British Virgin Islands

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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.

Geography

Location

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

Geographic coordinates

18.30° N, 64.30° W

Area 220/257

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

Coastline

80 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 3 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds

Terrain

coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Mount Sage 521 m

Natural resources

NEGL; pleasant climate, beaches foster tourism

Land use

agricultural land: 46.7%

arable land 6.7%; permanent crops 6.7%; permanent pasture 33.3%

forest: 24.3%

other: 29% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

NA

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

Geography - note

strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

People and Society

Nationality

noun: British Virgin Islander(s)

adjective: British Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups

black 82%, white 6.8%, mixed 5.9%, East Indian 3%, other 1.6%, unspecified 0.7% (2001 est.)

Languages

English (official)

Religions

Protestant 72.2% (Methodist 22.7%, Anglican 11.6%, Church of God 11.4%, Pentecostal 9.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 8.4%, Baptist 8.2%, other Protestant .9%), Roman Catholic 9.5%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2.2%, Hindu 2%, other 5.2%, none 6.4%, unspecified 2.7% (2001 est.)

Population 215/238

33,454 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.01% (male 2,798/female 2,891)

15-24 years: 14.14% (male 2,255/female 2,476)

25-54 years: 49.64% (male 7,840/female 8,767)

55-64 years: 10.97% (male 1,797/female 1,872)

65 years and over: 8.24% (male 1,343/female 1,415) (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 35.9 years

male: 35.8 years

female: 36 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 33/233

2.32% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 179/224

10.91 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 190/225

4.99 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 2/222

17.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 46.2% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.8% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

ROAD TOWN (capital) 13,000 (2014)

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: 0.89 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 116/224

total: 12.98 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 14.79 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 11.09 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 57/224

total population: 78.46 years

male: 77.12 years

female: 79.87 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 219/224

1.26 children born/woman (2015 est.)

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 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths

NA

Education expenditures 96/173

4.4% of GDP (2010)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years

male: 15 years

female: 16 years (2009)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: British Virgin Islands

abbreviation: BVI

etymology: the myriad islets, cays, and rocks surrounding the major islands reminded explorer Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgin followers (Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes), which over time shortened to the Virgins (las Virgenes)

Government type

NA

Capital

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)

Independence

none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday

Territory Day, 1 July (1956)

Constitution

several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (2015)

Legal system

English common law

Citizenship

see United Kingdom

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor John DUNCAN (since 15 August 2014)

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/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed premier by the governor

Legislative branch

description: unicameral House of Assembly (13 seats; 9 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies and 4 at-large seats by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note - the Assembly includes the attorney general, a non-voting ex officio member

elections: last held on 8 June 2015 (next to be held in 2019)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 3, PEP 1

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

National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH];; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Julian FRASER]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Family Support Network

Woman's Desk

other: environmentalists

International organization participation

Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU

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)

zenaida dove, white cedar flower; national colors: yellow, green, red, white, blue

National anthem

note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)

Economy

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) 214/230

$500 million (2010 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.095 billion (2008)

GDP - real growth rate 165/225

1.3% (2010 est.)

-0.6% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 37/230

$42,300 (2010 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 36.6%

government consumption: 8.9%

investment in fixed capital: 25.7%

investment in inventories: 0%

exports of goods and services: 97.8%

imports of goods and services: -69%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.1%

industry: 12%

services: 86.9% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish

Industries

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

Industrial production growth rate 100/202

2.5% (2015 est.)

Labor force 216/233

12,770 (2004)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 0.6%

industry: 40%

services: 59.4% (2005)

Unemployment rate 99/207

8.7% (2010 est.)

Population below poverty line

NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Budget

revenues: $300 million

expenditures: $300 million (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 100/219

27.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 31/220

0% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 121/226

2.3% (2015 est.)

2% (2014 est.)

Current account balance 45/197

$362.6 million (2011 est.)

$279.8 million (2010 est.)

Exports 207/224

$25 million (2014 est.)

$25 million (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand

Imports 200/223

$290 million (2014 est.)

$290 million (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery

Debt - external 197/206

$36.1 million (1997)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy

Electricity - production 205/220

55 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 205/219

51.15 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 212/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 215/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 192/214

44,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 33/214

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 204/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 210/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 140/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 206/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 206/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 144/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 207/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 144/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 205/212

800 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 145/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 202/213

772.6 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 145/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 207/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 206/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 76/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 206/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 200/212

160,100 Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 197/219

total subscriptions: 11,800

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 36 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 202/217

total: 48,400

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 148 (2014 est.)

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)

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)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)

Television broadcast stations

1 (plus 1 cable company) (1997)

Internet country code

.vg

Internet hosts 182/232

505 (2012)

Internet users 207/217

total: 4,000

percent of population: 16.8% (2002)

Transportation

Airports 185/236

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)

Roadways 209/223

total: 200 km

paved: 200 km (2007)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Road Harbor

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none

Illicit drugs

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