The Caribbean consists of over 40 million residents, 28 island nations, and several very dynamic economies. Poverty is still a problem in certain nations, with Haiti in particular still struggling to recover ground after the deadly earthquake of 2010. But in others, times have never been so good. Purchasing power has never been so high, the economy has never been so stable, and prospects have never been brighter. Based on GDP per capita income, these are the ten richest Caribbean Islands in 2021.
First up with a GDP per capita income of 9,726 is Jamaica. As investopedia.com writes, until recently, Jamacia was known best for its picture-perfect beaches and reggae music. These days, its financial industry is making just as many headlines. In 2013, the country launched a new program of ambitious reforms designed to stabilize the economy, fuel growth, and reduce debt. Although poverty levels still remain high, the program has helped reduce public debt and cut unemployment by half, with the result that Jamaica now has one of the fastest-growing economies in the Caribbean.
9. Saint Vincent
Saint Vincent has a GDP per capita income of 11,965. Its economy is largely agricultural, with banana exports accounting for the bulk of trade. The service sector, and in particular the growing tourist trade, also plays an important role in the economy. At various times in the past, the government has tried introducing other industries to the island, but few have proved successful. Considering how dependent the economy is on a single crop (60 percent of the island’s workforce is employed in banana plantations), the economy is vulnerable. Thanks at least in part to the preferential access the island’s banana growers have to European markets, it still manages to earn a place on our rich list.
8. Saint Lucia
Up next is Saint Lucia, a small island with a large, well-developed tourism industry and a GDP per capita income of 15,225. Historically, Saint Lucia was a single crop agricultural economy, but as the banana industry declined due to reduced European trade preference and increased competition from Latin America, it’s shifted to a tourism and service-based economy, with the result that tourism now accounts for 65 percent of its GDP.
Like St Lucia, Grenada, which has a GDP per capita income of 16,003, has shifted away from agriculture in recent years to become a service-based economy. Exports of crops such as nutmeg, mace, cocoa and banana still account for a segment of the national income, but the leading foreign currency earning sector is now tourism. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan bought the tourism industry, and by extension, the economy, to a standstill. Although progress has been made since, the country’s strong reliance on tourism and its vulnerability to natural disasters put it at risk.
As Wikipedia notes, since winning independence, Barbados (which has a GDP per capita income of 18,866) has transformed from a low-income economy dependent on sugar production into an upper-middle-income economy based on tourism and the offshore sector. It’s not all been smooth sailing – in 2018, Barbados defaulted on its bonds after its debut was uncovered as $7.5 billion. Still, its thriving financial sector and reputation as a low tax environment for offshore corporations have, if not entirely saved the day, at least earned it a place among the richest Caribbean islands.
5. Dominican Republic
With a GDP per capita income of 19,452, the Dominican Republic has both one of the largest economies in Latin America and one of the largest GDPs of the different nations that make up the Caribbean Islands. Over the last decade, its economy has grown significantly, thanks to strong trade agreements with Haiti, China, and the US and large remittance payments, which serve as the third-largest source of foreign income on the island. In addition to being the second-largest producer and exporter of sugar cane in the world, the country is also a major exporter of refined petroleum, bananas, and cigars.
4. Antigua and Barbuda
The sovereign island country of Antigua and Barbuda has a GDP per capita income of 27,542. Tourism accounts for at least half of that, and is the leading earner of foreign exchange in the country. Like most Caribbean islands, Antigua is vulnerable to natural disasters. To lessen the potential impact on its economy, it’s begun to diversity, with the result that transportation, communications, and financial services all occupy an increasingly prominent position. According to AfricaOTR, Antigua is a respected tax haven, with many offshore companies taking advantage of the favorable tax conditions and stamp duty exemption.
3. Saint Kitts and Nevis
The dual island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis comes in at number three with a GDP per capita income of 29,098. Until the 1970s, its economy was largely dependent on sugarcane exports. Since then, it’s shifted away from an agricultural economy to a service one, with tourism now its mainstay. As the government continues to diversify the economy in an effort to make it more resilient to the kind of natural disasters that have devasted it in the past, confidence in the country’s future continues to grow.
2. Trinidad and Tobago
Just missing out on the top spot is Trinidad and Tobago, a twin-island nation with a GDP per capita income of 33, 026. Unlike most other Caribbean nations, its high-income economy is dependent, not on tourism, but on industry, with petrochemical and petrochemicals fueling a solid GDP growth. While its large reserves of oil and natural gas can take the lion’s share of responsibility for the country’s wealth, its reputation as an investment site for international businesses can also take some of the credit.
1. The Bahamas
The very richest island in the Caribbean? With a GDP per capita income of 33, 516, it’s the Bahamas. This stable, developing nation is not only the richest country in the West Indies, but it also has the 14th highest nominal GDP in North America. Like much of the Caribbean, the Bahamas is heavily dependent on tourism. Growth in the segment has contributed to the construction of numerous hotels and resorts around the island, with a subsequent uplift in GDP growth. As a tax haven, the Bahamas also relies on offshore banking to fuel its economy, with the financial services industry now accounting for around 17% of GDP.