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Barbados Modern History

After independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, Barbados evolved from an agricultural society in which the sugar industry dominated, to a service-based economy with tourism in the center. The country is characterized by political and social stability. There is no clear political difference between the two parties that have been turned around for power.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Barbados. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The Democratic Workers' Party (DLP) led Barbados from the early 1960s and won the election held when full independence was achieved. DLP leader Errol Barrow became the country's first prime minister. Barrow initiated a series of reforms, including in the education system, as well as embarked on an industrialization program and improved workers' conditions.

DLP also won in 1971 but the economic downturn diminished the government's popularity. The 1976 election led the Barbados Workers' Party (BLP) to form a government and BLP founder Grantley Adams son Tom Adams became the new head of government (see Older History). He led the BLP to re-election in 1981 but died in a heart attack before the second term of office expired.

In the 1986 parliamentary elections, DLP and Errol Barrow regained government power with support from the black working class. Barrow had the chance to cut taxes and increase public spending before unexpectedly dying a year after the election. His successor Erskine Sandiford soon got into trouble when the finance minister jumped off in protest of the government's economic policy. He brought with him three other MPs and formed a new party, which never had any impact.

Contemporary History of BarbadosBad economy

In the early 1990s, the tourism industry, the country's most important industry since the 1970s, suffered a sharp decline while sugar production fell. DLP still managed to win the elections in 1991. But voter support declined due to dissatisfaction with financial austerity programs and tax increases, measures that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) set as a condition for providing the country with loans.

Although the economy began to turn upwards, DLP lost power in the 1994 elections. BLP prevailed by far and its young leader, economist Owen Arthur, became prime minister. Arthur's government continued its efforts to get the economy on its feet and reduce record-high unemployment.

The good economic situation during the last years of the 1990s contributed to BLP winning both 1999 and 2003.

During his time in power, Owen Arthur managed to bring down unemployment and improve the country's economy. He also became popular for his quest to strengthen national identity. New national celebrations and heroes were introduced. The former Trafalgar Square square in the capital Bridgetown was renamed National Heroes Square and the statue with Lord Nelson was replaced by Errol Barrow, the father of independence.

Prior to the 2008 election, BLP was considered to benefit from good economic growth, low unemployment and low crime. Despite the lost party and Owen Arthur got to leave after 14 years as prime minister. New head of government became DLP leader David Thomas, who promised, among other things, to lower the high cost of living.

 
 

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