In 1981, Antigua and Barbuda became an
independent state within the Commonwealth, consisting of
the United Kingdom and former British colonies.
Antigua's workers' party (in English abbreviated to
ALP), which despite its name is bourgeois, had, with the
exception of the years 1971-176, held government power
At independence, tourism had replaced sugar
cultivation as Antigua and Barbuda's main source of
income. The tourism industry and the construction sector
continued to grow during the 1980s, while the sugar
industry closed down. Antigua and Barbuda became one of
the most prosperous countries in the region.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Antigua and Barbuda. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The Labor Party won the elections in 1984 and 1989,
but there was internal wear within the party. Prime
Minister Vere Bird was charged with corruption, and the
son of Vere Bird Junior was suspected of arms smuggling
to a drug cartel in Colombia. The scandals led to
demonstrations demanding the departure of the Prime
In 1993, Vere Bird was succeeded as party leader by
another of his sons, Lester Bird. The Labor Party won
the 1994 election but lost some mandates to the newly
formed Left-centered United Progressive Party
(UPP), led by union leader Baldwin
The scandals surrounding the government and the Bird
family continued. Ivor Bird, one of the Prime Minister's
brothers, was arrested after receiving a package of
cocaine at the country's airport. He was released after
paying a fine.
During the first half of the 1990s, the economy began
to deteriorate and the situation deteriorated
drastically in 1995, when Hurricane Luis damaged the
tourism industry and left half the population homeless.
The protests against the government continued in 1996
and 1997. The opposition UP led the fight against a
hotel building that threatened one of the few remaining
refugees for a rare bird, the Caribbean whispering duck.
Despite all the turbulence, the Labor Party also won
the 1999 elections.
Several ministers were forced to resign in 2001 and
2002 - at least two of them following scandals involving
the social security system.
The Bird family loses power
The election in March 2004 led to a change of
government. After half a century in power, the Labor
Party was defeated by UPP, which received 55 percent of
the vote, against just under 42 percent for the Labor
Party. Lester Bird even lost his seat in Parliament.
UPP formed government with the Barbuda
People's Movement (BPM) from
Barbuda, and Baldwin Spencer became head of government.
After the change of power, a number of cuts were made
in the public sector and in 2005 the income tax was
increased for the fourth of the population that earns
Ahead of the 2007 World Cup of Cricket, held at
Antigua, among others, the country experienced a
construction boom that contributed to significantly
stronger economic growth. Once construction was over,
growth again declined.
Action against crime
Increased crime was one of the most important issues
for the UP government. The increase was assumed to be
linked to the growing drug trade in the country.
The government tried to tackle the problem by
replacing the leadership of the country's police force.
It aroused opposition from the Labor Party, which had
many loyal sympathizers within the police. In 2008, a
retired Canadian police chief and his three assistants
were asked to take over the leadership of the police
corps. Within the police force, the new scheme was
viewed with great distrust and the trial was interrupted
after a couple of years. Spencer's government also
tightened its anti-corruption laws, a crime that in
practice was hardly punished by the previous government.
In early 2009, a financial hiatus had political
consequences when Texas billionaire Allen Stanford was
charged with fraud in the multi-billion class by US
authorities. Stanford was also a citizen of Antigua and
Barbuda. He had for many years been close to the Bird
family and operated banking and several companies in
Antigua. Stanford's company was the largest employer in
the country alongside the public sector. The business
was conducted in several Latin American countries and
was designated by the US authorities as an advanced
pyramid scheme. Stanford was later sentenced in the
United States to 110 years in prison.
UP holds power
The Birds' connections to Stanford became a burden
for the Labor Party in the March 2009 general election,
UPP won by 51 percent of the vote against 47 percent for
the ALP. This allowed the Spencer government to remain
in office for another term. Through the election, Lester
Bird regained his seat in Parliament.
However, it took six months for the election results
to finally be determined. Following complaints from the
Labor Party, the country's highest court annulled the
election of Spencer and two ministers on the grounds
that the polling stations had been opened too late in
their constituencies. The government then turned to the
Eastern Caribbean States' Court of Appeals in Saint
Lucia, which found that the opening hours of the polling
stations hardly affected the outcome of the election.
During the 2009–2014 term, the financial problems
were high on the government's agenda. In the wake of the
global financial crisis of 2008, the flow of tourism to
the country decreased, as did the money emigrants send
home. In 2010, Antigua and Barbuda were granted an
emergency loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
and the terms of their foreign debt were renegotiated.
Historic ALP leadership change
The aftermath of the Stanford deal also had a
negative impact on the economy. Following the scandal,
Antigua and Barbuda were boycotted as tourist
destinations by those who fell victim to Stanford's
shady business, and the victims claimed damages. The
boycott was a protest against the Antigua government
seizing some of Stanford's assets. The knot was resolved
in March 2013 when an agreement between US and Antiguan
authorities compensated the victims.
At the end of 2012, the government launched the idea
of selling citizenship to foreigners in exchange for
investment. The opposition rejected the proposal,
pointing out that similar programs in neighboring
countries led to the establishment of criminals.
However, the government argued that measures should be
taken to avoid this. The proposal was adopted by
Parliament in March 2013 and came into force in October
of that year. Since then, hundreds of citizenship have
been sold, mainly to the Chinese, and in 2015, passport
sales accounted for about a quarter of the state's
At the end of 2012, a historic leadership change
occurred in the Labor Party when Gaston Browne was
elected new party leader after Lester Bird. It was the
first time since the party was founded in 1943 that it
got a leader with a last name other than Bird. However,
Browne was a close friend of the family and engaged to a
nephew of Lester Bird.
Browne led the Labor Party to victory in the
parliamentary elections held in June 2014. The Labor
Party then received a full 14 out of 17 seats, while the
UPP collapsed to 3 seats. BPM from Barbuda lost the
mandate won by the party in the 2009 elections.
The Labor Party formed a government with Gaston
Browne as prime minister and finance minister. Lester
Bird became senior minister.
The Labor Party also won the 2018 election.
In September 2017, Barbuda was almost completely
destroyed by Hurricane Irma. About half of the
inhabitants became homeless and the island's
reconstruction was estimated to cost 100 million US