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CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal British Virgin Islands
Flag of British Virgin Islands
Map of 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
Geographic coordinates:
18 30 N, 64 30 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 153 sq km
land: 153 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
Area - comparative:
about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
80 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds
coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m
Natural resources:
Land use:
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 6.67%
other: 73.33% (2005)
Irrigated land:
Natural hazards:
hurricanes and tropical storms (July to 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 British Virgin Islands
23,098 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 20.5% (male 2,403/female 2,331)
15-64 years: 74.3% (male 8,811/female 8,340)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 636/female 577) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 31.4 years
male: 31.6 years
female: 31.2 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.97% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
14.89 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
4.42 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
9.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.1 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 16.72 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.68 years
male: 75.56 years
female: 77.84 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.72 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups:
black 83%, white, Indian, Asian and mixed
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%, none 2%, other 2% (1991)
English (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8% (1991 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government British Virgin Islands
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI
Dependency status:
overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing
Government type:
name: Road Town
geographic coordinates: 18 27 N, 64 37 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday:
Territory Day, 1 July
1 June 1977, amended in 2000
Legal system:
English law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor David PEAREY (since 18 April 2006)
head of government: Chief Minister Dr. Orlando D. SMITH (since 17 June 2003)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the Legislative Council
elections: none; 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 chief minister by the governor
Legislative branch:
unicameral Legislative Council (13 seats; 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 16 May 2003 (next to be held in 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NDP 8, VIP 5
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]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS (associate), UNESCO (associate), UPU
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (overseas territory of the UK)
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 British Virgin Islands
Economy - overview:
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. An estimated 350,000 tourists, mainly from the US, visited the islands in 1998. Tourism suffered in 2002 because of the lackluster US economy. 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.
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 (PPP):
$38,500 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.8%
industry: 6.2%
services: 92% (1996 est.)
Labor force:
12,770 (2004)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 40%
services: 59.4%
Unemployment rate:
3.6% (1997)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2% (2005)
revenues: $204.7 million
expenditures: $180.4 million; including capital expenditures of $33.8 million (2004)
Agriculture - products:
fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish
tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
42 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
39.06 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - consumption:
480 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$134.3 million (1999)
$25.3 million (2002)
Exports - commodities:
rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
Exports - partners:
Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US (2004)
$187 million (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
Imports - partners:
Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US (2004)
Debt - external:
$36.1 million (1997)
Economic aid - recipient:
Currency (code):
US dollar (USD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
the US dollar is used
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications British Virgin Islands
Telephones - main lines in use:
11,700 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
8,000 (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: worldwide telephone service
domestic: NA
international: country code - 1-284; submarine cable to Bermuda
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)
9,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (plus one cable company) (1997)
4,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
525 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
16 (2000)
Internet users:
4,000 (2002)
Transportation British Virgin Islands
3 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2006)
total: 177 km
paved: 177 km (2002)
Merchant marine:
registered in other countries: 1 (North Korea 1) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Road Town
Military British Virgin Islands
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 6,410 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 5,295 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 201 (2005 est.)
Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of the UK
Transnational Issues British Virgin Islands
Disputes - international:
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe; large offshore financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007