Barbados is a small, independent country with a population of about 252,000 people, located in the Caribbean Sea, and is the most easterly island of the West Indies. Barbados is the second smallest country in the western hemisphere and is located about two hundred miles North – North East of Trinidad and about one hundred miles East – South East of St. Lucia. The one time British colony has only one port, which is in Bridgetown, this town is also the capital of Barbados and has a population of 8,789 people. The major urban centers in the area are Bridgetown, Speightstown, Oistins, and Holetown. The island is underlain with folded sedimentary deposits, and a surface layer of coral attains 90 m (300 ft) in thickness. The land is mainly flat except in the northeastern parts where erosion has exposed rugged ridges that rise upward to one thousand feet and then fall sharply towards the sea. The climate is warm and pleasant. The average annual temperature is about 27 C (80 F), and little daily or annual variation occurs. A dry season (from December to May) alternates with a wet season. The main rains come during the months of July through November. The average annual rainfall is about 40 inches in the coastal areas and about 90 inches in the central areas.
Barbados is one of the world's most densely populated countries. The net migration into Barbados is 4.82 per 1000. The annual growth rate is 0.4%, which is one of the lowest in the world. The annual birthrate is 15.45 per 1000, and the annual death rate is 8.27 per 1000. Barbados ranks fourth in the world in population density, with the overall density being 1,526 per square mile. The whole island is inhabited leaving no sparsely populated areas. Nearly 92% of the island's population is black. The remainder of the population consists of Whites (3.8%), Mulattoes (3.8%), and East Indians (0.4%). About 70% of the population is Anglican. The other 30% belong to various denominations such as Moravian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic.
Barbados was settled by English colonists and run under British control since 1624. Its house of Assembly, which began in 1639, is the third oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere. By the time that Britain left in 1966, the island was completely English in culture. The production of sugarcane and its by-products, molasses and rum, long a mainstay of the Barbadian economy, has been replaced by tourism as the chief industry. The development of light industry, offshore banking, and fishing and the diversification of agriculture have been encouraged by the government. To work the sugarcane plantations, slaves were brought from Africa, a practice abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. Dominance by a small group of British landowners continued, and a political rights movement began, resulting in the founding of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP) in 1938 and an offshoot, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), in 1955.
Barbados became independent on Nov. 30, 1966. Errol Barrow of the DLP, the first premier, was succeeded by Tom Adams of the BLP, who held office from 1976 until his death in 1985. The DLP returned to power under Barrow (1986 - 87) and Lloyd Erskine Sandiford (1987 - 94). Owen Arthur of the BLP became premier after elections in 1994 and was returned to office in a landslide victory in 1999. In 1997, Barbados hosted a regional summit attended by the leaders of the English-speaking Caribbean nations and U.S. president Bill Clinton. Late the following year, a constitutional commission recommended that Barbados become a republic and replace the British monarch with an elected president as head of state. The head of state of Barbados is Queen Elizabeth II and she is represented by the Governor General Dame Nita Barrow. The island of Barbados has three general elections and one smooth transfer of power from the DLP to the BLP.
Barbados carries on trade with other Caribbean nations and has diplomatic relations with Cuba. Their closest relations are with the United States, and the United Kingdom. Barbados joined the United Nations is 1966. The economy of Barbados is one of the 35 upper middle-income countries of the world. They have a free-market economy, but the dominant sector is private. Their economy is based on sugar and tourism, but the government has encouraged a policy of diversification in order to achieve a more stable nation. They also depend on a light manufacturing industry. Their monetary unit is the Barbados dollar. The coins are made in 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents. The paper money is made in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 dollar bills. One U.S. dollar is equal to 2.01 Barbados dollar (1975).
About 60% of the land is cropland. The agriculture industry employs 7.4% of the labor force and contributes about 8.7% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Sugarcane makes up over half the acreage. Bananas are also grown, but only on a limited scale. Sea island cotton is also grown. All of the farmers are required by regulations to plant at least 12% of their arable land with some food crop. Barbados' natural resources include petroleum, fishing, and natural gas. The fishing industry employs about 2,500 people and 500 small boats. There aren’t any natural forests in the country. Manufacturing contributes about 11.2% to the GDP. Manufacturing and mining employ about 18.9% of the labor force. The majority of the industrial establishments are engaged in some form of sugar processing. Sugar is the principal export. The principal imports include machinery, motor vehicles, lumber, and fuels. Barbados' per capita income of $9,200 makes it one of the highest standards of living of all the small island states of the Eastern Caribbean.
Barbados is also one of the many transshipment points for narcotics bound for the U.S. and Europe. Some of the current issues in the country consist of the pollution of coastal waters from the waste disposal ships, soil erosion, and illegal solid waste disposal that threatens contamination of aquifers. Barbados is also plagued with natural disasters such as hurricanes and landslides. Their hurricane season is between the months of June and October, which is the same season as the U.S.
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