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  Introduction Back To Top

First inhabited by Arawak and later by Carib Indians, the Virgin Islands were settled by the Dutch in 1648 and then annexed by the English in 1672. The islands were part of the British colony of the Leeward Islands from 1872-1960; they were granted autonomy in 1967. The economy is closely tied to the larger and more populous US Virgin Islands to the west; the US dollar is the legal currency.

  Geography Back To Top

Land boundaries:
0 km

subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds

Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean

Geographic coordinates:
18 30 N, 64 30 W

Natural resources:

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m

coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly

Geography - note:
strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

total: 153 sq km
land: 153 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: comprised of 16 inhabited and more than 20 uninhabited islands; includes the islands of Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke

Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico

80 km

Area - comparative:
about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC

Irrigated land:

Environment - current issues:
limited natural fresh water resources (except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola, most of the islands' water supply comes from wells and rainwater catchments)

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Natural hazards:
hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)

Land use:
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 73.33% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
1.71 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.07 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.07 years
male: 75.88 years
female: 78.32 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8% (1991 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%

Net migration rate:
8.44 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
black 83.4%, white 7%, mixed 5.4%, Indian 3.4%, other 0.8% (1991 census)

Median age:
total: 32 years
male: 32.1 years
female: 31.9 years (2008 est.)

24,041 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
3.7% of GDP (2006)

Population growth rate:
1.88% (2008 est.)

English (official)

Death rate:
4.37 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 15.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.23 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 17 years
male: 15 years
female: 19 years (2005)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 20% (male 2,432/female 2,366)
15-64 years: 74.4% (male 9,178/female 8,715)
65 years and over: 5.6% (male 697/female 653) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
14.72 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Protestant 86% (Methodist 33%, Anglican 17%, Church of God 9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6%, Baptist 4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 15%), Roman Catholic 10%, other 2%, none 2% (1991)

noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday:
Territory Day, 1 July (1956)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:

Political pressure groups and leaders:
The Family Support Network; The Women's Desk
other: environmentalists

Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)

Dependency status:
overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing

International organization participation:
Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU, WFTU

Legislative branch:
unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats and 1 non-voting ex officio member in the attorney general; members are elected by direct popular vote, 1 member from each of nine electoral districts, 4 at-large members; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 20 August 2007 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - VIP 45.2%, NDP 39.6%, independent 15.2%; seats by party - VIP 10, NDP 2, independent 1

Legal system:
English law

Flag description:
blue, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Virgin Islander coat of arms centered in the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms depicts a woman flanked on either side by a vertical column of six oil lamps above a scroll bearing the Latin word VIGILATE (Be Watchful)

none (overseas territory of the UK)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI

Political parties and leaders:
Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM [Ethlyn SMITH]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH]; United Party or UP [Gregory MADURO]; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Ralph T. O'NEAL]

name: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 27 N, 64 37 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

13 June 2007

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor David PEAREY (since 18 April 2006)
head of government: Premier Ralph T. O'NEAL (since 23 August 2007)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed premier by the governor

Administrative divisions:
none (overseas territory of the UK)

Judicial branch:
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consisting of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal (one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court); Magistrate's Court; Juvenile Court; Court of Summary Jurisdiction

  Economy Back To Top

Electricity - consumption:
41.85 million kWh (2006 est.)

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
$134.3 million (1999)

Debt - external:
$36.1 million (1997)

Unemployment rate:
3.6% (1997)

Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$38,500 (2004 est.)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$853.4 million (2004 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$839.7 million (2003)

Exchange rates:
the US dollar is used

GDP - real growth rate:
1% (2002 est.)

Labor force:
12,770 (2004)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2% (2005)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.8%
industry: 6.2%
services: 92% (1996 est.)

Oil - imports:
649.8 bbl/day (2005)

$25.3 million (2002)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
US dollar (USD)

Economy - overview:
The economy, one of the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism, generating an estimated 45% of the national income. An estimated 820,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 2005. In the mid-1980s, the government began offering offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands, and incorporation fees now generate substantial revenues. Roughly 400,000 companies were on the offshore registry by yearend 2000. The adoption of a comprehensive insurance law in late 1994, which provides a blanket of confidentiality with regulated statutory gateways for investigation of criminal offenses, made the British Virgin Islands even more attractive to international business. Livestock raising is the most important agricultural activity; poor soils limit the islands' ability to meet domestic food requirements. Because of traditionally close links with the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands has used the US dollar as its currency since 1959.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery

tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:

Electricity - production:
45 million kWh (2006 est.)

$187 million (2002 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Oil - consumption:
650 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Exports - commodities:
rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand

Economic aid - recipient:

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $204.7 million
expenditures: $180.4 million (2004)

Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
4,000 (2002)

Telephones - main lines in use:
11,700 (2002)

4,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)

9,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
8,000 (2002)

Television broadcast stations:
1 (plus 1 cable company) (1997)

Telephone system:
general assessment: worldwide telephone service
domestic: NA
international: country code - 1-284; connected via submarine cable to Bermuda; the East Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS) submarine cable provides connectivity to 13 other islands in the eastern Caribbean (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
16 (2000)

Internet hosts:
465 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

Ports and terminals:
Road Town

Merchant marine:
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)

total: 200 km
paved: 200 km (2007)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)

3 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 7,101 (2008 est.)

Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of the UK

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 5,921 (2008 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 184
female: 179 (2008 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:

Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe; large offshore financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering

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