Antigua and Barbuda

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Economy of Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda's service-based economy contracted by 4.1% in 2010, experiencing its third consecutive year of decline. The Antiguan economy experienced solid growth from 2003 to 2007, reaching over 12% in 2006. Growth was driven by a construction boom in hotels and housing associated with the Cricket World Cup, but it dropped off in 2008 with the end of the boom. In 2009, Antigua was severely hit by the global economic crisis, suffering from the collapse of its largest financial institution and a steep drop in tourism. The economic decline continued in 2010 as the country struggled with a large deficit.

To lessen its vulnerability to natural disasters and economic shocks, Antigua has sought to diversify its economy by encouraging growth in transportation, communications, Internet gambling, and financial services.

Antigua and Barbuda's currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries. The ECCB has kept the EC$ pegged at EC$2.7=U.S. $1.

Antigua and Barbuda is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative, which grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. In 2005, 7.7% of its total exports went to the United States, and 48.9% of its total imports came from the United States. Antigua and Barbuda also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).


GDP (2010 est.): $1.433 billion.

GDP growth rate (2010 est.): -4.1%.

Per capita GDP (2010): $16,500.

Inflation (2007): 1.5%.

Natural resources: Negligible.

Agriculture: Fish, cotton, livestock, vegetables, bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, sugarcane, and pineapples.

Services: Tourism, construction, light manufacturing, banking, and other financial services.

Trade (2005): Exports--$58 million (merchandise) and $454 million (commercial services). Major markets--European Union (23.2%), United States (7.7%), Anguilla (7.0%), St. Kitts and Nevis (10.3%), Netherlands Antilles (23.4%). Imports--$497 million (merchandise) and $197 million (commercial services). Major suppliers--United States (48.9%), Netherlands Antilles (10.2%), European Union (11.6%), Trinidad and Tobago (10.9%), Canada (3.7%).

Official exchange rate: EC$2.70 = U.S. $1.

Geography of Antigua and Barbuda

Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east-southeast of Puerto Rico Geographic coordinates: 17 03 N, 61 48 W Map references: North America Area: total: 440 sq km land: 440 sq km water: 0 sq km note: includes Redonda Area-comparative: 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC Land boundaries: 0 km Coastline: 153 km Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 nm continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm Climate: tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation Terrain: mostly low-lying limestone and coral islands, with some higher volcanic areas Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Boggy Peak 402 m Natural resources: NEGL; pleasant climate fosters tourism Land use: arable land: 18% permanent crops: 0% permanent pastures: 9% forests and woodland: 11% other: 62% (1993 est.) Irrigated land: NA sq km Natural hazards: hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October); periodic droughts Environment-current issues: water management-a major concern because of limited natural fresh water resources-is further hampered by the clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly Environment-international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Government of Antigua and Barbuda

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 were last held on March 12, 2009. The opposition successfully challenged the election results in three constituencies and had the results nullified by the Antigua High Court. The ruling UPP subsequently appealed that decision and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s ruling in October 2010, returning three ministers to their parliamentary seats.

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--H. E. Louise Agnetha Lake-Tack

Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Winston Baldwin Spencer

Ambassador to the United States and the OAS--Deborah Mae Lovell

Ambassador to the United Nations--Dr. John Ashe

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


Type: Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth.

Constitution: 1981.

Independence: November 1, 1981.

Branches: Executive--governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Parliament. 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 Labour Party (ALP), United Progressive Party (UPP, majority), Barbuda People's Movement (BPM).

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

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History of Antigua and Barbuda

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, winning renewed mandates in every subsequent election under Vere Bird’s leadership until 1994 and also under the leadership of his son, Lester Bird, up until March 2004, when the ALP lost power in national elections.

In the last elections on March 23, 2004, the United Progressive Party (UPP) won 12 of the 17 seats in Parliament. The main opposition ALP, now led by Steadroy "Cutie" Benjamin, retained four seats.

People of Antigua and Barbuda

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Antiguan(s), Barbudan(s).

Population (July 2011 est.): 87,884.

Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 1.3%.

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 (2005): Adult literacy--85.8%.

Health (2011): Infant mortality rate--14.63/1,000. Life expectancy--men 73 years; women 77 years.

Work force (2005): 30,000 (commerce and services, agriculture, other industry).

Unemployment (2011 est.): 11%.