Barbados is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is 34 kilometres (21 miles) in length and up to 23 kilometres (14 miles) in width, covering an area of 431 square kilometres (166 square miles). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic. In 1627 the first permanent settlers arrived from England and it became an English and later British colony. In 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Barbados has an estimated population of 284,000 people with around 80,000 living in or around Bridgetown, the largest city and the country's capital. Barbados is one of the Caribbean's leading tourist destinations and is one of the most developed islands in the region.
Government & politics:
Barbados has been an independent country since 30 November 1966. It functions as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, modelled on the British Westminster system, with Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, as head of state, represented locally by the Governor-General and the Prime Minister as the head of the government. The number of representatives within the House of Assembly has gradually increased from 24 at independence to its present composition of 30 seats. Barbados functions as a two-party system, the two dominant parties being the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the opposition, Barbados Labour Party. The Honourable Freundel Stuart is the current Prime Minister.
Laws are passed by the Barbadian Parliament, whereby upon their passage, are given official royal assent by the Governor-General to become law.
Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles. It is flat in comparison to its island neighbours to the west, the Windward Islands. The island rises gently to the central highland region, with the highpoint of the nation being Mount Hillaby, in the geological Scotland District, 340 metres (1,120 feet) above sea level. The island is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the other West Indies Islands. In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados' capital and main city, Bridgetown.
The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall. Known as the "wet season", this period runs from June to November. By contrast, the "dry season" runs from December to May. Much of Barbados is regarded as a Tropical monsoon climate . However, gentle breezes of 12–16 kilometres per hour (8–10 mph) abound throughout the year and give Barbados a warm climate which is moderately tropical.
Parishes of Barbados:
Barbados is divided into 11 parishes:
- Christ Church
- Saint James
- Saint John
- Saint Joseph
- Saint Lucy
- Saint Michael
- Saint Peter
- Saint Philip
- Saint Thomas
- St. George and
- St. Thomas located in the middle of the country are the only two parishes without coastlines.
Historically, the economy of Barbados had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s it has diversified into the manufacturing and tourism sectors. Offshore finance and information services have become important foreign exchange earners, and there is a healthy light manufacturing sector. The island has seen a construction boom, with the development and redevelopment of hotels, office complexes, and homes.
Similar to other nations within the Commonwealth of Nations all Barbadian citizens are covered by national healthcare. Barbados has over twenty polyclinics throughout the country in addition to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (General Hospital) located in Bridgetown. In 2011 the Government of Barbados signed a Memorandum of Understanding to lease its 22-acre Saint Joseph Hospital to Denver, Colorado based America World Clinics. Under the deal the group will use Barbados as one of its main destinations for medical tourism at that facility. The government also announced it would begin constructing a new $800 million dollar state-of-the-art hospital to replace the QEH.
Education and literacy:
Barbados' literacy rate is ranked close to 100%, with both UNESCO and the Minister of Education stating that Barbados was in the top 5 countries worldwide for literacy rate thus placing the country alongside many of the industrialised nations of the world. The mainstream public education system of Barbados is fashioned after the British model. All young people in the country must attend school until age 16. Barbados has over 70 primary schools, and over 20 secondary schools throughout the island. There are also a number of private schools, The Codrington School is the only one to offer the IB. Degree level education in the country is provided by the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, and a local Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies.
Cricket is very popular on the island. Barbadians play on the West Indies cricket team. In addition to several warm-up matches and six "Super Eight" matches, and the country hosted the final of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Barbados has had many great cricketers such as Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall. Horse racing takes place at the Historic Garrison Savannah close to Bridgetown. Obadele Thompson is a world-class sprinter from Barbados; he won a bronze medal at Olympic Games over 100m in 2000. Ryan Brathwaite, a hurdler, reached the 2008 Olympic semi-finals in Beijing. Brathwaite also earned Barbados its first ever medal at the world championships in Berlin, Germany in 2009. Polo is very popular amongst some on the island and the "High-Goal" Apes Hill team is based in the St James's Club. In golf, the Barbados Open is an annual stop on the European Seniors Tour. The Barbados Golf Club is the other main course on the island. Basketball is a popular sport, played at school or college, and is increasing in popularity, as is volleyball, though volleyball is mainly played indoors. Motorsports also play a role, with Rally Barbados occurring each summer and currently being listed on the FIA NACAM calendar. The presence of the trade winds along with favourable swells make water sports very popular, especially surfing. Netball is also popular with women in Barbados.
In addition to being one of the world's most densely populated countries, Barbados also has one of the most dense road networks in the world. Public transport on the island is relatively convenient, with 'route taxis', called "ZRs" (pronounced "Zed-Rs"), travelling to most points on the island. Including the ZRs there are three bus systems running seven days a week. There's ZRs, the yellow minibuses and the blue Transport Board buses. The island's airport is the Grantley Adams International Airport. It receives daily flights by several major airlines from points around the globe, as well as several smaller regional commercial airlines and charters. The airport serves as the main air-transportation hub for the eastern Caribbean. In the first decade of 21st century it underwent a US$100 million upgrade and expansion. There is also a helicopter shuttle service, which offers air taxi services to a number of sites around the island, mainly on the West Coast tourist belt. Air and maritime traffic is regulated by the Barbados Port Authority.