Virgin Islands

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The Danes secured control over the southern Virgin Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Sugarcane, produced by African slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish holdings, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.

Geography

Location

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

Geographic coordinates

18.20° N, 64.50° W

Area 182/257

total: 1,910 sq km

land: 346 sq km

water: 1,564 sq km

Area - comparative

twice the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

188 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season September to November

Terrain

mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little flat land

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m

Natural resources

sun, sand, sea, surf

Land use

agricultural land: 11.5%

arable land 2.9%; permanent crops 2.9%; permanent pasture 5.7%

forest: 57.4%

other: 31.1% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1 sq km (2011)

Natural hazards

several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasional earthquakes

Environment - current issues

lack of natural freshwater resources

Geography - note

important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the Caribbean

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Virgin Islander(s) (US citizens)

adjective: Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups

black 76%, white 15.6%, Asian 1.4%, other 4.9%, mixed 2.1%

note: 17.4% self-identify as latino (2010 est.)

Languages

English 71.6%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 17.2%, French or French Creole 8.6%, other 2.5% (2010 est.)

Religions

Protestant 59% (Baptist 42%, Episcopalian 17%), Roman Catholic 34%, other 7%

Population 195/238

103,574 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.47% (male 9,124/female 8,966)

15-24 years: 9.87% (male 4,642/female 5,576)

25-54 years: 38.71% (male 18,103/female 21,994)

55-64 years: 14.49% (male 7,194/female 7,819)

65 years and over: 19.46% (male 9,110/female 11,046) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 61.2%

youth dependency ratio: 32.8%

elderly dependency ratio: 28.4%

potential support ratio: 3.5% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 44.9 years

male: 45.2 years

female: 44.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 226/233

-0.59% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 189/224

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

Death rate 76/225

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

Net migration rate 206/222

-7.67 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 95.3% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 0.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

CHARLOTTE AMALIE (capital) 52,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.83 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.82 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female

total population: 0.87 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 162/224

total: 6.64 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 7.35 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.89 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 41/224

total population: 79.89 years

male: 76.84 years

female: 83.11 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 167/224

1.74 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved:

urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 96.4% of population

rural: 96.4% of population

total: 96.4% of population

unimproved:

urban: 3.6% of population

rural: 3.6% of population

total: 3.6% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths

NA

Government

Country name

conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands

conventional short form: Virgin Islands

former: Danish West Indies

abbreviation: USVI

note: the myriad islets, cays, and rocks surrounding the major islands reminded 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: Charlotte Amalie

geographic coordinates: 18.21° N, 64.56° W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas

Independence

none (territory of the US)

National holiday

Transfer Day (from Denmark to the US), 31 March (1917)

Constitution

22 July 1954 - the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands functions as a constitution for this territory of the US; revised 1962, 2000 (2015)

Legal system

US common law

Citizenship

see United States

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch

chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)

head of government: Governor Kenneth MAPP (since 5 January 2015), Lieutenant Governor Osbert POTTER (since 5 January 2015)

cabinet: Territorial Cabinet appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state; president and vice president serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of the Virgin Islands do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held in November 2018)

election results: Kenneth MAPP elected governor; percent of vote in runoff - Kenneth MAPP (independent) 63.9%, Donna CHRISTIAN-CHRISTIANSEN (Democratic Party) 36.1%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by simple majority popular vote to serve 2-year terms)

elections: last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA

note: the Virgin Islands directly elects 1 member by simple majority vote to serve a 2-year term as a delegate to the US House of Representatives; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegate last held on 4 November 2014 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands (consists of the chief justice and 2 associate justices); note - court established by US Congress in 2004 and assumed appellate jurisdiction in 2007

judge selection and term of office: justices appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Virgin Islands Senate; justices initially serve renewable 10-year terms; chief justice elected to position by peers for a 3-year term

subordinate courts: Superior Court (Territorial Court renamed in 2004); US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (has appellate jurisdiction over the District Court of the Virgin Islands; it is a territorial court and is not associated with a US federal judicial district); District Court of the Virgin Islands

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Party [Arturo WATLINGTON]

Independent Citizens' Movement or ICM [Usie RICHARDS]

Republican Party [Gary SPRAUVE]

Political pressure groups and leaders

NA

International organization participation

AOSIS (observer), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, UPU, WFTU (NGOs)

Flag description

white field with a modified US coat of arms in the center between the large blue initials V and I; the coat of arms shows a yellow eagle holding an olive branch in its right talon and three arrows in the left with a superimposed shield of seven red and six white vertical stripes below a blue panel; white is a symbol of purity, the letters stand for the Virgin Islands

National anthem

name: "Virgin Islands March"

lyrics/music: multiple/Alton Augustus ADAMS, Sr.

note: adopted 1963; serves as a local anthem; as a territory of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)

Economy

Economy - overview

Tourism, trade, and other services are the primary economic activities, accounting for nearly 60% of the Virgin Island's GDP and about half of total civilian employment. The islands host nearly 3 million tourists per year, mostly from visiting cruise ships. The islands are vulnerable to damage from storms. The agriculture sector is small, with most food being imported. Industry and government each account for about one-fifth of GDP. Federal programs and grants, totaling $241.4 million in 2013, contributed 19.7% of the territory’s total revenues. The manufacturing sector consists of rum distilling, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. A refinery on St. Croix, one of the world’s largest, processed 350,000 barrels of crude oil a day until it was shut down in February 2012, after operating for 45 years. The economy declined in 2013, due to decreases in exports resulting from the loss of refined oil products. Nevertheless, the economy remains relatively diversified. Along with a vibrant tourism industry, rum exports, trade, and services will be major income sources in future years.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 178/230

$3.792 billion (2013 est.)

$4.143 billion (2012)

$4.288 billion (2011)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$5.075 billion (2013)

GDP - real growth rate 215/225

-5.4% (2013 est.)

-13.8% (2012 est.)

-7.5% (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 48/230

$36,100 (2013 est.)

$39,300 (2012 est.)

$40,500 (2011 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 63.6%

government consumption: 28%

investment in fixed assets: 6.1%

exports of goods and services: 69.3%

imports of goods and services: 69.3% (2013)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2%

industry: 20%

services: 78% (2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle

Industries

tourism, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, electronics

Industrial production growth rate

NA%

Labor force 193/233

50,580 (2012 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1%

industry: 19%

services: 80% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate 139/207

13% (2014)

Population below poverty line

28.9% (2002 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Budget

revenues: $1.223 billion

expenditures: $1.551 billion (2013)

Taxes and other revenues 130/219

24.1% of GDP (2013)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 188/220

-6.5% of GDP (2013)

Public debt 93/176

45.9% of GDP (2014)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 137/226

3.1% (2012)

Exports 132/224

$2.627 billion (2013)

$3.339 billion (2012)

Exports - commodities

rum

Imports 148/223

$2.694 billion (2013)

$3.056 billion (2012)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials

Debt - external

$NA

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy

Electricity - production 157/220

777.9 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 163/219

723.5 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 213/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 216/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 149/214

316,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 34/214

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 206/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 211/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 141/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 207/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 207/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 78/214

4,493 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 208/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 87/214

29,350 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 76/212

110,500 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 60/214

43,710 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 42/213

131,400 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 144/216

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 208/215

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports 208/215

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - imports 78/214

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 205/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 96/212

12.41 million Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 149/219

total subscriptions: 76,100

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 73 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 195/217

total: 80,300

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 74 (2005)

Telephone system

general assessment: modern system with total digital switching, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay

domestic: full range of services available

international: country code - 1-340; submarine cable connections to US, the Caribbean, Central and South America; satellite earth stations - NA (2010)

Broadcast media

about a dozen TV broadcast stations including 1 public TV station; multi-channel cable and satellite TV services are available; 24 radio stations (2009)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 6, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2005)

Television broadcast stations

5 (2006)

Internet country code

.vi

Internet hosts 146/232

4,790 (2012)

Internet users 195/217

total: 30,000

percent of population: 28.1% (2009)

Transportation

Airports 207/236

2 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Roadways 181/223

total: 1,260 km (2008)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, Cruz Bay, Frederiksted, Limetree Bay

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none