Sugar production has traditionally been the mainstay of the island’s economy, and half the area is covered by sugar plantations. However, during the 1960s, sugar was replaced by tourism as the main source of income. The tourist facilities, which have raised major land claims, have also had sugar cultivation gradually decline. The service industries account for most of the employment and are heavily dependent on tourism.
The industry is dominated by the production of food and textiles. There are some natural gas and oil deposits as well as an oil refinery.
Both sugar and tourism are cyclically sensitive sources of income. Declines in world market prices and the tourist flow have hit the country’s economy hard in the last decade and have caused constant high unemployment. The government has tried to encourage the cultivation of other crops such as cotton and vegetables, and has sought to make the industry more versatile through, among other things, subsidies to foreign companies that establish themselves in the country. According to Countryaah, the economy is heavily dependent on imports, and foreign trade shows a deficit, which is to some extent covered by tourism income, money from the many emigrants and foreign aid.