Antigua and Barbuda (03/22/12)

March 22, 2012

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Area: Antigua--281 sq. km. (108 sq. mi.); Barbuda--161 sq. km. (62 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--St. John's (pop. 30,000).
Terrain: Generally low-lying, with highest elevation 405 m. (1,330 ft.).
Climate: Tropical maritime.

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%.

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 Appeal), 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.

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.

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.

Bird and the ALP were voted out of office in the 1971 general elections that swept the progressive labor movement into power, but 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, until 2004.

In March 2004 the ALP lost power in national elections that gave the United Progressive Party (UPP) 13 of the 17 seats in Parliament. In March 2009 elections, the ALP lost again to the Baldwin Spencer-led UPP, which won a slim majority, taking 9 of the 17 seats in Parliament; the ALP won 7 seats and the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) won 1 seat.

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--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--John Ashe

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

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).

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, European, African, 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). Unlike some of its neighbors in the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda has withheld recognition of Taiwan and has established relations with the People's Republic of China.

The United States has maintained friendly relations with Antigua and Barbuda since its independence. The United States has supported the Government of Antigua and Barbuda's effort to expand its economic base and to improve its citizens' standard of living. However, concerns over the lack of adequate regulation of the financial services sector prompted the U.S. Government to issue a financial advisory for Antigua and Barbuda in 1999. The advisory was lifted in 2001, but the U.S. Government continues to monitor the Government of Antigua and Barbuda's regulation of financial services. The United States also has been active in supporting post-hurricane disaster assistance and rehabilitation through the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Peace Corps. U.S. assistance is primarily channeled through multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), as well as through the USAID office in Bridgetown, Barbados. In addition, Antigua and Barbuda receives counternarcotics assistance and benefits from U.S. military exercise-related and humanitarian civic assistance construction projects.

Antigua and Barbuda is strategically situated in the Leeward Islands near maritime transport lanes of major importance to the United States. Antigua has long hosted a U.S. military presence. The United States Air Force operates a satellite tracking station under a lease agreement with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

Antigua and Barbuda's location close to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico makes it an attractive transshipment point for narcotics traffickers. To address these problems, the United States and Antigua and Barbuda have signed a series of counternarcotic and anticrime treaties and agreements, including a maritime law enforcement agreement (1995), subsequently amended to include overflight and order-to-land provisions (1996); a bilateral extradition treaty (1996); and a mutual legal assistance treaty (1996).

In 2005, Antigua and Barbuda had 239,804 stay-over visitors, with nearly 28% of Antigua and Barbuda's visitors coming from the United States. It is estimated that 4,500 Americans reside in the country.

The United States maintains no official presence in Antigua. The Ambassador and Embassy officers are resident in Barbados and travel to Antigua frequently. However, a U.S. consular agent resident in Antigua assists U.S. citizens in Antigua and Barbuda.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Charge d'Affaires for the Eastern Caribbean--Christopher J. Sandrolini
Political/Economic Chief--Brian E. Greaney
Consul General--Edward T. Boughter, Acting
Commercial Affairs--Gregory A. Floyd
Public Affairs Officer--Rebecca Ross
Peace Corps Country Director--Kevin Carley (resident in St. Lucia)

The U.S. Embassy in Barbados is located in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael. (tel: 246-227-4000; fax: 246-429-5246).