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language: English Prime minister: Baldwin Spencer
Head of state:
Queen Elizabeth II
Antigua and Barbuda
The collapse of
the sugar industry in the 1970s left the
government in control of 60 percent of Antigua's
66,000 acres of sugar cane plantations. The main
agricultural exports include cotton to Japan and
fruit and vegetables to other Caribbean
territories. Hot peppers and vegetables are
exported to the United Kingdom and Canada. Other
agriculture products are bananas, coconuts,
cucumbers, mangoes, livestock, and pineapples.
Agriculture accounts for a rather insignificant
part of the economy, making up 4 percent in 1996
and falling to 3.6 percent in 1998. According to
the Americas Review 1999 , there were 2,000
persons employed in agriculture in 1999.
However, it appears that cultivation is on the
rise. In 1998 there were 279.8 acres of land
planted with vegetables. In 1999 there were
340.1 acres under cultivation, 73.3 acres of
which were planted with onions. In 1999 alone
some 319,275 pounds of vegetables were produced.
The government has received the assistance of
the European Development Fund to develop the
Antigua and Barbuda is one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services.
The country's strength lies in its tropical climate and good beaches, which have made it popular as a stop-off point for US cruise ships and have attracted large investments in infrastructure.
Antigua is the main population centre and the focus for business and tourism. Relatively-undeveloped Barbuda is home to smaller, exclusive resorts and a sanctuary for frigate birds.
Antigua and Barbuda became independent in 1981
But a reliance on tourism makes the nation vulnerable to downturns in the world market. Internet gambling sites based in the country are an alternative source of revenue. However, Antigua and the US have been locked in a trade dispute over American restrictions on online gaming.
For decades Antigua and Barbuda's politics was dominated by the Bird family, with Vere Bird being the country's prime minister from independence in 1981 until 1994, when he was succeeded by his son, Lester, who spent a decade in office.
Underlying this stability was a succession of scandals, including allegations of corruption. The Bird family was also accused of abuse of authority.
Antigua and Barbuda, once described by the US as a centre for money laundering, was recognised by an international task force in 2001 as being "fully cooperative" in the fight against the activity.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General
Prime minister: Baldwin Spencer
Baldwin Spencer and the opposition United Progressive Party won a landslide victory in general elections in March 2004.
Baldwin Spencer: His election victory ended long-running Bird dynasty
The win ended the political dynasty of the Bird family, which had dominated Antiguan politics for more than half a century.
Mr Spencer promised to fight corruption and added that "crimes committed against the people" would not go unpunished. He led the United Progressive Party to victory again at the March 2009 general election, albeit with a reduced majority.
A lifelong labour activist, Baldwin Spencer was born in the working-class community of Green Bay.
The premiership of Lester Bird, Mr Spencer's predecessor, had been dogged by allegations of bribery and of missing funds from Antigua's health care system. Mr Bird denied the charges.