Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands


Barbados experienced steady economic development and diversification following World War II, outperforming in many ways all of the Windward Islands. The economy was transformed from one dependent on agriculture, primarily sugar, for one-third of its gross domestic product (GDP--see Glossary) to one considered relatively diversified with the development of tourism and manufacturing sectors. By 1980 agriculture accounted for a mere 9 percent of GDP, whereas the wholesale and retail trade had grown to 17 percent, general services to 14 percent, manufacturing to 12 percent, and government services and tourism to 11 percent each. At the same time, Barbados standard of living had increased remarkably as the nation elevated itself from the ranks of the low-income countries to those of middle-income countries.

Barbados' economic success could be traced to many factors. The island had long been a model of social and political stability, which helped attract both public and private foreign investment. The government also assisted with the infrastructural development required of an expanding economy, including a sound education system.

In spite of a lengthy history of economic development, the economy floundered at times during the 1980s. In part the fluctuations were the result of the innate characteristics of a small Caribbean economy, which include a limited resource base and heavy dependence on external markets. To a large extent, however, the setbacks resulted from the worldwide recession in the 1981-83 period. In 1987, however, Barbados was still actively pursuing a policy of growth based on a diversified export market, with a prudent mixture of private and public management of economic resources.

Data as of November 1987