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Top 16 Richest Caribbean Countries [2024 List]

Synonymous with swaying palms and vibrant culture, the Caribbean is a region of contrasts. Alongside postcard-perfect destinations lies a spectrum of economic fortunes, with some countries achieving advanced economy status while others struggle with poverty.

This article analyzes the standout economies that drive regional prosperity and examines the 16 richest nations in the Caribbean.

Defining Wealth in the Caribbean Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, or economic output per person, is the primary indicator used to compare Caribbean countries. However, the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) provides a more holistic snapshot of prosperity by also taking into account

  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Expected years of schooling
  • Mean years of schooling
  • GNI per capita

The HDI takes into account health, education and income – important complementary measures of development.

Top 16 richest Caribbean countries

1. The Bahamas

GDP per capital: $31,458 HDI

Score: 0.815 (Very High)

The Bahamas is the wealthiest and most developed nation in the Caribbean. Tourism and financial services are the economic mainstays, with over 6 million visitors expected in 2019. Advanced infrastructure, high literacy rates, and an average life expectancy of 74 years reflect the Bahamas’ high standard of living.

2. Puerto Rico

GDP per capital: $31,742 HDI

Score: 0.845 (Very High)

Home to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing hubs, Puerto Rico remains one of the strongest Caribbean economies despite financial woes. Close ties to the U.S. boost infrastructure development and social indicators, with health and education standards that mimic those of far richer societies.

3. Cayman Islands

GDP per capital: $70,712 HDI

Score: 0.949 (Very High)

The Cayman Islands has the highest GDP per capita in the world, capitalizing on its position as a renowned tax haven and offshore financial center. Over 93% of the workforce is employed in banking, insurance and tourism. World-class infrastructure enables health and education outcomes above the OECD average.

4. British Virgin Islands

GDP per capital: Not available

Score: 0.831 (Very High)

Although GDP figures are not published, the British Virgin Islands ranks extremely high in human development, reflecting its status as a major offshore financial center. With over 60% of tax revenues derived from financial services, it represents a wealthy, high-income economy.

5. Trinidad & Tobago

GDP per capital: $15,220

Score: 0.785 (High)

Oil and gas reserves have long fueled Trinidad & Tobago’s growth, although falling energy prices have necessitated economic restructuring toward manufacturing, tourism, and finance. Standards of infrastructure, health care, and social services remain high despite recent declines in GDP per capita.

6. Antigua & Barbuda

GDP per capital: $17,695

Score: 0.778 (High)

Tourism accounts for nearly 60% of Antigua & Barbuda’s economy, anchored by luxury resorts and yachting facilities. Construction, retail, and financial services make up the rest. The country is classified as high-income, with decent infrastructure and high literacy rates making it one of the more developed economies in the Caribbean.

7. Saint Kitts & Nevis

GDP per capital: $17,057

Score: 0.796 (High)

Robust tourism growth and Citizenship by Investment programs have enabled Saint Kitts & Nevis to become a prosperous island economy. Government investment in infrastructure and human capital has raised health and education standards above the regional average.

8. Barbados

GDP per capital: $18,075

Score: 0.804 (Very High)

Relying on tourism, well-developed light manufacturing, and financial services, Barbados has enjoyed decades of economic expansion and rising living standards. Transportation, utilities, and social infrastructure meet developed country benchmarks. However, external shocks remain a risk.

9. Turks & Caicos Islands

GDP per capital: $24,917

Score: Not available

A British Overseas Territory and popular tourist destination, the economy of Turks & Caicos relies on high-end tourism, offshore financial services, and fisheries exports. Exact development metrics are unclear due to the territory’s relative lack of data as an autonomous region.

10. Anguilla

GDP per capital: $29,493

Score: Not available

Despite a tiny population of just 15,000 people, Anguilla’s tax incentives, elite tourism offerings, and offshore financial sector enable it to post high average incomes. Total GDP exceeds $300 million, making it one of the wealthiest economies in the Caribbean on a per capita basis.

11. Sint Maarten

GDP per capital: $25,000

Score: Not available

Tourism attracts more than 1.5 million tourists annually. It accounts for nearly 85% of Sint Maarten’s workforce and economic output. With few alternative industries beyond retail and light business services, average incomes remain lower than in competing Caribbean hotspots.

12. Jamaica

GDP per capital: $5,199

Score: 0.732 (High)

Although Jamaica lags behind the Caribbean’s per capita income leaders, it still boasts decent infrastructure and developed economic attributes such as a strong healthcare system and near-universal literacy. A broad economic base that includes agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism promises future opportunities.

13. Cuba

GDP per capital: $8,822

Score: 0.783 (High)

Despite market reforms, Cuba remains a largely state-directed socialist economy with average incomes well below those of leading Caribbean powers. Nonetheless, ample access to health care and educational enrollment support advanced human development outcomes, including a life expectancy of nearly 80 years.

14. Dominican Republic

GDP per capital: $7,750

Score: 0.756 (High)

The Dominican Republic has recently become one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean, driven by tourism, mining, and manufacturing in the free trade zone. Sustained infrastructure development and poverty reduction programs continue to raise living standards, albeit gradually.

15. Grenada

GDP per capital: $11,801

Score: 0.759 (High)

Despite its small size, Grenada punches above its weight economically, relying on agriculture, light manufacturing, and ecotourism to generate a decent average income. Quality of life indicators are on the rise, with over 90% literacy among youth and a life expectancy of over 74 years.

16. Saint Lucia

GDP per capital: $9,925

Score: 0.740 (High)

St. Lucia has the strongest economy in the less affluent Eastern Caribbean region. In addition to breathtaking scenery that attracts nearly 1 million visitors annually, St. Lucia nurtures banana exports, light industry, manufacturing, and offshore finance to sustain incomes 50% higher than neighboring states.

Key Factors Driving Caribbean Prosperity The Caribbean’s standout economies share common strengths:

Investment incentives: Preferential tax regimes and citizenship programs attract significant inflows of foreign capital and business registrations.

Tourism Appeal: Iconic beaches, vibrant culture, and extensive airlift enable world-leading tourism industries. Revenues fund infrastructure and spur development.

Targeted Industries: Leading Caribbean economies promote sophisticated industries such as financial services, rather than relying solely on tourism. This allows for higher-income workforces.

Infrastructure: Advanced transportation, reliable power, telecommunications, and developed cities attract the investment and talent needed for high-value industries to expand.

Economic diversity: By fostering diverse industries, successful Caribbean economies reduce dependence on any one sector and are better able to absorb external shocks.

Political Stability: Long-term investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure is assured by democratic governance and political continuity.

Access to Education: High levels of educational enrollment and literacy facilitate the transition of workers into lucrative jobs in the knowledge economy.

Global Integration: Harmonization of regulations with international standards facilitates export of financial services and enables bilateral development financing.

The consistently strong performance in these areas among the richest Caribbean countries underscores why narrowly focused, underdeveloped economies always struggle in globalized markets.

The most developed Caribbean country The Bahamas leads the Caribbean in overall development outcomes, reflected in health and material living standards that resemble far more prosperous societies such as Singapore.

Sustained infrastructure improvements, moderate poverty rates, and income generation based on sophisticated financial and tourism sectors have enabled The Bahamas to foster a modern, diversified economy. With continued economic initiatives and social development programs, human development is likely to approach Western European standards.

While other Caribbean countries score higher on individual measures such as GDP per capita or life expectancy, The Bahamas’ exceptionally high and consistent performance across the dimensions of income, health and education reflects a standard of living approaching that of the world’s most advanced economies.

Development challenges remain Despite pockets of extreme prosperity, many Caribbean countries still struggle with inadequate infrastructure, external dependency, income inequality, or poverty.

However, the strong performance of the region’s shining economies is the focus of a realistic development blueprint for the future. Strategic reforms and policy initiatives to unleash more inclusive growth offer real promise.

The wealthy Caribbean stalwarts must also continue to make progress in addressing persistent inequality, with prosperity not always reaching the most disadvantaged groups. For the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands in particular, translating consistently high GDP into broader improvements in living standards remains a key priority.

Nevertheless, with several competitive powerhouses signaling what is achievable, there is much room for optimism in the Caribbean. Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda, for example, boast health and infrastructure metrics that meet or exceed global averages. And the potential for emerging markets such as the Dominican Republic remains enormous.

It remains to be seen which other nations will leverage their latent advantages to swell the ranks of the global elite. But the Caribbean now offers more opportunities for human development than ever before.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the richest Caribbean country?

The Bahamas leads the Caribbean in terms of overall economic prosperity as measured by GDP per capita ($31,458) and human development outcomes. Tourism, financial services, and effective infrastructure spending have enabled the nation’s advanced standard of living.

Which Caribbean country has the fastest growing economy?

The Dominican Republic’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, with GDP increasing at an average rate of over 6% since 2015. The economy has benefited from increasing tourism, a booming mining industry, and significant foreign investment in expanding manufacturing capacity.

Which Caribbean country has the highest Human Development Index (HDI)?

The Cayman Islands has the world’s highest Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.949, indicating world-leading outcomes in health, education and income. As an offshore financial center with advanced infrastructure and near universal literacy, living standards are close to those found in wealthy developed countries.

Which are the richest islands in the Caribbean?

1. The Bahamas – $31,458
2. Puerto Rico – $31,742
3. British Virgin Islands – Not available (Major offshore financial center)
4. Cayman Islands – $70,712
5. Trinidad & Tobago – $15,220

These islands have managed to develop advanced service-based economies centered on tourism, financial services and refined industries. Infrastructure and living standards are high compared to the Caribbean average.

Which countries have CBI programs?

Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and the Bahamas offer official Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs that allow foreigners to obtain citizenship through a donation or real estate investment. These raise public funds while expanding investment flows.

Are taxes high in the Caribbean?

Several Caribbean jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Bahamas and St. Kitts & Nevis have no income, capital gains or corporate taxes. Their preferential tax regimes for offshore companies and high net worth individuals help to attract financial services activity and substantial wealth to a small populations.

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