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Liechtenstein

Land, People, Economy, and Government

The country is mainly mountainous, with the Rhine valley in its western third. The population is largely Roman Catholic, with a Protestant minority. German is the national language; Alemannic, a High German dialect, is also spoken. There is a large component of foreign workers.

Historically agricultural, Liechtenstein has been increasingly industrialized, with industry and services now employing most of the workforce. Only a small fraction of the population still engages in agriculture, producing wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, livestock, and dairy products. The leading manufactures include electronics, metals, dental products, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, and precision and optical instruments. A large part of the production is exported. Tourism is an increasingly important industry. About a third of state revenues are derived from the many international corporations that are headquartered in Liechtenstein because of the low business taxes. The stable political environment and the secrecy of its financial institutions contributed to Liechtenstein's development as a banking center and tax haven, but that secrecy has been diminished in the 21st cent. under pressure from foreign governments. Agricultural products, raw materials, fuels, machinery, metal goods, foodstuffs, textiles, and motor vehicles are imported. The main trading partners are the European Union countries and Switzerland.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1921 as amended. The hereditary monarch is the head of state and has significant executive power. The head of government is appointed by the monarch, and the cabinet is elected by the legislature. Members of the 25-seat unicameral Parliament or Landtag are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Liechtenstein uses Swiss currency and is represented abroad through Switzerland. Administratively, Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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