British Virgin Islands
(dependent territory of the UK)
[Country Flag of British Virgin Islands]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of British Virgin Islands]

British Virgin Islands


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Location: 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: 150 sq km
land: 150 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes the island of Anegada

Area—comparative: about 0.9 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 80 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 3 nm

Climate: subtropical; humid; temperatures moderated by trade winds

Terrain: coral islands relatively flat; volcanic islands steep, hilly

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Sage 521 m

Natural resources: NEGL

Land use:
arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 7%
permanent pastures: 33%
forests and woodland: 7%
other: 33% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

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 catchment)

Environment—international agreements:
party to: NA
signed, but not ratified: NA

Geography—note: strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico


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Population: 18,705 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 21% (male 2,008; female 1,957)
15-64 years: 74% (male 7,079; female 6,689)
65 years and over: 5% (male 535; female 437) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.41% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 16.15 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 4.76 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 12.67 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 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: 1.22 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 22.97 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.94 years
male: 74.19 years
female: 75.73 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.72 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: British Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: British Virgin Islander

Ethnic groups: black 90%, white, Asian

Religions: Protestant 86% (Methodist 45%, Anglican 21%, Church of God 7%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Baptist 4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 2%), Roman Catholic 6%, none 2%, other 6% (1981)

Languages: English (official)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8% (1991 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%


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Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: British Virgin Islands
abbreviation: BVI

Data code: VI

Dependency status: dependent territory of the UK

Government type: NA

National capital: Road Town

Administrative divisions: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Independence: none (dependent territory of the UK)

National holiday: Territory Day, 1 July

Constitution: 1 June 1977

Legal system: English law

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II of the UK (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor David MACKILLIGIN (since NA June 1995)
head of government: Chief Minister Ralph T. O'NEAL (since 15 May 1995; appointed after the death of former Chief Minister H. Lavity STOUTT)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the Legislative Council
elections: none; the queen is a hereditary monarch; governor appointed by the queen; chief minister appointed by the governor from among the members of the Legislative Council

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Council (13 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote, 1 member from each of 9 electoral districts, 4 at large members; members serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 February 1995 (next to be held NA February 2000)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—VIP 6, CCM 2, UP 2, independents 3

Judicial branch: Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court

Political parties and leaders: United Party or UP [Conrad MADURO]; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Ralph T. O'NEAL]; Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM [E. Walwyn BREWLEY]; Independent People's Movement or IPM [Omar HODGE and Allen O'NEAL]

International organization participation: Caricom (associate), CDB, ECLAC (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS (associate), UNESCO (associate)

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (dependent territory of the UK)

Diplomatic representation from the US: none (dependent 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)


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Economy—overview: The economy, one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, is highly dependent on tourism, which generates an estimated 45% of the national income. In 1985, the government began offering offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands, and incorporation fees now generate substantial revenues. An estimated 210,000 companies were on the offshore registry by yearend 1996. 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, is expected to make 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 traditional close links with the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands has used the dollar as their currency since 1959.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$144 million (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 4.5% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$11,000 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 14%
services: 83% (1989)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 2.5% (1990 est.)

Labor force:
total: 4,911 (1980)
by occupation: tourism NA%

Unemployment rate: 3% (1995)

revenues: $77.1 million
expenditures: $76.4 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY93/94)

Industries: tourism, light industry, construction, rum, concrete block, offshore financial center

Industrial production growth rate: 4% (1985)

Electricity—capacity: 13,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 42 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 3,224 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: fruits, vegetables; livestock, poultry; fish

total value: $3.4 million (f.o.b., 1990)
commodities: rum, fresh fish, fruits, animals; gravel, sand
partners: Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US

total value: $11.5 million (c.i.f., 1988)
commodities: building materials, automobiles, foodstuffs, machinery
partners: Virgin Islands (US), Puerto Rico, US

Debt—external: $4.5 million (1985)

Economic aid: $NA

Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: US currency is used

Fiscal year: 1 April—31 March


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Telephones: 6,291 (1990 est.)

Telephone system: worldwide telephone service
domestic: NA
international: submarine cable to Bermuda

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 0 (1995)

Radios: 9,000 (1992 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1

Televisions: 4,000 (1992 est.)


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Railways: 0 km

total: 113 km (1995 est.)
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km

Ports and harbors: Road Town

Merchant marine: none (1995 est.)

Airports: 3 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1997 est.)


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Military—note: defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none