Antigua and Barbuda

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Antigua and Barbuda
Antiguabarbuda.jpg
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.jpg
Arms of Antigua and Barbuda.PNG
FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalSt. John's
GovernmentFederal constitutional monarchy
LanguageEnglish (official)
MonarchQueen Elizabeth II
Prime ministerBaldwin Spencer
Area171 sq mi
Population 82,786 (2005)
GDP per capita$12,586 (2005)
CurrencyEast Caribbean dollar

Antigua and Barbuda is a Commonwealth country in the eastern Caribbean Sea, made up of the islands of Antigua and Barbuda.

Contents

Geography

The islands are low-lying, with a highest elevation of 1,330 ft. The climate is tropical maritime.

People

  • Population (2005): 82,786.
  • Annual population growth rate (2005): 1.7%.
  • 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 (2004): Infant mortality rate--11.0/1,000. Life expectancy--men 70 years; women 74 years.
  • Work force (2005): 30,000 (commerce and services, agriculture, other industry).
  • Unemployment (2002): 13%.

Government and Political Conditions

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 23, 2004.

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--Dame Louise 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

Foreign Relations

Antigua and Barbuda maintains diplomatic relations with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the People's Republic of China, as well as with many Latin American countries and neighboring Eastern Caribbean states. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Eastern Caribbean's Regional Security System (RSS). Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

Economy

Antigua and Barbuda's service-based economy grew by 3.2% in 2005, compared with 5.2% in 2004. Construction, banking and insurance, communications, and wholesale and retail trade sectors were the main contributors to economic growth. The economy is experiencing its third consecutive year of high growth, driven by a construction boom in hotels and housing, as well as projects related to the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The tourism and hospitality sector has largely recovered after the decrease in tourism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It posted a strong performance in 2004, and in 2005 the sector was estimated at 50% of GDP.

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 that 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 (2005): $875.8 million.
  • GDP growth rate (2005): 3.2%.
  • Per capita GDP (2004): $12,586.
  • Inflation (2005): 0.9%.
  • Natural resources: Negligible.
  • Agriculture: Fish, cotton, livestock, vegetables, and pineapples.
  • Services: Tourism, 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.

History

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, which saw the birth of the trade union movement in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Antigua Trades and Labour Union became the political vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird, who was elected as the Labour Union's president in 1943. The Antigua Labour 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.


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