Barbados is thought to have been originally inhabited by Arawak Indians. By the time Europeans explored the island, however, it was uninhabited. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on the island, but it was the British who first established a colony here in 1627.
From the arrival of the first British settlers until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy as its first House of Assembly began meeting in 1639.
With Independence on Nov. 30, 1966, Barbados became a parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth.
Since independence, Barbados has been politically stable. Queen Elizabeth II is recognized as Queen of Barbados, and thus head of state, and is represented by a Governor General. Executive power however is in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister is usually the leader of the winning party in the elections for the House of Assembly, the lower house of parliament, which has 28 seats. Its members are elected every five years. The Senate has 21 members, and its members are appointed by the governor general.
The two main industries in Barbados are tourism and international financial services, with the latter growing rapadily over the past 20 years. Barbados now has international tax treaties with major trading nations such as The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, Venezuala.
Business links and investment flows from Canada in particular have become substantial. As of 2003 Barbados has seen CDN$25 Billion in investment holdings directly from Canada, placing it as one of Canada's top five destinations for foreign direct investment.
Barbados has one of the highest standards of living and literacy rates in the world and is currently, according to the UN's UNDP, the #1 developing country in the world.
Barbados World Rankings:
CIA World Factbook - GDP per capita:
2004: $15,700 ranked 59th of 232 countries
The Economist Worldwide quality-of-life index:
2005: ranked 33 out of 111 countries
Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal, Index of Economic Freedom countries:
2005: ranked 32 of 155 countries
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index:
2004: ranked 21 out of 146 countries surveyed
UN, Human Development Index (HDI):
2004: ranked 29th out of 177 countries (3rd in the Americas, after Canada and the United States)