British Virgin Islands

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Flag of British Virgin Islands
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of British Virgin Islands
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Map of British Virgin Islands
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Photos of British Virgin Islands
 
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OF BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
 

Introduction

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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.
 
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Geography

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Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
 
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18 30 N, 64 30 W
 
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total: 151 sq km
country comparison to the world: 220
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
 
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about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
 
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0 km
 
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80 km
 
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territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
 
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subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
 
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coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
 
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lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m
 
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NEGL
 
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arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 73.33% (2005)
 
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NA
 
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hurricanes and tropical storms (July to October)
 
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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)
 
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strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
 
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People and Society

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noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander
 
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black 82%, white 6.8%, other 11.2% (includes Indian and mixed) (2008)
 
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English (official)
 
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Protestant 84% (Methodist 33%, Anglican 17%, Church of God 9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6%, Baptist 4%, other 15%), Roman Catholic 10%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 2%, none 2% (1991)
 
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25,383 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 218
 
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0-14 years: 19.6% (male 2,526/female 2,457)
15-64 years: 74.1% (male 9,631/female 9,174)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 827/female 768) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 32.9 years
male: 32.9 years
female: 32.8 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.741% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64
 
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14.5 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
 
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4.49 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 200
 
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7.41 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
 
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urban population: 41% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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ROAD TOWN (capital) 9,000 (2009)
 
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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: 1.07 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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total: 13.63 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 126
male: 15.47 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 77.63 years
country comparison to the world: 60
male: 76.32 years
female: 78.99 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.71 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
 
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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 (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population (2008)
 
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NA
 
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NA
 
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NA
 
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3.2% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 126
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8%
male: NA
female: NA (1991 est.)
 
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total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 16 years (2009)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI
 
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overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
 
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NA
 
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name: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 27 N, 64 37 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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none (overseas territory of the UK)
 
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none (overseas territory of the UK)
 
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Territory Day, 1 July (1956)
 
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13 June 2007
 
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English common law
 
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18 years of age; universal
 
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chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Boyd MCCLEARY (since 20 August 2010)
head of government: Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
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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
 
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unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats, a speaker elected by the 13 members of the House of Assembly, 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 on 7 November 2011 (next to be held in 2015)
election results: percent of vote by party - NDP 49.4%, VIP 42%; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 4
 
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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
 
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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]
 
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The Family Support Network; The Women's Desk
other: environmentalists
 
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Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU
 
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none (overseas territory of the UK)
 
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none (overseas territory of the UK)
 
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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
 
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note: as a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)
 
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Economy

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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.
 
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$853.4 million (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
 
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$1.095 billion (2008)
 
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-0.6% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
 
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$38,500 (2004 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
 
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agriculture: 0.9%
industry: 10.6%
services: 88.5% (2010 est.)
 
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12,770 (2004)
country comparison to the world: 213
 
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agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4% (2005)
 
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3.6% (1997)
country comparison to the world: 29
 
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NA%
 
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
 
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23.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
 
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revenues: $300 million
expenditures: $300 million (2010 est.)
 
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27.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108
 
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0% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 44
 
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3.8% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
3.3% (2009 est.)
 
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fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
 
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tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center
 
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NA%
 
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45 million kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204
 
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41.85 million kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
 
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1,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 206
 
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0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
 
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752 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 198
 
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0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
 
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0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
 
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$362.6 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 56
$328.6 million (2009 est.)
 
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$35.2 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201
$33.6 million (2009 est.)
 
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rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
 
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$228.4 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 200
$217.6 million (2009 est.) (2002 est.)
 
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building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
 
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$36.1 million (1997)
country comparison to the world: 192
 
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the US dollar is used
 
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Communications

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20,100 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 194
 
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24,500 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 207
 
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general assessment: good overall telephone service
domestic: fixed line connections exceed 80 per 100 persons and mobile cellular subscribership is roughly 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 (2010)
 
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1 private TV station; multi-channel TV is available from cable and satellite subscription services; about a half dozen private radio stations operating (2007)
 
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.vg
 
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497 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 180
 
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4,000 (2002)
country comparison to the world: 207
 
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Transportation

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4 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 186
 
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total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2010)
 
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total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2010)
 
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total: 200 km
country comparison to the world: 208
paved: 200 km (2007)
 
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registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 149
 
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Road Harbor
 
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Military

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

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none
 
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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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