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Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:09 UK

Antigua and Barbuda country profile

Map of Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services.

The country's strength lies in its tropical climate and good beaches, which have made it popular as a stop-off point for US cruise ships and have attracted large investments in infrastructure.

Overview

Antigua is the main population centre and the focus for business and tourism. Relatively-undeveloped Barbuda is home to smaller, exclusive resorts and a sanctuary for frigate birds.

View of English Harbour, Antigua island
Tourism is the islands' biggest source of income

But a reliance on tourism makes the nation vulnerable to downturns in the world market. Internet gambling sites based in the country are an alternative source of revenue. However, Antigua and the US have been locked in a trade dispute over American restrictions on online gaming.

For decades Antigua and Barbuda's politics was dominated by the Bird family, with Vere Bird being the country's prime minister from independence in 1981 until 1994, when he was succeeded by his son, Lester, who spent a decade in office.

Underlying this stability was a succession of scandals, including allegations of corruption. The Bird family was also accused of abuse of authority.

Antigua and Barbuda, once described by the US as a centre for money laundering, was recognised by an international task force in 2001 as being "fully cooperative" in the fight against the activity.

In 2009, the country's economy - and the reputation of its financial regulatory system - was rocked by news that its single biggest investor, Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, had been charged with massive fraud by the US authorities.


Facts

  • Full name: Antigua and Barbuda
  • Population: 88,710 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Capital: St John's
  • Area: 442 sq km (170 sq miles)
  • Major language: English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: n/a
  • Monetary unit: 1 East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
  • Exports: Garments, paint, furniture, bedding
  • GNI per capita: US $10,590 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .ag
  • International dialling code: +1268

Leaders

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general

Prime minister: Baldwin Spencer

Baldwin Spencer and his opposition United Progressive Party won a landslide victory in general elections in March 2004. He led the party to victory in 2009, though with a reduced majority.

Baldwin Spencer
Baldwin Spencer: His election victory ended the long-running Bird dynasty

The 2004 win ended the political dynasty of the Bird family, which had dominated Antiguan politics for more than half a century.

Mr Spencer promised to fight corruption and added that "crimes committed against the people" would not go unpunished.

A lifelong labour activist, Baldwin Spencer was born in the working-class community of Green Bay.

The premiership of Lester Bird, Mr Spencer's predecessor, had been dogged by allegations of bribery and of missing funds from Antigua's health care system. Mr Bird denied the charges.

Media

Dailies and weeklies carry a range of opinions, including criticism of the government.

The first private radio station, Observer Radio, launched in 2001 after a five-year struggle to get a licence. BBC World Service radio broadcasts on 89.1 FM.

There were 65,000 internet users by mid-2009 (Internetworldstats). Antigua, which licenses online gambling companies, has waged a battle in the World Trade Organization over US government moves against offshore betting sites.

The press

  • Antigua Sun - daily
  • Daily Observer
  • The Worker's Voice - twice-weekly, published by Antigua Labour Party and Antigua Trades and Labour Union
  • Caribarena Antigua - news portal

Television

  • ABS Television - run by Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service (ABS)

Radio



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SEE ALSO
Antigua murders policeman sacked
29 Aug 08 |  Wales
Antigua hits back at US on gaming
21 Jun 07 |  Business
End of an era in Antigua
07 Jun 06 |  West Indies
US and Antigua dispute WTO ruling
07 Apr 05 |  Business

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