The Economy of Barbados

The thriving economy of Barbados is comprised of two main sectors

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Barbados' Economy

The economy of Barbados has traditionally relied upon the cultivation of sugar. After World War II, however, tourism quickly began to spread throughout the entire region. International tourism has now become the main source of revenue for Barbados.

Economic History

Some of the island's first inhabitants, the Arawaks, practiced farming and agriculture, including the harvesting of cotton and corn. Plantations to grow cotton and tobacco were established not long after the arrival of English settlers in 1627. The economic history of the island changed irrevocably shortly afterwards, when the Dutch introduced sugar cane from Brazil. In addition to introducing the new crop, the Dutch taught Barbadians effective ways to produce the highest yield from the sugar cane. Used for the production of rum and as an export to Europe, sugar cane became the primary wealth generator on the island. It was also the reason that West African slaves were transported to Barbados - to work the sugar plantations. Sugar was even used as currency in bartering.


By 1720, however, other islands in the region replaced Barbados as the leaders of the sugar industry in the Caribbean. But sugar remained the most important industry in Barbados for generating economic well-being, and the industry was once again profitable in 1910. The 1920's and 1930's brought trade unions to Barbados, but the Great Depression that struck the world during this time created high levels of unemployment and poverty on the island. The English injected money into the Barbadian economy to keep it afloat, and the rise of tourism after World War II proved to be the new money maker for the entire region.

The Present

While the light industry and finance sectors contribute significantly to the GDP, tourism is the overwhelming economic force in the country. The decline in tourism after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 caused a slowdown in the economy of Barbados. Increased tourism and improved economic conditions in the United States and Europe in the last few years have helped to inject money back into the economy.

The government in Barbados actively works to improve its economy and the lives of its citizens by promoting foreign travel and investment on this beautiful island.


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