Antigua and Barbuda profile

Map of Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services.

But a reliance on tourism makes the nation vulnerable to downturns in the world market.

Antigua has tangled with the United States over its online gambling industry, which at its height employed more than 4,000 people and was a major contributor to the economy. But it shrunk drastically because of US restrictions, the Antiguan government says.

The Bird family has dominated the country's politics since its independence in 1981 until 1994. Underlying this stability was a succession of scandals, including allegations of corruption. The Bird family was also accused of abuse of authority.

In 2009, the country's economy was rocked by news that its single biggest investor, Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, had been charged with massive fraud by the US authorities.

FACTS

LEADERS

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general

Prime minister: Gaston Browne

Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Gaston Browne took over as prime minister when his Labour Party won the general elections in June 2014 after defeating the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP).

Browne has served as a senior bank manager with the Swiss American Banking Group.

Mr Browne pledged to transform the financially crippled twin island nation into an "economic powerhouse" by attracting investment.

His vision is to transform Antigua and Barbuda into "a globally competitive, premier tourism and financial services economy, producing well-paying jobs and a higher standard of living for the people".

MEDIA

Cruise ship calls at Antigua

The media sector as a whole offers diverse views, including criticism of the government. A number of private outlets, however, are aligned with political parties and display a partisan bias, says Freedom House.

Physical attacks and harassment directed at journalists occur occasionally in the country, according to Freedom House.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of Antigua and Barbuda:

1493 - Christopher Columbus visits Antigua and names it after the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville, Spain.

1632 - Antigua colonised by English settlers from St Kitts.

1967 - Antigua and Barbuda becomes a self-governing state within the British Commonwealth, with Britain retaining control of defence and foreign affairs.

1976 - Antigua Labour Party (ALP), led by Vere Bird, returns to power after winning the general election.

1981 - Antigua and Barbuda becomes independent.

1990 - Prime Minister Vere Bird's son, Vere Jr, removed from public office in the wake of allegations of gun-running.

1993 - Vere Bird resigns as prime minister and is replaced by his son, Lester.

2008 July - Tourism industry rocked by shooting of British honeymoon couple in holiday cottage.

2009 - Antigua's single biggest private investor, Sir Allen Stanford, is charged with massive investment fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

2013 - Antigua wins World Trade Organization permission to suspend American copyrights and patents, in a possible retaliatory response to US restrictions on the island's online gambling industry.

View of bays and beaches of Antigua Antigua and Barbuda is a major sailing centre

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