Barbados is an independent, Caribbean island state within the Commonwealth. It is the most developed Caribbean island and the only one classified as a Developed Country according to the U.N. Human Development Index.
Barbados is a former British Crown colony which gained full independence on November 30, 1966. It is a Parliamentary democracy and a Constitutional monarchy. The Parliamentary democracy is based on the British system from which the island inherited much.
Barbadian law is also based on British common law, with the Barbadian Parliament in charge of passing laws.
All elected governments have taken a pro-active approach to the offshore sector ensuring that the island meets the international tax information exchange standard.
Barbados has a small open economy. As a small nation, it is heavily reliant on international trade.
At the time of independence in 1966, the economy was primary based on agriculture with the growth of sugar cane as the main crop. Since that time, the economy has been diversified with tourism and the international business sector becoming the main economic drivers of the economy and the two largest earners of foreign exchange. The major sectors that contribute to the island’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are now Wholesale and Retail (22%), Finance and Business (19%), Government Services (16%) and Tourism (15%).
Most employment is in the service sector accounting for 75%, industry accounts for 15% and agriculture accounts for 10%. The unemployment rate at the end of 2010 stood at 10%.
The island’s GDP per capita is US $22,000.
The population is estimated to be around 285,000 with a low population growth rate of 0.4%. A national is known as a Barbadian or Bajan for short.
The majority of the population is of African descent (93%), with European descendants accounting for around 3% of the population and mixed-race citizens also making up about 3% of the population. The remainder is mostly of East Indian descent.
Barbados has a very high level of Human Development ranking in third place in the Americas after only the U.S.A. and Canada on the United Nations Human Development Index. The island offers free education for the entire population all the way up to University, resulting in a very well-educated and highly skilled workforce.
The society is very religious and the majority of the population are Christians, representing 95% of all citizens.
The spoken language is British English, with the local dialect being known as Bajan.
Barbados was originally inhabited by Amerindians in small numbers prior to European settlement. The island was named in Spanish maps as early as 1511 as Los Barbudos and although both the Spanish and Portuguese visited the island, they did not settle it.
The island was uninhabited by the time the British lay claim to it in 1625. They settled it in 1627 establishing the first settlement near what is currently Holetown in St. James.
The British settlers grew cotton and tobacco on small lots but this was soon replaced by sugar grown on larger plantations in the 1640s. Sugar cultivation was very labour intensive and it brought the African slave trade to the island’s shores. The slave trade ended in 1807 and emancipation took place in 1834.
Barbados became a self-governing British colony in 1961 and claimed full independence in 1966.
Barbados occupies the most easterly point in the Caribbean island chain. It is 430 sq km in size measuring 34 km long by 23 km wide with a coastline of 97 km. The island is relatively flat and made mostly of coral and limestone.
The climate is tropical with temperatures ranging from 21 to 31 Celsius. The island has two seasons that are classified as the dry season for the first half of the year and wet season for the remainder of the year.
The island is divided into 11 parishes with the capital city of Bridgetown lying in the Parish of St. Michael. Bridgetown is the most densely populated area of the island and is home to over 110,000 people.
The island lies in the Atlantic Time Zone at GMT-4 and does not adjust for daylight savings.
Barbados has a well-developed infrastructure. The World Economic Forum ranked the island’s infrastructure of roads, airport, harbour and other facilities as 22nd worldwide, ahead of that of the U.S.A.
There are daily flights from major international airports and a port that accommodates cruise ship arrivals and international shipping.
The road system is extensive with over 1,600 km of paved roads covering the small island.
A Developed Nation
Barbados is the only independent Caribbean island that has been recognized as a Developed Nation by the United Nations. The island has been transformed from a British colony with an economy based on agricultural to an independent nation with a service based, small open economy focusing on tourism and financial services.
With a well-developed infrastructure and a strong focus on educating its population, the island offers many important advantages over other international business jurisdictions around the world.