British Virgin Islands( Central America and Caribbean )

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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.
Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates:
18 30 N, 64 30 W
total: 151 sq km
land: 151 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
Area comparative:
about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
80 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m
Natural resources:
Land use:
arable land: 6.67%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 86.67% (2011)
Irrigated land:
Total renewable water resources:
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic or industrial or agricultural):
Natural hazards:
hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)
Environment current issues:
limited natural freshwater resources except for a few seasonal streams and springs on Tortola; most of the islands' water supply comes from wells and rainwater catchments
Environment international agreements:
Geography note:
strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
People and Society
noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups:
black 82%, white 6.8%, other 11.2% (includes Indian and mixed) (2008)
English (official)
Protestant 84% (Methodist 33%, Anglican 17%, Church of God 9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6%, Baptist 4%, other 15%), Roman Catholic 10%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 2%, none 2% (1991)
32,680 (July 2014 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 17.2% (male 2,770/female 2,861)
15-24 years: 14.5% (male 2,252/female 2,472)
25-54 years: 49.8% (male 7,697/female 8,574)
55-64 years: 10.6% (male 1,709/female 1,763)
65 years and over: 7.6% (male 1,258/female 1,324) (2014 est.)
Dependency ratios:
Median age:
total: 35.6 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 35.7 years (2014 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.36% (2014 est.)
Birth rate:
10.83 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Death rate:
4.93 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Net migration rate:
17.69 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
urban population: 40.6% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 1.48% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas population:
ROAD TOWN (capital) 10,000 (2011)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.9 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 13.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 15.31 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.49 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
Maternal mortality rate:
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.29 years
male: 76.99 years
female: 79.66 years (2014 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.25 children born/woman (2014 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate:
Health expenditures:
Physicians density:
Hospital bed density:
Drinking water source:
improved: urban: 98% of population
rural: 98% of population
total: 98% of population
unimproved: urban: 2% of population
rural: 2% of population
total: 2% of population (2010 est.)
Sanitation facility access:
improved: urban: 97.5% of population
rural: 97.5% of population
total: 97.5% of population
unimproved: urban: 2.5% of population
rural: 2.5% of population
total: 2.5% of population (2012 est.)
HIV or AIDS adult prevalence rate:
HIV or AIDS people living with HIV or AIDS:
HIV or AIDS deaths:
Obesity adult prevalence rate:
Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
Education expenditures:
4.4% of GDP (2010)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8%
male: NA
female: NA (1991 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 16 years (2009)
Child labor children ages 5-14:
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI
Government type:
name: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 25 N, 64 37 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday:
Territory Day, 1 July (1956)
several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (2007)
Legal system:
English common law
International law organization participation:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Boyd MCCLEARY (since 20 August 2010)
head of government: Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed premier by the governor
Legislative branch:
unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats, a speaker elected by the 13 members of the House of Assembly, 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 on 7 November 2011 (next to be held in 2015)
election results: percent of vote by party - NDP 49.4%, VIP 42%, other 8.6%; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 4
Judicial branch:
highest court(s): the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the itinerant superior court of record for the 9-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to include the British Virgin Islands; the ECSC - with its headquarters on St. Lucia - is headed by the chief justice and is comprised of the Court of Appeal with 3 justices and the High Court with 16 judges; sittings of the Court of Appeal and High Court rotate among the 9 member states; 3 High Court judges reside in member states; 3 High Court judges reside on the British Virgin Islands
judge selection and term of office: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court chief justice appointed by Her Majesty, Queen ELIZABETH II; other justices and judges appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission; Court of Appeal justices appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 65; High Court judges appointed for life with mandatory retirement at age 62
subordinate courts: Magistrates' Courts
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]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
The Family Support Network; The Women's Desk
other: environmentalists
International organization participation:
Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
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); the islands were named by COLUMBUS in 1493 in honor of Saint Ursula and her 11 virgin followers (some sources say 11,000) who reputedly were martyred by the Huns in the 4th or 5th century; the figure on the banner holding a lamp represents the saint, the other lamps symbolize her followers
National symbol(s):
National anthem:
note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)
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. More than 934,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 2008. 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$500 million (2010 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.095 billion (2008)
GDP real growth rate:
1.3% (2010 est.)
-0.6% (2008 est.)
GDP per capita (PPP):
$42,300 (2010 est.)
Gross national saving:
GDP composition, by end use:
household consumption: 34.1%
government consumption: 8.3%
investment in fixed capital: 23.7%
investment in inventories: 0%
exports of goods and services: 107.8%
imports of goods and services: -73.9%
(2013 est.)
GDP composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 1.1%
industry: 11.7%
services: 87.2% (2013 est.)
Agriculture products:
fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore banking center
Industrial production growth rate:
3% (2013 est.)
Labor force:
12,770 (2004)
Labor force by occupation:
agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)
Unemployment rate:
8.7% (2010 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Distribution of family income Gini index:
revenues: $300 million
expenditures: $300 million (2013 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
27.4% of GDP (2013 est.)
Budget surplus or deficit:
Public debt:
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.6% (2013 est.)
2.2% (2012 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
Stock of narrow money:
Stock of broad money:
Stock of domestic credit:
Market value of publicly traded shares:
Current account balance:
$362.6 million (2010 est.)
$279.8 million (2010 est.)
$26 million (2012 est.)
$25 million (2011 est.)
Exports commodities:
rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
Exports partners:
$310 million (2012 est.)
$320 million (2011 est.)
Imports commodities:
building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
Imports partners:
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
Debt external:
$36.1 million (1997)
Stock of direct foreign investment at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment abroad:
Exchange rates:
the US dollar is used
Electricity production:
50 million kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity consumption:
46.5 million kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity exports:
0 kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity imports:
0 kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity installed generating capacity:
44,000 kW (2010 est.)
Electricity from fossil fuels:
100% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from hydroelectric plants:
0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from other renewable sources:
0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Crude oil production:
0 bbl/day (2012 est.)
Crude oil exports:
0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Crude oil imports:
0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Crude oil proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2013 est.)
Refined petroleum products production:
0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Refined petroleum products consumption:
1,000 bbl/day (2011 est.)
Refined petroleum products exports:
0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Refined petroleum products imports:
773 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Natural gas production:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas consumption:
0 cu m (2010 est.)
Natural gas exports:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas imports:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2013 est.)
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
147,200 Mt (2011 est.)
Telephones mobile cellular:
48,700 (2012)
Telephone system:
general assessment: good overall telephone service
domestic: fixed line connections exceed 80 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 150 per 100 persons
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 (2011)
Telephones main lines in use:
12,268 (2012)
Broadcast media:
1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half dozen private radio stations (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet users:
4,000 (2002)
Internet hosts:
505 (2012)
4 (2013)
Airports with paved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2013)
Airports with unpaved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)
total: 200 km
paved: 200 km (2007)
Merchant marine:
Ports and terminals:
seaport(s): Road Harbor
Military branches:
Military service age and obligation:
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 7,266 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 6,057
females age 16-49: 5,805 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 168
female: 162 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
Transnational Issues
Disputes international:
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
Trafficking in persons: