For the past few decades, successive governments in Barbados have diligently constructed a framework of legislation designed to encourage foreign investment and establish the island as a leading international business centre in the Caribbean.
Barbados is a highly respected domicile for such entities as international insurance companies, international business companies, international banks, societies with restricted liabilities, international trusts and mutual funds.
Throughout the process of enacting and refining the laws governing international business, the country has rigorously safeguarded its reputation for integrity, responding quickly to such international concerns as money laundering and lack of transparency. While offering a low-tax environment to international businesses, Barbados has chosen to establish a high level of transparency and a cooperative approach to information sharing with tax authorities in other countries.
Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. With an area of 166 square miles, it is situated approximately 1,600 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. The island is easily accessible by frequent scheduled flights from Miami (3.5 hours), New York City (4.5 hours), Toronto (5.5 hours), London and Brussels (8 hours).
Barbados has a tropical climate and relatively high average temperatures and humidity. These conditions are moderated by the cooling effect of strong northeast trade winds. Temperatures during the day rarely exceed 30C (86F). During November through March, conditions tend to be a few degrees cooler and drier.
The resident population of the island is approximately 291,000. Approximately 94% of Barbadians are of African descent, with the remainder being of European descent and other nationalities.
Barbados embodies an open, small, free enterprise economy. A value-added tax on consumption, implemented in 1997, has enabled the country to reduce its dependence on import tariffs and duties as a source of revenue, and also to improve compliance with WTO rules.
The country's gross domestic product is approximately US$4.6 billion. Domestic exports consist mainly of sugar and its by-products: rum and molasses, chemicals, clothing, furniture, electrical components and cement. Consumer goods, mostly foodstuffs, account for the majority of the island's imports.
Based primarily on sugar until the 1970s, the island's economy now has four key productive industries: tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and international business.
Archaeological evidence shows that the Arawaks, a people indigenous to the Orinoco River area of Venezuela, inhabited Barbados from about 600BC. They were later driven out by the Caribs, who also migrated north from the same area but who did not settle on the island.
The island was settled by Europeans in 1627 when a group of Englishmen established a formal colony and planted tobacco and cotton for export to England. After 1645, these crops were replaced by sugar cane.
Barbados has enjoyed trading relationships and other ties with the United States and Canada. In 1670, Barbadian immigrants helped to found the State of South Carolina and its capital city, Charleston. In 1966, Barbados became a fully independent sovereign nation. The island is English-speaking and has remained a member of the British Commonwealth.
Barbados has been a member of the International Monetary Fund since 1973. The Barbados dollar is backed by gold and foreign assets, which have promoted stability and confidence in the currency. Since 1975, the country's dollar has been fixed at BDS$2 to US$1.
Barbados has exchange control regulations, although these are being simplified over time. International businesses, including exempt insurance and qualifying insurance companies, are exempt from exchange regulations.
Barbados has had a Central Bank since 1973. The Central Bank acts as banker, fiscal agent and financial advisor to the government. It also monitors and regulates the activities of commercial banks and other financial institutions. It has a duty to promote monetary and exchange policies that encourage economic growth.
The banking system in Barbados is well established, and the island has a competitive commercial banking sector. The commercial banks currently operating here include CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Republic Bank and First Citizens Bank.
Several finance companies collect deposits and complement the commercial banks in financing the purchase of construction equipment, motor vehicles and other consumer durable goods.
Barbados has a highly developed domestic insurance industry. Placement of insurance through broker is commonplace.
An independent country since November 30, 1966, Barbados is noted for its high level of political, economic and social stability, as well as for the integrity of its institutions. The country operates as a democracy, with open elections held every five years.
Barbados enjoys a parliamentary style government, with a House of Representatives and a Senate. The island's first Parliament was established in 1639, making it the third oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
The function and powers of the government are vested in a cabinet, presided over by the prime minister. Senators are appointed: twelve by the government, two by the official opposition, and seven independents on the recommendation of the governor general, who is the Queen's representative and head of state.
The legal system in Barbados is based on English Common Law as modified by statute to meet local requirements. The members of the judiciary are completely independent of the executive and legislative functions of government.
The Grantley Adams International Airport is located in the south of the island, about 30 minutes from the capital of Bridgetown. The airport is serviced by major international airlines, including American Airlines, JetBlue, Air Canada, Air Jamaica, British Airways, LIAT and Virgin Atlantic. These airlines provide direct links to major cities such as Miami, New York, San Juan, Toronto and London. The airport is a major hub for regional airlines that connect the Eastern Caribbean.
The Bridgetown Port is one of the most modern in the Caribbean. It provides container handling and berthing facilities for ocean-going freighters and passenger ships, including the world's major luxury liners, several of which now use the Bridgetown Port as their homeport for cruising in the South Caribbean.
Post offices are open from 8:00am until 3:00pm, Monday through Friday. Express post is available to certain countries through the Post Office Department, and there are a number of private couriers, including Federal Express, DHL and UPS.
Barbados has excellent telecommunications links, including high-speed Internet access, direct-dial and cellular telephone service. .
Two English-language newspapers, a television station and several radio stations provide local, regional and international news. International editions of major foreign newspapers (from North America and the UK) are available on a daily basis. Two satellite-linked cable television services provide subscribers with access to a wide range of international programming.