- Population 266,800,
- Per capita income
- Literacy rate of 97.6%
- Life expectancy rate
of 76.4 years
- Infant mortality rate
of 11 per 10000
has the demographic profile of a developed country. The
latest UNDP Human Development Index, based on the three
criteria of national income, education and health,
places Barbados 29th of the more than 150
countries surveyed, and fourth among developing
Barbadian dollar, which was fixed at Bds.$2.00 = US$1.00
on July 05, 1975 retains the same value today.
Quality of life
- Income is more
equitably distributed than in most countries.
- Highly developed
infrastructure of highways, seaport and airport.
- Total availability of
electricity, water and telecommunications services.
- Well developed
national security safety net for the disadvantaged
- A relatively low crime
- Virtual absence of
social and political unrest.
- Civil and democratic
rights, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or gender,
are deeply entrenched in Barbadian society.
Archaeological evidence indicates that prior to 1625 the
island had been inhabited by the Arawaks and Caribs but
there was apparently no sign of them when the English
arrived. However, later research has indicated that
Caribs from neighbouring islands settled in small
colonies in St. Phillip and St. Lucy. The early
settlers, in order to survive, needed a cash crop and
they selected tobacco, with cotton in second place. Poor
economic returns convinced them that they had to find an
alternative and this time sugar cane was selected.
This proved to be another mistake for the small farmer.
Sugar production is capital and labour intensive and the
financial outlay required to make it viable could not be
met by the small man. Soon the small farmers were forced
out of production and in the 1640's gave way to the
large plantation owner.
This switch from tobacco and cotton to sugar is probably
the single most important event in the history of
Barbados, for it brought with it a number of
far-reaching changes. It saw the consolidation of land
holdings into large estates and the end of the small
farmers; the end of the indentured European labourers
and the drastic reduction of the white population; and
the large scale importation of black slaves from Africa,
who provided plantation labour until their emancipation
Over the centuries the fortunes of the planters varied
with the times. The effects of the succession of wars in
which Britain was engaged; the move in 1820 from
protectionism to free trade, and by mid-century to the
equalization of sugar duties for British and foreign
grown sugar; the effect of beet sugar competition and
the fall in sugar prices; these combined factors
resulted in economic distress for all.
Economic distress in 1896 prompted investigation by a
Royal Commission. However, it was not until the unrest
in 1937 that the seriousness of the island's economic
state was fully appreciated. The Moyne Commission which
carried out investigations after the unrest made a
number of recommendations which were accepted and
assistance was given in the form of grants and loans.
There was continued evidence that sugar had to be helped
and sugar growers received additional aid in 1951 with
the signing of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. This
remained in force until Britain's entry into the
European Economic Community.
Local government was in
operation for sometime until 1969. When it was
introduced , each parish had its own local government
system called the Vestry. The vestries were later
abolished and the island divided into three areas - two
districts served by councils and the third, the City of
Bridgetown was given a City Council and a Mayor.
In 1967 the councils were abolished and local government
affairs were administered by an Interim Commissioner for
Local Government. Two years later the system ended, when
the functions of the local government service were
transferred to central government and statutory boards.
In 1639 the first
representative body was formed when elected members from
among the freeholders sat as a legislative body. When in
1645 the island was divided into 11 parishes, each
parish had two representatives.
The old representative form of government remained
unchanged for centuries. The majority of the population
was excluded from participating in public affairs
because political franchise was based on ownership of
land. Thus it was not until the introduction of
universal adult suffrage that the political system
ceased to be dominated by the planter and merchant
classes. In fact the vote was not given to persons of
colour until 1831 and it was another nine years before
one sat in the legislature.
Political awakening of the black population was
noticeable in the 1920's and crystallised in the
formation of the Democratic League by Charles Duncan
O'Neal. But it was after the Civil disturbances in 1937
that the modern-type political party surfaced. This
first party, the Barbados Labour Party, dominated
political life until 1961 when it fell to the Democratic
Labour Party, a splinter group which had broken away
from the Barbados Labour Party in 1955.
The Leader of the BLP, Grantley (later Sir Grantley)
Adams, became the first Premier of Barbados and achieved
significant social and constitutional reforms. He
eventually led Barbados into a West Indian Federation in
1958 and became the first and only Prime Minister of the
West Indies. This venture failed in 1962 and Barbados
proceeded to full Independence on November 30, 1966
under the then Premier, Errol Walton Barrow of the
Democratic Labour Party . Mr. Barrow later became
the island's first Prime Minister.
Barbados Labour Party took the reins of government
again, when in the General Elections of 1976 and 1981 it
was led to power by Mr. J.M.G.M. "Tom" Adams, son of Sir
Mr. Harold Bernard "Bree" St. John, Deputy Prime
Minister, took up the leadership of the Barbados Labour
Party and the office of Prime Minister following the
death of Mr. Adams on March 11, 1985.
In 1986 the
Democratic Labour Party regained the government
under the leadership of Mr. Errol Barrow. Prime Minister
Barrow's death in 1987 saw his deputy, Mr. Erskine
Sandiford becoming the country's fourth Prime Minister.
Mr. Erskine Sandiford led the
Democratic Labour Party to power in the 1991
elections. Mr. Owen Arthur led the
Labour Party to victory in the 1994 elections. He is
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.