Antigua and Barbuda Economy and History

By | October 15, 2021


With a GDP of US $ 1,626 million and a per capita GDP of US $ 17,636 (2018), Antigua and Barbuda is one of the countries with the highest per capita income in the Caribbean area; this figure, however, does not correspond to the real figure, because drug trafficking and unjustified tax exemptions fuel illicit profits. Furthermore, both the trade balance (due to the large imports of consumer goods) and the payments balance are highly passive. As a result, the government launched an austerity program, aimed at obtaining economic aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.. GDP has been growing since 2003; inflation is contained as is the unemployment rate. Fundamental components of economic resources are agriculture, fishing (especially lobsters), offshore financial activities and, above all, tourism. Cotton, bananas, vegetables and sugar cane are the main products of the earth but, while vegetables supply the local market, cotton, bananas and sugar cane represent the raw materials of the few industries present (cottonseed oil factories, distilleries rum) and fuel the small exports of the country. § The main economic activity remains tourism with its related activities, which profoundly affects GDP (the tertiary sector, in fact, participates for more than three quarters in the formation of national wealth and offers work to the majority of the active population). Like the other Caribbean countries, Antigua and Barbuda have gradually seen an increase in the number of tourists (mostly from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other Caribbean states) attracted by the pleasant climate, the numerous existing infrastructures and the possibility to practice marine sports, such as sailing and underwater fishing. However, tourism is subject to the climatic and meteorological variations to which the islands are subject (the case of the hurricane that hit the country in 1998, forcing many hotels to close), is emblematic. Another notable contribution to the State’s revenues is constituted by the annual rent paid by the US government for the two military bases located in Antigua and corporate tax. In addition, to increase the entry of foreign currency, the government favors the presence of foreign banks that offer favorable tax conditions for the accumulation of capital. § As regards the other productive sectors, the agreement signed in 1992 with the People’s Republic of China for the development of the fish preservation industry should be noted. According to allcountrylist, the country mainly exports petroleum products, manufactured goods, foodstuffs and machinery; while it imports food, machinery, chemicals and oil. Main trading partners are Spain, Germany, Italy, Singapore and Great Britain for imports and the USA, China, Germany, Singapore and Spain for exports. The land communication routes consist of 1165 km of roads, of which approx. 384 km paved. As for the maritime ones, the modern port of the capital is used by the main shipping companies and by many cruise boats. The international airport is that of Vere Bird, not far from Saint John’s.


The island of Antigua was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus who gave it this name in memory of the Spanish church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Seville. The island was colonized in the century. XVII by the British, while the nearby island of Barbuda was given in concession to the British Codrington family from 1678 until 1860, when it returned to be a British possession and dependence on the island of Antigua. The two islands were part of the British Antilles until 1956 and from 1958, to the dissolution of the federation (1962), of the West Indies. Having failed to form a small federation of states in the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua in 1967 became an associate state of the United Kingdom with the neighboring islands of Barbuda and Redonda. In the 1970s, an independence movement developed in Antigua, particularly under Prime Minister George Walter, that he wanted complete autonomy for Antigua and Barbuda, as opposed to the British plan for a federation of islands. In the 1976 elections, Walter was defeated by Vere Bird who, initially in favor of the British plan, changed his position in 1978 by announcing that he wanted independence. The negotiations for autonomy, however, were complicated by the island of Barbuda, which, economically crushed by Antigua, required the secession from it, after more than a century of dependence. On November 1, 1981, Antigua and Barbuda gained independence within the Commonwealth. That same year, the state of Antigua and Barbuda joined the United Nations. From the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s the Antigua Labor Party ruled Antigua and Barbuda, led by Prime Ministers Vere Bird and Lester Bird. The 2004 elections saw the victory of the United Progressive Party, led by Baldwin Spencer. The Labor Party returned to power in 2014, and Gaston Browne took over as Prime Minister.

Antigua and Barbuda Economy