Latin America & Caribbean

Barbados profile - Overview

Map of Barbados

The eastern Caribbean nation of Barbados was historically heavily dependent on the export of sugar as its main revenue earner, but in recent decades the economy has diversified into tourism and offshore finance.

Known for its beaches and cricket - its national sport - the former British colony has a dual heritage: English - evident in its stone-built Anglican churches and Saturday race meetings - and African, reflected in its music and dance.

Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Political, economic and social stability have given it one of the highest standards of living in the developing world. As well as being a centre for financial services, it also has offshore reserves of oil and natural gas.

However, the economy took something of a knock in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. The country's public debt rose sharply in 2009-11, mainly because of a slowdown in the tourism and financial services sectors.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bajan singer Rihanna is one of the world's top selling artists

Prior to the economic crisis there was a construction boom, with new hotels and housing complexes springing up. The trend accelerated as the island prepared to host some of the key Cricket World Cup matches in 2007.

However, a shortage of jobs has prompted many Barbadians - more often known as Bajans - to find work abroad. The money that they send home is an important source of income.

Most Barbadians are the descendants of African slaves who were brought to the island from the 17th century to work the sugar cane plantations.

Limestone caverns, coral reefs and a warm climate tempered by trade winds are among the island's natural assets. Barbados is relatively flat, with highlands in the interior.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cricket is a big part of life in Barbados, which hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup