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Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda

Official Name

Antigua and Barbuda (pronounced: ann-tee-gah and bar-bew-dah).

Geography

Location

17º 09’ N latitude and 61º 49’ W longitude; positioned in the north-eastern portion of the Leeward Islands and within the Lesser Antilles grouping. Total land area is 442 sq. kms. or 171 sq. miles. Coastline – 153 kms.

Area

Antigua – 281 sq. kms. (108 sq. miles)
Barbuda – 161 sq. kms. (62 sq. miles),
located 51 kms. north of Antigua
Redonda – 1.6 sq. kms. (0.5 sq. mile),
located 38 kms. southwest of Antigua
 
Time Zone

GMT -4 or one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time

Terrain

Generally low-lying with the highest elevation on Antigua being Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak) in the Sherkley Range at a mere 1,330 feet (405 meters); the highest elevation on Barbuda, known as the Highlands is on the north-eastern coast and is 211 feet (63 meters) above sea level. 

Two-thirds of Barbuda consists of a flat plain almost in line with sea level. Barbuda’s soil type would be described as being a sandy mixture of limestone and coral and is ideal for growing beans, peanuts and other crops requiring low levels of water.
Antigua can be roughly divided into three distinct soil type regions. These run diagonally across the island from north to south. There is the low-lying central fertile plain which includes most of the agricultural lands; the south/south-western region which is of volcanic origin, and a mixture of clay loams and which, due to its elevation, receives the heaviest rainfall, and the undulating north/north-eastern region which is primarily of limestone formation, drier and has the least rainfall. Elevations in this region are between 50 – 100 feet above sea level.

CLIMATE

Tropical maritime weather with little seasonal variation and year-round temperatures ranging from a low of 71ºF to a high of 88ºF (24ºC - 29ºC); Warmest months are from June through August and driest months are from November through May. Antigua and Barbuda lie within the path of the north-east Trade Winds which serve to moderate the climate. The average mean absolute humidity is approximately 13%.

Rainfall

Antigua and Barbuda’s rainfall is relatively low compared to other Caribbean islands and averages between 42 and 45 inches per year. The ‘rainy’ season coincides with the Caribbean’s hurricane season (tropical storms) which typically would be from the beginning of June to the end of October.      

HISTORY

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda were originally inhabited by Amerindian tribes including the Siboneys, Caribs and the Arawaks. Evidence of these first settlements dates back to approximately 2400 B.C. The Europeans first visited these islands in 1493 under the captaincy of Italian navigator Christopher Columbus, who is recorded in history as having sailed by but never actually setting foot on the soil. The British arrived in 1632, established a colony and began the commercial cultivation of sugarcane and cotton. This commercial activity would subsequently lead to the importation of slave labour from Africa and the establishment of slavery on the islands.

The first large scale industrial complex, Betty’s Hope Estate, was established by the English land owner Christopher Codrington in 1674. Codrington was also the planter who leased the island of Barbuda from the British crown for mere pennies and subsequently used it to produce food for residents of the mainland.
The insidious commercial practice of entrapment of African peoples and forced labour being made to  work under severely inhuman conditions persisted from the mid 1600s hundreds right through to emancipation in 1834 when a law banning the trading in Africans and forced labour was passed in the British parliament.
During the period 1834 – 1839 labour violations, persistent conditions of slavery, poor economic conditions and total dependency on employment in the sugarcane industry characterized the social conditions in both Antigua and Barbuda.

Despite several revolts and attempts to overthrow the system, conditions persisted until the winds of change began to blow more steadily when trade unionism began to take root throughout the Caribbean. In Antigua and Barbuda that movement was lead by a former Salvation Army captain Vere Cornwall Bird, Snr., who would become the President of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union and who would also go on to become Antigua and Barbuda’s first Chief Minister, first Premier and first Prime Minister. The Labour Party first ran candidates for elected office (which then had prerequisites that candidates have money and own property) in 1946, and shortly thereafter, in 1951, became the party with the majority of seats. Adult suffrage was introduced in 1955.

The Antigua Trades and Labour Union later developed a political wing, the Antigua Labour Party (ALP), and dominated the political landscape from 1951 – 1971 when it was defeated at the polls by the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM), a splinter party coming out of the ALP. The PLM, under the leadership of Premier George H. Walter, lasted one term in office and was succeeded by the ALP which went on to electoral victories over the next six general elections. That run was bought to a dramatic end in 2004 when the United Progressive Party (UPP), itself a splinter of the PLM, had its first electoral victory winning twelve out of the seventeen possible seats.

Antigua and Barbuda’s rich history is studded not only with colourful trade unionists and political leaders, but also outstanding social commentators, cultural and academic figures and national heroes such as the revolutionary leader Prince Klaas, Sir I. Vivian Richards, Sir Holister Francis, and educator Dame Nellie Robinson. Listed among other recognized and highly acclaimed national and international scholars, artists, writers and nationals of distinction are Dr. Gregson Davis, Jamaica Kincaid, Leonard “Tim” Hector, Dr. Percival Perry, Dr. Althea Prince, Dr. Keren Brathwaite, Carl James; calypsonians Lord Short Shirt, King Swallow and King Obstinate; Dame Gwendolyn Tonge, Dame Yvonne Maginley, pannist Eustace Henry, musicians Foster Hill, Joy Lapps and Roland Prince, world warri champion Trevor Simon, historians Paget Henry, Novelle H. Richards and Bertha Higgins, pan-Africanist George Weston, Dr. Ivor Heath, Sir Sidney Walling, among others.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Antigua and Barbuda became a sovereign and independent nation on November 1, 1981 and the 157th nation-state to become a member of the United Nations. English common law and the Antigua and Barbuda Constitutional Order of 1981 provide the country’s legal framework. The full copy of the Constitutional Order can be accessed through www.foreignaffairs.gov.ag/country_profile/constitution.php

Government is based on a British-style parliamentary system of government with a lower house of 17 elected representatives and a Speaker, and an upper house or Senate with 17 appointed members. 

The Senate which is headed by a President provides oversight and second readings for bills introduced and passed in the lower house. The day-to-day conduct of government’s business is managed by the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister and includes elected members of the House of Representatives holding ministerial rank. A representative of the British monarch is appointed as Governor-General and Head of State.

The third arm of Government (in addition to the executive and legislative branches) is the judiciary. The judiciary exercises full and independent authority in areas of legal and criminal matters. The judiciary consists of the Magistrate’s Court for minor offences and the High Court for major offences. Beyond the High Court, appellant courts that are a part of the judicial system are the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, as well as to the Privy Council in the U.K.

General elections are constitutionally due once every five years. There are currently no restrictions on how many terms an elected representative may be elected to serve.

There are four political parties at present – the United Progressive Party (UPP), the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM), the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and the Organization for National Development (OND). The ruling party (UPP) presently holds nine seats; the main opposition party (ALP) seven seats; and the BPM one seat.

The main provisions for the governance of Barbuda are set out in the Constitution and are exercised through the Barbuda Island Council, headed by a Chairman. Members of the Council are elected to serve for a two-year term.

ECONOMY AND BANKING

Antigua and Barbuda has an open economy that is strongly service-based. It is private sector driven with government regulation and oversight. Government is the largest single employer and tourism and related services account for the largest number of service industry job positions.
Other major economic activities include international banking and other financial services, construction, marine and ship registration and agriculture. Agricultural and agro-based exports include rum, pineapples and a small quantity of condiments including Susies’s Hot Sauces.
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and uses the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$) which is the common currency of the eight member states of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The central monetary authority is the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank which is headquartered in nearby St. Kitts. There is relatively free import and export of local and foreign currencies, subject to full declaration.
The Eastern Caribbean dollar is pegged to the US$ at the fixed exchange rate of US$1:EC$2.70.

Full commercial and private banking services are readily available. Several commercial banks, including the indigenous Antigua Commercial Bank and the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank and a number of insurance companies make their home in Antigua. Canadian banks resident on Antigua include the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Royal Bank of Canada; other regional banks include RBTT Bank and First Caribbean International Bank (formerly CIBC).

CULTURAL TRAITS

Language

English is both the official and spoken language, used for the conduct of all official business, education and commerce. There is a significant number of Spanish-speaking residents. There is an English-based dialect commonly used in informal social and other interactions.

Religion

The Christian religion is represented in all denominations, principal among which are the Anglicans, Moravians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Baptists, and Lutherans. Other smaller religious groups include Rastafarians, Ethiopian Orthodox, Salvation Army churches.

General Characteristics

Food, story telling, music and sports, particularly cricket and soccer, are some of the strongest identifiable cultural traits among Antiguans and Barbudans. The Antiguan and Barbudan personality and way of life is a rich blend of these elements which has evolved over a period of more than 250 years. While each of these cultural traits bears strong roots leading back to their African origins, and influenced by a history of slavery and colonialism, modern-day international influences, particularly from England, the USA, and other Caribbean countries, have coloured Antigua and Barbuda’s cultural practices.

Food

National and traditional dishes include fungie and pepperpot, saltfish, doucouna, and seasoned rice. Popular local drinks include ginger-beer, mauby and sorrel. The local cuisine is also influenced by recently arrived immigrants from Jamaica, Guyana, People’s Republic of China and the Dominican Republic.

Sports and Games

Most popular outdoor sports are: cricket, football (soccer), netball and basketball.
It is common to see locals gathered on street corners in St. John’s and other parts of the islands playing a game of Warri – a game developed in ancient Africa and brought to the Caribbean by African Slaves. It is played using “warri seeds” and a rectangular game board carved with twelve hallows, six on each side, and two larger hallows, one at each end of the board. Antigua and Barbuda is home to the World Warri Champion Trevor Simon and has some of the best Warri players found anywhere on the world.

Music and Entertainment

Music colours every aspect of life and remains an integral part of every celebration and every event from weddings to funerals to official events and national celebrations. The Caribbean beats of calypso, reggae and soca have spilled over into jazz, pop, gospel and classical music, traditional church hymns, and into folk songs.
Older forms of socializing and entertainment included story-telling and singing meetings.

 

Information Courtesy Of www.abforeignaffairs.com