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Saint Kitts and Nevis

Introduction

Saint Kitts and Nevis or Saint Kitts–Nevis (nēˈvĭs, nĕvˈĭs) [key], officially Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, island nation (2005 est. pop. 39,000), 120 sq mi (311 sq km), West Indies, in the Leeward Islands. The nation consists of the islands of Saint Kitts, also called Saint Christopher (68 sq mi/176 sq km), Nevis (50 sq mi/130 sq km), and Sombrero (2 sq mi/5.2 sq km). The capital is Basseterre on Saint Kitts. The chief settlement on Nevis is Charlestown, the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. There has been strong sentiment on Nevis for independence from the larger, more populous Saint Kitts, and in a 1998 referendum more than 60% of Nevisian voters approved separation; a two-thirds majority, however, was required.

A narrow strait separates the two larger islands, which are volcanic in origin, mountainous, and renowned for their scenery. The vast majority of the population are descendants of Africans originally brought to the islands as slaves. English is spoken and Anglicanism is the main religion.

Tourism, manufacturing, and a growing offshore financial industry are important to the economy, and cotton and salt are produced. Machinery, food, electronics, beverages, and tobacco are the main exports. Sugar and molasses were also historically important exports, but financial losses led the government to end sugar production and processing in 2005. Machinery, manufactures, food, and fuel are imported. The United States is the main trading partner.

The country is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1983. There is a unicameral, 14-seat legislature, the National Assembly, whose members serve five-year terms; the government is headed by the prime minister. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor-general, is the head of state. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 parishes.

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

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Caribbean Political Geography


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