Antigua and Barbuda is a nation of eighty-nine thousand people composed of two major islands (Antigua and Barbuda named after the Spanish words for ancient and bearded respectively), along with a number of much smaller islands in the Caribbean Sea.
Antigua and Barbuda is part of the island group refered to as the Lesser Antillies and part of the region known as the Caribbean or the West Indies.
Antigua has a deeply indented shoreline with many natural harbors and beaches. Barbuda has a large western harbor.
Its major environmental issues include water management - a major concern because of limited natural fresh water resources. This issue is further hampered by the clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly.
The Siboney were the first to inhabit the islands of Antigua and Barbuda in 2400 B.C., but Arawak Indians populated the islands when Columbus landed on his second voyage in 1493.
Early settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English who formed a colony in 1667.
Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834.
The islands became an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1981.
Location: Between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean , east-southeast of Puerto Rico
Geographic Coordinates: 17 03 N, 61 48 W
Area: 442.6 square km of land (Antigua 280 sq km; Barbuda 161 sq km, Redonda, 1.6 sq km)
arable land: 18.18%
permanent crops: 4.55%
other: 77.27% (2005)
Coastline: 153 km
territorial sea: 12 nautical miles
contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles
exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles
continental shelf: 200 nautical miles or to the edge of the continental margin
Natural Hazards: Hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October); periodic droughts.
Terrain: Mostly low-lying limestone and coral islands, with some higher volcanic areas. The highest point is Boggy Peak (renamed Mount Obama in 2009) (402 meters). Antigua has a deeply indented shoreline with many natural harbors and beaches; Barbuda has a large western harbor.
Climate: Tropical maritime with little seasonal temperature variation. Antigua enjoys a semi-arid, tropical climate with an average annual rainfall range of 1,070 - 1,140 mm, unevenly distributed with peaks during the months of October to December and extended periods of drought during March to June. Barbuda is drier with average annual rainfall ranging between 760 - 990 mm. Droughts occur every five to ten years. When several low-rainfall years occur consecutively, the country faces critical water shortages. In 1983-84 water had to be imported from other countries.
The island of Antigua shows severely eroded volcanic remnants along its forested southwestern quadrant. Although Antigua receives approximately 100 cm (40 in) of precipitation annually, wide fluctuations in rainfall amounts occasionally create serious water shortages, especially for the agricultural industry. St. John's, the country's capital, is located along the northwest coast, adjacent to one of the island's many natural harbors. More than half of the country's population lives in the St. John's area. Image courtesy of NASA.
Ecology and Biodiversity
Source: World Wildlife Fund
- Carribean Shrublands/Leeward Islands xeric scrub
- Lesser Antliiean dry forests
- Leeward Islands moist forests
People and Society
Population: 89,018 (July 2012 est.)
Ethnic groups: black 91%, mixed 4.4%, white 1.7%, other 2.9% (2001 census)
0-14 years: 25.8% (male 11,530/female 11,174)
15-64 years: 67.4% (male 27,599/female 31,592)
65 years and over: 6.8% (male 2,592/female 3,397) (2011 est.)
Population Growth Rate: 1.276% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 16.19 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 5.72 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 2.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 75.69 years
male: 73.66 years
female: 77.83 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 2.05 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: English (official), local dialects
Literacy: 85.8% (2003 est.)
Urbanization: 30% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 1.4% (2010-15 est.)
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.
Government Type: Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and a Commonwealth realm
Capital: Saint John's - 27,000 (2009)
Independence Date: 1 November 1981 (from the UK)
Legal System: Based on English common law
International Environmental Agreements
Antigua and Barbuda is party to international agreements on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling.
Water management is a major concern in Antigua and Barbuda because of limited natural fresh water resources. This issue is further hampered by the clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly. The total average rainfall for both islands is estimated at 453 million m3/year and internal renewable water resources (IRWR) about 52 million m3/year. There are no perennial water sources in the country. At present the country's agricultural and municipal (domestic and commercial) water demands are being met by two desalination plants (total capacity 3.3 million m3/year); three surface dams, numerous small ponds and 5 well fields (total capacity 2.8 millions of m3/year). Individual residences have cisterns which provide part or all of the household water needs. The amount of water collected through this method is not known.
Water for Barbuda is supplied from a single well that serves Codrington where most of the population lives. The groundwaters are generally saline with the notable exception of Palmetto Sands, a 600 ha area of beach sands on the southwestern shore.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 0.1 cu km (2000)
Freshwater Withdrawal (domestic, industrial, agricultural): total: 0.005 cu km/yr (domestic 60%; industrial 20%; agricultural 20%). Per capita: 63 cubic metes/year (1990)
Over the past 15-20 years, agriculture recorded a steady decline in growth from 15% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1980 to 4.5% of GDP in 1996. Agriculture is dominated by livestock. More than 75% of livestock production of Antigua is carried out in the Central Plains and the North-Eastern Limestone Formation. Barbuda is devoted entirely to livestock production with the exception of a few agricultural stations and fenced farming areas. Tourism is now the major foreign exchange earner, contributing 65% of GDP.
Agricultural products: cotton, fruits, vegetables, bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, sugarcane; livestock
Tourism continues to dominate Antigua and Barbuda's economy, accounting for nearly 60% of GDP and 40% of investment.
The dual-island nation's agricultural production is focused on the domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction.
Manufacturing comprises enclave-type assembly for export with major products being bedding, handicrafts, and electronic components.
Prospects for economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on tourist arrivals from the US, Canada, and Europe and potential damages from natural disasters.
After taking office in 2004, the Spencer government adopted an ambitious fiscal reform program, and was successful in reducing its public debt-to-GDP ratio from 120% to about 90% in 2008.
However, the global financial crisis that began in 2008, has led to a significant increase in the national debt, which topped 130% at the end of 2010.
The Antiguan economy experienced solid growth from 2003 to 2007, reaching over 12% in 2006 driven by a construction boom in hotels and housing associated with the Cricket World Cup, but growth dropped off in 2008 with the end of the boom.
In 2009, Antigua's economy was severely hit by the global economic crisis, suffering from the collapse of its largest financial institution and a steep decline in tourism. This decline continued in 2010 as the country struggled with a yawning budget deficit but returned to positive growth in 2011.
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).
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $1.734 billion (2011 est.)
GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $1.3 billion (2011 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $22,100 (2011 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 63.4% (2011 est.)
Industries: Tourism, construction, light manufacturing (clothing, alcohol, household appliances).
Currency: East Caribbean dollars (XCD)