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British Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands

Status: Overseas territory

Governor: David Pearey (2006)

Chief Minister: Orlando Smith (2003)

Total area: 59 sq mi (153 sq km)

Population (2006 est.): 23,098 (growth rate: 2.0%); birth rate: 14.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.7/1000; life expectancy: 76.7; density per sq mi: 391

Capital (2003 est.): Road Town (on Tortola): 9,100

Monetary unit: U.S. dollar

Literacy rate: 97.8% (1991 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2004 est.): $2.498 billion; per capita $38,500. Real growth rate: 1%. Inflation: 2.5% (2003). Unemployment: 3% (1995). Arable land: 20%. Agriculture: fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish. Labor force: 12,770 (2004). Industries: tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center. Natural resources: negl. Exports: $25.3 million (2002): rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand. Imports: $187 million (2002 est.): building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery. Major trading partners: Virgin Islands (U.S.), Puerto Rico, U.S. (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 10,000 (1996); mobile cellular: n.a. Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 4, shortwave 0 (1998). Radios: 9,000 (1997). Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus one cable company) (1997). Televisions: 4,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 16 (2000). Internet users: n.a.

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 177 km; paved: 177 km; unpaved: 0 km (2000). Ports and harbors: Road Town. Airports: 3 (2002).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions

Some 36 islands (more than 20 are uninhabited) in the Caribbean Sea northeast of Puerto Rico and west of the Leeward Islands, the British Virgin Islands are economically interdependent with the U.S. Virgin Islands to the south. The principal islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke. When Christopher Columbus explored the islands in 1493, he found the Carib people living there. By 1596 most of the Caribs had fled or been killed.

The British Virgin Islands were annexed in 1672. The English planters' slave-based sugar plantations declined after slavery was abolished in the first half of the 19th century. The islands received a separate administration in 1956 as a Crown colony. Tourism is the islands' mainstay.

See also Encyclopedia: Virgin Islands.


British Indian Ocean TerritoryOverseas Territories and Crown Dependencies of the United KingdomCayman Islands