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Barbados Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Barbados Map

Introduction

Background

The island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. African slaves worked the sugar plantations established on the island, which initially dominated the Caribbean sugar industry. By 1720 Barbados was no longer a dominant force within the sugar industry, having been surpassed by the Leeward Islands and Jamaica. Slavery was abolished in 1834. The Barbadian economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s led to complete independence from the UK in 1966. In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance. Barbados plans to remove the British monarch as its head of state by November 2021 and transition to a republic.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, island in the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela

Geographic coordinates

13 10 N, 59 32 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 430 sq km

land: 430 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 201

Area - comparative

2.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

97 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; rainy season (June to October)

Terrain

relatively flat; rises gently to central highland region

Elevation

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mount Hillaby 336 m

Natural resources

petroleum, fish, natural gas

Land use

agricultural land: 32.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 25.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 4.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 19.4% (2018 est.)

other: 48% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

50 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

most densely populated country in the eastern Caribbean; approximately one-third live in urban areas

Natural hazards

infrequent hurricanes; periodic landslides

Geography - note

easternmost Caribbean island

People and Society

Population

301,865 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Nationality

noun: Barbadian(s) or Bajan (colloquial)

adjective: Barbadian or Bajan (colloquial)

Ethnic groups

African descent 92.4%, mixed 3.1%, White 2.7%, East Indian 1.3%, other 0.2%, unspecified 0.3% (2010 est.)

Languages

English (official), Bajan (English-based creole language, widely spoken in informal settings)

Religions

Protestant 66.4% (includes Anglican 23.9%, other Pentecostal 19.5%, Adventist 5.9%, Methodist 4.2%, Wesleyan 3.4%, Nazarene 3.2%, Church of God 2.4%, Baptist 1.8%, Moravian 1.2%, other Protestant 0.9%), Roman Catholic 3.8%, other Christian 5.4% (includes Jehovah's Witness 2.0%, other 3.4%), Rastafarian 1%, other 1.5%, none 20.6%, unspecified 1.2% (2010 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Barbados

etymology: the name derives from the Portuguese "as barbadas," which means "the bearded ones" and can refer either to the long, hanging roots of the island's bearded fig trees or to the alleged beards of the native Carib inhabitants

Government type

parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm

Capital

name: Bridgetown

geographic coordinates: 13 06 N, 59 37 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: named after a bridge constructed over the swampy area (known as the Careenage) around the Constitution River that flows through the center of Bridgetown

Administrative divisions

11 parishes and 1 city*; Bridgetown*, Christ Church, Saint Andrew, Saint George, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, Saint Michael, Saint Peter, Saint Philip, Saint Thomas

Independence

30 November 1966 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 30 November (1966)

Constitution

history: adopted 22 November 1966, effective 30 November 1966

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage of amendments to constitutional sections such as citizenship, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the organization and authorities of the branches of government requires two-thirds majority vote by the membership of both houses of Parliament; passage of other amendments only requires a majority vote of both houses; amended several times, last in 2020

Legal system

English common law; no judicial review of legislative acts

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sandra MASON (since 8 January 2018)

head of government: Prime Minister Mia MOTTLEY (since 25 May 2018)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; the prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
Senate (21 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, 2 on the advice of the opposition leader, and 7 at the discretion of the governor general) 
House of Assembly (30 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections: 
Senate - last appointments on 5 June 2018 (next appointments NA)
House of Assembly - last held on 24 May 2018 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: 
Senate - appointed; composition - men 16, women 5, percent of women 23.8% 
House of Assembly - percent of vote by party - BLP 74.6%, DLP 22.6%, other 2.8%; seats by party - BLP 30; composition - men 24, women 6, percent of women 20%; note - total Parliament percent of women 21.6%

note: tradition dictates that the election is held within 5 years of the last election, but constitutionally it is 5 years from the first seating of Parliament plus a 90-day grace period

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the High Court with 8 justices) and the Court of Appeal (consists of the High Court chief justice and president of the court and 4 justices; note - in 2005, Barbados acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal, replacing that of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister and opposition leader of Parliament; other justices appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, a 5-member independent body consisting of the Supreme Court chief justice, the commission head, and governor general appointees recommended by the prime minister; justices serve until mandatory retirement at age 65

subordinate courts: Magistrates' Courts

Political parties and leaders

Bajan Free Party [Alex MITCHELL]
Barbados Integrity Movement [Neil HOLDER]
Barbados Labor Party or BLP [Mia MOTTLEY]
Democratic Labor Party or DLP [Freundel STUART]
People’s Democratic Congress [Mark ADAMSON]
People's Empowerment Party or PEP [David COMISSIONG]
Solutions Barbados [Grenville PHILLIPS II]
United Progressive Party or UPP [Lynette EASTMOND]

International organization participation

ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Noel Anderson LYNCH (since 11 January 2019)

chancery: 2144 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 939-9200

FAX: [1] (202) 332-7467

consulate(s) general: Miami, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Linda S. TAGLIALATELA (since 1 February 2016) note - also accredited to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

telephone: [1] (246) 227-4000

embassy: Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael BB 14006, W.I.

mailing address: P. O. Box 302, Bridgetown BB 11000; (Department Name) Unit 3120, DPO AA 34055

FAX: [1] (246) 431-0179

Flag description

three equal vertical bands of ultramarine blue (hoist side), gold, and ultramarine blue with the head of a black trident centered on the gold band; the band colors represent the blue of the sea and sky and the gold of the beaches; the trident head represents independence and a break with the past (the colonial coat of arms contained a complete trident)

National symbol(s)

Neptune's trident, pelican, Red Bird of Paradise flower (also known as Pride of Barbados); national colors: blue, yellow, black

National anthem

name: The National Anthem of Barbados

lyrics/music: Irving BURGIE/C. Van Roland EDWARDS

note: adopted 1966; the anthem is also known as "In Plenty and In Time of Need"

Economy

Economic overview

Barbados is the wealthiest and one of the most developed countries in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the region. Historically, the Barbadian economy was dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities. However, in recent years the economy has diversified into light industry and tourism. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners, boosted by being in the same time zone as eastern US financial centers and by a relatively highly educated workforce. Following the 2008-09 recession, external vulnerabilities such as fluctuations in international oil prices have hurt economic growth, raised Barbados' already high public debt to GDP ratio - which stood at 105% of GDP in 2016 - and cut into its international reserves.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 141,618

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 48.19 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 319,177

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 108.61 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 178

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: island-wide automatic telephone system; telecom sector across the Caribbean region remains one of the key growth areas and contributors to the overall GDP; numerous competitors licensed, but small and localized (2020)

domestic: fixed-line teledensity of roughly 48 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density about 109 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 1-246; landing points for the ECFS and Southern Caribbean Fiber submarine cable with links to 15 other islands in the eastern Caribbean extending from the British Virgin Islands to Trinidad and Puerto Ricco; satellite earth stations - 1 (Intelsat - Atlantic Ocean); tropospheric scatter to Trinidad and Saint Lucia (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

government-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) operates the lone terrestrial TV station; CBC also operates a multi-channel cable TV subscription service; roughly a dozen radio stations, consisting of a CBC-operated network operating alongside privately owned radio stations

Internet country code

.bb

Internet users

total: 239,664

percent of population: 81.76% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 171

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 89,340

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 30 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 124

Transportation

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

8P (2016)

Airports

total: 1 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 212

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 1

Pipelines

33 km gas, 64 km oil, 6 km refined products (2013)

Roadways

total: 1,700 km (2015)

paved: 1,700 km (2015)

country comparison to the world: 173

Merchant marine

total: 145

by type: bulk carrier 31, general cargo 100, other 14 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 75

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Bridgetown

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Royal Barbados Defense Force: The Barbados Regiment, The Barbados Coast Guard (2021)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Royal Barbados Defense Force (RBDF) has approximately 600 active personnel (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the RBDF's major equipment inventory - maritime patrol boats - is supplied by the Netherlands (2020)

Military service age and obligation

voluntary service only; 17 years, 9 months to 17 years, 11 months with a letter of consent from a parent or guardian, or be in the age range of 18-25 years at the start of recruit training; citizen of Barbados by descent or naturalization (2021)

Military expenditures

0.9% of GDP (2017)

0.9% of GDP (2016)

0.7% of GDP (2015)

0.7% of GDP (2014)

0.7% of GDP (2013)

country comparison to the world: 130

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago abide by the April 2006 Permanent Court of Arbitration decision delimiting a maritime boundary and limiting catches of flying fish in Trinidad and Tobago's exclusive economic zone; joins other Caribbean states to counter Venezuela's claim that Aves Island sustains human habitation, a criterion under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which permits Venezuela to extend its Economic Exclusion Zone/continental shelf over a large portion of the eastern Caribbean Sea

Illicit drugs

one of many Caribbean transshipment points for narcotics bound for Europe and the US; offshore financial center

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