The most business friendly Caribbean island
Barbados has used foreign trade and investment opportunities to maintain living standards significantly above those of most developing countries. Its trade and investment policies have created first-class suppliers in a few areas, particularly tourism and financial services. Based on the natural endowments of Barbados, and on niche activities created by local government policies, these services have become the largest contributor to the economy and the main source of foreign exchange. Barbados maintains the third largest stock exchange in the Caribbean region.
A recent UN Human Development Index ranked Barbados 37th in the world, and third in the Americas, behind Canada and the United States. Although the country was influenced by its large sugar production, the economy has been transformed and is now dominated by services and tourism. Barbados is one of the largest global domiciles of captive insurance, and an increasing number of companies have been expanding call centers to Barbados.
Barbados has been independent since 1966 and is a parliamentary democracy, modelled on the British Westminster system. Historically, Barbadian law was based on English common law with a few local adjustments. Education in Barbados follows the British model. Barbados retains a strong British influence and is referred to by its neighbors as “Little England”.
Today Barbados has modern legislation in place, which is often influenced by organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, or other international platforms to which Barbados has obligatory commitments by treaty. In addition, through international cooperation, other institutions may supply the Barbados parliament with key sample legislation to be adjusted to meet local circumstances, before crafting it as local law.
Barbados is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which currently pertains only to Barbados and Guyana.
Barbados is an original member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and participates actively in its work. Since 2007, Barbados is linked by an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
The pact involves the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), a subgroup of the Group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific states (ACP). CARIFORUM presently is the only part of the wider ACP-bloc that has entered into a full regional trade-pact with the European Union.
Barbados is an OECD Approved Domicile. The OECD in its 2009 report, ”Progress Report on the Jurisdictions Surveyed by the OECD Global Forum in Implementing the Internationally Agreed Tax Standard,” recognized Barbados as the only independent Caribbean nation which has substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard. It is therefore accepted that Barbados has met requirements for the exchange of information on request in all tax matters for the administration and enforcement of domestic tax law without regard to a domestic tax interest requirement or bank secrecy for tax purposes.
English is the sole official language of Barbados and is used for communications, administration, and public services. In its capacity as the official language of the country, the standard of English tends to conform to the vocabulary, pronunciations, spellings, and conventions akin to, but not exactly the same as, those of British English. A regional variation of English, referred to locally as Bajan, is spoken by most Barbadians in everyday life, especially in informal settings. Bajan is somewhat differentiated from, but highly influenced by, other Caribbean English dialects. Hindi and Bhojpuri are also spoken on the island by a small Indo-Bajan minority. Spanish is currently considered the most popular second language on the island, followed by French.