downfall in numbers after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. In 2002, more than half a million tourists visited Antigua and Barbuda, the majority from Europe and the U.S. Cruise ship arrivals numbered over 300,000, more than half the total number of arrivals. Tourism receipts totaled $240 million in 2002. The economy grew at a rate of 2.7% in 2002.

To lessen its vulnerability to natural disasters, Antigua has sought to diversify its economy. Transportation, communications, and financial services are becoming important.

Antigua is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). All members of the ECCU share a common currency issued by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.

Antigua and Barbuda is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. In 2001, its exports totaled $17 million, of which 22% went to the U.S. Antigua and Barbuda imported 28.5% of its goods from the U.S. Overall, imports totaled $335 million in 2001. It also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Copyright © 2004

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