Overseas Business Risk – Barbados

We aim to provide information on this page on the key security and political risks which UK businesses may face when operating in Barbados

Political and Economic

Political risk is low on the island. Barbados is an independent state within the Commonwealth with over 300 years of parliamentary democracy. There exists a bicameral Parliament similar to that of the UK. General elections are held every five years and have been free of violence over the years. Barbados boasts a small open economy that is largely dependent on tourism, light manufacturing and international business. Economic risks are low.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won the February 2013 General Elections, securing 16 of the 30 seats in the House of Assembly to the Barbados Labour Party’s 14. This represented a shift of support from the DLP by four seats and an improved showing by the opposition BLP by five seats. The current Prime Minister, Hon. Freundel Stuart, had previously taken over the leadership in October 2010 following the untimely death of the former Prime Minister David Thompson.

Barbados has one of the most prosperous and highly developed economies in the Eastern Caribbean with a well educated, skilled work force and a transport and telecommunications infrastructure that is among the best in the region. The population is estimated at 258,000 (December 2012).

The recent budget of 13 August 2013, presented in the House of Assembly by the Minister of Finance & Economic Affairs, the Hon. Christopher Sinckler, introduced a number of austerity measures designed to reduce the Government’s fiscal deficit.

The tourism sector remains the leading sector for foreign exchange earnings. However, financial services, light manufacturing, construction and agriculture continue to be important contributing sectors to the economy. Activity in the energy sector (particularly renewable energy) has become a priority for the Government.

The UK accounts for the main source of visitors to Barbados (about 35%). A total of over 532,000 (stay over) tourists came to Barbados in 2012. This tourism sector accounts for about 15 % of total employment and 60% of foreign capital inflows.

Although Barbados is a small island, the UK has enjoyed long established trading links with the island and it remains an important market for UK exporters. The main UK exports to Barbados include chemicals, vehicles and parts, farm machinery, pharmaceuticals and foodstuff. The main imports to the UK from Barbados comprise sugar and other agricultural produce.

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations is available in FCO Travel Advice.

Human Rights and Business

The Government of Barbados has ratified several ILO conventions on labour rights including those relating to ‘freedom of association and the right to organise’, ‘social security’, forced labour’ and ‘child labour’. ILO conventions, where applicable, form the basis for labour legislation on the island.

The Trade Union Movement is active and plays a robust role in the Social Partnership (an association of the workers representatives, the Government and private sector employers). There are no current major disputes involving the unions.

There is no discrimination against women in the labour market. Women have held and do hold high profile positions in both the private and public sectors (e.g. the office of Governor General; Minister of Government; Managing Directors). Women also enjoy full access to health facilities, higher education and social amenities.

There are four topical human rights issues that have generated much media attention on the island in recent time: the mandatory use of the death penalty is still on the statute books although the Government has voiced its intention to legislate its abolition; continued use of corporal punishment in schools; the level of domestic violence in the wider Barbadian society and rights and freedom of association for the LGBT community.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.

In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.

In 2012, Barbados was ranked 15th out of 174 countries in the Transparency International’s corruption perception index. (CPI)

There exist low levels of bribery and corruption in Barbados. Government’s commitment to providing an efficient social services network, has contributed to mitigate the risks involved.

Visit the Business Anti-Corruption portalpage providing advice and guidance about corruption in China and some basic effective procedures you can establish to protect your company from them.

Read the information provided on our Bribery and corruptionpage.

Terrorism Threat

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

The threat of terrorism in Barbados is low. A well-trained police force, defence force and a Regional Security System facility have all helped to minimize this risk.

Read the information provided on our Terrorism threatpage

Protective Security Advice

Barbados is generally a safe country. However, it is advisable that you do not let your guard down and that you maintain the same level of personal security as you would in the country that you are domiciled (e.g avoid beaches and unlit streets at night).

Read the information provided on our Protective security advicepage

Intellectual Property

Infringement of copyright and intellectual property is low in Barbados. The Department of Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property (CAIPO) is responsible for the administration of these intangibles on the island. Modern legislation and conventions are adhered to by CAIPO (e.g The Copyright Act 1998-4; The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation).

Read the information provided on our Intellectual Propertypage.

Organised Crime

This is not considered a major threat in Barbados. Organised crime tends to be limited to the transhipment of illegal drugs (mainly marijuana) via small boats throughout the Eastern Caribbean island chain, including Barbados.

Read the information provided on our Organised crimepage.

More information is available on overseas business risk in a range of markets.

UK Trade & Investment Contact:


Countries: Barbados
Export Action Plan