The Siboney were the first to inhabit the islands of Antigua and Barbuda in 2400 B.C., but Arawak Indians populated the islands when COLUMBUS landed on his second voyage in 1493. Early settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English who formed a colony in 1667. Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834. The islands became an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1981.
Anglican 25.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 12.3%, Pentecostal 10.6%, Moravian 10.5%, Roman Catholic 10.4%, Methodist 7.9%, Baptist 4.9%, Church of God 4.5%, other Christian 5.4%, other 2%, none or unspecified 5.8% (2001 census)
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Louisse LAKE-TACK (since 17 July 2007)
head of government:
Prime Minister Winston Baldwin SPENCER (since 24 March 2004)
Council of Ministers appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
the monarch is hereditary; governor general chosen by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (17 seats; members appointed by the governor general) and the House of Representatives (17 seats; members are elected by proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
House of Representatives - last held 12 March 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
percent of vote by party - UPP 50.9%, ALP 47.2%, BPM 1.1%; seats by party - UPP 9, ALP 7, BPM 1
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court consisting of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeal (based in Saint Lucia; two judges of the Supreme Court are residents of the islands and preside over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction); Magistrates' Courts; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice
Antigua Labor Party or ALP [Lester Bryant BIRD]; Barbudans for a Better Barbuda [Ordrick SAMUEL]; Barbuda People's Movement or BPM [Thomas H. FRANK]; Barbuda People's Movement for Change [Arthur NIBBS]; United Progressive Party or UPP [Baldwin SPENCER] (a coalition of three parties - Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement or ACLM, Progressive Labor Movement or PLM, United National Democratic Party or UNDP)
red, with an inverted isosceles triangle based on the top edge of the flag; the triangle contains three horizontal bands of black (top), light blue, and white, with a yellow rising sun in the black band; the sun symbolizes the dawn of a new era, black represents the African heritage of most of the population, blue is for hope, and red is for the dynamism of the people; the "V" stands for victory; the successive yellow, blue, and white coloring is also meant to evoke the country's tourist attractions of sun, sea, and sand
Antigua has a relatively high GDP per capita in comparison to most other Caribbean nations. The economy experienced solid growth from 2003 to 2007, reaching over 12% in 2006 driven by a construction boom in hotels and housing associated with the Cricket World Cup. Growth dropped off in 2008 with the end of the boom. Tourism continues to dominate the economy, accounting for nearly 60% of GDP and 40% of investment. The dual-island nation's agricultural production is focused on the domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction. Manufacturing comprises enclave-type assembly for export with major products being bedding, handicrafts, and electronic components. Prospects for economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on tourist arrivals from the US, Canada, and Europe and potential damages from natural disasters. Since taking office in 2004, the SPENCER government has adopted an ambitious fiscal reform program, and has been successful in reducing its public debt-to-GDP ratio from 120% to about 90%.
country code - 1-268; landing point for the East Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS) submarine cable with links to 13 other islands in the eastern Caribbean extending from the British Virgin Islands to Trinidad; satellite earth stations - 2; tropospheric scatter to Saba (Netherlands Antilles) and Guadeloupe (2007)