Photos of Montserrat

Introduction

Background

English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island's sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid-19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in 2013.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico

Geographic coordinates

16 45 N, 62 12 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 102 sq km

land: 102 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 225

Area - comparative

about 0.6 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; little daily or seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

volcanic island, mostly mountainous, with small coastal lowland

Elevation

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Soufriere Hills volcano pre-eruption height was 915 m; current lava dome is subject to periodic build up and collapse; estimated dome height was 1,050 m in 2015

Land use

agricultural land: 30% (2018 est.)

arable land: 20% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 10% (2018 est.)

forest: 25% (2018 est.)

other: 45% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

only the northern half of the island is populated, the southern portion is uninhabitable due to volcanic activity

Natural hazards

volcanic eruptions; severe hurricanes (June to November)

volcanism: Soufriere Hills volcano (915 m), has erupted continuously since 1995; a massive eruption in 1997 destroyed most of the capital, Plymouth, and resulted in approximately half of the island becoming uninhabitable; the island of Montserrat is part of the volcanic island arc of the Lesser Antilles that extends from Saba in the north to Grenada in the south

Environment - current issues

land erosion occurs on slopes that have been cleared for cultivation

Geography - note

the island is entirely volcanic in origin and comprised of three major volcanic centers of differing ages

People and Society

Population

5,387 (July 2021 est.)

note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned

country comparison to the world: 226

Nationality

noun: Montserratian(s)

adjective: Montserratian

Ethnic groups

African/Black 88.4%, mixed 3.7%, Hispanic/Spanish 3%, Caucasian/White 2.7%, East Indian/Indian 1.5%, other 0.7% (2011 est.)

Languages

English

Religions

Protestant 67.1% (includes Anglican 21.8%, Methodist 17%, Pentecostal 14.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 10.5%, and Church of God 3.7%), Roman Catholic 11.6%, Rastafarian 1.4%, other 6.5%, none 2.6%, unspecified 10.8% (2001 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 16.02% (male 443/female 418)

15-24 years: 20.55% (male 579/female 525)

25-54 years: 47.09% (male 1,217/female 1,313)

55-64 years: 9.79% (male 246/female 280)

65 years and over: 6.55% (male 196/female 156) (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 34.8 years

male: 34.1 years

female: 35.6 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 88

Birth rate

11.14 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 172

Death rate

5.94 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 89

Population distribution

only the northern half of the island is populated, the southern portion is uninhabitable due to volcanic activity

Urbanization

urban population: 9.1% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 0.64% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.1 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.93 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.88 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.26 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 10.7 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 8.59 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 12.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.49 years

male: 76.52 years

female: 74.41 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 120

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 99% of population

rural: 99% of population

total: 99% of population

unimproved: urban: 1% of population

rural: 1% of population

total: 1% of population (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 13 years

female: 15 years (2019)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Montserrat

etymology: island named by explorer Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 after the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat, near Barcelona, Spain

Dependency status

overseas territory of the UK

Government type

parliamentary democracy; self-governing overseas territory of the UK

Capital

name: Plymouth; note - Plymouth was abandoned in 1997 because of volcanic activity; interim government buildings have been built at Brades Estate, the de facto capital, in the Carr's Bay/Little Bay vicinity at the northwest end of Montserrat

geographic coordinates: 16 42 N, 62 13 W

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

etymology and note: now entirely deserted because of volcanic activity, the city was originally named after Plymouth, England; de jure, Plymouth remains the capital city of Montserrat; it is therefore the only ghost town that serves as the capital of a political entity

Administrative divisions

3 parishes; Saint Anthony, Saint Georges, Saint Peter

Independence

none (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday

Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, usually celebrated the Monday after the second Saturday in June (1926)

Constitution

history: previous 1960; latest effective 1 September 2010 (The Montserrat Constitution Order 2010)

amendments: amended 2011

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 Andrew PEARCE (since 1 February 2018)

head of government: Premier Easton TAYLOR-FARRELL (since 19 November 2019); note - effective with The Constitution Order 2010, effective October 2010, the office of premier replaced the office of chief minister

cabinet: Executive Council consists of the governor, the premier, 3 other ministers, the attorney general, and the finance secretary

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

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly (11 seats; 9 members directly elected in a single constituency by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds to serve 5-year terms and 2 ex-officio members - the attorney general and financial secretary)

elections: last held on 18 November 2019 (next scheduled for 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - MCAP 42.7%, PDM 29.9%, other 17.1%; seats by party - MCAP 5, PDM 3, independent 1

Judicial branch

highest courts: the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is the superior court of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States; the ECSC - headquartered on St. Lucia - consists of the Court of Appeal - headed by the chief justice and 4 judges - and the High Court with 18 judges; the Court of Appeal is itinerant, traveling to member states on a schedule to hear appeals from the High Court and subordinate courts; High Court judges reside in the member states, with 1 assigned to Montserrat; Montserrat is also a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice

judge selection and term of office: chief justice of Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court appointed by the Her Majesty, Queen ELIZABETH II; other justices and judges appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and independent body of judicial officials; 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: magistrate's court

Political parties and leaders

Movement for Change and Prosperity or MCAP [Easton Taylor FARRELL]
People's Democratic Movement or PDM [Donaldson ROMERO]

International organization participation

Caricom, CDB, Interpol (subbureau), OECS, UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas territory of the UK)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas territory of the UK); alternate contact is the US Embassy in Barbados [1] (246) 227-4000; US Embassy in Bridgetown, Wildey Business Park, St. Michael BB 14006, Barbados, WI

Flag description

blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Montserratian coat of arms centered in the outer half of the flag; the arms feature a woman in green dress, Erin, the female personification of Ireland, standing beside a yellow harp and embracing a large dark cross with her right arm; Erin and the harp are symbols of Ireland reflecting the territory's Irish ancestry; blue represents awareness, trustworthiness, determination, and righteousness

National anthem

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

Economy

Economic overview

Severe volcanic activity, which began in July 1995, has put a damper on this small, open economy. A catastrophic eruption in June 1997 closed the airport and seaports, causing further economic and social dislocation. Two-thirds of the 12,000 inhabitants fled the island. Some began to return in 1998 but lack of housing limited the number. The agriculture sector continued to be affected by the lack of suitable land for farming and the destruction of crops.

Prospects for the economy depend largely on developments in relation to the volcanic activity and on public sector construction activity. Half of the island remains uninhabitable. In January 2013, the EU announced the disbursement of a $55.2 million aid package to Montserrat in order to boost the country's economic recovery, with a specific focus on public finance management, public sector reform, and prudent economic management. Montserrat is tied to the EU through the UK. Although the UK is leaving the EU, Montserrat’s aid will not be affected as Montserrat maintains a direct agreement with the EU regarding aid.

Credit ratings

Standard & Poors rating: BBB- (2020)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$167.4 billion (2011 est.)

$155.9 billion (2010 est.)

$162.7 billion (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 73

GDP (official exchange rate)

$167.4 million (2011 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$34,000 (2011 est.)

$31,100 (2010 est.)

$32,300 (2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 61

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 7.8% (2017 est.)

services: 90.3% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 90.8% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 50.4% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 17.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -0.1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 29.5% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -88.6% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers; livestock products

Industries

tourism, rum, textiles, electronic appliances

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.4%

industry: 12.7%

services: 85.9% (2017 est.)

Budget

revenues: 66.67 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 47.04 million (2017 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Current account balance

-$15.4 million (2017 est.)

-$12.2 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 71

Exports

$4.4 million (2017 est.)

$5.2 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 218

Exports - partners

US 29%, France 23%, Saint Kitts and Nevis 22.2% (2017)

Exports - commodities

electronic components, plastic bags, apparel; hot peppers, limes, live plants; cattle

Imports

$39.44 million (2017 est.)

$36.1 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

Imports - partners

US 72.8%, Trinidad and Tobago 6%, UK 4.1% (2017)

Imports - commodities

machinery and transportation equipment, foodstuffs, manufactured goods, fuels, lubricants

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$47.58 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$51.47 million (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

Exchange rates

East Caribbean dollars (XCD) per US dollar -

2.7 (2017 est.)

2.7 (2016 est.)

2.7 (2015 est.)

2.7 (2014 est.)

2.7 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 13

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 3,227

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 60.4 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 211

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 5,377

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 100.66 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 217

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telecom market one of growth in Caribbean and fully digitalized; high dependency on tourism and offshore financial services; operators expand FttP (Fiber to Home) services; LTE launches and operators invest in mobile networks; effective competition in all sectors (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 60 per 100 and mobile-cellular teledensity 101 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 1-664; landing point for the ECFS optic submarine cable with links to 14 other islands in the eastern Caribbean extending from the British Virgin Islands to Trinidad (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

Radio Montserrat, a public radio broadcaster, transmits on 1 station and has a repeater transmission to a second station; repeater transmissions from the GEM Radio Network of Trinidad and Tobago provide another 2 radio stations; cable and satellite TV available (2007)

Internet users

total: 2,860

percent of population: 54.6% (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 222

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 3

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

under 914 m: 1

Roadways

note: volcanic eruptions that began in 1995 destroyed most of the 227 km road system; a new road infrastructure has been built on the north end of the island

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Little Bay, Plymouth

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Royal Montserrat Defence Force (ceremonial, civil defense duties),  Montserrat Police Force (2019)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transnational Issues

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe