BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
 

 
Motto: Vigilate
History

 

The territory was originally inhabited by Caribs and Arawaks. In 1648, the Dutch established the first permanent European Community. In 1666, British planters took control of the islands which became a British colony in 1672. A ministerial system of government was introduced in 1967.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
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: 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
Land boundaries:  0 km
Coastline: 80 km
Maritime claims: exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
Terrain: coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: Land use:
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 73.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: hurricanes and tropical storms (Julyto October)
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)

Geography - note:

strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

                          People

Population: 24,491 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 19.8% (male 2,454/female 2,387)
15-64 years: 74.4% (male 9,346/female 8,881)
65 years and over: 5.8% (male 734/female 689) (2009 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.837% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 14.62 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate: 4.37 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
Net migration rate: 8.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 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: 1.06 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Nationality: noun: British Virgin Islander's
adjective: British Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups: black 83.4%, white 7%, other 9.6% (includes Indian and mixed) (2004 Census)
Religions: 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)
Languages: English (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8% (1991 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%

            Government

Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI
Dependency status: overseas territory of the UK
Government type: NA
Capital: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 27 N, 64 37 W
Administrative divisions: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Independence: none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday: New Years Day (1 January); H. Lavity Stoutt's Birthday (1 March); Commonwealth Day (8 March) ; Good Friday; Easter Monday; Whit Monday; Sovereign's Birthday; Territory Day; Festival Monday, Festival Tuesday, Festival Wednesday (first Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in August); St. Ursula's Day (October); Christmas Day (25 December); Boxing Day (26 December)
Constitution: 1 June 1977
Legal system: English law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)

head of government: Premier Ralph T. O'NEAL, OBE (since 1999 and re-elected 23 August 2007). Born in 1933 Hon. Ralph O'Neal, OBE started his political career as a representative in the Legislative Council for Virgin Gorda and Anegada and as leader of the opposition. 

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
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
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
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]
International organization participation:: Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU, WFTU
 
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Date of CARICOM Associate: 2 July 1991
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)

Economy
Overview: The economy, one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism, which generates an estimated 45% of the national income. An estimated 350,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 1997. 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. An estimated 250,000 companies were on the offshore registry by yearend 1997. 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, is expected to make 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 dollar as its currency since 1959.
GDP purchasing power parity: $853.4 million (2004 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):  $839.7 million (2003)
GDP - real growth rate: 1% (2002 est.)
 
GDP - per capita: $38,500 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 1.8%
industry: 6.2%
services: 92% (1996 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2% (2005)
Labor force: 12,770 (2004)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)
Unemployment rate: 3.6% (1997)
Budget: revenues: $204.7 million
expenditures: $180.4 million (2004)
 
Industries: tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Agriculture - products: fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
Exports: $25.3 million (2002)
Exports - commodities: rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
Exports - partners: Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US
Imports: $187 million f.o.b.
Imports - commodities: building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: US currency is used
Business Hours: Commercial: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday
Government: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March

Communications

Telephones - main lines in use: 18,900 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 23,000 (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: worldwide telephone service
domestic: fixed line connections exceed 75 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is approaching 100 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 (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5, short-wave 0 (2004)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus one cable company) (1997)
Internet Country code: .vg
Internet Hosts: 465 (2008)
Internet users: 4,000 (2002)

Transportation
Roadways: total: 200 km
paved: 200 km (2007)
Ports and Terminals: Road Town
Merchant marine: registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 153
Airports: 4 (2009 est.) ; Main airport; Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (Beef Island)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2009 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2009 est.)
   
Military Defense is the responsibility of the UK
  Main Source of Information: the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook

Items of Interest  
National Anthem: "God Save the Queen"
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save The Queen.
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save The Queen.

O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks;
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save The Queen.
Highest National Award: BVI Badge of Honour
Favourite Local Cuisine: Fish and Fungi