Facts and figures relating to Barbados.

Background

The island of Barbados measures 431 square kilometres. It was settled by the British in 1627, having been previously uninhabited. The main elements of its economy in the 20th century were sugar, rum and molasses production, though tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance in the 1990s. International business such as banking, insurance, trusts and allied disciplines, and information services are important foreign exchange earners.

The population was estimated at 276,607 in July 2002.

Political structure

Barbados gained its independence from the UK on 30 November 1966. It has remained a member of the British Commonwealth and is a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

The island is divided into 11 parishes: Christ Church, Saint Andrew, Saint George, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, Saint Michael, Saint Peter, Saint Philip and Saint Thomas. The city of Bridgetown may in due course be given parish status.

Democracy in Barbados is based on the British-style representative system. Queen Elizabeth is the Head of State, and the Governor General appoints the leader of the largest party in parliament as Prime Minister, who then advises the Governor General on the appointment of a Cabinet.

Barbados has a bicameral legislature. The 28-member House of Assembly is elected for a five-year period. The Barbados Labour Party, led by Arthur Owen, currently holds 26 of the 28 seats. The next general election is due to be held by May 2004. A 21-member Senate is appointed by the Governor General, 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister and two on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition; the Governor General directly appoints the other seven.

The legislature is independent. Judges in the Supreme Court of Judicature are appointed by the Service Commissions for the Judicial and Legal Services.

Economy

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Barbados, in terms of purchasing power parity, was estimated at $4bn in 2001, or $14,500 per capita. GDP is estimated to have declined by about 2% in 2001. Inflation in 2001 has been estimated at 3.5%.

Barbados is a service economy, with services estimated to produce 78% of GDP. Industry provides about 16% and agriculture about 6%.

In 2001, the labour force was estimated at 128,500. Unemployment ran at about 10%.

Government revenues for 2000 were estimated at $847m, including grants. Expenditures for that year were estimated at $886m, including capital expenditure. The fiscal deficit ran at about 3.5% of GDP in 2001 and is expected to widen to 4.3% in 2002. The expansion will arise partly from a one-off public sector pay settlement that is expected to increase total expenditure by about 2%.

Revenue from corporate income taxes is expected to fall in 2002, as is the net total of value-added tax revenue. The deficit will be financed by domestic borrowing and through a drawdown on arranged facilities.

Exports were estimated at $272m in 2000. Major commodities exported included sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components and clothing. Primary destinations for Barbadian exports were Caricom (43%), the US (15%) and the UK (13%).

Imports in 2000 were estimated at $1.16bn. Major commodities imported included consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel and electrical components. Primary sources for imports were the US (41%), Caricom (20%), the UK (8%), Japan (5%) and Canada (4%).

Insurance

More than a dozen large international re/insurers have offices in Barbados, including Cologne Re, General American, Gerling Global, London Insurance Group, Manulife, Reinsurance Group of America, Sun Life of Canada, Swiss Re and Underwriters Re. A number of captive insurance managers operate alongside these companies.

Only seven new exempt insurance companies were added to the register in 2001, according to the Supervisor of Insurance; concerns over the then-ongoing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiative and pressures internal to the global insurance industry were blamed for this low rate. As at 31 December 2001, a total of 387 exempt insurers were registered, though only 180 of these were actively underwriting in 2001, down from 199 a year earlier.