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Central America and Caribbean :: British Virgin Islands
(overseas territory of the UK)
Page last updated on July 30, 2015
 
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British Virgin Islands
  • Introduction :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • 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 :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
    18 30 N, 64 30 W
    Central America and the Caribbean
    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
    country comparison to the world: 220
    about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
    0 km
    80 km
    territorial sea: 3 nm
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
    coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
    lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
    highest point: Mount Sage 521 m
    NEGL; pleasant climate, beaches foster tourism
    agricultural land: 46.7%
    arable land 6.7%; permanent crops 6.7%; permanent pasture 33.3%
    forest: 24.3%
    other: 29% (2011 est.)
    NA
    hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)
    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
    strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
  • People and Society :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
    adjective: British Virgin Islander
    black 82%, white 6.8%, mixed 5.9%, East Indian 3%, other 1.6%, unspecified 0.7% (2001 est.)
    English (official)
    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.)
    33,454 (July 2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 216
    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.)
    population pyramid:
    total: 35.6 years
    male: 35.5 years
    female: 35.7 years (2014 est.)
    2.32% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 36
    10.91 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 181
    4.99 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 190
    17.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    urban population: 46.2% of total population (2015)
    rate of urbanization: 1.8% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    ROAD TOWN (capital) 13,000 (2014)
    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.)
    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.)
    country comparison to the world: 118
    total population: 78.46 years
    male: 77.12 years
    female: 79.87 years (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 57
    1.26 children born/woman (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 219
    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.)
    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.)
    NA
    NA
    NA
    4.4% of GDP (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 96
    total: 15 years
    male: 15 years
    female: 16 years (2009)
  • Government :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
    abbreviation: BVI
    overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
    NA
    name: Road Town
    geographic coordinates: 18 25 N, 64 37 W
    time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    Territory Day, 1 July (1956)
    several previous; latest effective 15 June 2007 (2007)
    English common law
    18 years of age; universal
    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: 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
    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
    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
    Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM [Ethlyn SMITH]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH]; Peoples Empowerment Party or PEP [Alvin CHRISTOPHER]; United Party or UP [Gregory MADURO]; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Ralph T. O'NEAL]
    The Family Support Network
    The Women's Desk
    other: environmentalists
    Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    none (overseas territory of the UK)
    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
    zenaida dove, white cedar flower; national colors: yellow, green, red, white, blue
    note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)
  • Economy :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • 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.
    $500 million (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 214
    $1.095 billion (2008)
    1.3% (2010 est.)
    -0.6% (2008 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 175
    $42,300 (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 36
    household consumption: 32%
    government consumption: 8.6%
    investment in fixed capital: 24.5%
    investment in inventories: 0%
    exports of goods and services: 109.6%
    imports of goods and services: -74.7%
    (2014 est.)
    agriculture: 1.1%
    industry: 12%
    services: 86.9% (2014 est.)
    fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
    tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore banking center
    2% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 131
    12,770 (2004)
    country comparison to the world: 215
    agriculture: 0.6%
    industry: 40%
    services: 59.4% (2005)
    8.7% (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    NA%
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%
    revenues: $300 million
    expenditures: $300 million (2014 est.)
    27.4% of GDP (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 104
    0% of GDP (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    1 April - 31 March
    2% (2014 est.)
    1.5% (2013 est.)
    $362.6 million (2011 est.)
    $279.8 million (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 55
    $25.5 million (2013 est.)
    $25.5 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 203
    rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
    $320 million (2013 est.)
    $320 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 194
    building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
    $36.1 million (1997)
    country comparison to the world: 195
    the US dollar is used
  • Energy :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • 53 million kWh (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 207
    49.29 million kWh (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 207
    0 kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 211
    0 kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 214
    44,000 kW (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 193
    100% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 38
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 201
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 207
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 138
    0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 140
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 202
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 139
    0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 204
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 206
    1,190 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    772.6 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 199
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 205
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 205
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 203
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 146
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 205
    160,100 Mt (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 201
  • Communications :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • 12,268 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    48,700 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 202
    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)
    1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half dozen private radio stations (2007)
    AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)
    1 (plus 1 cable company) (1997)
    .vg
    505 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 182
    4,000 (2002)
    country comparison to the world: 203
  • Transportation :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • 4 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 185
    total: 2
    914 to 1,523 m: 1
    under 914 m: 1 (2013)
    total: 2
    914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)
    total: 200 km
    paved: 200 km (2007)
    country comparison to the world: 209
    major seaport(s): Road Harbor
  • Military :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • males age 16-49: 7,266 (2010 est.)
    males age 16-49: 6,057
    females age 16-49: 5,805 (2010 est.)
    male: 168
    female: 162 (2010 est.)
    defense is the responsibility of the UK
  • Transnational Issues :: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

  • none
    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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